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by Doug McIntyre | Los Angeles The other night while flipping around the cable universe, I had one of those low-grade epiphanies that occasionally come my way. After the latest episode of "World's Deadliest Catch" and a recap of this season's finale of "Ice Road Truckers," I caught a few minutes of "L.A. Hard Hats" and my newest addiction, "World's Biggest Fixes," starring that skinny redheaded guy. It suddenly hit me: When did work become a spectator sport? At most of the places I've been employed, half the staff at any given moment is usually standing around watching other people work. But this is something new; millions of Americans zap-set their TiVos to catch the latest installment of someone else's job. TV and movies have always lived on a steady diet of cop, lawyer and doctor shows, but construction workers? Last week I watched a road crew fill potholes on the Massachusetts Turnpike from the comfort of my living room. Then I watched the skinny redheaded guy string three miles of high-tension lines in New Jersey, while "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe cleaned a potato chip machine. Blue-collar jobs have become a national obsession. I suppose it was inevitable "Joe the Plumber" would become a major player in campaign '08. And this is a good thing. For too long, too many Americans have disparaged physical labor as socially undignified. We've pushed college for nearly three generations and become unhappier with each graduating class. It's not that every art history major is destined to toil in a thankless, lifeless, Dilbert-world of cubicle dwellers; it's simply a matter of genetic conditioning. We're not as far removed from Og the Caveman and our hunter-gatherer ancestors as we like to pretend. If you doubt me on this, try cutting the line at the DMV. For uncounted millennia, man has fought against starvation and the elements in a life-or-death struggle for survival. Technology and thumbs have made it possible for us to zap a bag of oriental snow peas in orange sauce and plop ourselves in front of the 52-inch HD and marvel as king crabs are hauled out of the Bering Sea in 80-mph gale-force winds, sleet slicing into the frost-covered crewmen who slip and crash to the deck with each giant Arctic roller. We've forgotten what it takes to actually put food on the table. And by "put," I mean much more than paying for a shopping cart full of groceries. Too many of us have lost manliness in our working lives. Think about that the next time you go whining to HR about the air-conditioning duct over your desk blowing too hard. Men are designed to sweat and grunt at work, but now we pay personal trainers to grunt for us. I'm certainly not opposed to college, but the "college for everyone" crowd is missing something very basic to the human animal: We need people who can fix things! When the washing machine spits soapy water all over the new bamboo floors, we don't need psychologists or sports nutritionists, we need a guy with a wrench. The First World has created whole new categories of "work" that really isn't work. Life coaches, celebrity spokesmodels, conflict resolution specialists, WNBA analysts, radio talk show hosts and the aforementioned sports nutritionists - what kind of jobs are these anyway? Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs on beer and sausages. Now ballplayers travel with their own personal chefs. We've become soft - too soft to survive if the grid ever goes down. I often think back to those kid jobs I had cutting lawns and fixing things and painting and hauling ladders - and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a hard day's work. It was tangible, decidedly analog, and somehow more real and satisfying than another in an endless series of days poking away on a Blackberry. Too many of us work in digital jobs where an accidental brush of the delete key can wipe out an entire day's efforts. That's a fickle and feckless existence and, deep down inside, we know it. My neighbor is putting in a new driveway and just poured the concrete. Not that I want to tip my hand, but I've already written the first act of my new play, "Concrete - the Musical!" CRO first appeared at L.A. Daily News copyright 2008 Doug McIntyre Doug McIntyre, former television scriptwriter, is a popular talk radio host for Los Angeles' AM-790 KABC

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