Steve Jobs

Steve, thank you for everything. It is a sad day today. We will miss you.

As a child, at a friends house we played endlessly with the Apple II and then the first MacIntosh. We were fascinated by the mouse and visual environment, and I still chuckle inside remembering the text-to-speech electronic voice which could read to us. Hypercard which showed us what the internet would look like. Déjà Vu. Lode Runner. MacWrite. MacPaint. We learnt about so many different things – it was a parallel world which had opened up to us.

But it was only as a university student, that I got my first real Apple computer – after the launch of the iMac. And it was then that I was introduced to the internet. Not really an early adopter, but the iMac made it possible for me. My first email address, my first webpage and discovering the ever-growing wealth of information and discussion on the web. And it only got better, as connection speeds increased and the tools (both by Apple and others) kept improving.

By now, I have written thousands of pages with iWork on successive Apple laptops, each version cooler than the previous one. Email became an integrated communication form in my life, whose instant delivery we now take for granted. I learnt about desk top publishing, image manipulation, how music is put together and how movies are edited. I had video calls with people on Skype, looked things up on Wikipedia and started a blog with WordPress. I became proficient with computers despite not being particularly technical. And thathad become possible just because you, with the people you surrounded yourself with at Apple, had taken such care to properly develop your products, and setting a standard which others could live up to. You inspired a whole generation of entrepreneurs, developers and engineers to the great benefit and fascination of all of us.

In more recent years, your iPod and iTunes made my music truly portable, and accessible like it never was. And then the introduction of the incredible iPhone… I was stunned. The internet had now made the huge leap from being the ultimate working tool to being the ultimate travel companion. Smart-phones, both iPhones and now others, are everywhere enriching our lives, allowing us to make more of the time we have and stay close to the ones we love. You made it all possible, taking us form one exciting development to the next.

Steve, thank you for everything. It is a sad day today. We will miss you.

My condolences to your family, your friends and your colleagues.

Jost DORSSER
Paris

A small tragedy at the park

The other day I was reading a book in the park when I noticed a middle-aged man sitting on the bench in front of me. His head was in his hands, his growing boldspot exposed to the passerby’s. His dress was shabby enough to evoke pity, but just not enough to assume the worst. He was under nourished, badly dressed and unshaven. And that is when they arrived, his two screaming boys. Both perfectly clean with carefully combed hair, one waving a pirate’s sword and the other with a wood-and-plastic bow and arrow. They came running passed with a little girl, also armed with a plastic sword.

As they stormed past, the exhausted father watched them with one eye, noticing that the little group ran up the stairs to the upper level of the park, followed by the girls parents. I presumed that he found that comforting to know that his boys were being watched by a parent as his head sunk back into his hands. I read on.

A few minutes later, the girl’s mother appears back downstairs and a deeper truth is revealed about the poor fellow. She tells him that they are leaving, and that his boys are still on the upper level. The father looks at her with his weary eyes and thanks her, followed by the words “they’re used to it”, to avoid being thought of as a slouching father. The girls’s mother gives a half smile and walks off. As soon as she is out of sight, he puts himself back into position.

A small fifteen minutes later, the boys entice the father to playing football on a small patch of green grass. Reluctantly he had dragged himself over there to join his enthusiastic boys, and as the game progressed, he starting getting a taste for it. The ball was being kicked from Indian to Pirate to Father who ran as fast as he could with the little feet of the boys chasing him on his heels. The father’s face lit up in enjoyment. But just as he kicked the ball to his little Indian we heard a whistle blow. The Parks Department: No football on the grass!

“Huh?” the poor fellow retorted, “we can’t play football on the grass?”

And then, of course, the inevitable shake of the head with authority. The man guided his little ones off the grass and into the playground area, dragging his heart behind him. Back to his bench. And there you have the whole truth of tragedy. When you are feeling down, you can not just be let down any further, it does not work like that. No, you need a small lifting of the spirits to be able to be properly pushed down lower. Life. It’s the small things.

A rose by any other name

It is almost impossible not to judge a translation on a sign when you see one. You look at the English, then back at the French, then back at the English. If German or Italian is there too, and you have the time, you compare those too. Often you will notice that it is not the same – the sense may be different, the implications could be different, but most often of all, the politiness level is rarely the same: French signs tend to assume you are an 18th century aristocrat taking the metro, while the English version assumes that you have a vocabulary of 20 words. And of course, sometimes, it is exactly the same.

But rarely do you really feel like one language “wins” by really nailing it, unless, that is, it is a name. If you didn’t already look at the accompanying picture, then this would be a good time to do so. Indeed. I propose that from now on, we only speak of  the Forest Eagle Owl in French. Le Grand-Duc du Népal, at your service.

(Picture taken in the Ménagerie, Paris V)

Ni à Vendre, ni à Louer

Pascal Rabaté :: France :: 2010 :: 1h20

Behind this peculiar title (“Not for sale, not for hire”) hides a light-spirited comedy about a weekend away at an unpretentious coastal town. Humour takes the central stage, following a motley group of tourists and locals at the seaside in the style of Jacques Tati, with very little -if any- dialogue. This is Pascal Rabaté’s third film, after last year’s original and touching Les Petits Ruisseaux, where comedy was a sideline to his central storyline. Things are different this time round.

We see an elderly couple of regulars take up residence in a postcard sized cabin, we follow two fraudsters making people’s lives difficult, we watch a man and a woman meet as his kite flies off with her necklace, we see a shop-owner draw barcodes onto his products to be up-to-date… As light as some of the scenes are, some of the subjects are not -death, infidelity- but they are treated with care and a taste for light absurdity.

The film has its weakness as well, with a burlesque role for an SM couple on an escapade which does not really take off. But as the film progresses, the blemish fades into the background of the panoply of characters and attentively choreographed visuals. Prepare to be amused, to laugh and to wet your appetite for some vacation yourself, and hope that director Rabaté has not run out of ideas for more comedy. Let us be absolutely clear about this: we want more!

Pourquoi tu Pleures?

Katia Lewkowicz :: France :: 2010 :: 1h39

A few days before his marriage, Arnaud finds himself alone surrounded by his future family-in-law with who speak another language, decisions to take for the wedding, his friends who want to help, his apartment in the middle of a serious renovation, perhaps in love with a girl he just met, a sister who has too much on her plate, a mother who has lost it a while ago and a bride-to-be who has gone missing. Everyone needs answers, but most of all him. Arnaud holds his head to keep it from exploding.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of talking going on. The lack of conviction on the part of Arnaud towards his future keeps you wondering all the way through to the end will-he-or-won’t-he. Either way, there is not too much happiness to go around in this glum look at modern life, with unattractive characters, dirty streets, messy apartments, a million things to do and mobile phones ringing in peoples heads. There is certainly enough of a reason to cry.

Balada Triste

Alex de la Iglesia :: Spain, France :: 2010 :: 1h47

(UK: The Last Circus)

While still a boy, Sergio sees his father -a clown in a circus- taken away to fight the fascists in the Spanish civil war. Years later, growing up in the unpleasant world under dictator Franco, the boy, appropriately, takes on the role of a “Sad Clown” at a circus. But there it hits him like a human cannonball: the beautiful trapeze artist Natalia. Unfortunately, she is already entangled in a love-hate relationship with the cruel and violent head-clown Javier. Perhaps even more unfortunately, she has a desperate taste for danger. Through the turbulent and dark world in which they find themselves, the two rival clowns battle it out.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: this movie is captivating from the first scene to the end. If you have seen Dia de la Bestia, you know what the director is capable of. Well, here the dark humour is possibly even darker, the images even more outrageous and the story takes you places you would not believe if you were not there to see it for yourself. When a movie opens with a clown slashing through fascist soldiers with a machete, you know you are in for a ride! Expect no visual mercy from this perfectly crafted downward spiral of killer clowns into the depths of the imagination where anything can happen.

Staring at the rich

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the Korean film The Housemaid (2010) by Im Sang-Soo. In the film, a young girl is hired into the home of a wealthy and powerful family. Besides the fact that the house is somewhat creepy (to add flair to the film, no doubt), what is remarkable is how the high ranking family is presented. It is not at all obvious how to present an upper class family, because on the one hand they are just people and on the other you want them to look (and be?) superior. Let us see what they did here to show that superiority.

The woman is a stunningly beautiful and ruthless lady Macbeth and her husband plays piano as a concert pianist, has the manners and charm of a diplomate, the taste in food and wine of an enologist, the immaculate sense of dress of a top designer and has the trained body of an athlete all while having a demanding and time-consuming career. Now everyone understands that the point of this is to create a difference between the common girl and the high ranking family, but they clearly went overboard with it. Of course, in film or literature they often do, for the effect, but let us look at the underlying thought.

The thought behind such a presentation must be that people who are so high up on the social ladder can only possibly be there by devious means, so they must be corrupt in one way or another. Secondly, with an unlimited budget, people can become sophisticated in all fields (athletics, music, food and wine, etc). I think we can assume that the latter is an artistic trick to differentiate the characters. To become an expert in wine, sports or music one must dedicate years of study into the field. Money helps buy good teachers and free up time for study, but it remains limited – we can not do “everything”. But what about the former?

Power corrupts, they are powerful hence they must be corrupt. This fallacy is at the heart of the image people have of those above them, perhaps to mask jealousy. The image is reinforced by the press, as the sole times we hear details about the lives of those above us are when they are caught up in a scandal of sorts. When they out themselves voluntarily, it is to show themselves in a good light, so doing something they are good at or showing flattering pictures of themselves. If they would be wholly exposed, the illusion would be gone. That is why, in the movie, we follow the new maid as she discovers the family, to have the external eye. And then, by overdoing it on the particularities of the family and their lack of moral scruples, the audience, who we can safely assume are al the lesser to them, can find satisfaction in the thought that they at least have more moral integrity. I am feeling very happy. You?