Events

SXSW Interactive Day 1: What Drives Elon Musk?

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur with a mission. SXSW is full of entrepreneurs with a mission, but Elon Musk ups the ante.

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur with a mission. SXSW is full of entrepreneurs with a mission, but Elon Musk ups the ante. One of the most anticipated speakers at SXSW this year, he’s the man who put payment on the internet, fuel cells in sports cars, and rockets in orbit. He’s in the business of changing games.

His resume lists him as founder and co-founder of some of the most impressive companies of this century -– PayPal, Tesla Motors, and now SpaceX, the first privately funded space flight company. What would be his biggest disappointment? Not seeing life on Mars in his lifetime.

Musk is a scientist cloaked in entrepreneurship. His presence is serious, even meticulous, and he kicks off his SXSW keynote with a detailed 10-minute description of the complex technology of rocket ships. His desire to see life on Mars was more than a futurist fantasy; he’d researched in depth what it would take for life to exist there, and explained possible scenarios for making it a reality.

He’s driven by big questions like this, and then figures out big solutions. The question that drove him to build a rocket was not the romance of space travel, but a problem – that space shuttles today shed a huge chunk of the hardware that launches them into space. All parts of his rocket are fully reusable. After detaching from the rocket, the launch components return to earth, eliminating expensive waste.

Musk shared a video of his most recent launch, a sneak peek that “only the video editor has seen.” To hear him tell the tales of a rocket launch was one thing, but to watch components peel off a rocket, hover briefly in space, and return faithfully back to their launch pad was breath-taking.

Of his game changing activity into payments, cars, and space he said, “Something needed to be done in these industries in order to make a difference.”

Changing games takes failure, and Musk’s is on an unimaginable scale. “The first three rocket launches we had failed – I spent the first time picking up rocket pieces off the reef,” he told the rapt crowds at SXSW.

But even for this overachiever, the beyond-big-picture thinking with all its glories and failures takes a toll.

“Last year was the year of great achievement, but I didn’t have that much fun. My new year’s resolution was to have some more fun this year. So here I am at SXSW.”

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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