Tag Archives: biography

R.I.P. Tom Sims – a short video about his life

Tom Sims is a legend in all board sports. He had the largest skateboard company in the world – in the early 80s. Built the first snowboard when he was 12, and created half-pipe and freestyle snowboarding, and the first professional snowboard.

A 25-minute short video covers his early years, from Vice’s Powder & Rails:

 

 

A determined writer – overcomes Rheumatoid Arthritis – creates first full biography of Dennis Hopper

Readers of Peter Winkler’s new biography of the late actor and artist Dennis Hopper may not realize what a labor of love it represents. Winkler suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and cannot reach his fingers to the keyboard of his computer. Yet he was determined to write Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel, so he tapped it out one letter at a time, using a red plastic chopstick to press the keys.

The result is the first biography to cover Hopper’s entire life and career. The meticulously researched account follows him from a lonely childhood in Kansas through his days as a Hollywood bad boy, later reformed, to his rise as a notable visual artist.

Winkler’s sister helped him conduct research, driving him to the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to copy clippings collected throughout Hopper’s career. Then at home, in bed, the author, who has been described as “a genuine Hollywood historian and that rarity, a James Dean fan with a triple-digit IQ,” painstakingly pecked out the story he was so eager to tell.

via UCLA Magazine

 

More about Peter at the LA Times – A disabled writer’s book unfolds a tap at a time

The technology community continues to reject Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs

The frustration with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs continues. A week ago John Gruber pointed out a serious flaw in the biography and now Dave Winer and John Siracusa have joined in.

Dave Winer writes:

Choosing Walter Isaacson “was a terrible decision. My guess is that he didn’t put a lot of thought into the choice. Isaacson is exactly the kind of reporter he worked with for his whole career. People who don’t have any idea of what he does, or how tech products are developed. Who tell the same wrong heroic story over and over, one that sells magazines, but does not capture the process of developing tech products.”

And, from a commenter:

“I have found it to be extraordinarily repetitive on Jobs’ attitude, temper, control, and business competitiveness…I can’t tell how much of a technologist Jobs was or was not from his bio at all. And I can’t tell what his managerial approach was beyond telling people they could do better and coming back for the results.

“The story/bio is more clear on how he worked press and marketing, and perhaps those are as much the important parts in his mythology as others. Ultimately I don’t think this will let his kids know him well. Certainly it doesn’t let us know him well.”

I couldn’t agree more. Not only does Isaacson obsess over the conflicts in Steve’s life but he proclaims his diet and thinking “dubious” and wildly extreme. As if being a vegan is a new and strange concept, or if waiting to buy something because you want to do research is idiotic.

Continually, throughout the book I found myself wondering if Isaacson hates Steve Jobs, or has some personal issue with him. It reads not so much as a biography but as a series of conflicts that annoy Isaacson and interviews with Steve Jobs friends to confirm that annoyance.

I read it and enjoyed the new details about someone I admire, but I would not recommend this book to a friend. It would be better to wait for the next biographer to combine these new details into a real story that better understands this complex man.

The technology community continues to reject Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs

The frustration with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs continues. A week ago John Gruber pointed out a serious flaw in the biography and now Dave Winer and John Siracusa have joined in.

Dave Winer writes:

Choosing Walter Isaacson “was a terrible decision. My guess is that he didn’t put a lot of thought into the choice. Isaacson is exactly the kind of reporter he worked with for his whole career. People who don’t have any idea of what he does, or how tech products are developed. Who tell the same wrong heroic story over and over, one that sells magazines, but does not capture the process of developing tech products.”

And, from a commenter:

“I have found it to be extraordinarily repetitive on Jobs’ attitude, temper, control, and business competitiveness…I can’t tell how much of a technologist Jobs was or was not from his bio at all. And I can’t tell what his managerial approach was beyond telling people they could do better and coming back for the results.

“The story/bio is more clear on how he worked press and marketing, and perhaps those are as much the important parts in his mythology as others. Ultimately I don’t think this will let his kids know him well. Certainly it doesn’t let us know him well.”

I couldn’t agree more. Not only does Isaacson obsess over the conflicts in Steve’s life but he proclaims his diet and thinking “dubious” and wildly extreme. As if being a vegan is a new and strange concept, or if waiting to buy something because you want to do research is idiotic.

Continually, throughout the book I found myself wondering if Isaacson hates Steve Jobs, or has some personal issue with him. It reads not so much as a biography but as a series of conflicts that annoy Isaacson and interviews with Steve Jobs friends to confirm that annoyance.

I read it and enjoyed the new details about someone I admire, but I would not recommend this book to a friend. It would be better to wait for the next biographer to combine these new details into a real story that better understands this complex man.

Steve Jobs is a tweaker, according to his flawed biography

I’m hating the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s like an art novice trying to explain Monet’s brushstrokes.

I’m not convinced that Mr. Isaacson understands the topic all that well. It almost seems that he rushed the book out after Steve’s passing.

Finally, somebody respectable agrees with me, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who calls the biography flawed:

Exhibit A in the case against Walter Isaacson’s flawed Jobs biography: Malcolm Gladwell in last week’s New Yorker, arguing that Jobs was “a tweaker”.

Gladwell, alas, takes Isaacson’s portrait of Jobs at face value:

“In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh — the mouse and the icons on the screen — from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979.”

I suggest reading John’s full piece: Getting Steve Jobs Wrong

For me, it’s just a sign that my own feelings are justified. Anyone else out there feeling the same way?

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Today, October 7, 2011, is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in technology, engineering, mathematics, and science.

A day for all the geek girls out there. Yes you. You are beautiful and smart and talented.

We love you and the work you do.

Now, here is the life-story of the woman we celebrate.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

“Her life was an apotheosis of struggle between emotion and reason, subjectivism and objectivism, poetics and mathematics, ill-health and bursts of energy.”

  • Born: December 10, 1815  to Anne Isabelle Milbanke and Lord Byron, his only legitimate daughter
  • Died: At the age of 36 from cancer, November 27, 1852
  • Education: Mathematics at an early age, later in science and logic
  • Family: Married William King the 1st Earl of Lovelace and had three children.
  • Lived: Ockham Park and London
  • Nickname: Enchantress of Numbers
  • Self-Nickname: An analyst and metaphysician

Her Biography, from the Women in Science section at the San Diego Supercomputer Center:

Ada was the daughter of a brief marriage between the Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron. Her life was an apotheosis of struggle between emotion and reason, subjectivism and objectivism, poetics and mathematics, ill-health and bursts of energy.

Lady Byron wished her daughter to be unlike her poetical father, and she saw to it that Ada received tutoring in mathematics and music, as disciplines to counter dangerous poetic tendencies. But Ada’s complex inheritance became apparent as early as 1828, when she produced the design for a flying machine. It was mathematics that gave her life its wings.

Lady Byron and Ada moved in an elite London society, one in which gentlemen not members of the clergy or occupied with politics or the affairs of a regiment were quite likely to spend their time and fortunes pursuing botany, geology, or astronomy. In the early nineteenth century there were no “professional” scientists (indeed, the word “scientist” was only coined by William Whewell in 1836)–but the participation of noblewomen in intellectual pursuits was not widely encouraged.

One of the gentlemanly scientists of the era was to become Ada’s lifelong friend. Charles Babbage, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, was known as the inventor of the Difference Engine, an elaborate calculating machine that operated by the method of finite differences. Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began a voluminous correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects.

In 1835, Ada married William King, ten years her senior, and when King inherited a noble title in 1838, they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Ada had three children. The family and its fortunes were very much directed by Lady Byron, whose domineering was rarely opposed by King.

Babbage had made plans in 1834 for a new kind of calculating machine (although the Difference Engine was not finished), an Analytical Engine. His Parliamentary sponsors refused to support a second machine with the first unfinished, but Babbage found sympathy for his new project abroad. In 1842, an Italian mathematician, Louis Menebrea, published a memoir in French on the subject of the Analytical Engine. Babbage enlisted Ada as translator for the memoir, and during a nine-month period in 1842-43, she worked feverishly on the article and a set of Notes she appended to it. These are the source of her enduring fame.

Ada called herself “an Analyst (& Metaphysician),” and the combination was put to use in the Notes. She understood the plans for the device as well as Babbage but was better at articulating its promise. She rightly saw it as what we would call a general-purpose computer. It was suited for “developping [sic] and tabulating any function whatever. . . the engine [is] the material expression of any indefinite function of any degree of generality and complexity.” Her Notes anticipate future developments, including computer-generated music.

Ada died of cancer in 1852, at the age of 37, and was buried beside the father she never knew.