Sunday, April 03, 2005

A note to our readers

We actually pulled this one together without pulling a nonstop all nighter. It's been so long since we did that, we're as surprised as you are.

C.I. and Ava broke off from the editorial to write their TV review of Hope & Faith. (Ava provided input on the editorial in the final draft stage.) They had attempted to write it last night but Ava (who does read e-mail on her day to answer e-mail) shared an e-mail from a reader named Eddie with C.I. and both were inspired to toss around jokes about CJR Daily that quickly became notes, turned into a sketch, and by the time the rest of us got involved (including Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude as well as Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man) we had a ripe and long overdue parody. But credit the original idea and most of the groundwork to Ava and C.I.

The interview with Betty is something that we all participated in Friday night (and thank you to Betty for making time for that). All means Ty, Jess, Dona, Ava and Jim of Third Estate Sunday Review as well as Rebecca and C.I.

Blog Betty went live, as Rebecca says, Friday. We hope you enjoy the interview with Betty and that you check out her blog. In a world the Bully Boy increasingly attempts to dominate, we could all use a little more laughter and Betty provides that as well as social commentary.

As noted, Ava and C.I. broke off to do the TV review of Hope & Faith late Saturday night. On that, Ava adds that both she and C.I. are aware that McGinley appeared on other shows but when they termed Ted McGinley and Faith Ford "sitcom veterans" they decided to cite the two sitcoms each was best known for. (They've provided links to Ford & McGinley's online biographies so you can go there for further information. They also advise that Faith Ford went from Another World to Murphy Brown yet for some reason Another World isn't mentioned in her filmography at ABC.) If you go to it expecting them to rip the Ripa, confession, we were expecting that as well. Read it to see what they found in Ripa and in the show. (And no, they aren't going "soft." Read it and you'll see.) Reading it, we're willing to check out Hope & Faith.

As we attempt to find a better way to acknowledge our readers, we offer up an intentionally silly advice column. Why anyone would want our advice, for instance, on social etiquette is beyond us, but we're happy to play again. We do get e-mails asking advice about college and other issues. Ava has referred people to resources for a number of issues. Ty had a serious issue raised in an e-mail on his day this week which he attempted to assist with. The questions raised in the e-mails we picked were concerns but not the end of world issues so we took a light hearted approach. Hopefully you'll enjoy our usual smart ass attitude.

Finally our editorial and our blog highlight of Folding Star's A Winding Road which seemed to go in hand in hand with one (editorial) advising what's wrong and the other (A Winding Road) demonstrating how it should it be done.

The death watch as news. Think we're being too hard? Ava, a Catholic, caught 20/20 (she had it on in the background while she and C.I. were exchanging CJR Daily jokes) and a story came on entitled "The Road To Sainthood." ABC and 20/20 may have thought they were being "respectful" but, as Ava notes, networks don't anoint saints, the Church does "thanks all the same but you just disrespected my religion."

The broadcast led off with "Good evening, Pope John Paul II continues to lie near death tonight, so before we begin our program, we go for the latest on his condition . . ." What followed was "bulletin" offering such "breaking news" as "We're told that this morning he recognized it was Friday" and "today it must have required extraordinary strength." Opinion passing as news ("must have"), what happened Friday morning passing as "breaking news." And this wasn't part of "The Road to Sainthood." No, there was much worse to come. Someone's decided this is news. Ghoulish is the only word we could think of to apply to the death watch coverage.

We'll close by again welcoming Betty to the blog world. And as always, thank you to Rebecca, Betty and C.I. for all their help and assistance. And thank you to our readers as well.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava

Editorial: About Those Death Watches

I'm not scared of dyin'
And I don't really care
If it's peace you find in dyin'
Then let the time be near
-- "And When I Die" words and music by Laura Nyro

C.I. raised the issue of the death watch this morning and what it says about us as a culture Saturday morning, Laura Flanders did a full hour on the need to deal with death in a responsible manner. The topic of death is one we shy away from as a culture.

For all the talk of "death & taxes" being two things no one can avoid, we do avoid death. The latest death watch has turned around Pope John Paul II, a man who lived a long life. So the need for breathless updates really struck us as strange. Noting that he's ill, addressing his legacy, those are solid topics. Addressing health in terms of not just one person is a valid issue as well.

Hyping a death watch and giving constant updates struck us as "Get your front row tickets! Get your front row tickets! Pope slipping away!" The media as carny barker meets Jerry Springer, Sally Jesse, et al.

The Pope was not the first person to die, not even the first this year or month, and the need for bulletins struck us less as honest reporting and more along the lines of something we might see on E! outside an awards event -- "She's coming over, she's wearing Armani, her hair looks marvelous, wait, wait, she's stopped to shake someone's hand . . ."

And we're confused as to how mainstream media that prides itself on objectivism sees this sort of death watch as anything less than sensationalism and how they can justify the coverage they have provided -- coverage long on melodrama, short on information.

What was the intended take away?

Fear of death?

That's really all we're left with. And since we're all going to die, what purpose was severed by the alarmist coverage?

Yes, Pope John Paul II's death will affect many. Yes, many will miss him. But this death watch was a watch -- it started long before he died. And one has to wonder if the fear mongering of an event that's part of the life cycle, something we will all face, has some sort of socially responsible
justification because we aren't seeing it.

Before the press begins the next death watch, we'd offer that legacy talk is always valid. Hyper updates (containing little actual information) around the clock as someone faces death don't seem valid. Using a person's condition to discuss a disease or condition, valid. Turning pre-mourning into a news story strikes as a cult of personality -- the kind of coverage papers engaged in during their "yellow journalism" days.

For all the coverage of Terry Schiavo, the autopsy report got little mention. Maybe that's what happens with a death watch. When the entire story is the death watch, driven by the death watch, the death itself becomes anti-climatic and is greeted with a shrug.

The recent over the top coverage of Terry Schiavo and now of the lead up to Pope John Paul II's death strike us as indulgent and sensationalism and it's hard for us to buy into an argument otherwise when one "death of the century" (Schiavo) becomes a brief mention or buried inside the paper (if noted at all) item when something as concrete as an autopsy report becomes available.

Before the next death watch is hyped, we'd suggest that the media and the public give serious thought as to what's being accomplished by them? The feeding frenzy pushes other topics to the side, topics that actually contain information as opposed to breathless bulletins that often seem to boil down to "nope, not dead yet." Are we enriched as a nation by all being on "the same page" regarding the death watch? Is the purpose of the press to provide easy "water cooler" talk? It apes that talk when it weighs in repeatedly with so little actual information.

C.I. wondered if perhaps we might need to start considering "living euglogies." If recent coverage is any indication of where we are headed press wise, we'd think that time might be coming.

CJW Daily from Corporate Journalism Whores (parody for your laughing pleasure)

CJW DAILY Non-reality based media chatter from the Corporate Journalism Whores
The Water Cooler April 3, 2005

Where we interview someone you've never heard of. For good reason as it turns out.
Mel Smith is a gray haired, gray man with gray personality. Watch the sparks ... sputter.

Swoosie: Mel Smith, you are one of my oldest heroes! Truly, you are like 97! What did you think about the Dan Rather firing and what it says about the state of the media today?

MS: They fired Danny?

Swoosie Q: Wow! Insight! Eason Jordan recently stepped down from CNN. As an industry veteran, what were you thoughts on that?

MS: Who?

Swoosie Q: Amazing! And pertinent.

-- Swoosie Q

posted 04/03/05
Go to comments.

Bueno, El Feo Y El Malo April 2, 2005

On the heels of a so-so news week, big news comes trumpeting out of The Times. The bestest and most amazingest article on the story of our time pops up in this morning's New York Times. Kiddies, take off your pajamas (unless they're footy pajamas like I'm wearing), get dressed, and feast your eyes on Charlie LeDuff's "Star's Accuser Had Troubles In Home Life, Witness Says."

LeDuff has turned in an article that is [Fill in generic bromide] .

Close your eyes and make a wish and click your heels three times while saying "I wish I was a real boy" and see if you can't feel liberal hearts breaking across the country!

Though amazing, LeDuff's article is matched by [trot out Washington Post story so we don't piss that potential future employer off]. And of course, it reminds me of the strong reporting in People as well!

Amazing stuff. We sure do like bringing you good news. But it's not easy. We feel like the Spirit Bunnies in Fast Times at Ridgemont High sometimes. Somebody hire us for a real job!

-- Brock Jones (resume posted online, hint, hint)

Posted 04/02/05 at 6:15 pm
Go to comments __________________________________________________________________

I was a geek who never played sports

In The Times, Joe Drape brings up memories of musky locker rooms and coaches who taught health and algebra while cupping their groins. Drape is a FABULOUS writer who perfectly captures the nature and spirit of every coach that has ever lived on this crazy globe that some of you kiddies might call a ball but it is a globe. Read "As the Curtain Goes Up, the Players Are Not the Thing" and see if you too aren't recalling how the coach who taught algebra used to cheer you on when you were at the blackboard with, "Girlie-boy, is that a home perm? He-he-he. Damn boy, can't you do anything right! X=3! X=3! Oh sit down, you cry baby wuss!"

Equally important and amazing journalism and must read to stay informed of the world around you and setting new standards for journalism is Tyler Kepner's "Tightness for Brown as Yankees Head North" which details the decision by forty-year-old Kevin Brown to remove himself from a game. Read it and see if relief doesn't wash over you the same way it did when you were a freshman sobbing in a stall in the men's room with your hair damp from a fresh toilet dunking as you slowly realized that stupid, sorry, butt face Gerry was a senior and since it was the last day of school, you'd never have to see him again!

And don't miss Lee Jenkins' most excellent article that really drives it home. It's called "The Mets Are Starting to Reflect Randolph's Aggressive Approach." It's a universal article that everyone will relate to. As you read about loose cannon Willie Randolph you will no doubt remember when Howie Steel told you the football team really wanted you to be their
equipment manager and you went skipping into the locker room all excited, so excited a little
bit of pee pee slipped out and stained the front of your tighty-whities. Grinning up at Howie Steel, you were shocked when he ripped off your candy necklace. See if you don't remember
how you felt when they shoved you, nose first, into the cart containing their dirty jock straps while they gave you a nuclear wedgie.

God I love the sports pages! Reminds me of when I was almost on a team! "And girls whose names were never called while choosing sides for volleyball . . ." Huh! What the crap was

-- Candy Perfume Boy

Posted 04/02/05 4:59 pm
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Three Months Later and Still No Boners!

Which is more true, Playgirl or Mandate?

Sure the models in Playgirl are cuter. But they don't sport wood. Why is that? How is it realistic? At CJW we probe the important question. Maybe really cute guys don't get boners when they're photographed naked?

To figure it out, I attempted to get a blogger who has a hottie photo I've mentioned before to pose nude. He wouldn't. Doesn't a clusterfuck count for anything anymore?

So I drove out to a Wal-Mart in the suburbs and stepped into a photo booth, pulled the curtain and got naked. My nips got all pointy and, right away, the Major was saluting.

Maybe it was just the thrill of knowing anyone could peep over the curtain. But I really think that really cute boys will sport dancing dogs when they're photos are taken. I didn't even have anyone cooing, "You're beautiful." So I had to say that to myself. I also gave myself orders to chew on my candy necklace. I was awesome, wicked hot!

For kicks, I've posted the photos at my own personal website. I'm such a Gannon/Guckert!
So take it from me, you're spending your money better if you buy Mandate. Sure the models are less cute, but they're real with real woodies.

-- Candy Perfume Boy

posted 04/02/05 at 4:42 pm
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Covering the Clusterfucks and a Token Conservative

Name check, name check, name check. The blogs are in an uproar over what CBS alumni Wilson Cronkite had to say about Dan Rather. Name check, name check, name check.

Now that I've covered all Candy Perfume Boy's clusterfuck buddies, they let me write about what I want to write about so let me direct you to Rebel Grand Dragon who weighs in that Wilson Cronkite was never good on CBS's Nightly News and that rumors have it Wilson Cronkite is really a "high yellow." Groundbreaking stuff:

Cronkite has always struck me as high yellow. When I was sitting
on grand pappy's knee, he told me Cronkite was probably high
yellow. I've never forgotten that.

Wow! Huh? Huh? I've written about Rebel Grand Dragon three days in a row because he has something of interest to say. That's my standard! It's about diversity and finding new sources and then running with the same one new blog over and over because I'm slightly hung over and have a life that's really not working out quite the way I'd hoped.

We have vastly expanded our blog coverage since those copycats at Slate started doing blog reports and since those meanies at The Third Estate Sunday Review exposed our clusterfuck. That means I now pick a conservative blogger to write about in addition to clusterfucks. Check the time stamp on this post. It's past three o'clock! And I'm writing about the morning blogs!

You know what that means, I've spent an hour online. Twenty minutes reading the blogs Candy Perfume Boy bookmarks for me, ten minutes posting my resume and reading online classifieds, five minutes checking my account balance, and twenty-five minutes trying to track down that dancing baby from Ally McBeal. Has anyone seen the dancing baby lately? I miss the dancing baby. I feel like I'm kind of like Ally McBeal because I think I'm cute when I don't make sense. If you think I'm full of b.s. you can find something else to read or track down the dancing baby!

Where's the dancing baby? I must find the dancing baby. Once, at senior prom, this guy told me I looked like Calista Flockhart. Okay, he said Camryn Manheim. But that's close. They both worked on David E. Kelley shows and they both played attornies.

Where's that dancing baby?

-- Swoosie Q.

posted 04/02/05 at 3:31 pm
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Correction: This post has been corrected when Swoosie realized that Wilson Cronkite did not host CBS's Good Morning America.


News Magazines scratching their heads find religion

Let me start by plugging The New Republic where I used to work as contract labor but not as a salaried employ so it's not really important that I ever tell readers that I'm usually highlighting the magazines that have published my work. (In the past, but fingers crossed, the future too, baby! Daddy needs some new capris!)

In the brave voice that no one but The New Republic (and any other magazines that have published me) has, The New Republic deals with all the important issues this week. Each and every one. They don't miss a thing at that magazine. They are the best. Hands down. The bestest of the bestest. I HEART THE NEW REPUBLIC. Their current ads on Air America say they are a lefyt magazine so, even though Uncle Marty's been shooting down that idea for

years, I better get my game on and call them a lefty magazine too or they'll start blaming me
for circulation being flat for the umpteenth year in a row!

Hey, Michelle Cotts, I watched Rambo for the 80 millionth time this weekend! I got the war lust! Just like The New Republic, I can support any and every war! I don't even know who the contras were but if you supported them, me too! Freelance out to me! (Daddy needs a new pair of clogs!)

Newsweek runs a cover story on the Pope.

Time does too!

US has Nick & Jessica! She could call me "Pope," but I bet she'd call me "Big Daddy!" Do you think Nick wears candy necklaces? I bet that's why she fell for him. My six-year-old sister tells me candy necklaces are way cool and bitchin' too.

People has Nick & Jessica too. US says they're breaking up, People says they're back

together. It's a tsunami, I tell you! Kids, when US and People conflict, do what I do, reach
for The National Enquirer. It says Jessica is an alien and that Nick is really aging
character actress Estelle Parsons!

Oh my God! Barkeep, a drink! And a bar stool with guard rails!

Now we turn to The Weekly Standard and William Kristol. Why? Well obviously we need to endorse the view that Time and Newsweek and even US (it's a weekly now, praise God!) are lefty mags. Don't you know that? Where have you been? Don't you get Fox News? Don't you watch? I bet Britt Hume would wear a candy necklace. It takes a real man to wear a candy necklace. And Fox News says that the media is liberal so when we cover the mainstream media, we damn well better go from Time, Newsweek, US and People over to The Weekly Standard

or we wouldn't be just as guilty as perpetuating the lie as Fox News. Hey, they shouldn't be the only one with the press's blood on their hands! We just spit out conventional wisdom here, folks. You want deep thoughts, check out Jack Handy!

So William Kristol is writing something about something and saying something about us needing to do something. I'm too busy thinking about him getting hit in the face with a pie and besides I know that The New Republic will run the same story next week and I want it to be fresh.

If I ever go around speaking to college audiences, I hope they throw candy necklaces. I always end up eating mine and sometimes my kid sister won't share her necklaces with me. It's embarrassing to go up to the counter with a candy necklace. The clerks look at me funny. So lately, I've been grabbing Pepto Bismol, Teen People & tampons and saying, with a heavy sigh, "They're for the little lady."

Wait, is it time for us to mention The Nation? We got our asses ragged out for not mentioning it for over a year. We don't like it because we've never been published there. And it's so lefty. And like Swoosie says, "No glossy cover! I wouldn't even read Glamor if it didn't have a glossy cover!" I feel the same way about Sassy.

But The Nation outsells The Weekly Standard and The New Republic. So to stop all those damn lefty radicals from e-mailing complaints -- hey, if they don't like it, they should go somewhere else, we write about what we want to write about -- we mention The Nation about once a month. For now.

As soon as the heat's off, we'll go back to ignoring it the same way we do The Progresive, In These Times and all the rest. So right now, we pick a column to mention in the Blog Report once a month. Do you think anyone's noticed that we never report on the reporting in The Nation? That we just choose a column that fits into our water-cooler-conventional-wisdom world so we don't have to do much thinking?

Christian Parenti? If we start including him, what's next? Including Dahr Jamail in our blog report? Shudder! Next we might have to mention the largest independent media collaboration in the country, Democracy Now! -- we sure as hell don't want to do that. We're in this to kiss ass and leave CJW with a cushy post at places that pay a lot of money so we kiss corporate ass. (Daddy needs a new belly shirt!)

-- Candy Perfume Boy

Posted 04/02/05 at 2:59 pm
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Meet Blog Betty -- the blogger behind Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man

If you missed the news, a fourth blog was started by a Common Ills community member last week. On Friday, Betty went "live" with Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man. Before you lose your morning breakfast, rest assured Betty's running a humor site.

As Betty prepared for the moment of going "live," she helped us out with many articles. Sometimes that was just reading something to make sure people could follow, sometimes to add input, sometimes just to see how crazy it can be when you fly without a net to make a deadline.
She was also one of the reporters for our article 'At the rallies, we ask, "Why Are You Here?"' which allowed us to cover ten locations in two days (others reporting for that article included Rebecca and C.I.).

We welcome Betty to the blog world and thank her for allowing us to interview her.

Are you nervous?

Very. I thought after the first post was up, I wouldn't be as nervous anymore but I'm still nervous.

You put in a lot of work before that first post ever went up. We found that really interesting how you were working on drafts and trashing them as you searched for your voice.

The Common Ills already covers the main section of The New York Times. But C.I. doesn't cover the op-eds or the editorials. And I thought I should do something instead of just griping about how I heard a lot of voices on the radio and TV but none really seemed to represent what I think and feel. So I thought, "Alright, okay, that's what you can do, cover the op-eds and the editorials." So then I started thinking about how to do that. And originally, as you know, it was just this straightforward version of The Times says this, I disagree because. And although everyone was overly generous with their praise, I knew I had a ways to go.
Then, it was either when my youngest had the flu or was just getting over it, I started looking at various drafts of that and thinking, "I've been cleaning up vomit for the last few hours, rocking my kid, getting her to sleep and I still got to fix dinner and the laundry's waiting as well" and just thinking in terms of one of those "Calgon take me away!" commercials.
I think I was folding the laundry when I thought, "I don't want to be straightforward. I don't want to just say 'I think this.'"

And then you thought about The Color Purple.

One of my favorite novels. And I started thinking about how we meet Celie and how she changes and we change with her. And I'm standing there folding laundry and I think, "I want it to be funny. It should be funny." If I'm going to do this is should be something I would want to read and at the end of the day, I'm wanting something that makes me think and makes me smile or laugh. I'll read Molly Ivins, for example, at the end of the day because after work, the kids, daily life, when I finally get a calm moment alone before going to sleep, I want something that will make me grin.

Let's talk about some of the characters you discarded.

At one point, when I knew I wanted to address Thomas Friedman, I thought about doing it as Thomas Friedman only on acid or revealing what he really thought for some reason. Then I thought I could be Maureen Dowd with an uptown voice and attitude but that didn't work out to my satisfaction. So I was thinking of how I like Bob Herbert's columns and thinking "Well, you could be Mrs. Bob Herbert doing this chatty letter to friends and family and in it you could comment on various op-eds and the writers." But Herbert is one of the few black people with a national presence on the op-ed pages and I didn't want to do anything that might seem to mock him. I kept coming back to Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof, both irritate me, and I was sending e-mails to everyone asking what they thought when, two weeks ago, I just sat down and was goofing off in an e-mail to C.I. about one of Friedman's columns and how a woman he was involved with probably had to go through the ringer to justify the way his mind works. I offered a few examples, sent the e-mail and forgot about it. The next evening, when I check my e-mail, C.I.'s written and says, "I think you found your voice."
I think that's insane and start writing a reply about "What am I suppose to say" and go to give an example of how this wouldn't work and before I knew it, I had four paragraphs.
That's when I thought, "Okay, that is my voice."

Which makes it sound like that was the end of it.

But it wasn't. I did test entries for two weeks. Probably seven in all. I don't know that they always got funnier but I do know that I began to feel like I had a firmer grip on "Bettina Friedman."

Did you feel like you were ready to blog?

No. I didn't. Not at all. I knew I'd have to be forced which is why I asked C.I. to announce that I was going to start a blog long before I was sure what exactly I'd be blogging on and when I'd be doing it. When I finally settled on "Bettina," I could've kept working on it for months if I didn't have a deadline. I decided on Friday and didn't even grasp it was April Fools Day until Rebecca, C.I., Ava and Jim all pointed that out. I also didn't realize it would be on the first day in a year that Unfiltered wasn't on Air America. Which seemed a good time because that was a funny show and here they were taking Chuck D off the air so, in my little way, I was bringing a black voice in at a time when a really important one was being lost.

How much do you think race will influence your blog?

I think it will influence it. How much, I'm not sure. Obviously, it influenced it in terms of my decision not to be "Mrs. Bob Herbert" because I didn't want anyone to miss the point and think "Oh, she's making fun of Herbert!" A lot of time, there's a tendency to pile on if there's an attitude that "blacks" don't like one of their own. It just takes one person saying something and suddenly the attitude is there. The Bully Boy is really good at playing that trick. The administration will trot out some Alan Keyes-like-person who'll say something about Julian Bond or the NAACP and suddenly the "conventional wisdom" kicks in that the entire race has turned against someone or something.
That's partly because the mainstream recognizes so few voices of color. So when they cover one voice finally, the impression can be that an entire race has just declared war on someone.
I'm sure race influences the way I see somethings. I'm sure that having children will influence the way I see things. Being a woman, and a feminist, will influence my view. I'm sure a number of factors will influence the way I see things. But no one should see me as "the black voice." I'm not. I'm "a voice" and some people, of all races, will agree with me and some people, of all races, won't.
I'm one more voice in the mix and I think I'm an unheard voice for a number of reasons. First of all, you've got the fact that most women who are working and have kids aren't all over the TV. Now if they have help or if their kids are older, that's different. But if they're like me trying to get the kids off to daycare, or in my case to an aunt, and school, then head off to work, using their lunch hour to do errands, rushing after work to pick up the kids, get them home, get them fed, get them to bed, by the time you do all that, there's not a great deal of time to do a sit down with some news program. So we aren't often heard on TV or radio.
When you add color to the mix, you're dealing with statistics that demonstrate we're offered a very small slice of airtime and that tiny slice is supposed to cover all people of color who aren't white because white is a color. But we're all supposed to compete for that tiny slice of the pie because that's all we're being offered.
And when you think about how the internet is emerging as an important media form, it really seemed important to me that when my kids are older, if things weren't different, that I wasn't just saying, "Well that's the way it is, the way it always was." See, that's an example of how you're seeing race, feminism, being a mother, being working class all converge because all those things are reasons I felt I needed to be able to say in the future that no matter how the net ended up, I was in there bringing one more voice.
I mean, thirty years on down the line, my daughter comes to me and complains about how blacks or women or working class or working mothers are shut out of the discussion, was I just going to nod and say, "I know, honey." Or was I going to be able to say, "You fight it. You fight it like I did. Maybe you win, maybe you lose, but you fight?" I wanted to be able to say that you fight. I mean, as a mother, as a person of color, as someone working class and as a feminist, I felt I had to weigh in somehow. So I think, for me, they all converge and one may be more important with regard to some issue, but one may dominate on another; however, I really think they'll all pretty much coexist equally in the long run.

You're using Betty but, for you last name publicly, you're using "Friedman?"

I wanted a little privacy. Partly due to my kids and I'm sure due to my job. I think in the "about me" section, there's enough information for people to get a handle on me if that's what they're looking for but obviously "Bettina" is a fictional character and, since I don't know Friedman, obviously my thoughts on him or any other op-ed writer or person that pops into the blog is fictional.

You told us to ask you about the movies.

I wanted to put in there that I'm a big fan of Shaft, the remake. Sameul L. Jackson is probably my dream guy. I know a lot of women would say Denzel [Washington] and he's nice and all but my heart's belonged to Samuel since I first saw Mo' Better Blues. It was like, "Forget Denzel, who's that man?" The first Shaft's fine, but the remake with Samuel is the one I love and I was trying to figure out how do I get that across and couldn't find a way in the profile which is why I asked you to bring up the movies.

On music, you listed a number of people who could be seen as "quiet storm."

Sure. Otis [Redding] and Nina [Simone] obviously predate that but Anita defined it. I have listened to other kinds of music. I will always be a huge fan of Prince, for instance. But with kids, when I put on something that's not Barney or Winne the Pooh or whatever, something I want to listen to, if they're awake, I'm not looking for them to be climbing the walls and if they're asleep, I'm not looking for something that's going to wake them up. But I've always enjoyed the slow groove even when I listened to other forms of music.

Anything we haven't covered?

I will be blogging. I have promised myself at least twice a week. I'd love to do more but I'm committed to twice a week. Which is what the op-ed writers at The Times do so that works out fine. If possible, I'd like to do more but it will mean juggling to get up two posts a week so I'm trying to be realistic about what is possible and what isn't.
And I'd like to thank everyone for being so warm and so welcoming. And for plugging the blog. You guys, C.I., Rebecca, Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq? and anyone that I'm not aware of.
I'd also like to thank Luke of wotisitgood4 for the warm and encouraging note he dropped me which was the first e-mail to come in. It really meant a lot to me and it was very kind of him.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review

Proving that we do read your e-mails, we offer up this advice column pulling from queries in your e-mails.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
Help! I've been invited over to a dinner a classmate is throwing and it's off campus, not the usual chips and Hot Pockets dorm living I'm used to. What do I do?
Shelly, Atlanta, GA

Well, Shelly, the first thing you have to do is decide if you're going and let the host/ess know because unexpected guests, like unexpected pregnacies, don't please everyone.

If you are going, etiquette dictates that you bring something. Booze hounds that we are, we'd advise a bottle of wine or some beer. But these days you never know who's in recovery without asking, so possibly you should take flowers.

If it's a potluck, you need to bring something. Check with the host/ess to avoid multiple green bean salads or bags of ice. If you're making a dish, a suggestion on seasonings -- bring them along. Spices are meant to enhance, not overwhelm, and everyone has their attitude of how much is too much.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
What's your opinion on cell phone use when visiting someone?
Pete, San Diego, CA

When you're visiting someone you should at the VERY LEAST turn your cell phone's ringer off and put it on vibrate. Your use of the term "visit" suggest that's the person is not one of your usual roll dogs.

If our assumption is correct, keep in mind that YOU ARE VISITING.

That means you are not there to sit on someone's sofa, futon, whatever jawing on the cell phone while the person owning or renting the space you're visiting waits for you to find the time to "visit."

Taking multiple calls is also problematic. While you may think it ups your popularity value in the host/ess's eyes, multiple calls will probably strike many as just plain rude when you've come over to "visit."

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I'm going to what I assume is a sleep over. Involving just me and one other person, if you get my meaning. What should I pack?
Roy, Longview, TX

Roy, you're question indicates that you're contemplating something much deeper than boxers or briefs.

Since we've all done the toothpaste on the finger bit the morning after, we applaud your pre-planning.

Here are a few thoughts to remember.

No luggage. You're not checking in a hotel (as far as we can tell).

No big freezie bag either. First, it's tacky and, second, you state you "assume." What if you're wrong?

The last thing you want to do is show at someone's door with a see through container holding your toothpaste, underwear, socks and condoms. Your assumption might not be his or her assumption and displaying your intent to stay over makes the "let's just be friends" speech all the more difficult to hear.

We'd suggest you pack lightly (clean socks, underwear, toothbrush, condoms, etc.) and that you utilize the standard issue college backpack. If for some reason you don't usually carry a backpack, toss in a few books or CDs so you can bring them out at some point to justify bringing along the backpack.

Lastly, if this is a "sleep over," remember to practice good sex. No one likes a lousy lover.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
I'm not real pleased with my boyfriend. I think he's a bit selfish but he swears I should take a look in the mirror. Lately, I'm the one stuck sleeping in the wet spot and I'm irritated that although he takes me out to nice restaurants, he never tips. Lately he's also complained about my spending allowance and keeps talking about reducing it and complaining that all I ever do is buy shoes.
Alex, Miami, FL

Alex, the life of the trophy isn't an easy one. But considering all the problems in the world, we'd say a moist bottom isn't a great price to pay for a life of leisure or semi-leisure. If the tipping bothers you, you might consider using your spending allowance (reduced or at its current state) to provide the tip.

Dear Third Estate Sunday Review,
. . . Which J-school program are you in? I'm betting at the one uptown . . .
Jon, no location given

Well Jon, who provides no information, you certainly seek out information on the location of others. But seriously, when we decided to do an advice column, Ava demanded that your e-mail go into this because you're the only one she's never replied to on her day to handle the e-mail. She started a reply and then saved it to draft to check with the rest of us. As we've noted before, all the information we wish to provide is in the "about us" section. Because of who you mentioned earlier in your e-mail (Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq?), Ava wanted to reply to you and had started a reply. But Ron's becoming a celeb in the blog world and anyone could name drop him at this point. (Jon does know Ron, C.I. confirmed this for Ava this week.) Our policy is not to reply to requests for personal information. We've tried to keep it silly in this "advise column." But Ava has never started and not sent an e-mail before and has wanted to include some sort of reply to you (so that you'd know she did read your e-mail) for some time so we're throwing it in here.

We'll pull a C.I. and post our e-mail in an entry. It's and you can use it to comment or rant about stories, to seek out advice or whatever. But we won't reply to requests for personal information and we've explained that in prior editions. (E-mail info is also available on our profile.)

TV Review: Hope & Faith

When people found out we were reviewing ABC's Hope & Faith this week, the general response was, "I can't wait to see how you demolish Kelly Ripa!" Overexposed beyond parody, Ripa's inspired a very strong backlash. We were more than willing to take part in that. Provided it was called for.

Funny thing is, she's actually not all that bad. In terms of physical bits, she's actually quite talented. If she has a failing, it's a lack of nuance when delivering lines. We're not sure if that's a result of the way she sees the character or if it's a reflection of Ripa herself. Near the end of the episode, she had a moment with an actor playing her nephew Justin where she dropped the bear down hard delivery, so we're inclined to think it's how she sees the character.

While that's fine and there's nothing wrong with bearing down hard on a line, sometimes she falls flat where she should sing. Megan Mullally, to offer one example, can vary her voice and delivery to marvelous effect even when bearing down hard on a line. We'd like to see Ripa be as adventurous (fearless?) delivering lines as she is executing physical bits of comedy.

To offer one example, at one point Faith delivers the following, "I found my bliss! And his name is Chris!" Reading that, you can probably add in with your own way to shape those two lines.
Rippa doesn't. Where the little rhyme should sing, it just falls flat.

This doesn't happen everytime, but it does pop up frequently. (And when it does, it brings to mind the delivery of her Live! With Regis & Kelly talk show co-host Regis Philbin.) This is Ripa's first sitcom and she's surprisingly good. She has a natural flair for comedy and she or someone is coming up with marvelous physical business that add to the laughs and enrich the character. Anyone reading this with the hopes of Ripa trash-fest should probably stop because it's not forthcoming. But we would suggest that she work on shaping on her lines.

Which doesn't mean that Hope & Faith is without it's problems. The episode focused on Faith (Ripa) meeting a single father raising his daughter which led Faith to attempt to pass her nephew Justin off as her son. This allowed the actor playing Justin a spotlight and the writers came up with some nice moments for him; however, the fact is the daughters have no personality.

At one point, in their one scene, the eldest was given an exit line that should have prompted laughs because it was condescending (and standard sitcom):

Younger daughter: I'm never getting married.
Eldest daughter: Like you'll have a choice.

Cue canned laughter. But what did that line mean? Was it some sort of, "No one will ever want you!" comment. Was the eldest daughter implying that everyone must get married and the younger daughter can't buck the system? Was this an allusion to sexuality and same sex marriage? We have no idea. And we doubt the actress delivering the line did as well. (We're guessing it's the first possibility -- in which case, the eldest daughter could have gotten more laughs and made the line clear by doing a slow up and down look at her sister.)

Either give the two characters personalities or keep them confined to one scene an episode. Faith Ford (who plays Hope, we know, it's confusing) says at one point, "The girls are upstairs." That's a line which should be repeated over and over each episode unless the writers can figure out what makes the daughters unique.

In this episode, they also didn't seem too keen on Faith Ford's character. Hope & Faith are really the key to this show and treating Faith Ford's Hope as a supporting character (we're guessing due to the "guest star" -- more on that in a bit) really does the show a disservice since Ford's an accomplished comedian in her own right and provides several laughs in her supporting scenes in this episode. (She and Ripa also play off of each other well.)

But watching Ford's scene with Ted McGinley (who plays her husband Charlie), we wondered something else: is something wrong health wise with McGinley? Outside of film noir, we're having a hard time remembering when we've seen so many shadows playing across a face.
Dark lighting is the key to all of the scenes McGinley is in (which also make up all but one scene Ford appears in) -- whether they take place in the kitchen, the living room or while eating out. McGinley and Ford being sitcom veterans (Murphy Brown & Norm for Ford, Happy Days & Married With Children for McGinley), we don't think they're having trouble hitting their marks.

When the kitchen wall in the frame behind McGinley is better lit than McGinley's face, we have to wonder what's going on?

McGinley's playing a variation of the good natured bufoon he's made his trademark. Playing off of Ripa & Ford, it seems far less dated than you might expect. But the sitcom's a little more than you might expect as well. While it can too often fall into the standard sitcom traps and traditions, it can also pull off a few unexpected tricks.

Let's address one standard sitcom traps first. The episode revolves around a non-regular character and they go for "must see" casting -- if anyone's feeling the must see jones for Nick Lachey. While television has long tossed out various bimbos of questionable talent as guest stars, they've usually shied away from turning entire episodes over to them. Think of the parade of "lovelies" who waltzed through the front door (if not Jack Tripper's bedroom door) on Three's Company. So a himbo or two is long overdue but turning the episode over to Lachey was a mistake. At his best, he comes off like watered down Rob Estes. While we having no problem with full on Estes, it should be noted the networks haven't been falling over themselves to cast Estes in any series lately so Lachey's pale imitation/homage strikes us as unneeded when the real Estes could have easily been cast.

Far more often, Lachey comes off at his worst which means he mistakes "music video acting" for acting. Dripping with the sincerity required to woo the preteen listener, he nearly buries each scene. And, it needs to be said, in this medium that relies on microphones, he needs to work on projection because his near whisper was too often hard to hear.

Sporting some dark fuzz that appears to be an attempt at a mustache, Lachey is repeatedly upstaged. Not just by the ridiculously weak hair growth, but also by Ripa and the young actress playing his daughter. (Ripa refers to the daughter as a "tramp in training wheels.")

Lachey plays Lachey. If you've seen MTV's Newlyweds, you've seen everything Nick Lachey has to offer at this point. His "acting method" consists of one long eye roll and sigh. If Lachey is attempting to make some statement about masculinity under attack (one we wouldn't buy, but whatever) he'll need to do so with a little less lackluster and a lot more passion.

While never a music star (check the sales figures), he did make the scene as a glossy pin up. If that's all he has to offer, we'll take comfort in the fact that he's of the age that previous pin ups (Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, El DeBarge, et al) began their long, slow fade. Barring some undiscovered talent, may he travel the same road -- quickly. And should Hope & Faith provide more himbos in the future, let's hope they refrain from turning the show over to them.

But let's talk about what's unique about the show. The pacing is swift, the commercial breaks come in unexpected moments and Ripa's Faith is, for the sitcom world, a major trangression.
At one point, Ripa's Faith is attempting to force her nephew to accompany her on a date (he doesn't want to be around Lachey's daughter). We've seen this scene before, no question. Verbal bribes and threats can be done humorously, but they're hardly unexpected to anyone who's logged a few TV hours.

So we were confused but not surprised, when Ripa threatened Justin with "Fine, then I'll have to tell your mother about the lamp your broke" if he didn't accompany her on the date. Vintage sitcom and we could see Mona (among others) doing the same on Who's the Boss, the empty bluff aimed at a child. Old trick. Right?

Like Justin, we were, however, wondering what lamp? We weren't all that surprised to see Ripa pick up a lamp. Just when we thought, "Okay, we get it, she's bluffing him to get him to along on the date," Ripa hurled the lamp to the floor.

Her sister's living room lamp. Smashed. We weren't expecting that. As she then picked up a vase and asked, "Now are you going to go get dressed or is this crazy rampage you're on going to continue?" we realized we were seeing a little more than the usual ha-ha-bluff-the-kids. It was as though The Hand That Rocks the Cradle's Peyton had moved into her sister's house.

The character of Faith can get away with this over the top behavior partly due to the fact that she's supposed to be a former over-the-top soap opera actress. But it's also worth noting that Ripa excels at physical comedy. Even her walk (which suggest Bette Midler but is still all Ripa's own) is comic. And as you watch, you keep waiting to see what this outrageously dressed, over the top character will do next?

The episode we watched wasn't without it's problems: Lachey's weak attempts at acting, sidelining Faith Ford's Hope for much of the episode, the daughters not fleshed out . . . But
going in, we were expecting that we'd be able to deliver the review that so many people were expecting, a devastating put down of Kelly Ripa's acting. We'd suggest that she work on utilizing her voice because her delivery falls flat in spots, but otherwise, we were hugely impressed with Ripa and, honestly, surprised. Yes, the various product endorsements commericals were irritating and, yes, we'd can go our entire life without watching Live! With Regis & Anyone. But if that's what you're basing your opinion of Ripa on, we'd suggest you check out Hope & Faith because it's got a lot to offer and Ripa's far more talented than the water and hair product commercials suggest.

Blog spotlight: A Winding Road on Fred Korematsu

At a time when isuses of inclusion and exclusion and media death watches are being addressed, we thought Folding Star's obit on Fred Korematsu was worth highlighting both because it's a strong post and because it offers a model for covering the passing of someone. It provides context, not melodrama, perspetive, not hand wringing. And you're left with the realization of the difference one person can make. Folding Star is also a Common Ills community member and blogs at A Winding Road. Folding Star was interviewed by C.I. for a previous Third Estate Sunday Review article.

Fred Korematsu 1919-2005

A Civil Rights hero passed away yesterday in California. Fred Korematsu's name is not as commonly known as some other heroes in the American civil rights movement, but it should be.

Korematsu was an American citizen of Japanese ancestry who stood up for what was right in 1942 against overwhelming opposition. That year, one of the most vile affronts to civil rights occurred when the United States ordered all of the Japanese who were living on the West Coast into interment camps, regardless of American citizenship.

While Korematsu's family and friends prepared to follow orders and urged him to do the same, he said no. Korematsu knew what so many others knew, but were forcing themselves to overlook in a time of war, which was that this was a grievous violation of his constitutional rights.

Mr. Korematsu showed more courage and conviction at 23 than a lot of people show in their entire lifetime. He was arrested and convicted for refusing to report to an interment camp. He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1944 handed down one of it's more shameful verdicts when it ruled that his arrest and conviction, and the entire fact of the interment of the Japanese, were justified, based upon war time conditions of emergency.

Does any of this sound familiar? It did to Korematsu, who in the past few years had campaigned against the Patriot Act and what was being done to Arab Americans under it.

Korematsu's conviction was finally overturned in 1983 and in 1988 Congress issued an official apology to Japanese Americans and granted reparations to survivors, attempting to make up for a period of incredible shame in our history. Fred Korematsu was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 by President Clinton.

Yet, here we are, less than 20 years after the reparations were made and less than ten after Korematsu was given the medal, and our Government is engaged in much the same activities that resulted in the original shame and need for apology and reparation.

Fred Korematsu will remain a symbol of one person standing up against tyranny in the face of great odds, one person recognizing that our basic civil rights and liberties are greater than any sense of emergency created by war, be it an actual war like World War Two or an illusionary war against a tactic, like the so called 'War on Terror'.

His story will also remain as a reminder that every branch of our Government has been all too capable of stepping all over those very civil rights and liberties in the past, largely because most people were quiet and looked the other way.

We should all learn from the example that Korematsu set. Standing up against what you know to be wrong can be the hardest thing in the world to do, but it's far from impossible. And the more who stand up, the harder it is for of civil rights to be discarded.
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