Sunday, September 09, 2007



Dipping into the mailbag. Ty and Dona read the bulk of the e-mails to this site. Ty selected questions. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Wally of The Daily Jot.

Ty: We're starting with one of those 'brainy types' and we'll save embarrassing him by not noting a name. However, we can. We have no policy that guarantees you privacy if you e-mail So a 'brainy' writes, "I realize this is like, ancient history, but I just read your Feb 11 review of 'Rules of Engagement', and I think you missed the point of David Spade's character. Russell is *not* supposed to be some sort of 'Love God'; he's supposed to be just what you percieve him to be: a middle-aged lothario with delusions of 'Love God' dancing in his head. Look at the women Russell is paired with: airheads and sad, one-night stands. The writers and producers are showing you who Russell is, you just choose not to see it."

Ava: No, you choose to miss reality. When we reviewed that piece of trash, we'd seen four episodes of it, three that hadn't yet aired. At this late date, if you're a fan of that trash, you should have seen those episodes as well. Such as when Porky decides to prove to his wife that he can still catch a woman's interest. Who shows up at the bar? David Spade. Alone? No, with two gorgeous, very young women. You can play, or be, stupid all you want but the reality is that David Spade portrays a "Love God" on the show, regularly attracting women that a short man who looks like Ellen's ugly sister most likely wouldn't stand a chance with even before you start considering his tired lines and sexist attitude.

Rebecca: Can I jump in? Ava and C.I. wrote the review, they do all the TV commentaries. I'm nursing these days so I'm often in the rocking chair. I've actually had the misfortune of seeing the show twice this summer. Spade's character does not feel, in those two episodes, that he's a loser. He wants the quote "airheads". How he could ever get them is beyond reason and must work under the same principle that allowed Larry from Three's Company to date well above his station.

Jim: C.I.?

C.I.: The man can have whatever opinion he wants, and yes, it was a man. You really didn't think a woman would write in to defend that sexist show, did you? But as Rebecca and Ava point out, the character of Russell is constructed so that he loves his life. That point is established in dialogue Russell himself speaks in the first episode. That judgement could change in later seasons, but it doesn't change the fact that there's no way someone looking like David Spade, but not actually David Spade, could attract those women. The other thing I'll add is I was just noting, in an e-mail last week, how long the shelf life on those things are. That thing was forever ago.

Ty: February 11, 2007. And yeah, Ava and C.I.'s commentaries have a very long shelf life. This week's e-mails included ones noting things from this year, from last year and from 2005. A professor taught a writing course to high schoolers gearing up for senior year and hopefully college this summer. She used several pieces of criticism for the course when it got to analytical and she wrote in to say that "TV: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Reporting for Two Hours of Self-Love" was the thing that students connected with the most. She wrote that her daughter recommended that to her and "is a big fan" but that was her first time reading Ava and C.I. On that one, which is repeatedly cited in e-mails, you're dropping back to May 29, 2005.

Dona: I'll just add the whiners are always worth a laugh. Such as a relative of a reality 'star,' or non-star, who wanted to whine and play hurt little bunny. Your relative goes on television and makes a joke of themselves, maybe you should talk to them and not waste our time.

Ty: Turning to more serious issues, two e-mails came in complaining about Monday's article:
"The Nation ignores war resisters even as it publishes the child of one," "the nation magazine ignores war resisters while publishing the child of one," "The Nation refuses to cover war resisters while publishing the child of one," "The Nation ignores war resisters even while publishing the child of one," "The Nation ignores war resisters while publishing the child of one,"
"The Nation refuses to cover war resisters while publishing the child of one," "The Nation refuses to cover war resisters while publishing the child of one," "The Nation ignores war resisters while publishing the child of one" and "The Nation ignores war resisters even while publishing the child of one." Two people felt Naomi Klein had been outed and were opposed to that.

Elaine: I'll grab that because C.I. and I chose the child of war resisters to note in that. I won't say we won't out. I think there's too much cowardice on the issue of war resisters and I hope every current war resister raises their child to defend future ones. That was one of the issues that C.I. and I worked on the most during college. We know a number of war resisters from that period. We know ones that went to Canada and we know ones that went underground in this country. A few months back, C.I. gave me three days notice on rearranging my appointments to be able to attend a party in DC. I figured it was something important so I didn't ask questions. We get to the party and it's the most boring thing in the world with centrists and right wingers. After dinner, C.I. catches my eye and I follow over to a gas bag war cheerleader. C.I. begins making small talk and then asks, "What did your father do during Vietnam?" The gas bag invents a physical condition that prevented his father from serving. C.I. asks, "Really? How strange because you look just like ____ but of course that wasn't his legal during Vietnam, now was it?" The gas bag turned red while I'm noticing, and saying, how much the gas bag looks like his father. The gas bag's toned down his rhetoric but he's far from alone when it comes to children of war resisters who remain silent today. Now we could have outed that guy in the article with little concern. He's a war cheerleader and his father went underground in this country, lives under another name today and his son cheers on today's illegal war. We didn't out him. We also didn't out Naomi Klein. While it's not part of her official bio, in fact an article two Saturdays ago in a Canadian paper managed to mention her parents without ever noting why, during Vietnam, they moved to Canada. But when we made it known that we were looking for someone to use as an example, and as a positive example, we were informed that Naomi Klein subbed for Janeane Garofalo on The Majority Report back in 2005 and, when Sam Seder asked her if she, a Canadian, had any difficulty traveling to the US, Klein stated that she held dual citizenship which led Seder to ask how? Klein quickly, and rather quietly, explained that her father was a war resister. We got a copy of that broadcast and listened to it to confirm that she had publicly, and nationally over airwaves and internationally via the net, stated her father was a war resister. We knew her father was a war resister. We know many more like that. But we didn't out Klein and, in fact, C.I. met with a friend at the company that's publishing Klein's book to make sure this wouldn't be hurtful to the publication. C.I. was told that they were having trouble figuring out how to sell the book, it's a great book, and popularizing the fact that she's the child of a war resister might actually generate some 'heat' and excitement about the book. We didn't out Naomi Klein. We did popularize what was already public knowledge. However, we do reserve the right to out any child of a war resister if we decide it's needed.

Ty: And we'll be discussing Klein's The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, hopefully next week.

Mike: I'm almost done. I'm the reason we're not ready this week.

Betty: One of the reasons, I'm still reading it as well.

Ty: The most e-mails about stuff from the last edition were about Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary and then about the article that appeared at all sites on Monday. After that, the next big topic was collages and asking when we intended to do one again?

Jess: "We" translates mainly as Kat, Jim, Dona, Ty, Ava, C.I. and myself because we're physically together in these editions. Most weeks, everyone else is just participating during the writing sessions via the telephone. We have planned to work on in the last few weeks but the reality is that these things have to be typed up, have to be edited and have to then be posted. There's usually not time. It's also true that if there's only a little time, no one even wants to work on it because Flickr often refuses to upload it, it's apparently too many Ks, too large. But it remains on the list and when there's time, we will work on it.

Ty: Kathy writes to congratulate Jess on law school and to ask if she understood Rebecca right a little while back because that would mean "generations" of lawyers in his family?

Jess: My mother's an attorney and my grandfather, her father, is also one. So I'll be the third generation. Provided I make it through law school and pass the bar. And my grandfather would kill me if I didn't note something here. As Rebecca wrote, he knew we were out here, in California, living with a friend but he didn't know who it was. My family doesn't really live for the chit-chat. Our dinner conversations are usually about things going on in the world. But a few months after, my mother mentioned something to my grandfather and he was surprised, and happy, and wanted it noted that C.I. raised funds for one of his cases. So small world time.

Jim: I'll jump in and note that Dona and I are in grad school. Ty's focused on his career and Ava's using her time to work on ending the illegal war and immigrant rights chiefly. Ava will probably be going on the bulk of the speaking trips with C.I. We had many figure out that, the Sunday we noted we had never missed an edition, we were underscoring the fact that even graduation week, when we were very busy with families and friends coming in, we still managed to put together an edition. So I'll just give that update. And Ava might want to add something.

Ava: Sure. I have no idea what I'm going to do in the future. I am lucky enough not to have to worry about money and the most productive use of my time that I can think of is to work on those two issues. That's what I'm dedicating myself to through November 2008. After that, I may decide to go to grad school, I may decide otherwise. But there are enough people out there who wish they had more time to give to issues and I'm fortunate not to have to worry about money so I can certainly dedicate the rest of this year and through November 2008 to it. I don't like to talk about my personal life but, before someone wonders if I'm a nun, some latecomer, Jess and I are a couple. And, though it should go without saying the reality is for some it won't, of course I bring a feminist perspective to those two issues and, of course, in working on those issue am underscoring the power of feminism, not ignoring it.

Ty: Which is a transition of sorts since Ava's aunt is a very well known feminist and Mike and Kat both wrote about the polish on the article that ran at all the sites on Monday. We had a number of questions on that with reader Jonas noting he'd never been mentioned. His question was why Mike's weekly run through of what goes on during the writing editions aren't noted here?

Cedric: I'll speak for the "Highlights" issue. We're usually doing that while the edition is being wrapped up. Ava and C.I. may be off doing their TV commentary or they may be doing like Dona, Jim, Ty and Jess, typing and editing the features. If anything's left to write at that point, other than Ava and C.I.'s pieces, it's the editorial. So the point is that we're all tired -- Betty, Kat, Rebecca, Elaine, Wally, Mike and I -- and just trying to write "Highlights" quickly and be done with it. So we forget a lot.

Wally: Right and we always say we'll keep it brief. We start out that way and then get involved in the discussion as we're writing. So it may appear that we don't care about whatever gets mentioned first. That's not the reality. We're just trying to stick to a schedule. But as we go along, we start making jokes and discussing things so it's best, if you're a highlight, for you to appear in the middle.

Betty: I'd agree with that. And also point out that we have noted some of those posts by Mike. The person we're actually repeatedly guilty of repeatly ignoring is Isaiah. That's because his comic goes up on Sundays. We're not thinking of Sunday when we do those editions. C.I.'s "And the war drags on" on a Sunday doesn't get highlighted unless Ty passes on that a reader asked for it to be. That's because we're forgetting that as well. Sundays are a bleary blur and seem forever ago by the time the next Sunday morning rolls around and we're attempting to figure out what we want to highlight. Elaine's the worst about saying, "Don't highlight me!" There are weeks when we would highlight several posts by Elaine. But she doesn't want that. And, as Keesha's pointed out, Elaine works very hard when she writes something for one of the newsletters but at her own site she tends to toss it out there leading Keesha to believe she's either (a) trying to keep it very simple -- Elaine's much more complex and in depth in the newsletters -- or (b) doesn't want outside attention. I suspect the latter.

Cedric: Ty also tells us from time to time people question the order of the credits for that byline piece. Those are our thoughts and we're credited for them. If you disagree with them, then don't blame Dona, Ty, C.I., Ava, Jess or Jim. But Mike gets the "and Mike" credit because he wants it. We sometimes switch up the credit prior to the "and Mike" and, in the note to the readers each week, Jim tries to rotate the order. We'll probably keep the current order, now that we're using links, because it's easier just to copy and paste. [Correction, before they did links, it was "and Mike". Now that the names are listed with links, they just swipe from "A Note To Our Readers" so it's "and Wally."]

Ty: Now the next portion of Jonas' e-mail wondered what the reaction of the polish was for everyone and is especially interested in Dona's reaction.

Jim: Before Dona answers, just to finish up the previous topic, most of the time Mike's noted in highlights for his rundown of the edition, it usually reads, "Jim asked us to note this." I didn't ask on last week because I planned to mention it during the note to the readers; however, we were rushing to make it to the airport and there wasn't time to go into a lot of details.

Dona: Okay, me? What did I think? I would love to tell everyone I told Jim he was nuts. I didn't. I agreed it needed a polish. We wrote that, and let's note Ruth and Trina helped because they're not participating in the writing of this edition so they might get overlooked, basically in Dallas. We had started out portions of it. But in terms of writing it, we used Dallas because so many of us were together. We had gone there for a march and rally -- which we skipped for obvious reasons discussed last week -- and we threw a party, a very large party, for community members in the area. That party lasted past midnight. We had an edition to turn out, we had a firm deadline due to the departure schedule at DFW. I think it could have gone up, the original version, and no one would have felt cheated. But on Monday, after we've all had some sleep, when Jim approached me, he said, "Don't hate me, but I'm about to suggest we do a polish." I felt it was the wrong time. I felt it was pushing it. But I did agree with Jim that it would benefit from a polish. Ruth, Betty, Trina, Mike & Elaine & Rebecca (as a group of three) were able to work on a polish via e-mails. We weren't able to reach Wally and Cedric, so they didn't participate on the polish. The rest of us, this is Kat, Ty, Jess, Jim, Ava, C.I. and myself, left an ongoing Labor Day party and went into C.I.'s library to work on the polish. Ava's aunt came along with her deck of cards because the three of them had been about to play cards, Ava, C.I. and Ava's aunt.

Kat: Ava made it very clear that she didn't want to be part of the polish. I was arriving then. I'd slept in on Monday and had just driven over to C.I.'s when Jim grabs me in a hug and says, "You're here!" I immediately knew I didn't want to be. Just the way he hugged me told me we were about to be asked something. No offense to Jim.

Jim: None taken. We cornered you before you even had time to get a drink or grab something to eat.

Ty: Jonas wants to know if Ava and C.I. really refused to work on the polish?

Dona: Oh, they did. Ava was very vocal. When one of them is, the other usually has the attitude of "I've got your back!" So they sat on the floor playing cards with Ava's aunt. And in fairness, as Ava pointed out, she'd been on the road for four weeks straght. This was the first week, true of C.I. as well, that she wasn't on a plane on a Monday. Ava pointed out that her aunt had come to the party and that she intended to spend some time with her. On this issue, I did suggest to Jim, for all those reasons, that we tell Ava and C.I. that we'd do the polish without them. Jim's attitude was, "Get them in the room, they'll help."

Jim: And I was right. Credit the whole opening to them and the work from Rebecca, Elaine and Mike that the three of them did via an e-mail.

Mike: That credit really needs to go to Elaine.

Rebecca: I'd agree with that.

Jim: Alright. And it was strong, good for Elaine, but it wasn't where we wanted it. Ava and C.I. said nothing to us. They were talking to Ava's aunt and playing Gin. I deliberately suggested a screwed up line to insert and they both jumped, as I knew they would, in. Ava and C.I. were saying, "That's ridiculous and totally misses the point. And another thing . . ." And then just going back to the top and saying what needed to be polished there and how. Kat and I were both writing down notes as fast as we could and probably missed a great deal. But that's them and how they work. They can actually do that, toss off a polish while playing cards and either only semi-listening or only appearing to semi-listen. When they were done with their rapid fire exchange, we had the polish pretty much two-thirds done. At that point, Kat joined them on the floor to play bridge. And apologies to Kat for --

Ty: Hold that thought. Jonas wrote a long e-mail and has never been noted so I e-mailed him that we'd go over all his points. His final point was about Kat's review and the fact that it didn't go up Monday.

Kat: It was done. I'd written two versions in long hand. I'd worked and worked on that thing while we were all on the road. Sunday morning, everyone was helping me with the editing of it and basically cutting, with scissors, parts of my various drafts and piecing it together. It needed to be typed up. We got home on Sunday. We stopped, on the way from the airport, to get something to eat. Then I went back to my home and Jess, Dona, Ava, Jim, Ty and C.I. all went back to their house. I crashed at my place. I'd told myself if I woke up at any time on Sunday, I'd type up the review. I told myself if I didn't, I'd type it up Monday morning. I didn't wake up Monday morning. It was noon when I finally woke up. I hopped in the shower, pulled my hair into a pony tail, and drove over to the party. My intent was to say hello to everyone, go off by myself and type up the review then. I'd planned to have it posted before the article we'd all written went up. But I arrived and Jim grabbed me, like we've already discussed.

Jim: Right. And Kat was thinking, "Quick polish. Then I can type up my review." But there wasn't time. She was helping with the polish even while she was playing bridge. As soon as the polish was done, Ty, Dona and I divided up sections and typed them on different computers, saving them to disc and then merged the entire thing in Microsoft Word. We then did links and Kat had already decided that if her review went up, it would be up either 30 minutes before this went up or after. She didn't want to distract from the feature we'd all written so she elected to hold the review.

Betty: And it was noted that she could do it anytime. She told community members that if they couldn't wait for this weekend to let her know and she'd type it up and post it during last week. But it was written, just needed to be typed.

Kat: And it's typed already. I typed it before this edition started. It'll be posted by the time anyone's reading this. I held it until Sunday so that there would be something up on Sunday morning since we're all so focused on turning out an edition here that C.I. doesn't have time to get something up by early Sunday morning each Sunday.

Ty: We'll insert a link to it before we post this but do you want to say anything about the review?

Kat: It's about another 'peace queen' who likes to play 'peace queen' in times of peace but renders herself useless when the nation's at war. It's real easy to talk peace and love in times of peace. If you can't do it when it's really needed, you make yourself useless. It's more shameful when we're talking about an older and established artist, one that gets zero airplay for new recordings, so has nothing to lose by standing up. Neil Young stood up. The Eagles are standing up. It's a shame that a woman who will turn 70 shortly can't stand up. It's a shame that I have to call out someone whose work I've admired in the past because she's decided she'd rather go out a coward. And as 70 loomos, people really should be worried about their legacies.
There are other points to the review, and I'll write about it myself on Monday, but that's one of the big points.

Ty: Lastly, Jonas wants to know what you'll review next?

Kat: I hate boxing myself in. I was going to add a part, when I was typing it Saturday night, about Stephen Stills' new release but then remembered I'd said I'd planned to try to review that on its own. Ideally, which means "probably won't happen," I'd next review Prince, Stephan Stills, Josh Ritter, Smashing Punkins and Ben Harper. I'll also be revewing Joni Mitchell's Shine which is incredible but I'm waiting for that to be released. Now I most likely won't have time for all of those. The two you can count on will be Ben Harper and Joni Mitchell. Those will be done and up before October 3rd.

Ty: So Jonas has been noted. Sandra wanted to know what we eat during the writing of these editions? She also said to remind us that we promised to note the place Trina loves in Dallas.

Mike: It's the Thai Lotus Kitchen in Dallas, Texas that my mother loves. She wrote about it in March. When we were in Dallas last weekend, I made a point to get her spring rolls and see through noodles. She loves those and loves the food there period. She wrote about it back in March. Of all the places she ate at during our week in Texas, that was probably her favorite. On my end, it's Rebecca, Elaine and myself gathered around a speaker phone. Rebecca can grab what we eat.

Rebecca: Before I gave birth, I think I drove them crazy. If Flyboy, my husband, was up, he'd go get me whatever I was craving. More often than not, it would be Mike or Elaine, during these writing sessions, going out for pickles or whatever. Now that I've given birth, cravings aren't an issue. Usually, Trina makes some healthy snacks and I've got a pack of mini-Snickers that Mike and I work our way through. Elaine's never been a snacker. She'll nibble on what Trina's fixed some but mainly just has a big garden salad around three o'clock our time. Mike and I are also drinking our Dr. Peppers like there's no tomorrow. Elaine'll have an iced tea or two but mainly sticks to water.

Betty: Snacks? Once upon a time, I bought snacks for these writing editions. But my kids would see me pick them up in the store and then want them before the weekend rolled around. I usually have some toast while we're working on the editorial and, sometimes, am also fixing breakfast for the kids. Otherwise, it's usually some staple that's in the kitchen like carrots or peanut butter and crackers. There's no point in shopping for snacks for these editions because the kids will see it and want it. That's not a bad thing. It's murder to get them to eat raisins unless they think I'm buying it 'just for me.' That's what my oldest always asks when I'm putting away the groceries, if something's 'just for me.' Which is a bit of surprise because, unless he knows about the Whoppers I hide at the top of my closet, there's nothing in the house that's "just for me" other than coffee. I'm usually drinking at least one pot of coffee during these editions.

Wally: I don't usually eat during this. If I'm at Mike's or C.I.'s, I will because they both have all this food laid out just for these editions. But I'm not there most of the time. When I do eat during these, it's stress eating. It's when it looks like nothing is going to work out and the whole edition is going to hell. I'll grab some chips, Funyons most of the time, and usually that's about it. But I'll plow through a big old bag all by myself.

Cedric: Like Mike and Ruth, I do a Friday Iraq study group. So if I'm snacking, it's generally something I had for dinner but didn't finish or it's some leftovers from the Friday group. At the first break tonight, I'll probably boil some corn on the cob because I picked up some of that at the store Saturday morning and I love corn on the cob. Wally forgot to mention what he drinks. I know because we usually talk about it at some point during the week. He drinks Power-Aide. I'm usually drinking Gator-Aide. We debate the merits of each during the week when we're on the phone together working on our joint-posts. By the time it's early Sunday morning, however, around three my time or four, I'll usually get a cold glass of milk.

Dona: On our end, everyone's pointing at me, so I'm assuming I'm supposed to note what we eat. First off, I have to have my smokes and Diet Coke. That's usually it for me. I'll nibble a little. Tonight, there's some cucumbers in vinegar with dill, green onions and garlic that I'm nibbling on. Jess was eating a squash dish. If it's really late and Ava and C.I. still haven't done their TV piece, they'll usually split a 20 ounce Diet Pepsi between them. Otherwise, they stick to water or alcohol. If Ava or Jim is making margaritas, I will have one of those. Jim usually has at least one Corona or Heinekin. If we're way behind schedule, way behind schedule, and Ava and C.I. have been given a last minute assignments, they'll usually do a shot or two of vodka or tequila. I'm not trying to make this sound like it's a booze soaked edition, but we aren't opposed to alchohol. If you make Bloody Marys or Bloody Bulls, you better grab one early on because C.I. loves tomato juice. C.I. probably drinks at least 32 ounces of water while we're writing these and anything else is in addition to that. Jess has started doing that as well. So you've got me with my chilled 2 liter of Diet Coke and them with their water containers that they will empty before the editions are done. Ty drinks iced tea and adds more sugar to it than a person should be allowed. Ava's munching on some raw vegetables on one of the platters that were preapred ahead of time. We generally have several platters of raw vegetables. C.I. will usually eat raw tomatoes like their apples. Jess, Ty and C.I. will usually be eating sunflower kernals, almonds and something else. At some point, Kat will make popcorn. We'll all eat some of that. If Kat makes nachos, those are gone in about two minutes. The ones who fix things during the edition are usually Kat, C.I., Ty and Jess. C.I. will often suggest we all go outside and get some fresh air as well. That, the cooking and the fresh air, are things that Jim and myself will avoid because we're trying to get the edition completed and over. Oh, Ty loves grapefruit and usually, about five our time, he'll have a grapefruit. He's the only one who eats grapefruit. After the edition is done, C.I. will usually cook breakfast for everyone. Ty generally will fix 'dinner' when we all wake up Sunday evening unless we're going out to eat. And Ava's pointing at Jim so I assume she wants me to note that he'll eat anything during the writing of these. Breakfast food, lunch food, dinner food. It doesn't matter.

Ava: Or a huge bowl of ice cream with M&Ms dropped in.

Dona: My apologies. M&Ms, plain, are Ava and C.I.'s favorite candies and they both try to avoid candy so Jim does hear about it if he shows up with a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream covered in M&Ms during a difficult part of writing an edition.

Jim: They complain, but they taught me that trick. It works best on vanilla, but it works for chocolate too. You put the M&Ms in and let it stand for a minute or two, swirl it around and it's the best ice cream in the world as the colors bleed. Also, we're not really coffee drinkers. We used to be, in the early stages of the edition. But the smell grates on some people's nerves. "Some people" not in a rude way but I don't know that they want everyone they know to grasp that being around the smell of coffee makes them sick. It's also true that for about a year or so, the smell of coffee was probably the key smell to these editions and that probably didn't help non-coffee lovers stand it anymore.

Ty: And we'll wrap up by noting that Tannishtha e-mailed that she can't stop re-reading Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Aftermath leaves an aftertaste" and urges people to read it alongside Susan Faludi's "America's Guardian Myths" that ran in Friday's New York Times. She wrote, "In a perfect world, I'd have stuff like that to read every day."
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