Sunday, March 27, 2005

A note to our readers

Let's start off by saying thanks to Pam at Big Brass Blog, Ron at Why Are We Back in Iraq? and Folding Star at A Winding Road. We appreciate the contributions you provided to the story on under-reported news in the last week.

This edition is a little heavier than we've been going in the past. Usually, we like to keep a jokey feel even when outraged but this was a week when one story dominated and few could resist the feeding frenzy. As a result, we heard people on campus who didn't fit the media ideal of desirable coverage speaking about issues like racism and lack of understanding of the disabled.
(On the latter, these weren't people arguing that Terry Schiavo should be kept on a feeding tube. They agreed with the court's decision. They did not, however, agree with the way the media -- in all formats -- played out this story.) If you were white and able-bodied, the story played out in a different way possibly than it did to others. (Ava notes "and male." And we'll also note that many able-bodied whites, male and female, were able to grasp that the coverage could come off offensive.)

So we felt that we had to cover that. And there aren't a lot of jokes there if any. In the past, even when raging against the actions of CJR Daily or The New York Times, we've been able to find a way to be funny (in our opinion and that of our readers, if not in the opinion of CJR Daily and The New York Times). This time we couldn't find humor in the subject as you'll note in our editorial and in the story on under-reported news last week.

For a lighter read, we have to recommend the TV review of Jake In Progress which is all the work of Ava and C.I. of The Common Ills. We got a number of e-mails last week saying that the TV review was the favorite part of each edition and that they couldn't believe we'd put out an edition without it. While we take the feedback seriously, please note that Ava and C.I. write those things and that there will be time when they aren't able to block out time to write a piece, let alone to put in any time to watch something on TV. (Before C.I. started helping on this feature, TV watching was pretty much a thing of the past.) That said, the rest of us enjoy Ava and C.I.'s TV reviews as well.

We have an interview with Cinamon (not her real name) who graduated last May and offers some advice about the real world after graduation. As an art major, her comments might appear to some to only apply to a limited group of people, but we think you can find something that applies to all. We also left out a point that C.I. found in the transcripts and we agree it's worth noting, plus it applies to hear.

Speaking on the importance of a liberal education, Cinamon noted:

If you're by yourself and don't have TV at least you can use your brain and have company. [Laughing] Do you think the people who think about shoes all the time could do that? No!

We thank Cinamon for the interview and we thank Rebecca and C.I. for their work on that.

Rebecca and C.I. worked on all the stories here with the exception of this note. (And of course, the TV review which was the work of Ava and C.I.) We appreciate, as always, the help and assistance Rebecca and C.I. give us. As well as the perspetive two additional voices can bring.

We also appreciate Betty, Common Ills community member, who will have her own blog up April 1st. Look for it, we think you'll enjoy it. This edition, Betty participated on every story except the TV review and this note. It was another all nighter so we appreciated the help. We always swear "this is the last all nighter" and then we find ourselves on yet another Saturday, pulling yet another all nighter.

We thank Rebecca for allowing us to spotlight a blog entry she did entitled "enough already."

And Ava says hold on because we've got an e-mail from C.I.

C.I. says that since John Bolton was a under-reported story last week, we might want to pass on that there's a web site entitled that features, among other things, a video of Bolton that most people would be interested in seeing. So check that out.

On the subject of e-mails, Ty responded to a few this week, as did Dona. We do read them but we haven't reached the level of Ava who responds to each new e-mail on her day to read what's in the inbox. We realize that you appreciate Ava's personal responses and we'll try to rise to her level but no promises. Also remember that we don't respond to any e-mails requesting personal information. That goes for whether you identify yourself as reader or as a member of the press.
(There's been a huge increase in e-mails asking for personal information.) Our note to you each edition is about as personal as we'll get as we explain some of what went into shaping the current edition.

Okay, you say, but why can't you personally respond to the other e-mails?

Well, we're college students going to school and we have academic responsibilities. Some of us also have work responsibilities. We get anywhere from fifty to seventy-five e-mails a day. We all agreed to spend no more than two hours on the e-mails on our assigned day. That time is often taken up just in reading the e-mails. (Ava says she never reads before she responds. She hits reply and reads as she replies. Which means she trashes many drafts if she comes across a request for personal information later in the e-mail.) In a perfect world, we'd answer each and every e-mail. In a perfect world, we'd offer more than our standard six articles a week.

Maybe some day we'll all reach that perfect world, all of us across the globe, but that's not happened yet. And between trying to keep up with the news and our other responsibilites and, let's be honest since we're college kids, dating, we don't have the time to respond to every e-mail. With Ty and Dona attempting to do so this week (and Dona says "I've attempted to do so in past weeks!"), that may prompt the last two hold outs (Jess & Jim) to do so as well. Or they may just decide not to in an effort to be contrary.

We've included two books in our Book Note this edition and we hope you'll find the Book Note of interest. Knowing that it would be a "heavy" edition, we were looking for something additional to provide.

And we have no title for the interview with Cinamon, Ty just saw this. So we'll go back and put a title on that interview.

We hope you have a good week and we hope the media has a good week which would mean going beyond saturation of one story.

-- Jim, Jess, Ty, Dona and Ava

Editorial: There Must Have Been Nothing Else Going On In The World

There must have been nothing going on in the world that week, because my haircut got an absurd amount of press coverage. There was wild speculation as to why I'd done it; some said it was to spite Frank, and back in New York, Dali, never one to minimize, labeled it "mythical suicide."
-- Farrow, Mia. What Falls Away p. 107

Terry Schiavo wasn't a haircut. But then the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman weren't a haircut either. The issue isn't whether something was news.

Obviously, threats of sending in people to put Schiavo back on a feeding tube (as the Miami Herald reported Jeb Bush attempted to do initially Thursday) is news. News is a court verdict, an appeal. News is what Bob Somerby did at The Daily Howler when he exposed one of the "expert" pundits as not very expert at all.

But there was also a lot of non-news. Was their a pundit or op-ed writer who didn't attempt to weigh in on this topic? Was their a web site that didn't?

(Yes, a few in both categories.)

You saw a lot of opinion. Nothing wrong with opinion, sharing your thoughts can inspire something in others. But nonstop? And on the right and the left. When Faux News goes into saturation on a story, we aren't surprised. But what's the excuse of the mainstream media and, for that matter, the alternative media including the newer media of web logs?

There was a danger, and Rebecca noted it at Sex and Politics and Attitudes and Screeds, of a backlash as people became more vocal in their opinions and often made tasteless statements. [See our blog highlight this edition to read Rebecca's post.] That is a serious concern. Here's another: not backlash, but borelash.

If you follow the news, you pretty much knew everything you needed to know on the first day this story broke. But over and over, like first grade teachers attempting to drill the alphabet into you, we heard all the details.

The feeding frenzy is great for the non-news crowd. It's a sensational topic that can peak their interest and this constant drilling let's them feel informed no matter how little they've paid attention. But for people who follow the news, we didn't need the constant, incessant and repetitious coverage.

It truly was a feeding frenzy as various radio and TV programs devoted their entire programs (repeatedly) to Schiavo, Schiavo, Schiavo.

We also didn't need to keep hearing it in the same manner. What could have been an opportunity to seriously discuss quality of life, living wills and the disabled (make no mistake, many disabled people were offended by some of the "jokes" made this past week), instead became a continuous feed on the parents and husband of Terry Schiavo.

The Republicans overplayed their hand and the polls show that (the polls showed that early in the week). But why were they willing to risk it? Partly to toss out meat to their base for 2006.
But also with the hope that other stories would be buried (there were developments in the Valerie Plame case and certainly questions of Tom DeLay's ethics coming out of Texas were muted).

That was the game plan. And on the left, people did tremendous work in exposing the hypocrisy of the Republican leadership, no question. But as the media continued to focus on it (all forms of media), the Republicans got what they wanted: one story dominating and drowning out all else.

You had a school shooting that was largely ignored which offended some people (including Native Americans). And while the story was spared the feeding frenzy and false reporting
of Columbine, it also left many feeling that media interest depended on skin color. When the efforts of Stephanie Tubbs-Jones were ignored, that also led some to raise the issue of
skin color.

Make no mistake, a lot of issues and stories got ignored. But also be aware that when you've covered, for instance, Ohio in relation to Barbara Boxer and you then ignore Stephanie Tubbs-Jones' continued fight on this important issue, people start to question why. And coming in the same week as the tragedy on the reservation, you begin to create even more questions in the minds of many. Add in the voices of the disabled, voices that were not heard, and it often appeared the whole thing was intended to play to certain segment of the population, for a certain segment of the population and by a certain segment of the population.

The alternative media especially should be concerned because they are supposed to shed light to the stories that the mainstream doesn't touch. They are supposed to give voice to the subjects that otherwise would not be heard from. At a time when inclusion should be strived for, we went through a week of exclusion.

In this regard, the overall media's failure is not surprising. The alternative media's failure is suprising and, honestly, a little saddening.

As some sort of reverse Sleeping Beauty narrative, this story was easy to cover, so easy that few resisted. And it was damn easy to flood the story nonstop. That's why radio hosts (on all sides) could fill up entire shows (day after day) with this topic. They knew they'd get callers because this isn't a budget proposal, for instance. No one feels like they have to do a great deal of thinking on the subject the way they might if it involved numbers. So everyone had an opinion and everyone shared. It was a week long feelings-check passed off as news. People noting highs and lows as they kept droning on and on.

Again, a few people (in all media formats) either covered it it as news (which didn't require devoting a great deal of time to the story -- Democracy Now!, for instance, did two stories and otherwise merely covered it in headlines at the top of each show) or else they noted that everyone else was covering it and elected to go with other stories that were being drowned out. But those were very few voices and what was especially saddening was seeing some of them crack as the week went by, suddenly apparently feeling that they just had to toss in their ten cents worth.

When a political party grandstands, absolutely, that's a news story. It isn't, however, the only news story. Nor is it really necessary for either side to offer speculation of what led to Schiavo's state. And speculation led to an increasingly "loose" atmosphere. Jokes about feeding tubes for a bulimic victim were not funny. A bad joke isn't a crime. But at a point when jokes like that start being cracked (by callers or hosts of programs), it's probably a sign that it's time to move on to another story or at least not let this one story dominate.

Here were all the facts you needed to know until Jeb Bush's attempt to go Elian on Schiavo (as reported by the Miami Herald). Schiavo was married. Her husband and her doctors did not feel her status would changed. As the husband, he and not her parents had the final say. Consistently, the courts sided with the husband. The parents repeatedly appealed. "Experts" weren't so expert. The Republican leadership produced a set of talking points and tried to make political hay out of the tragedy.

That's really it. And it can be summed up in a paragraph. But day after day, we got nonstop coverage, around the clock. Was that due to the fact that we ended up having serious bio-ethical debates? No. That didn't happen. We didn't leave the situation/case of one person: Schiavo.

So what really was the point of the media feeding frenzy? And why did people so willingly participate in it?

That's a question that people should ask themselves. But they probably won't. They'll attempt to justify it on the basis of it being a Constitutional crisis (a term tossed around repeatedly in the media). They'll say they were talking about quality of life issues. No, they were speaking of the quality of one life, Terry Schiavo's.

When an issue is so simple (and the issue of Schiavo is simple from a purely legal standpoint), everyone is an expert. Which is why you saw people who never stopped to discuss anything other than Hillary Duff or CSI weigh in with their own "expert" opinions. When that happens, the media has the opportunity to do what it should be doing all the time: educate and enlighten.
Instead it was just talking points over and over. People who usually don't follow news weren't educated on the debate, they didn't have their world view enlarged. Instead, the same points of this one specific case were repeated over and over so often that even the non-news watchers were "experts." Right away, that should tell you there's a problem with the coverage. Not just that's it's too much but that what's being offered is highly superficial.

We'll note that some people (a few) did try to enlarge it beyond "oh there go the Republicans again!" by actually tying this effort into past efforts with more than mere shout-outs. A few people did actually probe into the history of past efforts that led up to this latest insane power grab. But for the most part, the coverage was mere talking points and served to silence all other stories of the week.

Though we doubt it will happen, we still hope that those who participated will take a long hard look at what their nonstop coverage actually provided. And that they may grasp that beyond the non-white world, the non-disabled world, a lot of people are asking questions about why this one story dominated at the expense of all others.

Under-reported stores from last week: feat: Ron (Why Are We Back in Iraq?), Pam (Big Brass Blog) and Folding Star (A Winding Road)

No this isn't a blog report. But this is a group of bloggers attempting to note stories that mattered which didn't receive the attention they should have last week. If you're feeling like you've o.d.ed on one story and want to see what you might have missed, this is the article for you. If you're someone who considers yourself fairly informed, you can turn this article into a game by seeing which stories you know about already without checking the links, then check the links and see if you're right.

We tried to avoid repetition. Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq?, Pam of Big Brass Blog and Folding Star of A Winding Road all did their picks in a timely manner. Which left us, C.I., Rebecca and Betty to hash out what didn't get covered that hadn't already been picked. That was a two hour plus discussion. You'll note that Ohio pops up more than once but considering that C.I., Rebecca and us were all pointing out that story last Sunday, we think we had a right to
point it out more than once this go round.

Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq?:

1) The Brad Blog:

Mystery Solved! Location of 'American Center forVoting Rights' Found! Exclusive Photographs!Brad Friedman (and his crew at the Brad Blog) prove that a voting rights group that testified at a congressional hearing is nothing but a front for the GOP like Talon News.

2) Watching The Watchers

Tas (from Loaded Mouth) continues his blogging about the genocide in Darfur, which isn't getting as much press (or blog coverage) as it should.

3) Why Are We Back In Iraq?

I blogged about Congressman John Conyers who wrote a great article in support of the constitutional rights of bloggers, continued to press on for election reform, and opened up his blog to allow commenting.

Pam Spaulding of Big Brass Blog

1) Thin skin of the Technorati Testosteroni

Are the big boys still up to the job? Do they have the mojo? It's something I talk about with my blogger pals all the time, but no one writes about it. Well, one guy did, and Atrios unleashed his faithful on the poor chap.

2) The politics of hair (again): school bans white girl with braids

I wrote this piece because you just don't have many people in the blogosphere talking about this topic. It's an extremely deep issue -- "good hair" vs. "bad hair" and what the history of these deep-seated pathologies means in today's world, where racism is so internalized that many people don't even realize their own prejudices.

3) Spike Lee, Essence Magazine speak out on the pimp/ho arm of hip hop

Women have been debased in some elements of the hip hop community as nothing more that tits and ass, and there's no shortage of women that are willing to "shake it" in front of a camera to get next to a star rapper. It's taken a while, but some well-known and respected figures, including Spike Lee and Essence Magazine have said enough is enough.

4) Mobilize

(Shakespeare's Sister): This is only tangentally about Schiavo; it's a call to arms about the increasing move of both the Democratic and Republican parties to cave on what used to be a clear separation of powers. And the people are asleep while it all happens. ShakesSis beautifully breaks it down.

Folding Star of A Winding Road:

I'd say the Wolfowitz story: Democracy Now! and A Winding Road.

2) The protests marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war which Democracy Now! covered on Monday.

3) And I think the Kyrgyzstan issue is pretty big, too. I mean, electoral fraud is all too real a problem in this country, and here's a country that has had enough and, like in the Ukraine, isn't going to take it anymore. It should be a huge story. Democracy Now! covered this on Friday.

Common Ills community member Betty (and blogger on April 1st, watch for details on The Common Ills and Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude).

1) Georgetown students hunger strike of 9 days leading to victory after three years for a living wage for the people who work on campus.

2) I'd pick Democracy Now!'s "Red Lake Struggles to Cope with Shooting Tragedy" about a tragedy that pretty much everyone blew off, including the Bully Boy, initially. I also heard Janeane Garofalo seriously address this topic on The Majority Report.

3) I'd also pick a story at The Black Commentator by Margaret Kimberly which notes that criminal allegations against celebrities are nonstop news but criminal behavior by our government are treated by the media as shout outs.

[Note: Betty's first item has been substituted per Betty & C.I. 3-28-05]

Third Estate Sunday Review (Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim & Ava)

1) The anti-war protests were not covered by the national mainstream media.

2) FAIR's "Women's Opinions Also Missing on Television: Women of color virtually invisible on Sunday shows" has yet to garner the attention it deserves.

3) John Bolton's fallen off the radar as Rebecca's noted and his confirmation hearing is scheduled for April 7 so we'll point out Ian Williams' article from In These Times -- as did Rebecca.

4) No one's talking about "Marriage amendment re-introduced in U.S. House."

5) Not to be Tim Russert but Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.

6) The verdict in the Jeremy Hinzman case is another story that has implications that the press hasn't really focused on. There's a lot of angles to that story. There's the fact that he's appealing the verdict, that others have gone to Canada for sanctuary, that a treaty that went into effect this year may overrule any decision that a higher court could come to, and the fact that the verdict comes down as Bully Boy is entertaining the prime minister of Canada.

7) Rebecca's post on Air America and how Unfiltered, a diverse show featuring an African-American male and two women -- one of whom is a lesbian, is being cancelled and replaced with a radio program by Jerry Springer. That doesn't bode well for the network or for diversity. Air America wasn't overflowing with strong women voices (there's Laura Flanders, Randi Rhodes and Janeane Garofalo, plus the woman who does Eco-Talk which airs way too early on Sunday mornings) and it certainly didn't have enough people of color hosting shows (there's now only one co-host of color) so the decision to put on another middle-aged white male seems to go against what the network was supposed to be about. This is obviously the reason Lizz Winstead left Unfiltered and the network at the start of the month. Yet instead of explaining to listeners what was going on, they allowed false rumors about Winstead's health to be spread. This was a very embarrassing moment for Air America and couldn't come at a worse time as the documentary marking the one year anniversary begins airing on HBO.

8) Chris Anderson's NYC Indymedia story on the false coverage of "Battle at Lake Thanthar."
Major press like The New York Times just took dictation and didn't verify according to the article and no one's really talking about it. This is a story. And part of a pattern that we all know led us into the current invasion/occupation.

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude:

1) Well I'd note that lean, long cock Ari Berman of The Nation, as I like to think of him, noted the fact that an Ohio court has ruled that domestic violence can only take place between married couples which leaves out same-sex couples since they can't be legally married and it also leaves out any two people living together or in a relationship. I think that's a very scary development and one that could have national implications if we're not paying attention to it now when we can cause an uproar over the decision. Ohio doesn't seem to make the media's radar at all. Maybe if it was a decision handed down by a Florida court it would have gotten attention?

2) The link C.I. did to the Guerrilla News Network's story "Fayetteville Diary" seems like news to me, about how Operation Truth thinks they can dictate what, who and where a protest will take place. Not just for their organization but for anyone opposed to the war. I'm thinking of another link C.I. did to a story in The Nation and I'm wondering exactly how a spokesperson for Operation Truth thinks he's going to help stop the war by attacking the right to peaceably assemble. I'll also give props to Big Brain Rachel Maddow for refusing to play along with the spokesperson when he appeared on Unfiltered this week.

3) I know C.I.'s going to go with one story for sure, so I won't pick it, knowing what it's like when your own pick, hint: Ian Williams' story on Bolton, is raided. But I will note that The Washington Post came out today with a story on the secret tribunals hearings and that it was covered in The New York Times in a sort of that's-just-how-it-is-kids way. So I'll note C.I.'s comments when that Times story was noted Thursday at The Common Ills. I haven't seen it all over the place yet, possibly because we've only had one story all week, but I'm hoping it picks up traction.

4) In terms of the media, I'd note the Un-embed the Media tour that Amy Goodman and others are doing and the riveting interview Goodman and Juan Gonzalez did with Phil Donahue Thursday on Democracy Now!

5) C.I. had a link to Luke of wotisitgood4 discussing how the media really isn't addressing the SEC investigation into Richard Perle, the Dr. Phil of the neocon set. I'd agree with Luke and argue that this is a story that should be getting a lot more attention. Possibly his empty threats to sue Sy Hersh awhile back has some in the press scared of covering the issue or possibly the embedded media's been sleeping in the wet spot so long they don't feel the need to go after their guy?

6) I'll note Folding Star's post from Wednesday about how we weren't paying attention to the issue of Paul Wolfwitiz being nominated for the World Bank. By the end of the week, this was getting a little more attention but still not enough.

7) Lastly, I'll note that The Third Estate Sunday Review was correct when they voiced the fear last week that the mainstream media wouldn't cover the protests. You saw them covered in the indy media world and on Democracy Now! but not a lot of other places. So I'll note the interview with eighty-one people and add that I'm really proud to have been a part of that and not someone who just shrugged their shoulders and decided to cover other things.

C.I. of The Common Ills

1) Absolutely Ohio. In addition to Jude of Iddybud, I'd also note Ron's coverage of it and the fact that tonight (Sunday), The Laura Flanders Show will be covering it.

2) I don't think Naomi Klein's report on Democracy Now! Friday regarding Giuliana Sgrena can be overlooked or should be -- but I worry that it already has been. Sgrena is saying the car was shot at not from in front, but from behind. That's only one detail to emerge from Klein's report and people should be paying attention to this. As Klein noted, the military refuses to turn the car over to Italy for inspection.

3) I'm bothered that the media appears to be able to focus only on one foreign story at a time.
Events of this week meant that Lebanon was largely neglected in terms of coverage. I'll note the archive of stories that LeftTurn just posted online March 25th.

4) I'll close with "Judge Tells City to Release Much of 9/11 Oral History" by Michael Cooper from The New York Times because I do feel like this is news that a lot of people haven't heard about it. It was buried in the New York region section of the paper and considering that this is a national issue, it should have been on the front page, my opinion.

Unlike some sites that give lip service to be interested in all blogs, we actually are. If you're a blogger and you would like to have something noted that you've covered or someone else has that's not gotten the attention that you feel it should, please e-mail us at and we'll try to note it in a future edition. Just follow the way it's been set out above and provided you're a blogger from the left, we'll be happy to note it.
Ty says "no conspiracy theories." (We'll let Ty make that ruling since he's just grinning right now and refusing to add anything to that.) We thank Pam, Ron and Folding Star for their help.

TV review: Jake in Progress

Early in the week, we decided to take a look at the new ABC sitcom, Jake in Progress starring John Stamos. Then came word that Thursday would showcase four episodes in a row of the series. Four episodes? Would we laugh? Would we make it through it? We knew we'd have a damn good idea of what the show was like.

From the hype, we were cued to expect a male version of Sex in the City, full of snappy remarks and sex driven plots. But then . . . we watched.

The show is all tease. We're not just saying that they cut away from the sex scenes because we weren't expecting to see Stamos and assorted others flashing the rears at the camera. (And outside of Wendie Malick, no one in the cast should even consider doing that -- see notes at the end on Stamos' body.) But we were expecting that the show would be about sex.

And it really wasn't. Jake is supposed to be a sex machine. And we get a lot of sex talk. A lot of openings. But no closure. No sealing the deal. Talk, talk, talk. And it's not locker room talk. This is like eavesdropping on the high school chess club: they'd really, really like to have sex, but they never really, really get to.

In the first episode, Jake, the apparent stud, has to rise early the next morning. So he blows off going clubbing. (And Stamos is a little old to be going clubbing, especially solo. But the show gives him no real "wing man.") He blows off an elevator full of "girls" (his word) in town for a bridal party.

He's just all talk. At one point, his 'best friend' announces he's staying over and that Titanic is going to be on TV. Jake says he is not staying up and watching Titanic.

But like everything else Jake talks about, there's this huge gulf between what he says and what he does. Point, he ends up watching Titanic. And gets teary-eyed.

Then, since he can't sleep, he bumps into a woman from the bridal party. They end up having sparks. They go to the roof (of the hotel he lives at) to hit the hot tub. And just when she's moving in for a kiss, Jake falls asleep.

It's supposed to be a show about sex, so why does it come off like the lead character just can't get it up?

In another episode aired Thursday night, he does the deed. Quickly. As the woman semi-sneers to him, "I enjoyed every minute, both of them."

In another episode, Chloe, a woman he actually had sex with (we have no idea the length of the encounter), hops out of bed to start dressing. Jake looks at her with puppy-dog eyes and says, "That was fun."

Chloe's reply? "Yeah it was. I got to go."

Woah, woah, woah. No matter what else went down, you knew Carrie and the gang from Sex in the City had fun in bed. (Even Miranda!) But here you've got the lead in the show (it's not an ensemble) and he's unable to move beyond talk or, if he does the deed, doesn't seem to have anything to offer. This is the Anti-Sex in the City.

Who knew fucking could be so damn boring?

Looking like a cross between Greg Evigan and George Clooney (worst parts of both), John Stamos tries really hard to be endearing. But with age lines forming around the eyes and a forehead that has emerging striations, smart people would advise Stamos to try to work on his acting.

It's Uncle Jesse without the Full House crew because Stamos never has a grasp on a character.

The scene calls for frustration, okay he'll show Stamos frustrated. The scene calls for anxiety, we see Stamos frustrated. But we never see a character. We see an aging pretty boy going from scene to scene with no concept of anything that happened before. Like a disciple of Richard Gere, he mistakes squinting for acting technique.

There are actors in the cast. Wendie Malick (Nina of Just Shoot Me) has the ability to convince you repeatedly that something funny is about to happen. She's got comic timing and likeability, she just isn't given anything to do or say that's actually funny. It should also be noted that Malik works really hard to connect with Stamos in their scenes together. When Malick's looking at Stamos, he seems a better actor than he is.

Rick Hoffman is also a real actor. But he makes no effort to pull Stamos up to his level. Instead, he acts up a storm filling every scene with so much tension, drama and anxiety that he pushes everyone else off the screen. He's center of attention and Stamos makes him so because, where a Mary Tyler Moore or Bob Newhart would actually take in the performance Hoffman is giving, Stamos just waits to say his next line.

Celebs come and go making cameos. And you don't really register them or care about them. Jake's a publicist. Maybe this passes for irony -- that supposed larger than life celebrities (including two Hillary Duff wanna bes) are shown to be flat and small in reality? Well irony needs humor to truly work; without it, it's just nah-nah-nah.

Mean spirited is the way the show comes off -- whether in Jake's dealings with his assistant or his interaction with his "friends" and co-workers. Watching him squint and sigh repeatedly, the audience is fully aware that forty-one is a difficult age for pretty boys -- it's just the writers who haven't caught on.

Playing opposite Elsa (who wants to have sex with him), Stamos is acting like he's still playing opposite the pre-puberty Olsen twins. In fact the only time he appears to leave the still life stage is when Jake's arch nemisis (and client stealer) Peter is on the scene. For whatever reason, Stamos actually seems interested in what Bradley White's character is doing. The rest of the time, he just comes off bored.

"That never happens," Jake whines after he's suffered from premature ejaculation with Elsa. And what to discuss next after something like that? Apparently Peter. (No, that's not a pun.)
Jake's going on about "Want to talk mature? That guy Peter is always trying to top me!"
Yeah, we're starting to get that, we're really, really starting to get that. And get how important that and Peter are to Jake.

The loudest laugh we had was when Jake delivered the following:

You know what I say? Screw Peter.

The most honest the show may have ever gotten. And naturally, Jake's off to see Peter and to learn that Peter's stolen a client. Watching them bicker over the man adds another level to the show. And laugh as the client Freddie informs Stamos, "I've left you for Peter, Jake."

True hurt appears on Stamos' otherwise smirking face. And then follows more bickering between Jake and Peter.

Jake: "This is unbelieveable, you don't care about Freddie!"
Peter: "At least I'm not pretending to date movie stars!"

Me-ow! And the only time in two hours and four episodes that Stamos seemed committed to a scene. The thing plays like the show Ellen (formerly These Friends of Mine) before "The Puppy" episode.

He's falling asleep during make out sessions with one woman, his "ability" in bed has another woman quickly fleeing, and with Elsa (who actually asks if he's gay), Jake can't keep it up. If Uncle Jesse's coming out, that might make for an interesting show. But we doubt that's happening. Instead it's pathos and bathos like we haven't suffered through since the

days of the "drama-dy." We thought the end of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd had finally killed that genre but here's Stamos driving a newer version that's still fraught with the same lack of appeal.

Rebecca has written about how to make Jake in Progress a hit (before the show aired) and she wanted us to answer this important question: How much flesh does Stamos show?

Rebecca, not much. In one scene (when he wakes up by the hot tub the next morning and the woman is gone), you get to see his chest. Otherwise, if he's in bed with a woman (talking!) you see his shoulders and her shoulders. (It's like sex between those big doll heads you could style the hair on.) His sleepware is a t-shirt and what appears to be silk pants or possibly shiny sweat pants. So your hopes that he'd be running around in a pair of BVDs, consider those dashed.

The body itself isn't much to note. That might be why you get so many shoulder shots. His pecs are like late 80s Richard Gere pecs -- on the verge of losing all tone and emerging with the fold lines that dominated so much of Gere's bare chest acting in the 90s. We like to call that When Pillow Pecs Turn Into Fold Out Sofas. (You're welcome to come up with your own classification.)

For all the sex talk, Jake's penis stays soft, his body is soft and the humor is soft. All in all, not a lot going on here. Unless the "in Progress" of the title foretells a coming out episode, this show makes no sense and provides little entertainment. So wait and see if Time runs a "Yep I'm Gay!" cover story. If not, don't bother watching Jake in Progress.

Blog Spotlight: Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

Over at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Rebecca posted "enough on terry schiavo" March 23rd and we find ourselves in agreement (see editorial). We asked her if there was anything she wanted to add or say to this.

Rebecca: Not really. I think it makes it's point. I will note that Randi Rhodes is the one who broke the news on Air America about the GOP memo. In the post, I just called her Randi because most of my readers know her and love her and they already listen to her. So I could be lazy and just type "Randi" and they knew who I meant. But in case someone reading this here is unfamiliar with my cite, Randi is Randi Rhodes. I'll also add the Michael Jackson bit is meant as humor. I actually had one person write in and say, "Yes, Rebecca, I'm worried about the lack of coverage on him too." I hope they were joking. I did e-mail back to note that I was joking.

enough on terry schiavo

yes, i took off last night. a friend begged me to go to the movies with her. she's going through a break up and convinced that her girlfriend is correct and she'll never find any 1 else. so we went to the movies because she needed to get out of her place (formerly 'their place' - she kept the condo).

when i got home i thought about doing a post but i look around online while i've got the radio on and all i'm seeing and hearing is schiavo, schiavo, schiavo.

i wasn't in the mood.

the media circus rides continues.

a judge gives a verdict. the media pants. an appeal is filed. the media drools.

and always non-stop talk.

talk talk
talk around the clock

as joni mitchell sings in 'tax free.'

did you ever hear such a choir?

oh sure you have some tenor voices. some baritone voices. some sopranos. some altos. a little bass thrown in for the mix.but it's the same damn song - just different people singing their different parts (melody and counter-melody).

and it all makes this huge din that drowns out everything ani difranco sings 'and everywhere i go it's the same fucking song.'
correction: c.i. e-mailed asking what version of 'fuel' i was talking about. the 1 on little plastic castles. and i go to listen and ani sings 'and everywhere i go it's the same damn song.' my bad. 3-25-2005that's the state of american media today.

and i mean all media -- the dinasours as well as the net age that was supposed to give us the brave net world that, more and more, sounds just like the weak old world.

who would've though the internet would obsess to the nth degree over the same topic as cokie roberts?

has cokie roberts suddenly become relevant? hardly.

what you are seeing is a media feeding frenzy (as c.i. noted yesterday at the common ills).

it's like nothing since o.j. simpson. i'm not sure even the laci/scott peterson story reached this level of saturation.

why has it been done to death?

for a number of reasons.

it's an emotional issue. so it gets attention. that means it delivers viewers, readers (for printed papers) and listeners. we always knew the dinasour media was all about the ratings. they'd go into a feeding frenzy on any topic that might pump up the ratings.

but in the not so brave net world, the 1 that was supposed to allow stories to break through that the mainstream was sitting on, we see the new enemy. the new nielsens are "hits." "visits."every 1 seems to be chasing this easy to do, emotional story to get an increase in the hits.

there's something that needs to be said about the devices used to track visitors and i'll wait to address that another time. but make no mistake, the not so brave, not so new, net world is turning out to be as ratings driven as any 1 else.

a blogger i have never mentioned at this site who is male e-mailed me yesterday saying he was sick of blogging on this topic. (we've been e-mailing from time to time. he thinks i'm 'sassy and funny.') he goes to great lengths to tell me he's exhausted on this topic. then i see he's written about it again today. after sending that e-mail yesterday.

why do you write about something that you say you're exhausted on?

this is the o.j. case, people.

there is reporting. that was done early on. the only thing to discuss after that was the gop memo (which randi discussed friday on her show), that a court had a finding and what the decision was, and that an appeal is filed (because an appeal is always filed).

now if someone wants to go into ethics, that's a story. that's 1 story.

but this thing is being strip-mined repeatedly.

what can i write about?

that seems to be the question.

and the easiest thing to write about (or talk about or show clips of or whatever) is terry schiavo because it pushes buttons and gets attention.

and they keep going there and going there.

and no surprise, there's less and less to go to. which is why you hear bad jokes about terry schiavo on the radio. i heard 4 today. 1 on a left wing show, 1 on a right wing show, 1 on a sports radio show and 1 on morning drive.

there's nothing left. all the talking points (on both sides) have been done, redone, done to death.

and no 1 wants to credit. i heard people repeatedly cite bob somerby's revelation today. the 1 he made yesterday (the common ills highlights it in yesterday's post that i linked to above). every 1 is all over that a doctor is not a nobel nominee. i heard it over and over. and i didn't hear 1 person say, 'as bob somerby pointed out on the daily howler.' no 1 gave him credit. they just ripped him off and maybe they're listeners thought they had come across this thought. it came off like it was their own revelation. over and over, from show to show, web site to web site.

that's what it has come to. people no longer have any thing original to say. they know there's not a lot of work required in this story - you just push buttons - and to add a factoid or 2, they rip off a bob somerby or some 1 else.

that's wrong.and when you're going on and on about the ethics involved in this story, how ethical is it to rip off some 1 else's work and not give them credit?

i'd never read the daily howler before my friend elaine put me wise to the common ills. i'd never even heard of it or bob somerby. in the many months since i became a member of the common ills, i've seen his work highlighted. i've usually thought 'that's pretty astute' and sometimes i've been interested enough in what ever pull quote c.i. posted to click on the link and read somerby's writing in full.

if i ever use something he wrote knowingly, i will credit him. i say 'knowingly' because he's made a lot of points and i'm sure at some point (maybe already) i'll forget that he made it 1st. but come on people, there's allowing insight to seep in over time and there's ripping some 1 off less than a day later! no 1 can read yesterday's post and forget where they read it. that's insane.people know they read it at the daily howler and they could give credit. but instead they pass it off as their own.

again, i ask, how ethical is that?

this isn't me reading his posts from the past that c.i. highlighted on president's day and a month or two from now making a point that i've absorbed so much i've forgotten that it wasn't mine to begin with. in 1 day (or less) how can you forget where you read it?

i don't think you do. i just think that you make a choice not to give credit.

and it's not ethical.

so spare us all the hand wringing and all the gotcha-points on some hypocrisy you're reporting on when you can't even cite where you got your nobel point.

the thing was a private matter. the courts have agreed with that. somehow people have pumped it into the story of the decade.

it bothers me.and it worries me.

for 1 thing, what will poor michael jackson have to do now to get attention? he's already worn pajamas to court. does he have to show up nude now?

and forget jackson and the other infotainment stories, what about the very real, very serious stories that are going on right now?

we already saw the online community take a pass on the ohio hearing. we saw stephanie tubbs-jone be ignored. after all our talk of how we would support democrats who took a stand, we ignored what stephanie tubbs-jones did.

what else is going on? what other stories are we missing out on? and at what point will we all shut up about this story? people get the point. i was riding the ferry yesterday and every 1 gets the point. at this rate, if you continue to harp on this story, you'll create a fucking backlash.

and that should worry every 1 on the left. because america gets it. they get that this isn't about anything other than the republicans attempting to use a personal tragedy for political gain. but the excess in the left's response may end up creating a backlash.

if there's a development and you need to highlight it by all means do so. and credit whomever you got the point from. but this constant hand wringing needs to stop - especially now that 'jokes' are starting to creep's an easy story to do. that's why cokie and her ilk can cover it. it pushes emotions, pushes buttons, gets people talking. not because of anything most of the people covering it (in any format) have done. but because it's a natural hot-button issue. so people keep going back to that issue to get more and more. hoping to increase ratings, circulation or web traffic.

it is a personal tragedy and the coverage is starting to cross the line.

and people are starting to get bored. i love the majority report but sam seder is talking about this (again! again! again!) and i can't take it another night. i'll turn on the tv or go visit some friends. i do not need to hear this over and over.

yes, her parents are attempting to get press on this. but the courts have said the issue is decided. they have said that over and over. jebbie's stepping in. or trying to. if you want to cover that, cover that. but quit repeating the same things that we've heard all week over and over.

the left doesn't need an echo chamber. it needs people raising issues and stories that haven't been covered. and if you're contributing to the zone of silence on all other issues you are playing into the bully boy's hands.

i just went to buzzflash. it's a great site. it's the best thing the left has to offer and reaches so many readers each day. but it disturbs me to count 36 stories on terry schiavo in 1 form or another. 36 stories.

are there 36 stories there? no. there's a lot of hot air. there's a lot of repetition. and there's a lot more going on in the world then this personal tragedy.

i'm not trying for a buzzflash link here, in case any 1's wondering. if any 1 doubts that, watch this:

fuck, fuck, fuck.

christian parenti's cock is probably perfection. it is my dreams.

i bet dahr jamail really knows how to use the cock he's packing.


buzzflash link officially denied. so don't think i'm going for that or was attempting that.

i would prefer not to contribute in any way to the chorus that keeps signing the same tune with the right singing the melody and the left singing the counter melody.

and i promise i will not post on this subject again. but my point here is not schiavo, my point here is that there are other stories and that the attention being paid to this 1 story is overwhelming many other stories that are important and should be getting traction but won't as long as we keep hand wringing over this 1 story.

i don't know that karl rove is a genius. maybe we're just fucking idiots?

because this was designed as a ploy to feed the extreme evangical base and to take attention off other stories (tom delay, osama, etc.). if kar had a stroke of genius, it's because we were too fucking stupid to attempt moderation. we felt the need to flood the zone with this story and to go to it over and over to the point that we're hearing people say they're sick of the story.


and the net was supposed to be our brave net world of freedom? seems to me like we all better think about shopping for pearls this weekend because a lot of us are turning into cokie roberts whether we intended or not. (i think most people shirk from the notion that they might some day turn into insta-expert cokie.)

you want some real news that you're not hearing about? get your ass over to ron's site. go to why are we back in iraq and learn about what he's covering. here's a hint, it doesn't involve a topic that the whole blog world is talking about. maybe that's why it's so goddamn important?think about what you're learning from the news and commentaries lately and ask yourself how much longer this chorus needs to keep singing the same fucking song?

i've said my peace on this. and addressed it only because i agree with the common ills community members including wally who wrote me an e-mail this morning saying that his high school class was sick of it and was hoping some 1 else would say so besides c.i. wally lives in florida and if it's bad for me up north, i can only imagine how much worse it is for wally and the kids in his class.

so for wally and his class, i'll end with this item (put it with ron's and anything you find at the common ills and you've got a lively classroom discussion tomorrow):

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) scheduled hearings for April 7 on the confirmation of John Bolton as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

that's from ian williams' "bolton vs. united nations" which you can find online at in these times magazine. april 7th isn't that far way. so wally, read ian williams' article and bring that up in class. that's news and it's 1 of the many topics that we've lost sight of now that the choir only wants to sing 1 tune.

It's March, which means May graduations are just around the corner, so we speak with Cinamon

It's March, which means May graduations are just around the corner. On campus, this is always a time when some seniors feel the panic of oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-have-to-get-a-job! It's a feeling many of us have upon graduation of high school but today's college experience is one that includes for many heavy student debt incurred via loans and credit card fees.

As the semester winds down, many seniors start to wonder, "Is it worth it?" as they face down the repayment of loans in the near future. With this in mind, we interviewed a recent graduate (last May). Cinamon, not her real name ("I sound like a porn star!"), offered her reflections on art programs, what works, what doesn't and what she'd change. With a real world perspective of someone making a living in her chosen field (art), we found her insightful, questioning and frequently downright hilarious.

What do you think the biggest problem with arts programs are?

Well the fact, it's a very old tradition, of having the professor's think they are creating a legacy. We'll use David as an example. He was typical of his time. You trained under him and you learned his style. So he could claim credit. He didn't do all the work but he gets the credit. The professors are often tyrannical and they act as though this system still exists and it doesn't.

They don't seem to be very well infomred in current art and as a result the students don't get information on that. The BFA people do a lot of studio time but not enough art history but you have to have the background in both past and present art forms. That's the only way you can stand up to criticism once you're out of school and someone's saying "It's crap."

What sorts of current art form weren't covered in your program?

You never hear what's on the outskirts. They want you to push the boundaries, they say they want you to, but only so much as they can handle.

I'm sick of lower forms of art versus high form. Animated cells, tatooing, those can be areas in art but they're not being treated as such. Even some of the murals, but murals are traditionally better accepted, aren't getting the credit and attention they deserve.

And regardless of what accepted area they do inform you of, you never hear about female artists unless it's "Now we're going to hear about female artists." It's never integrated into the program. You don't learn much about women past or present except in a "Look, there's a woman!" kind of way and you don't learn about current artists. For instance, all those people have no idea, unless they studied themselves, who Damien Hirst is.

Here these people are famous in their local areas and in the art world but you don't hear about them. Kids need to hear about them and be prepared for the real art world.

And I won't even go into how graphics is seen as a tech class, not an arts class and I think that's crazy.

What would you recommend?

You need an internship and you need to know the work of some artists who are critically acclaimed now. How's that going to help you if you are having a show and you can only reference artists from older periods?

The professors are living in their college years. They haven't kept up. Yes, you can go to museums and yes, some teachers encourage that but that is only about five percent of it because you have to be contemporary and look forward.

On the one hand, there ought to be more competition among the professors for their jobs. They should have to keep putting their stuff out there.

At the same time, I think they need to put all the energy into teaching and their students. I have no idea on that but they're out of touch with the real world and something needs to be done.

But the art world itself needs to take more of an interest in buddying artists and nurture them -- not in a touchy-feely, Hillary [Clinton] way.

Let's talk about pushing the boundaries. It's a valid approach?

Sometimes. But sometimes what gets attention . . . Look, large pieces of a bowl outside a building, they're just copying. Marcel Duchamp. He had at the Guggenheim, he had a urinal sitting there. And it was revolutionary and made sense at the time because it was unexpected and made people think.

But it could also be beauty which is also making people think. The professors could be more open to the students who aren't into pushing boundaries but instead I heard too many professors pooh-poohing someone's work and saying, "That's pedistrian." But often it was about beauty and not pushing a boundary.

Joseph Albert's work looks like blobs of color but if you look at it, you get drawn in. And that's what art is.

Our friend Kat, who reviews music for The Common Ills in her Kat's Korner, has spoken of how music reviews strip music of all meaning as the reviewers ignore any emotional response to the music and instead attempt to toss out a factoid or two. She argues, and we agree, that you're discussing an art form in a very clinical and cold manner. Did you observe anything similar in your classes? Were students addressing the power of a piece of art or were they going into some sort of historical, factoid based commentary.

Wow. That's a really great observation. And art and music have so much in common.
Some students do rise above it. But some just repeat what they've learned and not what the piece makes you feel. It's such an unexact science, how something makes you feel. And it can scare some people. But yeah, art's meant to cause a reaction and you can't capture it or convey it if you're saying "whereas in . . . however, it must be noted that this was done first by . . ."

Okay, say we are a 17 year old passionate about art and trying to figure out what to do with our life? We know we want to create art but we're not sure what route to go. What do you tell us?

I don't know. I don't think they need a BFA degree, it's so hard to say. Take the basics the first two years and see where it takes you. If you like it, take the full BFA thing.

Is it so important to go to school for four years if you can afford it, to have a liberal education, get the education, it is important. Get all the knowledge because then you're imagination can go wild. You need more than drawing classes. It's like the business people who only take business classes. You end up only knowing one thing.

It's irritating that so many people out there only know about the one subject they studied. Everyone should have a good liberal education, a good liberal education. If they can afford it.
If they can't, they need to get the education on their own which is a lot harder but it's not impossible. But a BFA isn't the answer to achieving your dreams as an artist.

Same question only we're a third year student in a BFA program. And here, we're questioning whether or not we should continue. Or, let's change it, to you are now in your third year only you know then everything you know now. What would you do differently?

I wouldn't have graduated. I would have kept getting my pell grant and then go back and get something else instead. Double major. Get a BA. Get a well rounded education.

That's the honest truth, let's see what kind of 'truth' I can make up.

I would stay in the program and start looking around for freelance books because unless you're getting a corporate job, you'll be a free lancer.

Get tear sheets because you need them even if you're not paid. You don't have to be paid to be published. And you have the tear sheet for your portfolio. That's what people want to see and they want to know that you're published. And there's a whole new world opening there where for the web or for new magazines just starting up, people need art but they aren't able to pay you for it. You're not really taught about that or the importance of the tear sheets. Instead, you're encouraged to do these slide presentations.

But in your third year, that's when you do it. That's when you should be attempting to get as many tear sheets as you can.

[Laughing] Don't do the sixty dollars send off your art work professor thing. [Laughing] Do what I say.

What's the slide thing?

You take photographs of your art which you then have developed into slides. You have to send your slides off for a juried competition which you always have some professor advising you to do. [Laughs] Don't do that, do the thing that I say. Now if it's for a grade in a class, and sometimes it is, then you gotta do it. But do that because it's an assignment but on your own time, work on getting those tear sheets.

Okay, let's talk resources. What should an art student be looking at?

Great topic. Look at Decor, ID or The Face because, not because it's fashion, "Ew, it's fashion!," but because it shows you what are the modern colors. Believe it or not, you do need to know what the current colors are so some dumb ass will put something you've done in their living room. "Oh, it goes with my sofa!" They'll put a painting of something as ridiculous as a cow exploding up on their wall if you've got the right colors.

Juxtapoz -- The more extreme and the Danish one, I know it's very expensive so just look at it in store, don't buy it. Wallpaper, it's full of ideas, same with game magazines.

Get your eyes totally overwhelmed and pay attention, just pay attention to everything around you. Everyone's trying to do the same thing, don't do that. Do what I tell you. Be different and, if you're trying to sell your art, know those color schemes because people do buy based on them.

Book notes: Barry Crimmins Never Shake Hands With a War Criminal and Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book

This week we present two books worth reading. One is a comedic look at the state of our nation and our national mind, the other offers a look at the history and sociology of American comic books.

Barry Crimmins is a comedic voice we know from Air America. Seven Stories Press published his book Never Shake Hands With a War Criminal in November of last year. If you haven't picked up the book yet, we recommend that you do. As with his verbal comedy, his writing will make you laugh and think.

From "American Tragedy As Cool Photo Op:"

We've all heard about the Republican National Committee's direct-mail piece offering donors three photographs of court-appointed President Bush, including one of him on Air Force One on September 11 as he hightailed it out of harm's way while his nation was under attack.
[. . .]
The Air Force One shot is a rare photo. In the background, actual Bush spin doctors are concoting the very lies they told us on September 12 to explain why Bush went Barney Fife on September 11.

From "2001 Con't:"

I might have given Bush a pass on going Barney Fife that morning except for a few things. During a time when even Rudolph Giuliani rose above venal political considerations (albeit briefly), the Bush administration's apparent top priority was to propagate alibis about why the president headed for the Grain Belt while the Northeast Corridor burned. This included telling us about a call to the Secret Service stating that the president was in imminent danger. Problem is, no such call was received. Bush was supposed to be a hard-ass Texas Republican naturally inclined to fly to D.C. climb to the roof of the White House, and wave pearl-handled revolvers, yelling, "Try me, motherfuckers!" Instead the Incredible President Limpet headed for a bunker in the Central Time Zone.
On September 12, while uncounted victims lay trapped under piles of rubble, several administration officials spent the morning telling us about the mythical phone threat, along with other prevarications that must have taken much of September 11 to prepare.

The book is funny and pointed. Check your libraries and bookstores for this amusing and thoughtful read and prepare to laugh.

We'd also like to note Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. This book was published in October of 2004 by Basic Books. This is an entertaining and lengthy read (the text alone is 340 pages) detailing the history of comic books in this country. The book is worth picking up just for the 16 pages of photos and illustrations which contain vintage panels from the early days of comic books.

In addition, you'll learn all sorts of background you never knew. Such as this from pages 191-192:

Busy Arnold needed material for his new Police Comics and asked [Jack] Cole to create a superhero. Cole's mind went where no power hungry geek or pulp melodramatist or imitator of Siegel and Shuster had ever gone. Instead of a hero tougher and stronger and faster than any normal man, he created one more free and absurd. "India Rubber Man" could bend and bounce and flatten himself like a rug and transform himself into a red-and-yellow divan. What Superman was to bodybuilders, India Rubber Man was to contortionists. The publisher liked him, but his promotional instincts were sharper than Cole's. Make him futuristic, Busy said, name him after a new miracle substance so your readers feel like they're experiencing freedoms yet to come. Call him "Plastic Man."

You'll learn about Martin Goodman and the early days, 1940, of Marvel comics (Goodman was the publisher of Marvel Comics). From page 199:

The pages he bought from Marvel Comics were filled with the market's most idiosyncratic and least heroic variations on the superhero. The Human Torch was an adroid who burst into flame, escaped his maker, and spread terror through the land. As the stories went on, he came gradually around to fighting crime, but he remained volatile and inhuman, still more of a science-fictional curiosity than a wish fulfillment. The Black Widow was a horrifying woman with magical powers who killed criminals, but only to deliver their souls more quickly to her master, Satan. The Sub-Mariner, by a hard-drinking Irish cartoonist from Massachusetts named Bill Everett, was the cantankerous king of an undersea race who hated surface people for their exploitation of the sea. Supremely neutral in the coming world war, he despised any nation that used submarines, depth charges, and floating mines, and he launched an invastion of New York just to make us leave him alone. It was a romance of superhuman violence without good guys or a hope of a happy ending, a supreme Irish barroom fantasy.

As a history of comic books and as a sociological study, the book works. But note to all X-Men enthusiasts, the book mainly focuses on the early history up through the 50s (with a round up of where-are-they-now, a discussion of the first Warner Bros. Superman movie and of the Batman TV show). You will learn details you never heard of and facts you may wish you didn't know. (We'll avoid spilling secrets.) But you won't put the book down until you reach the end.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }