Teleportation By Sound

Amiri Baraka(RIP) ends his brilliant sci-fi short story Rhythm Travel with a warning not to pick “a corny tune” but I guess the cat at the end of the Bar-Kay’s video didn’t get that memo 🙂 He probably needed to hear something more like The Staples Singers I’ll Take You There(hmmm more from Memphis) or Lakeside’s Fantasic Voyage or EWF’s Boogie Wonderland or Interstellar Space by Coltrane(perhaps this was a prototype for how some advanced form of teleportation will work).

 

How Apple Got Village Beats At Such A Bargain

It takes Apple about a week to generate $3B in revenue and less than a to month to accumulate $3B in profit. Based on recent Apple trends and projected wearable trends, it’s not unreasonable to project that the combination of increased Beats Electronics revenue and “cool factor” boosts to iWatch and other Apple products will be significant. Expect to  see iPads, Airbooks, AppleTV, iWatch et al in many of the places we currently see celebrities rockin Beats headphones. For the sake of this discussion let’s say Beats increases Apple revenue 1 percent  a year for the next 3 years. That will pay for the acquisition – every dollar tied to Beats after that is gravy. Bargain is putting it nicely though it pales in comparison to the previous occasions when Apple(and others) had to pay little to nothing for access to “cool”. Clearly the Village will benefit. As noted in the previous post, Will.i.am has the right idea about what to do with the money and Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine have previously given an inner city university – USC an endownment  of $70M to launch a STEAM oriented business undergraduate degree program and we can expect more. At the same time, it has to be noted that most of the money is going outside of the Village because the technology was not developed here and the majority owners are not from here. This is not new –  African-Americans have not possessed the means of production for any of our great assets. Going back to the 1950’s Motown had only a small recording studio and no manufacturing or distribution capabilities. So the “cool” intellectual property had to be sold at a great discount in order to get it produced and into the market.  By the time we began to get access to the means of production and distribution, technology had changed the nature of the game(again – can you say ProTools? iTunes?) so  we’re right back where we started – more like DJay than we’d like to be.

A similar situation has been seen in film as this must-read Washington Post article on culture change and reparations shows. It makes the case that Gone With The Wind reached far more people than 12 Years A Slave and that it’s not even possible to achieve numbers like Roots which is still one of the most watched TV series in history. The article

looked at the 500 top-grossing movies released between 2007 and 2012, and found that of the 565 people credited as directors on those projects, just 5.8 were African-American.

Numbers like these are released every year. I have cited them constantly during my time as a professional critic. But “The Case for Reparations” provides us another way of understanding why these figures are so critically important. Even if the fight to give African-American artists more opportunities to make television, film, music, and books — and to do so with greater autonomy — succeeds, that victory comes with different rewards than might have accompanied it in the past. What are we winning if African-Americans get access to the machinery of cultural production precisely because they can attract niche audiences, and because their industries have given up on the idea that their work, or anyone else’s, might have truly mass appeal?

This is not quite the equivalent of turning a neighborhood over to prospective African-American homeowners as its property values crater, one of the dynamics Coates describes in his essay. But the idea that artists of color would gain access to the tools that might help them change our culture just as those tools become less powerful is terrible to contemplate. It may not be too late to advance the dream of reparations. But the swords and plowshares we might have used to fight the cultural battles that would make such a reconciliation possible are not what they once were.

 

So like post-WWII Israel, we could use some infrastructure investment. However, we can’t afford to wait on the political process. There’s enough knowledge and financial capital within the Village to make a meaningful impact – just remember to aim high!

 

Aiming High

Will.i.am on CNBC saying what he can do with his Beats deal money

I know how many STEM centers I can open with it I know what I can scream from this little hill I’m on, why it’s important for kids to get involved in some type of STEM education so they are not looking for jobs but they can create jobs. I have proof now you shouldn’t just try to be a musician and an athlete if you’re in the inner city but try to bring a consumer electronics product to market – it’s possible. The giants are the giants and the giants didn’t see Beats coming and now we dominate a market. … as crazy and as limited as it may sound it changed airports – before Beats were on everyone’s neck, you did not see headphone stands and Beats played a big role in that. So the next big thing is probably going to come from an unlikely candidate Some kid in some inner city or some developing world is going to come and triumph and bring something to market that could potentially even shake an Apple. (emphasis mine)

 

An Opportunity For NBA Players And Owners

With over 500 million followers and likes across the social media landscape, the NBA is well positioned to become a platform for technology innovation and education. Partnering with NSBE chapters and HBCU STEM programs and entities like Sports Technology Education @ MIT the NBA could begin in-house development of video games that would be appealing but not profitable enough for big name game development companies. MLB has gotten into the video game business(albeit for similar but different reasons) because it sees a long-term win.  In-house development capabilities would also enable the creation of apps and online services that would transform NBA Nation from a single sponsor to a thriving revenue generating network. All of these things will create an environment from which a new more representative generation of owners can emerge.  This effort could be kickstarted  with the fine that will be levied on Clippers owner  Donald Sterling!

Is Technology The Answer To The NBA Owner Problem?

Not entirely but follow the money & you’ll see it has to play a part. STEM fields have had a big role in creating the fortunes of roughly half of today’s  NBA owners. Robert Johnson, the first African-American majority owner of a major sports team says he used tech ideas and a lot of tech money() to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats:

Pay TV opened my eyes. Once I understood the technology and saw that the technology could take a signal and send it all across the country simultaneously to different stations, then it became clear to me that programming could be segmented and targeted to different audiences, and so it didn’t take a big leap from that to say, ‘Wow, wait a minute, that’s what we’re already doing in the black community with print.’ Ebony magazine, for instance, is a targeted magazine. To some extent, black radio is a targeted medium. I said, ‘Wow, you could take this concept of technology and target black programming, which has always been a dream of various individual black media types–creating a black-oriented network.’ The idea was talked about in various blue-sky articles that argued that cable was going to be the democratization of media, but nothing like that existed.

I took out a $15,000 loan from a bank and set out to form a business. My big break came when cable magnate John Malone, then CEO of Tele-Communications Inc., the country’s third-largest cable company, decided to invest in my company

The Market Nobody Wanted

This was 1980 – $15K would be $43K and $500K would be $1.4M in 2014. Johnson is far from alone, half of the current NBA owners created their wealth through STEM related fields:

  1. Hawks
    1. Levenson – United Communications Group
    2. Gearon – American Tower
  2. Celtics Grousbeck VC Medical tech
  3. Nets – Prokhorov – Mining
  4. Cavaliers – Gilbert -Quicken Loans
  5. Mavs – Cuban – broadcast.com
  6. Pistons – Gores Platinum Equity LLC(initially and mostly tech investments)
  7. Celtics – Lacob(Biological sciences) – Kliener Perkins VC
  8. Lakers – Dr Buss background in physical chemistry
  9. Grizzlies – Pera MSEE Apple, Ubiquiti Networks
  10. Timberwolves – Taylor(BS Math-Physics-Social Science) – Taylor Corporation
  11. Knicks – James Dolan – Cablevision
  12. Trailblazers – Allen – Microsoft
  13. Kings – Ranadive(MSEE) TIBCO
  14. Spurs – Holt – Caterpillar
  15. Raptors – Tanenbaum – Kilmer Group
  16. Wizards – Leonsis-AOL

Big Props to David West for cutting to the chase with his “Plantation Politics” tweets because a majority black league ought to have more than one black owner and one shouldn’t be surprised that owners aren’t/haven’t been rushing to distance themselves from Donald Sterling.  Slavery is a recurring theme here which may make some folk uncomfortable. However, discomfort can be a good thing. Harriet Tubman reportedly said “I could have freed so many more if they had known they were slaves”. Many of the NBA owners who leveraged STEM, were not actually STEM professionals themselves but they were aware of the potential and had access to STEM professionals. We need a village.

Slavery, STEAM & The Artist Currently Known As Prince

Prince does not want to be like DJay or Kanye. More importantly, he’s walked the walk to the beat of a different drum for decades now.
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In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of Prince’s album The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of Prince’s output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek. Prince explained his name change as follows:

The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…

I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.

Prince has even been a pioneer in leveraging cyberspace. However as long as artists are fundamentally dependent upon technology other people own in order to produce, perform and distribute their products they will be limited to renegotiating slavery under different terms.  and sadly forced to complain about not being able to “get a second chance”. Artists who want to be free need ownership in STEM and the village needs to have greater stake in the revenue generated by our artists. On the surface this sounds like a win-win but in practice it will require a level of sacrifice on the order of the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

 Instead of riding buses, boycotters organized a system of carpools, with car owners volunteering their vehicles or themselves driving people to various destinations. Some white housewives also drove their black domestic servants to work. When the city pressured local insurance companies to stop insuring cars used in the carpools, the boycott leaders arranged policies with Lloyd’s of London.

Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents. In addition to using private motor vehicles, some people used non-motorized means to get around, such as cycling, walking, or even riding mules or driving horse-drawn buggies. Some people also hitchhiked. During rush hours, sidewalks were often crowded. As the buses received few, if any, passengers, their officials asked the City Commission to allow stopping service to black communities.[23] Across the nation, black churches raised money to support the boycott and collected new and slightly used shoes to replace the tattered footwear of Montgomery’s black citizens, many of whom walked everywhere rather than ride the buses and submit to Jim Crow laws.

In response, opposing whites swelled the ranks of the White Citizens’ Council, the membership of which doubled during the course of the boycott. The councils sometimes resorted to violence: King’s and Abernathy’s houses werefirebombed, as were four black Baptist churches. Boycotters were often physically attacked.

For starters some shift in how we spend our entertainment dollars has to happen. What would you be willing to do to help jump-start a transformation in the distribution of wealth generated by artists?  Right now, without fear of physical retaliation, you can find/support existing independent artists and share/like/email/retweet this post.

Crystallography Pioneer Mentored Other History Makers

Physicist Donald Anderson Edwards not only made significant contributions to his field, he mentored others who did likewise:

  • Joseph McNeill – a engineering physics major was one of the Greensboro Four . It should be noted that Franklin McCain, another member of the Greensboro Four, was also a STEM major(dual degrees in chemisty and biology).
  • Dwight Davis – is a distinguished cardiologist “who has played a leading role in medical education at Pennsylvania State University for almost 25 years.”
  • Ronald McNair became the second African-American astronaut to fly on the Space Shuttle. His plan to be the first human to record an original piece of music in space was cut short by the Challenger explosion.