Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Cards

As I noted with the advent of Twitter, the number of ways for people to keep in touch with friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and those of every gradation of esteem and regard in between, has mushroomed over the past few years. How to tell when twittering, e-mail, or walkie-talkie-phone-call is most appropriate is the challenge of our age, like knowing which corners of a calling card to fold over was in the nineteenth century.

Naturally, politicians are still getting it wrong, but we wouldn't respect them if they didn't. As representatives of a class that fails half the time at their most important job, running for office, politicians are uniquely suited to let us know, by trial and error, what works and what doesn't. If Twitter isn't bad enough to sink the Republican party of 2009, in other words, how bad can it be?

A much deeper level of mystery adheres to the new CDC e-cards, which allow you to nag somebody about their health by e-mail, while adopting that level of creepy familiarity and official neutrality that can only be summed up in the phrase government e-cards. If you wonder when it's appropriate to use Twitter, then you might well wonder whether it's ever appropriate to send someone wishes for a seizure-free day.

I was turned on to the Center for Disease Control's venture into greeting cards by libertarians, who were enraged that the government would fund a project like this. "Your tax dollars at work," was a common sentiment, although as Kaylen noted, "it can't be that many of them." And while I generally like the government to be useful, I can't deny that the CDC has a pretty stressful job.

Between naming and renaming the swine flu, and the "enhanced interrogation" of the smallpox viruses they have in custody, I'm not going to begrudge CDC employees the opportunity to blow off steam by making a "congratulations on your new fish" e-card, detailing the ways to keep your new pet fish healthy. But even that attempt at levity provides no relief from the death and disease the CDC deals with every day. Browsing over to their section on fish health confirms what those of us with aquariums have known all along: There is no way to keep fish healthy. They drop dead in the blink of an eye, and the best you can do is save yourself from the salmonella they carry. Stressful, indeed.

Update: Coincidentally, the Centers for Disease Control got a new chief today, Thomas R. Friedan. It's just too bad we don't know his e-mail address. If there was ever a good time to offer our congratulations with a government e-card, this would be it. After all, we wouldn't like the head of the CDC to come down with
frostbite or syphilis; not when there's so much work to be done, and so many more e-cards to make.


Blogger pjkobulnicky said...

So, can you imagine the irony of viruses being sent over the net in the guise of CDC greeting cards?

10:37 AM  

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