What if a perennial All-Star had come out? It would be about a quasi-celebrity, not a working stiff. The effect would be more localized and nearly impossible to react honestly to. Collins is a Basketball Everyman. The reaction to him is indicative of how players feel about each other and it would seem, how they would view a gay teammate.
And that was just it: Instead of the internet working against our real lives in provocative ways, it became an extension of them. The looking glass was now a mirror; instead of reinventing us, the web simply provided more of us to the world, and more ways to take advantage of the world around us. We speak of Yelping and checking in on 4Square as if these were activities, when they are simply the day-to-day cataloguing of our lives—or, even worse, a grimly detached version of modern life in which we aspire to be ourselves. Mediation presents itself as a friendly tool when in fact it creates distance between us and the ordinary.
Why exactly did people take Steve Jobs’s death so hard? I don’t much care to argue over whether or not this was the appropriate feeling to have, or whether another death was more deserving of this emotion. The fact remains, they did. The easy answer: Steve Jobs was a Great Man whose influence over contemporary culture is virtually inescapable. Through brute force alone, and pressure exerted by the world around us, the heart responds. I wonder, though, if it doesn’t have to do with the nature of Apple products. The iPod’s triumph—and to some degree, that of the snazzy Mac before it and the nascent iPad since—was to create a singular, personal space by means of a technological vessel. This effect was transitive, if backward; the metal and plastic were imbued with the memories and associations that music, in digital, context-less form, bundled up in one place. Those were the rules of the game, the order of things, and they were embodied in the device—stylish, elliptical, and slightly frivolous—that made this sound-space possible.
It makes perfect sense that Jobs himself would be, so to speak, taken personally. He was the one who allowed them to live more fully through technology. They created this version of Apple and its leader, but without the cues provided by technology, it wouldn’t have happened. Are we happy? Thank Steve Jobs. Does technology render us that powerless when it comes to matters of lifestyle and identity? Then thank Steve Jobs for that, too, out of a fealty that should leave an odd, acrid taste our mouths. Even if you’ve never owned Apple once. He’s gotten to you somehow.
Stop me before I destroy the Jewish race! Or so sayeth the comments on my Tablet piece on Jeff Van Gundy and Jewish identity. Calm down. All I wanted to say was that:
Almost all Jewish basketball fans (and plenty of non-Jewish ones) have, at one time or another, sought to confirm their intuitions about Van Gundy, who is diminutive and bald; talks too much and always sounds slightly annoyed at himself for doing so; and, of course, has that vague yet unmistakably European surname. The strong prima facie case for Van Gundy’s Jewishness is only enhanced by his connection to the Knicks, a franchise with strong Jewish overtones. Both Jews and Knicks fans tend to be eager for anything resembling a Jewish presence in Madison Square Garden
For that, I am accused of 19th-century anti-Semitism, and told to “visit a college campus, to see how Jews are represented?” Someone sent his kids to the wrong school! I kind of like what Eric Freeman and I concluded last night. He said it would be “too much, too obvious” for JVG to be Jewish. I responded: “You’re right. He almost doesn’t need to be.”
Rest easy, everyone, I will not stay deconstructing, or subversively reinforcing, stereotypes forever. Nor am I about to turn this into an argument about 21st-century assimilation; I’m glad you grew up strong and able to play sports, if you were. And, sadly, my Paul Newman costume is at the cleaners. Maybe that explains it all.