Monday, October 24, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5,2011
He was only 56 years old. 
The impact he had on the world was substantial.
He was the heart, soul, creative cheerleader, guru, CEO, showman, innovator, and genius that ran Apple.  He and his company, for they are in a sense inseparable, brought the world the personal computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and lately the iPad (on which for obvious reasons this letter was composed).  Each of these products either created a new business space or revolutionized the ones they competed in.
The personal computer, and all the enhancements that have followed since, were offshoots of the first Apple that Jobs and Wozniak built in Job's parents' garage.  It created a new marketplace.  It was revolutionary.  People were able to much more on their own from word processing to various analyses.  One of the first software programs, Visicalc, allowed for so much more to be done in accounting and business planning than people imagined.  When the internet and email were added to the mix, people were unshackled from their desks, secretaries became obsolete, and productivity began to soar.  All the while, Jobs and Apple continued to refine and re-define their product.  Apple became the company and their PC line innovated into the brand name Macintosh then simply Mac to the current iMac series.  Their machines and operating systems distinguished themselves by being more reliable, not susceptible to viruses, and most importantly providing a superior more intuitive and easier to use user interface than their competition.
PCs and windows took over the business world.  Macs were relegated to the art departments, education, and other specialty aficionados.  The people that wanted them, liked them, and needed them were happy to pay the premium that these PCs commanded.  They commanded premium prices from the beginning and that has lasted to today.  One can pay twice as much for a comparably equipment iMac than the cheapest Windows based PCs.  It seems that people in increasing numbers are doing just that.
Steve Jobs was genius and an innovator.  He could see ahead of everyone else.  He was not an inventor in the style of Edison (who may have indeed been the last solo inventor).  Jobs did not invent anything himself but guided new product conceptualization, new product development, and marketing.  His genius was seeing what technological innovations were making possible.  He saw this before anyone else.  He not only saw it but had created an organization that could bring the concept to market faster than anyone. 
Apple was more innovative in the early years of personal computing than most of us probably give them credit for.  They had the first networking capability for PCs.  They had the first real laptop computer.  They were the first to use much of the technology developed at Xerox's Research Park in Palo Alto including the mouse.  Apple did not just borrow or steal this technology.  They, under Jobs guidance, acquired the rights to and innovated beyond the bulky high cost yet groundbreaking Xerox prototypes and brought them to the mass market. 
The created an operating system that really truly made the PC the useful tool we all rely upon today.  They made the operating system work intuitively using icons, windows, point, click, and drag to really free people to create written work, spreadsheets, and artistic displays.  Their work was the underlying example for the highly successful Microsoft Windows and Office software that is so ubiquitous today.
But, this was only half of his genius.  He had another, perhaps even rarer, gift.  He could create simple, elegant, intuitive, and superior user machine interfaces.  Once one had one of his products in ones possession, this superiority in ease of use and navigation became crystal clear.  No one else could do this, not even close.  He had a gift for seeing how emerging technologies could be used to make innovative ground breaking game changing products that changed entire industries and marketplaces.  He had a gift for marshaling the resources and people of Apple to make this all happen.  There is no question that Jobs was the mastermind and leader of all of this. 
This was all there in the PCs but that was only the beginning.  The new century became the Apple century, at least thus far.
On October 23, 2001, they released the iPod.   This product revolutionized the music business immediately and across the board.  This miraculous device the size of a deck of playing cards allowed one to access all of their music all of the time anywhere they were.  They stole the portable music business from Sony that had invented  the transistor radio, the Walkman cassette player, and their whole line of CD based products.  Sony never recovered from this and was never able to launch anything in their proprietary format that could remotely compete with the iPad. 
There is definitely a case that Napster, the creation of Sean Parker, is more responsible for the demise of the record stores and changing the industry.  Parker and Napster might have been the catalyst but he did not create anything sustainable.  It was Jobs and Apple that created an integrated channel that replaced stores, distribution, and physical products i.e. CDs with the iTunes and iPads.  Plus, what Jobs and Apple did was legal and has been generating revenue since its inception.
Jobs took over from Sony's Akio Morita as the innovator in portable music devices practically without a fight.  Without Morita, Sony was not the same when the innovative dynamo was no longer running things.  This makes one wonder how Apple will fare without Jobs. 
On January 29, 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the IPhone at MacWorld 2007.  At the time the cell phone was dominated by Nokia and Blackberry with the occasional success from Motorola and the up and coming Samsung.  Jobs and Apple took it to a new level.  It was the phone everyone has had to have since its launch.   It is the product which all other phones are measured against. 
One would think that having innovated, invented, or coordinated the innovation and invention of the personal computer, the most intuitive operating system for personal computers, the iPad, and iPhone would be more than enough.  Anyone of these products would have made for an amazing achievement and spectacular lifetime achievement.  This was not enough for Steve Jobs and Apple.  He may have saved his best for last.  On January 26, 2010, the man introduced the iPad.  The iPad (again the device upon which I am writing this tribute letter) is something new and and also something in-between.  It is neither a smart phone nor is it a PC.  Yet, it does some of what each of these devices do and it does more.  It is something new and in-between. 
The iPad runs on apps just like the iPhone.  The bigger screen makes it a superior device for watching video, reading books, playing games, and other diversions.  The smaller size, instant on, and quick response makes it more convenient and easier to use than a laptop.  It is a revolutionary and evolutionary product that is taking the world by storm.  It is amazing to see how people that owns them use them is such unique ways to serve their own interests and passions. 
Why might the iPad be the best product Jobs ever shepherded into the market?  The competition, simply, does not come close.  While many looked at it as something evolutionary and inevitable, Apple surprised everyone and caught the competition a little flat footed and unprepared. 
There was lots of press when the iPad was launched about how they market was about to be flooded with pad devices.  Samsung, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell soon came out with their own products.  They were all lackluster, despite the advertising campaigns, by comparison.  Hewlett-Packard's product had such unimpressive results that they decided to pull it off of the market after just a few months.  They reneged on the decision when their small but avid user base complained and decided simply to lower price.  The only strategy that these competitors can possibly use is to drop their prices.  The press is now rife with predictions of the next wave of newer cheaper pad devices with Amazon leading the way.  We shall see.
When he introduced the iPad, he reported that in three short years since the introduction of the iPhone, Apple had become, in terms of revenue, the largest mobile device company in the world.  It had become bigger than Sony, Samsung, and Nokia. 
His genius was not just in the hardware.  He has created an integrated the hardware, software, and how software is bought and managed.  Apple under his tutelage created a integrated business supply system.  There are Apple Stores for browsing, touching, trying, drooling, and buying devices and machines.  Software, music, books, and other media flow from iTunes to the various Apple devices.
People that never owned an Apple product, save for perhaps the iPod, bought iPads and love them.  They love them so much, they are moving to iPhones and MacPros when it is time for them to upgrade their other devices.  iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro are the must have trio of business devices. 
The world is expecting Apple to take this integration to the next level.  The only thing missing from the suite of devices:  interconnectivity and Apple launched their iCloud based file sharing this month.  This allows the sharing of files between all of one’s Apple and Windows devices.  This would include photos, music, books/magazines, and office suite files.  It might also include apps.   iCloud would allow one the ability to read one's books or listen to one's music on any of one's Apple devices.
Beyond the market share numbers and everything written above, there is a very visual way to see and understand the popularity of Apple and Apple products.  Go to an Apple Store.  Sit outside the store and take note of the traffic going into and out of the store.  Notice how many people are leaving with purchases.  If the store is in a mall, take note of the traffic going into and out the stores around the Apple Store.  The traffic and comparisons will have as big an impact on how well Apple is doing as anything you might read in the business press.  It would be interesting if we could see the traffic in and out of the iTunes store.
He was impressive in life.  But, immediately upon his passing, it was as if the world as a whole truly realized how incredible this man was and how big a loss this has become for all of us.
·         Top Ten Quotes of Steve Jobs
·         Steve Jobs -  June 2005 Commencement Address Stanford University
This Stanford University website contains both the text of Jobs famous speech and an embedded Youtube video.  It is well worth the 15 minutes it takes to listen to this speech.  Another website that I found,, has summarized Steve’s seven rules of success:

1.    Do what you love
2.    Put a dent in the universe
3.    Make connections
4.    Say no to 1,000 things
5.    Create insanely different experiences
6.    Master the message
7.    Sell dreams, not products

Not everyone, however, is enamored with the man or his memory.  Someone in a discussion group I belonged to posted the following:  “I predict that when the glitter settles, he will be largely remembered as a clever, obsessed guy, who made an enormous amount of money paying workers very little while getting top dollar from middle class consumers for prettier, slightly more reliable toys.”  Another person in the same group provided a link to the darker side of Steve Jobs with “There is blood in those gadgets” and referred us to a blog posting:
I started to respond to those postings in that discussion but it was running out of steam, so I thought I would respond to it here. 
This whole debate in that discussion group took place with people around the world via... semaphore? smoke signals?  Ah yes, we are using the www, the internet, using devices from a variety of manufacturers including servers, wires, chips of all kinds, bloody devices that have sped up the mining and dissemination of data, information, thoughts, and wisdom to practically the speed of light.  We love the convenience.  We are mostly blind to slimy underbelly of it all:

·         Pollution:  there is a huge issue in this silicon chipped device world we love.  Obsolete batteries and devices in landfills are a pollution bomb of toxic materials and heavy metals we bequeath to future generations.  The amount of electricity server farms suck up and the heat they generate is an issue that has been expounded upon in the press.  We should worry about this every time we put finger to keyboard, cell phone, or tablet screen:  toys many of us use all the time.

·         Conditions in factories:  All companies chase cheap labor around the world.  The more fast paced and competitive the industry; the more this is true.  We should think about this when we buy any new device made in any third world country.  Even if the factory is well run respecting people.  The workers are often displaced.  Yet, they somehow take the jobs.  Why?  Simply it betters their lives even if it is the result of factories closing in the west.

Why just beat up on Steve Jobs?  We all drive cars, wear clothes, eat meat, and enjoy electricity.
·         Do we think of the pollution that cars spew out?  The natural resources they consume?  No we enjoy the convenience and freedom of conveyance.
·         Do we think of the conditions in clothing factories when we buy a shirt made, undoubtedly in a sweatshop in some third world place?  No... we need clothes and appreciate the low prices.  
·         Do we think of the conditions for animals and workers that produce meat in feed lots?  Factories that hatch 250,000+ chickens a day and slaughter the same number 20 some days later?  No, we appreciate the "everyday low prices" and seeming abundance of it all.
·         Do we think about the amount of electricity we use to run every gizmo we own and light our house?  Where does the coal come from that is used to fuel the power points?  Who works in those coal mines anyway?  No... we take electric light and the ability to make ourselves sleep deprived as some kind of basic human right.

We want all the conveniences of a modern life.  Collectively, we want to have them at the lowest cost possible.  Companies that provide these goods and services want to make as much money as they can in providing these goods and services to us.  Very few companies and leaders can constantly innovate and hit more than their share of home runs.  Akio Morita and Steve Jobs are from the same cut of cloth in my opinion.  They are very rare and special business leaders.
Are we collectively willing to do with less and pay more for what we do get simply in order to make the world a little better for everyone?  Versus making it a whole lot better for just me?  Or just you?  The answer from the majority is a very loud NO WAY.
Lastly, I imagine Steve Jobs was driven, ambitious, and very hard on people at times.  I imagine as that he could be one offensive SOB.  Good coaches and motivators from the ranks of business, warfare, and government are often that way.  They have to be in order to get their troops to be aligned with and act on their vision.  To do great things, organizations have to be yanked in the direction the visionary leader sees as the direction to go.  The organizational inertia wants to do what is known and comfortable.  It will never stumble in the direction the visionary wants it to go in the same way consumers will never tell companies what the next innovative breakthrough product should be.

Addendum:  I wanted to keep this part separate from the above tribute to Steve Jobs.  Again, upon his passing emails were sent in Armenian circles with the subject:  Steve Jobs spoke fluent Armenian.
My first reaction while waiting for the email to open was "Huh??"  If that were true, why hadn't I heard about it.  This is definitely something the Armenian community would want to tout and be proud of:  Steve Jobs is Armenian.  Who woulda thunk.
I had made an extrapolation on the subject that Steve Jobs spoke Armenian.  He is not Armenian per se.  He was adopted by John and Clara Jobs who raised him.  His  adoptive mother is Armenian.  Her maiden name is Hagopian.
Even the Turkish Newspaper, Today's Zaman, carried a similar story with the headline, "Steve Jobs adoptive Armenian mother has Anatolian roots.  Clara Hagopian Jobs family were from Malatya and immigrated to United States following the "1915 incidents.”
His birth father was a Syrian Muslim.  I am sure that both Arabs and Muslims are noting this positively for the same reasons both Armenians and Turks are doing so:  some part of his genius must be due to his (...fill in the blank...) background.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Muammar Khaddafi

Yesterday, Muamar Khaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte.  He was wounded in the final battle of the liberation of Libya.  He was found hiding in a drainage pipe by the vanquishing combatants.  Their hatred for him was so intense that instead of getting him medical attention, they opted to humiliate the dying dictator dragging him through the streets from the back of a pick-up truck. 

That was the story yesterday.  Today, there are conflicting reports.  He is still dead.  It is just the circumstances.  He may have been in better health upon capture than first reported.  Now there are reports that someone shot him in the gut when he was captured and that is the wound that killed him.

Khaddafi was as the LA Tiimes obituary called him in their opening lines.  "In the modern pantheon of the world's dictators, Moammar Khaddafi stood apart. Far apart."  He was ambitious, ruthless, flamboyant, tough, congenial, calculating, self-serving, charming, and what the LA Times also called "cartoonish."

From afar dictators like Khaddafi, Hussein, Chavez, and Castro can look comical.  They rant.  They rave.  They wear ridiculous uniforms.  Some of these characters routinely orate to captive audiences for 4 or more hours.  They write little black, red, yellow, or green books of their vision and "insights" that they make everyone in the country read.  From afar they look comical and perhaps even harmless.  In their countries, however, it is quite the opposite.  People are deathly afraid of their ego driven cruelty designed to create loyal cowering subjects.  You can be in one minute and being tortured the next.  You can be arrested for no apparent reason and perhaps never seen again.  Sometimes, the world gets a taste of their mania firsthand like when Khaddafi had that nightclub in Berlin bombed or when he brought down Pan Am 103 blown out of the sky.

Khaddafi was more flamboyant than any of them.  Google his name and click on images.  His costumes over the years are really something to see.  The one pictured here is for some reason my favorite though they are all colorful and comical.  He may have been a cartoon character to the world, but to his people, he was as tough, cruel, and ruthless as any of the dictators.  He clamped down viciously fighting to his own death when the Arab Spring came to Libya.  The world was horrified at his reaction and level of violence he brought to his own people.  He was not about to lose power.  He was not about to be told by anyone how he should govern or that he needed to make reforms.

Yet, like many others he could be charming.  He decided to change and be more of international player especially after the US bombed his country.  Khaddafi did convince, until this Libyan Spring, that he was a better global citizen.  Once his true colors re-emerged in the past several months, it seems like the entire world turned against him.  It seemed like it was what the European NATO countries needed to take the action they had long wanted to take against him.  Everyone seemed happy to see him killed today.  It is reminiscent of the killing of Bin Laden earlier this year. 

He challenged the US a few times over the 40 years he ruled Libya.  In the 1980s we challenged him twice.  After he bombed the nightclub in Berlin killing and wounding US soldiers, President Reagan authorized an air strike on Libya, targeting Khaddafi’s living quarters.  People were killed in this raid including an adopted daughter of Khaddafi.  A US government spokesperson was asked if the goal was to kill Khaddafi.  I will never forget the answer, “If you bomb someone’s home at 2 in the morning… presumably.”

In the same decade, the United Nations agreed that a country’s territorial extendted to twelve miles from the shoreline.  Khaddafi decided to defy this and extend Libya’s to something more.  This led to a US – Libya confrontation.  The US began flying sorties from Mediterranean based aircraft carriers into the airspace between the UN and Libyan territorial water borders.  We did it to challenge and taunt the Libyans i.e. Khaddafi.  Two Libyan fighter jets, of Soviet vintage if memory serves me correct, fired on two US fighters.  The US jets were beyond the range of the Libyan missiles.  The missiles fell into the sea.  The funny part to me at the time was that the Libyan jets were within the range of the missiles the US jets were carrying.  The US pilots were given the OK to engage.  They did.  Splash.  Splash.  Both Libyan fighters were destroyed.

The video that I saw yesterday morning was on the New York Post website was taken with someone’s cell phone and was jumpy and erratic.  It should a bloody Khaddafi being manhandled by his captors.  He passively waved his hands which was all the resistance he could muster in his weakened state.  All the while someone was shouting “Allah Akbar.”  He was held by the shoulders at the edge of a pick-up truck.  His feet were the only things to be dragging in the street.  They were jostling him around and pulling on his hair.  They did this instead of getting him medical help.  They denied him any kind of show a trial might have afforded.

This morning there were photos of a dead Khaddafi lying in the street.  It did not look like the same person as in the video yesterday.  So who knows?

Glad he is out of power.  Best of luck to the Libyans.  May they create a new government that allows the people to live freely and prosper.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michigan State 24 - Michigan 14

This is my third football posting in as many weeks.  I must be a frustrated sportswriter...

October 14:  I left Illinois this afternoon at 3 pm and headed east on 1-94.  I was going to Detroit.  I am visiting my parents and attending the Michigan - Michigan State Game which will take place in E. Lansing tomorrow at noon.  I am going with my good friend Jack Hachigian, his family, and friends.  He gives me a ticket when the game is at Spartan Stadium.  I reciprocate when the game is in Ann Arbor.

It should be a good game tomorrow.  Michigan, somehow, is rated in the top ten and Michigan State is in the high teens.  I am not sure how Michigan is rated above Michigan State especially given that the Spartans are favored by three over the Wolverines!?  But such is the dichotomies of college football subjective rankings. 

This will be the best game in the past few years.  The Spartans have won the last three games.  If they win tomorrow, it will be the first time MSU won four in a row over Michigan since the 1950s.  I sure hope that doesn't happen. 

There are lots of such instate rivalries:  Iowa - Iowa State, USC - UCLA, Auburn - Alabama, Florida - Florida State, and Washington - Washington State to name a few.  Around here, where I grew up in Detroit, there is no other in state rivalry that matches Michigan vs. Michigan State.  But, I bet they say the same thing in Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, and Iowa.  The announcers will always say it is for in state bragging rights not only of the players but for the fans as well. 

I am a different kind of fan.  I fully understand that you cannot have a rivalry without the rival.  I also understand that for a rivalry has to be close to 50-50 in victories.  If one team dominates the other year after year, the passion dissipates.  The rivalry becomes lame.  It has to be evenly matched to maintain the intensity.  Not everyone sees it like me.  Most want to pound the other team into a pulp every year winning 63-0.  These folks do not understand the dynamics of a good rivalry. 

When it comes to Michigan State, I generally like the Spartans.  I tell anyone and everyone that the Spartans are my second favorite team in any college sport.  I want them only to lose to Michigan, but I want them to beat everyone else.  It is that simple.  If they beat Michigan in football or basketball, I want them to win the Big Ten and a National Championship.  I enjoyed the basketball success of the school since Magic Johnson was there.  I am glad that their football program is reborn and competitive under the tutelage of Coach Dantonio.  He has done a great job.

There is an exception, actually two exceptions:  Ohio State and Southern Cal.  I like seeing these teams lose as many games as possible.  I am not sure why?  It may be their obnoxious attitudes.  I do believe Ohio State and their fans are actually poor winners (you heard that term coined here first).  Something is wrong when collectively the team and fans are poor winners.  If you ask me who my favorite team is, I am likely to answer Michigan and then Michigan State.  I am equally likely to answer, Michigan and whoever is playing Ohio State.  When Ohio State and Southern Cal play, I wonder if it is possible for both teams to lose.

Having said this, and had my little hissy fit, I cannot really hate Ohio State.  As I said, there is no rivalry without the rival.  Furthermore, the series has to kind of be 50-50.  It was great fun, but not a great rivalry when we beat them 10 out of 12 times in the late 1980s and 1990s.  It has been out right dismal and also not a great rivalry in this century when Ohio State has turned the tables on us and won like 8-9 games in a row.  The Ohio State and Michigan rivalry has not been that great in the past 20 years.  It has been lopsided.  Now, in the famed ten year war between Woody and Bo, the record was 5-4-1 in favor of Bo.  It was crazy intense and really took the game to another level.

That is what I want for Michigan State and Michigan.  I want Hoke and Dantonio to commence a ten year war tomorrow.  It would be a blessing to both schools and their fans.  I am totally OK with us winning the first round.

October 15:  Well for all the hype and all the excitement, Michigan is not yet ready to resume this rivalry.  We lost today, 28-14.

The Spartan defense was just too good for the Michigan offense.  We were held to just 250 yards which is the lowest production of the year for our high powered offense.  Michigan relies on the running game, specifically the running game of quarterback Denard Robinson.  The MSU defense was aggressive, tough, and quite skilled.  They held the Wolverines to a mere 82 yards rushing.  Coming into this game, Denard Robinson was the leading rusher in the Big Ten.  Today, I am sure he is nursing his banged and bruised body from the punishment doled out by the Spartans.  The Spartan defense put pressure on the Michigan quarterbacks the entire game.  In the second half, they seemed to sack our QB with increasing frequency.  Their defensive front are monsters... very fast and agile monsters.

The Spartans came out of the tunnel on fire.  They were pretty jacked up.  That intensity and excitement was not contained.  They were penalized 13 times for 124 yards.  Something like six of these penalties were for late hits, roughing the passer, and unnecessary roughness.  Late in the 4th Quarter they knocked Denard out of the game by slamming him to the turf after he had already passed the ball.  That resulted in a roughing the passer penalty.  I have to believe beating our guys up was part of their strategy.

Before the game I thought we would score some points and the game would be settled by our defense versus their offense.  Their offense scored 21 points on our defense.  I had assumed our potent offense would finally rack up some points on MSU.  I was wrong.  Our first down productivity was not very good.  We seemed to be facing 2nd and 10 or 8 on every series.  Our second down productivity was not much better.

I knew we were mis-matched most of the game.  We were clearly a better team than the last few years, but still not ready for the prime time.  We were clearly not deserving of our high ranking in the poll.  We will no doubt move down and the Spartans should definitely move up. 

While I knew we were mis-matched as the game progressed into the 2nd Quarter.  I began to get upset and angry.  I did not realize how much or why until about twenty minutes after the game ended.  Now, there is no reason to get upset at a football game simply because they represent a school I graduated from in 1974 and 1978.  I should not really be upset because of the main fact that I had no control or influence on the outcome of the game... no matter how much I yelled or cheered.  I probably have very little in common with most of the so called students playing for either team.  Most of them could not have gotten into either school if they had to rely on their academics alone.  Yet, I am not alone in this living and dying with our teams. 

I knew my being upset and angry was due, simply, to the fact that I had drunk the Kool-Aid that my team was back and competitive.  I was mostly upset and angry with myself for not being more rational and objective about our status.  The State fans were proud and happy as well they should be.    The Sparty fans did not lord their victory over us either.  They were gracious.  Most of them thought that the game was in question until Denard was intercepted in the 4th Quarter that was run back for the final score of the game.  I realized that my being upset and angry was exactly how the Spartan fans felt for many years between the Duffy Dougherty glory years of the 1950s-1960s until Mark Dantanio won the first of this current run of four in a row.

People in the same row were I was sitting unfurled a banner that read "Who is arrogant now??? 4-0."  They were referring to a term, Arrogant Asses, that a former MSU coach used when referencing the University of Michigan and their fans.  It was said in frustration with the lopsided record and, truly, our arrogant attitude in that regard.  We had a superiority complex and they had a serious inferiority complex.  I looked at the sign and did not like it.  But, the truth is the truth.  I had to rely on the philosophical belief that we are improving and the last haven of the recently beaten... wait until next year.

I have seen the look of how I was feeling and no doubt was easily discerned from my visage.  I have seen that feeling in the eyes and body language of my good friend and host for the day, Jack Hachigian, several times when Michigan beat MSU.  I remember when he stood next to me at the famous triple overtime game when Michigan, who was pushed around most of the game, came back to tie the game and then win it in dynamic fashion in three overtimes.  It was one of the great victories for Michigan in the series.  It was one of the most bitter defeats for MSU and their fans.  This loss for us was nowhere near as bitter.  In fact, if we had taken the game to multiple OTs, I would have felt we were on equal footing again with our in-state rivals.

We shall see what next year brings...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wall Street Protests

There are protests on Wall Street.  Hundreds of these protesters were arrested a few Sundays on the Brooklyn Bridge and more recently in Boston.  What is going on?  Who are these people?  What are they protesting about?

I am not sure if I am an average Joe or not.  But, I suspect neither Joe, Mrs. Joe, nor anyone of the little Joe’s understand what this protest is all about.  I for sure do not have a clue what this whole thing is about.  But, that is one of the beauties of blogging.  I can decide to write a piece about something that I do not know enough about and thus am forced to research it.  The research is quite easy in this internet age.  Twenty years ago?  I would have probably just dropped this whole thing as simply being too much trouble.

My cousin Lindsay had just texted me in Google Chat.  So, I decided to begin my ad hoc, unscientific poll, beginning with her.  To read more on Lindsay, check out my blog posting of how we met Cousin Lindsay Blog

me:  do you have any idea what these wall street protests are about
Lindsay:  i was just reading another article now.  i agree with many of their claims and its a peaceful protest.  i think what's been going on with the arab spring/summer finally came full circle and [my generation] is fed up and stepping up
me:  so you have some clue?  can you send an article with a list
Lindsay:  though the thing is, corporate america only gets away with it for one reason.  our government.  washington is as corrupt (if not more)
me:  so it is a generational thing?
Lindsay:  just emailed you the "declaration."  i think most protesters are younger....considering boomers have more at stake to rise against the status quo (we don't even have jobs to be fired from!!!)
me:  is there a website where the declaration came from
(sorry for all these questions.  I am totally fascinated)
Lindsay:  i got it from this article: Article from The Raw Story

She clearly is in tune and sympathetic with this movement.  I soon will be in tune with it... sympathy may or may not follow.

I followed the link to the article which in turn had a link to the

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy … join us! We're now in DAY 19.

The New York Times calls this “a noble but fractured and airy movement of rightly frustrated young people.”  NYT Bellafonte 9-23-11.  This simply was not  on my radar screen.  I really did not know about this until that weekend of 9-23.  We were in New York for a wedding.  We were staying near LaGuardia Airport as the church and catering hall were in Queens.  I awoke Sunday to news that protesters were arrested in mass crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.  I was totally unaware.  

I do not blame this movement of mostly young people.  The American Dream has been taken from them, hijacked, by the loss of our manufacturing base.  They see that multinationals just do not think very much in our National interest, so they blame Wall Street.  Are they not getting the coverage they deserve because they do not deserve any coverage or is it because what we used to call “the man” is not covering it on purpose.

Nicolas Kristof, the esteemed New York Times Op-Ed columnist, has likened this movement to those in the Arab Spring.  He specifically channeled Tahrir Square.  This raised a lot of eyebrows.  But, I can see it.  A generation not only seems but are disenfranchised from the American Dream.   They are raring to go... but there are no jobs.  Corporations are doing better and making money again but it is a jobless recovery.  Efficiencies and globalization include the American consumer as part of the recovery but not the American workforce.  I believe this is at the heart of this nascent movement.  

People in my generation are not relating to the frustration of the generation that relates to and is driving this protest.  Kristof took heat for likening this to the Egyptian Tahrir Square protests.  

There is plenty of frustration to go around.  We are in a state of flux in this country.  We are experienced the global economic equilibrium being reset.  The reset is not necessarily in our favor.  Our being on the losing end of things makes the reset painful for us.  The pain is felt by my generation that cannot retire as early as we had hoped.  For a great number of us the idea of any kind of retirement at all seems to have evaporated.  While this is tough sledding for us, we grin and bear it.  Well, maybe we scowl and bear it.  The bottom line is we bear it.  There is not much we can do.  We know we way closer to the end of our careers, the end of our working and producing days, so we endure and make the best of things.  We try to make ends meet and hold on to whatever employment we have.

For the generation of my cousin Lindsay, it is a whole different matter.  They are at the very beginning of their work life.  They are freshly minted adults.  They are ready to get going.  They want to get going.  They have gone to school, selected fields of studies, and worked hard to graduate.  They are raring to go.  For way too many of them, there is just no place to go.  There are not nearly enough entry level career type jobs for them to go into.

This does not stop that generation.  They go and get a part time job, maybe two, perhaps three.  They do what they have to do to be as independent as they can be. They nanny, work at Starbucks, work in retail, whatever it takes.  They return to school for advanced degrees.  The return to school for a more marketable bachelors degree or certifications.  What I like about the young people I have seen is that they do not give up and they realize the new normal better than any of their elders.  Perhaps it is because this is the only normal they have ever known.

I can see their frustration with the Wall Street.  I can see where they are fed up and want to do something, anything, about it.  They see it is time for a new paradigm.  Perhaps it is.

If anyone is to buck the status-quo it is young people.  My generation did so in the late 1960s and early 1970s for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam.  We were full of hope that we would change the world.  That is not quite right.  We believed we would change the world.  Until this recent protest, the youth of this country has not been too awfully rebellious since the days of Woodstock.

The big twist in all of this is that the protestors against Wall Street are kind of blaming us.  To them we are now “the man.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Detroit Lions

Who are these guys?

There is 7:30 left in the game and the Lions are leading the Chicago Bears 21-10.  They look dominant.

Dominant?  The Detroit Lions?  Are you kidding me?  They have had the worst record in the NFL for the past ten years.

I am watching Monday Night Football.  The Detroit Lions are playing the Chicago Bears.  The Lions are 4-0 and there has been a lot of buzz around and about this team.  This is their best start since the early 1980s.  If they win tonight, 5-0 will be their best start since 1956. 1956!  They are on the cover of magazines.  This is the first time they are on Monday Night Football since 2001.

I am not fully sold on the buzz and hype.  Why not?

Why not indeed?  I am very leery of buying in too deeply.  The Detroit Lions and I have a dismal and agonizing history of me buying in, wanting them to do well, and them letting me down... horribly.   Every year, hope sprung eternal in August as the NFL season was about to start only to be crushed and ground into the dirt almost as soon as the season began. 

It is like Honolulu Blue and Silver were cursed colors.  To me they were.  I got all my football joy from the Michigan Wolverines.  They were winners; the Lions were losers... every year after agonizing year. 

There were moments of hope.  They had recruited Nick Eddy, a Heisman Trophy Winner from Notre Dame in the 1960's.  There was a lot of hype about Nick joining the Lions.  I do believe that Nick Eddy twisted his knee getting off the bus in Detroit.  Maybe it happened in the preseason of his rookie year.  He was never what they had recruited him to be after the injury.  Nick Eddy never panned out.  He was the first in a long line of Lion personnel disappointments.  In his first game on his first play as a Lion quarterback, Chuck Long, the famed Iowa star, threw a bomb for a touchdown.  Yes!  We finally have a quarterback (go ahead name a famous Lion quarterback since Bobby Layne?  I dare you).   That was the highlight of Long's career with the Lions.

They recruited the famous Barry Sanders in 1989.  He was one of the most explosive, artistic, and entertaining runners in NFL history.  I bought in, again.  Who wouldn't have?.  Barry Sanders did not let me or anyone else down.  He was brilliant.  He was electrifying.  I was so sure the Lions would build a team around him and go to a Super Bowl just like the Chicago Bears did around Walter Payton.  They sadly, painfully, agonizingly (why do I keep using this word to describe my relationship with this team) did not.  It was the curse of the Honolulu Blue and Silver. 

When I moved to New York in 1990, the New York Giants had a great season.  The won the Super Bowl.  For me, it was like... cool beans.  I had no problem becoming a Giant fan.  I did not leave the Lions behind, well maybe a little;  I just added the Giants.  Then in 2006 when I moved to Chicago, the Bears went to the Super Bowl.  Double cool. I added the Bears to my favorites.  Heck, I thought I had some kind of special mojo that by simply moving to a town, their football team would go to the Super Bowl.  I even thought about moving back to Detroit just to help out the hapless Lions.

Lions:  what a great name for a team.  Lions are powerful, majestic, and if I am not mistaken often referred to as the King of the Beasts.  The Detroit Lions?  Not so much.

I grew up following the Lions, Pistons, and Red Wings.  The Tigers won few World Series for me, they were more than OK with me.  The Pistons finally won a few championships in the 1990s.  The Red Wings followed suit and have taken a few Stanley Cups in the 1990s and 2000s.  Only the Lions continued to disappoint. 

The game just ended and the Lions won 24-13.  The headline on an ESPN website was "Roaring Lions."  Finally.  I hope it lasts.

There are only two undefeated teams in the NFL:  The Detroit Lions and The Green Bay Packers.  Wow.  Five games into the season and the Detroit Lions are one of two undefeated teams.  Go figure.  I sure hope it continues.  The D could sure use it.

I am in Michigan this coming weekend to go to the Michigan vs. Michigan State game on Saturday.  I just may have to invest in a Lions t-shirt and hat.

I might look good in Honolulu Blue and Silver.