Jobs and LSD

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald points out that last week’s flood of Steve Jobs hagiographies mostly tiptoed around one inconvenient facet of the Great Man: he took LSD. He not only took it, he regarded having taken it as one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. Greenwald:

Unlike many people who have enjoyed success, Jobs is not saying that he was able to succeed despite his illegal drug use; he’s saying his success is in part — in substantial part — because of those illegal drugs (he added that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once”).

An excellent Time magazine piece by Maia Szalavitz delves into the connection between Jobs’s use of psychedelics and his creative genius:

As attested by the nearly spiritual devotion so many consumers have to Jobs’ creations, the former Apple chief (and indeed many other top technology pioneers) appeared to have found enduring inspiration in LSD. Research shows that the psychedelic experience is, in fact, long lasting: a new study published last week found that people who took magic mushrooms (psilocybin) had long-term personality changes, becoming more open, more curious, more intellectually engaged and more creative. These personality shifts persisted more than a year after taking the drugs….

Greenwald connects the ironic dots:

America’s harsh prohibitionist drug policies are grounded in the premise that the prohibited substances have little or no redeeming value and cannot be used without life-destroying consequences.  Yet the evidence of its falsity is undeniable. Here is one of the most admired men in America, its greatest contemporary industrialist, hailing one of the most scorned of these substances as integral to his success and intellectual and personal growth.

Under Stephen Harper, Canada is falling into step behind America’s punitive approach to drug use: mandatory prison sentences for smaller and smaller amounts of the least harmful substances, and relentless campaigns against harm-reduction strategies like safe injection sites. The Conservatives are quick to condemn the nanny state whenever environmental or consumer regulation is proposed, but eager to bring the full force of state power down on anyone whose personal choices happen to offend their arbitrary moral standards. Even personal choices one of their business heros regards as one of the most important and beneficial he ever made.

Truculent photo subject

The most unusual Steve Jobs obituary this week might be the one that appeared in PDN Pulse, the blog of Photo District News. Jobs, it seems, was a legendarily truculent photo subject. PDN Pulse recounted some of the legends.

“It was the joke among photographers. He was like the nightmare subject,” said San Francisco photographer William Mercer McLeod, who photographed Jobs five times.

In 1986, Fortune magazine hired Doug Menuez to shoot a portrait of Jobs for the magazine’s cover. Menuez wanted to photograph him in the NeXT offices, on a staircase Jobs had commissioned from architect I.M Pei. Jobs arrived, looked over the setup, and leaned into Menuez’s face:

“This is the stupidest fucking idea that I’ve ever seen,” Jobs said.

“Right in my face, like 5 or 6 inches away,” Menuez says. “I felt like I was 10 years old. He went off on a tirade. He said, ‘You just want to sell magazines. ‘And I said, ‘And you want to sell computers.’

At that, Jobs said, ‘OK,’ and sat down.

Menuez concludes, “ I’ve been in war zones, but I like to say that I became a man learning how to stand my ground with Steve.”

When Albert Watson shot Jobs for a Fortune feature on CEOs, he insisted on having three hours to set up. PDN Pulse again:

“We were prepared,” Watson said. “We set up to make [every shoot] as greased lightning fast as possible for the [subject].” Watson had read “a massive amount of stuff” about Jobs to help him conceptualize the shoot, and converse intelligently with Jobs.

When Jobs walked in, his power, charisma, and genius were palpable.

“It was like when Clint Eastwood walks in to the room.”

Jobs didn’t look immediately at Watson, but looked instead at the set-up and then focused on Watson’s 4×5 camera “like it was something dinosauric,” Watson recalls, “and he said, ‘Wow, you’re shooting film.”

“I said, ‘I don’t feel like digital is quite here yet.’ And he said, ‘I agree,’ then he turned and looked at me and said, ‘But we’ll get there.’”

Jobs gave Watson an hour, much more time than he generally allowed for portrait sessions.

“I had wanted to do the shot in a minimalistic way because I knew that was going to suit him very well. He said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ I said I would like 95 percent, almost 100 percent of eye contact with the camera, and I said, ‘Think about the next project you have on the table,’ and I asked him also to think about instances where people have challenged him.

“If you look at that shot, you can see the intensity. It was my intention that by looking at him, that you knew this guy was smart,”

Apple cleared its home page Thursday to post that photograph, which, Watson heard, Jobs regarded as his his all-time favorite.”

H/T: Ashley Harding

When PCs morph into trucks

At the D8 conference, via the New York Times, Apple CEO Steve Jobs muses about the future of the personal computer:

Mr. Jobs also predicted that the ongoing shift in technology away from the PC and toward mobile devices will continue. But rather than disappear, the PC will become a niche product, he said. Mr. Jobs compared the role of the PC, the workhorse of computing for the past three decades, to the truck, when America was primarily an agrarian nation. “All cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm,” he said. Now trucks are one in 25 to 30 vehicles sold, he said. “PCs are going to be like trucks. They will still be around.” He then added: “This transformation is going to make some people uneasy.”

Cheapening the brand

CBC logo-225CBC led its hourly radio newscasts this morning with a headline touting the release of the Apple iPad. Well, so did Contrarian; No complaint there. But it turns out the headline was only a teaser. Listeners had to wait ’til the last item in the newscast before hearing about Steve Jobs’s latest gift to early adopters. And before getting there, they had to sit through a one minute-40 second “news story” about a CBNC contest to pick Canada’s most hockey-crazed town.

The humiliating chore of filling, oh, 20 percent of the radio service’s flagship morning newscasts with this witless advertorial fell to Teddy Katz, a CBC newsman who specializes in sports reporting. Nothing personal against Katz, who is, I’m sure, a capable reporter, but this is really top-40 radio territory. Unworthy of a once solid news organization.


April 3:  Is this the transient alcoholic flicker on a too sweet rum cake, or a nuclear flash that will mark April 3 as a milestone we’ll observe 20 and 40 years from now?

According to David Pogue and Leo LaPorte, techies are scornful and users are awestruck, in which case, the smart money will be on the users.

But there’s a big problem. To some, Jobs and Apple are a modern version of Bauhaus: elegant utilitarian design with fascist undertones. Apple’s singular control over what media its machines can play, and what machines can play its media, represents a giant backward leap for computing, insist John Battelle and many others.

Google, of course, is going the other way, putting its apps in the cloud, and inviting everyone else to put theirs in the cloud too.

For Canadians, this resembles nothing so much as the time, a decade and a half ago, when Kenneth Thompson bet on content, and Conrad Black bet on dead trees. Only one of them is in prison.

The developers praise their own work in a slightly saccharine video here; the editors of WIRED show how it will work as a  pretty cool magazine here. Unvarnished video ad here.

Whole Earth Discipline

Seminal environmentalist (and sometime Cape Breton summer resident) Stewart Brand promotes a series of environmental heresies in this surprising talk.

In 1968, Brand created the Whole Earth Catalog, which Apple founder Steve Jobs described as the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web. A counter-cultural touchstone, the Catalog helped inspire and galvanize the environmental movement.

Today, Brand calls himself an ecopragmatist. This talk previews Whole Earth Discipline, a book he will publish this Fall challenging contemporary environmentalists to reconsider objections to nuclear power and genetically modified foods. Brand is pro-city, pro-genetic engineering, pro-nuclear, and so profoundly worried about climate change, he believes geoengineering will probably be necessary. After the jump, some excerpts from the talk.

Continue reading Whole Earth Discipline