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We're still here, damn it!
by Ellen Kampinsky

Thoughts about The Webby Awards ceremony, San Francisco, CA.
July, 2001

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 hats.

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."

Ellen Kampinsky is a former senior editor for Talk magazine.

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•  webby awards
Read about the winners or watch the ceremony web cast, hosted by Sam Donaldson, hmmm.



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