Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Nature’s Tears for Steve Jobs’ Passing

October 7, 2011

It rained hard everywhere in California on Wednesday. Could it be Nature's tears for Steve Jobs' passing?

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, it had been raining all day. In Idyllwild, Hemet, Riverside and Los Angeles. Gray skies were everywhere. There was no escaping it. Cars and trucks drove too fast or too slow on the highways, spraying each other with blankets of rain. Traffic backed up for miles when one car skidded into another.

“It’s good for the trees,” Idyllwild residents always say to each other when it rains. And the trees certainly looked happy, with their limbs outstretched to the skies, as if they were asking for more.

Then I heard the news:

“It’s a sad day for us all,” said the dee jay on 95.5 FM. “Steve Jobs has died.”

I called Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Café, the local internet provider in Idyllwild, to confirm. Yep, the technical visionary who started Apple Computers and Pixar Entertainment had died of cancer at age 56.

Jeffrey’s voice was heavy with sadness, something you can’t disguise.

After college, Jeffrey had worked for Apple for 4 1/2 years.

“They made me go through a month-long interview process, and open up an office in Valencia,” Jeffrey recalled.

He was a computer programmer for Apple, often being part of group emails from Steve Jobs. He didn’t recall ever meeting Steve, but saw him at business meetings.

“I had full access to Apple’s library,” Jeffrey said.

His Apple experience he remembers with fondness, which later lead to jobs at Sony and NASA JPL.

“You should see Apple’s web site right now,” Jeffrey said on Wednesday, but wouldn’t elaborate. (Apple had taken down its last product release and replaced it with a farewell message to Steve Jobs).

“Ten percent of all tweets today are saying, “Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs,’” Jeffrey said.

That means people tweeting not just in the U.S., but from around the world.

Now the intense rain seemed perfectly fitting for a day in which an American icon had died. It rained like this when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa had died, and John Lennon too. It was as if the heavens themselves could not contain their grief.

It rained hard all day when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died too.

Months earlier, Jeffrey had forwarded a You Tube video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech. Steve hadn’t attended Stanford, or even graduated from Reed College, but he certainly had something to say. His words were truer than anyone with high academic honors.

Steve’s mother, a graduate student, didn’t believe that she’d have the time to raise a child, yet was very particular about whomever adopted him must send him to college. The working class couple that adopted Steve had kept that promise. They had saved up their entire lives for his college education at Reeds.

Yet, after six months, Steve didn’t know what he wanted to do, and said he was wasting their money. So that’s when he dropped out of college, but then dropped back in. For years, Steve, the un-college student, slept on friends’ floors, ate at soup kitchens and sat in on classes that had nothing to do with his major, such as calligraphy.

Idyllwild residents were happy for the rain, but sad about Steve Jobs.

“That’s why Apple Computers were the first to offer different type fonts,” Steve had said in his Stanford speech. He would have never taken that calligraphy class had he not dropped out and tried new classes.

“With all the tributes to Steve Jobs, one thing tends to get forgotten: the man helped us write,” said Simon Garfield, in an article on’s web site. “Jobs was the first to give us a real choice of fonts, and thus the ability to express ourselves digitally with emotion, clarity and variety. He made Type Gods of us all.”

Later on, Steve was fired from Apple Computers, the company that he had co-founded in his basement. How could that have happened? Steve said he floundered a bit, and then started another company, which was eventually bought by Apple. So his life came full circle, but he had changed.  One thing that Steve has taught us is that one man can make a difference.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice,” Steve had told the Stanford graduates in 2005. “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Over the years, every time Apple would release a new product, it was more impressive than the last. Only one man was capable of doing that each and every time: Steve Jobs.

Ask any young person today what their life would be like without their Apple laptops, iPhones, and iPods.

Not just computer geeks were sad about his passing, but everyone from heads of state to we as average Joes.

The first time that I heard the name, Steve Jobs, was from a film student at Idyllwild Arts Academy, Jeanne Catmull. Her father, Ed Catmull, worked with Steve at Pixar Entertainment, and she knew him.

On Feb. 7, 2009, Jeanne’s dad was getting the Gorden E. Sawyer Award, a lifetime achievement Oscar from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Jeanne was going to the ceremony with him in a dress designed by another Idyllwild Arts student. Quoi Alexander had come to Idyllwild Arts after Hurricane Katrina had wiped out his high school. He is now studying fashion in England, while Jeanne is at USC.

Quoi’s two-tone felted dress looked great on Jeanne. Tucker McIntyre, who heads up the Transportation Department at Idyllwild Arts, had taken a picture of Jeanne and Ed Catmull the second they appeared on TV.

“The media will pay attention to us if Steve Jobs goes with us,” Jeanne had told me as we were driving down the hill in the school van.

Who was Steve Jobs anyway? I didn’t know who he was back then, yet I had already purchased my third Apple computer.

Steve Jobs started with an idea in his basement, and never gave up on it, against all obstacles. Yep, we can all learn from him, a man who came from humble beginnings, but used his smarts and tenacity to change the world.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Steve Jobs.

For inspiration, visit his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech on You Tube.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Oct 7, 2011 @ 15:18 E





My 9/11 Bummer Birthday in Chile

September 7, 2011

My Chilean ID card

By Marcia E. Gawecki

It’s nearly impossible to watch the news these days without hearing about the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, the day in which Al-Qaeda crashed our planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Philadelphia.

Some of the stories focus on the brave firefighters, their now-grown children, or near-misses, like the U.S. Navy petty officer from Escondido who left the Pentagon only seconds before the plane crash.

For me, the 10th Anniversary brings back guilt mixed with some joy. You see, 9/11 is my birthday, and I spent it in Santiago, Chile, the first week of a one-year stint as an English instructor.

That morning, I turned on the TV, and started getting ready for work. I had a one-bedroom apartment in Santiago, near the school. Then I saw the Twin Towers burning and my blood ran cold. The Chilean newscaster was standing below the scene, explaining what had just happened. At this point, my Spanish was marginal, but I did my best to translate. Who caused this? No one seemed to know.

Just as she was explaining about the plane crash, the second plane hit. Dear God, I saw it live on Chilean TV! It was such a surreal moment! Then the guy from the news desk asked her about the second plane, and she had no idea what just had happened. They spent a long time trying to figure that out.

I sat on the bed and felt sick. Another teacher called to say there wouldn’t be any classes that day. Then, as the story unfolded, they mentioned the plane crash at the Pentagon, where my sister, Laura, a Marine, was stationed. Again, there was a lot of confusion in the news.

I tried calling home, at $10 dollars a minute, but the lines were busy for hours. Later, I learned that no one could get through, not even online. My sister could have been dead, for all I knew. I cried, talked with other teachers, and waited. Days later, an email came from my mom. Laura had been taking a class in another city, away from the Pentagon. She was OK.

Chilean caribineros (police) often used water cannons to disperse student demonstrations like this one at Plaza Italia

This year, with the death of Osama bin Laden, Laura mentioned the Pentagon. She said that the devastation was inexplicable. The plane had hit the wing where many U.S. Army officers had worked. Hundreds had died, and she knew many of them. Like other survivors, it was difficult for her to talk about it. How could we, who weren’t there, possibly understand? It was like explaining combat to a baby.

Laura added that it took a long time for the Pentagon to become fully functional again. At that time, Laura was writing for some generals, an incredibly stressful job that was just made worse by the crash. She wrote from a remote location for months.

She said that she was lucky, but felt guilty because she wasn’t there when the plane hit.

As for me and the rest of my family, we are thankful that she was spared.

“None of them deserved to die,” Laura said flatly. “I’m glad Osama bin Laden is dead.”

That’s when my old guilt rushed back in. I couldn’t understand her satisfaction. He was an old man who died without a gun in his hand. Yet, my version of 9/11 and hers were worlds apart. Bin Laden’s life replaced all of her fallen camarades who didn’t deserve to die.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t watch the aftermath of that horrific day, how everything unfolded, how the nation healed itself, and became stronger. I missed all the stories of sadness, victory and triumph. I wasn’t there, and even now, the guilt still rises up in my throat.

The author at Vina del Mar, Chile.

The other weird part of 9/11, or Sept. 11, is that it’s an unpopular day in Chile too. It was the day that General Pinochet overthrew the Allende government and dictated for 20 years. Even though Chile had a president and been a democracy for 10 years, many student demonstrators protested against Pinochet’s freedom. On the evening of Sept. 11, they set cars on fire and broke store windows. The Chilean government responded with tanks equipped with water cannons.

“I don’t think it’s a good night to go out and celebrate your birthday,” my friend said.

I agreed. It was a dark time to be in Santiago, Chile.

On Sept. 12, I had to teach classes. I remember getting on the subway and feeling like people were looking at me. You see, I have dark hair and eyes, and could easily pass for a Chilean, as long as I didn’t open my mouth. But Chileans were giving up their seats to me on two different trains. Perhaps I had an aura of sadness about me.

In my classes, my Chilean students, mostly businessmen and women, all wanted to know if I knew of anyone who had worked at the Twin Towers. At that time, I didn’t know my sister’s fate, and when I mentioned her, tears welled up in my eyes. Everyone got pretty quiet, and it was hard to teach.

“Come home right away!” my brother Mark wrote to me that week. “It’s not safe there!”

I instinctively knew that anywhere but the United States would be a safe place to be. I didn’t even think about packing up and heading home. I had given up too much to get there. At home, I would be lost.

The Chilean media did their best to recount the events. Yet, weeks later, the U.S. Embassy asked them to quit showing the Twin Towers plane crash. It would make sense if it related to a news story about 9/11, but they would show the crash at every turn.

For example, an upstart Chilean tennis player was supposed to go to a tournament in the United States, but couldn’t because of the crash, so they showed the guy hitting a few balls, and the Twin Towers crash about four times. It was gratuitous and unnecessary and painful to watch.

Now that the 10th Anniversary will arrive in a few days, along with another birthday, I’m headed to Solvang, about two hours from LA. It’s the wine-tasting town made popular in the movie, “Sideways.” I plan to be far away from any TV, newspapers and 9/11 memorials.

I will drink good wine, toast to my sister’s good fortune and hope this horror never happens again.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


American Idol’s Motown Misfire

March 25, 2011

On Wednesday, March 23rd, “American Idol” gave a tribute to Motown’s soul-infused pop songs, and its many stars. Most of the 11 remaining contestants presented their own spin on these classics, however, one contestant missed the mark. James Durbin, who sang, “Living for the City,” gave a rousing, over-the-top performance of Stevie Wonder’s 1973 sad song about racial inequality.

For their part, the American Idol judges had high compliments for James Durbin. Granted, he’s a talented singer, and has quickly become a national role model for those with Tourettes and Asperger’s Syndrome. However, the show’s advisors should have told him to demonstrate some respect for the original song about a young black man growing up in “hard time Mississippi.”

Some of the lyrics include:

“His father works some days for 14 hours/ and you can bet he barely makes a dollar.”

“His brother’s smart/ he’s got more sense than many/ His patience’s long/ but soon he won’t have any/To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives/ they don’t use colored people.”

Why would James sing a song about black unequality in such a rousing way?  That night, it was all about the great beat, and his personal showmanship, and nothing about the lyrics.  If James was empathetic about their plight, it didn’t show. He did a peppy dance move while singing, “His father works sometimes for 14 hours/and you can bet/he hardly makes a dollar. And he mugged for the cameras while singing, “His mother scrubs the floors for many/and you can bet/she hardly gets a penny.

For a white guy, singing a song happily about black inequality was a risk that he should not have taken.

Jennifer Lopez, an outspoken judge, continually tells the other contestants to “tell a story with their songs.”

The story told in “Living for the City” would clearly resonate with everyone in today’s recession. But James Durbin didn’t sing it with empathy, compassion or even a hint of sadness. He just sang it with his signature bravado.

For their part, the audience gave James a standing ovation. They liked the way he sang the song.  Shortly afterwards, still reveling in the afterglow, James had to be brought back to reality by JayLo.

Yet, I didn’t hear any criticism from Randy Jackson, the black judge, about James’ bravado take on the song. Did he not feel the slap in the face? Or is he just working from Idol’s “happy script?” James Durbin is popular with Idol fans, so don’t criticize him.

In my opinion, “American Idol” should be less about a popularity contest and more about retaining some musical integrity. If not, just take the “American” part off the title because I don’t want any part of it.

For the true spirit of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” visit You Tube. Stevie’s version. Its 70s-era video showcases inner city poverty, police brutality, and violence.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.