also known as Hurricon
Pi-Con. is a friendly convention, which attracts intelligent, highly-evolved, down-to-earthlings, who love nothing better than a lively debate on some obscure subject. It’s also an excuse for a road trip. Takes me about 4 hours to get there, allowing for stops along the way, traveling back roads. This is how you discover stuff, on the road and inside your head. [more on that]
Pi-Con is a small convention anyway. Going up against Hurricane Irene in the scheduling cut the numbers further. But that didn’t ruin the con; it gave it the flavor of a whopping grand party.
Bunking in a room on Dealer’s Row is not ideal, even if it brings the cost down. I sometimes need a bit of solitude to recharge my batteries, and that didn’t happen. If I wasn’t at a panel, either in front of or behind the table, I was minding the room where the Eccentric Eclectic Collection of Artists were peddling their wares. Jewelry and creative magnets, original artwork and prints, decorated divinations, and of course, Broad Universe books. Science Guest of Honor Dr. Pamela Gay was offering up recordings of her podcasts. My contributions were copies of my audio of Archimedes Nesselrode and a couple of Caligari’s Keyboard CDs. We were next door to Roberta’s Garage Sale (Roberta Rogow, the filk queen). Actually, a great place to be, with lots of interesting people popping in and hanging out. I just found myself losing my frontal cortex functionality by the end of it.
Also contributing to the loss of my front brain functionality was, of course, the Bar Fleet party. I blame the Horta.
Barfleet parties always have great music. Dancing is one of the main reasons I seek them out. DJ Azrael, a.k.a. Kilean Jurkowski, was running the board, with a prominently displayed note warning, “Absolutely No Gaga, No Dubstep, No Shit.” A DJ’s playlist is a highly crafted affair, and what he was offering up was an excellent selection of highly danceable, energizing tunes. In the Timewarp and technopop mix were songs I recognized (some of which took me back to my club days in Boston) and songs I didn’t, but liked.
Aside from the good music and highly adequate bar, Bar Fleet just has a great crew with a great attitude. What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. And they always have a raffle, both to help support themselves and to support some charitable cause. Buy tickets early and often. And tip your Guinan
My first panel was on the Future of the Library (is there one?). The audience was of the opinion that there most certainly is. With fellow panelists Steve Kanaras and David Larochelle (here’s the link to his write-up of the con) we talked about how a library is a lot more than books. It’s a connection to the community. It’s free access to information for those who might otherwise not be able to afford it. It’s a face, instead of just an interface. (For more on this subject, check out the Concord Monitor article that came out of it.)
David and I found ourselves serving together on two other panels, pondering the assertion that Roddenberry was an able-ist (what the hell does that mean, anyway?) and debating the dubious merits of Lulzsec, where I inadvertently caused a near-riot by suggesting that shutting down Amazon for a few days wouldn’t really be such a major catastrophe, as terrorist acts go. With us, offering more pragmatic insights, was Will Frank, who is an *ahem cough* lawyer. Don’t hold it against him; he’s on your side.
I left the panel on Internet Vigilantism deep in thought. I’d been spending a lot of time lately pondering what is truly meaningful in life, coming out of meditations on what theists, Buddhists, and atheists have in common. The reaction I got when I asked how bad it would really be to lose Amazon for a day or two spoke eloquently to what our values are. Not to belittle the need to earn a living, which many people do by way of the Internet, but everyone in the room shared an almost Ferengi horror at the appalling loss of revenue that an Amazon take-down (if such a thing were possible) would cause. Not to mention the inconvenience. Juxtapose this with the havoc being caused by Irene that very weekend.
The hotel had a live news feed going on in the lobby showing the progress of the hurricane, the flooding and destruction. Lives were lost. Homes were destroyed. I thought, Anonymous or Lulzsec achieve their wet dream and manage to take down the entire bloody Web for a day and a half. Yawn. When people lose power, as thousands do whenever there is an event like the hurricane, they are cut off from the Internet. Somehow, life goes on.
As Irene roared up the coast and travel plans got mangled, everybody had to improvise. That included Pi-Con scheduling. They came up with extended programming on Sunday for the folks trapped there by the weather. The hotel went out of its way to accommodate people in a stressful situation (and, BTW, they had free wi-fi, unlike some con hotels I could name). Jeff Warner spent a great deal of time going through the halls with a clipboard organizing stuff. He and Mario Di Giacomo joined me on the Sunday pre-1960s SciFi film panel after James Cambias bailed out on me to flee in anticipation of the hurricane. Thanks to them, we had a fabulous panel. Special mention to Beck Prigot, a particularly enthusiastic audience member (also 6 Pi-Con’s volunteer wrangler).
The “saving the day” award goes to George Claxton, who single-handedly ran the Loot Liberation League panel, mesmerizing us all with his tales of pirate life on the Spanish Main. (Thanks also to Julia Burton, who was a heck of a lot more bright and intelligent than I was).
I bailed out finally around 6:00 pm, but there was stuff going on up until 11:00 pm, with concluding ceremonies in the hot tub. A rousing shout-out to all the con-goers, panelists and 6 Pi-Con staff who didn’t let the grim weather forecast get in the way of putting on a great con.
One sad note: After putting on another splendid Bar Fleet party (at least what I remember of it) the USB Shameless suffered a tragic loss. A moment of silence, please, in honor of two fallen crewmen, lying shattered in a puddle on the pavement, their senseless demise reminiscent of Tasha Yar. Captain Rhandom Bhagczech was sad.