SXSW: Conventional knowledge, scouting Shaq, and ‘Don Jon’s Addiction’

Soojin Chang/Staff

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Austin, TX — Tuesday morning began at a conference titled “Asian Entrepreneurs Struggle with Fear of Failure” in the Austin Convention Center. At first I was skeptical because I figured that a fear of failure is universal, regardless of ethnicity. Richard Min — a Korean-American from Boston and the CEO/Cofounder of SeoulSpace, a startup accelerator in Seoul — led the discussion by highlighting various cultural causes for a heightened fear in Asians that hinders them from taking entrepreneurial risks. Failure is considered shameful and the end of all things in Korea, for example, and starting your own company is all about ups and downs, starting over from scratch if need be, and learning from past mistakes to continue building your vision. He humorously pointed out that Asian mothers love to gather together and brag about their kid’s route to success, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

What can change, however, are alternate ideas of success — not just the two: a medical degree or a position in a corporate law firm —  that need to be brought up more often and talked about amongst these ladies. To get there, we, as young people, simply need to create more success stories as entrepreneurs. Elementary schools need to host more fairs exhibiting student’s work, for instance, that promote innovative creation at a young age, and have the parents attend. In many ways, yes, Asian-Americans do have a larger familial pressure and less support when taking a less normative route, but we need to acknowledge why this fear of failure exists, and then learn to get over it. There are a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities in places like Korea and China right now — Uber is in its initial stages in Seoul — and it would be really great if more Asian-Americans can take their international knowledge and education to generate unique startups.

I had an hour break before Shaquille O’Neal’s interview with Brian Solis at Long Center, so I indulged myself to the Music Video Competition screening downstairs at Rollins Theatre.

My favorite was the 80s fantasy inspired video of Starcadian’s “HE^RT.” Close contenders were Daniel Bedingfield’s “Secret Fear” and Vitalic’s “Stamina.” It was the first time I ever saw a music video in a large screening room. The sound system was breathtaking and I felt happy to be alive!

Shaq was hilarious, humble and charming. His real life persona matched his Twitter persona exactly. He communicated just how lucky we are right now to have so much technology available to us and joked, “If I had Cliff Notes back  in the day I would have been valedictorian.” During the Q&A, a  member of the audience jumped on stage and asked if Shaq could call his wife, a Shaq fanatic, and he did. Girls were confessing his love to him left and right and asking if they could run on stage and hug him. Shaq is at SXSW scouting for tech startups to invest in.


I went back to the Convention Center for a discussion with MIT media lab researchers in a session called, “Immerse Yourself.” Henry Holtzman talked about creating interactive game-like experiences in everyday life through 3D projected objects and sounds. For example, a running game being developed locates where you are and creates a burglary scenario by adding in headphones a soundtrack, police alarms, and navigation directions by your virtual partner in crime to make exercising a more fun experience. Dan Novy began as a theatre major and is now using his love for theatrical spaces and performances to develop an interactive experience of media. “Narratorium” is essentially a story, planetarium-style. Let say you’re narrating a story. “Narratorium” has artificial intelligence, catalog of information, and speech recognition work together to create a different mood and atmosphere of the room you are in. If you begin at a pirate ship at sunset, the lighting of the room will turn shades of orange and red. It allows storytelling to be less passive and more participatory.

I ended up back at the Paramount for the red carpet and screening of “Don Jon’s Addiction.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt tweeted a picture of him and Tony Danza drinking Martinis just before arriving, and Danza surely did looked wasted. JGL was pristine and grinning as usual, and being super sweet to press. The onlooking fans were ridiculous! I was convinced they were going to bum rush the guards and trample over all the photographers. The film was a funny and honest critique of the one-sidedness of many sexual relationships. JGL seemed to be pin-pointing the movie industry for perpetuating warped idealizations of what it means to be the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend. He plays a hot Catholic Italian meathead with a porn addiction. Scarlett Johansson’s character is his girlfriend who loves romance films and has crazy expectations and notions of how a boyfriend should treat his girlfriend. The crowd at Paramount was roaring in laughter throughout the movie. The maybe-too-honest dialogue showed JGL’s strong awareness of the interrelational complications and misconceptions we face as young adults living in these media-saturated times.


























The night ended at Cheerios, a crowded bar with a beautiful patio, in East Austin. Alex Karpovsky from HBO Girls was there talking to a lot of pretty blondes.

The Twitter-activated candy machine


Contact Soojin Chang at [email protected].