Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Imaginary Focus Group ; Our Pop-Culture Critic Comments on the Convention

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Imaginary Focus Group ; Our Pop-Culture Critic Comments on the Convention

Article excerpt

As a New Yorker, I've felt slightly strange covering the convention from in front of my television set. After all, I understand why I can't write about "Las Vegas" from Las Vegas, or "That 70s Show" from 1976; but it seems to me that my journalistic responsibilities, slim as they are, might well include getting out and actually speaking to New Yorkers about what they thought about the night's programming.

But that meant leaving the TV. So instead, resourceful as I was, I hit on an idea: I would interview people from within my own apartment! The following is a result of an experiment, which, while somewhat fictitious, might shed some light on the third night of convention coverage.

8:15: Funky music plays as George W. Bush is unanimously selected as the party's nominee, in the least surprising decision since CBS decided to create another CSI franchise. I turn up the volume, face the television to the wall, and, when my neighbors come over to complain, ask them if they think that it was coincidence that Florida was the last state to pledge their delegates before the move for unanimous approval. Their comments were not so much irrelevant as they were unprintable on a family website. Remember, New York is the land of liberals.

8:25: I've ordered pizza. When the delivery man arrives. I ask him to watch Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's speech with me and share his reactions. He agrees, but only if I double the tip. This goes against my long-standing policy of refusing to pay sources, and we part ways amicably. It is only after he leaves that I discover that he has put anchovies on my pizza, which I detest. But picking the anchovies off does distract me from Chao's presentation of the GOP as both the party of ethnic diversity and as leaders on education, which is good, since chutzpah tends to bother my digestion.

9:00: I make a phone call.

OPERATOR: Information.

ME: Yes, do you know who these last two guys were? And why, if no one ever heard of them, they're addressing the convention in prime time?

OPERATOR: I'm sorry; I don't have that kind of information. This is directory assistance.

ME: Oh, right. Sorry.

OPERATOR: No, I'm just kidding. Bob Portman and Paul Ryan are representatives from Ohio and Wisconsin - swing states, you know. Just because you don't know who they are doesn't mean people there don't. The Republicans know their electoral math and care about reaching them, not you. It's about galvanizing turnout there.

ME: That makes sense, I guess.

OPERATOR: Would you like their phone numbers?

ME: No, thanks.

9:15: Michael Reagan introduces the Ronald Reagan tribute, which, in contrast to the Gerald Ford film of two days earlier, is elegantly produced and fairly touching, though there's a jarring moment when Arnold Schwarzenegger appears. …

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