Sunday, July 03, 2005

Everybody Likes Mike: the man behind Mikey Likes It!

It started in November with The Common Ills. Other sites by community members quickly followed. You're reading one. There's also Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Folding Star's A Winding Road, Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat's Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills) and now make way for Mikey Likes It!

At 19, Mike is the youngest member of the community thus far to start a site. He just finished his second week of blogging and we sat down with him to discuss how things are going and where he's headed.

You had a great line about blogging. You said it was like losing your cherry with the whole world watching. The following week, we felt someone attempted to steal that and did so badly. But your line was not only funny, it was very true.

Mike: Well thank you. I mean, I felt like I was fumbling around with no clue of what to do or how to do it and the comparison just seemed obvious to the first time I had sex.

Which is something, sex, you talk about a lot. You've said, "Ask me a question and I'll try to answer it" and readers have held you to do that.

Yeah, it's kind of weird. I don't mind and see it like I'm just talking with someone but every now and then, like when a friend says, "Hey, I read what you wrote" it will hit me that it's up there and anyone can read it.

And a lot of people are reading it. We got about forty e-mails this week asking us why were dissing you?

Dissing me?

We were working like crazy last weekend to get the edition up and done with and forgot, until we were doing our note to the readers about your site. We hadn't added it to our blog roll. And even with the note that gave the link to your site and noted that we would be interviewing you this week, we still got e-mails on how we were dissing you.

I was hoping to be able to help out last week but had a family reunion. We've got one this weekend too, on my mother's side this time, but it's not involving people having to fly in from all over so it's a little more low key.

The basics, as we understand them, are you're nineteen, you're Irish-American, you work part-time and are a full-time student, you're six feet and one inch, you played sports in high school, come from a large Catholic family. Did we get that right?

Yeah. That's me. Pretty boring.

And you're year of the ox, as Kat pointed out.

What's that?

You're Chinese Zodiac sign. It shows up on your profile.

Really? What's that mean?

We looked it up:

The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought. These people enjoy helping others. Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self- sacrificing exterior lies an active mind. While their balance and strength inspire confidence, Oxen can seem rigid, obstinate, and slow. They impress others as leaders, fearing neither responsibility nor risk. However, sometimes they must labor long hours to accomplish little. As a result, the Ox can find life's journey laborious and the rewards uncertain.

(Laughing) Now it starts off like a compliment and then it just slaps me upside the head.

There's more:

Oxen make solid, steady, reliable partners and good providers. It is better for them to be pursued than to be the hunter in selecting a mate. They can be tender, devoted, sensual even -- but they are never romantic. Very affectionate to those close to their hearts, they are cool and distant to anyone outside their emotional circle. Getting close to an Ox is a very difficult thing to do, for they hold all but their chosen few at arm's length. However, once they have committed themselves, they make loyal, steadfast lovers and are the least likely of all the signs to possess a roving eye. Casual love affairs are definitely not the Ox's style. Although they may not show it, their emotions are deep and passionate. If their love is spurned or if they should suffer a broken heart, they will retreat inside themselves and channel all their emotions into their work. Generally, they make no mistakes in their judgment of others, successfully merging their romantic and family lives. Happily settled in a contented relationship, an Ox will make a supportive and faithful partner, someone whose love grows stronger by the year and whose sterling qualities are worth his or her weight in gold.

I'm going to have to think about that. Chinese Zodiac?

Yes. You mention Fight Club as one of your favorite films on your profile and when we saw that, we thoght "Ox."

(Laughing) In a good way, right? Not like, "You dumb ox!" I like movies that are about something. I mean, I might see the Vince Vaugn thing coming out --

Wedding Crashers.

Yeah because it looks funny but I really like something that makes me think. I really liked The Jacket. And films like that.

Coming Home?

Yeah. I'm not for sure that's my favorite film with Jane Fonda. It's one of my favorites and it's what came to mind. We have all her films on videotape, or I think all of them. My parents are big fans so I grew up laughing with Nine to Five and Fun With Dick & Jane and Cat Ballou and all. And I saw the serious stuff like Julia and Coming Home and Klute and The Morning After and The Dollmaker.

You've seen a lot of her films.

My parents have almost all of them if they don't have all of them. I didn't watch a lot of cartoons growing up because I was second from the youngest so usually my older brothers and sisters were controlling the TV and it was watch what they watched or don't watch. And I saw Monster-in-Law and thought she was most excellent in that. I want to note something here that I've been meaning to talk about at my site because I had three e-mails about it. There's this thing, this talk, being put out that Monster-in-Law is a bomb. It'll crack 80 million this weekend, watch and see on Monday. Now Jennifer Lopez has really only had one film that ever made more than that, Maid In Manhattan. She had Antz but she wasn't the lead and it was a cartoon. But both of those tapped out around ninety million. If you don't count Antz, Monster-in-Law is her second highest grossing film. So I'm not getting how anyone can call Monster-in-Law a bomb. It's a hit. It might not be a blockbuster hit, but it's a hit. But there are a lot of people on the right who really want Jane Fonda to fail at whatever she does because of what she's stood for so I think it's really important to point out that Fonda's film is a hit.

Agreed. And this summer has been a very bad summer for movies. No one has any money.

I hear that. I was at the video store last night because my sister didn't want to go alone and we were looking and looking. I told her I'd treat because she kept picking up stuff and putting it back down but she said there really wasn't anything that tempted her.

Did you end up getting anything?

Yeah. Finally, we decided on this documentary on the Mamas and the Papas because that's a group that it seems like you are always talking about here. It was pretty good. Ended up dreaming that night that I was in a sixties group!

You are a big fan of the White Stripes.

Yeah, I love them. Kat's review rocked. And let me clear something else up because Kat is short for Kaitlen. I mentioned that I had a sister named Kathleen and I got like 15 e-mails asking me if Kat was my sister. She's really cool and great but we aren't related.

Kat really is cool, agreed. On our campus, peole think you're pretty cool yourself.


Yeah. When you're writing about adjustments or wet spots, we hear about it. People will come up and say, "Who is that wild guy?"

Mikey the Ox.

You're still thinking about that.

Yeah. Some of it may be true but some of it bothers me.

Well, let's talk about it. Do you pursue or are you pursued?

I've pursued but that usually bombs after a few dates. Usually, a woman comes on to me. I always feel a little dense cause my buds are all "She's so into you, Mike" and I'm all, no she's not. Then it will turn out she is.

Well that's a happy ending, no complaint on that, right?


So what bothers you?

Like the part about not ever being able to be romantic.

But your sign is affectionate.

But if oxen aren't romantic, then that means your partner might end up straying.

It actually said that, we just didn't read that part.

No shit?

It said it. It said the childhood was normal and the troubles began in marriage, that because oxen weren't romantic often there parenters would end up going outside the marriage for romance.

See, now that bothers me. I guess I can work on it. If it's true!

When you answered the first e-mail question, did you have any idea what you were going to be getting into?

About sex? No. I mean I talk about sex, we all talk about sex. But I didn't realize it was going to be like my thing.

But you answered a question, on your profile, here's the question: "If you were a cannibal, what would you wear to dinner?" Here's your answer: "Just the bone, just the bone. Munch on that."

Yeah, but it doesn't even make sense, you know? I mean it would if I was having dinner with cannibals. I was just trying to think of something that would make people laugh. And C.I. was talking me through the whole thing and we'd been on the phone forever so I felt awful about that. I kept changing my template and I know C.I. probably wanted to yell, "It's fine! Stick with one choice!" I must have changed it eight or nine times. And when I was on my profile, same thing. I didn't like any of the questions. You guys got a cool question. So I was looking and looking and realized C.I. was waiting on my slow ass so I went with that question. But, yeah, you're right. That probably accounts for some of the sex questions. (Laughing) "Munch on that."

Your mother reads your site.

Yeah, she's really cool. I tease her and she teases back. She was worried, I think, that I was going to be really smutty when some of those questions popped up. But, and this is how my mother is, as long as I can make her laugh, she's cool with it. She loves to laugh and we all try to make her laugh. We always knew, when we were little, make her laugh and whatever the punishment is, it'll be that much easier. Like if you were going to be grounded for two weeks, make her laugh and it might just be a couple of days. And they've always been pretty cool about answering any question we had about sex. Not just with the "this is what sex is" talk but after that. They really wanted us to come to them when we had a question and we pretty much did.
Dad was saying that's probably why I was comfortable answering those kind of questions and he's probably right.

There are other issues you address besides sex and probably the biggest one is recruiters.

Yeah because I saw friends fall for that. And I saw friends fight it. And those guys would come to school or follow you around the mall parking lot or whatever and they really try to do a number on you and get you in this back and forth where you're challenged so you'll sign up to say "Oh yeah, what do you know!" It's a little game they play but the stakes are too high for it to be a game to somebody signing up. But I saw it and it bothers me and I know people do get tricked and think, "Well the recruiters telling me this so it must be true." They're like used car salesmen, they'll tell you anything to get you to sign up. So that's something that really bothers me.

And you're a fan of Democracy Now!

Right. That's a great show. I usually listen to it. It comes on WBZC at noon and if I know I'm going to miss it, I may tape it. But I can also catch it on TV because we have dish. They tell the truth on that show.

Agreed. Do you want to talk about why you started blogging?

Yeah, I will. I was pretty damn angry that a lot of stuff wasn't get out there. Like at The Common Ills, C.I. did this thing on the "Night Letter." We had to listen to the mainstream press wring their hands and the Bully Boy's people slam Newsweek for weeks saying they caused the rioting in Afghanistan. But they didn't. It was the "Night Letter" that called for the riots and it had to do with the people behind the letter not having any faith in their government. It's a lot easier to blame Newsweek then to be honest about the fact that our "success" in Afghanistan wasn't too damn successful. And I think we've seen that this week. And there may be people asking "What the hell?" but if they'd known about the Night Letter and all, they'd have been prepared to expect this news. And there were people trying to get the word out on that and all.
Trying to get this site or that site to note it but it didn't happen. And I'm reading all these people talking about that in the gina & krista round-robin and I was just getting sick of it. So I used the e-mails I had from the round-robin and said, "Boycott." And I got a lot of signatures on that petition.

Which C.I. didn't agree with. We should probably note that this interview is being conducted by Dona, Jim, Ty, Jess and Rebecca. Ava and C.I. are doing their TV review. And we should note that the author of the piece on the "Night Letter" in The New Yorker is someone Laura Flanders is trying to book on her show. So this is something that some people are paying attention to and haven't moved on from just because the Bully Boy's created some new spin.

Right, C.I. didn't agree and Rebecca had told me that would be the case and why. And I can respect that. C.I. feels the issues are always more important than the credit and that The Common Ills isn't a blog, it's a resource. So you don't boycott but there are a lot of sites that come along, and I'm not even talking about a blogger here, a week or two weeks later telling people "Oh this happened" and I'll read it and think, "No shit, it happened. C.I. told us about it when it was happening." And that's when Jim and Rebecca and C.I. and Kat and even Ruth contacted me and said basically, "Look, you can do something about it or you can ask for boycotts." And it's true. And I'm a lot calmer about it most of the time now, like Jim said I would be.

We understood exactly where you were coming from. We spent months asking that this be highlighted or that be highlighted and getting really frustrated when it wasn't. Like the "red" states thing. Everything C.I. was talking about last year has come to haunt us. When that "conventional wisdom" got accepted as fact suddenly it did mean, "Oh push the party to the right." And let's note that Bill Scher did link to it and that's why we should probably add him to our blog roll. He was one of the few, he was the only one, that we contacted who was receptive. And honestly, we should probably apoloize to him, or I should -- I is Jim -- because I wasn't very nice in my e-mail. I was pissed off and tired of stuff that was important not getting noticed.
He even wrote back and he was really nice about it.

And you told me that story and told me that if I linked to one blog it should be Scher's because of that and that's why I linked to that.

We're going to link to it too. We need to go in and add your blog anyway and we should have linked to him a long time ago. He does good work and he was there when he didn't have to be.
He's a stand up guy.

But not everyone is. And we aren't supposed to talk about that.

No, C.I.'s asked us to all avoid talking about, this is Rebecca, I got a laugh-fest note, I'm being sarcastic about it, that I would have ripped the person about for but C.I.'s said that the whole thing is really sickening and not helping and of course anytime one of us says something, it's C.I. that gets attacked online or in an e-mail. So we're leaving it alone.

And this is Ty, but Mike has never gone on record about this so if he has a thought he wants to express in general terms, he's welcome to. In general terms.

General terms, huh? I'd say it's disgusting that anyone thought it was okay to mock C.I. for having cancer. The lies told were bad enough but to mock the fact that C.I. has cancer is beyond disgusting and that has to come from a really sick and disgusting and perverted mind. And for anyone to think it is okay is saying a lot about them. I'll leave it at that because C.I.'s got enough to deal with without me making it worse. But it's disgusting and it's shameful.

This is Dona changing the topic really quick before we get into specifics. How has having your own site changed your feelings? Jim had offered that having on your own site would help. It helped us. We were so angry when we started and pretty much angry at everyone. And we had some who fed into that anger with a lot of false rumors. We'd do a piece and C.I. would say, "Are you sure you want to do that?" That's in several pieces. We'd note that. The anger was counter-productive and it was helped with this nonsense that someone was spreading.

Well I don't talk to anyone like the person you're talking about and I wouldn't. But I was pretty nervous the first day and after that, I was just relieved to have done it and I had e-mails and all because C.I. did a post just on "Michael's starting a site" and Rebecca and Kat and everyone just helped get the word out. So I was able to see that what C.I. was stressing about how "you have a voice and you can use it" made sense. It probably helps that I'm not trying to be famous or trying to make money off of it or sell some thing I wrote or set up a career at the Boston Globe or New York Times. And when I checked the e-mail the first morning after I blogged, I expected that C.I. would have written and there was an e-mail waiting. But there were other people who'd written to and I got that I could share and it wasn't raging in a tea cup or something because people would visit and weigh in. But to this day, when C.I. gets attacked or mocked for having cancer, it pisses me off and I'm respecting C.I.'s wishes but if I'm pushed on this, I will come out swinging. But, it's like everyone says, there's so much to write about that is worthy that this nonsense doesn't need to be rehashed over and over. The community gets it. They know what went down. And like I have e-mails coming in with questions and I see something I think I want to write about so there really is a lot of other things worth writing about.

What's something you want to write about that you haven't written about yet?

That would take an hour to list. I'm 19 years old, I don't know everything. I'm learning stuff all the time. I'll see something and think, "Cool." And want to share that. But it's like Jim was telling me, if I started blogging, I'd find there was so much to write about that I really didn't have time to get caught up in drama that others were trying to create. I can tell the same thing with you guys. The Third Estate Sunday Review has really kicked ass lately. I wish I could have helped with the short stories last week but I was reading them and just really blown away. That took a lot of imagination and work.

Well, some editions are better than others. That's a given and we have no idea how this will go because honestly, all our plans went into the toilet when Sandra Day O'Connor made her announcement.

Ava and C.I. are writing about the Bully Boy's speech, right?

Yeah, we begged and begged them to do that. They say it won't be very funny and they're not really into it but however it turns out, it's there, it's on the record.

I love the TV reviews.

Everybody does. Ava and C.I. really cut loose on those things and that's part of what's helped us get to where we are. They've gone off into various things, experimenting, with those and that's given us the encouragement to push and try to be more than we might be otherwise. But for anyone reading this edition, Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement was a bombshell and we're not really sure how this edition will turn out.

I thought the roundtable went pretty good. It went pretty fast too.

It did. So let's close this out and get to work on the editorial because Betty and Kat are about ten minutes from rejoining us. Here's the question: "We don't know you, we've never read you. We bump into you at a party and someone says, 'This is Mike, he blogs.' How do you explain your site to us?"

Hmm. I guess . . . Hmm. Well it's against the war. And it's about what people who write in are asking. I'll make goofs and mistakes. Hang in there and maybe you'll see something you like or maybe you'll get an idea of what young people are thinking. You know, like Jim told me to, I'm just trying to tell my truth. If you can hang with that, cool. Check it out.

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