For those of you who have received Facebook SuperPokes from me in the last few days, I apologize. I’m still figuring out why I need this thing, although I’ve been assured by Those Who Know that all will become clear eventually. Whatever. I spent most of yesterday at a conference, and one of the sessions featured a very energetic woman telling a room full of baffled small businesspeople that they need to be on Twitter, a site that seems to exist for the sole purpose of letting the whole world honk like a goose.*
(* Many years ago, Alan had an interview with an ornithologist. Before he left, I said, “Ask him what geese are saying when they honk at one another when they’re flying.” He returned and reported the answer: A puzzled look, and “Here I am.”)
On the other hand, if I’d been sent a Twitter text message telling me my buds John and Sammy were not in Atlanta yesterday at 8:48 a.m. EDT, but at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, I would not have awakened John at 5:48 a.m. PDT to ask what sort of DV camera I should buy. I know that’s the sort of day-brightener I always appreciate.
The conference wasn’t a total waste of time. It was a research trip, and I got lots of ideas, even though the temperature indoors seemed to be turned down to stun. I spent the first part of the week worrying that the nape of my neck would never feel cool and dry again and by Wednesday — not even the end of the week — I’m blowing on my fingers in hopes of feeling sensation in them. During a break in the action, I wandered out to the lobby to discover the UAW had struck Chrysler. By the time I got home, the strike was over. Six hours — not even a whole shift — and yet it was enough to send yet another sheaf of solidarity-forever photos out into the world. Tom Walsh at the Freep points out the stakes:
(UAW President) Ron Gettelfinger is on the verge of doing something so historic, forging the most important UAW contracts since the GM sit-down strikes of 1936-37, that he felt compelled to deploy the biggest weapon in his arsenal, the strike, to make it happen. He called strikes to squeeze every last penny and every possible promise of a job from the companies, in return for the UAW agreeing to major cost-saving measures, most importantly, a union-run trust fund to handle future health care costs for retirees.
And he called strikes to show the hourly rank-and-file workers that he has their back, that he’s doing everything he can to get the most he can for his people. If UAW members don’t trust their leader to do that, they won’t ratify these contracts. The heavy lifting is not done. Gettelfinger, UAW Vice President Bob King and their bargaining team must now hunker down with Ford Motor Co., arguably the weakest of Detroit’s automakers, to negotiate one more contract.
I point this out not to bore the crap out of you, only to pause for a moment and reflect that a smart beat reporter-turned-columnist can be a real service to readers. That is all.
One of the sessions I attended was on innovation. After I adjusted my brain to the idea — having spent my career in an industry that could have hung out a sign reading, PROUDLY INNOVATION-FREE SINCE THE CIVIL WAR — I started to wonder if newspapers might not have had to travel this rocky path, if they’d had the sense to see the future coming down the road at them. Impossible question to answer, I know, but I do know what kept them from seeing it: Fear. Newspapers have been managed from a position of nail-biting fear for so long they don’t know any other way to do it. Kind of like the UAW. Too bad.
When I snapped back to attention the speaker was talking about how the parking decks at Metro Airport were innovated to within an inch of their lives, and the next step will likely be a Star Trek transporter between your home and your departure gate, cutting the car and the parking out of the equation completely. Kind of like the internet and newspapers. Too bad.
Friends, I’m beat, and I told myself I’d get this chore out of the way early, so I can shower and eat and adjust my caffeine balance. I don’t have much bloggage, but I advise you to find your own at Comics Curmudgeon, where daily the proprietor points out the utter laziness and fear-based management that rules the funny pages. Psst: He’s just devastating on Ziggy today. Or Doghouse Riley, who is having Hoosier-style water problems, something I recall from my Hoosier days.
And if you’d like to be sucked into a Flash vortex and not get any work done for the rest of the day, go ahead and try to spot the difference. Make sure the monitor faces the wall and no one can see what you’re really doing.
Also, where’s Danny been these days? The halls feel empty and echo-y without him.