Sunday, February 09, 2014


Jim: It's e-mail roundtable time.  All topics were raised by readers in a series of e-mails last week. Remember our new e-mail address is Please note that is a change.  Participating our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): First up, Billy A. He notes last week saw us finally return to noting what we listened to while putting together the edition "This edition's playlist."  "Strangely," he writes, "you do so at the start of the week and on Friday CounterPunch does 'What We're Listening To This Week.'"  Comments?

Dona: First off, readers were thrilled we finally did this.  Elaine and I have spent two or more years arguing we needed to return to this feature.  It's an easy 'write' that doesn't take forever, it's a short feature and people are interested in the same way any of us will walk over to a friend's music collection and check it out.  This was always a popular feature and I hope we'll do it every week -- as do many of our readers.  CounterPunch's readers, no doubt, enjoyed their feature as well.  CounterPunch may have been inspired to do their piece because we did our piece.  But CounterPunch used to do a playlist as well.  And I'm honestly not sure if we started first or they did.  If it was us, great, let's hope other sites will do playlists.  If they started first, thank you for inspiring us.

Jim: I agree with that.  I don't see any conflict.  And it is good to see what people are listening to.  Erich Stein e-mails that he wrote C.I. about this and received no reply so he wants to bring it up here.  This is about C.I.'s "Activism or just masturbating to old hate fantasies" which went up Friday.  Erich writes, "I just think you have a lot of nerve calling out people who don't write about serious things when this week saw your friends writing about Nanci Griffith's album, the TV shows Arrow and Revenge and so much more crap that doesn't matter."  C.I.?

C.I.: I didn't see that e-mail, I would've ignored it if I had.  This has been repeatedly addressed many times before.  I'll toss to Mike, Betty and Rebecca.

Mike: All the sites, regardless of what we write about, carry that day's Iraq snapshot to amplify coverage of Iraq.  That was actually community member Keesha's suggestion.  C.I. was repeatedly asked by the community to up the coverage of Iraq because the press was beginning to walk away. The snapshot began in 2006 and was part of another entry C.I. did, it was 8 to 10 paragraphs at that time -- within a mid-day entry.  As MSM coverage continued to decline, community members asked for more and the "Iraq snapshot" went from being a feature inside an entry to it's own Monday through Friday entry.  From the start, Keesha insisted that if C.I. was going to the trouble to do the Iraq snapshot, the rest of us with sites should be making a point to copy and paste it into our posts.  That way, Keesha argued, no matter what we wrote about, Iraq would be covered by including the snapshot.  We all agreed.  It was a great way to amplify the snapshot.

Betty: In 2006, my site was a humor site.  It was an online comic novel chronicling the life of Betinna, an American citizen who was working at a mini-mall when Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof decide to 'rescue' her.  They drug her, they tell her she's from another country, that she's married to Friedman and Friedman uses her as a slave.  The whole thing was colonization.  It was written from Betinna's point of view. Tacking on the snapshot wasn't always easy -- I'd often do "Found in the paper" -- but Keesha was exactly right and I, like everyone else, made a point to include the snapshot.  Rebecca?

Rebecca: I don't remember what the issue was that day -- probably it was C.I.'s coverage of the gang-rape and murder of Abeer, the 14-year-old Iraqi girl.  But whatever it was, I felt that day, "I've really got to amplify this."  How?  If it was Abeer, I'd blogged about her, Elaine had blogged about her.  How to do something different that pulls in eyeballs?  I blogged about Dynasty.  And a huge ton of Dynasty fans found the post.  And in reading about Dynasty, they also had the chance to read about Iraq.  Some may have just read a paragraph or two of the snapshot, some might have read it all.  But a topic can amplify the chances that someone sees the snapshot.  I wrote about the TV show Revenge.  I cover it at my site.  I make no apologies for that.

Jim: On TV, last week's "Roundtable" featured this between Betty and me.

Jim: On that note, we move to Alexis' e-mail.  "I just read at Marcia's site that Halle Berry's going to do a summer series for CBS that's produced by Steven Spielberg and I'm so excited!  When I read it, I thought about how Ava and C.I. have spent years writing pieces advocating for the networks to do scripted programs in the summer.  CBS finally went all out with The Dome last summer and ended up with the ratings hit of the summer.  Now it looks like they're going to double down and that makes me really happy. I hope they're happy too.  And could you please ask a favor of Betty for me?  Ask her to please, please blog about the show when it starts airing.  I think it would be helpful the way she and Marcia and Ann became the Whitney bloggers and really turned the tide."

Betty: First off, absolutely.  Thank you Alexis for making the point you made.  I can tell you Ann will blog about it as well, I can promise you that.  So that will be Ann, Marcia and me blogging about it.  We will make sure that Halle isn't left hanging.

Jim (Con't): Alex Nicolic e-mails to express displeasure over "Betty making promises for others" and to note that checking Marcia and Ann's sites all last week found not one word about this.  Nicolic closes with, "Maybe next time Betty shouldn't make promises for others."

Ann: I'll jump in first.  Marcia and I both got distracted.  We spoke on the phone Monday afternoon intending to highlight that passage.  As often happens, the week got away from us.  As for promises, Betty didn't overstep anything.  The three of us have spoken about looking for a show to blog about again -- like we did Whitney -- where we all blogged on the same show.  I can say more but I'll slide it over to Marcia.

Marcia: All last fall, Ann, Betty and I were talking about what show we could cover?  At one point, I was for The Agents of Shield because I like sci fi.  They found the show boring.  I watched and agreed.  We wanted to do a sitcom.  But the only new sitcoms about a woman were Mom on CBS and Super Fun Night on ABC.  The latter is funny but I bought into the reviews -- which trashed the show -- and didn't want to blog about that.  I first saw the show near the end of November and realized I had ignored it wrongly.  Betty has a lot to do and Mondays is her worst day.   She doesn't have time for a TV show.  That's when Mom airs.  Why does the day matter?  CBS has had a bad habit of not streaming shows or starting out to stream episodes but then reducing it a few brief clips.  So we didn't see the point in going with a show Betty wouldn't be able to watch live and wouldn't be able to stream at a better time for her.  Ann, I'm tossing back to you.

Ann: We considered The Neighbors on ABC which isn't new, it's in it's second season, but it hilarious.  We love the whole cast, headed by Jami Gertz and Toks Olagundoye.  Those are two strong actresses, hilarious ones.  And Toks is Black -- as are Marcia, Betty and I.  So that was a great one.  But?  It airs on Fridays.  You should be able to stream it on Saturdays.  Fridays are family night for Betty.  She and the kids go out to eat, they do put-put golf or bowling or a book store or a movie, it's their time.  She can't catch the show live.  So she could put off blogging until Saturday and then cover it after watching it.  And Marcia and I could do the same if we were unable to catch the show live.  But if we didn't blog on Saturday, we'd then have to carry it to Monday.  As Mike can tell you, that's a pain in the ass.  He has covered four Friday shows, most recently Dracula which only aired on Fridays.  Before that, he was already covering Chuck, Fringe and Nikita when they moved to Fridays.  Mike?

Mike: Yeah, it is a pain.  Especially with Fringe or Nikita.  Those were complex shows with ongoing plots and so there was always a lot to write.  And I'd have to carry it to Monday.  When I'm usually tired.  When news might have broken out that I wanted to cover.  It was so irritating that I started blogging on Saturdays.  I think that's when Fringe and Chuck were both moved to Fridays.  I was not going to carry a Friday show to Tuesday -- meaning blog about one on Monday and the other on Tuesday.  So I started blogging on Saturdays to get one out of the way.  Marcia or Ann?

Marcia: I'll go.  So the point here is Ann, Betty and I have been discussing this for some time.  And when the issue of Halle Berry's show was raised in last week's roundtable, Betty said yes because she knew we would agree based on the conversations we'd had.  First off, for me, it's sci fi.  I love sci fi.  Second, Halle Berry is a woman of color.  As women of color, we would have felt the need to cover the show since there are so few in lead roles on TV.  Third, Halle won the Oscar so we're all curious to see what sort of a summer program she's going to be doing.

Ann: Marcia's right.  This is the perfect show.  This meets all of our criteria and Betty knew that based on the talks we'd had for months now.  Our response offline was to do a three-way call last week discussing how excited we were.  And how we were going to promote it before it started airing and how, since C.I. is friends with Halle and this is going to be a historic show for a woman of color, we could ask C.I. if she could include promotion of the show in the snapshot the night before the first episode airs.

C.I.: It will be done.

Ann: Thank you.  So Erich Stein should be thanking Betty.

Jim: David Porter e-mailed about food.  A self-described foodie, he loves Trina's site and likes our feature here "From The TESR Test Kitchen" but wishes we did more food coverage.

Trina:  I can take some of the blame for the food coverage here.  At my site, the food coverage continues but I'm probably nearing the point where I'll start over with recipes.  It's a beginners site and I long ago exhausted my beginning recipes.  I've asked friends and they've kindly volunteered easy recipes.  I've gladly used any and all simple recipes that readers have sent in.  I don't know what happens now.  Maybe someone gives me a trove of new easy recipes?  Maybe I start over with ones I've already used?  Maybe, like with "My favorite nachos in the Kitchen," I move towards less of an end of the week recipe and more of a food reflection post?  But me, I'm not showing up here on the weekends pushing food ideas because I don't have them for my site lately.

Wally: To jump in, sorry, my mother had an idea about the ten best.  Ten weeks noting one each Friday that readers most enjoyed -- like Mexican Corn Chowder and pasta with peanut sauce.  She thinks that would give you a little bit of time to figure out where you go next.

Trina: Over a third of the recipes that don't come from another site a reader's suggested come from Wally's mother.  She's been the most helpful friend during the lifetime of my site.

Wally: And because she's having trouble figuring the time difference, she called me and asked me to pass that on to you.

Trina: I'm not in Boston, that's what Wally's talking about.  I'm on a winter vacation at Mike and Elaine's.

Jess: And it's nice of Trina to take the blame but it's not her fault here.  At one point, I wanted to do some short features called "Cravings."  Dona had delivered her child and Ava was pregnant so that's probably why I thought of it.  But it didn't have to be pregnancy.  I mean right now, I'd kill for some Funyuns.

Cedric: I never heard that idea.  I would have gotten on board so quick.  When Ann was pregnant, she had a real sweet tooth.

Ann: And you never complained.

Cedric: And I never complained.  But she'd want, for example, a slice of apple pie.  Which leaves a whole pie minus one slice remaining.  So I'd have to have a slice.  So we'd eat a pie together over a few days.  Or a cake.  Or whatever.  And I'm not a sweets person outside of candy bars.  So I would be craving and jonesing for a sour pickle or some black eyed peas or anything not sweet.  That's a cute idea, it could have made a nice short feature and, Jess, I would have had your back on it.

Jim: I'm the one who dismissed it.  Listening to the discussion now and realizing how popular list pieces are -- based on the reaction to the return of the playlist last week, I was clearly wrong.  Delia Bryant e-mailed to ask where are Kat's album reviews and where are Isaiah's comics.

Isaiah: I will have one today.  I may have two today.  If I don't have two today, I'll have one today and a second later in the week.  It's just hard to do one right now.

Jim: Because of us.

Isaiah: No.  I'm doing everything I can with the community newsletters.  There hasn't been a lot of new topics.  In part because Barack was on vacation, etc.  That's why, in the newsletters, I've focused on Congress for the entire month of January.  But if I had done that in my comic at The Common Ills, I would've been criticized for refusing to go after Barack.  I've gone after Barack the same way I did Bully Boy Bush.  But I've done more Barack now because my comics didn't start until 2005.  So from 2005 to 2007, I covered Bush pretty much every week at TCI.  2008, I mainly covered the primaries.  But from 2009 to the present, the focus has been Barack.  Also, there are some topics that I've already covered with Barack -- like the illegal spying -- where I feel I've done the best I can on that topic barring some new development that can make a good visual.

Jim: Kat?

Kat: My deal is ten pieces at TCI a year.  That's all I ever promised the readers.  That averages out to about one a month plus my end of the year look back.  I've done two pieces so far this year:  "Bruce Springsteen High Hopes" and "Brad Paisley" and it's the start of February.  So I think I'm on schedule.  That said, I did see a 2013 album Saturday that I thought I could cover. If I'd seen it last Tuesday, I would have a piece on it going up today. And, excuse me, with Elaine writing  "A few thoughts on Nanci Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening" and Trina writing  "Nanci Griffith" and then Elaine writing "About the songs on Nanci Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening" all last week about Nanci Griffith's classic album One Fair Summer Evening, I think this is the wrong time to complain about where is my music writing.  Trina and Elaine offered some solid music writing last week.

Ava: I would agree with Kat.  We all love her writing but it's a lot of work covering one thing.  In Kat's case, it's music.  Doing a weekly movie review would drive her nuts.  C.I. and my non-stop weekly TV coverage is starting to drive me nuts.  I'm in a panic --

Jim: Because?

Ava: What do we do while the Olympics goes on.  I'm not watching, I'm not interested.  We'll have four weeks to fill and that does worry me.

Jim: C.I.?

C.I.: I understand what Ava's saying.  I agree with her.  We have no idea what we're covering this week still.  We have a few options but I am worried about net week and the two weeks after.

Jim: Back to Delia Bryant's e-mail.  Kat, she points out Stan pretty much does a movie review a week -- "at least one."

Kat: And I love Stan's writing but my name is Kat and that's that.

Stan: And I don't do the levels that Kat does.  Kat's doing some deep writing.  Betty, when she did her piece on Elyisum?  I loved it ["What's Curly doing in a sci-fi movie?"] and thought she did better film writing than I did.  I don't usually go that deep.  If I do, it's a few weeks after I've seen the film.  Kat's an incredible writer who goes really deep.  I do basically a thumbs up or a thumbs down text equivalent.  That's not putting me down, that's just noting how it is.  And if I were doing movie pieces like Betty did?  I'd probably only have about ten in me a year, same as Kat.

Jim: Alright, tossing to Ty.

Ty: Jim and I go through the bulk of the e-mails to this site.  I had two to include.  First off, Ruth, Jenny Crown e-mailed, "I'm a leftist and probably more Socialist now.  As late as 2007, I would have said Democrat but a number of things including the awful performance of Obama on the economy and war have left me wanting more.  I really have enjoyed Ruth's Benghazi coverage because, from the left, few have bothered to take it seriously  They've been too busy whoring for Obama to address the four deaths and the how of it.  So I have really enjoyed Ruth's coverage.  But lately, she seems to have backed away from it.  I don't know if that was due to attacks or if it was due to something else."  Ruth?

Ruth:  Jenny's correct that I get frequent attack e-mails just for covering the topic.  And, to be honest, sometimes I am so tired that I am just not in the mood one night to write about it and will pick it up the next night instead.  But that is all the attack e-mails have ever done, delay me by one night.  I have not written of it lately because I have not seen any news in the last two weeks.  Did I miss something?  I easily can.  If that happens, let me know.  I take the deaths of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Ambassador Chris Stevens very seriously.

Ty: And I was about to note that Jenny Crown thanked you for always listing them and not doing "the trick of 'Chris Stevens and three others'."

Ruth: I agree with Jenny that all four need to be listed.  But I need to credit Marcia and C.I. with that.  Early on after the Benghazi attack, Marcia and C.I. called out the "Ambassador Stevens and three others" listing, noted how insulting it was, how classist it was and how sad.  They had made those points before I ever covered Benghazi at length.

Ty: Thank you, Ruth.  Now we go to Elaine.  Omar e-mails, "I love Elaine's music writing and wish she'd do more of it.  I also feel like I know her site and her writing much better than she does.  For example, she was attacked in an e-mail for not covering TV and she responded to that attack by admitting she didn't.  She then heard from readers who pointed out that she covered Smash for two years.  She wrote a post about that.  But Elaine covered at least one other TV show which she now seems to have forgotten."  Elaine, have you?

Elaine: Yes, I have and, Omar, if you read the site, you will know more than me.  I never read anything I write unless an e-mail has quoted it or I need to quote it.  But, yes, you have stumped me.  Does Omar say what the show was?

Ty: Yes.  Alphas.

Elaine: He's right, Omar is right.  I did cover Alphas.  I loved that show but they killed it.  Sci Fy cancelled it. I really did enjoy that show.

Jim: Alright.  And Dona's kept time and has informed me it's time to shut it down.  This is a rush transcript and, again, are e-mail address is

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