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The Inquirer (again) and Steve Jobs (again)BY: Dan Rottenberg 01.17.2012
Institutional Alzheimer’s strikes again at the Inquirer. An academic Luddite strikes again at the New York Review of Books.
A plague of journalists (and professors)DAN ROTTENBERG
As I’ve suggested before, the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s pales beside the institutional Alzheimer’s that has seized the Inquirer since the turn of the millennium. (See, for example, ”A fate worse than death.”)
In its latest manifestation, columnist Michael Vitez last week posed this question: Who would be considered Overbrook High School’s “most esteemed alumnus”— the basketball star Wilt Chamberlain (Class of ’55) or the movie star Will Smith (Class of ’86)?
Vitez managed to overlook Frank Piasecki, a dude who never dunked a basketball or delivered a karate chop but did invent the helicopter. Of course, Piasecki graduated from Overbrook in 1936, when movable type and the Franklin printing press were still in their infancy.
* * *
Talking about movable type, Drexel University professor Robert Zaller, meet Middlebury College scholar in residence Sue Halpern, who seems to detest the late Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs even more than Zaller does.
Zaller, you may recall, recently declared in these pages, “For every advance in technology there is a corresponding cost, and the cost frequently if not typically exceeds the benefit,” and further advised us that “I have somehow managed to survive without any of Jobs’s devices.” (See “On worshipping Steve Jobs.”)
Halpern, going Zaller one better in the New York Review of Books, rejects the notion that Jobs was either an artist or a genius. “Artists, typically, aim to put something of enduring beauty into the world,” she writes in her overheated peroration. “Consumer electronics companies aim to sell a lot of gadgets,” the ultimate result of which are “heaps of electronic waste…. leaking poisons and carcinogens like lead, cadmium, and mercury that leach into [poor people’s] skin, the ground, the air, the water.” (See “Who was Steve Jobs?”, January 12.)
What I said in my rejoinder to Zaller applies equally to Professor Halpern. Since she presumably rejects the use of consumer electronics devices for herself, would it be impertinent to inquire who mined the clay and fabricated the tablets on which she composed her article, how many ox carts were required to transport those tablets from Middlebury to New York, how many servants were required to tend, feed and drive the oxen, how much damage to the ozone was perpetrated by the oxen’s manure deposits as well as their rapacious consumption of grass, and how much extra space did the New York Review need to store Halpern’s tablet files?♦
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