January 2008 Archives

For a long time, it's seemed as though Des Moines audiences were a little too ovation-happy for our own good. Any performance, dramatic or mundane, powerful or sloppy, life-changing or cut-rate, always seems to get a standing ovation at the end.

It turns out we're not alone. A critic in San Diego decries "Excessive Ovation Syndrome" in her town, which by all accounts should be a place more stingy with its ovations than Des Moines. After all, San Diego is the 8th-largest city in the nation. Surely they get more big-name concerts and entertainers than we do (with our half-million-person metro area), which one would expect might raise the bar a little.

It turns out Canadians are susceptible, too: Edmonton, just a short 1400-mile jaunt to our northwest, gives away so many ovations that it hurts the opera director's feelings. It's always seemed like we here in Des Moines are so generous with our ovations because we're hoping to stretch an ovation into an encore. Or perhaps it's just because we're so darned nice that we can't help ourselves but to thank everyone for everything in gratuitous fashion.

Either way, it's a good thing to know we're not the only ones with EOS.
If there's anything that could break the normally hospitable spirit of Iowans, it's the insufferable and unending harassment we've been receiving by telephone lately from campaigns and pollsters alike. Campaign literature arrives in the mailbox by the truckload, but it's easily sorted out and thrown in the recycling bin.

But the phone calls are both incessant and completely useless. They come in just two or three flavors:

  • Someone in a boiler room asking, "Who are you going to caucus for?"
  • A recording from some no-name individual offering their "neighborly" commentary on a candidate, like "Hi...this is Nosmo King of East Doodledorf, Arkansas. Did you know that Mike Huckabee used to light people on fire in the governor's mansion? I know, because I'm from his state. Did I mention I'm from Arkansas?"
  • A recording of the candidate him- or herself blathering on about their next stop in your ZIP code
It's gotten to the point where even a cell-phone-only household gets five or ten calls a day (the national Do-Not-Call Registry, unfortunately for our sanity, doesn't restrict political calls or polls). Compound that feeling week over week for about the last two months, and you've built a recipe for Iowans to start throwing their phones out the window...especially in two-party households.

Here's how you know the calls have pushed us to the breaking point: Van Harden and Bonnie Lucas will be interviewing F. Christopher Arterton of the George Washington University School of Political Management on their show on WHO Radio tomorrow morning. If the bucolic Van and Bonnie have finally had it, then the rest of us must already be reaching for our guns.

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