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In the age of collaboration, even presidential candidates want to jump on the wagon.  South Bend’s gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg, saw an opportunity when Lil Nas X came out as gay at the end of Pride Month.  X is gay and he’s got a hit.  Buttigieg wanted in.  It makes even more sense when you see the list of X’s collaborators; Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, BTS and Dolly Parton.  But Lil Nas X wasn’t having any of it. While he is not personally opposed to Pete Buttigieg, he said he doesn’t want to be seen as supporting any particular Presidential candidate, even if he’s a gay comrade.

It was all supposed to happen at an Internet Live event on July 25th.  But after Mayor Pete heard X wasn’t attending the event, he decided to not attend either. “Old Time Road” has been on Rolling Stone’s top 100 chart for 20 weeks.  That’s the kind of accomplishment that attracts attention. 

Quentin Tarantino is known for crafting high-energy, violent, profane films that verge on the bizarre.  One of his common tricks is to cast actors who have not been seen in a long time as he did with Pam Grier and Robert Forster in Jackie Brown.  He does the same thing with music…he finds the songs we haven’t heard in a long time or obscure artists that are slotted in at just the right place in the movie.  It’s part of the Tarantino movie making style.

Now, timed to coincide with the release of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he has complied 70 of his favorite songs from all his movies on Spotify.  Here’s a sample of the breathe of his choices:

  • George Baker’s “Little Green Bag” from the title sequence of Reservoir Dogs
  • Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” from Pulp Fiction.
  • David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” from Inglourious Basterds
  • The White Stripes’ “Apple Blossom” from The Hateful Eight.

Tarantino says immodestly that listeners can “sit back, relax and move into the soundscape of a Quentin Tarantino movie. You may never wanna leave.”  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt (not obscure actors) opened to a strong box office and acclaim from reviewers.

In a project that was announced, and had everyone excited back in 2015, Netflix, Warner Bros. and producers Jared Stern and Ellen DeGeneres are finally ready to release the 13-episode series Green Eggs and Ham this fall.

It’s the story of the adventures of Guy-I-Am and Sam-I-Am who travel cross country testing the limits of their friendship, and in Dr. Seuss’s rhythmic fashion, “as they learn to try new things, they find out what adventure brings.”

The two lead characters are played by Michael Douglas and Adam Devine.  They are supported with a pretty deep cast including Jillian Bell, Eddie Izzard, Diane Keaton, Keegan-Michael Key, Tracy Morgan, and John Turturro.  Each episode will be roughly 30 minutes and there is a very high likelihood that this series won’t be a one and done thing. For any child or child-like adult who grew up with the Dr. Seuss, this should be a no brainer. A trailer is expected soon.

Teen users of Instagram are increasingly switching to business accounts to get better metrics about their posts. These accounts show how many times posts have been viewed, at what times their posts are being viewed, who likes their posts and how many likes and views they’re getting.  Sounds great, but according to Facebook, which owns Instaram, business account holders are required to make their email and phone number available to the public.  When a teen is involved that’s a problem.

Alex Meron-McCann from the cyber security firm McAfee, warns of serious consequences for teens who share personal information by using business account.  Alex is especially concerned about sexual predators contacting kids through these accounts.

Data Scientist David Stier tells us that millions of teenagers have switched to business accounts; he also emphasized that if a 13-year-old develops a business account their contact information is available to over a billion people. A Facebook spokesperson explains that their set up process warns users that their contact information will be available to the public if they switch to a business account. Is this feature enough to keep a generation of young people safe?  Given fair warning, is Facebook responsible if someone blows through warning and misuses their platform?

A group of Chinese researchers at Tsinghua University recently created a chip that combines conventional artificial intelligence (AI) with an AI inspired by the human brain. The team claims this breakthrough could lead to a more naturalized AI. The researchers demonstrated the capabilities of the new chip in a video of a self-driving bicycle that stands-up, balances itself, avoids obstacles, tracks objects and reacts to voice commands. This breakthrough is happening in the context of a US-China technology competition and trade war. Last May, the US put Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei on a trade blacklist to prevent US companies from selling components that might be used to threaten US national security. China is behind in traditional chip making, but AI chip making presents a huge opportunity for China to advance in the technology race.  For China, this puts them one step closer to realizing its goal of being the world leader in AI by 2030.

Ariana Grande accused photographer Robert Barbera of taking unauthorized pictures of her.  For celebrities that’s a big deal if the photographer then makes money from the pictures. Their image is their property they argue and it has value. They also argue that their celebrity does not give permission for people to violate their privacy.  It all gets murky when celebrities accept the exposure paparazzi photos give them.   

The case between Grande and Barbera put a new spin on the whole issue when Ms. Grande used Barbera’s unauthorized pictures to promote her Sweetener album.  The photographer filed a lawsuit against Grande for her unauthorized use of his unauthorized photos. He demanded $25,000 for each photograph. In the end the suit was dropped when the two parties agreed to an undisclosed settlement.  Legal struggles between photographers and celebrities about the use of their image are common. Last month, Supermodel Gigi Hadid won a lawsuit against the agency Xclusive -Lee, Inc.  It won’t be the last. 

Ariana Grande is about to work with Jim Carrey and she’s thrilled about it. The two will be working together on the second season of Kidding, a major Showtime drama series where Grande will be playing a guest role. She announced her role in a recent Instagram post that featured a black and white photo of Jim Carrey hugging the popster. Grande described herself as speechless about the news she would be working on the project; she also said that she adored Jim Carrey ever since she was a little kid.  She described Carrey as being more special, warm and generous in person than she ever imagined he could be. Season two of “Kidding” will premier on November 3rd.  Though it is about the host of a kid TV show, it is not for kids.  

On Monday the Congressional Internet Caucus Academy held a panel titled “In the Era of Streaming, Who’s the Bigger Music Mogul: Jay Z or Congress?” Part of the panel was about the Music Modernization Act, a complex, proposed law that sets up a new compensation mechanism for artists in the streaming environment.  Prior to streaming, the system for paying artists was well established; ASCAP and BMI pay songwriters for the use of their work through an national auditing system of venues and broadcast stations while record companies pay artists a royalty on sales.  If you are singer/songwriter you get pad from both sides. Straightforward.

Streaming doesn’t fit into either system, hence, the need for the Music Modernization Act.

Kevin Erickson, the director of the Future of Music Coalition (FMC), was brought into Congress to explain the complexities of the act.  He brought puppets because he was told the representatives wanted an explanation dumbed down to a five year old level – PowerPoint was too sophisticated. 

His presentation explained what you can read in the first paragraph using Sally, the songwriter puppet, who wants to take her music to market with the help of the publishing puppet and Ricky, the artist puppet, who works with a record label puppet. Ricky makes recordings and the record label puppet helps Ricky market his physical recording. He goes on to explain that for streaming, the Music Modernization Act establishes a new non-profit called the Mechanical Licensing Collective (M.L.C.). It will be set up to collect royalties from digital music streaming services such Spotify and Apple Music. The publishers will get paid by the M.L.C. and the publisher will then pay the artist. It really gets confusing when Kermit the Frog sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  Who gets the royalty – the puppet, the actor holding the puppet or the songwriter? MLC will sort it all out. 

The Hollywood scams, where famous people bought college admissions for their kids, were not the whole story.  It turns out that many wealthy families in not so glamorous Illinois have been transferring custody of their kids so they can get need-based financial aid to reduce college tuition. As reported by ProPublica and the Wall Street Journal, the practice was recommended by a higher education consulting company in Illinois called Destination College. The WSJ found that in Lake County Illinois alone there were 38 cases in which wealthy parents gave up custody of their kids in their junior or senior year of high school so they would have better chance of qualifying for financial aid.  Custody was often transferred to co-workers, friends or family members who didn’t have the same net-worth.

Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois described the practice as a scam. Borst found that of 14 students whose guardians transferred custody, three completed their freshman year and 11 were planning to enroll next year; the University reduced the financial aid each received.

Some of the families involved in this scam are reported to be living in million dollar houses in the suburbs of Chicago.  One parent who admitted to participating in the scam said they did so after the strain of spending $600,000 sending their other kids to college; this in spite of the family’s income of $250,000 a year. If even wealthy families are frustrated by the cost of higher education, what does this say about the US higher education system and what does it mean for those without wealth?  For them it means debt that often burdens the most productive years of their lives. 

Austin, Texas, the music capitol of the Southwest, is launching a new program allowing fans to tip musicians digitally rather than with cash. The city is providing ten selected musicians with DipJar, a device allowing them to take tips via credit or debit card. These artists will test the new fangled payment method at live venues for the next six months. Mat Oldigies, leader of the band Human Circuit, says that initially tips are fewer than before, but with extra motivation this might change. Austin is hoping that over time, this plan will be good for the finances of both the city and the musicians.  In other situations, it’s common to see people spend more when they don’t have to take real money out of their pocket.  Good luck to the players and pickers in Austin.