Sunday, November 27, 2005

Five Books, Five Minutes

Happy Holidays. "Five Books, Five Minutes" time. We have a novel, we have a book of collected writings, we have a book of essays, a book critiquing the news industry and a book by an activist. Participating in this discussion are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz and Wally of The Daily Jot.

Jim: Let's start with activism. Dona says Mike should set this with one up.

Mike: Okay. The book is by someone who's discussed her story on Democracy Now!, Diane Wilson. This her story and it's An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas. Seadrift's a fishing community in the Gulf in Texas. There community is polluted and Diane Wilson attempts to deal with Formosa Plastics through the court system. This book is about what happens when you hit a brick wall and it appears like all avenues are closed.

Wally: This was probably the favorite for me of the books we read.

Jim: Because?

Wally: I liked her spirit and I enjoyed the way she wrote. She wasn't trying to impress anybody, just tell her story.

Ty: Keeping it real.

Mike: She really was. She told her story and she fought her battle that way. There was none of this "How can I woo the evangicals" or "How will I frame this" or "I must create a new slogan!" She just spoke in her voice and fought in her way.

Wally: And with all the talk of "frame this" that really registered with Mike and I when we were discussing the book on the phone.

Mike: Because the Democratic Party seems determined to have a self-crisis, an identity panic. As though Americans have turned against the programs historically supported by Democratics.

Wally: When the polls show just the opposite. And what the Republicans did better was turning out their voters.

Mike: (Laughing) That's if we don't bring up Diebold.

Wally: We just felt she was really a no nonsense, not going to pretty it up, not going to sugar coat it woman and we respected that because you don't come across that too often.

Kat: I enjoyed her writing voice as well. It helped the story come alive. This could have read like a made for TV movie, Love Canal II: The Water Menace. It could have been all smoothed over and all the edges sanded down. It would have been dull and boring and probably marketed as "good for you." This is a lively book. At the lowest points in her battle, she never stops being a human being. Or at the hightest. But there's a tendency to turn the people into these saintly beings that bear no resemblence to anyone you know. I'd have a cup of coffee, no, I'd have a beer with Diane Wilson. She's seems like someone committed to enjoying life even as she fights a good fight. She doesn't put on airs.

Jess: Just to offer the basic story. She lives in one of the most polluted areas in Texas. A plant's coming in. One that Tawain won't allow. But Texas does. She fights the system that tries to portray her as the bad guy, including the local press. It turns out that the pollution could be prevented by using a zero discharge system instead of pumping the waste into thearea. But that would raise the costs fifty percent, so better to just pollute the environment. She visits Tawain and sees what the company has done there. The company's Formosa Plastics by the way. At one point, she goes on a month long hunger strike and the company sits down with her to work out an agreement. Then they go back on the agreement.

Rebecca: I enjoyed the book. I loved hearing about her friendship with Donna Sue. I loved hearing about her children. She was a real person on paper and that doesn't happen very often. I really want to talk about when she goes out in her boat one night but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who's thinking about picking up the book. So I'll just say that she doesn't pull punches. She's telling her story with no efforts of pretense or prettying it up. I'll note that she's a member of CODEPINK, a founding member, and if you're on the fence about the book or not able to get it right away, you can check out the interview that Amy Goodman did with her on Democracy Now! I'll add that this is story about one person going up against a large corporation so it's a David vs. Goliath tale. She gets sold out by someone she's counting on along the way. There are efforts to turn the people fighting the corporation against each other, there's a lot going on. Including guns fired from helicopters. I'm surprised her story isn't already a movie.

Dona: Who would you cast?

Rebecca: Demi Moore. Julia Roberts is an obvious choice. But I think Demi Moore relates better with children onscreen. To me, the children were plot devices in Erin Brokavich. I'd also hate to see Julia in another wonder bra. In a movie movie, Demi could play this character. In a TV movie? I don't know. Elaine?

Elaine: I don't know. It's a difficult part because you've got to convey humanity and it's not about dazzling with a smile. I'm trying to think of someone dark haired with depth. I agree that for a film, Demi Moore would be a good choice because she does relate well to children and she has a gravity about her that would work well. What's that movie we love?

Ava: Passion of the Mind.

Elaine: Right. Again, she works wonderfully with children and she's got a gravity. I wouldn't want to see a giggling starlet playing Diane Wilson, I'd take it as an insult if Sarah Michelle Geller died her hair and tried to play the part. She's and Jennifer Garner are Leno's "giggling girls" and I can't see them as anything but airheads.

Jim: And the excerpt, Mike?

Mike: Wally and I picked this excerpt because it shows how she could follow "good advice" or she could keep it real and she keeps it real. This is from page 195:

I had three weeks to plan the meeting in Point Comfort, and Rick called and warned me not to cut it short. "These things need at least a month of preparation. You do less and you'll end up looking like an amateur. So none of this rambling on stuff like you got till Christmas to get it done."
Rick was long gone past thinking my shoot-from-the-hip style was working, so he gave me his new grassroots activist speech. You need a plan! he said, and showed me how it was done. He wrote a long list of tasks on a yellow legal pad, and I nodded my head yes, yes (and took no notes), and when I finally believed he had quit wondereing if I was listening, I quit listening. Then I just smiled and looked at a spot in the middle of his forehead and went and done it my way.
I believed in not so much organizing. There were other worlds out there, and sometimes those worlds had winds same as ours, and when they got bored or disappointed with our reality they stood at our plain pine doors and knocked. It was to this other world that Blackburn gave my name, and it knocked when I was standing at the kitchen sink in my faded jeans.
It was 48 Hours, and the producer wanted to do a piece for Earth Day. He asked me questions for an hour, then declared himself about 90 percent sold on the story. By the way, he said, do you have any actions coming up? Now, not on our behalf, but something you might already have in mind? Why, shore, I said, and he said, Perfect! He was 100 percent sure.
Sometimes there are things that the mind refuses, same as the stomach refuses, and until the moment they arrived in two vans, and panic clambered through my body worse than two babies running through the hall, I never believed 48 Hours would arrive. I should have; everybody else did. All four mayors in all four towns. Formosa executives. Chamber of Commerce. Economic Development. The county's chemical plants. Reporters. Especially reporters.

: We'll move to Jess' picks.

Jess: When my parents were helping us out with a piece one week, my mom brought up Barbara Kingsolver and Kat and C.I. both knew her writing. They got into a very intense discussion with my parents and I was thinking, "I need to read Kingsolver." Then an e-mail came in for Elaine here and I forwarded it to her.

Elaine: It was about something we'd all worked on here.

Jess: But Elaine had been the one to come up with the idea, so I figured she'd enjoy reading it. In the e-mail the writer mentioned Pigs In Heaven several times. Which is a Kingsolver book. So I added a comment to it in the forward asking Elaine where a good place to start was with Kingsolver? She suggested Small Wonder which is a collection of Kingsolver's essays.

Rebecca: And a Christmas gifting book from C.I. one year.

Elaine: And the perfect companion book for Wilson's An Unreasonable Woman.

Jess: Because Kingsolver's looking at the world around her and how we are impacting it. An Unreasonable Woman is more than just one person's fight for the environment, obviously. Kingsolver's asking questions that go to what kind of world do we want and what can we do?

Dona: I think that's a good point because the book is about accountability. She's focusing on her own life, Kingsolver, and addressing how she and her family deal with things. I never thought about, I think she uses strawberries as the example, of the cost of transporting the produce when it was out of season. And I agreed with her about TV, obviously. We're using something on that as our excerpt.

Wally: I don't know about life without TV though. I need my sports.

Mike: Same here. And I'll cop to watching other stuff too. I know she's not talking about movies, but besides all getting together in the living room, we'll all get together to watch a special.

Rebecca: What's the last special you all watched together?

Mike: The thing with the woman. Dad and Ma liked her show and they had a reunion special where she took and two guys took questions.

Kat: Carol Burnett. The reunion for The Carol Burnett Show. I watched that as well. And I don't usually turn on the TV. But I loved The Carol Burnett Show.

Ty: I don't know anyone here that would defend TV.

Elaine: I do.

C.I.: She means me. If TV were worth watching today, I'd be watching. I'm not a "snob" who just watched PBS. I've logged a huge amount of TV watching hours over the years. I don't regret it. It was never at the expense of anything, it never prevented me from what doing what I wanted to do. I never sat and watched because I was always doing several things at once. But if someone does sit and watch and they manage to get something from a show, any show, good for them. The writing's gone down hill, I don't care for "ripped from the headlines," I have no interest in "reality TV" and I'm tired of writers who mistake what they saw on TV in their childhood as "life." It doesn't speak to me now. If it does to someone else, more power to them.
Here's where I have a problem, the woman who wrote Ava and I complaining about the review of Elimidate because, she argued, after coming home each evening and watching five hours of dramas and comedies, she needed the "reality" of Elimidate. If she needs some reality, turn off the TV and find some. Or, leave the TV on and invite people over, or do something while you watch. If I think something's junk, I'll say that. But if someone else gets something from the same show, good for them. There was a time when I would've recommended, "Okay, but you need to watch some news as well." That was the agreement I grew up under. Watch the news and you could then watch whatever you wanted. But these days, I wouldn't recommend watching any of the news from the mainstream media. To get back to Kingsolver's book, having been the contrarian voice defending TV watchers everywhere, I agree with her treatment of the
newspaper, if I weren't doing The Common Ills, I'd be the same way.

Ty: Which is she gets the Sunday paper and may read it during the week. And I agree with that. In a class I'm taking this semester, the professor had us write down which papers we had followed for other classes, if we had. And then she said we had to follow another paper that we hadn't written down. So I'm doing the Los Angelse Times, online, and the problems are pretty much the same as elsewhere. It's depressing actually because you hope that somewhere in the nation there's a strong daily paper. I haven't found it yet, if it exists. I see lots of interest in how much money can be made and very little interest in anything else.

Jess: And our excerpt is from page 138, Kingsolver's referring to TV news and has just noted "Ted-Peter-Dan:"

Well, honestly, who do those guys think I am? Thirteen seconds of whatever incident produced the most alarming visuals today, and I'm supposed to believe that's all I really need to know? One overturned fuel tanker in Nebraska is more important to me than, say, global warming? Television news is driven by compelling visiuals, not by the intrinsic importance of the story being cast. Complicated, nonphotogenic issues requiring any considerable background information (global warming, for example) get left out of the running every time.
Meanwhile, viewers are lured into assuming, at least subconsciously, that this "news" is a random sampling of everything that happened on planet earth that day, and so represents reality. One friend of mine argued (even though, as I say, I'm not trying to start a fight) that he felt a moral obligation to watch CNN so he could see all there was and sort out what was actually true -- as if CNN were some huge window thrown wide on the whole world at once. Not true, not remotely true. The world, a much wider place than seventeen inches, includes songbird migration, emphysema, pollinating insects, the Krebs cycle, my neighbor who recylces kinitting-factory scraps to make quilts, natural selection, the Loess Hills of Iowa, and a trillion other things outside the notice of CNN.

: And, if you're new to the feature, we don't say, "The book tells the story of . . ." The discussions are topics that come up because of the book because we don't believe you read a book, put it down and go on to the next one. It should make you think about your own life, the world around you, or something. Otherwise, read --

Dona: Don't say it, I don't want to go through the hate mails.

Jim: Okay, so we'll move on. We have a book dealing with the media, but I found Cedric's pick to be interesting and I think we can shake things up by selecting it next.

Cedric: I was at the library looking for a book we did last time and saw Time On Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin which is edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise. I didn't know anything about Rustin which is always something we look for when picking out books, going with something other than what's on the top ten list this week. What I learned was that Rustin was part of the civil rights movement, a big part of it, in fact. "Time on Two Crosses" refers to the fact that Rustin was both African-American and gay.

Betty: And so he's got two crosses to bear at a time when Blacks aren't recognized as equals and when gays and lesbians seem as worthy of less than equal rights.

Wally: The book included his debate with Malcolm X.

Rebecca: Right, it's not just a collection of writings, but also includes interviews and in that case, a transcription.

C.I.: I'm staying silent for this discussion due to having eaten up so much time being the "defender of TV" before. But it needs to be noted that the discussion was done for WBAI radio which is a Pacifica Radio station.

Mike: I didn't know that.

Elaine: So let me do the plug C.I. wants to do but is biting the tongue on. If you saw the coverage of Rosa Parks on Democracy Now! or heard it on Pacifica stations, you realize that their archives are very rich. That's due to things like airing this discussion between two leaders that the mainstream media wasn't interested in.

Ava: Because years from now when someone like Medea Benjamin or Arundhati Roy or Tariq Ali or anyone like that passes away, a tribute's going to be hard for the mainstream media to put together. They'll have plenty of clips of Tim Russert speaking to John McCain yet again. But people who are truly leaders, not "powerful" because they were elected, are not covered. You saw that with Rosa Park's passing. Mainstream media working overtime to get some sort of tribute together for a woman that they were largely uninterested in hearing from.

Kat: In fact, Amy Goodman issued a challenge or made an offer during their coverage of Rosa Parks on Democracy Now!

Cedric: Right. I think she noted that they were airing excerpts from a Pacifica interview done in the fifties, shortly after Ms. Parks had sparked a movement, and Amy Goodman noted that you wouldn't see footage like that on TV and offered that if any networks wanted to use it for a tribute, they'd allow them to, this wasn't an open offer this was for that time period, free of charge, but it was doubtful anyone would take them up on it. And to the best of my knowledge, no one did.

C.I.: Jumping in again. Dallas can't find the link. Rebecca, do you know what we're talking about?

Rebecca: I know the interview, but not the offer. Maybe I was running to the kitchen for another cup of coffee that morning?

C.I.: The people who've cited that, and I remember it too, listen to the show. The Rosa Parks coverage occurred during the tail end of Pacifica's pledge drive. Something could have been left out of the transcript but Dallas found the link to the interview and I'm thinking that, if the transcript didn't leave something out, this was actually an offer/challenge Amy Goodman made outside of the Democracy Now! broadcast. I know she mentioned it after Democracy Now! the day after the interview had aired. Kat, Cedric and Ava listen. Rebecca watches Democracy Now! on TV. I think, and I could be wrong, you had to be listening to Pacifica during that [pledge drive] to have heard it. She may have made it during Democracy Now!'s airing but if so, it was in what would be the musical breaks between segments if you weren't listening via a Pacifica station.

Cedric: One thing that puzzled me was why the host of the discussion between Malcolm X and Rustin wasn't identified except as "HOST"? I'm also wondering who you found yourself siding with in the discussion?

Jess: For me, it was Malcolm. I know his writing and his story, so I may have been filling in details that I wasn't able to with Rustin but I got the impression that Rustin grew more cautious with age.

Betty: I'd agree with that except for the issue of sexuality. That reads cautious today but for the time period, that is a big deal. And I'll add that he was known within the civil rights movment as gay and, in fact, within the nation since an arrest was used by a White senator to force Rustin out of the movement. But in terms of discussing his sexuality publicly, that's in the eighties. And it was a big deal.

Cedric: And you can say it still is a big deal because Rustin is one of the civil rights pioneer, very essential to the movement, and he's not someone that is stressed when you hear of the civil rights movement.

Betty: I'd agree with that. I'd add that it's part of our community's, I'm speaking of the Black community and directing the "our" to Cedric, refusal or reluctance to address the issue of sexuality and orientation. I think it's embarrassing. Of course some do address it. But we've allowed it to be a something that can turn against each other. Bully Boy's been able to use it with some Black churches, sexual orientation, to turn them against their own interests. In my church we had to deal with it, we had too many members and families of members who were dealing with AIDS. It's one of the healthiest things we've done. With the empahis on family in the Black community, I look skeptical at any Black person that tells me they've never met a gay or lesbian. They are in our families, they are in our churches and it distresses that a White Bully Boy has been allowed by some "Black leaders" to turn us against each other. There's some idiot. and I use that term by choice, Cedric's also heard him, his "sermons" get passed around in e-mails. And for someone so supposedly opposed to gays and lesbians, he sure knows a lot about gay sex and he sure seems to enjoy talking about it in terms that I can't imagine sex being talked about in my church.

Cedric: Yeah, that guy is an idiot. And every month or so, it'll pop up in an e-mail forward to someone in the office and they'll be giggling at it. They say, if you ask them, they're laughing at how stupid he is. Well that doesn't help the race either, flaunting ignorance. I really do not have respect for people who pass that around, either out of their own beliefs or to giggle over.

Ty: And this goes to what erases Rustin for history and how a race whose leaders want to fuss and fret over language don't want to address serious issues. I mean, where is Bill Cosby on this issue? Where his speech on the need for us to embrace one another?

Betty: Exactly, you can list the leaders who've addressed this topic in any form and it's a small list. Coretta Scott King and Julian Bond would be on the list but a lot of other so-called "brave" voices wouldn't be. I like Jesse Jackson but I don't respect his opinions on this issue.

Rebecca: Which is interesting that you cite him when Rustin cites him as one of the people working to turn MLK against him.

Ty: And it's forty years later and he still hasn't changed his tune.

Cedric: I don't know if Dona wants to call time or not, I know we've got Betty's pick still to do.

Dona: No, this has been an interesting discussion and we can extend. We actually have two more books.

Cedric: Well I'll make my comment and try to be brief about it. Some African-Americans are offended when sexual orientation is likened to race. And it's not just that. You heard some nonsense about "Cindy Sheehan is no Rosa Parks!" As though allowing someone else to build on a very powerful movement will erase Ms. Parks. It won't. It will only extend her reach and future generations' knowlege of her. I hear, everyone hears, modern day comparisons to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or whomever. They become points of reference. I can understand the fear here because any minority group risks being stripped of whatever place in history they've earned. But while realizing that, we should realize that part of what makes Whites such a point of history, besides who got to draw it up, is that it is a short hand. Most people couldn't tell you where Thomas Jefferson was born. But they can use him as a point of reference. When the civil rights movement is used as a point of reference, I think it extends the movement, keeps it alive in history and increases knowledge. Otherwise it's going to be confined to one time, one period, one group and it will be ghetto-ized in terms of how history is taught. I'm thrilled that we have our African-American heroes but I want to see them be heroes for all.
They fought as hard as anyone else and they are a part of American history. I was thrilled to hear some people calling Cindy Sheehan the Rosa Parks of the peace movement. I see it as a huge improvement over years of someone being "the Black __" who ever. We have heroic figures and their struggles are heroic. If they inspire people that's a great thing, regardless of race. The point of teaching Black History is to get it back into our understanding of history. It's a part of American history and hopefully it will be worked into American history more and more with each generation. I'm done.

Ty: I'll add that I agree with Cedric. I've attended predominately African-American schools and predominatley White ones. And I've seen a "Oh, it's Black history" type collective groan at some of the White schools. In standing up for her race, Rosa Parks stood up for a better nation.
I didn't always hear that point in made in school.

Dona: We have two books left. We can extend, which is fine with me, and cover both or we can stop here.

Jess: What do you want to do?

Dona: I think we should extend. People are still on holiday weekends and the book discussions are popular. I don't think we'll hear much complaining if we make this one of the main features and ditch something else. I also know that, although it's no loss to read a book that we don't end up discussing because reading is it's own reward, that a lot of people put in a lot of time to reading these books to participate in the discussions.

Jim: Then we're extending. We'll have an editorial, Ava & C.I.'s TV review and, if there's time, something more. And if there's not, too bad.

Dona: We also have the headlines.

Jim: Right. Okay, well let's save Betty's for last because that should be a fun discussion on that book. Let's tackle the other nonfiction one now. Wally.

Wally: Bonnie M. Anderson's News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment, and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcast News is a book I'd heard about at The Common Ills repeatedly but never read. This is the story of Anderson's journalism experience. She started out in print, in Florida to give my state a shout out, at the Miami Herald and went on to work at for NBC and CNN, among others, as well. I enjoyed the CNN discussions, very lively, as well as the chapter on Fox "News."

Ava: I enjoyed her book and recommend it but I didn't agree with her take on everything, I'm not talking about Fox "News."

C.I.: Right, we talked about that. Tailwind was our problem with the book. Which we both recommend. But Ava and I are going to go by what we were told in real time and after by friends at CNN. I think the story was true and I know a number of others who do as well but know not to say so. Anderson defends the reporters of that segment, the actual reporters, in some ways. But the story was not disproven. She rightly points out, and Ava chose something on this for the possible excerpt, that the post-investigation was conducted by legal people and not by journalists. But, well, let's relate it to something Anderson covers in the book. She worked on a story where a man was accusing a priest of sexual assault. At the end, the man backs down from the legal fight against the priest and offers a statement, publicly, that sometimes retreived memories are wrong. Anderson points out that sometimes they're right. I had no problem with that, even if she hadn't included the background that was public at the time. But Tailwind wasn't proven wrong. Some question the main source. Legal people made a determination after the fact based on what they'd utilize in court. Since she brought up the issue, and she makes some strong points on it, I felt that point needed to be clearly stated and it wasn't. And you can carry it over, and I know someone will, in the discussion at some point.

Ava: CNN buckled for a number of reasons. She writes of the impact on investigative journalism following the priest story but to me this was a bigger buckling, on Tailwind. Maybe that's just because I heard so much about it growing up, at the time, and continue to hear about it after. The reasons for the buckling, though they've been addressed in some of the press, aren't addressed in the book. The legal "finding" by the lawyers was important but there's a whole, huge, series of steps in the process that take you from the story airing to the legal "finding" by lawyers, not by a Court, and that's not in the book. Because this is still a sore spot for people at CNN at that time, I have a hard time believing she's not aware of it. Why she didn't include it, I don't know. But it's part of the story.

C.I.: And for those wanting more information, Democracy Now! has covered this. That was one of the few times that anyone I knew at CNN ever called me to encourage I watch news somewhere other than CNN. And if I'm not mistaken, those phone calls were how I first learned of Democracy Now! They actually covered it more than one time but I'm asking Dallas to find the link to the interview they did with two fired reporters.

Rebecca: It was a public relations nightmare for CNN and they had the Pentagon breathing down their necks and they're dependent upon the Pentagon. I'll go ahead and kick it into a more "modern day" discussion that no one will need links for. Mary Mapes. CBS aired the report on Bully Boy's records. To this day, you come across reports in the mainstream press that say the documents were forgies. The documents were never proven to be forgeries. The same font issues arise in other documents of Bully Boy's so-called "service." But no determination has ever been made that the documents were forgeries.

Jess: And there you had, again, a legal "finding" following reporting. Journalists should have been on the panel, real journalists, an AP reject doesn't count.

Rebecca: Right. We're talking about a panel that Louis D. Boccardi served on and for anyone who's new to that Associated Press persona, he was praised by Oliver North, before Iran-Contra was exposed, for being "supportive" of the actions North and others were taking. You can learn about that in Robert Parry's Lost History. Could they do a larger hit job with their selection of the panel? Everyone knows the problems with Thorndike, but Boccardi was presented as just a mainstream media person. He's not that. People without agendas, hidden agendas, aren't usually praised by persons circumventing Congress with illegal activities.

Dona: For anyone wondering, Mary Mapes new book is on our lists for next week and hopefully we'll get to it then.

Ty: And like with Tailwind, it's "We never should have aired it." Why is that? Where was the problem? The documents were presented to the White House for a response. They had a chance to weigh in. The information within the documents weren't shocking, they didn't veer from the known record. The secretary of the man stated she hadn't typed them up but as to the information in them, she backed up the content, even while questioning the validity of the documents. CBS shouldn't have backed down. They now had a witness verifying the content. I could say more but I'll save it for the discussion of Mapes' book.

Dona: And to make sure that, if it's not discussed next week, no one's upset, we believe in the library systems in this country. We utilize them. And if someone's unable to get ahold of a copy of the book, although one person present saw the book some time ago, we hold the discussion until we're all able to read the book. If one of our readers is able to buy every book that he or she finds interesting based on this discussion, you're either in a fortunate position or you've found very little useful from our discussions. We share books, especially Ava, Jim and I, and we utilize our libraries.

Betty: I'm next in line at my library on Mapes provided it's turned in on time.

Jess: I'm offended by CNN's backing down on Tailwind but until listening to Ava and C.I. discuss it in terms of Anderson's book, I wasn't bothered by it [the book's coverage of it]. But it is true that for her own story, involving the abuse of a priest, she does underscore that the story wasn't disproven. I agree that the same point should have been made on Tailwind. I also had a problem with the issue of Cuban-Americans. In that discussion, a man applies for a job at CNN and Anderson's supporting his employment. She feels that it's wrong to question whether he can be objective or not. But if he'd been hired to cover Cuba, that's a question that would have been raised. It's not a just a conflict of appearance, it's the appearance of a conflict of appearance. His brothers, both elected officials, were anti-Castro. Whether he shared their beliefs or not, whether he was objective or not, the appearance would be, "Oh, he's trashing Castro again, just like his brothers!" In fact, I wouldn't recommend the book.

Jim: Because of that?

Jess: That, Tailwind. A refusal to question some of CNN's landmark stories which are often mentioned in passing in a single sentence but require more scrutiny. I'm not questioning her abilities as a reporter but I didn't need to read this book. I didn't enjoy most of it.

Jim: But Wally did.

Wally: Yeah, I did. But I'm not a journalism major and a number of events she's talking about, that's my first exposure to it. I would recommend the book still. I enjoyed it.

Jim: Mike?

Mike: I've read better and I'm not a journalism major either. I know the parts Wally responded to and I can understand why he responded to them, we were talking about while we both read it. I think, for instance, if you have huge respect for Christiane Amanpour, you'll enjoy the book.

Wally: Okay but what about one of the strengths of the book, where she discusses how entertainment invaded CNN and made decisions.

Rebecca: Wally, I'll agree with you, that was a good section. I also enjoyed the books, or parts of it, enough to recommend it. The discussion on emotionalism and personalization, for instance. It's ironic that she mentions the p.r. nightmare-in-the making Anderson Cooper, and what was CNN thinking when they decided to build their schedule around that?, and if she were writing the book today, I wonder what she'd say about his "star making" moments in New Orleans.

Jim: Elaine?

Elaine: I think it's worth reading. But I do agree with Jess' point. If it's a story CNN broke that's not questioned, reported by others, she does dole out shout outs and in many cases those aren't deserved. I was also bothered by her inability, this book was written during the initial stages of the occupation, after the invasion, to even tackle the issue of the press coverage of the war. That's a huge ommission.

Jim: Kat?

Kat: I think this is a book that people have enough information on from the discussion to determine for themselves. If anyone's looking to my opinion, I give it a thumbs down. I didn't enjoy large parts of it. I thought she passed herself off as an objective person regarding Cuba when, from her own narrative, she's anything but. Let me correct that. She's very supportive of the Cuban people. She is decidely against the Cuban government. It doesn't sound like it effected her on air reporting but it does effect the book she's written. And like, Elaine, I couldn't believe she played it safe by taking a pass on Iraq. Only, I don't think she did take a pass. I think she's supporting the coverage as when she chides Eason Jordan. If his op-ed was correct, I know a number of people who read it as a marketing attempt on the part of CNN to wave the flag for the war, it was wrong. I'm not disputing that abuses occurred under Saddam Hussein's regime. I am questioning how much "knowledge" CNN had and sat on. For someone wanting to "clear the air," Jordan's op-ed was surprisingly short on details of actual abuse, at least not enough to justify his tone. If CNN did cover up for abuses, then they needed to report them and Eason Jordan needed to note each and everyone. His op-ed didn't. But while I can fully support that CNN shouldn't cover up for any nation, including our own, I can't support her loose endorsement, which is how I read it, of the war. I didn't like the book. I believe I heard her on Laura Flanders and she made for a pleasant guest. But with this book, with every turn of the page, I felt I liked Bonnie Anderson less and less. I also felt that for someone to hold Jordan accountable for what he kept hidden, excuse me, but Anderson kept quiet when CNN gave her the orders to hire young and white and attrative and stop attempting to recruit people of color.
Throughout the book there were incidents like that where, for someone who has so much rage over CNN's covering up this or that in this part of the world or that, there were plenty of moments where her indignation should have made her say, "You know what? I'm out the door." Is CNN being controlled by the Cuban government? I don't know. I wouldn't think it unlikely, they kiss, bow and scrape before every government, including our own, a point Anderson never wants to make though she will critique the Catholic establishment. That might have been beyond her control to address. But she claims she saw intimidation of Cubans by the government. Did she report it? No, she did not. So her indigination over what Eason Jordan did or didn't cover rings a little hollow to me.

Jim: Betty?

Betty: I'm staying out of the crossfire on this one!

Jim: (Laughing) Don't blame you. Cedric? Ty?

Ty: I'll get Wally's back. I did see some value in the book and I did enjoy reading it. I understand the criticism that Kat, Mike and Jess offer. I'm not disagreeing with it. But I agree with Wally that when Anderson's discussing the entertainment invading and suddenly you have anchors cooking on air, you've got a problem if you're calling yourself a news channel. The point was also made that suddenly shots of women's legs became as important to the "coverage" as anything else.

Cedric: I'll stay out of it because I enjoyed it until this discussion and now I'm thinking, well I'll hop in. Or I'll toss this out. What about Elian?

Elaine: Okay, there I had a problem. I don't know why, in a legal issue, a legal dispute, Anderson feels the need to offer her take on life in Cuba. My position is always that if there's a surviving parent and the parent is not unfit, that parent has custody rights. Cuba may have some bad points and it may have some good points. But I don't think the issue of what country a single parent raises their child in should impact the legal decision. I felt she was raising issues, wanting to raise them, she criticizes CNN for not covering the sort of life she feels Elian would have if he's returned to Cuba, that really aren't pertinent. That's the sort of nonsense Sally Field goes up against in Not Without My Daughter. Only in that case, there are two surviving parents. Anderson doesn't like Cuba's government. That's her right. I don't see how that effects the issue of a child and his parent unless we want to create new legal conditions for surviving parents getting custody. We go down that road, and you'll have some juries who say, "Gay parent, he or she can't have custody." Or relatives will argue they live in a place with better schools and the surviving parent lives in a place where the schools are the worst in the country.
I think it's fair to say she had strong opinions about the government in Cuba and I think in that instance they did effect the objectivity. Whatever life in Cuba is, the child would be returning, returning, to it. That's where he was born and that's where his father lived. I'd feel the same way if we were dealing with a child from Iran or a child from Syria or any other locale. Parental custody, unless the parent is unfit, must be respected. My opinion. Obviously not Anderson's. And what she was suggesting borders on creating a mob mentality because that's where the road the coverage she wanted leads down. "Bad Cuba." We're no longer dealing with known legal issues and precedents from the court, we're appealing to emotionalism and resorting to scare tactics. Those are scare tactics regardless of whether her claims are true or false. The locale should have no bearing on the issue. Again, parental custody unless the parent can be demonstrated to be unfit. Unfit as a parent. Not unfit due to locale or religion or sexual orientation or whether they smoke or any other issue then there fitness as a parent.

Jim: Ava? C.I.?

Ava: We agreed ahead of time we'd comment on Tailwind because we didn't know the two reporters involved or Peter Arnett. We do know other people in the book and we agreed ahead of time that we'd say we recommend the book and leave it at that.

Jim: And with a prepared statement, we bring the discussion of that book to a close and go to Betty's selection.

Betty: I like to laugh, no surprise there. So I selected Oliva Goldsmith's First Wives Club. I'd seen the movie and expected that I'd laugh a few times at the novel but instead found myself laughing at the book much more than the movie.

C.I.: Agreed.

Jim: Had anyone read the book before they saw the movie? I'm also assuming everyone saw the movie, so if you didn't speak up on that as well.

Wally: I didn't see the movie until we were reading the book and Mike told me it was funny so I rented it.

Jim: Anyone else?

C.I.: I read the book before the movie.

Kat: What I loved in the book was the empowerment. I didn't see that in the movie.

Jim: Really because I did.

Kat: Well maybe it's just me.

C.I.: No, Goldie Hawn had the same concerns and Sherry Lansing had to strong arm her to get her to complete the film.

Betty: I laugh at the movie, but there's a world of difference between the movie and the book. Like Kat says the book is actually about empowerment. Empowerment beyond the three leads in the film is largely passed off as a hobby, in my opinion, in the movie. "Oh look, we opened a center!" The book is much more of the sort of empowerment that the women in Nine to Five achieve. They don't add on a little center, they actually get to the core problems. And reading it, I kept thinking, "What? Bette Midler was afraid to play a lesbian?"

Kat: Did anyone else feel like Bette's character came off homophobic in the bar scene, at the gay bar?

Elaine: I felt that. Especially since I knew Bette's character was a lesbian in the book. When I went to see it, Rebecca, we saw it together right?

Rebecca: Right. And we were with my friend T and she had read the book. She was really excited, she's a lesbian, that Bette was going to be playing the lesbian character. Instead, I think she said, sarcastically, at the end of the movie, "Wasn't Bette quite good as Donna Reed?"

Dona: I've never cared for Bette Midler. Reading the book and finding out that Brenda was a lesbian in the book, I felt that it was chicken shit on someone's part to turn her into what she became onscreen which I honestly felt was a mousy, unimportant character cast opposite a man with no chemistry and their follow up film flopped. That Certain Feeling, was that the title?

Mike: If you haven't read the book, you may think, "Why's Betty insulting women's centers?" She's not. She's making the point that the women do a lot more in the book than open a center.

Jess: Right, they get at the structure that's left them dependent upon men. The book has an international scope. I didn't think I was going to enjoy it, but that especially was one of the things that made me really like this book. What was onscreen, especially Bette Midler, not to gang up, was very disappointing. Brenda in the book had drive and ambition. In the film, she just wants her husband back from Sarah Jessica Parker. I didn't feel the character had any self-respect.

Jim: Because she gets back with her husband?

Jess: No. Because she's so humilitated by him and the affair. She's begging him for money constantly. She sees him spending a fortune on Sarah Jessica Parker. He struck me as a loser in the movie and she was tied to him for reasons that had little to do with love or that acknowledged the events of her life.

Cedric: I'd agree with that. But I'd add that I like her in Ruthless People and Down and Out in Beverly Hills. I don't know why you cast Bette Midler as the drab one but that's what they did. And if they'd made her character like Brenda in the book, it would have given her stuff to do. Brenda is on a journey in the book. The sexuality is only part of the journey but it's an important part of it. When you pull that you pretty much pull apart Brenda's character. There's a movie called Stella that my aunty loves and everytime we stayed with her, she'd make us watch that, The Color Purple or Roots on videotape. I hated Stella. I didn't care for all the whining and crying Bettte Midler did in that movie and does it in this one too. It bores me.

Dona: And I'll bring it up again, who decided it? Bette Midler's known to have tried to play the "I played in the baths but I didn't know what was going on there" card. When everything falls apart, she'll trumpet herself as a champion and diva of the LBGT community. When things are going well film wise, she don't know nothing about no same-sex business. That's my opinion. I have an uncle who's gay and he has still not forgiven her for attempting to play like she didn't know what was going on at the bath houses when she was singing in them. He likens her to PBS, ignoring the audience all year until they need your money, which in her case, according to him, is when she goes on tour.

Jim: C.I.?

C.I.: Wasn't Goldie Hawn amazing in the film? She really is the life of the film and, my opinion, deserved a nomination for it. That was a brave performance and a funny one. Diane Keaton also had a wonderful moment at the therapist's.

Jim: And Bette Midler?

C.I.: Wasn't Goldie Hawn amazing in the film? She really is the life of the film and, my opinion, deserved a nomination for it. That was a brave performance and a funny one. Diane Keaton also had a wonderful moment at the therapist's.

Jim: (Laughing) Which would be a "no comment." Ava?

Ava: Goldie Hawn was amazing. Diane Keaton needed more moments in the script. She did a really good job with what she had but they didn't give her much to do. I've never been a fan of "Bathhouse Betty."

Ty: I didn't understand why so much was cut from the book. Goldie's character Elise has no romantic life in the film.

C.I.: Jon Stewart filmed scenes, if I remember correctly, where he played opposite Goldie Hawn.

Ty: I don't remember that in the movie.

C.I.: They were cut. Huge portions that were filmed ended up being cut. Gloria Steinem, for instance, actually had lines. Of the people losing scenes, I think Heather Locklear came off best.
But her part was ripped to shreds as well. Stockard Channing also had cuts but I think everyone agrees that she did an amazing job so I'll cite Heather Locklear who deserves credit but really didn't get any. I think Cedric made a good point that the book is about explorations. The script was rewritten too many times, including on the set, to be about anything. But I do think it was a triumph for Goldie Hawn and that she made something out of a role that was so much less on paper. At the end of the movie, you felt Elise was a full bodied character and that can't be said for all the characters in the film. In the book, however, Olivia Goldsmith created full characters with various tics and traits.

Jim: Mike?

Mike: Take out Goldie and there's no film. The book is so much better than the film. And I'll say what Wally and I discussed on the phone, Goldie Hawn is really hot in that movie!

Jim: (Laughing) Kat, last thoughts?

Kat: I felt the book was about empowerment and supporting one another. I felt the film traded in catty moments too often. And there, to me, it goes back to Midler's scenes. Midler can play cutting quite well and does so against Keaton and Hawn, against Sarah Jessica Parker. And the rest of the film? Drab, drab, drab. "I need money!" "I need Morey!" I kept thinking, "Get off your whiney ass." The character was a drip for the bulk of the film and then every now and then would have a catty scene. I don't care for Midler as a singer, but she can be a very funny comedian. She wasn't in that film. Reading the book, it was all the more upsetting to realize that Brenda in the book is such an interesting character. Diane Keaton brought Annie to life but I agree with Jess about the international scope in the book and I enjoyed it, in the book, when Annie really came into her own as a successful business woman.

Jim: And that brings to a close the longest "Five Books, Five Minutes" we've ever done. Consider it part of a holiday edition.
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