Sunday, October 29, 2006
The nightmare Sunday.
Highlights? We got 'em:
Music Spotlight: Kat ponders Ani DiFranco
Humor Spotlight: Betinna scoffs at a column 'miracle'
C.I. offers a reality check
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca explains the realities.
Blog Spotlight: Mike lets his friend Tony pick his favorites of the TV reviews
Blog Spotlight: Elaine talks music and Zinn
Humor Spotlight: Wally and Cedric attempt a White House Intervention
Kitchen Spotlight: Appetizers in the Kitchen
We thank everyone for the permission to reprint.
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;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
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
That's right, we had input from Kat on this edition (for two features).
Reminder, Kat's site is still active -- Just a heads up and noting that Kat was able to work on two features for this edition.
Patricia Heaton's Pep Talk (parody) -- Oh Patty, you're so sick. (Sing to the tune of "Cocaine.") So Patty Heaton was there to attack the husband of Terry Schiavo and she's there now to prop up the attacks on Michael J. Fox. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Her ugliness has been on display for years but it's amazing how the left appears to know so little of it. The right knows every performer they disagree with. Know you enemy, her name is Heaton.
Gold Star of the Week: The Progressive -- TESR giveth and TESR taketh. This week we give a gold star to The Progressive. C.I. was going through the mail (C.I. and Dona both were out of town speaking Wednesday through Friday. C.I. had noted that at The Common Ills but didn't note on Dona not knowing if she wanted that public. An attitude we all had actually. Turns out Dona's got not problem with -- she had told her parents which the rest of us didn't know and was our big concern -- "Guess who's been skipping!" They were more than fine than with her missing class to speak out. And she'll be doing that again in a few weeks when C.I.'s headed to Dona's home state which will also allow Dona to catch up with her family.)
MyTV's Fascist House -- we continue to be surprised by the popularity of this feature but here's our latest attempt.
So what's up? -- Explaining what's up with the site. Here's what was up: Blogger/Blogspot was in out all night and all morning. At five a.m., we said screw it and went to sleep. We figured the problem would be fixed when we woke up. It wasn't. We got a few pieces posted and then it went down again. At which point, C.I. suggested we go to a party. So we were gone for about four hours. We came back, started posting and the problem's still there. Blogger/Blogspot doesn't seem overly concerned about. We're counting seven of seven days last week when there were problems with Blogger/Blogspt and this week? They're already off to a bad start.
Did war resister Kyle Snyder return to the US Saturday? -- Did he? We don't know. Read this feature. This was also the last thing we got up before Blogger/Blogspot went out and we went off to party.
13 Things You Can't Tell By Looking at Them (Movies) -- A roundtable! And one of the two pieces Kat participates in. We mention book roundtables at the end and we actually may have one sooner. Remember the mail earlier in the note? C.I. was also opening packages (Jim claimed the M. Ward CD) and there were a number of books including one we've been passing around since we got back from the party, Free Press: Underground & Alternative PUblications 1965-1975. We may grab that next week.
Oh, that 'campus' beat -- This is actually one of two-parts.
'Independent' media? -- This is the companion piece to the above.
Tina Turner: A retrospective -- Elaine wrote about Tina Turner last week and Dona and I (Jim) really enjoyed that. We called to compliment her on it and she offered to put off her expansion of the theme and let it be a group piece. She'd spoken to Kat in the past about Turner and felt the thing she wrote really summed up both their points. Saturday night, when Kat phoned, we were able to get additional input. Kat provided input on this and the roundtable. Everyone else other than the core six provided input on all features above.
TV: Kidnapped by the Water Cooler Set -- Ava and C.I.'s latest. It's up. Stop the e-mails asking where it is! Truly. We're awash with e-mails. It's up, readers can breathe easy. They were actually planning on going with another show and may grab it next week. A friend involved with the show they passed on asked them to watch and, if they liked, to note it. They did like it but they weren't in the mood, with all the problems with Blogger/Blogspot, to do it this weekend.
Editorial: Three Little Words -- this is just the core six. We assume that everyone who worked on other features would agree but this was written late today and it was by the core six. Note, there are typos, we're sure, in everything posted. Live with them, embrace them. The reality is we couldn't get into the program to do our entries. We had to do them elsewhere and then, in any moment we could log in, we had to copy and paste them in. (And do so quickly before it went out.)
So that's the edition. It's up. C.I.'s now headed over to The Common Ills to do "And the war drags on." We're all tired. C.I. says, "Do not expect much."
--Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
"Troops Home Now." Three little words, but honestly, the way so many elected officials and members of the mainstream press are acting, you'd think we were asking for the letterman's jacket and class ring.
Apparently, it's still duck-and-cover time for the timid. Maybe they're under some mistaken belief that things are going wonderfully?
Insurgent attacks Sunday in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Baquba, and Basra killed more than two dozen police and civilians, local officials told CNN.
The deadliest attack came in the southern city of Basra, where insurgents kidnapped and killed 13 police academy employees, interior ministry spokesman Gen. Abdul Karin Khalaf said.
The gunmen nabbed the employees as they left work Sunday afternoon, he said.
Their bodies were later discovered in a nearby area, the spokesman said.
In Baghdad, a string of attacks killed nine people, most of them Sunni pilgrims returning from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a Baghdad emergency police official said.
Gunmen attacked two buses carrying the pilgrims near Mohammed Sakran cemetery in northern Baghdad, killing one and kidnapping six others, the official said. The bodies of the six were later found dumped near a hospital not too far from the cemetery, the official said.
CNN goes on to report that the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, was the target of an attack in Baghdad -- in Baghdad! -- and that one guard in his convey was injured.
Three little words.
Art Jester, of The Lexington Herald-Leader (of Kentucky), reports that John Brady Kiesling, a US diplomate in the US Foreign Service from 1983 until 2003, has stated, the illegal war is a failure because "we, as outsiders, were not legitimate to the Iraqis."
An illegal war built on lies that's cost the lives of over 655,000 Iraqis, 2812 American troops, 120 Brittish troops, and 119 "other" troops. But three little words are just too difficult to say.
If the illegal war continues, at what point do the fatalities start to matter? What's the magic number?
Don't ask Bully Boy because he can't even get the number of US troop fatalities correct. Not that many bothered to tell you that. Here's how that went.
Wednesday morning, Bully Boy held a press conference. It was an attempt to persuade Americans (in time for the elections!) that he really did care about the dead, that he really was following what was happening, that he was hands on, that the U.S. military is Darwinian ("adapt or die" is the new unofficial slogan as C.I. pointed out a few months back). So he spoke. He tried to play sincere. And he noted that 93 US troops had died thus far this month.
The press? Big and small, no one called him out. Worse was how many people ran with that figure in their news coverage (big and small, we were especially saddened that KPFA was among the ones running with it).
Here's the problem. Wednesday morning, the US military said 91 troops were dead. Wednesday afternoon? Same number. Wednesday evening? Same number. Wendesday night? Still 91. Iraq Coalition Casualities, which goes by press reports, had 91 up all day.
In real time, the "Iraq Snapshot" for Wednesday pointed that out, pointed out that Bully Boy, while attempting to prove he cared, didn't even have the numbers right. Thursday morning, C.I. again pointed it out in "Bully Boy doesn't know the number of US fatalities but timid media can't tell you that." From that:
Bully Boy's never been concerned about Iraqi fatalities. He is, however, attempting to switch the debate by acting as though he's concerned about the 'toll' it's taken on 'all of us' (which, in his mind, translates as American voters). And to show his 'concern,' he tosses out a number of Americans troops who died this month in the Iraq war. The number is incorrect. That does matter.
The press covering for him (apparently the press is all press, big and small)? That's shameful.
The count was 91 until the US military announced the five today. Bully Boy doesn't announce the count. If you have a loved one serving in Iraq and you heard '93,' chances are (unlike the news media) you knew the count, you knew the number. Your first thought was, "Two more?" And your second thought was wondering if it was your loved one? If that was your story, you spent Wednesday trying to find out details.
Bully Boy got the count wrong. While pretending that he cares about American troops who have died while serving in his illegal war, he couldn't even be bothered with getting the number right and our media, big and small, seems too scared to tell the American people that fact.
Exactly correct. And with all the attempts by the media to election-ize every topic, you might have thought at least one commentator could have noted that. But it didn't happen. It may have happened over the weekend. (We've been too busy with Blogger/Blogspot problems while turning out this edition to notice.)
Bully Boy doesn't care. When the count was 91 he announced 93. The press didn't call him on it. Maybe they don't follow the numbers, maybe they just don't give a damn. But someone should have caught it and no one, NO ONE, in small media should have run with his "93" count.
A visitor e-mailed to The Common Ills Thursday evening to tell C.I. that of course Bully Boy hears of each death and that's why he noted "93." He knew the deaths the military would be announcing on Thursday (the following day). That e-mail makes us all laugh. But let's enter the world of fantasy for a moment and pretend it's accurate. Okay, so Bully Boy knows there are two more deaths when he gives his speech? Why didn't the military announce it? And picture yourself as someone who follows the count, unlike the media, with someone you know serving in Iraq. You're checking each day to make sure the person you care about is still alive. When Bully Boy announced 93 Wednesday morning, you had to wait until Thursday morning before there were any details released by the US military.
The military follows a policy on announcing deaths. They announce where it happened and with whom the troop was serving. They don't announce the name. They do that only after the family has been contacted. They do that out of respect for the family. If, which we don't believe for a minute, Bully Boy knew of two additional deaths Wednesday morning (that wouldn't be noted by the US military until Thursday morning), it wasn't his place to include in the count and doing so once again shows a lack of respect for those he (and he alone) has put in harm's way.
Troops Home Now.
Three words. Not surprising so few in official-dom can't say them when big and small media couldn't even tell you that Bully Boy, while trying to look caring and involved, didn't even know how many American troops had died this month in his illegal war.
When the fall season was starting and we (Ava and C.I.) were headed to DC in September, a number of friends were kind enough to provide us with copies and scripts of shows that would be airing. Some shows take time to find their footing. That's a given. Some shows just suck.
We watched two episodes of NBC Kidnapped (fast fowarding) and read over some of the scripts. The show sucked. There was no hope for it.
We called the friend who'd provided us with the Kidnapped material and conveyed that message. We were told the 'arc of growth' had only just begun. (Leaving us to wonder if we were dealing with a Carpenters fan?) We checked with a friend in programming at NBC. We were told "solid hit." We were told the network is fully behind it.
When we got back from DC, we checked again because any time a network's "solidly" behind a show, that's either a momentary thing or they're flat out lying.
We were being lied to. But on the post-DC call, we were still being lied to. NBC, we were told, was strongly behind the show and saw it as a tent pole for the season. Why, didn't we realize that if we panned it, we'd be a minority voice in the same company as The Wall St. Journal?
We're not fond of The Journal but we're really not concerned about calling something crap when it is just that. While we were checking with friends working on the show to find some reason or some excuse to hold out hope that the show might improve, NBC yanked it.
Not only have they yanked it, they're now burning off the original episodes (on Saturday nights) and it's clear to all involved with the show that there is no second season.
So what happened? It's a story of a bad show, it's also a story of the Water Cooler Set.
Wanting to be an attention-getter but playing with all the suspense of Bridget Loves Bernie, Kidnapped was supposed to be NBC's chance to ape Fox programming by offering a 'real time' show of their own. Each season, they were planning so far ahead before the first ratings came in, would revolve around a kidnapping being solved.
The show had a "movie look" was the talking point stressed by NBC. It looked like a film! It actually looked like a film by Sidney Lumet who is not really known for his visual sense. What he is known for is those moments of snap, those moments when an actor (Jane Fonda in The Morning After, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon) grabs you on screen. Lumet's films offer strong performances (he's an actors' director), they just don't offer much visual and, when they try, movie goers are left with the likes of The Wiz.
Lumet usually films in New York City. This allows for shots of imposing buildings and a monochrome palette of hues. Dark suits, dark shadows. In that regard, Kidnapped did have a "film look."
Timothy Hutton has stumbled around onscreen. In Daniel, Ordinary People and Q&A, he's actually located the heart of a character. Two of those films (first and last) were directed by Lumet. Watching Hutton strain for a character from scene to scene of the first episode was enough to clue you in that not only was Lumet not directing this TV series, no one was.
What critics were ooh-ing and aah-ing over wasn't direction, it was set design. Any performer reading over a review knows to shudder when a review of a play opens with talk of 'strong sets.' It's usually a clear indication that the critic has nothing to nice to say about anything else. When Kidnapped reviews started coming in raving over "the look," everyone should have been concerned. We think all that time hanging around the mythical Water Cooler has allowed too many of today's TV critics to develop water on the brain.
How else do you explain critics zooming in on "the look" without realizing that very few people ever watch a show for "the look"?
People watch to be engaged and there wasn't and isn't a damn thing engaging about the show. Timothy Hutton stands around a lot and answers when someone says "Conrad" or "Mr. Cain." Dana Delany poses -- far less beautifully then she did during China Beach. While making Exit to Eden, some made the mistake of describing her as "plush" and she's stuck with that look. A mistake because her "plush"ness means her angular face (and any evidence of cheek bones) got buried.
Delany's not a great actress. The final seasons of China Beach convinced some that she was. In movies, she's mainly been awkward. With China Beach, she was as well -- playing the priss Colleen Murphy. What saved her from the purge that befell the Vietnam drama early on was the spark she had in scenes with Marg Helgenberger. Helgenberger played KC but you can consider her "the Fonz." KC wasn't intended to be a leading or driving character. However, Helgenberger's talents (which are immense) meant that post-purge, KC was one of the main characters.
As time went by on the Beach, Delany got to warm up. Conflict and warm moments with Helgenberger made her seem a better actress than she was. (She's always been the TV equivalent of Ann Archer -- someone she physically resembles more and more with each year.) All those years and the bits of detail they provided meant that when the show went out with its we're in the 60s, no, we're in the 70s, no, we're in the 80s, it gave the (false) impression that Delany was able to play haunted and scarred.
Were that true, there would have been something, anything, in her performances that followed. Instead she was strident in House Sitter (as a woman Steve Martin had a crush on his entire life -- which, when you consider the age difference, left a huge ick factor) and all that followed. She didn't wander back to TV because she never really left. So every few years, she gets to be a lead in a TV show and it's quickly cancelled.
We think she's very lucky that so few have caught on thus far.
While Hutton can't find his role (and no one's helping him), Delany knows just what Ellie Conrad is: a priss. She's such a priss that when the "help" (people looking for the kidnap victim) are around, she often resorts to speaking French with her daughter. What some writer must have thought would play 'clever' just left viewers even more uninvolved.
Leopold is the kidnap victim and, with a first name like Leopold, he was born for tragedy or at least playground teasing. Leopold is fifteen-years-old. Despite having a bodyguard, he's kidnapped.
Leopold not only has a bodyguard, he has a French speaking mother. Yes, Dana Delany is the mother. You don't care about her, you don't care about him, you can't care about Hutton's character (though you may feel sorry that a strong actor, when provided guidance, is showing up in this crap).
But somehow, water cooler critics felt, this was the show to watch, the show that would have the country talking. It wasn't, it didn't. Even NBC has lost faith in the show. But has the Water Cooler Set issued their mea culpas yet? No.
In a way, what the Water Cooler Set did was their version of covering the lead up to Iraq. They didn't use common sense, they didn't report on reality. They just told you what they wanted to. They told you it was a great show (it was a flea bitten dog from it's first opening). They told you it would be a hit. They praised it through the roof. They waxed on so hard and heavy that you almost expected Colin Powell to step foward to vouch for the show.
Ratings alone do not determine whether or not a show is "good." Many a great show has been cancelled. (And many an awful show has become a hit.) There are programs that never find a wide audience. With those shows, they do have a core following. They flood the networks with letters, e-mails, phone calls and faxes in order to attempt to save their favorite shows.
No such action is taking place for Kidnapped. No such action will. It won't be hailed as "one of the best shows you're not watching" because, outside of the Water Cooler Set, no one was watching after the first episode. (Actually, we're told ratings tanked at the mid-way point of the first hour aired.)
So what was going on?
The water cooler set responded to the 'trick,' to the notion of 'a puzzle.' Sometimes those can hook in an audience but rarely on TV. (The play Deathtrap hooked in a crowd, the film, directed by Lumet, sent audiences fleeing.) Kidnapped was never a TV show. It was a TV conceit. The kind of thing tossed off by Tony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim while sailing one weekend. (Apparently, we only thought we'd seen the last of Sheila.)
It wasn't that it was 'too clever for it's own good' (there is nothing clever about the show), it was that it thought it could break every rule -- and critics liked that. Now, as a viewer, you're not tuning in to see what show is going to go out of its way to bore you, but to the Water Cooler Set, this was seen as 'innovative.' Maybe they've been in the biz too long?
Maybe they're so bored that they get off on a show that will punish the audience? That's what Kidnapped does. 'Color' to the monochrome world was to come via the supporting cast. That was where the excitement would be!
But audiences don't watch an hour show for eight minutes of bits. Audiences need to care about the characters. Ellie and Conrad Cain were too rich, too removed (the reaction to the kidnapping played as though Leopold had brought home a C in conversational Italian), and, most importantly, too boring for anyone to care.
Without A Trace is the show Kidnapped's often compared to. They're nothing alike. But a film in the 80s of the same title, has similarities. That film starred Kate Nelligan and no one gave a damn about her character (the mother of a kidnapped child). The only life in the entire muddled movie came via Stockard Channing in a supporting role. Audiences didn't flock to that film because they didn't care about it. The same is true of this series.
It takes a lot of stink to come in dead last for the week, but that's the 'honor' Kidnapped achieved recently (dead last of the big four). Somewhere post-post modern, the water cooler set stopped caring about the audience and got a little too clever for their own good. That's also the story of Kidnapped. You can see how the show got aired to begin with. Many an exec would identify it. They'd also identify with a show-wife (Delany doesn't even qualify for 'trophy wife'). But viewers wouldn't and couldn't.
It's not because they're "dumb" or "stupid." It's because they don't take delight in watching cheese mold (slowly) on screen. If they're going to watch a show called Kidnapped, they expect to see characters with real emotions, parents who (unless they're involved in the kidnapping) will fall apart the way any person they know would.
Hutton's performance seemed to indicate what Donald Sutherland demonstrated in Ordinary People. Sutherland's performance got across to the audiences. But he was playing a man shattered before the film began. The scripts of Kidnapped are lousy so Hutton probably did about as well as any actor could have in that non-role.
Lousy writing is when you don't bother to establish any kind of a relationship for the characters in the moments before the kidnapping. When they don't care about each other, the audience doesn't care about them.
But the Water Cooler Set appears to get off on it -- in their post-post-modern daze. They turn cold when presented with Men In Trees but drool over this nonsense. They want to intellectualize a medium known for immediacy, not detachment.
The story of Kidnapped is the story of all that is wrong with TV (women as objects being the most obvious) and it's also the story of today's TV criticism which offers a lot of a stand-offish people the opportunity to pen reviews that require more work than the staid shows they're supposedly scrutinizing.
These days, we're back to filmed sitcoms, sitcoms without an audience, and that's part of the general detachment as well. We reviewed Twins (which aired on the WB) intending for it to go up here but pulled it at the last minute when we were informed that week would be a theme edition. (It ran in the print version of The Third Estate Sunday Review and also in the gina & krista round-robin.) As we said in the review, we really couldn't believe the hatred and scorn heaped on that show. Melanie Griffith was the most appealing she'd been since Working Girl. Sara Gilbert was shaping, episode by episode, her character (Mitchie) into an actual character and not just a mouth for one liners. As the CW (UPN and WB merged) struggles with their night of comedy (moved from Sunday to Monday with no real ratings increase), they might be struggling less if they'd realized the value of some of the shows they cancelled. (Eve and Twins among them.)
But how could they stand by Twins when the Water Cooler Set panned it? They couldn't. It didn't have ratings (though it had higher ratings than the CW's sitcoms) and it didn't have critical support. We noted before how what passes for TV criticism today (in print) harms television. Twins wasn't 'clever' enough for them. There was no detachment. There was no built-in conceit they could marvel over. There were four lead actors doing some of the most appealing work they'd ever done. (Mark Linn-Baker truly surprised us.) But instead of addressing what the show had to offer or its mistakes (and it did have mistakes), they focused on Melanie Griffith's lips. Apparently, they'd been hurting for the last twenty or so years while Griffith doing film work prevented them from weighing in on her cosmetically enhanced lips?
They were storing a lot of anger and they let it all out on Twins. As we wondered in our review, was this due to the fact that it was a show that revolved around women? Or, for them to tell if a scene has meaning these days, does it need to come with a voice-over?
Hey, let the anger out, we're all for it. Reviews should be passionate, alive. We can disagree strongly with the opinions of a review but still enjoy it for the passion on display.
We're also aware that our opinions are our opinions and someone else's opinions are their opinions. Opinions are personal. But we think if you've praised and hailed both Kidnapped and Vanished this year -- two of the worst dramas -- there's something strange going on.
There's no art in either and audiences haven't responded to them (for good reason). So we do wonder that Anne Heche (who is doing an outstanding job in Men in Trees) is this year's Melanie Griffith (punching bag) and at a time when women are the ones 'vanishing' from TV in leading roles, we think it's rather strange that bad television in the form of Kidnapped and Vanished is greeted with praise from the Water Cooler Set while they save their anger snits to go to town on women.
Bad writing, bad & non-existant acting, gets a pass because they like the 'puzzle.' A woman like Heche, who should be a contender for an Emmy this year, becomes the pinata as all the boys and some of the girls grab their 'sticks' (real and wished for) to strike with.
Opinion is opinion but there is such a thing as "goes to pattern." And we're seeing a pattern where a show that has a female lead or leads not existing to bolster the male lead's (fragile) ego
bring out the clock tower sniper in the Water Cooler Set while they give a thumbs up to everything else that comes down the line. Maybe they're reflecting the times?
All we know is that the "look" of Kidnapped told them the show had "class." It's not just TV that's gotten worse in the last few years, it's also the Water Cooler Set and their judgements.
I'm a new pair of eyes
Every time I am born
An original mind
Because I just died
I'm scanning the horizon
For someone recognizing
That I might have been queen
-- Jennette Obstoj, Rupert Hines, James West Oram, "I Might Have Been Queen"
So opens Tina Turner's Private Dancer (1984). "Let's Stay Together" had already informed some listeners that Tina was back. But what would ultimately be billed as "the biggest comeback since Lazarus" was still under way when Private Dancer was released that summer. "What's Love Got To Do With It" was scaling the charts but had yet to hit number one.
For listeners new to Tina, that first track was going to make or break her. It's a well placed track. Tina's scaling the soundscape on the song that comes off very personal. There's a reason for that personal nature, Rupert Hines had her meet with Obstoj to craft a life story and Tina sang it like it was just that. Track for track, Private Dancer remains one of the strongest CDs of the 80s. The CD release only improved the American version by adding "Help" (top forty UK) to the mix. Ten songs ultimately and the hits included "What's Love Got To Do With It," "Better Be Good To Me," "Show Some Respect," "Private Dancer," and "Let's Stay Together."
An amazing comeback that led to her being crowned the Queen of Rock. Still one of her most talented singers, Tina Turner's albums have never matched that moment again. Largely, they've never come close.
What happened? It's important to remember the chart run included other songs as well. Her first chart hitting collaboration not from Private Dancer was her duet with David Bowie on "Tonight." She performed on U.S.A. for Africa's "We Are The World" (and contributed the pulsating track "Total Control" to the best selling album). She hit the charts with two songs from the soundtrack of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: "We Don't Need Another Hero" and "One of the Living." She hit via a hard edged duet with Bryan Adams entitled "It's Only Love."
All of that and appearance at Live Aid dueting with Mick Jagger (who ripped off her skirt during "It's Still Rock & Roll") added to the legend, added to the excitement.
Then it got killed. Not because Turner lost the chops. Tina still had the voice, still used it to maxium effect. But the songs?
The first sign of a problem with her follow up to Private Dancer came when a single was released ahead of the album. "Typical Male" was the A-side and a large number of dee jays ignored the designated signal and played the flip side instead, "Don't Turn Around." "Don't Turn Around" would become a mega-hit . . . for another artist (Ace of Bass). It could have been Turner's. It should have been Turner's.
But a deal with the songwriters of "What's Love Got To Do With It" (and the songwriters' own egos) worked to destroy Break Every Rule. First up was "Typical Male" which sailed to number two on the goodwill and interest she'd created. A hideous song that she never the less brings to life, "Typical Male" focuses on a woman's love for a lawyer, "a typical male" whom she begged to tell her "what to do." It didn't reflect anything Turner's music had stood for but it did appear to reflect fear of a strong woman on the part of the writers. Backlash may have given them lyrical 'ideas' but the music was all retread.
It wasn't just that the life had left the songs of Terry Britten and Graham Lyle (their last good moment was "We Don't Need Another Hero"), it was that all their songs sounded similar. An album of "What's Love Got To Do With It" would have made Tina Turner a one hit wonder. The charting of "Show Some Respect" should have underscored that point for everyone involved.
Instead, they were allowed to write the first five songs of Break Every Rule (which Terry Britten also produced as well as the sixth song, a cover of David Bowie's "Girls") and that's really when Tina Turner's recording career ended. Next up on the single release was "Two People" (the most obvious of there musical rewrites of "What's Love Got To Do With It"). While the hideous "Typical Male" had benefitted from being the first release and surprisingly made it to number two, "Two People" was a sign of what was to come as it stalled at number thirty on the Hot 100. No one cared, no one gave a damn, no one wanted to hear that shit.
It's not that Tina sang it badly, she did a wonderful job (note the bridge especially), it's just that it was a useless song about a useless topic and the sort of bland non-statement that could have appeared on sixty albums that year by people you never heard of and never missed.
Their retread of every other dumb song you've heard of ("What You Get Is What You See") was the closest to hard-driving rock and when it became the third single, it actually made it to number 13 and generated a little interest. But "Two People" (and the dopey factor of "What You Get Is What You See") had buried Tina's recording career and it's pretty much stayed there ever since.
Break Every Rule played like Follow Every Rule for the first six songs. Those who could endure the shit up to that point were actually rewarded with the last five songs. "Back Where You Started" was Tina rocking out with the help of writers and producers Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. It was everything the opening track of Break Every Rule should have been. This was followed with Rupert Hine's "Break Every Rule" which, in terms of image, joined with Brittan and Lyle's songs, but in terms of listenability was actually strong. Mark Knopfler (who'd earlier given Turner "Private Dancer") once again demonstrated he grasped the power of the singer with "Overnight Sensation." "Paradise Is Here" was probably the finest vocal Turner had the album and "I'll Be Thunder" contained more than a nod to her Phil Spector produced masterpiece "River Deep, Mountain High."
But no one cared, no one gave a damn. The shit that Britten and Lyle thought was "genius" killed the interest in the album, killed the interest in her recording career. They really thought, proving what assholes they are, that what the world wanted from Tina Turner was love with a 'typical male.' Did they fear the strong woman?
That's how that shit plays, all five of their weak ass audio doodles posing as songs. Turner was elemental. She was larger than life. (It's what she's always been in concert.) It was as though they were trying to 'domesticate' her -- trying to play Darren to her Samantha. And America didn't want that shit. Tina Turner's comeback included her bestseller I, Tina (as told to Kurt Loder) and her narrative was so well known that when she repeatedly turned down Stephen Spielberg at the Grammys (for The Color Purple) no one held it against her. Everyone grasped what she meant when she said she didn't need to play the role, she'd already lived it.
She was speaking of the years of abuse when she was married to Ike Turner. And that was part of the successful comeback as well. Turner was a survivor. She was also one of the first public faces of someone who survived spousal abuse. While Private Dancer captured that strength, zoomed in on it, highlighted it, Britten and Lyle wrote as though they had Samantha Fox in the studio. Instead of existing to showcase Tina Turner, Break Every Rule existed to highlight Britten and Lyle and, if you wonder why you don't hear from them now on the charts, there's a reason. (Most don't wonder, they're just grateful.)
Along with not including "Don't Turn Around" on the album and instead making it a showcase for the weak 'writing' talents of stooges, there was no Holly Knight song. Knight, Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn had penned "Better Be Good To Me," a powerhouse on Private Dancer. Knight, over the years, had written or co-written many hits including Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" and "Invincible," Heart's "Never" and "There's The Girl," Animotion's "Obsession," and, for Tina at that point, "Better Be Good To Me" and "One of the Living." Knight knew how to tap into Turner's image and craft a song to it.
Even after the first three singles killed all interest in Break Every Rule, a Knight song on the album could have turned the tide. Break Every Rule entered the charts at number six on the goodwill all that had come before created. It began tanking quickly. (If you follow the week to week, you can trace the release life of "Two People" by how low the album dips each week.)
Next up was, Tina Live In Europe, a double disc live set that should have explained the career problem just from the audience reaction. They're going wild when she covers "Addicted To Love" and they're much more reserved during "Two People." The Britten and Lyle crap didn't go over.
Which may be why the next album wasn't a showcase for their doodles? Foreign Affair was an attempt to get back on track (1989) and you could hear the desperation with each listen. What was the magic formula? What was the answer?
One answer was bringing back Holly Knight (Knight's "The Best" would rise to number six on the Hot 100 and become an 'evergreen' for Turner). It's the sort of anthem that was missing from Break Every Rule. Also strong was the work of Robert Cray on "Steamy Windows" which promised more than the album ever delivered. "The Best" was one of those songs that never burnt out for radio. It played long after its chart life and just when you thought it was finally gone, it was back in rotation. No song from Break Every Rule managed that feat.
It could have been a resurgence for Turner. The song had a built in good will factor and was popular with lovers and sports fans. ("You're simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone . . .") But someone decided that "I Don't Want To Fight" was the answer for a theme song to the film What's Love Got To Do With It (based on the book I, Tina). The big scene in the movie is when Angela Bassett's Turner doesn't back down to Laurence Fishburne's Ike in the limo and fights back. Of interest, for ticket buyers, was the stunning comeback and the abuse. "I Don't Want To Fight" as the theme to this film?
After some dopey end rhymes and useless imagery in the first verse, the chorus comes up:
I don't care who's wrong or right
I don't really want to fight no more
Too much talking, babe
Let's sleep on it tonight
I don't really want to fight no more
Because it's time for letting go.
That's a song of survival? That's a song of a woman who's been battered? "Too much talking, babe"? Did the writers (Steve DuBerry, Lulu and Billy Lawrie) know one thing about Turner's life story? The defense offered on the song was that it reflected Turner's outlook when the film was being made. Considering that the film ends in 1984, her outlook in 1993 was besides the point.
More importantly, she comes off like a whiney little thing in the tiny little song. "Let's sleep on it tonight." 'Empowering' advice? We doubt it's being distributed at women's shelters across the country.
Next up was Wildest Dreams (1996). The big hit, in the US, was "In Your Wildest Dreams" which found Turner teaming with Barry White on a Holly Knight and Mike Chapman song. But Terry Britten and Graham Lyle are back for more dopey nonsense. "Do What You Do" is an attempt at rock that finds Tina Turner in the cornfields of Richard Marx. "Something Beautiful Remains" is destroyed the moment Britten tries to harmonize with Turner in the opening notes. (Listen closely if you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Tina Turner shared a mike with E.T.) The song lacks a riff (the telegraph sound appears to be someone's idea of a riff) and the lyrics ("as one day ends, a new day must begin") would make the writers at Hallmark blush.
While the bulk of the songs seem to have no idea what Turner's image is, Hanes did. They promoted this album and the tour with "Resilience: It's all about strength and beauty." It's a shame 'song crafters' couldn't realize what marketers did.
As the 90s wound down, Tina did a commercial for Target where she performed Prince's "Baby, I'm a Star." She sang it with all the conviction she possed (considerable) and it was enough to get people excited about Twenty Four Seven (1998). Those who purchased the CD had several disappointments. First up was the fact that the Prince cover wasn't on the album. Equally tragic, Terry Britten produced (and co-wrote) two songs. It was as though, back in the sixties, Mick and Keith decided to leave behind "Satisfaction" and 'tackle' "Daydream Believer."
Britten's not the only offender. The second song showcases dopey lyrics and really tacky wow-wow effect (at times, the music sounds like it's the soundtrack to a porn flick). "All The Woman" robs the excitement even before the casual listener grasps that, unlike Johnny Douglas and Paul Wilson, they know winds blow, not "the waters." Determined to sink the album, Terry Britten offers his producing and songwriting 'talents' on track four -- "Absolutely Nothing's Changed." Certainly not the fact that he's never grasped what listeners respond to in Tina Turner. This generic song sounds as though it's been recorded ahead of time for Sister Act IX.
Which is really too bad because the album offered two strong songs. "Whatever You Need" was probably the best single Turner had since "The Best." The bigger hit for the album was "When The Heartache Is Over" which found Turner trying to attempt the Cher Does Disco Comeback that was "Believe." It actually works and that's due to the power chorus, Turner's vocals and the fact that someone involved in writing the song (Brian Rawling and Mark Taylor) grasped that Turner is a survivor ("I can live without you/ I know that I can live without you"). Sadly, Britten shows up for the final track, the hideous "Twenty Four Seven" which appears to combine swing with surf music to ensure that the disc leaves a nasty after taste.
Turner's one of the most successful live performers (in terms of audience reaction as well as box office). Not just one of the most succesful females, one of the most successful across the board -- regardless of gender or race. That's because of what she brings to the stage and what she showcases. Her concerts usually include a few rock covers. Prior to recording Private Dancer, it was common to sit through a Turner concert and hear Prince ("Let's Pretend We're Married") and assorted others. Coming off all those years of club performances of solid songs she'd selected to bring to life, Private Dancer emerged. The tours since have continued to offer covers. They've also required too much Britten (and Lyle).
A lion roars. Britten and Lyle destroyed Turner's recording career by attempting to make a lion purr. Chart success is always difficult for women. They rarely enjoy the lengthy stays that male performers do. They also have to worry about appearances in a way that a Bob Dylan never has to. So Turner was going to hit a cold streak on the charts regardless of what she recorded. But it's equally true that the songs offered by Britten and Lyle (and Britten solo) seemed to be far removed from her strength and what she represented.
Had it been only a song or two, one might think they were attempted to show how versatile Tuner was. "She's not just strong! She's not just a survivor! She has a tender side!" Instead, looking at the bulk of weak ass, shitty songs they've anchored her with over the years, it strikes us as they have no respect for what she stands for and were bound and determined to weaken the charts' Wonder Woman.
As Turner flirts with another album, she should remember what made Private Dancer -- strength, power. There will always be a dozen weak sisters waiting in the wings. Let them sing-song about a 'typical male'; let them offer the generic. Don't waste a considerable talent breathing life into still-born songs. Dance around to the Stones A Bigger Bang. Think about bringing "Let Me Down Slow" or "Rough Justice" to life (on the latter, replace "you" with "I" in the first two lines, and make a similar swap in lines four and five and the song has Tina Turner written all over it). Remind us all of what you have to offer.
If you missed the memo (surpising since it's everywhere), the only thing you can do to save the world is vote Democratic in November's election.
That's all the power you have, to judge by the coverage.
Now most participating in the writing of this feature are going to vote Democratic and do so each election cycle. Straight ticket.
So it's not the memo that has us (and others) so bothered, it's the fact that it's the only story out there.
We expect it from the DNC and from their cronies. We don't expect it from independent media.
But these days, independent media seems to be little more than a house organ for the DNC. Quick, which Democratic candidate for Congress said, last week, that he was for abolishing the "death tax"? Once upon a time, independent media could have told you that, would have told you that, would have taken him to task for his remarks.
We're just hearing the "Sounds of Silence."Hello, darkness my old friend, indeed.
It's really, really important that you vote and that you vote Democratic -- we're told over and over. A few weeks back, independent media seemed determined to be MTV's Rock the Vote but now, it's gotten so bad, they remind us of Kelli Maroney's character Cindy in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and her speech about being a Spirit Bunny. It's tough, we're sure.
We're also wondering exactly when a third party could take off? Vote Green this election cycle?Do you want independent media to come down on you!!!! (Jess will be voting Green, he's not alone among those participating in this feature.)
You hear a lot about how the G.O.P. is using fear (again) and while that's true, what exactly is the Democratic Party using?
"The Torture Election!" screams one headline. To not vote Democratic is to be for torture?
Al Gore 'lost' in 2000 for one reason: the Supreme Court.
He didn't lose because of Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader couldn't 'take' votes from Al Gore. Ralph Nader won his votes. Al Gore could have had them, if he wanted them, by appealing to those voters. He didn't. (A stronger argument for votes 'taken' could be made using Pat Buchanan's amazing turnout in Palm Beach via the butterfly ballot.)
But that's how it will go down. (And it's interesting that a converse logic, that H. Ross Perot 'took' votes from George H.W. Bush and allowed Bill Clinton to win in 1992 isn't made by the same faction still crying that mean old Ralph Nader 'took' votes from Al Gore.)
Al Gore didn't 'own' any votes. He campaigned to get votes. He got the votes he earned. Ralph Nader got the votes he earned. Bully Boy got the votes his Daddy put on the Supreme Court.
No one "owns" your vote, no one has "dibs" on it. If they want it, they need to speak to you. If they don't, they don't get your vote.
It's pretty simple.
All the supposed indepedent media coverage telling you otherwise is providing cover to Democratic candidates who want to push to abolish the so-called death tax and hide behind other Republican sloganeering. Usually, they'll toss out other crap like how they love the Bully Boy. (Hello, Harold Ford Jr.!) Or they'll give a speech about how they're not like Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. That's true. They wouldn't know how to lead (even badly) if an opportunity opened up.
Whether Joe Lieberman manages to hang on to his seat or not, there's a whole new batch of Lieberman's hatching in the Democratic Party.
Failure to address that with their audiences doesn't make independent media come off trust worthy or reliable.
After having previously profiled what we'll generously call "Eisenhower Democrats" in college last February, The Nation's campus beat turns it's glazed eyes to SNAP in the November 6, 2006 issue (page 14).
Oh, those movers and shakers. They're building a better world, one election turnout at a time. Color us unimpressed.
When not self-congratulating themselves, they offer dopey statements. Such as when Aja Davis explains 'political activism' to readers thusly: "You can't always be chained up to a tree. Sometimes you've got to go and put on a suit and deal with someone you don't agree with" before hastening to explain that she agrees with the candidate she worked for. Sometimes you've got to go and put on a suit?
Possibly. If you can afford a suit. This offensive-on-so-many-levels article ticked us off and we queried on campuses to see how many male or female students had a suit? Answer? Not many. But then it's not really about activism on campus, the article, it's about "power players."
We keep expecting the campus beat in The Nation to evolve into some sort of "Power 100" (though with the space provided to this beat, it would probably be reduced to ten). A Power Issue where they, like Forbes and Premiere, could offer up a list that wouldn't do much that qualifies as reporting but would get a lot of ink from outside the magazine.
SNAP, the article tells you, is making a difference via "fundraisers with supporters including Geraldine Ferraro and Barney Frank", and their "goal was to get young people back on the ground for the 2006 midterms." You go, SNAP, you do that work that the League of Women Voters and countless others having been doing for years before you. The end product to all this labor? "We set out to build power, and now we've got it," says Snappateer Jared Maslin. And what could be more "powerful" than influencing the 2008 Democratic presidential choice, which, for the record, SNAP believes it will. Endorsement! (Union endorsements didn't save Howard Dean, but, hey, when your goals are so tiny, dream big.)
It's endorsing in the mid-terms too! And they 'proved' their power because instead of donating money to a campaign, they provided a salary for a campaign worker from their ogranization. Clearly, they've gone the campus work-study route.
Well, remember, you can't always be chained to a tree. Though if SNAP strikes you as the last organization to be chained to a tree, rest assured, it strikes us that way as well.
Probing the soft, moneyed side of campus 'activism,' the campus beat at The Nation continues to be a joke. And on that topic, their yearly student essay will be coming up shortly. Remember kids, if you want to win, trash everyone your own age.
And if you want coverage in the campus 'activism' section of The Nation remember that it's not about independence, it's about getting the big money and doing very little with it. No dreamers, no visionaries, allowed. You better be a top-down organization interested in top-down processes. And, though not mentioned in the article, being Yale based helps as well.
Out in the real world, where real activism goes on, the campus beat can't be bothered. Which is probably why there's outrage among many students who've read the piece of crap entitled "SNAP!" ("You go, Yale!" apparently was already taken.) Five of us read the article and were immediately disgusted (but it's just the sort of 'insight' we'd expect from someone who hates Alexander Cockburn). The five were Ava, Jess, Ty, Dona and Jim. C.I.'s attitude was, "Well what do you expect from him?" C.I.'s attitude changed while speaking to seventeen groups of students over three days and hearing repeatedly about how much they loathed this article.* Mike and Wally passed it around their campuses to get reactions and found similar aminosity towards the article.
Fitting into the established power structure and begging for a seat at the table plays really well to The Nation's campus beat and that may be the saddest thing about the beat. (We're not just referring to one or two articles.)
As with the essay chosen last year, the 'voice' of students presented seems to be only those who please their elders either by being co-opted (the Eisenhower Democrats) or by slamming their peers. (We'd suggest to Davis that she flesh out her "You can't always be chained to a tree. Sometimes you've got to put on a suit . . ." 'thesis' because it has essay winner written all over it.) Otherwise, their tales are told through 'older voices' such as when the student led immigartion rights movement began last spring (with school walk outs), The Nation offeed up Roberto Lovato's "Voices Of A New Movimiento" (June 19, 2006) which featured a 26-year-old as the 'youngest' voice and ended with an 'elder' telling a story about students showing up at a James Sensenbrenner town hall chanting "Si se puede." Apparently, none of the students could be reached for comment.
What does that tell you? The movement was sparked by mass walk outs from schools and The Nation couldn't find anyone under 26 to speak to? We're all eagerly awaiting the second post-election edition of The Nation with the hopes that it can stop being an organ for the Democratic Party and get back to being a part of independent media. We know that won't happen with the first edition which will struggle to tell us what the election 'means' -- in a higher minded, focus people, kind of manner. Right now, we're plenty bored. The "peace" columinst tells us that this is the "Torture Election." And we're wondering when they'll get a real peace columnist who'll cover the peace movement?
One student explained to C.I. how ticked off he was with groups like SNAP by noting a member of the group had come up to him supposedly to talk but was obviously working from a list of talking points beginning with, "You know this election is really important and it's important that you vote and vote wisely." As the student noted to C.I. and the others present, "I'm a poli student. I don't need some newly converted 'activist' speaking to me in patronizing tones about voting." He said he was sick of it and that's a sentiment we can share.
From Dan Berger and Andy Cornell's "Ten Questions for Movement Building and Reflection" (LeftTurn):
What young people don't want to deal with is patronization or abandonment, people who focus on their glory days or on lecturing 'the youngens.' What young folks do want are older activists who remain steadfast in their resolve and organizing, who seek to draw out the lessons from their years in the struggle (and are clear about where they differ with others of their age cohort without being sectarian), who look to younger activists for inspiration and guidance while providing the same, and who are focused on movement building. Building on the more multigenerational roots of Southern organizing, two older organizers in Greensboro beautifully summed this up at an event in saying, "We aren't done, we're not leaving, and we're in this together."
We agree. And guess what, the 'years in the struggle' doesn't translate (despite the campus beat of The Nation's apparent belief) into electoral politics.
[*Dona also took part in these speaking gigs. ]
Dona: The Summer House. My aunt took me to see this film and it was playing at an independent theater with six screens, a coffee bar and about a dozen other things I wasn't used to at my local cineplex. I remember being so impressed. Then we saw the movie. I thought it was funny. Either it wasn't or the frou-frou crowd frowned on laughing. I was the only one laughing and there were several people hissing "SHHH!" at me throughout the movie. I found Jeanne Moreau enchanting but left with the desire never to visit another independent cinema and didn't for many years after. I was probably in first grade, maybe second, and for years I would get nervous if we even drove past an independent theater. I'm not joking about this. I've never seen the film since but when I was a little kid, it tickled me.
Elaine: I vaguely remember the movie and I believe it was billed as a comedy. I think it says something about the crowd you saw it with that they not only wouldn't laugh but would also hiss at a little child. My pick is Dumb & Dumber. It's an idiot film. It really is. I'm not a fan of Jim Carey films. Either they leave me cold or, like with Liar! Liar!, I'm thinking something like, "Yeah, I loved this film . . . when it was called All of Me and starred Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin." But there are moments in that film that crack me up. When they're singing "Mockingbird." When they do the Pretty Woman shopping spoof. In the last thirty minutes, it's just coasting but that was the most appealing Jim Carey's ever been on the big screen for me.
Jim: Interesting. I'll go with the first Austin Powers. To me that's funny. Each sequel got worse. Elizabeth Hurley was a part of the action and story. Each one after treated the female lead like the new "Bond girl." The only scene in any of the two sequels that made me laugh was in the second one where Dr. Evil and Scott go to father-son group therapy.
Rebecca: The Carrie Fisher scene. And it's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I noted mine, at The Common Ills, before I ever started blogging, so some people may be disappointed, but it's Valley of the Dolls. I love that bad movie. I love the bad acting. I love the bad writing. Best-worst scene of all time, my opinion, when Neely and Tony, two Hollywood entertainers, end up in the nut house and sing a duet which leads to the other patients applauding. Sharon Tate looks lovely throughout and I love the hair styles.
Betty: I'll go with the look of a film as well. Back in "the old days," TV stations, cable and broadcast, used to show a lot of movies. I'm tempted to go with something like Godzilla vs. Mothra but the ones I really looked forward to were the sixties movies. Not the good stuff that holds up, but the silly stuff. Like, If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium. But my favorite, the one where everyone knew not to disturb me, was What's So Good About Feeling So Bad? It stars Mary Tyler Moore and . . . Help.
C.I.: George Peppard.
Betty: Thank you. There's this bird, a toucan, and he's spreading this disease of 'feel good.' I love the look and the hair styles. And Thelma Ritter's very funny in it. It's a film that I've looked for on DVD and never found. I mean, I see the $6.99 reduced stack of DVDs and I will dig through everyone in there thinking, "It could be here!" If the kids are with me, I'll still do it unless one of them is sick. And I mean sick where they're in pain. We were at the drug store getting medicine for my youngest son's pink eye last month and I saw one of those reduced displays of old movies. I asked, "How you holding up?" He was just excited that he got to play hookie. So I dug through them all. Before anyone panics, my hands were clean, I wasn't spreading pink eye.
Ty: I've never thought about that. I mean, at a drug store, digging through stuff, which I have done, a lot of people coming in there are sick. I'll be more careful in the future. I'm going to go with Outrageous Fortune. This is an "aunt tale" too, like Dona's. My aunt had just broken up with some guy and she was sobbing all day and that thing was playing on TV. We'd all been avoiding her and my grandmother had told her she was making a fool out of herself. She'd been sobbing all day and I mean loud, gut wrenching sobs. I was walking past the living room trying not to make eye contact but she saw me and called me over. She asked if I'd watch TV with her. I'd never seen the movie and don't think I even knew anyone in it at the time. But we watched and she was laughing and I was laughing. At first, I was just laughing because she was laughing. Then I really got into the movie. I told that story to Jim not long after we first became college roommates back in NY and he got me the DVD for my birthday that year. George Carlin cracks me up in that and so does Bette Midler. Shelly Long's a little too prissy but it works in the film. And the airport scene, where Midler and Long are pretending to be foreigners, when the woman says, "That was the biggest load of crap" always makes me laugh.
Jess: That's a movie I never saw until the three of us were roommates and it is a funny one. I'm trying to think of one like that for me but I'm really not having any luck. The closest would probably be Throw Momma From The Train. Danny DeVito's really funny in that and Billy Crystal is at times. I can do without the whole date where he and his girlfriend sit in the train. But I'm not thinking of anything else, so I'll go with that. DeVito's really funny.
Cedric: Carwash. It's a dumb movie, it's frequently a static movie. You wait for stuff to happen and most of what does happen appears to be an accident but, in those moments, it cracks me up. When I was a little kid, the theme song would get me excited.
Mike: Song. I'm going with a song too. This is supposed to be one of the really bad movies of all time. My sister recorded this off cable, one of the stations with commercials, and that's how I saw it. At Long Last Love. It's got Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shephard and Madeline Kahn. My sister, my oldest, would put it on and clear out the living room. Everyone would go running, "Ma! Dad! She's watching that movie again!" It actually became like a bonding thing between us because I was the only one who'd watch it with her and I was so young that we really didn't have a lot in common. I should probably check and see if it's available on DVD because she's still got that tape and still watches it.
Wally: Do you ever watch it with her?
Mike: Oh yeah. And she still complains that I'm the only one who will. Even her husband won't watch it with her.
Wally: Okay. Do we want to insert Kat here?
Ava:Let's do that after you go. Kat phoned and we got her input on this feature and another one.
Wally: Mine is The Jerk with Steve Martin. I thought that was the funniest thing when I was growing up. That Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation. Now I watch it and I see all these holes in the story and all these other problems and there are bits that really aren't funny. But I still laugh at the movie. It must crack others up too, that guy in My Chemical Romance looks like Steve Martin in The Jerk.
Kat: Hair. The worst musical of the 70s. Even more so than the disaster that is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club. That one just took a great album and turned into a lousy film by inventing a story. This one took a successful play and destroyed it. There was no respect for the structure and they felt they could rearrange the order of the songs. By the time Charlotte Rae shows up, you know it's laugh or cry. It's a train wreck that you can't look away from if you watch more than a second so, if you've been spared so far, avoid it at all costs. Even Treat Williams' hair is phoney.
Ava: I'm going with a musical as well but really more of a series of musicals. The Annette & Frankie beach movies. They're laughable. They're bad movies in every sense. But I can watch them and enjoy them. In one Annette sings "A Girl Needs A Boy," counter to Frankie's version, and it's probably her finest moment in the series. You also get Candy dancing around in her fringes and the character Eric von Zipper. Don Rickles shows up in Beach Blanket Bingo -- "that's the name of the, that's the name of the game." I'm embarrassed to say that I can sing along with probably every song in those movies.
Jim: That's everyone but C.I., right? Okay, this actually started because we usually watch a movie, the core six, after we finish the edition. We're all about to fall over and we usually want a comedy which we'll usually fall asleep during. One time, C.I. picked one and we were all kind of shocked. "You like this film?" we asked because it seemed so non-C.I. That's when we started teasing that it was like Rachel saying her favorite film was Dangerous Liasons but really . . . So we'll end with C.I.
C.I.: I think it's due to Bob Hope's work offscreen that shocked everyone so. Bob Hope's the star of the film and I really do love it. It's one of my earliest favorite films and I'm sure I could quote the whole thing by now. The film is My Favorite Brunette and it stars Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Hope's Ronnie Jackson, a baby photographer, whose office is next door to private detective Sam McLoud's, played by Alan Ladd. McLoud's out of town and Hope ends up posing as McLoud when Lamour's Carlotta comes knocking. It's a very funny movie, funny with dialogue, slapstick, throw away bits. On the latter, the movie opens with Hope on death row and he explains to reporters what happened. At the end, I don't think I'm giving anything away, it's a comedy from the forties, the execution is called off. When the excutioner finds out, he's upset. The excutioner is played by Bing Crosby and when Dorothy Lamour sees him, she can't take her eyes off him. Hope has to grab her chin and turn her back towards him. Hope, Crosby and Lamour starred in a series of films and it's a nod to those.
Jess: I really do like that movie. I think my favorite line is when Hope says about Lamour, "Nutty as a fruitcake, and with all that beautiful icing."
C.I.: So there's that and there's also a really strong visual for a forties comedy. It's a film noir spoof and you get that lighting and a great deal more.
Jim: So those are our picks of films you might not guess qualified for favorites. As Mike noted Tuesday, a lot of people are busy these days. For that reason, we've been avoiding a roundtable on books. After the election, we intend to do our next roundtable. One book we're hoping to cover is Cindy Sheehan's Peace Mom.
According to Mike Howell's "U.S. army deserter ready to head home" (Toronto Star, ran on Friday), war resister Kyle Snyder "will return to the United States tomorrow [Saturday] and turn himself into the military."
Did it happen? We can't find any press coverage of it. Are we now to the point (a point that the media, big and small, have been flirting with for some time) where resistance is the tree falling in the woods? If resistance happens when no one is around, did it make a sound?
Original reports (from Courage to Resist) had Kyle Snyder returning at the first of November. Possibly, Howell was mistaken? Though possible, it hardly seems likely since Howell's spent a great deal of time covering war resisters including Kyle Snyder.
Another little reported story was noted on Friday in C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Meanwhile, Citizen Soldier announces the opening, today, of "the first soldiers' coffeehouse of the current Iraq war in Watertown, NY." More information can be found at Citizen Soldier and at Different Drummer, the name of the coffeehouse. It is a movement and for those wanting more information on the importance of the GI coffeehouse to a peace movement should view David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! documentary.
With or without coverage, the movement is alive and well. We're not so sure we can say the same about media, big and small.
Hey there, pretty girl in the mirror. Wooh-hoo, you are looking good, baby, looking good! Screw Doris Roberts, you are beautiful!
Today is your day!
The sixties are back and you are so all over them!
Three cans of hairspray this morning on that lovely hair. Screw Pantene, you were always a Suave girl.
And now you're bringing back the sixites!
The good parts.
Like the John Birch Society.
And polyester! You are so bringing back polyester!
You go, girl, you go!
You can wear stretchy polyster, white, and coo "Happy Birthday" to the Bully Boy. He's your Bully! He's a Bully just like you are!
Who has more fun than you on a set? Throwing tantrums and screaming at everyone! You rock! You rule!
You are the Anita Bryant of today!
You've taken on the Terry Schiavo issue. So what if America was against you? Rush loves you. Hannity loves you.
It got you a part in the most talked about mini-series of the year!!!!!
Now you gotta peddle the wares again and what better way than to come out against that hideous Michael J. Fox? His Alex Keaton may have fooled a lot of people, but not you, never you.
Your agent said, "Patty, you have no friends in this town, you can't act, you're pudgy and ugly, you're wrinkled and your voice is irritating."
What does he know!!! F**king moron!
You're PATRICIA GOD**MN HEATON!
You're already booked for the 2008 G.O.P. convention!
You're stylish! You're important! You're beautiful, baby!
Everybody Loves Patricia!
You'll be back on TV in your own sitcom in no time. That's what Roger Ailes says! And he never lies!
And this time, no stupid Ray Romano droning on and on, no Doris Roberts trying to upstage me. It'll be my show!
America loves me! The good parts at least!
The issue obviously went to print before they could update. Clousing is serving three months (of an eleven months sentence), was demoted in rank, and, upon completion of the three months, will receive a dishonrable discharge.
To date, this is the only coverage the independent print media has given Clousing. (Though big media did show interest in the story.) More information on war resisters can be found at Courage to Resist.
The First Lady decided to work in the visual field and came up with an exhibit entitled "The Destroyer." Shortly after, she vanished. Rumors have her vacationing in Gitmo.
Bully Boy attends the opening of the exhibit with Condi Rice. They hem and haw and the sexual tension between them will remind you of Brenda & Dylan or Pacey & Joey or
Mr. Ed & Wilbur.
Big Denny Hastert gets stood up at the last minute and considers attending stag. Instead, he calls Mark Foley who suggest he call the Congressional Page program for a hook up. So he ends up escorting the 16-year-old Roy (played by Fall Out Boy's delightful Pete Wentz)who threatens to have another Fall Out Boy moment even though no cell phones are around.
Musical guests Barbara & Jenna perform "Vogue" and demonstrate that talent is AWOL from this family.
MyTV's Fascist House airing 365 days a year, 52 weeks. All new episodes!
We had six features completed. Those will be going up. While they are, we'll be working on at least two additional features. Fingers crossed, this will all be done within two hours.
We'll use the illustrations Rebecca can get up at her site. Sometimes, adding an illustration to an entry requires several attempts. Translation, patience.
We also will be pasting the majority of what we have completed into Blogger/Blogspot. Due to the problems, we lost several features when we'd attempt to save them. One of which was Ava and C.I.'s latest TV review. We were able to use "recover post" (a feature in Blogger/Blogspot) to recover most of the review. The conclusion is missing and we're of the opinion that that will just have to do. Everything we paste over here (text) will also require hunting down links. So two hours may be an unreasonable expectation but that's what we're shooting for.
We have input from Kat on two features this edition. We also got that readers are sick to death of 'horse race coverage'. That was the biggest complaint in the e-mails, that everywhere you looked or listened, you were being swamped with that. We have avoided it before and we avoided it this week. But the e-mails were asking for something extremely different so we tried to hit the arts aspect more this week.
If, like most readers who come to this site, you knew how you were going to vote a month ago and are feeling talked down to in the saturation of "It's election time!" coverage, don't worry. There won't be anything like that here. You won't hear how 'groovy' Harold Ford Jr. is. You won't be told "This guy wrote 'Still The One!'" or any of the other 'coverage' that has you so bothered.
We'll leave the puff Meet-the-Candidate!-And-Vote!-For-Him/Her! to others.
Though she's in Ireland, Kat did dictate a new review ("Kat's Korner: The death of Ani DiFranco?") over the phone to C.I. last night. In addition to that, while C.I. was on the phone with her, we (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava) were pestering like crazy to speak to Kat. C.I. put her on speaker after she finished dictating the review. We were able to get her input on a feature we're doing on Tina Turner and she also weighed in on a roundtable we did on movies. So we've got Kat's input on two features.
She's assuming that she will be in Ireland through next week and possibly one more.
I never did.
That's not due to the fact that I'm in Ireland dealing with a dying family member. That's due to the news by way of Toni.
I practically grabbed her by the arm and pulled her from my front door to the living room to listen to Reprieve shortly after it came out. We all love Ani but Toni's probably been her biggest and longest fan of my small circle of friends.
I was full of "Isn't it great" and "Isn't it wonderful" talk and basically stepping on every word Toni started to say. Finally, after I shoved her on the sofa and went to the stereo, it hit me that Toni wasn't excited.
I made all the pleasantries I normally would have greeted her with but now I was listening for any indication of something seriously wrong. No indications were given and no words of distress were spoken.
Assuming it was the heat, this was still summer and these were furnace days, I ran to the kitchen for the pitcher of margaritas I'd made earlier and came back with salted glasses. Toni's face lit up like Maggie's. Since she's not quite the booze hound Maggie is, I assumed it was the weather, poured her a glass and headed towards the stereo.
"Do we have to listen?"
Okay, now I was seriously disturbed. This is the woman who drags me to Ani concerts. This is the woman who argued for fifteen minutes with a clerk at Tower over a free poster that was supposed to come with purchase of Evolve. (She got the Ani poster but only after she'd created such a scene that the manager had to intervene.) This is the woman who begged me to help her create an Ani T-shirt in 1994 because she didn't think any of the ones available (on either market) did Ani justice. What the hell was going on?
Hadn't I heard, Toni wondered, Ani was pregnant.
I put on the Who's Tommy and turned the lights down. We listened in silence and didn't begin speaking until the next CD, around the time Janis was singing "Call On Me."
See, the thing is, women have to fight for any kind of artistic credibility. And, for women who've listened to music for any length of time, pregnancy doesn't mean "joy." It usually means soggy.
You start getting 'lullaby' CDs that the artists wouldn't normally put out until after the chart making days were over. Or you get these audio equivalents of "destiny." You get a whole lot of crap, you just don't get any art.
I was never a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan. But she was getting better with each album and, by the time of Surfacing, I was actually starting to enjoy her arc of growth. Then came the news that she was pregnant. I knew the next album would be a retreat. And it was, despite being called World On Fire.
Shawn Colvin's often used these days as an example by some of how women can't really work. The argument goes, it's not 'natural' for women, they have to really work at it. (Well the last few few Bob Dylan albums have felt phoned in -- maybe everyone needs to work a little harder?) They toss out Shawn Colvin and the soggy mush she released post-pregnancy and the overly lit commercials she did. And every woman suffers from that 'logic.'
'Logic' because Shawn Colvin wasn't a rocker before she got pregnant. She was as soggy as she is today long before she had her first bout of morning sickness. But the 'logic' dominates and there are plenty of examples to back it up.
The woman who've left a big impact tend to be childless or else they adopted a child (or gave one up for adoption). That includes Janis who died early. It includes Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Ann Wilson, and not many others.
Laura Nyro is an artist I love but when she emerged post-pregnancy, the art lost its urgency. Some argue Cass Elliot, whom I love, went into schmaltz after her pregnancy. There are too many arguments to be made to put it down just as 'getting older.' Even Chrissie Hynde who can usually be counted on to kick out the jams when everyone around her is brewing tea and reaching for a caftan began making drippy statements about women's 'nature' as she began having children.
Toni and I started talking about what women we could think of who didn't go into retreat at the first sign of pregnancy? We could name three: Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Carly Simon. We were depressed and you might be able to name more. I actually hope you can.
Lady Soul was always Lady Soul. She might get the worst producer in the world and, goodness knows, she's had some of them. But her work that goes soggy can be traced to that. Etta James? The original 'bad girl' -- the archetype before the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las ever harmonized on their first note. Carly? That keen eye for observation didn't switch to soft focus as a result of Sally and Ben.
Think Toni and I were making too much of it? Did you ever listen to Patti Smith's Dream of Life? That the album which provided one of her best songs ("People Have The Power") could be surrounded with so much corn was heart breaking. Or take the strange career of Pat Benetar who came out belting hard rocking songs in her caberet voice, traded in the tights for shoulder pads and then seemed to turn the whole career over to her husband and lose every fan who'd ever screamed along to "Treat Me Right" with the acoustic drip that was Tropico. The woman who once snarled, "You Better Run" has spent the rest of her career trying to reclaim her fans, often via the blues, but traveling the road with some sort of Cowsills act.
Benatar, the woman who won four consecutives Grammys in the women rock vocals category (all before she gave birth and none since), also provided MTV with the second video they ever played. Not even the blues could allow her to, as the Jefferson Starship once sang, "Find Your Way Back" to her fans.
The two Pats offer an interesting comparison. One was an artistic heavy hitter (Smith), the other a chart topper. Both rocked. Both went soft.
A little over a decade ago, we got another 'year of the women' in rock. The poster girl was Liz Phair. Exile in Guyville was a smart album full of angry thoughts and angry music. It rocked. She had a highly limited vocal range but she got crowned by most as the 'rocker.' Then came the days of Mommy-dom. And her career's never been the same. While her self-titled CD was so idiotic and so art-free, it made more than a few fans wish for the days of Whip Smart, the truth is that Liz Phair was already on the road to soggy.
The reality of pregnancy for many rocking women (I've gone with 'big' names because smaller artists, of any gender, have enough problems trying to break through) is not that different from the average women. It's late nights in the rocking chair, it's blurry mornings where you sit at the kitchen table watching the high chair. It's a lot of yawning, it's a lot adjustment to a new schedule. And, reality, it's still an enormous amount of work that falls mainly on women.
To be a woman in rock is to invert, subvert or spoof the stereotype and possibly there's no energy left for that in the post-birth days? Now an artist could explore these moments, and Toni and I give Carly credit for doing so. But most ignore reality. It's as though when the creative urge strikes them, they're going for a Calgon-take-me-away feel.
And it's drippy and it's sad and it hurts all women. So, for most women I know, the early days of being interested in sharing the news that ___ is pregnant quickly turns into an avoid the topic all together mood. Toni was tying it into an episode of Sex in the City which I never saw but apparently Sarah Jessica Parker and company go to a party thrown by a woman who's become a mother and it becomes a nightmare. (Sarah Jess' Carrie even loses her beloved shoes. Clearly a tragedy akin to Dorothy losing her red ruby slippers.) Even without having seen the episode, I could nod along to Toni's recap of retreat portrayed.
So what does the future hold for Ani DiFranco? The self-described "punk" (she didn't want to be called folk) has always rejected most labels. She's been lesbian, she's been bi-sexual, she's been married to a man, she's spoken of, and sang of, the 'girl police' who want her to be one thing when she wants to be another.
Long before the first wave of concern over the career from dedicated fans, Ani had declared, "I am no poster girl with a poster" ("32 Flavors"). So despite the talent that practically screams for you to say, "Okay, with Ani, with Ani there will be a difference!"; you find yourself quickly realizing that asking her to be a standard-bearer is asking for disappointment and all but inviting her to run the other way.
Now Patti Smith, unlike Pat Benatar, bounded back in the 90s and has stayed strong. Dream of Life sounds, now, like something she just had to get out of her system. Ani shares more similarities to Patti than to Pat so there may be reason to hope. But, to be honest, for too many women who've seen SoggyStock play out (the ever evolving 'happening' that's outlived Woodstock and any other 'event' in the rock era), there's not much reason to hope.
Add in that Ani's had problems in the last few years (which led to a tour cancellation) that interfered with her guitar playing and the 'news' is enough to depress the hell out of you. You might, as Toni and I did, try to find comfort in the fact that, if the sog-fest is temporary, the artist usually rebounds while, on the male end, they often seemed trapped in a cartoon version of themselves.
But that doesn't change the fact that the 'news' depresses us. We're fans of the music, not the artist. If we were fans of the personality, we could probably be as exicted for Ani as anyone who spent the summer breathless over Angelina and Brad's offsprings or Tom and Katie's.
A pitcher and a half of margaritas later, we were ready to listen. "Half-Assed" is probably the best track on the CD. But what we noticed was that this is Ani's album. She's had albums that worked before from start to finish as something more than a collection of songs. Obviously the live albums but the studio ones too (Not A Pretty Face, Little Plastic Castle, Evolve, Educated Guess). But on this one, it's not just the songs that add together for a total portrait, it's the musical accents. I honestly had missed that until C.I. pointed them out.
Reprieve is a CD for the big speakers, no question. But it's also one that you really should put on the head phones for at least once. You'll discover so much more to it if you do. In terms of the production, it's a very textured work. Which is interesting considering that last time around, Ani had surrendered production duties to Joe Henry (Knuckle Down, an album that still hasn't spoken to me). The textures are so wonderful (again, use headphones -- birds, traffic and more) that if Ani's going out, she's going out with a blaze.
"Hypnotized" opens the album softly and it may rank with "Both Hands" for Ani's most beautiful of her gentle songs. "So that's how you found me/ Rain falling around me . . . And you were no picnic/ And you were no prize/ But you had enough pathos/ To keep me hypnotized." On the second track, "Subconscious," the key line is "I know where I'm going/ And it aint' where I've been." That really sums up the album. Reprieve is looking at the world and refusing to take part in the uglier parts. The uglier parts are summed up best in "Millennium Theater:"
While out in TV nation
Under darkening skies
The resistance is just waiting
To be organized.
That's the album. She's looking at where the world is going and where it's been. Of the illustration on the cover, Ani writes in the liner notes: "the cover tree was inspired by a photgraph taken in nagasaki, japan on august 10, 1945 by yosuke yamahata, just hours after the explosion of the atomic bomb." The tree on the cover is half-destroyed, half-alive. That too goes to what she's commenting on this time around. It's a powerful album.
Still, it's hard not to hear "Millennium Theater" now (post 'news') and not worry, or at least wonder, where the 'news' will take Ani next? The fear is soggy in a New Morning retreat.
I hope that's not the case but most women into music can tell you they've pinned their hopes on a person before, "She'll be the one! She is the one!" The comedown is never pretty. While back, around Ray of Light, I can remember some of my friends talking up Madonna as the "one." She was more marketeer than muscian. But she'd had a run on the charts like no one since Olivia Newton-John. So, on the basis of that, there was some excitement even though she was doing the faux British accent, even though she was aspiring for 'respectable.' Today, she seems genuinely puzzled that her stage shows, where the most creativity has always gone, are seen as controversial in a manner that doesn't excite media debate but just brings condemnations. When you go for 'respectable,' maybe you bring that criticism on yourself? It's one thing to court controversy and try for 'edgy' when you're all but passing out snapshots of your vagina, it's quite another when you're reinvented yourself for the last mile.
Ani's no Madonna. There's never been a team of writers or musicians needed for her to produce an album. All Ani's learned, all she's observed, come together on this album. Is Reprieve the swan song?
On 1974's Hotcakes, Carly Simon observed the following in "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby:"
Platform shoes on table tops
I think I'm going to have a baby
Opinons flying right and left
I think I'm going to tell them maybe
They're puttin' out to many photographs records
Think I'm gonna have a baby, a baby . . .
I'm sure there are many "opinions flying right and left" with regards to Ani's 'news.' And for her, it may be all annoying. (If so, don't follow your press.) But it is a real very concern. Janis Joplin was blazing a trail of exploration and, once she died, she became a cautionary note. The 'boys' can be wild and never suffer the 'afterschool special' portrayals (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, . . .). The reality is that women are the first overlooked in the histories. That's still true. They'll do their 'exception' and note a Joni Mitchell but, for instance, having just read a 'history of US rock' here in Ireland which lists only one female (Joni) but goes on and on about Jan & Dean, the Rascals, the Bee Gees, the Blues Magoos, and just about every other name of someone with a penis attached to the body, things haven't changed that much. In the late eighties, pop stations in the United States, were going out of their way to attempt to figure out how to play the hits but avoid playing a woman after another. The same 'concern,' then or now, has never been applied to male artists.
So there's a lot that women are up against. When someone manages to carve out their own space, that's cause for celebration. Maybe in forty years, there won't be a need for women to respond to the news that a favorite female artist is pregnant with fears? But that's reality as well.
Of the big name female artists who 'crossed over' (even temporarily) into the 'boys' club' (which is what it is, it's not 'the club,' it's the 'boys' club' and a lot of men in the print set work harder than Spanky of The Little Rascals to keep it that way), the only one to give birth and not cause embarrassment is Carly Simon. She did it by exploring life, what she was doing before. Maybe Ani will follow that path?
Time will tell. After a couple of hours discussing the topic, Toni and I were able to think of one more woman of 'rock' whose work didn't go soggy as a result of motherhood: Tori Amos. So we were left with four.
Right now, we have Reprieve and if you haven't checked it out yet, make a point to. Forget the 'news,' just blast "Half-Assed" out your speakers:
You start trippin
And I start slippin away
I was taught to zip it
If I got nothing nice to say
And down in the Texas of my heart
Driving a really big truck
Headed down a dirt road . . .
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