The Internet needs better advocates than the censorship crusader Laurie Penny

Aaron Swartz, January 2012 by MariaJesusV

It is evident to anybody who takes an interest in free speech and its bedfellow free thought that the Internet is now the only battleground worth fighting over.

As such, any attempt by a journalist to publicise the likes of Aaron Swartz, one of the programmers behind Reddit – to name a lesser achievement – should be applauded, even if it is Laurie Penny.

But the trouble with Penny’s writing on this subject is that it is dishonest, and it fails to delineate the complex argument around distribution of information in the Internet age.

Continue Reading

The wisdom of Edward Snowden: secret courts, American individualism, and uni censorship

Edward Snowden, January 2014 by DonkeyHotey

Since opening a Twitter account and mocking the NSA, the whistleblower Edward Snowden has been tweeting out his thoughts on a regular basis, much to the delight of his supporters.

In a series of messages yesterday he began by criticising a recent case in Iran in which Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was convicted in a secret court.

Continue Reading

Mail service lets you send a potato in the post

Potatoes, June 2011 by 16:9 Clue

In the age of the smartphone telling friends and family about the tedious shit that happened in your day is easier and cheaper than ever, whilst also allowing Silicon Valley to scoop up all your data and sell it to the NSA.

Despite this one entrepreneur has put together a service for sending messages via the medium of potato – and these spuds are 100 percent British rather than those despicable foreign taters stealing the livelihoods of our countryveg.

Speaking in a YouTube video, Adrian Nantchev said he started PotatoInThePost.com as a means of allowing people to stand out from the crowd.

It’s not entirely clear if he’s trolling.

Prices range from £5 to £6, with the spuds arriving within 3 days at all British addresses. Nantchev will have to compete with the Americans at Potatoparcel.com, who also run a service in Blighty.

Image Credit – Potatoes, June 2011 by 16:9 Clue

Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin explain casting Fassbender, historical inaccuracies and three act structure in Steve Jobs biopic

Danny Boyle, Toronto International Film Festival, September 2008 by Gordon Correll

Tying in with Friday’s US release of the biopic Steve Jobs, the folks at the Verge have put out an interview with its director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin, talking about the decision to focus on three product launches in Jobs’ life, casting the non-lookalike Michael Fassbender, and historical inaccuracies in the film.

Many of the family and friends of Steve Jobs have criticised and even reportedly attempted to scupper the film because of Jobs’ record as a bit of an arsehole – so from the filmmakers’ perspective this acts as a time to explain their approach to capturing the technologist’s life.

Image Credit – Danny Boyle, Toronto International Film Festival, September 2008 by Gordon Correll

If the Steve Jobs film portrays him as an arsehole, that’s because he was

Steve Jobs, at WWDC 2007, by Ben Stanfield

When biographers probe the life of a celebrated figure the family will always wonder just how much of the bad stuff is going to hit the presses.

As such Steve Jobs, a biopic of one half of Apple’s founding team, was always going to cause trouble given the well-chronicled nastiness of one of the pioneers of consumer electronics.

Even before the film started shooting Laurene Powell Jobs, a critic of Walter Isaacson’s biography which forms the basis of the film, was reportedly lobbying film companies and movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale not to back or appear in it.

Then as its release approached Apple’s current chief executive Tim Cook dismissed Steve Jobs and the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine as “opportunistic”, though he hasn’t seen either of the films.

And more recently Jony Ive, designer of many of Apple’s greatest hits, saw fit to divulge his opinions on the matter despite not seeing Steve Jobs, branding the movie “ridiculous” and complaining it ignored the “context” in which Jobs was operating.

“There are sons and daughters and widows and very close friends who are completely bemused and completely upset,” he added. “I’m sorry to sound a bit grumpy about it but I find it ever so sad.”

The trouble with these comments, aside from the fact they come from people who haven’t even seen the film in question, is that they ignore that Jobs was a man who denied he fathered a child with his childhood sweetheart Chrisann Brennan, forcing her to raise their daughter Lisa with only limited financial support from him for several years.

They also skirt over the fact he was often abusive and unreasonable to colleagues, and rude to hotel and restaurant staff, the kind of people who were obliged to be pleasant to him despite his misbehaviour.

Some of this is shown in the biopic, and indeed Ive himself once explained these flashes of temper to the biographer Isaacson:

“I once asked him [Jobs] why he gets so mad about stuff. He said: ‘But I don’t stay mad.’ He has this very childish ability to get really worked up about something, and it doesn’t stay with him at all. But, there are other times, I think honestly, when he’s very frustrated, and his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody.

“And I think he feels he has a liberty and license to do that. The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don’t apply to him. Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that.”

This view is backed up by Steve Wozniak, the other more technically gifted half of Apple’s founding team and a consultant on the film. He was asked by the Beeb what he felt the film showed well in terms of Jobs’ personality:

“It deals with what we are all very familiar with – a lot of his negativism. This comes about less with him doing negative things to other people, and more him just sort of standing [there] and not caring as much about others as himself, and not being able to have feelings very much.”

He added that whilst the film did not portray what historically happened in the events it covers, “it really conveys what Steve Jobs was really like inside… and what it was like to be around him.”

If you wanted to be generous about all this you would point to Jobs’ difficult upbringing. And nobody is denying that the techie later reconciled things with his daughter Lisa, or that he did not have a nicer side to him.

But whilst the family will no doubt prefer to remember the more generous side of Jobs, history should not be so kind. It is important people remember that even the most celebrated men can be bastards, and Jobs was undoubtedly one of them.

Image Credit – Steve Jobs, at WWDC 2007, by Ben Stanfield