Tag Archives: art and science

Apple Has Lost Its Innovation Polish

Photo of 2011 and 2018 Mac minis
The 2011 Mac Mini Even Had a CD player!

Riffing About Tim Cook and Apple’s New Old Mac Mini
By Terry Bailey
Nov 4, 2018

When former Pepsi CEO John Scully was running Apple in the Nineties, I gave an interview to MacWeek, and stood behind the company and its products, then in a serious innovation slump, because I had faith Apple would pull out of their Pepsi-Money-Man doldrums and find a way to innovate again. Fortunately they did – they brought back Steve Jobs to run the company. But, unless current CEO Tim Cook and Co can locate another Steve Jobs soon, the future for Apple and its Architectural Digest new digs in Silicon Valley does not appear rosy. The Apple has lost its innovation polish.

Tim Cook has never understood the developer class, or the designer class, or the developer-designer class – those women and men who built Apple Computer into what it was. And, yes, I say into what Apple “was.” Because Apple is no longer the leader in creator digital technology. Apple has been sliding from that pinnacle perch for several years now, but it crashed in a heap from its pedestal October 30 when Mr. Cook and Company finally, finally, finally introduced the New Mac Mini that they have been promising loyal Mac users, designers and developers, for several years now.

Tim Cook is an advocate for Apple Consumers, which would be a great thing if he still had Steve Jobs around to advocate for Apple Creators. But Steve Jobs is gone, and so is any real advocacy for, allegiance to or understanding of the importance of Apple Creators. Mr. Cook and Co: without us, Apple Consumers would have nothing to consume! By ignoring us, you are absolutely biting the hand that feeds you and all your Consumers.

“Yes, we hear you,” Cook and his tech leader staff told us when we Creators voiced concern about having been left behind in favor of Consumers. For three or four years running they kept telling us they heard us.

I, like many of my tech friends, had our credit cards ready to buy the New Mini, when finally, finally, finally we learned that it was actually going to appear at the Apple Event in NYC on October 30 2018. I’d been texting for days with my tech best friend, Joe, up in San Fran. He had his credit card ready, too.

I was teaching a digital media workshop to the instructional designers at Kaiser when the morning event took place. (They were all on PCs, btw, and I on my portable teaching MacBook Pro.) You better believe, I was on my cell phone as soon as I got out of there. Pulling up the archived live stream, checking all the Apple rumor websites for details. Yes! A New Mini was announced, I texted my friend Joe. I raced back to my studio and pulled up the specs for this New Mini on the Apple website.

Wait. Wait. 3.6GHz? Isn’t that about the same as my Old Mini? And I mean old. I don’t even have the most recent, 2014, Mini. I have not used my Old Mini in over a year. It sits on my studio desk, behind my new laptop, waiting to be replaced. It houses an interactive book, Light 2.0, and all the music I wrote and recorded for it. But that book, the follow-up to my hit iTunes podcast of 2005-09, Light 1.0, has not been published because my Old Mini choked on it in its bleeding edge 2017 form.

I checked. My Old Mini has a processor speed of 2.66 GHz and is an Intel Core 2 Duo. I texted Joe, what was his? 2.0GHz, turned out his was 3 years older than mine. Talk abut patiently waiting for Apple! I checked online, the top 2014 Mini was 3.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.5G).

But the NEW Mini is 3.6GHz, and I’m supposed to be excited that is blazingly faster than our Old Minis?

This was supposed to be the day. The day I went online and supplied my Apple ID and bought the New Amazing Mini. The day I officially got back to building my next hit – a music and art laden iBook version my hit podcast, Light 1.0. It’s been ready for over a year. All I needed to do was finish mastering the soundtrack, the soundtrack that just wouldn’t “go” anymore on my Aged Mini. Finally, thanks to my New Amazing Mini, I’d be publishing the interactive multimedia book I’ve been promising my readers for years.

This was supposed to be the day I imagined Creators like Joe and me, all over the country, lining up their credit cards and Apple IDs to purchase the Amazing New Minis.

But, no.

Because the NEW Mini is barely faster that my 2011 Mini. And this NEW Mini has a hard drive storage of 128GB. What?? My 2011 Mini came standard with 500GB, and Joe’s 2008 Mini came with 256 gigs.

And the NEW Mini comes with 4GB of RAM memory. What?? My 2011 Mini came standard with 8GB of RAM.

Wait!

What is up with this? And this NEW Mini is $799 while my old one was $599. Okay, I can understand a little inflation between 2011 and 2018. But this NEW Mini actually comes with way less than my (7 year) Old Mini!

Say, what??

So I go into Apple’s Buy page and employ all the pulldown menus to see what this NEW Mini will cost if I at least upgrade it to have the same specs as my 2011 OLD Mini as far as storage and RAM memory. And it turns out it will cost me over $1200!

Did you hear that?

$1200 to buy a New Mini that is a little faster but everything else being equal, the Same Ol’ Mini I bought for $599 in 2011.

Oh, It has a USB-C and HDMI connector. Well, duh. It has to connect to stuff in the modern world, of course, but I would hardly call being able to connect to other modern stuff an innovative or new feature.

I text “never mind” to Joe up in San Fran.

Joe and I talk later. We can’t believe it, either one of us. What a letdown.

But none of the journalists are reporting this fiasco yet. One guy is talking about how he can stack them as servers.

Yeah, and I could stack them as doorstops.

I read another journalist who does at least broach the subject of how Tim Cook is trying to upscale the price of all his products, and alludes to the fact that Cook is a jerk for doing this with the New Mini for Creators like he has done with all his Consumer products, but the journalist just winds up telling all of us that he will buy it anyway.

So, what I am looking at is a bunch of corporate sponsored tech journalists who are afraid to tell the truth. “The Emperor has no clothes!”

And here I was anticipating that Apple was going to make a fortune this coming month and holiday season due to all the pent up demand for the Amazing NEW Mini.

Who are we? These Die-Hard Mini Advocates who have waited expectantly and patiently for so long?

Unlike Tim Cook’s misguided idea that we are a bunch of amateur, cheap, computer novices who bought, and remained faithful to, the Old Mini as our computer “entry point,” this is who we are:

• We are computer designers, and new media producers, and WEB designers, and UX consultants, and digital artists who did not want to buy or use Apple’s “all-in-one” iMac computer any more that any of us want to use all-in-one printers. We are professionals and we want to configure our own set-ups, and we want to use professional grade equipment. We are also not idiots, and know that if one part of an all-in-one anything goes kaput, the whole machine is a goner.
• We are high end programmers and WEB / App developers who often take our computers (i.e. all our stuff) with us to events and to the offices of colleagues, and just plug them in at these off-site locations. The Mini was our computer of choice because it was portable that way.
• We are Pros who have so many other pieces of equipment on our desks that the Mini with its tiny footprint was a welcome relief to those old huge desktop towers.
• We are Pros who need power, but not as much power as the Mac Pro Towers (which btw are outdated, too). We are not editing giant feature length movies with hundreds of thousands of minutes of picture and sound, but we may very well be creating short-length videos for the WEB.
• We are Creatives who love to use monitors of our own choice (the Mini comes sans keyboard and monitor), often more than one, and the Mini allowed us to do this.
• We are professionals working independently who need to keep costs down, so the ability to buy a monitor at Best Buy or some other electronics store for a couple hundred dollars was huge in terms of our bottom lines.
• And we are not just Creatives. My accountant and my insurance agent both have old Minis on their desks waiting to be upgraded.
• We are Cutting Edge Professionals who need to stay at the forefront of technology, and did so  buying new computers every two to three years, keeping Apple in green for decades – until they failed to deliver Mini updates.
• We are faithful Apple Computer users (I bought my first Apple computer in 1984!) – but that era may finally be coming to an end for many of us.

My friend Joe, who does lots of 3D, and now wants to get into 3D printing, is eyeing Windows PCs after Tim Cook’s disappointing “event.” He shared with me how Apple has been behind in 3D for years, but he had always expected them to catch up. The Mini introduction appears to signal the end of Joe’s patience for the idea that Apple will ever respect its professional users again since reconfiguring itself as a Consumer Company when Money Man Tim Cook took the helm post Steve Jobs.

Me? I’m going to get a new monitor for my laptop, give up on my dream of an Amazing New Mini. And spend some time contemplating how I will finish my interactive multimedia book, Light 2.0 with all its art and music. Will it still be an Apple iBook, or will I look in other directions there, too? The jury is out.

I am still in shock at the realization that Tim Cook and Co. really don’t respect the class of people who MAKE all the stuff that runs on their consumer watches and iPhones and iPads and laptops. I am still in shock about the fact that Tim Cook and Co have configured their greedy business plan to ignore the Creator Hands that feed them – their Designers and Developers – and lumped us in with the Consumers whom they are going to keep sticking with higher and higher price tags, because they can.

Because the only way to continue escalating profits when a company is not innovating is to raise product prices. This may satisfy some Shareholders with continued increased profits in the short-term, but in the long-term . . . .

Last week, the guy I have always referred to as the Pepsi Man, John Scully, former Apple CEO, (and Pepsi CEO before that), accused Tim Cook of not innovating. Ironic coming from the man who almost ran Apple into the ground in the late 90s due to his lack of innovating! But, Scully is not that far off target, in spite of Scully’s lack of critiquing credentials. Tim Cook has not innovated. He has marketed and monetized all the Apple products that the real innovator, Steve Jobs created. And he has done a good job of it.

But the gold mine of innovation Tim Cook inherited from Jobs has run its course. Now Cook is upping product prices in an effort to squeeze the last drop out of that mound of innovation.

And at Apple’s October 30 event, Cook demonstrated his intent to take a bite out of the Professional Creator Hands that fed Apple for decades with his introduction of the New Old Mini.

Sad sad sad.

When John Scully was running Apple in the Nineties, I gave an interview to MacWeek, and stood behind the company and its products, then in a serious innovation slump, because I still had faith Apple would pull out of their Pepsi-Money-Man doldrums and find a way to innovate again. Fortunately they did – they brought back Steve Jobs to run the company.

But unless Tim Cook and Co can locate another Steve Jobs soon, the future for Apple and its Architectural Digest new digs in Silicon Valley is not very rosy. The Apple has lost its innovation polish.

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The Sad Fate of Professional Musicians in U.S. : Outsourced to London, Part II – The Pay Model Connection

 

Photo Scoring Session West Side Story
Scoring Session West Side Story

In the last post, (Part 1) I talked about the loss of studio musician jobs in the U.S. to London as a result of the removal of music education from our schools, the lack of paying venues for musicians and the lack of practice time for musicians because they are so busy supporting themselves with non-music jobs. All of these factors result in a lack of qualified U.S. musicians according to entertainment company executives. Today I want to look at another reason we are losing music jobs to London players and orchestras, and that has to do with our countries’ respective employee pay models.

As the music panelists of the Hollywood Future of Entertainment forum stepped off the stage, I turned to the two music industry reps at my table and told them that I was still confused. During our table introductions, the woman executive from the musician royalty paying agency had told me that this digital age is, in fact, a great time for musicians in that they have so many more royalty income revenue streams. She had explained how a studio musician who played on a soundtrack  in the past was only paid when a film or TV show was in its first run, and a bit more during re-plays or re-runs. Today with all the various distribution outlets (DVD, Netflix, online streaming, hotel distribution, etc.) musicians are earning money from many more sources.

“Something doesn’t add up,” I said to her and the Union Rep at my table now, post panel. “You earlier explained to me how studio musicians are making more money today than ever, due to the increase in income royalty revenue streams from movies, TV and recorded music. But the panel just told us that producers are all going to London to record music, and there is a huge loss of work for musicians in the U.S.”

The Union Rep told me she did not know what was going on. “How is the Musicians Union fairing?” I asked. “Is this outsourcing of work to London something you all talk about?” She did not know.

I pondered aloud, “London is supposed to be like the second or third most expensive city to live in today. If London musicians are being paid so much less than their U.S. counterparts – making it cheaper for U.S. producers to travel all the way to Europe to score/record, how can those London musicians afford to live? And if they are paid so much less, how can they afford the time to educate themselves thoroughly and constantly practice to keep up their skills?”

(Remember in my first post on this, the panelists explained that U.S. musicians are paid so little that they can’t afford practice time because they have to work “day jobs.”)

The Union Rep shrugged. The Royalty Exec had to ask:  “How long have you worked for the Union?”

“Nine years,” she said.

I guess she’s been listening to streaming music all day rather than her constituency.

Finally the Royalty Exec filled in for me. But this is where she told me she had to be off the record. Sad.

It all comes down to the difference in work and pay models and governmental support.

In the U.S., we have taken music out of the schools, so anyone who learns music does it on her/his own without the lessons and practice time and music exposure that schools could give them. There are no longer sufficient paying venues for musicians, and most that do exist pay very little. All but a relative few U.S. musicians have to work other jobs and play music “on the side.” For those few who do manage to get studio work, the pay is good, thanks to unions and, now, numerous new digital revenue streams. But the operative term here is “those few musicians.”

Musicians in London have it vastly different. They live in a society that has not removed music from the schools, that respects musicians.

“But, how do they manage if they are paid less than studio musicians in the U.S.?” I continued to press.

“Because for one, they have plenty of work – since they are taking it from U.S.” she explained.

“How ironic, but still not enough to tip all this in their favor if they are working for much lower wages,” I thought. Aloud I responded, “How can the simple fact of lower hourly rates for musicians really make it more affordable for an entire film or TV show post-production staff to pack up and travel across the ocean to hire an orchestra and score all their music? I would think that  travel and lodging would pretty much offset the musicians’  hourly wage savings.”

Her next statement finally shed the light.

“Not only do they work for lower wages, they don’t take royalties. This makes them even more attractive to producers from a financial standpoint.”

“No way!” I was stunned. “How can British musicians afford to live with low wages and no royalties?”

“Because their government, in addition to supporting music education, also subsidizes the health care and pensions of musicians. They have financial security.”

Couple that with plenty of work, and the musicians in London are set.

But, this is just wrong. Because of government subsidies people in England can afford to be musicians. No such luck for citizens of the U.S.

I sat back in my seat deflated. Outsourcing of U.S. jobs took on a whole new meaning. It is not just about lower wages. We are not just competing with workers in developing, low-cost-of-living  nations, who can afford to work for a fraction of what U.S. workers need to earn. We are not just competing with foreign companies who are exploiting their workers for lower wages. We are competing with foreign governments! And what chance do we stand against a foreign government who underwrites their workers when the U.S. government meanwhile rails against even a living wage much less worker subsidies or universal healthcare!

Well, as luck would have it, I happened to tell this story to a staff member at the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board a few weeks later. And from him I learned that this form of government sponsored competition is illegal – well, caveat, it used to be illegal, and may still be illegal. That is what I will write about it Post III.  Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

 

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The Sad Fate of Professional Musicians in U.S. : Outsourced to London, Part I – The Music Education Connection

image of the Hollywood sign
The Hollywood Sign

I’m currently consulting as a technology expert for an education grant that one city is writing in order to create a model program that will use music to teach math and sciences in their K-12 schools. Of course, the fact that I am also a musician and composer will benefit my participation on this grant. The input I provide and the research I do, as well as the grant’s process, seem like they will be interesting material to include in this blog of mine on sciences and the arts. Usually I am talking about books that deal with these subjects, but I think slices of life around topics are important as well, and perhaps this post will encourage others to write more books on this topic.

In December I attended a conference on “The Future of Entertainment,” hosted by Variety Magazine and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Although most of the conference was dedicated to the future of movies (now that California has passed an incentive bill, AB839,  to help keep film production in the state), there was one panel on the status and future of our music industry.

Coincidentally, at the table where I was seated were a Musician’s Union rep and an executive from the organization that pays out the royalties due to musicians for playing on movie soundtracks, commercials, music recordings, etc. After the music panel, my head was filled with unanswered questions. I turned to the two music professionals reps at my table.

The Royalty Woman shared quite a few insights, but remarked that her comments were “off the record,” so I won’t make note of her name here, and, to tell the truth, I have forgotten the name of her organization anyway. I won’t be naming the Musicians Union rep, either, because she and the union will undoubtedly be embarrassed by the comments I will make about her responses to my questions.

Let’s start with the number one question and concern regarding U.S. musicians in the movie and TV industry expressed by the morning’s panel: Why are so many film and TV producers going to London to record their music soundtracks rather than recording here in the States?

The answers will not surprise our local musicians, but I hope it will wake up anyone else reading this post.

The producers go to London to score their tracks not just because it is less expensive to hire musicians there (I will address this topic in next post) but also because they are finding more qualified musicians in London. According to them, the caliber of musicians in U.S. has been steadily falling over the last decades.

And why is that? Well, that is something I have been writing about in this blog for some time. Our society has removed the Arts (including music, of course) from its schools, and denigrates the Arts as being “frills” rather than necessary elements of education and life. One of many negative results of this, of course, has been a falling number of musicians in our country. Turns out that not only are the numbers of musicians falling, but the caliber of those who do study music has also fallen precipitously. If musicians do not have years of classes/lessons and plenty of time to practice, they will never be great musicians.

For those of you who are not musicians out there, let me add a bit of clarification emphasis to that point.

In the world of music, studio musicians are regarded as the elite musician class. All professions have their elite class, their best and brightest: in the Navy it is the Seals, at Disney it is Disney Imagineering staff, in tech currently it is Google programmers and idea generators. In music, the musicians able to work in studios are not only polished players with a keen understanding of music theory, tempo, ensemble-playing, etc., but they are the ones who can read music. Many musicians who are really really good, never learned to read music notation, but this is a studio requirement. Not only will a composer put a chart in need of reading in front of a studio musician, but that musician must be able to read it, properly and with expression, at a first glance.

No one learns to be a studio musician without years of study and practice. And practice is not something a musician does during the course of study and then stops. Good musicians must practice every day to enhance and maintain their skill.

So what happened in the U.S. when we began to take music out of the schools and denigrate its usefulness, especially as compared to math and science? Well, we stopped developing that pool of studio musician caliber players for one thing. And that is the first reason that our movie and TV producers are now going to London to record their music soundtracks. Europe still values musicians and the education of musicians, so they do have an elite class of studio players available. And because their musicians are getting this work from the U.S. they are making enough money to afford practice time in order to keep up their “chops.”

According to panelist Ricky Minor, Music Director of American Idol: “Arts in schools are gone. There are no public places for musicians to play and master their craft. There are no jobs for musicians. Musicians are now waiters. With all of this, we have witnessed a plummeting of the skill level of musicians in U.S., while European musicians are supported.”

And panelist Paul Broucek, President, Music, Warner Brothers Pictures, agreed: “Yes, what London offers now is a skilled talent pool.”

Musicians in the U.S. not only are lacking in access to music education, but are hard pressed to find the time to keep up what skills they do acquire due to the lack of practice time. They are too busy working other jobs to support themselves . . . (more about this in the next post).

 

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All Hands on Deck Thoughts Evoked On Hearing A Science Star – Freeman Dyson – In Pasadena the Other Night

photo Dr. Mae Jemison; Prof. Freeman Dyson; Prof. Ed Stone; Dr. Leon Alkalai
An Interstellar Conversation at Caltech sponsored by the Keck Institute, Sept 9, 2014: Dr. Mae Jemison – Physician, Engineer, Former Astronaut and Leader of the 100 Year Starship Organization; Prof. Freeman Dyson – Physicist, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Prof. Ed Stone – Voyager Mission Project Scientist, Caltech; Moderated by Dr. Leon Alkalai – Ast. Div. Mgr, Systems Engineering & Formulation Division at JPL

Yes, it was one of those science fan nights for me at Pasadena’s Caltech Beckman Auditorium last week. I’ve read most of Freeman Dyson’s books and for years have admired his sensible approach to science as well as his accomplishments and ideas. There really is something special about seeing someone you have long admired in person. My niece Tess will wait for hours in line to hear Beyonce perform. I waited four hours once to hear Stephen Hawking talk in Santa Monica – and yes, it was worth it (not to mention the interesting people I met in line waiting with me – for there is also something intoxicating about knowing the people around you all share something of importance to you).

What I had not picked up on from Dyson’s books was his fun sense of humor. When someone inquired about his concerns regarding communication loss once space travelers reach interstellar space, Dyson quipped that it might not be such a bad thing, considering that the tax collectors could not reach us out there.

Still, there was something eery about this evening’s presentations. We are in the midst of a terrible heat wave currently in Southern California. 106 today as I write this post. It was close to that the evening of this lecture. The discussion with a former astronaut, Dyson, and the Voyager Mission scientist, was about plans to send humans in search of life on far off planets – through interstellar space. How will we fund it, what needs to be done to get us to that point, who is working on what? But all the while I could not help but be reminded of my favorite essay (another mystery as I read it years ago and have never been able to find it since, don’t remember title, author, anything except the premise) which positioned a classical music lover treading water in the sea surrounding a sinking island which housed a chamber orchestra and attentive audience, water to their waists, refusing to budge out of politeness and denial as the island sank around them.

For it suddenly struck me as very odd that so many great scientists should be discussing how we are going to get to outer space when our own planet meanwhile is on fire. Now, I am sure some will say that we need people pursuing all sorts of ideas and plans if we are to move forward. But, as I said, it just struck me that we would be better off if all scientists, politicians, business people, citizens, artists, writers, everybody – would come together for a time to solve global warming, to get our own planet back on track, before we tackle any other big challenges. It seems that important. And to do otherwise, seems, well, arrogant and blind to reality.

Global warming is not somebody else’s business, we need all hands on deck, please.

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Brilliant Scientist, Technologist, Businessperson != Brilliant Anything Else, Part 1

Photo of Cafe Patio where Terry wrote Light 2.0
Cafe Patio where Terry wrote Light 2.0

Just because someone is a brilliant scientist, it does not necessarily follow that he/she is a brilliant anything-else. But our society misses this important fact time and time again. We turn to our premiere scientists, top technologists and successful businesspeople for their opinions on social issues. We ask them to speak at conferences on any number of topics unrelated to their fields of expertise. We call them when an important legislative issue is being deliberated, assuming that because they are so smart, they can help us.

The first time I started thinking about this was in 1998. I had just returned to Pasadena from Washington DC, where I set up an interactive media department in the then largest law firm in the United States. I am not sure exactly how or why I received an invitation to a luncheon at Caltech, where journalist and long-time presidential advisor David Gergen was scheduled to speak. But what I vividly remember was what David Gergen said about Microsofts’ Bill Gates during his speech.

Gergen had recently interviewed Gates, and admitted that he had been very excited about meeting and talking with the man many considered the smartest in the world. But, Gergen shared, he was stunned to discover that Bill Gates had less knowledge of social issues that any person he had interviewed in his entire career.

Think of that for a minute. This is the man who subsequently went on to start a foundation to save the world; the man who through his foundation is setting the world priorities for what gets fixed, and what does not. This is the man our legislators and news media call on all the time for his opinion about any myriad of topics: What does Bill Gates think of Net Neutrality? the Wars? Poverty? World Health? Education?

Yesterday I read in the New York Times how Gates has now teamed up with a history professor to rewrite the history taught in all our U.S. high school classes – after he took one course on history from Great Courses! Of course he loved that history course! Bill Gates was a college drop-out. He undoubtedly spent little academic time prior to college ruminating and studying anything more than computer science. This was probably his first actual exposure to history. And suddenly, because he is so smart, we think he should determine our country’s high school history curriculum? Oh, please.

Yesterday I sat out sipping an iced coffee at my favorite outdoor patio, and I listened to a Caltech astro-physicist telling his coffee companion all about what was the matter with this country: in a nutshell, he focused on the “illegals,” food stamps (“problem is you start a food stamp program and there is no going back”), welfare, etc. Case in point. And let me speculate here: all the while he trashed those who have immigrated to the U.S. from south of our border, one of those immigrants was meanwhile mowing his lawn back at home, and another vacuuming his house . . . . He may be the most brilliant astro physicist our country has (this is not actually an endorsement of his scientific acumen, I don’t know the man), but when it comes to social issues, he proved himself to me to be a socially uneducated racist bigot as I tried to eat my bagel sandwich and found myself quickly losing my appetite . . . . to be continued

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I’m Back

Light 2.0 on iPad - beta testing
Light 2.0 on iPad – beta testing

Hi. Sorry for the long absence. I should have left a note . . . . Been super busy with writing my interactive multimedia iBook series, Light 2.0, and dealing with all the tasks of setting up a publishing business. I am blogging about that process on Facebook currently at https://www.facebook.com/Light2Point0 .

I will begin blogging here again but in shorter posts because this blog is important to me, too, and especially now that I am consulting with the cities of Glendale and Burbank, CA about how to get unemployed people trained for tech jobs and how to work with companies to help with upgrading their employees skills rather than laying them off or continuing to bring in foreign workers under H1 visas.

And, of course, I continue to read and thing about science, technology and the arts and have much to share in this arena. So, back with some thoughts soon.

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Why Arts Education is Critical for Every Human Being on the Planet, Part 1

digital painting Ice Tea by Terry Bailey
This is a digital painting. It is art. It was not made to teach light refraction through glass or chemistry. Although, I suppose one could do that. Ice Tea by Terry Bailey 2004

Hi, I’m back and summer 2013 is a memory. I seem to always regret that I did not eat enough tomatoes and nectarines when the end of September rolls around!

I left you hanging at the Folding Party at Institute of Figuring in Los Angeles, and I will  leave you hanging a bit more. I want to add some back-story here – in 2 posts. After that I will give you the conclusion of the Folding Party – as well as some thoughts to move forward with regarding the Institute and its goals. After that I will be sharing a story about another artist who is looking at the subject of those (in)famous psychological Rorschach tests with her art, Nicholette Kominos. And what about the Beginnings of Life story that I was exploring? Yes, we will talk more about that this fall, too!

Those of you who have followed my blog here for long know that the whole point of it is to explore the Arts and Sciences, and to show why both are of equal importance, and why they are dependent on each other, not exclusive of each other. You also know that I have a great concern about the denigration of art in our society and in our schools.

I’ve just completed an online course with Stanford University called Design Thinking. My classmates were primarily engineers, technologists and business people. The class was designed to help them start thinking more creatively. It was fascinating to talk to students from all over the world. And I found that it is not just the U.S. where the Arts have been eliminated; in fact, my classmate from India told me they have never had Arts in their schools.

It’s ironic that this Stanford class even exists. It exists because there is no art in the schools any longer. Or very little. And art serves important skill building purposes, as well as being of value in and of itself. Everyone needs the Arts – not just artists.

Because of this class, and the work I did in it (I am happy to report that I completed it “with distinction”), I am going to be adding another column to this blog shortly. That column will specifically address the need for Arts Education. That was my final project for the class – a prototype for arts education advocacy – which I highly recommend to any engineers, scientists, business people who are lacking in creative skills .

While researching my class projects, I happened upon a forum on artedsearch.org. There I joined a discussion about the value of Arts education, and ‘are the Arts valuable only if they help us learn some other subject, or do some other serious task?‘ (like how we hear lately that music education helps students with their math).

I received a few emailed questions to my post there about the need to research the value of Art for Arts sake. I will post my responses to those questions next.  For, although I am happy to see some school administrators begin to see the importance of getting the Arts back into the schools, NO they should not be there only to SERVE the Sciences!

 

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Writing Out Loud About The Search for Life in Space Exploration

Or, A Little Mars &  Origins of Life History Before Tackling Today’s Space Exploration Debates, Part II

Books recommended by interviewee scientist Sherwood Chang: Life's Origin and Planets and Life
Books recommended by interviewee scientist Sherwood Chang

One of the exciting things about blogs is the fact that we can update them with new information, make corrections, add comments. They are not static in time and space like traditional journalism or nonfiction writing.

Yesterday I had an email response from my new scientist friend turned organic cattle rancher, Sherwood Chang, whom I quoted in my previous post (and will be quoting in the next couple of posts). He made a few corrections and additions, which I have added right into the text of the post itself (see below).

I have a Master’s degree in creative nonfiction. Why I chose “creative” nonfiction rather than traditional nonfiction has to do with my respect for creativity itself. One of the reasons that creative nonfiction was established as a genre was in consideration of the need to make the reading of “facts” enjoyable, rather than a dry boring academic, experience. Creative nonfiction allows an author to experiment with style, presentation and content in ways that make the information it contains interesting. Being a new media / multimedia artist as well as author, I also believe that a creative approach to writing about information and facts also allows us writers to present our content more successfully – using new methods to convey information, rather than sticking with traditional dry, emotionless and style-less words and diagrams.

I could have taken the suggestions of Sherwood and simply changed and updated my previous post, but, instead, I went to the text and crossed out the text I was eliminating and typed the new text in bold, so that readers could actually see my process, my interaction with the scientist. To me what is exciting about this is that it brings the words and process itself to life. It makes writing a public process, a shared process. As someone I quoted in an earlier post said, “Blogging is writing out loud.” (I will look up my source later and update this sentence)

Oh, and thank you Sherwood for also recommending two relevant books for us, which I will post on the book page soon, too: “For an historical review and summary of recent (up to 2002) work on the origin of life, I suggest the book, Life’s Origin (2002), ed. J. William Schopf, U. of Ca. Press.  A more recent and broader based book is by W. Sullivan and J. Baross, eds.(2007) Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology.”

My next episode on the search for life in space exploration next week. . . .

 

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Why the future of space exploration requires that we make Earth protection our first priority.

that thin layer of blue is the atmosphere that protects us here on Earth
That thin layer of blue is the atmosphere
that protects us here on Earth

The news media is rife with stories about missions to Mars and to asteroids lately. A great deal of the interest has been spawned by the fact that we have a mission on Mars currently, Curiosity. My guess is that there are also many stories being placed and encouraged by the public relations arms of our various space agencies and by some of the new private space tourist and exploration firms – to drum up more public and political interest.

There are huge questions looming: should we be sending personned explorations to Mars, Jupiter’s moons, asteroids? What do we want to learn about Deep Space? How should the private sector be involved in space missions, and if they are, what kind of oversight should the public and leaders require? Can we learn as much from Earth as we can from traveling in space? What does space travel teach us that simulations cannot? Should we try to establish human colonies on Mars, and if so, why? How much money should we be spending on space exploration? Is space travel for humans really a possibility? What are we actually looking for, trying to accomplish?

Before the public can be expected to participate intelligently in any discussion or debate about where we are headed as Space Explorers, some history is certainly in order. I know it was for me. So I began some rudimentary research in order to make myself a more educated participant in the discussion. One of the greatest disservices that scientists have done to the public, and ultimately to themselves, over the last decades is to have constructed messages telling the public that science is too complicated for their feeble brains. Nonsense.

For as long as I can remember, space travel enthusiasts have compared our need to explore space with the early European exploration of the Americas. With their discovery of new worlds and the fact that the earth was not flat. But, as I have studied space exploration the last months, interviewing scientists, reading up on its history, attending lectures, etc., I have come to believe that this is actually an unworkable analogy. Yes, we have a human need to explore, to understand our world, our universe, our reality. Yes, we have a relentless need to know if we are alone in the universe, or if there are some others like us.

But it may be that humans simply cannot bodily explore the universe because our bodies cannot survive such an exploration. It may be that we can explore our universe more effectively by staying put here on Earth and developing exploration tools and simulations.This may not be as glamorous or exciting as the Space Cowboy scenarios so many have been weaving over the last decades, but that is even more reason why the public needs to be let in on realistic lessons about science if we are going to encourage their continued support of a space exploration something more akin to seated in an armchair and watching on the TV screen.

Thus far my research has taught me that the most important thing we need to do right now is to protect our Earth and the human/animal/life protective atmosphere it houses because we may very well be stuck here! Of course I will keep myself open to alternative ideas as I continue my exploration, but so far everything points in that direction. If we lose the protection of our planet, we won’t be available to explore the universe in the future.

Next post I will begin with a bit of history about space exploration: “A Little Mars and Origins of Life History Before Tackling Today’s Space Exploration Controversies, Part I

 

 

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