Some rights reserved by bsdphoto

Some rights reserved by bsdphoto

On September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died. At just 27, he died without a will. He only released three albums in his lifetime, but he left a lifetime’s worth of legal issues, evolving narratives, and interesting back stories.

At the time of his death, his estate was managed by California attorney Leo Branton and producer Alan Douglas. In 1995, Jimi’s father, Al sued for the rights to Jimi’s music, and won. Al then created “Experience Hendrix, LLC” as a corporation based in Seattle. This company was created to administer Jimi’s image, control his music, and release new music and memorabilia.

When Al died in 2002, the Hendrix estate was worth an estimated $80 million, which Al left entirely to his adopted daughter, Janie. That’s when things got messy. Jimi had a brother, named Leon, and he contested the will, claiming that Janie had manipulated Al into leaving everything to her. Allegations about fraud and drug abuse were lobbied back and forth, and in the end, a Washington judge ruled that Janie was the sole heir.

Shortly before his death, a fortune teller had told Jimi that he wouldn’t live much longer. He believed her, and told close friends about this “vision”. Although he had grown up in poverty, at his height, he was earning millions. Surrounding him were, naturally, bottom-feeders. Jimi had to wrangle with his corrupt manager, deal with the Black Panthers trying to shake him down, faced heroin possession charges in Canada, and fought a paternity suit in New York.

Ultimately, Hendrix is remembered for his mastery of the guitar, not necessarily for his money management skills. And since his family gained control of his estate, they have been on a mission to “sterilize” him as an icon without a troubled life. A recent documentary about Jimi on PBS, I Hear My Train A Comin’, was seemingly “scrubbed clean” of Hendrix’s legendary appetite for women and drugs. A memoir just released, Starting At Zero, supposedly authored by Jimi (a curation of his diary entries, letters and interviews), was published without the cooperation of his family and clashes with the image the family is now portraying. Even the minutiae of his life is being sanitized. For example, Jimi enlisted in the 101st Airborne Division because he had been given a two-year jail sentence for “riding in a stolen car”. That’s where he met Billy Cox, a bassist who he ended up playing with. He was in the military for less than a year. According to I Hear My Train A Comin’, he was honorably discharged due to an ankle injury he suffered while jumping out of a helicopter. The truth is he pretended to be gay in order to get himself thrown out.

The first biography of Jimi written after his death in 1978, ’Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky still remains the definitive biography of his life. But the Hendrix machine is alive and well, sterile or not in 2014. A new biopic entitled All Is By My Side is forthcoming, and is produced by John Ridley. Although fondly remembered as a peace-loving hippie, according to Starting At Zero, Hendrix was quite conservative, distrustful of “Black Power” and was not supportive of the antiwar protests of the time.

When he died, he had an ulcer in his stomach, was increasingly dependent on cocaine and amphetamines to get through all his tour commitments, was frustrated by the cost overruns in the building of his state-of-the-art studio, Electric Ladyland, and he was completing an album “First Rays of the New Rising Sun”. To escape some of the overload, he ended up in London with a former lover. Unable to fall asleep, he took nine Vesparax tablets (18 times the recommended dosage) and went to bed. He choked on his own vomit that night and was found dead in the morning by his lover. Although the family is trying to sanitize his life and legacy, what really matters the most is the magic he left behind for us in the music he created. Music historians will have to wade through the morass of all the “propaganda” to try and keep the real story alive, but the casual fan will always just let the music speak for itself.

fingerprintBy now, most of us realize that the US government is tracking our online activity (it’s just to what extent, we’re still a bit unsure), but it’s probably safe to say the bureaucrats know more about us than we’d like them to know. What’s more disturbing, however, is the extent that advertising and marketing companies go to determine who you are, what you do, what you buy, and who you buy from. And it’s no longer just your online activity: data mining allows companies to combine your offline activity with your online activity to create a more accurate profile of everything you do. This aggregation should cause more concern than anything the NSA is doing, and as of now, it’s completely unregulated.

Ever heard of Acxiom? Probably not. Well, Acxiom has heard of you. In fact, they probably know more about you than many of your own family members. Acxiom currently runs 23,000 servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year. Acxiom has dropped over 1.1 billion cookies onto hundreds of millions of Americans’ computers, they have constructed over 200 million mobile profiles and average about 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. Scott Howe, the Acxiom CEO has stated, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

The recent hacking of Target’s commerce system has been widely reported, but what you may not know is what Target knows about you. Target assigns each customer a unique “Guest ID” which is linked to their credit card number, email address and/or name. Every purchase or interaction the customer has with Target is linked to their unique Guest ID. You tend to buy a lot of yogurt, live in San Francisco, and shop with your American Express? Target takes this data and links them to your profile, and then uses it to market more products to you. This seems harmless at first glance, and some would argue that targeted advertising is valuable, however, this data can be aggregated, diced and sliced to predict your future behavior. Target will know if you’re pregnant based on what you purchase. They’ll use that data to predict when you will be interested in buying diapers. Of course, they won’t stop there. They’ll know the gender of your baby when he/she is born, and be able to market to them as well. Lock them in at birth! This is valuable data for other companies too. PetCo will know if you’re buying dog food for your “older pet” and sell the data to insurance companies that will then encourage you to buy health insurance. Sound creepy? Creepier than the NSA logging your phone calls?

Sure, the NSA’s tracking activities should be a major concern, but you might also want to think about what advertising, marketing and data mining companies are doing “behind the scenes” with all those breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind.

teenagers-and-iphonesWe knew eventually there would be a “wedge” driven between us and that shiny, glowing device that never seems to leave our sides… well, it looks like you now spend more time with your smartphone than you do with your partner! According to a study by mobile phone provider O2 and Samsung, the average smartphone user tends to spend two hours a day using their gadget. Yet, the amount of time spent with our partners per day is just 97 minutes – a third less – on average. Many of us even sleep with our smartphones, and some have admitted to spooning their phone over their mate… Read more about this report here.

ipodnanowatch1-e1324315781148We’ve all seen Google Glass, laughed at the young, entitled “glassholes” lucky enough to land a pair, and chortled along with how ridiculous people look when walking around with them on. However, Google Glass is arguably the most important tech innovation in recent years, and will more than likely represent a fundamental shift in how we connect and respond to each other and other things. Why? Well, think about what factors are involved in deciding to wear technology versus just use technology.

Sophisticated, wearable information systems can enable a host of capabilities to help increase productivity, efficiency and knowledge. With real-time data access in a user-friendly UI, and the ability to recall data from everything you’ve done, you will be able to more effectively filter the information that’s relevant and meaningful for you. This is the power of real-time analytics: you will instantly be able to do more with less, experiment with what works and doesn’t work, and let the device anticipate where you will go next and what you may want or need and then construct the best way to achieve that interaction or activity.

You may shake your head and feel OK with the fact that you can do a lot of this now with the smartphone in your hand. Sure. But putting something on your body is a deeply personal act, and may further automate and integrate your own preferences into the system you decide to wear. Our smartphones are untethered, they are an “outside system” that we must consciously choose to interact with and take several actions in which to engage with, and we make emotional connections to our smartphones, many of us even sleep with them. However, placing a device onto our bodies embeds that emotional connection directly into our being and sense of self. That’s the biggest leap we’ll ever really make with technology: to integrate it into our sense of self.

For anyone to “agree” to do that, they’ll want something back, such as:

Deeper Adaptive Personalization. Wearers will want personalized tools and services that build on their previous interactions, and that add value to their overall experience.

Contextual Support. The system will need to learn the wearer’s preferences over time, and then generate tailored results and anticipate future needs while serving up relevant information.

Long Distance Togetherness. Wearers will desire instant access to others and things based on building more meaningful relationships (and seeking expertise). Wearable technologies must first be fashionably acceptable, and then extend the reach and power of how people connect, communicate and share details about themselves over any distance.

Wearable technologies will respond to us in highly personalized ways, adapting their form and functionality to match a unique set of ever-changing needs more than smartphones will ever be able to do. At some point in time, we will wonder why we ever had a separate device that we had to constantly reach for.

This won’t be the typical “year in review” post highlighting the best books, the best films, or the best songs of the year. There’s plenty of places you can get that kind of info, including here, here, and here. Instead, I want to focus on some of the more meaningful occurrences, some that may have flown under the radar a bit, but that will more than likely have a lasting impact:


We lost Andre Cassagnes. Who, you ask? Well, if you grew up in the last few decades, you’ve been touched by his main creation: the Etch-A-Sketch. At the age of 86, he passed in January. I remember spending untold hours with my Etch-A-Sketch, and how when I finally painted my masterpiece, I would beg my sister to not shake it away (which she always seemed to find a sneaky way to do behind my back). It’s my generation’s Snapchat, and it gave so much to that “alone time” throughout my youth. Although it’s practically impossible to draw a circle, the Etch-A-Sketch was a toy for the ages.

(Tribute sketch of André Cassagnes by Tom Shillue)

Dealey_Plaza_2003When it comes to the events of November 22, 1963: we evolved (a bit). Yeah, 2013 marked the 50th year since our 35th president was gunned down on the streets of Dallas. First, Dallas itself owned up to its own role in that fateful day. The city’s leaders decided to honor Kennedy by producing a respectful commemoration, and for the first time since ’63, apologized for being the “city of hate” that took our President from us. The past is never in the past, but we can learn, heal and move forward. Dallas decided to do that in 2013, and it deserves praise for honoring that horrible day with a recognition it never knew how to do before. Of course, the “independent” Texas spirit is still alive and well as shown by this guy who felt the need to strap on an AR-15 at Dealey Plaza…

12.09.11-Skeuo-4We officially re-entered an era of “design rationalism”. Not wanting to be left behind, Apple fired Scott Forstall, the lone holdout in charge of Apple software design that still held onto the Jobsian design ethos of using fake leather and brushed aluminum backgrounds in software user interfaces. Microsoft and Google had already moved on, ditching ornamentation, and re-birthing the design philosophy set forth in the 1920s by the Bauhaus movement. Now, for at least awhile, pixels are pixels and old leather desk calendars are no longer allowed in your Calendar app.


cancerAnd, finally, 14 year old Jake Andraka showed us what Steve Jobs really meant when he pleaded for us to “always think like a beginner.” After his family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack was frustrated that there wasn’t an easier, earlier detection method for this common, but deadly cancer. Although he was only in 9th grade, he took the initiative to investigate a low-cost test idea he had come up with. His test was finally accepted at Johns Hopkins after he had received hundreds of rejection letters from other research institutions. Now, his low-cost early detection test is helping to transform the survival rates for pancreatic cancer. Goes to show you: persistence is critical, next up: just think of a problem you want to solve!

Photo of Jake: TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 – March 1, 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Fran+Lebowitz+Wolf+Wall+Street+Afterparty+dEGeOh, and there’s no way I can forget to add this honorable mention as the weirdest/funniest/most interesting cameo in a movie this year: Fran Leibowitz as a Judge in Wolves of Wall Street! Go, Fran, GO!

Photo of Fran: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America


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