Advertisements
Tag Archives: Inspiring

許芳宜 – 不怕和世界不一樣

23 Dec

Reminds me of my ballerina aunt. What struggle she must’ve gone through.

Advertisements

Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor: Summa Musica

25 Jun

“On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind”

– Johannes Brahms

Breathless (A bout de souffle)

22 May

Although I felt ashamed of it at one time, I do like A bout de souffle very much, but now I see where it belongs – along with Alice in Wonderland. I though it was Scarface.

– Jean-Luc Godard, 1962

Imagine an alternate title for Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960) – Hopeless. Hopelessly rebelling, hopelessly craving for attention and to the very end, hopelessly romantic. These descriptions apply as much to the characters and the story itself as they do to the way the movie was made. Contradiction is perhaps another word that befits Breathless and Godard’s idea of cinema. Seemingly adolescent in conception and execution, Breathless attempts a radical departure from classical Hollywood cinematic conventions while at the same time portraying a thoroughly classical Hollywood film noir story with her standard-issued cops and robbers and femme fatale. The hero in Breathless is Michel Poiccard, a rascally Parisian who makes a living being a stealer of cars, seducer of women, and an all-around shady character with many connections in the city but few friends he can count on. Michel steals a car in Marseilles and drives it to Paris. On his way, Michel is stopped for speeding and shoots a pursuing policeman. In Paris, he needs to collect some money from a friend and meets up with an American girl, Patricia Franchini. One third of the movie is shot in Patricia’s hotel room, while Michel tries to convince her to sleep with him and to run away with him to Italy. He convinces her of the former, but when the latter becomes a definite possibility, she turns him in to the police. Instead of running away, Michel decides to face the police and go to prison. However, when the policemen arrive, a friend of Michel’s throws him a gun in a last attempt to save him. The policemen panic and shoot him.

The story is based on a scenario by the director Francois Truffaut, one of Godard’s colleagues. It was in the late 1940s that Godard became a regular at the Paris Cinematheque and various Left Bank film clubs. There he met Andre Bazin, editor of the journal Cahier du cinema and other future filmmakers such as Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Truffaut (Bordwell and Thompson 465). Film historians would later anoint these individuals as the standard-bearers of the “French New Wave” movement of the 1960s. The Cahiers influence is essential to the way Godard approached the stylistic elements in Breathless and all of his later works. Bazin, an influential film critic and theorist, firmly believed in the idea that realism is the essence of cinema. This runs counter to the view championed by such influential theorists and directors like Sergei Eisenstein and Rudolf Arnheim of the “Soviet School” (Sterritt 4). These Russian critics believed less in the cinema’s ability to recreate the real world than from the filmmakers’ ability to manipulate visual elements to conjure up powerful emotions in the audience. Bazin, on the other hand, contended that it was a director’s job to reproduce reality faithfully. In accordance to this view, Bazin’s favorite films included dramas by the Italian “neo-realists” and also movies by American directors such as Orson Welles whose deep-focus cinematography leaves the bulk of editing and, thus interpretation for the audience.

This might seem contradictory to the jump cuts and other non-continuity editing techniques so widely noted in Breathless and many of Godard’s other works. Bazin’s idea of realism did have a deep impact on Godard and his contemporaries. However, unlike the Bazin and the Italian Neo-realists, Godard and his contemporaries sought a new kind of realism – a realism that acknowledges the fact that cinema is in fact cinema (Sterritt 6). In other word, they were less interested at recreating the real world but rather to demonstrate that the elements of film itself (most notably editing in Breathless) can be as real and as enjoyable as its narrative and visual contents. Hence the overall style of Breathless – the refreshing combination of the self-conscious act of storytelling, vividly real portrayal of the city and the non-conventional cinematic techniques employed in the movie.

In addition to reaching for a new form of realism, the young “New Wave” directors, grown up in the post-war Hollywood-centric mass media culture, were consciously trying to break away from the studio norm of film style and production. As described by the film historian David Bordwell, the “classical Hollywood style” consists of a coterie of principles and practices employed by major Hollywood studio since the 1920s. Their major characteristics include: “invisible editing” that calls minimal attention to itself, three-point lighting that enhances clarity and visibility of subjects, synchronized sound that supports the visual and unambiguous dialogue for ease of understanding. The common purpose behind all these conventions is to reduce the audience’s awareness of the filmmaking process and thus, enhances the suspension of disbelief and creates the illusion that reality is unfolding before the screen. In other words, classical filmmakers are like puppeteers who wants us to forget the string pulling and all the behind the scene work, while Godard is the counter-culture puppeteer/artist who keeps waving at us from the back, using extra-thick strings and self-consciously imitating other puppet shows at the same time.

The result of all these is obvious in Breathless, a profoundly self-aware and unapologetically artificial movie. Editing is not only visible but sometimes even disruptive and aggressive, images dance to the sound of gun shots and bongo drums, jumping in time without a corresponding change in space, constantly trying to steal the limelight away from the characters and the plot. Lighting is totally natural, without adhering the studio convention. Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard decided not to add artificial light in the settings (Bordwell and Thompson 402). The character’s faces sometimes become silhouettes in the dark because of the contrast of bright sunlight and low indoors lighting. Diegetic and non-diegetic sounds vie for attention – at one point during Michel and Patricia’s conversation in her hotel room, an ambulance blare is so loud that it almost completely drowns their voices (Bordwell and Thompson 402). As a result of the usage of these techniques, the movie seems at times “amateurish”. However, precisely because of this off-the-cuff quality, Breathless is able to attain a heightened sense of realism, both physically and psychologically – something that can only be hitherto achieved through an unrehearsed documentary. Godard himself had noted, shortly before Breathless went into production that “great fiction films tend towards documentary, just as … great documentaries tend towards fiction … he who opts wholeheartedly for one, necessarily finds the other at the end of his journey.” (Sterritt 56) Immediacy, authenticity and spontaneity, are qualities that Andre Bazin would no doubt have credited Godard for in his contribution to realism in cinema.

The most widely discussed innovative stylistic element in Breathless is the use of jump cuts – those impetuous jump cuts that replace Hollywood style continuity editing at key moments of the story (e.g. killing of the pursuing policeman). Sometimes these jump cuts propel the film’s action from one episode to the next, denying any smooth transitions provided by classical film editing. At other time, they wipe out individual frames of an otherwise continuous scene, giving it a new edgy energy (e.g. when Michel talks to his old girlfriend in her apartment and steals her money). The usage of jump cuts was a major faux pas for the strict adherents of continuity editing techniques. This was such an entrenched belief at the time that Breathless was made that it raised the question as to the competent of Godard as a filmmaker (Sterritt 8).

Other than being a pure impulse to rebel against the classical film editing conventions, a number of theories have arisen to explain the prevalence of the jump cuts in Breathless. Jan Speckenbach has provided some interesting theories concerning the socio-economic causes contributing to the general emergence of the jump cuts in the 1960s, especially its popularity amongst the French New Wave. First, Speckenbach contends that the jump cut is a side effect of the emerging and rapidly dominating television and commercial culture of the time (Speckenbach 6). Television, especially with respect to TV commercials, was presenting anything interesting on screen, without caring for narrative continuity. It was jumping from one theme to another, from one style to the next, from one image to the following image. The cinema’s response to this new audio-visual cacophony of senseless movements, non-continual presentation was the use of jump cuts. Of course, the usage of jump cuts was only conceivable outside the mainstream Hollywood studio production system. This leads to Speckenbach’s second explanation for the rise of jump cuts. He argues that the arrival of new technologies, specifically the 16mm handheld camera, allows for the “dilettantisation” of the production of film (Speckenbach 7). It allows amateurs and independent filmmakers to experiment with various non-standard production and post-production techniques for the first time in film history. In Breathless for example, a handheld Arriflex camera was used. One scene was shot with a camera along with its operator hidden in a mail cart, others from a wheelchair in which the cinematographer Coutard was whisked around by Godard (Bordwell and Thompson 402).

Other historians have looked at the use of jump cuts in Breathless not from a wider socio-economic perspective but from a more practical, production limitation viewpoint. Richard Raskin proposed three such theories, none of them are too flattering on Godard. He contents that the jump cuts are 1) a deliberate attempt on Godard’s part to ruin the film in order to get even with a producer who had insisted that the film be shortened despite Godard’s protests; 2) a devious attempt on Godard’s part to save a third-rate film by altering it in a way French film critics would perceive as astounding; 3) a real desire on Godard’s part to shorten a film (in a new way) that was made too long in the first place due to inexperience.

The aesthetic functions and meanings of the jump cuts in Breathless are perhaps more tangible than their true origin. Superlatives have often been associated with the effects of these jump cuts. For example, some see them as bringing Cubism into the cinema while others compare Godard’s elliptical editing to the improvisational quality found in jazz (Raskin). Ultimately, most critics can agree that the jump cuts quicken the tempo of movie and serves as a cinematic expression of the carefree, out-of-control spirits of the characters it portrays. As Bosley Crowther commented, the jump cuts are appropriate for a film in which “there is subtly conveyed a vastly complex comprehension of an element of youth that is vagrant, disjointed, animalistic and doesn’t give a damn for anybody or anything, not even itself.” (Raskin) This explains the famous jump cut of the scene in which Michel shoots the policeman. This event itself is incidental and is of little or no interest to the anti-hero. This is why Godard represents it almost carelessly and even unintelligibly. As Michel seems dimly aware of this when he observes, with all the fatalistic coolness of his movie-star hero Humphrey Bogart, that “squealers squeal, burglars burgle, killers kill, lovers love”. Robert Bresson himself would not have put it better.

Through the storyline and the use of non-continuity editing techniques (above all the jump cuts) in Breathless, Godard shows us a world that is immoral, senseless and empty – hopeless. Everything lacks a reason: “Why do you want to make love to me?” asks Patricia in the bedroom scene. “Because you’re beautiful.” Michel replies. “But I’m not beautiful.” argues Patricia. “OK, then because you’re ugly.” Michel is the only character who is able to recognize and take advantage of the situation by being amoral and uncommitted while simultaneously maintaining his joie de vive and cheerfulness. He is sensitive to his environment. He likes the sun, he likes the countryside France, and he is depressed by ugly architecture. Michel invents his life and his past as he goes along. He imagines himself to be and imitates the movie gangsters, claims that his grandfather drove a Rolls, he says he can only stay at the Claridge (a very expensive hotel), he says his father was a clarinetist, among other stories. But unlike other characters in the movie, Michel isn’t caught up in the seriousness of searching for meaning. Furthermore, he is unafraid of the ultimate nothingness: death. The omnipresence of death makes his actions more poignant and intense. It was Godard’s aim in making a film where “anything goes” (Ruspoli). He came very close to succeeding in Breathless, both narratively and in stylistically.

Set Out Now

3 Jan

Set out now, while you’re strong, on the heart’s vast plain:
You’ll never discover joy on the plain of the body.
The heart’s the only house of safety, my friends:
It has fountains, and rose gardens within rose gardens.
Turn to the heart and go forward, travelers of the night;
there’s where you’ll find trees and streams of living water.

– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

Letter from Birmingham Jail

10 Nov

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Re-young Your Life!

7 Nov

Saw this slogan at a pharmacy store (I think) in Macau today. Very Chinglish. But the word “Re-young” struck me as better than “Reborn” or “Rebirth” or “Renew” or “Rejuvenate” and definitely a thousand times better than the more tiresome, hackneyed phrases such as “Young at Heart” or “Never Grow Old”.

Mozart of the 21st Century

5 Nov

Lyrical, Haunting, Ingenious… What other adjectives can you spare?

Steve Jobs (Interview with John Sculley)

30 Oct

Q: You talk about the “Steve Jobs methodology.” What is Steve’s methodology?

Sculley: Let me give you a framework. The time that I first met Jobs, which was over 25 years ago, he was putting together the same first principles that I call the Steve Jobs methodology of how to build great products.

Steve from the moment I met him always loved beautiful products, especially hardware. He came to my house and he was fascinated because I had special hinges and locks designed for doors. I had studied as an industrial designer and the thing that connected Steve and me was industrial design. It wasn’t computing.

I didn’t know really anything about computers nor did any other people in the world at that time. This was at the beginning of the personal computer revolution, but we both believed in beautiful design and Steve in particular felt that you had to begin design from the vantage point of the experience of the user.

He always looked at things from the perspective of what was the user’s experience going to be? But unlike a lot of people in product marketing in those days, who would go out and do consumer testing, asking people, “What did they want?” Steve didn’t believe in that.

He said, “How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.” He believed that showing someone a calculator, for example, would not give them any indication as to where the computer was going to go because it was just too big a leap.

Steve had this perspective that always started with the user’s experience; and that industrial design was an incredibly important part of that user impression. And he recruited me to Apple because he believed that the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980′s because people thought that personal computers were just smaller versions of bigger computers. That’s how IBM looked at it.

Some of them thought it was more like a game machine because there were early game machines, which were very simple and played on televisions… But Steve was thinking about something entirely different. He felt that the computer was going to change the world and it it was going to become what he called “the bicycle for the mind.” It would enable individuals to have this incredible capability that they never dreamed of before. It was not about game machines. It was not about big computers getting smaller…

He was a person of huge vision. But he was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything — a perfectionist to the end.

If you go back to the Apple II, Steve was the first one to put a computer into a plastic case, which was called ABS plastic in those days, and actually put the keyboard into the computer. It seems like a pretty simple idea today, looking back at it, but even at the time when he created the first Apple II, in 1977 — that was the beginning of the Jobs methodology. And it showed up in the Macintosh and showed up with his NeXT computer. And it showed up with the future Macs, the iMacs, the iPods and the iPhones.

What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.

I remember going into Steve’s house and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn’t believe in having lots of things around but he was incredibly careful in what he selected. The same thing was true with Apple. Here’s someone who starts with the user experience, who believes that industrial design shouldn’t be compared to what other people were doing with technology products but it should be compared to people were doing with jewelry… Go back to my lock example, and hinges and a door with beautiful brass, finely machined, mechanical devices. And I think that reflects everything that I have ever seen that Steve has touched.

When I first saw the Macintosh — it was in the process of being created — it was basically just a series of components over what is called a bread board. It wasn’t anything, but Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed. When I met the Mac team, which eventually got to 100 people but the time I met him it was much smaller, the average age was 22.

These were people who had clearly never built a commercial product before but they believed in Steve and they believed in his vision. He was able to work in multiple levels in parallel.

On one level he is working at the “change the world,” the big concept. At the other level he is working down at the details of what it takes to actually build a product and design the software, the hardware, the systems design and eventually the applications, the peripheral products that connect to it.

In each case, he always reached out for the very best people he could find in the field. And he personally did all the recruiting for his team. He never delegated that to anybody else.

The other thing about Steve was that he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective. He would basically call them “bozos.” That was his term for organizations that he didn’t respect.

The Mac team they were all in one building and they eventually got to one hundred people. Steve had a rule that there could never be more than one hundred people on the Mac team. So if you wanted to add someone you had to take someone out. And the thinking was a typical Steve Jobs observation: “I can’t remember more than a hundred first names so I only want to be around people that I know personally. So if it gets bigger than a hundred people, it will force us to go to a different organization structure where I can’t work that way. The way I like to work is where I touch everything.” Through the whole time I knew him at Apple that’s exactly how he ran his division.

Q: So how did he cope when Apple became bigger? I mean, Apple has tens of thousands of people now.

Sculley: Steve would say: “The organization can become bigger but not the Mac team. The Macintosh was set up as a product development division — and so Apple had a central sales organization, a central back office for all the administration, legal. It had a centralized manufacturing of that sort but the actual team that was building the product, and this is true for high tech products, it doesn’t take a lot of people to build a great product. Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn’t. It’s really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist. It’s like an artist’s workshop and Steve is the master craftsman who walks around and looks at the work and makes judgments on it and in many cases his judgments were to reject something.

I can remember lots of evenings we would be there until 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning because the engineers usually don’t show up until lunchtime and they work well into the night. And an engineer would bring Steve in and show him the latest software code that he’s written. Steve would look at it and throw it back at him and say: “It’s just not good enough.” And he was constantly forcing people to raise their expectations of what they could do. So people were producing work that they never thought they were capable of. Largely because Steve would shift between being highly charismatic and motivating and getting them excited to feel like they are part of something insanely great. And on the other hand he would be almost merciless in terms of rejecting their work until he felt it had reached the level of perfection that was good enough to go into – in this case, the Macintosh.

Q: He was quite conscious about that, right? This was very well thought out, not just crazy capriciousness?

Sculley: No, Steve was incredibly methodical. He always had a white board in his office. He did not draw himself. He didn’t have particular drawing ability himself, yet he had an incredible taste.

The thing that separated Steve Jobs from other people like Bill Gates — Bill was brilliant too — but Bill was never interested in great taste. He was always interested in being able to dominate a market. He would put out whatever he had to put out there to own that space. Steve would never do that. Steve believed in perfection. Steve was willing to take extraordinary chances in trying new product areas but it was always from the vantage point of being a designer. So when I think about different kinds of CEOs — CEOs who are great leaders, CEOs who are great turnaround artists, great deal negotiators, great people motivators — but the great skill that Steve has is he’s a great designer. Everything at Apple can be best understood through the lens of designing.

Whether it’s designing the look and feel of the user experience, or the industrial design, or the system design and even things like how the boards were laid out. The boards had to be beautiful in Steve’s eyes when you looked at them, even though when he created the Macintosh he made it impossible for a consumer to get in the box because he didn’t want people tampering with anything.

In his level of perfection, everything had to be beautifully designed even if it wasn’t going to be seen by most people.

That went all the way through to the systems when he built the Macintosh factory. It was supposed to be the first automated factory but what it really was a final assembly and test factory with a pick-to-pack robotic automation. It is not as novel today as it was 25 years ago, but I can remember when the CEO of General Motors along with Ross Perot came out just to look at the Macintosh factory. All we were doing was final assembly and test but it was done so beautifully. It was as well thought through in design as a factory, a lights out factory requiring many people as the products were.

Now if you leap forward and look at the products that Steve builds today, today the technology is far more capable of doing things, it can be miniaturized, it is commoditized, it is inexpensive. And Apple no longer builds any products. When I was there, people used to call Apple “a vertically-integrated advertising agency,” which was not a compliment.

Actually today, that’s what everybody is. That’s what HP is; that’s what Apple is; and that’s what most companies are because they outsource to EMS — electronics manufacturing services.

Q: Isn’t Nike a good analogy?

Sculley: Yeah, probably, Nike is closer, I think that is true. I think if you look at the Japanese consumer electronics in that era they were all analog companies.

The one that Steve admired was Sony. We used to go visit Akio Morita and he had really the same kind of high-end standards that Steve did and respect for beautiful products. I remember Akio Morita gave Steve and me each one of the first Sony Walkmans. None of us had ever seen anything like that before because there had never been a product like that. This is 25 years ago and Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did with his was take it apart and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built.

He was fascinated by the Sony factories. We went through them. They would have different people in different colored uniforms. Some would have red uniforms, some green, some blue, depending on what their functions were. It was all carefully thought out and the factories were spotless. Those things made a huge impression on him.

The Mac factory was exactly like that. They didn’t have colored uniforms, but it was every bit as elegant as the early Sony factories that we saw. Steve’s point of reference was Sony at the time. He really wanted to be Sony. He didn’t want to be IBM. He didn’t want to be Microsoft. He wanted to be Sony.

The challenge was in that era you couldn’t build digital products like Sony. Everything was analog and the Japanese companies approached things and you can read Prahalad’s book, from University of Michigan, he studied it. (Note: Sculley is referring to C.K. Prahalad’s “Competing for the Future” (1994))

The Japanese always started with the market share of components first. So one would dominate, let’s say sensors and someone else would dominate memory and someone else hard drive and things of that sort. They would then build up their market strengths with components and then they would work towards the final product. That was fine with analog electronics where you are trying to focus on cost reduction — and whoever controlled the key component costs was at an advantage. It didn’t work at all for digital electronics because digital electronics you’re starting at the wrong end of the value chain. You are not starting with the components. You are starting with the user experience.

And you can see today the tremendous problem Sony has had for at least the last 15 years as the digital consumer electronics industry has emerged. They have been totally stove-piped in their organization. The software people don’t talk to the hardware people, who don’t talk to the component people, who don’t talk to the design people. They argue between their organizations and they are big and bureaucratic.

Sony should have had the iPod but they didn’t — it was Apple. The iPod is a perfect example of Steve’s methodology of starting with the user and looking at the entire end-to-end system.

It was always an end-to-end system with Steve. He was not a designer but a great systems thinker. That is something you don’t see with other companies. They tend to focus on their piece and outsource everything else.

If you look at the state of the iPod, the supply chain going all the way over to iPod city in China – it is as sophisticated as the design of the product itself. The same standards of perfection are just as challenging for the supply chain as they are for the user design. It is an entirely different way of looking at things.

Q: Where did he get the idea for controlling the whole widget? The idea to be in charge of everything, the whole system?

Sculley: Steve believed that if you opened the system up people would start to make little changes and those changes would be compromises in the experience and he would not be able to deliver the kind of experience that he wanted.

Q: But this control extends to every aspect of the product – even to opening the box. The experience of opening the box is designed by Steve Jobs.

Sculley: The original Mac really had no operating system. People keep saying, “Well why didn’t we license the operating system?” The simple answer is that there wasn’t one. It was all done with lots of tricks with hardware and software. Microprocessors in those days were so weak compared to what we had today. In order to do graphics on a screen you had to consume all of the power of the processor. Then you had to glue chips all around it to enable you to offload other functions. Then you had to put what are called “calls to ROM.” There were 400 calls to ROM, which were all the little subroutines that had to be offloaded into the ROM because there was no way you could run these in real time. All these things were neatly held together. It was totally remarkable that you could deliver a machine when you think the first processor on the Mac was less than three MIPs (Million Instructions Per Second), which today would be — I can’t think of any device which has three MIPS, or equivalent. Even your digital watch is at least 200 or 300 times more powerful than the first Macintosh. (NOTE. For comparison, today’s entry-level iMac uses an Intel Core i3 chip, rated at over 40,000 MIPS!)

It’s hard to conceive how he was able to accomplish so much with so little in those days. So for someone to build consumer products in the 1980s beyond what we did with the first Mac was literally impossible. In the 1990s with Moore’s Law and other things, the homogenization of technology, it became possible to begin to see what consumer products would look like but you couldn’t really build them. It really hasn’t been until the turn of the century that you sort of got the crossover between the cost of components, the commoditization and the miniaturization that you need for consumer products. The performance suddenly reached the point where you could actually build things that we can call digital consumer products. Because Steve’s design methodology was so correct even 25 years ago he was able to make a design methodology – his first principles — of user experience, focus on just a few things, look at the system, never compromise, compare yourself not to other electronic products but compare yourself to the finest pieces of jewelry — all those criteria — no one else was thinking about that. Everyone else was just going through an evolution of cheap products that are getting more powerful and cheaper to build. Like the MP3 player. Remember when he came in with the iPod, there were thousands of MP3 players out there. Can anyone else remember any of the others?

His tradeoff was he believed that he had to control the entire system. He made every decision. The boxes were locked.

Steve Jobs circa 1984. Illustration by Matthew Phelan

Q: But the motivation for this is the user experience?

Sculley: Absolutely. The user experience has to go through the whole end-to-end system, whether it’s desktop publishing or iTunes. It is all part of the end-to-end system. It is also the manufacturing. The supply chain. The marketing. The stores. I remember I was brought in because I had a design background and because I was a marketer. I had product marketing experience. Not because I knew anything about computers.

Q: I find that pretty fascinating. You say in your book that first and foremost you wanted to make Apple a “product marketing company.”

Sculley: Right. Steve and I spent months getting to know each other before I joined Apple. He had no exposure to marketing other than what he picked up on his own. This is sort of typical of Steve. When he knows something is going to be important he tries to absorb as much as he possibly can.

One of the things that fascinated him: I described to him that there’s not much difference between a Pepsi and a Coke, but we were outsold 9 to 1. Our job was to convince people that Pepsi was a big enough decision that they ought to pay attention to it, and eventually switch. We decided that we had to treat Pepsi like a necktie. In that era people cared what necktie they wore. The necktie said: “Here’s how I want you to see me.” So we have to make Pepsi like a nice necktie. When you are holding a Pepsi in your hand, its says, “Here’s how I want you to see me.”

We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.

If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.

We talked a lot about how perception leads reality and how if you are going to create a reality you have to be able to create the perception. We did it with something called the Pepsi generation.

I had learned through a lecture that Dr. Margaret Mead had given, an anthropologist in the 60’s, that the most important fact for marketers was going to be the emergence of an affluent middle class — what we call the Baby Boomers, who are now turning 60. They were the first people to have discretionary income. They could go out and spend money for things other than what they had to have.

When we created Pepsi generation it was created with them in mind. It was always focusing on the user of the drink, never the drink.

Coke always focused on the drink. We focused on the person using it. We showed people riding dirt bikes, waterskiing, or kite flying, hang gliding — doing different things. And at the end of it there would always be a Pepsi as a reward. This all happened when color television was first coming in. We were the first company to do lifestyle marketing. The first and the longest-running lifestyle campaign was — and still is — Pepsi.

We did it was just as color television was coming in and when large-screen TVs were coming in, like 19-inch screens. We didn’t go to people who made TV commercials because they were making commercials for little tiny black-and-white screens. We went out to Hollywood and got the best movie directors and said we want you to make 60-second movies for us. They were lifestyle movies. The whole thing was to create the perception that Pepsi was number one because you couldn’t be number one unless you thought like number one. You had to appear like number one.

Steve loved those ideas. A lot of the stuff we were doing and our marketing was focused on when we bring the Mac to market. It has to be done at such a high level of perception of expectation that he will sort of tease people to want to find out what the product is capable of. The product couldn’t do very much in the beginning. Almost all of the technology was used for the user experience. In fact we did get a backlash where people said it’s a toy. It doesn’t do anything. But eventually it did as the technology got more powerful.

Q: Of course, Apple is famous for the same kind of lifestyle advertising now. It shows people living an enviable lifestyle, courtesy of Apple’s products. Hip young people grooving to iPods…

Sculley. I don’t take any credit for it. What Steve’s brilliance is, is his ability to see something and then understand it and then figure out how to put into the context of his design methodology — everything is design.

An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world. They are known for their incredibly challenging test they put people through to get hired. It’s not an issue of people being smart and talented. It’s that design at Apple is at the highest level of the organization, led by Steve personally. Design at other companies is not there. It is buried down in the bureaucracy somewhere… In bureaucracies many people have the authority to say no, not the authority to say yes. So you end up with products with compromises. This goes back to Steve’s philosophy that the most important decisions are the things you decide NOT to do, not what you decide to do. It’s the minimalist thinking again.

Having been around in the early days, I don’t see any change in Steve’s first principles — except he’s gotten better and better at it.

Another example, which has been brilliant, is what he did with the retail stores.

He brought one of the top retailers in the world on his board to learn about retail ( Mickey Drexler from The Gap, who advised Jobs to build a prototype store before launch). Not only did he learn about retail, I’ve never been in a better store than an Apple store. It has the highest revenue per square foot of any store in the world but it’s not just the revenue, it’s the experience.

Apple stores are packed. You can go to the Sony center — go in the San Francisco center at the Moscone. There’s nobody there. You can go into the Nokia store, they have one in New York on 57th St. There’s nobody there.

But other people have the stores. They have the products to look at. You can touch and feel them but you walk into an Apple store and it’s just like an amazing experience. It is as much the people who are there shopping alongside you.

Again, it is like necktie products. It’s like being in an Apple store says, “here’s how I want you to see me. I’m here. I’m at the genius bar. I’m trying out the products. Look at me: I’m like the other people in the store.”

The user experience is taken all the way from the experience of using the product, to the advertising of how it is presented, to the design of the product. Steve is legendary for his fit and finish requirements on a product. Looking at the radius and parting lines and bezels and all these little details that designers pay attention to.

He will reject something which no one will see as a problem. But because his standards are so high, people sit there and say, “How does Apple do it? How does apple have such incredible products?”

I remember one of the things we talked about, Steve used to ask me: “How did Pepsi get such great advertising?” He asked if it was the agencies that you picked? And I said what it really is. First of all you have to have an exciting product and you have to be able to present it as an opportunity to do bold advertising.

But great advertising comes from great clients. The best creative people want to work for the best clients. If you are a client who doesn’t appreciate great work, or a client who won’t take risks and try new stuff, or a client who can’t get excited about the creative, then you’re the wrong kind of client.

Most big companies delegate it way down in the organization. The CEO rarely knows anything about the advertising except when it’s presented, when it’s all done. That’s not how we did it at Pepsi, not how we did it at Apple, and I’m sure it’s not how Steve does it now. He always adamantly involved in the advertising, the design and everything.

Q: Right. I hear Lee Clow flies up to Apple every week to meet with Jobs.

Sculley: Once you realize that Apple leads through design, than you can start to see, that’s what makes it different. Look at the stores, at the stairs in the stores. They are made of some special glass that had to be fabricated. And that’s so typical of the way he thinks. Everyone around him knows he beats to a different drummer. He sets standards that are entirely different than any other CEO would set.

He’s a minimalist and constantly reducing things to their simplest level. It’s not simplistic. It’s simplified. Steve is a systems designer. He simplifies complexity.

If you are someone who doesn’t care about it, you end up with simplistic results. It’s amazing to me how many companies make that mistake. Take the Microsoft Zune. I remember going to CES when Microsoft launched Zune and it was literally so boring that people didn‘t even go over to look at it… The Zunes were just dead. It was like someone had just put aging vegetables into a supermarket. Nobody wanted to go near it. I’m sure they were very bright people but it’s just built from a different philosophy. The legendary statement about Microsoft, which is mostly true, is that they get it right the third time. Microsoft’s philosophy is to get it out there and fix it later. Steve would never do that. He doesn’t get anything out there until it is perfected.

Q: Let’s talk about advertising, which is so important to Apple. In you book you talk about ‘strategic advertising’ – advertising as strategy. That’s a very interesting idea…

Sculley: At the time I came to Silicon Valley there was no advertising… The only one who was really interested in doing advertising was Apple. H-P didn’t advertise in those days. No one advertised in those days on a big brand basis. One of the things that I was recruited to Apple to help do was to bring big brand advertising to Apple.

The Apple logo was multicolor because the Apple II was the first color computer. No one else could do color, so that’s why they put the color blocks into the logo. If you wanted to print the logo in a magazine ad or on a package you could print it with four colors but Steve being Steve insisted on six colors. So whenever the Apple logo was printed, it was always printed in six colors. It added another 30 to 40 percent to the cost of everything, but that’s what Steve wanted. That’s what we always did. He was a perfectionist even from the early days.

Q: That drives some people a little bit crazy. Did it drive you crazy?

Sculley: It’s okay to be driven a little crazy by someone who is so consistently right. What I’ve learned in high tech is that there’s a very, very thin line between success and failure. It’s an industry where you are constantly taking risks, particularly if you’re a company like Apple, which is constantly living out on the edge.

Your chance of being on one side of that line or the other side of the line is about equal. Sometimes… he was wrong tactically on a number of things. He wouldn’t put a hard drive in the Macintosh. When someone asked him about communications, he just threw a little disk across the room and said, “That’s all we’ll ever need.” On the other hand, Steve led the development of what was called AppleTalk and AppleLink. AppleTalk was the communications that enabled the Macintosh to communicate to the laser printer that enabled… desktop publishing.

AppleTalk was brilliant in its day. It was as brilliant as the Macintosh. It was another example of using a minimalist approach and solving a problem that no one else thought was a problem that needed to be solved. Steve was solving problems back in the 80s that turned out 15, 20 years later to be exactly the right problems to be working on. The challenge was we were decades away from when the technology would be homogenized enough and powerful enough to be able to make all those things mass market. He was just, in many cases, he was way ahead of his time.

Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn’t prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old.

They exhausted all of the obvious high-tech candidates to be CEO… Ultimately, David Rockefeller, who was a shareholder in Apple, said let’s try a different industry and let’s go to the top head hunter in the United States who isn’t in high tech: Gerry Roche.

They went and recruited me. I came in not knowing anything about computers. The idea was that Steve and I were going to work as partners. He would be the technical person and I would be the marketing person.

The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, “Let’s figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings.”

Remember, he was the chairman of the board, the largest shareholder and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me. It was a little bit of a façade and my guess is that we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job of thinking through not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure that we create a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?

My sense is that when Steve left (in 1986, after the board rejected his bid to replace Sculley as CEO) I still didn’t know very much about computers.

My decision was first to fix the company, but I didn’t know how to fix companies and to get it back to be successful again.

All the stuff we did then were all his ideas. I understood his methodology. We never changed it. So we didn’t license the products. We focused on industrial design. We actually built up our own in-house design organization, which they have to this day. We developed the PowerBook… We developed QuickTime. All these things were built around Steve’s philosophy… It was all about sales and marketing and the evolution of the products.

All the design ideas were clearly Steve’s. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve.

I made two really dumb mistakes that I really regret because I think they would have made a difference to Apple. One was when we are at the end of the life of the Motorola processor… we took two of our best technologists and put them on a team to go look and recommend what we ought to do.

They came back and they said it doesn’t make any difference which RISC architecture you pick, just pick the one that you think you can get the best business deal with. But don’t use CISC. CISC is complex instructions set. RISC is reduced instruction set.

So Intel lobbied heavily to get us to stay with them… (but) we went with IBM and Motorola with the PowerPC. And that was a terrible decision in hindsight. If we could have worked with Intel, we would have gotten onto a more commoditized component platform for Apple, which would have made a huge difference for Apple during the 1990s. In the 1990s, the processors were getting powerful enough that you could run all of your technology and software, and that’s when Microsoft took off with their Windows 3.1.

Prior to that you had to do it in software and hardware, the way Apple did. When the processors became powerful enough, it just became a commodity and the software can handle all those subroutines we had to do in hardware.

So we totally missed the boat. Intel would spend 11 billion dollars and evolve the Intel processor to do graphics… and it was a terrible technical decision. I wasn’t technically qualified, unfortunately, so I went along with the recommendation.

The other even bigger failure on my part was if I had thought about it better I should have gone back to Steve.

I wanted to leave Apple. At the end of 10 years, I didn’t want to stay any longer. I wanted to go back to the east coast. I told the board I wanted to leave and IBM was trying to recruit me at the time. They asked me to stay. I stayed and then they later fired me. I really didn’t want to be there any longer.

The board decided that we ought to sell Apple. So I was given the assignment to go off and try to sell Apple in 1993. So I went off and tried to sell it to AT&T to IBM and other people. We couldn’t get anyone who wanted to buy it. They thought it was just too high risk because Microsoft and Intel were doing well then. But if I had any sense, I would have said: “Why don’t we go back to the guy who created the whole thing and understands it. Why don’t we go back and hire Steve to come back and run the company?”

It’s so obvious looking back now that that would have been the right thing to do. We didn’t do it, so I blame myself for that one. It would have saved Apple this near-death experience they had.

One of the issues that got me fired was that there was a split inside the company as to what the company ought to do. There was one contingent that wanted Apple to be more of a business computer company. They wanted to open up the architecture and license it. There was another contingent, which I was a part of, that wanted to take the Apple methodology — the user experience and stuff like that — and move into the next generation of products, like the Newton.

But the Newton failed. It was a new direction. It was so fundamentally different. The result was I got fired and they had two more CEOs who both licensed the technology but… they shut down the industrial design. They turned out computers that looked like everybody else’s computers and they no longer cared about advertising, public relations. They just obliterated everything. We’re just going to become an engineering type company and they almost drove the company into bankruptcy during that.

I’m actually convinced that if Steve hadn’t come back when he did — if they had waited another six months — Apple would have been history. It would have been gone, absolutely gone.

What did he do? He turned it right back to where it was — as though he never left. He went all the way back.

So during my era, really everything we did was following his philosophy — his design methodology.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as good at it as he was. Timing in life is everything. It just wasn’t a time when you could build consumer products and he wasn’t having any more luck at NeXT than we were having at Apple — and he was better at it than we were. The one thing he did do better: he built the better next-generation operating system, which eventually was merged into Apple’s operating system.

Q: People say he killed the Newton – your pet project – out of revenge. Do you think he did it for revenge?

Sculley: Probably. He won’t talk to me, so I don’t know.

The Newton was a terrific idea, but it was too far ahead of its time. The Newton actually saved Apple from going bankrupt. Most people don’t realize in order to build Newton, we had to build a new generation microprocessor. We joined together with Olivetti and a man named Herman Hauser, who had started Acorn computer over in the U.K. out of Cambridge university. And Herman designed the ARM processor, and Apple and Olivetti funded it. Apple and Olivetti owned 47 percent of the company and Herman owned the rest. It was designed around Newton, around a world where small miniaturized devices with lots of graphics, intensive subroutines and all of that sort of stuff… when Apple got into desperate financial situation, it sold its interest in ARM for $800 million. If it had kept it, the company went on to become an $8 or $10 billion company. It’s worth a lot more today. That’s what gave Apple the cash to stay alive.

So while Newton failed as a product, and probably burnt through $100 million, it more than made it up with the ARM processor… It’s in all the products today, including Apple’s products like the iPod and iPhone. It’s the Intel of its day.

Apple is not really a technology company. Apple is really a design company. If you look at the iPod, you will see that many of the technologies that are in the iPod are ones that Apple bought from other people and put together. Even when Apple created Macintosh, all the ideas came out of Xerox and Apple recruited some of the key people out of Xerox.

Everything Apple does fails the first time because it is out on the bleeding edge. Lisa failed before the Mac. The Macintosh laptop failed before the PowerBook. It was not unusual for products to fail. The mistake we made with the Newton was we over-hyped the advertising. We hyped the expectation of what the product could actually, so it became a celebrated failure.

Q: I want to ask about Jobs’ heroes. You say Edwin Land was one of his heroes?

Sculley: Yeah, I remember when Steve and I went to meet Dr Land.

Dr Land had been kicked out of Polaroid. He had his own lab on the Charles River in Cambridge. It was a fascinating afternoon because we were sitting in this big conference room with an empty table. Dr Land and Steve were both looking at the center of the table the whole time they were talking. Dr Land was saying: “I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.”

And Steve said: “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.” He said if I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say now what do you think?

Both of them had this ability to not invent products, but discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed – it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them. The Polaroid camera always existed and the Macintosh always existed — it’s a matter of discovery. Steve had huge admiration for Dr. Land. He was fascinated by that trip.

Q: What other heroes did he talk about?

Sculley: He became very close with Ross Perot.

Ross Perot came and visited Apple several times and visited the Macintosh factory. Ross was a systems thinker. He created EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and was an entrepreneur. He believed in big ideas; change the world ideas. He was another one.

Akio Morita was clearly one of his great heroes. He was an entrepreneur who built Sony and did it with great products — Steve is a products person.

Q: How about Hewlett-Packard? Jobs has said in the early days that HP was a big influence when he worked there briefly with Woz.

Sculley: HP was not a model for Apple. I’ve never heard that. HP had the “HP way,” where Bill Hewitt and David Packard would wander people would leave their work out on their desk at night and they’d wonder around and look at it. So it was very open and it was an engineers company. Apple is a designers company, not an engineers company. HP was never in those days known for great design. It was known for great engineering, not great design. No, I don’t remember HP being a model for Apple at all.

Q: Didn’t Jobs also manage by walking around?

Sculley: He did that. Everyone did that in Silicon Valley. That was what HP contributed to the way Silicon Valley does business. There are certain characteristics that all Silicon Valley startups have and that’s one of them. That clearly came from HP.

HP was the father of the walking around style of management. And HP was the father of the engineer being at the top of the hierarchy in companies.

Engineers are far more important than managers at Apple — and designers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even when you look at software, the best designers like Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, were called software designers, not software engineers because they were designing in software. It wasn’t just that their code worked. It had to be beautiful code. People would go in and admire it. It’s like a writer. People would look at someone’s style. They would look at their code writing style and they were considered just beautiful geniuses at the way they wrote code or the way they designed hardware.

Q: Steve Jobs is famous for being a student of design. He’d run around looking intently at all the Mercedes in the Apple car park.

Sculley: Steve was a fanatic on looking at how things were printed: the fonts, the colors, the layouts. I remember once after Steve had left, one of our tasks was to go and build the business in Japan. Apple had a $4 million of turnover and we were being sued by the Japanese FTC and people saying we ought to close the office down — it’s losing money. I remember going over and to make a long story short, four years later we were a $2 billion dollar business and the number two company in Japan selling computers.

A big part of it was that we had to learn to make products the way the Japanese wanted products. We were assembling products in Singapore and sending them to Japan. And the first thing the customer saw when they opened the box was the manual, but the manual was turned the wrong way around – and the whole batch was rejected. In the United States, we’d never experienced anything like that. If you put the manual in this way or that way — what difference did it make?

Well, it made a huge difference in Japan. Their standards are just different than ours. If you look at Apple and the attention to detail. The “open me first,” the way the box is designed, the fold lines, the quality of paper, the printing — Apple just goes to extraordinary lengths. It looks like you are buying something from Bulgari or one of the highest in jewelry firms. At the time, it was the Japanese.

We used to study Italian designers when we were looking for selecting a design company before we selected Hartmut Esslinger from Frog to do what was called the Snow White design. We were looking at Italian car designers. We really did study the designs of cars that they had done and looking at the fit and finish and the materials and the colors and all of that. At that time, nobody was doing this in Silicon Valley. It was the furthest thing on the planet from Silicon Valley back then in the 80’s. Again, this is not my idea. I could relate to it because of my interest and background in design, but it was totally driven by Steve.

At the time when Steve was gone and I took over I was highly criticized. They said, “How could they put a guy who knows nothing about computers in charge of a computer company?” What a lot of people didn’t realize was that Apple wasn’t just about computers. It was about designing products and designing marketing and it was about positioning.

People used to call us a “vertically-integrated advertising agency” and that was a huge cheap shot. Engineers couldn’t think of anything worse to say about a company than to say it was a “vertically-integrated advertising agency.” Well, guess what? They all are today. That’s the model. The supply chain is managed somewhere else.

Organic Designs – Ted Lovegrove

29 Oct

Wabi-Sabi

23 Oct

 

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the Three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō).

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of natural processes.

Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it “occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West. If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant “chill”, “lean” or “withered”. Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

After centuries of incorporating artistic and Buddhist influences from China, wabi sabi eventually evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal. Over time, the meanings of wabi and sabi shifted to become more lighthearted and hopeful. Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″

From an engineering or design point of view, “wabi” may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then “sabi” could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking, e.g. Hagi ware, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In reality, these items can be quite expensive and in fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze (akin to the appearance of a diamond in the rough). This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the Hagi-yaki style.

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude. In the Mahayana Buddhist view of the universe, these may be viewed as positive characteristics, representing liberation from a material world and transcendence to a simpler life. Mahayana philosophy itself, however, warns that genuine understanding cannot be achieved through words or language, so accepting wabi-sabi on nonverbal terms may be the most appropriate approach. Simon Brown notes that wabi sabi describes a means where students can learn to live life through the senses and better engage in life as it happens rather than caught up in unnecessary thoughts. In this sense wabi sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea being that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions.

In one sense wabi sabi is a training where the student of wabi sabi learns to find the most simple objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi sabi can change our perception of the world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and gives the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such as bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.

The wabi and sabi concepts are religious in origin, but actual usage of the words in Japanese is often quite casual. The syncretic nature of Japanese belief systems should be noted.

%d bloggers like this: