The Ties That Bind

I kind of butted heads with my employer today.  I usually do, actually.  After working with her off and on for three quarters of a year, we’re still learning how to talk to one another.

You see, I am a computer programmer.  I write the codes and symbols that make these lumps of plastic, steel and silicon jump up and make your day a little brighter.  Or, a little more stressful, depending on who you are and what you do with them.  Yes, you can thank me and all the others in my industry for all your ills and distress, or all the fun and simplicity the computer provides – honest, I can take it.

The problem is, Petrushka is an Artist.  (The capitalization is correct … in this case, Artist is a proper noun.)  Her given name is Petrushka Pavlovich, a British citizen of both Russian and Jewish descent originally from London.  She has worked with the BBC as a videographer, and has won numerous awards for her work in Video Production and editing, and she has a studio here in Spokane called Fact & Fable Productions.  She really is a creative genius.  An Artist in the truest sense of the word.

But I am a Programmer.  There’s the rub.

Programming, you see, is a very pedantic profession.  The programmer goes about his job, moving from “A” to “Z” through “B”, and then “C”, and then “D” and so on.  All of the steps must be carried out – usually, but not always – in order.  If they are not, the program doesn’t work.  Period.

Art doesn’t work that way.  The Artist sees things that are invisible to the rest of us.  The Artist frequently bypasses entire stages in the evolution of an Artistic work.  She can go from raw footage to final presentation there within the confines of her own mind, often before she’s put away her camera.  More often than not, however, she puts the pieces of her work on the tableau in front of her–or, in this case, on the timeline of a program called “Final Cut Pro”, and tweaks and fiddles with them until she is satisfied with the result.  In her mind somewhere, she always has the “effect” she wants to achieve; but until she can see it, she’s never sure exactly how to get there.

As a programmer, this defies rationality.  In order for me to achieve an effect in a certain piece of software, I have to know exactly how to get there.  I must use exactly precise language to spell out what the effect will be; and then I must make use of tools that will carry out in code what I have defined in language.  I could no more build an effect by tossing random pieces of code into a folder than I could build a turn-of-the-century train station by tossing Lego blocks into a pile.

And yet, that’s precisely what Petrushka does with video.  And she’s a master of her Art.

Trying to achieve a common subset of the English language, complicated by the fact that we grew up in very different English-speaking countries has been quite a work in itself.  At least we’ve each been able to observe the difficulties the other faces in the course of doing our jobs.  Beyond that, our experiences are very different.  I have grown up in a somewhat closed academic environment, while “Miz Pea” was raised in a very social one.  I think like the young punks coming out of the ’80s and ’90s, while she’s of a older, more thoughtful generation.

As you can see, we’re different – very, very different.

The latest round of disagreement, as you can imagine, was over words.  On her site, Petrushka is trying to maintain a specific image – one of style and elegance, mixing old-world charm and post-war glamour, catering to the kind of older demographic who really appreciate this.  Her list of clients is really impressive.

At the same time, she is trying to woo a younger and more diverse crowd, and so she’s counting on me to help craft technical language for her Blog … but then she doesn’t want to upset her older crowd or ruin the image she’s crafted … then again, she wants to attract the attention of the Internet bots to raise the page ranking of her site … and I’m saying WAIT A MINUTE!!!  How can you have it ALL THREE WAYS???

Humph.

So anyway, we argued the point for a while, then we reached some kind of a compromise (I’m still not sure how) and I posted the blog and we moved on.  But … as a computer programmer who’s used to proceeding on a task linearly from a beginning to completion, I can only say one thing:

DAMN, IT’S HARD TO WORK WITH AN ARTIST!

Sass has Spoken….

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