“Hating” Apple

Ironic, that one of Apple Computers’ longest legal disputes was against the Beatles’ record label, also called Apple. I’ve never had any patience for people who say they “hate the Beatles,” or who make a sport of comparing them unfavorably to other musicians. Last week, however, when my iPhone died I got a taste of what they must feel.

It started when my iPhone SE’s battery abruptly went from 40% charged to zilch and could not be revived. Apple is generously offering the current model for $100/month for 13 months. The SE is known a “really old model.” It was launched in 2016 to please those customers, like me, who were happy with their old iPhone 5S’s, a really old model…from 2013. And my best option, I kept being told, was to put up and shell out.

“I hate Apple,” I keep muttering. Masters at creating the accoutrements of futuristic bubble environments, and at enabling addiction to the instant gratification those devices offer until it remakes the economy so much that all of us have to tune in, they’re basically another tax-dodging corporation, but with a really tight design team – and one that people have an outsize fondness for.

I couldn’t help feeling, back in 2010, that the sanctimonious backlash against monologist Mike Daisey for the inaccuracies in his piece The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was fueled by a widespread, irrational affection for Apple devices. It’s almost quaint, in the age of Russian-financed Big Lies, to think that just eight years ago a story-teller in a theatrical setting got pinned to the wall by American public radio for his lapses in journalistic standards – almost quaint, since it’s something liberals only seem to do to other liberals.

And let me tell you, you are never more aware of Apple’s omnipresence than the two days you spend refusing to buy another phone. When I suggested I was going to look at other brands, friends laughed. When I repeated, “I hate Apple,” they responded with “Aw, come on now” retorts that sounded like I do whenever someone tries telling me, as they have over the years, that they hate the Beatles: that song for song the Kinks are better; that Pet Sounds is better than any Beatles album; that the contemporary American rhythm and blues were better than the Beatles throughout the 60s; that the Smiths (?!) were better; etc. etc.

I can’t disprove any of those claims, but you hate them? It makes me not entirely trust your musical motives.

Truth is, while writing this post on a MacBook Air, I’ve used Apple products to take a photo of a check and pay pay a vendor for an order at my job, to thank another vendor for going out of his way to help me (via a GIF of Cheech Marin driving a car), to record the contents of a box I packed at home, and to text my mother – all while listening to All Things Must Pass, for which I paid fractions of pennies, on an Apple device.

Somebody’s doing something right at Apple, and not just in its marketing department.


“I’m looking through you. You’re not the same!”

Still, as I packed up my apartment this month, and started assembling a pile of all the extra stuff I wouldn’t bother moving, I got struck by lightening when I put my old Apple laptop on top of my ex-landlord’s mother’s Singer sewing machine. I couldn’t help wondering, would anyone in 80 to 90 years hesitate to toss my MacBook into a recycling bin?

(The answer is Yes, I suppose. In 90 years we’ll have learned to handle heavy metals with a little more respect: They’ll gently place it on a recycling shelf.) It’s marvelous to think that, as old as this Singer is – over 80, I figure –  Rubber Soul, at 53, is closer to it in time than it is to my iPhone, and not by a little.

So I guess I should be specific. I hate Apple’s penchant for planned obsolescence: it’s environmentally grotesque and ethically just plain shitty. I hate how its devices sync with its devices but struggle to do so with others, a “keep it in the family” ethos reminiscent of the Mafia. I hate the free pass Apple’s followers give it for its faults. Most of all, though – and here I suspect that on some level I’m also speaking for the drunk who once tried telling me that the Ronettes were every bit as talented as The Beatles –  I mistrust the widespread, incurious resignation Apple fans have regarding its omnipresence.

Let’s hope it’s just a phase.

Books From the Get-Rid-Of Box

Some books can move you to tears just by packing them in boxes.

I know, because we’re starting to pack our Brooklyn apartment to move to a farmhouse up the Hudson valley by the end of summer: something I once found unimaginable, but now I can hardly wait. It feels like we’re on a well-worn path, but well-worn for a good reason.

One thing I look forward to is more time to read, and packing books after you’ve lived someplace a while (eight years at this place), I find emotional.


Among the books I’m keeping.

It’s something that moving forces you to do: separate them between the books you haven’t read yet but still aspire to, books you’ve read and want to keep so you can re-read them or give them to just the right person, and books you’ve given up on reading – and now you’re facing it, it’s time to get rid of them.

It’s emotional for me because that stack of books I’m ready to say “I’ll never read that” about, that is a measure of the distance between the reader I once thought I was – or the reader friends thought I was – and the reader I actually am. As I age I have less patience for any bullshit in this regard, and packing books this week was a big step in the direction of reality.

I suppose I’m simply becoming more like me. I’ve always been a lot more open to getting hooked into a long history book than a long novel. Anna Karenina was just never going to happen. The Power Broker, which is now finally in the get-rid-of box, to go back to the great used book store shelf I found it on, lasted a whole delicious summer.

In the years after reading The Power Broker, in fact, I became that somewhat familiar, annoying guy who could never help himself from pointing out how Robert Moses had changed whatever New York City landscape I was standing in. I guess I kept devoting two inches of shelf space to it in case I ever needed to refresh my memory about a legal fight about a bridge in the 1950s – or I enjoyed the reminder that I was a member of that club of Power Broker spokespeople. And now I’m letting that membership lapse.

Having said that, I’m also choosey about what I read for one simple reason. I’m slow! Even with history books, I can’t just plow through one for the hell of it, it has to be something I care about. And when a book was given to me as a personal gift, this conflicts with my natural agreeability.

So if I have a conversation with my friend Kevin about how much I enjoyed a trip I once took to Tennessee, and he tells me about a novel he loved that’s set in Tennessee, and then gives me his used copy, and I say “Thanks,” then part of me feels I owe it to him to read that book. Even though I never asked for it, and even though I’d specifically told him I only read a novel or two per year. A part of me genuinely did want to read it at one time – the reader I once thought I was, that is – and part of me has long been ready to embrace the future. And so it sat there, until the purge came.

In this sense, letting go of a book can be like letting go of a trumpet you haven’t played for years, or a sewing machine or a set of golf clubs. It feels right, not just to have made a definite decision, but to be released from a misconception about oneself.

So, with apologies to all the historians and novelists I’ll never commune with, farewell to your masterpieces. If you ever drive past our house, I’ll be the guy in the garden with a book of poems in his breast pocket. No hard feelings.