Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sense of Purpose

What is opinion and what is fact? There seems to a great deal of confusion.

Eric Alterman shares his inability to reason and his "charm" with Elaine ("From the Mixed-up Mind of Eric Alterman ") because he's upset that she wouldn't read him or respect him. He tells her that he "defended Susan [Sontag] up and down" but forgets he dubbed her essay that resulted in the lynch mobs "objectionable." That's a strange sort of defense but then he's a strange sort. What a friend we have in Alterman. In fact, we tossed around the idea of posting a photo of Alterman this edition but Dona reminded us that there was already an uproar over photos of boobs. Instead, we just decided to use his surname as a joke and that's been quite amusing -- not as amusing as Alterman himself, but what is?

Alterman's not the only boob making an ass out himself. We're pretty tired of the idiots in all their blended forms.

When Jess and Ava started working the public e-mail account at The Common Ills to help C.I. out, one of the first things they dispensed with was playing spoonfeeder. No more replies to visitors who were late to the game and, instead of doing their own work, wanted a synopsis of something that had been addressed weeks, months or, in one case, a year prior. And no more replies to visitors who wanted to know how they could purchase a tape of 20/20? Yes, you read that last sentence right.

Somehow the idiots managed to locate The Common Ills but they lacked the know-how to type "ABC" or "20/20" into their search engines.

We're sick of the idiots in all their blended forms.

For this site's account, the burden usually falls on Ty to answer the e-mails. Early on Jim, enjoyed a good back-and-forth with right wing readers. That doesn't happen anymore because the burden falls on Ty.

It's been noted here repeatedly that Ava and C.I. do not read the e-mails. (They read some during Ty's two weeks off.) That's because of the Nick Lacey-Matt LeBlanc-John Stamos lovers who grew violent in thought ("If not deed, they're too lazy to actually do anything") at the opinion that their heart throbs couldn't act. Or, as Ava and C.I. pointed out in a commentary where they just replied to the e-mails:

A very concerned Abe e-mails attempting to do an intervention, "What's your problem with Everybody Loves Raymond? You're always slamming it. Don't you get that EVERYBODY LOVES Everybody Loves Raymond! It really pains me to read your little jabs and quips at that most excellent show's expense. That show has brought a wounded nation together!"
Abe, if "EVERYBODY LOVES" the show, we're not sure why our two voices bother you so.
As for the state of the nation, we're more than happy to join you in blaming it on the show Everybody Loves Raymond. Good point, Abe! As Patricia Heaton's hair color more and more resembles a Tom Ridge color-code alert, we're sure it provides not only easy laughs for many adults but also frightens small children. "Mommy, are we in the red?"

You got an opinion? We believe in DIY and stay with Blogger for that reason. You can create your own site using Blogger in less than ten minutes. Ty regularly encourages some e-mailers (with strong thinking abilities and/or writing abilities) to start their own sites and notes, that if they do, to e-mail and we'll give them a shout out link. We've said it before: more voices, not less; voices speaking in their own voice.

Like something here and find it inspiring? Run with that and start your own site. Hate something here and find it inspiring? Ditto.

We're not interested in fan mail anymore than we are in hate mail. There was the story C.I. and Ava shared about how (in the online age) a network was hyped onto an actor and hired him. Backstory for those late to the party, though talented ("very talented" according to Ava and C.I.) and attractive, his career imploded. He couldn't get a break. What if, it was thought, a network received multiple comments online about the actor? He was "colder than cold" career wise. He'd had the "breaks" and the breaks had busted. He was written off. All it took was an organized, supposed "spontaneous" activity at one network's online forms and suddenly he was being called to read for various of their existing programs and cast in one midseason. A number of us bumped into him at an oh-so-trendy spot last week when he came over to say hello to Ava and C.I. Shortly after he'd joined the table, Dona raised the issue. He jokes that he'll tell-all from the cover of Vanity Fair one day. (C.I. and Ava doubt it and said so when he made that joke.) Were fans clamoring for him prior to the online campaign? No. He admits that himself.

He asked if C.I. had told us another story of fan mail? We hadn't heard this one prior. There was a strong character actress on a daytime soap. A nice woman. Did fine work. One day, C.I. went to visit her and she was excited. She'd gotten a fan letter. It was from a young teenage male who wanted to start a fan club for her! She showed C.I. the letter.

The letter was from someone who'd confused her with a flavor of the month (of "three month") who'd been added to the cast. It turned out a soap opera publication (this was in the 80s and soapy fans it wasn't Soap Opera Digest) had, in noting the show, misidentified the two woman in a cast listing. The young teenager was talking about the character of X (flavor of the three month) because he though he'd written that actress. The character actress had already written back to say she thought X was an interesting character too (she was being kind, the actress was hyped but made no impression and was gone quickly -- she'd later appear in a semi-hit movie as "the girl" and that's about it for her career). C.I. asked if she wanted the bad news delivered or if she wanted to find it out on her own?

Now in that instance, no one was scamming. But then we heard non-stop tales of fan mail. Such as the fact that when P&G soaps were all the rage ("back in the day") a number of actors wrote themselves under phoney names. Why? Before the performers saw the mail, P&G did and compiled a weekly list of who was hot and who was not based on the fan mail each performer received.

The actor at the table told us of how he tried to read his own mail (even though C.I. had told him to get a service) after the online campaign led to his actual break. But he quickly grasped that a lot of people were confusing the character with the man and suspected that many were just wanting an autograph for their collection. Nothing wrong with either, but no real reason to spend hours wading through mail.

As other stories were shared, it became obvious how useless fan mail (in flattery form and hate mail form -- C.I. says it's all fan mail) is. If only the conversation had happened for two of us (Dona & Jim) the week prior.

C.I.'s attitude has always been it's the work that matters. It's not the hype or the flattery. That's why C.I. and Ava (and C.I. solo) turn down requests for interviews over and over. Well, have others turn them down for them. Ty tries to be nice about it and, if the person is persistant (as was the case two weeks ago), Jim and Dona explain that they've been given their answer and need to stop wasting their own time and everyone else's.

We've noted the above in various forms before. But we apparently need to do so again.

During last week's edition, Ty mentioned an e-mail that had come in and two of us (Jim and Dona) just had to read it. They felt we should reply. The rest of us didn't but said if it was along the lines of "Thanks for writing, no time for a full reply" they'd go along with it.

We then ended up in Mexico (Rebecca's wedding). Jim and Dona decided to do a joint reply where they attempted to note common interests with the e-mailer. (Jess points out that C.I. says the guy was "didactic and the minute he gets a reply, he'll become nasty" which was what happened.) Now he wrote because we noted an argument he made that the answer was here -- to the disconnect he felt had resulted from countless entertainment channels -- a program that could get us back to the commons. The reality was that the supposed cure appeared on one of countless channels and most people don't have access to it.

Dona and Jim didn't bring that up. He appeared to conceed our point that we had posted here awhile back (which is a valid point -- his "logic" imploded). He seemed nice enough and he shared a passion for a mutual interest even if we did have different personal favorites so Dona and Jim thought they'd write him. They wrote him an e-mail noting their favorites and why and the response to that was the must hateful thing in the world.

Because of his "tone"? No, because he basically ignored the entire e-mail and began lashing out about our research methods (which he knew nothing of). He began lecturing us (as though he was a journalist which he is not). Insulting us and quoting friends (or invented ones) who weren't very bright. One "friend" dismissed everything we'd ever written because we didn't like Wilco.

In the response to his hateful e-mail, C.I., Ava, Jess and Ty noted that his entertainment value had faded, we'd noted here that we liked Wilco before so maybe he should examine his or his friends' research methods, his own logic had imploded (though he avoided noting that) and he could go away now.

(Later on in the week, a father of one of us would point that on our profile, Wilco is listed third under favorite music. He noticed that because a Wilco concert had been a parent-child outing.)

Try to do somebody a goddman favor. Dona and Jim didn't even bring up the logic implosion in their e-mail because he appeared to be admitting that the point was correct and the only issue was now was personal tastes. But that wasn't the case. He didn't want a debate or discussion about music.

That's his business. His logic imploded. We noted it. He had his say (confirming it had) and that should have been the end of it. It's still not. Despite being told, in White Stripes' terms, "There's no room for you here, Go away, girl" he continues to write. We continue not to read. There are three e-mails in the inbox from him right now. One is 82K.


Does he really think we have time to read 82K let alone 82K from someone who trashed our tastes (which weren't White enough and male enough for him apparently)?

This was exactly the point C.I. had made from the beginning. The beginning of TCI where Jim and Dona were two of the first members and C.I. wrote Jim back and said, "I don't have time to read large e-mails. If you've got something to share that's great. But I don't need to hear compliments." Some of us write that off due to the fact that C.I. doesn't care for compliments in the first place. But the reality is that you're either in the e-mails or you're posting.

Ty writes a line or two of thanks when he replies to an e-mail. (Unless they're racists, in which case, Ty gets very vocal. This hint has been up here before but we'll note it again. If you're White and you think we'll be sympathetic to your feelings that there are "enough" people of color on TV and that affirmative action really had no use, you're wrong. If you're thinking that Ty, an African-American, is going to slap his forehead and say, "By golly, White boy/girl is right! Things are fine and dandy for us African-Americans!" you're an idiot.)

Now we can get lost in the e-mails or we can do a weekly edition. Moronic Mars fans may think that the glorified extras played by African-Americans do "more than enough" on that show (as Melissa P. wrote) but we really don't care.

We have our regular readers and we do listen to them. They request something and we try to follow through. A visitor makes a good request (or just an impassioned one) we try to cover it.

But week after week, we get the whiners who want to argue that opinion (not facts) are wrong. We're not interested.

It's not as bad as at The Common Ills where, for instance, one person wrote to complain that C.I. distorted his comments on that week's NPR. C.I. wasn't covering NPR, Ruth wasn't covering NPR. There was nothing (not even from an excerpt) on NPR. No comment on that appearance, no distortion. That happens a lot. Once, we spent about six hours looking for something with C.I. due to a newspaper journalist insisting that C.I. had done something wrong (mispelled his name -- surely the biggest tragedy in the world). The journalist's name was mispelled -- a letter was left out. It was mispelled in an excerpt that was noted as an excerpt with a link provided. C.I. contacted the other site to see if the journalist had a fit with him as well? Nope. Never even contacted him about the missing letter in his name. That guy never corrected the name at his website.

But the thing that always ticks off C.I. off is when someone says something was written that wasn't written. "Don't put words into my mouth, it's not nice or sanitary." For this site, we're usually ticked off by music requests to be honest. If we're mentioning an obscure track, that's fine. If it's never appeared on a CD, that's fine. If you're writing us about where to find a song that was a number one hit and on a best of, a greatest, as well as the original album, we think you need to learn how to work a search engine. C.I.'s nicer about that than we are and will reply to musical questions like that. But we really think people need to stop screaming, "Spoonfeed me!" If we're talking about a song that you can find in any music store (and any Wal-Mart, though we don't shop there), you need to learn to type the artist's name or the song title (or both, it will narrow down your search) into a search engine.

If you see something that's factually wrong, by all means, let us know. Not a typo or a missing word (except in a direct quote). You don't like the opinion, well you don't like the opinion. There's an op-ed that was passed on that will be commented on here today. You can do that too. You can create your own site and register your opinions. We encourage that, right, left, whatever. We don't make "tone" arguments, we say the more voices the better. And if something's pissing you off, if you're Abe from above and think Raymond didn't get all the love he deserved, start your own site and make your point. The net won't be like it is, currently, forever. (That's one of the reasons, the current state, for the push to destroy it. Too many voices make some people scared.)

Here's what we don't have time for, Mr. 82K and all his bretheren. While slamming our opinion as uninformed on his "god" (whom C.I. and Kat own every CD by and Jess and Jim grew up hearing the music of constantly) he wants to lecture the 'six' of us since, he argues, we want a career in journalism and that requires research. Lectures require research as well, Dumb Ass.

C.I.'s not a student. C.I.'s not trying to become a journalist. That knocks your six down to five. It's been noted here twice in the last few months that Ava's made the decision that she's not interested in becoming a journalist. She'll go the executive route as her father has urged her to. She's heard too many horror stories from reporters and thinks she can make more difference as a friendly face then fighting from down below. That leaves you with four. As has been noted, Ty's enjoying his internship in the entertainment field this summer so much, he's got no interest in journalism. He's learning, he's having fun, he's having the time of his life. He'll stick with the program for the degree but he's not using it. And then there were three. Jess' parents don't want him to go into journalism -- that's been noted at length and repeatedly here (try some research before you lecture). So who knows what he'll do? (His mother points out repeatedly that law school is a wonderful choice. She's an attorney.) Now of the three of us, one of us has a father who is a reporter. An honest to God, get the facts, report them, reporter. So we asked him what he thought of our opinions in the story that has 82K so enraged?

(We'd already spoken to friends of Ava and C.I.'s who were journalists and after the thirty-third call made no difference, they all said there was no problem with the article, C.I. said, "___, you need to call your father. That's the only opinion that's going to sway you.")

His advice to 82K? Since 82K knows nothing about journalism, didn't study it, doesn't practice it, probably he's not qualified to lecture on it. He needs to stick to teaching his pop-culture crap studies and quit trying to act like the "Last goddamn voice of reason and sanity, priss ass."

(Thank you, Dad.)

We're sick of it. We're sick of the pompous assholes who want to lecture us about journalism. We're not your style, we're not your taste, go away. It's really that simple. If you don't like Rolling Stone, you don't have to read it. If you read it and don't like it, write about it, talk about it, but we doubt Rolling Stone is going to read your crank letters or take them seriously.

Let's leave the six, 82K's upset by an article written by more than the six of us. We've got a variety, a cross section in these editions. It's often what we can all agree to live with more than anything else (what goes up). You have people of color, you have people of wealth, you have people of working class, you have people who are students . . .

This should look familiar to anyone who reads regularly or just visits this site:

New content? We got it and the following worked on it:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me, Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

Wally and Mike? Don't want to be journalists. Never claimed they did. Elaine? That's Dr. Elaine, to you, 82K. She only started her own site because she was begged to after substituting for Rebecca last summer. Rebecca? Rebecca "made my money and got out of the rat race." She's not hoping to be a journalist. Betty? Full time mother, full time worker (all time friend) and, no, she doesn't want to be a journalist either. Cedric? Not a journalist. White collar worker.
Kat? Artist. Except for dabbling with some music press "back in the day" for "free concert tickets," she's never presented herself as a journalist. If there's a lack of balance in any way it's that we've all had some college (some have degrees: Elaine, Rebecca, C.I., Cedric and Kat) (C.I. adds Betty has a degree but Betty says "An associates doesn't count." We disagree but we'll include both points of view to move this along.) Some have multiple degrees. Some have to work for a living and some don't (don't, C.I., Rebecca, Ava and Elaine). (We also have input from Dallas regularly as well as friends and family.)

We're a cross section and that's the best thing about this site. If things get too canon-istic, one of us will call that out. So if you and your "boys" have sat around all your life shouting down anyone who suggested that everything by a Bob Dylan or a Paul McCartney wasn't "excellent" then you're not going to like our voices. We don't accept your base line. If our thoughts and opinions were just reflecting the standard canon of any genre (in the West, all created by White males and reflective of that in who gets included), we'd have no point in writing. What would really be the point of writing a word if Dylan's upcoming release necessitated that we prepare the review: "The master still has it! And he's with it now! He name checks Alicia Keys!"

We're sure some will do that. We're sure the hype wagon will roll on.

But our opinions and our voices are our own and you can't shout us down (even at 82K which we will not read now or ever).

You can write elsewhere (not to us) whatever you want. C.I. got trashed on the radio (for offline life) recently and we all saw that play out. How did it play out? C.I. didn't give a damn. Didn't listen to it, even when people were dropping by and calling insisting, "You have to listen to it. I'm so pissed and they're off my list now." (Rebecca noted that it was curious that the only thing the idiot didn't reveal was that he once attempted a drunken, crude pass and C.I. shot him down. "Bang, Bang" as Cher would say. Might that be why he's so bitter now?) There's a lesson there.

Here's another. We worked, the six of us, on a feature not that long ago. One of us (Jim) was under the impression that it went wonderful. It wasn't until Mike read it and called to say, "Man, C.I. sounded pissed in that" that Jim thought there might be a problem. Jim asked about it and C.I. was upset about doing the piece. It hadn't been brought up, it hadn't been a source of conversations in the days between and there was no cold shoulder or wounded feelings. Why wasn't it brought up? As Mike guessed, because what would be the point? C.I. didn't want to write to the piece, didn't want it up. Jim did. Those were two conflicting opinions and they were never going to come together. That's life sometimes.

If you want to express your opinions, you should do so. If we want to express our opinions, we should do so. If you disagree us, don't read us. It's really that simple. You got some thoughts, write 'em down in your journal, online or whatever, just don't think we really give a damn.

What really gets on our nerves (and most sites have received this e-mail type before and four of us did last week) are the threats: "No one will ever link to you again!" Who are you? Julia f**king Phillips' ghost writer?

For the record, this site? We can't lose what we don't have. The support for this site has come from the community. Early on we tried reporting here. We did a story on rehab, we did a story on abortion (one that still matters after the nonsense the Senate passed) and other features like that. We spent a lot of time on those. We were really proud of them. The silence was deafening from outside the community.

Blog support? We've got more support from the mainstream than we do from blogs so these threats are empty and don't scare us.

The thing about being able to build up with the community and people who discovered us, it gave us an audience. It's a strong one and it doesn't depend on some angry, in a snit, opinion writer wanting to dicker over our interpretation of his opinion. (All the angry e-mails from so-called professional writers have thus far been men.)

When Alterman offered his "charming" e-mail to Elaine, he wanted to argue her interpretation of his activites. We think he's a backstabber. The fact that he thinks he was Susan Sontag's friend makes us embarrassed for him. It doesn't demonstrate that Elaine was wrong. Rebecca was on her honeymoon, C.I. was busy, but when they found out, they said "Joint entry, nip it in the bud." What's really funny about the whole thing is that a professional writer, right-winger, was e-mailing Elaine at the same time as Alterman and he ended up apologizing. So the right-wing outclassed the faux-left on that.

Is it some sort of desire for a last word thing? If it is, for future reference, we're not reading any of the three e-mails from 82K. We'll trash them (unread shortly). Did Alterman need to have the last word? He's got how many outlets and he wants to complain in his "charming" e-mail?

Elaine wasn't wrong. She felt Sontag was lynched and felt some on the left helped with the lynching and justified it. We all agree with her on that. Alterman feels he was Sontag's friend (no comment) and argues that he defended her up and down, up and down! He can feel whatever he wants. That won't change the fact that in a book bearing his name is a statement he apparently penned calling the essay that prompted the lynching "objectionable."

We don't think it was objectionable. We think it was objectionable that people didn't say, "Just a minute now, let's not all be stupid together is a valid point." We think it was objectionable that Alterman, friend or foe -- but faux left -- weighed in that it was "objectionable."

We actually think that was backstabbing and cowardly regardless of what his relationship with Sontag was. We think that's just one fine example of the many cowardly things he does. He won't challenge the myth, he won't challenge the popular opinion in certain instances (especially when it has to do with women -- read that 2003 book). He'll take the lie that Naomi Wolf was Al Gore's fashion consultant and run with it. He'll apparently back up the smear that she was "slutty" by calling her "high-priced."

That's our brave voice of the left?

He's a coward and time and again he embarrasses himself. Our opinon. When he thought being irritaing and obnoxious with Janeane Garofalo was charming, we found it disgusting. We can go down the list, it's not one thing. We find him repulsive. That's not a new decision. We've always found him repulsive. Short of him growing a spine (though we think he's actually going to be the first of his pundit class to pull a Norman and turn on the left), we always will.

He accepts the terms set and argues from there. He toes the line. (Don't bother us with an e-mail. We won't read it. We've read your 2003 book, it was disgusting. Your notions of being a brave critic of the Times fly out the window with that laughable "We Are the Times!" piece.)

As Rebecca points out, the only one who's ever had to fear from a delinking was C.I. and time and again when it was shut up or lose a link, C.I.'s refused to buckle. Links have been lost. Oh well, as Cedric says.

Hasn't prevented the community from growing. Hasn't prevented that site or any of the community sites from being read. Elaine was discovered somehow by Eric Alterman. (Does he google his own name? If so, C.I. says that may be the tackiest thing about Eric Alterman -- that he reads his own press.)

We'll go into this further next week because we're in disagreement over what to note and what not to. But the point is, threats don't work with us. We've never seen any support for this community (though many have wanted to use it for their own means).

In spite of that, we've found an audience. We don't play nice. The stakes are too high and, though some forget, the US did declare war on Iraq and the war drags on. We're not interested in air kisses and glad hands. We're not interested in someone's bruised ego.

We don't care, we don't have to. Nobody made us, nobody helped us. (Outside of this community.) So take your threats and whiney e-mails somewhere else. We won't be intimidated and we won't be slienced. We won't jump on the bandwagon to sell out reproductive rights because the issue makes the DNC uncomfortable. We won't silence our objection to the war because the DNC doesn't want to address it. We'll speak our mind and if you don't like our opinions and it stresses you out to the point that you want a confrontational exchange, you need to let go of those control issues.
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