The iPhone hair shirt: The weirdest of takes


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The Macalope has seen a lot of iPhone takes over the last 10 years so it’s rare that he’s surprised by anything. But this one goes from standard to bizarre in 3.2 paragraphs.

Writing for the LA Times, Virginia Heffernan presents a hairy argument.

“Happy birthday, iPhone: Ten years later, Steve Jobs' creation owns us.” (Tip o’ the antlers to @designheretic.)

Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January, 2007, before an adoring congregation, in his signature “Sermon on the Mount” style.

If you, like Heffernan, have just arrived on this planet, allow the Macalope to inform you that it is considered a delightful larf to compare Apple, a consumer electronics company, to a religion. Perhaps you have never seen this before since you have spent your entire life in the off-world colonies toiling in the unobtainium mines of Cestus 9, but it is quite a clever use of simile!

If, however, you’ve been on Earth this whole time and have seen this employed 10 billion times, please try not to let your eyes literally roll out of their sockets. They can be very hard to find as they careen about the floor.

Ten years later, the phone has spread like Christianity.

Was even the apple in Eden as low-hanging and unbearably tempting as the fruit that is the “Apple is a religion!” trope? Religious scholars are unsure.

Heffernan will now read to us from the Book of Genesis which is to say she will watch Steve Jobs’ Macworld 2007 keynote and make snarky and weird commentary on it ten years after the fact.

…at length, he talks smack about the horrible, warty Blackberry buttons, which he intends to make obsolete with the glabrous minimalism of the iPhone.

Don’t feel bad if you, like this furry beast, need to look up “glabrous”. Heffernan offers that it means “having a surface without hairs or projections.”

So far in this piece we have learned that Apple is a religion and iPhones are hairless. This Mad Libs-created TED talk is going very well.

I heard it first from Marina Warner, the British mythographer, in a lecture she gave that likened the iPhone to Venus de Milo and depilated porn actors.

Uh. OK.

I mean… er…


Sigh. We fell in love with hardware that was our opposite.

You know… sometimes a phone is just a phone.

But suddenly, when the iPhone appeared, every phone but Apple’s started to look like a fidget spinner for the dandruff club.

Sorry, the Macalope would offer some kind of remark but he really has no idea what is going on anymore. This is like pop culture soup seasoned with tired metaphors and one big weird analogy.

Over these 10 years, two moments in Jobs’ iPhone baptism have stuck with me.

Like stigmata.

The primary Apple promise: We are smarter so you can be dumber.

Yeah, well, that’s why they sell so well. Heffernan spends a lot of time waxing nostalgic for her Blackberry, but most people prefer to have phones that are easier to use.

The other line I think of is a Jobs throwaway. … “You don’t get spurious input from your face!” he fairly shouts. … That stuff your face says, those “inputs,” are not true inputs, in Jobs’ world. What’s true are only the inputs the phone has been programmed to recognize. For the iPhone, everything else —human skin, faces, emotions, warmth, long paragraphs of real prose — cannot be said to exist.

Indeed. How sad it is that we cannot have a device that understands that the touch of our face means we just want the validation we so desperately seek as we eke out our meagre time on this beautiful blue marble floating through an infinite and uncaring cosmos. Why could Apple not program the phone to appreciate other very human inputs, such as a laugh or a wry wink or sticking the entire phone in your mouths and singing the lyrics to the Macarena? Is that asking too much?

You know, maybe computers aren’t for you.

[Virginia Heffernan] is filling in for Doyle McManus.

The Macalope has no idea who Doyle McManus is or what he writes about or what his style is but he cannot wait until he gets back from his vacation.

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