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Who am I?

You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.

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Thu, 01 Jul 2004

Television ads
The American Museum of the Moving Image has put together a repository of campaign commercials, dating back to 1952. The commercials of most interest to me, of course, were the current commercials being run by Bush and Kerry. Since I live in California, which both parties are ignoring, I yet to see a single campaign commercial on TV. So I was curious to see what the voters of Florida, Ohio and Michigan are seeing. And now I'm distressed.

Bush's commercials are very well done. The campaign is basically the "stay the course" approach that's common for incumbent presidents, with the motto "Steady leadership in times of change". The attack ads against Kerry do a good job of targeting Kerry's weaknesses, in particular his voting record and his attempt to be all things to all people. The ads make their point dramatically, with technically excellent direction; when discussing Democratic attack dogs like Michael Moore, they zoom in on their faces to make them look like they're shouting crazily into the camera. When talking about hope for America, there's a lingering shot of a young girl looking up at the sun.

In contrast, Kerry's ads are absolutely terrible. Disastrously bad. What are Kerry's weaknesses? He has an image problem of being stiff and distant. So why do all of his commercials feature him droning into the camera? By the end of the first commercial, he sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher to me. Having that kind of focus on Kerry just emphasizes his lack of charisma. You'll note that Bush's team wisely kept Bush completely out of most of his commercials except for brief voiceovers.

What's another Kerry weakness? The perception that he waffles on the issues, chasing the votes. So statements like "My priorities are jobs and health care. And my commitment is defending this country" just sound ludicrous. It makes me want to smack whoever is writing his copy. Pick a focus. Certainly don't change focus multiple times within a single thirty second spot! Again, Bush's team does it right - each ad is targeted at a single issue ("Troops", "Weapons", "Doublespeak", "Jobs").

I just don't get it. How are the Democrats so incompetent at managing the media? If the media is really liberal, as conservatives like to claim, and if Hollywood is so liberal, then how come there isn't a single person on Kerry's team who knows anything about image management? It's boggling. I want to march into Kerry's headquarters and offer my services. Because I can't possibly be worse than what they already have.

Of course, having said that, I guess I should say what I'd recommend doing. The problem is that Bush has staked out his position nicely with his ads. He is appealing to people's innate conservatism to stick with the existing choice. He has identified Kerry's weaknesses and established them in the public consciousness. He even has guarded his own flank with an ad ("Attack ads") accusing Kerry of going back on his word, showing a tape of Kerry saying that he will not go negative (taken from the primary campaign), juxtaposed with the multiple ads attacking Bush. Basically, there's only two ways for Bush to fail at this point; one is for the economy to take a dive, and the other is for a major conflict in Iraq with significant American casualties. And I can't say I really hope for either of those.

I guess the best advice I'd have for Kerry is what I recommended at the end of this previous post. Let others such as focus on bashing Bush and getting out the liberal vote. Concentrate your effort on getting your positive message out there. Why should America change leaders? What is your vision? Don't give me a health care plan. Don't give me economic policy. Gore demonstrated what a turnoff that is for the voters. Give me a shining vision, something on par with Clinton's "New Democracy" that inspires me. The same old Democratic rhetoric will not win this election. Somebody needs to tell Kerry that. Soon. Or it will be too late.

posted at: 16:10 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /rants/politics | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

The Living Web
I came across this article called "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web" today, which I really liked. Some things to think about when writing for the web. It's good to help me reflect on what I am doing with this weblog. On the occasional days when I actually write something. I should at least consider writing more regularly. Try to post something every day, even if it's just a paragraph. I'll think about it at least. Right now I tend to want to post something big every time, and that intimidation often keeps me from posting anything at all. So I have to consider what I want to do. Anybody that has an opinion, feel free to drop me a line.

posted at: 15:11 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /links | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

Seven Seasons of Buffy, ed. by Glenn Yeffeth
This is the third book analyzing Buffy that I've bought, after Reading the Vampire Slayer and a Buffy philosophy book. This one takes the angle of inviting other authors (the book is subtitled "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show") to analyze the show. There wasn't actually a lot of insight from most of these essays, unfortunately. I did really like the one by Sarah Zettel, which articulated one of the reasons I grew disenchanted with the show as it progressed; she noted that the protagonists, who started out as total outsiders living through high school hell, eventually became the ultimate insiders, protecting the world against the perils of the supernatural. Unfortunately, a lot of the fans like me were more sympathetic to the characters when they were outsiders, because we're outsiders. Alas. There were a few interesting perspectives, and a lot of worshipful paeans to the show which, while dull, actually did remind me of why I liked the show so much. I may have to go watch some DVDs. Or possibly even my tapes of the later seasons. We'll see...

posted at: 15:03 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/fun | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal