Sunday, November 18, 2007



Once more, into the mailbag. 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 trying to follow a time limit here so we may not get to everything planned. First up,

Jurgen Rommel Vsych has a book coming out February 12th of next year entitled What Was Ralph Nader Thinking that you can pre-order at her site. For those interested in being ahead of our book discussions, we intend to include the book in a discussion the month it comes out.

C.I.: I didn't know about that so let me just jump in and add that Jurgen is a director. And I believe the book is about her film Ralph Nader Crashes The Two Parties which addressed Nader's being shut out of the 2004 debates by having him 'debate' dolls, or action-figures, of John Kerry and Bully Boy.

Ty: I wasn't aware of that and I should clarify, for those who judge a book by its title, that this isn't "I Hate Ralph!" in text. Next up, reader Josh is upset and maintains that Wally and Cedric are "clearly supporting" Hillary Clinton's campaign for president.

Cedric: If we were, that really wouldn't have anything to do with Josh. He's talking about our joint-posts, Ty?

Ty: Correct.

Cedric: Betty's the only one involved in this that was supporting Hillary -- none of us know who C.I. will support and that includes C.I. -- but that changed when Hillary made the comment about look for someone else if you're Iraq is your issue. We've called Hillary out before. We will again.

Wally: My mother is supporting Hillary and I've noted that at this site so that may be why Josh is confused. It's also true that we don't cover Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel at all. Don't even look for them at our sites.

Cedric: Right and that's because we're making jokes. We could make jokes about either of them but we take a hands off approach on them. That may not be fair to them but we really don't want to make them the butt of jokes. I'm not saying that they've done anything to make them the butt of jokes but Wally and I discussed, when candidates started declaring, what we'd do and we agreed then that there would be enough negativity from the mainstream about Kucinich and Gravel that we'd take a hands-off approach to them.

Wally: The first thing we ask each day, when we're on the phone, is "What did Bully Boy do today?" If there's something he did that lends itself to a joke we want to work on -- some days it's too depressing -- we'll go with that. The White House is always our first choice for material.

After that, we're usally looking at political races or political scandals. We'll make fun of any of the Republicans except for Ron Paul. We also felt he would be marginalized and didn't want to do a laugh at him. The exception is if we're mentioning all candidates. If we're covering everyone, Paul or Kucinich or Gravel will get mentioned. That's only happened once and that was with Paul when we covered the Republican field.

Cedric: We both have a lot of interest in John Edwards' campaign and we will make jokes about Edwards. He's a major candidate in the eyes of the media so we have no problem with that. Barack Obama's the Bully Boy of the future. I don't mean he'll get into the White House -- as Paul Krugman notes in the new issue of Rolling Stone, Obama's campaign has "crested" -- but he makes so many obvious blunders, he is far more likely to pop up in one of our joint-entries. It's also true that the mainstream has treated him with kid-gloves and we see ourselves as a tonic to that nonsense. I know we got some angry e-mails when we did a joke about Bill Clinton. That joke was actually more over the top -- though not as funny -- before Wally auditioned it over the phone for C.I. C.I.'s feedback was that it was funny but by bringing up Monica Lewinsky were we overshadowing the point we were trying to make?

Wally: Which is another reason I always try it out on C.I.? For one thing, I get an honest reaction. Cedric and I can work and work, over work, on some and lose the point. Did we make the point? If we did it with a belly laugh, that's great. But did we make the point? In that instance, I actually groaned because C.I. was stating something Cedric and I should have caught but didn't. No, we really didn't want to go there. So we reworked it. When we have done jokes on or about Hillary, here's the thing, no one's complained. When we do a joke about Obama, we get a ton of e-mail griping.

Cedric: Which only makes us say, "Well we have to stay on this or the terrorists win!" That remark was a joke but it is true that if someone says, "Don't you dare," our response is usually, "Watch us!" The two candidates that most interest me in the Democratic race in terms of "Would I vote for them?" are Edwards and Kucinich but, to be honest, Wally and I aren't talking about who we'd vote for.

Wally: That's true. I'm actually surprised that it's only two for Cedric. Those two are on my list but I haven't narrowed it down to just two. Does that answer the question?

Ty: Dona's nodding, so yes. Second question is from reader Lucy who wants to know what we -- Jim, Dona, Jess, Ava, C.I. and myself -- watch on DVD after a writing session since "Jim's always writing about that in his note."

Dona: It varies. We've been up for over 24 hours by the time we finish. It's generally over thirty hours without sleep. We're eating breakfast and watching a DVD that we will fall to sleep in the middle of. Because we're all tired, we're always going for a comedy; however, I've voted for Chinatown and for The Hours before -- C.I. voted for The Hours as well -- but a comedy always wins.

Jess: Not true. One Sunday we watched Rosemary's Baby.

Dona: That's right. One Sunday we did watch a non-comedy. Ty, Jess and Ava came out here first summer of 2006 to live. And they got into the habit of watching a DVD after it was finally over, "it" being the writing session. Jim and I came out for the two weeks that everyone participating was out here for and then made up our mind that we would move out here. But the DVD thing really goes to Ava, Jess, C.I. and Ty.

Ava: If I remember correctly, Larry Bensky had a substitute host for Sunday Salon one Sunday and the topic was immigration and all these people were calling in to express their hostitlity. I said I couldn't listen to it, it was making me angry. We were still finishing the edition up but we turned off the radio and, after we finished, I was still angry about those callers. Ty suggested we watch a movie -- Apocalypse Now, by the way -- and after that, every weekend we'd do that.

Jess: And we love comedies but why it's always a comedy has a lot to do with Jim. Before Jim and Dona got out here, we would put on a drama, The Conversation, Klute, Coming Home, etc.

Jim: I'm all thunk-out by the end of the writing edition. I just want to smile and laugh a little while we eat and before we fall out. It's also true that we can't get too involved in anything because we're always talking. Although, thinking about it now, that's usually me doing the majority of talking. The most watched, week after week, are mainly the Marx Brothers, some Diane Keaton, Bob Hope's My Favorite Brunette, Abbott & Costello -- probably Who Done It? more than any of their other films, Mae West, In the Spirit with Elaine May and Marlo Thomas, 9 to 5, Tootsie, and a few others. Of Keaton's comedies, it's probably Baby Boom or Love & Death that we've watched the most. A lot of times, it's decided by what's there. We start out, here, in the living room writing and, as the edition winds down, the living room's trashed and we've retreated to C.I.'s bedroom. We've got a rotating schedule for who's responsible for breakfast and if that person doesn't bring anything in, by the time we're popping in a DVD, we're going by whatever's in C.I.'s bedroom. So that's about 100 DVDs to choose from. A few weeks back, there was one title we wanted to watch but it wasn't there and no one wanted to go get it.

Jess: We'll also put on musicals and concerts. Probably the most watched of a music based film is Grace of My Heart. On The Town had a nice run last summer. Another person whose comedies we watch a lot of is Goldie Hawn and that's Private Benjamin, Protocol, Death Becomes Her and House Sitter mainly. We watch Foul Play sometimes and that's not necessarily a flat out comedy.

Dona: Catcus Flower is probably on the top ten of most viewed movies on Sunday. Fun With Dick and Jane, the Jane Fonda version, is one we watch a great deal as well. Of the Marx Brothers movies, the most watched are probably A Day At the Races, Duck Soup and Love Happy in that order.

Jim: Yeah, we'll watch any of their films but those are probably the three most watched on Sundays. It's also true that we watch North by Northwest and, more recently, The Maltese Falcon and Bette Davis' The Letter, so there are some non-comedies that have made the list. What's Up Doc? is another comedy we watch a lot and Young Frankenstein. In terms of musicals, we've watched Audrey Hepburn's Funny Face a lot as well.

Dona: And Jim's always asleep before they're in Paris on that one.

Jim: I like the start best. I also like it when she's in the club in Paris but I can do without the whole arrival, let's rush off in taxis! moment.

Jess: We're just trying to wind down. There is supposed to be a rule about not talking about fixing anything that's posted. We're sick of staring at the computer at that point. But usually Jim will ask, "Hey, did we say ___?" If he harps on it enough, he'll worry C.I. who will end up booting up a computer to check and make sure we didn't. So far, Jim's cried wolf repeatedly but one day he may think we got a title wrong or left out a "not" in a sentence that required it.

Dona: Just to toss that out there, what do the rest do? Start with Mike.

Mike: I've got Elaine and Rebecca here each weekend and Rebecca's usually in and out due to her baby. When all that's left is editing, the note, illustrations being added and posting, I usually go straight to bed.

Elaine: Where I'm already at. Most of the time, I don't even wake up when Mike crawls into bed. When we've been out there with all of you, I find it amazing that you've got the energy to keep your eyes open for even five more minutes.

Rebecca: Like Mike said, I'm in and out. If the baby wakes up, I'm nursing. I'm also usually trying to upload anything new to Flickr which has become a huge problem each week. I'm generally so angry about that, I'm not in the mood to wind down. It's also true that, unlike everyone else, I do take at least one nap during the writing session. I'll be rocking the baby and generally tell myself I'm resting my eyes but usually end up taking a fifteen to thirty minute nap.

Betty: I'm by myself and generally nap before hand. I'll drop my kids off at my sister's -- I watch her kids and mine on Fridays, she grabs both on Saturdays -- come back here and do a little cleaning and reading, then take a nap to be ready for the writing edition.

Cedric: I'm like Mike, when it's over, I'm out cold. I go to Sunday evening service at my church now more than the morning service.

Wally: Some times I just fall out but sometimes I'm wide awake and a second wind's kicked in. If that's the case, I go ahead and get the day started and usually grab an hour nap around two in the afternoon. My favorite edition was the one with the book discussion that we decided not to post but then posted. There was so much debate about whether or not to post it and. in the end, Dona and C.I. were saying we should take a nap and come back to discuss it because we were just making the same points of why to publish it and why not to over and over. The nap really didn't provide us with an answer but I really loved grabbing it.

Kat: Oh yeah. That was a rough week. Most of the time, I'm here, at C.I.'s. If that's the case, when it's just the editing, I usually go out and grab a bed and tell Jim to wake me when it's time for breakfast. I used to tell Ty but Ty hated waking me up.

Ty: It's just that everyone's so tired.

Kat: I know. So now I ask Jim.

Jim: I think nothing of waking someone up, tired or not.

Kat: And I'll either get up or snarl, "Go away!" If I get up, I'm eating breakfast and watching whatever. My vote is generally "whatever" because I've just got my eyes open long enough to eat and then fall out. In fact, I'm not even on the rotating Sunday breakfast schedule.

Jim: You have to be up the full time to get on the assigned list.

Ty: Reader Shirley, not community member Shirley, notes she's never been mentioned and wanted to have Bono's "ridiculous statements" in the new Rolling Stone addressed. Shirley, we do that in a seperate feature this edition and I'm noting here that we do that at Shirley's suggestion. Baz108 notes C.I. covered the primetime line up during the writers' strike -- how to program -- and that some of the same points were made "days later in NYT" and wondered if we'd expand on that? I was wiped out last Sunday so that must have been something you did on Sunday because I don't know the entry.

C.I.: Yeah and we're not linking. But Ava and I have three different things we can grab for this edition and that's one possibility so I really have no comment here. I will note that the DVD of In the Spirit is a videotape transferred to DVD before any fans of the movie start thinking, "It's out on DVD at last!" It should be. It's not.

Ty: Chaz wants to know why the FCC wasn't covered by everyone and not just Ruth?

Mike: I'll grab the answer part, someone else can explain the FCC issue. The way it works is The Common Ills focuses on Iraq, Betty's doing an online novel about Betinna which is a story of imperialism and many other things, Wally and Cedric are doing humor posts that follow politics -- races and scandals. We're all trying to cover Iraq and do if only in including the snapshot each day. But if one person's covering an issue, we generally take the attitude of it's being covered by the community, so we don't have to do it as well. That said, Elaine and I both ran the e-mail addresses for the FCC commissioners last week and the week prior, C.I. noted the public meeting probably in five or six entries -- at least two of which were snapshots even though it wasn't Iraq related. I talked about the witch hunt of Barry Bonds on Friday and that's only going to go up at my site or here due to the scope of each site. That doesn't mean it's not covered, it's just we're all not writing about the same thing.

Betty: I'll grab the explanation because I'd have to graft the issue onto Betinna's story to talk about it at my site. Despite beating back the recent FCC push, under Michael Powell, for further deregulation of the industry, the new chair, like Powell before him, has decided to destroy the public airwaves even further. He's cloaking it in "newspapers are in a financial crisis and could go under if they can't also own a TV station and/or a radio station in the same town." That's nonsense and you can see Friday's Bill Moyers Journal online for more on that -- on the nonsense of that argument. This is a regulation change that would further dilute voices and make it all the harder for minorities to own media outlets. The FCC ends the public comment aspect on December 11th so you have until then to tell them not to relax the standards. The e-mail addresses for the five comissioners are: Chairman Kevin J. Martin:; Commissioner Michael J. Copps:; Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein:; Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate:; and Commissioner Robert McDowell: That's the basics. My sister and I are actually working offline on getting the word out in our community. I'd add this isn't a "left only" position. Conservatives, centrists and leftists are opposed to this move and it's why it failed last time, the public outcry was so great; however, Big Business spends a lot of money lobbying to get their way. It's an important issue and, again, Ruth has been the go-to in our community on that. She's actually covered it before her own site started in her reports over the years. So this is her natural beat and she does it better than any of the rest of us could. Hats off to Ruth.

Rebecca: And I'm simplified at my site these days. That's not just due to nursing or a relative being sick but also because of my core readers who are predominately in high school. I've hit on Iraq and done more along that and friendship -- which are the two biggest issues to my readers, the illegal war and friendship -- due to the fact that so many are focused on the time crunch due to the upcoming holidays.

Elaine: That's Rebecca's p.r. background coming in. I would never think about something like that. She does because she knows her audience and that's her whole offline training. Like Mike said, he and I did note the commissioners' e-mail addresses and write on it last week and refer people to Ruth. It's also true that if someone's had a topic and it's their topic, we usually let them run with it and don't step in. Even more true, for me, is I'm just trying to keep my head above water. I don't know if it's the temperature change or what but I seem to spend even more time staring at the screen these days and less time typing.

Kat: I hear that. I've been working like crazy the last three weeks and just tossing some stuff up there.

Ty: You and Mike are the topic of a question from Caleb who points out that you both wrote about Mailer and you seem to disagree.

Kat: I don't know that we disagree. I'll let Mike grab that. But Mailer wasn't one of my heroes and I don't think that's an usual position for most women.

Mike: Kat wrote about Studs Terkel on Tuesday and used that as a way to write about Mailer. I read it and didn't disagree with anything in there. I also wasn't surprised by anything in her post. My comments on Mailer were mainly pointing out that he was against the illegal war and his voice on that was appreciated because there are so few who will even use their voices to speak out. In terms of that, he's missed. I'd recommend his Why Are We At War?

Ty: Toby wants C.I.'s piece on Fred Kaplan -- where Kaplan attacks Redacted -- reposted in full here. And Toby wants to know why that wasn't a joint-piece by C.I. and Ava?

Ava: Because I was having dinner with my parents and got to Mike's only after the Iraq study group was over and after Rebecca had finally convinced C.I. to read Kaplan's nonsense. C.I. had already started writing it, we were in Trina's kitchen, and was writing it out in longhand, when I arrived. C.I. did ask if it should be a piece at Third and we should write it together? I immediately asked, "Where's Jim?" and was glad to know he wasn't at Mike's. Jim was still doing an early Thanksgiving dinner with his father. If Jim had present, the piece would have been for this site. It was a powerful piece already and didn't need anyone else's input. It's also true that C.I.'s stretched so thin that some of the weekend entries at The Common Ills rushed through --

C.I.: They're all rushed through.

Ava: So I was happy as a community member that something like that was going to go up there. I love that piece. If it hadn't already been started -- let alone nearly completed -- by the time I arrived, I would have loved to have done it as a joint-entry but I don't think it would have been any better than it already was.

Jim: We're about to wind down but let me make a few comments. I would've said, "Oh, come on, that's a piece for Third," that's true. It is a natural for Ava and C.I. to do here. It's also a natural for C.I. to do at The Common Ills. I would've grabbed Rebecca's post Monday as a topic for here as well. And there was an e-mail about Rebecca's post from two Mondays ago. Rebecca wasn't "slamming" me. I knew she was going to write about it and I knew she what she was going to say on the topic. C.I. had tackled the nonsense of a US soldier blaming journalist Giuliana Sgrena for his shooting dead an Italian agent. C.I. did a wonderful job of that. I thought that was a natural for here and asked everyone not to write about it at their sites so we'd be ready to go here. Rebecca said she'd go along with that but stated her concerns which were chiefly that C.I. had tackled an issue no one was and that, in being silent on the topic, we weren't a united front and all the hate mail would be aimed at C.I. She had a good point and I agreed with it at the time but thought we could do something really strong with the topic. When we finally got to writing about the topic here, everything fell apart and we really had little to say. It went from the planned editorial to a feature. Rebecca's post on that was discussing how that happened. I never had a problem with it. She doesn't say in it "I was right!" But she should have. She was right and I was wrong. And she knew it would likely be that when Sunday came, we'd have little to say. Rebecca and my own inclinations are to let it all hang out. We're friends and we don't worry about it or how it's going to look.

Dona: We're about to wrap up but it's also true that you really don't care. You both really don't care. If Rebecca posts something like that at her site and e-mails come in, she can respond to the e-mails or respond at her site or both. But there are other times, for other people, that it creates a lot of work. If two people would like to speak on that, they're welcome to and then we'll wrap up.

Kat: She means Elaine and me. I have no idea what happened but there became this whole thing of Elaine and I are at each other's throats. We both started getting e-mails on that from people who were concerned or trying to help. And we both wondered, "Do we note this at our sites?" If we did note it, our fear was it would make it a bigger issue.

Elaine: Kat and I have always gotten along. Everyone participating does. But about a month ago there was this big thing where we were getting several e-mails each day asking us to make up or what was the problem? We'd write back explaining we had no problems between us and asking where the idea that we did was coming from? It was comments here that maybe we needed to include a smiley face on. I know Mike did that with his interview with Ruth because he was concerned that some comments might be misread since their voices weren't being heard in the transcript. I understand Jim and Rebecca's position and that's fine for them because, as Dona pointed out, they don't worry about it. But it really did bother me that so many people thought I had a problem with Kat or she with me.

Kat: Elaine called me and asked, "Are you getting any e-mails on a problem we're supposed to be having?" And I was. We compared notes and it wasn't even the same people and it continued to come in. Elaine and I aren't overly personal when we're on the phone but that's mainly because we both love music and end up talking about that. But we do speak several times a week on the phone and we are close. I'm generally someone who doesn't care what people think but I do care when it's an issue of, "Why are you two mad at each other?" If I'm mad at someone, I'll say so. But I wasn't mad at Elaine and there were people convinced that we were mad at each other and really worried about that.

Jim: And something like that, to me, I'm not going to worry about it. I wasn't even going to bring up the thing until Dona told me she wanted it brought up. I'm not overly concerned about it. I like Rebecca and if people see differently, I'm not going to rush to insist, "It's not true!" I do understand that this sort of thing upsets others. It can even upset Rebecca.

Rebecca: In terms of Elaine and C.I. it does. Because they're going to respond to that in a private e-mail -- or not respond -- and not note it at their sites. They really don't see the point and think it fuels something. So when I get "are you mad" at either of them, I try to clear it up immediately at my site. I wrote something a few weeks back -- I'm being non-specific -- which was taken as a slam at C.I. and it wasn't a slam and wasn't intended as such. Elaine was reading it and pointed it out to C.I and me. I was in a panic and C.I. said not to worry about it and not to post on it. So I can see how Kat and Elaine would worry if something they'd said was being misinterpreted. But in terms of getting overly worried about it, no, that's not my style. But Jim and I tend to let it hang out in our own spaces. He does that in the "A Note to Our Readers" here and I do it at my site.

Ty: And Dona's doing a wrap up motion to me. That's all the e-mails we had time for but in reply to two, we will have an edition next week.
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