Saturday, October 24, 2009
Going Norm Galt
Many people with skinny glasses instead of safety glasses talk a good game about self-reliance. They grow cucumbers in a window box and put together an IKEA shelf, then start blogging about how they've returned to their pioneer roots. They're going Galt. Complaining you're being forced to hoard your quarters instead of buying toys with them right away sounds vaguely familiar to me. I did it when I was six, when my mother made me fill a Christmas Club card from my allowance every week instead of blowing it immediately. My behavior was understandable, if not commendable. Gleeful references to John Galt from the well-off are similarly understandable, but not commendable.
But I was in first grade. What's your excuse? Ten percent of the population of the US is being told that the creative destruction they've always had to deal with--the hard way --while their managers shrugged and ordered a third martini at lunch, has morphed into permanent unemployability. Telling them it serves them right for not being rich enough to threaten to take their economic ball and go home, like you say you're going to do, is unseemly.
I'm beginning to become slightly irked at continual references to that Harlequin Romance version of economics everyone but me seems to be captivated with. Then again, actors in unwatchable Batman movies win Oscars like they're Olivier now. No use complaining about it, I guess.
Did you know Norm Abram retired from his TV show, The New Yankee Workshop? Probably not. Let's test my hypothesis, using Google News:
Two references. Both not about the subject. Let's see what the average Netizen does know and care about. How about the Balloon Boy:
Over 20,000 news stories.
The balloon boy's parents are "Reality TV" people. There has never been a more inaccurate sobriquet in English. Everybody seems to be fascinated with nothing.
Norm Abram is the penultimate example of true "Reality TV." He made real things, and encouraged others to do so. No pretense. Not a scam. The balloon boy's father will get his 15 minutes, but being part of Katie Couric's nightly geeks and freaks sideshow act is a virtual reality, it's not real real. He'll get a book deal or an ankle bracelet, maybe both, but he literally contributes nothing to the sum total of the world's worth. If you count up just the Twitter time he wasted, which is all waste anyway, he was the most destructive force on planet Earth for a week. But you didn't have to look. I didn't. You can't even dissect him as an example of a media frenzy, because there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's all just stupid.
"Reality TV" is an absurd concept to people that live in the real world of work and worry. They get reality every day, they don't need a faux one to amuse themselves. Cubicle-bound endomorphs think a contest that looks like figuring out a subway map, a bus schedule, and an airport tote board is an "Amazing Race." Catching a trolley is not a bloodsport, no matter how heavy your backpack full of energy bars is. Adults going camping while participating in activities too silly and sedentary for an overweight child's summer camp, with office politics thrown in, hardly makes them a "Survivor." I'm told that when you're all done watching all this onTV, you're going to weave your own clothes and barter with your next-door neighbor, the grizzly bear, with Kruggerands. Sure you are.
There actually is one hint of unreality to Norm. The workshop isn't his; not many people know that. It belongs to the producer of the show. Norm, as successful as he is, has been dragging his ass to the factory every day as if he was just another schlub. But that's it. He's immensely more influential and successful than most anyone I can name on television. He could walk into any home center, tool shop, construction trade show, and any restaurant in New England, and get carried around on people's shoulders if he felt like it. It's not his fault you don't know that. He's not an idiot celebrity. He's important to a lot of people, and for good reason. He's as close to a real folk hero as you can find in contemporary American life. It was as if Johnny Appleseed was on TV for two decades, but everyone was too busy watching execrable people with no talent judge singers with even less talent to notice. You didn't get to lounge around and vote on which table leg Norm used, instead of putting down your bowl of lotos petals and making one yourself, so you weren't interested.
Norm is going Galt, if you insist on using the term. He's still making lots of dough pointing and smiling on This Old House, the only shelter show worth a turd, and money will roll in from all the books and drawings and videos and advertisements from his shuttered but amiable and useful show forevermore. He doesn't have to stand on someone else's concrete floor and smile while his feet hurt and back throbs anymore. Norm will be fine. His audience's life will be diminished because he's not in it as often.
I keep hearing others say they're going to drink taxpaying gasoline, eat supply-side dynamite, have a trickle-down nitroglycerine enema, and then swallow a serves-you-all-right John Galt match. Beware. Daffy Duck teaches us it's an exciting trick, but unfortunately you can only do it once --just like your fifteen minutes of fame. It would be a shame if you went John Galt and no one noticed.