I Love Apple, But We Should Be Leery of Them Anointing a Particular Version of Their History

Brian X. Chen and Alexandra Alter, writing for The New York Times:

The book-on-book criticism is a rare public cavalcade from Apple executives, who under Mr. Jobs kept quiet about the company’s activities. It shows the lengths that Apple is going in its effort to reshape the posthumous image of Mr. Jobs as a kinder spirit, rather than a one-dimensional mercurial and brash chief. To that end, Apple gave the authors of “Becoming Steve Jobs” interviews with four executives, including Mr. Cook. In another sign of the company’s implicit approval of the biography, the writers will discuss the book and field questions about it on Thursday at the Apple store in Soho.

Apple is also promoting the book heavily in emails and in the iBooks Store. And just to be clear, I pre-ordered the book. I’m excited to read it. But I cannot not point out just how wrong The Apple Press is about this topic in general.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the friendship that Tim Cook, Jony Ive, et al., had with Steve Jobs. And I’m not even willing to say that their frustration with elements of the Walter Isaacson biography (a biography, as the above linked-to piece points out, that “Isaacson interviewed Mr. Jobs more than 40 times and spoke to more than 100 of his friends, relatives, rivals and colleagues, including Mr. Cook, Mr. Ive and Mr. Cue” for) isn’t real or sincere.

But the fact of the matter is that, going forward, Steve Jobs still plays a role at Apple—as part of the Apple mythology. And I don’t say that in a negative way. I think it’s totally reasonable. But let’s face it—a company that is currently set to release “the most personal product [they’ve] ever made,” a product that allows you to literally send someone a recording of your heartbeat (as well as a company that is poised to start selling their company brand as the hub of all of their products) is harmed, even in the smallest way, by the element of the Apple mythology that includes a cuss-spouting, employee badgering, disabled vehicle parking spot-taking founder. It’s the kind of stuff that any Apple Follower (myself included) knows at least a couple of stories about. And we all chuckle about them in that that’s-kind-of-horrifying-but-man-he-was-cool! way, but from a business perspective, it’s a conflicting message to say the least.

Tim Cook, Steve Job’s friend, might, for very real, personal reasons, want to see a biography that paints a more serene picture of Jobs. But Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple? As well as all of the other members of Apple’s senior leadership that have spoken out against Isaacson’s book by way of speaking up for Becoming Steve Jobs? (By the way—nobody in The Apple Press find its at least a little coincidental that this newfound disregard for the Isaacson book is only coming to light now that there’s a new, much more favorable book about to hit the shelves? Yeah, sure, they don’t talk much, but Isaacson’s book came out in October of 2011. If they found it that flagrant, I’m sorry, it would have come up by now.) You’re totally off in La La Land if you can’t see the conflict here.

I trust Apple with an awful lot of information about my life. And I don’t regret it. But the last thing we should trust them to do—or expect them to do—is abide by journalism ethics and standards. I’m going to read Becoming Steve Jobs, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but I won’t ever be able to totally forget the gross way in which Apple tried to get me to.


Why the  in WATCH is More Important Than the Watch

With the announcement of the Apple Watch on 9/9/14, the discussions begun: beyond the beauty of the industrial design and the dual evil tickle-under-the-chin luster of Shiny and New, what will be the practicality (or lack thereof) that justifies the price of what appears to be an accessory? Since then, and because it’s an entirely new product category, all of the questions and conversations essentially boil down to:

1. What will the Apple Watch do that currently can’t be done with the iPhone?
2. How will the Apple Watch fit into my current technological landscape?

The answer to the first question came during the Apple event on 3/9/15. We got demos that showed off the watch’s mobile communication, payment, travel, and home automation capabilities. And Apple inferred that the apps that will almost certainly be developed for the watch in the future will provide even more value.

But the answer to the second question—that’s what interests me most.


I Want to Tell You About My Podcast

So, for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been making references here and there to my latest project, a podcast. Last week, I made it clear that if you looked, most of the information about it was right out in the open.

Well, today I’m ready to officially announce it.

The show is called I Better Start Writing This Down. The subtitle is “I leave a lot out when I tell the truth.” It’s going to be a monthly show and the first episode will premiere in one week from today, on February 2nd. But, because attention spans are short, and if you’re on the East Coast, you’ll need something to help you ride out this snowstorm, there’s a trailer up on iTunes already, Ep. 0, called “An Introduction.”

What I need from you all is support. Listen to the trailer and, if you enjoy it, tell a friend. Like the Facebook page. Tweet about it; use the hashtag #IBetterStart. Most importantly, rate/review the show in iTunes. I cannot stress enough how important this is. There are something like 250,000 podcasts in the iTunes Store. The only way to rise slightly above the masses is with the help of others. I’m okay with that, though. It just means I have to make something for you all that is worthy of your time. I think I’ve done that. Also, my goal (dream) is to get the show into the “New & Noteworthy” section on iTunes before the first episode goes live in a week. This can only happen with your help.

So, how do you listen?

There are plenty of ways to find the show:

-Search for it in the iTunes Store; just search for my name. Or, even easier, here’s a direct link to it in the iTunes Store.

-If you’re someone who uses a 3rd Party podcast app, you can search within it, or you can copy this URL and paste it into the app. That’ll get you the show almost instantly when I post it.

-You can listen to the show on SoundCloud if that’s your thing.

-Hell, you can listen to it in just a regular old browser window by bookmarking the show’s page (which you should check out anyway). Scroll down to ‘Episodes.’

This is the most exciting project I’ve undertaken in a while. I’ve got some cool stuff coming in the future around it, a couple of interesting spins on how I’ll approach advertising within the show, maybe some guests, but most important is, as the show’s description reads, the stories and the sound design.

So thanks for reading this, thanks in advance for your support, and I hope you enjoy listening to I Better Start Writing This Down as much as I enjoy making it.

Ed. Note: I don’t know if I’ve ever explicitly stated this before, but any text on this site that is orange is a clickable link.


A Stupid, Noble Responsibility

Like most writers, I spend a lot of time in my head. Sometimes, it’s a great place to be—I know a lot of trivia and obscure facts; I can do decent impersonations; and I can wax poetic on writing and reading; art and music; politics and sociology—a sort of Liberal Arts degree monsoon of Intro To’s. And I’ve always placed value in this kind of approach to life—a rabbinical-esque pursuit of Knowledge.

But other times, quite frankly, my head is a shitty place to be.


The Physical Constraints of a Book

As I sit here reading during my daughter’s nap time—the recently-released The David Foster Wallace Reader, essentially a D.F.W. “Greatest Hits” album—I’m reminded of an essay I wrote eight months ago:

I Paid That Bribe: Helping Amazon To Make My Life Worse

And I’m reminded of it because I’m not actually reading. I’m struggling to read. Why? Because The David Foster Wallace Reader weighs less than two ounces shy of three pounds. It’s over two inches thick. The density of pages makes reading the words towards the spine of the book, at most “normal” reading angles, almost impossible.

In short: it is not a good consumer experience.


I’m Worse At My Job: What the Former CEO of Groupon Taught Me

I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my new favorites is StartUp, from Alex Blumberg. During episode #4, “Startups Are a Risky Business,” Andrew Mason, the former CEO of Groupon said something that made me realize that I needed to rethink everything about the way I’ve been approaching being a writer and a Stay At-Home Dad.

And how just maybe, trying to be good at both means that I’m not being great at either.


What “Customers” Are Saying About the Amazon Fire Phone

An Amazon “customer”:

It’s kind of like I’m looking at a different world when I’m just looking at the lock screen.

It may just be that I’m in a prickly mood today, but I find this “See what customers have to say” video from Amazon (click the “watch the video” button) re: their new Fire Phone to be particularly infuriating. The first half of the video is full of Orwellian doublespeak like:

Dynamic Perspective reflects the way that we interact with the world naturally.


The device feels more attached to the environment that you’re in and how you hold it and how you move.

We also get modern technobabble that is completely disengaged from what we’re seeing with our eyes:

I moved a lot more than I usually do while I’m playing games on my phone. I felt really engaged like I was actually snowboarding.

The second half of the video is dedicated to features that don’t work nearly as well—on any device—as advertised, such as tilt-scrolling. But we’re supposed to believe it because the no-nonsense-not-even-a-techie-dude tells us that, “It's just easier to scroll this way.”

Firefly is the one feature I find somewhat compelling—unless, of course, you stop to consider the first example, told by a cute-but-not-too-cute perky little blond child:

If it’s a book, it’ll tell you the name of the book and where to get it.

Sounds neat—except the cover of the book usually does a fine job of letting you in on the secret that is the title. And if you already own the book, why would you need to know where to buy it? And if you don’t, and you’re scanning the cover of the book, aren’t you already someplace where you can buy it? And if it just happens to be that you’re at a friend’s house, a friend who already owns the book, why wouldn’t you just—ask your friend where they got it? (Assuming you’re actually stupid enough to need to ask someone where they purchased a book.)

And then we have the finale, in which the sarcastic-but-not-too-sarcastic gent says,

Yeah, you’re not getting it back.

The “it” he’s referring to is the phone, which begs the question: Why would he have to give it back? Didn’t he—Oh, I get it—by customer, Amazon means somebody who has purchased goods before and not somebody who actually owns the device and can attest to it’s usefulness or features, beyond what the script told him.

Is all advertising disingenuous in a way? Of course. But this video feels particularly sleazy, which is saying something considering Amazon’s recent tactic of making life difficult for companies who refuse to play by their rules. Then again, they named their customer service “Mayday,” the international distress signal, which is quite the message to send about how they view their customers.

Maybe their tactics aren’t as stealthy as we all once thought.


I Forgot the Chocolate-Covered Bacon

When my wife and I got married, we did everything ourselves. Our vows, the decorations, the centerpieces, the playlist for any period of time when people weren’t dancing, the bar menu—all designed and executed by the bride and groom. 

But we forgot one thing.

We realized after that our mistake was not delegating someone to be in charge of the schedule, someone who would keep an eye on their watch and whisper in our ears five minutes before we were supposed to do this or do that. 

And since we don’t plan on getting married again, we thought we would never get a chance to learn from our mistake. But I realized recently that, as a writer, I actually do have a chance to take something away from where we went wrong.