There should be more options for smart people who are willing to work.
Today I learned that a dear, exceptional woman who got me into theater almost three decades ago, and lovingly supported some of the most creative work I’ve ever done — or may ever do — has died of a heart attack.
She was a friend I never learned very much about, but with whom I felt absolutely comfortable discussing my own faltering attempts at behavioral adulthood. I had few filters. She had many, covering reactions to my spew with a smile that said she preferred diplomacy to unfettered candor. Despite this, I rarely felt judged. I did feel support, though.
And she brought me in. She gave me little nudges towards performing in public, right when I needed them. At a time in my life when I sorely needed new ways to express some sort of creative impulse, she guided me towards the best efforts I’ve ever been part of.
She was responsible for my first, awful steps as a shitty bit player in medieval-fair comedy skits. And later… for helping me believe I could do a lot more.
Were she still around, she could no doubt remember more details I’d want to relate. I’m not qualified to describe her achievements, except insofar as I never saw her play a part with anything less than full commitment, and I never worked alongside her with anything less than the total joy of unguarded collaboration.
This is unjust. I am so angry I can barely see the screen.
The thirtieth anniversary of Apple’s Macintosh computer is an excellent opportunity to remind a special few of you about the things Apple has done for human beings who weren’t engineers or programmers, and about the things Apple did first, before commodity manufacturers could rewrite the history of consumer computing with trash-talk and gossip. That special few of you will include people who dismiss any technology that’s too easy to learn or that enables too many people who don’t build their own computers or write their own software.
You guys (and yes, almost all of you are and always have been guys, and you like it that way) were rarely helpful if you could instead find a way to be condescending, impatient, and ultimately dismissive. You provided object behavioral lessons for anyone who practices a specialty on how not to work with people outside of that specialty. You enjoyed being deferred to… way too much. You gave nerds a bad name and not a few of you are still doing your best to continue that sad tradition. Despite the fact that, year over year, fewer of the rest of us are asking for your opinions about anything.
Here’s something you weren’t remotely capable of doing while you castigated the Macintosh as a toy and treated its users like idiots:
Apple fundamentally enabled my chosen career, helped remove it from the toxic materials it had relied upon in previous generations, and gave it a wider creative scope than had ever been previously possible. And Apple did much of this while I was still learning about the field, so I could make active comparisons of how much their new technology had helped me improve my work… and remove a few carcinogens from the process.
Xerox, IBM, Compaq, Microsoft, and HP couldn’t have done that, and wouldn’t have wanted to.
Congratulations, Apple. And thank you, again.
I’m almost certain I’ve told this story before, but it bears emphasis.
It’s been about thirty years since I realized I could go see some terrific live music in a venue that didn’t reduce me to a tiny dot in a vast sea of screaming quasi-humanity.
Instead, I could sit in a reasonably-sized room full of more-or-less well-behaved folks while formidably talented musicians blasted their genius in my direction, without need of amplification. And there was generally beer on hand, which didn’t hurt.
One of those groups of musicians stood out almost immediately. The group’s founders made their wit and erudition plainly obvious in a mid-1980s interview on WKCR I was lucky to have tuned in to hear. I heard excerpts from their latest album, and within weeks had thrust copies of it at several friends.
I’m grateful that The Microscopic Septet still occasionally perform together. I’m also happy to catch their individual efforts when I can. What a damned fine bunch of artists to be a fan of. And what a damned nice bunch of gentlemen. Rest assured that I am happily looking forward to their new CD release this spring.
I remember a temp print production gig in a previous decade, working at a small agency alongside a terrific designer who did elaborate print forms for a single big client that eventually took all their work in-house. This guy designed typefaces and did elaborate calligraphy, and I loved chatting with him about stuff like that.
As the new guy, I was tasked with making corrections to pieces that had already been set up, until such time as I could be trusted to make new stuff.
This guy’s form layouts were a dense thicket of impossibly overlapping tiny text boxes, tiny empty frames which only contained color, and tiny line objects. No paragraph styles to speak of. No indication that the designer had used the software’s capabilities to make repetitive work easier. All ad hoc. All inflicted pain.
Years later, I realized what that meant.
I’d very much like to think I’m leaving less of a mess for people who’ll someday have to work with the forms I’m constructing now.
For fuck’s sake.
From a letter to the editor in Wired, May 2001.
America’s ideologically driven fear of “state interference” has allowed its corporations to be far more intrusive and abusive than any European government would dare to be. As you are finding out the hard way, basic services like electricity are not effectively supplied by market forces alone. Blind faith in science and technology may have made US citizens richer than we are in Europe, but rather than curing your diseases it has made you world leaders in obesity, mental illness, and drug dependency.
Your way of life is killing you: More of you are in prison, in debt, and in therapy than anywhere in the world. More of you just plain kill one another. Each of you produces three times more pollution than Europeans do. To think that having more money makes all of this OK is moronic. There is more to human freedom than shopping, more to compassion than lower taxes, and more to security than bigger guns. Why don’t American’s get this? It’s Europeans who look over the water and mutter, “What a bunch of losers.”
Yes, we’ve certainly come a long way.
You might very well think that the original British “House of Cards” trilogy series was a masterful depiction of real-world high-level politics, apart from the sorry treatment of too many of its female characters as weak, naïve, and credulous to the point of death.
You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.