Breadsticks and Broadband

April 23, 2008

I love the Olive Garden.  I’m not sure why.  It isn’t really all that good.  There’s only one in the immediate area which is always crowded.  It’s also a little pricey for what is basically the Wal Mart of Italian cuisine.  As the product of a very Sicilian family who wouldn’t, as even the decidely non-Sicilian Roseanne Conner once remarked, “pay $12.95 for spaghetti if they had Mr. Chef Boyardee himself in the kitchen,” I should really run screaming from the Olive Garden. 

But no, there I was last Saturday, lunching alone (because the same friends who poke at my bourgie taste in clothes, cars and bottled water refuse to join me at the OG) but for the company of Garrett’s fine book, the thoughtful intellectualism of which lent a certain sophistication to a table that included a plastic basket of never-ending breadsticks. 

I remember our first class, when I finally figured out (I’m slow sometimes) that one of the required books was actually written by Garrett.  If I didn’t already feel unaccomplished, given that he’s just six days shy of being exactly a year older than me (Credit: Facebook) I surely did after some Googling revealed his book was reviewed in The New York Times.  Not just reviewed, but reviewed by the same woman who reviewed Carrie’s book on “Sex and the City!” 

I immeidately wondered if Garrett woke up earlier than he had for Princess Diana’s wedding on the day the review was printed, just like Carrie?  Then I thought two things: That Garrett was 18-days-old on Princess Diana’s wedding day (thanks, Windows calculator!) and that sometimes I am super gay.  Anyway, the reviewer must have also been intrigued by Garrett’s young age, since she declared our Mr. Graff “astonishingly young.”  To me, though, that sort of proves the book’s point.  

This time in which we live, with the technology available to us, allowed a kid fresh out of college to play an enormously important role in shaping the campaign of a major presidential candidate.  While Dean (likely) had his own Carvilles and Deavers playing important advisory roles, I was struck in the opening pages to learn how close Dean kept his communication staff to his own office.  Then I reflected on how risky it all was, putting one’s presumably long-held dreams in the hands of some kids and a foul-mouthed know-it-all who planned to take those dreams online, then much more a novelty venue than we currently know it to be. 

Web 2.0 has given the astonishingly young a huge amount of responsibility.  Really, it’s given anyone ready to take it a huge amount of responsibility.  Matt Drudge isn’t particuarly young (or particularly worthy of oxygen), but the portion of TFC that addresses his role in breaking the Lewinsky story shows just how easy it is for one person to plunge the nation into a story, for better or worse. 

I don’t think my generation will engage in the sort of endeavors that produce the iconic images of Normandie or Iwo Jima.  Frankly, I hope we won’t be called upon to make the sort of sacrifices our grandparents made.  But it will be our challenge to navigate a wired world increasingly few of their generation are here to see.  We may not produce a Murrow or a Cronkite in a mold our parents knew, but we will produce countless Ted Sorensons and Peggy Noonans, who will make their political views known not from behind the scenes of power, but openly, in a way that demands attention from the powers-that-be in the way the originators of this long-running experiment in representative democracy intended. 

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