Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blog #71: of Young, Jobs, sex, and Microsoft

Let’s start off this week’s blog with a truly unique video. Give a big welcome to Neil Young and his remarkable ode to our Congress’ bailout of the financial industry, “Fork in the Road.”

“There's a bailout coming, but it's not for me .... It's for all those creeps watching the ticker on TV.
“There's a bailout coming, but it's not for you ... it's for all those creeps hiding what they do ...”

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It is with shock and heavy heart that we react to the news that Stephen P. Jobs’, the mercurial CEO of Apple, Inc., is taking a six month medical leave from the company. Pure geeks descended from the Gates line of DNA resent the way Jobs always insists that Apple’s products be both beautiful in design and programmed for maximum ease of use. Geeks like their technology to contain a challenge, so that they have to put in extra effort to make it function correctly. Plus they are probably perplexed by the intense loyalty the users of Apple products continually demonstrate. They attempt to deride us by calling us Apple Fan Boys, but in truth Apple was the very first company to bring to the marketplace a computer with a true graphic user interface and which also used a mouse. True the Macintosh featured technology originally designed at Xerox’ PARC facility, but the technology only became a reality thanks to Apple, and it did, indeed, revolutionize the way people have interacted with computers ever since. It was ten years before Redmond fired up its copiers and came out with Windows 95, the first true Microsoft product with a graphic user interface.

And early in the 21st Century Apple fostered a complete reorganization of the music business, thanks to the birth of the iPod music player, and the iTunes online store which allowed people to pay for the digital music tracks they had previously been stealing, thereby saving what was left of the record industry. And finally a year and a half ago Apple shook up the cell phone industry with the iPhone, a combination cellphone, music player, and computer which accesses the internet, and suddenly the so-called smart phone really got smart.

When Steve Jobs on Tuesday announced he was taking a six month medical leave from Apple to concentrate on his health and since Mr. Jobs is without a doubt the CEO most identified with the products of his company, the announcement, and the swirl of rumors which preceded it, rightly or wrongly has affected the value of Apple’s stock. For a prime discussion of the way the news of Job’s leave impacted the web, check out the URL: Robert Scoble tells how news of Jobs exit soared it’s way through Twitter and FriendFeed. But I think more telling were Scoble’s prophetic words to Apple stock holders:

“You are an idiot if you sell your Apple stock tomorrow

“It’s too late to sell your Apple stock. If you sold it today, you are a genius. But tomorrow? You’ll be the biggest loser.

“Why? Apple has the best team, the best distribution, the best supply chain, the best management in the business.

“Everyone, from Palm to Microsoft to Google wants to be like Apple.

“Hint: they can’t.

“Hint: they won’t (although Palm got very close by hiring a ton of key iPhone execs and developers and PR people away from Apple).

“Apple is more than just Steve Jobs. Now you’re about to find out just how much more.

“If you sell your stock you’re an idiot. Yes, it’ll be down big in the morning. Yes, the news is sort of shocking. But Apple is fine and we’ll all buy the next big thing that they do no matter who brings it to us. Steve Jobs has built a killer team that everyone wants a piece of and that culture will be around for years. I met many of them in China and they are regarded among supply chain guys there as the best in the business (and the most demanding). That won’t go away because Steve isn’t at the helm anymore.

“Oh, and to Steve Jobs: I wish you and your family all the best. This is a tough business to be in front of all the time and you’ve set the standard very high for your team. Now stand back and watch them shine.” Robert Scoble
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The news that Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence gives new relevance to the stirring commencement address he delivered three years ago.

On June 14, 2005, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the commencement address at Stanford University. In the speech, Jobs, who was recovering from surgery to remove cancer from his pancreas, reflected on his own mortality as he delivered an uplifting but somber message: Live every day like your last, because one day it will be. An excerpt is below:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

“I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

“This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” Stephen P. Jobs
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And summing up Mr. Jobs upcoming absence is the following: “Steve is terrific at attracting and retaining people, creating an agenda and getting people to stick to it,” said Stephen G. Perlman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a principal scientist at Apple in the 1980s. “It’s very hard to find somebody who is so credible, and who has such a strong following that he is able to cut through corporate politics.”

Andrew Hertzfeld, who helped develop the original Macintosh and now works at Google, says that Apple has had 12 more years under Mr. Jobs’s leadership to soak up his unique values. He also notes that products already in the pipeline — which analysts say may include new iMacs and smaller iPhones — already bear Mr. Jobs’s imprint and can sustain Apple for years to come. “It will take half a decade for the absence of Steve to really show up in the products,” Mr. Hertzfeld said.

“The whole world is concerned about Apple. I’m concerned about Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Perlman, the entrepreneur cited above. “I need Apple to be harrying Microsoft. We need someone stirring the pot. God forbid that there is no one stirring the pot anymore. We’ll become Detroit.”
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And from’s Connie Guglielmo, John Lauerman and Dina Bass

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is considering a liver transplant as a result of complications after treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2004, according to people who are monitoring his illness. In a telephone interview today, Jobs said he won’t comment further on his health. “Why don’t you guys leave me alone -- why is this important?” Jobs said.
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Note from TRLE: Sorry to intrude, Mr. Jobs, but to those of us Techno-Atheists out here, you're the closest thing we have to a god. So please forgive us while we pray for your good health.
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Daniel Radosh brings to the pages of The Daily Beast, Playboy’s list of the 55 most influential people in the world of sex — and, no, Hef isn't No. 1 — The list reminds the author why we still need America's smartest smut. And not just for the articles.

At number one, Alfred Kinsey, who did the first scientific study of sex as it related to people. And whose research began sex on it’s road to respectability. At number two, Dr. John Rock, the catholic researcher who helped invent, and then helped sell the world on the birth control pill, which obviously took the practice of sex onto a new level. At number three is Hugh Hefner, who was cited for developing Playboy, a magazine which had both a serious side for sane discussions of sexual matters, and a titillating side to fill that oh so human need so many of us have.

Alex Comfort, physician, lecturer and author, who wrote The Joy of Sex, comes in at fourth place, and Marilyn Monroe, who turned on a generation was number five. In my mind number six should be challenged, as the honor was given to Monica Lewinski, who I suppose does get credit for making oral sex and presidential kneepads a topic for water cooler discussions nationwide. Number seven: the Rolling Stones, number eight, Timothy Berners-Lee, (who is credited with inventing the internet, which in turn brought the world a raft of sexual information and inspiration.) At number nine: Peter Dunn and Albert Wood who invented Viagra which kept us old guys in the game for a while longer, and at #10 Madonna beat out Helen Gurley Brown, the mother of Cosmopolitan who had to settle for #11.

Others on the list include: Ruth Westheimer at #13, Elvis Pressley at #14, and Masters and Johnson at #15. Radio Shock Jock Howard Stern holds down #16, and would somebody please explain to me how Ed Meese (Ronald Reagan’s rotund Attorney General) ranks 17th place? True his name was affixed to a group studying the effects of pornography, and although the commission found exactly the way it was supposed to, it has been mostly ignored ever since. What’s irritating, Meese beat out Brigitte Bardot who lurks at #18. What kind of justice is that? Bo Derek is #20, and Vladimir Nabokov who put the word Lolita into our national vocabulary is #22, followed closely by the orange juice selling, gay bashing Anita Bryant at #23. Erica Jong who wrote Fear of Flying is #25, and Barney Rosset who turned Grove Press into a number one publisher of erotica was #26. Among other accomplishments Rosset’s Grove Press fought in the courts to bring us such previously banned classics as James Joyce’s Ulysses, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. British poet Philip Larkin’s poem “Annus Mirabilis” begins with a reference to the trial which freed the Lawrence novel in England:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And The Beatles' first LP.

A few other random mentions: Frank Sinatra #30, Nancy Friday (chronicler of women’s sex fantasies) #31. Philip Roth #34, Linda Lovelace at #41, Mike Nichols #42, Ian Fleming #45, Lenny Bruce #46, Gloria Steinem #47, Robert Mapplethorpe #48, and get this, J. Edgar Hoover at #50.

In the complete list of 55, each name is a link to information to the person, and it may be found at:
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Speaking of erotica, fans of Wizard’s Trailer Park Series take note: On December 24th 2008, as a Christmas present to us all, Wizard posted the seventh book in his Trailer Park series, which is now threatening to be at least eight books long. The new volume is called: The Trailer Park: The Fifth Year: Part 2 : Music and Lyrics, and may be found here:

In the introduction Wizard tells us that the Trailer Park began as a short story, and somehow the characters he invented, Tony Simms, athlete and human being extraordinaire, Tamara Sharp, girlfriend and future journalist, Robbie Tate (Roberta, but don’t you dare call her that) football and baseball player par excellence whose nickname is Monster Girl, are the main players in this thoroughly unique coming of age saga that seems to have taken over complete control of Wizard’s brain and output, propelling the series to god only knows where. We can’t help but wonder if it will really end with volume eight? But I’ll tell you for sure, it’ll be a sad day for me when indeed it does finally end.

The Trailer Park series is classified as erotica by those who would put literature into labeled compartments, but there really isn’t that much erotica in volume seven. It does follow Tony into the bedroom on a couple of occasions, but Fifth Year Part 2 seems to me to have far less sex than previous volumes, primarily because in book seven Tony tries his damnedest to be monogamous and he only falls off the bandwagon one time, and that for a good cause we might add.

Wizard has created as real and admirable a bunch of teenagers as you could wish for in your sweetest dreams, and his books are gems of humor crammed full of inventive situations and meaningful characterizations. If I had to compare it to a television series it might be Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in its honesty and character development, although of course Trailer Park is concerned with a bunch of teenagers, with the adults playing only a minor role. Wizard made my Christmas with his posting, and if you haven’t yet discovered the series and wish to, we urge you to begin your journey with Trailer Park One and go from there. You’ll be very glad you did. My only complaint is that in volume 7 Tony seems to be turning political, and egads, he’s promoting Fox News and that nearly moribund species, a Republican. However, in spite of his emerging politics I have found, to my delight, that you just can’t get too much of Tony Simms and friends. Enjoy the ride.
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As a public service in our ongoing salute to the retirement of George W. Bush as president of these United States, we offer some remarkable URLs which allow multiple views of our not-a-moment-too-soon to be ex-president. First off comes an exchange during the Congressional investigation of the firing of U.S. Attorneys who did not properly reflect the Bush Administrations goals. The administration ethos was nicely summarized during the investigation in the firing of US attorneys, in a testy exchange between former White House Political Director Sara Taylor and Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Taylor: "I took an oath to the president … And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the president."

Leahy: "No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the president refers to the government being his government — it's not."
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Ever wish that a competent psychologist had had the chance to put our erstwhile president on a couch and probe his state of mind, preferably before he assumed office. In a remarkable piece also published by The Daily Beast, Psychiatrist Justin Frank, author of Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President brings to life some speculations on the reasons behind Bush’s actions.

“George Bush’s presidency is the culmination of a lifelong history of sadistic practices that he must deny in order to maintain his fragile psychological equilibrium. Since childhood, Bush was labeled a bad child, a troublemaker, and a delinquent. He stuck firecrackers into frogs and exploded them; he shot and wounded his little brothers with a b-b gun; he branded fraternity pledges at Yale with red-hot coat hangers; he mocked others and was a verbal bully, irreverent about anything serious.

“What do bad boys do when they grow up? They stop; they change. But Bush never stopped being a bad boy; he only did it in more subtle, arguably socially acceptable ways.

“Now, as this bad-boy president prepares to leave office, many of his critics are pinning his failures on bumbling incompetence. The conventional wisdom holds that Bush is either a good hearted guy who got in way over his head — or the puppet of Dick Cheney. But if he were simply good-hearted he wouldn’t have mocked his own reasons for committing our young men and women to war; if he were a puppet, he was a puppet who chose his puppeteers. In my psychoanalytic exploration, the trail of destruction wrought by Bush over the last eight years is the direct consequence of handing a man with a destructive personality profile tremendous power.” For more analysis point your browser to the URL below.
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And finally, the Washington Post last week posted a video of a remarkable round table discussion of the Bush presidency hosted by Post columnist Eugene Robinson and featuring the reminiscences of Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame and author of several book on the Bush Administration), and Barton Gelman, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Angler the Cheney Vice Presidency. This is a fascinating in depth discussion, well worth your time accessing it at the URL which follows:
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Usually a sentence with the word Apple in it is followed by one mentioning Microsoft. Apple has featured products to aid musicians since the very first Macs. Microsoft eventually muscled it’s way into the game, as PC manufacturers finally began to put sound cards in their machines. Presently Apple has a program which comes free with all Macintosh computers called GarageBand, a program that helps budding musicians learn their trade. Always the competitor, Microsoft has launched a program which will accompany your singing with computer generated musical accompaniment. People might mistakenly try to compare this with Apple’s GarageBand, but there is no comparison. GB is a program which allows you to create and mix music of your own making. But it requires that you have enough expertise to lay down the tracks, and then mix them together.

Microsoft’s product requires no musical knowledge or ability, except the ability to carry a tune of course. The difference is that more than a few musicians these days record their music in GarageBand, or it’s professional equivalent Final Cut Pro, whereas as you can witness for yourself by watching the video that follows, your Windows product’s only value is in its novelty, nothing more. Nor will it assist you learning either music or recording techniques.

I found this video on Joe Tartakov’s Microsoft blog in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The two guys in it evidently are the developers of the software. This video for me highlights the stark difference in the philosophy of the two companies. Apple computers come with free software that enables people who are interested to craft real musical expression. Microsoft offers a tool to help people produce a gee-whiz novelty. Humorous afterword: The above video was created with an Apple Mac Book pro. They covered up the logo, but they fooled no one. If this video was done for Apple, how long do you think Steve Jobs would allow it to run, time expressed in milliseconds, of course.
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And finally, a short video showing Paul McCartney telling the ladies of The View all about how he found out about the Vietnam War from Bertrand Russell and immediately rushed over to the studio to inform the boys of his discovery. ???

The Real Little Eddy