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Marketplace Tech gets musical

Fri, 2014-05-02 13:30
Monday, May 5, 2014 - 04:00 Holly Andres

Merrill Garbus, lead singer of tUnE-yArDs, stops by to talk about her latest release, "Nikki Nack"

When you ask someone about their favorite piece of music, the conversation gets personal. Everyone feels music differently -- that's what makes it human.

It's why music and technology, at least to some people, seem like a mismatch. Machines are cold. Music is not. 

Here's the thing: We use technology to make music all the time. No, I do not count the auto-tuned antics of Glee tracks released on iTunes. I'm talking about musicians using technology to compose, create, and record music. It's a relationship that gets deeper and more complex all the time. The place where music and technology cross paths is a fascinating intersection.

All this week, we'll talk to musicians for whom tech is an integral part of their process. From Squarepusher, who wrote an entire EP of music played by robot musicians, to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, who turns herself into a one-woman percussion instrument using loops and drum machines. We'll also talk to prolific film composer John Powell about his recording process for film, and electronic musician/composer Dan Deacon about why the computer is the biggest diva he's ever worked with (and why it has a right to be). DJ Rekha, credited with bringing Bhangra music to America, talks about the technology involved in being a DJ, and how it has evolved over time.

These are musicians and performers at the top of their game who constantly ask themselves how technology can help them be better at what they do, but also wonder how far is too far when it comes to letting machines take over. Each of these guests have funny and insightful comments to offer.

So plug in your keytar, boot up your computer, and let's get to playing with machines.

Marketplace Tech for Monday, May 5, 2014by Ben JohnsonStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

Spider-Man vs. the box office

Fri, 2014-05-02 13:07

The new Spider-Man sequel has a lot riding on it for Sony Pictures. It sets up two spin-off movies, plus the third and fourth installments of the franchise.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has already earned more than $150 million overseas. But critics have hammered the flick in the U.S.

“I think Sony is hoping that this movie will gross a billion dollars. And I don’t think that’s going to happen,” says Jeff Sneider with the entertainment news website, TheWrap.com.

He describes the new movie as “the worst Spider-Man movie that I have personally seen.”

Other fans may shy away because of superhero overload.

“Part of it just might be some amount of fatigue from the audience. This is going to be the fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years,” says Albert Ching, an editor at Comic Book Resources.

And if audiences aren’t happy, investors won’t be either.

Sneider says, “Sony has come under fire from its investors, namely Daniel Loeb, who’s like a big hedge fund guru.”

If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t clobber the competition, expect that fire from investors to heat up.

Georgia latest state to drug-test welfare applicants

Fri, 2014-05-02 13:01

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal earlier this week signed legislation that will require some people applying for Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) benefts to submit to drug testing. Georgia is one of more than a dozen states proposing - or trying out - laws that require welfare recipients or applicants to take drug tests. 

Governor Deal's Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Robinson said in a statement to Marketplace: 

"Governor Deal has said drug abuse poses a major barrier to getting and keeping a job. He understands that many users are suffering from the disease of addition. He believes we as a state have a duty to help those who want to help themselves by providing an option for treatment. He's also led on diverting people with drug addictions out of the criminal justice system into treatment programs with strict accountability so that people are able to be taxpayers instead of being tax drainers. But if people choose to reject treatment and choose a lifestyle that renders them unemployable, taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize that."

But in some cases, drug testing does not appear to be catching many drug users.

"In Oklahoma, 29 people out of 1,300 were denied benefits," said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a policy coordinator at the Center for Law and Social Policy. "And then Utah. Twelve people out of 4,730." 

Advocates of the testing say the low numbers are likely due to deterrence. 

"By having the testing requirement in place, you screen out individuals who have a drug addiction who never go through the process to begin with, because they know they won't recieve benefits," said Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank.

Lower-Basch isn't certain that deterrence is the best thing for needy families. 

"These are very poor families and they have children," Lower-Basch said. "You don't want to scare them off and not getting help. You want the kids to get help so they can have clothes and housing. And you want the parents getting treatment so they can get jobs and be better parents. Scaring them off is a terrible outcome."

Many welfare researchers say drug tests are sometimes necessary. However, mass testing can also cost a state money. In 2011, Florida required welfare recipients to pay for their own drug tests. More than 97% passed and the state had to reimburse them to the tune of more than $100,000.

Map of 2012 Legislative Proposals to Screen for Drug Use Among Welfare Recipients

Courtesy of National Conference of State Legislatures.

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