Did I mention I got dinged for copyright sins? I forget. I think I just tweeted about it. Well:
“Three strikes and you’re out,” said Daughter, looking at my YouTube copyright violation notice. I suspected this might be my second. One more offense and I would be banned, and if I ever wanted to post a video of someone doing the Baking-Soda-Vinegar-Challenge - that’s where you stuff equal amounts of each substance in your mouth and then foam shoots out your nose and it’s funny and also to raise awareness for Ferret Allergies, a rare condition that is still clouded with misinformation and shame - then I would have no outlet. YouTube is everything.
Banned! Well, it’s my fault. I am a flagrant violator of intellectual property. Let me explain.
A few years ago I found some old stop-motion footage of auto parts marching around a factory. Spark plugs, batteries, headlights, all massed in parade formation and confidently striding down the road for the greater glory of Autolite. Because I often have time on my hands in quantities usually familiar to men who heard the phrase “life without parole” before the gavel fell, I thought it would be amusing to slow the footage down to a crawl and set it to the third movement of Mahler’s First Symphony.
It’s music for a funeral procession, a minor key version of “Frere Jacques.” I thought it was very deep and sad when I was younger, but it was later explained to me that it was a mocking joke, and Mahler was playing a double game: after he leaves the “Frere Jacques” melody he lays on some schmaltz that’s Motel-the-tailor-made for some klezmer treatment, slipping some condensed Jewish music past the upright Ayran audiences. A friend who conducts orchestras explained why the score increased the tempo, speeding up the dirge:
“The family would hire the musicians to play the sad music as the funeral procession marched through the town, and they had to play the whole piece, but once they were past the assembled mourners they just played it faster to finish it up because was no one was listening any more.”
This, I thought, was fascinating. Who knew? I described the theory months later on a National Review Cruise, up in the Crow’s Nest bar where everyone assembled late at night, and he thought it was absolute nonsense. I have the conversion on videotape, and would post it to YouTube, but I suspect the mention of a conversation of a specific recording of Mahler would violate copyright.
ANYWAY. When the undead marching auto parts moved with deliberate care to the sound of Mahler’s grim dirge, it gave them unexpected dignity, but it also looked like some peculiar artifact of a 40s Fascist state. I put it up and passed the link around to the amusement of dozens.
Then the hammer came down. YouTube had detected that I was using a 30-year old performance now owned by Sony, and thus I was VIOLATING EVERYTHING HELD SACRED or words to that effect. One had to marvel at a system that could detect such things, especially since the impression one gets from reading YouTube comments is that the service is aimed at a unique species of chimp that is making the transition from flinging its feces as a means of expressing disagreement to typing words which occasionally add up to an actual sentence.
It’s possible someone would have watched the video, and thought: Interesting piece, this Mahler thing. Even though I have heard but two minutes I believe I have grasped the totality of the work, and will refrain from seeking out the entire movement. Surely more could only add up to less. And thus Sony would be deprived of 23 cents in royalty.
Well, I didn’t own the copyright, and while I could claim Fair Use under the guise of using Mahler’s early use of his own Judaic heritage to score slo-mo goose-stepping spark plugs as means of examining the composer’s nominal acceptance of Christianity to ward off the anti-semitism of fin de siecle Vienna, ahhh, to hell with it.
Strike two, though, was different.
I had excerpted a scene from “The Monolith Monsters,” a 50s sci-fi movie in which a small town is menaced by extraterrestrial rocks. When exposed to water, they grow into towering structures that fall down and ruin everything, only to grow again. At one point in the movie, the square-jawed hero falls the Weather Service to find out if it will rain, and the weatherman goes off on a spiel about isobars and low-pressure drafts and so on. It’s the 50s equivalent of Star Trek: The Next Generation technobabble, where Geordi would note that the quadrolinear matrix could be realigned to emit a stream of plotyon particles. The clip was used in the service of a review of the movie, which alerted people to its existence, and perhaps made them want to buy it.
Under the Fair Use Thingy Provision, I was probably justified. But contest the matter, you suspect, and your account gets flagged: HE JUST DOESN’T GET IT. I mean, really: MCA UNIVERSAL had complained. And I am, exactly, who?
Here’s the punchline: the entire movie was available on YouTube..
The reaction to Apple product announcements is my favorite part. There’s a certain set that tries to be cool by showing how stupid the new thing is; if Apple announced teleportation technology people would be posting hardy-har pix of people showing up on the other end with an apple for a head or complaining that you had to use their own proprietary Heisenberg Compensators or how people just look at the white interior of the teleportation unit and think “oh, shiny.” Some of the critics note that something else did that that six months ago. Granted. Didn’t sell millions. Why? Clunkiness, perhaps? Lack of style? Insufficient integration into the user’s digital daily life? Tried to be EVERYTHING, which meant it thought people wanted to type messages on their wrists? Here’s the deal:
I do not care about your phone, or your reasons for having it. It’s not that I have an animus towards your choice; it’s like your choice of marmalade flavor on your morning English muffin or your preferred sock color. I can’t imagine why I would have an opinion about such a thing. That’s you. Enjoy. I have no interest in what anyone says about the Apple products I use and enjoy, because they serve my needs and I like using them.
So today we had the people who were scoffing at the Watch. It’s not my favorite New Thing; seems a bit boxy, but I know it'll be slender and perhaps curved in two or three years, which will be the time when the critics say Apple no longer innovates but just does incremental changes. (Never mind that it’ll be more powerful, have more functions, better screen, etc etc.) I like the idea of using it to pay for things at Target. Right now you get out your card, swipe, hit cancel, wait, sign, hit accept, and so on. Tap-tap-tap-tap would be easier.
Does any other device do this? I don’t know. I haven’t cared. If I can do it now, great. If that’s all it does, I wouldn’t rush to get one. But I know that when Apple does come up with something, it’ll nudge the category in a different direction, either by doing something better, or doing something new, or both.
The Taptic Engine, as it’s called, is one of those things that makes it an Apple product. Small subtle taps on your wrist when you get some new messages or perform a certain function. But you can also create your own taps to send to other people, or, I imagine, use as indications that an alert is coming from a specific person. Right now my phone has specific custom vibrations depending on who’s calling, just as Daughter has specific text sounds and phone rings. But it’s one thing to get a buzz in your pocket; it’s another to get a tap on your wrist.
Apple PR used the words discreet, nuanced, and intimate to describe this, and they’re on to something. Imagine your child is off on a trip to Europe; gone for a week. They said they’d write daily but it’s been sporadic. You’re at the office, late, working. What would you rather get:
A tap on your wrist you know is the analogue of your child tapping on her device on the other side of the world
Replying to a text would be short; email seems formal and remote. Tapping your code back, knowing they’ll feel it just as you did - that’s entirely different, and that’s the stuff Apple gets. Just the start. In five years this thing will open the garage door when I drive up, turn off the light when I leave the room, start the coffee when I wave at the pot, let me know when a friend entered the restaurant so I can turn around and wave, pay for a soda at vending machine, wake me from a nap. Other manufacturers will have devices with the same capabilities, but Apple devices - from my experience - are not so much extensions of the brain, which is what engineers come up with, but extensions of the self.
Yesterday I noted my dislike for the graphics of Pirate's Booty, but at least the stuff purports to be vaguely healthy snack food.
Better you should eat a salad, though. Salads are healthy. No matter what you do to them, they're healthy! Unless . . .
I tremble for my nation.
Chapter four reminds us that the titles of these episodes are rather generic, in a war-time sense. Here's last week's cliffhanger ending:
Here's this week's.
I think this is a tad more than dishonest.
The action switches to a Jap Sub, as the movie would call it, off the shore of Yank Land:
He tells the verminous villains that he will be delivering a package soon. The audience tingles in anticipation: radium? Explosives? Mustard gas? It has to be big, if they've sent a sub all the way over to deliver it. Batman will really save the day this time.
Back at the Bat Lab, where everyone’s wondering: what the hell is going on with Robin’s hair?
Seriously, that’s one serious Ward-fro:
Bruce gets a secret message in invisible ink that he reveals by a Bat Process:
Well, you’d better alert the FBI! Such a thing would be ridiculous to trust with a vigilante, regardless of his track record.
Turns out it is from the FBI. Well, “Washington.” Mind you, Alfred almost threw it out, because he thought it was junk mail. So the process of geting secret information to the Batman isn’t as sophisticated as you might think.
Also, they know Batman’s name. And address. And, the Post Office has seven-year olds hand-canceling the letters with crayon.
Back at the Evil Japanese Guy HQ, business as usual: the sub left a coffin, which floated to shore. Not leaving a thing to chance, those guys. The henchman got it and brought it back to the HQ, and what's inside? Explosives? Money? Fake documents?
A BODY. And it's dead. But because resurrection is apparently requred in 8 out of 10 serials, they attempt to bring it back to life with the power of neon:
He has a secret message, which he relays verbally, and then dies again.
Because it would be silly to send, oh, a letter with invisible ink. No, send a corpse you can reanimate on the other end. So . . . Evil Japanese Guy kidnaps some Lockheed factory workers, gives them the zombie treatment, and sends them to the plant to get pilot’s uniforms. Fistfight - to the tune of Berlioz’ “March to the Scaffold.”
They fly the plane away, and of course the Evil Japanese Genius has a TV set that broadcasts footage from the cockpit.
Oh, but look who stowed away!
He forgot to tell WASHINGTON, though, because once they know the plane’s stolen - well.
Don’t you love it? I do.
It's still technically summer, so Motels continue on. Work Blog returns, and of course there's Tumblr for your delectation. See you around!