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Errol Morris, Philip Glass Produce IBM Film

Two superstars in the arts world — both past On Point guests — have collaborated on a film to celebrate IBM’s 100 years as a corporation. It’s well worth watching — and you’ll see/hear the signature style of each artist in the film. Click through to listen back to our shows with filmmaker Errol Morris and music composer Philip Glass.

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  • Grady Lee Howard

    Thank you John and On Point WBUR for linking to this new film. The aim of this product had to be promotional and complementary. I am disappointed that the Morris/Glass team chose to be so formulaic in their conception and presentation but maybe this is an appropriate approach for a corporation that is the world’s champion in remaining imaginative about unimaginative subject matter.

    Three things come to mind:
    1. The Hollerith machines contracted to Nazi Germany for tracking their population, especially Jews and dissidents were not mentioned. The question of US IBM involvement has not yet been clarified.
    2. The age discrimination practices at the core of this behemoth corporation which were highlighted by employee class action suits in the 1990s cannot be excused because of good racial, gender and sexual orientation policies. This also remains an open issue.
    3. The personal computer revolution IBM claims now to have led is glossed over in this film. Mush could be said about how IBM failed to synergize with outside software engineers and how this enabled Microsoft to gain a monopoly using questionable ethical methods. IBM offers no good explanation of why they failed in the personal computer market and the innovation of PCs.

    This documentary has problematic flow and indistinct transitions. I agree that it’s all about computerization, but it almost seems that booking a flight bleeds over into moonshots, and that these events were not feasible until barcodes came into general use. There is also a credibility problem when they say blithely that their first consideration is the customer’s success. Aren’t some possible customers unworthy or malevolent? And just because some happy employees have been at IBM a long time this does not mean many left mistreated and unhappy. One can find a few out of 400,000, and as many retirees who can sing praises to those cutting their paychecks.

    BIG BLUE insularity and company totalitarianism, anti-unionism for example, are masked in this production. Just as Phillip Glass’s score seems to be the happy worksong of a mindless juggernaut, Errol Morris has also softened his wry and critical gaze, probably for a critical payday. It is sad to see these two innovative and questioning minds follow the pro-business conformity that is crippling education and innovation in the United States. Maybe Morris and Glass, figureheads of art factories with a uniform product line, see themselves as global clones with no recourse to intellectual resistance. I hope their next outing contradicts my appraisal. This advertisement did not make me respect or like IBM more. Maybe i had too much information beforehand.

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