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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobs

Paradigm shift in Architecture: Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas…Simon  Sadler essay

Posted on March 30, 2013

An émigré architectural historian who teaches across disciplines in California, at a public university near Apple’s lair in the Bay Area (close to San Francisco), is posting an essay.

Since architectural stories are surprising rare on the edge of the continent, he needed a shtick; no matter what’s his connoisseur-ish personal tastes and leftist political dispositions.

Simon  Sadler published an essay on March 13/2013 in The Design Observer Group: “Steve Jobs: Architect”

Top: Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York. [Photo by Eric Wüstenhagen]

Bottom: Steve Jobs and Rem Koolhaas. [Photos by James Mitchell, left, and Rodrigo Fernández, right]


1. An Apple for the teacher Yet another treatise on Steve Jobs? As an “architect”?And with Apple seemingly waning,  aren’t we behind the curve on this?  Suffice it to say that my interest is not solely in Steven Paul Jobs himself, but rather in the challenge that the late computer impresario and legendary technologist poses to the methods and purpose of an architectural historian.

My job and my location place me close enough to Silicon Valley that students might fairly assume that I have something cogent to say about all this.  Apple is working with Norman Foster to build a donut-spaceship as its headquarters in Cupertino.

So what are my options?

1. Compare and contrast, that trusty standby of art history, in which I drill my students. I can compare Jobs with … with whom, exactly? Bill Gates, or maybe Thomas Edison? That route would take us away from design, away from architectural history, away from aesthetics.I like to pay close attention to both Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Studies, which are the disciplines perhaps most comfortable with technology and the American experience.

But neither the Apple HQ, or the iPhone for that matter, readily lend themselves to STS and Cultural Studies’ emphases on flattened and distributed innovation and on user-generated meanings.So any methods I might borrow from those anthropologically-inclined fields will need to be augmented by the emphases on authorship and aesthetics that architectural history traditionally draws from art history. Peel away his ruthless command of global consumer markets and Jobs can seem to the art historian more akin to Gropius than Gates.

2. Criticality.  Since Jobs’s ruthless command of markets is a fact that cannot be peeled away, we are obliged to deploy the criticality that has been central to architectural historical method that was started by Tomás Maldonado and Manfredo Tafuri.I am duty-bound to tell students that design is not necessarily benign, especially when it seems to be.

Yet they can see me teaching from the MacBook I am writing on even now. Some of the students I have trained will graduate into Silicon Valley. I wonder what that suggests about my own complicity with the very things which I am attempting to critique?How does my salary, my adopted state, my consumption, tie me to all this?

So I discreetly edge the conversation back to my own disciplinary competence by comparing the design for the new Apple headquarters with other corporate buildings. We take another iconic and somehow ominous HQ — OMA’s recently completed CCTV tower in Beijing — and we then compare Jobs with OMA’s head, Rem Koolhaas. As if they were both architects.

And then we treat Jobs as though he were an offshoot of a Bay Area design history that was substantially driven by architecture. My concern is to have something to say about design in the far western region where I teach; even though major monumental buildings are scarce on the ground here, and even though the politics of good design are adulterated by my state’s politics of good business.

This effort becomes a test of the limits of my discipline, devoted as it has long been to the maintenance of European critical traditions, and to monumentality and the public sphere, and to the continued preeminence of the academic institutions of Northern Europe and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

Such is the fate of many an émigré architectural historian in California, at once living and working within a global engine of economy, design, ideology and media, yet rather far from the concatenations of Greater New England architectural historical scholarship.We wonder whether there is any more that can be said about the Mission Style, the Case Study Houses, the freeways; or whether anything whatsoever can be said about California’s inland agricultural empire of the Central Valley, which is where I live.

Norman Foster’s design for the Apple headquarters, center, surrounded by the California architectural historian’s canon.[Photos, clockwise, by Eli PoussonNeil KremerDystopusKeith DalyChris McSorleyAllan FergusonMyDifferentDrum and Roberto Estremo] Talk about Jobs as though he were an architect — already a dubious proposition — is to talk as well about advanced capitalism, about global systems, the counterculture, Zen Buddhism, and all manner of phenomena apparently inimical to the critical tradition, to monumentality and the public sphere.

This approach might threatens to liquefy my discipline through a Golden State looking-glass.Maybe I should emulate the resolve of the philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer who were stranded in sunny Los Angeles during the war, refused to succumb to California languor.To be frank I think that architectural-historical methodology can benefit from this modest test, and prevail. 

This is one of those experiments in method encouraged — forced — by the study of California: here subject and method evolve symbiotically, as befits scholarship in a region enamored with holistic thought, even as my disciplinary training prevents me from ever going fully native.

2. Why it’s simpler to treat Jobs as a California Modern Architect To the subject at hand?To me, treating Jobs as an architect has merit, if for no other reason than to bring sort of conclusion to the popular psychologizing of what made Job tick.It is no secret that Jobs was a “complicated” man. Nothing more typifies the persona of the “great architect,” driven to get his ideas executed with minimum compromise, somehow distrustful of people yet seemingly concerned about their welfare, preferring to channel politics through design rather than to actually participate in political activity.

Eric Alterman writes in The Nation’s: Despite the myriad ways his companies improved our lives, Jobs was a hero only in the Ayn Randian sense…” de facto connecting Jobs, via Rand, to that archetype of the “complicated” architect, Howard Roark, a.k.a. Frank Lloyd Wright

A sense of what you might call “psychopathic humanism” attends such personalities: they are determined to improve the human lot no matter how many individual humans they offend along the way.Bucking our current postmodern era, Jobs and Koolhaas both seem to have been driven by the possibility that they can act inside, or around, a postmodern world resistant to purpose.

Jobs and Koolhaas share, I suspect, an attraction toward design as a type of hermeneutics — a will to learn about the world through the attempt to change it. Koolhaas assigned his Harvard students and OMA assistants to track aesthetic multiplier effects through the study of shopping and of African urbanism; he is passionate, in a manner worthy of a surrealist or second-order cybernetician, about paradox and overdetermination.

Meanwhile both the personnel and the customers of the Apple Corporation functioned as an extension of Jobs, and not simply through the authoritarian exertion of will. In this sense Jobs hasn’t died in the same way that Mies van der Rohe hasn’t died: something of his very thinking, his gestalt, has been learned by other designers and consumers, and in this way Jobs’s legacy — like influential pedagogy — is “architectural.”

That Jobs’s work, his products, has constituted a daily part of people’s lives over several generations was testified to by the peculiar and public demonstrations of grief at his passing.
Steve Jobs memorial, Apple store, San Francisco. [Photo by raumish] Koolhaas, for sure, is a redoubtable figure for historians and theorists of architecture in a way that Jobs never will be. Judged by his impact on architectural pedagogy and his reception by critics, he probably remains our most important living architect, popular with scholars to the degree that he is apparently unpopular with, even obscure to, the public at large.

Koolhaas invites interpretation. In contrast, scholars are left practically redundant by the sheer popularity of Jobs’s work: there is, apparently, no work of interpretation left for us to do.We can try to deepen our analyses of Jobs by citing the pivotal influential of industrial designers like Dieter Rams; but accounting for Koolhaas’s interests in the surrealist paranoiac-critical method, Soviet Constructivism and Italian Autonomist Marxism would require graduate-seminar-level exegesis.

Put another way: if Koolhaas’s aesthetic is difficult, Jobs’s is dumb. The categorical difference is that one really is an architect, steeped in the arts, and the other is an ambitious industrial designer, steeped in the applied arts; which is why Koolhaas presents an explanatory challenge, Jobs a functional literalness.I am not so sure about this distinction, though; whatever the philosophical and formal challenges which Koolhaas’s buildings pose, they function well.

And Jobs’s intellectual formation was easily as esoteric as that of Koolhaas.It’s no surprise that architect Norman Foster has referred to Jobs as though he were a professional peer, “in every way so much more than a client,” as Foster put it in his tribute. “We are better as individuals and certainly wiser as architects through the experience of … working for him. …  Job participation was so intense and creative that our memory will be that of working with one of the truly great designers and mentors.”(This is the sort of language we might expect Foster to have reserved for his earlier mentor Richard Buckminster Fuller — another figure whose functionalism, anathema to the richly formal work of Koolhaas, is adored in Bay Area.)

When Jobs’s name is used as a search term in the scholarly Avery Index to architectural history, it retrieves a 2005 article from Britain’s ID magazine that lists, in this order, the most influential design thinkers in the world: the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Department, Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas.For ID, at least, we are in some way comparing like with like. And the listing of Jobs with MoMA and Koolhaas has the intriguing effect of drawing a westward axis of transnational design, as it transposes from The Netherlands, then to the United States via New York and Northern California, then onward to China, where Jobs and Koolhaas confirm their incendiary reputations in the factories of Shenzhen and the political machine of Beijing.The modernist tradition becomes — to use Koolhaas’s celebrated term — increasingly delirious, as it gravitates from the Heroic Age Netherlands, to Jazz Age New York, to Aquarian Age California.If Koolhaas has capitalized upon a distinctively Dutch taste and Northern European aesthetic, Jobs has championed a distinctively Californian energy.In the early 1980s, the German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger proposed that there should be a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA,” one that would produce what Esslinger called a “California global” look. Esslinger, then newly arrived in the United States, initially suggested that Apple’s aesthetic be inspired by “Hollywood and music, a bit of rebellion, and natural sex appeal.”But Hollywood, rock music, sex appeal and rebellion did not prevail in the iconic forms that embody the Apple brand identity created so obsessively by Jobs. In its stores, in its devices, even in the book cover he designed for Walter Isaacson’s biography (which he himself commissioned Isaacson to write), Jobs recovered a vision of the modern as clarified, normative, truthful, perhaps somewhat German though even more Zen.Is there a relationship between California and these qualities of clarification, normative, truthfulness and Zen? I believe that Apple really does represent a genus of Californian design — that the slogan “Designed by Apple in California” conveys something like an ethos.


Top and Middle: Norman Foster, drawings for Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015. Bottom: Bernard Maybeck, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915. [Photo by Wally Gobetz]Apple’s image evolved markedly from the early 1980s to now, but it remained consistent with Bay Area taste, from the counter-cultural feel of the offerings to be found in (say) its early-’80s gift collections —with their totes, kites, belt buckles, wall hangings and rug kits — to the New Age aura of transcendent consciousness and spirituality of more recent Mac products, their concealed LEDs practicing controlled yogic breathing when left on standby.

Apple was a Bay Area company led by a lifelong Bay Area homeboy steeped in such Bay Area enthusiasms as the Whole Earth Catalog and The Grateful Dead.In the dominant culture of the Bay Area — if I can indulge in a sweeping summary — you find a deep distaste for representing established culture: culture is to be invented, here and now, and to be lived rather than observed and learned. It is a culture that imagines itself as exploring truth and possibility.

This is a trait stretching back through several generations of Northern California designers — Bernard Maybeck is my personal favorite, with his eccentric combinations of materials, technique and historical association. Jobs, too, pursued an aesthetics of truth and possibility.Compare the design of two corporate animation facilities, one for The Walt Disney Company, in Southern California, the other for Jobs’s Pixar, in Northern California. In his 1991 design for the Team Disney building, in Burbank, Michael Graves employs the Seven Dwarves as Atlantes not only to symbolize a passing world of animated arts but also to make an inside joke about the conclusion of classical civilization.

In contrast, in their Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson deploy the patterning of bricks of different hues to make decoration immanent to the materials themselves, in this way suggesting that the building itself is pixelated — a pattern waiting to be orchestrated. Facts before pictures.The tectonic and material truths of this factory of the virtual feel hyper-real. Its hand-laid brick courses suggest an unnerving sincerity far removed from the postmodern irony of Graves or the postmodern tragedy of Koolhaas.

The Bohlin Cywinski Jackson practice, founded in 1965 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, under the sway of Louis Kahn (that vital transitional figure between modernism and postmodernism who recovered architectural verity from dogmatic functionalism and returned it to custom, ritual and place) has proven adept at delivering to commercial and technological clients buildings of a local phenomenological intensity. In 1997 the firm completed the residential compound of another computer maven, one Bill Gates of Bellevue, WA, in an earnest regional “Pacific Lodge” style. A couple of years later, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson opened its San Francisco office to handle the Pixar campus for Jobs. What they delivered doesn’t look much like a fun factory.

The main pavilion is an elegant warehouse, its flat arches an acknowledgement of the local light-industry context, with plate glass recalling the notoriously generic corporate architecture of Silicon Valley.

The Pixar campus is a place for serious research, not decorative puns; a place where the arts of animation from the classic era of Disney are preserved within three-dimensional computer modeling originally developed for medical imaging; a place to discover the sorts of truths about the self and the world that were earlier discovered in the Marin County summer camps, Palo Alto garages, East Bay cafés, Silicon Valley laboratories and Silicon Alley warehouses recalled by the campus ensemble.


Top: Michael Graves, Team Disney Building, Burbank, California. [Photo by Loren Javier] Middle and Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Steve Jobs Building, Pixar Campus, Emeryville, California. [Photos by John Lambert Pearson, middle, and Michael Heilemann, bottom] The comic foil provided by the monumental Luxo lamp is an addition.The lamp — an homage to Pixar’s celebrated 1986 demo reel, “Luxo Jr.” — was a gift from Australia, as though Pixar were a new nation — a corporate nation that reaffirms the Bay Area as a center of the creative world (with a nod, in the naming of its new building “Brooklyn,” to an East Coast counterpart).

Jobs was the undisputed ruler of this nation; Pixar employees knew him to be the hidden hand in the building’s design,  [11] and Jobs was always adamant that all core creative production for his companies would happen in the Bay Area in real diurnal time, defying the industry trend for the globalized dissipation of the design process across facilities, specializations and time zones.

At a Cupertino City Council meeting in June 2011, a clearly ailing Jobs made what I assume was his last public appearance to present the plans for the new Apple HQ; he promoted the Foster + Partners design as a great entity in a traditionalist Bay Area landscape to be designed by Stanford University’s arborist.  The building thus becomes the capsule, the beehive, the phalanstery for 15,000 engineers circling the wagons against the outsourcing of Californian design.Apple had thus become the new Californian “machine,” reproducing local tastes and predispositions even through its immigrant employees, like the British designer Jonathan Ive, or the German Esslinger and his practice frog design, all of whom were required to relocate to the region as part of their association with Jobs.

Even the design presence of Baron Foster, whose ideas were profoundly affected by his admiration of the Case Study houses, does nothing to deflect the broad, synthetic Californianism of Apple’s trajectory. Yet ultimately Jobs’s phenomenology can be founded on certainties of place and language no more than the modern-day Bay Area can be founded on certainties of place and language.

It is a light phenomenology, slickly tuning consciousness through sensory experience.This calibration of affect, surely at Job’s behest, explains how Bohlin Cywinski Jackson effortlessly switched from the vernacular brick and iron opacity at Pixar to the Zen-like transparency of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store.Opacity, transparency, Jungian forms, materials, place, tectonics: Jobs and his collaborators were trying to access phenomenological truths at the office and at the store.

Top: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Jorge Láscar] Bottom: Early graphical user interface, Xerox Star, 1981. [Via DigiBarn Computer Museum]Along the way Jobs conscripted the very typology of the window from the Graphical User Interface — which he explored soon after it was invented at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto — to the service of his light phenomenology that sought to reveal the world.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, beloved by Bay Region architects, became the central motif of Jobs’s inventions — from the computers to the phones to the stores, the windowed grids of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue relaying attention to the windowed tablets relaying attention to windowed operating systems, propelling us steadily out of history.

Though routinely described as iconic, Apple products seem actually to be moving away from idiosyncratic forms like the trend-setting colored-jellybean style of the late ’90s iMac series. The aluminum, glass and radius edges of the recent products strain for ascetic neutrality.Without much difficulty the Apple consumer could imagine information one day floating in the environment, dematerialized into the “cybernetic meadow” forecast in the celebrated (if ridiculed) 1967 poetry collection by San Franciscan Richard Brautigan when he was poet-in-residence at Caltech. [15]

So at the end of his life, Jobs settled on a Zen-like approach as the appropriate phenomenological architecture for information technology, just as a Zen-like transcendence had attracted generations of Bay Region aesthetes.

Bay Region Style itself bore the clear imprint of Japanese Zen architecture.

In a famous 1947 essay on “Bay Region Style,” Lewis Mumford described the style as “a product of the meeting of the Occidental and Oriental architectural traditions,” and 6 decades later Steve Jobs concurred: “I have always found … Japanese Zen Buddhism … to be aesthetically sublime.

Zen is to California as Greece is to Germany“: so an uncommonly insightful student quipped to me recently, bridging the Bay Region’s dogged pursuit of higher consciousness and the German phenomenological tradition. Jobs’s seemingly existential understanding of design does indeed remind one of the fascination exerted over architects by Martin Heidegger, for whom design functioned best in the background, the better to “bring forth” Being.

Bay Area and German existentialism are even linked by a proud sense of their higher provincialism, the disdain for metropolitan affectation. William Wurster, referring to the Bay Region Style, wrote in 1956  that “Architecture is not a goal. Architecture is for life and pleasure and work and for people. The picture frame, not the picture.”Jobs enthused about the Bay Area’s mid-century stick-built houses developed by Joseph Eichler: Eichler’s “houses were smart and cheap and good,” Jobs told Walter Isaacson. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost too much. … It was the original vision for Apple.

And so we have that paradox that the normative or the provincial comes to embody rarefied taste and so occupy a central place in design culture. (Something similar happened with critical regionalism.) [22] By the early 21st century, Apple products were the summary forms of international modern design, recalling the abstemiousness of Viennese architect and journalist Adolf Loos at the turn of the 20th century, of the German industrial design of the Dessau Bauhaus of the 1920s, and of the Braun products of Dieter Rams in the 1960s, admiration for the latter of which Jobs developed when attending the Aspen Institute’s conferences in the early 1980s.


Top: Eichler home, original advertisement. [Via Architizer]Bottom: Dieter Rams, Braun radio and record player. [Photos by Nite Owl, left, and Toby Evans, right]

3. Thinking inside the box What did it mean for Jobs to attempt to recuperate “normative,” “classically” modernist values for a postmodern, late capitalist world order — for a world order whose anguish seems better captured by the old-world Koolhaas, and in which modernism’s promise of emancipation is trammeled in the off-shore factories of Apple’s manufacturers? Is this nothing but a travesty of modernism? For of course we know that aesthetic culture is at best a poor substitute indeed for truly political society, and a sickening lie in its absence.

The  clamshell form of the late ’90s MacBook was redolent of the sort of cigarette case that Loos identified in 1908 as the touchstone of modern culture: stripped, portable, repetitive. Ornament became Crime, in Jobs’s mind as it had in Loos’s. The Mac and the cigarette case were trade objects emblematic of their respective epochs, their meanings indefinite, not predetermined: as a content-producing machine, the Mac strenuously obliges society with cultural “running-room.”

Yet the aluminum sheathed MacBook is not quite the quintessential Loosian object. It is almost too refined for its purposes, courting the status of a commodity fetish, mystifying and objectifying human relations through its market exchange.

The MacBook confuses the urn with the chamber pot, to borrow Loos’s terms; it struggles to distinguish the ceremonial from the functional. It ennobles the rituals of everyday life, like writing email, but it is too slick to disrupt our life continuum, which for Loos was the critical function of art, architecture and language — a way in which to make sense of our world.

So it is to Rem Koolhaas and his firm, OMA, that we must turn for manifestation of the disjunctions of tradition and modernity, of place and space.The contrast in taste, in aesthetics, between Jobs and Koolhaas is illustrated most obviously by comparing the two headquarters buildings.

With its twisting and grotesque form, the China Central Television tower underscores the tragic deterioration of the public sphere, as the production of information is impressed into the service of the capitalist dictatorship of the People’s Republic.

It is practically a Salon work of art, simultaneously repulsive and fascinating, politically and aesthetically, in a way that reminds me of that classic of the Salon genre, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819).

Whereas the Apple HQ suggests a very different version of the Romantic legacy, of the recovery of a primordial reason beyond intellectualization — it strains to be “insanely great,” in Jobs’s famous phrase. The circle of steel and glass suggests no history, no past; its gesture is spontaneous, or Jungian, or Zen,  childlike in its simplicity and secrecy. It needs no interpretation because, as designer Sean Daly blogged in The Architects’ Newspaper:

The ensō, or “circle,” is perhaps the most enduring motif in the Zen tradition, one that first appears in Japanese monasteries in the mid-1600s. The Zen circle is not a linguistic character, but rather a symbol that conveys a host of things — the universe, the cyclical nature of existence, enlightenment, strength, and poised contemplation. It suggests the Heart Sutra, which explains that “form is void and void is form” … [27]

Like Pixar in Emeryville, Apple in Cupertino exemplifies a light phenomenology. It’s Zen kitsch. Jobs’s Zen postmodernism, of which Foster’s building is an embodiment, acts upon the world through process, intervening in a cybernetic cycle for which the record of historical struggle is but a dysfunctional footnote.

In sharp contrast, the tragic postmodernism of Koolhaas and the CCTV feels jagged, a beauty of terribilità.

Top: Norman Foster, Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015.

Middle and Bottom: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, China Central TV headquarters, Beijing, 2012. [Photos by Jim Gourley]

Koolhaas’s abstraction of modernity appeals more to critical tastes than Jobs’s interaction with modernity. It is almost as though Koolhaas courts his appeal to art-historical criticality, even contributing to its veritable organ, October.

Koolhaas, who clearly rejected “interactive” and “gadgety” design — as a young architect at the Architectural Association in London in the ’70s, he had little use for the Archigram influence — seems to think like an art historian, and his relative lack of name recognition in the broader culture perhaps confirms the discernment of the specialists.

Whereas the outpouring of grief over Jobs’s death was often in questionable taste. “It sounds crazy,” a student in my modern architecture class said the day after Jobs died, “but for people of my age, it’s like we lost our Bobby Kennedy.” Could my students be so lacking in discrimination? Perhaps … but perhaps not.

I would be fuming if that student had responded in the same way to, say, the untimely passing of Mark Zuckerberg. No disrespect, but Zuckerberg is, we might agree, no Kennedy. So maybe we might agree as well that my student was simply one of many seeking inspiration as an Obama administration elected upon the promise of hope struggled to the end of its third tumultuous year.

And apparently she found it: I noticed her in the crowd when Occupy arrived at my university campus not long after Jobs’s death. One of the few commentators to understand the strange politics of the mourning of Jobs was Frank Rich. Writing for New York Magazine, Rich compared Jobs to Edison as an inventor-entrepreneur whose American technological “architecture” (so to speak) was constructive to the same extent that the upstart American financial-services “architecture” — of the type built by the GE Capital division that had eclipsed the GE industrial division founded by Edison in the 1890s — was destructive.

“Some on the right were baffled that the ostensible Marxists demonstrating in lower Manhattan would observe a moment of silence and assemble makeshift shrines for a top 1% like Jobs, whose expensive products were engineered for near-instant obsolescence and produced by Chinese laborers in factories with substandard health-and-safety records,” said Rich. But, he continued:

If you love your Mac and iPod, you can still despise CDOs and credit-default swaps. Jobs’s genius — in the words of Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked with him early on— was his ability “to strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.” The supposed genius of modern Wall Street is the exact reverse, piling on excess layers of business and innovation on ever thinner and more exotic creations until simple reality is distorted and obscured.

The paradox was also understood, more viscerally, by that bellwether of campus humor, The Onion:

Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56. “We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas — attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen.

Sit down, think clearly, and execute ideas: this is what draws students to design in a postmodern age, yes? “Obama added” (according to The Onion) “that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.”

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, North Michigan Ave, Chicago, 2003. [Photo by Almond Dhukka]

We might decry the chirping of an Occupier’s iPhone as a mere simulacrum of political society.  We might better see the fate of political society in the metaphor of Koolhaas’s atolls of beauty and social space cast adrift in a neoliberal world. But by a remarkable historical turn, the Pollyanna-ish aesthetic of the Apple Mac has forced us back (somewhat) to actual political society, to actual consumer-political activity. What R. John Williams has called Californian Techne-Zen was articulated so forcefully by Apple that it has seemingly necessitated its own exposure as a false consciousness.

Millions of consumers seem to have understood instinctively an incongruity between Apple’s aesthetic triumph and its refusal to advance social justice: it failed our expectation that advanced bourgeois art will articulate or resolve contradiction. Instead the iPhone starkly verified the dichotomy of its slogan “Designed by Apple in California.

Assembled in China”: capitalist differentials in land and labor value exclude millions from the Bay-Area nation. In so nearly sublimating the contradiction, Jobs’s art drew attention to the contradiction. Jobs’s electronics were so beguiling that their users were forced into a classic, bourgeois, visceral encounter with guilt, contradiction, tragedy: it was this that finally confirmed Jobs as an architect-provocateur on a par with Koolhaas.

Both are indeed Salon designers, ageless enfant terribles and lightning rods, prompting and giving shape to otherwise formless feelings and debates. Still, nobody seems to be holding Koolhaas responsible for the work conditions of his building contractors or steel millers, though the unnatural and monumental gesture of CCTV did indeed draw attention to the furtive modes of production — the state censorship — of Chinese information.

When it was occupying its old building (whatever it was), I had never heard of CCTV, nor paused to consider its role in censorship. And when I was using a Dell laptop, the working conditions enforced in China by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn were remote from my awareness, even though Foxconn supplied Dell and practically every other electronics manufacturer of which I am a customer. Was it preordained, one wonders in retrospect, that Jobs’s iPad — which he loved to point at the front page of The New York Times during his famous new product presentations — would deliver New York Times reports about the wage and health and safety scandals in the Shenzhen factories in which the apparatus was made?

I used my MacBook Air to sign a petition demanding that Apple redress Foxconn worker grievances. Every keystroke on the superlative machine reminded me of my desire for a better world, for a more complete and transparent political architecture, and of my complicity with forces I prefer to imagine as beyond my control. To borrow the terms popularized by anthropologist Bruno Latour, the works of both Jobs and Koolhaas function as “things” in and around which are assembled public “concerns” that might otherwise slip through the net of parliamentary discourses arrayed around both left and right.

Even the Wall Street Journal felt compelled to question the “secular prophecy” of technological salvation wrought by Jobs. Apple and OMA objects succeed as works of art, and also as catalysts of public attention, not just by being so astonishingly outré, but also by picturing the world unexpectedly — in extreme resolution, in extreme disjunction — and then by suggesting a means to interpret our existence in the world.

Top: Taiwanese protestors outside Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) headquarters in New Taipei, 2010. [Photo by Lennon Ying-Dah Wong]

Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Mecki Mac]

4. The varieties of bourgeois experience I don’t want to muddy the waters of judgment as a caprice. My purpose is to draw attention to the way that art-historical judgment thinks in several registers, about design that works in several registers, in a world that operates in countless registers. To an art historian, the minimalism of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store is evocative of European Rationalism and neo-Platonism, when to many other cultural critics it is simply an extravagant warehouse, a shop composed of nothing but shop windows.

But now watch how Jobs and Koolhaas complicate the relation between value and values (between exchange value and human value) in similar ways, by thinking like art historians. “Great products,” Jobs told The New York Times, are triumphs of “taste” derived from “study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present.” OMA designs one of its best buildings for Prada, and Apple amasses $70 billion in cash. Both insist that we pay attention to the art of shopping but then shun the pursuit of business for its own sake.

Koolhaas’s studio at Harvard studied shopping, with delicious paradox, and Jobs saw himself as the nemesis of Michael Dell’s fixation with the bottom line. No part of Apple’s organization would ever be “junkspace.”
Their work invites a moral response, and Jobs and Koolhaas pass onto us, their consumers and interpreters, the responsibility to square their contradictions.

Jobs and Koolhaas alike chose the role of eyewitness to the student uprisings in Berkeley and Paris in 1968, and for each the activism of the Sixties would be formative; years later each would be content to observe the political responses to their work in the ’90s and ’00s with similar remove. These two modes of architectural ambition, interactive and abstract, Californian and European, are not categorically different modes — the one in a naïve or affirmative association with capitalism, say, the other in a critical relationship — but are two sides of the same coin.

Jobs and Koolhaas each project variants of postmodern modernism: one optimistic but quietly doomed, the other doomed but quietly optimistic.
The reason of course is that design (like art) is pretty much inevitably a dialectic between God and Wall Street. The Occupier’s iPhone. The Eichler House. The double bind, built simultaneously, of OMA’s two West Coast projects: the Seattle Public Library and the Prada Epicenter in Los Angeles (both 2004). Enlightenment and shopping.

Oscillating between Soviet constructivism, Manhattanite cosmopolitanism, and commercial midcentury modernism, Koolhaas reminds us that at the very moment that modern design triumphed, its utopian political project was doomed. Meaning that questions about Steve and Rem are ultimately questions about us. What more literal object lessons could we ask for, as art historians standing in front of our students, than OMA’s CCTV and Apple’s Campus 2?

One abstracts the agony of the European public sphere, its workers eking out a living in a Chinese capitalist dictatorship, while the other promises an interactive Californianism after the near-eclipse of the New Deal. The university design studios of the Great Recession, rather than transcending the dialectic, are rather merging abstraction and interactivity, producing student projects that routinely integrate buildings with transgressive spaces, sites, economies, nutrition, mapping.

Given the questionable origins of our own paychecks, it’s a devil’s bargain that few art historians can evade for long. Something of the Shenzhen “disgrace” of Jobs might reciprocally be carried over to art history, which is adept at using the abstractions of critical theory to describe the complicity of buildings and architects with economic regimes, but most often shies away from any explicit description of the deep connections that bind architecture to labor and poverty.

Left: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Seattle Central Library, 2004. [Photo by Sean Munson]

Right: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Prada Epicenter, Los Angeles, 2004. [Photo by Corbin Keech]

Architecture is a lifeworld within which none of us can parse absolute judgments, yet it still offers ethical and actionable bearings. This I hope I am illustrating precisely by comparing two of its most notorious architects: the fascination of design is exactly its hermeneutic potential for thinking and working from the inside, across several registers. We can study the varieties of advanced bourgeois thinking that constitute and shape architecture as it re-combines — and reconciles [?] — base economic determination with the factors of geography, language, desire, technology, materials. Much as we return to other moments in the history of capital accumulation — Florence in the 15th century, Holland in the 17th century, Manhattan in the 19th century — and detect something mortal about their arcades, portraiture and still lives, so we can imagine art historians of the future scrutinizing the ambitions of OMA and Apple.

One day the Bay Region will make for a particularly intriguing study in New Deal, systems-driven and neoliberal art history, the Golden Gate Bridge an analog of Brunelleschi’s Dome, a place awash with new money, fusing science, technology, engineering and learning, humans and gods, an outpost of godly and economic universalism at the center of a trade network. We can already see the next chapters getting written; Elon Musk is the latest guru.

It is pointless to try and demote Musk’s wild gamble on the Tesla electric car, his fantastic ambition to save the world one drive-train at a time, his thinking across scales (the roadside rest and recharge stations, his concomitant interest in internet commerce and space exploration), the “insanely great” quality of his early products, his commitment to the Bay Area (to the point of locating his factories there) as an instance of business as usual. His products imply a cultural program beyond the marketplace. Musk compels public discussion. He’s a sort of architect.

Looking at California in this way points back to older, iconological approaches, art historical analyses applied across objects and institutions, ecologies and economies of dissimilar scale, type, intention, moving beyond connoisseurship and critical readings to capture something of the intellectual ecology behind things — the epistemology, or ontology; more than just the study of ideology, the study of ideas and intellectual frameworks particular to design, to its active attempts to mold the immediate future, and to its presuppositions about the world and the way it works.

That things don’t just happen, that political economy and subjectivity aren’t givens; that the meeting of matter and consciousness can be altered is not a general understanding but one particular to a class educated in design.
At which point I might be able to take my students out of the lecture hall (where we study OMA’s staggering and faraway monuments) and attempt an architectural exegesis of the systems of the Central Valley, scouring it for meaning, agency, interruption, rather than celebrating it as a vernacular, or damning it as pure instrumentalism. Perhaps we can stand above Cupertino and regard it like the heroine in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1965), who observes a new town a little further south in California:

Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts — census tracts, special purpose bond-issue distracts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway … a plinth course of capital on which everything afterward had been built, however rickety or grotesque, toward the sky. … she thought of the first time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets … sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. … there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. … [A] revelation … trembled just beyond the threshold of her understanding … she and the Chevy seemed parked at the center of an odd, religious instant.

Don’t waste it living someone else life: Steve Jobs

Note: I am updating older posts for the new followers. Somehow, these 6,700 articles need to be upgraded and updated. This post was published in 2011.

“Your time is limited”: Steve Jobs on TED

“Your time is limited: Don’t waste it living someone else life.

Your time is limited: Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Your time is limited: Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important,

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

Everything else is secondary.”

This is a portion of Steve talk to TED (Technology, Education, and Development company that extend licenses for local and other country entrepreneurs to diffusing the talks of speakers (famous and less famous) registered twice a year at paid events).

I have read most of these inspiring slogans.  That Steve adopted them is great relief and a catalyst for the visionaries.

Users of Ipod and Iphone must be implicitly sending silent prayers to Steve in the coming weeks:  How many of us could dream of such a luxury?

If the natural parents of Steve (see biographical note) had decided to raise him, would Steve finish a university degree? Most probably, yes.  It is tradition for Near-East Mediterranean Sea families to see to it that their children graduate from universities.  Would Steve be a success story? Why not.  Would it be “this kind of success story”?

Did the adoptive family of Jobs done a good job? They let Steve try all kinds of electronic gadgets… Steve was so lucky: He managed to survive the critical first five years, be adopted, be fed adequately, be raised in the land of opportunities…

Streams of scientists, researchers, discoverers preceded Steve and set the foundation in digital communication and computing…

For how long Steve and his vision will last on front page? How long till it is relegated to virtual has been? Who is the next visionary to monopolize front page?

Someone wrote: “For us in Palo Alto, Steve Jobs was 15 minutes walk away…”  How many dared walk toward Steve’s direction?

Your time is limited.

Do you have a vision? Can you sustain pressure and enjoy working under pressure? If not, select another vision that requires as much work, but less stupid pressures that ruin your joy for life.

Do not worry, someone else will pick up your first vision and run with it: You have contributed to the implementation of the vision, given that you published in details your daydream project, regardless if many would deny you the essential contribution.

Work hard, not mindlessly, but mindlessly hard as you identified your strongest passions, which converge toward your dream of “What work makes me happiest?”

And the cycle closes in: Spirit, virtual vision, daydream detailed project, applied matters, trends, spirit…

Most people never cross the phase of attempting to publish their daydream project.  Why?  They don’t want to be humiliated by a few of the community pointing their fingers saying: “The fool. He can’t even earn a living…” We are surviving life!

Many blame Steve for not paying close attention to the sweatshop factories overseas, manufacturing the gadgets…

My nephew William told me that Steve was a super programmer: When Steve worked at Atari, he was paid $650 for every redundant ship he could remove from the design.  The design got so anorexic that the company paid Steve $5,000 bonus.  It turned out that Steve Wozniak was the one helping him out in Atari and Wozniak was the programmer for the first Apple computer. Any feedback?

Biographical Note: Steve was born in Feb. 24, 1955 from an American lady (Joanne Simpson) and the Syrian Abdul Fattah Jandaly.  They got married two years after Steve’s birth. In the mean time, the Jobs family had adopted Steve. In 1967, at age 12, Steve was admitted to a summer training with Hewlett-Packard: He called directly William Hewlett.

Steve graduated from Homestead high school (Cupertino) in 1972. He could not suffer university formal learning and worked with Atari (electronic games) from 1974 to 76.

In July 1976, Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched Apple 1, for $666.  Why this number 666?

Steve  married Loren Powell in 1991 and has three children.  The fourth child is from Chrissa Brennan. Steve died of cancer in the pancreas.

Notes and tidbits on FB and Twitter. Part 61

La France parlementaire de la République III, d’entre les deux guerres, ne fonctionait pas: Le premier minister était convoqué personnellement en moyenne de 26 fois par mois, sans compter les ministers. Comment dans ces cas un executive pouvait faire quelque chose?

La République V de De Gaulle, qui existe toujours, a drastiquement réforme’ le system.

Les blés anciens ainsi que le riz étaient beaucoup plus nutritive. Le blé blanc les a remplacé. Et on se demande pourquoi nos corps sont intolerant a beaucoup d’aliments.

The Islamic WC (toilet), hard for the elder people, is available in the 5 continents and in every mosque: It is called  “Turkish WC” by the French, Greek WC by the Turks, Bulgar WC by the Greek, Chinese WC by the Japanese…

To avoid hemorrhoids and diverticula, adopt the stooping position as in the Islamic WC. If you insist on using the western throne position for defecating, raise your legs by posing your feet on a stool so that the intestine is in direct straight position for quick and totally satisfying experience

Trump promises jobs for Americans to build weapons for Saudi Monarchy that enabled 9/11 murderers and blocked FBI investigation of 9/11 crimes

It is difficult to admit that all the experiences and wisdom we acquired can vanish at death. At least, I like to believe that conscious survives. Most probably, life is like an off/on interrupter. I never installed this kind of on/off alternatives on Apple products (Steve Jobs)

There are plenty of geniuses in human history and in all kinds of disciplines. Rare are those geniuses who could invent (intuition) and do the demonstration also.

One common traits among those rare geniuses is that they had to write down what they discovered in two versions: 1. A version for their own benefit translating their mental processes for ease recollection when re-read, and 2. A version for publication to satisfy the rational processes for the period

Anti-biotics are produced by intensive growth of particular bacteria in huge water containers: it is bacteria that generate antibiotics

The funny part, I have opted Not to drive for many years now.

From the outside, History looks like a succession of dynasties and political events. History is an independent discipline: philosophy and politics  are branches.

The objective of history is to define human civilization and the social, economic and cultural events, taken in their totality, as a system.

Taking a good look from the inside, history is meant to accede to truth, to explain the causes and origins of the facts. (Ibn Khaldoun)

Zaki avait une facon ensorcelante de faire l’amour. Il remplassait par l’experience la vigueur de la jeunesse, comme un vieux footballeur compense par une grande technique son manque de souplesse. From “L’Immeuble Yacoubian” de Alaa el Aswany

La liberté ne vient pas de l’homme en tant qu’il est, mais en tant qu’il n’est pas, en tant que fini et limité. Est-ce que l’unique fondement de l’être est la liberté?

Qu’ est ce que cela veut dire? Former une volonté de réflechir a tout ce qui atteint sa pensée? A établir un courage d’exprimer sa pensée réflechit? Même si son libre arbiter est détraqué?

L’hypothése du Malin Génie: l’homme est une négation pure. Le doute de l’humain atteint tout ce qui est en dehors de sa pensée. Et de pouvoir s’échapper á toutes les tromperies.

O combien rare: On veut être libre mais on succombe fréquemment au régne de la communauté.

Seule les femmes qui portent l’eau á une grande distance connaissent la valeur de chaque goute.

On average, we defecate about 250 gm per day. 3/4 of the weight is water. 1/3 of the compact matter is of bacteria, 1/3 of fiber that couldn’t be digested and 1/3 is constituted of cholesterol, medicine, and artificially colored products…
In one hour, our organs consume 100 Watts bulb. We salivate about one litter a day. The total surface of our small intestine is 7 km long
Les souffrances qui ne se voient pas physiquement sont lampées dans “Get over it
Si le monde occidental s’est developé, après tant de crises et de calamites, c’ est qu’il a adopté le concept de Dieu incarné en l’homme Jésus: Si Dieu n’existe pas, Jésus a-il- existé?
Chasing after anyone or anything demands plenty of energy. The source of that energy is Temporary Insanity.
Le monde imaginaire dans lequel je vivais, enfant bourgeois, ne recevait du monde reel aucun démenti aux contes des mythologies. Ces Histoires de passions se renforcérent avec l’âge. Un vieillard á une belle jeune actrice: “Quel malheur, Mademoiselle, de voir une chose si belle quand on va mourrir”.

Notes and comments on FB and Twitter. Part 48

Si les classes ouvriére, paysannes et opprimés sont foutues au Liban, pourquoi retenir des partis politiques?
 
Nous allions á la rencontre de choses terribles, qui existaient avant nous, mais qui n’attendaient que nous
 
Quand on est au monde depuis peu de temps, one ne sait pas la source ou l’origine du désastre, que lorsque la desolation nous surprent á un age avancé.
 
Si les hommes du Moyen-Age ne dépassaient pas 155 cm, comment peut-on imaginer ces gens faisant la guerre sans se sentir hillare? Bardés de cuirasse et d’épées plus longues qu’eux? Si on réflechit aux faits, l’histoire ne serait que contes de bardes lilipuciens malins.
 
Ceux qui ne s’incline devant personne sont dans les prisons ou sous-terre.  Et la servilité pour tous les autres.
 
Ce qui me manque de toi c’est la minuscule accumulation des petits fait quotidiens. Ces mouvements particuliers qui te personnalises
 
Le Dieu Incarné en Jesus fut dérobé de ses pouvoirs par les nations colonialles. Chaque nation usurpa le role de Chancellier pour dominer d’autres peuples et les dépouiller de leur religion et culture.
 
Egypt President Sissi suffered 2 resounding slaps from Saudi Kingdom in less than a year. He failed to respond: What a sissie.
Saudi Kingdom had announced 2 years ago that Egypt is contributing fighting forces in Yemen without prior informing Sissi. It again released this Trump/Selman statement without Sissi’s input or feedback.
Tiny Qatar in population is to desist playing world politics and focus on economic development and investment, like Dubai.

Before being diagnosed with cancer, Steve Jobs used to say: the 21st century is the intersection of technology and Art designs. Afterward, it changed into the Intersection of technology and Biology

Remember: all kinds of accidents take place close to home, or at home, and frequently at older age.

Avec l’arrivé du monotheism, les discussions libres sont morts, et les veritiés avec. Toutes les sciences ne font qu’obscurcir les véritiés absolues.

Betnaffass 7orriyyeh et tu me manques comme on manque d’air

Si je préfere adopter parfois le ton de mes mauvaises plaisanteries, tout en moi est grave quand je pense á toi.

Je m’ennuie sérieusement de toi: Je ne cesse de songer et de revisiter chaque moment de notre rendez-vous

Les signes annonciateurs? Ils supplient que la catastrophe s’abat pour acquérir une légitimité. Trop tard: les futures signes suivront les precédents sans des prenants collectives zélés

Si tu ne peux imposer Ta Vérité que par les guerres et les occupations, c’est que votre vérité est du charlatanism.

Il est inutile de trouver la vérité si on n’ apprend pas á débusquer les mensonges et erreurs. C’est la definition même de la recherche. Les mathématiques pures ne sont pas faites pour découvrir les vérités, si ells ne sont pas “appliqués”

Ce qui nous transporte ailleurs, tout un jour et une nuit, est nécessairement Beau.

Les circonstances du vide sont des catalysts.

Elle monte le champ de ronces et traverse la fécondité des roses qu’elle n’a pas cessé de cultiver.

Cette clandestinité du sentiment, amertume paraissant blasée

C’est inevitable: á force de détruire des mythes, on les remplace par des hybrides, souvent plus vilains. Cas of “Promised Lands” and “Espace Vitales”

3am emsheh metel modéles féminines. I am walking very slowly: b7ot ejer wa bensa addem al thania

Twice last week, I dreamt of driving totally malfunctioning cars. Can’t believe my brain could invent so many malfunctions. I survived countless near-miss accidents.

My dream should have let me stop by the road side and let my lucid dream let the car rot and wake up. If it were Not for a terrible dry-throat and nobody to offer me a cup of water in order to wake up, I might have passed away from a heart attack.

Steve Jobs Keynotes addresses

April 19, 2015

A Steve Jobs keynote was a tightly choreographed and relentlessly prepared presentation, according to the new book Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender.

Jobs turned the product launch into an art form.

He leaves a legacy by which entrepreneurs can learn to dazzle their audiences. The following five keynotes will help anyone give the presentation of a lifetime.

1. The Mac launch

Every Steve Jobs presentation had one moment that people would be talking about the next day. These “moments” were tightly scripted and relentlessly rehearsed. Remarkably, Jobs’ flair for the dramatic started before PowerPoint or Apple Keynote were available as slide design tools, which proves you don’t need slides to leave your audience breathless.

Related: Former Apple CEO John Sculley: This Is What Made Steve Jobs a Genius

On Jan. 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh with a magician’s flair for the big reveal. He showed a series of images and said, “Everything you just saw was created by what’s in that bag.” And with that Jobs walked to the center of a darkened stage that had a table and a canvas bag sitting on top it. He slowly pulled the Mac from the bag, inserted a floppy disk, and walked away as the theme from Chariots of Fire began to play as images filled the screen.

The lesson: A presentation doesn’t always need slides to wow an audience.

2. The iPhone

The rule of three is one of most powerful concepts in writing. The human mind can only retain three or four “chunks” of information. Jobs was well aware of this principle and divided much of his presentations into three parts. Sometimes he even had fun with it.

For example, on Feb. 16, 2007, Jobs told the audience to expect three new products: a new iPod, a phone and an “Internet communication device.” After repeating the three products several times, he made the big reveal — all three products were wrapped in one new device, the iPhone.

The lesson: Introduce three benefits or features of a product, not 23.

3. The first MacBook Air

When Jobs introduced the “world’s thinnest notebook,” the MacBook Air, he walked to the side of the stage, pulled out a manila envelope hiding behind the podium and said, “It’s so thin it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office.” With a beaming smile, he slowly pulled it out of the envelope for all to see.

Most presenters would have shown photographs of the product. Jobs took it one step further. He knew what would grab people’s attention. This did. Most of the blogs, magazines and newspapers that covered the launch ran a photograph of Steve Jobs pulling the computer out of the envelope.

The lesson: Don’t just tell us about a product, show it to us, and do it with pizzazz.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs

4. The iTunes Store

Every great drama has a hero and a villain. Steve Jobs was a master at introducing both heroes and villains in the same presentation. On April 28, 2003, Jobs convinced consumers to pay 99 cents for songs. Jobs began with a brief discussion of Napster and Kazaa, sites that offered “near instant gratification” and, from the user’s perspective, free downloads. On the next slide he listed the “dark side.” They were:

  • Unreliable downloads
  • Unreliable quality (“a lot of these songs are encoded by 7-year-olds and they don’t do a great job.”)
  • No previews
  • No album cover art
  • It’s stealing (“It’s best not to mess with karma.”)

In the next section of the presentation Jobs replaced each of the drawbacks with the benefits of paying for music.

  • Fast, reliable downloads
  • Pristine encoding
  • Previews of every song
  • Album cover art
  • Good Karma

The lesson: Great presentations have an antagonist — a problem — followed by a hero — the solution.

5. The genius in their craziness

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple after a 12-year absence. Apple was close to bankruptcy at the time and was quickly running out of cash.

Near the end of Jobs’ keynote at Macworld in August 1997, he slowed the pace, lowered his voice, and said: “I think you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer. I think the people who do buy them are the creative spirits in the world. They are the people who are not out just to get a job done, they’re out to change the world.

We make tools for those kind of people. A lot of times, people think they’re crazy. But in that craziness, we see genius. And those are the people we’re making tools for.”

The lesson: Don’t forget to motivate your internal audience — your team, employees and partners. Give them a purpose to rally around.

When I wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I argued that Jobs was the world’s greatest brand storyteller. When I watch these presentations over again, I’m convinced he’s still the best role model for entrepreneurs who will pitch the next generation of ideas that will change the world.

Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Your Presentations More Memorable

A few excerpts of Steve Jobs biography and comments

From the biography of Walter Isaacson. He claimed that Jobs refused to read any notes or a draft version. And this book is pretty thorough.

On June 29, 1975, Steve Wozniak typed a few characters on his invented machine (a keyboard, a screen, a monitor and a microprocessor) and letters were displayed.

Wozniak had spent 2 months hard working on the program.

This inspiration of creating a personal computer was the result of attending the Homebrew Computer Club that displayed the technical file of the Altair Kit microprocessor.

On January 24, 1984, Apple Computer launched the Macintosh. The motto was “You will understand why 1984 will Not be as 1984” (A reference to George Orwell book)

Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner) shot the story-board of Lee Clow in London. The grey industrial complex was packed with skinheads listening to the speech of Big Brother. A blonde athlete woman (disk thrower) runs and smash the big screen the moment Big Brother (IBM)  is declaring “We are going to win”.

IBM PC had snatched the personal computer market.  By then, Steve Jobs had lost his fire as a renegade, a pirate: The Macintosh had a steep price ($2,500) with no external extensions. Computer geeks could Not add their own cards, functions, or even open the box.

After he was diagnosed with cancer, Jobs said at the graduation ceremony in Stanford, June 2005:  

“Remembering that I will die soon was the catalyst for taking the greatest of decisions of my life.
The waiting, pride, fear of failure and feeling embarrassed…all that vanished in the face of death
Remain what count

The best way Not to fall in the trap of believing that we have anything to lose
We are already naked.
Why Not start listening to your heart?”

If you hire a commercial PDG instead of a product designer, don’t be surprised for your enterprise to fail in the medium term.
If you sell your start ups, blame yourself for failing to build a perennial institution

(A closed, vertical integrated product of materials, programs and applications performs better for common users. Looks like many start-ups needed certain constraints to deliver on their products. For professionals and institutions, open systems suit better and enhance technology and start ups.)

the 21st century is the intersection of technology and Art designs.
After he was diagnosed with cancer and his son Rees got interested in DNA processes, Steve said:
The current century is the Intersection of technology and Biology

As he was getting ready to pass away, Jobs said:

“It is difficult to admit that all the experiences and wisdom we acquired can vanish at death.
At least, I like to believe that conscious survives
Most probably, life is like an off/on interrupter.
I never installed this kind of on/off alternatives on Apple products”
After the implant of a new liver, the nurse tried to install an oxygen mask for Jobs. He snatched it away while barely coming out of anesthesia, on the ground that it was Not aesthetically designed. He ordered to have 5 version submitted to him to select the best designed.

Lisa Brennan (Steve’s daughter from Chrisann) said of what Steve’s believed in:

1. Everything leads to its contrary

2. The best harvest are produced in arid soils

3. Pleasure is generated from privation

Tina Redse, the first love of Steve’s that lasted 5 passionate years and till the end of his life, described the character of Steve as emanating from the psychological syndrome ör pathology of  “Troubled narcissistic personality” that matched perfectly the behaviour of Steve’s, mainly a deficit in empathy

Steve connected with his biological mother after his adoptive mother passed away in 1986. He refused to meet with his biological father (originally from Syria)

The author Mona Simpson was his sister and they met and linked up and became great friends. She looked like him and was a red-headed person.

Daniel Kottke was one of the closest friends of Steve Job. He attended with him the Reed University for 2 years, joined him on his trip to India for a year, shared an apartment with him where Job’s girlfriend was pregnant, and worked with him in the garage developing Apple II.
Jobs refused to give him a single share when Apple went public on the ground that Kottke was just a technician.

Many wanted to give Kettke a few shares but Job was adamant: Zero shares.
Wozniac distributed 2,000 shares on 40 people in his team who were able to purchase their dream homes.
If Wozniak behaviors are considered naïve and ill-matured, then these labels must be common to most well-adjusted, caring and compassionate people.

A few quotes by Jobs:

1. If you want to develop a program, try to figure out the machines that will use it

2. The best way to predict the future is by inventing it

3. The good artist copies, the genius steal (from Picasso)

From Stewart Brand in Whole Earth Catalogue (1968):

“Free access to tools that permit private and individual power to tailor-make education, to find inspiration, model our environment and share our adventure with all who need them

The genius of Jobs (rip, mix, burn) was to transform the personal computer into a digital hub for all portable electronic gizmos, such as camcorders, iTunes, iPod, iPad…The computer served as a center for producing and generating videos, movies, clips…iMovie, iDVD, iTune…

Jobs also got totally engaged in the Cloud technology and succeeded in closing the loop.

Note 1: Bill Gates is Not an outlier: He is pretty much mainstream of the proper timing for new technology. Steve Jobs is an outlier: He could Not program but made all the nerds in electronics and programmers rally to his distorted reality

Note 2: There are plenty of geniuses in human history and in all kinds of disciplines.
Rare are those geniuses who could invent (intuition) and do the demonstration also.

One common traits among those rare geniuses is that they had to write down that they discovered and in two versions (Not the case of Jobs):
1. A version for their own benefit translating their mental processes for ease recollection when re-read, and
2. A version for publication to satisfy the rational processes for the period

I am thinking of Blaise Pascal, Galileo, Kepler, Lavoisier, Kamel Hassan Sabbah and scores of ancient Arab scientists who experimented before publishing their thesis

Note 3: And how would you “want to change the world” Sir?
Are more lunatics those who make apologies of the fools who claim their mission is to change the world
Like all those cult-like minds who want the world to behave according to their world views
What do you want to change Sir?
1. The standard of living all over the world?
2. Behavors of individuals?
3. The standard norms of communities?
4. Reforming system institutions to cater better to the common people requests?
5. Re-structuring the administrative institutions that are meant to control and rule the masses?
6. How about focusing first on your own community, and provide draft projects for its approval?
7. How about accepting the many idiosyncrasies surrounding you and your community?

Note 4: We have a structural problem to approach climate change.
You can simultaneously understand the medium to long-term risks of climate change and also come to the conclusion that it is in your short-term economic interest to invest in oil and gas.
Which is why anybody who tells you that the market is going to fix this on its own is lying to you.
But the government institutions are wary of changing this mid-fix of market stupid fixing of anything that drastic and existential

Note 5: Any man-made system must necessarily be fraught with errors, faults and limitations on its intended usage.
Any man-made system (product, service, administrative, management, political, control…) is doomed to fail when designed to cater for complex tasks and objectives: It will end up tying up many teams targeted for training, maintenance, redesigning, repairing…

Man-made designs barely consider the idiosyncrasies of users and the environment of the community and the designers lack the necessary knowledge, technically and the socio-psychological intricacies and interrelationship of the users and community.

The diversity of users and environments will easily pinpoint the deficiencies in any system.
The proper functioning of any system in the medium term relies solely on the acceptance of the idiosyncrasy of the community, regardless of the level of performance the system is delivering, particularly in health and safety usage and applications

Am I working hard? What is “work” to qualify it in first place?

There are several types of “working”, or feeling that we have been working, or thinking that what we are doing can be perceived as working by the community…For example:

First, many people exclusively work to get paid in currencies, on the assumption that if work is not compensated by money, another term should be invented to confound language

Second, many more people, billion of them, are practicing the bartering method: They produce product and services and exchange them with other types of products and services…If I inherited an olive tree-field, I’d rather barter my olive or olive oil (added-value process) with a pair of shoes and save my profit from a middleman…Actually, we are bartering skills and talents (acquired with hard work, time, and patience) for another set of skills and talents…

Third, many more people, mostly men, are discovering the mysteries of daily survival skills through maintaining house and family demands (housekeeping chores)…

Fourth, many more people are taking more seriously types of hard work, camouflaged as leisure time, which bed rid you for a week in pain and suffering and ruin your “currency paid job”: You should not go hiking for 8 hours before prior exercising for this arduous task.  As any work, prior hard work, efforts, time, and patience are required to doing a stupid work such as hiking, gliding, ocean treasure hunting…

Fifth, many more people are starting to appreciate truly “leisure work” that bring laughter, smiles and contentment into the life of family members…Like what?

Sixth, with the advent of Internet social platforms and easy and quick publishing, life is getting more complicated: How could you define publishing posts and articles on social platforms, working 8 hours a day, including holidays, and not earning a dime from this hard work?  Not only you are working hard, but publishing carries huge responsibilities when you disseminate ideas, concepts, and express your thoughts to thousands of readers… Writing for the benefit of the “demonizing” process of your troubled life should be a different category from publishing your “soiled” life…?

Suppose you get paid for reading and publishing on Internet, would your work be perceived by your community as true work, and that you are indeed a “normal” person…?

I stumbled on this post from emmatzeng (see link in note) published on Sept. 21 under “Has hard work become an exotic concept?” referring to “work culture” in Western and Eastern countries (I edited slightly the post):

“A few weeks back, I came across an NY Times piece “Reaping the Rewards of Risk-Taking” (written by Steve Lohr) that basically expounds the innovation-driven, creativity-centric values that encapsulate Steve Jobs’ life and career and brands America as the all-encompassing hub for such risk-taking pioneers. I already wrote an entire post about Jobs’ ideologies, but I have to comment on them again, perhaps because they strike such a deep, personal chord in me.

Before I delve into personal technicalities, the article classifies Jobs as “the vanguard of innovative thought, experimentation, and so-called “recombinant mash-ups,” or disruptive products that blend perspectives from different disciplines.  At the core of all this creating and revolutionizing are the tried and true American values of pioneering, innovating, and risk-taking; and it is, in fact, these very principles that put our nation at a competitive advantage to other countries, even despite the latter’s heavy government financing for scientific research and educational achievements in science and technology….”

Going along those lines, businesses like Apple, who are credited with revolutionizing the computing and electronics sectors, generally trade at higher valuations on the stock market because they enjoy what is called an “innovation premium.” Sort of it’s the truly innovative businesses that are the game-changers which brings in serious dough–and power.

Now, you’re probably wondering why this all matters to me as an individual aside from the knowledge that 1) I’m a huge admirer of Jobs, and 2) I’m all about creativity and risk-taking. 

Well, two weeks ago, I lived and worked in Asia. It was a unique, eye-opening experience that I’ll never quite be able to put into words and all that other jazz that you hear from everyone else who’s lived abroad: I’ve seen firsthand the cultural disparities that underlie Western and Eastern societies.

The West culture champions its free-spirited, individualistic culture, while the East generally values discipline, respect for authority, and academic excellence. In this respect, a Westerner might look at an Asian and label him as rigid and self-deprecating, and an Asian may view his Western counterparts as undisciplined and disrespectful.

I won’t take sides.  As a born and raised American, my time in Asia has allowed me to better understand how the Eastern side of the world thinks and operates. Thus, speaking solely from sheer observation alone, I believe that Lohr’s article, though compelling, presents a one-sided, ethnocentric perspective that completely ignores the strengths of other cultures, particularly those of the East.

I have seen a handful of Americans in my age group with lofty, elaborate dreams of pursuing their passions eventually settle into dry, unfulfilling jobs. Off the top of my head, I can cite a number of reasons for this phenomenon like lack of drive, personal insecurities…, but I believe that, at the root of it all, is an unwillingness to work hard, to exercise discipline, and to suffer a bit in order to reap the future rewards.

And while I advocate strongly for the mantras of our generation that egg us on to pursue our passions, I believe that these adages need to come with a forewarning–something along the lines of, “Go hard after your dreams–but be dang well prepared to work your butt off for them and encounter some setbacks along the way. THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

The truth of the matter is, taking risks is exponentially tougher than simply going after what’s safe and socially accepted. In this respect, taking risks requires hard work and discipline, virtues that Eastern societies hone in on.

Sure, Jobs dropped out of college after his first semester and spent some time traveling India, which is awesome and all, but he also slept on the floors of his friends’ dorm rooms and went to a local temple every week to partake in a free meal. Oh, not to mention that he started Apple in his parents’ garage and spent ten years building it into a multi-million dollar business. If that doesn’t sound arduous and even a bit unsexy, then I don’t know what is.

I have encountered and worked alongside multitudes of bright, hardworking individuals during my time in Asia. The work ethic is so strong there that it almost puts our good ol’ American working middle-class values to shame.  What I also witnessed in Asia was an unquestioning and borderline passive stance towards societal norms. Nearly every time I thought to challenge authority in some way shape or form, my remarks were almost always met with an all-too-accepting “that’s just the way things are.”

On the flip side, Americans are great at questioning the status quo, engineering new ideas, and standing up for their opinions and beliefs. It is, essentially, this flourishing spirit of creativity and outside-the-box thinking that attracted me back home. Nonetheless, aside from our dedication to individualism and appetite for creativity, I worry that a good number of my fellow Gen Y-ers simply cower in fear at the prospect of being challenged and stretched beyond their perceived means. It is this distaste towards discomfort that paralyzes us and puts us as a competitive disadvantage on the global scoreboard.

I’d like to expand on Lohr’s points and argue that, while America is a unique and vibrant nation with a strong knack for creativity, we should never allow ourselves to get away with believing that our school of thought is superior to any other culture’s.

Instead, we should be utilizing our resources to continuously seek out new ways to grow, to adapt to our increasingly globally connected world, and to broaden our perspectives. Like Jobs instructs, it is our duty as a nation that fosters innovation to cultivate an environment that rewards curiosity and open-mindedness. That takes some hard, unadulterated work.

What do you think? Do you agree that our current and future generations would be better off finding and achieving a delicate balance between Western ideals of personal freedom and creativity and Eastern morals of discipline and respect, or am I way over my head with this one?” End of post

Note 1: You may read my book review of Amelie Nothomb on her experience working with a Japanese company (Trembling and stupor)

Note 2: http://emmatzeng.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/has-hard-work-an-exotic-concept/

Is Imagination a better quality than Smart? Comparing TEDxRamallah and TEDxBeirut

Note: I have attended both events of TEDxRamallah (last summer in Beirut) and TEDxBeirut (this summer). My comparison will focus on imaginative thinking and smart processes. TEDXRamallah was organized by Palestinians in Ramallah and Jordan, and shown direct in a small theater in Beirut. This event was a catalyst for a group of Lebanese to try their hands at organizing the event in Beirut. TEDxBeirut was a huge success attracting over 750 people in the auditorium of a high-tech institution.

Does an Imaginative person refers to someone who can do things in a different way than the “masses” do, (people being carried away by the common sense dicta)?  Is a smart person someone who comprehended the customs and tradition of his community and is capable of emulating their methods of thinking and satisfying the community wants and desires?

For example, Steve Jobs claimed that “consumers have no idea what they want” and went ahead and set a trend. Is that what we call a tendency for imagination?  But then, when Steve Jobs and Apple emulated all the other companies in turning a blind eye on sweatshop factories that manufacture their product, are we within the Smart-ass side of vision?

Does the difference between Imaginative and smart extends to the technical matters?  For example, can we say that a smart person accepts the consensus standards of methods and logics and is capable of applying them in his field?  Is the imaginative person someone frequently looking at a problem from different perspectives in order to discovering a shortcut or a better way of resolving a problem? Is looking at various perspectives a one time shot or it might generate into a trend in handling problems?

Could we extend this concept into groups? For example, we say this community is imaginative because it considered alternative solutions, while that community is smart for taking advantage of knowing the system and working a solution within the system from “Ine to2kal al katef”?

Would you be wasting time and resources if you do things just like everyone else is doing? Does investing time and energy to find a shortcut in order to figure out a way to do things differently a worthy endeavor?  Does a smart person necessarily lack imagination?  How would you define a person who is frequently looking t problems from different perspectives in order to resolve the difficulty? Is this characteristic of considering problems from various perspective resulting from Smart or Imagination? Does mankind needs more of the Smart or the Imaginative kinds of people?  To doing what? Toward which goal and objective?

Let us read this inspirational post from notesby.me (a main organizer of TEDxBeirut) and analyze what behavior (smart or imaginative) transpires. (Words and sentences in parenthesis are mine).

Under the title “How TEDxBeirut showed me that you can handle much more than your wildest dreams” William Choukeir wrote:
“This is not a story about me. It’s a story about YOU (meaning the team of volunteers). Through my eyes.
While organizing TEDxBeirut, I had so much to do that I barely had 3 hours of sleep even night, for 1 month straight. I barely slept a single hour during the last week. I was eating in the car while driving. I also made most of my phone calls in the car.

During all this time, I was still running my design studio, at a reduced load (personal enterprise), but it was still running nonetheless. We were still working on the time-sensitive projects (that we had contract on).

At the studio, we were also doing everything (related) to design and communication for TEDxBeirut. The website, T-shirts, emails, event catalog, banners, sponsor kits, business cards, invitations, etc.

In addition to that, I was meeting TEDxBeirut speakers, almost on a daily basis, starting at 3 or 4 pm, and coaching them, and refining their talks.

I was receiving around 300 emails a day. Toward the last 2 weeks, I was clearing my inbox every other day. I was taking and making so my phone calls that my phone bill surpassed $300 that month.

I also spent time supporting Hanane in her times of crisis. Because without her, I and everything around me would crumble. Hanane is my partner in life and in work. She’s the pillar that supports me. I stand in the spotlight, but she deserves all the credit. I’m just a facade.

In addition to all of these (tasks), I was still sitting with my thoughts every day. I was still writing my notes every day (notesby.me). Even on event day. I was still showering and brushing my teeth.

And yet, I didn’t crack. I didn’t crumble. Not that it was easy. On the contrary. Not that I wasn’t on the verge of collapse. I was. But I didn’t. I hung in there. I saw it through. I realized that I am capable of handling far more than I ever thought possible.

But this isn’t my story. This is the story of Patricia, our curator. This is the story of Ziad. This is the story of Aya. This is the story of Sandra. This is the story of Joseph. This is the story of Farah, of Fatimah, of Rytta, of Marc, of Zeina, and of every single person that was at the core of TEDxBeirut.

I’m not the hero. We all are. I’m not the only one capable of handling much more that I ever thought possible. We all are. And that’s how I realized that anyone, yes anyone, can handle much more than we all ever imagined.

YOU can handle much more than your wildest dreams. Just throw yourself out there. You’ll see. You’ll come through.We all did.” End of quote.

Could you deduce from the previous post whether TEDxBeirut was driven by imaginative thinking or pure smart hard work?

For example, candidate speakers were to submit a one-minute video.  Candidates didn’t receive any feedback for the reasons of declining their candidacy. Is this attitude a smart behavior for organizing events.  Suppose the organizers used the video as an excuse to meeting face to face with candidates and investigate the range of limitations and inspiration of the candidate, would that decision be within the imaginative behavior?

Why do I have this strong feeling that TEDxRamallah had a stronger impact on me?  Is it because it was the first event that I attended live?  This event was held in a small theater (barely 300 attendees) and it lacked the technical power that Beirut organizers managed to install and run; and yet, I felt sweet vibrations that have nothing to do with feeling amazed by technology. The Ramallah event was well-organized in its simplicity, and I enjoyed the compact atmosphere of engaged people to listen to “what’s going on in Palestine and in the Arab World”.

Can TEDxBeirut organizers claim that the audience had this feeling of “What’s going on in Lebanon? What’s going on in the Arab World after the spring upheavals?”  Did the audience appreciated the potentials for change and reforms? I had the net realization that women speakers tackled Lebanon socio/political problems, and actually offered tangible, pragmatic projects and programs to resolving our problems.

I sincerely wish the TEDxBeirut organizers refrain from throwing in this statement: “We were shooting to be global”.  That would insult my intelligence and imagination.

How can you think global if you are immature in comprehending the limitations and needs of your own community? Worst, lacking the desire to get engaged in changing Lebanon rotten political/social structure?

Note: Attached are links to the first session of both events and you may take it from there https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/session-one-of-tedxbeirut-inspiration-regardless-of-lack-of-limitations/

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/tedx-ramallah-in-beirut-sunflower-theater-part-one/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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