Books

It’s Apple’s World, Just Click and Agree to It

Ever wonder what you agree to when you click on the terms and conditions for iTunes? Read R. Sikoryak's Terms and Conditions and be awakened.


Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Length: 108 pages
Author: R. Sikoryak
Price: 14.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2017-03
Amazon

I’m a great admirer of Apple products -- in fact, I’m writing this review on a MacBook Air -- but I’ve never been unclear about the fact that Apple is a multinational corporation dedicated to making money. For that reason, I’ve never understood the idolatry surrounding Steve Jobs, nor the shock expressed by some people when they discovered that some Apple products are made in Chinese factories under working conditions that would not be acceptable to Americans. Business is business, as the saying goes, and expecting anything else is setting yourself up for disappointment.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising that to use Apple-related software, you have to check a little box that signifies your agreement with all kinds of legalese that you probably haven’t bothered to read and wouldn’t understand if you did. The advantage is all with the company, since by checking the box you’ve agreed to follow their rules, and it’s no defense on your part to say that the rules are ridiculous or that no one actually reads that stuff. Of course, Apple is not the only company to play this game, but it's the company singled out for attention in R. Sikoryak’s Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel, which is also billed as “complete and unabridged” and as an “unauthorized adaptation”.

The text for Terms and Conditions is that of the iTunes terms and conditions as of 21 October 2015, while the art is drawn by Sikoryak, based on a number of pre-existing comics and graphic novels. Sikoryak uses one existing page for each of the pages in this book, with specific citations for the source inspiring each page listed in the back of the book. Jobs is a recurring character, easily recognized, thanks to his beard and black turtleneck, while the other characters and backgrounds for each set of panels is taken from the source material. Some of the pages are in color, while some are black and white, presumably to match the source material.

This is such a genius idea it’s a wonder no one did it before. Even when broken into many speech balloons and enlivened with characters and backgrounds, the 20,000+ words of the text are pretty much indigestible, although Sikoryak has done his best to highlight phrases that sound particularly threatening (“In order to access and retain your electronic records, you may be required to have certain hardware and software, which are your sole responsibility”) or just bizarre in a cover-your-ass sort of way (“Apple is not responsible for typographic errors”). In fact, those two statements pretty much sum up the whole approach to such agreements: everything is the user’s responsibility, and nothing is the company’s responsibility.

Well, whatcha gonna do? You want to play music on your portable devices, and iTunes is pretty much the way to do it, so you will continue to click on those boxes and agree to things you might be later horrified to realize you’ve agreed to. It’s sort of like medical care in the United States (Canadians, Europeans, and anyone who lives in a country with a real national health system, feel free to laugh at us): When seeking care, the first thing you have to do is sign a paper agreeing that you accept full financial responsibility for paying whatever the doctor or hospital decides to charge you, without knowing what that may be or whether your insurer will live up to its obligations.

There are so many great pages in this graphic novel that it’s hard to pick just a few to highlight, but these give you an idea of the range of sources Sikoryak employs. The cover draws on an Uncanny X-Men, from 1986, with Jobs as a glowering Wolverine, his adamantium claws piercing an iPod displaying the text “To agree to these terms, click ‘agree.’” Part B of the terms and conditions opens with a splash page from Riyoko Ikeda’s shojo manga The Rose of Versailles, with Jobs as bishi boy Oscar lighting up the big sparkly eyes of Marie Antoinette. Midway through Part C, Jobs appears as Scott McCloud, explaining everything with the assistance of a black-and-white pyramid. The Simpsons make an appearance in Part D, with Jobs as a beer-chugging Homer (the beer can carries the Apple symbol) while Marge and the kids react with alarm as he piles on the threats (“…may subject you to civil and criminal penalties, including possible monetary damages…”).

Because every page uses a different artistic style, things never get dull in Terms and Conditions, which may encourage some people to actually read the text. A similar theory lay beyond Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón’s 2006 The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, although that book suffered from some of the dullness of the report itself by relying too much on clipart-style illustrations. The mere existence of this adaptation may make the strongest case for the implied argument that such terms and conditions are ridiculous, as is the premise that any average person, who just wants to access some software which they paid for, would actually read and understand them. But it’s Apple’s world, and we just live in it, so we continue to click and agree without thinking about what we are actually agreeing to.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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