"So what's the strangest place you've wifi-ed?" The icebreakers were a bit unorthodox but the endgame was the same at the 6th birthday party of Creative Commons and the now three year strong Geek Dinner held last night at the uWink Restaurant in Hollywood.
The organizer of the event, Heather Schlegel, a.k.a Heathervesent, let little time pass before she revealed her primary objective, "I would like to be single-handedly responsible for making it cool to be a geek in LA." Also the founder of the BarCampLA movement, the vivacious and charismatic Schlegel comes very close to her goal--the L.A. Geek Dinners are just one of multiple projects she has in the pipeline. The multi-hued vixen is Los Angeles' new media maven, with a finger in a number of tech community pots including StartupLA, Twiistup, Lunch 2.0 and Mixergy.
The Geek Dinners originated as a way to unite the burgeoning L.A. new media scene - a group of people either associated with locally-based Internet companies or working in the digital sectors of the large entertainment conglomerates. Representing a community just now reaching critical mass, the diners are unique; In contrast to the intellectual capital of the tech heavy-hitters like San Francisco or Palo Alto (each with their own versions of the meet-up), the L.A. Geeks have action capital. Because of its proximity to Hollywood with a capital H, the scene has a greater connection to pop culture and therefore an even greater potential for that all elusive "coolness."
Surrounded by self-selected Geeks, the conversations around me ranged from the merits of Windows debugging applications to hot dating tips. A quick look around the room only emphasized the diversity - the crowd was peppered with guys that wouldn't be out of place at the Whiskey or the Roxy up the street, except that instead of band tattoos they've inked up their arms with elaborate drawings of USB cables and DB9 plugs. Scanning the fifty or so people in the room while they use uWink's personal interfaces to order their Rock and Roll Quesadillas and Razberri Mojitos, you realize that there are a lot of attractive smart people in Los Angeles and what better place to meet them than a Geek Dinner?
Case in point: Cameron Parkins, the charming Cultural Program Associate at Creative Commons. The event was meant in part to celebrate the anniversary of CC, the organization started by Lawrence Lessig in order to develop the potential of creative licensing and rights in digital media, and was topped off with a Lessig-themed Blue Velvet cake. Commenting on the significance of the birthday Parkins quipped, "If you would have told me six years ago that the future president of the United States would be using Commons tools as part of his media strategy, I wouldn't have believed it."
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Well if you'd have told me six years ago that I would be bonding at a party where people casually dropped references to the X-box 360 game "Portal," I wouldn't have believed it either. But hey, that's what happens when you share or, um, interface with a meal.
3rd Tuesday of every month
8:00 PM @ uWink, Hollywood and Highland.