The Marriage of Figaro to the Apple II

September 21st, 2015 9:48 AM
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Steve Jobs may be getting his own opera — but that's not the only connection opera has to the Apple II.

In June of 2007, I was in a production of The Marriage of Figaro. Among the 28 theatre productions I performed in during my seven years after undergraduate, this show was memorable for two backstage events: the breaking of my PowerBook; and meeting the lead actor. Unlike some shows I've been in, Figaro's stars and chorus mingled, disregarding any theatrical hierarchy. Given that it was June, I was probably spending my offstage time editing drafts of the year's second quarterly issue of Juiced.GS. I suspect the actor playing Figaro asked me what I was doing, and when I told him, he got excited, telling me he still had his original Apple IIGS! Although it was no longer his primary computer, he remembered quite fondly and accurately the software and hardware he'd added to it throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.

As soon as the show was over, Figaro the actor was off to New York City for another role. When I joined Facebook a year later, we reconnected, allowing me to offer an annual wish for a happy birthday spent playing Apple II games. But other than that, our personal and theatrical lives did not cross again.

Until this month! I received an email from Figaro that he was moving to Europe and had plenty of material possessions he wished to neither move, keep, or store. Would I be willing to take his Apple II?

What an honor! Of course I would. Figaro drove to my house and dropped off three boxes of hardware and software — a collection he confessed used to be bigger but which had dwindled with each move over the years. I didn't find much rare or unique among his donation, but the opportunity to spend an hour chatting with him about the Apple II was fun. He prompted as much of the discussion as I did, as he'd kept abreast of the community enough to ask me how my recent trip to KansasFest went. I was happy for the opportunity to show him some of the products of today's lively Apple II community, such as the Replica 1 and a Raspberry Pi case, or to pull out artifacts he'd remember, such as issues of Nibble magazine.

I'm grateful to have received this bounty; although such salvage operations are the norm for likes of Sean Fahey and James Littlejohn, it's a rare occurrence for me. Here is a photo gallery of my new property:

What do I do with this IIGS now that I have it? It came gratis with no strings attached: I can keep it or find a good home for it, though I wouldn't allow myself to sell it. But I know what my inclination is. As Figaro and I chatted about the Apple II and he saw how much fun people were still having with it, I could see him beginning to regret having to let go of his childhood computer. I'd love to hold onto it until Figaro returns from Europe in 18 months; maybe then, he can be reunited with the machine and rediscover it, as so many of us have, after a long absence.

After a first act of introduction and a second act of separation, a third act with a happy reunion seems only fitting.

The opera of Steve Jobs

August 31st, 2015 11:17 AM
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Since his passing (and well before), Steve Jobs has pervaded popular media, appearing in dramatizations, documentaries, and graphic novels. Now his memory is set to invade another artistic medium: the opera.

Russell Contreras of the Associated Press reports reports that the Santa Fe Opera has commissioned The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs for their 2017 season. Rather than the drama and grandstanding of Jobs' public life, the opera will deal with the character's more human elements:

The production will examine Jobs facing his own mortality and circles back to the events and people in his past that shaped and inspired him… the story of Jobs is a great intersection of creativity, innovation and human communication. His relationship with those who helped him along that journey also will help tell the story in the opera.

I'd expect a show like this to come out of San Francisco, not Santa Fe. But New Mexico makes a feeble attempt at relevancy to Jobs' life:

New Mexico in recent years has worked to honor it connections to technology innovators like Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. For example, a Route 66 motor lodge in Albuquerque where Bill Gates and Paul Allen lived while launching Microsoft Corp. is being redeveloped into apartments as part of a neighborhood revival project.

While Gates worked on his project, Jobs operated from in his garage in Los Altos, California, and with partner Steve Wozniak released the compact Apple II at the time Albuquerque was a technology hub.

It's unlikely such a show would remain limited to New Mexico; I predict a touring a company will launch within a year of the opera's debut. That leaves us years to ponder whether opera is the best venue in which to explore Steve Jobs. Unlike a musical, which intersperses song with spoken dialogue, an opera is almost entirely sung or accompanied by music. It need not be in Italian or another foreign language — Gilbert & Sullivan's operas, such as The Pirates of Penzance, were in English.

Unlike the unnecessarily dramatic soundtrack of the Ashton Kutcher film, perhaps some meaningful music will bring Jobs to life as we haven't seen him before. Says the Santa Fe Opera: "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs seeks to capture the buzzing creative realm of Silicon Valley with a kinetic electro-acoustic score, lush vocal writing, a compelling non-linear narrative, and a production as innovative as the man himself."

Anything is possible! Consider this creative reinterpretation of a traditionally tragic scene:

Bet you never thought of it quite like that before, eh?

(Hat tip to Showbits and Zachary Woolfe)