When Focus Groups Attack
Thursday, September 30 2004
I went to yet another house on Eagle's Nest Road today, this time to look into the possibility of doing a cowboy plumbing job. It was a wacky house, built by the father of the older woman who lives there alone with her cat and huge lupine dog. This father was a machine designer and obviously had a irrepressible inventor's spirit. The house is modest in size, but it has genuine elevator that stops on all three floors. The complex electric mechanism governing the elevator's motions was exposed in an elaborate plywood circuit board taking up more than ten square feet of wall space, and the technology was all strictly early-20th Century. The elevator hasn't been operated in years and now serves as a stack of closets.
As for Shadows the Lupine Dog, she might prove something of a problem when I come to do my work. She used to be a feral dog, raiding garbage cans up and down Eagle's Nest until Elevator Lady decided to take her in. Now the dog is neurotic and over-protective, with a tendency to lash out and bite visitors.
Back home, I went to work fixing the retaining wall project that came out of nowhere yesterday. First I used two by fours propped against the house to pry the wall plumb. In so doing, the wall assumed a slightly archlike shape, but of course the vertical dimension doesn't matter anywhere near as much as the horizontal one.
Next I used Portland cement to fix the mortar between the blocks and to create a smoother surface on the uphill side of the blocks. Then I mixed up some concrete and used that to completely fill voids between the blocks with the hope that this will hold the wall plumb once the two by fours torquing the wall are removed.
At 9pm tonight Gretchen and I both watched the first debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush on CNN. It's difficult to watch our Commander 'n' Chief, and (as you might expect) I thought he had difficulty holding his own in a split screen with Kerry, who seemed much more calm, collected, rational, balanced, and (most significantly) evolutionarily evolved. This opinion might reflect the bias I bring to my politics, knowing all the shenanigans Bush and his henchmen have pulled over the past four years, but I really felt these things would be apparent to people even if they'd just crawled out from under a rock that had fallen on them twenty years before, back when Bush was skilled in the art of rolling a hundred dollar bill into a tight little tube. What is wrong with the people who can watch Bush on teevee and nod their head and say "This guy, this guy, he really speaks to me." Your average TGI Fridays waiter has twice his oratorical skills.
As much as people decried the heavily-scripted format of this event (and it was something other than a real debate), it provided for unexpectedly continuous entertainment. I liked how the choppy format forced the politicians into delivering their points with concision. If anything, the format seemed to work to Kerry's advantage; he never had a chance to become a bore.
Gretchen noticed at the end of the debate that both First Lady Laura Bush and prospective First Lady Teresa Heinz Kerry were wearing dresses colored in identical shades of oops-I-left-a-red-sweater-in-the-white-load pink. This part of the debate might fairly be labeled "When Focus Groups Attack." Obviously that shade had been separately determined by the respective focus groups of both Bush and Kerry. Independently they'd found the greatest resonance with this particular color for whatever it is that a first lady is supposed to embody. What does light pink mean to you? To me it reeks of cloyingly feminine. Mind you, I have an embarrassingly strong component of femme obsession in my toolbelt of sexual fetishes, but even I can't handle pastel pink. Whatever it is your average American wants his first lady to be, it must be pretty fucking medieval.
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