SXSW: March 13 2018

This was the last full day of SXSW Interactive. People were starting to leave, so most sessions weren’t crowded. I tried a variety of non-tech subjects today: faith, space, food, and comedy. Oh, and I finally found some free snacks. Note to 2019 self: Hang out more near the Food sessions.

The Gifts of Faith: Cultivating Resilience

This panel discussed their personal journeys of faith. Noor Tagouri, discussed her decision to put on a hijab and her desire to serve which comes from her Muslim faith. Bree Newsome, a Christian, climbed the flagpole at the South Carolina capitol and pulled down the Confederate flag following the shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church. Ben Howe went back to his Christian beliefs after going through a difficult divorce. Ann Marie Cox grew up with no religious tradition. After addition, depression, and a suicide attempt, Cox became a Christian. Each person had a moment of crisis in their life that led to deeper faith. The discussion was good. The photos of cute animals that were displayed throughout the session were weird.

Mars v Earth: The Future of Exploration

Moderator Nadia Drake is a National Geographic contributor. Leland Melvin is the only person on earth who was both an NFL player and a NASA astronaut.  Brian Skerry is a wildlife photographer who was National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2017. He specializes in underwater photography. Nicole Stott was also a NASA astronaut and now is an artist. Scott and Melvin are part of an international group of astronauts who are working to improve our planet. Both Stott and Skerry spent time on an underwater habitat off Key Largo called Aquarius. Stott noted that there is a operating manual for the space station that was created with international cooperation. Something similar is needed for earth. The panelists agreed that space exploration is to improve life on earth. The session closed with a trailer for an upcoming National Geographic show called One Strange Rock which premieres on March 26.

Google Assistant Phone Booths

I stopped by these phone booths which Google installed in the Fairmont hotel. When my turn came, I was assigned to the Travel booth. Inside was a Google Assistant device and printed instructions on how to ask “What is the best place in the world right now?” The answer was someplace in Germany which was having a mini-Oktoberfest. Hmmm. I was under-impressed.

Displaced Kitchens: Community Empowerment via Food

Nas Jab is a Palestinian refugee and NYC chef. He and Jabber Al-Bihani are the founders of a non-profit, Komeeda, which hosts community pop-up meals. They gave examples of how food brings communities together: the relief work of Jose Andres and Central World Kitchen in Puerto Rico; Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit; and Komeeda’s dinner parties for refugees. A representative from Refugee Services of Texas joined them on stage and spoke about an Iraqi couple who has started an Austin catering business called Baiti Foods. Komeeda is expanding to Austin later this year.

Memes + Monologues: Lessons in Laughter for News

Panel members were Amma Marfo (comedy booker), Jason Meier (Emerson College), Keli Dailey (journalist / comedy professor), and Matthew Broussard (stand-up comedienne). They agreed that college crowds are more sensitive and less open to some subjects. They also agreed that comedy evolves and middle-aged comics such as Eddie Murphy and Wanda Sykes don’t really connect with college students now. Their favorite comedians now? Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and John Stewart. Key lesson: Be your authentic self.

SXSW Music started today. I saw two bands at Central Presbyterian: Thee Conductor and…

…Haunted Summer.

If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd

This interesting documentary about the southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was worth seeing, if only for the soundtrack. Two band members attended the screening.

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