Oscars 2016: In the home-alone stretch

team_terry_double_sided_star_ceramic_christmas_ornament-r4e8a95a3af254affaf2c4d254dfb8ed3_x7s2g_8byvr_324I’ve run out of films to pick up On Demand, so today’s dilemma: Venture downtown for a 1:20 p.m. showing of the final foreign film nominee I can possibly see before Sunday? (A War at E Street Cinema; that would leave only Embrace of the Serpent, whose distributors are greedily withholding.) Or skip my weekly allergy shots, which I also missed last week whilst squeezing in 45 Years (no regrets)? A war within.

The big risk on Thursdays is WHAT IF THE THEATER REPLACES THE FILM FRIDAY? In Oscar marathoning, tomorrow is not necessarily another day.

Someone asked me on Twitter this morning: You’ve seen so many movies in such a short time — which is your favorite? “Too tough; it’s Apples and Agent Oranges,” I said. Classic marathoners’ line. (References to Steve Jobs and Chau, beyond the Lines, respectively. And, yes, that “b” is lowercase.)

Never mind. You had to be there. In my head.

 

Hey, you, Apple: I’m getting off-a your cloud

Feeling an impending darkness over all this cloud business.

Feeling an impending darkness over all this cloud business.

Apple is in 700 billionth heaven. But all I see are clouds ahead.

On Tuesday, the visionary tech leader broke through the market ticker tape to become the first American company valued at $700 billion or more — $710.7 billion, precisely, nearly double the worth of the next-closest contender, ExxonMobil, trailing at $385.4 billion.

On one hand, I’m proud, because I picked Apple eons ago — back in the naïve Nineties — to win the war over Microsoft. I’d always been a Mac-head: I bought in to the original Macintosh toaster; my 20GB click-wheel iPod was an answer to a prayer; and the iPhone is more than my personal assistant — we’re attached at the hip.

Still, I have a nit to pick.

Over the holidays, I decided to upgrade my decade-old, dual-core PowerMac G5 with a sleeker, faster machine. I had been feeling a bit caged in, still running Tiger OS on the beast.

hqdefaultI hadn’t kept pace with the leopards and other big-cat platforms because, despite my tech prowess, I guess people of a certain stripe have a hard time changing their spots.

I’m certainly not one to put the drag on the sails of technology. After all, I was an early adopter of the Super Betamax, lugging that wonder machine into my college dorm long before there was a Blockbuster on every corner. And it was only last year I tossed my combo clock-radio-rotary phone, which worked fine but was crowding out my iPhone, iPad and Kindle Paperwhite on the nightstand.

You get my drift.

So I was stunned to discover, having missed a few R&D cycles, that the new MacBook Pro laptop I brought home had no disk drive. Where were they hiding it this time? I mused. I felt like someone on “Star Trek” encountering a new life form, pressing everywhere for a hidden button, using crude sensors and probes. After a few days with it, fussing and fuming over the insistent logon for “the cloud” — we just weren’t bonding — I decided to return it in favor of a 27-inch iMac. Again, the internal disk drive was missing, but I figured a desktop would better support an external burner, three external drives, the VCR and my assorted cameras and peripherals.

Truly, I’m the one feeling peripheral, thanks to Apple’s grand designs.

My hobby is videography, so my primary aim in getting a new workstation was to produce DVDs or Blu-rays — not illegally, but as a service to clients, theater people, family and friends.

Yet here was Tim Cook declaring: no more disks, or even discs. Such technology is going the way of the dinosaur, just like credit cards (Apple Pay) timepieces (Apple Watch) and passwords (Apple’s TouchID). Your 3,000-plus CD collection? Toast. Let it go. Want to share your stuff? Introducing Apple’s virtual theater, where the world theoretically could have access – it’s all already in the public domain, even before you and your copyright expire. Plus, extra virtual space is going to cost you. Oh, and you’ll need a compressor to even upload or transfer, conveniently available for another coupla hundred at the Apple Store.

I’m certainly anti-clutter and pro-decluttering. That’s why my vinyl collection is stored off-site in a storage unit — outta sight, outta mind, outta pocket. Each month another $200; I keep repurchasing my stuff.

I’m all for keeping things “safe” — yet, thanks to whistle-blowers and alarming data breaches, it’s no secret there are no true hacker-free zones online.

I'm hungry not for more technological support but respect.

I’m hungry not for more technological support but respect.

My beef is: How does Apple get off thinking it can reprogram ME? Is this monolithic corporation Big Brother in a palatable disguise?

The erosion of my confidence in Apple — maybe technology in general — started with iTunes and the proliferation of MP3s over albums. In sync with its logo, Apple took a bite out of music quality, as MP3s merely “sample” sound, using a compression algorithm roughly one-eleventh the size of the original audio source. I never could abide those musical “dropouts” in MP3s, the tinny, tiny experience.

Now the heirs to Steve Jobs are applying more “Air” pressure to turn my personal data or creative handiwork into vapor. I resent anyone making that decision for me, and I refuse to pay twice for what I buy – first for “fair use” privileges that aren’t fair, and then for storage in a place where I can’t keep tabs on it.

Problem is, someone else sure would be keeping tabs on the data I access, filing my tastes and marketing more “items like that.” In Apple’s all-white, ethereal Zen puffy-cloud world — less hardware, more software — nothing feels like ownership anymore. I happen to find my peace in alphabetizing my discs and admiring the cache of colorful spines.

Not to mention, I hear horror tales about syncing and compounding (confounding!) digital clutter and incompatibility between “the cloud” and various programs, like QuickBooks. Although technology moves quickly, troubleshooting is never quick. And because there are competing clouds, with all-consumer-ing interests, no single omnipotent tech force is looking out for us.

Like leprechauns bowling in the sky, there’s bound to be a major cloud battle someday or unnatural data disaster, then poof! All the precious … up in smoke.

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell: I’ve looked at the cloud from both sides now, and I really don’t like clouds – at all.

Don’t mean to rain on your parade, Apple — but this cloud thing is where I get off.

Light reading: Why my new Kindle lights my fire

The first time I fell in love with technology was that last Christmas I pretended to believe in Santa Claus. I had confided in brother Andy, two years my wiser, that I knew it was our parents doling out the year-end bonuses. He persuaded me to keep quiet about it as they’d probably already sewn up that season’s shopping; we could always break it to them gently later.

I later calculated it wasn’t fair that we both “came out” as non-believers at the same time, as he had accumulated two extra years of goodies. But what I found gleaming under the tree that year made up for any petty score-keeping: a Japanese-made, sleek Craig tape recorder model No. 2603, with “Solid State Automatic Level Recording.” This was my version of the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, aka coveted BB gun, from the now-storied A Christmas Story.

craig2603My Craig tape recorder and I were inseparable. I taped everything in sight.* (*Awk. construction.) Dinner conversations, birds out back. I would position it by the radio with a mini-mic and fresh cassette, typically TDK brand, and trigger the play lever while holding down the red record button at the start of every song, preferably after the disc jockey had stopped jabbering. If I didn’t like that song, I’d navigate to “stop” and engage the rewind toggle to cue it up again. Eventually, I’d acquired an entire 30 minutes of my favorite 1972 chart-toppers. Included on that first mix tape, I recall, were such gems as Alone Again, Naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan and I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash.

Ever since, mix tapes have been my calling card. They are audio journals, spanning every technological platform that followed, from the Sony reel-to-reel to the LightScribe CD burner, whose products I dub “Byrnished Memories.” These mini-soundtracks plot the high, low and medium points of my life. Still, I wasted a lot of dollar-a-dozen CDs getting the song order and transitions just right.

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RIP my engraved “TEB tunes” iPod 20GB Click Wheel, December 2004-January 2011.

That’s why my second love affair with technology came in 2004, with my late-to-the-party adoption of the Apple iPod 20GB Click Wheel. I could rearrange songs to my heart’s content and even stretch the playlists beyond the 1.2 hours that fit on a typical 700MB CD. That iPod, outdated as it quickly became, lasted me until last year, when it suffered the click of death. I have not had the courage to fall in love again.

Until now.

I had been bedeviled by technological flings. My reluctance to spend money on the next big thing had kept me sorely behind on cool gadgets. My husband tried to keep me in the game by gifting me an iPad 2. But something about the iPad only fed my discontent. The glare and eye strain irritated my dry-eye condition. There’s no curling up with an iPad, unless you count bicep curls, which is what it took to read in bed. As much as such Apple products resemble the universal device presaged in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I couldn’t feel the love, and just couldn’t fake it.

The problem with today’s Apple products — yeah, problem, you got a problem with that? — is they aim to be the end-all be-all solution. If technology is dominating your life, distracting and detracting from the act of living, then you’re doing it wrong. The best of technology comes in the form of the right tool for the job, like a corkscrew or an apple corer.

In terms of reading, I have found one good purpose for the iPad. It is the perfect paperweight to hold open your place in an actual book.

IMG_1089[1]Yesterday, I fell in love at first sight with a Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader that showed up, surprisingly, at my door in a smiling box. This device took my breath away. In its unassuming simplicity, it fills a technological void.

Compared with the iPad, it is not a burden but featherweight, even next to such actual tomes as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Its pages look like a book’s. It reads like a book. Doesn’t hurt my eyes with piercing light rays nor does it overstimulate my brain. Doesn’t beckon to me to check my e-mail or Facebook notifs or to play another round of Angry Birds. It lets me escape and focus on an actual book.

Of all the e-books I had downloaded onto my iPad in nearly two years, I managed to finish only one. For me, the famous “i” prefix stands for “incomplete.” But taking my night-light Kindle Paperwhite to bed last night gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I’m no Luddite, but this device combines the best of both worlds — the old and brave-new.

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Thanks, Santa Andy. iOU. i♥U.

Takes me back to those good ol’ days of Christmas past, when FaceTime (TM) meant something else entirely.