Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Quite a strange thing to mourn the death of a stranger, isn't it? I don't do it often, but there have been certain times when the death seemed particularly unjust, or the person a particular brand of genius, that it transcended all boundaries, and simply became about the world's loss of somebody who made it a better place in some way. I felt it for Amy Winehouse, for example. I didn't feel it for Jade Goody.

The news today that Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, has passed away shouldn't have really had that effect. He invented computers and phones. He had a reputation for being something of a megalomaniac. But his products were so inspirational, and his vision for his company so unique, that he has gone on to effect a whole generation of people with his work. He died aged 56, far too young, and we'll never know now what more life-changing products he had up his sleeve.

Anyway, I've been reading all the obituaries about him today and I thought I'd share an excerpt from a commencement speech he made at Stanford University in 2005, after he'd been diagnosed with and seemingly cured of pancreatic cancer. His words at the time were incredibly moving. Now, they seem even more poignant and beautiful.

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 tumour 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 tumour. 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 life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. 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 others' 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.  
We should all take heed.

Love, Smithy x

2 Floors Downwards 1 Floor Back

You know what I hate?

You know when you live on the 10th floor? And you're waiting for a lift with a bunch of people, and then the lift arrives and only you get in? Then you hit the 10th floor button, and just as the doors close you realise that the lift is going down? And then you go down to Basement 3? Then back up to Basement 2 and then Basement 1? And then finally back up to the 1st floor where the doors open and you are on full view to all the people who you were waiting with, who then join you in the lift and look at each other like, "Hark at this fucking moron who can't tell if an arrow is pointing up or down and so took a little trip down 3 floors just to end up exactly back where he started?"

Yeah, I hate that.

Love, Smithy x



Now, I'm really not one to say, 'I told you so'...okay, that's a lie. I am. I LOVE IT. So here we go.

I fucking told you so.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, after spending nearly 4 years in an Italian prison for killing Meredith Kercher, have been fully acquitted of the murder charge levelled against them by a corrupt and inept prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini.

I stayed up to watch the verdict and, despite my erratic internet connection and zero knowledge of Italian, was able to witness the judge confirm that the charges were being dropped 'because they did not commit the crime' and see Amanda Knox collapse into the arms of her defence team with a relief that I don't think any of us will ever be able to understand.

In the days leading up to the verdict, I would try and put myself into her shoes. And I don't even mean as someone who stood falsely accused, let's just disregard her innocence or - lack of - for the moment. She was building up to a moment in time that would either leave her in an Italian jail cell until middle age, leave her in an Italian jail cell for the rest of her life (as Mignini had requested) or send her back to her home country, with all her friends and family, and where she had spent the first, event-free 20 years of her life where nobody had ever accused her of murder.

How she must be feeling now, I have no idea. My first thoughts turned to food, to be honest. 'She's going to eat the shit out of some Italian food before she leaves', I kept thinking. She must be on cloud 99, never mind cloud 9.

But she will surely never be the same after this. Prison must take something out of you, whether you are guilty or not, and 4 years of it must really change a person. She will no longer trust anyone like she would have before, never know whether people actually believe she is innocent. If it were me, I'd be paranoid as hell for the rest of my life, scared to ever let myself get anywhere near a situation whereby someone might accuse me of some awful crime. I just hope she is able to find happiness somehow.

And for Sollecito as well, seemingly ignored by his home media during this trial and certainly largely ignored by the foreign media, his future must be uncertain. I wonder if he will be able to move on, in the country where the crime took place under a system that wrongly imprisoned him for 4 years? I'd be so angry, bitter, resentful. I wonder if he can let these emotions go? I wonder if the Italian people will be able to accept their justice system's own verdict? I suppose only time will tell.

So, did they do it? I never thought so, but only those present at the scene will ever really know. Rudy Guede, the man who's DNA was the only one represented at the crime scene is serving 16 years for the murder but has never formally admitted his involvement. But a denial carries little weight when forensic evidence puts you at the crime scene and you fucking run to Germany the day after the crime. Knox and Sollecito's denials always seemed a trifle more convincing - because nobody could prove that they did it.

It is the responsibility of the prosecutor to prove guilt, not for the defendant to prove innocence. That is why I was so angered throughout the trial and subsequent appeal, and why only very shallow digging will unearth that dreaded whiff of corruption that so often underpins Italian society. Sig. Mignini, for example, has recently been convicted of abuse of office. More specifically, he was found using illegal wire taps to support his evidence in another trial. Because of his right to appeal, however, he was not prevented from doing his job and so you are left with the quite frankly hypocritical situation where a convicted criminal is prosecuting suspected criminals. Mignini was gunning for Knox from the very beginning, when he realised the media exposure that would come from a sex crime involving two beautiful foreigners, a studious looking Italian boy and a token black man. No problem that the first black man to be implicated (Patrick Lumumba) had an alibi! Just substitute in Guede, literally invent some bullshit about a sex game and the occult, and you have yourself a prosecution case! They had no evidence that even placed Knox or Sollecito at the crime scene. All they had was some odd behaviour at the police station (cartwheels by Knox, exactly what a murderer would do after being arrested for murder, right?) an unexplained turning off of their mobile phones on the morning following the murder and no alibi except each other. There was nothing else. But of course, they were charged due to a lack of other leads.

This lack of evidence was brought up by the father of Raffaele Sollectio on national TV, 45 days after the body was found. The host of the show, a widely respected Italian journalist, suggested that, were Sig. Sollecito to be correct regarding the prosecution case's weaknesses, then 'somebody would pay'. The day after the show was broadcast, the prosecutors announced that they had found one of Meredith Kercher's bra clasps upon which they had discovered the DNA of Sollecito. At appeal, an independent trial deemed this evidence inadmissible, as it was "not supported by scientifically validate analytical procedures". It was complete and utter bollocks, in other words.

As well as this farcical and borderline criminal behaviour, the 'tag-team' questioning of Knox conducted by the Italian police in the middle of the night, where they relentlessly bullied her, denied her either a rest or a lawyer, confused and coerced her before forcing her to implicate herself and Lumumba (she has served a 3 year sentence and will pay a fine for this crime of slander) was disgusting and again casts doubt on the already pathetic evidence the Italians were using to prosecute. I was accused of not showing enough respect for the Italian justice system when I wrote my first blog. Now I wonder if I actually showed it far too much. The American press has certainly suggested the Italians have made a hash of it, but from a country that recently executed an innocent man and released a guilty woman...let's just say that their glass house is in danger from their own stones.

The Italian judges presiding over the appeal had two options for acquittal. They could have freed the pair due to a lack of evidence. In this case, they would not have been declared innocent, but the court would admit that there was not enough evidence to convict and so they would have been freed. Or, there was the second option. The one that they chose. To fully acquit them of their crimes, and admit that their conviction were, in fact, incorrect. 'They did not commit the crime', the Judge told the court. Knox will return to America today as a completely innocent woman, with 4 years of torment to contend with. But the prosecution team has been dealt a full-force and incredibly humiliating blow.

The question must surely be asked - and in Italy, to the people who are responsible for this miscarriage of justice, it must be asked over and over again - why were they even charged with the crime in the first place?

At the end of all of this (and despite the prosecution having the option of an appeal, one has to suspect that this will now be the end of it), Meredith Kercher is no more alive than she was before. There has still been a beautiful, intelligent, innocent life extinguished for no bigger reason than some mobile phones and a sexual kick. Her family has every right to be confused, as they have said since the verdict, but hopefully they will accept the appeal verdict as much as they seemed to accept the guilt of Knox and Sollectito after the initial trial. If they want to blame someone or something for their 4 years of torment, and the lack of closure they must now feel as further confusion and doubt is cast over the events of that fateful night four years ago, then blame Giuliano Mignini and his entirely inept prosecution team.

But for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito - a young couple who were guilty of nothing more on the night that Meredith died than enjoying a cheeky spliff, some pasta and a shag - their lives, that have been on pause for the last 4 years, can finally start again.

Love, Smithy x