James B. Lansing

Norm Neely, Les Hoffman, and James B. Lansing

Do they rock? That’s like asking if Ferrari’s are fast.

Yesterday I wrote about my Treadmill Desk, and I noted that all the elements were bought for building a VR Treadmill Desk / Computer, except the Drawing Table and the JBL LSR4328p Loudspeakers, both of which were pre-existing.

The JBL’s are fairly recent, bought for doing radio work, and now also creating a rich VR sonic experience. It’s ironic that I should wind up with a pair of JBL’s when it was my brother Jeff who coveted them for so many years of his life.

James B. Lansing

When we were teenagers Jeff used to hang out at this Georgetown stereo shop and come home telling all these geeky JBL factoids. In my head I can still hear him rabidly recounting various arcane details, like how “normal” loudspeakers used round ribbon for the voice coil, but JBL’s used square ribbon wound on it’s edge to obtain the highest “flux density!”

As I’ve discussed before, a few years ago, coincidentally I think, my brother and I both had conversion events at just about the exact same time. While my brother was busy discovering Jesus, I was discovering Stallman & Lessig. Our tracks have been obviously quite different since then. I’ve only recently realized that in many ways we’re still the same. His proselytizing is a pain in the butt to me, but I’ve come to realize that my own proselytizing for the “church of free culture” isn’t any less dogmatic and tedious. We’ve both become insufferable.

Anyway, I can’t imagine he still covets a pair of JBL’s these days.

I don’t really know. I’ve hardly spoken to him in the last few years. IDK why he never got them back then. Or why my parents never bought him some. I wish I could go back in time and buy them for him, but time doesn’t work that way. So for whatever crazy reason, today I own the speakers my brother always dreamt of.

The thing about his “JBL lectures” was that I always had the impression that James B. Lansing was a living person. I had no idea he was dead. And IDK, but I don’t think my brother knew that. Or at least he never talked that way.

In fact James B. Lansing died nearly 20 years before Jeff and I were ever born.

It turns out that Lansing founded not one, but two, of the world’s great loudspeaker companies: Altec Lansing, and JBL. It turns out Lansing was a brilliant sound engineer and a crappy businessman. It turns out that James B. Lansing committed suicide on Thursday the 29th of September, 1949.

James B. Lansing

Tuesday 14 January 1902, Nilwood, Illinois
Thursday 29 September 1949, San Marcos, California

James B Lansing – Wikipedia
James B Lansing – Audio Heritage Website
James B Lansing – IEEE Website

James B. Lansing was my kind of artist: talented, intuitive, committed, eager to talk at length about the work… and not so good with business…

“Business” has always made me a little itchy. I hate to stereotype my own students, but in the 6 years I’ve been teaching university art, in my general ed courses, the business students are generally the worst. They care the least, take the work the least seriously, put in the least effort. They offer little respect and it is hard to give them much.

Still, while I admire Lansing’s business weakness… realizing that better business skills might have given him a longer life… it makes me have a different perspective on business… a different perspective on my own students… on the merchants of the virtual world… all of it. Their aesthetics and perspectives are not really my own, but I sort of get that a lot of what makes things possible, is made possible by their work.

Lansing died at 47. I recently turned 42. I can’t begin to imagine my life ending in a mere 5 years. I have so much still to do, so much to accomplish, so many ideas to explore, not to mention simply seeing a bit more of how this amazing 21st century adventure of ours unfolds.

What if Lansing had been a bit less gifted in his loudspeaker design? And a bit more gifted in his business skills? And lived a longer life?

What is a life? Is it the corporeal, phenomenological experiences? Having sex? Dancing on pointe? Drinking mai tai’s? Feeling the sand between your toes as you walk in the balmy, enveloping air of a tropical island? Or is it what you stand for and what you accomplish? Is it the art that endures? The achievements that are remembered?

James Dean died at 24
Charlton Heston died at 84

Heston lived for 3-1/2 Dean lifetimes! Dean made an extraordinary cultural mark. Then “died young and stayed pretty.” Heston lived long enough to become a caricature of himself. Still, he enjoyed so many more living, breathing, corporeal moments.

What’s more important? The living? Or the achieving?

What endures?

What if Greg Louganis wasn’t HIV positive?
What if he hadn’t won four Olympic Gold Medals?

If he could make a bargain with fate, would he give the virus back? and the world records? Or keep it all?

I’m sure I’ll ponder these questions for a long time. What I do know is that I’m so glad to finally “meet” the man my brother admired so many years ago.

Dear James B. Lansing, wherever you are…

I hear you
— VB

My treadmill desk, complete with your very own pair of JBL LSR4328p’s is available free at:
The VB/CO Store on SL Marketplace

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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