Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Year at the No Fluff Round Table

The last No Fluff, Just Stuff show of the year just wrapped up a few weeks ago in Denver. My travel schedule has been pretty brutal lately (in fact, I spent the week between No Fluff Dallas and No Fluff Denver at another conference in San Francisco), so in a way I'm glad that my weekend travel is winding down for the year (just one more conference for the rest of the year, ApacheCon). I was surprised, though, at how much I dreaded the end of the show in Denver. I've made real friends with speakers on the tour this year, and the propect of not seeing any of them for 3 or 4 months affected me more than I thought it would. When you do a series like this, you end up taking for granted many of the less obvious features, like when you will see your friends again. Then, the series is over for the year, and there is no upcoming event.

This has been a great year for me at No Fluff. I ended up doing 14 shows this year, several more than I had planned, but I'm certainly glad I did. I've blogged about the extraordinary level of attendees before, and they help make the weekend fly by. But the other thing that drives me from my home for a dozen+ weekends a year is the chance to get to hang out with the other speakers.

Back in the 1920's, a group of writers, actors, and other artists started gathering a few times a week at the Algonquin hotel restaurant. This group included Dorothy Parker and Harpo Marx, among others (for a great movie that depicts this group and era, check out Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle). According to legend, the Algonquin Round table discussions were the wittiest in history because they had gathered the quickest wit in New York at that time, which was the best in the world. Here are a few samples:

Robert Sherwood, reviewing cowboy hero Tom Mix: "They say he rides as if he’s part of the horse, but they don’t say which part."

Dorothy Parker: "That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them."

George S. Kaufman: Once when asked by a press agent, "How do I get my leading lady’s name into your newspaper?" Kaufman replied, "Shoot her."

No Fluff has created a geek version of this same phenomenom: the speaker's dinner. On Saturday night, the speakers go somewhere and eat, and every one of those gatherings ends up being the most fascinating coversation you can imagine. All these brilliant guys, gathered to talk about what they've been thinking about all week that they can't discuss with their spouse. I've had more revelations over food during the last year than I probably had my entire life leading up to this year. So, while I'm glad to spend some time at home, I can't wait for the next gathering of the No Fluff Round Table next year -- I'm sure that we will all have several months worth of pent-up discussion just waiting.

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