Thursday, September 25, 2008

Campaign Advertising

In one of my previous posts, my good pal Nick corrected me and said that the campaigns are not spending millions of dollars to earn my vote, because I don't live in a swing state. Either Nick forgot that I live in Michigan, or else he was plain wrong. I do live in a swing state, as evidenced by the yellow glove in the above map, wikipedia, CNN, and the fact that I have been subjected to a mind-numbing volume of campaign advertising.

Every commercial break contains at least one ad that starts with "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message," and another that ends with, "I'm John Mccain and I approve this message." Obama sound authoritative, "I'M Barack Obama and I APPROVE this message," whereas McCain comes off rather matter-of-factly: "I'm John McCan and I approve this message." Sometimes the commercials run back-to-back, so it sounds like this: "I'm John McCain and I approve this message." "I'M Barack Obama and I APPROVE this message."

Now, see, when it comes to suffering the reprecussions of approving these sometimes less-than-factual messages, I think that Barack Obama has a better strategy. He approves the commercial before it even airs. I think that this is in case it turns out to be a total crock, he could always say, "Well, I had approved a different message, but then they played that one instead. I did not see that one coming." Whereas John McCain is sitting there in black-and-white with heroic lighting bathing him from the window, having heard the message we all just heard, and then he approves it. Later when reporters probe, "Senator McCain, we all know that Barack Obama did not vote for 'comprehensive sex education for kindergartners,' and that the same article quoted actually said that you didn't have an impressive education record, either. Did you really approve that message?" He has no choice. He has to say, "Actually, it is true that Obama voted for comprehensive sex education." This digs him deeper in a hole, which is why he should be approving those messages at the beginning of the ad, like Barack Obama, who I suspect is saving the I-didn't-see-that-ad-coming tactic for a real doozy.

Here is what I think. I think that if these two men (who worked together in the Senate to reform campaign finance) really want campaign finance to be reformed, and if they want an election to be won based on the issues, then they should get together for a grande latte and make a pinky-swear pact that they will not run any more commercials. Seriously. No one is becoming better educated by a 30 second commercial skewing the facts and then three days of talking about which parts exactly were "almost true" and which parts were "pants on fire" (a phrase that I read in USA Today which is still providing me with amusement).

This campaign advertisement business has been a supreme waste of my t.v. viewing time. Just buy some stage makeup and have a DEBATE already! (But remember not to buy that same blush that Al Gore wore. He looked like a pretty little girl. Just a peach-ish hue will do fine, gentlemen.) If campaigns were run on radio broadcasted debates and stump speeches (I mean real stumps, like find-a-cut-down-tree-and-stand-on-its-stump speech), I would be a happy voter. Of course, back when that was campaign strategy, I wouldn't have been allowed to vote. So I suppose I should be a little less picky.

My point is, television commercials are no place for real issues and hard truth, and we all know it. I mean, you don't see reporters asking the CEO of Cheese-Its, "Is it true that you really run over an entire city with a gigantic ball of cheese in order to get all of that cheese-y flavor into one little bite?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Story of Monday

There are some stories that need to be told, and some days that need to be preserved in memory. This is not that kind of story, and this past Monday was not that kind of day. But I'm going to tell it, regardless, because it was such an entirely useless day that I feel I need to put it to some kind of use, if not just as material to practice telling stories.

"The pizza should be out of the oven at 7:30," Pete said at 7:20 pm on Monday.

"You'll be out of the shower by then, no?" I asked. The apartment was stifling and I had no desire to go near the hot oven that had been 'preheating' for the entire hour that I had been at Target.

"Yeah, I should be out of the shower by then."

"Pete?" I asked.


"I have a request. No, a demand." I sat on the bed, crossed my legs, and tossed the Target bag aside. "I demand that you play the High Society Music."

The High Society Music is a wonderful trick that I just discovered Pete can do. We had been watching the John Adams story, and Pete started "playing" along with the music in a party scene. He motioned like he was playing a little flute, then a little tiny mandolin of some sort, and a bunch of other instruments that I don't know the names of but always hear in the kinds of movies where men in wigs are dancing. Soon Pete started making noises like the instruments, and then his eyebrows raised really really high on his forehead, and it was just about the most fantastic spectacle I have ever seen: him humming and whistling and pantomiming about 10 instruments at once.

"I demand that you play the High Society Music," I said again. "Right. Now."

"Joooyyy," he groaned. "I'm not going to play the High Society music. I'm going to shower."

"No! Play it!"

Reluctantly he started playing a little air flute, then slowly added new instruments, until he was playing an unidentifiable brass instrument with a great amount of gusto. I laughed and laughed and laughed and rolled on the bed and laughed some more. Soon we were both laughing and being altogether silly, and a whole slew of inside jokes and bits started pouring out, until it was 7:30 and the pizza was ready.

Pete said, "Okay, go get the pizza. I'm going to shower."

"I don't want to get the pizza," I said. "Will you go get it before you jump in the shower?" He laughed, scurried into the bathroom and locked the door. I was instantly furious.

I knocked on the door and yelled over the noise of the shower, "I'm not getting the pizza! You said YOU would make the pizza! I always end up getting it out. I'm hot and I don't want to go near the oven."

I went back to sorting my Target items. 7:31. "I'M NOT GETTING THE PIZZA!"

7:32: "I told you, I'm NOT getting the PIZZA. It's BURNING!"

7:34: (Knock, pound, knock): "I told you, I'm not getting the PIZZZAAAA!!!"

I heard the shower turn off, and Pete said, "Wait. You mean the pizza is still in the oven?"


"You didn't get the pizza out of the oven?"

"No. I did not. Just as I've been telling you."

"Joy! I can't hear anything in the shower!" He got out of the shower, wrapped himself in a towel and went to get the burnt pizza out of the oven. "Thanks a lot," I heard him mutter as he stepped back into the shower.

By then I was feeling pretty stupid. But I still had my pride, unfortunately. So when Pete got out of the shower and asked, "Okay, now why didn't you get the pizza?" I was fully prepared to stand by my actions.

"Because I am hot, and the oven has been preheating for an hour. You said you would put in the pizza an hour ago. I came back from Target and it was thawed on the counter. You could have put it in the oven before you got in the shower, and I TOLD you that I wasn't going to do it. You got in the shower anyways, and I didn't take it out of the oven."

"So you let our dinner burn out of spite."

"Well, you ran into the bathroom even though you knew I didn't want to take it out. And I thought that was spiteful."

"Joy," he said patiently, as though I were four (which, at this point, could be logically argued), "Even if I were spite-ing you, why would you want to spite me?"

"Because, Pete. I'm not a better person than you. I'm just the same or worse."

At 9:00 pm on Monday I put a pan of brownie batter in the back of the car. I hadn't had time to bake them since we had made two frozen pizzas, but I would put them in our friend's oven and we'd have hot brownies halfway through the Heroes premiere. Pete got into the driver's seat and we made conversation as he turned out of our apartment complex, onto East Paris, and eventually onto 44th st. "Now," he said, "It's one of these little neighborhoods on the left."

"You have the address and directions, right?" I asked.

"No. I've been here before."

I took a deep breath. "Pete, we came here one time a year ago. It was daytime then. And we were coming from a different direction."

"Joy, it's fine. Well, it's not this one..." He turned back onto 44th st.

"Would you please call Joe?" I asked.

"I don't have my cell phone with me."

"Fine, I'll call." I looked through my purse, then remembered that i had changed jeans just before stepping out the door, and my cell phone was in the pockets. "So," I set out to clarify, "You are driving in the dark, depending on your memory from a year ago, and you didn't check to make sure you had your Blackberry with its nifty Mapquest feature that we are paying $30 a month for."

40 minutes later we pulled back into our driveway. The brownie batter had slid to one side of the pan. We walked up the stairs to our apartment and returned calls to let our friends know that we were alive. Barely.

"Well, what do you want to do?" Pete asked.

"I want to go to Family Video and get the next season of Seinfeld." So we went to Family Video, but they didn't have the next season of Seinfeld.

10:30, back at home, Pete presented me with my catalog that had come in the mail. He said, "You know what I think? I think that you should look through this catalog and get anything you want. And I'll pick up extra hours at work to pay for it. You work really hard and I'm sorry about tonight, and I want to do something to make you feel happy."

I leafed through the catalog at the wide-leg jeans that I've wanted and the winter coats and blouses, boots, cardigans.

"I'm sorry I let the pizza burn."

"I know."

"I really wish you would plan ahead with things."

"I know."

"I'll try to stear away from the $200 coats, even though they're really cute."

"I said 'anything,' Joy."

Softly, meekly: "Will you play the High Society music?"

"No, I'm going to bed." He started up the stairs.

"But I DEMAND it!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Other People's Customers are Jerks, Too!

As Layla (a blogger friend I've acquired) would quote Eliane (of Seinfeld) in saying, "I'm the QUEEN of confrontation!" (Or did Seinfeld say that of Elaine? Help me out, Layla.)

Apparently I love confronting rude behavior so much, I am now seeking opportunities in society to confront OTHER people's customers. I don't know why I haven't thought of this before! I can say whatever I want to whomever I want, AND I don't have to worry about poorly reflecting my company.

I came to this delightful realization at the post office the other day, when I was waiting patiently to weigh and send my envelope. The man in front of me asked for a label to put on his envelope. The post woman said, "I'm sorry, Sir. I can give you a pen to write directly on your envelope, but I can't give you a label. The post office is making a lot of price cuts to keep postage as low as possible."

I thought: That is nice. I'm sick of postage going up. I'm glad they are doing all they can to keep it down. But the man in front of me said, "Well. You're really cheap, aren't you? I think that's really cheap of you to not give me a label. I've been getting labels at the post office for years."

The post woman said, "I'm sorry sir, but it's a mandate from the top. I can't give you a label, but I would be happy to lend you a pen to write directly on the envelope." (We all have to pause here and wonder: Who puts labels on their envelopes?)

I was visibly rolling my eyes and groaning at this point, hoping to make enough noise that he would turn around. But when he continued on, I interrupted.

"Excuse me, sir," I said. "She is not cheap. She is working for a company that is cutting costs." I said this before he even turned around, which he eventually did. He looked at me like I was crazy, even though he was the one asking for a label to put on an envelope.

"Did you say something?"

"Yes. She is not cheap. She is working for the government, and the government doesn't want to give you any more free labels."

This is when the gentleman glanced down... not to look at my chest (which would have been further reason to put him in his place), but to look at my name tag.

Joy Neal
Guest Services
Staybridge Suites Hotel

So the moral of the story is, if you don't want to reflect your company while out in public, take your name tag off.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I Guess I'm Allowed to Blog about Political Stuff, Right?

What is it, 60 days till the election? I'm still one of those registered, undecided voters who both campaigns are spending millions of dollars and working themselves into frenzies to win over.

I used to make my decisions based solely on the issue of abortion, which was the only one I was certain about. But it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to vote even based on that singular issue. According to my calculations, we have had republican presidents in the white house for 24 of the 35 years since Roe V. Wade was instated, and it has remained in tact. And while I am entirely opposed to Roe V. Wade, I am compelled by the potential of the democratic platform to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and provide more support for mothers who chose to keep their babies.

I have one comment and one concern, and then I'll shut up (for now):

Comment: I think both sides of the argument need to be more fair when arguing. Pro-lifers are not driven by a perverse desire to inflict suffering on poor, single women or victims of rape and incest. By that same token, I don't believe that pro-choice advocates are go-lucky murderers, content to know that fully born babies of unwilling-to-be-inconvenienced-parents are being left to die in utility rooms. I don't believe that Barack Obama is a go-lucky murderer who is content to know that fully born babies are being left to die in utility rooms*. I do think that he strongly wants to protect Roe V. Wade, and I strongly disagree with him.


Concern: I believe that our abortion-rights law reveals the poor moral state that our country is in. But the reality is that without Jesus, people are without hope. Women are going to have abortions whether they are legal or not, or women are going to continue having babies who they didn't want and won't adequately care for. I believe in the right to live; I also believe that babies have the right to be fed, loved, and parented. I admire John McCain for his pro-life voting record. But I'm confused as to why republicans (including John McCain*) continually vote against safe-practice and teen-pregnancy education.


Abstinence is an obedient response to God and his Word, but it doesn't seem practical to base our national policies on that conviction. My public high school had an "abstinence only" approach to education; we also had a "Student Parents" club with over 20 members in my senior year - and those were just the teen parents who had decided not have an abortion, and who had also decided to join the club. Abstinence is the only sure-fire way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but I don't think that abstinence-only education works in lowering the rate in unwanted pregnancies. Liberals seem to be the leaders in providing education and resources to lower the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Also, they are more willing to put money into programs (welfare, health care services, etc.) that could support a woman in choosing to keep her baby.

Overturning Roe V. Wade is only one of the ways to improve the situation at hand, and the least likely to be accomplished. Thus: I want a candidate who believes abortion is wrong, who will talk about it fairly, who will lead the way in providing education and resources to lower rates of unwanted pregnancies, who will improve programs designed to assist women in difficult financial situations, who will simplify adoption processes, and who will appoint a pro-life supreme court justice.

And while I'm naming my terms, I would also like this candidate to have a platform that favors the poor, the religiously persecuted internationally, sex slaves, and the environment. Solid plans to tackle the energy crisis and the national debt would also be appreciated, as both ENERGY CRISIS and NATIONAL DEBT sound very big and bad. And don't get me started on the WAR, because I have no idea where to start, and I don't think anyone knows where to end.