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Not the Road To SXSW or How To Succeed in Absentia

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In: Columns > Pro Dot Con

By Peter Fielding

Published on February 20, 2002

You know the nice thing about the Internet?

No, I mean it. Do you? I seem to keep searching and changing my mind on that front all the time. Now before you brand me a contemptuous and bitter opposer, I have a good reason for my sardonic smirking. March is swinging around again. March, the coming of Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to Austin, Texas.

For three years now, I've been regaled with stories of the South By Southwest Festival in Austin. A gala event brandishing some people's fondest memories of meeting and hanging out with their connective friends and erstwhile cohorts. SXSW (as our affectionate need to abbreviate deems it) is one of the foremost Internet-related gatherings on the planet. Boasting a plethora of panels, lectures, lunches, dinners, parties, and a general melee of meetings and greetings, the festival has become an annual event of great anticipation for webloggers, designers, developers, and grand-geeks alike. A week of ne'er-do-well chaotic fun, it seems that anyone with a vested interest in web development, production, and community will be there.

Everyone, minus one.

While sickeningly enjoyable gatherings for such momentous occasions as Independents Day planning, The Fray gatherings, and Nick Finck's birthday are in full swing, guess who won't be there to terrify and titillate? Will I be there to eavesdrop lovingly on friends? Will I be there to embarrass myself amidst a group of relative strangers by relating the fumblings of junior high spin-the-bottle antics? Will I be there to watch Nick light his tie on fire while trying to blow out the trick candles?

Oh no true believers. While all this goes on, Monsieur Fielding will be at home, working like a dog to catch up on a year gone terribly awry. Yes, with a trackball soldered to my opposable thumb, and a wacom tablet sewn to my cords, I shall be working away (never complaining though of course) while the virtual Mardi-Gras of Netdom whiles away the moments of yet another year.

Yes, you noticed that last month's edition of ProDotCon was, well, missing. Fine, some of you may have noticed it. Look, someone noticed that it wasn't there dammit! Explanation? I was sick. Really sick. The kind of sick that makes scenes from The Exorcist seem like mild cases of indigestion. The staff of DW were nothing short of wonderful and understanding, as were some really great readers who dropped notes of get-well-wishes. I thank everyone for that, and am embarking on a path to return to my day-late schedule of previous columns.

Make sure you duck when Nick starts throwing things.

However, when you add my centralized coma time to a year already rife with setbacks and fits of anarchy, you arrive at one indisputable conclusion.

I'm not going to make it to SXSW.

I wanted to go to SXSW. I planned to go to SXSW. I bought the t-shirt saying I was going to SXSW. I was going to finally hang out with the cool kids and meet longtime friends who have so far existed in grainy webcam shots and marvelous words, while conspiring with brilliant minds about the future of web development, design and whether or not you can really buy discount Viagra online with a no-interest loan from the saucy and sexy girls of spamclub while losing weight fast and painlessly.

I'm still not going to SXSW.

Oh, I suppose I could be bitter. After all I'm only missing out on defining moments of a net-centric career. I could carry a grudge for all the other Digital Web staffers, contributors, friends and virtual family that are going. I could veritably threaten anyone who dares to call or drop mail from Austin, with an untimely and remarkably painful death involving my boot, an iBook, gardening shears and various organelles.

I could do all that, but I won't.

Yes, I can be a bit jealous of those I care about running around in a jumble of joy and fervored frustration, attempting to fit in just... one... more... panel... with... Jeffrey... but I won't be. I know what I'm missing at SXSW this year. I know that turning down one of the most gracious offers I've ever gotten (to be on a panel no less. Shut up, it can happen) was painful, but that's not what marks my thoughts about SXSW.

When I think of South by Southwest, I think about a bit of hope. A great time where a virtual community network of talented and wondrous individuals get to hang up the keyboard connections for a week, and get in touch with each other over pails of coffee and a plethora of conversation. In a year that's been marked by chaos, fear, pain, and confusion SXSW is a bit of relief even for me. I get the joy of knowing that the occasions will be marked on digital film (yes pixels, smartguy, but come on, it was poetic) and in countless weblogs. I know that the moments of real joy will be burnt into my psyche by various friends and cohorts relating the anecdotes of that surreal time.

I get to know that people I care about will be talking, laughing, and living in the company of each other apart from the light pulses where we coincide daily.

And that's more than enough to make me smile.

While I'm plotting my revenge on all of you who aren't taking me with.

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Peter Fielding makes the pretty things for Pixelflo.com, while he hunkers down in the frozen tundra of western Canada. Receiving his email by data dog sled, he is most often found lighting miniature garbage can fires for the homeless baby seals that power his cpu, and lobbying for the inclusion of Full Contact Page Design in the next Winter Olympics.

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