Live Active Cultures 

It isn’t an annoying Nintendo character,and it isn’t a mountain in Peru. It’s an educational opportunity, a social networking environment and “a way for creative people to share their thoughts in public.” It’s exactly 20 slides, shown for exactly 20 seconds each, illuminating any topic you can imagine. It’s called pechakucha (pronounced “peh-CHAK-cha”), it started in Japan and spread around the world, and now it’s here in Orlando.

If the idea of short slideshow presentations on eclectic topics at a downtown drinking establishment sounds somewhat familiar, you may be flashing back to my coverage of the similar BarCamp events held at Wall Street Plaza. The event at Blank SpaceGallery & Lounge last Friday, the third held by the officially sanctioned PechaKucha Orlando group, was much like the previous events I attended at Slingapours but with fewer tech-centric subjects and a much more intimidating beer list. (I stick with the drafts, because Blank Space’s wall-sized bottle list makes my eyes bleed.) Also, as organizers Dustin Clingman and Eddie Selover explained to the capacity crowd, they are contributing donations to earthquake relief in pechakucha’s homeland.

The evening’s hourlong program featured the following seven speakers:

David Foster, “Inventing a Greener Apple”

Lessons learned from the last three and a half years of this independent inventor’s life, spent developing the LilyPad solar iPad charger: Research your market and write a business plan, file for your patents pronto, take search engine optimization seriously, Apple’s certification process sucks, and greed can get you 100 percent of zero. Also, don’t begin a card trick unless you plan to finish it.

Ryan Price, “Life as a Tummler”

The Catskill resorts where “tummlers” were professional minglers are mostly gone, but our cultural need for catalysts of social engagement is greater than ever. Price, promoter of the long-running Florida Creatives Happy Hour, advocates less transactional interactions, emphasizing quality over quantity as an in-person antidote to online isolation. The future of neighborhood-building institutions is third-space places like Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, not downtown’s shiny Publix.

Deb DeLacy, “Stress-free Single to Swamped Supermom”

A charming journey (via fashion-challenged old photos) from DeLacy’s self-centered 20s to settled-down 30-something and beyond. Caring for three kids, two dogs and a husband means mastering the art of the 20-minute meal and applying nail polish (always clear, so chips won’t show) at red lights. The light at the end of the tunnel: living far enough from your grandchildren that you aren’t their regular baby-sitter.

Alex Rapattoni, “The Art of Latex”

Starting only a year ago with a how-to book from Borders and the “Buster Balloon” videos on YouTube, Rapattoni has quickly become a talented balloon artist. While showing astounding slides of wedding dresses, fairy-tale storybooks and even entire haunted houses built from balloons, Alex twisted into life a perfect glass-encased rose. Just don’t ask him to make a bicycle.

Jeremy Phillips, “The Green Machine”

The City Beautiful’s abundant landscaping does more harm to the environment than good, considering the pollution (both noise and air) that lawn mowers contribute. Phillips is pushing back against the army of corrupting pruners with his eco-friendly lawn service: custom converted propane- and battery-powered tools, a solar-paneled electric work truck and constant composting make lawn-care company Evoscape one of the Orlando area’s greenest gardeners.

Keyvan Acosta, “The Tardy Train in Germany”

An anecdote about the only German train that doesn’t run on time set off this head-spinning travelogue of “compressed idiosyncrasy,” which skipped from “junk memory” and “Ringoisms” to 8-bit nostalgia, being excitedly sad at Jim Morrison’s grave and finding pennies on the sidewalk. The lesson: “You can remember a lot from your travels by taking pictures of your verbal thoughts.” Or something like that.

Patricia Pizer, “Things That Inspire Me”

This video game designer closed the evening with an eclectic visual guide to the things around us that inspire her work. The curve of a whimsical cereal bowl, chrome on old car taillights and paintings of Elvis share mindspace with childhood visits to the Louvre, flower buds and fruits from the farmers market. But the best source is her game-playing cockatoo, who taught her to toss struggling players a softball.

Despite recurring technical problems, all the speakers soldiered bravely onward. In the end, it was an hour and $5 well spent. At best, I got a fascinating introduction to a topic I’d never explored before. And at worst … it’s over in only six minutes and 40 seconds.

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