Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Posted by Ariel Frager
I didn’t initially want to see the latest Mike Daisey monologue after seeing him last year. I don’t really even remember what it was I objected to but somewhere between the interminable length, (I actually left the theatre before it was finished) and the seemingly circular rant, I wasn’t predisposed to be a fan.
I am, however, an unabashed fan of Apple Computers, just like none other than Mike Daisey who referred to himself as an Apple “fan boy.” I thought I owed it to myself to hear Daisey out. I love the sleek elegant casings, the supreme functionality and yes, even the hipness factor. I am from Silicon Valley and in fact attended the same high school as both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in Cupertino, so perhaps being an Apple enthusiast is part of my DNA. For this reason alone, I questioned seeing a performance that might shatter my love for the laptop I am typing on at this very moment.
Daisey links two stories in this piece. The story of his trip to China where he infiltrated the factory town where many Apple products are manufactured and a la Michael Moore, he talked to the workers and the unions and brings to light Apple’s dirty little secrets. He interweaves this story with the story of Steve Jobs, whom he lovingly referred to as a “visionary asshole.”
The thing that is amazing about Daisey is that he is able to link each unique story in the monologue seamlessly. I hardly noticed the transitions from diatribes about Jobs’ bad behavior to stories in China, like the one about the Foxcom factory worker who died after a 32-hour shift. The modulations in his voice, punctuated with more then the occasional obscenity, brought the entire story to life. It’s an important story, the story of how Chinese factory workers are exploited. This is not new information. Many things we own were made by 11-year-old hands but Daisey made it seem like his trip to China was revelatory.
The problem I have with The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is the same problem I had with last year’s Mike Daisey performance. I had been sitting in the ultra uncomfortable Washington High School auditorium seat for well into 90 minutes when I realized that the Apple story had only reached the mid 1990′s and began to mentally calculate how much longer it would be to retell the tale of the following 15 years. I fought very hard not to leave the theatre again. He just went on and on and on. I got the point after 90 minutes, I didn’t need another 45 minutes to feel as if the story was complete. A little editing might be nice. As important as it is to understand the evils in production of my favorite little tech company, there really is no reason that this story needed 135 minutes to be told.