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A show not even a (plastic) baby could save

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor / @leetxs

SXSW is coming to a close, and the big names have begun to emerge. Headlining a free show at Auditorium Shores last night was The Flaming Lips, after opening sets from Divine Fits and Jim James.

I’ve heard a lot about the Flaming Lips. Austin the photo editor is something of a Flaming Lips connoisseur, having chased them down to all 8 of their record-breaking shows in the space of 24 hours last summer. I know they’re known for their shows, and my expectations were high, as were those of the thousands of others who showed up to watch.

I was disappointed.

Wayne Coyne, their bearded frontman, fumbled with a pile of tubing hooked up to himself and a plastic baby strapped to his chest for nearly five minutes before actually playing anything, ruining whatever illusion or mystery he was going for with it. He was honest, pointing out “I have too much shit” as he set up his gratuitously bizarre set. Unfortunately that ended up being more honest than he intended.

This particular show was an exhibition of their upcoming album, The Terror, which evidently consists entirely of unintelligible crooning over slow synthesizer chords. Most disappointing was the fact that not a single member of the band ever moved during the show. Not once. If not for the flashing blue and red light show going on on top of the band, the entire set would have had less stage presence than a pit orchestra at a musical. The mesh behind Coyne with the psychedelic eyeball imagery projected on it was cool, sure, but it lent nothing to the music and proved to be just a gimmick.

I can appreciate stage effects; I’ve seen Van Halen and Iron Maiden twice each, and both use lasers, pyrotechnics, and strobe lights to their full effect, as well as, in Maiden’s case, giant animatronic zombie robots. But these bands both do things on stage other than stand there and play their instruments. There was zero energy in the Flaming Lips’ performance, and even the strobe lights began to feel lazy after a while. The whole show was incredibly full of itself, as if strapping a plastic baby to a singer was the most deeply artistic thing possible and any further effort put into the performance would be superfluous.

Was it a bad show? I don’t know. The band held it together fine, and there were no obvious musical screwups. But it wasn’t entertaining. Crowd reaction was mixed, and from what I’m reading online I’m not the only press blogger who feels this way. I don’t know if the record crowd at Auditorium Shores got what they came for, but they most certainly got what they paid for. 

Filed under sxsw flaming lips

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Keynote: Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal

The closing keynote speaker at South By Southwest Interactive described his talk as one about “comics, creativity, crowdfunding and poop jokes.”

I’d say that was a pretty accurate description. Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, had a packed room at the Austin Convention Center laughing throughout his keynote address. Inman has used The Oatmeal as a platform for observing the evolution of words like “douchebag” in today’s vernacular and explaining how your cat may be plotting to kill you. Inman also headed two successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2012, one of which turned a nuisance lawsuit on its head by raising money for charity instead of paying damages to a rival website.

Before touching on his crowdfunding campaigns, Inman spoke about how he gets his inspiration.

“I’m not a cartoonist. I’m a stand-up comedian whose stage is the Web,” Inman said. “I write comics where I tell truths, anecdotes and observations.”

Inman finds inspiration in funny anecdotes in his life and works them into comics about things everyone can relate to. He doesn’t use the traditional panel format, and often draws his characters in an unattractive, almost adolescent way (stay tuned for an example).

“I like the character of The Oatmeal to be thought of as this bloated alcoholic who comes out at night,” Inman said.

Inman said he used to try to harness and control inspiration, but that didn’t work.

“Inspiration is like food poisoning, it sprays out of you when you don’t need it,” Inman said.

This was one of many lines that got laughs from the crowd. Inman’s jokes, no matter how immature they may be at times, work because he doesn’t try too hard — he draws inspiration from life that everyone can relate to.

Inman said he often looks to science and nature to draw comedic inspiration. He once again had the audience laughing while talking animatedly about the Mantis shrimp and inventor Nikola Tesla. Things are funnier if you focus on topics that are likeable and compelling, Inman said.

“I’m always asked how to get more likes on Facebook and other bullshit social media metrics that people use,” Inman said. “Write about things that make you angry, sad or you think are funny. Don’t put (effort) into begging for tweets and likes.”

Inman’s comics are funny, so funny that FunnyJunk.com was posting them and removing the attribution. Inman blogged about it and later received a later stating that he either needed to pay FunnyJunk $20,000 in damages or be sued in federal court. Inman comically annotated the letter with his plan for getting back at FunnyJunk’s lawyer, Charles Carreon.

Inman planned to raise the requisite $20,000, take a photo of the money and send it to Carreon along with an illustration of his mother “seducing a Kodiak bear.” Inman then planned to donate one half of the money to the National Wildlife Federation and the other half to the American Cancer Society. Thus, “Operation Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad” was born. 

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The illustration in question. Courtesy of The Oatmeal (please don’t sue us).

Long story short, Inman said Carreon sued him anyway, as well as the National Wildlife Federation and American Cancer Society. This elevated Carreon to a “level 60 villain” in the Internet’s eyes, Carreon said.

Inman said his joke in no way “backfired” as the media claimed.

“It fired perfectly straight, hit the asshole in the head, blood came out of the back of his head, turned into money and landed in the hands of a bunch of grizzly bears who needed it,” Inman said.

Operation Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad ended up raising about $220,000, and was a warm-up round for “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.” Inman aimed to purchase the land on which Tesla’s laboratory stood to build a museum in his honor. Inman succeeded, and raised nearly $1.4 million.

So who do you give credit to for the two campaigns’ success? The Oatmeal? Crowdfunding as a model? Inman said he thinks the success came from enabling people to pay for things they couldn’t before.

“These campaigns weren’t about perks or products, they were about righting a wrong,” Inman said.

Inman attributed his success to Tesla and the hackers, hobbyists and geeks of the world for wanting to make the world a better place.  

By Caitlin Clark
News Editor 

Filed under SXSW SXSW Interactive Matthew Inman The Oatmeal crowdfunding comedy

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Using Your Online Network to Get a Job #IRL

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor / @CaitlinMClark

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told to be professional on social networking sites because future employers could be looking at my profiles, I’d have… a lot of nickels. However, professors and mentors hardly ever tell students how they can use social networking to help them get a job.

Luckily for you, I went to an awesome panel called “Using Your Online Network to Get a Job #IRL” at SXSW Interactive a few days ago, and I’m nice enough to share what I learned.

The panel was led by Jocelyn Lai and Justin Gignac, who offered two unique positions about the importance of peoples’ social media presences. Lai is a talent acquisitions manager in Austin who uses social networks as a tool to recruit and connect with people. Gignac is a freelance art director who founded a real-time network that connects freelance creatives with agencies and companies looking to hire them.

Gignac said the job searching and hiring process both used to be very passive. People would scour newspapers for job openings, fill out an application and wait for an interview. The Internet changed everything. In the meantime, people forgot about their personal brands and voices.

“Before Twitter and social networking, the Internet was about anonymity,” Gignac said. “Over the past few years it has become that you need to be known for your ideas and work. Own your own brand.”

Owning your brand means you need to have good digital real estate, Gignac said. This means owning “yourname.com” (in my case, caitlinclark.com) and having a consistent name across the Internet so you can be searchable. I’m @CaitlinMClark on Twitter, so I guess that means I’m screwed. But that’s okay! I can still redeem myself if I make a LinkedIn account, according to Gignac’s advice. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, you don’t exist, he said.

Gignac said job hunters have to “keep up on their online game.” This means posting your most recent work, keeping your job history recent and posting profile pictures to all of your social networking sites.

“Build your cred,” Gignac said. “Your brand is so much more than the job you do. Put your passions out there.”

Lai jumped in to tell everyone that she is obsessed with tacos and has a taco blog. When people meet Lai they always ask what her favorite tacos are because she has put that passion out there for people to read about.

Lai offered a really cool perspective because not only is she really cool, trendy and young, she’s also on the recruitment side of the hiring process.

Lai said there is a formula that says there is a distance of separation that’s exponentially related to frequency of communication, which is important to the recruiting process. Being in close proximity to talented people is crucial to her being able to hire them. She uses online networks and digital technology to get closer to the talent.

Lai said the job hunting/hiring process is a lot like dating.

“Make yourself available, approachable and knowledgeable,” Lai said. “Show a notion of interest. Both recruiters and candidates do it to each other, so it’s totally not creepy.”

Gignac also likened the process to dating.

“Make yourself irresistible so the right job can find you,” Gignac said. “Whatever you do, don’t be creepy, annoying or desperate. Be cool — like Fonzie.”

Filed under SXSW SXSW Interactive social networking

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Finally a proper showcase

By Lee Moran / Managing Editor / @leetxs

In case my frustration with being under 21 at a music festival that takes place primarily in bars wasn’t apparent from the last post (or you didn’t read it), here’s a refresher: it sucks. Our venue choices are effectively narrowed down to Austin Music Hall and the two churches. We hit the churches yesterday, so today we gave Austin Music Hall a try.

The place is nice. Not sure where the line started at five in the afternoon, Taylor and I just walked in - straight into City and Colour’s sound check. The adage we’ve been hearing repeatedly in preparation for SXSW, that if you look like you’re supposed to be somewhere, nobody will question you being there, held true. Really, we probably didn’t even look like we were supposed to be there; we were pretty confused about the whole thing. But for two hours before doors officially opened we sat in the mezzanine and watched the bands prepare.

Tegan and Sara were the midnight headliners, but up first was Diamond Rings, a flamboyant Canadian with a handful of backup synth players and serious fashion sense. The best I can describe his music is Depeche Mode with some boy band pep; it grew on me after a few songs but Taylor wasn’t convinced. The crowd was not large at that point, but he handled it gracefully, pointing out, honestly, “I know you’re all here for the twins up there,” pointing to the enormous Tegan and Sara portraits behind him, “But this’ll be fun too.” It was.

After that came The Enemy, a British punk band that was a British punk band and did things that are typical of a British punk band. The singing quality was well above the woefully low bar for that genre but it was ultimately lost on me in a mess of power chords and F-bombs.

The Sheepdogs took the stage afterward. According to Wikipedia, The Sheepdogs are a band that formed in the mid 70s and showed great promise as a blues/rock outfit, whose van tragically and mysteriously vanished into a wormhole on the way to a recording session with Bob Dylan only to reemerge 40 years later in Canada, its occupants still decked out in bellbottoms and ready to rock. I made all of that up. But The Sheepdogs seriously owned the place, laying down smooth blues solos and slamming drum lines in every song, throwing in a trombone overture for good measure. They were probably my favorite act of the showcase.

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These OGs were too busy rocking out to question how I was taking photos with a telephone from my pocket.

The first band of the night I had heard of prior to the show, Fitz and the Tantrums, went on next. Something about Fitz’ face reminds me of Bill Nighy, which isn’t fair, but it happens. His saxophone player was a true gentleman who properly rocked it, and his sassy soul sister Noelle Scaggs balanced his vocals out nicely. Their kind of music, which Wikipedia describes as “neo-soul”, wasn’t my thing, but I enjoyed the show. Fitz moves around quite a bit on stage, and the saxophone player, again, knew what he was doing.

What is there to say about City and Colour, the final set before Tegan and Sara lit the place up? First off, way bluesier than I was expecting from the former vocalist of Alexisonfire. His guitarist put that Telecaster to work with dark, heavy blues-based lines, to great effect. I think at this point in the evening the circulation issues caused by standing in the same exact spot for five hours began to affect the bloodflow to my brain, because I just can’t remember much else about their set. Taylor is a fan though, and will give them a proper story in next week’s issue.

And then there was Tegan and Sara. Not just Tegan and Sara; they bring with them a swarm of backup instrumentalists who definitely get the job done. I am not a Tegan and Sara enthusiast and didn’t recognize a single one of their songs, but the vocals were with it and the accompanying light show was spectacular. Two giant cubes suspended above the stage formed the centerpiece of the special effects, getting various lights and patterns shot at them over the course of the show.

All that standing took it out of us, which says a lot about our fitness habits; two semesters of bowling did not prepare me for ordeals like this. But despite all that, it was fun. Fun is in short supply for minors at SXSW, and we took what we could get.

Filed under sxsw tegan and sara city and colour sheepdogs fitz and the tantrums

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Keynote: Julie Uhrman of OUYA

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

Unveiling the next cutting-edge startup, app or service promising to make waves in an industry is what SXSW Interactive is all about. During her keynote address Sunday, Julie Uhrman attempted to do just that by touting OUYA, her crowd-funded gaming console built on Android that will have a limited release at the end of this month.

The conversation, moderated by Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of The Verge, covered the idea behind OUYA and its beginnings with Kickstarter, with Uhrman attempting to play down mistakes that she may have made along the way.

OUYA is a return to the traditional home-gaming approach, Uhrman said. She aims to recreate the childhood experience of playing video games with friends — hands cramping from gripping the controller too hard, sitting in front of the television for hours with the volume on max and all.

Uhrman said if you ask someone if they’re a gamer today (and they answer honestly), they’ll say yes. Almost everyone plays games like Temple Run and Angry Birds on their mobile phones and tablets. The issue, she said, is this type of gaming is a distraction, not an immersive experience.

“The question was how do you get people excited about a new gaming system?” Uhrman said. “And that’s what makes OUYA unique—anybody can build any game. It’s about enabling creators.”

Uhrman owes the start of OUYA to a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised  $1 million in a little more than eight hours. The Kickstarter collected $8.6 million with the help of about 63,000 backers by its August deadline. 

OUYA will start at $99 and run on a version of Google’s Android software. The console will have streaming capabilities, and Uhrman said she is in discussion with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others to offer their services once OUYA is launched.

Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will receive their consoles at the end of the month, and OUYA will hit shelves at Amazon, Gamestop, Best Buy, Target and other retailers in June.

Uhrman said she doesn’t see OUYA as an either-or decision for people who already own gaming consoles made by Sony and Nintendo. She sees OUYA as more of a device sitting between the big-name consoles and smartphones. She insists that OUYA is “going to have content that no one else is going to have.”

This is one of several vague comments and explanations Uhrman made about OUYA, which (from what I could tell) frustrated both audience members and Topolsky, the moderator.

Uhrman was tight-lipped about details of the kick-ass (her words, not mine) games OUYA will offer, and didn’t give a firm release date for June. Topolsky asked her questions about manufacturing partners and the number of consoles that have been pre-sold, but she avoided those as well. Audience members began to file out of the room as things became more and more awkward.

“I don’t have a lot of hardballs here because I want this thing to work,” Topolsky said about halfway through the talk.

Topolsky asked Uhrman if she made a mistake by not having a website for OUYA when the Kickstarter began. He insinuated that critics initially thought this was a glaring oversight for an Internet-based gaming business.

“Is OUYA a scam or not?” Topolsky asked.

This was just one of many awkward questions. For instance, Uhrman said it is important that OUYA works once it hits shelves. “Does it not work?” Topolsky asked jokingly (I think). Uhrman didn’t seem to appreciate that one.  

Filed under SXSW SXSWi Julie Uhrman OUYA gaming

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“Building Tools for Creativity” with David Karp

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

SXSW Interactive officially ended Tuesday, but it has taken until now for me to fully recover. However, I will say that life at Texas State prepared me for most of the South By chaos.

I feel that I would not have been able to expertly push my way through hoards of people in the Austin Convention Center had I not mastered the art of walking through the Quad. Years of ignoring outstretched hands clutching flyers for shady parties (“Come on, there will be trash can punch!!!”) prepared me well when it came to turning down weird freebies and avoiding unwanted conversations (“Donate to the Kickstarter for my super-secret new startup and I’ll give you a free XXL T-shirt!!!). That being said, SXSW still wore me out. Today I’ll catch up on blogging about all of the cool panels I went to. I’ll start with this one, in which I use Tumblr to write about what the creator of Tumblr said about people who use Tumblr… how meta.

David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, spoke at SXSW Interactive Sunday for a fireside chat entitled “Building Tools for Creativity.” The talk focused on the evolution of Tumblr and its role in allowing users to both create and curate content for the web.

Karp began kicking around the idea of creating Tumblr back in 2005 when the blogosphere had started to take shape and become a part of peoples’ digital identities.

“When the blogosphere started to gain momentum I was so swept up in it and wanted to be so much like the prolific people on the web,” Karp said. “I wanted an online identity I could be proud of.”

Karp said he tried other blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, but was frustrated by the limitations imposed by them. Their formats were designed for writing and long-form editorials. Karp thought there might be other people like him who weren’t writers but wanted a space on the Internet that could represent them.

Tumblr consolidates photos, text, multimedia and other content easily into one place, which has helped the website become a tool for curation, which in itself can be a creative process. Most people aren’t necessarily painters, writers, musicians or photographers, Karp said. The people who are creative and talented are able to pass on the colors and words that we tell our stories with.

The reblogging tool, which clones a post and puts it on a users’ page, has led to a new behavior on Tumblr that changed the shape of the network, Karp said. There is now a core community of creators and a bigger web of curators slicing the content up.

Many of the big social networks today like Twitter and Facebook are built around having common social interests. Tumblr is different in that you may follow a few people you know in real life who are interesting or good curators, but in general you follow people who create things that you enjoy, Karp said. Tumblr is a place where you primarily create and make things, not share and like.

Tumblr also allows for more creativity in that it gives users a way to personalize their blogs. Facebook, for example, gives up all creativity because “we are all a vanilla profile page in a big white directory,” Karp said. Tumblr gets back to the roots of the web as an open, vast place where people can create unique things that represent them.

Karp said Tumblr is now home to an eclectic set of talented creators aspiring to make it big in different careers like art, fashion and music. However, he said Tumblr users don’t necessarily have their sights set on fame and fortune.

“It’s a community of people with stars in their eyes, not dollar signs,” Karp said. 

Filed under SXSW SXSWi Tumblr David Karp creativity blogging

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Gates of Heaven, Gates of Hell

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, spoke at SXSW Interactive Sunday about the newspaper’s paywall and business model during a panel Sunday.

Carr’s talk was entitled “Gates of Heaven, Gates of Hell” — Heaven being “friction-free” digital distribution of information, and Hell being the fact that no one wants to pay for content in that same digital world.

“Content has always been subsidized,” but the Internet is now the largest subsidy of all. The Internet took away the trucks and printing presses, and created the “biggest distribution machine of content you’ve ever seen.” Carr said this has created a subsidized media world.

This is how things used to work, according to Carr: People would graduate from college, get married, reproduce, go to Ikea and start to worry about the school system, so they would subscribe to a newspaper. Things are different now, he said. People “may practice the art of reproduction, but they don’t do a great deal of it.” They might not get a job, buy a house or go to Ikea. They might not need to know about the school system. So there’s one more thing they might not do — get a newspaper subscription.

Carr said the problem is that content is almost infinite, so its value will gradually creep toward zero. He said “anything that’s infinite has no compression on pricing.” Attention, on the other hand, is expensive. There is a very narrow group of people who have money and care about the news, he said.

The newspaper industry is now half the size it was in 2006, and Google alone is twice as big. Newspapers are now launching paywalls in desperation, Carr said. Newspapers like the Times-Picayune only come out a couple of times a week, and The Atlantic does advertising for Scientology. “How the hell did that happen?” Carr asked.

Carr said “you find out who your real friends are” when newspapers go behind paywalls.

However, Carr said the New York Times hasn’t “lost uniques” since the introduction of the paywall. There are 800,000 print readers and 640,000 digital readers of the paper.

“There are 640,000 people who were giving us nothing,” he said. “Now they are giving us around $200 a year.”Carr said the Times was told at first that no one would pay to view the paper’s content online, and the paywall was priced too expensively. The fact that the paywall is leaky and “you could do a workaround” to access the content was seen as “silly,” he said.

“We did that on purpose. If you’re willing to play around with our URL just to get a peek under our dress, have at it,” Carr said. “You’re eventually going to get tired and pay.”

Filed under David Carr New York Times South by Southwest Interactive SXSW newspapers journalism

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Al Gore predicts the future holds more inconvenient truths, spider goats

By Caitlin Clark / News Editor

Former Vice President Al Gore stopped by South By Southwest Interactive Sunday to talk about the future.

But really. Gore’s new book is titled “The Future,” and tackles what he calls the “six drivers of global change.” The issues were discussed in his appropriately named panel, “Al Gore on the Future.” Here is an abridged version of what Gore thinks the future holds, from extreme environmental damage to terrifying farm animal/arachnid hybrids.

1. Emergence of Earth Inc.

Gore said the world is in a new stage of economic globalization with much tighter interconnectedness across all borders. This will affect labor, capital and natural resources. For example, not only do people have to worry about their jobs being outsourced, they could also be replaced by machines, which Gore calls “robosourcing.” For example, there is now an algorithm that allows databases to be turned into a news story. A casual reader cannot distinguish the algorithm’s story from one written by a human reporter (which is really bad news for aspiring journalists like myself).

2. Emergence of the Global Mind

Billions of people around the world, including their thoughts and feelings, are connected to each other through increasingly intelligent devices, Gore said. There are programs on mobile devices and computers designed to track peoples’ movements on the Internet. Gore referenced school districts in Texas where students are required to wear RFID chips. Another example of the “emergence of the Global Mind” is the real-time chat app SnapChat. Its appeal is that it reduces the risk of a permanent digital record.

3. Dramatic changes in world political, economic and military power

China will shortly surpass the United States as the largest economy. Economic power will be dispersed to emergent countries around the world. Gore said the size of economies in developing countries is now larger than those in the advanced industrial world. He said these power relationships need to be re-sorted, and feels strongly that “the United States remains the only nation that can provide the kind of leadership the world needs more than ever.” Which is too bad, because then he went on to say that Congress is “utterly and completely incapable” of passing any reform of significant value.

4. Outgrowth

Progress and growth are pretty much the same thing, Gore said. He than gave a brief refresher course for everyone about Gross Domestic Product, from which all corporate business accounting is derived. Economist Simon Kuznets created the metric GDP in 1937, but told the nation not to use GDP as a guide for economic policy because it leaves out important negative externalities, like pollution, and positive ones, like the research and development of science and culture. The issue with GDP is when there’s a huge increase in national income 99 percent of it goes to the top one percent of the population.

“We are using a compass that points straight of the edge of a cliff, which is an extremely serious problem,” Gore said.  

5. Reinvention of Life and Death

“We are now acquiring the ability to change the fabric of nature and makeup of all solid matters on an atomic basis,” Gore said.

He then introduced the spider goat, and reinforced my belief that science is scary. Genetic engineers have taken the genes from orb-weaving spiders and spliced them into goat DNA. Spider goats look like normal goats except they secrete spider silk from their udders along with milk. The trait is then passed along to their children, so now there are herds of spider goats out there. Gore reassured everyone that spider goats and other freaky scientific advancements are creepy, not scary. *

“It is not necessarily a bad thing,” Gore said. “There’s a difference between scary and creepy. Creepy is not fear, creepy is pre-fear. It’s like something is going on and you don’t know what it is.”

6. The Edge

Gore spoke about global warming during the entirety of his panel, but talked about it one more time in detail for good measure. Gore said humans are using the atmosphere as a sewer. Gore said he was delivering a message that comes from the global scientific community.

“We’ve filled (the atmosphere) up with enough pollution to trap enough heat energy to equal the energy released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every single day,” Gore said.

“Every global national academy of science” agrees with Gore’s sentiment, he said. You can find some contrarians, but even they are changing their minds. Gore reminded the audience that Mother Nature ultimately has the most powerful voice in this debate.

So there you have it. The future of the world according to Al Gore.

*Author’s note: Spider goats still sound really scary to me.

Filed under SXSW South By Southwest Interactive SXSWi Al Gore science spider goats creepy things

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A Conversation with Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow’s featured session at South by South West was a fast-paced, funny and well-researched conversation ranging from the American people’s disconnection with soldiers to the country’s nuclear arsenal to the national need for journalism.

Maddow, who hosts MSNBC’s critically acclaimed “The Rachel Maddow Show,” touted her book titled “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.” She said she wanted to write the book because it was going to take her longer than a TV show to get her message across.

Whether the next war is in Iran or Syria or here or so long off from now that we can’t even see what conflict it will arise form, it should never again feel like it is not us at war, that we have sent other people to do it for us,” Maddow said.

Maddow said the American people who are not in the military or military families are incredibly disconnected with the foreign wars.

She said she is not cynical about the emotional response people have to returning soldiers, but she said it is not a real connection. She said if we were truly connected with soldiers then we would demand quicker disability responses from the VA—most soldiers today are waiting almost a year to hear back.

Maddow spoke on her birthday, and she said it should be important for everyone to know their birth president. She was born during Nixon’s presidency, and her mind was a little blown when she discovered there were people in the audience who were born during “Pappy Bush” and “Clinton” presidencies.

She said America has a nuclear arsenal of 5,000.

“Can you imagine setting off Hiroshima now?” Maddow asked. “Can you imagine setting off two bombs? Five bombs? Ten times the size of Hiroshima? Can you image that we would have use for 50 of them?”

She also said journalism will be a national need. She said journalism is meritocracy because content is trafficable.

She said basic ethics and editing skills are a national need and their content can be picked up regardless of whether they’re writing for the Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed or a personal blog.

"If you’re good and proven true, you’re gonna be picked up,” Maddow said. “My best advice is to be awesome."

 Beth Brown, editor in chief

Filed under SXSW sxswi Rachel Maddow journalism

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'Drinking Buddies' explores platonic guy-girl relationships and “figuring it out”

By Hollie O’Connor / Trends Editor

Almost everyone has that one friend of the opposite gender in their life that they’re really close to, but don’t ever date, for whatever reason— maybe the timing is wrong or it’d just be too weird. Joe Swanberg explores this dynamic, and the effect it can have on a person’s other relationships, in his film Drinking Buddies.

Drinking Buddies follows four people as they try to figure out where their long term relationships are going, if anywhere. Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at a brewery and great friends. Kate’s boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke’s girlfriend Jane (Anna Kendrick) are both more conservative and reserved than their significant others, and seem more suited to each other. A double date at a beach-front cabin sets off a string of events that make them reconsider their relationships. 

The movie had an intimate, natural feel because the dialogue was entirely improvised. Swanberg wrote a seven-page outline of the plot, but then left it up to the actors to get from A to B.

That’s not to say he didn’t have input. 

"Joe is really on point, so if we did something he didn’t like, he’d tell us," Johnson said.

Since the movie was set partially in a brewery, the cast got to hang out at a brewery in Chicago and learn about the brewing process. At one point, Wilde was leaning over a vat of boiling liquid and some splashed into her eye. 

"I felt like I had been baptized," Wilde said. "I was officially a brewer."

In addition to the preparation, there was also plenty of drinking during filming. 

"We had fake beer. I didn’t want to make them drink,” Swanberg said. “But I was having real beer at lunch.”

Filed under Olivia Wilde Jake Johnson Ron Livingston Anna Kendrick Drinking Buddies Joe Swanberg SXSW