South By SouthWest Diary Day One - 3/11/2010

Day One

I'm here in Austin, Texas, at the annual South by Southwest Conferences & Festival, better know as S x SW. Now in its 24th year, it's actually three things at once: an interactive-media show from March 12 to 16, 2010, a film festival from March 12 to 20, and a music fest from March 17 to 21.
It's freakin' huge. And it gets your mind to wandering --mine, for instance, wandered to the Santa Fe Plaza in the capitol of New Mexico.

Now, you may wonder what the Santa Fe Plaza has to do with South by Southwest's film festival. Nothing, really, but I was thinking about it when I was headed up the walkway leading to the Texas Capitol building in Austin this morning.

You see, there are Civil War memorials in each place, and the one in Santa Fe has an apology for its, which refers to the Confederates as "rebels." Conversely, the statue of Jeff Davis in Texas' memorial has no such apology on the pedestal. When I mentioned this to another tourist, he said, "Texans don't apologize for anything."

Aside from that, Austin, Texas is a thoroughly modern city. During the 20th century, most of the original buildings were torn down and replaced by post-modernist architecture; the few old ones that remain are almost all stately hotels or seedy bars on the famous Sixth Street, which, for some reason, the people are all very proud of. While it's not the heart of the city, it sure seems that way.

North of the capitol complex is the University of Texas, which is partly why this is the only place where liberals are allowed to thrive in the entire state. The college contains a huge football stadium and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, which was considered a monstrosity when it was first built, back when the old man was still alive, and now looks almost quaint.

Being a fan of LBJ, I spent much of my time there, looking at the exhibits, which are nice but not thrilling. But then I had to return to the convention center, where they were giving us our badges for the days to come. The place is pretty much like every other convention center I've been to, and so the sense of déjà vu was overwhelming. The lines were long, and the swag they gave us pretty junky, but then again, this isn't the Oscars.

Each part of SxSW's three sections has to be paid for separately. The film festival is an actual film festival, while the interactive section is a conference/trade show. People with a badge for one cannot go to the other, although I’m going to make an attempt.

There's not really much time for that, though. I've barely gotten my bearings and I don't know how to find where the first event of the day is.

There may be a shuttle bus or there may not be. We'll just have to see.