Memories of Jos Claerbout

Memories of Jos Claerbout

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WebTV : Rosemary Stasek, Joel Black, more. Josh Allen. (Camilo Viniegra, Renée G, Emily W). Ashton Treadway. Noel Morrison and the blood bankers, (Zonker Harris, Art Bobroskie, Brava services, Neil Laughlin, Lennart Lovstrand, Paul Erickson, Ray Hill, Mike Richman, T i m o Bruck, Neal Tucker, CJ Silverio, Jenny Wilder, Sharon Frinks, and Brian Bock). Sai Suresh. Jet V. Lisa Lee. Paul R y b i c k i. Heather K. Karen W. Hilary H. Steve Wasserman. (Steve K r o l l, Mark A r m s t r o n g, Kieca M., Archie C a m p b e l l, Don L o u v, Robert S t o n e s). Christiane Petite

Pomona College: Amanda V. Gwen M. Benjamin L i c h t m a n. David Menefee-Libey. Tom Borcherding, Mike Kuehlwein. James.J.McKenna. (Ann Oelschlager, Anna Mariz, Deborah S, Evan Bilstrom, Hope Neighbor, Leslie Pollner, Gordon Stott, David Good, Jessica and Harriet Berman, Dax Oliver, Muzy Huq, Petrina Grube, Ray Newell, Chris McCamic, Dan Lavery, Roy Speckhardt(TIA), Nancy Treser-Osgood). Erica T (KSPC radio), more. Tasha D. Jano Cabrera, again. Becca S. Layne M. Abigail Al-D, Genevieve Lee. Paul M a r i z. Padgett Arango.

Alaska: Joni Whitmore. Dave T h o r p. Brad Chisholm. Sam Trout. Thea Agnew, Ken Brower.

Video: Fear of a Black Toessel  by Yun Shin   Photos: here, there.

Cyber colleagues and acquaintances: (Karen Kotoske, Ron Woodall, James Ownbey, Greg Balch, Beth Candy) .

Family friends and childhood friends: Matt Schwab. David Lumley. Kate P. Matt Riggs. Andrew Long. Christina Rosas. Caryn Huberman. Rom Leidner. Edward Sugimoto. Larry Flechner. Lauren (Half) Warren. (Anonymous, Carol Morley, Jamie Rector, Chuck Sword, Julia Baskett, Jan Lieberman, Misa Nishio, Dave Nichols, Susan Orr, Stew Levin, Yilmaz family). Bill Beaver. Katherine.

Family: brother Andrew (movie) and Amy. brother Martin. grandpa Nate. cousin Tess. cousin David. aunt Kathleen. aunt Lorna and uncle Cahir, second cousin Beverly.

Father.   Mother.

May the spirit of Jos live on through us, the living.

How to contribute your memories. Please do!   Privacy policy.

Working with Jos
as remembered by Kieca M.
on August 26, 1999

Jos started at WebTV in Aug 1997. We hired him from Brain Trust where we hired a lot of people at the time in Customer Service (CS). I was working in CS -- there's Hilary over there. We were managing the email team, people who got to answer emails from our wonderful customers.

Some guy named Matt, who was an emailer, recommended a friend of his and it turned out to be Jos, so Jos comes in one day and immediately starts calling Hil, "Hil-Bopp" for the Hale-Bopp comet that was around at that time.

He immediately starts calling me [Kieca] Kiecalicious. This was the first day he was working here.

And I just found out an emailer who was hired at the same time who just sent us an email saying that Jos used to call him "Scotty Buns." He did say he never called Jos, "Josie Pie" back, even though he would have liked it.

So Jos started doing email and we knew that's no fun. We've all been thru it, and shortly thereafter, probably less than a week after he started, our Previews Group needed someone and Jos turned out to be the person. Part of the reason is that we knew that if you had to do email for more than a week or two, you'd probably just get fed up and quit, and Jos actually knew JavaScript and stuff. So we were like, "Send him to Previews".

About a week after he started here in August 1997 he went to our Previews team working for Matt Dingy so I got to be part of all of Jos's antics on the Previews Team.

I was going thru the email. I found some emails from his first day at WebTV. Granted that they weren't totally Jos'ed out yet because it was his first day and he probably didn't know how far he could go.

Most of them were very sweet. I found one where he assured a girl. She was worried that she would lose her email when she turned off her WebTV. He wrote back, "Any email that comes into your account is stored at our computers here in Palo Alto which we never turn off." [laughter] I thought it was nice of him.

Somebody else wrote in and said they "played that game" -- this is typical user speak -- "I played that game and entered my selection and all the response I got back was that 'You have found the SPAM'. I don't understand why they wouldn't thank me instead." Jos wrote back, "Dear Allan, I will thank you myself. Thank you for finding the spam". [laughter].

A user named golf4food, wrote in, "How do I change my email address?" and Jos wrote back, "Dear Kevin, What? You've gotten sick of golf4food? Seriously, you'll have no trouble changing your email address."

This was all on his first day of working for us, I thought that was pretty amusing.

He started in Previews at the time and he started working on our LC2 product with Kyle and Steve and Daryl and Camilo, Jennifer.

He had a special user named AppleU that he was really really enchanted with. AppleU sent us over 400 emails. There were 400 tickets which means there were probably way over 400 emails. This guy would send us some email every 2 minutes -- like "I saw something funny on a web page; here it is." or "When is WebTV going to be in Guam?" like anything that popped into his head he was writing in.

Jos answered a little over a third of them, he had like about 105 of them he did answer.

In the beginning of the emails he would answer, "Dear Apple U, Thank you for writing in. Here is the answer. Feel free to write back if you have more questions ".

As time went on he was like, "AppleU, No that's not possible. Jos" You could tell that he was a little tired. AppleU actually is part of the inspiration for the Jos-O-Matic for days when Jos wasn't there that people could actually be him.

Also during that time he was out on the web, he got onto the Mr.T sites, the Mr.T ate my balls site, the Mr.T whatever site. He made a site named Mr.T versus the P[Previews]-Team which involved our building catching on fire, Mr.T coming, CMR blowing everything up, Steve Perlman [company founder] came in and had to save the day, and Mr.T saved the day. It is an amazing piece of work. It involved a lot of cut up photography and creative special effects.

Also the Duncan sound catalog is also on the web. He was always trying to keep busy. We had a parrot in the office. We had a lot of parrots in the office. This parrot was especially prolific and would imitate pretty much anything that came down the road. Jos decided he wanted to catalog all these sounds. He went to Radio Shack, bought a cheap microphone, and dangled it over the cube wall so he could tape the parrot as it was saying things. He made a web page devoted to the parrot -- put all the sounds on the web -- named them all, catcall1, catcall2. There is the evil chirp that got the parrot banned from the building after a while.

In between all this he was actually doing work too.

The other thing he brought to the P-team was the orange couch. He decided at one point that the Previews people just needed a couch. They had this big empty room. He and Camilo went out to the Good Will. and they got this lovely orange velvet couch that sat there and everyone would come in and sit on it, even our boss who would come in and say. "Errr. I hate that thing. It's really ugly," but then she would sit on it all day anyway.

But he loved that couch. He actually wore it to Halloween one year.

He worked there from Aug 97 to Jan 98 and moved to service quality engineering (SQE) group under Joel. I actually worked with Jos in this capacity because our team was the team... he was our escalation person. When the group at Customer Care got a lot of problems and didn't know what to do with them, didn't have technical skills or time to know what to do with them, we would go to Jos and he would figure them out for us and work on problems. He would tell us that he didn't have enough information and make us cry.

He used to do something called the Service Quality Engineering Report every Thursday. It was actually very exciting. Maybe I had no life at the time because I actually used to wait for these things to come out because they were so funny. I know I shared an office with Steve Kroll at the time and I think Steve will remember this one in particular. We actually talked about this a lot.

Basically these reports were just a rundown of the week: these are the problems we saw, here is what we are doing to fix them, these were the things that I couldn't figure out. At one point there was a problem with the WebTV box. And here is how Jos described what happened to the box:

A box happily going about its business doesn't realize that it was cursed with a rather bad A-prom chip in its infancy. Now after a life of dings and some other indignities, whenever this box gets in a certain state, let's say it reaches a certain temperature, one of the little ROM pins will lift up. Think of a rom chip as a many legged roach fused to a circuit board, (legs equals pins) and the box will freak out thinking that it no longer has a A-prom. Unfortunately, it's going to say "I'm going to go and get an update," when really they should be saying, "Man, I'm hosed. I'm going to make some calls. Why don't you go out for a beer?" We are trying to get some of these boxes back and see if this is actually the case.
Steve and I used to say that over and over again, every time the box would do something weird, "Man I'm hosed". We were going to print it out and put it on one of the boxes.

In this escalation report he signed it "Jos Claerbout, trying to stay out of trouble." He had a little quote at the bottom of every one.

During this time he wrote reports, he took escalations from my group; he was sort of the renaissance man. He would take care of any sort of problems anyone had, whatever came down the road, he would figure it out.

He would hang out in the WebTV news groups; make friends with the users; find out who was trying to hack into the service; and then get ahead of them.

He spent a lot of time keeping up with the Jerry Springer titles. In fact this escalation report was signed, "Dumped for a one night stand".

Here is another one called, "TWA hates me because of the color of my browser." He actually called TWA to see what the deal was and here's his translation of what happened:

WebTV: I'm calling on behalf of WebTV and we have noticed that your customers cannot access your site on their WebTVs. We'd like to help you fix this to improve your customers' satisfaction.

TWA: Our site is only compatible with Netscape and Internet Explorer.

WebTV: I understand that you have done that. I'm trying to explain that there is no reason for you to block the WebTV browser.

TWA: But we are not blocking any browser.

WebTV: But you just told me you are only allowing only two types of browsers into the site.

TWA: silence

TWA: If your customers want to access our site, they need to down load Netscape or Internet Explorer.

WebTV: Our customers cannot down load Netscape or Internet Explorer.

TWA: We have several customers who have accessed our site using Internet Explorer on their WebTV units.

"This is the point where I employed the convenient mute button on my phone," Jos says. "Today's Springer title was, 'I escort for money'."

He always told us, if you need any help, give Joel Black a call. He gets lonely once in a while and he'd probably love to hear from you. He also knows some stuff.

I also used to commiserate with Jos a lot on the problems he used to see. I remember one time -- our WebTV users get lonely too. Late at night they sometimes go out on the web. There was once a problem and Jos had to contact the manager of, because one of our users was having a problem getting into the site.

Jos was very proud, remember there are 8 x's in that title, not 7, not 6, but 8 x's.

One thing that I thought was funny, we had a problem with a chat site called Chatopolis. WebTV users would go to the site and they wouldn't be able to use the site, and there was something up on the site which said:

"WebTV sucks. If you cannot use Chatopolis, call them at 1-800-GO-WEBTV or email them and tell them that you want to use us."
So of course we were getting flooded with calls and we were like, "Jos, can you help us with this problem so we don't get killed with these calls and make this guy take this off his site?"

He actually did write to the guy at the Chatropolis site. He has a translation of what the email that he sent:

    Hello there, I'm at WebTV and I'm working on your site. I'm having some problems and I wonder if you could tell me who the correct technical contact would be so we can work them out.

    So he gets this curt reply back, "It's me and I can guess its your proxies not handling our pragma header, signed Michael Ludwick"

    So Jos came to me and said, "What's this?"

    So he wrote back, "Michael, thanks for the reply. What makes you think it might be the pragma header?"

    The guy writes back, "because WebTV is Satan and I am Jesus and I say it's a proxy problem". [laughter]

    So at that point Jos says, "I think he is 14; he lives in New Jersey; and he is running a chat site; and I think that's what we're stuck with."

That's just an example of the kinds of things he had to deal when he worked on escalations for us.

He was really good at helping us find out the information. We were very appreciative of it.

[to friends speak up]

Working with Jos
Impromptu on August 26, 1999
a transcript of the video

Steve K r o l l

My first Jos story has to do with his environmental outlook when it came to really all things, but specifically how it manifested itself with the plastic eating utensils used in the WebTV cafe.

While the rest of the employees would throw away their plastic forks and knives with each meal, Jos would carefully clean his and place them in a Ziploc bag for safe keeping until his next meal. I happened to be eating with him the day the knife finally gave out. While sawing through a particularly tough hunk of something or other, it snapped in half. The look on Jos' face can only be defined as incredulous. He was crestfallen, but true to Jos' nature, not defeated. He grabbed the half knife, (the sharper half naturally) and continued to fight to cut his food.

I do recall he did throw the broken half away after the meal but the point was made. Jos got a few months use out of one plastic knife, keeping the landfills of the earth just that much less abused.

I'm going to start to cry in a minute.

The other story -- this is real simple: Camilo and Jos used to bush their teeth there everyday. We practically lived there all the time, sleeping on the floors. Camilo and Jos carried their toothbrushes all around. Jos came back to the desk with a brand new toothpaste. It was Tom's-of-Maine toothpaste cinammon. He came in with this look on his face and he said,

"Man! this is one ANGRY toothpaste."

Mark A r m s t r o n g

The escalations job in Service Quality Engineering (SQE) is one that is really hard because you get all these problems and everyone that can help you is really, really busy. A lot of those people are here today. They are here because they came to know Jos as he came and knocked on their door to ask for help... or to ask for clarification... or for some technical understanding.

He was just incredible in the way that he could do that. He could go up to anyone and he could get them to help him understand a problem and he could get them enthusiastic about helping him understand the customer issue so that the problem could be solved. I think everyone here had him come to them at some point and say,

"Look at this thing. How do we solve this thing?"
Whatever it took, Jos would do it. He'd lick your bald head... he'd give you a back rub.... That was one of the things that was really special about Jos. He just had a way of making everyone feel really good about what they were doing. When I think of Service Quality Engineering, I think of him as the ideal person. He just got everyone engaged and made them feel good about it.

Kieca M

One thing that I know he was really good at when I worked at SQE. He was learning all this technical stuff, everywhere, all over the place. Because he was doing a little bit of everything whatever came down the road.

He was always really good about turning something into an analogy so that even if you didn't know the technical end of it, even if you didn't know what was going on, it would make sense to you. He would compare it to something you knew. There was one time where our box was going to a site, and there was all this Javascript on it, and DHTML and SSL. Our box just freaked out. We didn't know what was going on; he even admitted it.

"I don't really know what is going on yet, but it's like this: you get home from school; your mom wants you to clean your room; your dad wants you to cut the lawn; your dog wants to go for a walk, and you are still trying to open your bag of Cheetos. That's kind of what's happening to our box right now."
Later I wasn't as close to him. He wrote a lot of stuff for developer that I found on-line. He worked as a web engineer, webmaster, from Sept 98 till February, and since then he just started doing writing, not worrying about the web site. In the beginning he did a little bit of everything. He wanted to focus more on the actual writing. I have a list of articles he wrote. He wrote a ton of them.

Heather K

I worked with Jos on Every day we'd have lots of emails, 30-40 emails back and forth. We'd banter back and forth all day long. I think his business card, even though it's unofficial, is the best description of what he did here. He was a migrant worker. He went everywhere and he could do everything. The wonderful thing about him is that I'd feel,
Oh Jos! Oh my God! Look at this portion of the site! We've got to do something about it!
He'd be able to write something even if he didn't understand it. He would just investigate it, and we would just get it done.

One of Diane's favorite stories -- he was working on a tool, it was called the Color Picker. He was doing a new version of it with some new Javascript that he had just learned and he was so excited about it. It would make it work a little bit better, faster. I believe his father Jon helped him on it. One day he was having a really tough time with it, kind of pulling his hair out. Then he'd just chill out, come back tomorrow, come back the next day.

So he came back the next day. Of course it was early in the morning.

Are we going to have fun today? Ahhha. [belly laughter] You know. I've been thinking, you know I think you're right.

What's that?

I think I am just menstrual.

So I said, "Hey, just great, have some chocolate. What can I get you?"

He was able to wake up that day and know just the perfect solution, and know how to work around it. That was one of the funny stories, just one of them.

The whole team had a great time working with him, just [with me?] on corporate web site

Oh my gosh! What are we going to do! So you and me, we'll work on it together. Enter it into BugFlash.
He was great. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He will be greatly missed.

Archie C a m p b e l l

Speaking with Jos was always an exceptional experience, because he actually shone the full beam of his attention on you. He did three things that are rare.

  1. He listened to what you said.
  2. He cared about it.
  3. He asked questions that reflected his interest.
Good God, this behavior could be unsettling. At a party he met my wife, and her reaction to his attention was an example. For about fifteen minutes, Jos honed in on my wife like Barbara Walters on crack. He wanted to know everything about her that could reasonably, or even unreasonably, be collected. After this short, intense interview, my wife sought me out. Her question of me sums up the problem with Jos's Attention:
"Why does he want to know all this?"
This is the question I'm left with. It's very simple: Jos was interested in other people. Not because he wanted to exploit them, humiliate them, intellectually overpower them, or make himself look good by feigning interest. He was just interested. And since his intellectual faculties were such that his attention was accompanied by a penetrating curiosity, his attention could be difficult to handle.

I miss it. No one makes what I say seem as important as Jos did. He is such a lively presence in my memories that I miss him as I miss my friends back in Arizona. Honest to God, I always expect to see him whenever I'm walking through downtown Palo Alto. A big part of me refuses to believe I won't.

Don L o u v

Jos had just come and joined us in the QA team. As a long-time member of the QA team he came to me for advice. He asked, "Would it be appropriate if I brought a massage table to my cubicle?" because he loved giving back rubs. "Come by my cube. Get a massage. Get a back rub."

"Well no Jos, it's a work environment, you really shouldn't." but he really wanted to. It was that kind of giving that was really amazing about Jos.

Kieca M

After February he stayed in the developer group, but he focused more on the writing than anything else. He was just interested in so much. That's the thing I always remember.

Matt was telling me what his one memory of Jos was. We all went up to the Christmas party in SF. It was at the time of Monica Lewinsky and I remember so many car rides with Jos going on about President Clinton, and the Lewinsky trial. Matt just remembers Jos laying on the bed for hours talking about that, the Drudge Report. He just knew so much about it.

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't remember what was going on at work, let alone remember all the details of the Monica Lewinsky trial. He was just amazing like that. Then he'd turn around and tell you about massage technique in the next breath. I thought like, whooa.... So that's the history.

Emily, I know you sat on the orange couch.

Emily W

I want to read the article for ClubWebTV newsletter that I wrote but first I want to share one more thing.

Webscissors, we claim we don't support it. It is a translator he created which allows users to type in the address of a web site they like, and it let's users rip off all the pictures there. Of dubious legality maybe, but it's great, and it is something they love.

I was writing instructions for it, and I had a couple questions. So I emailed Jos and he emailed back, and he added, "as a bonus, here are the 200 most popular sites that have been webscissored from, to distill these down to wrestling, porn, and right-wing Christian sites" [More about webscissors.] I kind of feel sleazy now for helping them better understand this tool.

This is the article for ClubWebTV newsletter that I wrote. It is shorter than I would have liked to make it, but we are limited in space -- I could go on forever -- so I didn't.

I started writing this on the train the other day and it had a somber tone and then I stopped for a moment; and suddenly I had a vision of Jos towering above me looking down at me and shaking his head and saying,

"Wilska, what are you doing?"

It is a little more light hearted now. [Emily reads her article.] Thanks for everything Jos, you will be missed.

Robert S t o n e s

I used to eat lunch with Jos just about every day. I miss him a lot. One of the things he did for me was help me realize how important it is to give to other people. Early on when I hadn't known him very long he said, "Why don't we go down and give blood?"

I had what I thought was a good enough excuse not to give blood that day. The next time the Stanford people came around he asked me again. I went with him.

I often wondered, besides the good reasons for giving blood, saving lives and such, I thought, "why does he do it, for the cookies, for the juices? No, I think he just likes talking to the nurses."

The last time we gave blood together he was lying on his table and I am lying on mine and I guess I wasn't bleeding fast enough because the nurse comes over and says to me, "Squeeze your hand a little". So Jos says to me,

"Oh come on Stonesy! You can bleed a little faster than that."
and so we laid there together, and we bled there together, and I'm going to keep going back, and it is going to be for Jos.

Heather K

The entire WebTV family will never forget Jos. He is larger than life. As a way for us all to remember, and to have him in our life every single day here at WebTV, we have a tree that we want to present to the family. That tree is actually outside this door. We are calling it the Toessel tree. It will be replanted here on our campus. It will have a plaque.

Hopefully all of us will be out there either reading, or just having lunch, or just visiting.

So that is our way of saying that he will always be here; and he will never be forgotten. So we invite you to look at it outside.

Next the family speak

The family recalls Jos before he came to WebTV

impromptu on August 26, 1999
a transcript of the video

Father Jon

Jos was a very different person before he came to WebTV. We'll tell you about that. First brother Andrew will read some of Jos's college application essays.

Brother Andrew

Stanford? I tried to get in, and did not get in. Jos tried not to get in.... [laughter] So I will read you just a few tidbits from his Stanford application.

He starts in easy on them. "Jot a note to your future roommate that tells something about you." [Andrew reads Jos's answer.]

And so here is another one of those questions they give you. If you could spend a year pursuing any activity, all expenses paid, what would you do? Be specific, and describe why your choice is meaningful to you. .

That was the gist of the his Stanford essays. Here is what Stanford wrote back:

During the application process we asked you to think and write boldly about who your are. You did. [laughter] Clearly, you thought and worked hard to become the person you are. [laughter]
He got in. He sent applications to eight universities, much along those same lines, and he got into all of them.

You all know about his Weekly World News postings in the men's room. He used to write his own tabloids. That was at age 13.

  • Pregnant nun is abducted by Ricky Valens clones. The suprising thing was..
  • Satan's in my microwave and he's not happy.
  • I was Gary Hart's sex slave claimed Kermit the Frog. [laughter] [Gary Hart was running for president.] In a speech that rocked the muppet world, Kermit the frog accused.. I was returning from my car, the Piggiemobile. I immediately recognized my antagonist as Gary Hart. After several hours Then he referred to me as Donna whenever he spoke to or about me. For the next 60 days I was his slave. It was horrible.

How lucky you were to get him here at WebTV because there were numerous other options, let me tell you.

You wondered what was he going to think of next.
We were always wondering what was he was going to do next.

All through his life he was coming up with one life plan after another. He was going to go to Memphis with his massage table. He was going to reconstruct the South, one massage at a time. I don't think I can remember them all. He wanted to be come a minister at the drive thru chapel in Las Vegas. He just wanted to go and do it; he didn't want training for it. When that fell thru he wanted to become a blackjack dealer.

He had picked out a beautiful apartment over a bar in Eureka, California, and he was convinced the paper mill really needed him there. He could talk anybody into anything, but he could not talk my parents into this. You were lucky to get him here or he would have been there, entertaining them all at the pulp mill.

Brother Martin

I'll read another of his college essays. Do you have a personal philosophy?

I'd like to add a little about his massage table. There was a time in his life when he had left college. He had gone to Alaska. My parents were worried about him a great deal. They told me he has all these cockamamy ideas about taking a massage table all over the US.

I talked to him on the phone. I said, "You don't seem interested in college."

He said, "I'm not really interested. I'm not getting what I should be getting from it." He was really sincere. He wanted more from college than he was getting from just studying.

We were talking about the idea of him going around America giving massages to people. With him the ideas were just coming and going.

At that time he hadn't got his real [technical] introduction to the web yet but he had the idea about setting up a massage home page. We knew that if he had a home page, it didn't really matter who we were. If we called it the "Massage Institute of America", who would know? Having that home page set up, he could could contact and visit massage people all over America. We seriously talked about setting that up. Seriously, well, not so seriously.

He was going to ask people to write things up for his home page, and then he would have the opportunity to visit them in their neck of the woods, when he'd travel around.

He didn't do it. He went back to college.

Brother Andrew

Being in a cafeteria reminds me of why he returned to college. In Alaska they didn't really catch many fish, so he didn't have much money, and he was really hungry. He started thinking about the cafeteria at Pomona College, and about the number of meals you could eat each day, and thinking about what you could eat. It convinced to return to school.

On the first essay I read to you, you can see them thinking, "he is really clever and nice." So then Jos had to go in a little harder on them. I'll pass these next essays on to Martin.

Brother Martin

I'll read the essay he wrote for Reed College. Why do you want to go to Reed? and then they asked, if there is some other question you had wished we had asked, please ask it now and answer it here.
[much laughter]

Despite that, Reed was delighted to offer him admission.

Jos certainly left us laughing.

Father Jon

Jos had a number of stages in his life. He really couldn't find himself in college. It didn't really work out very well for him. We grumbled at him later saying that he really should have gone to Stanford. He had picked Pomona College, a really small little place. Then he went to Alaska. And that led to frustration too. After he got hungry enough in Alaska, he went back to Pomona.

Then he had a stint in Washington DC. His mother and I thought, "this is the real Jos, he'll really do his stuff there." We were deeply disappointed that Washington really didn't work out for him either. Some college friends had ideas why it wasn't his fault, but we were still deeply disappointed.

He continued college and he finally did finish up. We were really concerned about him. His friends were getting wonderful jobs in Seattle working for Microsoft. He couldn't land an $8/hour job as web site manager for the county parks.

Jos decided to make a new life in Eureka, California. He went there and arranged to rent an apartment above a tavern. Then he planned to look for a job. At this point, I said,

I'm not going to sign your lease. So there. If you really have to go there to work, why don't you go up there and live in a campground until you find a job?
He took it graciously. It slowed him down. Before he could cook up another goofy idea he found his job in Customer Care at WebTV. That led him on a path that was wonderful beyond any of our reasonable expectations. Jos had really found himself.

At WebTV our mixed-up child totally flowered and grew. He really found himself. He was just so happy here. WebTV was the best thing that ever happened to him.


I met Jos the start of our Sophomore year. He was a sponsor for the incoming transfer students, and I sponsored freshman. He didn't have to live with his sponsees, but I had to live with mine.

The first experience I really remember witnessing Jos was a meeting in the lobby of the Mudd-Blaisdail Hall. We were all waiting for the meeting to start. He was hitting on all the short women. That is what he was interested in that month. He was sitting there on the couch and he had one girl on each knee. And I just thought,

I'm too tall. [laughter]

I cannot remember the definitive moments that made us really good friends. He went away to Alaska. I went away. We came back. He found me in a registration line and poured his heart out to me and told me how much he missed me. He asked,

Was I single?

Unfortunately, I was not. Anyway, we were good friends and we had a wonderful year at school that year together.

Another very fond memory I have is that he went to Las Vegas with a bunch of friends. One of them was under age, so they had to go to all the kiddie casinos. They did very well because they came back with a carload of stuffed animals. I came back to my dorm room and there were all these stuffed animals with Circus Circus tags on them. He had named all the animals and gave them each a personality. So when he came to my room, he did a little show for me, explaining each of them.

It is funny to hear about his experience in Alaska and not being able to eat. Pomona really did have a very good cafeteria but it was the same food, day after day. He finished up the year after me the last spring break he called me and said,

I want you to come down from Portland to meet my parents. I'll split your plane ticket.
He started listing all the activities we would do. He filled the days with activities. Most of the things he wanted to do involved eating. Seventeen kinds of food. What was this obsession with food, I wondered? Then I realized he had been eating in the dorm.

He introduced me to pho, which is a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. He brightened up the day of the young man behind the counter at the Pho shop, saying

Hello, fine young man, we'd like two enormous bowls of Pho!"

He really appreciated people who served him food. He made them feel that this was the best thing they could do with their lives, selling him a bowl of soup.

He befriended all of the people who served him food. There was a new food service company that was going to come to campus. There was some upheaval in our dorms about the quality of the food service, and whether or not the existing staff would lose their jobs. He researched what this was all about, and he wrote article or two in the newspaper about it. He must have been one of the few people who really cared about that. Most people don't even know the people they are getting their food from.

I have so many stories, and a lot of them were very complex, and about Pomona. They may not make very much sense to you.

I know it was hard for him to be at Pomona College. He was very flighty in his early years there. After he came back from Alaska, it really settled him in.

I witnessed the most intellectually curious person that I had ever met. He knew more about everything than anyone I had ever met.

He was frustrated by lack of intellectual curiousity and people who jumped to conclusions. The profs who were less good at their jobs, he let them know. He really pursued his work relentlessly.

And he was brilliant, just brilliant. I never met anyone like him.

Mother, Diane

I guess I'd like to finish up at the very beginning. My first introduction to Jos was at the moment of birth. I had a very slight short obstetrician. I was giving birth and I heard him say,
Oh my God, how big were the others?
have I given birth to a 23 pound giant? and I said, "Amy Joanna!" and he said, "No." We had expected a girl despite all evidence to the contrary.

He was practically unweanable. With two older brothers you discover that the only time you are going to get your mother is when you are nursing. He just wouldn't give it up. As a result he was nursed until he was almost four.

It didn't matter what I was wearing. As soon as the phone rang, I'd sit on the chair by the telephone, and he'd jump up. We used to joke, he'll go into the army and they'll have to give him a deferment to nurse.

Even at age 4, everything was a big adventure, the most wonderful thing in the world. He'd jump on his big wheel and go round the block. He'd return and tell me of all the wonderful friends that he'd met. I'd say, "Maybe you'd like to invite them over."

And he'd say, "Well, maybe you'd like to play with them more."

He'd be picking up women in their 60's and 70's and they all adored him. Right from the get go, he just loved women. He had a baby sitter; he wanted her to come for a sleepover. I said, "you can have sleepovers with your friends, but Sally is a little too old for that."

His thrift store habit -- he came by that naturally. When he was young I volunteered in a thrift store run by Family Service Association. We worked together and at noon, Jos would go over to the next door Pizza restaurant and order pizza for us. One of his great joys in life was to go over there and order pizza and bring it back.

In all, he was just a rare delight. Not to his all his teachers though. He had a wonderful teacher in England but then he came back to Palo Alto and the teachers were rather elderly and not used to his sense of humor. I was always going to back-to-school night, and the teachers were always telling me how sorry they felt for me.

These last two years at WebTV. These were the most wonderful two years he had in his entire life. He was SO HAPPY HERE. He was always bubbling over.

He called us the last week of his life. He called us early in the week. How he had scored this great coupe getting two cubicles. He was so thrilled about that.

Please don't lose touch with us. It is very important to us.

Thank you for everything you have done in the last week which has been hard on you as it has on us.


I had planned to share the story of Jos knitting a toessel for his grandmother, but Mother's stories seem a fitting place to stop.

If anyone can remember any more experiences, please send them to us -- claerbout @ stanford . edu. It is never too late.


Thank you for sharing. There are some pictures around. Collages. We also have a poster we'd like you all to sign and give to the parents.

Mark A r m s t r o n g

We met a couple days ago and talked about the kinds of things we'd like to do. One was an idea that we had to run up the management flagpole which we did, and I'm happy to say that it was approved. They have created a new award at WebTV (tears) which, which, which is called the Jos Claerbout award for creativity, (more tears) or "The Jos". We are going to give it each year on June 14th, his birthday.


Another way to say the words we would like to say to Jos is that you can write a note to Jos and attach it to a helium balloon and we will release them. So everybody please write a note.

[People write notes to Jos; attach them to helium balloons; go outside to release them; and watch them gradually disappear.]

return to the Life of Jos

Project LoveBunny

Project Lovebunny

by Rosemary Stasek

When WebTV posted the online invitation to the Farewill-to-Jos gathering, the title of the webpage was "Project Lovebunny". This is in reference to early 1999 when we ran into a problem with domain names within the Microsoft network. Our internal website is http://webtv. Because there is also an NT domain of that name on the internal Microsoft network, folks in various parts of the world and some in [corporate HQ] Redmond could not see the website. We needed to come up with an additional name as an alias for alternate access. I took a poll and came up with ms-webtv, mswebtv, webtv-intranet, wni, webtv-1, webtv-web and Jos' suggestion: lovebunny.

The final decision was ms-webtv, but lovebunny was so popular, that it became the project name for my huge, massive project to clean up the intranet sites. My whiteboard in my cube for months had in big letters "Home of Project Lovebunny". The project is just about finished a year later, but the project name is never going to go away as long as I'm here because all of the online documentation used in connection with the intranet has Lovebunny in the title. In a sense, our whole intranet is Project Lovebunny.



Karen Kotoske: I thank God that I knew Jos. He illuminated my dental room whenever he walked in and when he walked out he left a great deal of joy in the room that I carried with me the rest of the day. We have thousands of patients and I know thousands of people in my work with Amistad in the Third World, but I never did meet anyone like your Jos. He was a true Singing Heart.

The impression he left with me was that there was no one who wasn't worth getting to know, and nothing in the world that wasn't worth learning about. He should have had 150 years to fulfill the innumerable things he could have contributed to the world. Memories are comforting but they are but a gray shadow of what should have been.

I was thinking about Jos today, remembering how he saw the world, though the lightest, most lovely, lens of humor. But paradoxically his way was more often than not the deepest way; for Jos's way guides us all from taking ourselves too seriously, away from self centeredness, from despair even. I remember him for that and thank him for that.

Ken Brower: We several people whom Yost (Jos) guided through the mill agreed afterward that it was extraordinary how much he had learned about the building. I remember thinking that he was either some kind of genius, or an idiosyncratic fascination with the old mine gave him geniuslike qualities.

What Jos did, in researching and interpreting the building, was what we try to do in literature. He had fashioned a great poem to the mill tower, and if there were a Pulitzer or Nobel for mine guiding, he would have won it. (more details from the notebook of Ken Brower)

[Picture taken by Jos. The thin white line looks like the glacial river bed. -Popster]

Beth Candy: I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what happened to the guy I only knew as AJ. AJ was more than a guy I met online. His spirit was able to transcend the written word and just grab your heart. I thoroughly enjoyed corresponding with him. It could have been about WebScissors - it could have been about the weather. Whatever he had to say it was large - it was human, it was spirited and enjoyable.

Thank you so much for putting my name on that. I'd be so darn proud if you put my full name - Beth Candy. I'm proud to know JOS and so so sad that he is gone. Even though our correspondence came to a sudden halt, I never felt as though he had turned away from me. Sometimes you lose touch with someone when a project is over and you know you were only part of that pigeonhole of their life and sometimes you lose touch with people but you know that you are still carried in their heart. JOS gave me a glimpse of his heart and he was so genuine, so honest and caring that I didn't mind losing touch because I knew he had a large life and whenever I would hear from again would be okay with me.

Greg Balch: I'm a developer at QVC (the TV shopping people), and I first got to know Jos via e-mail while we were tuning our corporate web site to work with Web TV, back in 1997 or 1998. He really helped me a lot to understand how WebTV worked, and how to fix our site so it looked really nice when using WebTV.

We really appreciated all the help Jos gave freely to us, and he had a way of explaining stuff that even web neophytes like us at the time could understand.

I finally got to meet him last April when we visited WebTV to discuss some new opportunities for QVC, and Jos had several ideas and possibilities for us. Meeting Jos was the highlight of my visit, as we had exchanged a lot of email over the months that we'd been working on the site. I really enjoyed working with him, and he made our lives brighter by knowing him.

James Ownbey and Jasmine Merced: Jos established a web hosting account with us for his domain,, in July of this year. My partner/wife and I corresponded quite a bit with Jos during his decision process and during his inital setup of the web site. I know you won't be surprised when I tell you that Jos was an absolute joy to work with. We value the personal relationships that we develop with our customers, and we don't have a better relationship than the one we had with Jos.

He was appreciative of our efforts, patient with our shortcomings, and always brightened our day with his humor. I wish I had known him better, and it saddens me to learn that I won't have the opportunity to fulfill that wish.

Ron Woodall, Oxford-on-Rideau, Canada: I had occasion to work with Jos under enjoyable and pressured circumstance. I considered him an honourable man in spite of his youth, a rarity in today's world at any age. His body of work was extensive for the short time he had with us and leaves us with an enviable legacy. His spirit lives on as will his memory in our hearts.

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Amanda V: I am one of the women lucky enough to have dated Jos. As I am sure you would guess, he was always a perfect gentlemen and very attentive. Although we didn't date for very long, our relationship was a positive one -- playful and fun. I met Jos in the spring semester 1997 when I decided to take an introductory dance course at Pomona. The big joke at Pomona is that all the introverted Harvey Mudd students come down to Pomona to take this particular dance course in the hopes of finally meeting some girls. Judging from the huge pile of unicycles outside the ballroom door every Wednesday night, I would have to say that it is not far from the truth. So, naturally, someone as effervescent and gregarious as Jos completely outshone all the sweaty-palmed engineers. Factor in his height and his lack of coordination and he was quickly known among the girls as the crazy one. Jos is one of the most brilliant (and I mean that in every sense of the word) people I know. As everyone else has already said, Jos had the incredible ability to pick up any hobby in weeks. He was very well read and extremely articulate -- to the point where I would just introduce him to people for the sheer entertainment of watching their reactions as he started to work his famous charm.

But Jos could not dance.

He was good at faking it, but every time we were partners in dance class, I always ended up more confused than I started off. Then again, that could have been because of all the attention he was lavishing on me. Little did I know that I was one of his projects! At the time, he told me that he was taking ballroom dance to learn how to dance, but looking back, I can't help but suspect that he might have had more .... immediate social reasons.

Definitely the best Valentine's Day present I have ever received was the one Jos gave me that Spring Semester of 1997. I received a note in my mailbox that I had a package waiting for me at the dorm desk. What did I find but a knitted cap! I used it the very next day to go skiing and it has accompanied me on all my winter trips since. No one believes me when I tell them that a former boyfriend knitted it for me for Valentine's Day, but they all agree that he would definitely be worth dating.

That year, I finished all my exams early and since Jos, as a senior, had Senior Week before graduation, we decided to drive up to Eureka to check out job opportunities at the local paper mill. Or rather, he somehow persuaded me to drive him up there in my car. I had stayed up all the night before finishing a paper and was sick to boot, so I doubt I was the best travelling companion. But Jos made up for any lack of energy on my part. He babbled on about how great paper mills are and all the things he could learn working in one. I was skeptical, but didn't say anything because at the same time, I knew that if Jos did work for a paper mill, he would be bored by the first week and would start secretly alternating the procedure to produce revolutionary bubble gum flavored envelopes.

One day we decided to drive up to Humbolt, the town north of Eureka, where Humbolt University is located. While walking through a beautiful old redwood forest near the edge of town, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a convention of former hippies-now-turned-semi-bourgeois in the middle of a clearing. A band was playing music on a small stage and groups of families were scattered about on the ground in front of the stage. Nary a sneaker was in sight. It was sandals, socks, and bare feet as far as the eye could see. Mud-splattered children resembling mini barbarians with long straggly hair ran about, occasionally quenching their thirst with their parents' beers. And Jos and I wandered about this chaos, just staring at it all. Neither of us could figure out the source of the celebration. That is the only time I can think of that Jos didn't immediately start chatting up strangers and joining in the fun. I think the hippies surprised even him.

I think one of the things I found so amazing about Jos is that he worked at so many levels simultaneously. You never had simply a conversation with him. Talking to Jos was like four things at once:

    1. watching a theatrical performance,
    2. being interviewed,
    3. visiting an amusement park, and
    4. learning about sheep sheering practices in Peru
You felt flattered, intrigued, amazed, and amused all at once. He completely charmed me and I knew that I had a friend for life.

As we were saying goodbye the day he left Pomona to drive back up to Stanford, I asked if we would we see each other again. He had just graduated and was tackling the Real World while I still had only two years left at Pomona and then I would probably return to the East Coast where I grew up. He just smiled and said, "Oh, I always manage to find people I care about." And I think even now he will still reach out to each of us to remind us to think positively, love fearlessly, and give generously because the rewards are immeasurable. I can only hope to live my life half as energetically and passionately as Jos did and I thank God that I was lucky enough to call him my friend.

p.s. I remember his Culture Wars site very well. While I would work on my papers in the computer lab, he would work on his website and occasionally update me on the latest news or his newest contact. He was very proud when Yahoo added his site to its search engine.

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


More of brother Andrew's memories of Jos

More of brother Andrew's memories of Jos

In Costa Rica we went to Park Manuel Antonio at the end of a very bumpy road on which Dad drove about 15mph for an hour or two. Sure glad we didn't have a flat tire.

In the nearby town of Quepos we found a nice little grocery store calling itself a Super Market. They also sold a simple baseball cap emblazoned with the words "Super mas" [Super more]. This cap was too plain and simple for any young Texan or Californian and so Jos immediately recognized it as a prize not available at home. He purchased this cap and waxed so enthusiastic about it that Dad was soon moved to express regret that Jos had gotten the last one.

Lots of beautiful birds were here near our second floor porch. Click on the picture for an enlargement.

Andrew and Jos



Brother Andrew's memories of Jos

Brother Andrew's memories of Jos

My oldest memory of Jos is when I was in kindergarten, and Jos must have been about two. It was the only day in my life so far that it ever snowed right in Stanford. I hurried Jos outside and made him a snowball. He looked at and began to cry, despite my efforts to get him to play with it.

Very young, Jos had a pet goldfish named Target. I never knew why he chose that name.

For some reason, I can remember a tiny poem that Jos composed when he was very young. "Butterflies, flutter byes, the greatest thing since man learned to sythesize". I remember at the time thinking that he probably didn't even know what sythesize meant. I probably barely did. But when did a detail like that ever slow him down?

It was Mark Byer who so mispronouced Jeremy, by saying Germy, that I think planted the seed for the name change.

I seem to recall that we played together a lot as kids, before I got into my troublemaking teenage years. We loved lego's, matchbox cars, wooden blocks, star wars toys, and GI joe. He had a big collection of GI Joe stuff and we watched the cartoon together.

We used to have some nicknames for Jos. Around age 12 we called him Pear, as that was the body shape he had then. When we lived in Hawaii he was conscripted onto the swim team for many long hours , and that was the end of the pear. But before that, we had already taken to calling him Pi. That was actually a name that Douglas Byer had started calling me on a boy scout trip to Pinnacles, but I quickly passed it on to Jos.

Jos played on a super winning soccer team as a kid. I can't remember the name, they might have worn blue. I remember attending one game where the score was some 22 to 0. None of us have even been big on team sports, but that had to be the winningest team in all Claerbout history.

Jos was always one to appreciate things in poor taste, and one of his favorite places in Hawaii was the "International Marketplace", a pseudo mall with many many stores, kiosks, and carts of touristy junk. One of his favorite items were the barrel people. This was a wooden carving of a man wearing a removable barrel. When the barrel was lifted, an oversized spring loaded penis popped out. He often admired, though never purchased, this fabuous piece of Hawaiiana. Available in many sizes.

Jos and me in front of Policlinico Kennedy. Is it in Macara?

Jos loved superlatives. He once told me that when you run out of english superlatives, you can switch to foreign languages to add some real emphasis.

At Martin's wedding on Oahu, we stayed at a fancy condo at the Turtle Bay Hilton. There was a large golf course there, and Mr Ishii wanted to play golf, but had no one to play with. Jos, with his usual complete confidence and enthusiasm, was ready to tee off for 18 championship holes with Mr Ishii, despite the fact he couldn't even remember the last time that he had played miniature golf. At the wedding he also gave a complicated and touching toast saying nice things about Martin, which I am sure we have on tape somewhere.

We see Jos in his favorite multicolored shirt at my wedding. It is the shirt he wore the day he died. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Finally we see Jos and me towering over parents, each with our feet in our characteristic attire. The picture doesn't show that he is taller than I am. That's because he is snuggling into Mom.

to more of my Jos memories

to see us and my limericks

to a formal picture of us

to a smaller formal picture of us

to Celebration of the Life of Jos


Ashton Treadway: Jos Claerbout was an extraordinary human being. I was privileged to work next to him for some months at WebTV, and to model a toessel upon his urging. His cube was always full of energy and vibrating with creativity.

Jos wasn't simply extraordinary. He remade reality; or, rather, reality refocused around him, with him at its center. This wasn't through any intention of his; it just was the way of things. Jos became the foreground when he entered a space, just by dint of his sheer exuberant energy. He didn't just do things. He embarked upon expeditions; he dispatched himself upon inquiries about anything and everything he found curious in the world. He lived, in the grandest sense.

And that's what's worst about a world without him. There's a sense of mass and direction lost, of lost opportunity. Of the things dreamed of and hoped for becoming ever so slightly more unattainable. With Jos in the world, it seemed easier to hold out hope for all of us. Surely this magical giant, this conglomeration of intellect and humor and pathos and striving, flaring genius, would make Everything All Right In The End.

A lot of us, more than I think would freely admit, were, before we met Jos, tracing and retracing paths we'd set years before. Perhaps some of us had accepted the cynical notion that things were as good as they would ever get, that the mysteries of childhood had given way before the mundane, spiritless day-to-day trudge. Jos changed that, permanently and irreversibly.

That was one of his great gifts, with which countered the cynicism, and the drudge, and the slog. That is one of his legacies, however pale and insubstantial an imitation of him it might be. Jos took nothing for granted, and nothing as written. He was infinitely possible, and inspired all those with whom he came into contact.

With great sorrow, great respect, and great thanks . . .

Becca S: 1993 1998 1998

Here we are at the Pulgas water temple in 1997. Touch pic to see our friends including Mathew Shelhamer, who introduced Jos to WebTV.

Back to December 1993. Below is Jos relieving himself on the beach in LaJolla in his sophomore year. We vacationed there with his folks in a beachfront apartment.


Noel Morrison: Jos was really a terrific teacher. I worked closely with him when he was working for Joel Black handling escalations from Customer Care. I was his main contact in Customer Care, so I would talk to Jos about problems our customers were having with web sites. He taught an HTML class for some of us in Customer Care, and he tutored me on the details of certain aspects of the WebTV browser.

He has had such a wonderful impact upon me personally. His joy and happiness was utterly contagious, and not only did he breathe limitless life and creativity into WebTV, but into everyone's world outside of WebTV. I see Jos as a model for how life is meant to be lived -- with intense joy, and always to its fullest.

Jos was really interested in "racing" as many people as possible at the WebTV blood drives. He was always encouraging people to give of themselves, and making it fun at the same time -- Just one of the countless special aspects of his personality.

It was the first time in a while that I had given blood, and I was feeling a little nervous. Jos and I happened to be giving blood at the same time, and, being Jos, he turned giving blood into a race to see who could fill the bag fastest. I was so distracted by trying to bleed harder than Jos, that all my tension went away, and it ended up being a lot of fun. (I think he beat me by a few seconds...)

One of the many things that Jos helped teach me is that there is always an opportunity for laughter and joy.

Anonymous: With recent gatherings of friends and co-workers, I've been constantly reminded of the 'big heart' that Jos had, and how he shared that heart with the people that he met.

But I was reminded recently, by my blood bank, that Jos *gave*, as well as he shared.

I used to donate regularly on my own, but Jos was a vocal advocate for the company blood drives here at Web-TV. Because of his enthusiasm, I changed my schedule, to take part with him and a growing gang from the building he worked in. The last drive in April was my first through Web-TV, and he let me know how glad he was to see me there. :-)

Since I hadn't been donating regularly at my blood bank, they called me, to see if I could come in (since I have one of the rarer types). Because WTV hasn't had a drive since April, I was eligible, and I gave blood this morning, about the same time as Jos being at the gym last week.

If you are looking for a way to honor Jos's memory, and to have a positive effect on other people's lives, let me suggest donating blood through your local blood bank as one way to do this. I'd be happy to discuss the positive experiences I've had with the curious.

Thomas Borcherding: It is impossible for me to conceive of a youngster as vital and full of himself and the world as Jos Claerbout has been taken from us so early, and by wholly natural causes. I am not a believing man so I will not offer any sort of religious pieties about divine meanings. I do know, based on some losses I've realized over a lifetime, that the bumper sticker "shit happens" is empirically correct and needs no ontological foundations.

I recall his great interest in how social norms work, how important they are for a functioning society, the role of evolutionary forces in social and biologic development, etc. pretty speculative, long-hair stuff. i loaned him books which he returned, and had read (fast too).

You and your dear wife are suffering the loss of losses that thank goodness I have never known. The death of a child, I can imagine, and you are not the first I've witnessed who has borne this burden, has just got to be the keenest suffering. They are meant to bury us, and then wipe their tears quickly away, and worry instead about making the mortgage, paying for our grandchildren's braces and tuition, and keeping their marriages working. If we did not love them so much -- because of affinity of genes and from the closeness of parenting -- the human race could not have walked out of the Olduvai Gorge to the point where we spend a decade of work just getting two kids through a first class school.

Though it is cheap consolation, 25 years of having Jos was a gift of rare value, and I am so pleased I had a little to do with his development into a thinking, caring, good humored young man. He would have been a wonderful husband and father and an ornament to his world about himself in two more decades. Though that was not to be, like Housman's poem about a young and gifted athlete's death, we are left with only memories of triumph and joy in Jos's short life and few if any defeats. I will cherish those good memories and only wish I had known him even longer and better.

Mike Kuehlwein: I was his economics professor in the spring of 1997. He actually found my course pretty challenging, but he was wonderful to have in class. He had great energy and curiosity and a terrific spirit. I still remember his smile.

Caryn Huberman: As a close friend of Jos's mother I've known him for many years. My most vivid memory is him at our play reading. His mother and I had written a play. Before producing this play we gathered a group of friends, each to read one of the actors.

We gave Jos the part the villain, Mr. Green. I can still hear his rich, deep resonant voice reading Green, and Jos quickly transforming this bad guy into Mr. Charming. I thought to myself, we'd better re-write it so the audience doesn't fall in love with this character!

Jos always had a way -- whether on the phone, or when I stopped by to work on some project with Diane -- of making me smile, laugh, feel totally happy. When Jos was in the room, the room was filled with love and crazy, crazy fun. His sweet and playful teasing of his mother--was boyish, zany, and gallant all mixed up in one. I think Jos loved seeing his own mother blush like a young girl when he complimented her or gently teased her.

He teased me too. It's been quite a while since I was forty (40---ahh, 40!!!). Jos made it seem perfectly natural when he announced to all the play readers that

"Caryn is the most beautiful 40 year old woman in Palo Alto."
Of course, I loved it! How could a 24 year old come up with that?-- and why would he? I'll never forget it. Even now, Jos is with me every day, particularly when I laugh at something quirky or outrageous.

The other nice memory of that play-reading day was seeing Jos and his father in the kitchen--he tall and slim, handsome--towering over his dad but their heads leaning towards one another--talking and talking and talking. It was a lovely father-son time of intimacy and closeness within the social time of the reading. The two had carved out a space to be close and to talk while the rest of the gathering flowed around them. I sensed a lot of love flowing. The connection of parent to child was enormously strong for Diane too. Jos clearly adored them both and knew of the joy they took in him and with him.

He lifted each of us. He lifted me out of the ordinary and into the extra-ordinary. That was a gift he gave to everyone he touched, every moment we were with him. I am among the hundreds, thousands, of people, both women and men, who loved Jos and still love him and think of him daily. He set an example of how to be alive. It is an example I try hard to emulate.

Brad Chisholm: Jos fished with me [on the Omega] during June and July of 1994. Early in June, Jos came by my boat in the dryland boatyard and asked if I needed help. I did and I hired him to fish with me. This was in Homer. Jos, along with two other men, Unice Forozin and Mike Bonner were the crew. So we got the boat in the water and started fishing around the end of June and fished until the end of July, when it seemed that the season wasn't going to be that good in Cook Inlet.

Before Jos came to Homer, he had stopped in Seward and met Perry Buchanan and fished halibut with him. The boat was the Dolly B. named after Perry's wife. Then he came to Homer and fished with me. We fished right out of Homer and it was a poor season. I think the crew [of three] earned $2000 to $2500 [a third each] for their efforts.

Being inexperienced Jos didn't always know the correct procedures but he could always come up with some way of accomplishing the job. He was a great worker and very easy going throughout the trip. He asked a lot of questions about fishing and I explained as best as I could. After he fished with me, he and Mike went and fished with Mac McCroskey. I believe they flew to Dutch Harbor and fished out there and helped return the boat to Homer.

Christiane Petite: Jos had a nickname of sorts for me - in addition to the numerous endearments he bestowed on me and others, men and women alike, when he used my name, he always called me "Miss Petite." I was realizing today that when I'm not sharing fond and wacky memories of Jos among friends who knew him, I'm sharing him with new friends and admirers-in-the-making. I am so fortunate to have known him. Although it is sad and difficult to be without Jos and the delight he brought to us, every time I think of him, I have to smile. Every time. He's here in those memories and smiles and I treasure them as a gift that he continues to give to me. We definitely need to get out and have some adventures -- and in typical Jos fashion, even if he can't join us, I know he's cheering us on the whole way.

Date:    Mon, 19 Aug 2002 17:26:36 EDT
Subject: Jos Claerbout Coast to Coast Radio Memorial


As many of you undoubtedly remember Jos Claerbout left us on August 20 1999, 
he was only 25 years old. ( I 
wrote a song on my most resent album "Statements" about that day and how it 
effected me. It is called "Early Exit." I have spent last week organizing 
radio station across the country to play that song as a memorial to Jos on 
the 20th. From KUSF 90.3 FM in San Francisco to WVOF 88.5 FM in Fairfield, CT 
with, hopefully, many in between.
All of you can join in this memorial thanks to Noel Morrison, a friend of Jos 
and DJ at KUSF, who gave me the time he plans to talked about Jos and spin 
the song.

    'You can count on me playing "Early Exit" just after 8:00AM on the 20th.

Since some of you won't be able to tune in to KUSF 90.3 on your radio you can 
hear the station on the web by copy & pasting the URL below in RealPlayer or 
iTunes or Media Player or use the .PLS I enclosed.
I would like to thank Don Louv is also helping me try to get KZSU at Stanford 
(where Jos was a DJ at one point) to join in. And of course Jos' parents who 
gave me the idea to try and do this.

Please send this to all of Jos friends that you know of I have lost contact 
with many like Joel Black and Robert Stones. Thanks for helping me spread the 
word about this event so we can all remember what a great person Jos was.

Michael Cooke


Growing up with Jos -- by Kate Price

Growing up with Jos -- by Kate Price

11 and 12 year olds ...

The Greek God returns from Hawaii

In younger years Jos had a different sense of style, appropriate to the decade ('80s) we were in -- low riding corduroys, earth toned sport shirts with matching piping, and large plastic framed glasses. While his fashion sense was different, he had the same biting and insightful humor, irreverence for foolish people, and sweet and sensitive personality. One could say that Jos was a diamond in the rough in elementary school, brilliant, yet, as of many of us were, under-appreciated. Then came the year away, when the Claerbout family went to Hawaii. After returning home, Jos made his entrance into the local social scene one day at the local pool, SCRA. We were having a regular swim meet, and the early teen equivalent of a cocktail atmosphere was present -- small clumps of kids talking about the latest news. Then lo and behold, there he was, this 6 foot tall Greek God of a 14 year old, stranger returning to the fold. What a return! No one recognized him at first, but eventually we did. The girls approved, the boys admired, and the diamond was appreciated even more than he had been previously.

Fun at fifteen

Jos went through a period of massive entertaining and sociability in our freshman year in high school. He was the mover behind a series of evenings that brought many people together -- often to local restaurants, then back at the Casa de Claerbout for a fun evening of flicks and hot tub time.

One particular evening I remember was our homecoming dance. We went on a double date, he was with a classmate of ours, and I with a guy from another school. We had pictures taken at his house, and eventually went on to a dinner at Sundance, a local seafood restaurant. It was an amazing scene, young teenagers eating at this solemn restaurant, cutting up with Jos jokes, roaring with laughter so loud we held the attention of the whole room.

Keeping a slim figure

I remember him giving me insights about health and body one time. "Kaatje," he said, "this is the secret for lean living -- sleep until noon, have one bowl of cereal for brunch, and later a sensible dinner."

Roaring up and down the stairs

Most precious to me of my Jos mannerism memories is the way that he would roar up and down the stairs to his house. I would always hear the cheerful yell from up yonder before he would come down to greet me in the entry hall as we prepared to hang out or go on an adventure. And then when it was time to go up and retrieve something, the same tremendous energy was spent, leaping and bounding up the stairs.

Did he actually graduate?

Later we would spend hours talking about the days of our lives, stories and insights. Jos was my role model of self direction and self assuredness, a sign of which was his decision to graduate early from high school and leave it all behind. When it came time for graduation, Gunn High School told him he wouldn't receive his diploma because, they insisted, that he had not turned in a book which he said he had. He said go ahead and hold that diploma, I don't care!

We get Doc Martens shoes

On the day of the Bill Graham memorial concert in San Francisco, Jos and I decided we must go. And so we took the Cal Train from the California Avenue station to the city. Before heading for the concert site, Jos wanted to go and visit Haight Street and get some Doc Martens. And so we bussed to Haight Street, and walked up to the very high point of Haight in the Haight/Ashbury section, and went into a shop that he had his mind set on. He picked out 20-hole black boots with steel tips.

AirWair with Bouncing Soles: The Original Dr. Martens --- oil, fact, acid, petrol, alkali resistant. I got a matching pair, without the steel tips. And then we walked from Haight to the concert, which was almost over, and because the buses were so packed after the concert, we walked all the way back to the train station, running at some points, breaking in our new purchases.


Jos and I share in common our great admiration of our older brothers. When we were in elementary school, our favorite hang out activity was sitting under the picnic table on the lower grass field and talking about our brothers, trading stories of all the latest cool things they had done, their lingo and gear, sometimes bringing artifacts for illustration.


When we went off to college, Jos chose Pomona, and I chose Oberlin. Oberlin didn't work out well for me, and I wanted to transfer, and considered Pomona. Jos welcomed me with open arms, and hosted me in his Smiley dorm single. What was extra special about Jos' pad is that he had taken a lesson from brother Andrew and put in multiple couches, a real couch pit in fact, of two facing one another, making for a fun and social place. He said it was to attract women, but I also noticed a trend Jos exhibited of both seeking comfort, and providing a large group social hub, and this pit satisfied both.

On the road

We had a very special trip down to Claremont from Stanford at the end of one vacation during our Pomona careers. We traveled down highway 1, Jos entertaining Jon and Diane and I all the way in the camper. He was fully in his element, truly appreciating being with family -- on the road or at home.

Our last full day together

Of all the fast paced times I spent with Jos, there were quiet times too. In fact, much of our time together was contemplative time. One was just after he finished Pomona, we went to his current favorite body of water, a local reservoir, and brought with us his "superlative" inflatable canoe. In addition to reassuring me about the fun one could have in an inflatable canoe, Jos demonstrated the great joy of just kicking back in the yellow vinyl accompanied by the sharing of great reading material, none other than the Weekly World News.

We caught up on the facts of our lives, but for the majority of the time we just floated together, around the willow trees dipping into the water, being silent. Eventually we headed back to shore. Navigating around the beginner sailing lessons just beginning, Jos made three new friends as we took the boat from the water. Just an ordinary day, made extraordinary by Jos.

[0, 1, 2, 3]

Early memories of Jeremy (Jos) Claerbout from his father's letters to Russia

When Jeremy was 5 years old our family went to England for the year. Jeremy became very interested in knights. Piece by piece he persuaded his mother to purchase one of each kind of toy knight sold in the shops. The shields and breastplates of his knights were finely decorated with lions and with crosses. Their hands could hold battleaxes, maces, pikes and other ancient weapons. Some knights were on horses. He said the knights wearing black armor were the Turks and that they were the "bad guys". The toy knights had daily joustings on his bedroom floor. Not only did he play with them, but somehow by age 5 he managed to learn more of their lives and myths than I ever learned. One day while passing a village cemetery I called his attention to the fact that some of the stones were white and others were black. "Do you think the black ones are for the Turks?" I asked.
It was also the year that he learned to ride a bicycle. I was astonished at how strong a rider he soon became. One Sunday in late fall we began a bicycle ride more than three miles to the village of Maddingly. We took a lunch and planned to picnic near the American World War II Cemetery. It is on the side of a hill overlooking the flat fen land to the North. Cycling slowly up the hill we saw only farms and trees along the road. A short way back from the road beyond some woods was a long, high stone wall. We did not know that engraved on the other side were the names of many thousands of Americans, mostly bomber crews who never returned. We parked our bicycles in the woods. A few stairs led through a doorway. Suddenly we had a wide view to the horizon. Arranged concentrically from the hilltop were row upon row of gravestones. At first they appeared to be identical. Actually most were crosses though some were stars. All were white granite which glistened in the low November sunlight. Jeremy took in the sight and said, "Wow, the Turks sure did win this battle!"
... Here is a story about Jeremy who is now 9 years old. At School, Jeremy had to write a story. He got very interested in this assignment, and did his best to write a James Bond type story. The bad people in the story were Russians. Diane was disgusted by all the cut-throat violence. She discouraged him and told his teacher she would be happy if he did too. The teacher said that the children had to read their stories aloud to the class. After Jeremy finished a little Russian boy took strong exception. He said, "You Americans sure have a lot of strange ideas about Russians!"
...As usual, Jeremy watches a lot of television. According to him the latest witty remark is something like this, " Given a choice between Bush and Dukakis, I chose Gorbachev."
... In Japan, Jeremy was very good about learning Japanese phrases from the guide book, and using them at every opportunity. He even tricked a few people into thinking he spoke Japanese, although his vocabulary could not have exceeded 25 words.
... Six months ago Jeremy read Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and was deeply moved by it. He did not like the epilog, however, so he wrote a revised version.


to Memories of Jos

to The Life of Jos

[0, 1, 2, 3]

Dad's memories of Jos

Dad's memories of his son Johannes, "Jos"

In happier days I was Popster (daily) or Popalop (affectionately).

To my memories of his childhood

I remember the day he started speaking Spanish about age 7. The cleaning lady came to his bedroom and he instructed her, "No cleano my roomo!"

One day I drove to the local high school to pick up Jos. I arrived to find him at the main entrance amidst a flock of beautiful young maidens: [ pool photo, beach photo, track team photo ]

"Hey guys! Here's my Dad. Would you believe I sprung from those loins?"

One summer Jos went off to Ecuador to visit his brother in the Peace Corps. The photo shows me greeting Jos on his return. He always took special care to get nice gifts for his mother and me. He knew I would like this Ecuadorian hat, and I really do. He knew my size. He kept a pretty good diary of his summer.

In high school, he enjoyed track. He liked long distance running and was a "500 miler". He gave up extensive running when his feet began to bother him and fancy shoes didn't help. Here is a track team photo where we see that Jos has the girls.

Jos liked to come up with ideas for inventions and then build them immediately. He was concerned about wheel-chair people going up slopes. They need to PUSH forward on the wheel rings. Jos wanted to design a wheel chair with the more natural motion to PULL to go forward and up. We talked about gears and belts. Finally we got the idea of a chain that would be crossed. To test it, we crossed a bicycle chain into a figure eight. This bicycle would need to be peddled backwards to go forwards. It worked pretty well. The chain hardly rubbed at all where it crossed itself at the center of the eight. It was easy to ride and the bike lost little speed or power. I used that bike to go to work for a couple weeks before we uncrossed the chain to get a normal bike again.

When he graduated from high school, I asked what he would like as a graduation present. He selected the "Complete Works of William Shakespeare". True, he had been studying it in school and he enjoyed quoting a verse from memory whenever it would fit the conversation. On the other hand, I knew how quickly his enthusiasms develop and how quickly they became overrun by new enthusiasms so I was afraid that I'd fork over the $50 only to have him lose interest and have the book cluttering up his room gathering dust. But I thought to myself, "How many fathers would be thrilled beyond imagination to have their son request a graduation present of such fine quality?" I bit my tongue; and I purchased Shakespeare's Complete Works. It's here now.

One day I helped Jos and Camilo move to a new apartment. We had to disassemble and reassemble the fancy space-age console desk and the ergonomic chair he was so happy with. "You know, Popster, you once gave me this advice, 'be tight-fisted, except on things you use a lot'. This desk and chair I use a lot."

I remember Jos being born. We had expected a girl; and we had run out of boy's names. A few days after we left the hospital, they phoned us and said we had better choose his name now because if we didn't, we'd have to visit the courthouse when we did. So we rushed into the name "Jeremy" which he never liked.

When he was little, one of his big brothers would usually be in his bedroom while the other was usually away with his friends. But Jeremy's first choice of things to do was to jump on my lap and talk. I had a nice deep barrel chair, orange, and in a sunny spot. It was always a pleasure having Jeremy on my lap in the chair, but sometimes I would try to convince him to get off and play with his toys for a while.

He introduced us to television programs that we would not otherwise have watched. I liked Simpsons and King of the Hill. Mumsie liked Buffy.

He brought home a video "Six Degrees of Separation" that he said meant a lot to him. I couldn't see why. He said he identified with the hero, a black man with a lot of grace and charm who pretends to be someone he is not.

Mumsie has many happy memories of Halloweens and birthdays, because she was the organizer and Jos was the organizee.

Being the oldest of the group, I always thought a generous a restaurant tip was a full 10% of the bill. Mumsie would insist on 15%. After Jos worked at Pepper's Restaurant in D.C. he'd advocate 20%. To avoid having this discussion every week, I paid the bill and Jos left the tip.

The picture shows Jos bicycling in Alaska the summer before he graduated from high school. We sent him to summer school to learn about college life by studying Japanese language for six weeks. Although he didn't write about the bike trips he enjoyed so much there, he did write about his part-time job in a bike shop.

He accepted our ten year old Toyota and kept it working fine and useful in his life. A glitzy car was not for him.

There is a Schwinn bicycle (with big handlebars, no gears, balloon tires) parked outside my window. It is like a "Pee-Wee Herman" bicycle, but not so grand that anyone would want to steal it. It has no gears. It's got the biggest, highest handlebars Jos could find. Riding it feels like gliding thru the air. He rode it to work.

to More of Dad's Memories of Jos

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Dad's memories of Jos

[0, 1, 2, 3]

More of Dad's memories of his son Johannes, "Jos"

In happier days I was Popster (daily) or Popalop (affectionately).

previous memories

Eighth grade was a very special time between Jeremy and me. We were on sabbatical in Hawaii and the two of us went snorkeling nearly every day for three months, trying to get the best possible fish pictures. We last snorkeled together in Maui three months before he died. I could write many stories of our snorkeling adventures but most of it would interest only him and me. Maybe someday I'll do it. He liked Hawaii's Big Island the best. Mother and I had shopped around there for the perfect place to live but we couldn't seem to find it.

He always enjoyed introducing us to the young ladies in his life, and we enjoyed meeting them too. The nearby picture is the occasion of the high school prom in '91.

One of his high school summers he began working with Mr. Rosas, a heavy equipment broker. He was only about 16 but on the telephone no one would realize how young he was. One of his first jobs was looking for a second-hand bulldozer. Somebody needed one with a "ripper". Sometimes the soil is too hard for the scoop of a dozer to get anything loose. A ripper is a big sturdy spike behind the driver that can be lowered to begin ripping up hard earth. Later he had a job looking for a good sized ship for a customer in Peru. The ship needed a rear deck that could be outfitted as a sardine seiner with a big net spool. Jos was telephoning every west coast harbormaster from Alaska to Chile to find out about the availability of such a ship. He was sending and receiving FAXes and FedEx parcels at a furious rate. He knew about layers of brokers and how they all get their share. I was in awe of how someone so young could get into the heavy equipment brokerage business so quickly and so effectively.

He took the photo on a bike trip in Alaska. In the last year of his life, he took much joy from a beautiful road bicycle now in the garage. I'll never sell it. I can't use it either because of the toe clips and the required skinny tire maintenance. This bike was for serious touring around the peninsula -- too good for commuting to work. I am wishing I could better recall him recounting those journeys which he enjoyed so much. I don't know if this was the bike he dreamed of riding to Vermont with Joel. When driving in the nearby hills, I cannot drive past a bicyclist without checking the face -- to be sure it is not him. We nominated a bicycle-related charity to honor him.

When Jos was at Pomona and in Alaska, he often told us his most recent "epiphany." After moving to WebTV, he never used that word. Now I cannot recall any of his epiphanies, nor has anyone recalled any of them for me.

The summer he fished in Alaska he didn't make much money and he really got quite hungary. Never-the-less, we did receive a telephone call from Federal Express that a refrigerated parcel from Jos in Alaska awaited us and we should pick it up immediately. We did. It was some magnificent fresh salmon, a lot of it. It was wonderful.

After we bought an inflatable boat, he bought one also to join us. His boat, now in the garage, reminds me of the happy times we had on the Lexington Reservoir, the Steven's Creek Reservoir, and the Elkhorn Slough. He gave us an intricate lecture on the vendor inconsistancies of the html IFRAME tag. He explained it so clearly that Mumsie understood it (and she's never written any html!). At our WebTV pool party I got out his inflatable boat. It had a leak that I patched later. I couldn't go near that boat without having tears streaming down my face. I still can't.

Jos could run out of patience. We all recall the delightful children's stories by Dr. Seuss. Jos on his toessel site in his tale of Sairam does mimic the Seuss style. One day I found the delightful Seuss adaptation of Gene Ziegler. I called it to Jos's attention. He didn't want to pay any notice. I thought it would be fun to try to figure out just how does one mimic Dr. Seuss? Who better to teach me than Jos? So on another occasion I said, "let's go over your Sairam story." I don't know if this was the third time or the fourth time I brought up the topic but Jos told me in no uncertain terms that he was happy with his Sairam story the way it was, and I had better not bring it up again. So I never did. He was normally so light and cheery that I was taken aback seeing him severe. I guess he had too many other projects consuming his resources.

In May we went to Maui to try to prepare the way for his brother's return from Japan. Jos wouldn't agree to come along with us until the last minute. He and his WebTV loaner PC struggled with the archaic condo phone system. We moved to another condo where it worked great. Jos had visions of telecommuting to Silicon Valley from the Big Island, from Vermont, and from Alaska. We took a Molokini snorkel outing where he pumped our guide for info to help brother Martin find a job, and for info for himself for an easy way to upgrade his diving skills. We decided to give that guide an extravagant tip when we debarked. Jos palmed it over so smoothly that the transfer was invisible to me watching for him to do it. He was a wonderful traveling companion! We were lucky he would agree to travel with us, but we felt he should instead have been with some young lady.

An odd coincidence on Maui: I sometimes purchase the quarterly "Foreign Affairs" though not often because I consider it a little expensive. When Jos and I got on the plane to Maui, we found that each of us had purchased the same issue of Foreign Affairs.

In July, brother Andrew and I agreed to travel to Grandma's cottage on Lake Michigan. Jos wouldn't agree to come until the last minute (I secretly paid the premium fare again). He insisted on paying for a rental car upgrade to a full sized Oldsmobile. After we found nifty ancestral photos, he figured out how to purchase a scanner so we could scan them onto the internet. I basked in the warm relationship he had with his brother, my mother, my sister, my aunt, and cousins. He had found out about House on the Rock, and wanted to go see it. We had not time and so we decided to postpone it for a later trip.

I tried to talk up a family reunion in Homer, Alaska for the summer of year 2000. He was reluctant, but my feeling was that he would come around if I could convince his brothers.

He thought Mumsie and I should not purchase a vacation condo in Maui. We figured he would grow to enjoy it and bring his WebTV friends and some day his lady friends. I thought that if the Alaska family reunion didn't work out, Maui would.

His financial affairs were neatly organized. He had a few high fliers, eBay, Sega. He experimented with E-trade, became annoyed, and settled on Vanguard.

There is a box of letters I will peruse. He seems to have saved everything. Jos's box of letters contains two noteable letters from me:

  1. One letter on the occasion of his stopping out of college.
  2. Another letter about Jos wasting time in Washington DC.

There are home videos.

Mumsie, what's this R.F.B. on this coffee cup? That stands for "Reading For the Blind", one of his high school volunteer activities.

Jos lived with a roommate, Camilo, in Mountain View. After Jos died, brother Andrew (with Brent, Amy, Kate, and Gwen) moved his things back to our home, to the garage and to his childhood bedroom. Here is his snorkel gear. These things all trigger a jumble memories, still unsorted...

His keyboard: From magazines or advertisements he cut out decorative letters of many colors and taped them on the keys. No need, he was a fast touch typist. Didn't those snips of paper interfer with typing? Today they remain a bright symbol of his joy in life. I fight against time itself for taking my dear Jos and changing him from reality into merely a dream, a joyful dream. To fight this separation I play with his keyboard which brings him back to the present.

His bedroom. his bedroom. No, we won't go in there now. There are too many memories in there.

The family photo album will trigger many stories of earlier days. We can capture those later. Now we must capture the present with his friends before they disperse.


Dad recalls himself with Jos.
to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Dad recalls himself with his son Jos

[0, 1, 2, 3]

Dad recalls himself with his son Jos

In happier days I was Popster (daily) and Popalop (affectionately).

My earlier Jos memories [0, 1, 2] were mostly about Jos. Now we come to stories of Jos and me together.

I have trouble pulling up memories of Jos from second grade to seventh grade. As Mother says, I was always at work. Also, during those years, the house was dominated by his two older brothers. He was simply the cheery little one, always interested in people and things, always in good spirits. We didn't realize then how that would come to define him in later life -- that he would do that better than anyone. And how wonderful that would be.

His congeniality concealed a seed of genius which would grow. I'll write more about that later.

I remember Jos clearly in first grade and eighth grade. I was on sabbatical those years. When he was 5 years old in first grade, we were in Cambridge, England. He rode to school on the back of my motorbike. His big brothers rode their big bicycles. I got him a little two wheel bicycle and he did well -- except for the proximity of the rose bushes. Ouch! He had a few playmates there on Gough Way, like Adam Squires two doors away. I wrote some early Jos stories. The story of the year though, was that Jos was in love with his kindergarden teacher, the young redheaded pretty Miss Jacobs at the Newnham-Croft School.

Eighth grade in Hawaii

In 1987-88 I had a sabbatical year in Hawaii. Jos was 13 years old in eighth grade. He liked to play with our Macintosh computer. I recall him playing a game called Sim City where you simulate the growth and collapse of cities. Another game was more like a graphic arts tool; you could make a tiny movie.

Our rental house included cable TV. Jos liked watching World Wide Wrestling and he refused to believe that it was faked for entertainment purposes. When we got home from sabbatical I got cable TV for him (and me) and bought a large screen TV. Now mother uses it with the WebTV.

Jos and I had eight months of frequent snorkeling expeditions directed at taking pictures of fish. He was better at it than I was. Oahu's famous Hanauma Bay was only about three miles from our house and we knew its secret nooks and crannies. Sometimes Andrew came along, especially when we journeyed further. If Jos were here now, below is what I'd say to him. We always relived our big experiences.

(Others might want to skip this.) Remember the three scribble file fishs that circled us? Remember we saw that fish that wasn't in any of the books; we called it the Sargasso Wrass? It looked like a leaf and flopped around like one, about 4 inches long. First at Shark's Cove and later we found one in the deep water at Hanauma Bay. We tried so hard to get a decent picture but he would hardly let us get near enuf. I just looked again at our picture (your shot?). Maybe it was a juvenile lion fish. What do you think? Gee we could dive deep and stay down long then. I was wearing eight pounds of lead. I'll bet we were 20-25 feet down.
Remember the time at Crouching Lion, we swam a long ways out to the barrior reef and then we couldn't get over it? Too shallow and rough. Started to swim around but it was too far. Neil says sharks hang out there. Anyway we got a good picture of a giant box fish.
Then there was scuba. And the day you got your certificate, remember the near disasters out off Niu Valley? Then there was that night with Andrew at Black Rock...

For a moment now I jump to later memories: And our night dive on Kauai'i... And the night squid on Bonairre and the aggressive moray. At Keauhou on the Big Island was that quirky humuhumu who circled us; and the clear deep water at Captain Cook, Napo'opo'o with brothers.
Lastly Maui, the catamaran to Molokini and "Turtletown", later by car south past Wailea with Mother, our last snorkeling trip together. Forever. ***many tears***

In seventh and eighth grade, Jos was chubby. Some of the photos of these years have been put away. These were the height of his television watching years. Because of his overweight I insisted on taking him to swim team practice which he strongly resisted. Hawaii Kai swim team practice was grueling. They swam steadily for two hours every day. He got me to compromise: I agreed that he could skip the swim meets (irking the coaches). Then he started growing taller at a rate of about an inch a month. When I realized he would soon be taller than me, I started calling him "Shorty". Being in eighth grade, he started noticing girls, and he began a lifelong attention to fitness and diet.

Jos told me one day at the Niu Valley school there was a tremendous noise, bang, crash, bang, bang. A bulldozer had rolled off the cliff above demolishing itself upon landing near the school.

In student government Jos became a star performer. He was chosen to represent his school in island-wide student government conferences and retreats. Being a haole (non-native) he felt discriminated against in competitions. But he won some anyway because of his performance, enthusiasm, and extraordinary good humor. The school had some big Samoans who liked to fight. Jos could usually distract them.

Jos was a terrible procrastinator. His standard reply to me to delay any action was, "Hold on." Eventually, I caught on to him so whenever he said, "Hold on." I repeated "Hold on!" and a kind of nagging merriment ensued.

He liked his shop class. After we returned home, he would often work with tools in the garage or yard.

The wild west with Jos

Once I took him on a spring trip to Sedona, Arizona. The weather was much colder and wetter than I had anticipated. He seemed grown up and independent but he was not the "boy scout" that I had been at his age. He was improperly equipped and I realized it was my fault. We abandoned the canyon and found some sun and dryness elsewhere. I felt annoyed at my bad planning but he enjoyed it so much that in his college years he returned and "did the canyon" with a young lady friend.

Jos and I often drove Andrew to college in Colorado. These trips were a great joy to me, driving there and back, one way with both kids, the other way with Jos alone. Jos, however, was not much interested in sightseeing. I recall more than one scenic vista where I got out and he chose to stay in the car and read.

For me the most memorable of all our travels, was the two of us arriving in Death Valley. Earlier we kept plastic milk cartons filled with water, but these tended to tip and leak so, being about supper time we dumped them. As we descended into the valley the temperature rose. We saw dark clouds and rain showers in various directions. Then, inexplicably, we saw rocks here and there in the middle of the road. Suddenly, we rounded a bend and there was a rushing torrent crossing the road. We didn't dare cross it. We had no choice but to wait it out. The temperature was in the high 90s even though it was turning dark. I noticed that we were dehydrating but we had dumped our drinking water. Finally around midnight the raging water level dropped to where we could cross. We got a hotel room down in the center of Death Valley. It must have been about a hundred degrees Farenheit at midnight. Next morning we went home, postponing sightseeing there. He never got back.

I am ever grateful to Fry's Electronics Store for their one-month no-questions asked returns policy. You all know that Jos was very persuasive. Somehow he convinced us to purchase for him a large and heavy $1600 video camera for making movie animations. As we predicted, he soon lost interest. Lucky then that Fry's let us return the camera. Whew! That was a close one.

High School

In his grade-school years he was confident that his occupation would be psychiatrist. He liked to figure out peoples' problems. It all ended at one critical moment in high school when he decided he was not interested in biology. (Mother says he simply had a bad teacher.)

As others have noted, he went to Hawaii a chubby juvenile and he returned a charming young man. He was a self described "couch potato" before and a track team 500-miler after. Click the nearby picture to enlarge it and you'll find Jos surrounded by 12 chicks (and 3 guys). I recognize only one of the people here and wonder if the others know that he is gone now.

I was working in the front yard with Jos one day when a little girl came to us with two balloons, a white one and a black one. With the balloons was an invitation (from her big sister?) to a high school dance. By way of reply, Jos was to break one of the balloons. He broke the black one and sent the little girl back with the white balloon meaning that he accepted the invitation. I often thought, "what a charming way to handle an awkward situation." That young lady's father died abruptly (as Jos did) not many years afterwards. Her name is Andrea Ciaranello.

In high school, Jos had lengthy relationships with two stunningly beautiful young ladies -- very intelligent too. The second young lady journeyed from afar to bring flowers to his grave. The first young lady was another story.

Applying to college

Only the most haphazard planning preceeded Jos's brothers leaving home for college. I resolved to do better with Jos. The summer before his graduation, I sent him off to a college summer school in Alaska to alert him to the change in life ahead -- to get him to planning.

Jos and I enjoyed recalling years later, how "I had tricked him into applying to Pomona". We had just visited U.C. Santa Barbara where he stayed in a dorm while I stayed in a nearby hotel. Next day he reported how the students were all boozed up and threw furniture down the elevator shaft. Then he wanted me to drive to U.C.Riverside. On the way, I told him that we were driving past Claremont where there were five little colleges and I told him that he had to pick out one to see since we were driving past anyway and it would be a good place to stop. [I think a Gunn student already at Pomona hosted him a while. Her name might be Cora Schmitt.]

Although bright, Jos had no evident focus. But he didn't mind working. He liked projects. He applied to eight colleges spanning a range of prestige and distance from home. We were amazed to see the outcome of his applications.

Choosing a College

Having been admitted to all eight colleges, he had to choose one. Being admitted to all colleges, he was "full of himself". That's when he began using the expression, "The heist goes on!" He made it very clear that he did not want to go to school where his father teaches even if he was invited to live away from his parents along with the other students. His mother and I preferred he attend Stanford. I was not very adamant. His high school grades were not exceptional, even less his focus. I remember big classes at MIT. I thought a smaller environment would not be bad for Jos. Retrospectively, mother was correct. Pomona was too small for someone with Jos's self confidence and diverse interests.

Why he started out with a major in Latin American studies, I'll never know. Perhaps it was because he enjoyed travel in Mexico and Ecuador. Even in his first and second years, Pomona had not the depth needed in his area of interest. I took him seriously, but he wasn't very serious. A couple years later after he dropped out of school and had a year of struggle in Alaska, he wrote a thoughtful article for the student newspaper about dropping out and why and what he learned from the "school of hard knocks".

Choosing a Major

During the Alaska interlude he found a focus. I tried to convince him that it would be futile to major in religion. "Nobody is ever convinced of anything that anyone else says about religion," I said, "Knowing all that religion could hardly help a politician."

He had a thoughtful response to my criticism. He said if he knew all the Bible verses on both the pro and con sides of the abortion issue and on other controversial cultural issues, that people would respect him for that. After gently showing people that he knew both sides of the story, they would be friendly.

If you ever saw him in action, you would know he was right. He could start by building up the argument that his challenger might make, but do this better than the challenger could. Then he would simply continue on to tell the other side of the story with the same persuasive gusto. People would know that he knew their point of view, even if they were not clear about what his view was. In high school he'd enthusiastically quote Shakespeare in his dinner time conversation, and soon just as enthusiastically, we found him quoting the Bible.

RVing with Jos

We bought an RV for vacations and for our frequent trips to Pomona. Particularly notable were (1) a trip to Indian Oaks Campground in Temecula which taught us that December is too dark for camping. (2) a trip from Stanford to Pomona along the coast where Catherine Price was along and had a cold night at Morro Rock. (3) a trip with Jos to Las Vegas which was a real joy. This included a show "Ballys'Jubilee" that the guidebook called "quintessential". It was. He and I liked it more than Mother did. We drove on further to Boulder Dam. Mother and I also had memorable times on the other halves of those trips without Jos. Camping and RVing were not in his blood. That part of it was mostly for me, but he was always in good humor and fun to travel with.

Adult entertainment industry

Jos wanted some genuine celebrities to endorse his Toessels. He talked about contacting celebrities with this proposal: A free toessel in exchange for a photo of the celebrity wearing the toessel. He told me there was a model in the "adult entertainment industry" that he had his eyes on.

Her name was A:s:i:a C:a:r:r:e:r:a. Not only was she outstanding in her profession, he said, but her SAT scores were higher than his. She was also her own webmaster and he admired that too (not an easy task in 1999). I don't have any evidence that he actually contacted her. He might have seen her announcement that she was planning to get a "boob job". If so, he'd have been disappointed. He would not have mentioned it but it likely would have caused his attention to drift away.

In later years Jos watched TV judiciously but he included some of the worst programs. In particular, he regularly made a fuss about what was on the "Jerry Springer" show. I could not and cannot understand why a normally intelligent person would pay any attention to this program. Springer is a talk show where the participants describe bizarre love life, scream, fight, cry, etc, seemingly for real but to me as obviously faked as the TV wrestling he watched as a boy.

Economics versus religion

Jos liked his Religion professors and his Economics prof too. You won't be surprised to hear of a clash of world views. One day Jos got a term paper back in a Religion class which was criticised for being too "economistic". I asked Jos what the prof meant by that and how he'd handle it. He said something like this,
Something will happen and a case will come up where their principles conflict with one another. Then they'll need to be economistic too.

Economics, human ecology, and death

I tried to interest Jos in natural history books like those of Richard Dawkins. He showed me his economics books. He put me onto the book, "Moral Animal" by Robert Wright. In that book we found common ground. Economics and Ecology were converging.

The photo below is six weeks before his death. We were at Grandma's cottage on Lake Michigan. He was reading Dawkins' classic book, "The Selfish Gene". He wasn't just reading it; he was marking it up as if he were going to take an exam on it.

If he were here to discuss the reason for his death, I think he would believe as I do, that there was no moral purpose for it. He simply had bad luck in one of his body parts. Life is not fair; it never has been; we've always known this; even Mother's rabbi says it. Ecology builds species by the death of many individuals. Natural though death may be, and illogical though it may be to be angry with fate, I am angry with his fate. He did nothing to deserve it, exactly the opposite. He was kind to everyone and he took good care of his body.

Mother and I cannot help but speculate how we could have guarded against this tragedy. It is an anguished path of hypotheticals leading us nowhere. Almost nowhere but not quite: I'm a light social drinker; if I could relive the year of his conception, I would not take one drink (and I'd eat especially safe foods). No real odds of it turning out any different, but I'd surely try.

Halloween and girl friends

On Halloween, it has been noted elsewere here, Jos would often don a dress to entertain everyone. When he first went to WebTV, he was something of an outsider without proper computer credentials. He encountered the Silicon Valley culture of doing things outrageously. When his company called for a party where people should come in flamboyant Hawaiian shirts, Jos came in a Muu-muu, a Hawaiian dress. He won the prize. Lots of pictures were taken. [1, 2, 3, 4]

The week following his death, his work friend Yun Shin prepared the video homage to him, Fear of a Black Toessel, which we played over and over to every visitor to our house. About 30% of that movie is Jos in a dress. Add to that was his voice near the critical ending scenes; Diane called it his radio voice, but to me that voice recalls the LosAngeles gay world. So, there I was, in the shock of his death, and having this image repeated and repeated. Diane said I was homophobic. I saw it a little differently. This was only a 1/356-th part of Jos, but it appeared like a third. I don't blame Yun for this. We were all in shock and we all wanted to remember him as the wildly funny person he was. These pictures were clear visual proof.

At the same time, he hadn't had a visible girl friend in the two years since college. And it wasn't for lack of opportunities. I felt better when we got the warm and intimate letter from his senior-year girl friend Amanda and a little disappointed that others were slow to speak up. We had some tender words and letters from some and in time I was very pleased to receive many details from Gwen. Jos had charmed many of the ladies at WebTV, but it seems he was too busy learning this new internet business to allow himself the luxury of time that serious romance requires ("chaos" he would say). Since you have patiently come this far, maybe I'll show you my secret repository of pictures of Jos in a dress. Just maybe, but come back later and see. (Here is one.)

Trying to define the genius of Jos, and to predict what might have come

Jos taught me something I did not know and never suspected, that congeniality can grow into genius. His childhood congeniality concealed a seed of genius which grew. I came to realize this only in the last year of his life. His childhood teachers told us he was not the brightest of our children. He enjoyed building things, but brother Andrew built things better. In school he was successful in mathematics and physics but he was no more than successful.

Jos's mind was receptive to people; he would remember them and what they said. He would speak to it, and add to it. His congeniality grew into youthful charm. Being a good listener was part of his charm. It went deeper than that, however, because of his genuine interest in ideas. All kinds of ideas: literary, social, political, media, technological, business ideas. He would dig up these ideas and turn them over in his mind and come up with his own twists. Then he brought these ideas to us, bubbling with enthusiasm, drawing out the listener's opinions. He became a wonderful story teller, arguer, explainer and teacher. Then came the internet. Not only could he assemble his ideas into stories, but he could turn ideas into realities. And he did. That was the genius of the intellectual side of him. You see it here on the index page.

He had another genius in how he related to people. It somehow linked his personality and his intellect. You see that here on the memory page. Nearly everyone would like to be able to relate to people the wonderful way Jos did. But we are not able to. I have been trying to understand this so I could explain it to myself and other people. When I proofread his Culture Wars site, I admired the way he wrote about controversial emotional divisive topics in a warm, human, and inviting way. He combined factual knowledge with humor.

Forgive me a little fatherly hyperbole: Given more time, I believe he would have become a leader. Not only because he was a visionary (the world has many of those) but because so many extraordinary people would have wanted him to be their leader. He'd have become a leader of extraordinary people. They would have accomplished great things.

And now

And now I miss him very strongly and emotionally. I am angry that his future was torn away from him. No more ideas, no more amazing projects, brilliant writing, aspirations ended, no new friends, no sweethearts, no marriage, no children, no plans, no future. All destroyed. Blown away. For no purpose. He was kind and gentle. He was careful with his health. He cared about the world and about his intellectual life. His life gave great joy to him and to all around him.

I was wonderfully blessed; but in an instant it was ripped away. I'd much rather have given my life than lose his. A sociobiologist would say I lost 25 years of parental investment. I'd add that I lost the good fortune that had given me this golden child. My expectations for the future are a shadow of what they were. I feel Devastated. Shattered. Stricken. Despairing. Overwhelmed in a sorrow that never should have been.

I write this eight months after his death. He jumps into my mind about a hundred times every day. It is not him in my mind. It is my memory of the terrifying loss. The Jos in my mind is not the Jos we knew. We are not together any more. ***sob*** If I write more, I am writing about me without him. This path brings no joy nor enlightenment, so I stop writing.

It consoles me to learn of new joys in the lives of Jos's friends. I'm sure he would be pleased if you would write to me. I'll pass it along as best I can. I leave now to reread the
the life of Jos and memories of Jos.


From cousin David [aged 14]: When I first heard the news I was absolutely shell-shocked. How could this happen? This isn't possible. This is Jos, we're talking about - the Josman, laugh-a-minute Jos, irreverent, witty Jos, caring, considerate Jos. It just seemed like some horrible dream. Even when I accepted it it really didn't hit me. Jos is dead. What is dead? Dead is just a word, Death itself doesn't bother me. It's when you realize that that person won't be there any more. It wouldn't be until I just remembered a great line from the Simpsons, or I'd be staying up late watching a movie and that's when it would hit me.

I was constantly trying to find something I could make in exchange for a toessel. The other day I was making some movies with my friends on a camcorder. They were so funny; I thought, this is it! I finally got my toessel. When I found out about Jos it just came to me: There will never be another toessel. There will never be another anything from Jos. No visits, no lunches, no jokes, no handshakes, no hugs.

I had hoped to know Jos more as I grew older. He was a real role-model for me. He was funny, likeable, successful. These are all things I wish to become myself. I know there is no bright side to this tragedy, nothing could outweigh the loss, but there is a proverb that is very true in this situation: It is better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all. Jos really brought happiness to the lives of everybody he met. He inspired me to accomplish greater things; even if I never get that toessel, I'll keep trying. Maybe, if I achieve great things in life, when I pass away Jos will be waiting with one for me.

I really don't know what to say. I know that nothing I can say will make it better, make the pain lessen. But, like my dad said to me earlier, Jos always did well wherever he went and he's doing well wherever he is now. Love, David

Abigail Al-D. and Genevieve Lee

Abigail Al-D: I was a freshman and Jos a senior when I met him in social dance class, spring semester of 1997. We were dance partners for our dance party "final." I remember rehearsing with him days before, moving tables in the music library and putting on waltz music...

Jos composed "Tough Women II" for the piano; it was his final project for the "materials of music" class he took in spring of 97, taught by Genevieve Lee. When he learned I was a piano major, he asked me to perform his final composition. I remember liking the piece very much, especially considering what his classmates were composing... For a while after I played it for his class's performance. I was able to recall it by memory because it was catchy, but unfortunately it's faded out from under my fingers by now. If you find it and would like a recording of it, I'd be happy to make a tape if you send me a copy of the music.

--- Click on the music to enlarge it. ---

I was delighted to notice that on the score he writes "al dente" as a tempo marking and then on page 2 [at the bottom line], he modifies it to "al doory"! I think the piece is very sweet and I hope I've done it some justice.

Try to listen to Tough Women II:

  1. Play (or get) .mp3 (700kb).
  2. Link to Textile Sounds.

I didn't know Jos very well, yet I had a special fondness for him--sort of like a younger sister's awe for a much older brother. He was always so fascinating, so entertaining, so endlessly witty! I knew him very briefly in the grand scheme of things, but then again, in the grand scheme of things, I'm extremely lucky to have known him at all.

Genevieve Lee: Jos took my music class seriously, unlike some of the other seniors in their last semester. I enjoyed his enthusiasm and upbeat manner in class. He was interested enough in music to ask me questions after class or after a concert. The unusual title for his piece "Tough Women II" came about after he attended a concert I played with my colleague, soprano Gwendolyn Lytle. We put together a program which had a group of songs called "Letters from Calamity Jane to Her Daughter" as the centerpiece of the concert. So, we titled the concert "Tough Women" as a lighthearted theme for the program. I guess the concert really made an impression on him or he just really liked the title! His sense of humor was refreshing too.

Random Memories of Jos, by Erica T

  1. I remember mispronouncing his name the first time it on a New Staff application at KSPC: "Joss?" I asked aloud. Anne-Marie, the Program Director, set me straight. She had already met Jos and was noticeably impressed by his enthusiasm and friendliness. Little did I know what impact Jos would soon have on the station and myself.

  2. As he no doubt did with everyone, he soon developed nicknames for me -- he most commonly just called me "E", but in fun would also refer to me as "E-bone" (my rapper identity?).

  3. I remember the funny way he would cock his eyebrows at you if you said something he found unbelievable or incredible. He would also make funny noises and open and close his mouth like the character on the Muppets named Beaker. He was always very animated and making funny movements and faces. He also loved to slip into a Spanish accent whenever he was trying to charm someone into his ideas.

  4. Jos loved to share music with other people, and often dragged them into the station's Production room to hear his latest find. I remember him sharing his love of Steroid Maximus with me one day -- he was particularly fond of their song "Quilombo". Of course, there was also the Sulfer song "Nova Sangre" which was a favorite of his. He was always into horns and some driving rhythmic drum track -- Sulfer had that -- and it was in Spanish to boot!

  5. I don't remember if it was when he was News Director or General Manager, but Jos pointed out to me that the station was spending five grand a year on a news service that was not used nearly enough to justify the expense. He quickly found a much cheaper alternate news source for the station -- and the station got a much bigger equipment budget with the money we saved.

  6. One morning I came into the station and found a KSPC shipping label stuck to the wall above the couch. At first I was annoyed, as we periodically experienced random, misguided sticker placement around the station from time to time. I was just about to break out the 409 cleaner when I got a closer look at the label. It read: "To all concerned, I broke the wall. -- Jos". The shipping label was basically holding together the broken plaster underneath, so I left it there. Later on Jos explained that he had sat down on the couch with his bass and had smacked it against the wall.

  7. During staff meetings, Jos really held his own despite his young age. He projected authority, compassion, and intelligence when leading a meeting. He was always so far ahead of his age -- other staff members assumed that he was a senior when he was but a mere first-year student.

  8. Jos and I joked around quite a bit, but apparently I went too far one day. I don't even remember what I said, but I do remember the note he wrote (directly) on the bulletin board above the General Manager's desk. He wrote the date and the notation: "Erica disses Jos really hard". I immediately apologized but he made sure that my insensitivity went on record. Although he treated me with respect and we had a good working relationship, we often slipped into a sort of antagonistic brother-sister banter.

  9. Jos came up with the design for the first annual "SpaceAwards" -- the awards we hand out at the end of the year to the radio station staff. We found some old trophies out in our storage space, and Jos went out and bought a bunch of toy people, animals, insects and things and stuck them on the trophies. He slapped on some cart labels over the old name plaques on the trophy and wrote in the new names/award winners with ball point pen. Of course, everyone felt ridiculous holding their trophies but they couldn't help but smile when he handed them over. He just had a knack for doing silly, fun things and bringing everyone in on it.

  10. Just before Jos left school to go to Alaska, we had lunch together at the Coop Fountain, the campus burger joint at Pomona College. I really admired Jos for his decision to take time off from school -- in retrospect I think that I would've benefited from doing the same thing, but I plowed through the four years instead. I told him what I thought about his plans to take time off -- and intended to offer some sage advice (with the huge three years of experience I had on him), but before I could Jos turned the tables and asked: "So what are we going to do about you? What are you going to do with your life?" Always one step ahead of me.

  11. Jos got together with some of the other DJs at the station and started to play in a band called the UFO Dictators. One night they played at the (now-defunct) Haven coffeehouse in Pomona. Jos invited me to go down and see them -- they were good, but more than anything I remember how focused he was that night. I was so used to seeing him be boisterous and goofy, it was neat to see him very quiet and concentrating on his playing. He was modest about his abilities, but he was a good bass player.

  12. This group called Negativland came into L.A. to perform, and Jos was determined to go and get a station ID from them. He checked out a "portable" tape recorder (portable in quotes because it was pretty huge and heavy) from me and set out for the concert. Later on he told me that the band had apparently been pretty intimidated by this huge tape recorder he was lugging around, but he followed them around for quite a while and with his usual charm convinced them to do quite a nice station ID. You can hear his voice in the background of the ID, faintly as he voice-prompts the band. [I'll try to get this recording to you so that you can link to it]. Soon after that we decided to buy some real portable tape recorders.
I did want to tell you that Jos was in my dream the other night. We talked about how he had passed on, but at the same time we realized that he was definitely there in front of me and was flesh and bone, solid. He was all excited to go to Peru, so we took a plane to Peru. We rode bikes to some restaurant there -- and he was curious about how the waitress there would react to seeing him again -- he apparently had gone to this restaurant on a regular basis before when he was there. (Did Jos ever really go to Peru?). It was really good to see him again -- and to see him so happy.

Jos still makes me smile and inspires me, every day.

to The Life of Jos to more from Erica to Memories of Jos


Jos memories of Erica T

Jos served as KSPC's General Manager, Development Director, News Director, and DJ while a student at Pomona College. He was the first ever to become General Manager during his second semester here at the colleges -- a testament to the leadership, maturity and just plain moxie that he possessed. He had a significant impact on KSPC, during a time when the staff were finding a new identity amidst the commercialization of "alternative" music.

Jos came to KSPC at a relatively tumultuous time. I had just started advising KSPC that year, (and shakily so), the staff were getting bombarded with record label reps selling the latest "alternative" grunge band of the month (which they weren't buying), and as General Manager, Jos found himself in the middle of several heated discussions about why the station was still calling itself "alternative" when it was clearly a term that had outlived its usefulness to describe what the station played. It was a time when the staff decided to make a stand and support independent artists only during our underground (formerly known as alternative) shows -- which prompted the ire of many a major label record rep.

Jos leapt into the middle of this storm with a smile on his face and conviction in his heart about supporting the little guy. He was an extremely intelligent, compassionate and endearing person. He had a self-confidence and charm that is unusual in an 18 year old college student.

Soon after he was named General Manager, he took it upon himself to tour several radio stations, looking for new ideas and new people. He designed and had made his own business cards -- on my copy of his card he scrawled "Roadie" above his title, an example of the self-effacing humor he often used.

Jos amazed me and made me laugh, often. He would practice his Spanish on unsuspecting business line callers: "Hola, Ka -Ese -Pay -Say" (Hello, K-S-P-C). He encouraged me to practice my bass and play music with him. He spoke to everyone about everything, and was respectful to people from all walks of life. He was taken from the world far too soon, but he definitely lived his life to the fullest every day. I miss him a lot.

Erica has many more stories.

Carol Morley: For me Jeremy will always be four years old. We will always be tossing apple peels over our shoulders to see what shapes they make. He was an affectionate, lovable, bubbly little boy. I can see that he became just such a grown man.

Anonymous: When I was little I was sleeping over at your house and I mentioned to Jeremy that there was a person in my class who I did not like because the person often teased me. I will never forget his response. He told me that I should not listen to people like that and that I have a lot to be confident about.

When I look back on this moment I am amazed at the fact that I was comfortable sharing my feelings with him. It is rare for someone to possess such compassion and maturity at that age.

Jamie Rector: I was stunned. I remember playing volleyball with him at some of the Geophysics picnics back in the early '80's. He was so funny (for an eight year old!).

Susan Orr: We have such fond memories of Jeremy as a young man -- his openness and his delightful sense of humor.

Julia Baskett: I remember Jeremy as an early reader and a great swimmer... Jeremy's Bar Mitzvah was a very special day that Celeste and I were permitted to share with your whole family. We were so impressed by Jeremy's perfect performance at Beth Am.

Chuck Sword: I remember Jeremy when he was about 7 years old. He was always very affectionate with his father. I helped him figure out one of the earliest Macintosh computer games, though as I recall, he solved the toughest parts himself. I can't remember the Mac game (though I'd probably recognize it if I heard it); it involved a vampire and a castle.

I attended Jos's Bar Mitzvah, and noted how proud his mother was that he had chosen on his own to follow that path.

Years went by, and I almost didn't recognize the well-spoken, personable young man that Amy and I met last summer. We were struck by his personality, his intelligence, and his potential. We are so sorry that we, and you, will never have the chance to see where he would have gone.

Jan Lieberman: At 25 he was tall, handsome, brilliant, inventive, a scholar ("Jan, cool it!"), a creative genius, a provocative thinker, but most of all a lover of people. His goal in life seemed to be to make everyone he met feel so good about themselves that they believed their dreams could be realized.

Misa Nishio: We got to meet Jos in the summer of 1997. Our contacts were limited but he left a strong impression on us. He was always joking and made us laugh, but what I remember most was his kindness. One evening he sat with my daughter Mona and watched the children's ballet lesson video that Diane had given her. I don't think the video was interesting to him, but he sat with her and watched the whole thing.

That summer we brought you a bottle of wine from Alsace(France). He liked the wine very much, saying "I usually don't like wine, but I like this one a lot." Later when I found that he didn't even drink coffee, I wondered if it was his gesture of kindness. [Dad remembers that he drank wine only when the situation expected it.]

Dave Nichols: He was always a bundle of energy when we met.

Stew Levin (story 1):

Why the wrench is flourescent orange ...

During high school, Jos did volunteer bicycle repair in East Palo Alto. Volunteers had to supply their own tools. Like many mechanics, he found his tools slowly disappearing. To combat accidental acquisition, Jos spray-painted his tools with bright orange paint. Tools stopped wandering after that.

However, one drawback of this procedure arose --- the socket wrench did not like paint gumming up its works. It took disassembly, a long soak in paint thinner, and relubrication to fix the problem.

Stew Levin (story 2):

Back in 1993-4, Jon and Diane had rented out their house to our family during one of his sabbaticals. Jos, having grown tired of Pomona College, decided to head to Alaska with one of his buddies, stopping in several places along the way, including Stanford. This was a bit over a month before the Claerbouts were due back from overseas.

One afternoon the two of them showed up out of the blue and proceeded to take a vacation up the coast using Diane Claerbout's car. Upon their unscheduled return, they proceeded to camp out in sleeping bags in the living room for a few days until the Alaska arrangements were complete. My wife Diane was somewhat put out by the intrusion until she reminded herself that they were teenagers. I think Diane Claerbout was much more put out than my Diane when she heard the news.

Anyhow, the evening before their scheduled departure, Jos asked our opinion if he should leave his mom's car in the long-term parking lot at the San Francisco airport for the next 30+days until his parents returned. We nixed that idea in a hurry! Somewhat surprisingly, they were unaware of the incredible bargain that SamTrans offers - the 7F express bus ran right to the airport for $1.10 as I recall. So first thing in the morning, I dropped them off at the bus stop across from the Stanford Shopping Center and they were on their adventurous way.

Postscript -- Boy did they ever leave Diane Claerbout's care a mess! Took over two hours to empty, clean, reassemble, etc. that hatchback before it was presentable again.

Stew Levin (story 3): Subject: A Jos testimonial
Back about two years ago, I took the time to put Jos's web pages to the "Lynx test". This is a test where you access the pages using the Lynx full-screen text browser to see how unnavigable and content-free a site may be. At least 80 percent of Fortune 500 sites fail this test badly. Jos's pages came through gloriously -- every image link had alternate text describing the link and almost all pages were navigable with text links only. Couldn't make a single suggestion for improvement in that regard.

Yilmaz family:
Johannes left us all so suddenly
In the Spring of His Life
Saying Farewell to us all
And to His unfinished accomplishments.

But he lives on in our hearts
That He so very kindly touched upon
But now filled by the sorrow of His Farewell
O streaming tears in my eyes could only speak.

Father gave him the distilling intelligence
Mother gave him the caring affection
But the magnetism was genuinely his own
Simply us all wanted to be near Jos.

A brief encounter it was with Him
David of Michelangelo has come alive in Jos
With His hands so very majestically beautiful
And just as,

    Johannes was a prime pronouncement
    of perfect humanity.

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


We miss you but we hear your spirit saying, "Go. Live. Wonder. Care."

Jos the Sophomore

Jos the Sophomore

Gwen M: I first encountered Jos in late August, 1993. It was the eve of our sophomore year at Pomona College. He and I were both sponsors in Mudd-Blaisdell, a dormitory on the south end of campus. The sponsor program placed new students in housing together, ostensibly based on common interests and tastes. A group of first year students lived in a hallway with their sponsors, while transfer and exchange students were dispersed across the campus and met with their sponsor groups for dinner or planned events. I was a sponsor for first year students; Jos sponsored transfer and exchange students.

All the sponsors had gathered for a meeting in the lobby / lounge of the two-story pink stucco dormitory prior to the arrival of our "sponsees." We all wore burgundy T-shirts ("Sponsors: Kid Tested, Mother Approved, 1994-1995" on the front, a box of cereal with all of our names as ingredients on the back). Jos sat on one of the lobby's pale blue velour couches, holding court. Anyone who knew Jos knows what I mean, either everyone in the room was paying attention to his stream of one-liners and puns delivered in his commanding voice, or they were trying to pretend like they weren't. I remember two petite young women perched on his lap, one of them Kim (her last name escapes me), whom I know had a possessive boyfriend. I wonder now if he was nearby. I'm sure Jos wouldn't care if he were. I can remember being drawn to this incredibly gregarious person, but remarking to myself, "I'm too tall."

I honestly can't remember the first time Jos and I spoke; Pomona's casual social environment has made such an occurrence hard to pinpoint. There were many occasions in the first weeks of that year to meet new people, with sponsees getting to know their own groups and the other groups in the dormitory, and functions and parties designed to get students together before the academic year swallowed us whole.

I remember liking him instantly, though, and wanting very much to be liked by him. He was intriguing, smart and funny, and he had one of the coolest rooms in the entire dorm. It essentially had two entrances, one that led to the hallway, as with everyone else's rooms, and a set of French doors that led to the building's interior courtyard. The large courtyard housed the old Gibson Dining Hall, which had been converted to a computer center. I can remember traversing the courtyard, looking up at Jos's room. You could see the warm glow of his torchière lamp, sometimes you could hear or see him playing bass, or talking to a friend. Once I found out where he lived, I was drawn to his room, even just to peer in on my way to Gibson.

Jos's room was decorated with posters from South America, a few band posters, and a gargantuan bed platform he had constructed during the early part of the year. As I've heard Jos's family observe, he was not an aesthete, but he made an effort to make his space comfortable and distinctly his.

My first bond with Jos was built over the ups and downs of being a sponsor. As to be expected by a group of kids brought together merely by virtue of a transfer or exchange, Jos's sponsees were a varied bunch, and he had good stories to tell about them. I remember the giggly S o l v e i g L u b e l e y, the German exchange student who appeared to have a painful crush on him, and the very pretty Caitlin, and another sponsee whose name I can't remember, who was a rabid gay basher. I remember discussions with Jos and another sponsee about this unfortunate behavior and the latent homosexuality it probably indicated.

In Jos, I found an ear for my own troubles with sponsees. My group seemed poorly patched together. I had two sets of roommates that got on so poorly together they needed to move, which at the time seemed a great failure on my part. Jos listened with sympathy and a certain amount of good-natured delight to my troubles and their antics. Jos was also a good source for back rubs, which we began to trade that semester.

I'm not sure what led me to be over at Jos's room late one weekend evening, but there I was, and one thing led to another, and we had fooled around a bit, but I remember mostly just sleeping over in that great big bed. I related the experience to a sponsee with whom I'd grown close, Amy T o m s i c k She thought it was great, and so did I, but even as I told her, it felt as if it hadn't happened. It had occurred with a mixture of friendliness and nonchalance, and he had confessed desperate crushes on a couple of other women on campus the next morning. He also offered schoolwork as a reason not to get involved at the time. It seems strange to me now that I'd accepted what he'd told me at face value and remained friends with him, but I did. I was disappointed by the case he'd made against involvement between us, but I left that morning certain it wouldn't change anything between he and I. It turned out I was wrong, it had, but Jos didn't let on until much later.

The crushes Jos confided to me are significant because they illustrated Jos's taste for particular types of women. One, J e n B a r o n, was a champion mountain bike racer with a very pretty face. He penned an essay about her entitled Jen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance, which he would share with me during our senior year. The other was W o u t r i n a Smith, an exotic-featured tennis and soccer player from Alaska. Jos had an appreciation for strong women who excelled in typically male pursuits. I think he liked the idea of being with a woman who could dust him on a mountain bike trail or could pin him helplessly to the ground in a wrestling match. He appreciated other people's accomplishments, and I often had the impression that he'd much rather be humbled by a mate than humble her.

His crushes on J e n and W o u t r i n a also exposed another part of Jos I didn't understand until after his death. These women both had serious boyfriends. I think there was a security in pursuing two people that were not likely to be his. The least accessible of his interests received the highest, most public of praises. He made what I sometimes thought embarrassing confessions of undying love in front of them. I think I understand now that at the time, he found doing so much easier than going after someone who might turn around and return his adoration.

The year wore on. I started dating someone else, and Jos continued to pine for a series of athletic beauties, or so I imagined and he let on. Some strong memories remain of the time; I remember waking Jos up one evening after a performance for which I had my face painted gold. He opened his door half asleep and was struck speechless. He didn't recognize me until I spoke to him. He then invited me in to examine my face for a half an hour, amazed at how different it looked.

I remember listening to Jos on the college radio station and discussing his taste in music. He very proudly shared with me the postcard he'd received from the lead singer of the punk group L7. While I know it bothers Diane, his mother, he thought it particularly cool that she opened the note with "Dear Loser". In the face of powerful women, he felt no need to defend his pride.

As a sponsor, I was in the habit of leaving my door unlocked or open, and I would sometimes return from a class or a meeting to find Jos sitting outside my door with his hand in my giant jar of animal crackers, talking to my sponsees. He never revealed how much I'd told him about them, and I appreciated how he befriended some of them. It made me feel like he was helping me out. I also found his ease in helping himself to my animal crackers or whatever else I had available to eat touching. To me, it implied that we shared some space or some intimacy that was inviolable.

That year, I met Catherine, a former girlfriend of his from high school. She visited Pomona while on vacation or a leave of absence from her college. Jos had given me a little information about her, and I remember trying simultaneously to quell my curiosity and wanting to learn as much about her as possible from our brief encounter. I guess I thought I might understand Jos better for it.

In the spring, Jos launched a campaign he called "Full Flirtation Chaos", or something like that. He posted a flyer on his door and went around campus asking attractive women if they'd like to be subject of the "full flirtation chaos" he was about to unleash. When asked if I'd like to participate, I remember shooting him a skeptical look and asking how full flirtation chaos would be different from any other time between me and him, or he and his other targets, for that matter. He had written "canceled due to lack of funds" across the flyer a week after its posting.

Jos took the next year off from school, and I spent it abroad in Strasbourg, France. We had no communication during that time, but I was vaguely aware of his plans to fish in Alaska.
to Gwen's index to Antics of the Upperclassman


Antics of the upperclassman

Antics of Jos, the Pomona upperclassman

Gwen M: Jos and I probably spent most of our time discussing ideas. They ran the gamut from genetic engineering to screen plays, religion in America to women's rights. He always had something interesting to say or had some new book I should read. He was constantly testing theories and had a penchant for generating far-fetched utopian theses. He once opined, (I think he really wanted to believe this), that stripping was a feminist act, drawing on an experience he had in a strip club in Alaska. Intellectually, nothing frightened him. He turned things over, took different sides, considered everything he encountered.

Jos was undoubtedly the most fiercely brilliant person I have ever known. Intellectual torpidity frustrated him. He could forgive someone without schooling their lack of knowledge, but he found close-mindedness and unexplored assumptions distasteful in his fellow students and especially galling in his professors. The Claremont Colleges had its share of both, which I believe contributed significantly to his dislike of the place in general.

He did have favorite classes and professors, though, including David Meneffee-Libey and Professor Whedbee. He had generated an interest in religion in America, in all its strange mutations. He had purchased a book called Because The Bible Told Me So, which cataloged the various ways people have used The Bible to justify their beliefs. For Professor Whedbee's class, Jos chose to examine the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" for his final project. He planned to deliver the sermon to the class as part of his presentation. I remember him rehearsing and thinking he'd put the fear of God in his classmates with that booming voice and the theatrics he was putting in to it.

Jos took delight in throwing potshots at canonized groups and ideas on campus. While he harbored few prejudices about anyone or anything, he found the rampant political correctness on campus abhorrent. He derided the frequent "open forums" about controversial issues on campus. He felt they rarely allowed for truly open discussion, and joked about the apparent necessity to offer free food to draw students to attend. These peeves manifested themselves in the flyer for the "open forum / inquisition" to decide whether or not Alex Cabrera was the Anti-Christ.

Jos generated an interest in Mufti, a group of vandals who would paper the campus in black and white flyers loaded with puns about recent college events or scandals. Finding Mufti's flyers wasn't always easy. It became a badge of honor for some of us not only to decode them, but also to find one before campus maintenance removed them. Mufti was a secret society, both by necessity (it was vandalism), and because I think there's a thrill in belonging to a secret society.

At one point, Jos had an inkling of the identity of some of Mufti's members, who happened to include some close friends of mine. I met with a member of that circle of friends on one occasion and discussed her bitterness in not being included in Mufti. She corroborated Jos's hunches. Jos decided he should form a new secret society. He asked me what "young girl" was in French (I forget why) and based the society's name on the words "jeune fille", or "Jenife." He then wrote a Jenife manifesto, and gathered a painting party to decorate Walker Wall in the middle of the night with a Mufti-style mural.

Of course, Jos wasn't able to keep anything that exciting to himself. He discussed Jenife openly with Mufti members and anyone else who cared to listen, and we produced one more banner for Frary Dining Hall that included puns based on the names of Mufti members.

If you were to ask me what Jos's idea of fun was, I'd point to the wacky elaborate projects, such as Jenife or his screen plays. (He almost always seemed to be having fun). However, I do remember Jos participating in some of the more common place aspects of campus life. Sometime during our senior year, we went to a rave. He came in colorful Converse high-tops, bike shorts with day-glo inset panels, one of his wildly printed shirts, his purple-lensed sunglasses, and lots of jewelry.

One day, I told him how much I enjoyed pinball as a kid. We played a few games at the student union, and he was hooked. In an effort to exercise self-control, he would quit for weeks, then play again, blowing a pocket full of laundry money in one stretch. His well-documented yen for thrift store shopping was already established at Pomona. I remember participating in at least one hunt for shirts at a local second hand store.

Like his parents and many other people at Pomona, I thought Jos was headed for life in some sort of policy think tank or public service. But he had a fascination with technology that made his choice to work for WebTV seem not so far afield from his interests at school. At the beginning of the year, he showed off his new Macintosh laptop, which had a sound card. The computer read (or sang) essays back to you. He had it singing in Spanish. He had also discovered long lists of newsgroups on the Internet, and had subscribed to several focusing on religion and politics. He could not resist, however, logging on to a couple of the bestiality groups he'd found. On several occasions, pretty much against my will, he updated me on the relationship a subscriber had begun with his great dane. The Internet was an ideal place for a person with his unprejudiced curiosity.

None of his diversions kept Jos from studying for too long. He would throw himself into one of his extra-curricular projects, only to snap back to his books as if on a bungee. I think he sometimes dreamed or wished for an academic life absolutely undisturbed by life's interruptions, including emotional entanglements or other messy parts of life. He discovered he could reserve a carrel at the Honnold Library and did so. He liked the absence of distraction and the monasticism of one's own secluded corner among the books. For a time, the only place I could visit Jos was in the library in Carnegie Hall, the politics and economics building.

Jos took his health very seriously. He made comments that before his death I took for mild hypochondria, but now find chilling and strangely prescient. One such comment was uttered while a group of us had sat down to a fattier-than-usual breakfast at Frary. "Cholesterol," he declared, "give your heart the workout it really deserves!" He loved to eat, but I sometimes had the impression that it took extra self-control on his part to eat well and not indulge a taste for sweets, fats, and salts.

The air in Claremont bothered his sinuses, and he took to working out indoors because of it. I joined him during a binge of stair-master workouts, and for a time, he scaled Claremont McKenna College's climbing wall with Deb. During fall of 1995, he lived in a room in Clark V that had a crack in the floor that ran under his wall. He traced it to the toilet in the hall bathroom next door. He was certain raw sewage would seep out of it any day. He swore his room smelled of it.

Jos was a Spanish speaker, and exercised his abilities frequently in Pomona's dining halls. He had befriended some of the workers there and knew them all by name. It disturbed him a little that I was French major. One of his few prejudices was against the French, I think for their perceived superciliousness and their part of in the Holocaust (he was appalled that I'd taken up German while in France. He told me he found that language wholly creepy the same reason).

Because of his feelings for the French, I told him the phrase I think I heard most frequently there: "I'm not a racist, but I don't like (insert your despised group)." I taught him how to say "I'm not a racist, but I don't like the French," which he ended up using during his semester in D.C., much to the confusion of the person to whom he was talking (see the letter from D.C.).
to Gwen's index to The Sophomore


After graduation: On the road to find out

After graduation: On the road to find out

Gwen writes,

"Much of what happened post-college to Jos and I calls to mind a Cat Stevens song, "On the Road to Find Out". It's upbeat, and it's about leaving one set of experiences in search of another. Jos's thrill of discovery of the future came through in nearly every communication we had. "On the Road to Find Out" is long-winded for a chapter title, and I don't think Jos was a big folk music fan, but it does come to mind...."

Popster writes,

Two years before Jos died, he wrote "The Utility of Belief". It begins recounting disillusionments in his life; then it progresses to his new found job satisfaction. Finally, Jos writes of his love for Gwen.

to Gwen's index to The Sophomore to The Upperclassman


The utility of belief -or- If you don't believe it, Believe it anyway [Dated 8/9/97 by Jos and given to trusted college friends. Photo added by Popster.]

The utility of belief
If you don't believe it, Believe it anyway

This past year has not been one of my best. In fact, it had some downright miserable moments. Which is not to say that there weren't some wonderful times as well. I deepened some relations, broke others off, and even made some new ones. But overall, it was a period of disappointment and disillusionment. Looking back, I now see these as necessary emotions, as they have led me to a spot at which I arrived yesterday. It's a good place, and I had to work out a lot to get there, so since you are Jos's Official Sanity Watch, you get to trudge through his latest revelation.

Today's revelation concerns the utility of belief. This is the rod around which we will wrap the different threads of my new job, my conception of my future, my love for Gwen. It's all related, and in a strange way, it's all good.

Let's see if we can start with disillusionment.

[Click here to enlarge these details of his career path.] Up until I was 16, I thought I was going to be a doctor. More than that, I was sure that I was going to be a doctor. Until (and I remember the moment clearly) my AP Bio class started discussing (or rather, the professor started lecturing about) the partial diffusion of sodium chloride across the loop of Henle in the nephron, the operational unit of the kidney. It was at that point, at that exact moment in time, that I realized that I had absolutely no interest in kidneys, and didn't think that I would at any point in the forseeable future.

At around this same time, some seven years ago, I got in an argument with a friend, the significance of which I didn't fully appreciate until earlier this afternoon. Since I had decided that the medical profession wasn't for me, I was relishing Not Having a Plan. I scoffed at those who were already planning ahead to graduate school "What are the chances," I asked, "that what they think interest them at 16 will actually hold them when they are 24?"

"It doesn't matter responded Relly, "It's just important that you have a plan!"

And such was the crux of the debate. It's foolish to schedule your life around the things that probably won't occur, I figured. And not being able to figure out what I wanted to do, I went through life fastidiously avoiding any real long term plans. I decide to try it all out and see what I liked. And so, for the past seven years, I have tried out a lot of things. I have lived in a lot of places. There are a lot of jobs on my resume (around 17 of them). I have dated a lot of women (about the same number, actually.) And through each of these experiences, I have carried the conviction that, "this won't last". Of course it couldn't last. If it were to last, I would find myself in some sort of future which I had insisted really couldn't happen, because I hadn't yet planned what was to happen (if you're not aware of my rather strong desire to have things go the way that I want them to go, ask me about a previous revelation, sometime last year). So I found myself in a sort of temporary world.

Now, the problem with the temporary world is that it had only one thing going for it. Novelty. Novelty wears off pretty quick, and leaves one with only the desire to seek more novelty. This, I think explains a good part of my unhappiness with Washington D.C. I fell in love with the idea of DC, and the novelty of the whole thing captivated me, but once there, the novelty wore off pretty quick. It didn't meet my romanticized notions (which will be dealt with in a later revelation [never found -Popster]), and left me wanting to get out and do something, anything.

This started to crescendo this past Winter when I hatched the plan for The Center For Worldwide Shennanigans. The logic of this was that, since I would inevitably grow bored with any one locale, the trick would just be to keep moving as frequently as possible, perhaps every three or four months. The Center was essentially an institutionalization of the idea of temporary living. Since I had convinced myself that I could never have a satisfying job, relationship, or living situation, the only other choice would be to move so frequently that all of that would be a foregone conclusion.

And that is probably where I would be now were it not for the unwitting intervention of my sponsor of yore, Paul M a r i z, who now works for Microsoft in Redmond. A day or two before my graduation from college, I had a lengthy discussion with Paul about what he did. I won't lie to you, much of the conversation (at least on my end) focused on the obscene figure he was getting paid. I was not totally computer illiterate, knowing quite a bit about HTML. However, despite Paul's encouragement, I found it impossible to get a job. My interest had been ignited, however, and I spent the first two and a half months of summer working on computers, learning a little bit about perl, about java, and refining my HTML, learning some graphics arts programs, the whole bit. With the web, I discovered a medium that not only allowed me to limitlessly express myself and try out new ideas; but the scope of the technology meant that there was always something more to learn. It was almost impossible to get bored. For the first time in a long time, quite possibly since my junior year of high school, I had a concrete idea of what I wanted to do, not only in the immediate future, but in the long term.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convince anyone to hire me to do this. Until last week, when I got my first job in the business, temping in the Customer Service department at WebTV. Now, WebTV, even though it has just been acquired by Microsoft for 425 million dollars, still embodies much of the quirkiness of Silicon Valley. There is unlimited free Odwalla juice for the employees in a well stocked kitchen that includes cereal, frozen burritos, and an expresso machine. There are four pet birds in the building, a cockatiel, a cockatoo, an African Grey and something else. It's green. Everyone there is under 35. Most of them well under 30. The environment is very relaxed, the hours flexible, and the conversation is intelligent.

The job, however, was meaningless. On my first day, I was told just to kick back and familiarize myself with the WebTV box, a VCR shaped thing (a little smaller) that allows customers to surf the web from their TV. Okay, kinda cool, now I'm bored. So they decide to take me off the box early and start training me on how to become an emailer. This is a job where 1,700 people a day write in to WebTV with their problem, anything from "My internet is broken, fix it!" to "Why won't this porn site work?" to "How do I turn on my television?". You read the email, scroll through the list of stock responses, pick the one that best fits, then slap your name on it and send it out.

The people in the department have been doing this for months. An average emailer averages 8 questions an hour, a good one 11, and a superlative one about 13. It is not a very demanding job. They figure they'll start me answering questions by the end of the week. Jano, of course, once gave me (okay, there were a bunch of us) a great piece of job advice for breaking into work in DC. Your employer will always start you out on the copier, to see how you do. You have to tell yourself that you are going to become the best damn copier that the place ever saw.

I start answering questions Tuesday afternoon. I don't notice how many I do. I do a full day Wednesday. I average 10 an hour. On Thursday, I average just under fifteen. On Friday, my fifth day on the job, I only work six hours. I do 137 emails [23/hour], nearly doubling the best hourly output of the longterm employees. I figure that I will do this another month or two and then maybe move on to Austin, or maybe Memphis. I am still living with a temporary mindset. Then at four o'clock Friday afternoon, WebTV throws a party to celebrate its acquisition by Microsoft (and the pleasant stock options that brings). They give us beer. They give us champagne. They give us a lot of food. The CEO of the company, who looks like he's about 30, gives a talk where he demonstrates the next generation of equipment. I am floored. This stuff is going to revolutionize television and the web. And it's coming out in fewer than two months. Steve, the CEO of the company, holds up the prototype next generation machine. They are going to ship them out to the beta testers this weekend. When I return to the office, I run into several of the team leaders. My team leader, a nice girl with an uncanny resemblance to Chelsea Clinton, asks what they're going to do with me. Word of my speed in emails has gotten out. Mike, the team leader for the telephone support, asks me if I would like to work phones in customer service. I politely demur (That's a lie. I outright laughed at the very suggestion.) Kyle, (a girl with blue hair) asks if then I would like to do tech support for the new machine that's going to be coming out. I ponder my career, and my friends who have been doing emails for five months and respond yes, yes, I think that would be very nice. One week, and I had been promoted.

I have reflected on this quite a bit today (it all happened yesterday), and I see that for the first time in a long time, I am moving away from the temporary mindset. Here is a company with good people who treat their people well, who treat me well, who are putting me in a challenging, interesting job. Why put a time limit on it? It is leading me down the path I wish to go, so why not just ride it out?

Which is now where we get back to Gwen. I love Gwen. No bones about it, she is an amazing woman. Of course, things are not that easy. Gwen has a boyfriend. Contact, then, is a bit uncomfortable. After an absence of 8 months after her graduation, we split a ticket and she came down for the weekend in Stanford. A magical time. All on the up and up mind, you, but just a perfect weekend. But this is not my girlfriend, I remind myself. So she flies away again. I decide (remember, my stubbornness is all part of an earlier revelation) that I will not have any contact with her for six months. That will be September 23rd. In the meantime, I romanticize Gwen terribly, think about her constantly, even make a cute little sound when her name is mentioned.

Now, when I talk to Gwen in September, I'd say the chances are pretty darn good that she'll still be together with her boyfriend, and overall, the prospect of me ever having another chance is pretty slim. So I have to ask myself, is this healthy?

And after much consternation, I answer a hearty yes. My romance with Gwen has become a useful fiction, perhaps like my current job at WebTV. It's really irrelevant to my current happiness whether or not I am still involved with computers in ten years. What's relevant is that I convince myself that I will be, and what I'm doing now is leading me down the right path. The past is prologue, as it says outside the National Archives. For once in my life, I am not living a temporary life. This job, I believe (and it is a good thing to believe so) is the first step in a career. It really changes the way that I get up every Monday. I doubt that Jesus is Mankind's savior, but hey, as my mother says, whatever it takes to get you through the night.

Gwen, you see, gets me through the night. I can think about a future together, ruminate on it while riding my bicycle. It adds a diasporic value to my actions. I can see myself talking to our kids many years down the road, and telling them of those fateful years that their mother and I spent apart. It makes these years seem all the more dramatic.

But alas, you figure. I am setting myself up for heartbreak, for my romantic notion to be shattered, just as what happened to DC. Yes, perhaps, maybe even probably, but you know what? Doesn't matter. It gets me through the night. Maybe some day, I will wake up, and Gwen will be beside me. Or one day, I will wake up and will have forgotten her altogether. Or I will wake up to a phone call from Gwen, telling me that it is never meant to be. Who knows? Perhaps I will wake up twenty years in a coal mine in China, my years spent in front of computers nothing more than a useless memory. Who cares? In my mind, I have a definite future. If it doesn't come about, that's something that I can worry about later. Right now, I feel the most centered, calm, and focused that I have ever been in my life. And I have useful fictions to thank for it.


Gwen's index

Jos at Pomona College

Gwen M: I miss his perspective on the world. Even when I wasn't talking to him regularly, I could sense he was out there making the world more interesting for those around him. In my mind, Jos was a human symbol of life's possibilities, and I mourn the loss of him that way too.

I have many detailed memories of Jos. The detail is important to me because it's what I have of him, but I'm not sure it's as important to others.

  1. Jos the sophomore and "Full Flirtation Chaos".

  2. The upperclassman takes on the establishment but becomes himself a scholar.

  3. On the road to find out

to Life of Jos

to Memories of Jos

Heather K: Jos is in my thoughts daily - I miss him very much. He was the light in my day. It's just not the same here [at] without him. But he is still in my heart - and I can often hear some of the things he would say or do. My heart goes to both you and Diane and the rest of the family. Jos loved all of you so very much and it showed here at work.

Whether it be the way he used to come in in the mornings and say

"Are we going to have fun today?...We are going to have so much fun!"
- and you know what - it always was when he was around. He made me laugh and think every single day. His curiosity always made other people's curiosity bubble and his good cheer could brighten anyone's duldrums. I know that I feel lucky to have worked and known such a wonderful spirit - and I carry it with me always. We used to hold our meetings outside so we could get some fresh air. We would around this little pond behind 1250 Charleston and talk about all the issues of the day, and we'd usually be laughing at something along the way.

And ya know, there was another story I was just remembering the other day - when we were watching the video here at WebTV for the first time - someone said that they didn't recognize Jos the last day of filming - because he was wearing his pink shirt tucked in. I sorta giggled to myself - because several months previously - I think it was around his b-day when he turned 25 - I said "you're quite the man now - gotta be lookin' for the ladies" (of course I said this all jokingly). And then we started joking somehow about his outfit. I gave him a little lady advice - more in the 'fashion' arena. And to my shocking surprise - he took me seriously. He even went out to Mervyn's and bought some new pants. He even started tucking in his shirts. Needless to say, Rosie and I noticed a change. I don't know if he liked tucking those darn shirts - I think they went in and out about 10 times a day - sometimes tuck - sometimes no tuck. It changed with his mood I think. I have to say though, I think my favorite shirt was the one he bought for $1.25 that was purple, pink and green and all flowers. He used to match his t-shirt underneath too.

One morning Jos came in after one of his homemade haircuts that he loved to do. He had missed a few pieces, and I told him that he was starting to look like a hospital patient (kidding of course). We were about to have a meeting - and he asked me to cut his hair - or the pieces that were just grossly obvious during the meeting. I obliged, he threw his workout towel over his shoulders, sat at his desk and we began our meeting. He said it was the best meeting he ever had here at WebTV. Well, geez, I don't know about that - I can't cut hair to save my life! Luckily - I didn't cut off an ear.

[Heather and coworkers say more.]


Hilari H:   I met Jos about 2 years ago, 1997, on his first day at WebTV. Kieca and I hired Jos to help us do customer email.

I remember the first day really clearly because he was pretty extroverted, and I tend to be a little introverted, and I tend to be a little leery of those who are extroverted. Jos came in, he came bounding in to the office. He was very excited and very interested in everything.

The first thing he did is call me Hil-Bop and if you recall back in the summer of 1997 there was the Hale-Bopp comet. He referred to me as Hil-Bop from then on out as well as some other names.

I remember those days being really fun because he used to come over to me with really interesting questions. He used to come and pester me with questions all day long until we decided that it would be best to save all of his questions until later on in until the afternoon. He'd come grab me and make me answer all his questions. He was really great.

At one point Kieca and I overheard him explaining JavaScript to somebody, a new phone agent, and we decided that he wasn't long for the email world and thought that maybe we should put him into Previews. Once he went over there we didn't get to see him as much but we did get to see him a lot on his orange couch that he purchased with Camilo, all the time. It was the ugliest couch in the world. We also saw his Merriam Webster word of the day which he insisted upon writing on a white board so everytime you walked in, you had to see the word of the day. I thought that was pretty great.

He had this amazing insight into the world. He always took things and twirled them around and looked at them from a different perspective. I really appreciated that. Every time we were out together we just had a fabulous time with him.

There was one other occasion he just blew me away. One afternoon about a year ago he calls me up, and I was so excited to see him call me on the phone because he was always so exciting to talk to, even on the phone, so he says, "Hil-Bop, we have to go out tonight."

I'm like, "Alright, Jos, so what's the story?"

He says, "There's me and Joel and one other person, we need to go looking for chicks."

"Won't I be a little bit of a distraction if you are trying to find women?"

And he is like, "No, No, No. Here is how it works. You and Christian are going to go with us and make it look like we are really attractive and popular men and then we'll just scope out the chicks from there."

This logic completely defied me, but it was so Jos, so great so we ended grabbing a few more people and we went out that night and we had a great time. We went over to the Tide House here in Mountain View. I remember at one point during the night Kieca came over and said, "Well, I really want to go to a strip house."

Jos just took her very seriously on this and like for weeks after he'd be sending us URLs from strip clubs. He did a lot of research on strip clubs, which one we should go, when we should go. Unfortunately we never got a chance to do that because I think it would be a lot of fun. That was a very enjoyable night, I remember. I gave him a ride home and we say goodbye.

It was always a lot of fun to hang out with him after work. Probably most of what I remember about Jos is how he made me feel really good all the time, you know, like whenever I saw him ringing, you can tell when somebody's calling, the caller ID shows.

He'd say, "Hey Hilari, you wouldn't believe how many hits you are getting on my toessel site today."

I was one of the models. I was like, "Oh, give me a break Jos, what do you need?"

He always made me feel really, really good about myself and was really really fun to be with. Running into him in the hallway was always a joyous experience. It often just made my day at work. Whenever it was a little dark it was always great to stop by and see Jos.

I could tell you other occasions he always looked out for his friends. There was one point where I was looking to change jobs here at WebTV and he knew that and he looked out for me, any jobs that came his way, he tried to get me that position. He was just really, really wonderful at things like that.

I miss him a great deal. I think about him every day. He was such a joy. It was such a privilege to know him.

He brought so much joy to our lives here. I just wanted to let you know.

Hopi Prayer

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.


Janet Douglas: Your son died on my oldest son's birthday. It was definitely a reminder to me that we know not how long we have here. I must remember to call and treasure my children each day. As my parents age and I devote so much time to them, I often forget to touch base with my children as often as I should. Thank you for the wake up call! My thoughts are with you and may God help you through this unbelievable time.

Jet V.: I'm one of the engineers at WebTV that worked with Jos. I thought that I'd share a couple of my experiences, memorable experiences that I had with Jos, also some kind of funny third hand experiences.

One thing that came to mind, we were talking about mass email that is sent to the company. There is this one piece of email that Jos had sent to the entire company, talking about how, how bad the food is in our cafeteria here. That one piece of email just set off a complete huge, huge email bomb to the rest of the company where people were replying back and forth and peoples' email boxes were getting flooded with like, you know, 500 messages. Because of that, people are no longer allowed to send email to the entire company. Something I kind of realized, you know, that's something that Jos would do.

I was just thinking, when I found he was an economics major, he could have easily become an engineer. Easily. That's how bright he was. I guess at the time it wasn't his thing.

Working with Jos was a real pleasure. I'm not sure if you remember but I took over for his job in escalations when I first started working here at WebTV. He was just a real pleasure to work with, a really bright guy, really creative. Jos was a really, really integral part of the company. He is definately going to be missed, especially by me. A really, really good guy, to know, and to work with. That's it, before I start losing it.

More Jos memories of Joel Black

There was the time the gym became a "whole new world" to Jos:

Jos and Robert and I all worked out regularly at Gold's Gym. I arrived earlier than Robert and would do some cardio work 'til he got there--after which he and I usually lifted together. While we lift, we usually talk about work, we complain about lifting weights, and we (sorry to be so stereotypical) pay a lot of attention to the women who are working out.

Jos worked out earlier than Robert and I did on most days, but our paths would usually cross for a few minutes. Often, Jos and I would be discussing some idea we'd been working on lately, and a pretty girl would walk by, at which point I'd usually make a comment to Jos, suggesting he look over there, or something like that. Jos would, but he'd turn back and say, "Joel, the thing is that I'm not wearing my glasses, so I can just barely tell that it's you I'm talking to right in front of me. I can't see that far."

But one day, Jos approached me, wearing that happy look of his which showed he had something important to say. "Joel, I've got contacts on today---it's a whole new WORLD in here! Why didn't you tell me?! Look at her: brown hair with highlights...I think she loves me!" (that being a phrase that Robert, I, Jos et al. often used--again, sorry we're all so juvenile).

Anyway, after that, Jos generally wore corrective lenses of one type or another, and (paradoxically? pun intended?) his workouts were less focused. Ahem.

Did you know how good Jos was at video games? We had a long spell of lunches at which we had to eat quickly and then come back into the building so that Andy and Jos could have major battles at Robotron--they're both very good at this game, and they both make me laugh because they'll carry on incredible conversations while accomplishing new levels of robot massacre.

After awhile they got bored with the game--they opened the front panel and altered the settings so that the game played on the most difficult level, and awarded the player no additional characters, regardless of how high the score went. They played this "Man's Version" for a few days, and then drifted away from the game...having defeated everyone in the world, as far as I know. Except for Yun, who seems to have video game ROMs embedded in his brain.

Though Robert tends not to get into argumentative discussions much, one day he and Jos got into it over gun control. Robert was born in England, and lived there throughout enough of his childhood to have some British views: he believes that America is still a wild and wooly sort of place inhabited by cowboy types. He believes that gun control is an important step toward curbing violence in America.

Jos was a proud Libertarian--need I say more? He also enjoyed stirring things up. Among other things, he hurled back at Robert the fact that the conflict in Rwanda had resulted in an enormous number of lost lives--despite the 'benefit' of the combatants not having firearms.

The argument went on, and got a bit hotter than they usually do, so Jos and Robert stopped--and they agreed not to discuss the matter again.

Except that Jos ran right out and bought a copy of "More Guns, Less Crime," which he intended to read...and then present to Robert as a gift. Troublemaker. ;-)

to more Gym talk


Joel Black remembers Jos

Being around Jos, with his non-stop flow of ideas and projects and jokes and greetings and flirting, was a lot like watching a fireworks show. You'd be laughing at the jokes, at the ideas, at the audacity, at the exuberance itself.
His wasn't a show in a far-off field; it sparkled around him; he'd set it off in his many friends. The happy challenge of a new idea would start a game, and soon the give and take would feel like a whole basketful of puppies playing together; yapping and wrestling and wrecking everything in their path, just for the fun of it. And there Jos would be in the thick of things, stirring it all up, launching more rockets.

It all kept coming, like the explosions of the rockets in the grand finale on the Fourth of July, and just like that, no one wanted it to end. But who who've thought that it would?
We're going to have fireworks for years and years! Let's just hope we can all keep up!

The shock is that it was the finale. Jos is gone, and the sky is darker now.

But the afterimages! I can still see the fireworks -- I can still hear Jos's voice, saying some wacky thing I'm going to have to argue about and then laugh with him about. He was a great friend, and the memories of him are a treasure. I'll miss him, but he'll always be around.

At the funeral, I wondered, how many people can cry? How many hearts can break? How many can wish it wasn't true?
All of them ... and it's not enough.
But when Jos was here, how many people laughed? How many friends did he have? How many people loved him?
All of them ... and the next day there'd be more.
In my sorrow, I think about how poor we are now that Jos is gone. But I also think about how incredibly rich we are for having known him -- what if I had never known Jos?
Lots of people didn't.
I wouldn't be crying right now if I was one of them;
I wouldn't even know about the empty place where Jos would have fit.
Thank God I'm not that poor!
For me that place hurts right now, but it's so filled with the Jos that I did know --- the pain I feel now is nothing to the adventures we've had.

return to the Life of Jos


Karen W: A few weeks ago, around Halloween, I thought a lot about Jos because I went to the DC "Drag Races," (also called the High Heel Races), in which Jos had made his debut as the rather... "sexy" (?!) woman. Those pictures of Jos still stick in my mind... what a comic! I was glad to attend the race this year because I hadn't been able to go last year, and it's a big DC "tradition". Basically, they block off a massive street, and down the middle parade all the "queens", in all sorts of fantastically outlandish outfits, and show off their costumes. It's quite a scene - Jos had a lot of guts to go join it, especially as a straight man!

Jos wasn't held back by what people would "expect" him to do... that probably provided all the extra impetus to do exactly the opposite! Anyway, the street was *packed* with onlookers, all cheering the best-dressed - I'm sure Jos would have had quite a fan-club with his outfit! Eventually, everyone huddled at one end of the street, standing behind a "starting banner" for awhile for photos, and then the gun went off and large "women" went pushing and staggering down the street in heels. It was quite entertaining, and the whole time I was imagining how much fun Jos must have been having in the event!

Visit the amazing Life of Jos Claerbout


Larry remembers Jos
In high school Jeremy (Jos) introduced us to his friend Abdullah Akhmed. They were very good friends and were often here together at our house. One day Abdullah acquired a new name, "Carlos Andres Perez". It then came out that his friend's real name was actually Larry Flechner. Larry didn't remember this story very well so it seems that Larry was named Abdullah only while he was visiting our house. --Popster

Larry Flechner (G-CAP): Jeremy and I were high school pals. (That was before he became Jos.) He and I often jogged together in the middle of the night. This was the first activity we did together as friends. Track-and-field was a springtime sport such that our off-season nighttime training took place during the fall and winter months. Temperatures would drop to what felt like near freezing. Not surprisingly, night jogging was entirely his idea. Was he concerned with over heating, or steering clear of traffic, or did the cold air help to dull the pain of running? Would night jogging help increase our distance and improve our times? Frankly, I don't recall his rationale. Yet night jogs fit perfectly with his character. The practice was adventurous, unconventional, and therefore entirely worthwhile -- vive la différence.

The night Jeremy received his driver's license, we took out the Tercel to discover the world of cruising. In Palo Alto, this meant driving up and down University Avenue or venturing off to the other side of town, to Tower Records and Bay City Café. We chose the route to Tower as our first driving expedition. The departure from home and arrival at the parking lot were nearly flawless. Yet on our return home, Jeremy managed to make a left turn directly into the rightward flowing oncoming traffic on San Antonio Road. Thankfully, he was quick to act and avoid disaster on that kick-off eve of his driving career.

He loved the Comedy Channel program "Mystery Science Theater 3000." For those who weren't fans and have never heard of the show, it is a bizarre futuristic tale of a flight crew that is lost in space and passes time by watching history's worst cinematic productions and commenting on them. It was his brand of humor: absurd, yet clever and spontaneous. As the customary snack, Jeremy would make nachos smothered in chedder cheese and salsa.

Jeremy loved music. Not surprisingly, his musical predilections were more eclectic than anyone I've known since. Certainly, much of his musical insight stemmed from his older brother, Andrew. His early favorites were your typical classic bands: The Beatles and Led Zeppelin (we both listened quite often to the latter). His taste then evolved to some less mainstream bands such as Trout Mask Replica ("fast and bulbous" was a favorite phrase that he borrowed from one of their songs), the ska band Skankin' Pickle and the all-girl band L7. He even listened to a totally random Russian punk group whose lyrics were far beyond our comprehension. I'll never forget the cover photo of that album in which the musicians were likened to a Slavic Duran Duran.

Jeremy developed a teenaged crush on one of L7 band members (perhaps it was the bass player, which is not surprising given Jeremy's full appreciation of that instrument). He went so far as to write her a few letters. I think she responded once thanking her adoring fan but, to Jeremy's dismay, I think the correspondence ended there.

As I mentioned above, Jeremy was a huge Led Zeppelin fan. For a drama class assignment, he recited from memory the Zep song "Gallow's pole." Rehearsing in front of me, I thought he performed quite well. It's a great song and I always hear Jeremy reciting the words when its played on the radio.

Jeremy loved the chaos and hysteria of mosh pits. He nearly worshipped his steel-toed Doc Marten boots that saved his big toes from being trampled on many moshing occasions. He even persuaded me to buy a pair of "rugged shit-kickers" as he called them. We would emerge from the crowds with limbs bruised and faces nearly bloodied, but our feet were fine, save a blister or two. Mind you, these events did not take place at the most popular music venues for Gunn and Paly high school students. When I was with Jeremy, it was sure to be an adventure.

He was an avid cyclist. But his passion went beyond riding. It extended to maintenance and upkeep of bicycles. We spent countless hours in his garage fine-tuning, wheel-truing, and generally overhauling our bicycles before and after we went riding along the Arastradero Reserve, Skyline, and other paths. In fact, Jeremy essentially converted his garage to a bike-shop at one point. He invested in much of the necessary equipment and went about fixing the bikes of friends and neighbors. I wasn't surprised to hear that he worked part-time at a bike shop while in Alaska.

Jeremy had a talent for creating hilariously peculiar names. We had a lot of fun with this in our high school Spanish class. With reference to the former South American Secretary General of the UN, Jeremy called me Garionsarillo Carlos Andres Perez de Cuellar, or G-CAP for short. I vaguely remember that his name was Peculdo. My recollection of his name is vague because he would change it so frequently. These names were utterly ridiculous and earned us many bizarre looks from the Senora Straussner and students, but we used them nonetheless.

For a Spanish project, Jeremy and I worked together on a short film that created a Spanish language version of the popular Geraldo talk show. Our headline was "Geraldito: el hijo de Geraldo." While I played the main character, Jeremy was the obvious mastermind behind the production (as well as being the owner of the video camera). We labored to translate Jeremy's sophisticated humor into Spanish, and the results were semi-coherent at best. Yet somehow, the humor was easily grasped. To our surprise, the film was praised by the class and kept for future years to view as a prime for the assignment (and of comic relief). Indeed, it was best work together.

After a summer of Spanish language immersion in Mexico, Jeremy took it upon himself to shake up the less than adequate Spanish curriculum of our high school. Using his power of the pen, he wrote a scathing condemnation of the Spanish Language Department in the Gunn High School newspaper. Armed with a new mastery of Spanish acquired in just one summer, Jeremy asserted that students were allowed to coast through years of language courses with barely any comprehension. Certainly, his strong views stemmed from his passion for learning about the Latin world. It hurt him to see learning opportunities squandered.

Upon returning from a family trip to Venezuela, Jeremy brought with him as souvenirs a set of wooden-stick statues of Simon Bolivar. These purchases were "classic Jeremy" because the figures looked odd and hilarious yet were supposed to depict South America's greatest hero and liberator. Jeremy had an eye for such things.

He enjoyed the Utne reader.

His unconditional good will has forever impacted my life.

Lauren (Half) Warren: I went to Gunn high school with Jos (then Jeremy, of course) and went to Beth Am as well. He was amazingly creative, talented, warm, innovative... His hugs were the best. He always hugged you with his whole body. I am 4'11" and would get completely enveloped.

I can't quite remember why, but for some reason I called him "Q" and he called me "P". You had to yell it across the quad, though--



Layne remembers Jos

Back: Meredith (Merry) D '96, Jano, Chris Green '96, and Jos.

Front: Marian R '96, Layne M (me), and Sakari M '96

Layne M: The last time I saw Jos was October, 1998, just after Jos and Paul had stormed the Castro as Buffy and Angel. The two of them came up to San Francisco, and I played tour guide as we checked out some of the murals in the Mission District. I was still working at the San Francisco Food Bank at the time. Jos couldn't stop extolling the virtues of WebTV, and he exitedly informed me that I could purchase a WebTV receiver for something like $200. When I explained that my disposable income was next to nothing because of my Food Bank salary, Jos turned to Paul and said,

"You know, if I ever dated Layne I would feel obligated to start doing community service. But we could never date her because she's our sister -- our hot sister, nonetheless."

Ah, Jos.

We headed to Modern Times bookshop on Valencia Street and perused the offerings there. After a few minutes, Jos bought a copy of Voltaire's Candide and handed it to me, "As someone who wants to change the world for the better, I feel it's your duty to read this book." I shyly thanked him and remembered all the times Jos lent me books in college with the same sense of purpose and urgency. The generosity of his spirit was totally humbling.

After we left the bookstore, I dragged the boys to my favorite Thai restaurant. By the time we arrived, Jos had convinced me to form a partnership with him around inventing a water purifying machine for low-income people in "Third World" countries.

As we savored pumpkin curry and spring rolls and vegetables in Thai basil, Jos explained to Paul and I that he loved his job, he loved his home, and he had no intention of doing any serious wandering in the near future. I was flabbergasted. Jos was content? Was this the same Jos that left Pomona College for Ecuador and Alaska? The Jos I had always equated with wanderlust and restlessness? I was filled with wonder and a bit of envy as I marveled at the full, rich life Jos had created for himself. He had arrived in every sense.

As I think back on this last time I saw Jos, I am awestruck. In just a few hours, he had taught me so much -- purely through his example -- and forced me to reflect on my life and choices. I will always treasure the times I spent with him. I will never forget the amazing combination of boldness and compassion for which Jos was famous. As I move through the world with his example in my heart, I will remember his kindness and his propensity for fabulousness...And I will do my best to honor him and make him proud.

Here they are again. The pictures were taken at my home in Washington, DC during a housewarming party. Jos and Jano came for a short time and Jos entertained us with tales of working with the religious right. [Click on photo to enlarge.]


B=e=n Lichtman: One of the things I really enjoyed about Jos was the way he engaged people and brought them into his world. I remember Jos literally pulling me in to his room to experience the latest in British techno music. Similarly, I remember him inviting me to a viewing of "Fear of a Black Hat" that he had organized in a college social room. In both of these invitations, Jos had a passion, and he was determined to spread the word.

On any given weekend morning of 1993, Jos would lounge on a couch in the lobby of the Mudd-Blaisdell dorm, buried in a pile of newspapers that he was devouring . His purpose, I am convinced, was twofold: to quickly absorb everything that was going on in the world, and to lie in wait for the unsuspecting passerby, whom he would engage in conversation.

"Mr. L i c h t m a n!" he would call from across the room, as if he had been expecting me. When delivering a salutation like this, Jos always furrowed his eyebrows as if he were studying you intently, but in the corner of his mouth you could see he was smiling. When this happened, you knew you were about to be treated to a Jos encounter. The best part of these encounters was that it was nearly impossible to predict what course they would take. Your chances for back-massage solicitations or South American political debate were totally equal.

"Mr, L i c h t m a n, tell me a story!" Jos would often say. I loved prompts like these, and yet I never felt worthy of them. Why had he singled me out? How could I tell Jos anything that would be interesting to him? Maybe this is why some of my favorite moments with Jos would occur when he would laugh. For me, getting Jos to laugh was an effort, and a real prize. He was always so in control of his expert deadpan that this was rare.

I once had the rare pleasure of teaming up with Jos for a creative project. For my final composition in Electronic Music, I had decided to create a musical parody in the form of a soundtrack to an adult movie. It was even worse than it sounds. One late evening, Jos wandered into the music lab where I was working.

"L i c h t m a n, what are you doing here?" he asked. When I explained the details of my project, Jos made a visible effort to hold back laughter, and insisted that he must have a part in this. I could not have been more honored. I now have a tape featuring Jos Claerbout's gargantuan sigh at the, er, climax of the song. It really was quite a voiceover.

Although so many memories of Jos involve his humor, my strongest memory of him focuses on something serious he said to me in school. In his senior year at Pomona, I asked Jos why he was devoting so much time to his coursework. His reply was simple and to the point: "When else in your life are you going to have the opportunity to spend four years doing nothing but studying?" He was right, of course. Jos really wanted to live life to the fullest, to experience the present and appreciate it.

In so many ways, Jos was a role model for me. I loved his clever humor, his ability to flout social conventions, and the feeling he inspired in people that life was a great adventure. For me, Jos embodied the spirit of Pomona College as I hoped it would be, and as I like to remember it. I know that he was not always at home at Pomona. He was, nevertheless, the type of person I hoped I would meet there. He is an inspiration, and I will always treasure his memory.

Lisa Lee: Jos had stopped by my cube a few months after he had moved across the street to work in the docs department. It was sometime in December of 1998. He was admiring my Calvin and Hobbes painting in my cube, and we made a deal that I'd paint him a painting if he knitted me a toessel. I told him he needed to give me a theme for the painting. He thought about it for about a second. Then he wrote 'knitting can be complex and dangerous' on my whiteboard.

I looked at that phrase and then looked at him, and said... what's that supposed to mean? He cocked his head and looked at me and said 'knitting can be complex and dangerous'... Realizing I wasn't getting very far with him, I said... it can be anything that matches that theme, right? And he said sure... surprise me (or something to that effect).

As I was thinking about what to paint, I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to create an image of how exciting the world must seem to Jos, especially while he was knitting. At the time he was using a combination of blue and green yarn for the toessel he was working on, so these were the colors I decided to use in the painting.

After trying a few sketches, I finally sat down and decided to use the frames of Jos's glasses as the frames to show the 'danger' of knitting. I wanted to show how 'most of us' see the world (outside of the glasses) compared to how Jos might see the world. A blue rug to me and you would be a roaring river to Jos (or a roaring river on a toessel). The arm of a chair would be the edge of a jungle covered with thick grass, and crawling with snakes.

As I was painting, I thought that if the yarn became (or remained) snakes, then the dangerous theme might be little more visible, and knitting would indeed be complex. I made each brush stroke fairly broad and thick, so that the image would appear as if it was knitted.

I stood back and took a look at the first draft of the painting. I noticed the circles of yarn on the arm chair also doubled as a sort of abstract, self-reflection of Jos's face. Sort of how you can see your own eye on your side of an eye glass lenses when you're wearing it.

I thought the circular motion of the yarn was similar to how Jos's personality was so enthralling and attractive. Then I put a barely noticeable, but distinct image of a television with the WebTV Home Page in the top-middle of the picture. At the time, I thought WebTV was close to the center of Jos's life.

I brought the painting into work a few days later. I brought Jos over to my cube and had him take a look at the painting. He sort of stared at it, taking it in, and I started to explain it a little. But almost immediately he said 'I love it, is this for me? You mean I can have this?' I said sure, it's all yours, but you have to frame it. Then he proceeded to show it off to his friends down the hall.

Jos was the main reason I started my web site at

Silly putty. The main memory that keeps popping into my head whenever I think of Jos has to do with silly putty. A couple of guys at WebTV bought a bunch of silly putty from DuPont. It's sort of a stress-relief toy. They bought 100 pounds of the stuff and distributed it a couple years ago. As more and more WebTV boxes were made, we eventually put the silly putty over the infrared light on the WebTV box to block the infrared signals from the remotes or keyboards. This lets us use more than one WebTV box at a time.

Someone gave Jos a glob of silly putty. Since he sat next to me, I used to hear him playing with the silly putty as he talked to people... all day long. I could hear it pop as he squished and pulled it apart in his hands. One day I was standing by his cube and noticed the silly putty was kind of gray instead of its normal pink color. As he was talking and stretching the silly putty, it seemed a little goopier than usual. I think Paul was standing nearby and I asked him... why was Jos's silly putty so gray and goopy? Paul said... oh, its probably because he rolls it on his face all the time.

Although I never saw Jos put the silly putty on his face, I can imagine what it looked like when he did. I eventually told Beth this story wondering if she would be as grossed out as I was. A few days later, Beth took the gray silly putty out of his cube and told him she would only give him a new lump if he promised not to put it on his face. I have no idea what Jos did with silly putty after that... But sometimes when I think of him, I think of him rolling that silly putty on his face...

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Andrew Long: I first met Jos when he started working at night in the office next to mine at Stanford, that of Matt Schwab. This was apparently the period where he lay the foundation for his new career at WebTV. Matt was helping Jos learn Java, but it must be said that they spent a good deal of time discussing "Life, the Universe and Everything" as well. Both were well read and literate, and both enjoyed proving it.

My initial "bond" with Jos came when we discovered each other's delight in reciting "Simpson's" trivia. It is amusing to read Jos's essays declaring that the world would be a better place without TV -- he nevertheless clearly had watched a lot of it during his life, as have I. As my wife says, "When we first met him you knew you had a friend for life, unlike some people who you may know for many years but will never share any kind of intimacy or friendship". Jos was different, and spoke to strangers (us) like old friends. He was not brash or outspoken though, and had an inherent shyness that was quite delightful.

Our second "bond" was his delight at fixing my wheelchair. He was very proud to tell us that he had previously worked as a bicycle mechanic. He was indignant at my apparent dismissal of the fact that some spokes were loose -- to him this was unacceptable.

Over several weeks I would stop by his office late in the evening, and trade jokes with him. He always seemed delighted to talk, regardless of what it was about. He "confessed" that he had come from a "failed" political career at university (I hope I am recalling this correctly, and am not misrepresenting what he said), wherein he had discovered that such a life was not for him. He seemed a little melancholy about this period in his life, and was apparently re-focussing on a new career. Not long before I left Stanford he had obtained his job at WebTV, and was evidently very happy there.

We had returned to Palo Alto to attend a big function in the name of Jos's father, and which involved 25 years of past students and professional colleagues having a big dinner one night. Jos's mother Diane wanted Jos to attend, but claimed that Jos was not particularly inclined to attend an academic affair of that nature. He was apparently convinced to come when told that my wife and I would sit with him at the dinner. This was so touching, for although we got along extremely well, and had maintained a sporadic e-mail contact, most people would be less gracious and maintain their decision to skip the dinner. It was almost embarassing too, because that dinner was a big event for the whole Claerbout family, and we wanted Jos there for that reason alone. Needless to say we had a great time, and Jos entertained us in his inimitable manner. Jos simply had a natural way of making people feel special and comfortable.

I recall the outstanding speech that night came from Diane, who recalled several humorous stories from years gone by. Jos listened with great interest, and roared with laughter at each of her stories, seeking her out afterwards to tell her much he enjoyed her anecdotes and wit. Jos clearly had a great relationship with his parents. Not long after first meeting Jos, his father had said to me with a beaming smile on his face "I believe that you have met my son Jos". It was a justifiably proud smile, because we had been initiated into the company of Jos Claerbout, and as all who knew him can attest, that was a very happy and special club.

I saw the photo of Jos and his dad both wearing what appear to be SEP t-shirts. He gave me that t-shirt once, after I remarked that I would like one, but they were no longer available. He refused my objections - I had to have it, he said (literally gave me the shirt off his back).

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Aunt Lorna:

Tea Time With Jos: When I was living in England, Jack and Diane and their three sons came to Cambridge in 1979 for a Sabbatical. I remember the date well because I was then pregnant with my first son Ross. I remember knitting constantly and wondering what it would be like to have a son too. I observed Diane and her interactions with her sons very carefully, since she seemed to me an expert on the subject. I think Jos was about 5 years old at the time with brown sparkling eyes and a big engaging smile. I remember that Jos loved to talk even then. One thing that highly impressed me was that Diane and Jos would go out to tea together. Now this isn't any old tea were talking about here, but high tea in England where everyone has to be on their best behavior and hold their cups just right! It was and still is delightful to think of the two of them having tea and chatting away together. Diane and Jos always had a very special relationship.

Support in dark days: My dear nephew Jos, 20, took me on an adventure that helped me and my mom survive one of the darkest days of my life, the day my father was buried. The rest of his family was out of the country and Jos came to represent them at the funeral of his grandfather, John Claerbout.

It was a bitterly cold March day in Wisconsin four years ago when Jos arrived at Pine Haven, the nursing home where my mother (his grandmother) lives. He entered with a flourish wearing a scarf but no coat and put his big arms around us -- my mom, my two young sons and me -- and began to warm us all.

When breakfast was delivered on trays to my mom's room, Jos set up the card table (where my father once did his business correspondence, his so-called "play work") and began to lovingly arrange the food on the table, as though it were an elegant banquet. He sat us all around the table and began telling stories of fighting Dutch Elm disease and fishing in Alaska and the delicious Pine Haven food. Jos got my mom and me to smile and eat and to somehow survive that terrible day.

Yes, I too feel blessed to have known such an extraordinary young man, who even in this bleakest of times could bring laughter and joy.

Uncle Cahir: I believe I met him five times. I remember him as an individual full of a love of life. I also remember him as having a wonderful relationship with language. I believe, and believe strongly, that a part of us lives on after death and that the spirit of Johannes will be very much with us in our thoughts and memories in the days ahead.

second cousin Beverly: What a delightful young man Jos was!
I have this memory, having met him only once, for just such a short time at the cottage this summer -- When he found out I was a relative he said, "Then we'll have to have a hug."

David Lumley: The most time I spent with Jos was when he was still Jeremy, a Junior in high school. I was housesitting for 2 weeks with him while his parents were traveling. Normally I anticipate what others are thinking or saying way in advance, but with Jos it was shocking and humbling how quick he was, having a conversation with him was a high-speed challenge just to keep up with and absorb what he was thinking. The word "breathless" comes to mind. It was a fun and exhilarating challenge to talk with him.

We went grocery shopping, and he was like a kid in a candy shop. He insisted we go to "Whole Foods" since I hadn't been there yet. He liked that they had organic food and were environmentally friendly. He wanted to buy things like "dutch crunch" bread (I think it was called), which he expounded was the best bread around, and that we must buy some and make sandwiches for dinner with it as soon as we got home. He would say things in the store like "Have you ever tried...", and if I said No, he'd say "Well then let me introduce you to..." and we'd buy some. He was having a field day. I've never seen anyone so enthusiastic about something as mundane as grocery shopping. He saw all the fascinating color and detail in everyday things that we normally take for granted.

We got home and unpacked the groceries. I remember he was disappointed when he found I had selected single-ply toilet paper instead of his usual two-ply, and then suggested Canadians must be really tough! What could I say? It was hilarious.

He was into a lot of the same music as me, except he knew some newer bands that were pretty edgy. I had my guitar over and played him some of the wild stuff, which would then prompt him to bring out another new band to show me how wild they were. And so I would try to up that. And so on. It was a fun evening.

One time he told me that his father drove him to school every morning, and he was somewhat sheepish about it. So I teased him a bit. Then he explained that since his father worked such long hours all the time, it was one of the few moments they had together every day and that he really valued that time to talk with his father on the way to school. I thought that was really neat, and I have often thought about that with regard to my own daughters now, the balance of work and family and how important it is to children to spend some time regularly with their fathers.

He carefully budgeted the grocery money to make sure we had enough to go to a Thai restaurant one night. He knew the proprietress by name as if an old family friend, and said his family had all been there many times together. In this respect he was like a teenage version of a grandfather, going around saying Hi to everyone, knowing them all by name and on very familiar terms. A very different attitude.

Much later, I remember he had some crazy job and he was trying to find a buyer for a large ship. He was telling me about all his phone calls all over the world to find a buyer. He was 16 years old. He'd called many third world countries and managed to speak to some very high-up brass in the local military and government. but they invariably wanted something else thrown in to the deal, so he'd have to call other countries to look for that. The deal was getting to be increasingly complex chain, but he seemed to love the thrill of the chase to put it all together.

The last I saw of him must have been the January before he passed away. He was demo'ing webtv for me and was totally excited about it. He remembered my wife and daughters and asked about each of them, not in a conversational way, but as if he really cared and wanted to know how they were doing. I was surprised he even remembered them since it had been many years and even then he hadn't seen them very often. Pretty special.

Maybe I shouldn't say this last part, but it's part of my experience with him. He really was the perfect example of a shooting star to me. I felt this immediately and intensely when I met him. He had so much energy and life and creativity and curiosity and intelligence. He was maxed out about everything all the time. I worried about him a bit, but I didn't imagine he would be gone so soon. He seemed to live his life almost as if he was in constant freefall. It was hard to expect something that burned so bright could last a full normal lifetime. I think in a strange way he knew that, and perhaps that is why he did so much, and was so curious and energetic, and friendly with people, all in such a short time frame.

Last time all together

Last time all together


Brother Martin (and Yasuko) memories of Jos

Brother Martin (and Yasuko) memories of Jos

after wedding



Matt Riggs: My memories of Jos go back as far as I can remember, to the earliest years of elementary school...Never have I met such a positive, resilient personality, someone who could truly light up a room with his presence. I suppose I remember him in three stages; the early years, the high school years (when he became the ultimate girl-magnet that he was!) and then the adult Jos, a man I did not know until the wedding of Andrew and Amy.

In many ways I recall Jos as the classic little brother to Andrew; always curious as to what antics we were up to, smiling and happy to chat & get involved. I suppose one way that he was anything but the classic little brother is if he picked up on anything suspicious (i.e. strange sounds from the attic) we could rest assured that the knowledge would stay with him while we may have played the keep-away-of-info game, he was always trusted by all of us in that way. Maybe that just means a lot to me (it certainly did then) because in my situation I had to use more caution around my own sibling than I did my own parents -- I always respected Jos for being cool like that.

I remember when Jos bought an old electric guitar & amplifier from me, a little amp and a decent instrument. Little did I know that he would take to that guitar like Andrew used to take to keyboards -- a learning curve that could climb El Capitan with ease. I remember climbing the stairs to Andrew's room one day not long thereafter and stopping to think "wait, is that really Jos?" Low and behold that boy was sounding good on guitar; but then he excelled at everything else he did, playing music was no exception. I remember feeling bummed out that he decided to put the guitar down in favor of other things (such as real jobs/professions, things that can actually bring one success!) but he surely found his place.

I'll never forget when I first saw Jos @ Andrew & Amy's wedding. My that boy grew fast! It seemed to me like he had grown like a beanstalk overnight, but then time had passed. What I loved most was despite the fact that he was now taller, tougher & more handsome than I, the young Jos that I always knew was still there 100%. He still put me at ease in the same way, and drew me in to his fun, youthful way of looking at the world -- and more than anything how to appreciate not just every minute of the day, but everyone that one encounters in it that day... and most importantly how to spread that smile back on their face! And I'll always remember how proud he was of Andrew and Amy, and how overjoyed their love made him.

More Memories of Jos Claerbout (by Matthias Schwab)

Jos was insight, optimism, humor ... on a schedule.

Computers. Jos and I both found ourselves in deep shit when we met: He had just graduated from Pomona in economics, a field he disliked. I was struggling at a thesis in geophysics. With crude oil selling at about $12/barrel, this field was not welcoming mediocre new researchers. Jos had left Pomona. His friends had left for the four corners of the world. My family lived in Germany, my wife in Houston, and most of my Stanford friends had graduated and left as well. Both, Jos and I, got to know each other when we both moved into his parent's house: Jos's father was my advisor at Stanford University. His parents, Diane and Jon had left for the summer.

Jos considered an internet job. Jos maintained the "Culture war" Web site and I maintained the Web site at our research group. He knew HTML quite well and wanted to learn Perl, Java, or Javascript. Soon we sat together regularly and I told him the little I knew about Perl and Java (I also spent considerable time preaching against Javascript, but with little success: Jos learned Javascript as well and really excelled at it). After a day or two of explanations, I returned to my thesis and simply answered questions that turned up. Sometimes I would suggest an exercise or an improved solution. It was great fun to "teach" Jos. He learnt quickly and was pragmatic. But he did not enjoy any form of math. But he loved the spoken and written word: after a few days, he started writing his own introduction to object-oriented programming. It became very obvious that Jos loved programming and considered the internet his oyster.

Jos was a fast and independent learner. Jos's first major object oriented program was a zoo: the class hierarchy somewhat resembling the animal kingdom. A few days later, Jos wrote his own introduction to object-oriented programming. Jos immediately understood the object-oriented concept. He had considerably more difficulties with mathematical details, such as keeping counters for objects. But he sat down and figured it out.

It was remarkable how Jos worked. He would come into my office at a certain time. He would briefly chat, then sit down, unpack his book, and start programming. When getting stuck with a problem, he would ask me for advice. I would walk over from time to time and comment on his programming. Otherwise, he studied entirely independently. After two hours, he took a break for quarter of an hour, returned to his desk and continued. After another two hours, he would stop to chat for a few minutes and then leave. "It is time to go sit in the sun and feed the squirrels!" Or "It is time to go biking and move these old legs!" and off he went. A man with a schedule!

Later, his parents would commend me for having helped Jos: I could never convince them of how little I had actually done.

Movies. But the programming was just the beginning. On Friday evenings we would rent two movies (I would choose a mute Eisenstein movie, Jos would choose a Jackie Chan movie ("Jackiiiiiieeeeeee Chaaaaaaaaaaaan" as Jos would call out at the top of his lungs). But Jos would insist that we exercise and stretch while watching: I have knee problems and his back always hurt.

He tried to introduce me to Buffie, the Vampire Slayer: But that was more Americana than my feeble European stomach could handle.

Discussions. Jos was a wonderful person to converse with: When we agreed we would quickly move on to remind each other of fun details the other had forgotten or we would move on to plan some action that followed from our agreement. When we disagreed we would mock each others opinions and seek surprise angles that would lead to absurd consequences. It was a joy to discuss almost anything under the sun with Jos:

Jos and I shared a similar view about our fellow man. Our view was based on a traditional liberal faith in the competence of the individual and limited by our understanding of evolutionary psychology and the power of the environment. Our favorite topic was evolutionary psychology. Independently, we had both read a few things by Richard Dawkins, Robert Wright, Jarred Diamond, and Edward Wilson. We talked about women and men and their asymmetric relations.

Stanley Milgrim's experiments to obedience and authority. and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment convinced us of the malleability of the human individual and the power of our environment.

When agreeing on such issues we rapidly would move to suggesting social and governmental changes that would follow from our view. Concretely we talked about an "urban village" or how to run a company based on the insight that human psychology is a product of human evolution.

I would propose regulated shopping hours to protect family life. He volunteered to work a week at the Safeway check out counter. He would argue that US gun laws would have prevented the holocaust. I claimed that cars are the true liberators of women and that guns are merely a bad "penis ersatz".

Another thing was planning an urban "village": a community where the anonymity of modern cities is replaced by the "natural frequent interaction between village inhabitants. We believed the urban village would reduce suicide, crime, and drug usage. We moved on to dream up our own software business along the same lines.

We frequently talked about the holocaust. As a young German Catholic and an even younger American Jew, we pretty much agreed upon the judgment of the events. I emphasized the loss to the German and European people by cutting out the Jewish part of its own cultural and intellectual body.

And if any discussion would become a bit too hot headed, Jos would be the first to suggest "Let's not walk down this path: there is no happiness along that path!".

Another classic point of discussion were his fondness of daily schedules and my concept of defined topical interfaces. Jos was a person who organized his life by his watch. He knew "how long things take" and he controlled himself by how much time he scheduled for a thing. He would get up int He taught me about his scheduling and routines ... something I try to apply to my life every day, but never as successful as he did.

I taught him about "interfacing": the need to decide what 2 people have to exchange on information and emotions and what information and emotions are better not communicated.

The one thing we never discussed (by gentlemen's agreement, I guess) was my thesis difficulties. Nevertheless, did Jos almost make me drop out ... I cannot remember when and why, but Jos suggested that I read "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. I enjoyed the book greatly. For days we called each other "Howard" or "Howard Roark", the hero of the book who drops out of architecture school because he was not willing to compromise his vision. Dropping out was appealing to me at the time, but I guess, I could have hardly argued that it was because of a compromised vision.

Books. Next we discovered our love of books. Jos loved books and so do I. Ask Jos for the reference for his series of books doing comparisons. He suggested Ayn Rand "The Fountainhead" to me (and we called each other "Howard" or "Roark" whenever we had to muster civil courage) and I suggested Eckstein to him. We both believed in liberalism not because of the perfection of the individual human being, but because of the limitations of the ones who govern. We did not see representative democracy as a wonderful, god-given self-rule by the people, but as a the best pragmatic, compromise. We believed in tiny government, but socialized medicine.

I suggested to him some humorous stuff, which I thought would fit his own writing style: Tom Sharpe (especially his books about South Africa) and the politically questionable but very hilarious P.J. O'Rourke.

We talked much about the "Third Chimpanzee" (Jarred Diamond) and "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright: both books we had read independently. And there were other books .. I have to check: I kept a list of books Jos suggested and books I had read.

We both loved books that described the same event but came to different conclusions. When we parted I gave him the book "Ordinary man" that discusses the same German police squad that "Hitler's willing executioners" discusses. Both books use the same court materials to argue their case: what made these police man to executioners of Polish Jews? I had looked forward to Jos's take on the issue ... but we never had a chance to discuss it. I left for Germany and he stayed behind.

We could never agree on the importance of "Crime and Punishment" and the "Bathroom Reader": works of literature that I thought Jos overestimated.

Love of his family. Jos was a family man. He loved everyone in his family. He loved talking about Andrew's wit. His wedding and the wealth of friends Andrew and his wife enjoyed. He talked about Martin and his experiences in Japan. But most of all he talked about his parents: Jon and Diane. Jon and Diane are wonderful people: both in their own characteristic way. Jon is a creative individualist with a professional engineering streak. Diane is a warm, caring mother with an interest in the humanities and religion. And Jos appreciated both. He was proud of every aspect of both of his parents. He loved their accomplishments, their philosophies about life ("weltanschaungen"), and even their looks ("Isn't she a babe?" he would frequently acclaim to me about Diane).

The internet was perfect for Jos: it enabled him to combine the two traits he had received from his parents. His father's joy at technical things and his mother's powers of words. In return, he enjoyed the equal encouragement and respect he received from his parents for his success: both greatly appreciated his internet work, since both in their own life use the internet. A memorial web site for Jos is very fitting.

Fun and responsibility. Jos was an unusual combination of fun and responsibility. He drove carefully, exercised daily, watched what he ate. And then Nhat and I walk along Fisherman's wharf in San Francisco and Jos out of the blue suggests that we start a "fan club for small breasted women".

Careful and responsible person: drove careful, exercised, watched what he ate, and while I knew him stayed away from the Ladies.

Jos worked very hard to make me a member of the "small breasted women fan club".

Smuggling into Java convention dinner and he loved it. Trip: scientific museum.

One funny thing. I always thought Jos a little shy in some ways. Maybe I should write about that ...

to Matt's first memories of Jos

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Matthias Schwab: Another thing that strikes me as so inexplicable [about his death]: I did exercise twice with Jos. Once we biked his routine route, the other time we walked for several hours as fast as we could. In both cases Jos utterly frustrated me by speeding ahead and graciously waiting for me with good advice or simply a joke. He was so much stronger than I was. He ate better. He did gymnastics.

When we lived together at your home, we had a program: every evening we would take turns choosing a movie. Then we would watch it. But we "allowed" ourselves the movie only as long as we did do stretching exercises while watching.

There are many discussions I had with Jos. Here are several:

  • During a long walk at night we discussed regulating shop hours in Europe and the benefit it had for family life.
  • Another discussion was about "the holocaust and would it have happened if Germany would have had US gun laws".
  • Another thing was planning an urban "village": a type of community where the anonymity of modern cities is replaced by the "natural frequent interaction between village inhabitants. We believed the urban village would reduce suicide, crime, and drug usage.
  • I taught him about "interfacing": the need to decide what 2 people have to exchange on information and emotions and what information and emotions are better not communicated.
  • He taught me about his scheduling and routines ... something I try to apply to my life every day, but never as successful as he did.
  • We talked about you his parents. He loved and respected you both so very much.
  • I suggested to him some humorous stuff, which I thought would fit his own writing style: Tom Sharpe (especially his books about South Africa) and the politically questionable but very hilarious P.J. O'Rourke.
  • We talked much about the "Third Chimpanzee" (Jared Diamond) and "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright: both books we had read independently. And there were other books .. I have to check: I kept a list of books Jos suggested and books I had read.
The one thing we never discussed (by gentlemen's agreement, I guess) was my thesis difficulties. Nevertheless, did Jos almost make me drop out ... I cannot remember when and why, but Jos suggested that I read "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. I enjoyed the book greatly. For days we called each other "Howard" or "Howard Roark", the hero of the book who drops out of architecture school because he was not willing to compromise his vision. Dropping out was appealing to me at the time, but I guess, I could have hardly argued that it was because of a compromised vision.

We both loved books that described the same event but came to different conclusions. When we parted I gave him the book "Ordinary man" that discusses the same German police squad that "Hitler's willing executioners" discusses. Both books use the same court materials to argue their case: what made these police man to executioners of Polish Jews? I had looked forward to Jos's take on the issue ... but we never had a chance to discuss it. I left for Germany and he stayed behind.

I know he was planning to visit us in Germany and I had told [my boy] Lukas much about the great funny friend who would come. I can't help even now to think about the places I want to show him.

PS: one funny thing. I always thought Jos a little shy in some ways. Maybe I should write about that ...

PPS: Jos loved you, Diane and Jon. And I could tell how happy he was that you enjoyed him being in Palo Alto and being successful. He was so proud of both of you and greatly appreciated your encouragement: Jos and the internet industry are in many ways a perfect match!

to more of Matt's memories of Jos

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


James J. McKenna: I was his professor (of anthropology) and friend at Pomona College. I had been at Pomona for 20 years -- and Jos took at least one of my classes and, of course, we had been friends ever since as I, like all of you, only marveled at his immense and seemingly unending capacity for surprise and wit, intelligence, originality -- I loved his personality -- his creativity and strength -- his courage to be everything simultaneously.

I have examined the physiological effects of touch -- (human, of course) -- and you can see from this that Jos and I, we had much in common.

After my class, right before Jos graduated -- we went out several times for lunch as a way to consolidate our friendship -- with Jos offering to make me a WEB sleep page to put all my "radical" journal articles on it -- to make them available to others. Jos knew that I was completely not the type to be able to make a WEB page -- we were very different in that way. His ease with technology was amazing to me -- since it is not easy for me.

And I saw the infamous/wonderful "massage table--shortly after it was made -- and other equipment (portable gym equipment) as well. Jos offered to let me "jump on" the massage table but I was more reserved than he -- and couldn't do it. I preach touch, and hug alot, but was a bit nervous about getting a massage. Sure wish that I had. But I sure wanted to! So special was our friendship and what we meant to each other -- I gave Jos a silver Navajo Indian bracelet as a sign of our mutual mentoring and friendship -- which I think that I saw on his wrist in one of the photos. Jos sent me a gift, too. It was something he made, a piece of art which I will treasure all the more.

Jos and I had a special relationship. One that would have carried both of us through our lives. I used to tell him, well after my class was over, that he should be an anthropologist because he was so incredible with people and understanding them.

Nobody can be Jos -- he really was one of the most special persons I've ever known.


> Just figured that I should drop you a note before you depart those hallowed
> grounds...... What will your address be in South Bend?
> Spread kisses all around, and I hope you're not too nervous about the big
> move. All that talk about crime rampages in South Bend? A pack of lies.
> Jos 


David Menefee-Libey: Unlike most of us, Jos simply treated people as if they were people rather than either abstractions (what category can I put this person in? do I want to spend time with this kind of person?) or as deflections from ourselves (can we talk about me now?). His usual generous attention bowled over my son Sam, who was probably 8 or 9 when Jos first came by our on-campus apartment. Jos asked Sam about his day, listened to the answer, and then followed up on particular things with genuine curiousity. Most grown-ups don't treat kids like that.

I was thinking about the way Jos had of humanizing really huge and overwhelming issues like the religious/political issues we talked about in the portion he taught of my US Congress class: abortion, euthanasia, freedom of worship, etc. Without diminishing the gravity of the issues at hand, he often found aspects of them which were absurd to the point of silliness. A good joke would often diffuse tension, and we could go on with our often very serious discussion. His seriousness and goofiness were woven together. [Examples at his Culture Wars site, c.f. abortion].

Mother's memories of her son, Jos Claerbout Father writes:

    When Mother is able to write, she will tell you about 25 years of love -- not all one sided either. She could say, "He knew what I was doing with my life; he cared about it; and he talked to me about it."

Memories of my son, Jos

by Mumsie

Jos loved women -- all of them

Jos loved women. All ages, all types. When he was a little boy he would go around the neighborhood on his big wheel and come home to tell me about all his "new friends" It turned out that most of these friends were women my age or older. He enjoyed talking with them and learning their stories. When he was a little older I had to race him to the telephone because he could and would have a long, active conversation with my friends. Even at an early age, he developed nicknames for my friends. He also enjoyed special little things like speaking in accents with Ruth who was an actress. By the time he was in high school and I was working, friends would call when I wasn't there just to talk with Jos. He was hysterically funny.

In high school, as Matt says, he became a "girl magnet" partly because of his looks and intelligence and partly because he genuinely was a friend as well as a boyfriend.

The female sex fascinated Jos. Someone attributed this to the fact that he didn't have a sister. He would ask me rather personal questions from time to time and I would answer or not depending on the question. He continued this practice while he was working at WebTV surrounded by intelligent, attractive young women. He really wanted to get a woman's perspective on subjects he was discussing with his male friends. He also would ask frivolous questions such as how much time do women spend on doing their eyebrows?

We were delighted with the women he brought to the house. We knew he was not ready to settle down yet but sometimes wondered about the woman he would marry. He would have been a wonderful husband and father.

Jos at Halloween

Halloween was always one of Jos's favorite holidays. When he was a little boy, I would make him a costume (Robin Hood, Stars Wars Hero, monster, etc.) and he would go trick or treating in the neighborhood, either with friends or with his brothers. As he entered his teens, of course, he put that behind him and stayed at home helping Mums hand out candy. He always had something funny to say to the little trick or treaters.

However, when he was either 15 or 16, he was invited to a Halloween party and needed a costume. Immediately! Vetoing the idea of a sheet, he asked Mums to borrow her wig and a dress. It was the time he discovered that a man dressed in women's clothes is always entertaining. When Jos was an intern in Washington, he participated in the annual Halloween drag race there. This required him to dress in women's clothes, wear high heels (size 13) and actually run in a race. He was heavily made-up (nobody will own up to helping him with this). He was an awesomely ugly woman.

Two years ago at WebTV he dressed as the office couch.

Last year, he showed up at the house with his friend Paul who was visiting from Seattle.

"Hey, Mums, we are going as Buffy the Vampire slayer and Angel. So, can I borrow your wig and dye it blonde and do you have a dress I can borrow?"

"No, I need the wig for my presentations and most frontier women were not peroxide blondes, you have to go to the costume store." None of Mum's dresses exactly worked either (1 foot difference in height and many pounds) So, Jos goes out and comes back a few hours later with a blonde fright wig, a skimpy sun dress and a obscenely large blue bra. It was impossible to let out the dress so the straps were lengthened and the buttons moved. He and Paul made quite a striking couple. They went up to the Castro district in San Francisco where everyone is dressed outrageously but he was in great demand. People wanted their photos taken with the 6 foot four inch Buffy.   [Here are two Buffy scripts (1, 2) written by Jos.]

We wonder what he would have dressed as this year?

Climbing Mount Marathon

We visited Jos while he was in Alaska. Jos had told us in advance that we might be doing some climbing so I had bought new boots in preparation. When we arrived in Seward, Jos said that we would be climbing Mt. Marathon. He assured us that a race was run there every year and we would have no problems in making the climb. When we arrived at the site both Jon and I looked dubiously at what Jos indicated would be our ascent. There really didn't seem to be a clearly marked path. "Don't worry," Jos assured us with the confidence he always displayed. "I'm sure that this is the only way up." Jon surveyed the situation and announced that he would stay at the bottom and wait.

"Come on, Mumsie," Jos urged me, "It will be fun." Any time spent with Jos was always wonderful and besides, people raced up the hill, didn't they? We started climbing. After a while I started to develop a new respect for the hardy souls who ran up this mountain. I couldn't help noticing that the way kept getting steeper and it was starting to scare me. Jos assured me again that we were doing fine. At one point we were scrambling for toe and handholds. "Wait a minute, Jos, isn't this rockclimbing?" At the point when I felt as though I couldn't keep going up, it became obvious that retracing my steps was not an option. Jos started helping me by pulling or pushing. Somehow we made it to the top. Short of a helicopter rescue I couldn't imagine how we were going to make it back down again.

While catching my breath and trying not to panic I looked around and ... there was a path (I seem to remember it being paved but that could have been a figment of my fevered imagination) "Jos, look, a path!" He looked and said dismissively, "How about that, but hey, we had more fun, Mumsie, and look what you accomplished!" Jos was right. We had had a grand adventure, something to talk about and share for years to come. The day we climbed Mt. Marathon would pass into family history. Had we merely gone up the path, it would have been soon forgotten. It is a memory that I treasure. My son helped me do something which I would have thought was impossible. With Jos, everything in life was a possibility. My heart aches with the loss of all the future possibilities.

See this in 1.5 Mbytes of streaming video.


It was Jos, of course, who introduced me to eBay and helped me find a new addiction. When I registered, it was necessary to choose a "name" I could have chosen "Ironlady" or something similar (I collect irons) but I thought about my identity and naturally it was Josmom. After all, he was Johannes Dianovich. I became Josmom and always will be.


Many of the posted memories of Jos allude to his enthusiasms and exuberance. We were frequently on the receiving end of his "latest discovery" We were open-minded and always listened to, watched or read whatever he brought to our attention. He accepted with good grace that perhaps his parents were not the target audience for "Sucking Chest Wound" or "Seven Year Bitch" and we stopped watching "La Femme Nikita" after the acid scene.

However, he and I were both delighted when I discovered that "ska" was something I liked (as long as I didn't listen to closely to the lyrics. It was Buffy the Vampire Slayer that we were really able to share. Jos had written at least one episode for the show (which was never used) After watching the show a couple of times, I was hooked! Every Tuesday night at nine o'clock one of us would call the other to discuss the show. If it were really great, we called during the 8:30 commercial. I still watch the show and share the plot lines with him.

Ahead of the trends

Jos was always ahead of the trends. He knew about eBay before most people. In July Mia Hamm led the US women's team to the soccer World Cup. She was featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek as the sports idol of all America's young women. Five years ahead of the crowd, on his fishing boat in Alaska, Jos had a pinup of Mia Hamm.

We miss him coming into the house all excited, "Hey, wait until I tell (show) you guys this". Our lives are so diminished in so many ways.

I have lost my son

"I've lost my son, he is five years old, blonde and wearing blue pants and a plaid shirt. He doesn't speak French." We were at the Pompidou Center in Paris and somehow Jos got off the escalator while the rest of the family stayed on. Luckily, he was quickly found and reunited with big hugs all around.

"I've lost my son, he is ten years old, blonde, wearing a blue swimming suit and was in an inner tube." It was our first day on the beach in Waikiki and Jos went out in an inner tube. Suddenly, he was gone. Frantically we spoke with a lifeguard who told us that hopefully Jos hadn't been swept into any concrete pilings under the pier. After, a horrible half hour, and many walkie-talkie conversations, Jos was found, many blocks down the beach. We started walking towards each other and came together with big hugs.

"I've lost my son, he is twenty-five years old, dark hair (balding), 6' 4" and in perfect health; he can't be dead." They bring me to my son. He looks so good, why won't he wake up? I hug him for the last time. Never again will we look for him.

Seeing Jos at the cemetery

10/27/99   I go to the cemetery every day to spend time with Jos. First, I try bring him up to date on what has happened in the past 24 hours. Who, called, who visited, what is going on in politics. Sometimes, I even try and share a scandal sheet headline which I might remember from glancing at it in the checkout line. After the news, I might read a poem or reflection which seems appropriate. Then it is time for another chapter in Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. There are 900 pages or so and we have covered 200 to date. Jos's friend Joel said that Jos would have wanted to read it. So far, it is pretty exciting. After that, I arrange the plants and flowers. If Jon is there with me, he will water the site. If not, I will do that. Sometimes, I cry enough that water almost seems unnecessary. I tell Jos how much I love him and miss him and what a big hole there is in my life now. I have been walking that 100 feet from the parked car to his grave for over two months now. Each time is as wrenching as the last. There is no more terrible walk for a mother to make.

03/03/2000   I still go to the cemetery every day. Little has changed. I am almost up to page 700 in Cryptonomicon and wonder what I will read next. I also have a book which gives daily readings and mediatations for a year of kaddish. Some of the readings bring a small comfort. Sometimes, I bring letters to share or political news and sometimes I just close my eyes and think about Jos hugging me.

We have a community there -- the other mourners and me. We share stories and hugs. I know all the graves near Jos. People reached the ages of 75, 80, 90, very, very few were 25 and under. How can my wonderful, healthy young son be here?

07/04/2000   I still go to the cemetery everyday to be with my son. We finished Cryponomicon quite awhile ago and now have been reading Genome by Matt Ridley and reading the Onion (selected articles). I try to keep the flowers and plants looking nice. Even though I have sat at the grave almost everyday for 10 months, I still find it difficult to accept the fact that Jos is there. I cry just as much and still wonder how this could have happened. People say that the grief will get "softer" but I don't know when. I try to remind myself that my son had a wonderful life but all that I can think of is that it was too short by 60 years.

to mother's early memories of Jos

to mother's message to her lost son

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Mother's remarks at toessel tree dedication

Jos at an early age

Mother's remarks at the toessel tree dedication

26 years ago, almost to the hour (Jos was born at 1:54 PM) I was in hard labor. Hard because I was having natural childbirth and also because Jos weighed 9 lbs. 1 oz.

Jos was a charmer right from the start. He had to be given that his name at birth was Amy Joanna. I grew up with Little Women as the model for family life. Jos took to nursing with an enthusiasm rarely seen in new-borns (already I can hear Jos saying: "Overshare, Mom.") I can imagine him going back to the nursery extolling all the great things about life: unlimited food, diaper changes, lot of people oohing and aahing over you, etc.

In later life, Jos used to say that he was all about fun, but actually, he was all about love; both came naturally to him. I can remember when he was a toddler, and he would kiss me. With Jos it was not a kiss on the cheek, it was a Hollywood production. He would start kissing me on the fingertips of my left hand, work his way up my arm, across my shoulderblades and down the other arm to the fingertips on my right hand. Someone once observed this performance and commented that Jos' father must be a great kisser. Not exactly, it all came naturally to Jos.

He was an adorable little boy and he knew it. At one point he went through a stage where he would point to people

"See that man over there, he thinks that I am cute".
See that woman there, she really likes me. She thinks that I am cute."

One morning, I was not fast enough in bringing Jos his orange juice, he came over to me, put his hands on my face, and said,

"Honeybun, Honeybun, do you think that I could have some juice please?"

No woman was safe from my son, not even on the phone. When one of my friends would call, if I didn't answer the phone, Jos would engage her in conversation. He really was interested in what they were doing and thinking. I guess that it was always a disappointment if I got to the phone first.

When Jos changed his name, he chose Johannes which was a family name in Jon's family and Dianovich to honor me.

Even when he had left home and was living on his own he went on vacations with us because he knew that we loved being with him. When we bought an inflatable boat, he bought one too, just so he could do more things with us.

I have a very good friend with whom I have been collaborating on a long term writing project. As with every creative effort of that sort, there are times when words are exchanged. Jos called my friend and told her that she shouldn't be so hard on me, "Mom is trying her best." How many sons would do something like that?

For my birthday last year, he gave me ten workouts with his personal trainer and also money to buy more (I gave the money back). It was important to him that I be in good shape.

I don't know anything about Jos' kissing techniques in later years, but I do know that he saw Jon kissing me and decided that Jon needed a little coaching.

"No, no, you have to take the back of her neck and tilt her head back more. Then you have to give her a big, passionate kiss. Mumsie, you aren't suppose to laugh. You guys are never going to get it right. It's a miracle you managed to have children."
As people have mentioned before, Jos had few boundaries!

All of you remember the brilliant, caring, witty man who was your friend. I remember him too but I also remember the two year old year who when I asked him what was written on his Raggedy Andy doll's heart, responded, "Don't pop a tire."

Oh Jos, we never knew what to expect with you.

to mother's later memories of Jos

to mother's message to her lost son

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Grandpa Nate: Going back a number of years to the event of Jos's bar mitzvah when, on the Friday evening preceding the ceremony on Saturday morning he was rehearsing his speech. He rushed through it at express train speed. Both you and Mom suggested to him to slow down his delivery. Of course on Saturday morning on the bemah his delivery was masterful. Mom and I were on the bemah after having been called up for an aliyah. A little later as the the Rabbi was concluding the service Jos was standing by the ark with us and he softly whispered to us, "Golly, I was good wasn't I?"



The Bar Mitzvah of Jeremy David Claerbout

The Bar Mitzvah of Jeremy David Claerbout


Some say that a child
is just an adult's way
of making another adult.
But I think
an adult is just a child's way
of making another child.

Time rushes past in adulthood
our lives were over long ago.
And some children,
for reasons known only to God,
choose not to have adults.


Padgett Arango: I wanted to let you know that I've finished work on a screenplay Jos and I started many years ago "Because They Can't Shoot Us" (a hundred pages), and thought you (and others) might be interested in reading it. I've posted it on the Chucklehound site, if you're interested.
We started work on this in the Spring of '96, before he went to DC. The idea was to make a dumb comedy that we could sell in order to finance our other script "Money, Hair, and Freedom" (a hundred pages). We did a thorough scene breakdown, but didn't get past the first 30 pages or so of actual writing. Jos took a stab at it a couple years later and finished another dozen pages or so. I pulled an all-nighter a few weeks back and finished it up, according to our scene breakdown (except for a couple scenes where I couldn't quite remember what we were thinking of -- a lot of this script was written very late at night).

(Padgett also writes about Jos at their college radio station.)

Paul M.: The thought just struck me, somewhere along the way, of where I'd been a year ago at this time [Halloween] wandering the street with Jos, dressed to the nines, among this huge throng of people. I don't think I'd seen that many people in that small a place at one time in my life.

I think I've told you, but he really did stand out among even the weirdest of the weird, a 6 foot 4 man dressed as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The only reason I got any attention at all was because I was standing next to him. Every group of out-of-towners who came by wanted their pictures taken with him (sometimes us, but mostly just him).

This reminds me of another funny story: I have the picture of me and Jos in costume posted on my cubical wall, and just before I left for the UK, my mom was down in Seattle for the day, and she came by my office and we had lunch. She saw that picture and I told her about the events surrounding it. So we had lunch, and she went off shopping or something and I went back to work. She met me at my apartment after work to drop some things off, and in that time had managed to work up the nerve to ask the following question: "So, noticed that you said you and Jos went into the Castro District for Halloween. So, uh...are you and Jos gay?"

Now, you don't know my mother at all, but you have to imagine that in the intervening time, she had worked it all out: "Ahah! That's why he broke up with Donna and came back from New York City. Because he realized he was gay! That's why he's 26 and still not married." But I had to dash her hopes and her attempts to be a sensitive new-age mom by telling her that no, both Jos and I were both staunchly heterosexual. I suppose that it's not as funny if you don't know my mom. But I just have to compare that (my mom's assumption that visiting Castro District = Gay) to watching you make alterations to the dress your son was wearing as non-chalantly as if you were making him a sandwich for lunch.

Ann Oelschlager: [KSPC news] I was a friend of Jos at Pomona and always loved his wit, his outspoken irreverence, and his enthusiasm for people and ideas. To have an encounter with Jos -- even in the dining hall kitchen -- was always to feel that one was worthy of the energy of the most charismatic person on campus.

In a world where the insularity of thought was sometimes numbing, he constantly made me question my own taken-for-granted viewpoints. And to be a man who could turn such a critical eye on the world, but also have such an affection for people and such a sense of humor! ... he was truly one of a kind.

Anna Mariz: I was in ML's politics class that he lectured on the culture wars in our senior year. Jos was so charming and wonderful and could express himself so well on paper. All his essays bring me right back to the dining hall--teasing and flirting with him. Once I told him he had to take his teabag out of his cup (he was leaving it in there while he was drinking it), and of course he thought this was silly and asked why. I knew that saying that it was the "proper" thing to do would not go to far with him, so I told him that the tea kept brewing, producing an inconsistent cup of tea and a less pleasurable tea-drinking experience. He came back with "What, you can't deal with change!" He won that debate. And now I can't use a teabag without thinking of him. Sometimes I even leave it in my cup, just to prove that I can deal with change.

I still remember the first time I met Jos. He was living in that microscopic room in the attic of Smiley. He had fallen prey to that too common mistake of overdecorating--he found two sofas somewhere and moved them into that tiny space. Perhaps you think I am being unforgiving in my "overdecorated" assessment, but he had arranged the sofas so that one could not walk anywhere in the room. He had created a cushiony sofa nest that touched all four walls of that minute room. Certainly a faux pas in the decorating community, but it really was very fun and very cozy. And you can imagine that every time I called my brother (who was living down the fall), I just had to ask what Jos was up to.

And I still think of how sweet it was for him to knit my brother a hat. Paul loved that hat. He thought it was so cool. And it is. How often does a 23 year old send handmade woolens to his pal?

I called Jos in June. I wanted him to come and work at the J Paul Getty, where I worked at the time. He teased me and said that every six months, one of the Marizes called him up and offered him a job. I guess both Paul and I appreciated that he could pick up technical computer skills the same way we do. He said he was happy where he was.

Deborah S: I want to let you know that Jos was an important person in my life, and that I will always remember him -- as a dynamic, brilliant, caring person -- a little crazy, and with his heart on fire for life.

I can think of a thousand little stories of Jos and how wonderful he was. We went climbing at the Pitzer climbing wall together; he tried to teach me to play the bass so I could fill in for him in his ska band (he was too busy with schoolwork but didn't want to let the band down); and he wore black converse high-tops long after they had gone out of style.

Jos used to call my name out across the dining hall when he saw me, and it made me feel so good - to know that there was someone in the world who wanted to say hi to me badly enough to yell my name through Frary. And better yet, he never called me "Deb," when he shouted across the dining hall. He always had some funny nickname. And that made it seem even better, because someone cared enough about me to think of me as something other than Deb. When it was sunny, we would sit outside, on the steps beneath the pine tree. I used to try to convince Jos that Pomona was a great place, and he would never agree with me. I tried to argue with Jos about a few things, but we never got very far because he would say something funny and we would get off topic.

I always imagined that he would change the world. It doesn't seem possible that he's gone, because he had more life in him than 20 people.

Evan Bilstrom: I was an acquaintance of Jos's from Pomona and was lucky to have known your son. He was one of the most genuine and friendly people I have ever known.

My strongest memories of Jos revolve around conversation. Every time I saw him, he would ask, "How does this glorious day find you, Evan?", or words to that affect. The ease with which he reached out to people is something I greatly admire in him; a quality I wished I too could possess. And I think, perhaps, that this is the best way for me to keep a part of Jos alive, to reach out myself by his example.

No matter how short his time in this world, know that Jos has touched the lives of others. It is the world's loss that Jos is no longer a part of it.

Hope Neighbor: Jos and I had a policy implementation class together in the fall of 1995. I was just coming back from a year in France and did not feel so 'adjusted' to life in the States. Jos's wonderfully dry remarks about the state of things in class and otherwise, as well as his amazing intelligence, were fantastic for helping me to recognize that every classmate was not a standard, cookie-cutter student nor American. At the end of that semester, Jos gave a great presentation on a public policy issue. The subject has escaped me, BUT his presentation is the only one that I can remember. What animation, what fun! Jos was certainly not a typical person, and thank god for it!

Zany, brilliant, alternative, witty, inquisitive -- though each of these adjectives are "big", I don't hesitate to use them in describing Jos. The best endorsement of his personality, I believe, is that I smile instantly when think of him. I will dearly miss Jos, as will countless other Sagehens who knew him less well but appreciated his sense of humor nearly as much.

Leslie P: I met Jos in David Menefee-Libey's policy implementation class my first semester at Pomona. I had just transferred and Jos had just returned from Alaska. The two of us were just about the only ones who spoke in class -- and we regularly challenged each other to vicious debates. Jos was one of the only people who would not let me get away with my sweeping policy pronouncements. It was the start of a wonderful friendship. Throughout my junior and senior year, Jos and I were regular dinner companions. Our conversations spanned from Judaism and the Christian Right to Milton Friedman to "nookie" and new ploys to lure unsuspecting women to his massage table.

Jos's ability to find the absurd in everyday activities, his wicked sense of humor, his penchant for finding new adventures, his thoughtful opinions about politics, his irrational opinions about politics, his exuberance, his irreverence -- when I think about all of his wonderful qualities, he still makes me laugh.

Jos was one of my favorite people and I feel priviledged to have known him.

Gordon Stott: [KSPC D.J.] I went to college with Jos, on-and-off, for '92-'97. I knew Jos more as a mentor than as a friend. From a distance, I marveled over him. We came in contact often and enjoyed each other's company -- but we were clearly operating on different levels. I hope someday to operate at his level. Let me try and explain why.

Jos was not just "plugged in" or connected to everything and everyone around him -- he seemed to become the connection that exists between people, ideas, and things. It is very rare that you see this type of energy in a person. To become equal parts facilitator and creator is truly "complex and dangerous" -- like his knitting site suggests.

I don't know if you are searching for answers. Probably both yes and no. I want to assure you that Jos is inside all of us who knew and understood him. He is still doing what he always does, trying to show us that life can, when lived right, become a series of life-affirming choices. Nothing less.

Harriet Berman: I am the mother of a former roommate, Jessica. Jos was the quickest knitting student I ever had. He was a self-taught knitter for the most part. I came in as his craft was on the brink of taking off. I know he sat with Jessica for many hours refining what he had learned on his own -- but she was a lefty and that made teaching a challenge for her -- so when I arrived he was ready to go -- and I just helped him figure out how to knit faster.

I know he left footsteps that cannot be filled -- but which are inspiring to all those he touched. His footsteps are a guide for those of us left behind -- if we can follow them, then I know he will take us to good places.

[Jessica and Harriet teach Jos how to knit.]

Dax Oliver: [KSPC news] [ antichrist story] I went to college with Jos and was his roommate in DC during the summer of `96. Although I regretfully hadn't had any contact with him for about two years, he had a strong impact on my life.

I remember one day Jos inviting me to sit and talk with him on a sunny wall near the Coop at Pomona. It was September and he had just come back from his year off in Alaska. I had just come back from a harrowing summer working in Costa Rica. We swapped tales of our travels and talked about how our experiences had made us appreciate Pomona so much more than before. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone in my changed perspective.

Although my time in Costa Rica affected me greatly, my troubles there had convinced me not to travel anymore. But while living with Jos in DC, his numerous Alaska stories got me thinking about it once more. Because of him, I went to Alaska myself in the Spring and Summer of 1997. That set off a cascade of events that severely altered the course of my life. How different it would be today if I hadn't known him.

But what will stick in my mind most about Jos, perhaps, are the times at Pomona when I would run into him while finding myself in a long mood of thinking that life was dark and depressing. Suddenly I'd have to remind myself,

"Damn, Dax, get on the ball! There's so much to do in this world!"
I think he had that effect on a lot of people.

Petrina Grube: The time I hung out most with Jos was in Policy Implementation, when we both sat in the back of the class (my senior year) discussing our projects and joking with our professor, David Menefee-Libey. Having Jos there made the class always lively and amusing, as was true whereever Jos was involved!

He also convinced me, in one of our morning conversations before class, that I shouldn't leave college without taking an economics class, which I proceeded to do. And actually, I continued on to study environmental economics just this past year in New Zealand. Jos's wit and wisdom have touched so many people.

Muzy Huq: The first time I met Jos was during filming for Chris McCamic's senior project. That was probably the only enjoyable day of filming, almost all due to Jos's presence. He was a nice guy, and he will be missed.

David Good: He was truly a unique individual that was never afraid of being exactly who he was. He passed in and out of my life during my Pomona years and was only predictable in his unpredictability. Pomona was somewhat heterogeneous in its economic or social makeup but, in actuality, was very homogenous in its students' personality types. Jos was one of the few students that I felt defied description, that could not be pigeonholed.

Ray N: I met Jos sometime during my sophomore year at Pomona. Like so many people who met Jos, I immediately liked him and we were soon good friends. Our conversations at dinner would often range from Republicans to medieval warfare to Froot Loops and back again within a half-hour.

At Pomona, I discovered that the groundskeepers would saw up a fallen tree into logs and toss them in a pile behind the soccer field. It was big overgrown pile of eucalyptus, white pine, some juniper, and some other things I couldn't identify. It was in an undeveloped part of campus, and the surrounding trees and scrub made it feel isolated and distant from the bustle of the dorms and classrooms. You could spend a long time there and enjoy no other company than the crickets and songbirds.

I bought an eight-pound maul with a yellow handle at the hardware store in town and took to splitting firewood. Most of the logs had been out in the sun long enough to be nice and dry, and many of them split up beautifully. Some of the eucalyptus had grown twisted and resisted my best attempts to cut it. Other pieces were rotting out from the inside, and would shatter into wormy dust at the first strike.

When something was making me tense, when the pressures of school were too much, or when the sunlight was just right, I would often go down to the wood pile and chop my way to peace. I was never even very good at it; I'm not very strong nor very well coordinated. But that didn't matter.

None of my friends really understood this. Some thought I was just plain nutty. Most found it entertainingly eccentric. Like that guy who wore a bathrobe all day long, I was that guy who split firewood.

Except for Jos. He knew why I liked chopping firewood. He understood it exactly.

We all have so many great memories of wacky misadventures and sparkling conversations with Jos. But what I miss right now is his insight. He understood other people. I always knew there was someone who understood whatever was in my head, and liked me for it. He made me like me for it too.

As an epilogue, I decided to leave my graduate program in physics in 1998. Jos's encouragement played a big role in the decision. As I'd hoped, I found a job here in California, and I moved to San Jose. He and I got together for various adventures, and with his help I began the long, slow process of making this place my new home. Of course it seems much more foreign to me now, just as the world seems so much larger and scarier than it did when my friend Jos was in it.

I miss the woodpile, and I miss Jos.

Chris McCamic: Jos and I lived together senior year. He was an essential collaborator in my senior project. Jos was an absolute national treasure, and it was good to be reminded of it with the kind of clarity that comes only when you're looking at a Jos hat or otherwise experiencing a record of the kind of absurdity only he could produce with such intensity and regularity.

Jos's contribution to my senior project was a really brilliant (despite his refusal to have his buttocks appear in the film) turn as a tyrannical professor, in truly inimitable Jos style. But my defining memory was of the first time I met him. The first time you met Jos was like the first time you encountered an exotic food from some remote part of the world, that you would have never in your wildest imaginings thought existed.

Jos was in Peder Thoreen's dorm room - full of musicians - instigating "one hour techno." I came in in the middle, so I have no idea how it started, only that it was clearly the sort of thing that only happened when Jos was around - this was obvious within seconds of meeting him. Apparently to put some acoustically inclined musicians' slurs against techno music to the test, Jos had incited the crowd to create a competent techno song in one hour. Which we proceeded to do. Everyone contributed somehow (with three minutes left and the band's name and song title just decided, I drew the album cover).

Then Jos took our fully produced tape, the single "Amherst," by "Flogged Over The Head With A Big Piece of Steel", down to the radio station and played it immediately while we blasted it out of our dorm room windows.

Dan Lavery: I lived just down the hall from Jos during our 2nd year at Pomona. I was also a sponsor at the time. He often invited me into his room to introduce me to the music of some new band he was interested in or just to talk about what he was up to or what was on his mind. I remember that like most people who knew Jos, I was always curious about what he was up to, it was always something interesting. And of course Jos was always interested in what other people were up to, he was a genuinely engaging person.

I remember talking with him about Pomona, he said that he felt he wasn't fully appreciating and taking advantage of the opportunity to be at Pomona at that time. I was surprised to hear that from someone so active and involved in campus life (at KSPC for example).

Jos engaged, charmed, and amused people. His enthusiasm and his lust for life were inspiring. His exuberance was contagious. He challenged and brought out the best in people. A little piece of Jos lives on in everyone who remembers him, and we are all the better for it.

Roy Speckhardt [TIA]: Jos changed the world for the better. During his brief time at The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) in Washington DC he constantly dared those around him to live life. He made people laugh, and challenged us to think. I remember numerous occasions/debates we had on issues from the "Flat Tax" to the possibility of true separation of church and state. I cherish these memories. I saw his great compassion for others every time he reached out to someone new, without fear, but with honest curiosity.

He made great friends of our office neighbors whom none of us had previously taken the time to speak with. Next door to our office were people in charge of Metro Bus advertisements. Jos referred to this (all female staff) as the Tall Lovely Ladies, and would greet them as such (to their delight) every day. Jos reminded us how rare tall women are and that it was absolutely necessary to show the proper appreciation. We ended-up getting a number of fine Metro-Bus-Station signs for decoration in our office, our homes, etc. in return for Jos's warm relations with them -- we who never took the time to talk to them before Jos's arrival.

He also befriended the owner of a sewing shop in Alexandria -- a source for Toessel inspiration.

Jos designed the She's Alive icon and told me about the origin of the words. It's a play off "he's alive" from Frankenstein. While one might suspect he was looking at it from a feminist perspective, I think he really took it from the 1985 movie "Weird Science." It's mentioned in the movie and in a radio edit of a theme song by Oingo Boingo that was once popular.

You might also wish to know that my wife Charlene is to have a baby late in April. If its a boy we'll be naming him Johannes after Jos. [She's named Johanna.]

Nancy Treser-Osgood: I recall eight years ago sitting in the lobby of the Claremont Inn (formerly Griswold's) and watching Jeremy enter the room. Most new students were tentative about approaching our Pomona College table, where my husband Peter Osgood (Associate Dean of Admission at Pomona at that time) and I (Associate Director of Alumni Relations at that time) sat welcoming incoming first year students. Jos just marched right up and pulled up a chair and started chatting. Peter, having an amazing memory, recalled Jos' essay, and commented on the originality and creativity that his writing demonstrated. Then Jos' mother entered the lobby and joined her son, and for about 15 minutes we chatted about life, Pomona College, and hopes and dreams for the future.

During my decade working here in Claremont I have met hundreds of students, but none have made the kind of first impression that Jos did. He was bright, articulate, energetic, charming, handsome, witty, charismatic...the list of adjectives could go on and on. I feel lucky to have been among the first to welcome him to Pomona College, and I harbor a deep sadness that we did not have the opportunity to spend more time together.

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos


Jos Claerbout in a Pomona dormatory stairway, 1996.

Jos Claerbout at college, 1996.


Amy Powers: The first time I met him, Jos, then Jeremy, came to visit his brother Andrew in Boulder in Spring of 1992. Andrew had been pushed from his rental house in Nederland when the house sold and was consequently living -- on and off -- in my dorm room on campus. There were two single beds in my room so while Jos visited he stayed in one while Andrew and I shared the other. I can't remember other details of that visit, except that it was a girls dorm so Andrew and Jos, two 6 foot-plus men were hard to smuggle in and out -- and bathroom visits had to wait until late at night.

The next time I spent time with Jos was in Spring of 1993, a year later, when he, Jon, and Diane came down to Costa Rica from California and Andrew came up from Ecuador. I was studying in the countryside and they came out to see our research station -- then we spent a few nights in the city. Funny thing is that now as I recall, we were again in the same sleeping arrangement during that trip -- single beds in a hotel room with Jos in one and Andrew and me in the other. He was quieter in those days than I came to know him over the next several years -- but he still brought lightness, humor, and creativity into the conversation. I have a vague recollection of him making a funny video in an outdoor restaurant after we finished a day of white water rafting. Those memories of Costa Rica are so fuzzy, so many huge gaps in what I can even begin to wrap my brain around.

The next encounter with Jos came not too long after, in Ecuador that summer of 1993. (Jos diary in Ecuador.) I was living with Andrew up at the Finca and during the last few weeks of my stay there Jos came to live in Macara. He lived in town, with a family who had a son with heavy metal black velvet posters all over -- what was that kid's name? V - something -Victor? And what did Jos call himself in Spanish? In English he was still Jeremy. I seem to recall a funny name... was it Jeronimo?

I suppose the next encounter with Jos was in an equally exotic locale -- Hawaii for Yasuko and Martin's wedding. Right around this time he had taken a semester off from school and was living up in Homer, Alaska working on a fishing boat, for the Green Party, and for a Country and Western Magazine. My chronology is entirely gone but I'm fairly certain all three of these were his sources of livelihood at one time or another. I was amused to learn that his pseudonym for magazine work was, appropriately enough, J. "Hoss" Claerbout. I took to calling him Hoss with relish. It was around that time period when I remember hearing many amusing updates on what career path was currently tickling the ever adventureous Jos's fancy:

  • drive-thru chapel marriage facilitator,
  • massage therapist,
  • card dealer in Vegas,
  • mill worker, and
  • a job description that held shades of pilgrim, shades of migrant worker, shades of intrepid explorer of truth -- to live and work in each city in the country for two months at a time.

I often described to friends this brother of Andrew's who had more zest for life than anyone I knew and a refreshing inhibition about sharing his hairbrained schemes, real or fantasized, with the world. I'll admit that when he finally nestled into a desk job in the computer world I was entirely surprised, though when he excelled, impressed, wooed and brought inspiration to his work at WebTV was no surprise at all.

But, Hawaii -- Martin and Yasuko's wedding and the days of travel and leisure before and after, Jos was warm and accepting -- he made me feel at ease and welcome, as welcome in this family structure. He and Andrew bantered, made us all laugh over dinners and on car trips where I would sit wedged between two long-legged Claerbouts in the back of a rental car. His ready flow of words, stories and quips made me feel less pressure to grapple with which of my own words I wanted to say.

I suppose a few years passed then -- I don't recall Jos visiting us in Aspen -- until last September when he came out to Vermont for our wedding celebration. Andrew and I had been a bit anxious about the Grand Meeting of the parents, an event we'd planned for the night before the wedding. An Indian feast was to be eaten around our giant dining table and all of our immediate family members, except Martin, were to get to know each other. We hoped conversation would be stimulating but pleasant and that our parents would discover enough commonality to enjoy the evening; we hoped they'd become friends, at best, and at least approve of our impending union. What ensued was the best possible scenario -- an evening of comic relief M.C.'d by the youngest of our crew, Jos. My mother still remarks that she cannot recall a time when she has laughed harder. Jos not only broke the ice, but he chipped it into slivers, melted it down, and warmed it into a comforting cup of tea over which to share an evening. And of course there was his poetic touch contributed to the beautiful photo chronology that Diane created of Andrew's and my "parallel lives." My understanding is that each of his 20 or so limericks were not only unsolicited; each was concocted in a matter of minutes. A genius with words that boy.

Since then I saw Jos once, in California this past spring. He again performed his magic of livening up conversation creating a whole new mood and volume level in the house. He introduced me and Andrew to the world of Parappa the Rappa -- and video games in general for that matter. Over dinner at a Chinese restaurant on I believe the night before Andrew and I left for home, Jos's talk of Tuesday night Buffy the Vampire Slayer viewing rituals with Diane had me doubled over. He affected a gossipy, chatty, Cathy demeanor and ranted about how he and Diane managed to swap dirt on the show's themes, even when they were watching on sets across town. We visited his office at WebTV which I had been eager to see since it managed to bring the world of the internet into my home for the first time.

I'm so glad that Andrew had the chance this summer to visit the cottage and spend quality time with his brother. The first thing he shared of the visit upon returning home was how good it was to have time alone with Jos to re-connect and get to know his little brother again. As for myself, I will miss being taken in his long strong arms looking way up at his lofty stature and hearing, "Hello there, Big Sister".

Rom Leidner: Perhaps it's selfish, but when I heard about Jos, the first thing I thought about was my 9 month old daughter Ellie. If she were suddenly taken, I couldn't go on. What would be the purpose? She's only an infant, but I've already invested so much in her emotionally . . . no one expects to outlive their children.

I told Noa what had happened. She didn't need any reminders who Jos was, even though she'd only spoken with him 15 minutes at Andrew's wedding. He was so delightful when we met him there. I think Noa and I had just been fighting, and he came up to us smiling, and gave me a hug, and gave Noa a hug (after introductions, of course). Then he proceeded to flatter us both by telling Noa about my "semi-legendary" status, as Andrew's college friend. He just cleared the air. When he gave his reading during the ceremony, we wanted to cheer. It was so tasteful and smart. Noa danced with him after the wedding. She said he had, "simchat chayim". That's what they say in Hebrew, "happiness of life".

I wasn't close with Jos, after all. I had only met him in person once before. He came to visit Andrew at CU. I think he was a senior in high school then, if I'm not mistaken. I just remember being taken with him. Of course he was intellectual; I expected that from your family. But he was also gregarious, and funny, and interesting. He was just comfortable to be around. I remember how advanced he was, much more than I was at his age. He seemed like a college friend, not Andrew's little brother.

Jos gave Andrew a cassette tape of music that he had compiled. Music is very important for college students. It's like a social calling card. Jos had compiled such an eclectic and interesting collection of music. Things I'd never heard, (though I considered myself well acquainted). I remember listening to it over and over in the car, as Andrew and I drove out to California, to drop me off at the start of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Then there was the name change, and his exploits in Alaska. I followed that through you, I suppose. You were worried that he wouldn't return to college. I'll never forget something you told me around that time. You said that your sons didn't lack for self confidence; sometimes you thought they had too much. That struck me. I remember my emotional reaction . . . if you had been my mother, if I had had such a warm and involved parent. If -- I couldn't imagine the depth of self-worth it would have imprinted on me.

Christina Rosas: My son, Michael was in elementary school and needed a tutor to help him with math. I decided to find him a tutor. Jeremy (Jos) came to the door and I knew in one second he was the one. First by sheer size, and second by his outgoing and funny (lighthearted and comic) manner, third -- his organized and polite demeanor. This was going to be great for Michael, Jeremy was the one!

He started right off with jumping in with Mikey to see where he need help. What areas etc., just like a teacher. I loved it. He invented games with Michael in math with money - fractions etc. He used "toilet talk" with Michael and for a ten year old boy this was delicious. Example: "If I have 10 cow poops and you have to divide them up for 3 farmers to compost equally, what do you have to do?" or "If you pick your nose three times a day how many buggers will you have at the end of a week?" Things like that made Michael laugh and he got the right answer!!!

....He used Ninja turtles (Mikey's favorite "guys") at the time to play out fractions. Example: Donatello Ninja karate chops Michaelangelo Ninja 25 times then so and so comes and karate them both --how many chops, etc. Mikey loved this!!!

Whenever, Michael would act up a bit -- fidget and zone out -- Jeremy would get up and wrestle with him or give him a "noogie" in a head lock. Now I know that this sounds wacky -- anyone else or let's say "normal" or perfectly conservative family would say NO WAY to this. Not me, my son's grades went back up to "Excellent +++ " and myself being kind of an offbeat and fun loving person -- found his techniques delightful. So did the younger siblings. Jeremy always found time to play with Giancarlo a bit before he left and later with Star.

He was wonderful. Over the years his relationship with Michael was truly one of a mentor, big brother, idol, etc. and for Giancarlo too. For me, I thought of him as a friend, a son, a little brother, nephew. I just loved him. I always looked forward to his sessions with Michael and times when he just stopped by to visit and chew the fat. He turned me on to different music as I did with him and both of us made each other tapes of this group or that.... He loved my lemon poppyseed cake and I loved his surprisingly mature for a teen ability to talk and joke, not like some typical teen "geeks".

There were other things I remember: He always left early on Friday afternoon (on his bike mostly!! long ride) to buy challah for his mom for Shabbat -- very sweet and conscientious!!!

When his mom had a bad cold/flu -- he called to cancel with Mikey so he could take care of her NICE, NICE, NICE (My mom always said if a man acts respectful about his mother -- this means he will always be kind with others...

I loved how he sometimes called up Michael to take him by train (exciting for Mikey) to San Francisco to check out the "scene" up there -- music shops, etc.... .

He was always so polite and fun with my family and friends. Cindy, my cousin, who is my age one time said to Jos: " You are really blossoming into a handsome young man and if I was younger -- watch out."

Anyway, I loved Jos' response-

"Mrs. Rosas, we better tie her up, she's in the prime of her life and so am I ..." We laughed.

Another of my cousins died and Jeremy knew him and wanted to come to the funeral. It was a first for him to see a "Catholic" open coffin, etc.... We stood in the back (we came a bit late) and he put his arm around me -- I thought because he was comforting me because I was crying, etc. The next thing that I knew, Jeremy was laying in a heap on top of me. He had passed out. Cindy and I were trying not to make much of a commotion since it was a somber event and all. So I tried with Cindy's help to wriggle out from under the "big guy's weight". We managed to drag him outside in the marble entry and brought him back to consciousness. We then decided it was best to leave. We ended up laughing hysterically all the way home and soon forgot how sad and down we were.

Jeremy introduced me to his girlfriend "[X]" at one of my big holiday bashes. He brought this very blonde, soft-looking, tall girl and he seemed so in love with her. My sister and I and Mikey couldn't stand her, she seemed so "blah" [compared] to him. He needed (in our opinion) someone with "umph", with wit, dash, drama, vigor, etc. Anyway, we were nice to her because he liked/loved her. My sister was amazed at how a "high-school guy" could be so attentive and mature with a girlfriend.

Example: He got her a drink and a plate of hors dovers. He introduced her to everyone just like an "adult" He wasn't the typical teen guy trying to sneak beer, show off or act like a bore and sit in the corner. He danced with everyone. He talked to young and old alike and still found time at the party to take Michael in the toy room and play 1-20 minutes before he had to go....

He always talked highly of his family -- Mom, Dad and brothers even as a teen. When he felt parents were too strict he was not a rebel without a cause as so many teens are.

His maturity and wit were two of the biggest things that always made me love him and bring me to tears. I really miss him. I still don't want to believe it.

He never talked bad or evil about anyone except for my ex-husband who definitely deserved it. Anyway, he was so protective of me and the kids throughout the big divorce and trauma.

He was so creative with stories, writing, fun. His way of explaining funny situations - work, people, school, later Alaska, etc. His interpretations of adventures, good or bad. He always found a way to make light of them or see the positive side. I rarely saw him down.

I loved his funny way of dressing -- his weird clothes periods (now my son does the same -- so it's no shock). I loved when he showed off his sewing projects -- a teenage boy sewing (for fun -- not for a class). His knitting, his writing, his compilations of music...... He had so much to give. He would have been the BEST Dad and husband to someone. I know he made the best son, brother, friend and person.

He always called me Mrs. Rosas and never forgot his manners. It wasn't until he was in his 20's I said, "please call me Christina" and he did -- sometimes. He liked to talk about politics and the arts and fitness and cooking. So diverse for a young person -- especially for a guy.

I remember when he was tutoring Michael and I was sitting in the other room watching the news. It broke about the Scud missiles sent over Israel. He stopped what he was doing and came over and was sad and mad and worried.

He helped me several times watching my house and dogs and cats. I would never ever consider letting a teen watch my house, not because I hate teens, I love them, but I know how immature and crazy they can be for the most part. The temptation to party or have girls/guys over, etc. Not Jeremy. Very responsible. He even picked me flowers from my garden and had them on my table when I came home. Little things like that!

He bought the children some big fancy cookies at the bakery for no reason. Just as a good treat. He was so thoughtful.

He helped me move (what a disaster moving is!). I had a lot of stuff. When I tried to pay him, he wouldn't take a penny.

He took Michael to Habitat for Humanity to "enlighten him a bit" when Michael was "testy" to say the least. He biked with Michael. Michael confided in Jeremy. They talked about drugs and sex and life and morals. It was great because we all know sometimes as a teen you can't talk to your own closest people about certain things.

It was fun when he changed his name. He was "trippy" at times. He was not a follower or trendy bonehead. Instead he was a trend setter.

Working and being with Jos

Working and being with Jos

spoken by Rosemary Stasek

The first time that I met Jos is when I interviewed for a job at WebTV. He came in and said that he was really excited that I was an economics major. The question that he wanted me to answer was to talk about some of the economic effects of the internet. That was so easy for me because I talked about how on city council we are losing sales tax revenues because there are no sales taxes on sales on the internet.

We just went off on this tangent about talking about economics and government. I don't even remember where the interview went. I remember thinking I really, really wanted to work with this guy, this would be really cool.

When I came to work here we worked in cubes right next to each other for the whole time that we were here together. All day long we would yell stuff at each other over the cube walls. It was like a running comedy show.

Nobody got anything done all day long because it would be completely quiet and then out of the blue, Jos or I would start yelling one liners back and forth over the cube wall to each other. Sometimes you would have absolutely no idea what we were talking about because we would start off with an email exchange. We would start emailing each other back and forth  some story we were telling each other or having some conversation. All of a sudden in the middle of the email conversation one of us would start talking to the other and so you get these disjointed, what seemed like disjointed conversations - but they were always hilarious. 

Every once in a while you would just hear the entire department just crack up over something we had talked about. One of the ones I remember is the time when he had sent me some email about technology. I sent back a really smart-ass reply about how men have their toys and they have to have fast cars and they love technology and it was really a just reflection of their manhood.

Out of the blue he yells over the cube wall, "Rosey, if women ran the world, would buildings be circular?"

You had no idea if you were listening to this conversation where that came from or what the context of the conversation was, so of course I shot back, "Well you know, Jos, in matriarchal agrarian societies, houses were built circular around a central courtyard which was the center of family life."

He shouts back, "You know, I'm really very skeptical of these matriarchal agrarian societies where they what? --dance? --to resolve their conflicts."

And I said, "No Jos, bake offs!" 

"I didn't say that." He yelled.

The entire department just fell apart. This was every day. This was every day, all day long.

The other one I remember was the St.Claire of Assisi test where he came in and he had found something about St.Claire of Assissi on the internet, and about how she had visions.

Of course he always asked me all the catholic questions because he knew I was always up on all the catholic stuff. I explained to him, I said, "Yes Jos, because she saw visions, she was named as the patron saint of computers and technology by the Catholic Church".

He thought that was extraordinary that we had a patron saint for computers. I said, "Well, it's absolutely coincidence. What is the name of the county that Silicon Valley is housed in? Santa Clara county". He thought that was pretty amazing and decided there and then he was going to put St.Claire of Assisi as his wall paper on his computer.

He proceeded to give all of us a St.Claire of Assisi quiz he had found on the internet.  And of course, once again, the entire department comes to grinding halt while Jos gives a St.Claire of Assisi quiz.

It was just every single day. Every day, all day long.

I remember thinking when I would come in on Mondays, what a bummer because he didn't work on Mondays. I would sit down and get ready to yell something to him and then I would remember, Oh, he wasn't there.

But then when he would come in on Tuesday and I would have three day's worth of stuff we had to shoot back and forth to each other. So Tuesday mornings were particularly unproductive. Not for us, we were incredibly productive, it was the rest of the department who had to listen to all this.

On the mornings when he would come in you would hear him coming down the hall and you would hear him talking, already talking to people, yelling to people, and people would be saying good morning to him and it was like: Jos is here! Jos is here! You could just feel him coming down the hallway. The first thing he'd say when he came by my cube would be,

"Rosey, are we going to have fun today?"
and I would, depending on my mood, I would mumble something, or I would give him some smart-ass reply back.

The other thing he would always ask is if we were going to be productive today. He would say, "We're going to get so much done today."

I don't know that we ever did because I would leave early in the afternoon about 3 or 3:30 and I would say, "OK Jos, I'm out of here. I'm off to serve you."

And he would make some smart remark about how I could improve Mountain View on my way off to city hall.

He was such, such a part of being here, of being at work. When you think about spending 6 or 7 waking hours with someone every day, it is more time than you spend with just about anyone else in your life awake. And that's what it was like with Jos.

He would walk me to lunch every day. Every day he would say, "OK, let's go." He would walk me across the street. He'd go upstairs and get the other people who he was going to have lunch with and I'd go into the cafeteria; but everyday he would walk me across the street to lunch. It was just those little things that made up the rhythm of our everyday lives.

I remember one day in the cafeteria when I came in after him. He was about five people ahead of me in line, and I was struggling over some PERL questions. He was my PERL guru. He just, you know, he just was always able to figure out some really elegant way to write a piece of script.

I remember coming into the cafeteria and the cafeteria is packed. I see Jos about five people ahead of me in line and of course I get all excited because I need to ask him this question. I yell across the cafeteria to him,

"Jos, don't think I just love you for your body, I need you to help me with an array in my PERL script."
The entire cafeteria stops. One man turns to Jos and says, "I waited all my life for a woman to say that to me". A bunch of people just started bowing at Jos. That's how it was.

Things were always lively when he was around. You just never knew what he was going to say, or what he was going to do. You just knew it was going to something funny and off the wall.

I didn't get to spend much time with Jos outside of work and I really, really regret that. I don't know if we had had more time, if we would have spent more time together outside of work. We did have one date, our one big date, but I'm sure that Jos didn't consider it a date.
She was Vice Mayor at the time, soon to become Mayor of the City of Mountain View, CA.
I really had crush on Jos. I tried to figure out, "OK how can I spend some time with this guy outside of work?" So of course I fell back on my position of power.

I told Jos that I needed a date for an official city function and would he accompany me to this official city function? He agreed.

What it was, was the West Coast premier of the Joy Luck Club, the play, at the Center for Performing Arts in Mountain View and before it would be a dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant. This was all organized by Leadership Mountain View, a group of basically movers and shakers in Mountain View, such that there is, and all these people had gone to the leadership program, and they were commissioners and all kinds of council members, committee members, heads of non profits in the city, a mini Who's Who of Mountain View.

So I told Jos, "No jeans." You never knew what Jos was going to show up in. I mean, a man who shopped at Ragtime and is really proud of his 65-cent shirts. You want to give him a little bit of guidance about what he is going to wear to a big-deal official city function. "OK Jos, no jeans, you want to look kind of nice." So he said OK.

He showed up OK. He showed up in khakis and some kind of shirt. I don't know if he bought it at Ragtime but it looked pretty good. He had on maroon suede shoes. OK, so there was nothing I was going to do at this point about the maroon suede shoes, but he looked pretty good. So we went out to this dinner where he completely mesmerized people at the dinner.

A man that I know very well who sat at the table with us, to this day he spent only about an hour with Jos. To this day he talks about Jos. He just was so taken with him, how witty he was, how smart he was, and gregarious he was.

Jos really had the whole table engaged in this outrageous conversation. I don't even remember what it was. I remember being completely torn between being completely engaged in this outrageous conversation, and being a bit horrified that I am sitting here at this table with all these people I have to do business with, and we are having this outrageous conversation. But it was just so incredible.

So we go off to Performing Arts Center and we are in the Performing Arts Center and everyone is very prim and proper and dressed up. We are watching this play and it's a little slow.

I mean the Joy Luck Club was very much a "chick" flick when they made it into a movie, and the musical is very much a "chick" play. And so Jos was kind of not really into this play and you could tell he was getting a little fidgety. He's tall; and the rows in the Performing Arts Center are really close together, even by my standards. You could tell he was getting a little fidgety. When the intermission came, he really wanted out of that row. He really wanted to be out and get some room.

We were sitting about four seats in from the end of the aisle. We all stood up at intermission. The two people who were sitting on the end were getting ready to file out, but they weren't moving fast enough for Jos. Jos notices in the row behind that the people had already filed out. So in this really fancy occasion with all these whoop-de-doo people Jos proceeds to step over the back of the chair like he is in the bleachers at a football game, and then walks out the aisle and walks into the lobby of the Performing Arts Center.

Meanwhile the usher who of course knew me, her eyes get really wide as she sees this man stepping over the back of the seat, which you don't really do in the Performing Arts Center. She just looks at me with this horrified look on her face, "Who is this man stepping over the seats in the Performing Arts Center?"

I was like whistling and looking around and like, "I don't know this guy".

It was so Jos because he just wasn't going to be worried about what was proper and where he was. He was just a guy who was bored at this stupid play and he wanted to get out and stretch his legs. I remember that night and thinking, "OK, well maybe no more official functions for Jos," It was just so funny, it was just so classically him.

I feel so cheated that we didn't get to spend more time together outside of work. It wasn't that we didn't have fun at work. It was just that I felt there were so many more things I wanted to talk to him about. And so many more things about him I wanted to learn.  We had wonderful political discussions.  There wasn't anything we didn't talk about. There wasn't anything I felt like I couldn't talk to him about.

It was just... it just clicked so well when we were talking when we were together that I feel really robbed. I feel like there were so many things that we could have done together, enjoyed together.

The Napa trip, we went on our department trip to Napa, the bike trip. It almost killed me. I was not in shape and those folks all went zooming on ahead. It was so much fun to spend a whole day with him outside of work.

Once in a while we'd have lunch together. I just try and think of all the little times we spent together. I just wish that there were more. I have to be be very thankful that this guy interviewed me for this job at WebTV and decided to hire me, because I learned PERL from him; and I learned Javascript from him; and I learned about color television from him; and

I just looked at the world in such a different way when I looked at it through his eyes.

I don't know who there will ever be who will let me see the world in that way again.


Paul R y b i c k i: My fondest memory of Jos is pretty much when I'd first met him. I'd seen him around. Everybody had seen Jos around. Jos is pretty much one of those people you see around everywhere. He started working in a cubicle down the hall from me; and he used to come in in the morning. He would walk by my cube and he would say,

"So Mr. Paul, are we going to have fun today?"
I would answer some times, and I wouldn't answer other times. It took me a while to realize that he was being serious. It wasn't just something he said. It wasn't just a kind of a greeting. It was a comment. That's how I choose to remember Jos, "Are we going to have fun today?" Try to have fun today, try to remember that, put it all in perspective, I suppose. That's how, that's how I'll always remember Jos. Thanks.

Sairam (Sai Surash): I was at a party a few weeks ago, and, as parties do, this one ran until the wee hours, with most of us curled up at random spots on the floor. A friend and I woke up early, before everyone else, including our hosts. We started cleaning up, and by the time we were done, you couldn't even tell a party had been thrown, aside from the large stack of just-washed dishes on the drying rack and the now-full trash bin. Our hosts were incredibly grateful the next time we spoke to them. I told them about the time when I threw a party, and was dumbfounded when I woke up the next morning at how clean the place was, dishes and all, and how great it felt not to have to clean. I realized, after calling Jos the next day, that he had taken the time to clean up in the morning so I wouldn't have to. I couldn't express my appreciation for his thoughtfulness. It actually felt great when I returned the favor (so to speak) by cleaning up our host's apartment, and, in a small way, passed on Jos' kindness.

Sam Trout (Anchorage):

Jos was a big influence in my life. He was the right person to come along at the right time. He came to Alaska and became a fan of my friends punk show Duck and Cover on KRUA the University of Alaska Anchorage college station. (A show which I eventually hosted as well.) Jos came by one day and sat in on the show. When he met me one of the first sentances he said to me was, "Do you want to be in a band with me?" "Well, I don't know how to play anything." "That's ok neither do I." he responded. "My sister has an acoustic guitar that I could use until things get serious." I said. "Great."

We had a few jam sessions in the KRUA production room, mostly just fooling around and just having fun. Jos eventually took a few classes with his bass guitar and learned really quickly. We had one practice with our friend Dan (from Duck and Cover) on drums which was a caucaphonous racket but also a lot of fun. Soon after that Jos moved out of state but Dan and I continued to play and form the band Hojew. Dan and I played together in the Anchorage scene for about a year and really had a good time. At the end of our reign we put together a tape of our material and dedicated the album to Jos.

Jos was the reason I picked up a guitar. He was the reason Dan and I formed a band. Without him, Dan and I probably wouldn't have been as close of friends as we became. Jos was the spark and enthusiasm that made me realize that life was amazing and to check out everything I possibly could while I was here. He had a sense of adventure and intellegence about him that I always admired.

The news of his passing has brought a big tear to my heart. Reading his essays brought smiles to my insides and reminded me of how wonderful a person he was. I will always have a special place in my heart for Jos Claerbout.

There are stars
whose radiance is visible on earth
though they have long been extinct.
There are people
whose brilliance continues to light the world
though they are no longer among the living.
These lights are particularly bright
when the night is dark.
They light the way for Mankind --
.................................. Hannah Senesh


Edward Sugimoto: Jeremy's stay was not long here in Hawaii, but I'm sure he touched many, many people nonetheless, including me. He was a late arrival at Niu Valley Intermediate School here in Hawaii, where I was the Class President. Being the "new kid" in town, he was somewhat passive initially but he soon became very vocal and active. He joined us late in student government, but because of his strong vocal and leadership skills, we created a special position for him called "8th Grade Representative". He was soon taking on many projects and responsibilities and some may argue that he became the class president by year's end! =)

I remember those awful, red aloha shirts that he was pictured wearing with Tyler Dierks at a band function in Hawaii Kai. I hope I don't have that red thing anymore! ;) I think he played the trumpet right along side of me. I will always remember Jeremy as a kind-hearted, gentle giant (he "matured" a lot faster than us 8th graders back then). While our encounter was brief, I hope I that I have somehow contributed to his memory and his legacy. Mahalo and take care big 'guy!

Tasha D: I met Jos in the makeshift Pomona Christian Fellowship (PCF) lounge on the third floor of Smiley. It was a room left empty through the clever pairing of two PCF members on the floor who made a point of using the same room for their living quarters, just so they could have a lounge in which they could proselytize. Jos was a "prospective" of one of the other students on the floor, and I think he had technically overstayed his prospective period. So he made a home of the lounge, whose door was always open. Of course, he could have used it to proselytize to the Church of Jos and people probably would have come in. I did.

I found this prospective in the lounge and started up a conversation, often revolving around his recent foray into farming in Mexico and my recent semester in Strasbourg. As firmly planted as he seemed to be in the PCF lounge, I managed to talk him into a trip to Raging Waters with me. The park was practically deserted, but the weather was great. When we met after changing in the rooms, I discovered that the bronze coat he had on his arms did NOT extend past that -- he looked like he still had a shirt on. It was such a striking contrast I had a hard time not saying something about it. It definitely lent a new meaning to the phrase "farmer tan."

We shared a class even -- Human Ethology, ultimately one of my favorites -- and we exchanged silly notes in class about how many more weeks we could possibly focus on SIDS. I didn't know at the time that he would take a leave of absence, but judging how he felt about that class, I wasn't surprised when I heard he would. I've known other Pomona students in the past who took leaves of absence, and I expected him not to come back. Nobody else ever seems to. But strangely, he did return. And he had so much to say about his experiences! His fish nightmares, his new aspiration to become licensed as a massage therapist, etc. By this time, I was in the working world, and we had a lot to share about how school can probably be better savored through outside experience, and that these kids have no idea what's coming, and that it's too bad for everyone else. Not that working is necessarily fun, but it gives you a better perspective on school. In Jos's case, it didn't make him grow up in the way that you expect people to, but he came back a wiser and more invigorating child.

Since then, we kept in touch. We watched "Fear of a Black Hat" until each of us finally started getting tired of it. He started calling me T-Bone. He crashed in my living room a couple times when he visited L.A. We discussed the intricacies of toessels and how I may qualify to get one but not really need it. He would try to get the poop on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" from my boyfriend who works on the show – he said he and his mom watched it faithfully every week. He even wrote a couple of scripts and stopped short of a third because he finally accepted that the show wouldn't take submissions. [Here are two Buffy scripts ( 1, 2 ) written by Jos.]

He tried to repay favors and hospitality with massages. Sure! But he didn't need to. He'll always be my friend with or without. I'd go on, but -- as he said, "Overshare!"

Jos's life is an inspiration to Live More. I hope that everyone whose life he has touched will be inspired to live harder. Don't just sit there and appreciate life. Live More. I never could get over how he held down a job and still wrote scripts and made movies and everything else. And it wasn't even to impress anybody.

cousin Tess [aged 16]: I am so very, very sorry. I just heard on Sunday because I had a birthday party on Saturday. When I heard, I cried for a very long time and I couldn't stop. When you called, I wanted to talk to you but I couldn't talk - I'm so sorry!

Jos was so special and different. Even though he lived s far away from us, it made the time he spent with us more special. We all wanted to be with Jos whenever there was the possibility of an opportunity. I still have my toessel which I love so much. I hope that he liked the drawings I made him as much as I like his toessel.

I remember the last time I was out there he was showing us his new "tool". It still makes me laugh whenever I him of him saying: "Go tool. Yea Tool!" I'm also really sorry I never got to see him as Buffy. Andrew showed me the picture and I cracked up laughing. I'm glad he got to have so much fun in life. I'm so proud he was my cousin. He was always doing something different that nobody else could possibly hope to dream up. And that he could always do it without being afraid of what other people would think. A lot of people wish they could be like that. He was also lucky to have you as parents. He thought you were the greatest, I know because he would tell me about all the adventures he had with you and how much fun they had been. All my love, Tess

May the spirit of Jos live on through us, the living.

Kathleen Wright O.

Kathleen Wright O: I remember standing in front of the White House after driving around Washington and going to the Smithsonian. Tess, having endured it all with utter boredom and standing with her back to the White House thoroughly disinterested, said for about the hundredth time, "But when will we see Jos!?"

Jonathan had such a great connection with Jos. They made me think of "meeting" my baby sister when she was about 20. One day I was trying (badly) to describe my favorite cartoon of all time, when she cracked up and finished the punchline for me. We just sort of connected that day and realized we had the same sense of humor - something I cherish. It was so great to see Jonathan and Jos doing that, too, and they had such fun with each other. Finding each other that way was such a treasure.

For myself, I always saw Jos with Jonathan, Tess, and David. In thinking back over our times together, I tended to be behind the scenes encouraging him to "do the Jos thing" for his adoring younger cousins. Jos was about the most spontaneous person on the planet. And Tess and David always saw him with such expectations of his showmanship - a command performance, I guess - that sometimes he looked like he wanted to run for cover. That gave me my most bittersweet memories. Wonderful because of the incredible effect he has had on David; unfortunate because Jos recalled awkward memories from his own adolescence (while he may not have known of his marvelous impact on David).

When we visited in February of 1998, David (then 12) had already become intensely involved in computer games. At home, he would spend hours at a time totally absorbed in pursuit of points and levels as required by the game at hand. On rare occasions when not thus engaged, he would be at a loss for things to do and would attempt to occupy himself in seemingly endless conversations, often with his father. In California, he had no computer. He had Jos. Or so he thought.

For the next few days, David tried to chat Jos up in a manner which he himself sometimes describes as babbling. At first, Jos reacted with amusement, then surprise when the onslaught of attention didn't taper off. Eventually, as Jos tried in vain to focus on some website work he had been trying to finish all weekend, he determined that something had to be done.

At that point David was asking for the 15-minute course in how to do what Jos did on the Web. Simultaneously he was working on his toessel strategy which seemed to consist exclusively of bugging Jos to give him one just to get him to stop the nagging.

Amazingly, Jos never became angry. Instead, he ad libbed a behavior modification routine that would have made many a child psychologist proud. Jos set limits, and he stuck to them. He began by requiring that David ponder his ideas for a few minutes prior to sharing them. Then, as a reward, David was allowed a fixed interval for expressing himself. Jos gradually increased the times, and instructed David to organize his thoughts, editing them for significance and paying attention to their presentation. He sternly forbade David to mention toessels again prior to his departure on Sunday morning of the following weekend. To do so would end all communication.

To our further amazement, David sat patiently and thought. He didn't go read a book or hide in another part of the house in dismay. He had decided to at least play along. Jonathan and I looked at each other . . . who was this masked man who had tamed his protege?

Along the way, Jos gave him this tip: "I have discovered in life that anything I truly valued has come to me only after self-denial." David quickly responded, "That's easy. I'm constantly trying to fool myself into thinking I can do more than I can." Jos patiently explained self-denial as giving up leisure, etc., to work for knowledge or achievements, **not** to presume them. He went on to explain his approach to toessels, which could never be bought, only earned by bartering with the fruits of ones own labor.

Later we learned that in David, Jos had seen himself as a preteen. In horror, Jos apologized profusely to his parents for his behavior at that age.

Jos learns how television works

Jos learns how television works

Steve Wasserman: While leafing through the wonderful Life of Jos Claerbout website a few months ago, I came across a picture that had very special meaning to me. In the picture, Jos is prevailing on his Popster to explain some of the intricacies of NTSC color television signals so that he might be able to create a better color picker. (The color picker is a tool that Jos wrote to help website designers choose colors that look good on televisions.)

Jos wanted to understand everything about television. This was logical because he was writing a set of articles and tools explaining what a web designer should do in order to make things look good on a TV. When the basic TV signal standard was designed in the '40s and '50s, displaying web content was certainly not envisioned. Because of the compromises in this standard, all sorts of artifacts haunt web pages that look perfectly fine on the higher-quality displays that computers use. Jos wanted to understand each and every one of these artifacts and how to minimize its impact by using good design techniques.

Color television is not a light subject. A complete understanding of the topic draws on many fields of electrical engineering, including signal processing, circuit design, CRT physics, and other esoteric things.

On his quest to perfect a set of instructions for creating WebTV pages, Jos sought me out. Now, I don't want to brag here, but I have a degree in electrical engineering from MIT and many years of experience with television electronics. At our first meeting, things quickly went off the deep end. I introduced Jos to color spaces, dot crawl, crosstalk, high voltage regulation, and all sorts of things. We moved to the lab in order to illustrate some of these topics.

Jos was not content with merely knowing the names that engineers had attached to the various types of artifacts; he was hell-bent on understanding the very core concepts of color television. I did my best to give explanations that Jos could follow, but we ran into many roadblocks. Not knowing Jos very well (or his educational background) at the time, I asked, "Do you know anything about frequency responses?"

I will never forget the answer: "Not really ... (short uncomfortable pause uncharacteristic of a Jos conversation) ... But I know some people who can help me out. How about we meet again in a week or two?"

I'm sure I rolled my eyes. Here was this poet telling me he was going to learn signal processing and Fourier transforms in a week or two. We parted ways and reconvened a week or two later.

At our second meeting, it was immediately obvious how much effort Jos had put in. In that short time, Jos was able to understand enough of the basic concepts that we were able to have a much deeper discussion, which we did for a couple of hours. Jos left the meeting feeling rather proud, and I left feeling enormously impressed. No person has ever impressed me as much as Jos did that day.

Jos and I talked often about TV and other things over the next few months. He quickly got into extremely complex issues for which I had no answer, and he did some very good original thinking on the subject. A lot of this work made it into the color picker.

A few days before he died, we had a meeting scheduled to discuss his latest version of the color picker. He sent me an email to cancel because he had recently introduced some bugs into the code, and he wanted it to be working properly before he showed it to me. We rescheduled for later, but it was not to be.

And then I saw on the website! A photograph of Jos devouring knowledge of television color spaces with his beloved Popster (in full Toessel, of course) so I could finish my explanation!

I cried and cried when I saw it. The image reminded me how much fun it would have been to continue our professional relationship and our budding friendship. It was impossible to have a bad time with Jos. I dearly miss having him brighten my day.

-- Steve Wasserman

I didn't really work with Jos on the strict mathematical implementation of the Fourier transform, but rather on an intuitive sense of it. For example, I could draw two signals on the board and Jos could tell me which had more high-frequency content. (This was based on a neat trick that one of my college professors showed me. You can estimate how fast the spectrum of a signal falls of by counting the number of derivatives that must be taken in order to make the signal into impulses. A step, for example, turns into an impulse after one derivative and falls off as 1/f. A ramp takes two and falls of as 1/(f^2), and so on.) Jos understood that things with sharp edges (like the edge of a colored letter on the screen) would have large spectra that could leak over into other parts of the TV signal. Okay, maybe technically he wasn't doing Fourier transforms, but he certainly understood how they were relevant to the problem he was trying to solve. (I did lots and lots of Fourier transforms in college, and I'm not sure that Jos' approach to signal processing was any less helpful in this case.)

I remember the problem of adjusting the colors very well. This came from an idea that Jos and I worked out to help minimize the dot crawl that would inevitably occur at the edge between two colors, as in colored letters on a colored background. When two colors are separated by many degrees in YUV space, an abrupt transition between them will cause dot crawl. You can see this on a colorbar signal by noting how big the "zippers" are that run up the screen between the color bands. The one in the middle (I think it's the green to magenta transition) has the biggest zippers because the phase of the color carrier changes by 180 degrees there. As I remember the idea, when Jos' code sensed that there was a big phase transition between the two chosen colors, it would suggest new colors by reducing the saturation of one of the colors in order to lessen dot crawl.

There were lots of other problems we were working on.

Zonker Harris: For the past six months I sat two cubes down from Jos. He had many, many friends. He always had a positive outlook on life. I can honestly say that I had never seen him depressed, or disheartened. Even when things were difficult at work, he could find something positive to be thankful for. He was also one of the most articulate folks that I've known at Web-TV. He was clever, insightful, and had a wonderful sense of humor. I can assure you that he will also be sorely missed by his dozens of friends, and the hundreds of folks that he talked with each week.

Jos remembered everyone. He called me by name, and he spoke to me in a way that made me feel like we had been friends for a long time, reuniting after a few weeks apart. His enthusiasm in making a personal connection with people was an inspiration to many of us. I hope that we can all pitch in to fill that gap. I will try to pay more attention to other co-workers, to honor my memory of Jos.

... ... ... The year I met Jos, I wore my "Dilbert's Boss" hair. This was just after the late-summer "Worst Hawaiian Shirt" contest at Web-TV...I thought I surely had the prize clinched, until I saw Jos in a Muumuu...he had the legs to pull off that look, and I won a small potted flower for second place.

Jos really liked my hair. I had let it grow at the end of July, and finally got a short haircut in early October, and I saved the long, curly locks from that shearing. I made some plastic supports, and a couple wire supports, and then I stuck my own curls to the plastic with some brown model paint.

Art Bobroskie: I cannot say that I was a close friend of Jos. I wish I had been. I work as a QA lead for the Japanese service. I would bump into Jos in the halls and occassionally have lunch with Jos, Joel and their lunch gang. I tend to have a dour demeanor and a meeting with Jos would end with me smiling in spite of myself.

The day before he died, I walked the pond trail after lunch with Jos, Joel, and Renée. I loved the way that Jos would consider the possibilities beyond the normal boundaries. A lovely walk, spirited conversation with goodhearted people and no clue of the terrible twist in the path to come.

The next day after hearing the unbelievable news, I called my wife Marty. She and Jos are kindred spirits, who shine the joy of life upon those they encounter. She had met Jos nearly a year earlier and had planned an exchange of a Toessel for some of Marty's jewelry. Marty had just opened an old message from Jos and was thinking of him, when I called her with the tragic news. If either of our children come to possess the intelligence, infectious good humor and radiance of Jos, then I will consider ourselves successful parents.

Brava Services: Brava services was paying Jos while he was working at WebTV. We often do not get to have a lot of interaction with the people we pay and who are legally our employees. Jos however had a significant impact on many in our office. I had the pleasure of talking to Jos a couple of times on the phone. Both times I hung up the phone and commented to our staff what a great guy he seemed to be. He was full of energy, absolutely charming and gracious.

You may wonder why someone with very little contact with your son is writing, but I wanted to convey that he had a positive impact on people whose lives he barely touched.

Neil Laughlin: I had the pleasure of working with Jos here at WebTV. We weren't very close -- I don't think we ever worked in the same city, let alone the same building -- but my responsibilities would frequently bring me into contact with Jos. When it happened, it always left me in a better, happier mood. Jos's sense of humor was amazing, and his good cheer seemed infectious. It was a distinct pleasure to be around him, and his loss is a terrible sadness. I am positive he will be missed by everyone who knew him, and by all of the people who should have known him.

Lennart Lovstrand: Jos was a collegue and a friend, and although we weren't all that close, he nevertheless left an everlasting impression that will live with me for the rest of my days. He used to come over and ask me questions while offering backrubs in return -- a most excellent proposition for which I was more than willing to give any answer he needed! We also had dinner together once over at the Hunan Kitchen. I remember it well because Jos gave me a piece of advice that uncunningly fit an issue that had been on my mind for a while. I thought about it a lot, and although I wasn't very good at acting on the advice, it stuck in me from that day onwards. [Jos would have liked Life's Little Instructions.]

Paul Erickson: I didn't know Jos in "real life" I suppose, never met him in person. But in my capacity as a "WebTV guru" of sorts I came to realize what a dynamic and positive force Jos was everywhere he went, and to everyone he came in contact with.

From brief correspondence over technical problems in WebTV service, and reading his cogent and light-hearted posts to the message boards at I gained some insight into his intensity and never-let-go-till-I've-got-it approach to problem solving.

You were blessed to have him, for the time he was given. I will never forget him.

He seemed a happy man, it's obvious he was a light in the lives of everyone he met.

Ray Hill: I think that he was quite aware that he could be leaving at any moment. That's why he was always so uninterested in material goods and so vibrantly interested in life experiences and being close to other people. While it is certainly tragic that Jos left at such a young age, I know a lot of people two and three times his age that didn't live their lives nearly as completely.

Mike Richman: I met Jos way back in 1997 when I first started at WebTV -- I traded a sculpture for a toessel. Ever since then he had not only made me laugh a countless number of times, but he electrified the air around him with happiness and ease. I will miss him dearly.

T i m o Bruck: I have two very short Jos stories to share with you. The first is how Jos would pronounce my name: It's supposed to be pronounced "tee-mo" (not tim-oh), which is pretty happy sounding, but apparently Jos didn't think it was happy-sounding enough. Instead, he'd yell (in a rather high pitch) "tWee-mo" (or just tWee, for short). Often, he'd do this while chasing me down the hallway to ask some technical question that he was sure I knew the answer to (I usually did have an answer for him, and felt awful when I didn't). I can still imagine the "tWee-mo" sound in my head. Unfortunately, I don't think I'd ever be able to accurately vocalize it.

The other story has to do with sailing. Jos knew that one of my dreams is to quit working, buy a sailboat, and sail around the world for a year or so. When Jos saw me in the hallway (quite often after yelling "tWee-mo"), he'd ask what kind of day I was having. Usually, I'd mention that it was a stressful day and many things were going on. He'd always remind me that it was a day that is one day closer to my sailing trip around the world.

Neal Tucker: He still does make me smile. Every I think about him greeting me [Neal Tucker] across rows of cubicles with "Wassup, Tucka!" He also came to the realization that since I work on some of the back-end server parts of webtv, I should be called a "back-end engineer," and he'd give me a little wink whenever he said it. Funny stuff.

CJ Silverio [Ceej ( 1, 2, 3).] I first got to know Jos and earned a Toessel by setting up HIS WEB SITE NOW DELETED for him. He was awesome at conning me into doing all sorts of sys admin stuff for him. He'd say "Oh, Miss Ceejay, do you need a backrub?" and there I'd be, setting up another hostname for Jos.

Michael Cooke: I used to work with Jos. He used to call me "Professor" when he had a question for me. Anyway, I'm a jazz musician and I just finished a new CD and one of the song was write about day Jos left us. I thought you might be interested in putting a link on the Jos site to this song.
Early Exit is an extended tone poem about the day a friend of mine died at work. The poem begins with my waking up and going to work as on any other day, then seeing paramedics carrying out my friend who had died suddenly of heart failure. It was a long day of confusion and reflection, and, afterward, an evening spent alone waiting for my girlfriend to come home. (After Albert Ayler & Tim Berne) Black Hat Records

Brian Bock: I'm the editor of Net4TV Voice. [ story] We are a community site for WebTV users. I had never personally met Jos, but I did talk to him and trade e-mails a few times. I remember one particular conversation. He was trying to help me with a problem I was having with setting up a box with my TV, VCR, etc. I love word play, so I said something with a double entendre. Unphased, he threw it back at me slightly differently. It took me off guard. I couldn't help but laugh. He was a joy to talk with. I kick myself every time I see the Toessel site for not having traded him the styrofoam heads for the Toessel.

Jenny Wilder: I had the pleasure of working with Jos in customer care and then when he was in QA at WebTV and then had the pleasure of running into him the cafeteria almost daily when I was in the engineering building also. Jos always had a smile for everyone. Now when I think of him I get a smile of my face which covers up the sadness. He was one of the funniest people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. His wit, humor, intelligence, spunk, charisma was contagious and even when I was feeling sad -- he always had some sort of witty comment that would force me to smile and snap out of my funk.

Sharon Frinks: When I first met Jos, he immediately nicknamed me "Frinkster". But after we went as a company to see the new Star Wars movie, he surprised me by suddenly naming me "Jar Jar Frinks" based on the digitally animated character Jar Jar Binks in the movie. Most people would not have been bold enough to tease me in such a way (not that I don't have a sense of humor but that I can sometimes seem too busy to be approached). [She is the company chief of Human Resources.] Only Jos would have reached out in such a silly way to make me feel "one of the gang". And only Jos could have gotten away with it!

to The Life of Jos to Memories of Jos

Thea Agnew: I was working for Bob Jacobs as a guide during the summer that Jos was in Kennicott. I remember his excellent sense of humor and his amazing ability to absorb all the details of the mill workings at Kennicott. He was a powerful person and I remember him well even though I knew him only for a short time. (Left: Click to enlarge. Right: We think her name is Lida Gregory and we can't find her to tell her about Jos.)

Ken Brower: I turned to the notebook detailing my visit to the Kennicott Mine, and I found an account of an inspired tour of the mill tower led by "Yost," as I heard the name--not very meticulous reporting, but that's what I jotted down.

We several people whom Yost guided through the mill agreed afterward that it was extraordinary how much he had learned about the building in the short time he had been there. I remember thinking that he was either some kind of genius, or an idiosyncratic fascination with the old mine gave him geniuslike qualities. Here is some of what I wrote:

"This building was built in 1911," says Yost. "It was inhabited until 1938. It was not that safe when they built it, and it's been through a 9.2 earthquake since. It's not that safe now." He pauses, confesses he's only been doing these tours for 2 weeks. "There may be certain risks about which I don't know."

We sign a document. "This is not a waiver," says Yost. "It's an acknowledgement of risk." He looks us over. "I like to sort out my troublemakers from the start. Are there any geologists or engineers?"

He tells us the story of Tarantula Jack Smith and Clarence Warner, discoverers of the mine. We hear the pasture of grass story. (Which I know longer remember. I have a vague notion that someone saw what looked like a pasture of grass in Wrangell-St. Elias, and that is what drew the prospectors? Something like that?)

80% copper, the ore, he tells us. Tells old joke about the CR (Copper River) Railroad ("Can't Run Never Would") ? [Don't get it, where's the NW?]

Yost quotes Mike Haney, who was building rail from Cordova. "If you give me enough dynamite and snooze, I'll build you a railroad to hell." Snoose is snuff, and they used it because you don't want to SMOKE tobacco around dynamite. Yost tells us about the stamship that was disassembled and packed into here and reassembled.

Yost points to a safety feature--wood shield around a gear. "There were so many hundreds of ways to kill yourself in this building. Please don't feel obligated to try any of them. I don't like to think about the accident that made this safety feature necessary" (he says, pointing to the shield around the gear.)

"Center-cut Douglas fir--all the beams in this building," says Yost, in answer to a woman's speculation that vibration is why the beams are so big.

Yost shows us the Plato-o self oiling head motor to work shaker table. Cam is eccentric inside, which Yost shows us. He demonstrates noise by shaking sheerk manually. "Imagine this multiplied 40 times," he says.

"Now a paperweight," Yost says of huge wheel. Once integral, then Kennicott no longer needed it.

"the entire building was jerry-rigged."

[Here I, and not Yost/Jos, observe:] The vermiform appendix of the mine. The whole place is organic.

"The phrase is 'abandoned in place,'" Yost says of the crusher. "Wiley Coyote Crusher," he calls it.

"This building really had a brain of its own," says Yost. Shows us the separators. Building really does have so many circulations systems--like a body.)

"'Don't drain yourself here, it will rot the timbers,'" says Yost, reading some grafitti on wall. "And stink like hell," someone has added.

Yost shows us run-off system some carpenter has devised, because timbers were rotting from run-off down slope. (We're nearing top.) "Jerry-rigging!" cries Yost. "This whole building is jerry-rigged."

Yost shows us high-grade ore chute. Did require a worker to pick off chunks and toss them in.

[Here Ken Brower, and not Yost, observes] How the building just seems to keep going up! It's like building in dream. That add-on, improvised feel. From its bottom up to the superconscious of the top floor. The trap doors in unexpected places, leading into dark places. The unfathomable dimness of elevator shafts. The grim obsolete undecipherable machinery. Id indeed. The "Thunder Dome" feeling. Thunder Dome meets Bodie; ghost town. That jury-rigged, jerry-rigged feel of Road Warrior movies. Of post-apocalyptic movie set in Aussie outback.

Air compressor. The belt is gone, but Yost gets several of his clients to spin it manually. "Sounds like some sort of aboriginal instrument," I say. Diggerie Do? Is that what they call it? Yost agrees. When the wheel spins, the rest of us hold hands over exhaust hole. Wind comes through, and diaphragm makes that whispery aboriginal wind-instrument moan. If a ghost had a voice?

Top of the tower. The arctic, Alaskan views in the weathered frames of the windows. Me trying to make composition of the mountains beyond, by moving my vantage around, and sometimes succeeding.

Just loved this tour. And I'm not a machinery person.

(And that is the end of my notes. What Jos did, in researching and interpreting the building, was what we try to do in literature. In two weeks or whatever he had fashioned a great poem to the mill tower, and if there were a Pulitzer or Nobel for mine-guiding, he would have won it.)

Best wishes, Ken Brower

Other Jos Alaska links: Fishing diary. Big fish. Audio tape diary. Election campaign. American Country Magazine. Mine guiding.

to the Life of Jos


No, perdoname.
Si tu no vives,
si tu, querido, amor mio,
si tu
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caeran en mi pecho,
llovera sobre mi alma noche y dia,
la nieve quemara mi corazon,
andare con frio y fuego y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querran marchar hacia donde tu duermes,
seguire vivo,
porque tu me quisiste sobre todas las cosas

Johannes "Jos" Claerbout   1974-1999