2009 SXSW Dispatch #1


While my custom has been to post lengthy daily diary entries about my South By Southwest exploits, this year will probably be a little different, with less emphasis on where I ate lunch and more emphasis on what terrible misfortunes befell me. I may also talk about some of the movies, if space permits.

The fun began on Thursday, when I flew from Portland to Austin and discovered during my layover in Denver that my laptop, a second-hand iBook that I only use when I travel, had gone teats up. It was stuck on a screen that says “You need to restart your computer”; restarting it simply brought it back to that screen again. I called my brother Jeff, who did some googling and found that when other people have encountered this it has been due to problems with one of these two things:

a) the software; or,

b) the hardware.

We were glad to have it narrowed down.

As it happens, Jeff was coming to SXSW too, for the “Interactive” (i.e. computer nerd) conference, and could bring me the startup disks to try repairing the software. He also brought a MacBook belonging to our other brother Lane, in case we couldn’t fix mine. Which we couldn’t. Which means I’m using Lane’s computer for the week and hoping not to damage either its software or its hardware.

Using someone else’s laptop is like driving someone else’s car. Everything’s in a different place, the settings aren’t what you’re used to, you feel self-conscious about farting in it, etc. Will Lane object to my deleting all his useless Firefox bookmarks and downloading my own? He doesn’t even have Internet Movie Database bookmarked, for crying out loud. Why would you even need a computer if you’re not interested in movies?

(Side note about Lane’s computer: Before lending it to me, he set the Firefox homepage to be a Google search for the phrase “Why do I cry when I’m alone?” It’s the little things, you know?)

As I said, my laptop is only for travel purposes and doesn’t have anything important on it — all my files and documents and adult photos are on my real computer back home — so it will only be a financial hardship if it turns out to be unfixable, not an emotional one. Don’t worry about me! I promise to avoid falling into a mood pocket.

And hey, speaking of mood pockets, that term (if you don’t recognize it) comes from Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere. It was ultimately his excuse for failing to appear on the Oxford Film Festival panel he’d been flown in specifically to appear on: He’d been so emotionally drained by the lack of adequate wifi in the hotel that he’d plunged headlong into a “mood pocket.” He eventually said he’d refund what the festival paid to fly him out there, though I understand he has not actually done this yet. (Feel free to do with that information what you will.)

Anyway, in celebration, someone in Oxford knitted a bunch of little pouches, in a variety of colors and designs, and called them Mood Pockets. It works as a cell phone cozy, or a change purse, or a place to hide your weed. Melanie, our pal from Oxford who’s here at SXSW, has been distributing them among friends and colleagues. Like I said, it’s the little things, you know?