Wednesday, September 29, 2004


The Speech Therapist who has my school as one of her charges, told me the other day about a pre-schooler that she was working with.

She showed him a picture of a duck and asked him what it was. The student responded that it was a duck.

She then asked him what the duck says and he responded Afflak.

bob turba
In the 1970s, McDonald's ran a commercial in which a family traveled cross-country: parents, kids, Grandpa. One of the kids complains that he's hungry and Dad says, no problem - there's a McDonald's just up ahead.

"McDonald's?" Grandpa grouses. "In Beatrice, Kansas?"

And sure enough, the Golden Arches appear over the rise like the McMansion on the Hill.

As soon as the commercial aired, the town elders of Beatrice, Kansas, protested. The commercial pronounced the name of the town as "Be-A-Triss", like the female name. But the townsfolk pronounced it "Be-A-Trice".

Sort of the Houston, Texas, / Houston Street difference.

But the commercial continued to play and after a while a strange thing happened - the young people of the town started pronouncing it as "Be-A-Triss" as well, even though they grew up knowing it as "Be-A-Trice".
When Vice President Richard Nixon debated Senator John Kennedy during the 1960 Presidential campaign, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought that Nixon had won. But those who watched it on TV thought that Kennedy had done better.

It's an old story; you know why. Nixon eschewed using make-up - he arrived on TV screens with a thick, five-o'clock shadow, and a sweaty upper lip; pale, pasty.....

The kiddies viewing at home must have figured him to be the host of a local horror movie show.

"Television seems to have great power over us."
Walter Cronkite

It certainly does! So it will be interesting to see what effect it will have in the upcoming debates between President Bush and Senator Kerry, and the one between Senator Edwards and Vice President Cheney.

Will the message get through to the people? Or will it be a triumph of televised style over substance? Team Bush has been practically adept at framing the image to take presedence over anything the President says.

But hopefully the debates will be a level playing field so that neither candidate can gain advantage through camera angles.

Then again, the TV audience has been inundated with almost four years of Bush-bashing visuals on TV that poke fun at his limited capacities:
1] the out-of-context clips on 'The Daily Show' and 'The Late Show'
2] Will Ferrell's impersonation on 'Saturday Night Live'
3] and of course, the dim-bulb Dubya in the sitcom 'That's My Bush!'

So the audience might be expecting Kerry to take a cake-walk over the President who will probably be tripping over his own tongue.

Team Bush has been working hard to lower expectations, just as they did when Bush debated Anne Richards for the governorship of Texas.

She ran rings around him oratorically, but as far as the viewer/voters cared, he proved he could stand erect and he didn't drool. So to them, he "won" the debate and he went on to the governor's office in Austin.

The same scenario could play out beginning Thursday. We'll just have to wait and see.

And hopefully, you'll listen to what they say as well.


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