SxSW 2013: Panels and Interviews

One aspect that gets lost in all of the day party RSVP anxiety is the ability for peeps registered with the conference to attend panels and interviews at the Convention Center. This year, there were four participants high on my list: Rachel Maddow, Danny Boyle, Depeche Mode and Dr. Steve Weinberg. That last guy you may not have heard of before, but he is a legend in physics. I am a nerd.

Thought I would share some thoughts about each session and share a few pics.

Let’s get the nerdy stuff out of the way.

Dr. Steve Weinberg is kind of a hero of mine, he was the driving force behind marrying Electromagnetism and Weak Nuclear (fucking rockstar shit). I met him at the Physics Department when I was in school. I still nerd out on Quantum Mechanics, String Theory, Higgs, so attending this talk was high on my list. Now, things didn’t get too deep. It was more of a sharing of the timeline and making the case for the exploration of inner space over outer space. Not that space exploration doesn’t drive innovation, it’s just that it is the quest of space exploration that has caused innovation, not actually being in space. You see, there hasn’t been one thing, one discovery (his words) that ever came out of the International Space Station, sure a few validations of theories, but no big a-ha. Contrast that with the endeavors of the particle colliders that continue driving the unification of physics. We continue to crack codes and the information about how the universe works could be used to solve a great many issues. Austin could have had these revolutions in understanding the universe we live in happening just hours away, but the SSC was killed decades ago, crushing Dr. Weinberg. The Higgs is real. Anti-gravity, here we come.

Film scores – Few beat Trainspotting. That movie started the partnership between Danny Boyle and Rick Smith, one half of the electronic music duo Underworld. Second Toughest Among the Infants and Beaucoup Fish are among my top albums ever and the use of “Born Slippy” and “Dark and Long” from the former in Trainspotting propelled Underworld into the charts. Since then, Danny has worked with Rick on several soundtracks and scores as well as the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The focus via interviewer’s guidance was towards Danny’s penchant for never repeating himself, clips contrasting Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 127 Hours and eventually a big clip from new movie Trance (which was bad ass). The clip seemed to be from a pivotal point in the movie and when asked why he shared it, he brought up something interesting; the amnesiac effect of a movie, the getting swept up no matter how many trailers and spoilers you see and that a movie if good will still surprise you. Since Rick was there, we also got treated to a discussion of music and how disjointed Danny’s song selections can be while still enhancing the scene’s feel. Just think baby crawling on the ceiling. Interviewer David Carr bogarted time a little too much with his verbose praise, the only negative from the talk.

Rachel Maddow was here to promote Drift. The book concentrates on the odd incongruities between spending and effectiveness of our military and the disconnect between need and want when it comes to the political meddling. Whether you love or hate her politics, the facts are the facts and she laid them out in the fast paced thirty minutes of eye-opening numbers and anecdotes about our readiness and the spending sinkhole. Congress buys things the military does not want, ignore the needs of Veterans and turns a blind eye to the ever-lingering and aging nukes. Interesting stuff. The Q&A took a decidedly less serious tone, at her request to be fair. Cocktails, beer, and more beer headed topics. She loves Sierra Nevada Celebration, FWIW. She likened SxSW to a Political Convention during Lollapalooza and shared that her least favorite word is impact used as a verb. …and I got to meet W. Kamal Bell #randomsxswpeople

Finally, I got to hang out with my best friends, Depeche Mode, who have a new album streaming now call Delta Machine. I was in the front and center seat (thanks Gary) for the interview, so we could be besties by now. Nothing was dodged, a good portion of the talk was on Gahan’s health. It was funny that Gahan mentioned they chose not to go on tour for Ultra. The rather quiet Fletch piped up with “Well, we didn’t really “Choose” not to go on tour” inferring the lead singers addiction issues. Martin Gore talked of fond memories of the Eastern Bloc, song lyrics just flowing into songs, dispelled praise for prolific songwriting with a comment that all of the good songs were recorded somewhere, so there really aren’t that many. Martin also shared how the project with Vincent Clark came to be – he got an email from Vincent asking if he would like to do an electronic album to which Martin responded OK. Fletch and Gahan discussed the reluctant choice not to play Israel several years ago because of active conflict, not for the band’s safety, but for that of the crew. After requesting a little glamour to return to Rock and Roll, Dave summed up his career – “I feel good on stage. I always say I’m like an overpaid stripper.”

More pics at the photo site

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