13 March 2018
"Reality distortion field", "Think Different", apple, Apple Inc., biography, Book Review, Dead Poet's Society, history, iMac, iPad, iPhone, ipod, John Keating, MacBook Pro, Mackintosh, mortality, Perception, Personal Computer Industry, Personal Computer Movement, Personal Computers, reflection, Science, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs was an Asshole...Let's be Real here, Steve Wozniak, technology, Walter Isaacson
Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?—John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society
This essay was written on a MacBook Pro, and that should hopefully speak to the quality of the book. Product endorsement really isn’t my strong suit, and so I suppose starting this essay off by noting my shift to Apple products might not be the best way to begin writing about Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, and in fact if it were not for my grandfather I doubt I would have made the actual switch.
My grandfather, as long as I can remember of the man, was the sort of person who could not tolerate small talk. The annual birthday meetings between him and my parents were not the casual get togethers where people would talk about television shows and try to treat desperately about the weather. I never remember small talk because my grandfather couldn’t do small talk. Rather the conversations would be about the writings of Thomas Aquinas, the politics of the day, my grandfather’s thoughts about the history of the Catholic Church, his success with certain carpentry tools, and sometimes his early fascination with computers. I tend to recall more his conversations about Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic philosophers, which is somewhat amusing given the fact that the man was married three times putting him into something charmingly referred to as a lapsed Catholic. But I do remember on the few occasions he spoke about his preference of personal computers, a term I really wouldn’t appreciate until reading Steve Jobs, and I remember him talking in great esteem of something called a Macintosh.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the computer my grandfather was gushing about positively were the exact same computers I was using in my computer classes at school to paint pictures and play educational games. Apple products were apparently always around when I was young, but I couldn’t see the fruit for the trees. That’s a play on words you see because Apple’s logo is an actual apple. On an entirely separate not I’ve also ordered a white mug with the multicolored logo that bears the inscription “Think Different,” and since buying my MacBook Pro, I’ve looked into getting an iPad
and eventually a desktop iMac. My little sister has charmingly decided to call me an “Apple Whore” after she saw the Apple logo keychain I had printed up using the library’s 3-D Printer.
I suppose I am one now, and observing this metamorphosis I realize that, even after death, Jobs has managed to continue to inspire individual people using his awe and charisma that, some would argue, tended to overshadow the man’s faults.
Before I finally sat down to read Steve Jobs (listen is the more appropriate word since I’m slowly chugging through the audiobook) I was aware of the book because my grandfather had a copy. The book came out and became a sensation, and it seemed for a while that the proliferation of the book was akin to actual Apple Products, you just couldn’t get away from it. Somehow or another I avoided having to actually sit down and read it, largely because I discovered Christopher Hitchens about the time the book came out. It was thankfully then through Hitch that I determined the quality of Walter Isaacson as a biographer. I read his Benjamin Franklin , and I intend to sit down and read his Henry Kissinger and Einstein as soon as I get the chance. It was because of these connections that I knew enough about the book to know it was worth my time, and I borrowed it from my grandfather intending to read it.
It’s been within the last year or so that his dementia started, and so I’ve lost the grandfather who was such a powerful intellect. But I still had his copy of Steve Jobs, so I started it and have now become an Apple Whore.
Isaacson deserves every bit of credit he gets for Steve Jobs, because even during the most pedantic periods of the man’s life feels vital and important to understanding the qualities of Jobs as an individual man. Passages that describe board-room meetings and phone calls become part of the great drama that became Steve Jobs’s life, and even when discussing the jargon ladened aspects of computer design Isaacson’s books never loses its sense of pace or direction. The reader is constantly observing the man of Steve Jobs. They see his highs his lows, his individual strengths, and his faults that at time have left me both shocked and repulsed. Isaacson deserves credit for this previous point as well given the fact that the temptation of biography is at times to write about the idea of someone rather than the real actual meat and bone of a human being.
And the first impression from Isaacson’s book that really hits me is how much I relate to Jobs in a sense of impending doom. In one passage he cites Jobs’s notion of his own mortality:
Jobs confided in Sculley that he believed he would die young, and therefore he needed to accomplish things quickly so that he would make his mark on Silicon Valley history. “We all have a short period of time on this earth,” he told the Sculley’s as they sat around the table that morning. “We probably only have the opportunity to do a few things really great and do them well. None of us has any idea how long we’re going to be here, nor do I, but my feeling is I’ve got to accomplish a lot of these things while I’m young. (155).
Recognition is one of the most powerful feelings someone can experience. It was “recognizing” Bruce Bechdel on the cover of Fun Home that helped me realize that I was queer, and it was “recognizing” Brian’s confession to Stewie in Family Guy that I really saw my suicidal thoughts for what they were. Reading Steve Jobs, I recognized someone again, because I’ve recognized a similar trait in myself. It might just be my soul-crushing morbidity that I write off as it’s own form of practicality, but I’m always aware of some kind of feeling that my life is not going to be terribly long. Part of this is rational understanding of genetics, my family doesn’t have a great track record (unless you’re a woman on my mother’s side) of a long life. The other half of this is just some kind of irrational premonition.
A person’s perception of their own life and world can be a powerful thing, and not just because it can drive you to success overall. What is consistently remarkable about the man Steve Jobs is how much I find myself remarking that the man was an unconscionable prick. There are numerous passages in the book of Jobs being either purposefully spiteful to friends, employees, competitors, or even people he simply didn’t know. It’s a common occurrence in the book to hear the man speak of a person’s work as “shit” to their face, and this became part of the man’s personality to his friends and workers. This dramatic honesty could work in both ways and the reader is quick to learn of something called “the reality distortion field.”
If the reader has never watched Star Trek (don’t feel alone I’ve never watched it either) Isaacson explains it in chapter eleven.
Tribble said that Jobs would not accept any contrary facts. “The best way to describe the situation is a term from Star Trek,” Tribble explained. “Steve has a reality distortion field.” When Hertzfeld looked puzzled, Tribble Elaborated. “In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules. (117-8).
Isaacson continues this character trait on the following page offering a more detailed analysis:
At the root of the reality distortion was Job’s belief that the rules didn’t apply to him. He had some evidence for this; in his childhood, he had often been able to bend reality to his desires. Rebelliousness and willfulness were ingrained into his character. He had the sense that he was special, a chosen one, an enlightened one. “He thinks there are a few people who are special—people like Einstein and Gandhi, and the gurus he met in India—and he’s one of them,” says Hertzfeld. “He hold Chrisann this. Once he even hinted to me that he was enlightened. It’s almost like Nietzsche.” Jobs never studied Nietzsche, but the Philosopher’s concept of the will to power and the special nature of the Überman came naturally to him. […]. If reality did not comport with his will, he would ignore it, as he had done with the birth of his daughter and would do years later, when first diagnosed with cancer. Even in small everyday rebellions, such as not putting a license plate on his car and parking it in handicapped spaces, he acted as if he were not subject to the strictures around him. (119).
The reader can surely find their own examples of Jobs’s prickishness, and I should address that before the reader raises concerns. Isaacson’s biography never sugar-coats Jobs’s behavior, and when they arrive at the conception and rejection of his first child during the early days of Apple they’re sure to consider putting the book down wondering why they would ever want to learn more about a man who accused his lover with sleeping half the population of the world. I don’t have any defenses for this behavior, nor do I offer any.
Jobs was a man who, obviously, lived life by his own rules and that at times created unnecessary conflict and behavior that is, to quote my little sister, “slap-worthy.” What then is the relevance of reading about the man’s life?
Jobs could be, to borrow one of Isaacson’s favorite adjectives, “Cold” and this behavior isn’t always excusable. But to neglect understanding of Jobs simply because he was an asshole is to ignore the man’s contribution. As I’m want to do in these circumstances I tend to return to the examples of two of my influences: John Wayne and Christopher Hitchens. In the case of Wayne the man was an asshole who said some truly heinous things concerning the issue of race equality and anyone who wants a more specific details can simply Google Search his May 1971 Playboy interview. I will never defend those positions and arguments, and I will always be the first person to remind people about his bullshit attitudes towards race. At the same time, John Wayne helped establish the idea of the “movie star” and in his time, he produced a wide bodies of films that, in my mind, are still some of the finest movies ever made. Likewise with Christopher Hitchens the man was an unfortunate chauvinist going so far as to write an article titled Women Aren’t Funny and then a subsequent article Why Women (Still) Don’t Get It to defend his original position. Hitchens was a brilliant man, but in this instance, he was still talking out of his ass. In spite of this the man wrote some of the most important works of Nonfiction on the twentieth century and contributed more to the form of the essay than any writer of his time.
I could go on and provide a list of authors and geniuses who were contemptible assholes, but hopefully these two personal ones provide enough of my point, which is, just because somebody was an asshole doesn’t mean they couldn’t change the world.
Reality really is one’s perception of the world. What is possible and what is impossible, and the stories of science fiction are enough to prove this. As long as people could imagine changing the world, there were people who could figure out how to.
One passage clearly demonstrates this, as Jobs explained a vision he had for the future of computers. He was addressing his MacIntosh division in 1982 about an idea he had, while also expressing his contempt for market research:
At the end of the presentation someone asked whether he thought they should do some market research to see what customers wanted. “No,” he replied, “Because customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.” Then he pulled out a device that was about the size of a desk diary. “Do you want to see something neat?” When he flipped it open, it turned out to be a mock-up of a computer that could fit on your lap, with a keyboard and screen hinged together like a notebook. “This is my dream of what we will be making in the mid- to late eighties,” he said. They were building a company that would invent the future. (143).
Now technically the very first “laptop” was not an Apple computer, but in fact something called an Osbourne 1. Just looking at a picture of it is enough to throw out the reader’s back, and the design concurs up images of the giant insect monster movies from the 50s. Even the first apple “laptop” was nowhere near the magnificent flat machines that help achieve Twitter greatness while checking out Instagram accounts and drafted infinite Pinterest pages. What’s important about this passage was, when I read I actually received a little moment of chills. This is not because of the content of the biography itself, but again because Isaacson manages constantly to write Jobs’s life into something meaningful and profoundly important for the future of human civilization.
Jobs imagined the laptop computer as something useful, but also important to people’s lives. He foresaw the opportunity to make the personal computer something that wasn’t just utilitarian for the individual consumer, but a way of enhancing and changing the market and lives of individual people. And the strength of the previous passage reveals that, even if Jobs suffered from his “reality distortion complex,” it worked. It’s impossible to picture a world without Apple or Apple products, whether it’s their software or else their actual physical products.
And Isaacson offers a key insight into one of the lasting legacies of Jobs:
Jobs was able to encourage people to define themselves as anticorporate, creative, innovative rebels simply by the computer they used. “Steve created the only lifestyle brand in the tech industry,” Larry Ellison said. “There are cars people are proud to have—Porsche, Ferrari, Prius—because what I drive says something about me. People feel the same way about an Apple product.” (332).
I typically roll my eyes at the idea that one can express individuality through corporate products, largely because so many of the products being sold are ultimately the same. Drinking Coke or Pepsi, eating a Reese’s or a Snickers, or buying McDonalds or Burger King can never in my mind craft a rhetoric about the way I choose to live my life. These
products are designed to be consumed and then shit out, and at the end of the day shit is just shit. Yet all of these companies, in fact almost every company tries to generate advertisements that sell their products as means to express yourself. And all of this can be traced back to Apple because they succeeded.
I give Apple, and other computer companies to be fair, a pass on this rhetoric because the personal computer really can say something about the way you live your life. That’s largely because the personal computer is no longer a black screen requiring long complex code entries that are encased on monstrous floppy discs. The point-click interface altered the way computer users actually worked on computers, and from there innovation has steadily helped shape the lives of entire industries. The way an individual person approaches computers, or really, the way they use computers does shape their lives.
And again, as I noted at the start of this essay, this review was written on a MacBook Pro.
I try to wait until I have finished a book before I take the time to write a review of it. I need time to digest a book, figure out it’s place and space in my world, and then try to impart the significance of it to the reader. Steve Jobs was different because though I still have around 200 pages left, I recognize how important this work is.
Reading through my grandfather’s copy I regret terribly that it took me so long to read this book and discuss with him the life of Jobs and the history of the personal computer industry. It would have been an interesting conversation with a man who influenced me tremendously intellectually, and I might have invested earlier than I did in an Apple computer. But the cards fell where they did, and even though I’ve missed the chance to have that conversation, in his own way my grandfather succeeded. I own and will continue to own Apple products now, almost certainly till the day I die.
It’s a platitude, but it’s one that remains true. The people who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world tend to do so. It’s because they are people driven by their passion and conviction that life can be changed, and that reality is exactly what we make it to be. Sometimes this can manifest in manic and even wretched behavior, but there are positive stories. It’s because of Jobs that I learned as a child how to type and learn the basics of point-click interface. It’s because of Jobs that my mother is able to write up her reviews and musings on her own website. It’s because of Jobs that the smart-phone revolution started and the idea of what a computer actually is was changed forever.
Jobs’s reality was one where the computer wasn’t just a tool, it was part of your life. And that “distorted” reality eventually became the real thing.
All quotes taken from Steve Jobs were derived from the Simon & Schuster Hardback first edition copy.
If the reader is at all interested in Apple as a company, I’ve provided some links to articles about Apple and Apple Products and businesses. Some are positive, others negative, but it’s important to get a wide variety of outlooks.
I’ve also included an great article by Wired about the influence Jobs has had on tech company founders and employees aspiring to the emulate the man and his method of management. It feels not only important, but vital for any and all people who work for, or plan of founding computer companies:
I didn’t get a chance to include it in the essay, but if the reader is at all curious about the first laptop, the Osborne 1, they can follow a link to an article on Business Insider which describes it and it’s history. Enjoy:
On one final note, I probably am, most assuredly am, an Apple Whore as my little sister says, and my wife has begun to call me that as well. I asked her briefly when she knew I was one and she responded simply, “when you bought that mug.”
This is fair, though at the same time, I mean, look at the design. Simplicity really is the ultimate sophistication.
*****Writer’s FINAL NOTE*****
Because I have to, please enjoy this Robot Chicken sketch featuring a PRETTY ACCURATE presentation of Steve Jobs, as well as a fair, completely fair, critique of both CDs and the Zune.
A Letter to a Royal Academy, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace, Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, biological arguments, Book Review, Carl Japikse, Catch-22, Essay, Family Guy, fart jokes, Fart Proudly, farting, fathers, Founding Father, Founding Fathers Purity Myth, history, Literature, Mouse Trap, On Rhetoric, Playboy, Playboy Interview, Playboy September 2009, Satire, satisfaction, Science, Seth McFarlane, The Oath, Walter Isaacson
A title like Fart Proudly grabs you immediately and you realize that you not only need to read the book, you have to own it. The fact that it’s written by Benjamin Franklin and actually taught in college classrooms is just the way you defend it when you mother tsk tsk’s you when she catches you reading it. Your mother anyway, my mother loved the book and wanted to read it herself.
I read Fart Proudly in its entirety during graduate school when I needed an early American Lit course and decided to spend my semester reading famous American speeches, and while that semester was largely spent reading and dissecting Native American oratory, I made sure that Fart Proudly was on the reading list. My professor laughed, but didn’t object, for she often used the book when teaching the class to undergraduate students and in her own words, “The title just beckons.” I hadn’t come across the book through her class I’m ashamed to admit (she had a reputation as being one of the most difficult professors and so I pussied out), but actually through a friend who was taking the class. She had her books spread out over one of the tables in the writing center, a not uncommon sight for everyone did this at some point, and because I am the self-declared book whore I had to see what she was reading. Dr. Beebe had been right, the “title just beckons,” and so I picked the book up while my friend worked on her paper and I read a few of the passages.
I mean this without hyperbole, I actually laughed out loud. This is a rare occurrence, for while I have found several books funny, there’s only been two or three times a book has actually made me laugh out loud, the other two being Catch-22 and Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. Fart Proudly is a book of rich and deep humanity, because it tries only to poke fun at day to day life, including its more morose moments. Take for instance the small poem The Oath:
Luke, on his dying Bed, embraced his Wife,
And begged one Favour: Swear, my dearest Life,
Swear, if you love me, never more to wed,
Nor take a second Husband to your Bed.
Anne dropt a Tear. You know, my dear, says she,
Your least Desires have still been Laws to me;
But from the Oath, I beg you’d me excuse;
For I’m already promised to John Hughes. (30).
It’s passages like this that remind me I want to go back and pursue my degree in American history, for it would provide me plenty of excuse to study Benjamin Franklin. Growing up in America the Founding Fathers are figures of contention for when you’re young the typical indoctrination is that the writers of the Declaration of Independence were perfect beings, devoid of flaws or human weakness. This image becomes contrasted as you age and experience the first “real” history teacher, who begins to show chinks in the armor of these ideal beings, and then eventually students will encounter teachers who will teach them that these men were slave owners, drunks, and hypocrites. Before the reader assumes I’m going to side with any one of them, I have to disappoint because my position is that all of these interpretations hold value. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did in fact own slaves, and John Adams was boring at parties (seriously who wants to play Mousetrap at a kegger? The damn game never works). These are facts that can’t be denied, but I would remind the reader that there is nothing so suspect as judging people in past with contemporary standards. I’m not excusing or condoning the owning of slaves, I’m just asking the reader to remember that the idea that slaves were people too was a paradigm that was slowly gaining in traction.
My aim isn’t to discuss the complexities and nuances inherent to studying and arguing about Colonial American historical discourse, because like the title suggests, this article is about the noble art of farting. I just want the reader to understand what model of man I’m working with here before I get into the book.
Benjamin Franklin is the troublesome founding father for many Americans, for while pundits on Fox news try desperately to pretend like the man doesn’t exist, and while Liberals try to turn him into some kind of enlightened genius plagued by rumors of his sexual voraciousness, Benjamin Franklin, the man tends to get lost. Just the other day I decided to begin a biography of Franklin, not his autobiography which I started once and had to stop because of school and Fraggle Rock (it was a weird weekend), but instead Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. Two chapters in and already the book is proving to be one of the best financial decisions of my life, and when approaching the life of Franklin Isaacson offers up what is in my mind, one of the best examples of what good biography should do:
Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us. George Washington’s colleagues found it hard to imagine touching the austere general on the shoulder, and we would find it even more so today. Jefferson and Adams are just as intimidating. But Ben Franklin, that ambitious urban entrepreneur, seems made of flesh rather than of marble, addressable by nickname, and he turns to us from history’s stage with eyes that twinkle from behind those newfangled spectacles. He speaks to us, through his letters and hoaxes and autobiography, not with ortund rhetoric but with a chattiness and clever irony that is very contemporary, sometimes unnervingly so. We see his reflection in our own time. (2).
It’s this spirit of man who wrote the essays, letters, reviews, and poems found within Fart Proudly, and the reason why I return to the book again and again. Washington is a man made of marble and legend; Franklin as a man is as much a scholar as he is a vulgarian, and for this he earns my eternal respect.
Looking through the book the best selection to choose from, for it best represents the book as a whole and even provides the inspiration for the title of the slim tome, is A Letter to a Royal Academy. Franklin studied the natural world throughout his life, and these observations eventually lead to him becoming one of the best scientists of his generation. He often read and contributed to scientific societies and documents, and in A Letter to a Royal Academy, which was in fact a real letter to a friend, Franklin is able to demonstrate his passion for science, as well poke a little fun at the institution of the Academy.
He says, with tongue firmly in cheek:
It is universally well known, that in digesting out common food, there is created or produced in the bowels of human creatures, a great quantity of wind.
That the permitting this air to escape and mix with the atmosphere, is usually offensive to the company, from the fetid smell that accompanies it.
That all well-bred people therefore, to avoid giving such offense, forcibly restrain the efforts of nature to discharge that wind.
That so retained contrary to nature, it not only gives frequently great present pain, but occasions future diseases, such as habitual cholics, ruptures, tympanies, &tc, often destructive for the constitution, & sometimes of life itself.
Were it not for the odiously offensive smell accompanying such escapades, polite people would probably be under no more restraint in discharging such wind in company, than they are in spitting, or in blowing their noses. (15).
It’s hard to put into words painful and pleasant recognition. I often get into debates with friends and colleagues who argue that fart jokes aren’t terribly funny, and while there are individuals who legitimately suffer from medical problems that result in uncontrollable flatulence who understandably don’t find farts terribly amusing, most of the criticism of fart jokes, and likewise farts themselves, is that enjoying them is an indication of stupidity or immaturity. I’ve written at length about my love for the television show Family Guy, which relies on farts for a majority of its comedy, and my love for the show is often looked upon as suspect. Farts smell bad, sometimes, and Franklin tries to argue that the only reason farts bother people as much as they do is because of that smell. If farts possessed no odor at all, he argues, then farting would be no different than sneezing or coughing, though people would still probably tell you to shush in a movie theatre.
Franklin’s creative aim in the letter however is scientific and so he makes the following proposal:
My Prize question therefore should be, To discover some drug wholesome and not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common food, or sauces, that shall render the natural discharges, of wind from our bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as perfumes. (15).
The idea of pills that make farts smell better at first sounds ridiculous until you remember that there are pills on the market designed to make penises stiffer. Letter to a Royal Academy is not mocking science so much as it is mocking the standards of “moral” or “proper” behavior. In many ways Franklin’s letter is akin to On the Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, for the Letter is in essence a “comedy of manners.” Franklin is poking fun at humanity who regard farts as monstrous or unwholesome despite the fact that, scientifically speaking, there’s nothing inherently wrong with farting. In fact, as the previous quote demonstrated, farts are a natural and healthy part of every individual biology.
To return to Family Guy for a moment, I remember a time when I actually received Playboy magazine on a regular basis (before they decided to cut the nudity from their magazine and become, I don’t know what) and my favorite part of the magazine was actually the Interview. I still hold to this day the September 2009 copy because the interview was with Seth McFaralane, a man who has become not just as a formative influence upon my life, but who is also in his own way reminding me why I enjoy Rat Pack music so much. At one point in the interview he’s asked about his “emotional age” and this brings up the topic of fart jokes on Family Guy.
Playboy: What would you say is your emotional age?
McFarlane: Maybe 97
Playboy: Really? It seems a lot more adolescent than that.
McFarlane: Yeah, it’s sort of a combination of 97 and 12. If somebody farts, I can get to laughing so hard I can’t breathe. But I sure do love the music of Nelson Riddle. I love Woody Allen movies, and I love watching Jackass. We’ve been criticized for being too crude and lowbrow on Family Guy. What in the world is wrong with that? That kind of laughter releases the healthiest endorphins. There’s something puritanical about people who object to fart jokes or shit jokes. It’s that puritanical idea that you shouldn’t have sex because it feels good—and that’s a sin. How can anything that makes you laugh that hard be bad in any way unless it’s harming somebody? Farts are good; they clean you out. (34).
McFarlane and Franklin come together beautifully then for both men advocate the release of farts, but more importantly the release of the elitism that surrounds farts. Rather than embrace biology, and laugh off what can be the most annoying and obnoxious part of our biology, there is a section of humanity that tries to ignore the cold (though sometimes hot if you’ve eaten spicy foods) reality of their bodies. The body digests food through a process of cellular respiration and during that process a fair amount of carbon dioxide and methane is produced, and because our species has yet to find a way to release that gas without producing funny smells and sounds, we’re all slaves to our biology which is rather loud, though sometimes sounds like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. Rather than mourn this reality, or suggest that those who try to laugh off the pain of embarrassment are uncultured and immature, the only healthy approach is to laugh and remind yourself that life is absurd and ridiculous.
By purging your body of the fart, and the idea that there’s something wrong with farting, a real comfort arrives.
Franklin embraces this model of hedonism, and in fact explains it out as the more sage philosophic reality:
Are there twenty men in Europe at this day, the happier, or even easier, for any knowledge they have picked out of Aristotle? What comfort can the vortices of Descartes give to a man who has whirlwinds in his bowels. The knowledge of Newton’s mutual attraction of the particles of matter, can it afford ease t him who is racked by their mutual repulsion, and the cruel distention it occasions? The please arising to a few philosophers, from seeing, a few times in their life, the threads of light untwisted, and separated by the Newtonian Prism into seven colours[sic], can it be compared with the ease and comfort evert man living might feel seven times a day, by discharging freely the wing from his bowels? (17).
I am an avid reader, but I must concede to Franklin’s argument for the release of a fart has tended to provide more satisfaction to me than ever reading Aristotle. In fact, to be honest, between the choice of re-reading On Rhetoric again or laying a fart I would probably choose the fart. This is not because I don’t believe On Rhetoric has no merit as an intellectual product, but if my aim is to be happy and comfortable farting will honestly, realistically provide me with more comfort for afterwards I will probably laugh, move on with my life, and then eventually pick up On Rhetoric and learn about what makes Oedipus the King such an amazing play.
Fart Proudly offers up numerous essays that deal frankly with issues of sex, farting, and parodies of the seemingly endless rules and values of cultured society, and once again I look to Franklin the man rather than the “founding father.”
I’m a product of my time, for the last words always inspire distrust, because those people who talk about what “the founding fathers would have wanted” always come with their own agendas and the “fathers” are merely the justification for whatever action is desired. It all boils down to elitism and personal bias, and this is odious to me as an American because I am a patriot, and I am a man who understands that “fathers” tend to be human creatures; fathers are anything but ideal in this way. My father and grandfathers taught me plenty of lessons about life and liberty, but they also taught me the important lessons: like how to spit, where to pee in the woods, if you have to take a shit what do you use (or not use) to wipe your ass, and of course, what to say when you eventually fart. For the record I always taught to blame “frogs,” their croaks sounded suspiciously like the farts of a grown man who would laugh when mom sighed and told me grab him another beer.
Farting is a human act. It levels you in your reality and body and prevents you from developing an asinine elitism that is in fact only having your head up your ass. Fart Proudly, Franklin (really Carl Japikse the editor), argues, because there really isn’t any other way to that will keep you sane.
Because I like fart jokes, having a steady supply of them on hand is of a must and so I’ve provided a link below of one or two websites that provide the reader with all the fart jokes their hearts and gum could ever desire. Enjoy:
"La Parilla", A Chilean Dictator's Dark Legacy, Arguably Essays, Augusto Pinochet, Caravan of Death, Chile, Christopher Hitchens, Communism, Democracy, Domino Effect, Dr. Salvador Allende, Essay, For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports, Futurama, H.R. Haldeman, Henry Killinger, Henry Kissinger, history, J.Y. Smith, Just for the record Henry Kissinger is a collossal asshat and is perhaps the most revolting human being that has walked this earth and I just wanted to remind you of that fact along with the fact that, Kissinger: A Touch of Evil, Last Week Tonight, Marshall Plan, Monte Reel, No On Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, Patrick Ryan, Politics, Richard Nixon, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, The Washington Post, torture, Venture Brothers, Walter Isaacson
I have only ever seen one episode of Venture Brothers all the way through and it happens to be an episode I’ve seen twice. The reason why this episode has left an impression upon my mind is because in one scene Henry Killinger’s face and body has become Dr. Venture’s Father’s penis poking out from his underwear and slowly approaching the man’s face in that low mumble that is the cold stuff of godless nightmares. My sister has made this episode a personal joke between siblings because I tried to get her to watch the show with me and both times we watched it was the Killinger episode.
This serendipity is a nice distraction from a real tragedy which is namely that Christopher Hitchens did not out live Henry Kissinger.
If it hasn’t been made apparent to my regular reader, I am an ardent fan and great admirer of the works of Christopher Hitchens. The reason for this is because in life the man was a brilliant orator, a fine rhetorician, and a fierce intelligence that could dwarf almost anyone and everyone he contested in life. Watching the man speak in public and defend his views and arguments was not only fascinating it was actually enjoyable. YouTube abounds with various interviews, debates, guest appearances, CSPAN call-ins, and wave upon wave of “Hitch-Slaps.” It wasn’t just that the man was intelligent or witty, it was largely because he actually did something with his talents, particularly when it came to politics.
I considered at the start of my summer to dip back into another one of his expose books, No On Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. I like many people have been mourning the fact that my choice comes down to Hilary or Trump and so looking back over the Clinton Presidency seemed like as fascinating choice. Instead though I went to my bookshelf and picked up The Trial of Henry Kissinger because over the last three months I’ve been watching documentaries about Watergate and the Nixon administration in general.
Now Hitchens’s book abounds with references to Nixon within the work, and the former President retains the ghoulishness which has become his character trait even outside the realm of Futurama. The first-come reader of The Trial of Henry Kissinger however is likely to be a bit disappointed if they were hoping the book covers Watergate. Hitchens doesn’t attack Kissinger for this particular outrage, instead he focuses his criticism on Kissinger’s involvement in war crimes during the Vietnam War, aiding and abetting a genocide, coup, and assassination in the nation of Bangladesh, working to help Nixon abolish the democratically elected leader in Chile and establish in its place the regime of Pinochet, his actions which aided the junta in Cyprus, and conspiring in an attempted assassination against a Grecian journalist living in Washington D.C.
The Chile incident is always what strikes me first, simply because my mother-in-law is from Chile and actually grew up during the reign of Pinochet. Some her memories of the time include going to school and playing on the playground of the building which was next door to the “prison,” if you could really call it such, where Pinochet’s bullies detained and tortured political dissidents. Another charming story involves midnight raids in which the military and police forces would take men from families to a local football field (soccer for my American readers). These men, and sometimes young boys, would line up and the leader would go down the line. If you were waved off it meant you could leave, but if you were told to go to the truck, it meant that no one would ever see you again. It was stories like this that made re-reading Hitchen’s book more poignant especially since the Chile chapter begins:
In a famous expression of his contempt for democracy, Kissinger once observed that he saw no reason why a certain country should be allowed to “go Marxist” merely because “its people were irresponsible.” The Country concerned was Chile, which at the time of this remark had a justified reputation as the most highly evolved pluralistic democracy in the southern hemisphere of the Americas. (82).
The Trump presidential campaign, which has really just been one long advertisement for Twitter, has proven that one bad quote does not kill a political career. As such, despite the fact the comment is pernicious and condescending as all balls, it wouldn’t be enough to call Kissinger a war criminal just because he said something stupid. Hitchens rarely employed a bad argument (his essay Women Aren’t Funny and supporting the Iraq war being the exceptions in this case), and so once he has established Chile as a thriving nation that was heading towards the election of Dr. Salvador Allende, he explains that the man was the embodied nightmare of Chile’s far right as well as notable corporations like ITT, Pepsi Cola, and Chase Manhattan Bank who would suffer financial setbacks if he was elected. At the time President Nixon, who owed much of his early success to a man by the name of Donald Kendall, the CEO of Pepsi Cola who’d given Nixon his first political fund, was of the opinion that Allende wasn’t right for the nation and so the attitude in the Oval Office was best expressed by the equation “Allende = NO.”
Kissinger was put to the task and Hitchens describes his motivations before going into some of the details:
Declassified documents show that Kissinger—who had previously neither known nor cared about Chile, describing it offhandedly as “a dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica”—took seriously this chance to impress his boss. A group was set up in Langley, Virginia, with the express purpose of running a “two-track” policy for Chile: one the ostensible diplomatic one and the other—unknown to the State Department or the US ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry—a strategy of destabilization, kidnap and assignation, designed to provoke a military coup. (84).
History does the rest for me, and my mother-in-law has provided some of the smaller gaps having lived on the ground during the reign of the eventually successor of Allende, the nutbag Augusto Pinochet. It’s difficult to really explain why the American government would be comfortable establishing the regime of a such a character, but remember at the time the United States hated communism more than dictatorship, and if the previous quotes haven’t been enough to explain, leadership of the U.S. was not in the best place that it could be. Chile suffered the worse of Kissinger’s desire to impress his boss and make sure his friend’s business interests were safe, because Pinochet as a dictator became every bad cliché of a military despot who assumed power. The man adored military outfits, often wore large glasses, believed genuinely that he was helping his country, and established a zealous and brutal intelligence service which established at least 17 different interrogation/detention/torture centers across the country. Pinochet was a brutal man, and if the reader doesn’t believe me they should pause to reflect on the fact that an entire Wikipedia page has been created with the title “Human rights violations in Pinochet’s Chile.” Using tactics from beating, sexual assault, waterboarding, and a process known as “La Parilla” (look it up on Wikipedia) Pinochet’s regime established itself early when the man authorized what has become known as the “Caravan of Death.”
In an obituary piece run by the Washington Post titled A Chilean Dictator’s Dark Legacy, the final devastation in numbers is offered:
First as head of a four-man military junta and then as president, Pinochet served until 1990, leaving a legacy of abuse that took successive governments years to catalogue. According to a government report that included testimony from more than 30,000 people, his government killed at least 3,197 people and tortured about 29,000. Two-thirds of the cases listed in the report happened in 1973.
My reader may protest at this point. All of this is tragic but it took place in the past, and surely Kissinger did not direct in the overthrow of the Allende government. Unfortunately for my contester Hitchens paints a grim picture:
The Actual overthrow of the Allende government in a bloody coup d’état took place while Kissinger was going through his own Senate confirmation process as Secretary of State. He falsely assured the Foreign Relations Committee that the United States government had played no part in the coup. From a thesaurus of hard information to the contrary, one might select Situation Report #2, from the Navy Section of the United States Military Group in Chile, and written by US Naval Attache, Patrick Ryan. Ryan describes his close relationship with the officers engaged in overthrowing the government, hails September 1973 as “our D-Day” and observes with satisfaction that “Chile’s coup de etat [sic] was close to perfect.” Or one may peruse the declassified files on Project FUBELT—the code name under which the CIA, in frequent contact with Kissinger and the Forty Committee, conducted covert operations against the legal and elected government of Chile.
What is striking, and what points to a much more direct complicity in individual crimes against humanity, is the microcosmic detail in which Kissinger kept himself informed of Pinochet’s atrocities. (102).
I understand that this may be thick inside jargon, but it is worth digging through to really understand what is happening. By speaking before the Senate while being questioned to determine his character for the position of Secretary of State Kissinger performed an act of perjury while professing his dedication to the United States of America. This act alone is enough to damn the man, but the focus remains on Chile.
One last quote is necessary before I address my contester again. Hitchens looks into the mountains of declassified documents and uncovers an exchange between Pinochet and Kissinger when the men discussed the dictator’s accusations of human rights:
“I want to see our relations and friendship improve,” Kissinger told Pinochet (but not the readers of his memoirs). “We want to help, not undermine you.” In advising a murderer and despot, whose rule he had helped impose, to disregard his upcoming remarks as a sop to Congress, Kissinger insulted democracy in both countries. He also gave the greenest of green lights to further cross-border and internal terrorism, of neither of which he could have been unaware. (108)
Following his departure from the United States State Department Kissinger donated his papers to the Library of Congress with strict orders that they remain closed until after his death. Because of this action, barring any unforeseen legislation that might allow the public to open them, any and all information on Kissinger’s decisions and actions during his time as Secretary of State will be forever shut to the public. I have my contester to answer to however.
If it hasn’t become clear I have not reviewed The Trial of Henry Kissinger in its entirety, but merely focused my attention on one chapter. If my contester accuses me of focusing on only aspect of Kissinger’s time in office then that is perfectly fine criticism and I’ll accept it , however the other night I was reading Kissinger: A Touch of Evil, an essay that appeared originally in The London Review which was a review of a biography of Kissinger by Walter Isaacson. I recently added the collection For the Sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports which, like Arguably Essays, is just a collection of Hitchens’s various essays, reviews, and blurbs. I’ve always loved Hitchens as an essayist because it was in this form which, much like Gore Vidal and David Foster Wallace, that man showed his ability as a writer. The Trial of Henry Kissinger is not so much an essay as it is an expose piece, and going through each of the chapters the reader runs the risk, unless they’re fluent with the events and characters in question, of losing the argument rather quickly. Having amassed an understanding of the characters this latest reading of the book made far more sense than it did the first time around. Looking at the essay Kissinger: A Touch of Evil led me back to this essay, which I had started not long after finishing the book two months ago and quickly dropped to write about Prometheus and Fun Home, because in the last paragraph Hitchens offered a view of Kissinger the man two years before The Trial was published:
All over today’s Washington there are men—Robert McNamara, Wilson Colby of the CIA, George Ball of the State Department—who have written memoirs and given interviews which try to atone for past crimes and blunders. Kissinger no doubt, would regard even the smallest exercise in atonement as sickly. When criticized, as in this book or in early work by Seymour Hersh, he reacts with great displays or rage and petulance. It is evident that he cannot allow any reconsideration of his own monstrous greatness. This may be a sign of instability rather than arrogance. (328).
I cannot provide a point by point criticism of the career of Henry Kissinger, for I lack the research and background to really stand as any kind of source for a call for action. Better writers and reporters had dedicated their time and energies to this effect and done a better job than I ever could. What I will allow myself is the title of a citizen of the United States, and this position affords me the right to criticize figures in politics when they have performed or become implicated in heinous actions.
Kissinger’s role in the involvement and establishment of the government of Pinochet was an odious offence, and while some apologists would step in and remind me of the Marshal Plan, the Domino Effect, and the reminder to be hesitant when judging people of the past I can stand firmly on the position that regardless of these points, the fact that a representative of the United States would so freely aid a dictator who employed torture and genocide to ensure his will surpasses any and all concern. Kissinger is not an abstract founding father, he is a contemporary living being and as such he can and should (and has) stand for the accusations and realities that various papers, testimony, and reports implicate him in.
It’s the responsibility of citizens to observe their government and ensure that their representatives are not corrupt, and when naysayers attack said citizens as whistleblowers and self-righteous buffoons the resolve should only be stronger.
The Trial of Henry Kissinger is not a literary document, but it sure to be a staple of the Kissinger library that currently exists. Kissinger outlived Hitchens, and as I wrote before this is a tragedy, but as I watch and observe the impression of the man that has developed there is some consolation in the fact that more and more people have come to recognize Kissinger for what he is: a self-serving sociopath. Watching Last Week Tonight a few weeks back John Oliver made a small joke many people missed. There’s only a few reasons to drink champagne at 8 in the morning, he cited two ridiculous examples before then saying, “Or when Henry Kissinger dies.” This is probably the best example that I have, though the Venture Brothers scene described at the start of the essay probably does all the work for me.
The concern of historians is to interpret the events of the past as spoken through documents, and while the citizenry at large doesn’t have all the information yet, Kissinger’s cultural identity is in a state of eventual downfall. For my part, I return to Hitchens and The Trial of Henry Kissinger and to the stories my Mother-in-laws tells me.
The men who stood on those soccer fields, terrified that they would “disappear” into the back of trucks probably never knew that in Washington D.C. Henry Kissinger was laughing and flirting with beautiful women comfortable and content that was he was securing a glorious political legacy. Hitchens book goes a long way in ensuring that Kissinger’s dream remains polluted by the corruption he engaged in, and readers like me continue the fight.
I’ve included a link below to the Washington Post Article, the link to the Wikipedia Page on Pinochet’s use of torture, links to two articles written by a friend of mine who teaches Latin American history and operates the site Americas South and North which covers historical and contemporary events in Latin American countries, a review of The Trial from the Gaurdian, a review from Publisher’s Weekly, an article from Salon, and finally an article about Kissinger’s role in the 2016 Presidential election:
I didn’t get a chance to put this part in since I kept my focus on Chile, but in the first chapter Hitchens discusses Kissinger’s involvement of bombing on civilians and his purposeful foiling of peace negotiations between North Vietnam and the United States, and in one passage he quotes H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, who talks about his encouraging Nixon to release the remaining tapes of conversations in the Oval Office:
Nixon made the point that Kissinger was really the one who had the most to lose from the tapes becoming public. Harry apparently felt that the tapes would expose a lot of things he had said that would be very disadvantageous to him publicly.
Nixon said that in making the deal for custody of his Presidential papers, which was originally announced after thus pardon but then was shot down by congress, it was Henry who called him and insisted on Nixon’s right to destroy the tapes. That was, of course, the thing that destroyed the deal. (62).