The Unbearable Banishment: Smoke on the Water

Friday, February 3, 2012

Smoke on the Water

A freak, midday warm front descended upon the city so I went for a walk. The change in temperature was so sudden and dramatic that it caused a mist to rise off the surface of the pond in Central Park.

I want an iPhone 4s because it’s got a better camera than my iPhone 4. I certainly get a lot of use out of the camera feature and my lousy phone doesn’t sufficiently capture the drama of the scene. Clearly, it’s the phone’s fault. It can’t POSSIBLY be operator error.

I stripped out the color in this one. It makes it look Victorian and sinister. As though Professor Moriarty is about to jump out of the bushes. Speaking of iPhones and villains…

* * *

At the end of Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, he tells the audience that we’ll never look at our Apple products the same way again. And he’s right.

I had always assumed that iPhones, iPads and the like were constructed on long, complex assembly lines by robots, as did Mr. Daisey. That is not the case. Mr. Daisey visited China. He discovered, and conveys in graphic terms, how these devices are painstakingly hand-assembled. The New York Times recently ran a lengthy exposé on how people, some no older than 13 or 14-years old, and with the full knowledge and consent of Apple (and other companies), are being worked, literally, to death. Apple isn’t as benevolent as their P.R. machine would like you to belive.

This is a tough, fascinating monologue that weaves three stories simultaneously; the history of Apple, the rise, fall, and rise of Steve Jobs, and the netherworld of disposable labor in China. By the time some of these kids reach 25, their hands are destroyed from years of repetitive motion work on assembly lines. Apple knows. They all know. But they don't care.

I probably wasn’t the only one secretly wondering if Jobs’ early demise was some form of cosmic retribution for the people-destroying machine he created. It was recently reported that at a conference, he told President Obama that Apple manufacturing jobs were “never coming back to the U.S.” Now I know why.



Anonymous dinahmow said...

Ahh! Those misty "Victorian" scenes remind me of places along the Thames in winter.Thank you.

And the Apple dilemma? Those who are avowed Mac people will never switch.And, I suspect, many wont care. "It's China's problem" is what I hear from so many people.Perhaps China needs a Keir Hardie?

February 3, 2012 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

You have mist, we have pea soup fog. For three days in a row now. Makes for lots of accidents. It is 4:30 p.m. and I cannot see anything out my window unless I look straight down at the ground. It's just... white. (No, it's not snowing. I'm going to take a photo and post it on my blog. It's eerie.)

I think your photos are pretty good, actually... for a phone. I didn't know iPhones were made in China.

My Blackberry was assembled in Mexico. I don't know where the components were made.

February 3, 2012 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

your photos are gorgeous! xoxox

February 3, 2012 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

dinah: I'm posting this via my iPhone. One becomes addicted to these things. I feel a sadness but am utterly powerless to change things.

Ponita: Thanks for the compliment. Just wait 'til I get an iPhone camera upgrade. I'll set the blogosphere on fire.

sav: As always, I offer the photos at no addition cost to you, the reader.

February 3, 2012 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

To an artist a freezing fog is an ethereal mist.
How I yearn for a warm front.
And back and inside and out...

February 4, 2012 at 4:41 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

the fog photos. not Moriarty. zombies. i see zombies in the shadows. coming out of the pond. everywhere....

but maybe i just need coffee...

the truth about china is that EVERYTHING there is manufactured inhumanely. there is no such thing as workers rights. shoes, iPhones, plastic crap for our dollar stores. apple is just a juicier target - one that everyone can relate to. i think getting this story out is a good plan...

February 4, 2012 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Pat: We have been very, very lucky this year. No biting cold winter this time around. It makes up for the catasclymic blizzards of last year.

daisy: Zombies in Manhattan! I wonder if anyone would notice? The tourists in midtown move in a zombie-like stupor.

February 4, 2012 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Sid said...

I was going to ask, 'Knowing this would you continue using Apple products?" But then I realised that I own an iPod and I'm unwilling to part with it.

February 4, 2012 at 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the photos UB. they make me all nostalgic

February 4, 2012 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sid: That's the trap! We're all addicted to these devices! Don't think so? Try doing without for five days. Think you can? Any of you?

nurse: They have an old world/Hallmark greeting card quality.

February 4, 2012 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Those fotos: fab. As I type on my mac, my iphone on my nightstand, my ipad charging on the desk. Egads.

February 4, 2012 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Dolce said...

Apple is in serious shite over it's sustainability record, but until now, no-one has cared. Gonna be interestin'.

Beautiful photos Mr UB.

February 6, 2012 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

Great photos. I half expect to catch a glimpse of Sherlock or Jack in the corner of one of the frames....

iPhones and China: When you reach the top of the heap, there is only one way to go...and Apple will start receiving this scrutiny naturally. Daisy makes the same point I wish to: If there wasn't such vigorous, rabid demand, maybe it would be different. Then again it might not. This is late capitalism, streamlined and maximized for the almighty quarterly return. If its not Apple, it's Microsoft, or BP, or Monsanto or the emergent (thank you Obama for being so spineless on that issue) fracking industry. Demand, whether it be stockholders or the consumer, has the potential to create these conditions.

Humans are fucking insatiable ...

(I think its funny that my word verification was "dingly"...)

February 6, 2012 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ellie: You know, I got the idea to post black and white photos from you're place. It's true!

Dolce: daisyfae is correct to point out that MANY companies are guilty of the same thing. Apple just makes for a nice, juicy, high profile target. Shame on the Chinese Gub-ment.

JZ: None of this would have been brought to my attention if I had just picked a different play that night. I normally choose entertainment over eduction.

February 6, 2012 at 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My iPhone currently will not open any application except my phone/text app and email. I was having withdraws out of town this weekend until I was able to find a wii-fi hot spot for my Kindle Fire. It was pure hell waiting for my fellow gamblers to come find me since I was out of money and all I could do was people watch but that alone entertained me for several hours.

February 6, 2012 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

MT: See that...ADDICTED! Me too, by the way.

February 7, 2012 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

I've read something similar about Apple somewhere else, recently.
I've always tried hard to buy goods that are ethically produced - I'm not brilliant at it - but I do try. I even try to bank ethically.
A lot of ethics go out of the window during a recession, just the nature of the game.
Anyhow, come back to me and fawn some more. I am in serious need of some fawning!!!!!

February 7, 2012 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

JZ looks sooo much like David Cameron.... I've said this before, haven't I?

February 7, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Scarlet: You have NOT made your JZ/Cameron observation before! That is a dead, spot-on observation. Well played.

February 7, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...'s a bit scary really...

February 7, 2012 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

Scarlet and TUB: I suppose being married to a Brit eventually takes its toll. ;)

Could be my mother's Irish that's bleeding through all that extra flesh I've gained over the years too....

February 7, 2012 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

Don't worry, you will age much better than David Cameron... British Prime Ministers age notoriously badly... I mean look what happened to Tony Blair. A mere boy in 1997, a gibbering wreck by 2004.

February 7, 2012 at 11:04 AM  

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