Today’s New York Times Sunday Review is a Steve Jobsarama, with four – count ’em, four – hagiographic pieces on the lgendary Apple co-founder.
Start with columnist Tom Friedman’s Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio? op-ed paean:
THE melancholy over Steve Jobs’s passing is not just about the loss of the inventor of so many products we enjoy. It is also about the loss of someone who personified so many of the leadership traits we know are missing from our national politics. Those traits jump out of every Jobs obituary: He was someone who did not read the polls but changed the polls by giving people what he was certain they wanted and needed before they knew it; he was someone who was ready to pursue his vision in the face of long odds over multiple years; and, most of all, he was someone who earned the respect of his colleagues, not by going easy on them but by constantly pushing them out of their comfort zones and, in the process, inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Of course, every Friedman column needs a toe-curler, and this one doesn’t disappoint:
What is John Boehner’s vision? I laugh just thinking about the question. What is President Obama’s vision? I cry just thinking about the question.
Then there’s Ross Douthat’s column, “Up From Ugliness”:
FROM the 1960s through the 1980s, the United States of America conducted a long experiment in ugliness. Our architects grew bored with beauty, our designers tired of elegance, our urban planners decided that function should trump form. We bulldozed row houses and threw up housing projects. We built public buildings out of raw concrete. We wore leisure suits and shoulder pads, buried heart-of-pine floors under shag carpeting, and paneled our automobiles with artificial wood.
Jobs, thankfully, rescued us from that design hell.
Next up: the human-interest angle compliments of Gish Jen’s My Muse Was an Apple Computer:
No one in the world particularly cared if you wrote and, of course, you knew the computer didn’t care, either. But it was waiting for you to type something. It was not inert and passive, like the page. It was listening. It was your ally. It was your audience. And with it — on it — whatever — you could try things. You were not wasting paper; you were not making a racket.
Some might say the blank page was more alive – and more intensely personal – than the blank screen, but why get technical about it?
Next in the Times Jobsapalooza is Christopher Bonanos with The Man Who Inspired Jobs, a shoutout to another great innovator:
IN the memorials to Steven P. Jobs this week, Apple’s co-founder was compared with the world’s great inventor-entrepreneurs: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell. Yet virtually none of the obituaries mentioned the man Jobs himself considered his hero, the person on whose career he explicitly modeled his own: Edwin H. Land, the genius domus of Polaroid Corporation and inventor of instant photography.
All those pieces are well worth reading, but the one that probably means the most is the fifth Jobs piece in the Times, the definitely not hagiographic Against Nostalgia by Mike Daisey.
The Steve Jobs who founded Apple as an anarchic company promoting the message of freedom, whose first projects with Stephen Wozniak were pirate boxes and computers with open schematics, would be taken aback by the future that Apple is forging. Today there is no tech company that looks more like the Big Brother from Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial than Apple itself, a testament to how quickly power can corrupt.
Appleniks, take note.
The Onion said exactly what Friedman said, and more succinctly:
Much better version.
Peter Sagal made one of the most trenchant observations about Jobs’s passing on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (heard on WBUR all day long Saturdays and Sundays, almost to the exclusion of anything else. WGBH-FM carries it also. Nobody ever has an excuse to miss “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”). “Steve Jobs’s life came to an end well before its time…much like a call placed on an iPhone”.
Trenchant? Or more like insensitive.
There was an admixture of laughter and a chorus of groans after Sagal made this remark.
Laurence, Apple isn’t perfect by any means, but that sounds more like an AT&T complaint than an Apple complaint. I’ve got a Verizon iPhone, and hardly ever get dropped calls — certainly no more than with any other cellphones I’ve had.
I just want to be a strickler for Simon & Garfunkel and point out that Friedman’s title is the worst quote for nostalgia and grief and whatevz. First of all, Joe DiMaggio was alive when the song was written. So it doesn’t make sense on a literal level. Secondly, Steve Jobs was a dick. A really efficient dick, yes. And a genius, and more rich and smart than you or I. But he was a jerk, and just because he’s a dead jerk don’t mean he wasn’t a jerk when he was alive.
Now the reason why Paul Simon wrote that line is because he was lamenting what he thought to be the death of good moral values that DiMaggio embodied. There was a culture of gentleness in America, Joe DiMaggio was its personification, and that culture died, so Paul Simon is sad.
But Steve Jobs was not representative of a culture of innovation! He was an exception. In a world of Microsoft’s wretched design and Google’s perennially-in-beta products, Apple promised and delivered, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino (or Clint Eastwood in any movie, really). So it doesn’t even make sense on the metaphorical level.
If you want to make a comparison to a Simon and Garfunkel song, “Richard Corey” (which is an adaptation of a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, which brings the Robinson name full circle) is more appropriate. Because here is Steve Jobs, lauded and praised, and the poor guy is dead. Except even that doesn’t work, because the exquisite irony in the song is how Paul Simon’s narrator wants to be like Richard Corey even though Richard Corey shot himself. But Steve Jobs didn’t shoot himself, he died of pancreatic cancer and tried really hard to fight it, even going back to the state of his birth, Tennessee, in order to be higher on the list of pancreatic transplant recipients.
If you want to discuss other Simon and Garfunkel songs which we might use to describe the death (and possible glory or hubris) of Steve Jobs, please let me know and I will be glad to send you a list.
If you want to include Paul Simon’s solo material, the answer becomes super easy. “Allergies” from Hearts and Bones.
Thanks, Arafat. Engaging as always.
Sir, I was a bit tipsy when I wrote that comment. I apologize for the randomness. But you know me, I’m always stuck in Freud’s second stage, esp when it comes to Paul Simon!
You know what, Arafat? Joe DiMaggio was a complete dick. And a baseball genius. Genius and dickhood often go together. I’ll take the genius.