Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Note to Our Readers

Believe it or not, this wasn't intended to be an all night session. We actually had many articles done and a few started before we began working Saturday night. The DVD review of Barbarella was something we sent back and forth to one another (including Rebecca, Betty and C.I.) all week. We did the interview with Ruth Saturday afternoon and had the rough draft of the article done within an hour after the interview. Nine to Five had been sketched out by Ava and C.I.
We'd already done our copying and pasting of Ruth's Morning Edition Report Friday night.

We're not quite sure what happened. But we do think this is a strong edition. And hope you'll find something to be happy or enraged about. (Anything but a middle of the road reaction, please.)

Ava and C.I. wrote the Nine to Five DVD review. They'd already sketched it out but at some point during the night/morning, while we were on a break, they ended up filling in the blanks and writing what they assumed was a rough draft that we'd all add our input to. Reading over it, we felt it said everything that needed to be said. So we left it alone.

We'd pin part of the delay on Ava and C.I. They hated the TV show NUMB3RS and had watched it, having heard talk of the show, thinking they would enjoy it. It was so hideous, they didn't even want to write about it. But they knew readers were expecting a review from them. (And knew it always the most popular feature at The Third Estate Sunday Review.) So they went back to the videotape to watch it again and try to find something worth commenting on.

While they did that, we worked on adding a joke to the "What are you listening to?" feature. Ty pointed out that the current edition of Spin magazine features lists and wondered if our article read like a list. So Dona and Jim devised a joke and worked on trying to be funny with it. The plan was to let you know in this note that it was a joke. When Ava and C.I. finished their TV review and read over it, they were confused and the more we explained it, the more they raised questions like would Dona's parents be okay if it was e-mailed around and they came off looking like something they weren't? So, at the bottom of that feature, we explained that the joke was a joke. If it gets sent to Dona's parents and someone says, "I never knew you were like that!" her parents can e-mail back, "Read to the bottom, you idiot!"

We thank the following for their help with this edition: Dallas who is the reason for our posting of The Code Pink item; Folding Star for allowing us to pull from a book review and participating in the music article; Ruth for allowing us to reprint her Ruth's Morning Edition Report and for granting us an interview; Kat for once again popping out of the blue to help us and provide humor and input as well as for taking part in the music article; Betty for taking part in the musical article and reading over and adding input to the article on Ruth and adding input to the Barbarella review; Rebecca who was there to read over everything until this note and who added input on everything except the two articles done solely by Ava and C.I.; Jess' parents who spoke to us about NPR and PBS this morning as we were preparing our editorial; Ruben for his question that prompted the music article; Common Ills community member Isaiah for graciousness and allowing us to reprint his drawing of Jane Fonda; and two of our professors who read over early drafts on Saturday.

In addition, we thank our mothers on this Mother's Day. We also thank BuzzFlash because though they probably don't realize it, they really did a wonderful thing by highlighting Ruth's entry this Friday. You'd have to hear her voice to realize how much this meant to her and how much it meant to her family and friends. To them, it was probably just another link they found worthwhile, but we'd argue it also served as a wonderful Mother's Day gift for Ruth. So we'll say thank you to BuzzFlash.

As always we'll thank our readers who let us know what they like and what they hate. And we'll note our e-mail address is for anyone who needs to write.

Who didn't we thank?

C.I. Planned or not, C.I.'s a permanent part of The Third Estate Sunday Review. With Ava, C.I. does the TV reviews that readers love. (Some readers loathe them, but we'll assume they lack a sense of humor.) When the rest of us read over Ava and C.I.'s review of NUMB3RS on the heels of their review of Nine to Five, we were blown away. (We laughed especially hard at one joke, but we won't tell you which one because we don't want to spoil it for you.) With Ava and C.I. regularly doing their TV reviews with out any outside input, we question the logic of acting as though C.I. is not a part of The Third Estate Sunday Review. C.I. can hold any opinion, but in our eyes, "You're a member." We'll also note, for anyone not aware, C.I. doesn't watch television. Because of the TV reviews, once a week C.I. turns on the TV. We appreciate the sacrifice as much as we appreciate the reviews C.I. and Ava deliver.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava


For anyone's who's been caught up in the land of celeb scandals and runaway brides and grooms,
one of the bigger stories last week was the Republican assault on PBS and NPR. Or as we like to think of it (with a nod to South Park), "OH MY GOD! THEY'RE KILLING BIG BIRD!"

This assault is by no means the first. It won't be the last. The big difference this time around is how much control Republicans have in Congress. And it's easy to imagine that faced with their strength, NPR and PBS will back down as they usually do. They'll "get along to get along." And we'll all suffer.

But as Ruth noted in her Ruth's Morning Edition Report (our blog spotlight this edition), Diane Rehm took the case to the listeners last week on NPR. We're hoping others at PBS and NPR will follow her lead. If they want the public on their side, they're going to need to show some spunk.

Too often, they've depended on the public outrage. The public has screamed and hollered every time. After the show down was won, PBS and NPR would not act as victors or good sports, they'd act like they lost the battle. There's such a thing as a bad winner that goes beyond bragging. That would be acting like you lost.

And that's how PBS and NPR (especially PBS) have acted after each round. With the public firmly behind them, they've not stayed committed to equal opportunity and facts. Instead, they've bent over backwards to air the opinions of conservatives while shutting out the left.

Let's be really clear, conservatives have always had a voice on both PBS and NPR. (We checked with Jess' parents. Jess was raised on Tapestry on NPR. NPR never had a no-conservatives policy in place. Nor did PBS.) That's not the issue. The issue is that the left has lost their voice on NPR and PBS. Centrists are passed off to the public as "leftist."

If some of the public truly believe that NPR, for instance, is the home of non-stop flaming liberal voices, it's partly NPR's own damn fault for pulling the mikes on the left. By omitting them from the dialogue the result has been that the casual listener mistakes a center position for a left position.

NPR and PBS are both guilty of that. And increasingly, after rallying the public and winning the battle, NPR and PBS have responded by . . . adding more conservative voices to the line up.
Is there anyone in the country that can't easily obtain the conservative talking points from NPR or PBS? We think not.

And in the process, centrists are left looking like flaming liberals because to add these conservative voices, NPR and PBS stripped the left of air time it should have.

So when someone is on advocating, for instance, civil unions, you're not hearing from the "left."
You're hearing from the center. And if some Americans are confused, PBS and NPR have themselves to blame.

Once again, the fight will have to be fought by the public, a public that knows it can win (Republicans are running scared) but that is aware each "win" has resulted in the watering down of non-conservative voices and the need to replace factual programming with opinion because the facts don't bear out for the right on most issues. Which is why they freaked over PBS's coverage of Iran-Contra (to give one example). When the truth is dubbed "liberal," NPR and PBS shouldn't run scared.

But we've seen that time and again. After Jess wished his mother a happy Mother's Day, we got on the line to ask what her feelings were. Understand, there's not a coffee mug in that kitchen that doesn't have NPR on it. They've got tote bags and everything and anything else you could imagine.

But Jess' mother said she's helping this time but it will probably be the last time. She's tired of pouring her energy into this battle when each time PBS and NPR win, they betray their viewers and listeners by acting as though they lost and have to cede ground to conservatives. She's disgusted with the lack of programming geared towards anyone who's idea of "work" goes beyond the stock market. She's appalled by the commentaries that NPR and PBS news "personalities" make when they appear on Fox "News." (Jess' mother doesn't watch Fox "News," to be clear on that. She read David Brock's latest book and she follows Media Matters.)
As a long term NPR listener she feels personally betrayed that people who speak to her are not heard from or else are only occassionally heard from while a conservative is brought on to comment on "basically any and every story they cover."

She's sick of it. And her feelings are shared by many on the left. Save PBS! Save NPR! Why?
People on the left are beginning to ask that. The left appears willing to sign up for the struggle one more time. But NPR and PBS better grasp that the repeated attempts to cater to the right not only haven't pleased the right, they've resulted in the left feeling disgusted by what they are hearing and seeing. Maybe America's soft-middle will take up the struggle in the future?

It's doubtful the left will continue to do so if the post-struggle pattern continues. Jess' parents have always given generously to NPR and PBS over the years. Starting in 2004, they began donating the bare minimum. They don't see the point in generously supporting broadcasters that refuse to give their side air time.

We asked Jess' mother if she'd heard Diane Rehm's show and she said she did. She said her worry is that after the battle there will be an announcement that Rehm has decided to leave NPR and someone along the lines of Peggy Noonan will be given Rehm's slot.

That's the impression NPR and PBS have left with many viewers and listeners who identify as progressive or liberal. The soft-gewey middle of the road rarely shows the ability to stand up on an issue. They wait to see how either side stakes out their terroitory and then attempts a "common ground." That should worry NPR and PBS because that's not your activist base.

If NPR and PBS are expecting the right to be wooed, they should remember that the right has Fox "News" and Rush and a host of others. (And those giving to tele-evanglists probably have no dollars to spare for public broadcasting.) They're not going to fight to save you. You can put on David Brooks for an hour, George Will for an hour, Peggy Noonan for an hour, and they'll still find something to complain about. "When the symphony performed 'America the Beautiful,' one of the violinists looked irritated! He's un-American!" Or, "Why does Sesame Street have so many non-whites! Isn't it time Sesame Street relocated to a suburb?" Or, "Maya is a little too independent! She should check with her father or brother Miguel before embarking on any adventure and the mother and grandmother need to advise her that no one likes an independent female!"

Short of setting every program in the Eisenhower-era, PBS and NPR will never appease the right. They will never be able to rally the right.

Does the right have a place at the public broadcasting table? Absolutely. Everyone has a right at that table. But for the last two decades, the right's been seated at the front of the table while the left's been required to grab a to-go bag.

PBS and NPR should realize that the continued eroding of voices from the left hurts their pledge drives and hurts the image with the left. They should also realize that it hurts the nation because when centerists are seen as "flaming liberals" a whole range of opinion has been eliminated from the national dialogue. PBS and NPR are supposed to serve the public by providing voices that would otherwise not be heard on the airwaves. Considering the dominance of conservatives on AM radio, we're confused by their conservative-centrists pairings and exactly how the public is served by banishing the left from public broadcasting.

With the internet, Jess' parents have been able to listen to Pacifica and, this should worry PBS and NPR, more and more that's where their donations go.

Rubin asks us "What are you listening to?"

Rubin of Chicago wrote in this week asking us what we were listening to? Good question, Rubin. But even if the community's musicoligist Kat (Kat's Korner) wasn't involved with this edition, there's no way we could list everything we listened to this week. We're all far more apt to turn on the stereo than the TV. So when Dona read your e-mail this week she said that we'd be doing an entry but wouldn't tell anyone what it was other than that you'd requested it.

Dona wanted to catch everyone by surprise ("and I'm too lazy to plan my own choices"). So we've just been asked to list what's in our CD player. Simple enough question, right?

Wrong. Which CD player? C.I. has them all over. Jess wanted to know if this included what was currently in a car CD player or just what was in our CD players inside. Rebecca has one of those CD players that loads many, many discs. She also has a five disc player in her bedroom. Since everyone involved had a five disc player, we went with what was in that. If they had more than one five disc player, we went with what was in the disc player of the room they were currently in.

Betty (Thomas Friedman is a Great Man): I've got two that no one else will mention because those were what were on early this morning for my kids, the soundtrack to Piglet's Big Movie which is currently their favorite DVD to watch over and over. I enjoy the soundtrack because, for the most part, it's just Carly Simon and a guitar. It's laid back and the kids like to sing along. The other children's CD came up because of Jess in one of the roundtables, Carole King's Really Rosie. I still can't find the cartoon on DVD but I did get the CD for the kids thinking they'd enjoy it. They do. They get very hyper on songs like "Alligators All Around" but it's another children's CD that I can listen to and there aren't a lot of those. Piglet and Really Rosie may be the only two we have that I can put on for the kids and not feel like banging my head against the wall. The next three I put in for me after the kids were finally down for the night. I've got Diana Ross Live Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings . . . Jazz and Blues which is a live recording of Diana. It's probably my favorite Diana Ross album. I really love "Little Girl Blue" and and "Fine and Mellow" among other songs. When that special came on, it was a big deal because my parents both love Diana Ross. I think it was on cable. But it was back in the early 90s and I've probably listened to this album more than any other that I own. Next is Anita Baker's Rapture which is another CD I never grow tired of. It's just perfect and one I always feel like listening to. Then Sade's Lovers Rock which is my favorite of all the Sade albums. There's not a bad song on the album and "By Your Side" always brings a catch to my throat for some reason.

Jim (Third Estate Sunday Review): Wow, you'd think sleeping with someone would cut you a break but apparently it doesn't rate a heads up even. Here are the five that happen, that happen, at this moment to be in my CD player Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, White Stripes' Elephant, Stevie Nicks' Trouble in Shangri-La, Garbage's Bleed Like Me, Phil Ochs' I Ain't Marching Anymore. If I'd had a heads up, I might have changed them. Or if I'd been my apartment in the last three days --

Dona (Third Estate Sunday Review): Thank you, Jim, for informing my mother, on Mother's Day, that you've just spent the last three days with me.

Jim: I could've been with my folks for all she knows.

Dona: You answered the phone Friday night.

Ty (Third Estate Sunday Review): To put an end to this drama, Jim's things are still in our apartment [Ty & Jess's], he has not moved in with Dona. Yet.

Ava (Third Estate Sunday Review): And if he does, the rent's being split three ways, not just between me and Dona. Dona, is this what Ruben meant when he said it would it give him a better idea about us if he knew what we listened to?

Dona: So here are the five discs in my CD player: Blink 182's CD called Blink 182, the last one they put out; Anais Mitchell's Hyms for the Exiled; U2's How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb; Ani DiFranco's Like I Said (Songs 1990-1991); and Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. Rebecca?

Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude): Like most of the readers, I'm sure, I'd rather hear more about Jim & Dona's last three days. I actually just put in one CD an hour ago to get my blood puming and prepare for this all nighter, Green Day's American Idiot. I love that CD but when I list the other four, people are going to think, how does that fit with the mood? It doesn't. I had another one in that I won't name since we're sticking to five. Before I hopped in with you guys, the mood was more 'sensual' and laid back. Hopefully the other four CDs reflect that. Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope, Otis Redding's Otis Blue, Otis Redding's Live in Europe and, Trent put in, Crosby, Stills & Nash's Greatest Hits.

Folding Star (A Winding Road): Knuckle Down, Ani DiFranco; All That We Let In, Indigo Girls; Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield; The Bedroom Tapes, Carly Simon; and Time Space, Stevie Nicks. I guess I could note that things have been rough lately and listening to these amazing women always seems to help. But then, I listen to them when I'm in a great mood,too! Their music is just universal, each in their own way.

Ty: I wish I'd had a heads up to this. Currently, in my CD player, I have Prince's Sign of the Times, the first disc, because I just bought that and have been in a Prince mood and played his last album so much that everyone is sick of hearing me play it. Like Betty, I have a Sade CD in but it's The Best of Sade. The only new CD I have in is George Michael's Patience which has some amazing songs including "Shoot the Dog" about Tony Blair and the Bully Boy so let me note that 'for the record.' I also have Lenny Kravitz's Greatest Hits in the CD player and I've been humming "Let Love Rule" and "Flying Away" all night. The last CD is James Brown's Star Time. That's a four disc boxed set. I have disc two in and that's the one that most people know the songs from like "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Pt. I," "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud, Pt. I," and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." If I'd had a heads up, I would've put in some neo soul, some Black Eyed Peas, Jill Scott and Outkast.

Kat (Kat's Korner): Tori Amos' The Beekeeper, the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed, the Beatles' Abbey Road, Bruce Springsteen's new CD Devils & Dust and Judy Collins' Portrait of an American Girl.

Ava: Do you want to say anything about them?

Kat: I may or may not be doing a review shortly on Springsteen and Collins, so I'll pass on those two. I love Tori Amos' The Beekeeper and love it even more with each listen.

Jess: It is a great album and I really loved your review.

Kat: It is. Abbey Road's a classic and one of my favorites of the Beatles, though I'd never be able to pick just one. The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed is something I'm considering reviewing at some point so I'll stay silent there except to note I enjoy it.

Jim: I would have had the Stones' Exile on Main St. and Coldplay's Parachutes in if I'd been given a heads up.

Rebecca: The five CD rule has been broken! (Laughing) I took out Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey to put in Green Day.

Jim: The five CD rule has been broken. Jess?

Jess: I've got NCR's Let Freedom Ring because it cracks me up and it seemed like a good week to listen to it. And --

Ava: Explain what NCR is.

Jess: NCR is a comedy CD, a spoof of NPR. It's National Corporate Radio and it's done The People Who Do That. My family bought it off of BuzzFlash awhile back and gave it to me as a gift because it's the kind of jokes that we laugh about in my family. It came with another CD which I also like, NCR's The "Go Fuck Yourself" Special. But Let Freedom Ring makes me laugh more so I usually listen to that one more often. I also have R.E.M.'s Green in because I'm always in the mood for R.E.M. My dad gave me John Fogerty's new CD over spring break, Deja Vu All Over Again, and that's one I'm really into these days. Besides the title track, I love "I Will Walk With You." I'm a Pearl Jam-mer, as everyone here knows, and I've got the second disc of Oct. 22, 2003 in. That's a live CD. They do Dylan's "Masters of War" on that one. And lastly --

Ty & Dona (together): Carole King!

Jess: (laughing) Carole King's Tapestry. Yep, I heard Carole King's music so much growing up, she's practically a member of my family. Probably Tapestry's in there because of Kat's review.

Ava: Oh sure, blame it on Kat. C.I.?

C.I. (The Common Ills): Judy Collins' Portrait of an American Girl which I just love. I think it's her finest work in over ten years but other than that, I'll wait eagerly and hopefully for a review by Kat. Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust which I was a complete idiot on. I had the DVD side down and couldn't get it to play for several days until members started e-mailing me asking me if I was sure I had the right side facing down. Tori Amos' The Beekeeper which has honestly stayed in this CD player since the album came out. Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, which I put in because Susan had e-mailed about a song on it today and that made me want to listen to it. The fifth one is Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.

Kat: If I can do a for the record. This is Bright Eyes' week. What happened on The Tonight Show is news. Musical news, but news-news as well. C.I. and Susan were both e-mailing me to review either or both of Bright Eyes' CDs when they came out in February. They are great albums but sometimes I just can't find an "in" in, as C.I. would say. I didn't have an "in" on that album. I was also hoping to write something on the John Fogerty album because, like Jess, I really enjoy it. But with my reviews, they are what they are. I will review Judy Collins' CD because I think I have an "in" there and I also think it's one that a lot of people will miss because Bruce is the big release right now that's getting all the press attention.

Ava: Now for my five, and thank you to Ruben for the question. In my CD player, I currently have Thursday's War All The Time, Wilco's A Ghost Is Born which I will blame on Kat because I'd never listened to them before she reviewed them. Ani DiFranco's Knuckle Down which I love. Folding Star noted in a post what a strong album that was and also in the interview we ran with F.S. But I won't pin it on Folding Star because if Ani's not pouring out of my room, she's pouring out of Dona's or on the player in the living room. Is that the only CD that two of us have both picked?

Kat: Judy Collins and Bruce Springsteen.

Ava: Right, I have Joan Baez's Baptism. Dona and I are both getting into Joan Baez. We pool our money together and work through her catalogue. We also pooled on Bright Eyes to get both the new CDs the day they came out in February. In my player, I have Bright Eyes' Digital Ash.

Kat: I like Baez but I'm wondering what got you interested in her?

Ava: I think it was last year that PBS did a Sound Stage special with her. Dona and I were watching that and working on a class project, right?

Dona: Yeah. We knew the name but didn't know the music. So we got the Dark Chords on a Big Guitar CD and really liked that. And I don't remember what -- Oh! Liang! The thing about "Where Are You Now, My Son?"

Ava: That was it. We read those lyrics and we didn't have the cash to get the boxed set with that song [Joan Baez: The Complete A&M Recordings] but your mother ended up buying it for you.

Dona: Yes, when she was still talking to me which, if she reads this, she may no longer be.

Jim: Your mother likes me.

Dona: No comment.

Ava: But Baptism is so eclectic and, to be honest, I'm trying to get a handle on it.

Dona: For the record, my mother will not be surprised. This was a bit Jim and I were going with and intended to note in the note to our readers that this was a joke. We added it in while Ava and C.I. were working on their TV review. When they came back and read over this, both were confused. Ava said, "But your mother knows Jim's stayed over?" To avoid confusion and to preserve the joke, we're clarifying here instead of in "A Note to Our Readers" because if anyone reads that first, the joke will already be blown. So, "for the record," this was a joke about my mother (or my father) being surprised that Jim was staying over Ava and my apartment. After that was explained, others got involved in adding comments to our bit. Our music choices and our comments about them are true. The bit was to liven things up.

Ruth, the voice behind Ruth's Morning Edition Report, says "Keep fighting."

We originally intended to profile Common Ills community member/artist Isaiah. Friday afternoon, he contacted us and asked if the interview could be pushed back a week? His reasons for this was that Ruth had been linked by BuzzFlash and he felt "this is Ruth's week."

We agree. We've loved Ruth's Morning Edition Report since it started last month. We think she provides a valuable service by addressing the issue of NPR when a lot of people want to look the other way. Maybe it's liberal guilt? Maybe it's, as she suggested last week, that people either don't listen closely or they don't listen at all to NPR? Regardless, NPR gets off some first rate howlers some days. Ruth shines a spotlight where there is often darkness.

When we spoke with Ruth on Saturday, she was very excited. Here's a rundown of Friday.

Her grandson had just woken up a few minutes prior from his afternoon nap when the phone started ringing. It was her granddaughter, Tracey, who was out of breath. Knowing that Tracey should be in school and worried as to what had her so upset, Ruth asked her to take a few breaths before continuing.

Tracey wasn't upset, she was excited. In the school library, she'd been visiting BuzzFlash when she saw her grandmother linked. Ruth had no idea.

"Once my grandson arrives, it's pretty much diapers, play time, bottles and the general routine. I don't turn the computer back on until late in the evening."

Tracey wasn't the only one excited for Ruth. She heard from family members all day Friday. Saturday, her son David and her daughter-in-law Marilyn carrying a large frame. In it were eight printed pages -- the BuzzFlash web page -- with her link highlighted.

David told her, "This isn't your Mother's Day gift, this is just because we're so proud of you."

"But it really was like a Mother's Day gift," Ruth says. "And it was so sweet and nice of BuzzFlash. I doubt they'll ever know how much joy they brought into this old woman's life. It was like winning the lotto and, like with the lotto, you should only win once. There are so many wonderful voices out there and I'm thrilled to have been chosen and honored. Tracey started saying, 'Okay, Grandma, for next time . . .' and I said this is a once in a lifetime honor and it's best to just enjoy the moment."

One of the calls that meant the most to her came Friday night.

"I'd just turned in and was trying to figure out what sort of questions you would ask when the phone rang," Ruth explains. "It was my best friend from school, Treva. She tells me she's looking at BuzzFlash and is this Ruth me because it sounds just like me? I had a little fun with her by playing ignorant for a bit but not for long because I was dying to tell her."

Common Ills members know of Treva and we couldn't believe that Ruth hadn't informed Treva about her writing.

"Well, I'd mentioned I was doing something but not really gone into it. Treva's an activist and often when we talk, she's on the road to somewhere. I was thinking I'd tell her about it in a long letter. You better believe she raked me over the coals for not telling her!"

Ruth's unique voice stands out in her writing and to read her entries is to feel like you're meeting her and her family. We decided to ask about Tracey who is often mentioned.

"A smile like sunshine and what a head she's got on her shoulders," Ruth said proudly. "This week, she calls me and says, 'Wake up, turn on NBC right now!' I do and there's this young man in a cowboy hat singing a song about when a president talks to God. She said, 'Grandma, things are changing!' We watched that on the phone together and then probably spent at least a half-hour talking about what this might mean and she kept asking me questions about who I remembered from the sixties coming on television and speaking out? The guy's name was Bright Eyes? Well, when one person does that, when one voice speaks truth, it does change things.
It was a big moment and I was thinking, 'How lucky am I? Of all the people Tracey could have shared this with, she calls her grandmother.'"

So what, we wondered, was it like in the days of Nixon and Vietnam?

"Hmm," Ruth said reflecting. "It was exciting but I guess what I'd emphasize was that there seems to be this idea that the press was telling us the truth about Vietnam all along which wasn't the case. We had to have a lot of truth tellers from outside the press pushing the truth and, as I remember it, it took quite awhile before it took hold. It's not like Bob Dylan or Joan Baez or Jane Fonda or Paul Katner of Jefferson Airplane stood up once and said the war is wrong and the press immediately said 'okay.' There were all these demonstrations going on. All these teach-ins.
All these campus protests. Religious leaders were important to the movement as well. But it took all those voices speaking and protesting before slowly we gained traction in the press. If you followed the news lately, you know that the people are ahead of our leaders currently. But, maybe I'm wrong, I remember that being the case with Vietnam as well. So when Jane Fonda goes on David Letterman and says this war is wrong last month and then Bright Eyes can perform that song, you can see that there's a chance voices may gain traction. Finally."

"But what worries me, did you see the article in The Nation, is that NPR isn't the NPR of the seventies. Amy Goodman does a brilliant job but she can't do it all by herself and she's one of the few national voices we have in broadcasting. We have The Nation and The Progressive now like we did then. But the only broadcaster coming close to the prominence of Walter Cronkite is Amy Goodman. Air America is buidling up and adding stations and there's the woman on the weekends, Laura? [Laura Flanders] and during the week you have Janeane Garofalo, Tracey loves her, and [Mike] Malloy. But you also have a lot of people who really don't seem to want to take a stand."

Of Laura Flanders, Ruth says, "I only am able to listen to her on Saturdays but isn't she wonderful? She can handle any caller and deal with them as a human being. I really think she's amazing."

So besides Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders, Janeane Garofalo, Mike Malloy and magazines like The Nation and The Progressive, what do we have going for us?

"The interent," Ruth says firmly. "Tracey's already announced that Sunday everyone will be watching the clip of Bright Eyes performing his song. Amy Goodman's show [Democracy Now!] reaches people by radio and television but it also reaches people via the internet where people can listen, they can watch or they can read. Now, as I remember it, we had alternative magazines back then. But they tended to be more regional. Thanks to the internet, you can have the same access whether you live in Miami or Chicago, Boston or Tulsa. Ideas and information can travel much faster, provided you have internet access. It's not just a group of people putting together an off campus newspaper and reaching that one general area. Now you can have this alternative source of news and, for now anyway, you can bypass physical borders and the thought police. From Treva, I know that text messages are very important to protests today but I don't know enough about that to speak of it. But information can travel much faster now which really stamps out isolation and allows people to make connections. So blogs and web sites make a world of difference. BuzzFlash gives you the best of the nation's paper, as well as some international press, in one viewing. We didn't have anything like that in the sixties."

How bad was The Times back then?

"It was erratic," Ruth declares. "They were never fond of covering protests and they're still that way. But people will hear of something like the Pentagon Papers and think that The New York Times was breaking news constantly when that's simply not how I remember it. I don't know if any of you have ever heard of Phil Ochs but he titled one lp All The News That's Fit To Sing, which is a take off of The New York Times' slogan 'All the news that's fit to print.' We were quite critical of The New York Times back then. There were some 'fluffers' back then as well. No one remembers them now. It's like the article that you did on swap meets that went to legacies. On the op-ed pages, I see stronger voices then I remember from back then. I'm thinking of Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert mainly but even Maureen Dowd. Thomas Friedman, on the other hand, won't be remembered. He does need a weathervane to tell him which way the wind blows, as Bob Dylan would say. The right won't applaud him. The left doesn't need him. He's a man without a country because wishy-washy doesn't build a legacy."

But some would argue, we wouldn't, he's had best selling books?

"That means nothing. If you went back and studied any week from the late sixties or the early seventies, you'd find a large number of people with bestsellers brimming with the then conventional wisdom and today you'd look at those authors' names while realizing you'd never heard of them. At best, he can hope for the written equivalent fame of The Monkees, a group that was a joke to people who lived through the period, a Saturday morning live action cartoon. He can rake in the dough right now but there's no legacy there."

Music is something we wanted to ask about. It seems so exciting looking back?

"It was exciting. Even a lot of the vanilla songs were memorable. But I do think there's strong music today. What's killing your experience is that you've got a group of companies deciding on a national level what you will hear. The start of the fall semester was always a big deal when I was in college. People would come back from their hometowns from all over the country, bringing with them the news of some new artist that was just breaking in their area. Also back then, radio stations really had to compete with one another because you didn't have one company owning several stations in the same area. So if one station wasn't going to play Dylan's 'Rainy Day Women,' another station would. And if a song like that could break through on one station, others in the area would have to start playing it. Now you've got what's basically a central management system on the national level. If they don't play you, you're not going to be heard. But I know Ani DiFranco and Bright Eyes from Tracey and my grandson Arthur listens to a great deal of rap music that really has something to say, a message. So the music is out there but it's hard for it to become a national soundtrack the way it did when I was a teenager since we're now dealing with so many obstacles."

So looking at where things stand today, how does she rate them?

"I guess," Ruth says slowly, "I'd say we're at the turn of the tide. That's my guess. That's what it feels like to me. The Bully Boy's played every card trick he can play. It's over. We've had over four years of floating along on a fantasy but now reality is seeping in. Maybe I'm being too optimistic but it really feels to me like the tide has turned. Finally. It's past time to bring the troops home from a war they never should have been sent to fight. I don't think that's going to happen tomorrow or next month but I think we will be hearing more calls for that and, hopefully, the troops will be brought home. But, based on the way I remember it, I'd add that the call and the pressure have to build and build before anything is accomplished. Keep fighting. "

Blog Spotlight: Ruth's Morning Edition Report

This week, we spotlight Ruth of The Common Ills. Ruth's Morning Edition Report is a regular feature at The Common Ills and last week one of her entries was linked to by BuzzFlash. Ruth's not just a smart woman, she's also a very nice one. (Read our article on Ruth this edition.) Taking our cues from BuzzFlash, we'll highlight Ruth's Wednesday post.

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: Forget Morning Edition and focus on The Diane Rehm Show. Tuesday's show was a topic the community will be interested in:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has reopened debates about bias and balance in public television and radio programming. Diane and her guests look at the latest questions

Paul Farhi, reporter, The Washington Post
Stephen Labatan, reporter, New York Times
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

Diane Rehm addressed the issue that everyone is speaking of. Members who felt PBS or NPR was under attack and would not defend themselves might want to listen to this show. Diane was addressing the topic and had invited members of the CPB board to appear though they declined.
Among the points being made was that 90% of the monies provided by the government goes to TV (PBS) and only 10% goes to radio (NPR).

On the issue of where does the money go, I was most interested to learn that CPB was willing to hand over a $5 million dollar grant to Paul Gigot (Wall St. Journal) for his show. One of the "larger grants," it was noted and I'd question why so much was needed for a talking heads show.
The guest from The Washington Post noted that Bill Moyers was perceived as "anti-corporate which becomes a very interesting issue in terms of funding for PBS, PBS gets a lot of money from corporations to underwrite programming . . . By being so anti-corporate or being perceived as anti-corporate it's a somewhat self-defeating . . ."

As many members noted, PBS is supposed to serve the public but very often comes off like it is serving corporations.

I would encourage community members to listen to this episode of Diane's show. I'd also suggest that the Morning Edition anchors do so as well because whether it's a name or a concept, when it comes up, Diane always asks her guests to explain.

Morning Edition anchors would serve listeners better by doing the same when Cokie Roberts starts tossing out concepts and names that may be unfamiliar to the listeners.

TV review: Numb3rs

We'd planned to review ABC's Less Than Perfect but it didn't air this Friday. Faced with choosing an alternative show, we didn't have a great deal of choices. ABC's 20/20 was leading off with a "hard hitting story" about ABC's Lost. NBC was broadcasting some version of Law & Order with it's usual, we're sure, "ripped from the headlines" approach (which seems to excuse a lack of characterization or anything beyond basic plot). That left us with attempting to watch and review a show on Saturday night (while attempting to contribute to other features for this edition) or else going with CBS on Friday night. NUMB3RS is a new show on CBS, one that's been getting some attention. How bad could it be?

After we'd committed to it, we just wished we could run the numbers again. Yes, it's that bad.

Possibly the tip off should have come from the title: NUMB3RS. (That's not a typo.)

Let's start with the positive. Gloria Reuben guest-starred. She's always worth watching and almost able to make sense of this show. Almost. For a few seconds, due to her talent, we almost believed people were interacting. They aren't. We'll get to that shortly, but we'll note that Reuben raised the show a notch but even someone as talented as she is can only do so much.

Here's the concept of the show (courtesy of IMDB):

Working for the FBI, a mathematician uses equations to help solve various crimes.

Oh, that it were that simple.

The mathematician, he's the brother of FBI agent Rob Morrow. His father's Judd Hirsch. So we've already got a family drama on our hands. Add to it the "quirky" co-workers of the mathematician who seem to exist just to await cues from the "mathematician." That would be Charlie played by David Krumholtz.

Time and again in this episode, Charlie would advise the other two of what they needed to do to solve something. Immediately, it was keyboard time, with no "how to"s provided by Charlie. See, they know how to do, they just need Charlie to figure out what to do. These people are supposed geniuses so watching the script repeatedly toss to Charlie made us wonder if the other two geniuses also needed to be told to turn off the light when leaving a room or to flush the toilet before leaving the bathroom? We're sure they know how to do both those things, but without Charlie giving them their cues, would they think to do them?

Peter MacNicol plays one of the two co-workers and he should never have been told his "quirks" were charming on Ally McBeal. Ever since then, it's as though all he has to offer are quirks and, the way he grins at the camera, you never forget how much pride he takes in them. Sometimes quirks can round out a character. But a character cannot be built on a variety of quirks alone. There needs to be something underneath. The great underbelly of MacNicol is a false bottom.

Judd Hirsch's belly? Don't get us started. We both gasped when he was shown walking on a golf course. Whatever happened to the cast of Taxi? Apparently Judd ate them.

But that wasn't enough to satisfy him because he still has a need to chew the scenery. The role's obviously meant to be similar to Tyne Daly's role on CBS's Judging Amy. But Daly's got an actual character to play. Hirsch is playing the latest concept of "father figure." It's not a character, it's an ethereal idea. And Hirsch is far too heavy (in acting and physique) to carry it off (though we wonder if anyone could).

Which brings us to David Krumholtz's Charlie. How old is the man supposed to be? And why does he come off like the lead teenager in an after-school special? Is it his acting or someone else's unworked out Daddy issues? Regardless, when he's not passing himself off to his two co-workers as Valerie from the cartoon Josie & the Pussycats ("According to my calculations . . ."), he seems nothing but teenage neurosis at their worst. There's bundle of nerves and then there's an ocean. Krumholtz is sinking and taking the show down with him.

Top-billed isn't Kurmholtz or Hirsch, it's Rob Morrow who was so likeable as Dr. Joel Fleischman
on Northern Exposure and hilarious as Albert Brooks' equally neurotic brother in Mother. What the hell happened?

The mother wasn't mentioned on this show. We'll assume she split or is dead. But was she ever around? If so, did she not teach Morrow's Don to chew with his mouth closed? Watching Morrow attempt to regular-guy it was laughable throughout (not in the good way) but it reached it's zenith as he flashed his mouthful of food repeatedly to appear "average guy." Between that and either a new dialect or "regular guy" speaking he's attempting, we were left wondering what happened to Joel?

We'll also assume this new "acting choice" explains his sideburns which are truly something to see. Two-thirds of the way down, they do this slight zig-zag that we're not understanding. Maybe it's "chaos theory" or "splish-splash?" Those words were bandied about on NUMB3RS. We don't understand them but then we never believed the actors did either.

And that's at the heart of the problem with this show. When not going all touchy-feely on Daddy issues (seriously, it's as though someone just stumbled onto The Fisher King and decided to turn it into a TV series), we get scenes where actors don't communicate and aren't given lines. Instead they shout out footnotes. All this jargon which occassionally one of them will explain (usually in a statement beginning, "It means . . ."). But there's no need to explain because there's no conversation. It's as though Don says, "It's hot today" and Charlie, nodding, replies,
"I've always enjoyed kittens." What?

The writers work overtime to create the impression of "smart" (and fail) when they should be attempting to portray communication and interaction.

Here's something else they might want to work on, charges are not guilt. Don and his partner rush around trying to save the city based on information Charlie and the techno-crats are feeding them. We're going to try to keep this as simple as possible (something the writers of NUMB3RS might want to emulate). Don goes to see Man #1. We need information about this plane? Man #1 says that's Man #2's plane. They can't find Man #2 but they do find his son and they tell his son not that they need to speak to Man #2, not that they need information on Man #2 but that the son better tell them everything truthfully or he will face charges for helping his father (Man #2) commit terrorism. Somewhere along the line Don not only dispensed with the need for a trial, he also dispensed with the need for evidence. (Which we're guessing perfectly captures the mood of our own Justice Dept. under the Bully Boy and Alberto Torture Czar Gonazles.)

The plot's this horrible goulash that might be a UFO, turns out to be a small aircraft, that might be used for terrorism, turns out the pilot is dead (no terrorism took place) and might have been murdered, turns out it was accident due to calibration.

"Turns Out" should be the title of the show. It's nothing but MacGuffins. Alfred Hitchcock knew how to use one of those in a scene but he didn't build an entire film around one MacGuffin after another. NUMB3RS wants to constantly get you excited about a new development only to then pull the rug out from under you repeatedly.

Some people play the numbers. Friday nights on CBS, NUMB3RS plays you.

As part of our salute to the comedic talents of Jane Fonda we also offer this drawing by Common Ills community member Isaiah. Remember that Monster-In-Law opens this Friday, May 13th and is Jane Fonda's return to film after 15 years, and return to comedies specifically after 25 years. We thank Isaiah and C.I. for allowing us to post this. The drawing originally appeared at The Common Ills:
 Posted by Hello

DVD review: Nine to Five

"It's quitting time, boss man."
"It looks just like Skinny & Sweet except for the little skull and cross bones."
"I'm no idiot. I've killed the boss. You think they won't fire me for a thing like that?"
"We're going to need a seperate locker for the hat."
"If I want to do M&Ms . . ."
"I'll change you from a hen to a rooster with one shot!"
"Face it girls, we are trapped in a pink collar ghetto."
"I smoke a Mary-juna cigarette once at a party."

Some of you probably think we're quoting from the movie Nine to Five starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. You're wrong. We're quoting from e-mails, from some of the e-mails. Awhile back, when it was noted that we'd be reviewing Nine to Five as part of our lead up to the release of Jane Fonda's first film in fifteen years and her first comedy in twenty-five years, we got a few e-mails. When it was noted last Sunday that we'd be doing the review this week, the e-mails poured in.

Besides quoting from the movie, many of you also wrote in to note your favorite scene. Often with a "please don't forget to mention this one" added at the end of the e-mail.

There's not enough space or time to quote all the lines you quoted to us or to mention all the scenes you noted to us. To do that, we'd probably have to post the entire script to Nine to Five.

Just to include the quotes above, we had to go through and select based on which lines were mentioned the most often. Nine to Five is an immensely popular comedy. It was a huge box office hit in 1980 and it remains popular to this day. There's not anyone with The Third Estate Sunday Review that hasn't seen it. There's not anyone who's helped us that hasn't seen it.
Any film maker would be overjoyed for their film to reach half the people that Nine to Five has reached and continues to reach.

So here's the thing, a lot of critics didn't like it at the time it was released. Some fell into the camp of "Fonda's blown it!" Those people felt that after tackling the Vietnam conflict in Coming Home and dangers of nuclear power in The China Syndrome, Nine to Five was a step down for actress and producer Jane Fonda. They felt the film was fluff.

They might want to watch the film again. Sexual harrassment and sexual discrimination? One reviewer huffily wrote (we're observing the Dorothy Parker rule of playground honor and not naming names) that anyone harrassing women like that would be immediately fired, that Mr. Hart (played by Dabney Coleman) wouldn't be allowed to act as he did and that the type of sexual discrimination in wages and promotion wouldn't occur in real life. What's interesting is that the EEOC would half-assed "fight" a sexual discrimination against Sears -- begun in 1979, lost in 1986. Apparently the reviewers were unaware of that case, one that was launched a year before the film opened? By the way, Clarence Thomas, a name we've all grown to loathe, he headed up the EEOC by the time they lost the case to Sears.* And, transition courtesy of Thomas, how can you talk sexual harrassment today and not note Anita Hill? That would come a decade after Nine to Five. So, reviewer we're not naming, want to rethink your "logic?"

Flex-time was also dealt with in the film and has only become more of an issue as more single parents balance family and work. The program that Fonda, Tomlin and Parton implement re: alcoholism starts the character Marge on the road to recovery. In 1980, was that the issue it would become in the nineties? No, it wasn't.

The need for daycare, is that an issue that was old hat, been there done that, in 1980? No, it wasn't.

Again, unnamed reviewer, do you want to rethink your "logic?"

Some reviewers just didn't feel the film was funny. It may not have been, to them. (Don't sit near us at the theater. We like to laugh.)

Then you had people (and the great Pauline Kael was among them) who had specific problems with the film. Some felt that the line, spoken by Parton's character to Coleman's, about changing him from a rooster to a hen with one shot was a betrayal of feminism or just illogical. Yes, the term is "capon." Thank you for the education lesson. Here's one for you, Dolly Parton plays a farm gal. The line is perfectly in keeping with the character. Is it "factual?" No, it's not. Is it something you can picture Doralee saying? Yes, it is. And that's why it comes out of the character's mouth. Would it have appeared strange for Doralee to say, "I can change you from a rooster to a capon with one shot!" Yes, it would. Take off your Bill Nye the Science Guy hats long enough to realize that characters in films aren't always footnoting. (And strange that the same reviewers who objected to that one line -- and used it as evidence to question the feminism of the film -- had no objections to any of Dabney Coleman's lines. They weren't factual either. They were in keeping with his character.)

Some wanted to bicker over the hospital scene (where Tomlin swipes the body and then Tomlin, Fonda and Parton drive off with it) and some wanted to bicker over the scene where Fonda's character (Judy) is defeated by a photo copy machines that does things that, our hair-splitting critics, felt the need to point out a photo copy machine could never do. Ladies. Gentlemen. It's a comedy. A comedic fantasy.

Looking over the reviews, it seemed like people put themselves into Judy's fantasy only instead of going gunning for the boss, they went after the film.

Reading through them one after another, we felt they should have saved the space and just typed up "Kill Joy Was Here."

Of the three women, Tomlin received the bulk of the praise. Tomlin is excellent in the film and we'd rank it as her second finest comedic performance since The Late Show. (We're exempting the filmed version of the play In Search of Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe because it's a mixture of film and stage.) We were surprised by the reactions to Parton and Fonda. Dolly Parton's largely dismissed as funny in one sentence and then the reviewer moves on. This is an incredible performance by Parton. (Steel Magnolias is another fine performance by Parton.)
When reviewing The Electric Horseman last week, we noted that Willie Nelson was basically a good sport in that film. That's how Parton's treated by many reviewers in this film. Parton's not just along for the ride, she adds tremendously to the film's humor and action.

Another film like Nine to Five (the three once intended to reteam and spoke of Jury Duty -- not the Pauly Shore film -- as a possible film they could do together) and Dolly Parton could have had Bette Midler's Disney career in the late eighties. She's that good.

Fonda seems to be carved up by the reviewers for being an actress committed to a role, one that some pulling out the knives didn't think was worthy of being recorded on film. At one point, Judy notes that all she's "ever done is be a housewife." A displaced home maker didn't garner sympathy from any of the critics carving up Fonda's performance. That's surprising because displaced homemakers were becoming a regular feature of the landscape at the time the film was made. Some reviewers saw Judy as "dumb."

What film were they watching? The point of Judy, and Fonda essays this perfectly with delivery, expressions, movement and the aid of her costumes, was that she's wounded and a stranger in a strange land. She's spent her whole life, as she states in the film, doing what her husband wanted. She's ignored her own voice and doubted her thoughts. You see that develop throughout the film. When things are out of control, for instance, after the body's stolen from the hospital, who's the one smart enough to call for a break? That would be Judy.

"Pull over." She says. Ignored, she screams it repeatedly. As the movie continues, Judy will learn two things, to trust her instincts and that she doesn't need to yell to be heard, that everyone's not going to dismiss her the way the creep she was married to did. Since they missed that point, we're assuming that they also missed the scenes with the creep. Where he tries to tell her what to think, what to say, and how to act.

Judy's not dumb. She's scared at the beginning. She's doubting herself. But she's not dumb at the beginning. And the script is as much about Judy's transformation as it is a comment on the modern work place.

Three women starring in a film wasn't that common in 1980. Boys on the Side and other films would come much later. In fact, when The Turning Point and Julia both came out a few years earlier, there were many headlines because it was news that two women were carrying a film.
So maybe, in 1980, it was just too shocking for some reviewers to handle a film starring three women?

It wasn't for the audiences (then or now). They laughed it up with the women identifying with the petty tyrannies of a boss that, as Dolly Parton noted in the song she wrote and sang in the opening film, "is out to get me."

Nine to Five was a huge hit when it was released. It's reach was aided by cable television which was still relatively new to most Americans. Hitting the premium channels and then the basic channels (and playing nonstop) it reached an audience that even many "hit" films of today can't reach now. That's because cable aided it. What carried it was the laughs and the fact that so many could identify with the film. (Roz, the office spy, is a nightmare we've all encountered.)

Fonda's hilarious in the film as are all three. Lily Tomlin is a master and the fact that Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda aren't just standing around with their mouths open is a miracle in and of itself. But all three women approached their roles with commmittment and the chemistry between the three is not to be underrated. It's really too bad that a Jury Duty never came about. (It should also be noted that the next big comedy hit starring three women -- a decade later, First Wives Club, has yet to result in a reteaming of Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler.) [Dolly Parton did perform a song, as herself, in The Beverly Hillbillies. Lily Tomlin played Miss Hathaway in that film and that's been the closest to a reteaming for the women on film.]

The film was a question mark in many minds from the beginning. Fonda and her co-producer Bruce Gilbert originally thought they'd be making a film where the women actually killed the boss. That was too much for the studio. For some reviewers, what was onscreen was still too much.

But audiences, then and now, responded. Nine to Five is still current. That's a little bit sad because it is too bad that we're still dealing with issues of combining child care with work; that flex-time, though more popular, is still not the norm; and that sexual discrimination and sexual harrassment are still excused by many.

But the fact is that a whole generation or two have been raised with this film. They've seen it and, like Fonda's Judy, they have been "awakened."

We'll note a complaint about the film. The DVD release needs to be redone. Get the three women together to provide a commentary or to do a fifteen to thirty minutes segement reflecting on the making of. The DVD of Coming Home offers bonus materials. Nine to Five should as well. The DVD needs to be re-released with bonus materials. We'd suggest including commentary or segment where the women talk about the making of. The original trailer. An essay on the issues the film addresses. A video of Parton performing "Nine to Five" live. Filmographies for the three women. For those watching on their computer's DVD player, a link to the organization 9 to 5. That a film that's remained so popular with audiences (read our e-mails from the last week) and continues to entertain is released as though it's My Blue Heaven, is a real shame.

When a film has this kind of staying power, it deserves a re-release on DVD.
* EEOC chairman and Reagan appointee Clarence Thomas told the Washington Post in 1985, as his own litigators were arguing the case in court, "I've been trying to get out of this since I've been here." [. . .] Thomas was, in fact, so outspoken that the Sears lawyers at one point considered calling him as their own witness.

That's from page 384 of Susan Faludi's Backlash. For more on the Sears case, see pages 377 to 388 in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

DVD review: Barbarella

An astronaut floats in what appears to be a red shag rug covered space ship. A gloove is peeled off. We see a woman's hands. Then hip length boot comes off one after another. Yes, it's a female, one with attractive legs. The black screen on the helmet goes down (not the helmet itself) and we see Jane Fonda's hair and face. The helmet comes off and Fonda's tossing her hair wildly before pulling off the sleeves of her space suit as the lyrics to the theme start in:

There's a kind of cockleshell about you
Barbarella pscyadelia
There's a kind of conca shell about you
Barbarella, ba-ba-Barbarella
Dazzle me with rainbow colors
Fade away the duller shade of living

The "v" front section of the space suit comes off. Then Fonda's floating, with bare back, as she continues to undress. Nude, at last, she floats in space before landing on the shag rug.

Never can a fellow name
Or call you

Still naked, she's summoned for a "tela-call" with the President of Earth and rotating Premier of the sun system where the conflict is quickly laid out.

"Weapon? Why would anybody want to invent a weapon?" so asks Barbarella in the 1968 film of the same name. "I mean the universe has been pacified for centuries."

Her mission? "Find Duran Duran and use all of your incompreble talents to preserve the security of the stars and our own mother planet. How do you read me?"


If you just missed the humor, you're going to miss it throughout.

Which is a shame because this is a funny movie. With comic disbelief, Jane Fonda anchors the film. (She was pregnant during filming, FYI.) Every few years, the film's tagged hopelessly sexist. We disagree. It's no more sexist than any other film of it's period and advanced in many ways.

The mover and shaker of the action is Barbarella. Though she may dress (and undress) like a variety of James Bond "babes" of the time, Barbarella's calling the shots and the main character.

There seems to be a puritan desire to scream "slut" at this film. The comic strip was an erotic romp. What does one expect from the film? Think of Barbarella as the opposite side of the coin of the characters played by Julie Andrews in so many sixties film -- while Andrews's Slightly Modern Millie enjoys being a virgin, Barbarella enjoys sex. Never suffering under the belief that "sex" is a dirty word, we may be missing something that arouses the shame of puritans, but we see Barbarella as a strong sexual actor in her own life and see nothing wrong with that.

Fonda is nude onscreen and that was shocking to some American audiences (who had grown used to scampering off to foreign films to get their topless shots) but in terms of the source material and the message of the film, there's nothing shocking about this. (If Drew Barrymore seriously wants to remake the film, she better grasp that it will require some nudity. More than the laughable body-stocking nudity of the first Charlie's Angels film.)

It's interesting to read some of the conservative's comments online about this film. "Say no to naked women!" hardly strikes us a feminist critique. It does speak of fear of the female body.
A few struck us as just scared of the physical body regardless of gender. Those types usually begged, "Put a shirt on!" because John Phillip Law (playing Pygar the Angel) bare chested was too much for their gentile sensibilities. (We imagine they grit their teeth and whimper, "I can get through this, I can get through this" while watching the original Planet of the Apes and reminding themselves that, although shirtless, Charlton Heston is a "good conservative.")

The film is camp, as any film based on an "adult" comic strip must be. And it's solid camp with a mixture of laughs and commentary.

The Great Tyrants' nieces (most commentators miss that that's who they are) unleash their dolls early on (mechanical dolls with metal teeth that attack Barbarella). The Great Tyrant herself, played by Anita Pallenberg, plays with knives, not dolls. Having enslaved her planet, The Great Tyrant's nieces now run free amusing themselves at the expense of others. The thirst for violence has overtaken Pallenberg's society.

"Amusing, isn't it, pretty-pretty?" Pallenberg asks Fonda. "Don't you feel like playing?"

Proving that the mirror, like truth, isn't something conservative commentators care to look at, they write of the film as this carnal, vile thing but never note that The Great Tyrant's obsessed with control and violence.

Roger Vadim, who directed the film and was married to Fonda at the time, was known for his love of women. The care he takes in the visuals of all his film are noted here. Less noted than his interest in human sexuality is his disgust with violence and corruption -- all clearly on display in this film.

Though a box office hit when released in 1968, even then there was a split in how the film was seen. That the split continues speaks to the cultural war still ongoing. It's the sort of war that allows a Robert Dole to condemn Pulp Fiction while praising the hideous True Lies (excessively violent and offering the "little woman" in the form of Jamie Lee Curtis). It's the sort of cultural war that screams "slut" at Janet Jackson over the exposed breast but remains silent on Justin Timberlake who did, after all, pull Jackson's top. (Timberlake's apparently excused under the conservative, and non-feminist, theory of boys-will-be-boys while Jackson is slapped down.)

Amid the low, high (and "high") and sardonic humor in Barbarella is a debate as to what is corruption and what isn't?

Yes, women's bodies are on display. (As are men's -- did everyone miss the man in the "fish bowl" packed into a g-string?) But everything's on display in this planet where cruelty is an amusement.

Vadim possibly the saw peace generation as entertaining, but he clearly sides with them. (Vadim had some involvement in the Paris movement in 1968.) Barbarella comes along to rescue the enslaved while the equivalents of Hot-Tubbin'-Moralistic Tom DeLay and Kitty-Killer Bill Frist come off less well. Time and again, machines and methods of enslavement are overcome by Barbarella.

At one point, a "moralizer" screams at Barbarella, "What kind of girl are you! Have you no shame! You'll pay for this!"

Whether it was in the public shaming of Janet Jackson, the Dixie Chicks, or assorted others, that "dialogue" continues to this day.

Barbarella's not a perfect film. But it's not the the great sexist conspiracy or the piece of trash some might make it out to be. It's Vadim at his most startling visual (as always with Vadim, even if the plot fails, you can't ignore the glorious visuals). It's Fonda proving that Cat Ballou was no fluke and she can carry a film. It's a variety of humor and some concepts still worth exploring. (Take note, Drew Barrymore.)

Check out the trailer that promises you can "see Barbarella do her thing" with a variety of partners if you want to see how sneering and lewd this film could have been. Stripped of the context of the times and the film itself, Barbarella could be exactly what the "moralizers" think it is. We'd argue it's quite a bit more than that.

Folding Star (A Winding Road) reviews Jane Fonda's My Life So Far

Community member Folding Star does a book chat on weekends at A Winding Road. (And it's moving from Saturdays to Sundays.) As people dedicated to literacy, we often scratch our heads after an edition goes up wondering how we failed to spotlight any books, plays, poetry or song lyrics. The answer is we're always rushing. So, when we can remember, we'll pull from Folding Star's book criticism if we haven't prepared anything ourselves. (And thank you to Folding Star for sharing so generously.)

With Monster-in-Law opening this Friday, we have decided to highlight F.S.'s review of Jane Fonda's My Life So Far:

The other great book I read since my last Book Chat was Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far.

I got so caught up in this book that hours would slip by unnoticed. I had several nights of little sleep because I'd pick it up to read in bed, just for a little while, and the next thing I'd know it would be close to four a.m.!

It's the most incredibly forthright autobiography I've ever read. Fonda opens herself up to the reader in very honest ways, exploring her difficult relationship with her father, her reaction to her mother's suicide, her three marriages, her film career, her struggles with bulima and low self esteem, and her actions during the Vietnam War in intimate detail.

The ultimate portrait is one of a human being who's made plenty of mistakes but who has come to know herself and believe in herself at last, not to mention someone who has the courage of her convictions and works to make this world a better place.

I picked up the book feeling I knew Fonda well enough. I'd liked her from the time I was a small kid, when 9 to 5 was one of my favorite movies. I didn't consciously get the very powerful message of the film at the time, of course, but I couldn't get enough of the movie itself. The humor of the movie appealed to me, even though, looking back, I realize how much of it was over my young head.

But after reading the book, I realized how little I'd known about this amazing woman, about her commitments to making a difference in the world, about her own personal struggles to know and love herself that are all too relatable to many of us and that I never would have imagined that someone like Jane Fonda had to deal with.

Every aspect of her story is told to help those who may be dealing with similar feelings and circumstances. Even in the telling of her life story, Fonda is reaching out to others, trying to help.

Her chapters on the Vietnam war and in particular the US Government's actions against her during that time are not to be missed, either, for anyone who may not be aware of that part of our country's history. It will also read as all too familiar a picture when compared to the current situation our country finds itself in.

I honestly think that, whatever your feelings for Fonda may be, if you give this book a chance you'll be shocked at what you take away from it.

Rebecca, Betty, Kat, C.I. and all of us (Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim and Ava) had read My Life So Far. We reviewed the book in an earlier Sunday edition. But for anyone who has not read it, we'd strongly recommend you read it. And remember, if funds permit, Jane Fonda's film (Monster-in-Law) opens this Friday.

Get the word out on Code Pink's book Stop The Next War Now

Common Ills community Dallas has often helped us. As we scrambled to pull together something for the Sunday edition he has been one of the many we could call on to help us locate links. (If you haven't figure it out, we're not big on providing links.) As we work on this latest edition, we shoot the breeze and discuss a variety of topics. C.I. brought up that Dallas had e-mailed a list of the people contributing to Code Pink's Stop The Next War Now book and that a post on that would be going up at The Common Ills when we took our first break. On our end, a break means Jess runs out for some sort of vegetable wrap (or Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, but don't pass that on to his healthy living folks!) and Ty's headed off for Cheetos. Dona and Jim argue about who needs to buy cigarettes and who needs to run out and get them while Ava's going through the e-mails trying to make sure nothing important came up on one of the days she wasn't assigned to handle the e-mail. Rebecca usually uses break time to converse with her current man of the moment (that's what Rebecca told us to put in) or to call a friend or two to check in quickly with them. Kat says she just mellows and lights some more incense and turns up the volume of her CD player. Betty says she's usually rushing to transfer a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer and then start a new load in the washer. So we all do various things on our breaks.

But when Rebecca heard about Dallas' list, she said she wanted to post that at her site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitudes and we agreed that we wanted to post it here as well.

The book addresses the need for responses other than drop a ton of bombs or a ton of more bombs. This is a topic that we've discussed at length for the last two months (and one addressed by Gina and Krista in their gina & krista round-robin each week).

So here is a reposting from The Common Ills.

Book: Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism

Alice Walker
Medea Benjamin
Jodie Evans
Arundhati Roy
Camilo Mejia
Nancy Lessin
Cindy Sheehan
Carly Sheehan
Marti Hiken
MaryAnn Wright
Kit Gage
Patricia Foulkrod
Eve Ensler
Terry Tempest Williams
Rose Kabuye
Elise Boulding
Riane Eisler
Joan Almon
Catherine Ingram
Susan Griffin
Phyllis Bennis
Leslie Cagan
Fridea Berrigan
Eisha Mason
Rebecca Solnit
Diane Wilson
Marti Hiken
Becky Bond
Barbara Ehrenreich
Beth Osnes
Julia Ward Howe
Laura Flanders
Sonali Kolhatkar
Kavita N. Ramdas
Neela Marikkar
Sumaya Farhat-Naser
Gila Svirsky
Shirin Ebadi
Nurit Peled-Elhanan
Rabia Roberts
Jasmina Tesanovic
Pramila Jayapal
Mary Robinson
Helen Thomas
Gael Murphy
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Amy Goodman
Janine Jackson
Andrea Buffa
Nina Rothschild Utne
Tad Bartimus
Patricia Scott Schroeder
Doris "Granny D" Haddock
Chellie Pingree
Lynn Woolsey
Barbara Lee
Jody Williams
Noeleen Heyzer
Helen Caldicott
Randall Forsberg
Joseph Gerson
Gar Smith
Arianna Huffington
Julia Butterfly Hill
Jennifer Krill
Naomi Klein
Benazir Bhutto
Wangari Maathai
Aya de Leon
Alli Chagi-Starr
Holly Near
Juana Alicia
Kathryn Blume
Cynthia McKinney
Adrienne Maree Brwon
Sharon Salzberg

What is the above? A list of the people contributing to Stop the Next War Now which Dallas compiled and e-mailed in hoping it might interest some members in the book. Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism is a book attempting to increase our understanding of possible solutions and responses.

As we noted on Wednesday:

Code Pink has a book out entitled How to Stop the Next War Now. For more information, see Code Pink or BuzzFlash. The book contains contributions from a number of women this community has noted and highlighted. Among the contributors: Medea Benjamin, Amy Goodman, Barbara Lee, Naomi Klein, Eve Ensler, Janeane Garofalo and Arianna Huffington.

Dallas ordered the book via BuzzFlash and he e-mailed this afternoon to pass on the list of contributors thinking it might raise interest in the book. I agree this is an important book. I hadn't thought of purchasing it online from Code Pink or BuzzFlash when I saw it in my local independent bookstore -- I don't think BuzzFlash had offered it yet as a premium because the first I knew of the book was when the cover caught my eye. Whether you purchase the book from an independent bookstore, Code Pink, BuzzFlash, or wherever you usually purchase your books, I'd urge you to consider purchasing it. And for those on limited funds, check your local libraries and utilize their inter or intra library loan programs.

There are responses other than drop bombs and starve off a population (of food or medical supplies). Our current administration knows only war. Which is why so many of us flinch when someone starts saying "We have to do something about ___" -- fill in the blank. In five years our world view has been dangerously warped and our options reduced to one: war.

Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism is an attempt to raise our understanding and provide us with other tools. If it's not your "bag," that's fine. But, like Dallas, I feel strongly about the issue. As does Rebecca and The Third Estate Sunday Review which is why, with Dallas' permission, this entry will be posted at both of their sites as well.

To that, we'd add that if you go to your local library and they don't have a copy, besides requesting that they use the loan programs to obtain it from another library, they also purchase a copy. And if you have the money to spare, you might consider purchasing a copy for your local library.

We'll also add that Betty says she will work into her next entry at Thomas Friedman is a Great Man.
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