Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ten-and-a-Halfth Bulletin--A Must-Share Item

My friend Anvar Alikhan sent me this by e-mail.

Stay hungry

The address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation
Studios, at the Stanford University Commencement, June 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the
finest Universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth
be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal.
Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed
around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So
why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed
college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She
felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so

rything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his
wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that
they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list,
got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby

Do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later
found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my
father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final
adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents
promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college
that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class
parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months,
I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my
life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here
I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So
I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was
pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I
ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes
that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the
floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy
food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to
get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much
of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out
to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy
instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label
on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped
out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a
calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif
typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter
combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful,
historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and
I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life.
But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer,
it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the
first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that
single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces
or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac,
it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never
dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class,
and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they
do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I
was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect
them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow
connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut,
destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and
it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started
Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10
years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion
company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest
creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then
I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple
grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company
with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our
visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling
out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was
out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult
life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let
the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the
baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob
Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public
failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But
something slowly began to dawn on me. I still loved what I did. The turn
of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected,
but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple
was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness
of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner
again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most
creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another
company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would
become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer
animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation
studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I
returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the
heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful
family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired
from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient
needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose
faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved
what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your
work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of
your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe
is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If
you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all
matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great
relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So
keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live
each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."
It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have
looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the
last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"
And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know
I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost
everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment
or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what
is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I
know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are
already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in
the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even
know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a
type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer
than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my
affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to
try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10
years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything
is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means
to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy,
where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and
into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from
the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when
they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because
it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable
with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest
I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now
say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful
but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want
to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the
destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it
should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of

It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the

Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will
gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic,
but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's
thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own
inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and
intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole
Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created
by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he
brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before
personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with
typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google
in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic,
and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog,
and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was
the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final
issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might
find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the
words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as
they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for
myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tenth Bulletin -- Final Days in Berkeley

Yesterday (meaning November 22nd) ended on a giggly note: I spent the evening with four young staffers of the Centre for South Asian Studies, celebrating my brief stay in Berkeley, during which they hosted a show of my prints. I am not going to identify them in order to spare them undue exposure, but let's just say that three gourmet pizzas, one salad, one Scotch, four cocktails and two bottles of wine flowed. Oh and there were some rather smart snacks to go with the drinks, but I have almost forgotten what they were, because by the time they arrived, we had reached the Competitive Nose-Twitching stage of intimacy.

What IS Competitive Nose-Twitching some of you may ask? Well it's when two or more members of a group are able to control the movements of their nostrils to the extent that they can twitch them in one or more directions SEPARATELY. There are certain inevitable results of such competitions -- one is that other specialty movements of facial features are discovered -- Eye-Brow Raising for instance, and Ear-Lobe Flexing -- and the other is that I begin to giggle uncontrollably. A motor starts up inside me and it becomes progressively difficult for me to turn it off.

Actually, by earlier standards, last night's session was quite sedate. We didn't really go very far beyond the Nostril Competition -- in fact the only other real display was a rather splendid Trefoil Tongue-Fold during which I (a leading exponent) encountered another similarly skilled person for the first time in my life. I was hugely impressed. However I refrained from displaying my piece de resistance (sorry, no French accents -- don't know how to generate them in this window) -- the Tongue To Nose-Tip Flexion. Over the years I have come to realize that it really is rather gross in persons over the age of 10 years -- and I am 52(I realize, I should by now have got over the need to flaunt such talents. Alas, as must be clear, I have not).

I must admit, my interactions with CSAS have far exceeded normal expectations. The Art Show, which was inaugurated just over a week ago, has been a wholly pleasurable experience. From the effort of getting the prints matted in preparation for the show to getting them positioned on the walls of the CSAS office, it has been a smooth, happy and stress-free interaction -- no, I would go further: anyone seeking a break from the dreary routines of their lives, might consider approaching the CSAS to have a show of their artwork. Of course it probably helps if one has some art to show, and if the Powers That Be at the department are adequately happy with the work ... I am very glad that I was able to meet both these criteria. My prints look right at home on the walls of the cheery little office. Anyone wishing to see them or to find out more about the exhibition should stop by at: YES ("YES" being the name of the show). It will remain up through January 2006.

Meanwhile, back at the theatre department, sorrow reigns.

It didn't have to be that way. After all: six shows were sold out; three hundred-odd visitors per show were treated to a two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza of music, dance and comedy; many appear to have been well-satisfied with their exposure to what they believed was Authentic South-Asian Culture.

Normally, this would be enough to satisfy the average drama crew. But apparently it rankles that I, who happen to have written the play, was not properly grateful about the ways in which my work had been altered. The main source of displeasure seems to be that I blogged my opinions in a thoughtless and forthright fashion and that too, on the second night of the six-night run. But blogs are custom-built to be sites for venting steams of every sort! I would have to be a very peculiar person indeed if I said nothing at all about the distortion wrought upon my play -- and what would be the point of saying it AFTER it had ceased to be current? It is even possible that my unfeelingly blunt remarks were a source of publicity for the show. *sigh*

As to the distortions: it seems to me there's a rather odd misunderstanding about what a playwright can expect from a production. It's not true that once a play has been written and published it is automatically "out there" for the world to do with it what it likes -- which seems to be what some of the visitors to this blog believe. So long as the playwright is still alive, it is considered quite normal for him/her to exercise some control over how the work is performed.

If a production doesn't match the playwright's expectations and if his/her script is significantly altered, then he/she has a right to object and to insist that it be done differently. I didn't do that. It's not because I don't know what I want but because I have learnt to recognize the signs of a production that has set off down the wrong path. Once that has happened, short of shutting the production down altogether, one has just got to grit one's teeth and let the thing run. It isn't possible to enjoy the results -- but so far, I have believed that it's kinder to permit the show to go on, because so many people have already invested so much time and effort in it.

It comes down to this: some directors believe in allowing a play to breathe on its own, while others try to force their own breath into it. The first variety is wonderful to work with -- and I have no difficulty accepting the minor cuts and/or additions such directors might request. I've had four pleasant experiences -- the Greek stage production of HARVEST, the UK and Australian readings and the BBC World Service version (on radio). In each of these cases, I did almost nothing to affect the form of the finished version. The directors interpreted my script in a straightforward manner and didn't add any unexpected flourishes to the existing text. The result was cool, austere and true to my intention; a happy place for all concerned to be in.

[a pause here to mention the Swarthmore production: it had a lot going for it, but bad things had happened in the early days of its rehearsal process. The end result was that everyone left the show feeling wrung out and there were noticeable glitches during the performance -- Jeetu's head, for instance, didn't register on the video in the last scene. Of course, the cast and crew for that show were all professionals, so it isn't surprising that their performance was polished]

It is hard therefore, for me to understand the need for me to specify what I want from a production. I already know, from past experience, that some directors succeed in interpreting the script appropriately. It isn't unnatural for me to assume that all directors can succeed to the same extent. So ... why don't they?

I don't know. I believe it's because they don't allow the text to breathe. When they're performing familiar, classic plays, it doesn't matter because the audience already knows what the original is like. The problem arises when they approach new work. In such situations, what they produce can appear to be what the playwright intended. Only the handful of people who have read the script will know that what's happening onstage is not the way it was written and they may not remember the original accurately in any case. The result is deeply embarrassing/unpalatable to anyone who cares about his/her work. It doesn't matter who adores it and how many people appreciate it -- being praised for something you haven't done is the same as not being praised at all.

I feel very sad that the cast bore the brunt of my critique. I genuinely thought the actors were very gifted; it isn't their fault that they were encouraged to over-act recklessly. I realized from the time of the first rehearsal I attended that this interaction was going to end sadly because I knew that sometime or another I was going to have to be honest about my response to the production. I realize the cast cannot at this moment distance itself from its version of the play. I can only hope that sometime in the future, perhaps as soon as early next year, some glimmer will appear of what the performance COULD have been.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ninth Bulletin -- Berkeley, Post-Show

It really is a shame that I don't manage to keep this blog up-dated more frequently. For instance: between this post and the last one, I've been to Irvine and back, having spent a wonderful weekend with a buddy from Bombay days -- but already the current of events has carried me far enough beyond that visit and into the next excitment, i.e., the Berkeley production of HARVEST.

Irvine was fun. I and my friend K have been planning to catch up with one another for ... ohhh ... maybe 10 years? 15 years? She's a molecular biologist and has been living in southern California for a longish while, but things took a dramatic turn in her life two years ago, when she had twins. I had never met any other members of her family before -- so this visit was a sudden immersion, a warm and very happy one, into all kinds of new dimensions: husband, mother-in-law, children, wow! And all extremely and unusually interesting, charming, great to be with. It turned out that the weekend that suited K best was the one on which the twins' second birthday was being celebrated. So the day after I got there we -- K and her mother-in-law A, visiting from India and me bringing up the rear -- got into gear for the party. It is SO astonishing to be in the presence of very small children -- the sense of so much potential packed into a small, mobile unit which can talk a certain amount and is recording everything and yet ... is not quite of this world, is still faintly mystical with newly-arrived otherness.

Before leaving me at the airport K, A and I went for a stroll along the sea-front, enjoyed a balmy sun-lit view of the great blue vastness of the Pacific. Then it was time for me to leave. John Wayne Airport with the great hero striding towards an impossible horizon, twice-life-size, in bronze. Peanut snacks and apple cider on board the flight. Arrival in Berkeley, where E collected me in the car we have rented for the remainder of our stay in California, during a sudden drizzling down-wash of rain.

Back in Berkeley -- just four days later, but so much change! The night before I flew out, we -- meaning E, our hosts Laura and Kiran and myself -- shifted out of one charming residence and into the next, also supremely attractive, but just a bit further north and up a hillside, in Kensington. The new home is constructed such that guests (we are the first!) get a little cottage all to themselves, complete with kitchenette and a great view. At the time I left, only survival furniture had been moved from one residence to the next. When I got back, civilization was well-entrenched: chairs, bedside lamp, floor rugs, the works ... I was amused to notice what kinds of items, normally unnoticed, were the ones we missed most at the time of the first move: teaspoons, kitchen towels, garbage bins and mugs! The basics for drinking a hot cup of tea, so vital for keeping morale high during times of stress.

And so ... to the play. Well, last night (Friday, 11th November) was the opening night and I finally saw it with all the tech in place. For those of you who attended the unfortunate performance in Delhi and have been interested ever since in the play's history, let me say this: it was better than Delhi. HOWEVER ... but I need to backtrack here in order to be coherent.

I saw two rehearsals before last night's performance (that was about three weeks ago, when I first arrived in Berkeley). Both times, I will frankly confess, I was deeply disturbed. The play was -- alas! Yet again! -- NOT what I'd like it to be. However, one great relief for me was that I was able to express my views to Sudipto; and he took it very well -- because I had also, at the same moment that I told him what I thought, also decided that I would NOT interfere with his interpretation. I told him that too.

He has added at least an hour of performance time to the play, including lines, movements and moods that are in no way part of the original. For instance, he has permitted his actors to use a number of Hindi-isms such as "arre", "beta" etc -- which I find very hard to accept because (a) I am not a Hindi-speaker and specifically resisted falling back on ethnic touches of that sort while writing the play (b) the use of Hindi is a reminder that the family would never normally be speaking English and besides the actual words and terms are cliches, utterly colourless in themselves. I far prefer the play to inhabit a language-neutral space by remaining in ONE language, rather than attempting to balance uneasily between two.

Yet, for all that I disliked -- and it was/is a real dislike -- I recognized that this production, being fuelled by students and their youthful energy, had a kind of vulgar logic. The four principal characters were played by South Asians [-- I've deleted a portion here at the request of a visitor --] and it seemed very important to them to explore the specific ethnic identities of their characters. It's hard for me to express what I want clearly, but it's something like this: since I don't feel the need to underline the fact that I'm Indian/SouthAsian, it is utterly unimportant -- no, more than unimportant, actually UNATTRACTIVE -- for me to make a big deal about that identity. I want to go the other way -- I want to universalize the experience of being whatever -- Asian/Indian/whatever -- and to explore the notion of sameness-in-otherness. Whereas for this production, what seems to have overwhelmed the tone is the heavy spice of Indianness.

I believe it doesn't help the play at all, because the language and ideas don't support it but ... and here's why I didn't interfere ... I wanted to see whether or not I would be alone in my belief, and whether Sudipto's conviction that the play has a context (meaning, an INDIANNESS) that I, its creator, want to deny, would prevail.

OKAY! So back to yesterday's performance. Seeing the play with all its technical effects in place was definitely a plus. There was an interesting take on the GINNI scenes: instead of being shown any views of Her Blondeness, we only heard her voice -- and four different girls read GINNI's part, adding a curious layered effect, so that it was unclear how many people were speaking -- while the Prakash family members looked up at the bright light which represented her presence. Because this permitted them to face the audience, we had a stronger sense of their reaction than is usually the case with the GINNI scenes in other productions of the play AND -- a great bonus -- the audio was delivered live, from backstage, so the annoying tension of pre-taped video was avoided. The final scene, between JAYA and VIRGIL was unusually powerful -- better than most that I've seen -- and VIRGIL's voice was also live, a gravelly male voice, strangely wistful, I thought and quite effective.

It still irks me, of course, that the play is (a) soooo long (b) soooo ethnic. That's not what I wrote and it certainly isn't what I like to see. It becomes an ordeal at this length, like one of those interminable dance-dramas I used to hate so much as a child. Whereas HARVEST's ideal run-time is about one and a half hours, this is almost THREE! By mid-play, I found myself wanting to drown the whole, whining, screaming, wailing, whimpering family of four grotesques -- that's what they had all become, human gargoyles -- it seemed to me no-one could possibly care about what fate lay in store for such creatures. But ...

At this moment, I don't know if I am alone in my dislike or not. I have realized, from listening to a couple of others talking about the play, that the desire to see a production drenched in ethnic context is apparently very great. Enough to overturn other aesthetic considerations ... maybe? I don't know.

At this moment, the second night's performance is still going on ... and I am sitting in the director's office, tapping out these notes, feeling slightly naughty as I do this, feeling pleased to finally be able to get these views off my conscience and out onto the net. I've been suppressing my opinions until opening night, because of course I didn't want to presume upon the performance until I'd SEEN it, complete. And once the performance is over -- there's another hour and a half to go -- I and Sudipto will engage in a talk-back on-stage with those of the audience members who choose to remain. E is in the audience again, and this time Laura, Maya and Becky are all present too ...

Much to look forward to -- and much left to report upon! In just another few hours.