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The Graph and I

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I tried to watch the vice presidential debate tonight but it wasn't easy. This was because I was forced to watch it on CNN. I happen to be an MSNBC junkie -- but the TV set was already tuned to CNN so that was pretty much that.

This was the first time I've watched a debate on CNN, and it turns out to have this graph running along the bottom of the screen, a graph that allegedly represents the moment-by-moment feelings of a group of supposedly independent voters in Columbus, Ohio, who sit, with some sort of electronic devices, and register their warmth or cool as the debate goes on.

Well, this is no way to watch a debate. It reminded me of this thing that's happened in New York City, which is that all restaurants with more than fourteen locations have to put on the menu the calorie count of each food item. This is an appalling development. It's hard enough to figure out what you want to order without someone explicitly telling you that you're going to drop dead if you eat it. But more important, I don't believe those calorie counts. Who knows how many calories there are in a grilled cheese sandwich? No one, that's who. But there it is, on the menu, in a grim black and white parenthetical, and it affects you, you can't help it, and as a result you end up not ordering the thing you wanted and instead ordering some stupid bowl of soup that barely gets you through till three in the afternoon.

Well this graph on CNN affected me, it affected me so much that I could barely focus on the debate, I was so busy watching the graph. I knew it was completely unreliable and irrelevant, and yet my heart sank and rose according to it. I sort of heard what the candidates were saying, but mostly I watched the orange (for women) and green (for men) lines rise and fall as each phrase was uttered. When Sarah Palin spoke and the lines went up, I felt irritable. When Joe Biden spoke and the lines went up, I felt happy. Don't get me started on Gwen Ifill.

Every so often Sarah Palin would say things like "darn right" and "bless their hearts" and "you betcha" and I noticed that the people in Columbus were unmoved by Palin's folksy expressions, at least according to the graph; this gave me faith in America. But then I reminded myself that the graph was probably as unreliable as the calorie count that caused me not to order what I really wanted to eat for lunch.

When the debate was over, we were all sad to realize that it had not been the exciting blood bath we were hoping for (I mean, let's admit it) but thrilled to hear that Biden was the winner. So I came home and celebrated: I had a grilled cheese sandwich (530 calories) (not really).

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