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Social media and 'Top Chef' give Austin restaurant a boost

Heard and Seen: SXSW

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Bravo executives and TV personalities Andy Cohen and Tom Colicchio explained how the network used social media and an online Web series called "Last Chance Kitchen" to increase viewership and engagement for this past season of "Top Chef: Texas," which was won by Austinite Paul Qui of Uchiko. Their comments came at a panel called Top Chef: How Transmedia is Changing TV. Transmedia refers to storytelling across multiple platforms such as online and broadcast.

As one of the first networks to include live tweets, Twitter handles and Facebook on the TV screen, Bravo has been a pioneer in social TV, and this recent season of "Top Chef" pushed the boundaries of interacting with viewers. At one point, a member of the audience asked, "How much of an impact does being on the show have on a chef's restaurant?" To which Colicchio responded, "Try to get into Uchiko tonight."

-- Addie Broyles

Garriott foresees humans on Mars

Richard Garriott, the Austin game designer and space enthusiast, said Saturday at an interactive panel that he believes humans are entering a second golden age of space travel, with private companies leading the way. Garriott, who paid for his own trip to the International Space Station in 2008, also said he thinks humans could inhabit Mars in 30 years. "Humanity needs to become a multiplanet species, and Mars is the best place to do that," he said.

--Dale Roe

Thurston gives rousing keynote

Baratunde Thurston, the author of "How to Be Black" and the digital director for The Onion, essentially did a stand-up comedy act — a very skilled, well-received one — as the opening keynote speaker for South by Southwest Interactive. He began by talking about his background, opening with the time recently when a woman called him, "The whitest black person I've ever met." The gigantic Exhibit Hall 5 was full for the event. "You can almost measure the freedom of a society by its tolerance of its satirists," Thurston said.

-- Omar L. Gallaga

Documentary traces role of superheroines

"Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines" explores the hows and whys of that rarest and most underused of characters, the American superheroine. Wonder Woman is, of course, the big gun, and everyone from Gloria Steinem to ur-riot grrrl/musician Kathleen Hanna appear to sing her praises. Other heroines, super or not, are touched on, from Buffy to the radically important Thelma and Louise. The sequence on how riot grrrl's "girl power" was morphed by the market into the Spice Girls is a depressing reminder that, yes, the market can co-opt anything at any time. ("Wonder Women" screens again at 11 a.m. Monday, Violet Crown; 2 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo Ritz; and 4:30 p.m. Friday, Alamo Ritz.)

-- Joe Gross

A look at 'Sunset Strip' culture

If sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll have an address, it is the Sunset Strip, the 1.5-mile section of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, Calif. Director Hans Fjellestad packs his 93 minutes with celebrities and history, from the Strip's beginnings as a dirt road trade route to the glamorous 1940s and the decadent 1980s. "Sunset Strip" also makes the case for the importance of buildings in shaping culture, whether it's the rooms of the Chateau Marmont or the basic facades of clubs like the Viper Room, the Trocadero or the Whiskey. ("Sunset Strip" screens again at 7 p.m. Friday at the Paramount; and 4 p.m. March 17 at the Vimeo.)

-- J.G.

DiCaprio at Kenichi for Mobli 2.0 launch party

The crowd parted for the man of the hour: Leonardo DiCaprio sailed through Kenichi sushi restaurant Saturday night during the Mobli version 2.0 launch party for SXSW. Looking slightly grizzled in a black sports cap, DiCaprio affably greeted folks on his way from a private dining room -- which served as a staging area, masked by Japanese screens -- to a group table, where he was quickly mobbed. Far more accessible were Tobey Maguire, Jared Leto, DJ Spooky and hometown hero Lukas Haas, whose mom, Emily Haas, served as den mother for this bunch of celebrated buddies.

Notably, Lance Armstrong has created a Mobli channel in partnership with the company.

-- Michael Barnes