Mississippi Memory

With the reader’s indulgence (or not) while I take some time off, here’s a revisiting of Oxford Wifigate, which happened three years and four months ago. This was the piece, incidentally, that created the term “mood pocket,” which has since become part of the vernacular.

“Just a few more licks to post on this cranked-up, trumped-up Oxford Film Festival media-panel fracas, and that’ll be it for good,” I began.

“(a) I forgot to mention in my initial post about this yesterday morning that I tried using my AT&T air card service (which I pay $60 bucks a month for) and that it worked for a while and then it didn’t. I’m used to it being a temperamental device, but when it crapped out on me along with the hotel wifi and the ethernet cable connection, something collapsed inside. I felt as if the four horsemen of the apocalypse were going for the kill.

“(b) If I had it do over again, I would have gone to the friggin’ media panel and listened to moderator James Rocchi do his brilliant pontificator routine while I waited for a chance to get a word in edgewise in front of 50 or 60 people who’d been partying like the panelists into the wee hours the night before. When I said to a couple of fellow panelists (Rocchi and someone else) on Friday morning that I wouldn’t doing the panel due to fatigue and rage and a general deadness-of-the-brain, I wasn’t coming from a place of firm resolution but from what you might call a mood pocket. Mood pockets are temporary emotional foxholes — not a home or a fortress or any kind of fortified structure but a place you’ve just sort of crawled into for a bit.

“(c) Imagine I’m the film festival chief and you’re coming to my town to watch movies and take part in a panel discussion. I pick you up at the airport, take you to the local motel. You notice after unpacking your things in your room that the bathroom has a strip of yellow tape across the entrance that says ‘out of order.’ You come up to me and ask what’s up, and I say ‘Uhhm, I know, it’s fucked up…but you can use the bathroom near the front desk in the lobby and’ — I hand them a roll of peach-colored Charmin bathroom tissue — ‘there are also woods right outside, so you can always go there in a pinch.’ Let’s say one of the panelists doesn’t show up the next day. Now, I might be disappointed in this, having paid for their airfare and hotel room costs and so on, but if I were honest with myself I might allow that an emotional cause-and-effect symmetry might have been a factor.

“(d) ‘Regardless of the wifi-gate specifics, the cool kidz are ganging up on you,’ a journalist friend wrote me today, ‘and the winners write history, so to speak, even if they’re idiots. I was initially horrified and then I thought about it in context. That things were so screwed up with the motel wifi that you thought something was wrong with your own shit is a major organizational error on their part. But you’re cool with the fest people, and frankly controversy is the BEST publicity known to man…but all these other critics? I haven’t seen them writing shit up all over the place, have you? They showed up for a panel, but have they been pimping that place large?

“‘If you post any further followup, the only recommendation I have from a debater’s standpoint is that you reiterate that the no-showing for the panel is something the festival organizers and you are cool about, and that you’d challenge these other folks to show any of their coverage of the trip or experience that isn’t Defamer fodder that has nothing to do with promoting the festival. You ‘agree’ with all the jerks that you answer to the festival folks, and according to them, you’re cool. So what’s the problem?’

“(e) ‘Don’t let the bastard commenters get you down,’ a seasoned journalist pal wrote two or three hours ago. ‘The Oxford coverage is great. If I wanted to read bland coverage of movies and other crap at a small regional film festival, I can go to Variety or the Reporter or one of those earnest film blogs that think covering every last lame movie is important. but your bizarre adventures (and your very fine tourist photos) is what makes your site so fucking readable. The only thing i would change is (a) add some photos of cute Oxford girls and (b) maybe an mp3 of Scott Weinberg or one of the other pissheads getting into a verbal harrangue with you over this thing.”

“(f) ‘Hey Jeff, how are you? I just wanted to email you to make sure that you and your readers know that I am Scott Feinberg from the L.A. Times and NOT Scott Weinberg the guy who commented on your post about the Oxford Film Festival, since I’ve been getting emails for hours from people who think you and I are in a big fight, when in fact I consider us to be friends. Perhaps you can post a clarification?’ Sorry, Scott — clarification posted.”