The Limits of Genius

May 13th, 2012

For weeks now, I?ve been metaphorically lugging Steve Jobs around with me. I bought Walter Isaacson?s biography shortly after Jobs died, but I got side-tracked by the controversy over hazardous working conditions at the plants in China where Apple products are manufactured.

Once I started reading, I was again wowed by Jobs? early vision for personal computers and how his interest in both Zen Buddhism and calligraphy, not to mention the influence of LSD, shaped his sensibilities. They seemed to explain the elegance and grace that Apple products have always communicated.

But then I would come across a passage in which Jobs treated a friend, relative or worker with such unspeakable cruelty that I?d have to put the book down before finishing a chapter. The more familiar Jobs was with the object of his abuse, the meaner he permitted himself to act.

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One Last Bite from the Apple

April 1st, 2012

So Mike Daisey has recast his show ?The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,? and apologized again and again, and he seems to get more sincere as he progresses.

And other interesting things happened in the Apple orchard.

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In All Truthiness

March 18th, 2012

This has been a humiliating week for Mike Daisey. Now that he has confessed on public radio (Marketplace and This American Life) that parts of his monologue, ?The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,? were fictionalized to ?get through to people emotionally,? he has to wonder if anyone will trust him again.

For Daisey, there are ?different languages for what truth means.? What he does is theater not journalism. But for TAL?s Ira Glass, ?When we present something as true, we believe in its factual accuracy.?

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Radical Hugs

March 10th, 2012

It?s too bad right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart never met Derrick Bell, because it might have made him a better man.

Of all the news that surfaced after Breitbart?s sudden death, I was most stunned by the evidence that he was preparing to use Professor Bell to attack President Obama. Perhaps you?ve seen the clips of The Hug, taken by WGBH in 1991 while Obama was a student at Harvard Law School. Student Obama introduced Professor Bell to a crowd protesting the lack of faculty diversity. Then, they embraced. This happened the year after Bell had lost his tenured position owing to his taking unpaid leave in protest the school?s failure to hire a black woman as a tenured professor. He was one of three black men on the faculty, but he recognized that black women need a role model, and there were none. Harvard dragged its institutional feet, and he never returned to teach. But his legacy lived on there long after he accepted a position as Visiting Professor at New York University.

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Thinking Differently

February 8th, 2012

Mike Daisey looks nothing like Steve Jobs. He?s obese and pale-skinned, like you?d expect someone to look after spending too much time using technology rather than marketing it. He grew up in Maine, not California. At 35, he is not rich, and you suspect that even when he?s 56, as Jobs was when he died, Daisey still won?t be wealthy.

The black shirts Daisey wears have an open collar, not a turtleneck, but I thought for a moment on Tuesday night at the Public Theater that he was going to play Jobs in his monologue, ?The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.? He didn?t; he played himself. And he?s pretty impressive.

The monologue is about Daisey?s travels to Shenzhen, China, where more than half the world?s electronics are made.

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