We're still here, damn it!
by Ellen Kampinsky
Thoughts about The Webby Awards ceremony,
San Francisco, CA.
If you live in San Francisco and commute to the heart of Silicon
Valley, your drive is now 20 minutes shorter than it used to be.
That's the upside of the dot-com downturn, a spit-in-your-face survival
spirit celebrated by the Webby Awards July 18.
Their goofy geekiness and their San Francisco specificity (including
a kick-line finale featuring a singer whose 10-foot-hight hat portrayed
the city skyline) make the Webbys endearing. The brilliance of limiting
acceptance speeches to five words turns every award into koan, a
haiku in Stuffit.
The dress code was "gutsy" and plenty of people complied.
Favorite accessories were angel wings, ass-baring pants and wigs
of fuchsia or bright red. (Presenter Sam Donaldson's was a sober
gray.) A friend nominated in the commerce category waited her turn
to be interviewed by local TV; she had to get in line behind a couple
dressed as cows. A very pregnant presenter strolled onstage wearing
a skin-tight outfit that bared her bulging, gleaming midriff; if
the baby had kicked, you could have seen it from the tenth row.
The zeitgeist site of the evening was fuckedcompany.com;
besides its symbolic value, its very sound seemed to excite the
show's delicious host, Alan Cumming. When it got nominated for its
second award, he cooed "Oooh, I get to say it again."
The best thing about the Webbys is they make you want to make a
difference. Even though "change the world" was used as
a punch line, one in the evening's satire of soooo 2000 terms (as
well as jokes about marketing- people-turned-yoga-instructors),
it was a recurring theme.
The Webbys honor sites like Volunteer
Match and internet pioneers like David Engelbart who have devoted
their lives to improving human communication, and they recognize
the outsiders, the people who put up weird sites like Peter
Pan's Home Page, in which a guy with a Neverneverland obsession
posts photos of himself in his wardrobe of green tights and peaked
As Virtual Community author Howard Rheingold said in his 5-word
presentation, "Before money, after money: community."
But lest anyone doubt that a viable business plan is still the web's
Holy Grail, consider the acceptance speech of The Onion's honoree:
"To advertise, call Phil Meyer."
Kampinsky is a former senior editor for Talk