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Friday, December 30, 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I know I'm a little late on the bandwagon, but over my winter break I decided to pick up Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Many of you may have read it, but I'd like to offer a little different viewpoint on the novel than the typical technology lens. To begin with, I highly recommend reading this book. It offers a very enlightening view into our generation's great innovator's life and work. Walter Isaacson is a fantastic writer, and he definitely brings Jobs' story to life. And as a proud Apple addict, reading about all of the work Jobs and the rest of his team put into the products that rule my life only makes me appreciate them more.

But the thing that I most took away from this was how much work and thought was placed into the design and aesthetics of each and every Apple product. Steve Jobs was a maniac when it came to even the smallest part of a product's design. When the first Macintosh came out, he agonized over the little details of the title bars and fonts, and when another engineer called him out on how nitpicky he was being, he replied, "Can you imagine looking at that every day? It's not just a little thing, it's something we have to do right." It's not something you probably think often about, but looking at an ugly screen for an entire day would not be particularly pleasant.

I've always romanticized Apple products, and this just gave justification to that. From the moment that you open the box of a new iProduct, the aesthetic experience is engineered to be as good as it can be. And even the parts that you can't see are made to be beautiful. Steve Jobs learned from his carpenter father that, "When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality,has to be carried all the way through," and this mantra informed his entire design philosophy.

Even in his most frail days before receiving a liver transplant, Jobs was fixated with products looking good. While under heavy anesthesia, he refused to wear a mask because it was ugly and made the doctors bring him different choices. This is extreme, but it is what we have to thank for the beauty that is the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers.

Whether you're interested in technology, aesthetics, or just are fascinated or intrigued by the genius that is Steve Jobs, I would highly recommend picking this book up. Jobs had such an impact on our society, and I believe that this biography was a great representation of the man that founded one of the most influential technology companies in the world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


By now many of you have probably read the novel The Hunger Games. If you haven't, here's a quick synopsis. There has been a huge uproar in the fandom about the characters Cinna and Rue, who many pictured to be white. I'm willing to admit that I can count myself into those who imagined these characters as white. But let's take a look at how they are described in the books.

"I'm taken aback by how normal he looks...But Cinna's close-cropped hair appears to be its natural shade of brown. He's in a simple black shirt and pants. The only concession to self-alteration seems to be metallic gold eyeliner that has been applied with a light hand. It brings out the flecks of gold in his green eyes" (Collins 63).
And yet people are AGHAST that Lenny Kravitz is cast as Cinna. The only contradictory detail I could find in the trailer vs the book's description was the color of his eyes, which are hard to tell exactly but look very much like they are brown.

"...a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she's very like Prim in size and demeanor" (Collins 45).
And again, Rue, since she is constantly described by Katniss as being very much like Prim, was assumed to be young, white, and blonde, though it is clearly stated in the book that she has "dark brown skin."

And to end this confusion all together, a little bit from an interview with the author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins:

Some readers have expressed real frustration that white actors were cast in the roles of Katniss and Gale, who they felt were clearly described as biracial in the book. Do you understand or share any of that dismay Suzanne?
SC: They were not particularly intended to be biracial. It is a time period where hundreds of years have passed from now. There’s been a lot of ethnic mixing. But I think I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin. You know, we have hair and makeup. But then there are some characters in the book who are more specifically described.
GR: Thresh and Rue.
SC: They’re African-American.
So will those roles go to black actors?
GR: Thresh and Rue will be African-American. It’s a multi-racial culture and the film will reflect that. But I think Suzanne didn’t see a particular ethnicity to Gale and Katniss when she wrote it, and that’s something we’ve talked about a lot.
Why is it that many people assume neutral gender as being white? Even I, as a bi-racial person, assumed that both of these characters were white, even though it was contradicted in the text of the novel. I'd like to explore more on this subject, which I will do in future blog posts. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you feel about these casting decisions? If you've read The Hunger Games, is this how you imagined Rue and Cinna? What are your thoughts on white being a "neutral race?" Leave any insight you have in the comments below, I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fashion in Politics

Appearance is a huge part of politics. Voters will not elect or support someone that does not look a certain way, and especially for women this is a huge issue. A male politician has a neutral dress option: dark suit, white shirt, tie. What does a female politician have? Nothing of the sort. Women are constantly being judged based on what clothes they are wearing, not what new revolutionary or intellectual ideas that they have. Voters want someone that looks put together, that looks appropriate, and does not dress too "out there." Take Condollezza Rice for example, she wore a dark coat and heeled boots, and much of the American public was uncomfortable with her dressing "too sexy." This is an issue for female politicians in America. They are constantly judged based on what they wear.

Michelle Obama has worked hard on a national campaign to fight child obesity while serving as First Lady, but when she steps out most of the headlines about her are related to what she chose to wear. This is unfortunate for her because it shifts the focus of whatever she does to her attire, and if it is not deemed appropriate then it doesn't matter what she originally set out to do, because all eyes are on the clothes. To give Mrs. Obama quite a bit of credit, though, I think that she has done wonderful things to choose her clothing very wisely. She recognizes the position that she is in, and has not only showcased up and coming designers like Jason Wu, who designed her dress for the Inaugural Ball, but she has worn very affordable and modest clothing, so that a typical American woman has even a hope of being able to emulate her. This is a very smart move politically as well, because she seems much more relatable when you have the same cardigan in your closet that the First Lady is wearing to lunch.

And finally,what "fashion and politics" blog post would be complete without discussing Hillary Clinton? The current Secretary of State has come under probably the most fire than any other female politician about her attire. There are many a blog post on the internet bashing Hillary's fashion choices, regardless of what she may have been doing to better America. The critical language used is astonishing:

"Nice try with those chic shades, Hill but not even Jackie O could salvage this look from the depths of frumpiness. The retro braided headband is bad enough, but the boxy black jacket is not helping Hillary's cause. We just hope Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was not as horrified by this look as we are." 

She really just can't catch a break, can she? No matter that she was conducting State business with Australia, she should be dressed perfectly as well. Even Tim Gunn, one of the very prominent (and genius) mouthpieces of American fashion had some very critical words about Hillary:

“All these big, baggy menswear-tailored pantsuits. No, I’m really serious. She wears pantsuits that are really unflattering.”

Would the same be said if Barack Obama wore a poorly tailored suit? I doubt it.

And now I open it up to you, readers. What do you think about this? Is there a double standard surrounding fashion in politics in respect to gender? Is it fair to expect women to dress on a different standard than men?