Time to catch up on things, starting with Pecha Kucha Night 4. October has been so busy it seems like ancient history but it was only a couple of weeks ago. So what is this Pecha Kucha thing? It’s an evening of short presentations given on a wide variety of subjects. The Pecha Kucha presentation format is 20 images for 20 seconds each. That means each presentation is precisely six minutes and forty seconds long. The images advance automatically so the talk has to be timed to match.
The PKN4 speakers met for a combination pot luck dinner and Pecha Kucha primer at Sarah Jane Semrad’s house the weekend before. I enjoyed the dinner as much as any other part of the event; maybe more. You always hear people talking about who they’d invite to their fantasy dinner – maybe Stephen Hawking, Philip Glass, and Heidi Klum or some other weird combination. Well, that’s exactly what the PKN4 pot luck was. We had an NPR commentator, a well-known chef, a tattoo artist, an architect, an artist, a human rights attorney, a violinist – well, you get the idea. It was an amazing group of people to have dinner with.
Over the next couple of days, I used Open Office Impress to assemble my presentation. You didn’t think I’d use Power Point did you!? With Susan’s help, I went over and over the talk trying to perfect the timing.
The big event happened on Wednesday night, Oct 13. Susan and I got to the Wyly Theater early. I went to the green room to join the other speakers, nervously reading cards or pieces of paper on which we’d scrawled notes. Janice Provost suggested jumping up and down to burn off our extra energy, some of us had wine to calm us down, others had Cokes to keep their energy level up. Nick Ley powered up his electric cigarette. I was so fascinated by Nick’s cyborg cigarette, I talked him into taking it apart so I could see how it worked.
At the pot luck, I had jokingly said I’d go first. I found out in the green room that I really was going first. Doing my first ever Pecha Kucha presentation in front of 300+ people and going before all those talented and interesting speakers – yikes!
Sarah Jane introduced me and I fumbled my way to the stage in the dark. Once I got out to the podium, got the microphone in place, and Brian hit the start button, there was no turning back. For the first 30 seconds or so I was really freaked. I think my hands were shaking. But about a minute or so in I realized it wasn’t any different than practice and everything was cool. In retrospect, I think I could have improved things a lot but overall it turned out ok.
The subject of my presentation was Dallas Makerspace, the first hackerspace in Dallas. I wanted to explain why Dallas needed a hackerspace and give a quick overview of the projects we’ve done in our first year. The gist of it was that we need to make Dallas weird. Dallas is sadly boring, a “cultural wasteland” as someone put it recently.
Halfway through the series of presentations we got the traditional Pecha Kucha beer break. I met up with Susan and we got drinks. I started getting positive feedback from random people almost immediately. Lots of questions about the hackerspace; how could people join, when did we meet, where was it located, that sort of thing. I’ve talked about hackerspaces to dozens of local groups over the last year but I’ve never seen that many people in one place who instantly “got it” before now.
Afterward I was really glad my presentation was first for two reasons: 1) I got to listen to all the others without worrying about mine and 2) the other talks were all so amazing, mine would have seemed pretty crummy if it had come after them. They were all so different it would be hard to pick a favorite.
Cathy Miller’s explanation of the origin and evolution of Cathedonia was hilarious; Bill Holston’s stories of helping people get asylum in the US was amazing, Elizabeth Wattley’s story of a college turning it’s football field into a working organic farm was so cool (if only we could get every school to dump sports programs for something useful and educational!).
Richmond Punch let his violin do the talking, Mark Gunderson gave us an architectural philosophy lesson, Bruce Lee Webb took us on a whirlwind tour of his favorite folk artists, Jessie Zarazaga showed us urban designs that we can hope will influence the way things are done here in Dallas, Buck and Camp explained life in Marfa, Nick Ley showed us amazing tattoos both historical and modern, Janice Provost told us how a chef can make the world a better place, and Rawlins Gilliland closed out the night with tales from his childhood that prove truth is stranger than fiction.
After the talks were finished, Janice invited everyone to Parigi for an after party. Most of the group showed up there. Susan and I had never eaten at Parigi before but we’re definitely going back. The food was wonderful.
So thanks to Sarah Jane and Brian for organizing Pecha Kucha and giving me a chance to do a presentation! And thanks to all the other speakers for a fun and interesting evening!
There wasn’t any video of the event but you can see a few official photos, read a D Magazine review, or a Pegasus News review. StealingKitty also wrote about PKN4. And if you want to know more about Pecha Kucha in general, listen to the recent NPR story.