Booked for the Bizarre

Weird Titles, Undecided Voters

WACKY TITLES: As they do every year, folks at the annual Planned Parenthood book sale (through Sept. 30 at Earl Warren Showgrounds) have come up with a list of bizarre titles:

What to Do With a Dead Lawyer

The Dead Beat: The Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries

Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality

She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting

Tails from Beyond: True Stories of Our Immortal Pets

Fifty Acres and a Poodle

Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral

Barney Brantingham

THOSE DARN UNDECIDEDS: Seldom in the course of American politics has so much money been spent on so few who seem to care so little, as Winston Churchill might have put it.

An estimated $2 billion is being thrown into the fall brawl presidential campaign, mostly aimed at a tiny fraction of the electorate, the “undecideds” who hold the balance of power in a half-dozen or so battleground states.

As comedian Stephen Colbert put it, “The fate of our country is now in the hands of people who don’t think about what they want until they get right up to the register at McDonald’s.”

According to columnist Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times, pollsters say the legion of “disengaged voters … includes a disproportionate number of women with children, a reason campaigns are constantly vying to appeal to harried ‘soccer moms’ or ‘Wal-Mart moms.’”

Pollsters are running the undecided down, quizzing them, sniffing and probing to find out what makes them tick and why they can’t or won’t get off the dime. We should help them, for the good of the country. But how?

Some politicos estimate that there are a million of them, more or less, sprinkled around swing states like Nevada, Florida, and Ohio. Many don’t seem to be the kind of people who watch TV news (a good sign?), watch a presidential debate, or closely follow politics; or who have no strong views on almost anything or are in the grip of strong but conflicting opinions, a kind of analysis paralysis.

The question looms: Are these the kind of people we really want to decide the presidency and fate of the quasi-free world? Maybe not, but we’re stuck with them. Paul Begala, writing in Newsweek, estimated the undecided number at 916,643, about the population of San Jose. (God help the Union.)

There’s a simple solution to get the undecideds off the dime. After the presidential debates, invite anyone in the swing states who still considers himself or herself bewitched, bothered, or bewildered to one or more stadiums. A lavish, nonalcoholic buffet will be laid out as bait. (Billionaires who seem intent on buying the election will foot the bill.)

Each prequalified voter will be handed an absentee ballot and will have to watch taped convention speeches by President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. (They’ll get dessert only after watching.)

On the way out, they’ll hand in their marked ballots, which will be kept under lock and key (double-locked in Florida). On Election Day, ballots will be opened, and the undecideds will have decided the election, one way or the other.

THEY HATE HER: Undecideds might want to pop in to the Arlington the afternoon of Sunday, October 7, when UCSB Arts & Lectures hosts TV talker Rachel Maddow, the woman Republicans love to hate. The outspoken liberal says she comes with “an agenda but not hysteria.”

PRIVATE LIVES: What would happen if, while honeymooning with your new spouse, you run into your former mate? And the ex-mate is honeymooning, too? Next door. And the old spark flares anew? I watched with great pleasure as my favorite Noël Coward comedy was carried off with great style and humor by the Rubicon Theatre Company, doing top-notch justice to Coward’s witty repartee. Julie Granata is a knockout as Amanda. Through September 30.

HOT NUMBER: Not nearly as polite is the current Center Stage Theater production of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, his rough-as-a-cob drama about a dysfunctional Southern family. I won’t forget Tina Arning’s hot-blooded Maggie for a long time. Through September 23.

APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH: Crafty Agatha Christie wrote this murder mystery and then turned it into a play, dropping some characters and switching the plot. We spotted numerous Santa Barbara actors last weekend when Carpinteria’s Plaza Playhouse Theater staged it. Through September 23.


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