Bio: Steve Jobs was a details man, even in his Memphis hospital bed

In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple CEO Steve Jobs that went on sale Monday, there’s some fascinating detail about Jobs’ stay in Memphis during 2009, when he got a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital’s transplant institute.

Jobs, who died earlier this month at age 56, was ever the details man, even in his hospital bed.

There’s a moment in the book’s recounting of Jobs’ transplant when Jobs pulled off an oxygen mask, grumbled about the design and ordered someone to bring him five different choices of masks. He said he’d pick the one he liked.

Same for the oxygen monitor on his finger.

“He told them it was ugly and too complex,” Isaacson writes of the monitor. “He suggested ways it could be designed more simply.”

Jobs also got visitors in Memphis from Apple – including Tim Cook, the man who took his place as CEO.

“You could see him brighten every time the talk turned to Apple,” Cook told Isaacson. “It was like the light turned on.”

The two men in Memphis discussed a new model of the iPhone, including what to call it – the iPhone 3GS – and the size and font of the letters in the name.

Jobs friend George Riley, who did some of the work associated with preparing the Memphis visit, is described as a San Francisco lawyer who sometimes worked as outside counsel for Apple. According to the bio, Riley’s parents had been doctors at Methodist,

Riley was born there and he was a friend of James Eason, the director there who performed Jobs’ transplant.

Tennessee Unemployment Rate Rose (barely) for Sept.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point in September, according to an announcement by state Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development Karla Davis.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate rose from a revised 9.7 percent in August to 9.8 percent in September. September’s rate in Tennessee was higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent for September.

“The unemployment rate rose slightly due to a small decline in employment,” Davis said in a statement released about the numbers. “There were seasonal gains in employment in areas like education, along with losses in leisure and hospitality. The net result was little change in the state’s employment picture.”

From the department:

“Month-to-month increases occurred in government, up 19,500 jobs; educational and health services was up 3,400; and durable goods manufacturing increased by 1,400. From August to September leisure and hospitality decreased by 5,500; administrative, support, and waste services was down 1,000; and merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods declined by 700 jobs.

Year-over-year increases took place in professional and business services, up 7,900 jobs; local government educational services was up 6,400; and educational and health services increased by 6,000. Employment decreases took place in retail trade, which decreased by 4,400; nondurable goods manufacturing was down 1,800; and federal government declined by 1,200.”

Fed Report: Mixed-picture for Memphis area

The Federal Reserve has just released its so-called Beige Book, which offers an informal review of economic conditions in each of the fed’s regional districts.

The latest beige book covers Aug. 27 through Oct. 7. It can be accessed here:

The report says the economic picture in the Fed’s St. Louis district – which encompasses Memphis – is decidedly mixed at the moment.

From the report:

“Manufacturing activity has continued to increase, while reports of activity in the services sector have been mixed. Residential real estate market activity has continued to decline, while commercial real estate market conditions varied across the District. Lending at a sample of small and mid-sized District banks declined slightly during the three-month period from mid-June to mid-September.”

What FedExForum has in common with … the housing market

It strikes me that the situation now facing FedExForum – with the NBA lockout hurting the revenue streams that pay the forum’s bonds – resemble the one the housing market faced a few years ago.

In both cases, systems were set up to try and minimize risk. But as the housing market shows, when your operating assumption gets interrupted, it throws everything amiss.

Here’s what I mean.

Bonds authorized in 2002 that helped develop Memphis’ NBA arena are paid for thanks to several revenue streams.

The people who set up the arrangement wanted to minimize the risk that any one revenue source would dry up and leave the city on the hook to make up the difference. So they spread it out – revenue comes from things like tickets and concessions sold at Grizzlies games as well as county car rental and hotel/motel taxes.

We’ll come back to that in a second.

Remember the structured mortgage products that threatened to collapse the banking system a few years ago? Risk mitigators thought they could minimize the risk of mortgages going belly-up by pooling mortgages together, then slicing those pools up and selling them off to different investors. What ultimately happened, though, is the collapse of the housing market almost all at once and very nearly in its entirety – rendering moot the plans to avoid the risk.

Now we come back to the danger associated with FedExForum because of the protracted NBA lockout.

Weeks and weeks of missed games potentially affect almost all of the half a dozen revenue streams set up to pay the arena’s bonds.

Supporters of the arena wisely thought game attendance might go down or fluctuate from one season to the next, for example, so they added other things like the hotel/motel tax and an MLGW PILOT payment.

But no games potentially affects everything – no ticket sales, no purchases at games, perhaps fewer car rentals to get patrons to games and fewer hotel rooms sold to fans and players.

And that’s why the City Council has decided the city needs to explore its options as the lockout continues – possibly leading to a lawsuit of the NBA.

Telling Our Story


I blogged a bit about this when the show first started airing.

Now we learn Memphis Beat, the cop show claiming to have a Memphis storyline, has been cancelled by TNT, the cable channel that aired it for two years.

I came down hard on it and don’t regret it. But the show really isn’t the point and it never was.

If you are still waiting for Hollywood to stop thinking that Southern is synonymous with slow, simple and stupid you will be waiting a while.

Forking over cash money to the same folks as “incentives” for making movies and television shows here won’t change the mindset either. And the name of the game in “incentives” is cash on the table with no need to bother with the accounting and no claw back provisions.

These are the same folks who made a movie in Mississippi about the murder of Medgar Evers and made Evers a minor character in the story line.

The answer to this remains for us to tell our own story.

We talk about creating human capital and work force development. But when the work force works in the creative arts, that becomes the creative class and the attention shifts to attracting the creative class from other cities to Memphis.

It’s already here and certainly more are welcome. But you can find it every night of the week playing in a bar. You can see it at one of several film festivals and in several recent documentaries that Memphians lined up to see in special showings Malco theaters were kind enough and wise enough to host.

They write poetry and publish it themselves. They teach art even as they change the art form.

The chances are pretty good that you have a nephew, a daughter, a cousin or friend whose focus in life is the theater, ballet or music at some level.

Memphis isn’t seen as an “industry town” for any of this to the degree of a Nashville or a Los Angeles.

That makes it harder, much less comfortable — although if you believe Memphians going to Los Angeles don’t struggle I have several references I can furnish you.

And creativity’s nature involves denying or ignoring boundaries including the most obvious boundaries of being limited by where you come from.

But there is a double standard in too many cases I think. We are now in the habit of telling those bound for college in pursuit of a career in science or business or medicine to consider returning home when they get their education. But those in entertainment or the arts we wish well in their journey to whatever we see as the capital or center of that pursuit.

For the first group we promise there will be something here for them to return to and contribute to. For the second group, the foundation for both is already present. It’s not the only stage or studio or setting. But it is the one they know best and whose story they can tell better than anyone else.