Saturday, December 19, 2015

Music and images

I believe that art, in all its forms, is the essence of our humanity. I will go further, and argue that the arts drive our evolution more than any other aspect of our being.

Long before the Motorola flip phone became a consumer product, there was the Star Trek communicator. Jules Verne explored ocean depths long before Jacques Cousteau did. Man walked on the moon in July 1969, but Jules Verne wrote about it more than one hundred years earlier, and Tintin made it there in 1954. Leonardo da Vinci explored human winged flight five centuries before the Wright brothers broke the bonds of gravity at Kitty Hawk.

Douglas Adams imagined a slim black glass information appliance with a screen saver, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, decades before the iPhone became my inseparable companion. I believe I can have conversations with Siri mainly because Stanley Kubrick had Dave chatting with H.A.L. 9000 way back in 1968 when I was 16.

As I write this, the latest Star Wars movie is re-igniting in movie goers the wide-eyed wonder I experienced when I reluctantly went along with friends to see the original in 1977. I may never have my own R2 unit, although, the Google self-driving car is awfully close. All that's missing is a modular brain so that the car is a shell, and you take the brains with you, like an X-wing fighter pilot. That will happen soon, I'm sure, but the brain won't be a trash can on three wheels, it will fit in Susan's purse, and it will talk to us rather than squeaking, squawking, and squealing, as cute and appealing as that may be on some level.

Art accomplishes what it does for humanity, setting our sights on lofty seemingly unattainable goals and igniting the passion to make the dream real, because art, in all its forms, is deeply appealing. In important ways it speaks to our soul.

And that is why I have an iMac, iPads, iPhones, iPods, an Apple TV, Airports, and the rest of the Apple eco-system in my home.

Nothing I have ever owned has come even close to providing the immersive experience I enjoy courtesy of those appliances. As I write this an iTunes playlist is filling the house in a mystical way, from the kitchen, to the family room, living room, dining room, upstairs in our bedroom, and in the room I use as an office. The television in the family room is displaying the millions of dollars of stolen art I collect (more about my career as an art thief a little later).

Speaking of images for a moment, all our memories since 2001, the Space Odyssey year, display in a virtual carousel on the kitchen iMac and the family room TV. If it were up to me I'd have TVs all over the house, in every room. I have a growing collection to display.

In addition to the usual family photos, Susan collects pictures of doors wherever we travel. Europe has incredible doors, in an astounding variety. Imperial doors, papal doors, regal doors, bourgeois doors, house doors, apartment doors, commercial doors, modern doors, ancient doors. There is something mesmerizing about watching the door collection stream on a screen, evoking the beauty of the doors themselves, and the memories of where we were when we captured them: Paris, Rome, Sorrento, Barcelona, Ravello, Venice, Florence, Volterra, Lucca...

Which leads me to explain my art heists. I don't need the actual paint and canvas, the image makes me perfectly happy. It's also considerably lower risk. I observe all the 'no photography' requests, only taking images where permitted. In the few cases where I have overstepped, the consequence is a stern look and occasional finger wag from a diligent docent. The truly zealous ones will enforce the deletion penalty before moving on.

Like all intrepid art thieves, I have developed a technique. We have trade-craft in common. Like real thieves, I have learned not to take the frames. Unlike a traditional art thief, I can't crop right at the frame, since I'm unwilling to use a scalpel or box cutter to do the work. Instead I crop the art using the camera zoom while paying close attention to composition. What I seek are the shapes, colours, brush strokes, the movement, the grandeur, the essence of the artist's expression. I avoid portrait shots, keeping the camera horizontal so that the images fill the screen when the album I label simply 'art' plays as the screen saver.

By now you are beginning to understand the importance I place on my music, and my images.

The Apple ecosystem allows me to enjoy my music and my images. It is really very good, excellent even, but like all our inventions, it's not perfect.

The iTunes software has been trying my patience for at least two years.

The fun started when iTunes began cloning (sometimes triplicating) my songs randomly. When it first happened, around the time I migrated to a new Mac, I tried to tame the beast spending an hour or so on the phone with Cupertino. At the time, the Mac OS guru (I had climbed through the Apple call centre hierarchy, my case having been quickly judged as way beyond the knowledge and skills of mere geniuses) threw up his hands and at length said there was nothing to be done by Apple to solve the clone wars that started deep in my iMac. They just didn't have what it would take to solve my problem. Astounding! It's a database for heaven's sake, in a closed environment that they created. C'mon! Incredibly, Apple suggested a third party solution that was sure to help. I forced the solution down my Mac's gullet and held its beak mercilessly until it swallowed.

The clone rogues were suitably scrubbed away... and a short time later... music began disappearing. Oh, it was still there, right on the Mac's hard drive, in the Mac's music directory no less, but the myopic iTunes app stubbornly refused to look outside the closet where it had decided to spend its life. The process of manually herding the friggin' media files back into the virtual corral was truly like trying to herd cats. It was time-consuming, frustrating, exhausting. Hours of personal ministering to the ailing beast allowed me to reduce the plague Kitchen Mac was suffering from down to a merely annoying though non life-threatening rash. It was a pain that knew how to lurk just ever so barely below the threshold where I would be forced to take more aggressive measures.

And so it was for the past year or two. Until last month.

Our brand new iPads and iPhones, all nicely up to date in the operating system department, just like the Kitchen Mac which was riding high on El Capitan, recently took to communicating with each other with a strong whiff of machine dysfunction. Each time the 'i' things were plugged into the Mothership, a spat quickly ensued, like Ewoks bickering in the death star cafeteria.

While the pods and pads seemed OK with the relationship, Kitchen Mac invariably spat the same dense terse one-paragraph bit of drivel on the screen, demanding my attention, but refusing to supply anything even close to a meaningful explanation. Was it just a statement, a request, a warning, or a threat?

Impossible to say. It felt like a threat. A threat to my precious images. Clearly Kitchen Mac was developing a little sociopathy towards its cousins. A riot, or worse, a full-on rebellion, might be brewing deep in a dark corner of the galaxy of circuits tucked away in Kitchen Mac's sleek silver frame... if so, I was certain to be an early casualty of the proceedings.

It was time for drastic and decisive action. Cue Star Wars Anthem.


RichardM said...

A true Apple addict... I used to listen to music all the time but it happens rarely these days and when I do, it's usually on Pandora. I should probably look through my music sometime to see what's missing. So far, I haven't seen anything. I only saw duplication when I enabled iTunes Match on multiple Macs.

There are some real tricks to getting Photos working between multiple Macs and iOS devices to avoid duplication. I would also consider turning on Google Photos on your desktop iMac (I assume that this is your "master" repository) just to have another copy somewhere else. The service is free and unlimited assuming you let Google limit picture resolution to 16 megapixels.

So, have you picked up an iPad Pro and pencil so you can start drawing all of the art you can't photograph?

David Masse said...

Richard I would love to be able to draw. Sadly, I subscribe to the theory that acquiring a skill like that to any acceptable level of proficiency takes at least 10,000 hours. I'm planning to stick to honing writing skills and stealing art wherever I can find it.

Steve Williams said...

You don't need 10,000 hours to become proficient at drawing. I've seen students in drawing classes get really good after three or four weeks. Malcolm Gladwell coined that idea of 10000 hours to mastery but he didn't define what mastery is. For most of us, we'll be happy far before we become masters. So don't dismiss drawing because of that arbitrary number.

I have a lot of Apple products both at home and at work. I love them. Works of art.

SonjaM said...

Jules Verne, Douglas Adams, Gene Roddenberry and his Star Trek universe... my childhood companions. They told us about things to come before they existed. I am sure that their stories have inspired people to invent what we use today, and I wonder what they would foresee, had they lived in these days... I certainly love my Apple products, but I sometimes damn them for the addiction they cause.

Trobairitz said...

A great read David. While we have an older iMac (not even running Maverick and non-updateable) we also have an iPad II and a newer MacBook Air. And I guess an Apple TV as well, although we just disconnected it after a recent smart Tv purchase.

I don't think we've ever had any of them try to talk to each other. I do back up the iPad on the iMac and transfer photos, but that is about as far as it goes. Hopefully you'll get things sorted.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

I've become spoiled with my 4S phone but that's as close as I've come to your club. There was a fence put up long ago between the artists and the engineers. It seems that I'm still on the other side.

Great post David, enjoyed as always!

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.