2017 SXSW CHRONICLES: Neil DeGrasse Tyson + Jay Electronica // DAY 3

Late nights and Early mornings, a constant mantra at SXSW, and plague on my soul. Day 3 starts only a couple of hours after Day 2 ends, but this first session in the morning at 9:30am is a must for me, as I’m current affairs “woke”, as the kids say.

First session is “Cover POTUS as the Failing New York Times”. The title alone is enough to guarantee my attendance… and apparently 2,000 others as this session was a packed to capacity, which is saying quite a bit for such an early session. The session was lead by NYT columnist Jim Rutenberg, who was having a fireside chat/interview with his boss, NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet. It was an excellent discussion on journalism’s role in politics, combating fake news, the economic model of news agencies in the 21st century, and of course, covering Trump, all the while cracking jokes in an engaging and lively session.

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Here are some significant takeaway quotes/points from Dean Baquet (not verbatim):

“Trump wants the favor of NYT and when he doesn’t get it, goes into a rage.”

“I think it’s more important to cover the story and say it’s false, then to not cover it at all because it’s false.”

“We are hiring like crazy, 3 renown investigative reporters, bulked up white house and political coverage. We are preparing for the story of a generation. There are going to be 20 books written about this period in Journalism.”

“The original mission of the collective community of journalists became clear again after the election: aggressive coverage of the government.”

“The reason Breitbart is not journalism is because they are not in seek of the honorable pursuit of the truth.”

“The next generation doesn’t understand the secret text of journalism. They don’t realize an NYT journalist risked their lives to bring news from Aleppo Syria.” …On what the difference is between bloggers and journalists.

“200 stories are put out a day by 1,300 NYT employees.”

“Digital headlines are different from print. They have to tell more, since it’s just a headline link, rather than a print paper with a picture and layout architecture.”

Next, I headed to WeDC house for their session “Technology & Storytelling”, for reasons that should be obvious if you are reading this article. Halfway through this session, they had to pause and clear everyone out because an attendee fainted. SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint; make sure you eat, drink, and sleep! The session continue after EMS took the woman out. The session focused on VR experiences in story telling, which, though very interesting to me, is not a medium I am currently in, and as a result, I left early.

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Next up was a podcast meetup, so I could share and brainstorm ideas about pod-casting to level up my own podcast I co-host, The Feedbak (www.thefeedbakcom), that covers lifestyle, culture, politics, events of leisure events, with a focus on music and nightlife. The meetup was in a conference room the JW Marriot. A good sized crowd, but unfortunately the execution of the meetup became more of a Q&A session hosted by the organizers rather than a chance to talk with other pod-casters and share ideas. As a result, I again left early, though I did gain a little knowledge from a few questions answered.

Back at the WeDC house earlier, I had sparked up a quick conversation with my neighbors in line who told me about Neil DeGrasse Tyson (NDT) making an appearance at the National Geographic (Natgeo) house at 3pm. With this intel in hand as I left the podcast meetup, I headed straight for Natgeo.

Natgeo is, surprisingly, crushing it this year at SXSW! They have an open bar with a great listing of Natgeo TV show themed drinks (covered in Day 1 article). They also have great interviews, VR sessions, giveaways, and even parties/shows at night. If such as a thing as “nerd lit” exists, Natgeo is undeniably it.

I hit Natgeo over an hour before NDT was to go on. I sampled some drinks and did some work on my laptop while a session narrated by a NatGeo photographer David Guttenfelder on his photography work in North Korea (which was rather amazing).

Once that finish, Neil DeGrasse Tyson took the stage with director Ron Howard to talk sciene shop on science/scientist in movies/tv and Natgeo’s new tv show directed by Ron Howard about Albert Einstein called “Genius”. This session was amazing. NDT lead the conversation, asking questions of Ron Howard, while constantly cracking jokes and commentary; NDT’s charisma is a godsend for the science community. The crowd laughed, applauded, and was just overall in rapture during the entire hour long session. Natgeo even gave away thick, illustrated coffee table books on NDT’s Star Talk show.

Here’s a few quotables/points taken away:

“No nation owns science. If your country pulls back on science, then others will arise to take your place.”

“Scientists have not been viewed as fellow human beings until recently when TV/Movies began creating scientist characters with fleshed out personalities.”

“First get your facts straight, then distort the facts.” — Mark Twain as quoted by NDT.

20170312_171259Next and final conference session of the day to hit was Mark Cuban’s “Is Govt Disrupting Disruption?” This was another 2,000 full capacity session in the same ballroom in the Austin Convention Center (ACC) as the NYT session earlier that day. The session also featured founder of The Zebra, Adam Lyons, and was moderated by Michele Skelding of UT-Austin.

The session was OK, but compared to the earlier NYT and NatGeo sessions, I found myself becoming victim to my lack of sleep and nodding off. The overall theme of the discussion was around what the government should regulate and what it should not, a time old debate in the US and many other countries. I didn’t hear too much new, but several laughs and some additional humorous comments about Trump kept my eyes open more often than not. I did take down one statement (not verbatim) by Cuban that stood out to me:

“I’m a libertarian, but I evolved through empathy that we as a society need to take on Healthcare so that, as Reagan said, we don’t have people falling over dying in the streets.” …on some healthcare as a right in the US.

With the day sessions behind me, I needed a bite, a drink and some conversation. I met up with some of the Domination Team at the “Health & Tech” happy hour at WuChow sponsored by Aetna.

This happy hour was specifically chosen because WuChow is the finest, fanciest, most delicious Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant in Austin and it plays old school 80s and 90s hip-hop exclusively to boot! True to form, excellent food at this venue along with crafty cocktails; it was packed, but I still made some friends with strangers and ate/drank rather well.

Meanwhile, most of the Domination Team was at Sidewinder’s bar for Canada’s “Eh” party. Food and drinks kept everyone there adding some lively energy to the party until the DJ played several songs of Canada’s own Celine Dion. That’s a quick way to get people to leave a party; Celine might be great, but she isn’t party great.

Other’s in the Domination Team got detoured from the Canadian party by a bar on sixth street wooing them off their path as they were walking by and giving them a free bottle service of liquor to just hang out for awhile. Helps to be pretty, turned up, and pushing good energy!

Next, I hit up the Hangar Lounge for Shopgate’s Decoded Fashion closing party. Made it a little late for food, but drinks, good music, and catching up with several members of the Domination Team kept me around for awhile. I eventually bailed and snuck back home to drop off my laptop, freshen up, and nap. Except the nap never happened; I instead hopped right back out in the SXSW mix for a show!

I first stopped by Empire Garage & Control Room to catch a few sets of some of my favorite local Austin acts (Riders Against the Storm, Magna Carda, Ava Rain, Alesi Lani and more.

 

After that, I went to my true destination: Vevo House At Pelons Bar where Nick Grant and Jay Electronica were performing. Upon walking into the door (entrance granted by showing tweet of the show flyer), a waiter insisted we take shots of tequila he was passing out. I refused at first (can’t be getting too wasted and I had been drinking all day), but the waiter then gave a lengthy description on the incredibleness of the tequila that ended with him saying it was $60 a shot. Although I don’t believe the $60 price tag nor remember the length story of the tequila, for the waiter’s notable efforts, I went ahead and downed a shot. Helps it was free! We later dubbed the Tequila “Mermaid Tears” since that’s about the only liquid we could think of worth $60 a shot.

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I missed Nick Grant’s show at Vevo House, but caught Jay Electronica start to finish. Holy Hell, Jay can flow and perform… he rocked the hell outta that house. He came into the crowd of that tiny venue and stage multiple times, I have several selfie photos and videos to show for it. He even pulled a random Austin audience member claiming to be an artist and let him freestyle on stage for a minute or two. Overall, top notch hiphop performance, and I don’t say that very often about shows without a band or big stage presence/production.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Domination Team was at The Belmont venue for the Holonis party, taking picture’s with their childhood crush Mario Lopez (aka A.C. Slater), Bow Wow, and watching a show by Warren G. Open bar was flowing the whole time, and so were the smiles and turnup’ness.

A few others of the Domination Team closed it out at Intel’s AI Lounge where local Austin artist Mobley (think Pharrell but plays all the instruments live too).

After the Jay Electronica show, I called it a night at the incredulous early SXSW time of 11:30pm; the less than 3 hours of sleep the night before had fully taken its toll.

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