Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
This is going up Monday evening but we're putting it with Sunday.

What did this edition offer? Highlight:

Ruth's Report -- incredibly strong commentary by Ruth. We loved it.

Mike and C.I. each pick a highlight -- short on time (we'll get to that shortly) we got Mike and C.I. to pick a highlight for each other.

Blog Spotlight: Wally, Cedric, Betty, Mike, Ty & Dona pick Idiot of the Week -- joint post by Wally, Cedric, Betty Mike, Ty and Dona.

What's going on at Kat's Korner -- we do not have time to put up three entries from a site. Ruth and Betty are doing a wonderful job filling in (five us say C.I. is as well -- the holdout? C.I.) so we've just been noting that there are new posts going up. Kat is in Ireland. She has a very ill family member who's not expected to make it. She'll be in Ireland through the funeral.

Humor Spotlight: Wally & Cedric say "There's a felon in the Congress" -- you'd think the fact that a felon is serving in Congress would get at least as much attention and hand wringing as Mark Foley but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Humor Spotlight: Cedric & Wally on Bully Boy's "achievement" -- have you studied the debt?

Humor Spotlight: Betinna weighs in on Gail Collins -- Gail Collins is on her way out. She's been a regular in the story of Betinna. Betty gives her something of a send off in this comically delicious chapter.

Elaine on music -- we all miss Kat and Elaine's picked up the music end by noting it at least once a week. This was a requested highlight from a reader.

Blog Spotlight: Rebecca on the Streisand concert -- we were going to go with this before anyone suggested it (but Ty says four e-mails came in suggesting it). Rebecca was as Streisand's 2nd NYC concert. Don't believe the attempts of that "neutral" media to paint the tour as disappointing.

Kitchen Spotlight: Halloween in the Kitchen -- Trina's focusing on Halloween for the rest of the month.

New content? Yes, we had it. Some.

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;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

We thank everyone for their help and we thank Dallas for sound boarding, for links and general support. And more.

This edition a number of people above had things to do and we had also pledged our time Saturday night for an important issue. We ended up starting late. Way late.

Editorial: What does it say? -- as C.I. has noted, we're tired of writing this editorial. Luckily readers aren't complaining about it (they feel it needs to be said). (We agree with that.) The illustration was done by Jess, Ty, Dona and me, Jim. We don't usually note credit on that but C.I. had complimented it at The Common Ills and, so no one would think it was self-praise, noted who worked on it.

TV Review: Try to ignore the Shark in the room -- Ava and C.I. take on Shark Puff (mine term for the show). This actually had two other paragraphs to it but I (Jim) asked them to pull those two paragraphs and expand on it. We were short on time, we needed another feature and the e-mails to Ava and C.I. come in all the time. (Ty notes for regular readers he enjoys discussing the reviews with them. The expansion was due to interview requests and drive bys.)

War Hawks Anonymous (Parody) -- Elaine saved us. Early last week, C.I. made a joke about a group for War Hawks and Elaine said, "Write it!" C.I. didn't. Didn't have the time, wasn't funny, blah blah blah. Elaine called me and was ready to sell me on it but I saw the same value in it she did. She suggested pulling Ava and C.I. off to the side and letting them riff on the topic for 10 to 15 minutes while I took notes. That's what happened. From that framework, we built this parody. We were all tired and it wouldn't have been written if Elaine hadn't suggested it ahead of time. So thank you to Elaine for realizing it was a feature and for calling.

Target: 14-year-old Julia Wilson -- We're offended. You should be as well. Since she's spoken to AP and her parents have, we're kind of surprised she didn't turn up on indymedia today. Then again, we're running out of surprises with indymedia.

The Brazen Cindra -- C.I. suggested this and Marcia had passed on to C.I. We all searched right wing sites for quotes on this. We noted the comments we thought stood out most.

Felon in the Congress -- Ava's just reminded that on the parody, "I saw a woman and she looked like your mother but she was your daddy's bitch" came up because Jess was thumping on the door while they were riffing (C.I. and Ava). Ava and Jess had evening plans and Jess was indicating it was time to go. The rhythm Jess was tapping was bluesy and led to that. This came up with a melody that Jess and C.I. were doing off and on throughout the edition. They usually do that -- La-la-la through the editions. (When Kat's around, she joins in.) Dona ended up humming it and cursing them for "seeping into my brain." She said we should do a short piece. That's what this was.

About the TV reviews -- this is the expansion by Ava and C.I. While they did there two pieces, Jess, Ty, Dona and I were painting illustrations. Rebecca photo shops them as needed and we thank her for that.

We almost tossed out illustrations. They're a thrill to paint and play, but they're a pain in the ass after. Some dry quick enough, some don't. Some have posting problems. We had that the edition prior, we had that this edition. It slows us down.

Probably an hour of time was consumed with this.

There was talk of ditching of them but Ty and I felt they needed to go in. I think they round out an edition, Ty noted that readers really enjoy them.

This is a good point to talk about the illustration with Ava and C.I.'s stuff. People want to know what it is? Jess painted it. It was supposed to have another part to it. He was waiting for it to dry and then forgot. Readers have been saying that there should be something for Ava and C.I.'s reviews (the only thing that didn't have an illustration) and Jess agreed. He was trying to create something that could run each time. When it was time to e-mail the scans to Rebecca, it was too late for Jess to add to it. He told Rebecca what he was going for and she responded, "Let me play with it and see what I can do." (He was going for something that you might see in the opening of That Girl. That kind of look.) People like it and Jess credits Rebecca with it. But they're asking what it is? If someone guesses correctly, we'll note it next edition. Otherwise, we'll leave it a mystery. But, time permitting, Jess wants to take another stab at an illustration just for Ava and C.I.'s pieces. So it may change next week. It may not. Time's something we're always short on.

Time? When we were in New York, we were happy to go on and on and on with an edition. People would sometimes leave that were helping out. C.I. never did. Now that the six of us are together, Dona says: "Huge apology to C.I." This edition, we started around midnight. Probably a bit later. We'd all agreed to help out on an issue and spent all Saturday night on that (the six of us did). At one point, Jess thinks it was three a.m., we were all so exhausted we were just staring into space. Dona asked C.I., "How would you get that jolt of energy if we were in NY?" How? Candy run. We did that. We got chips (Funions ended up being extremely popular), candy, V8, and who knows what else? That fueled us through the edition.

Normally, we won't be using Saturday time to volunteer. But it did make us wonder. Around four, Dona said we should have all taken an hour nap. (That would be seven if we were still in NY.) And we agreed that would have been great. So what we're thinking for next Sunday is going by the time zone we're in. We may try that this Sunday and see how that goes. Had we taken a break, we would have been rested.

We have a music piece for next week. We also hope to get a piece on the incredible student activism that's been going on. But we were wiped out. That's why we leaned on Ava and C.I. to do two pieces. If we recommended highlights with links as opposed to reposts (something readers don't want), we could free up an hour.

We're not trying to get out of doing the edition. We are aware that it was one thing to block out the weekend for it in NY. Ava's been very public about the fact that she's wanted sleep since October of 2005. The note didn't go up with the other things because we were too tired to write it. The plan was for Sunday night. But Ty went to check with C.I. about meal choices (we were trying to figure out what to eat) and came back and told us there's nothing left there. C.I. was that tired. So we all agreed to wait until Monday. (What did we eat? We went out. We were too tired to cook, to tired for sandwiches, you name it.) (Dona says again, "Huge apologies." She notes this was probably true on many weekends but we weren't aware of it -- how drained C.I. was. C.I.'s doing The Common Ills and this site on the weekend. We just do this site on the weekends. People helping out don't usually post on Saturdays or Sundays. Due to the size of The Common Ills -- number of entries -- C.I. can wait for 20 minutes sometimes just for a post to index and publish.)

So we're trying to figure out how to simplify the process without cutting the content.

If you're wondering about CounterSpin, we will pick that up next week. C.I. noticed something and was wondering if we had as well. That was brought up on Friday. We were too tired for it this week. We're amazed by the e-mails coming in asking how they can test our results, by the way. It's rather obvious but we'll go into that next week.

Ty just mentioned something. We're adding a PSA. "Cindy Sheehan supports Malachy McCourt for NY governor" is now up. Jess is a Green. The rest of us are Democrats. That doesn't mean the Democratic Party has a lock on our vote. Whomever earns our vote gets our vote. We announced that we were all now in California awhile back. Before we did, we were receiving these press releases. We still have a print edition on our old campus and we'll note that PSA in the print issue next week. Were there time, we'd have written more than the quick intro. But you need to know the candidates in your races and politicians need to stop believing they own your vote. Especially Democrats who think they can stay silent on the war. Or bend to the right because there's no chance that anyone would abandon them. If there are Greens in your races, we encourage to find out about those candidates and see if they speak to you.

That's it for this edition. See you next week.


--Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: What does it say?




What does it say? When someone takes a brave stand, one that the left is supposed to support, and they're greeted with nothing?

It's a coming home with no turnout. And it keeps happening over and over.

In last week's editorial, we noted that a decision had been reached, by the military, on war resister Darrell Anderson. We noted how the independent/alternative press seemed to be everywhere but on this story. Thursday of last week, another decision came down.

Not just a decision, mind you. On Thursday of last week, Ricky Clousing faced a court-martial. He wasn't shy. Before the court-martial, he held a press conference at the Quaker House in Fayettville. After the conference, there plan was a rally in downtown Fayettville. That information was available at the start of last week. Thursday, Courage to Resist sent out an e-mail at six in the morning EST reminding people what was going on today. But there was nothing. No one gave a heads up to the conference or the rally.

And, in the end, no one but the mainstream press covered the *court-martial and sentencing.*

Now we're fully aware there was a big pat-ourselves-on-the-back Thursday night gala. Galas in a time of war? We're skeptical. It's the sort of thing that led five of us to leave to NY -- lotta' galas, lotta' gab, not a lot of work. But we were willing to assume we might be wrong. Maybe after the back patting and burping, possibly after changing one another's nappies, the gala goers might come into work on Friday ready to roll up their sleeves and do some work?

Well, one outlet rolled up their sleeves and showed up Friday morning in work mode. Want to guess who?

The New York Times. The paper we will give to credit to when it gets something right but it really pains us to have to credit them with the best story on Ricky Clousing court-martial when the story has "indymedia" all over it. (We'll assume non-gala goers were looking for another slam piece from The Village Voice that they could post at their indymedia site since New Times is the best example of indymedia apparently.) Despite having indymedia written all over it, indymedia coverage was all away from it.

We're not trying to spit on Laurie Goodstein's "A Soldier Hoped to Do Good, but Was Changed by War" that The New York Times published on Friday. It was a nice mainstream article. If it had some competition, it might still have ended up the best coverage, but it didn't have any competition. As Ruth rightly notes in Ruth's Report, on Democracy Now!, an update on a story they'd been "following" translated as four lines, two sentences, read during headlines where Clousing was the sixteenth item of seventeen headlines. Wow. Way to "follow."

You might think that was because the issue was going to be explored. Clousing was sentenced and he would have to serve three months, he would have a demotion in rank and he would be dishonorably discharged when he finished the three months. So maybe a segment in the program was going to explore that? Compare it to the findings for other war resisters? Maybe remind us that war resisters Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada are awaiting findings in their cases? Or maybe they'd interview Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Kyle Snyder and Corey Glass or one of them. They're war resisters who self-checked out of the military and went to Canada. Darrell Anderson did that and then he returned. With all of them awaiting word on their appeals in Canada (Hinzman and Hughey are expected to get word shortly), what do they think of the sentencing? Or maybe we'd hear from war resisters during Vietnam offering their take on today's movement? Possibly a lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the National Lawyers Guild could come on and explain what this meant legally?

We didn't get that. We got about forty minutes of a strong actor discussing his new film (yes, based on a true story -- but was this really news?) and then the last section of the show was used to air a two-year-old interview with Desmond Tutu.

Now maybe galas on Thursday night and promotional touring for the book on Friday doesn't leave a great deal of time for that thing they call the "news"? The program has a co-host: Juan Gonzalez. If he was unable to host the show, find someone who can because a war resister being court-martialed on Thursday and sentenced on Thursday should be big news to a Friday program that bills itself as "the war and peace report." The New York Times just calls itself the paper of record (they hate it when someone says that but their own executives advertised it that way to the press -- as usual, Daniel Okrent got it wrong when he attempted to write about what he wanted to write about).

But if you're the war and peace report, you pretty much have to cover the court-martial of a war resister if you want to live up to that billing. (Maybe they don't? The Times rarely lives up to "the paper of record.")

Sir! No Sir! documents the Vietnam era war resistance and notes how so many aspects of that era, which were covered, are now forgotten. We think it can be argued that Darrell Anderson and Ricky Clousing are being forgotten (or is it ignored?) by the alternative, independent press today. Forget about being forgotten in ten or twenty or thirty years, they're not getting the coverage they need today.

Seems there's time for galas, there's time for book promotions, there's time for interviews (where the first Camp Casey is offered as an example of what independent media can do to raise attention to an issue but the very obvious fact that independent media ignored Camp Casey III is never touched on), there's time for everything but news. We can hear ABC news staff explain how they blew the lid off the Pagegate scandal (when actually that was a blog) and we can get an hour long infomercial for a Bill Moyers' special (because apparently most people have no access to PBS so going to where the silence is includes covering both PBS and ABC), we just can't "follow" what's going on with the peace movement.

Before he left Canada, Darrell Anderson spoke to CBC about his decision to return to the US and noted, "I just broke down one day and couldn't stop crying, and I couldn't go to work and just realized I was done here and I had to go and make a stance in the US because there's way more support and the movement's way bigger down there than it is here." [That quote, it's popularization, will be commented in our note to the readers.] The movement may be bigger, the press interest isn't.

We all enjoy the work Naomi Klein does and we're looking forward to her book. However, if she weren't on sabbatical, due to the book, we think we might read about war resisters due to her own personal history. We're left to wonder if some on the left who have refused to follow Anderson and every other war resister story are suffering from fear or distaste of war resisters?
Maybe they have revisionary Vietnam damage? Or maybe the immediate deification of the Bully Boy on 9-13-01 has them scared that covering war resisters might call their patriotism into question?

We'd hate to think that was the reason. Just like we'd hate to think that the lack of coverage stems from the fact that Rahm Emanuel and Evan Blah don't want a withdrawal. If that was impacting the decision, that might mean they were house organs for the Democratic Party and not the independent press they bill themselves as.

We don't know what's going on. But we know some on the left can 'cover' Iraq by hiding behind generals. They can't present a peace activist's argument, they can't present a war resister's argument but let some generals speak and suddenly they rediscover a war is waging in Iraq. (On that, we'll state clearly that Amy Goodman's never hid behind generals. No matter how disappointed we are with her currently, she has never hid behind generals or the flag.)

Ricky Clousing, Darrell Anderson, Mark Wilkerson Agustin Aguayo, Ehren Watada . . . If you want news on them be thankful for the website Courage to Resist but we're not talking about websites or blogs here, we're talking about our paid independent media.

Where's the coverage? Where's the exploration? Where's the discussion?

September 29th, Andrea Lewis spoke with Medea Benjamin about that today on KPFA's The Morning Show. They discussed CODEPINK's fourth anniversary (congratulations to them and may they continue for many years to come, they have made a difference) and the Give Peace a Vote! action. Lewis, near the end of the interview, asked Benjamin what she thought was going on with the peace movement. We respect Benjamin but we think she saw only one part of the issue. She noted, rightly, that with the huge demonstrations against the war before it started and with activism after, the fact that the Bully Boy doesn't listen to the people dampens the spirits of some people. We agree with that. We also argue that the spirits remained dampened when there's no coverage of the movement. If the media's not talking about it, many don't know it's happening. The word still gets out, peer-to-peer, and that's how the movement continues to grow. But if you want excitement, you need coverage.

CODEPINK went to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians and others interested in peace. Where was the coverage? (Lewis actually did speak to Benjamin, on an earlier broadcast, about that. She was one of the few. Tom Hayden and others also took part in the Jordan meeting.) CODEPINK staged a troops home fast that began in July and ended in September, from all around the world people participated. You could learn about that from local papers and the AP, but no point in waiting for indymedia to grab it. Time and again, the question was where is the coverage?

Is everyone trying to work that original Air America Radio model (as an exec bragged to The New York Times Sunday Magazine right before the programming began airing) where you advertise yourself as liberal but you're really not? Your more slightly to the left? Is that what's going on?

Unfiltered ran for one year before being yanked off the schedule and some participating in this editorial remember some high points about the show but we also all remember that when it was time for Iraq, it was time to bring on the troop of vets calling for stay the course, uttering banalities about the Pottery Barn (which, let's repeat, does not have a policy that if you break it you buy it). Once a week, you got "Ask a Vet." There was only one type of vet allowed for that segment, the stay the course crew who have finally changed their name (the ridiculous on air advertising may explain the name change and the fact that they bought so many ad spots may explain why they could get airtime each week while war resisters couldn't).

That was about as helpful as Sam Seder's dopey Vote for a Vet segment more recently. Since we all support (strongly) abortion rights, we're used to the slightly-left sneering "single issue voter" but we can't imagine anything more single issue than "vote for a vet." Is the vet qualified? Supposedly Paul Hackett was but then the same "vote for a vet" types turned on him. We don't worship the military, we don't bow before it, we don't hide behind it and we certainly, as Rebecca notes, don't grab its crotch and sniff.

In a democracy, everyone is equal. We're not seeing how "vote for a vet" addresses that or respects it. We do think it allows squishy Dems to hide behind someone else's service as they hope to butch up. We found it hideous the way a very real candidate, Christine Cegelis, was shoved aside as the Party rushed in to fund Tammy Duckworth, newly moved into the district, because she was a vet. (Credit to Laura Flanders for actually covering Cegelis.) We're not surprised by John Walsh's report (CounterPunch) that Duckworth still not polling well.

We weren't surprised that Mark Warner dropped out of his bid for president. We weren't surprised by the rumors either. We were, however, surprised that a moderate could 'lobby' support from supposed independent voices online. We were surprised that the laughably termed "net-roots" were ready to circle the wagons and push Warner with everything they had.

Score another loss for the "net-roots." They also couldn't turn a radio program into a hit, not even with their squeaky voiced appearences once a week, which is why it got cancelled after the show's only star left. They haven't had much luck turning out bestsellers either -- for their faves or themselves. Possibly the gates aren't crashing, just their little worlds? If so, we'll suggest a title for their next joint opus: Scrubbing the Toilets.

We're always amazed when people kiss their tiny (in terms of influence) asses. We asked one person who name-checked them recently in an interview why he did so? He admitted he didn't go there (if he did, he wouldn't name-check them, net-root guru Simon Rosenberg is a tele-communications lobbyist). It was just the case of someone trying to illustrate a point and grasping onto something heavily covered. Not seriously covered, of course, just heavily covered.

We're getting real bored as 2004 and shapes up to be another 2006 election wise. We don't mean in terms of results, we mean in terms of issues. There are none. It's hide behind the military yet again. And if one vet couldn't win the oval office, maybe many vets can win the Congress! Diebold can't control every race, right?

Despite what Jimmy Crack Corn Carville whispers in Thomas Friedman's ear (what do they together with all the time they save not calling for a withdrawal?), the war did register Americans. Poll after poll has proven that. But the Dems don't want to stand on that with few exceptions (Russ Feingold, John Kerry, John Murtha). So they got real lucky that a sex scandal came along to distract from the fact that (get ready for words we never thought we'd say) Cokie Roberts got one right, there was no vision in the party.

There isn't. Why blaze a trail when you can modify and fine tune as you ape the Republicans?

Democrats may win, we hope they do, but it will be because America got tired of the tyranical rule of the GOP in the last few years. It won't be because the Democrats showed any bravery as a party.

Which brings us back to the topic of the peace movement and war resisters. The Democratic Party isn't interested in withdrawal. So as certain outlets continue to refuse to seriously cover the movement, it's time to start asking if they're truly independent or not? Maybe they're party hacks, maybe they're scared to lead?

Individuals are leading. In Congress, we've cited three. In the media, we can note, in addition to the names above, Aaron Glantz, Dennis Bernstein & Nora Barrows-Friedman, The KPFA Evening News, Free Speech Radio, Philip Maldari who actually interviewed Bob Watada,
and . . .

Well that's really it*. Maybe we're just tired of handing out gold stars or maybe that really is it?
We saw last week that the ACLU unearthing of documents about spying on the peace movement led to someone writing a brief article. It was a rote article. It certainly lacked the scope and wordyness when he was trying to "stir up a hornet's nest" (his words). Peace movement is spied on by the Pentagon and we get a rote article. He wants to go to town on people who aren't in government and are off doing their own thing, then he can't shut up.

That's what we get, easy little pieces, tossed off, that read like they could make it onto The New York Times op-ed pages because the opinions expressed are so mild. If you're auditioning, bad news, Gail Collins is out. You'll have to start all over again with drippy columns about school violence that read like rip-offs from ten to twenty years ago.

Again, we respect Medea Benjamin; however, we think she saw only part of the problem. Independent media has been the biggest wet blanket on the peace movement. They wanted to play Commie-bater in the early days leading up to the war. Oh that Communist menace, ever present apparently. It's obvious some reactionaries not only fail to live in a post-9-11 world, they also don't live in a post-1950s one.

We'll note Amy Goodman's done more than anyone else. We'll also note it hasn't been enough in the last four months. In fact, we'll note the joke Jim's dad had to beg to get C.I. to include awhile back: "At this point, if we were in a department store and saw The Amy Goodman Wok (the 'alternative' to the George Foreman Grill), we honestly wouldn't be surprised." C.I. the biggest defender of Democracy Now! in the community, asked whether we should include it here says, "Eh, go ahead."

There's a lot of talk, rightly, about how the mainstream media won't cover the impeachment option -- despite the Zogby poll demonstrating support for it was widespread. We're wondering if we need to commission Zogby to poll on attitudes about war resisters and the peace movement to get independent media to cover them?

Darrell Anderson matters. Ricky Clousing matters. Ehren Watada matters. Mark Wilkerson, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Carl Webb, Brandon Hughey, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Pablo Parades, Aidan Delgado, Katherine Jashinski, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Ryan Johnson, Robin Long and many others matter. That's not a "few good apples," that's a movement. A movement that continues to grow.

Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Jodi Evans, Diane Wilson, Alice Walker, Fernando Suarez del Solar, Missy Comley Beattie, and many others matter. That's a movement as well.

Imagine if the movement was covered as if it mattered? "Denial is killing us." That's what a mother said last week. Speaking for herself and speaking of what passes for coverage. Her son deploys to Iraq October 22nd and she can't avoid the issue of the war any longer. Is that what it's going to take to wake up indymedia in terms of covering and following?

Something's got to change and it's gotta change soon. The movement can't continue to be ignored by the independent press.


[*People like Bonnie Faulkner who cover other issues demonstrate that they aren't party hacks regularly. If Iraq's not your scope, it's not your scope. But if you have time to talk or write about it every time a think tank puts out a report or a general revolts but you don't have time to write about the peace movement, we think that's rather sad.]

TV Review: Try to ignore the Shark in the room




The sixties were a heady/trippy time and that was reflected in the TV shows: a nun who could fly, a witch married to a mortal, a genie serving a mortal (and later marrying him), a talking car, a Martian passed off as an uncle, a talking horse, the family foibles of monsters . . . If you think nothing was impossible to high-concept then, you're wrong.

For instance, sixties TV never took the center square from Hollywood Squares and attempted to turn him into a prosecutor. Watching CBS' final primetime entry on Thursday nights, you grasp that the creators of Shark tripped out far more than anyone ever did in the sixties.

James Woods is the actor today who owes the biggest debt to Paul Lynde and who would have thunk it? But over-the-top performances in drek like The Specialist demonstrated that his performance has no volume button, no shading and that the three words "over the top" are seen as a challenge to Woods.

"Why just do when you can overdo?" seems to be his acting motto.

Shark is a show that doesn't know what it is. Is it a family drama with a legal backdrop? No. It strives towards moments of Judging Amy but Woods, supposedly playing Sebastian Stark, tanks every one. Is it a crime drama? No. For that to be the case, the writers would have to actually be interested in the crime. They're more interested in driving down back alleys than charging down the main street.

Besides not knowing what it is, the show suffers from the fact that it, to use the jargon, "jumps the shark" everytime Woods is before a camera. He doesn't even have to speak, his bouncy locks can overact just as strongly without words. Every gesture, every look is so magnifed that if Ron Trott showed up as Sebastian's platonic friend or lifetime partner, no one would bat an eye. In fact, Victor Garber's Trott would be seen as the strong & silent one of the pairing. Woods is just that bad.

At one point, a private detective sums up Sebastian intentionally and Woods by proxy when he declares, "You are like something I stepped in."

Summing up the show, Jeri Ryan's Jessica Devlin declares, "If this weren't so tragic, it would be funny." That also sums up Ryan's role in the proceedings.

Devlin's a district attorney who is upfront about having higher political ambitions. We'd love to root for her but wearing what looks like KFC barbeque sauce as makeup won't help those goals. (In fact, the second she raises her eyebrows in any scenes, the heavy, gloss makeup results in forehead crevices for the duration of the scene.) Apparently determined to distinguish herself from another prominent female attorney in the Los Angeles disctrict attorney's office, Jessica Devlin also decides to sport cleavage in all public appearances. Take that, Marcia Clark!

Ryan's acting isn't bad. But every detail from wardrobe to makeup combines to torpedo anything she might achieve in front of the camera. As her character says, "If this weren't so tragic, it would be funny."

Funny is watching Woods attempt to interact with his character's teenage daughter. If the home scenes are supposed to 'round out' the character of Sebastian, they fail. At home, he still comes off like he's performing in a VH1 Divas special. Woods can't modulate his performance. It's full blast from start to finish and aimed at the person in the back row of a crowded theater which, since it's delivered across the airwaves, makes it all the more frightening.

As you watch Woods, you grasp how showy is the only trick he ever learned. Morgan Fairchild's acting circles around Bo Derek in MyTV's Fashion House and that's partly due to the fact that Bo Derek is hideous but it's also true that Fairchild long ago grasped that a character exists in context. Something as simple as grabbing a prop or drumming her fingers on a table, establish that Sofia is part of a world around her. Woods refutes props, refutes the space around him. In fact, his entire performance comes off like a one man show on a stark stage.

We enjoy Elaine Stritch as much as the next person, but we would never have suggested that she bring her cabaret act to a legal drama. But someone tripping out on something much harder than anything available in the sixites has just done that. Watching Woods hug himself repeatedly with his right arm while waving the left non-stop, we're reminded that lonely people have a tendancy to touch themselves often. Looking at the ratings, we grasp why Woods feels so lonely.

If you lamented the cancellation of My Mother The Car, if you're jonesing for a new version of Mister Ed, if camp does it for you, Shark is your show. But catch it quickly and Tivo or tape it. Friends at CBS insist the plug's due to be pulled any day now.

War Hawks Anonymous (Parody)




Who would have thunk it, even two years ago, that the War Hawks would need a support group?

But across the land, where ever Beltway Babies gather, War Hawks Anonymous groups have sprung up -- which basically breaks down as two huge groups in DC and NYC and a smaller, auxillary meet up in LA because Beltway Babies breath a rareified air and spend the bulk of their lives not unlike the caged veal. In fact, one Beltway Baby who identified himself only as "Robert Novak" states he's considering titling an upcoming book I Know Why The Caged Veal Moos.

Occassionaly, in need of local "color" for their books, they venture out to exotic locales like "Red Lobster" or "Home Depot" which they pronounce in stilted syllables like a college freshman taking conversational French.

However, the bulk of the Beltway Babies (no, that wasn't a crack about Tim Russert's weight) lead their lives within the matrix-like sub-strata.

Up Close with a War Hawk Anonymous

This requires an array of excuses for those trying to self-portray as "one of the people." Before a DC meeting on Thursday, "Cokie," who was sampling the Thai see-through noodles and carping that the chopsticks were plastic and the Merlot tasted "watered down domestic," explained that when a natural disaster ravaged her for-publication-only hometown, she covered for her disinterest and lack of compassion by pretending her mother was sick.

Did the public buy that? Did no one question her?

"None that mattered," chortled "Cokie."

The Meeting Begins

As people began leaving the crafts table, the meeting was called to order. A man stood at the front room of the room, cleared his throat and began, "I'm Thomas --"

"Hello, Thomas!" the crowd cried back.

"Let me finish. I'm Thomas Friedman author of The World Is Flat, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Longitudes and Attitudes, From Beruit to Jerusalem, a three-time Pulitzer winner for my high brow columns in The New York Times, and the online author of several erotic stories at Nifty.org in the authoritarian section."

The room was silent except for the noise coming from "Britt" slurping madly on the straw in his frozen margarita.

"Thank you, thank you," "Thomas Friedman" repeated excessively. "Now if you will all rise, I'll lead the infinity prayer."

The crowd rose except for "Cokie" who'd already slipped off her shoes and was busy cracking her toes.

Publisher, Broadcaster, grant me the infity to jaw bone about things I do not know; the courage to bold face lie in all media, and the conventional wisdom to escape any actual thought.
Living one talking point at a time; Contradicting one moment at a time; Accepting accolades I have not earned; Taking, as Joe McCarthy did, a good name and besmirching it; Trusting that I will make all things right if I wallow in the sewer of cable news; That I may be hugely famous and ungodly rich. Forever and ever. A million.

As the infinity prayer came to a close, those present returned to their seats and a man, "Hannity," moved to the front of room carrying a large print version of From This Day Forward or, as he called it, "The Big Book."

"Hannity" admitted that he had been trying too hard on his book and confessed that, as a high school drop-out, he may have been concerned about what others might think of him.

This brought loud boos and hisses and "Cokie" screeched "None that mattered! None that mattered!" over and over like an angry parrot. As the commotion died down, "Hannity" explained that reading "The Big Book" had cleared it up, "I don't need to try for insight or deep thoughts. I just need to jot down me. I am my own best resource and all the world's answers lie within me."

As the applause died down, "Hannity" began explaining that he had "slipped" a bit recently and was now reworking Step-One of the War Hawks Anonymous Program.

Step One: Admit that you are faultess

"Hannity" explained that this was a hard thing for him to do because, at work, he's around a guy named "Alan" and "Alan" is apparently so all powerful that a mere look can send "Hannity" into days of panic and doubt.

"I asked my boss if we could get someone weaker for me to work with," Hannity continued, "but he told me that there wasn't any weaker than 'Alan.' Some nights, I see his face in my dreams, wake up screaming so I turn on all the lights in the house and lock myself in the bathroom until daybreak."

The next to speak to the group, "Michael," admitted he'd never felt at ease ("except on the set of The Birdcage") and that the difficulty he was having with Step One was how so many "commoners" refused to "let go of the past" and hound the "commentariat." As "Michael" became more and more hypnotized by his own voice, the gathered grew restless and a few cat calls of whether he'd supported the war or not led to him finally pouting that "No one ever understands what I'm saying" as he slinked away.

A lackadaisical discussion then ebbed and flowed, over frappuccinos, espressos and Jack Daniels ('Cokie' brought her flask). It was ho-hum agreed upon that you had several avenues to pursue.

1) You maintain now that you always opposed the war and "give a good glaring" to anyone who suggest otherwise.

2) You just ignore the war. If it comes up, change the conversation.

3) You try to switch the talk to strategy and decry the way the war has been waged and not the fact that it was illegally waged.

"Truth" explained she was for option two because she doesn't really like to "write about war. Even when I'm badly cribbing from Ellen Goodman, I always avoid her columns on the war. I like happy thoughts, don't you? Like singing along to 'Mandy' while driving in my mini-van."


I saw a woman and she looked like your mother but she was your daddy's bitch

That's how the Co-Dependent/War Hawk Enablers group started each meeting -- first circling up, holding hands, deep breath, then singing slowly: "I saw a woman and she looked like your mother but she was your daddy's bitch."

After the meeting concluded we asked about the origins of the song and whether some might find it offensive?

"You mean sexist?" asked "Mrs. Friedman". "I don't see how. Children thought it up. Children. And 'the woman' wasn't even a woman. Kids sang it on the playground to taunt the offspring of 'Mary' and 'James'. See, 'bitch' can be a male."

"Mrs. Friedman" then excused herself to rush off in search of her husband who needed both a pep-talk and an enabler.

"It's a busy night for me!" she hollered.

Looking around the room, we saw more women than men. One woman, who refused to offer even an alias, sobbed about how powerful she was in the print industry and how her son was in a band.

"People were interested in him, interested in signing him," she said dabbing her eyes. "Then I found out that a real pain in the ass put a hit out on my son. I was told, over the phone, quote: 'The children of the poor shouldn't be the only ones who suffer in this war. You were in a position to make a difference and you refused to. Some kids are coming home with lost limbs, your little brat just lost the chance to sign with a label. Get over it.' Can you believe that? Can you believe anyone would be so cruel to me or my pampered little child. He's heartbroken and says he's thinking about becoming an accountant."

When asked where her spouse was, she explained, "He's elsewhere but it really doesn't matter. I'm married to my job."

As her body stopped shaking from sobbing, we tried another question, where were all the men we'd heard were in the group?

The woman explained that tonight "Ifell" was giving a talk on Smiling While Pitching Soft Balls and that most of the men, thinking it was a sports lecture, had bailed to check that out.

What we discovered

The War Hawks, male or female, generally had a better self-image of themselves -- some might even feel their attachment to their own egos bordered on molestation. They felt they'd ridden out the initial crisis and were now sure they'd ride out this one as well. They seemed to believe, possibly due to their co-dependent spouses, that the world awaited their every word and jowl thrust.

The co-dependents were a different group. We think they were best exemplified by the lone male we were able to speak with. "Steve" explained that he was married to a borderline sociopath who "accecessorizes well" and that he had long ago learned the trick was never to disagree.

"In my disease, I've switched religions, given her a bikini wax, and offered to step out in the hall whenever I got left out of what was billed as a threesome."

When asked to picture life without his spouse, "Steve" grew strangely quiet.

"it would be like," he said before pausing. "It would be like, you know how some people say the music stoppped? It would be a lot like that. Only more like a high pitched, loud annoying siren. Like an ambulance siren. Leaving her would be like the sound of a siren stopping."

"Steve" then slid down the wall, curled into a fetal position and began sucking his thumb. No one in War Hawks anonymous exhibited such behavior.

They were more likely to joke and speak dreamily about how, "in the next war," they would run their gas baggery differently. "Smarter gas bagging" was a phrase that popped up often. They also tended to end the conversation not due to crying but as a result of needing to log on to Amazon.com and check their latest book's sales ranking. They were more energetic and far less likely to have a flat affect. In fact one, "Alan," was very excited and even dancing until "Juan" pointed out that he wasn't looking at his own book, he was looking at the sales of the Talking Heads' CD Stop Making Sense.

Target: 14-year-old Julia Wilson

Upset by the war in Iraq, Julia Wilson vented her frustrations with President Bush last spring on her Web page on MySpace.com.
She posted a picture of the president, scrawled "Kill Bush" across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense.
It was too late.


The above is from Don Thompson's "Teen Questioned Over Bush Threats on MySpace:
Secret Service Agents Remove 14-Year-Old Girl From Class
" (Associated Press). The Secret Service, who are doing such a bang up job with the Constitution these days, pulled Wilson from her classroom without her parents present or an attorney. They yelled at her, they screamed at her and acted in a manner that should leave many in the country wondering who was the grown up here?

The Secret Service took one look at Julia Wilson and apparently saw Squeaky Fromme. They wasted her time, they wasted their time and they wasted tax payer money. They also made an enemy:

Julia Wilson plans to post a new MySpace.com page, this one devoted to organizing other students to protest the Iraq war.
"I decided today I think I will because it (the questioning) went too far," she said.


That's the answer, the only answer, to an administration and their flacks that think they can get away with anything.

And note that the so-called "Family Values" Republicans once again are okay with circumventing parents to 'communicate' with minors. From Mark Foley to the Secret Service, the GOP is demonstrating that they don't really speak out for families, they betray them.

If you're outraged by what was done to Julia Wilson, we are, let it fuel you to speak out against the war and expose the administration and all the fraud and deceit it's been built upon.

The Brazen Cindra





At the amusing Ann Coulter fan's journal (surely a parody site) one joker by the name of spookshow1313 posted this hilarious (we're sure) tongue-in-cheek post in July:

On the one hand, you have a loony leftist bitch like Cindy Sheehan, who is a disgrace to her son's memory with her Crawford Campout demanding a visit with the president (when he had already met with her, as many know) as well as her traitorous hobnobbing with Hugo Chavez.
On the other, you have Cindra Smith, who hails from my neck of the woods, Xenia, Ohio! This woman's daughter was injured in a roadside bombing. So, because she has an electronics degree and is a Red Cross volunteer, she enlists herself with the goal of disabling bombs when she gets to Iraq. BROKE HER F**KING HIP during BMT but she's still going to war. Her drill sergeants say she is a wonderful example for younger soldiers -- they call her "Mama" or "Grandma."

Sorry to break it to spookshow1313 but what people call the call the 'wonderful example' these days is "LIAR."

At Andi's World (clearly a community in need), SFCD posits:

HOOAH for Cindra! That's the kind of people we need in the Army!

The military needs liars?

Here's how the propaganda that resulted in red faces ran:

After Daughter Is Injured in Iraq, Mom Joins Army
By Sgt. Eliamar Trapp
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala., July 12, 2006 -- Having volunteered with the Red Cross, Cindra Smith knew there was something wrong when she arrived home from work late one night and had a Red Cross message on her machine. "When I called them back I was told to wait by the phone and expect a call," she said. "When I got the phone call they said my daughter had been shot in the back during an IED attack in Iraq."
Pvt. Tracy Branton, Smith's oldest daughter, was a heavy wheel mechanic on a convoy in Iraq when it was hit by IEDs. When Branton and her fellow soldiers got out of the vehicles to inspect the area, she was shot in the back. Now 21, Branton is 70 percent disabled and has a slight paralysis because of the injuries caused by the shooting.
"I remember being angry," Smith said. "As parents, we always try and look for someone to blame. But knowing that she was doing something she believed in and wanted to do helped me get over that."

Thus, according to Cindra Smith, she joined the military (when the age cap was raised). "Inspiring!" cried the right. A "hero!"

But there's a problem. Cindra Smith's daughter wasn't injured. Cindra Smith's daughter wasn't even in the military. Cindra Smith lied and even the military admits that. (Though they're side stepping the issue Eliamar Trapp.)

Mighty Cindra has struck out. There is much weeping in Mudville and surely those at BlackFive are sobbing in their light beers most of all. Such as Clairon who wrote:

That is one hell of a woman, and mad props to her. I hope her and The Ditch Witch™ meet one day, and I hope to be there to see it. Sheehag shouldn't be able to look her in the eyes.

"Hell of a liar" is more like it and Cindy Sheehan would have no problem looking the liar in the eyes. However, the liar might have difficulty looking anyone else in the eyes.

Also at BlackFive, Amy K weighed in with:

Indeed, this woman is of the highest virtue. The pride she took in her daughter's work gives me faith and hope. Thank you for sharing her story.

Hopefully, the fact that Cindra is a liar won't send Amy K off on a bender or up a clock tower.

There's something really sick about Cindra Smith and we're not sure a court-martial can address it. She didn't just lie that her daughter was in the military, she lied that her daughter was injured while serving, she lied that her daughter was 70% disabled. That lie is so offensive that she should be kicked out of the military. There is no comeback from that and it's an insult to everyone who's been injured.

In the 1937 film Nothing Sacred (screenplay by Ben Hecht), a reporter who gets taken in by a con artist is exiled to writing obituaries. We think Eliamar Trapp deserves a similar fate.

Felon in the Congress



Felon in the Congress

And are you safe?

Bully Boy bans online gambling

And are you safe?

Denny Hastert playing "I know nothing!"

And are you safe?

Injustice Department keeps fighting to spy on you

What's good for JD is good for the Pentagon too

Which we found out, thanks to the ACLU.

Secret Service bullies a 14-year-old girl

Yes, this is life in a GOP controlled world.

Safer but not safe

That's what they say.

Guess the Bully Boy

Is having a not so fresh day.

Felon in the Congress

And are you safe?

About the TV reviews




On the subject of ratings . . .

Ty advises us that an e-mail came in at the end of last week noting that Bill Carter "praised ER and charted its artistic rebirth." No, he didn't.

Carter, writing in The New York Times, noted the fact that the show's ratings are surprising everyone this season. Carter, a business writer, based his story on the ratings. (That should be obvious from the headline: "From Life Support to Miraculous Recovery for 'ER'."). The e-mailer referred to our review from last fall "TV Review: Time to pull the plug on ER."

ER is probably one of the most noted shows at this site. We noted the rebirth before it aired (we noted it before it was filmed -- hunt it down for yourself, it's noted in this site's most popular editorial) and we also made a point to note the compelling storyline of last season (see "Third Estate Sunday Review: One voice applauded, one not heard?," "TV Review: There's always a platform for some" and "Third Estate Sunday Review: TV commentary: About the women").
That storyline, more than anything else, provided excitement for the audience -- an audience that had been growing bored with the show.

Michael Franti & Spearhead's "Yell Fire" (written by Michael Franti, Carl Young and Dave Shul) declares: "Revolution never comes with a warning, Revolution never comes with an omen." We'd agree. We'd also note that Water Cooler Critics (we're not referring to Carter who is a business writer) never bother to do more than repeat hype.

Believe us, outside of our friends at ER, we don't know anyone that's as happy about ER's revival. But if it's coming as a surprise this fall, it's only because your TV commentators of the Water Cooler Set refused to cover the storyline that revived the show last season and fueled interest.

Last season, while there was time to gas bag about every breath a (White) male took, the most involving storyline was ignored by the Water Cooler Set. (And many gas bags on the left but the right-wing sure paid attention and slammed the show, predicted its demise, go down the list.) The ratings victory didn't result from the fact that ER's airing opposite one of the worst shows on the big three (we think Kidnapped may be the worst). Long gone are the days when the big three was the only game in town. ER earned the ratings rebirth not via scheduling fortune but due to an artistic rebirth and if you had real TV critics as opposed to Water Cooler Critics, Bill Carter's business article wouldn't be the first you were reading of it in a daily paper.

We have no idea why gas bags on the left ignored it. They seem to be pushing hard for the "class" view they, and only they, see at play in Veronica Mars this year. We'll also note that the Hot issue of Rolling Stone continues to sell Moronic Mars as a show about a lead character that, quote: "Veronica has had to deal with the death of her best friend, the disappearance of her mother and being drugged and raped at a party -- and that was just the first season."

Proving both that the "Hot" issue stopped being hot shortly around the time Michael J. Fox graced the cover of it many moons ago and that writer Gavin Edwards is happy to repeat the show's spin if not watch the show he's praising. Raped? We covered that last year.

The Water Cooler Critics misled you last year (and have continued to do so -- check which ones praised, for instance, Swift Justice -- and swore it would be a hit) and they continue to do so. Moronic Mars is being hailed as a "hit" because its audience is up a little. That's due to the fact that the CW reaches more markets than UPN did and that Moronic follows the powerhouse Gilmor Girls. What's less noted is that Moronic Mars can't retain the Gilmor Girls' audience.

What the Water Cooler Set also fails to grasp is that Moronic is on its last legs. (The suits at the CW grasp it and they're nervous about the show.) The character's no longer in high school. Even all the hype can't protect it now as it enters the Supernatural world of life post-high school. The phase that these supposed 'social commentary' series face when they leave the easy world of high school where even the most mundane and obvious point is hailed as insight. Glib and sassy in the mouth of babes (we mean adults playing high school students, but if Kristen Bell does it for you, take it to another level) rarely works after graduation.

What we (Ava and C.I.) do here is offer our opinions. Feel free to disagree. We don't, and haven't, tell you something will be "a hit." We do, just like the gang at The Times, work those phones. (And also talk to people in person and have been known to visit the sets.) We look at the show that airs, we look at the scripts, we talk to friends involved with the show and we talk to people at the network. (In fact, unless we state, "We know no one involved in this show" take it for granted that we know people with the show we're reviewing.)

Some people give more weight to our reviews than we do. That includes angry readers as well as friends. Some friends point to one of our reviews as causing a marital break up. (Oh, the power we must have!) We nearly lost a friend over another review which was seen as coming at a time when a show teetering might have a shot at a second season (it didn't get it). We do and will take calls from friends who feel wronged. (Such as when this review went up.)

In terms of readers, we know our regular readers. We got to know them early on when we did read the e-mails. They're not looking for the buzz around the mythical Water Cooler. They're looking for shows that offer more than flash and a pull quote in next week's Entertainment Weekly. We're writing from a feminist perspective ("a" not "the") and our regular readers have responded to that. If a regular reader e-mails a suggestion, we do it take seriously. (That doesn't mean we end up praising the show -- and some suggestions come in asking us to address shows that provide flash and no entertainment because the reader feels it's past time that a show got called out.) We also will follow up on Jim's requests from time to time. (We would have preferred never to have watched CSI: Miami, CSI and CSI: NYC. Life is just too short.)

Ty made a list of questions popping up in e-mails and we're attempting to address that to cut down on the e-mails directed to us (which we don't read). Last week, we helped out with the e-mails (attempting to avoid those about the TV reviews) because there were just so many. Since the burden largely falls on Ty and Dona, Jim suggested we write a piece that can be noted in replies for the future.

If you disagree with our opinions, you may very well be right, we may very well be wrong. Ty has encouraged many who've disagreed passionately to start their own sites and get their opinions out there. If you're disagreeing to get a reply from either of us, you're wasting your time. We may hear about it from Ty, but we'll never read it (unless we end up short one weekend and do a feature on the e-mails as we've done twice before -- see "Third Estate Sunday Review: Digging into the TV Review e-mail bag" and ""Ava and C.I. dip into the mailbag to respond to 'Cowpoke' Rob").

If you're the press, we're not interested in being interviewed. If you're looking for a quote, we've said what we thought already in whatever review that you're writing in about. One journalist continues to insist that we could expand on "several points" in an interview. If we wanted to expand on something, we already have a forum to do so. You're also making a mistake, when you quote a line, that many who stumble to the site do, thinking we know what you're writing in about. We don't read over these reviews after they're posted. Some reviews we don't even read over before posting due to deadlines and the time crunch. Elaine and others have noted that they can quote a line from our reviews and we may laugh at the humor in it (we may not) but we usually don't recognize it as coming from us. So quoting a line by us, in an e-mail intended for us, probably wouldn't even jog our memories if we read your e-mail.

Ty corrects typos (thank you to Ty) and generally does that mid-week. He checks first to make sure it is a typo and not an inside joke. Many of our reviews have 'typos' that aren't 'typos.' They are clues and inside jokes for friends (often times, friends working on the show we're reviewing). Those aren't changed and they won't be. If you see a word mispelled or an allusion that strikes you as slightly off balance, it's generally an inside message that you can read as not intended for you. If you see inverted letters in this piece, that's usually a typo and it's usually a section that one of us (C.I.) typed.

If you're a blogger or anyone doing something non-profit, you have our permission to repost in part or in full any TV commentary we've done.

But we don't read the e-mails coming in to this site on TV reviews. We stopped doing so some time ago. Due to a backlog, we did help out last week by responding to e-mails coming in on topics other than TV reviews. In doing that, we did see that someone who still wants to argue over Smallville, all this time later, is still e-mailing. Ty confirmed that the guy has e-mailed every month since that review ran (March of 2005). We're happy that he is so passionate about Tom Welling but we'd suggest he use this time to enjoy Welling while he's still onscreen. A few years from now, when Welling can't be found anywhere except in reruns, you may look back on these days and wish you'd spent more time drooling over your hottie and less time writing us. We have no idea what other arguments the man has made, but in the e-mail last week he was suggesting that Martha's interest in Clark's barely clad body was a sign of "how deep" the show is and an intended nod to Oedipus Rex. We'd suggest that he's spent far too much time obsessing over one episode.

When we write a review, we're done with it. We keep a copy of any episode we note for at least seven days in case we have gotten something wrong. If an e-mail comes in asserting we have something wrong, we watch it again to check. One of us (Ava) watched an episode not due to an e-mail but due to a quote from a program being reconstructed by a network. When it was reviewed, we had added an extra "uh" or something and we noted that in a correction.

If you're writing after seven days, you missed the boat, the ship has sailed and life has gone on. With one exception (see "TV Review: America's Funniest F**king Videos," "Industry Shocker: America's Funniest Videos? Not that American" and "Confirmed: America's Funniest Videos disguises foreign videos to its audience"), we don't hold on to copies past the seven day marker. If we're working from scripts and episodes, we often face a dilemma because the scripted line and the line stated are often not the same. (In one review, we noted no quotes because an actor regularly screwed up the scripted line. This wasn't a case of riffing or adlibbing, the actor involved couldn't get the lines straight and we were shocked that it made to broadcast because it threw off all the actors responding after any line was delivered.) When that happens, we'll note what made it on air and not what was scripted because audiences aren't reading scripts, they're watching a program. (A friend called to tell us we had a quote wrong in one review from a script he wrote. We had seen the script and we suggested he watch the episode, the line was changed in filming.)

The only influence friends can have over shows is telling us that (if it's a new show) it's picking up steam and we should wait to review it. (We feel burned in one regard when we were going to tackle a drama. It hasn't been fixed and it's going to be burned off quickly by the network.) As noted earlier, and many times before, we won't review The Gilmor Girls and we also won't review anything by David E. Kelley. If we don't think we can objective, we don't bother. That doesn't mean we'd slam or we'd praise, it just means that we doubt our objectivity.

We generally don't know what we're writing until we write it. Prior to the five of the core six relocating, most of the watching was done with us (Ava and C.I.) watching while we were on the phone together. In those days, we generally just watched one episode and sometimes read scripts as well. Now days, we watch together and are watching multiple episodes. We both take notes while we watch. We comment during that. And we usually follow up with some questions to people involved with the show and/or network people. At that point, we still don't know what we're writing.

When we grab time to go off and write during the writing sessions for the edition is when we decide what we're going to write. There is at least one review (probably more) where we were luke warm to a show but both assumed we'd have something positive to say; however, during the writing process a "yeah, but one point" came up too often and the show got a negative critique. Those "but one point"s often have to do with the way women or minorities are portrayed. Those are important points and need to be noted.

Equally important is whether or not the characters can hook you in. As we've noted many times, viewers form bonds with their favorite TV shows. Sizzle's not going to cut it, hype's not going to cut it. If a show gets recommended by us it's one that we believe will involve viewers.
If you find a show you like, you're probably going to invest some time with it. Water Cooler Talk will drive up the ratings of the Seinfeld finale as everyone tries to look cool and prepares to gas bag the next day at work, it won't do you much good in terms of steering you to a show you can be involved with. (For the record, we loved Seinfeld but hated the finale -- especially the tacked on, filmed later, ending that sidelined the character of Elaine.) Generally speaking, any time the Water Cooler set uses the tired "post modern" term, you should run for the hills because there's no life in the series and what they see as artful commentary is just a show dead in the water. (And bad acting that they mistake for deadpan.)

"Where do you get off saying . . ." is often the theme of e-mails. We're sharing our opinions. There's not one we'd retract. We've been honest in our opinions so we have no need to. That usually means going up against the hype. We're comfortable with that and honestly appalled at what passes for most TV criticism these days in print. (That's not a slam at The Times. We've noted before that, while we often disagree with Alessandra Stanely, we enjoy her writing and that we enjoy most of the arts criticism at The Times.)

We don't review cable. That's a case of responding to this site's original readers. From the start, they've been young (many with families) and they look to TV as the entertainment outlet -- broadcast TV because they can't afford satellite or cable. We keep that in mind when we review. They are our intended audience. We generally review pretty much everything that airs on Fridays because that it is a big night for them. There's not a trip to movies most weeks (if ever), there's not money to hire a babysitter and eat out. They're not interested in the flash or the sizzle, they're interested in whether or not they can sit in front of the TV and be entertained.
We also note flesh counts when possible because we're aware that some watch with their children and may be uncomfortable with that. (We'd personally prefer TV offered more flesh and less violence. And, as we once noted, we really wish Jerry Bruckheimer would get his murder out of our sex.)

We take very seriously what The New York Times called (last December) the death of broadcast TV because we fully grasp that the 'entertainment explosion' is leaving many behind.
We're amazed that, outside of that Times editorial, others haven't bothered to explore it. We're both familiar with a broadcast of a really bad NPR show that treated it as good news for all. Considering the actual make up of NPR listeners (as opposed to what the network hypes as their average listener) we feel they failed their audience by refusing to explore what happens when people (and there are a lot more than many seem to realize) are faced with deciding whether to be part of the 'explosion' or be 'frivilous' and pay the energy bill?

So if you're writing in to suggest we review some show on cable, you're wasting your time and Ty's time. We're really not taking suggestions this fall. We're trying to find shows that are in danger. If we like the show, we want to be sure to weigh in early and hopefully steer someone to them. If we hate the show, we want to be sure to review it now. Why?

Summer of 2005, we really did worry that we'd have to take up a daytime game show or soap opera one week because there was so little we hadn't tackled already. This week we review Shark which CBS is considering pulling the plug on. It may mean we miss a show that we might like but it also means that this summer, if Shark's cancelled and show X is still on the air, we can grab X then. Writing 52 TV commentaries a year requires a lot of TV shows.

This was originally part of the Shark review but then Ty handed us a list of questions and Jim said (rightly) that it needed to be its own feature. To return to ER (which prompted this), our opinions are not always going to be agreed with and they shouldn't be. If you're someone who never agrees with our opinions then praise for a show from us means you should avoid it and a slam means you should watch. We don't waste time in our reviews telling you "This is going to be big in the ratings!" because, though ratings determine a show's life, they don't determine whether or not its worth watching. (Those who doubt that, should grab a list of the top ten show for each year of the eighties and see how many, even with all the cable networks, are actually airing now in syndication. We're thinking of two heavily praised shows in particular that never made it after they finished their runs.)

While we're happy to admit that we may be wrong at any time, we won't take the fall for things we didn't do. ER had a rebirth and anyone who read this site last spring should know that we noted it. Water Cooler Critics and gas bags weren't interested in that. We noted that in real time as well. We made a point of noting the fact that the right-wing was gunning for the show. For people against the war (we are) or supposedly against the war not to note the storyline that got people talking (or note that people were talking about it) is really strange and we noted that as well. While most were gas bagging about a comedian's performance, we noted that ER was addressing the war. That was the rebirth of the show and a renewed committment to the characters. We don't expect a business writer to be aware of it, but we do wonder why those steering to you to various TV shows and clips couldn't find the time to?


[For the record, we disagreed with Bill Carter's "'West Wing' to West Coast: TV's Aueter Portrays TV" -- disagreed here and at The Common Ills. That was a case of a business writer taking the word of a 'genuis' as gospel when fact checking would have prevented the need for a correction. He wasn't the only one and something was missed, in his coverage and the Water Cooler Set's of the gas bag show, that we'll note in our year-in-review. "Business writer" is not used as a pejorative, merely to note that Carter writes about the industry side, he's not writing about the art. Lastly, click here for Kat's review of Yell Fire! and pick up a copy if you haven't already.]

Cindy Sheehan supports Malachy McCourt for NY governor

This is a press release, we're running as is and don't have the time for a lenghty intro. We support Cindy Sheehan, obviously. We support the Green Party and urge you to check them out. We're not endorsing a race because we aren't voting it (we is: Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. and none of us are in NY). At a time when we appear to have gone from Vote for Peace to "You owe your vote to the Democratic Party," we will continue to spotlight anything the Green Party sends us. Your vote is not owed or owned. By anyone. You need to figure out who you should vote for. So do the work. Educate yourself and we will endorse CODEPINK's Give Peace a Vote! and we will say that in our own voting, we'll be using that as our litmus test. You don't have to. But if you're a regular reader, we can't imagine why you wouldn't. Will we print Democratic press releases? No. Why? We think they have enough outlets online. We also think they are covered in features here already. The Green Party is a viable party and one that deserves more attention. (Will we print GOP press releases? Maybe as a joke.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contacts:

Kimberly Wilder, Green Party of Suffolk County Press Secretary
(631) 422-4702
votewilder@yahoo.com

Roger Snyder, Green Party of Suffolk County, Chair (631) 351-5763 rogersnyder@pobox.com

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan proclaims support for peace candidate,
Malachy McCourt for Governor.

A new Cindy Sheehan video unveils her support for Green Party Governor Candidate Malachy McCourt. In the video, Sheehan states, "I am supporting Malachy McCourt…I believe the people of New York want peace."

Cindy Sheehan is a grieving mother, who, in 2004, lost her son, Casey, to the War in Iraq. Now, Cindy is a peace activist and the founder of Camp Casey, a series of peace gatherings around the country. Sheehan has a new book out entitled, "Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache To Activism."

Malachy McCourt is a NY Times Best-Selling author and a politically-minded radio host. McCourt is presently running for Governor of the State of New York on the Green Party line. Cindy Sheehan and Malachy McCourt met in 2004, long before McCourt dreamed of being a candidate, or even a Green Party member. They met only a few days after Sheehan's son Casey had died. It was long before anyone would have dreamed that Sheehan’s grief would transform her into a national spokesperson for peace.

They became friends when Malachy McCourt called to offer condolences, after seeing the picture in the NY Times of Sheehan's other son kissing Casey's coffin. The Sheehan name was in McCourt's family tree, so he felt a special connection to her family. Over the years, they became friends.

This past week, Sheehan decided to make a public statement supporting his candidacy. The statement says, "I am supporting Malachy McCourt...He is a man of courage, integrity, he’s a dear friend of mine." Sheehan went on to say, "I believe the people of New York want peace. I do a lot of work here. Everywhere I go, people are energized for peace. And, people really are tired of the same party politics as usual."

In turn, McCourt supports the work of Sheehan and other peace activists. Malachy McCourt and Cindy Sheehan marched together as part of the lead contingent in the UFPJ April 29th peace march in New York City. At a recent Black-47 Fundraising Concert for his campaign, Malachy McCourt spoke of Sheehan from the stage, "The name Sheehan in the Gaelic is siochain [SHEE'-a-kwan], which means "peace." So, Malachy said of Cindy Sheehan, she is "the Apostle of Peace."

Malachy McCourt has taken the issue of peace as an important part of his campaign. Both the Democratic and Republican governor candidates support the war in Iraq. Malachy McCourt has made it a campaign pledge to call the NY National Guard home. In addition, the Green Party’s four pillars include: Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, Social and Economic Justice and Peace/Non-violence.

Background:


The Cindy Sheehan video can be found on-line at: http://thirdplanetvideo.com/CindySheehanEndorses2.html

For information about grassroots support for Malachy McCourt:
www.li4mm.com

Green Party of Suffolk County's web-site is:
www.gpsuffolk.org

The Green Party of New York State's web-site, with information about other Green Party peace candidates, is:
www.gpnys.org

~ ~ ~Ian Wilder 11 Edmunton Drive, #E6 North Babylon, NY 11703 631-422-4702
http://www.LongIslandforMalachy.com
http://www.onthewilderside.net

Ruth's Report

Upset with the delay in posting features this morning?  Blame it on Ruth.  Her opening below is all she kept from original report that she asked to be shelved.  As we were hitting the home stretch on this edition, she phoned C.I. with revisions she'd done and the report had to go up.  Then we had to read it when C.I. told us the topics.  Then we had to discuss it -- read it and you'll be discussing it as well.  Of all the things that have delayed us before, nothing has ever been more worthwhile.  (Or as Dona put it, "Go, Ruth!")
 

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I have two questions this weekend. The first is can someone please tell me who the modern day equivalent to Joan Baez is? The second is how do we get her to marry Ricky Clousing, Ehren Watada or Mark Wilkerson?

The reason I ask is because I can remember "back in the day." I lived through it. Outside of a few brave radio programs, I would not even say "brave radio stations," we did not have anything like the speed with which information travels today. But, in our alternative monthlies and weeklies, we could count on reading about war resisters. Again, thanks to a few brave radio programs, we could actually hear about them as things happened.

Today, information can move so much faster so why is it that so little of it is worthwhile?

I enjoyed Shawshank Redemption and The Player; however, I really did not need to hear about Tim Robbins' new "based on a real story" movie on Friday. Last Friday, the biggest news in the alternative media should have included Ricky Clousing's court-martial and sentencing that took place the day before.

But there was an interview with Tim Robbins, more in depth than the one with Matt Lauer a few years back that ended abruptly, and, later, the program was rounded out with the airing of a two-year-old interview with Desmond Tutu. I will assume someone thought that gave the episode of Democracy Now! a theme: South Africa. As Amy Goodman rushed to the airport, doing pledge pitches over the cell phone, it struck me as though the themes were "Hastily Put Together" and "Fluff." The program's broadcast, like the pitch that followed ("I'm entering a tunnel") struck me as rushed.

Ricky Clousing served in Iraq, came back to this country and decided he could not fight in a war he now saw as illegal. He left the military with a note quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King. From June 2005 until August of this year, he was AWOL. He emerged at the Veterans for Peace Conference in Seattle to announce that he was turning himself in and that he was not going back to Iraq.

In what now feels like a Dateline special, Amy Goodman interviewed him. It was, we were told, an important story and one, we were told, that would continue to be followed. "Followed" ended up being four lines:

In an update on a story we've been following, Iraq war resister Sgt. Ricky Clousing has been sentenced to three months of confinement for going absent without leave. Sgt. Clousing went AWOL after returning from Iraq in April 2005.

Those four lines were the sixteenth of seventeen headlines. "Following"?

That was it the whole week. There was no coverage of it prior to Friday. There was no interview with his attorney, no roundtable on war resisters and what going public might mean for the anti-war movement, no advance notice of the fact that Sgt. Clousing would be speaking on Thursday before the court-martial or that there would be a rally for him after.

That same Friday, The New York Times ran Laurie Goodstein's "A Soldier Hoped to Do Good, but Was Changed by War" on Sgt. Clousing but "the war and peace report" was promoting a movie? For approximately forty minutes they were promoting a film that was not a documentary but entertainment?

C.I.'s said it and I will concur, "It's not good enough."

I knew I was going to note Ricky Clousing this weekend but I was not sure in what context. I had a shorter version of this column that I pulled Saturday evening when I started reading the e-mails from members and saw that they wanted this topic addressed. I checked with all my grandchildren and the response was either "Go for it" or that this is the best we can hope for.

This is the best we can hope for?

Ms. Goodman gets no pass from me. No pass when she has pitched all week asking listeners to donate because we need an independent media. We do need an independent media but we do not need it to know what will be playing at our local cinemas. We need a "war and peace report," but one that addresses today. In peace news, there was no bigger story on Friday than Sgt. Clousing. Obviously, The New York Times felt it was news because they actually ran a story on him, something they did not do with Darrell Anderson the week before.

It is not good enough and we should not be settling for it. Neither Mark Wilkerson nor his civilian attorney has been interviewed by Democracy Now! to this day. They did do a one-day segment where they aired his press conference.

When I went through the e-mails Saturday afternoon, I saw that a number were noting a guest for Monday's Democracy Now!. As the grandmother of several teenagers, I will take comfort in the fact that he will be away from the computer while being interviewed but I will puzzle over the need of the same left that decries Mark Foley to continue to prop up that man.

In my day, a "morals charge" meant you were no longer being quoted in the press, no longer being sought by the media as a respectable source. Apparently, the fact that Judith Miller did not care for the man and undermined his chances to be sought out by The New York Times is supposed to make him the friend of the left. I am reminded of a TV review Ava and C.I. did where they concluded with: "But we're back to the question of whether or not the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Possibly. But we don't accept, as a rule, that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Sometimes, it's just another enemy."

The New York Daily News, the paper of Ms. Goodman's co-host Juan Gonzales, reported in January 2003, "He was arrested by Colonie Police in June 2001 on a misdemeanor charge after he allegedly had a sexual discussion on the Internet with an undercover investigator he thought was an underage girl, law enforcement sources disclosed on condition of anonymity." Was the story false?

There has been no correction added to it. Others reported it as well. Some reported there were two arrests for the same predatory behavior. If you are going to make Mark Foley's actions an issue, and Democracy Now! devoted a lengthy segment to recapping what ABC news had reported, then why is it that this is not an issue? Possibly Mark Foley will be given a deal where, if he avoids doing anything for six months, his record will be expunged and he can hide behind that if he is ever asked about?

I have no idea. I do know that I will not be buying the book of Monday's guest and I have no idea why the same programs that wanted to cover "Pagegate" is happy to invite on a man who was arrested, possibly twice, for what was reported as seeking out underage females online for sexual encounters? Elaine called it hypocrisy and I will agree with that. I will also ask what is going on with women that they will happily book that man on their programs? Do they remember being fourteen? If so, what are they thinking when they speak to him?

If I had a program, I would never interview him. His arrest, or arrests, and refusal to discuss them make him suspect in my book. I would worry that, if I paid for his travel and something happened on his trip, I would be responsible in some moral way. I would also worry, that by having him on my program and speaking to him as though he were a trusted voice, I would give the impression to any young girls in my audience that he had my stamp of approval and, if approached by him, they should go along.

But mainly I would worry about the charges of hypocrisy that would be leveled at me and wonder if, when Democrats may be making some headway in the polls as a result of "Pagegate," if the smartest thing for me to do was to present another apparent sexual predator as a respectable guest? I would also be concerned that if I wanted to discuss issues such as rape or abuse of woman, I would have given up that right to be taken seriously as a result of booking such a person as a guest.

But he can be, and will be, on Democracy Now! again and again. He was an "expert" on Iraq, now he's an "expert" on Iran. So he can make yet another appearance. The war resisters? They are limited to one appearance apparently.

Fourteen-years-old. Not sixteen or over sixteen. Not 'nearly' eighteen. Fourteen-years-old. I would use the term pedophile to describe any man attempting to have a sexual encounter with a fourteen-year-old. He stated on CNN, "I'm not asking for forgiveness." Well, I am not granting any. I would not be surprised by men granting some, the "old boys network" long existed to cover up 'misdeeds.' But feminists broke the taboos on discussing rape, incest, sexual abuse of women and children, and domestic abuse. In fact The Feminist Majority Foundation provides a resource page for those needing help with sexual abuse.

This was not something we talked about prior to the second wave of feminism. Problems like that were considered "bad luck." Feminism gave a name to those problems and provided a space where the victims could speak about what was done to them. So it is distressing to me, that today, any woman would book that man as a guest on her show.

As he is presented as 'respectable,' we lose out on other voices. Which brings me back to my original point: Do we need someone of Joan Baez's stature to garner serious attention to war resisters?

Was David Harris only covered by the press, including the mainstream, because he was married to Ms. Baez? I hope not but I have no idea why war resisters cannot receive the attention they have earned and deserve from independent media. I also have no idea why a man who was reportedly busted twice for seeking out underage females for sexual acts continues to be presented as a trusted and respectable voice. If alternative media had a John Dean, he might advise them that there is a cancer on their outlets.

Ironicallly enough, three headlines prior to news of Sgt. Clousing on Friday's Democracy Now! was an item about a man in a hospital after being lured online to meet up for sex. I seriously doubt that will come up in Monday's interview.















 


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