Steve Jobs didn't change the world by playing nice
When filmmaker Stanley Kubrick died, the steely perfectionist who ground actors into submission died with him. Kubrick was a good man -- Matthew Modine once described him as "probably the most heartfelt person I ever met" -- but by all accounts, his shoots were crucibles for which the faint of heart need not apply. When he walked onto a set, Stanley Kubrick would get exactly what he wanted, and he would exact this vision without mercy. Upon his death, however, only a mythical Saint Stanley remained, a slightly taller Yoda with a slightly better complexion.
Part of this can be explained by decorum. No one wants to speak ill of the dead, and it's hard to casually reconcile the loving father and husband with the man who verbally flayed Shelley Duvall until her frail character in The Shining seemed Byronic in comparison. Still, revising the methods of such a genius is to diminish exactly what made his genius work. A Clockwork Orange didn't happen by accident. Stanley Kubrick made it happen, and though anyone could direct a Kubrick script, only the man himself could make a Kubrick film.
Last year a former Apple employee related his favorite Steve Jobs story to me. I have no way of knowing if it is true, so take it for what it's worth. I think it nicely captures the man who changed the worldfourtimesover. When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.
The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.
"Those are air bubbles," he snapped. "That means there's space in there. Make it smaller."
Steve Jobs was a genius, and one of the most important businessmen and inventors of our time. But he was not a kindly, soft-spoken sage who might otherwise live atop a mountain in India, dispatching wisdom to pilgrims. He was a taskmaster who knew how to get things done. "Real artists ship" was an Apple battle cry from the earliest days. Everyone, by now, knows about the Steve Jobs "reality distortion field" -- the charismatic Care Bear Stare that compels otherwise reasonable people to spend weeks in line for a slightly faster telephone. In his biography of Jobs, journalist Alan Deutschman described the Apple co-founder's lesser-known hero-shithead roller coaster. "He could be Good Steve or he could be Bad Steve. When he was Bad Steve, he didn't seem to care about the severe damage he caused to egos or emotions so long as he pushed for greatness." When confronted with the full "terrifying" wrath of Bad Steve (even over the slightest of details), the brains at Apple would push themselves beyond all personal limits to find a way to meet Jobs's exacting demands, and somehow return to his good graces. And the process would repeat itself. "Steve was willing to be loved or feared, whatever worked." As Bud Tribble, Vice President of Software Technology at Apple explained. "It let the engineers know that it wasn't OK to be sloppy in anything they did, even the 99 percent that Steve would never look at."
That attention to detail makes Apple products unique and desired. Does any other company produce ubiquitous, mass-market devices that still feel so rare, and deeply personal? Steve Jobs did that.
His life was too short, but never wasted, and his impact reaches even those who've never touched an Apple product. He ushered in the personal computing era, and rallied from pancreatic cancer to show us a glimpse of the post-PC world. That didn't just happen; it was made to happen.
When Apple announced his resignation in August, the canonization began. Barrels of ink recounted all of the carrot and none of the stick. With the announcement of his death, coverage and conversations continue along those lines. That's to be expected, and like Kubrick, is set to become conventional wisdom. Steve Jobs was a good man who loved and was loved, and earned every accolade he's garnered. But he doesn't deserve a hagiography, and I doubt he would have wanted one. Apple wasn't built by a saint. It was built by an iron-fisted visionary. There are a lot of geniuses in the world, and a lot of aesthetes. But that's not enough. Sometimes it takes Bad Steve to bring products to market. Real artists ship.
The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable. You’re probably part of the problem.
1. The Aristocracy Is Dead …
For about a week every year in my childhood, I was a member of one of America’s fading aristocracies. Sometimes around Christmas, more often on the Fourth of July, my family would take up residence at one of my grandparents’ country clubs in Chicago, Palm Beach, or Asheville, North Carolina. The breakfast buffets were magnificent, and Grandfather was a jovial host, always ready with a familiar story, rarely missing an opportunity for gentle instruction on proper club etiquette. At the age of 11 or 12, I gathered from him, between his puffs of cigar smoke, that we owed our weeks of plenty to Great-Grandfather, Colonel Robert W. Stewart, a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt who made his fortune as the chairman of Standard Oil of Indiana in the 1920s. I was also given to understand that, for reasons traceable to some ancient and incomprehensible dispute, the Rockefellers were the mortal enemies of our clan.
The president’s unpredictability once worked to his advantage—but now, it is producing a mounting list of foreign-policy failures.
“Gradually and then suddenly.” That was how one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters described the process of going bankrupt. The phrase applies vividly to the accumulating failures of President Trump’s foreign-policy initiatives.
Donald Trump entered office with more scope for initiative in foreign policy than any of his recent predecessors.
In his campaign for president, Trump had disparaged almost every element of the past 70 years of U.S. global leadership: NATO, free trade, European integration, support for democracy, the Iraq War, the Iran deal, suspicion of Russia, outreach to China. Trump’s election jolted almost every government into a frantic effort to understand what to expect. Other countries’ uncertainty enhanced Trump’s relative power—and so, perversely, did Trump’s policy ignorance and obnoxious behavior. After eight years under the accommodating Barack Obama, the United States suddenly turned a menacing face to the world. In the short run, that menace frightened other states into attempted appeasement of this unpredictable new president.
When so many students have outstanding grades and test scores, schools have to get creative about triaging applicants.
For generations, two numbers have signaled whether a student could hope to get into a top college: his or her standardized test score and his or her grade-point average.
In the past 15 years, though, these lodestars have come to mean less and less. The SAT has been redesigned twice in that time, making it difficult for admissions officers to assess, for instance, whether last year’s uptick in average scores was the result of better students or just a different test. What’s more, half of American teenagers now graduate high school with an A average, according to a recent study. With application numbers at record highs, highly selective colleges are forced to make impossible choices, assigning a fixed number of slots to a growing pool of students who, each year, are harder to differentiate using these two long-standing metrics.
Several new studies suggest yogurt might reduce inflammation—a process linked to different types of diseases.
A couple years ago, I was taking a swim with my very pregnant friend when I asked her if it was hard to keep straight all of the doctors’ health recommendations for expectant mothers.
Not really. For practically every symptom, she said, their recommendations were roughly the same: “Take a walk, eat a yogurt.”
It was another example of the Cult of Yogurt. Even though some varieties have more sugar than a Twinkie, perhaps no other man-made food is so often recommended by medical professionals—and to treat such a wide variety of ailments.
Whenever I’ve been prescribed antibiotics, I’ve always been told to eat a yogurt so that the antibiotics don’t eat up all the “good” bacteria in my system and leave me with a yeast infection. (Recently, I interviewed a doctor who suggested this is bogus; there’s no way for the yogurt cultures to make it all the way down there.)
For unwitting bystanders, the experience can be traumatic.
One evening last March, Nancy Bacon saw a stranger die. She had just touched down in Toronto and set off for a business meeting, chatting on her phone as she navigated the rush-hour traffic of the financial district. She was jaywalking, hurrying across a particularly busy street, when a fire extinguisher seemed to fall from the sky, smashing to the ground just a few feet away from her.
“I was actually annoyed,” she says. Her first thought was that some mischievous kid had thrown the extinguisher through a window high above. But when she lifted her gaze, Bacon’s annoyance turned to horror. What she witnessed next would haunt her for months. “I saw the guy falling,” she says. “I saw him hit the ground.”
The interplay between the two helps explain the confusion whirling around the North Korea summit.
Why did the Trump administration cancel its much-hyped nuclear summit with North Korea? And why the confusing semi-backtrack the following day, in which Trump embraced North Korea’s “warm and productive statement” regretting the cancellation, and left the door open to a meeting he’d ditched barely 24 hours before? The answer lies in the toxic interplay between Donald Trump’s instincts and John Bolton’s. Each man’s foreign-policy views are dangerous enough in and of themselves. Put them together and you have the perfect cocktail for the decimation of American power.
Bolton is a Manichean in the tradition of his hero, Barry Goldwater. He has spent his career depicting America’s adversaries—the Soviet Union, Cuba, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and these days, Iran and North Korea—as evil. He denies that they have any legitimate security concerns. He abhors compromise. He demands maximum American economic, political and, if necessary, military pressure. He basic negotiating posture is: Once you give in on everything, then we’ll start talking.
Human technology is responsible for more loss from fire than any other cause. But reducing fire’s impact will require changes to how people live, not just to the infrastructure that lets them do so.
In October 2017, 250 square miles burned in Northern California, destroying 6,000 homes and businesses and killing 44 people. For now, the cause of these fires has not been determined. The private utility company Pacific Gas and Electric, known to Californians as PG&E, is under investigation. Total damage for the Northern California wildfires comes to $9 billion. PG&E has started stockpiling cash.
In California, this is a familiar story. Three years ago, in February of 2015, one-third of the houses in my remote neighborhood in Eastern California burned down. Here, before the fire, 100 houses lay scattered across the leeward flank of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The people who live here spend their time walking steep roads, listening to crickets, chasing mule deer out of the garden, and looking over a desert valley below. Days after the fire, my neighbor, Cassie, wasn’t doing any of these things. Instead, she stood inside her smoking foundation. Tall and easygoing with freckles on her nose, Cassie had come home from college that winter to sift rubble with her mom and dad. Under different circumstances, we might have hiked together or skated frozen ponds. I used to carpool with her family to school, and I remember her house, wooden and gorgeous and overlooking a ravine from which flames later rose.
The president told the 2018 graduates that “we are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might.”
On Friday morning, President Trump gave the commencement speech at the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland. Among his messages to the 1,042 graduates, the president said that the country has begun “the great rebuilding of the United States military,” and argued that “we are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might.” This was his second time addressing graduates from one of the nation’s military schools: Last year, he gave a speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s ceremony.
Here, a full transcript of his remarks, as delivered.
Thank you. Thank you. Hello, midshipmen, hello. Let me say to the entire brigade—please be at ease—enjoy yourselves, because we are all here to celebrate the amazing class of 2018. Amazing job. Thank you. Really something. Admiral Carter, thank you for that wonderful introduction and for your leadership, an incredible job you have done at this storied academy. And thank you, Captain Chadwick, for your dedication and service. Thank you to Undersecretary Modly, Admiral Richardson, General Walters, for joining us today. Thanks also to Senator Wicker, Congressman Wittman, Congressman Valadao.
As the president ramps up his attacks on the law-enforcement and intelligence communities, long-standing damage to key agencies seems inevitable.
President Trump spent his early Wednesday morning, as he does many mornings, on Twitter. This time, he chose to weigh in on the “Criminal Deep State” and the claims that it embedded a spy in his presidential campaign as part of the federal investigation into Russia’s election interference.
“They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before!” he wrote.
Much has been written in recent days about Trump’s “new” strategy to discredit the Russia investigation. The president has been attacking both the investigators in the Russia probe and the news organizations that cover the investigation, all in an attempt to persuade the public that the probe has been tainted by bias from the start. The frequency of these attacks may be climbing, but Trump’s tactics have actually remained remarkably consistent—beginning before he even took office. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” Trump tweeted on January 11, 2017, referring to a dossier published by BuzzFeed that alleged collusion between his campaign team and Russia. “One last shot at me,” he added. “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
As badly as both leaders desire negotiations, they are even more eager for the other to appear to need it more.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are both, in relative terms, rookies at the arts of diplomacy. That might explain why the state of American-North Korean diplomacy these days so resembles an awkward adolescent flirtation.
First came the jilted-lover tone of the letter that Trump sent Thursday. Then came a conciliatory statement from North Korea, and by Friday morning, the president was saying that summit might go off as planned on June 12. Defense Secretary James Mattis even dismissed the whole thing a so much teenaged drama, calling it “the usual give and take.”
At the core, this give and take—usual or not—is rooted in a dynamic that the poet Rick Nielsen identified in his 1979 masterpiece “I Want You to Want Me.” Both Trump and Kim badly want a summit with the other, Kim because getting the U.S. to sit down offers his government legitimacy (and perhaps because he believes Trump could be easily manipulated in a face-to-face negotiation), and Trump because he wants to demonstrate that he succeeded in forcing North Korea to the negotiating table where his predecessors could not.