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.
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.
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.
The Fortnite gaming series recently had its first ever world-cup. The tournament winner, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, a 16 year old from Pennsylvania, beat millions of players on his path to the companionship. He had to win six battle royal matches to emerge as the champion and take home the $3 million winner’s prize. When asked what he’d do with the money, he was quoted as saying he wanted to buy a new desk.
All one hundred competitors were guaranteed at least $50,000 for their participation. Four of them received seven figure rewards including Argentina’s Thiago “King” Lapp, a 13 year old who got $900,000 for his fifth place finish.
The event demonstrates the big money flowing into e-sports. The first ever Fortnite World Cup reward budget of $30 million matched that of the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer budget and the winner’s prize is comparable to the Men’s and Women’s US Open Tennis Championship prize money. Meanwhile, the premier e-sporting competition, The International,has an even bigger reward budget than the Fortnite World Cup. If you are over 20, you are over the e-sports hill. Go home.
Recently over Instagram, Ariana Grande made an inappropriate joke about JonBenét Ramsey, a six year old who was murdered in her home 23 years ago. The incident started when her friend Douglas Middlebrook made an Instagram post showing a photo of the victim with a caption saying, “No One Has Done More Covers.” Grande bantered back saying to Middlebrook “I can’t wait for this to be your Halloween costume.” Middlebrook jokingly replied, “Working on it already.” The comments and the post were quickly deleted after they realized how socially offensive they were, but not before many of Grande’s fans were angered by the comment. Grande apologized and thanked her fans for keeping her in line.
Her fans were correct in their criticism, but given that Ariana was three years old when the event happened, the significance of it may not have been foremost in her mind. Good that she withdrew the comments and apologized. Good example. Move on.