Weekly Rochester Events #693 Starting Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at the MuCCC
by Jason Olshefsky at 7:00 pm (1 comment)

I was tired of running all around and today I had a full afternoon and evening of events to try and attend — heck, it's Sunday and I don't feel like leaving the house. Alas, I did go to just one thing: I headed to The Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC) (142 Atlantic Ave.) for a reading of The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. I really didn't have much background (despite curating the events calendar on this site, I don't actually read much into descriptions) and I only recalled a passing interest in attending.

It is a monologue written by Mike Daisey and performed/read by Spencer T. Christiano which is a first-person account of how a fan of technology (and especially products of Apple) became disillusioned by visiting a factory in China. Christiano did a fantastic job voicing Daisey, who interweaves three tales: one is his own, personal relationship with technology, the second is the story of Apple, and the third is the story of his visit to Shenzhen, China. I found his style fantastically conversational and personal. The way he writes about technology demonstrates a deep understanding, and he genuinely seems like an eyes-wide-open kind of guy who is willing to lay any judgmental views right in the open.

But you don't have to take my word for it: you can go to his site and download the whole monologue as a PDF and read it for yourself (it's licensed with his unique open-source-like agreement).

I was drawn in to the story quickly. I grok the lust for technology, and his description of that experience fits with my own (for an example, one of the things he loved about his first computer — an Apple IIc — was that the keyboard was in Garamond; if that makes no sense to you, then you might not fully appreciate his geekery.) I have a fairly good understanding of the origins of Apple, and Daisey's details fully corroborated my own. And when he began describing the "retail" side of Shenzen, it fit with what I had heard, such as when SparkFun visited there (although I far more appreciate his description, "Shenzhen looks like Blade Runner threw up on itself. LEDs, neon, and fifteen-story-high video walls covered in shitty Chinese advertising: it’s everything they promised us the future would be.")

So when he started talking about what the "manufacturing" side of Shenzen was like, I could only assume it was just as accurate. I realize it's a logical fallacy — a twist on the "ad hominem" fallacy — where I believe a fact to be true solely because I found other facts true.

He then outlined the conditions in the factories which were different from, and, by my gauge, worse than what I had envisioned. I had an impression of workers on an assembly-line putting together and testing electronics.

But I didn't expect it to be in gigantic rooms where absolute silence is enforced. I didn't expect such a lack of machinery (it's cheaper to pay a Chinese worker to install a screw than to make a machine to do it, presumably until some astonishingly large scale.) I didn't expect there to be suicide nets on the outside of the building. I didn't expect regular working hours to be so extreme (although the government-approved union-busting and blacklisting would naturally make that so). I certainly didn't expect these factories to employ the "best and the brightest" — a college education in China gets you a job assembling iPhones.

But then, like I say, you can read all about this yourself in a far more engaging and entertaining form.

So stepping out of the writing, and stepping out of the monologue and the performance, there's an interesting twist to the story. NPR radio show This American Life had Daisey perform an abbreviated form of the monologue for the January 6, 2012 show. But then they did something unprecedented: on their March 16, 2012 show, they retracted the episode, claiming that Daisey lied.

Now this is unique, first because it's the first time This American Life actually retracted an episode. But more important, it's not a retraction because the facts of the account are false, it's because they didn't happen to Daisey personally as he had claimed. According to the after-performance discussion with Spencer T. Christiano, producer John W. Borek, and director Kelly Webster, Daisey does not dispute the fabrications and says it is a work of theater, not journalism. On the Star Wars Modern blog titled What Mike Daisey Did Wasn't Fair – It Was Right., John Powers puts it better than I can: "when did Ira Glass graduate from being a talk radio Casey Kasem to NPR's Dan Rather?"

I'll briefly mention that there's a flurry of activity about this. My take [I'd add, "as if you care", but you, dear reader, are indeed reading this, so I'll meta-self-referentially say it parenthetically] is that journalists like to believe the rules of journalism produce a work that is closest to reality. The truth is, no writing is remotely close to the truth. No account of any event — be it written, photographed, filmed, or recorded — has ever been an adequate substitute for reality. However, it is a new truth, just as this blog entry is a new essay that's about a new performance of a new monologue by Mike Daisey which is a new transcript based on new performances of Daisey which is a new account … umm … etcetera.

But what I think is so valuable about The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is the way it paints a picture of the hierarchy that exists. A journalist could play by-the-book and quote a business person, and a worker, and a technology geek, and a Foxconn liaison, and Steve Jobs — and they could never manage to put it together to describe the chain of events. For instance, here's an attempt to explain the hierarchy I'm talking about:

  • An evangelical Apple geek eagerly awaits the newest product from (although having never met the man)
  • … Steve Jobs whose staff designs a new version of their latest product and sends a representative to Foxconn in Shenzen, China to meet (a group of strangers, both in relation and in culture)
  • … the representatives at Foxconn and they all go to dinner and mingle and go to the shiny factory meeting room and discuss the product when the Apple representative asks to see the factory floor, so the Foxconn people make a call to (knowing they should show an idealized version)
  • … the factory manager who sets up (not wanting to lose work and get fired)
  • … a mock factory — well, a real factory floor with real products, but with the child labor replaced by their oldest workers who (desperate for employment)
  • … go along with the charade and work hard and say all the right things so the representative can report back about the great working conditions (all the while wondering why American workers can't be so happy for work).

So go back in that list and find the bad guy — find the person who caused the dangerous working conditions, or the child labor. This is where journalism falls down: there is no person who is at fault.

Those parenthetical phrases are key: they describe the gaps that are filled in by the systems we have. Ergo, it is the system itself that is the problem. The system rewards people for making small lies to preserve its own profitability and we humans have created this new life form.

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    This evening at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium in Hoyt Hall at The University of Rochester (Elmwood Ave. at Intercampus Dr.) is a screening of 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary and Together. [source: University of Rochester GOG]

    Tonight's The Rochester Genealogical Society meeting at The Asbury First United Methodist Church (1050 East Ave.) at 7 p.m. will include Robert Coomber and Dennis Hogan presenting The 1940 Census Indexing Project, and Carmen de Chateauvieux Bush presenting Doing Foreign Research, Even if You Don't Know The Language. [source: Rochester Genealogical Society website] [all ages]

    Tonight at 7 p.m. at The Baobab Cultural Center (728 University Ave., formerly on Gregory St.) is an encore screening of 500 Years Later as part of the Magnificent Africa exhibition. [source: Baobab website]

    JayceLand Pick This evening at The Memorial Art Gallery (500 University Ave., near Goodman St.) at 7 p.m., Jean France will present a lecture titled Local Landmarks of Modernism. [source: Memorial Art Gallery calendar] [all ages]

    Top Pick Tonight at 8 p.m. in the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) is the first screening of The 54th Annual Rochester International Film Festival (RIFF, or Movies on a Shoestring, MoaS) as well as screenings tomorrow at 8 p.m., and on Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. [source: Rochester International Film Festival website] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick This evening at 8 p.m. at The Space at Hungerford (1115 E. Main St.) is The 420 Tokes and Jokes Show featuring Marcus Cox, Jeremy Eli, A.J. Friedman, Patrick Higgins, T. Blunt, Vinnie PaulinoMySpace link, and host Dario Josef. [source: The Space at Hungerford calendar]

    JayceLand Pick The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) will be hosting Unicycle Loves YouMySpace link, ValentigerMySpace link, and Limeworks starting around 8:30 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]

    JayceLand Pick Tonight from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Image City Photography Gallery (722 University Ave.) is the Opening Reception for Cole Thompson's The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau which runs through May 13. [source: Image City Photography Gallery e-mail]

    For Happy Hour at Abilene Bar and Lounge (153 Liberty Pole Wy., formerly Tara), Flatbed will play around 6 p.m. followed at 9:30 p.m. by The Grand Canyon Rescue EpisodeMySpace link. [source: Abilene website]

    Tonight at 7 p.m. at The Space at Hungerford (1115 E. Main St.) is Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. [source: The Space at Hungerford calendar]

    Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. on Nextstage at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) is Geva Comedy ImprovMySpace link. [source: Geva Theatre website]

    JayceLand Pick The Eastman Jazz Ensemble, and The Eastman New Jazz Ensemble will be at Kilbourn Hall at Eastman Theatre (60 Gibbs St.) starting at 8 p.m. [source: Eastman School of Music calendar] [all ages]

    Hedonist Artisan Chocolates (674 South Ave.) will be at The Flour City Bread Company (52 Rochester Public Market) today from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for a Chocolate Tasting. [source: Hedonist Chocolates website]

    JayceLand Pick Today from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mt. Hope Cemetery (1145 Mt. Hope Ave., the South Gate) is The Mount Hope Sweep. [source: City Hall press release]

    Top Pick Today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is Record Store Day 2012 so be sure to stop by The Record Archive (33 1/3 Rockwood St.), Lakeshore Record Exchange (370 Park Ave.), The Bop Shop (1460 Monroe Ave., formerly in Village Gate), House of Guitars (645 Titus Ave.), Needledrop Records and Audio (304 Gregory St.), or any of the other local music stores. [source: Bop Shop calendar] [all ages]

    Today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. is City Newspaper's 2012 Cultural Crawl all around the city with a booth set up in past years near Christ Church of Rochester (141 East Ave.) [source: City Newspaper]

    JayceLand Pick Today at 12 p.m., the thick, bass-driven noise of Tuurd, Drippers, punk hard-rock band Green Dream, and grindy, rough, brutally simple rock duo Dick Snare will perform at Needledrop Records and Audio (304 Gregory St.) [source: Carbon Records calendar]

    Today from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. is ArtAwake at The Rohrbach Brewing Company (97 Railroad St.) [source: City Newspaper]

    Today at The Center at High Falls Fine Art Gallery (60 Browns Race) is The 10th Annual 'Evening With The Arts', a fundraiser for The Genesee Center for the Arts (713 Monroe Ave.) starting at 6:30 p.m. [source: Genesee Center for the Arts calendar]

    Tonight at 7 p.m. at The Flying Squirrel Community Space (285 Clarissa St., formerly the Flower City Elks Lodge) is Animation Night. [source: Flying Squirrel Community Space website]

    JayceLand Pick The Baobab Cultural Center (728 University Ave., formerly on Gregory St.) is hosting a Community Dialogue Series titled Taken For Granted or Ignored: African Americans and Two Party Politics including a screening of Fear of a Black Republican and a panel discussion moderated by Hélène Biandudi with Henry Smith, Jr., and Dr. Valeria Sinclair-Chapman. [source: Baobab website]

    JayceLand Pick Over at The Lovin' CupMySpace link (300 Park Point Dr., #110) starting around 9 p.m. is very good medium-tempo progressive rock from SirsyGarageBand link, The Peachy NeachysMySpace link , and Seashell RadioMySpace link. [source: Lovin' Cup calendar]

    JayceLand Pick Good, crowd-pleasing reggae from Thunder BodyMySpace link, Kevin KinsellaMySpace link, and Spiritual RezMySpace link will be at Water Street Music Hall (204 N. Water St.) starting around 9 p.m. [source: Water Street calendar] [16+]

    Over at Skylark Lounge (40 S. Union St., formerly Muther's) starting around 9 p.m. is Nod, and Muler. [source: Carbon Records calendar]

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    Tonight at The Montage Live Music HallMySpace link (50 Chestnut St., formerly the Montage Grille) is BMLMySpace link, and Philo Beddoe starting around 10 p.m. [source: Freetime] [all ages]

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    Earth Day

    This morning at 7:30 a.m. at The Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (199 E. Manitou Rd., Hilton) is Owl Prowl at the Owl Woods and then Birds of Prey Days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. [source: Freetime]

    Today from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., A Healing Sanctuary (1722 Mt. Hope Ave.) will have an Open House. [source: flyer]

    JayceLand Pick The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Mr. and Mrs. Smith starting early at 2 p.m. — a screwball comedy by Alfred Hitchcock. [source: Dryden Theater calendar] [all ages]

    Today at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. is a Musicale featuring The Clarinet Collection. [source: Eastman House calendar] [all ages]

    Five Rhythms Dance will be at The Flying Squirrel Community Space (285 Clarissa St., formerly the Flower City Elks Lodge) today from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. [source: Flying Squirrel Community Space website]

    This afternoon starting around 2:30 p.m. is an Opening Reception for Happiness, Fun and Art at My Sister's Gallery at The Episcopal SeniorLife Communities (505 Mt. Hope Ave.) [source: City Hall press release]

    Tonight at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) is Bullet Hell, Calligraphy, and The Yummies starting around 9 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]

    This morning starting around 8 a.m. in the cafeteria overlooking the arboretum in Bausch and Lomb (140 Stone St.) is The Artists' Breakfast Group meeting ... anyone interested in art or creativity is invited.

    JayceLand Pick Sarah LeCount will review Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects at today's Books Sandwiched In from 12:12 p.m. to 12:52 p.m. in The Kate Gleason Auditorium at The Rochester Public Library (115 South Ave.) [source: Rochester Public Library calendar] [all ages]

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    JayceLand Pick The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) will be hosting Wizard RifleMySpace link, Torus, The Love Tunnels, and AbhorMySpace link starting around 9 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]

    This evening at 6:30 p.m. at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.), Dr. Timothy J. Madigan will present The Novel into Film on Billy Budd. [source: Writers and Books calendar] [all ages]

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