lack of focus

no one ever asks my opinion

“Who are these people?” Eric asked yesterday on the phone.

“My readers.”

“Like fan mail?”

“I guess.”

He was holding the latest gift to arrive to the apartment:  a Holy Shrine for the Tiny Wooden Hand, courtesy of one MellieBee.  I did not have time to scan it last night, but it’s a plaque with beads and bells and a tiny wooden hand extending off one side with a basket that dangles underneath for donations.

This was sitting alongside the Blair Witch Project Dossier that was sent to me by Jevon.  It was near the box of candy that now only has gumballs and gobstoppers.

I think it’s great.  I like presents.  I also like seeing the handwriting and the choice of stamps from around the country (sometimes world) and it makes real faces and names with the people that send me e-mail every day.  I just wanted to say thanks.

Yesterday I was driving home from rehearsal when I heard a Budweiser commercial on the radio.  Now, for those of you who don’t live in Texas, you are not subjected to the horrible ad campaign that they have here.  The frogs have been replaced by the lizards, and in particular one lizard who wants to be a Texan.  This makes for horrible Texas stereotypes of the lizard saying “Howdy, y’all” and calling the other lizard a “Yankee.”  I’m not even going to go into the part about the ferret.

In any event, I was just wishing that just once, just once I could be in a focus group.  I’d like to be asked to give my opinion on things that may or may not become ads or television pilots or films.  I’d love to be there to give my initial impressions.

The closest I ever came to this wasn’t even really a focus group.  I had been working at a place in the University where we were sponsored by a cola company.  They would bring us cans of their new (horrid) product and we’d have to drink it because they were going to give us a scholarship at the end of the year for working so hard.  One day they brought in their new radio spots and wanted to see how they would fly with the “college crowd.”

They were bad.  When he asked what we thought, we told him:  they were not funny.  They were bad.  The guy was so distraught that we were told that we should have lied and told him they were good.  After all, we got to drink the product for free and he was giving us money.  Whatever.  I never heard the ads on the air.

But seriously, I just want to be in that room with the one-way mirror so they could say:

[scripty]
FOCUS GROUP GUY
So, what we have here is a guy who really hates his job, loves his wife but insults her all the time, and has a slutty daughter and a horny son.  They get into all sorts of wacky trouble.

PAMIE
Horrible.  Hated it when it was called “Married…With Children” and hate it now.

FOCUS GROUP GUY
But I forgot to mention the wacky neighbors.

WOMAN TO MY LEFT
Oh, there’s a wacky neighbor?  Well–

PAMIE
Shutup.  We hate it.  Next!

FOCUS GROUP GUY
Okay, this is a radio ad for sunscreen lotion.  In it there’s a guy who wants to date this girl, so he covers himself in sunscreen and buries himself in the sand up to his neck.

PAMIE
Why?

FOCUS GROUP GUY
Well, that’s what you kids like, right?  Wacky outrageous solutions to problems?

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
It worked for Mentos.

PAMIE
Shutup.

WOMAN TO MY LEFT
And for that Surge soda with the muddy kids.

PAMIE
You shutup, too.

FOCUS GROUP GUY
Anyway, the girl just walks right by the kid in the sand.

PAMIE
Can’t she accidentally step on his face?

FOCUS GROUP GUY
Why?

PAMIE
Because it’s funny.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
I don’t see the need for that kind of hostile behavior.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
No, wait a minute, she may be on to something.  What if her boyfriend steps on his face?

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
Oh, that could work.  That could work.  Yeah, that’s funny.

PAMIE
No, why can’t she do it?  What if she doesn’t have a boyfriend?

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
We don’t really like that kind of behavior in a woman.

PAMIE
Next!

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
You know, we could just ditch the sunscreen and use that for our next 1-800-COLLECT ad.  Like the guy is going to bury himself in sand to get her attention and then she goes to make a collect call and Ed sees her and when he’s running to stop her he steps on the sand guy’s face.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
Brilliant.  Print it.  I love it.

PAMIE
What’s with you guys and Ed O’ Neill?

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
Okay, here’s one where there’s a dog.

GUY ON MY RIGHT
I have a dog.

GUY NEXT TO HIM
Me too.

WOMAN NEXT TO HIM
I like cats more.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Me too.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
Well, that’s great because this dog is sitting by the door with a cat.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Oh, good.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
And the dog and the cat are talking–

WOMAN NEXT TO HIM
Oh!  Just like Babe!  That’s so great.  I love it when the pets talk.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Yeah, me too. I think that’s so sweet.  I wish my pets could talk.

MAN NEXT TO ME
I had a dog once that could say his name.

WOMAN NEXT TO ME
You don’t say?

MAN NEXT TO ME
I called him “Arp.”  Somehow he just knew.

WOMAN NEXT TO ME
That’s amazing.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
Right, so anyway, this dog and cat are discussing fleas.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
My cat has fleas.

MAN NEXT TO ME
So does my dog.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
Great.  So, you understand the flea problem.  Anyway, the pets come to the conclusion that they will have to hold the owner hostage until he does something about the fleas.

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
Then the owner comes home and the dog and the cat attack him, tie him up in a chair and beat him in the face with their tails until he finally can get out that he already bought the flea killer and it’s in the grocery bag.

(moment of silence)

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
What do you think?

PAMIE
That’s pretty funny, actually.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Seems pretty violent.

MAN NEXT TO ME
No dog’s gonna give me sass like that. If that was my dog he’d be outside for a week.

GUY NEXT TO HIM
I don’t know.  Makes me feel like it would give my dog the wrong ideas.

MAN NEXT TO HIM
Or my kid.

WOMAN NEXT TO HIM
Can’t the cat and the dog just sing a song or something?

PAMIE
No.  Shutup.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Oh!  And can they do a little dance number, too?

FOCUS GROUP GUY #2
I guess we could–

PAMIE
No!  Shutup!  That’s the first good one so far!

WOMAN NEXT TO ME
And if, like, little mice could come out of the walls and they could all do the can-can or something.

PAMIE
Jesus!  You’re ruining everything!  Shutup!

FOCUS GROUP GUY #1
You’re right.  It’s not going to work.  We had one test group in San Francisco that liked it, but we rely heavily on what you Real Texans tell us.

MAN NEXT TO ME
I am a real Texan.

WOMAN NEXT TO HIM
I’m from Ohio.

WOMAN NEXT TO HER
Iowa.

MAN NEXT TO ME
Oh, yeah?  Me too.

WOMAN NEXT TO ME
My husband went to Iowa once.

PAMIE
I want to go home.
[/scripty]

I guess maybe I need to rethink that statement.  I probably would be swallowed in a sea of “I know what’s funny.  Dancing cars are funny.”  Something lets these commercials get on the air.  Oh, and every time that you vote for a talking dog or a dancing car– that’s one less actor that gets work.  I swear with the ads and things on these days they use fewer and fewer actors.  People are videotaping their own commercials (car dealers, furniture shops, bars) and stop hiring people who want to sell your product.  Hire actors!  That’s what we’re here for!

Speaking of hiring actors, our next City Hunter just got released.  Order now while the orderin’ is good.

Lillith update:  This morning she came into the kitchen to eat.  I put down food on two plates.  She sniffed it and then walked away.  I followed her and put the food on the back of a spoon.  She ate several bites that way.  The only way we can get her to eat these days is by spoon feeding her.  She’ll eat what she knocks off the spoon, and take large bites off the spoon, but she won’t just eat from a plate.  Taylor always wants what’s on her plate and not on his.  She will let him eat all of her food.  She won’t finish a plate of food.  The problem is I’m not sure how much she used to eat before she got sick.  Our futon is covered in stains.  Once she finishes taking her medicine I’m going out to buy a new one.  It looks like something blew up on our couch.

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