(Or how I Learned to Stop Being Lazy and Embrace Metadata)
I’ve owned a smartphone since 2010 but it was only this year that I bought one with the microSD capacity to house my entire music collection. It wasn’t until I transferred my collection onto the removable media of my Lumia 630 that I realised how messy it, or at least the metadata, was.
The metadata embedded in my music files was something I was vaguely aware and never really took much notice of. I normally select music to listen to through Windows Explorer, rather than a media player that organises things based on the info in the files’ hidden fields.
It soon became apparent that I needed to do something if I wanted to easily search my song library, and a little while after that there was going to be no easy way to do it. The prospect of going through 12,000ish music files and making sure each one was accurately named, metadata’d and album arted was daunting.
Much keyboard stroking and right-clicking later and my music collection is now in an easily searchable state, enhancing discovery of the albums I don’t listen to so much and making my mobile listening experience a more rewarding one.
The cherry on top was adding missing album art through the Windows Media Player library window. It was at this point I realised that I’d never bothered with the library function of Media Player because my messy metadata had always made my music collection look so unappealing.
From now on every time I rip or download an album I won’t be leaving the metadata unchecked. Five minutes renaming a few tracks is a lot more appealing than days spent renaming an entire collection. No longer will my tracks or album titles be appended by unnecessary info [super deluxe edition 2008 + bonus tracks & digital booklet.pdf] or my bonus and hidden tracks remain unnamed and mysterious.
A few tips:
>: There’s a useful piece of software called Picard that makes it easy to rename metadata fields en-masse though this can be done in the explorer window of the album folder as well, by highlighting all the music files in an album, right-clicking and selecting properties then details.
>: Picard can also automatically search and fill-in information, but I didn’t find this function to be particularly helpful (to be fair I didn't spend long persevering with it). For example on compilation albums with various artists it inserted different album art for each song.
>: After a lot of searching for a programme or app that could help me it turns out it’s dead easy to add album art in Windows Media Player. Just go to the music section of the Media Play library, find the art you want (online or on your PC) then simply copy and paste it into the blank album image.
>: As much as I'm a Windows Phone fan the native music app is frustratingly rubbish, and like the indelible Internet Explorer you can't uninstall it. I've been using Mix Radio for a few months now and not a hair has been torn from my head.
As someone who likes a good lurk around an atmospheric graveyard (and if my camera is with me all the better) I leapt at the recommendation to visit Dieweg cemetery on my recent trip to Belgium. The recommendation came from an appropriately ghostly sounding (and extremely helpful) USE-IT volunteer named Caspar and I was drawn in by my more than the chance to see Hergé's grave on my Tintin-inspired holiday.
The cemetery is unique in that nature has been allowed to live wild among the dead, with graves uprooted and trees dangling their branches threateningly over pathways lined with tumbling tombstones. Crypts appear to be left open for visitors to wander down, though I couldn't quite build up the courage to descend into the shadowy depths without a flashlight.
The architectural styles of the memorials were quite varied but the main thought in my mind was that it would make an awesome location for a vampire movie, or the ideal home for Buffy's Spike, or one of his Belgian cousins. A mix of Gothic arches and classical crumbling columns meant the cemetery was in turns both creepy and imposing.
As the weather got greyer I decided to shoot in black and white, to heighten the eeriness of the location. Eventually the rain stopped my fun but I left feeling satisfactorily spooked. Developing the images I converted all the ones worth keeping to black and white as it seemed to better communicate the atmosphere I experienced during my time there.
For anyone who's in the area and is in the mood for some spooky kicks the cemetery is easy to find. Just take the number 92 tram heading to Fort Jaco, get off at Dieweg and the cemetery is around the corner from the petrol station. Locked at night (which I found out to my disappointment) it's open from 8.30 – 16.00 hours.
Check out the full set of images below:
Ever since I learned to read I've been a Tintin fan, and I've appreciated the albums exponentially more getting older, so when I recently discovered there was a museum dedicated to his creator Hergé I started planning my own Belgian adventure to Musée Hergé.
Located in Louvain-la-neuve, about an hour outside of Brussels by train, the purpose built museum is easily the most striking building in the small and bricky university town. The interior is as impressive as the bold white exterior and its strange angles and colourful walls turn it into a piece of art that changes as you move around it, like a living cubist comic book.
The exhibitions themselves are spread between two floors and eight rooms each looking at a different aspect of Hergé's career. This is a much more engaging way of exploring his art than simply offering visitors a chronological tour through of his archives and helps to put a spotlight on all his creations, not just Tintin.
Highlights for me (and it's hard to pick just a few) were seeing the model moon rocket used when creating Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon, artwork for Tintin au Congo where Tintin blows a Rhino up (deleted from the modern version of the album - in itself disturbing but showing the extremes of Hergé's less enlightened days) and the plate of Tintin discovering the wreck of the Unicorn in the sea used for Red Rackham's Treasure.
A plate from Explorers on the Moon - from Musée Hergé
All in all it was an emotional experience seeing the original artwork of images that have been fondly etched in my memory since I was about five, and I left with many questions I had about Hergé answered.
The audio tour is a must as well, I normally don't listen to them and stuff them in the nearest available pocket, but this one was perfectly paced and enriched with supplemental video clips and games for children.
A plate from The Broken Ear - from Musée Hergé
As the museum was really a celebration of Hergé's art some of the more sensitive issues surrounding his career were glossed over, but there's plenty of literature on them out there for those who want to delve deeper. The only disappointment was that it was super quiet when I went there and I didn't meet any fellow fans to talk to.
My verdict - a blisteringly brilliant 2 - 3 hour experience that will stick in the hearts of fans as long as the books have. The only museum where I've read all the plaques and info on the walks.
Well maybe just a little snap theory. This week I had a wave of festive inspiration for a kind of Christmas Cracker for physicists, one that simultaneously amuses them yet maintains their state of perpetual pondering. It’s called Shröedinger’s Cracker (or the Quantum Cracker).
Inspired by Shröedinger’s famous feline thought experiment each cracker contains a joke with two punchlines, one funny the other not, and a dangling pipette filled with ink. As the cracker is handled there’s a chance the pipette could drop ink and obliterate one of the punchlines in indelible blackness. You can’t know for sure the joke is funny until you pull the cracker, so does this mean it exists in a state of funniness and unfunniness at the same time? Or something? I don’t know.
Of course you could recreate the original experiment with a big cardboard tube and a snapper, instead of a steel box, and of course a cat. But then that might ruin Christmas for said kitty, and probably wouldn’t go down to well with the rest of the family at Christmas dinner.
Mark is a freelancer who specialises in creative copywriting. He's experienced at putting his copywriting skills to work on a variety of subjects and can easily turn his hand to different styles. In addition to being a copywriter and a hard-working wordsmith Mark had also forged other forms of content for the web and print including photography, video and illustrations.
Based in Devon Mark lives within questing distance of the UK's Middle Earth aka Dartmoor. He likes his detectives hard-boiled, his eggs runny, and his time travel non-paradoxical.
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