Monday, January 19, 2009

Joe the Blog

Joe the What?
I don’t watch much television news, so I missed most of the “Joe the Plumber” soundbites. I did intuit that he, like Sarah Palin, was a godsend to journalists desperate for something to write about in the waning days of the campaign. He was a poster child for the kind of people Barack Obama said wouldn’t suffer from his tax plan. At the exact same time, he was a poster child for what John McCain claimed was the kind of person that would suffer from Barack Obama’s tax plan.

Just as America’s eyes began to glaze over, our ever-alert media dug up the fact that Joe wasn’t really a plumber, and he owed some taxes. Scandal! Then he wrote a book (with the help of some other guy): JOE THE PLUMBER – FIGHTING FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM.

And now, he’s a reporter in Israel for Pajamas Media, a branch of the conservative blog, Little Green Footballs. I don’t know how much he’s being paid, or what purpose Joe the Plumber’s presence in Israel will serve. A symbolic one, of course. An American working class joe, bringing the truth about Israel to a rabidly anti-zionist media! At last!

Michelle Malkin, a green footballer herself, wrote, “Joe the Plumber's new gig is an affront to the Fraternal Order of The Professional Journalist because it underscores hard truths: An Ivy League journalism degree does not a truth-teller make. International war broadcasting experience does not a truth-seeker make. Look at Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post fabulist Janet Cooke. Or New York Times fiction writer Jayson Blair. Or Boston Globe fabricators Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle. Or former CBS News Captain Queeg Dan Rather.”

So the hope is that our working class joe will roll up his sleeves and bring home the truth bacon for a hungry America. Unfortunately, Joe gave an interview to the Associated Press. This is part of what he said, “I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you're gonna sit there and say, ‘Well look at this atrocity,’ well you don't know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

So, let us recap. Joe the Plumber, who is not a plumber, is now a reporter, who does not believe in reporting.

I want that job! Do I have to go to Gaza though?

According to the Associated Press, “Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, … hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.”

According to the AP, in San Francisco, “31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.”

Supposedly these basement chemists and programmers will ultimately find the cure for cancer, or whatever, where the bloated bureaucracies and lumbering private enterprises cannot.

Some, of course, find this amateur approach to genetic engineering alarming. I grew up in an era in which our fathers were enthusiastic hobbyists. They were all about electric trains, hi-fi equipment, home carpentry, battle tableaus, and DIY fireworks displays. So I worry a bit. I knew a Dad who liked to collect and pose lead soldiers. Unfortunately, he could only solder a musket on a lead redcoat for about a minute before requiring a trip to the emergency room.

Still, I welcome a return to grownups having hobbies. Nobody has hobbies any more. We only build things in the hope of attracting venture capital. And most of the building is virtual, anyway. We don’t make a ship in a bottle, we make software that allows you to create a ship in a bottle online.

And a group in Cambridge, called DIYbio, gives me hope. They have set up a “community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.”

Well, okay, that’s kind of scary. I don’t know if I’d want a bunch of enthusiastic biology dropouts storing staph infections in a Kelvinator anywhere within a ten mile radius of me. On the other hand, one of the co-founders of DIYbio claimed that while “amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels,… they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.”

Now, that’s more like it! That’s the America I love. No cure for cancer, no life-extending protein drinks – glowing tattoos! Inflatable feet! Adjustable hairlines! A sixth finger! Toes that can sing! Eye color that adjusts to match your mood! A chihuahua that fits in a spoon! A formerly endangered tiger that fits in your pocket!

And Dads everywhere will take up smoking pipes again. After work, they’ll loosen their ties, go into the den, fire up the particle accelerator and either end life as we know it, or emerge with a self-sharpening pencil, a cat that knows how to bark, or a bacterium that feeds only on dust bunnies. Just in time for dinner! Thank you, says Mom. You Go Dad, say the kids. I love you, says the genetically re-engineered dog. And Dad will beam in his new found glory, glowing like a hopeful tattoo, a beckoning beacon for a dark and frightened nation.

A Story I Found Strangely Touching, if Creepy
From Popbitch, a Brit gossip newsletter: "Mariah Carey doesn't like to go to bed without
the security of someone just watching her sleep."

Another Story I Found Strangely Creepy, but not Touching
Farhad Manjoo, in Slate: “Friends—can I call you friends?—it's time to drop the attitude: There is no longer any good reason to avoid Facebook. The site has crossed a threshold—it is now so widely trafficked that it's fast becoming a routine aide to social interaction, like e-mail and antiperspirant. It's only the most recent of many new technologies that have crossed over this stage. For a long while—from about the late '80s to the late-middle '90s, Wall Street to Jerry Maguire—carrying a mobile phone seemed like a haughty affectation. But as more people got phones, they became more useful for everyone—and then one day enough people had cell phones that everyone began to assume that you did, too. Your friends stopped prearranging where they would meet up on Saturday night because it was assumed that everyone would call from wherever they were to find out what was going on. From that moment on, it became an affectation not to carry a mobile phone; they'd grown so deeply entwined with modern life that the only reason to be without one was to make a statement by abstaining. Facebook is now at that same point—whether or not you intend it, you're saying something by staying away.”

If I understand this moron correctly, he’s saying that if you don’t own a cell phone, you’re an elitist stand-offish sort of person. Of course, you could also be an orphan in Zimbabwe, cowering in a ditch. A cowering orphan with an affectation.

Okay, that’s harsh. But if you are indeed saying something by not being on Facebook, what could that something be? Well, maybe you're saying you don’t want to be bitten by vampires, or play Scrabulous (Lexulous now), or “poke” people, or make “friends” with people you don’t even know, or spend hours updating your profile, or have zombies attack your “friends,” or have all personal information posted on Facebook open to anybody with a Facebook account (or not), or frantically count up how many “Friends” you have, or check the status updates of others, or send YouTube links, and post funny pictures of fuzzy animals.

That’s what I would be saying, if I didn’t have a Facebook account.


Blogger Blaize said...

In re: Facebook, I recommend:

Also? "We don’t make a ship in a bottle, we make software that allows you to create a ship in a bottle online." I LOLled. Or, as I prefer, lauled.

Mmmmm. Truth bacon.

7:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home