SXSW: March 11 2016

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My South by Southwest began with a big surprise—I won a ticket to see President Obama. Most of my first SXSW morning was spent retrieving my General Admission ticket and then waiting for 90+ minutes to pass through security and enter the Long Center. I was in the upper balcony, but at least my seat was in the center of the first row.

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The SXSW Interactive Opening Keynote preceded Obama’s interview. Casey Gerald, CEO of MBAs across America and a self-described “futurist”, related how he traveled 8,000 miles across the US in 2013, helping entrepreneurs and small businesses. He spoke about the human price of capitalism and, in his words, offered a gospel of doubt, questioning why is there suffering. He closed by announcing that he has closed his company and is now encouraging business schools to implement their model.

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President Obama and interviewer Evan Smith took the stage at 3 PM, 30 minutes later than scheduled. Obama talked about the technology goals of his administration and requested tech help in solving today’s problems. He pointed to the Affordable Healthcare website issues as an example of where old, outdated government systems did not work, but noted that US Digital Services resulted from that fiasco. He lamented that we make systematically make it hard for people to vote, especially in Texas. His view was that “we cannot solve problems in society unless we, the people, are paying attention.” He noted that government has to take on the toughest problems, and finding solutions take time. When Evan tried to end the interview after one hour, Obama quipped, “I am the president, so I’m going to take one more minute.” He closed by encouraging the tech community to get involved in solving our most pressing issues.
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Since I was in the neighborhood, I visited SX Create in the Palmer Events Center. I did some coloring, played with robots, and embellished a leather luggage tag. Open to the public, this event would fun for all ages.

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BANG: The Bert Berns Story was a film project by his children, Brett and Cassandra Berns. Bert Berns was a songwriter/producer of many 1960s hits, including Twist and Shout and Piece of My Heart. He died in 1967 at the age of 37. The movie was based on a book written by Joel Selvin. A Broadway musical called Piece of My Heart is planned for next year. Steve Van Zandt narrated the film and sat two rows ahead of me in the theater. He said that he fought to get Bert Berns into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (coming up on April 8).

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The Liberators was a documentary about the theft of the Quedlinburg Treasure after World War II, and how it was traced and eventually recovered in Whitewater, Texas. Director Cassie Hay attended this world premiere, along with some of the people featured in the film.

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1 thought on “SXSW: March 11 2016

  1. Very cool. Interesting you didn’t mention what the news media took as big news from the talk, which was Obama asking tech to allow government access to devices. What did you think of that?

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