Things Macintosh

Don Crabb, I Truly Never Knew You

Rodney O. Lain - 2000.03.02

Daley was not an articulate man, most English teachers would agree. People from other parts of the country sometimes marveled that a politician who fractured the language so thoroughly could be taken so seriously.

Well, Chicago is not an articulate town, Saul Bellow notwithstanding.....

So when Daley slid sideways into a sentence, or didn't exit from the same paragraph he entered, it amused us. But it didn't sound that different than the way most of us talk.

Besides, he got his point across, one way or another, usually in Chicago style. When he thought critics should mind their own business about the way he handed out insurance business to his sons, he tried to think of a way to say they should kiss his bottom. He found a way. He said it. We understood it. What more can one ask of the language?

- Mike Royko (1932-1997), columnist/muckraker/EveryMan, describing former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, in his Daley biography Boss.

Call me arrogant, but it's how I feel: I love good writers and loathe the sloppy ones. As a result, never have I sought out an avocational kindred spirit, since I feared I'd never find one.

At least, not until Don Crabb. Not until today.

On my lunch break - which is when I'm writing this - I read Loose Cannons' dedication to Prof. Crabb at Several things stood out as I read that unabashedly gushing tribute to who was arguably the seminal Mac columnist, the paragon of über journalism.

What made me warm up to Don wasn't anything that he'd written, but the fact that he was one prolific hush-yo-mouth. Come to think of it, if he's anything like me, he would disagree with my word choice. "Prolific" would be the last word he'd choose. According to Mr. Cannons, The Man would have given a response similar to one I gave an interviewer:

We had read Don for many years before we began corresponding with him. We asked Don how he could be so prolific. Don wrote for dozens of publications and his columns filled many inches both in print and on the Net.

He replied, "I just do. I have to. I have so much to say and not enough friends who want to listen."

Amen, my brother.

What really endeared me to the man and prompts me to revere his memory - I'd planned to say nothing, since I don't feel close enough to him to do so - was the following observation about Mr. Crabb:

The [above] response was so typical of Don. Short, to the point, completely honest and exactly how he felt. Regardless of whether or not you agreed with Crabb (and we disagreed with him often. The last time was about 6 slot PCI Macs. Don joked, "I bet Jobs is holding on to them until after I'm gone!" Steve, don't you dare release a 6 slot PCI machine now. Don will haunt the halls of Cupertino for generations to come if you do!) you always got exactly what he felt. There was never any artifice with Crabb. He told it as he saw it and anyone else's (especially Apple's) feelings be damned.

The following made Don's stock rise even higher, in my opinion:

Cannons related his meeting Don at a past Macworld, at which he was pleasantly surprised to discover that Don was one of the most humane individuals he'd ever met - a rarity among Mac journalists. I've met a few of them myself and realize that many of them are pompous jerks. I won't names, but it won't take much effort to figure out who they are. Hint: a writer's humility is inversely proportional to the size and notoriety of the publication for which he writes (unless you're extremely humble, like me).

Q: Why I'll never get a job at Apple?

A: Because I'm too much like Don Crabb.

Remember when Don Crabb expressed the opinion that Apple was being set up to be sold. Subsequently, web sites began to publish reactions, like "Don Crabb smokes crack." I threw in my $.02, also.

Nowadays, though, I can see why he said what he said: it was his opinion.

I thought once about working for Apple, until I realized that my opinions my precede me.

People usually want smooth words, sugarcoated and tasty. Who'd want that type of drivel? Obviously, lots of people, judging from the amount of flame Don engendered during his last days.

Most writers like to play it safe, never offending, never saying anything that runs the risk of making them look - dare I say it? - foolish.

There's nothing wrong with speaking your mind. There's nothing wrong with risk. Don proved that. And I'll miss him as a result.

The world needs more rhetorical hell-raisers. The world needs more Don Crabbs out there.

Any takers?

It seems like I'll have to be good for the rest of my life, so I can die, go to heaven and meet Mr. Crabb. But then again, I'm sure I'll see him anyway - isn't it only logical to believe that all Mac users get to go to heaven when they die?

After all, isn't the Mac "God's computer"?


Additional reading

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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