Wednesday, July 14, 2010

OCON, OhomoCON, and 10 Days in Las Vegas

I just spent 10 amazing days in Las Vegas, at OCON, The Objectivist Summer Conference.  Each day was filled to the brim with lectures, presentations, panel discussions, and other first-rate programming, all presented by Objectivist scholars.  There were courses on a wide variety of topics, including but by no means limited to: Aristotle, ancient Greece, music, poetry, the rational application of the concept of luck, and lots of other things.  Dr. Leonard Peikoff presented the second part of his final major philosophical work, his DIM Theory, which was fascinating, but too complex to go into here.  I can happily report that I almost immediately got a sense of his theory's application to architectural aesthetics.  I intend to correspond with Dr. Peikoff on this subject, and see if I can get him to comment on my ideas.

But there was a lot, a LOT more to OCON than just the lectures and general sessions.  I met tons of people I have previously known only online, either through facebook, blogs, or Twitter.  Twitter turned out to be one of the best parts of the conference, as people were constantly tweeting with the #OCON hashtag, sometimes recommending a particular course, other times just joking or quoting other OCON-tweeps out of context, for humorous effect.  The #OCON hashtag and tweeting were in full swing most of the day Friday, as everyone was making their way to Las Vegas for the start of the conference.  Updates came in from various airports around the country, (and around the world,) as I drove out across the Mojave Desert from LA to Vegas. 

In particular, I was really looking forward to meeting several other objectivist gay guys who I had either met already, or knew of from online.  On the first night, at the opening cocktail reception, I suddenly realized that here they all were! We were just standing around with our drinks and chatting, and I just kind of burst out, "I can't believe I'm standing here with you, and you, and you, and you!  I have to tweet this!"  Just then someone said, "give it the hashtag homo-con!"  For a brief second, I thought, "Will all the objectivists reading this think that's totally weird?  Do I care?" and I tweeted it.

That kind of sealed it, and the group of us ran around a lot together during the conference, tweeting using both #OCON and #homOCON, along with some other cool peeps (gay and not gay) who joined us along the way.  The next day, Trey realized that we needed to change our hashtag, since a bunch of gay republicans had also been using the tag #homoCON to identify themselves as homo-conservatives (and Objectivists bristle, to put it mildly, at any comparison to conservatism.)  Thus we became #OhomoCON.  The group continued to expand, and now it has grown into a whole facebook group with 57 members, at last count.

It was interesting how the OHomos facebook group came about.  It's actually a conceptual offshoot from Diana Hsieh's OLists.  There was a brief Twitter conversation several months ago between Mark, Trey, Diana and I, about forming an OList for OHomos.  As I recall, the original idea was Mark's.  I'm sure someone with more skill at such things than I could find it in the dusty old Twitter archives somehow.  Anyway, the consensus seemed to be that Trey's blog was pretty much objectivist-homo-central anyway, and that we didn't really need a special place online to talk about gay stuff, and it was dropped.

Then OhomoCON became all the rage at OCON.  People outside the conference were tweeting things like "O-homo-CON, O-homo-CON, your tweets are en-ter-tain-ing" sung to the tune of 'Oh Christmas Tree' from @CordairGallery, to name one example.  It became clear that people were actually paying attention to the OHomos, and that our contribution to the coverage of the conference was sincerely, and widely, appreciated.  That alone was tremendous in terms of moral support, for me personally, and to the group too, I think.

At one point, Trey, Diana and I were talking about all this more seriously.  There was so much focus on activism at the conference (to which Danielle was a major contributor, by the way - shout out!) that I think it naturally bled over into the OHomos movement specifically.  The idea of an online group for OHomos resurfaced.  Now, however, it was in the context of gay activism, specifically from the point of view of promoting gay rights as properly grounded in the principle of individual rights, rather than the pressure-group politics that overwhelms the current discussion.  Trey volunteered to make a facebook group as a starting point, with the idea that if there were sufficient interest, Diana would follow with an official OList.

Activism aside, there was also another, not unimportant, motivating factor in officially forming the OHomos group as such.  Let's recap: Friday night, the first tweet started it off.  Saturday morning, the 3rd of July, we had our first General Session.  This was opened with a few remarks and announcements by Dr. Yaron Brook, the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, the organization that puts on the conference every year.  Among his announcements were several for various groups' luncheons and special meetings that were not officially part of the general conference.  Upon hearing these announcements, we OHomos pretty much resolved then and there that, next year, we wanted Dr. Brook to announce an OHomos event in front of the whole conference.

Then it got better.

The next day, which was the 4th, the OHomos all decided to meet up for breakfast before the courses and general sessions started.  I think it was pretty random, honestly, that this breakfast happened on the 4th.  But, before it was over, it had turned into the First Annual OhomoCON Fourth of July Brunch.  Because the gays are so much better at doing brunch than breakfast.  So now, I'm pretty much very happy to inform Dr. Brook that next year he will be announcing the Annual OhomoCON Fourth of July Brunch in front of the whole conference.  #imjustsayin

From there, you can pretty much fill in the rest of the conference: lots of fun times with really great people.  Late nights at the bar(s), tons of Starbucks coffee the next day, really great intellectual stimulation, lectures and presentations, and nonstop tweeting.

Among my other highlights:

-Finally getting to know Diana Hsieh personally.  We have interacted through the OLists for several months now, and it was fun seeing how well our personalities meshed in person, as compared to online. 

Ray Roberts took this picture!

- Going shooting at the outdoor shooting range with Trey, Kevin, Santiago, Kelly, and Jim.  We all had a great time.  Here I am, showing my secret agent side:

Pic by Santiago V.

 And here, the group of us:

Trey, Jim, Santiago, Kevin, and Me.
Santiago's picture, (taken by Kelly?)

- Meeting and getting to know Danielle Morrill.  She is unquestionably First Class, and full of good ideas.  Here she is with her also-very-cool husband Kevin, at the closing banquet, where she and I also shared a dance:

 I think it was pretty unanimous among the OHomos that these two ladies were tied for best dressed that night.

- Planting this on Rory:

What further explanation could be required?

But wait, there's more!
  • Eric Daniels singing 'Ball and Chain' at Karaoke night
  • Touring Hoover Dam with Andy Clarkson and Trey
  • Hearing Dr. Peikoff's retirement announcement (not that I enjoy his retirement, but it was really touching and very meaningful to me to have been there)
  • Getting designated the official #OCON Heart Throb for the OHomos (It's true!)
This is a blog post that's really hard to steer into shore.  It seems like I could go on and on and on, and I truly could. Re-entry to my regular life was actually somewhat challenging this week.

Suffice it to say, OCON 2010 was a milestone for me.  Many people in attendance who had been to previous conferences thought it was the best OCON ever.  Even without any basis for comparison, I find it hard to imagine how it could have been any better than it was, whether from the point of view of either the intellectual or the social content.

But just when I think it couldn't get any better, I realize that this was the very first ever OCON with OHomos in the house - and we're just getting started...


  1. Fun times! I've only done Vegas and Telluride Colorado so far. Both were fantastic. Can't wait for ARI to do one in another exciting venue.

  2. I am so sad I couldn't join you all, but know that following along on Twitter was a sheer blast. I liked you the moment I met you in LA, and am so looking forward to seeing you again. Perhaps for OCON 2011!

  3. It was great to meet you, Earl. I hope the gang can get together again before another OCON rolls around.

  4. Sounds like you all had a blast.

    Tis was what really caught my eye, however:

    "... I almost immediately got a sense of his theory's application to architectural aesthetics."

    I'd be fascinated to hear your ideas on that.

  5. Great blog post, particularly for those of us who missed OCON and now miss the fast-paced, enthusiastic fun of the #OHomoCon twitterfest.

  6. You're first class yourself - looking forward to learning how to make a cool journal like the one you were toting. Oh, and getting my abs into as good of shape as yours prior to the Florida OCON next year. Hope to see you before then!