Of (Optical) Mice And Men:

This iBrotha article was originally published at MacAddict.com by Rodney O. Lain. In honor of Rodney’s death, a good friend and contributor, we are reposting here with the permission of MacAddict. We would like to thank them for their generosity in allowing us to remember Rodney by keeping this archive of his work.


Of (Optical) Mice And Men:

fri jul.21.2000

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

— Revelation 3: 15-16


  • U can dance if U want 2.
  • All the critics love U in New York. 


  • U don’t have 2 keep the beat. 
  • They’ll still think it’s neat… in New York 


  • Why, U can cut off all your hair.
  • I don’t think they’d care… in New York. 


  • All the critics love U in New York. 


  • Prince, “All the Critics Love U in New York” 

One of my idols, über Mac columnist Andy Ihnakto, self-effacingly claims that he is the world’s 38th most-beloved celebrity — or something like that.

I, however, am not so humble.

You see, I know, with a degree of certainty, that I am the number-one columnist on this so-called “Mac web” — when it comes to the amount of hate mail received.

In response to nearly every column I write, for nearly every web site that I write for, I receive regular e-mail verbally attacking my person, my character, my ethnicity, my writing, my intelligence and my lineage.

Here are a few quotes from some “satisfied customers”:

“You are proof that affirmative action does not work. You are nothing but a black, illiterate monkey.”

“You are the worst writer I have ever read. I will never read a word of yours again.”

“You are an idiot.”

“You are pathetic.”

“You <expletive deleted> black <expletive deleted>. <Expletive deleted> you.”

Now I know how O. J. feels. Oh, the inhumanity! The inhumanity!

I doubt if Mr. Ihnakto has been the subject of AppleInsider message-board threads like “Rodney Lain is useless.”

I doubt if David Pogue has ever been a topic of discussion on the Ars Technica message boards. I have. One Ars Technica poster even went as far as saying that if he ever met me, he would “bitch slap” me (I’d like to see that). Heck, my writing and intelligence have been questioned here on the Mac Addict message boards on several occasions. Ditto for Applelinks’ message boards.

And I doubt seriously that the John H. Farr’s of the world have “hate sites” dedicated to critiquing and bashing every word that they write.

To paraphrase Yoda: “For an average person, much distress, this would cause.”

Long ago, I would undoubtedly have flung myself from the tallest building in Minneapolis, if all I ever received were hate mails from literate rednecks whose greatest desire is ostensibly to treat me like a King (as in Rodney King). It’s really funny, because for every hate mail I receive, I get about five e-mails claiming that I “hung the journalism moon,” that I am a veritable prose god, a bona fide dæmonic genius.

The mixture keeps me humble, yet reminds me that I’m effecting people if I can receive such impassioned responses in the wake of what I write.

In this regard, I am not that different from Apple Computer, the quintessential object of our collective love and hate.

I love Apple; I love you not…

It’s official. On Wednesday, the iGodfather of all things Macintosh relegated the round Apple USB mouse to “has-been” status.

Instantly, the thing has become a collector’s item. Or maybe it will sink to a new low (its rightful place?), as exemplified by the use that I concocted — my blue, hockey puck mouse hangs from my truck’s rearview mirror. If you can come up with a better use, tell me. I’m all ears.

I wasn’t really surprised that Apple used the round mouse for so long. Since when has Apple let itself be so easily swayed by the winds of public opinion?

That is the one thing that we vocal Mac users forget. We should be glad that Apple isn’t so flaky. Or else we’d never have had an iMac or an iBook — and now the Cube — due to the resultant bitching and moaning from the “experts.” I’m sure that time will teach similar lessons about Aqua, The Cube and whatever else is Cupertino-created — maybe even QuickTime’s metallic interface…


It’s easy to follow public opinion as a blueprint for living, and it’s the hallmark of the political chameleon’s existence. Ask Bill and Hillary. If everyone hates what you do, simply change what you do until the public opinion swings to a favorable rating; or never risk garnering a less-than-favorable rating. But what to do if you consistently get a 50/50 ratio of hate- and love mail, like Apple? Like me? Which side is right? Those that hate what you do or those who love everything that you do?

Basing your actions on such public opinions requires some hard decisions. And it requires an internalized sense of mission, a sense of purpose, a sure sense of self.

You have to have a clear, unwavering idea of your self-image and of what you stand for. That is the best defense against falling prey to following the vagaries of your fans and detractors.

It would be easy for me to write safe, people-pleasing columns that everyone loved. It would be easy to never speak on topics that would make a reader mad, that would cause me to lose a reader or two.

But if I did that, there would be a wealth of topics that would go undiscussed.

I look around and see topics on this Mac web that I don’t see other writers covering; and when they are covered, I feel that certain perspectives still aren’t addressed or represented. No, I don’t just mean a black perspective, either. I mean “perspective” in the widest sense of the word

It seems that my writing has a habit of pissing people off. Apple has a way of pissing people off. Many of us were PO’d about the round mouse from Day One and see the new Optical Mouse as proof positive that we “hockey-puck” bashers and other Apple naysayers were right. Don’t you feel vindicated?

You shouldn’t.

I believe that Apple was successful in the saga of the round mouse. In many ways it was more ergonomic than previous Apple mice — if you knew how to use it. Most importantly, I believe that the round mouse represents the fact that Apple isn’t afraid of trying something new, even at the risk of supposed failure. In that regard, the final analysis should reveal that the round mouse wasn’t a failure. Failure would mean that no one liked it.

The success is that there were just as many people out that who loved it as hated it. No ambivalence here!

(If you want to see true failure, go read everything you can find on a product called “Microsoft Bob.”)

To thine ownself be true…

To my critics: I have no intention to change my writing. To do so would signify my not being true to myself. To Apple’s critics: I doubt if Apple will ever do a poll before releasing a new product (not to the pitiful extent that Bill Clinton seems to operate, anyhow). Such actions would undoubtedly prevent many cutting-edge products from ever coming to market.

I have my opinions on whether or not Apple is doing what needs to be done, whether or not the current product line is good enough. But my opinion really doesn’t matter one whit in the grand scheme of things. Neither does yours.

If Apple had followed my advice (or yours) over the last two years, the company would have long ago gone the way of the dodo, or the eight-track tape, or the NeXT Cube (oops, did I say that out loud?). Instead, the company is enjoying a revived celebrity and market influence unseen in ages.

I don’t have the readership and following of an Ihnatko, but I can’t complain. I wonder if I would enjoy a greater readership if I’d cranked out writing less influenced by my wry, cynical look on the world — I’ll never know. All I know is that I, and Apple, probably have smaller marketshare than what is possible if we “played by the rules.”

When I look back over what I’ve done — and what Apple has done — I am satisfied and can honestly say that I’d prefer it no other way.

Critics be damned.

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