Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
My emotions ran so high while watching the movie "Jobs" that I burst into tears at the sight of the first all-in-one Macintosh computer. I remember when Roger gave away his Tandy 100 and Dec computers for an Apple. For Roger, Apple was not just a company, but a way of life akin to a religion, with Steve Jobs its high priest of invention. Roger would spend time in an Apple Store, closely examining each item, making note of the slightest changes that meant it was time to upgrade and buy an even newer computer, although the ones we had seemed to be fine. Through the film I took a treasured walk down memory lane.
Ashton Kutcher inhabits the role of Jobs beautifully with his physical resemblance, his forward shuffling gait and a studied intensity. Recently in Aspen I attended a Brain Lab Symposium of neuroscientists, and one told the story of how Jobs studied under a guru in India who taught him how to be more persuasive by holding his gaze on a person intently without blinking. That technique is partly on display in the film when Jobs is practically hypnotizing a merchant to order 100 units of a computer Jobs had not yet invented.
Over the years Steve Jobs felt like the brother we were all proud of who made as many contributions to our society as Thomas Edison. Roger valued each phase of innovation from Jobs, from the user-friendly version of the Apple computers to the hipper design of the Macintosh. We were in London when Roger bought his first G3 titanium laptop, sleek and beautiful; he was so proud of it. We overheard a discussion about G3's at a nearby table at Harry's Bar, a private club. Roger was ready to pull out his new laptop for a show-and-tell when we realized those guys were talking about their new Gulfstream airplanes. We got a big chuckle out of that. To Roger, his G3 laptop was as valuable as a plane.
Roger would browbeat his friends whose personal computer of choice was anything other than a Mac. He used as his signature sign-off a saying from Tom Clancy that went something like: "Never ask a man what computer he uses. If it's an Apple, he will tell you. If it isn't, why embarrass him?"
At one point Roger faced a dilemma. He developed the Cinemania movie software with Microsoft and Bill Gates, whom he also admired. But Gates and Jobs had a very public falling out over their operating systems. Computer geeks within the industry were asking Roger to take sides. He was so passionate about the technologies that it almost felt like family members feuding, even though it had nothing to do with him. Roger would have been very interested in the brief scenes in the movie showing Kutcher's Jobs making a phone call to Bill Gates to threaten to sue him for copying his new operating system.
Jobs revolutionized the music industry with his introduction of the iPod and iTunes. Before Roger went into the hospital for surgery in 2006, he programmed about 1,000 songs on his iPod. We credit his playing Leonard Cohen's "I Am Your Man" for the nurses and doctors with saving his life. He was being released from the hospital that day and if he hadn't taken the time to play that song he would have been in our car on Lake Shore Drive when his carotid artery ruptured. Fortunately, he was still in the hospital and the doctors had a chance to stop the bleeding and get him to the operating room.
Roger so believed in Job's visionary zeal that when he bought Apple stock he held onto it through bad times and worse. At one time we were advised to dump our Apple stock. The markets were turning against the stock and no one seemed to have any faith in the company. I don't remember whether that was when Jobs had been kicked off the board or exactly what was happening. I just know that Roger kept predicting that Steve would be back at the helm, and that under his creative leadership, Apple would triumph. I think the stock was around $10 a share back then.
Not only did Roger refuse to sell it, he bought more. He would buy his television staff at Siskel & Ebert computers and iPods and all manner of Apple products. And he advised Gene Siskel to invest in Apple. He just believed that Apple products (except the Newton) were superior. At one point Roger and Gene were offered an Apple commercial, but they had a rule not to do commercials because they thought it would sully their credibility as critics. Roger wanted to be free to be able to talk about his sincere belief in the product without money being exchanged.
We were shocked at some of the revelations about Jobs in the Walter Isaacson book. We didn't know about the daughter he refused to acknowledge for years even when a paternity test showed he had to be the father. Or how he shortchanged some of his closest friends and business partners, most notably Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple computer. And in the movie you cringe at Jobs' callous disregard for Woz, played by Josh Gad in a subtly heartbreaking performance. How well do we ever really know anyone? We do know that Jobs was intense, focused, passionate about marrying art with technology and that he marched to the beat of a different drummer. With his head in the clouds, channeling the music of the cosmos, perhaps he was hearing the Thinking Molecules of Titan, calling him from the future. Roger was exhilarated that Jobs' purported last words were: "Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow!"
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