25 February 2009

There ain't no way to hide your lyin' thumbs

The accompanying image is from today's Irish Times online edition; Obama may be bigger than God, but is he bigger than Bono?

Its an easy mistake to make, just ask anyone who was at the We Are One concert before the Inauguration, when hundreds of thousands stood for hours in the biting cold to see Mr Hewson crowned King of America. His mammy, I'm sure, is very proud.

I spent most of last night at a friend's pancake party, and while there may be nothing more wonderful in the world than fried batter (apart from, perhaps, fried dough), by the time I got home I never wanted to see another yummy gooey mouthful of pre-Lenten joy all butter and lemon encrusted, and unfortunately was too full to contemplate staying up the extra hour or so to watch the "I can't believe it's not the State of the Union" address. Political junkie that I am, and not having a decent fix of Obama since the Inauguration, I of course recorded the address and refused to look at any news this morning before I had a chance to sit and watch the whole thing.

And I wasn't disappointed. A good speech, covered many bases (I'm sure my unemployed IT friends in San Francisco will be delighted to hear that they can now choose to retrain as either a home weather-proofer, or to cure cancer. I say why not do both?), and still managed to raise a cheer by highlighting in a completely non-partisan way the fact that the mess everyone is in is the fault of the last guy. Job done, hope restored.

Bobby Jindal blew the Republican response by perplexingly pinning all his folksy good ol' boy charm on a story about private enterprise alone saving Louisiana from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, somehow forgetting about the $175 Billion that the Federal Government has given to the region in the three and a half years since the catastrophe.

Although many Republicans might be stuck in the past as far as the broken record of their cries for more tax cuts go, I was surprised to see the hordes of chubby old white man fingers Twittering away on their Blackberrys throughout the Presidential address, updating their supporters with blow-by-blow tweets in a hallucinogenic scene straight from "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T"*.

In my last job, my VP was a crackberry addict, and one of the most infuriating of his many foibles was to tune out of meetings entirely absorbed in his PDA, not even noticing when the room had gone silent and everyone was awaiting a response for him on the presentation he had just zoned out of. It is safe to say that more often than not the business prospered in spite of his presence, but I digress. In my own department I banned the use of PDAs or phones in meetings, and the only laptop allowed to be open was the one on which a presentation was running. If you are going to be at my meeting, be at my meeting, otherwise don't bother showing up. So if people in my meetings can be expected to tear themselves away from their phones for an hour, why can't the good men and women of the United States Congress and Senate?

I had a conversation last night (after pancakes) with a friend who recently left a forum that he himself helped start, in a dispute whose origins are lost now in the mists of time, but had something to do with Phil Collins (I kid you not). Our conversation was over the use of Twitter and other similar microblogging services, the appeal of which he could not understand. He said that if he wanted to talk to someone, he would talk to them, if he wanted to send them a message, he would email or text them. He could see no purpose for publicly posting random status updates.

At the time, hopped up on sugary buttery fried battered goodness, I did an amazingly pathetic job of explaining the appeal of tweets to him, but the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has nothing to do with communications and everything to do with relieving boredom. It is little more than mental fidgeting, twiddling the thumbs of your synapses and whistling a tuneless tune in your neurons. Your mind has found a lull in the ongoing proceedings and cries out to all and sundry, "boring, entertain me".

The fine men and women of the US Congress and Senate can try and gloss over their fidgeting thumbs by saying they are reaching out to their constituents, enabling a new era of transparency and participation in the democratic process, but the truth is that they can't even sit still for 54 minutes of smiling, clapping and the occasional bit of standing (while clapping and smiling) without getting bored and needing a distraction. No wonder the country is in the mess it is when it is governed by a group of folks with the attention span of a five year-old.

It could be worse, at least if they are busy Twittering they probably won't be caught picking their nose on camera.

oh, and if anybody wants an up-to-the-minute account of my daily fits of boredom, you can follow me here.

* a nasty 1953 musical by Dr Seuss in which the heroic student Bart suffers at the hands of his piano instructor Dr Terwilliker. Yup, that's where Sideshow Bob gets his name from.

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At 10:55 am, Blogger Unknown said...

How true. How true.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/46982 - "Your world turns into a never-ending cocktail party where you're always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner."


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