There Is No Cat

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Drinking tadpoles

This is what it looks like from behind the microphone on stage at the Red Eyed Fly in Austin, Texas, when you've just told a story at the Fray Cafe (as I mentioned in my last post, Fray Cafe is a live storytelling event and the real life instantiation of the online Fray). I saw a lot of cameras this evening, but most of them were pointed at the stage. I didn't see any pointing from the stage, so I thought this would make an interesting shot.

Looking out at the audience at Fray Cafe in Austin

This was without a question the best part of the trip so far. I got to the location pretty early and found Derek Powazek, Founder Emeritus of the Fray and Fray Cafe, and Eric Rice, who has made the event continue to happen for the past three years after Derek stepped down from producing them. I introduced myself to Derek and told him about my recent post where I credited him with being the Ernie Kovacs of the web (at least for me), and he got all excited and said, "You wrote that? I read that! That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me!" Well, I'm sure that his wife Heather has said nicer things, and I don't take hyperbole literally, but it was sweet to know that he had seen and appreciated it. Derek just seems like one of the genuinely nicest people I've met here.

We talked for a while out in front of the bar. I told him a story about my time in startup hell, and he got a kick out of it, which gave me the courage to sign up for an open mic slot and tell the story to everyone else. Which is, of course, how I got the photo above. I sucked, but that was okay, even though pretty much everyone else didn't suck. Next time I'll plan something out in advance and hopefully not suck nearly so hard. It's different telling a story to a microphone and 150 people than telling it to a guy in front of a bar.

Derek Powazek on stage at Fray Cafe in Austin

Derek actually got up and told a story, for the first time in a few years from what I understand. He talked about how he met his wife at SXSW several years ago, how he tried to propose to her at SXSW a few years later, and how he eventually did propose to her on a Fray-related New Year's Eve.

The stories seemed to be mostly about love or technology. Baratunde Thurston, who I was sitting next to most of the night, is a gigging comedian and was hysterically funny and touching talking about his late mother's last days.

The Red Eyed Fly was a really neat place to have this (I understand it's where it happens every year). It's a pleasantly divey bar, and the back room where the stories were told had a really cozy ambiance. I felt a whole lot more comfortable here than I have at the conference itself, which is large and a bit overwhelming. A lot of the people here have clearly been friends for a long time, but I didn't get the sense of intruding the way I have in some other similar situations. Fray Cafe at SXSW was an incredible way to spend an evening.

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Posted at 3:17 AM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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