Infinite Loop 29: Why the ‘Mac Web’ After 9-11? A Holiday Meditation

We all will never forget the terrible images of planes
flying into one side of the WTC Towers and exploding
in balls of flame on the other side; the images of desperate
people jumping to their deaths; the clouds of powderized
concrete exploding on the streets as the Towers crumbled
and fell; the people running; and the look of FDNY heroes
looking back knowing their brothers were in and under
that falling city.

Applelust covered it a bit that day, but we knew people
were watching, entranced, to their TVs, running home
to be with their loved ones in this terrible time. I
recall, and I live in the Midwest city the President
of the United States flew into that day, the eerie sound
of nothing in the skies that day – no planes taking
off and landing in the nearby, busy Air Base and Airport.
Nothing, until Air Force One landed and took off. I
looked up, and saw no planes. The world stopped turning
and when it started its rotation again it would never
be the same. Nothing would be the same. Applelust closed
down for a week, with a ‘sign’ put up that we are with
family and exhorted our readers to do the same. Publishing
was not a high priority. In fact, it seemed down right
silly to ever publish again.

For, after 9-11, the weight of the once-again-rotating
world had greatly increased. Nothing was the same. I,
Dave Schultz, Publisher, Professor, Scholar, and Writer,
was completely changed. My own writing since that day
has dropped dramatically (on the ‘Net anyway, most of
my creative juices have been directed to writing for
my professional career, writing scholarly works and
such apart from the Web; for a very small, unpolished
and I had shoulder replacement surgery on Feb. 12, 2003,
which basically laid me out flat for 7 months. It was
horrible, but I feel so much better now (my shoulder
spontaneously cracked in five places last January, yeah,
ouch man, big time!). But I recall thinking that after
9-11, Applelust’s very existence needed to be justified
again. Did it make sense for us in the new
normal to carry on anyway? It seemed petty and silly,
and pettiness and silliness were no longer acceptable
in the ‘new normal.’ I mean people were dying, we were
fighting a war, people were dying under the horrid pounding
of those C-130 gun ships, flying massacre machines that
reduce anything under them to rubble in seconds. Yet
we sat here, comfortably away from the horribly
carnage that is war. (Just ask any veteran
and he, or she, will tell you how noisy
war is; as a Classics scholar I can tell you about books
[see Hanson below] on Greek soldiers stating how noisy
the phallanx was; hoplites, Greek citizen-warriors,
reported the loss of hearing later in life.)

Some historians say World War I was the first total
war. (I am unsure of this claim myself, thinking there
were such wars before 1914, such as Napoleanic wars.)
That meant the woman working in the factory back home,
making shells or riveting joints on a plane, were a
target just as must as any soldier on the field; in
total war there are no civilians
, just soldiers.
That is the way al Qaeda, fanatics full of perfidy,
saw those in the Twin Towers – they make no distinction
between warrior and civilian, they only make the distinction
between infidel and believer.

The Mac Web just seemed petty, small, unimportant after
9-11, and many of my writers stated, in our staff forum,
which is a busy and noisy place its own, how 9-11 changed
them. One writer simply could not write for two months,
and was overjoyed when the creative juices started flowing
once again when Expo-time rolled around. Others had
to write at least one cathartic column about the attacks
before moving on to the Mac. I was down flat, recovering
from shoulder replacement surgery. At times I truly
wondered if we should continue, or shut down; and I
quietly laughed to myself as petty debates started once
again on the Mac Web at other sites. “Good God,
we didn’t get press passes!! How horrible is THAT!!”
Frankly, not horrible at all, given the fact that C-130s
were pounding caves in Afghanistan, and a CIA agent
(a father and son) died in a prison up-rising.

It felt like in my involvement with the Mac
Web I was petty, and I like to think of myself (don’t
we all?) as someone who avoids pettiness in his life.
“I’m not a petty person, am I?” I’d ask myself.
How could arguing about a computer EVER matter, given
the gravity of the world situation and zeitgeist
now? I mean really, we (meaning ALL Mac Web Publishers,
especially those pointless press release puking ones),
write about gripes with motherboards, Expo product releases,
small points of interface design with Jaguar, how much
we hate any Dell commercial, the fakers who try to rip
off Mac design and sell cheap, crappo Mac rips for $400
to unsuspecting consumers who do not realize the piece
of junk they have just acquired, a piece of junk when
compared to a Mac anyway (and they can’t be
compared in a CircuitCity, for example, because they
don’t carry Macs anymore, so PCs look good when they
are lined up by themselves but not when a Mac
has been added to the displays). Thank God for Apple

On top of all that, we lost one of our most beloved
writers in the last year, a casuality of a medical establishment
that has cracks large enough for such giant to fall
through, someone whose whole life was his art, and he
thought that art would save him (as he told me, “I
need to write” just days before he put the gun
to his head). But his art could not, and did not, save
him – art cannot save anyone, (with
apologies to Proust and Nietzsche, et al) though art
holds a powerful grip on all of us who allow the time
to sit with it and let it work its magic on our imaginations
and intellects. It’s a powerful force, I know, I sit
for hours in the Art Institute of Chicago, but it is
not life saving, just life enhancing to the highest
degree. (In fact for this holiday break, I told all
my writers to go and, as well as spending time with
loved ones, go buy a grerat piece of literature and
get lost in it over the week break at Applelust.)

But can arguing over these things (spoken of a few
paragraphs ago) really matter in the ‘new normal’? Prima
facie, the answer is “No.” And the question
seems even more important during the holidays when we
spend time with loved ones, make connections with others
on deeper levels than daily schedules allow. Holidays
are times we feel ‘at home’, feel safe, fetal even,
and we love the joy of giving. All this makes the Mac
Web small, IMHO.

Yet, given the facts, all of the facts,
it seems the answer is “Yes.” Mac web sites
have almost seen a renaissance since 9-11-02. Some sites
(some, many, but not all), have begun to produce higher
quality content, by our standards at Applelust anyway;
people are coming and reading us more than ever. Applelust
has tripled its readership since 9-11-02, and we are
up in the 100,000s of pages served a month. We have
lost some writers, ‘fired’ (let go) others, have taken
on new ones and are working with aspiring authors in
the background (a rigorous, third-degree process any
budding writer must pass before he gets published here,
I guarantee you).

So what is going on here? The obvious
answer seems to be “No,”
but the opposite looks right once I look at all the
facts. (It’s either this or the whole Mac Web is full
of fools, including us, so I will not allow this to
be an option.) Did I misread the situation? The more
sensible answer seems to be “Yes.”

The answer began to make sense to me 16 days ago. What
happened 16 days ago? We went out and bought a new iMac,
17 inch, that’s what.


In January I bought an iBook just before my shoulder
replacement surgery; it gave me something to look forward
to after surgery; it helped me to want to recover quickly
so I could go home and pick up my work on this new machine.
(Don’t get me wrong, I have much to live for, more than
just a new iBook: I have a loving wife, a great family,
and fast-paced, intellectually stimulating life I love
living; there is scholarship, writing, thinking, being
a sort of Kierkegaardian figure in my own way: I enjoy
them all – I love life!!) It was great, top-of-the-line,
combo drive – beautiful!! I love it. My wife thus inherited
the ‘Pismo’ and she could not be happier. I still did
work on the G4 tower in a large room/study upstairs,
though my wife and I fought for time on it.

Then I switched rooms with my wife. We have a two bedroom
townhouse with a third small room. My wife was in the
small room and she was squashed in there; I had outgrown
the large room so I moved into the smaller room. (Yes,
you read that right, I was intentionally down-sizing.)
I worked very hard over the months to make that small
room MY room, my long-hoped-for study/library I had
been preparing for and wanting for 12 years. With some
targeted purchases, like a wooden desk, wooden chair,
Tiffany lamps, new living room set with extra chair
and ottoman for my room, many, many bookcases (and the
fact that books were rolling in like rain, given my
academic status and the fact I was helping out in the
Classics and Near Eastern Studies Department, just above
the Philosophy Department on campus (and my specialty
is ancient Greek philosophy, so the Classics Department
was a logical place to go hang out and audit classes,
like Latin, as my shoulder healed), we need the bookcases).
I was taking Latin, helping Latin students, gave a talk
in the Classics department about early Greek science
in 500 A. D., gave a talk at another university in choosing
academics as a career, organized debates on campus about
the war with Iraq – the point is, I was busy! All I
needed was a place for that new desk, new chair, and
bookcases. The new, smaller room was perfect.

Then my wife’s Pismo went down, and I mean down. That
was it. It does not make for happy spousal relations
if both are Mac fanatics and only one has a dedicated
machine and the other has to share time with a second
machine; and yes, I am very protective of my iBook.
So we knew we had to do something. We turned to my campus
first. A lab of Macs had just been replaced so I got
the ball rolling so that we’d get one of the Blueberry
DV iMacs they replaced. But they went to others (it
was long list), and some just conked out on them. That
avenue was lost. I offered to buy my wife an iBook.
She refused; she wanted an older iMac just so we could
have one. (Someday we will.) She found some on eBay
but I cautioned her about buying from eBay (I have had
some bad experiences there). She was not happy with
my warning – she wanted an iMac and wanted one now!
So I asked her if she’d be happy if I gave her the G4
Tower full-time. Obviously, she said yes. But that did
leave us with a problem that sometimes I just needed
the Tower because my iBook was in the shop (I treated
it roughly, traveling back and forth and back and forth
to Chicago, so it has taken its punches). We were a
one Mac family. Not good. Not good at all.

During this time, from my trip to Chicago this summer
to write, from weeks of closing myself away and writing
here at home, I had been dutifully saving every extra
penny and dollar I was getting, and some extra income
I was still receiving was being set aside. I could,
in theory, go buy a Mac. But SHOULD I? That was the
question. “To be or not to to be!!”

But things spiraled downward at home and we simply
couldn’t take it anymore. One night, 16 days ago, I
stood up, told my wife I’d be back in a few hours, and
asked her to prepare helping me to carry things in when
I get back. She knew what it meant. I came home two
hours later not just with a new iMac, 17 inch, but some
other little things for our newly furnished living room,
accessories to make the ambiance more pleasing.

We ate supper, then opened the iMac. Two minutes out
of the box I had installed a RAM upgrade and an AirPort
card (both from my wife’s now dead Pismo, BTW); in five
minutes out of the box I was registered, had my user
account set up and was surfing the ‘Net on our Airport
network; in ten minutes we were watching a Bladerunner
DVD, though we had no time to watch the whole thing;
twenty minutes out of the box and the cat was mesmerized
by the iTunes visuals as she sat on my lap while I worked
on the new iMac (I had a small iTunes window open with
visuals on while I worked on other things). It was all
just a wonderful experience. It was so simple I felt
stupid (a feeling I often have anyway, but not as much
as I used to!). I mean really, RAM and Airport upgrade
in two minutes out of the box? On the ‘Net in five?
And not just on the ‘Net but part of the local Airport
wireless network we have at home.

And then I open the PrintCenter. What did I find? The
two printers we have, an old but still-going-strong
Epson 740i and a workhorse of a LaserWriter 360 bought
nine or so years ago, that’s what I found. I didn’t
even have to set them up. I was floored, and I am the
publisher of a Mac Op/Ed site for crying out loud!!

And then I saw the little smooth cloth Apple supplies,
a cloth to keep your iMac clean from dust and screen
smudges everyday. The little things. I loved it; I loved
every bit of it. Even the white keyboard seemed to have
been tweaked a bit, and it feels better under my fingers.
Can’t explain, but it’s just more comfortable, if even
just slightly. The little things – a pure joy.

I sat back and just for a moment I wondered, “This
is soooo easy, and so beautiful on top of that, how
on earth is it that Apple doesn’t own this market? I
simply could not believe everyone didn’t have one of
these hot, fast and extraordinarily easy and special
machines! I asked myself this question, and pondered
it for a while. I asked someone else and he said “Because
Apple has a lousy ad campaign.” What? The Postmodern
non-metanarrative narratives they put out all over the
place? They aren’t working?

And speaking of which: we placed the iMac on a desk.
It will be a communal machine
(one of the ‘our’ things in the marriage) in
a communal area of the house, downstairs on the dinning
room desk next to the living room, and my wife will
take the G4 for her very own (she loves it), and I have
my trusty iBook. The iMac is sitting under a poster
from the Macworld San Francisco 2002 we got when they
introduced the iMac. That day they lead the ‘press’
back to meet none other than Jonathan Ives (I really
blew a chance to ask him THE question, “Some say
these (gesturing to the iMac) are works of ‘art’. Do
YOU think they are art in any sense?” but I didn’t
ask him that, though we talked for a small time). So
it sits underneath its own birth announcement poster,
as it were.

To continue the thought…. Once we had it up, I could
stand and use it or sit and use it, it did not matter;
I could move the screen to any position I needed from
whatever angle I was at. The screen, with the clear
plastic around it, like a frame that doubles as a handle,
begged to be touched and moved, and on that screen,
the ‘Desktop’ (sometimes I run with the Finder off,
have you tried it yet?) sat there, asked for me to jump
in (to Aqua, a water metaphor you see), and there was
not one single place to start or end, you just jump
in and start using it. There seemed to be no foundation
to the OS, just a glimmering surface (you
don’t even need your drives on the desktop). And whatever
it was, I made it: my desktop, my window views, everything;
I had my own account, and it reflected me, as self-creator.
It was as almost there was nothing
there before I started using it (which explains many
if not all the debates we have on the Mac Web). Anti-foundationalism,
nihilism – these are the things of Postmodernism. Yes,
all these confirmed what I, and others (in print), have
argued – the Mac is the first Postmodern computer.

Oh, the joys, the absolute joys of owning a Mac. It
was wonderful and it is wonderful. Actually, we don’t
use the iMac as much (yet!), as I thought we would,
but it is the holidays and we’re busy. It also hints
that maybe we didn’t need this machine,
we just wanted it; applelust (the syndrome
not the site) had been high and unsatisfied for some
time (it had been 11 months since I bought a Mac); and
to tell you the truth, we almost treat it more like
an important piece of furniture than a computer, and
it is definitely a showoff accessory in the house. It’s
gorgeous. And the freedom, the absolute freedom I feel
when using this thing (unlike the ball-and-chain experience
of using a Wintel), is one of the simple, free joys
of life for me. The darn thing is so aesthetically pleasing
it’s hard to work on it – I just sit and admire it,
like I did a van Gogh in the art Institute in Chicago
this summer. Sitting in front of this, it was not hard
to be inspired at to write.

I have not been writing on the Web much. Yet, I have
been involved in Applelust everyday as Publisher and
top PR person (on the phone all day, answering tons
of emails everyday). I have turned my attention to writing
in another professional setting, academically that is,
trying to get published, working with publishers like
Oxford University Press, reading my brains out to (1)
get inspiration by reading masterpieces in philosophy
and literature (2) read the philosophical literature
in the area I am working in, which increases every day.
But sitting here in front of this iMac, this wonderful
looking and feeling and beautiful machine with its white
keyboard and its light to the touch rhythms – man, if
you can’t get inspired to write something in front of
an iMac, surrounded (as I am anyway) with the great
books and minds of the Western Canon… then you’re
brain dead my friend.

This all reminded me…









Being serious.

Pure enjoyment.

Simple pleasures in life that are free.

Simple pleasures in life that are not free.

Improving our lives because based on our hard work
and history.

Enjoying the like-mindedness of other scholars
(or whomever your peers are).

Friendships (like the staff/family at Applelust,
and we really are all very close, even though half
of us have never me).

Back to my question…

Yes, these are the reasons the Mac
Web did not crumble with the WTC Towers after 9-11.
We need the Mac Web, now more than ever. We need it
for free commerce. We may not need
it at times, but we certainly use it for the freedom
of expressing our opinions and our views (we can do
that many places, nit just the Web), arguments that
at times seems silly about a computer company. We can
break our Macs and go to MacFixIt
and solve our problems. We can knock heads with others
at a comfortable distance on the Web. The Web is a great
democratizing technology in our lives.
Hey even “blogs’ could only be created in complete
freedom, not under any kind of oppression or fascism.
We have the freedom to blog!! Understood?

The pure fun my wife and I had in making a simple purchase
of a simple machine. Sure it cost us two grand, but
man, we are having fun and very much enjoying it. We
may not have needed it as much as we
both, husband and wife, claimed. We did it just because
we could.

“No, you can’t take that away from me…”

Yes, people want to kill us en
, and they already did it once and are looking
for further opportunities because (not just because,
since this conflict goes back many, many centuries),
we can do and experience all the things I just explained;
but it is louder for me, as an academic who is so aware
of freedom of thought and speech and academic freedom,
which is consciously acted out everyday on campus, every
time I walk into the classroom.

Yes, the Mac Web keeps going even
after 9-11, after we all have been brought down to Earth,
this rock we dirty with our blood, dig our trenches
and climb over parapets, and make splendor with our
art, and buildings (such as the WTC, are not skylines
works of art in a way?), sticking out of the horizon
like, well… as Jim Morrison (and the Doors) once
said, “stuck [the Earth] with knives in the side
of the dawn.” The East, does not like this: they
want our lives as flat as their deserts. They want to
destroy. We will not allow it. “Never, never, never,
never give up.” Darn right Winston!! … even if
that means keeping a web site going.

And for God’s sake, the war drums are pounding loudly,
not just with Iraq (which Catholic Bishops and Cardinals
have decided does not meet ‘just war’ conditions), but
North Korea recently said (another nation
really said this), it is ready to “bring
death” to us, to the US, you and me: Readers, people
want to kill us. And not just the North Koreans, but
Fundamentalist Islamic fanatics the world over (millions
of them, but not all killers, obviously) who see us
a decadent (and some of us are), decadent world bullies,
‘crusaders’ (remember those?). And, we must bare in
mind, Islam has always, always advanced at the end of
sword (“convert or die” was their call in
medieval times, which forced migrations of Christians
North thus creating Modern Europe, along with “barbarian”
raids), despite the chatter about Islam being a “peace-loving
religion,” which any historian of Islam would be
hard-pressed to prove, perhaps. I can’t say…

No, we need the Mac Web. It did not
crumble with the Twin Towers because the petty things
we bicker about, seek, are freely petty,
freely silly, and I’ll take free pettiness
any day over fascist oppression and dictatorial control
of my thoughts. Everything I have said in this article
(indeed, the very writing of it, its existence and
my site’s very existence
), the small joys and simple
pleasures we have, all show you, my beloved reader,
that we treasure them because we treasure bigger things,
like freedom, the right to write, the right to be stupid
even, if we wish. That’s why the ‘Mac Web’ (a term we
coined at Applelust and it has now entered our vocabulary),
did not crumble with the Twin Towers – oh, the resilience
of the human spirit, it is lovely….

Sometimes we are all petty; the Mac Web is certainly
silly at times, unprofessional and error-prone, but
at least we can be all these without
fear – without fear. We meet, argue and communicate;
we develop truly deep relationships on the Web and from
our sites. We need to relate. We are headed for war.
Frankly, I believe we have been headed for war for the
last twenty years, because we are comfortable, prosperous,
well-fed, and bored, and as a species we usually look
for a fight in those conditions, as a sort of entertainment,
a deadly, noisy, stench-filled sport, with human limbs
jutting out of the ground like the branches of a half-buried

And the simple, silly pleasuresour new iMac brings,
and the kinds of things we talk about on the Mac Web,
want to be taken away from me, and you, as well as our
lives. No, they will not be taken from me: My life is
given for these simple pleasures, which underline so
many larger things in my life, and my life I would gladly
give for them, should I ever need to. Without these
ideals there would be no Apple, no Macintosh, no Applelust,
no Mac Web…

Think about it…

David K. Schultz


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