In March 2015, I was a newly married man, teaching Theatre part-time at an international school, and finishing up my academic courses as a graduate student in literature. One of the requirements of my final course was a “short” 8-page-minimum creative non-fiction piece.
What I ended up submitting is one of the funnest things that I’ve ever written. It was a playful way of indulging in my love for things—sometimes expensive, often beautiful, and ultimately trivial material things. I’ve decided to share the piece with you in its entirety (minus the footnotes, which was basically just information about where to purchase some of the things I write about—very little essential or creative about them). It sounds younger, somewhat raw, and I cringe at some of the parts, but, I guess, it was me then. No use denying it. I’ve also decided to annotate some parts with updates from me now. In some weird way, it reinforces the strangeness and wonderfulness of ephemerality.
I’ll try my best not to try and save face by editing the parts where I cringe. Annotations are in boldface. Highlights within the original text are underlined. Also, consider the piece a State of Hurry up the Cakes Address, since it hits all of the points I usually talk about over here anyway.
So. Here I am, or was, on a weekday in March 2015:
The problem is that a supply chain CEO who lacks a passion for products and has yet to articulate a personal vision of where to Apple will go is ill equipped to make the right organizational, business model and product bets to bring those to market.
I, of course, wanted to contest this very reductive view of Tim Cook, who, by most (if not all) metrics, is the perfect successor to Steve Jobs, and is perfectly equipped to lead Apple for the foreseeable future.
So I did:
1. Zero basis for Cook lacking a passion for products — it’s probably only because he’s being compared to Jobs. Or Phil Schiller. Or he’s simply not a super charismatic rock star CEO like so many try to be
2. He/Apple has totally articulated his personal vision of where Apple will go concerning the products that exist (Siri, HomeKit, etc.). See WWDC ’16 and the past few Financial Results conference calls (including the one this morning) when asked about Apple’s direction in the impending AI battle. (tl;dr — Effective AI AND protection of privacy is their mission statement)
Except unlike Google/Amazon, he/Apple only gives enough of the vision that is relevant to products that actually exist—products Cook supposedly lacks passion for. The rest of the grand vision that Blank thinks is missing (aside from that which he simply ignores), Cook keeps close to his chest. Because they never talk about products they don’t have.
(I will say that their execution on AI is sorely lacking, and that Google and Amazon are probably about to eat Apple’s lunch.)
But Steve did exactly the same thing. He was even worse, because he’d often relay exactly the opposite grand vision before he (or Apple) would flip over and offer an unexpected product (see iPod nano, iPod video, iPad mini, larger iPhones).
Of course if Blank acknowledges this, it weakens his argument. So I guess I understand.
Jaga responded, and then I responded, and now we’re having a very long (civil) conversation about the Cook/Jobs-Ballmer/Gates analogy, the future of Apple, and the meaning of “innovation”. It’s a very good discussion, and if you can, follow the fun on Facebook.
Otherwise, wait for my summary, which I will post here when our debate reaches its conclusion.
(Unless he thoroughly trounces and humiliates me.)
I met the Big Show last week. He was large. The experience was also large—too large for my brain to grasp as it was happening. The Big Show, for all that everyone says about his slowness and corniness and lack of fictional1 moral alignment, is still a gosh darned professional wrestler in the WWE, and one with a storied career, at that.
He’s the guy who did all of those things, and he’s the guy I met last week.
Everyone always says that Big Show is a Really Nice Guy™, but I can confirm that he’s a really nice guy even when he’s dead tired. The poor giant flew in to Manila that morning, posed with jeepneys in the 9 AM Manila Humidity of Death, gave a slew of media scrums before lunch, and was in the process of doing a whole afternoon of one-on-ones. My interview was at 3:45 PM. When I entered the room, he was seated next to a tableful of empty Red Bull cans, with giant eye bags on his face, and as warm and honest a smile as he can muster.
(Now, when I say “my” interview, I really mean CNN Philippines’ interview. CNN correspondent Paolo Del Rosario called me up the week before and asked me to tag along with him for the interview because, like most humans, he no longer keeps up with the wrestling product, and he needed my help to ask the heavy-hitting Sportz Entertainment questions. Also, I think he felt sorry for me because he knew I’d be missing the live event that Big Show was here to promote. Thanks again, Pao.)
When it was my turn to speak, I congratulated him on the previous week’s (fictional) WWE Draft. “I was sitting at home watching when I saw it,” he said. “Number 13? I thought Vince was ribbing me! I didn’t even think I was gonna get drafted!”
That was surreal for me—a professional wrestler answering my question and referring (ever so subtly) to the backstage machinations of the art.
I followed up:
Mikey: When Mauro Ranallo announced the draft pick, he said “The Big Show still has a lot to prove when he comes to Monday Night Raw.”
Big Show: (interrupting) A lot to prove? That’s optimistic!
Mikey: Yeah, I’m thinking, you’ve done everything there is to do in the business! Is there anything else you actually want to prove?
I expected him to go back to the fiction and start talking about winning championships or competing with the young guys. Instead, he very graciously continued to open up the curtain. He talked about how much he loves what he does—whether he’s performing in silly angles (“and you’ve seen me on the short end of really some really strange stories”), wrestling in dark matches, or dancing on the grandest stage with the biggest stars in the world. What Big Show wants to prove is that he is willing to do whatever the program requires, because he loves it. (My theater teacher brain geeked out and whispered: there are no small roles, only small actors.)
At that point, Paolo nudged me to hand him back the microphone because we had run out of time. Big Show ended his spiel, Paolo thanked him for his time, Show thanked us and said it was a great interview.
When Paolo introduced me to him earlier, he mentioned that I actually carried my World Heavyweight Championship belt replica during my wedding. After the interview, I asked Show to sign it. He asked if I wore it while I consummated the marriage, and I said no, of course not, but I didn’t tell him that the belt actually doesn’t fit me if I relax my belly.
While he was opening up my silver Sharpie, he told me that the original version of that belt was his favorite—the WCW title that he won from Ric Flair on his very first show. “Yeah,” I said, dorky wrestling fan that I am, “and you had to go around the airport wearing it that night,” referring to the story he told on the Stone Cold Podcast earlier this year. He laughed, signed the belt, wished me and my wife and my future child well, and posed2 for a picture.
Then I shook his colossal hand, and left.
I felt buzzed after the experience—that awesome fan experience feeling that I hope every person gets to experience a few times in his or her life.
On the way home, I realized that I only got to ask one question, and that I didn’t get to tell him about how I wanted to be like him when I was growing up, and how older kids would make fun of me by calling me “Big Show”, and how I looked up to him because he was a big guy and he embraced his bigness even if people around him are almost always apprehensive, and how my wife was 30 weeks pregnant but my baby’s size appeared more like 32 weeks because I’m about to have a large baby, and does he have any parenting advice for raising a large child?, because growing up as a large child must have had its challenges, and he was a large child, and I was a large child, and my baby will be a large child.
I also realized that it’s still true: I still do want to be like Big Show. Like him, I want to bust my ass off loving what I do, with a smile on my face, knowing in my bones that there are no small roles, only small actors. In this way—this way that I fight every day to be—the World’s Largest Athlete is simply the largest of them all.
I broke my iPhone 6 Plus screen for the third time in 6 months.
The first time was back in November, and it was because I was careless. I was seated on bleachers, overseeing rehearsals of the Rude Mechanicals production of Twelfth Night. I grabbed my old trusty the Sahara Tiger 1.9L (RIP), popped open the lid, took a swig of cold water, closed the lid, and then placed the bottle down beside me. Right on top of my iPhone.
Crack. I yelped. Rehearsals stopped for a second. And then it dawned on the actors that I used my phone as a coaster. They laughed.
I contacted Apple to inquire how much it would cost to have my out-of-warranty iPhone repaired. They said that they can’t offer repairs of screens, but that I could have the whole unit replaced for Php10000 (about $200). I opted to have the glass (which is laminated on the display) replaced at a local shop instead, for Php3500 (about $75).
One month later, while using my newly repaired iPhone, I noticed that there was a small gap between the display and the aluminum, near the top of the phone, above the earpiece and the FaceTime camera, like so:
Thinking that keeping the gap exposed risked further damage on my phone, I tried to pop the top of the display back in with my thumb.
Crack. I yelped. My friends stopped eating and wondered what happened. Then it dawned on them that I just broke my own phone myself, and it was no accident. They laughed.
I had the glass replaced at the same shop, for cheaper. Then the repairman warned me that there was no way for him to insert the display into the aluminum body so that it’s flush with the rest of the unit. I told him that it was fine, and that I would be ultra-careful this time.
I immediately went to the nearest Otterbox store and purchased one of their Symmetry leather cases, along with one of their Alpha Glass screen protectors. While inserting the phone into the case, the glass display popped itself into the unit, and it became a perfectly flush iPhone again. Yay, right?
Last week, before heading off for a short drive, I opened up my phone and typed in my destination details on the Waze app. And then I tried to insert it into my dashboard holster, like I usually would, so that it could display turn-by-turn navigation while I drove. The holster felt a little tighter than before, so instead of loosening the holster first like a decent human being would, I decided to use just a little more force to squeeze my phone into it.
Crack. I yelped. My wife tried her best not to laugh. She failed.
My phone still works perfectly fine. The Alpha Glass remained pristine, and it still holds the display together so that it doesn’t shatter. The cracks don’t reach the display itself, and they (thankfully) don’t cross the FaceTime camera or the proximity sensor.
But it’s ugly now.
And I don’t like that my phone is a phone that can break via gentle squeezing. So this weekend, I’m gonna head to Greenhills, the amazing local gray market shopping center, and look for a decent swap deal for an iPhone 6s. If I can’t find one, I might consider just getting an iPhone SE, and then I’ll just have the glass on my 6 Plus replaced yet again, and give it to my wife. I doubt that she’d ever break a display with her thumb. Or use it as a coaster.
Sigh. I love you, iPhone 6 Plus. But you are the wrong phone for me. I wish we could make this work, but you can’t seem to handle me.
I may have broken your face again. But you have broken my heart for the last time.
As you may have heard on this week’s episode of our podcast, You Chose Poorly (listen on Mixcloud here and subscribe on iTunes here!) I’m a proud owner of 12.9″ iPad Pro. A Hurry up the Cakes review is coming soon, but I think I have to sort out my many unprocessed feelings about it.
I know that I love it. I know that I love multitasking on the big-ass screen. I love using the Apple Pencil to make stuff on Paper and Procreate, and to mark up students’ papers on Microsoft Word. I love using the Smart Keyboard Cover and having the option to use my iPad as “just” an iPad, or as my work machine. Its size is perfect for writing, for drawing, for multi-tasking, for reading in landscape, and for catching on the WWE Network. I love it. I love it all.
As a device, in and of itself, it is, without question, the very best iPad that I have ever owned, and the one that I am or have been happiest about.
However, as you also may have heard on this week’s episode of You Chose Poorly (listen on Mixcloud here, subscribe on iTunes here!), I can’t help but see the iPad in the contexts all the other iPads that there have ever been, and all the other iPads that are on sale right now.
It’s in the these two contexts that I think I’m gaining some mild anxiety.
My “Wrong” iPads
The “New” iPad
Four years ago, I upgraded from an iPad 2 to the “New” (3rd generation) iPad. It was something I was immensely excited about. I scarfed down every review, every first-impressions article, every post that concerned itself with Apple’s then-latest-and-greatest.
Nobody warned me that I would regret it.
Sure, it was a little bit thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. Sure, its processor was only an “X” upgrade (A5X from the iPad 2’s A5). But it had a retina screen. My iPhone had a retina screen and it was always very jarring to shift between my phone and my iPad. Also, the new iPad was pretty.
Nobody warned me that I would regret it.
Nobody warned me that Apple would release a brand new iPad, with an A6X processor and a lightning port, just six months later.
Six months. It broke my heart.
Not only because the 3rd Generation iPad was no longer the top-of-the-line offering, but because it became more and more evident that the A5X chip, when pushing the pixels on a Retina screen, isn’t that much faster than the A5. In fact, it was actually slower, in some ways. It was the 4th generation iPad that ended up being the true One Generation Jump over the iPad 2. The iPad 3 was just a stopgap measure—besides the Retina display, it was more like a .5 generation jump.
So when Apple announced the iPad Air in one year later, I knew I had to upgrade to it.
Apple launched the iPad Air in October of 2013. I was beginning to be uncertain about whether or not one year was the right amount of time between iPad upgrades, but I was already antsy about getting a new one 18 months into my iPad’s life cycle.
So, then, the iPad Air. One pound. iPad mini-esque redesign. Accidental bezel touch non-recognition technology. Lightning port. A7 chip. Why wouldn’t I get it, right?
So I did. And I was very happy with it. (Also it was legitimately a very difficult time in my life, and Apple came through at the right moment to provide an opportunity for retail therapy.)
The next year, when the iPad Air 2 launched, I barely paid any attention. I was engaged to be married, and spending money on what seemed like a minor upgrade (laminated screen, Touch ID, 2GB RAM, A8X chip) wasn’t exactly a high priority. Also, my wife adds, I was “deliriously happy and nothing else mattered.” (She’s been reading over my shoulder, apparently.) I even used it to read my vows during my wedding!
For a while, everything in my iPad world was pretty darned good. Until iOS 9.
During the WWDC 2015 keynote, Craig Federighi announced and demoed iOS 9’s new features for the iPad: keyboard shortcuts, command-tab app switching, Slideover, and the big one: Split Screen Multitasking. I was pumped. My iPad Air’s life cycle suddenly got an unexpected boost.
And then they announced that only the iPad Air 2 would have all the new features. My iPad Air would get everything except the big one.
Suddenly it all began to make sense. The A8X chip was not just a One Generation Jump over the A7, but a full generation and a half. And it had 2GB of RAM—more memory than iOS truly needed just six months before. My iPad Air was a very good upgrade in 2013, but the iPad Air 2 was a way overpowered, future-proof fantastic upgrade in 2014. In 2015, the Air 2 hardware would begin to truly sing, while the Air 1 would start showing its wrinkles.
Once again, I had the wrong iPad.
(I mean, I loved it, but it was wrong.)
I kept my iPad for a little while longer. In September, at the launch of the iPhone 6s and the new Apple TV, Apple squeezed in an announcement for the new 12.9″ iPad Pro, along with the Smart Keyboard Cover and Apple Pencil. In December, it arrived here in the Philippines, sans Pencil and Keyboard.
By March, nearly all local Apple resellers had demo units of the Apple Pencil. So I dropped by one store and tried it out. It ruined my day. (This story, and many others are told I full detail in this week’s episode of You Chose Poorly! Listen on Mixcloud here and subscribe on iTunes here!)
So now I’m a very happy owner of a 12.9“ iPad Pro. I’m pretty confident it’s the ”right” iPad for me simply because it’s what I wanted, and I love it, and I use it all the time, and it delights me.
That’s all that’s supposed to matter, right?
Except the new 9.7″ Pro seems like it’s the new star of the iPad show. And the True Tone sensor and the wider gamut display seem like the new hotness of the industry. And it’s thin and light and much more bringable. And my iPad doesn’t have them. And I think Rene Ritchie and John Gruber like it more than the big one.
If you pretend that I don’t have an iPad, and you make me choose between the baby Pro and the large Pro, I would still choose the larger Pro. And I would be happy. And the whole premise of this post wouldn’t even be an issue.
And then on Tuesday morning, I record another episode of You Chose Poorly (listen on Mixcloud here and subscribe on iTunes here!), and wonder all over again. I have the 12.9″ iPad Pro—I chose well, right?
This week, we talk about my favorite product ever. We also talk about the product that is the least indispensible in my tech workflow. Lastly, we talk about the product that has given me the most grief.
Favorite product. Least indispensible. Most grief.
Favorite product. Least indispensible. Most grief.
Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device.