Friday, December 09, 2005

Editorial: War Got Your Tongue?

Let's give it up to the bloggers and the op-ed columnists with bravery because they've weighed in the war. The war that hits the third year mark in March.

You do know there's a war going on, right?

We kind of feel like we have to ask that question because most people don't appear to. Again, give it up for the bloggers and the op-ed columnists. Give it up for progressive media.

"'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" we asked at the D.C. protests in September. Here's how one person responded:

74) Ivan, 62, Michigan: I think today is great and am thrilled with the turnout. I protested against the war on Vietnam and there it took us years to get the momentum going. What I worry about is where are the people? I don't mean the protesters, I'm really encouraged with the cross-section today. But, okay, you've got Cindy Sheehan. Great spokesperson. Ralph Nader's here and maybe he can make up for the recent past or maybe not, but he's here. The actress from Tootsie and Cape Fear, right Jessica Lange. She's here and I didn't remember her name but she really did give a great speech. I'm glad those people are here. But we need more.
And in my day, the people had others. Yes, we had Jane Fonda, Fred Gardner, Joan Baez, Tom Hayden and others front and center. But you also had people backing it up. Like Bob Dylan. I think he went to one protest with Joan Baez for civil rights. But his songs backed up what his actions didn't. Or you turned on Dick Cavett or David Frost and there was an author or singer or someone and they weren't at the protests but they'd put it on the line and they'd say, like John Phillips [Mamas and the Papas] that the war was wrong. I caught Jane Fonda on David Letterman, when her book came out. And he asked her about the war and she said she was against it and the audience just went crazy with applause and cheers. But are there younger people doing that? Is it just people my age? Maybe there are and I just don't know them. But part of the reason the movement finally did end the war is that our cultural heroes were willing to speak out. You hear a lot of that sneering "You're a celebrity, shut up" talk and that's really fearing the power if they do speak out. With Vietnam, and this isn't a full list, just names that come to mind, you had Joan Baez and Jane Fonda front and center, but you also had Phil Ochs, you had the whole Mamas & the Papas, you had John Lennon, Mia Farrow, Tim Hardin, Laura Nyro, Peter Fonda, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Janis [Joplin], the Rolling Stones, Grace Slick and the [Jefferson] Airplane, this whole list of people. And you had people my age and younger and we weren't that different from kids today, we thought about what was in front of us. So when you have these people that you watch or listen to talking about it, it put it front and center. There were a lot of priests and a lot of Quakers and a lot of really solid activists who worked and gave their time to ending the war. But what kept it on the front page was a) real reporting with real photos and b) the fact that you couldn't escape it. You turned on the TV to escape but there was some entertainer talking about it. It was front and center. Now maybe there are people doing that today. I don't watch much TV now. Maybe if I turned on Letterman every night, I'd see some young people coming on to talk about a movie or TV show and I'd hear them speak out against the war. But I really don't get the sense that's happening.The right spent a lifetime demonizing Jane Fonda. There's a reason for that. They want to make sure no one else is tempted to use their power. They're scared of what would happen if entertainers really started throwing their weight around and making the people buying tickets or records think about this war.

Hard to believe it to look around today, but that did happen. C.I. had lunch today with a friend who's trying desperately to work the war into a show he writes for. During the conversation a number of issues were raised about what's being ignored by the mainstream press. C.I. shared the converstation with Jess who said, "I had that same conversation!" C.I. came up with the title of this editorial. Jess tossed in something else. By then it was going to have to be a Third Estate Sunday Review piece because we all wanted to weigh in.

All we are saying is JUST TAKE A STAND

On this anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, we're surprised by how few seem to act as if a war's going on. Ripped from the headlines our asses. Hiding from the headlines. And it goes on everywhere.

Maybe pop culture doesn't allow you to comment on Harold Pinter's speech? Maybe a playwright is too "culture" and not enough pop? Maybe it's just not really handing out awards if no one asks, "Who are you wearing?"

All we are saying is just take a stand.

If you're presenting as being on the left, why are you so silent on a war that's waged for almost three years? War got your tongue?

Hey, if you're for the war, come out and say it. You can find readers who'll support you. But quit hiding behind "I'm left" if you can't comment on the war.

You're not looking "moderate." You're looking ignorant. And when people read you years from now and see that you had nothing to say about a war that waged and waged, they're going to wonder about that.

We should wonder about it right now.

Bloggers, op-ed writers, Laura Flanders, Amy Goodman, The Progressive, The Nation, go down the list. They're the people who have kept the conversation alive, who have forced it to the front. They did that without you. They're still doing it without you even though polling consistently demonstrates a trend of the people turning against the war.

You waiting for it to hit 99% before you feel "safe" about weighing in?

Naomi Klein rightly argued about the need to bring Iraq to the NYC during the Republican convention in 2004. We echo that only we say it's time to bring it to the people. That means no jerking off over Jessica and Nick or whatever "hot" topic. If you're not weighing in on a war, what are you but a couch potato?

Are you in a coma? Do you not see what's going on?

We ask that question because Bright Eyes gets slammed online by a left site. "When a President Talks To God" is "trite, crudely so, and certainly unenlightening"? Harold Bloom, when did you come online? Or is it the Professor from Gilligan's Island? (We felt the Bloom ref might be lost on the "wit" who penned the critique.)

Maybe you missed the performance of that song? Maybe you weren't at any of the sites on the left that talked of this or listening to The Majority Report whan Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder played the clip? We're sure reading The New Rag takes up a lot of your time.

But is that your statement? Your full statement on the war?

Gee, thanks for weighing in. Maybe you're one of the sites or magazines that can also say you reviewed Jarhead?

We're so lucky to have you.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Clooney and Damon have a new movie, you could blather on about that and claim you've addressed the war three times!

We're not sure what you're so scared of. Or why, having been silent, you think anyone cares what you think about the voices calling for an end to the occupation?

Are you Shelly Hack in Annie Hall?

"I'm bascially very shallow and have no ideas or thoughts of my own."

Is that it?

How's that working out for you?

As you muddle down the middle of the road, how's that working out for you?

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Or maybe you're a certain "lefty" radio personality who thinks it's "cute" to make fun of Pacifica Radio. You think it's "funny" to knock community radio that represents the people. We think it's "funny" that you defended your friend who wrote that article, you know the one, on Ann Coulter. We think it's funny that you excused him and let him off the hook, but never explained why or told listeners that he was your friend. We think that's almost as funny as the writer, an uncloseted gay man except in that article, acting like Ann Coulter got him all hot and bothered.

We're not hearing your brave voice. Last time we listened you were still pushing Colin Powell's (false) Pottery Barn analogy. Color us underwhelmed.

When you've done anything on the level of Margret Prescod, Deepa Fernandez, Jeremy Scahill, Juan Gonzalez, Andrea Lewis, Dennis Bernstein, Larry Bensky or anyone else at Pacifica then we'll take your little jabs a little more seriously. For now, deflate your ego, your nowhere near Amy Goodman's level.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Or maybe you're the rag that helped lead us into war. Atrios puzzled this week over why one of the rag's writers attacked bloggers and defended The New York Times? We didn't puzzle. We know he writes for the paper's book review. We know he covers his own ass. When it takes years and years to turn out your simplistic book about how the world is just like soccer, you need those paychecks from The New York Times.

And if you had any self-respect, you wouldn't be working for The New Rag in the first place. Remember Stephanie's hilarious commercials on Air America? Having learned of the "joke" about Arundhati Roy, we've stopped laughing as we realize that while that attack occurred, Stephanie was schilling for the magazine, claiming it was left.

The New Rag didn't have Judy Miller -- it didn't need her to cheer on this war or every other one. Whether cheering on the contras or spinning false WMD claims, in times of strife, The New Rag will always lead the charge for war.

Remember when The New Rag pushed the racist Bell Curve? Or how about when it was home to such leading "lefties" as Fred Barnes and Andrew Sullivan?

All we are saying is just take a stand.

The New Rag took one. Now it tries to act like it didn't but people are wise to reality and that's why it's circulation is in the toilet. Of all the things that float in a toilet, we think The New Rag may be the most vile. It certainly gives off the worst odor. Can you smell it? It's the scent of death.

That's what war cheerleaders smell like. If and when Judith Miller puts out her signature fragance, I, Judith!, we'll all know the smell. In the meantime, take a sniff of The New Rag the way you would a perfume strip in Vanity Fair.

The New Rag pretends it's of the left when promoting itself -- but it's not. Maybe the fact that it's doing so poorly is why others can't declare that they're for the war?

We don't know. We just know that a lot of people who should have an opinion on the war and should express it don't seem to be able to.

Forget TV news for a moment, the war's hidden by more than TV news.

Seems like a lot of people are getting splinters up their hineys from sitting on that fence.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Got an opinion on that war? Sitting on the fence waiting to see which way the wind's blowing? (No, that wasn't a Dylan ref.) It's blowing right past you.

Are you someone who rags on Pacifica, or think it's cute to make "jokes" about Arundhati Roy, or maybe you're too busy defending your friend who's penning mash notes to Ann Coulter, or maybe you just can't say anything? Maybe they forgot to program you before you showed up because you'd have to be a robot to have no opinion on the war, right?

Or maybe you're just so busy doing the Joe Lieberman that you've failed to note it's not, in fact, the new dance craze. As you lean over backwards to attempt to kiss ass, people are pointing at you. They're not saying, "What's that wild dance?" They're saying, "How pathetic."

And it is pathetic. It's pathetic that a slam on Bright Eyes will apparently have to pass for your war commentary. Or that Pacifica Radio, which gives voice to people who call in as well as guests like Naomi Klein and Norman Solomon and the Center for Constitutional Rights, is someone you think you're better then as you do your little skit, your little funny, and you summarize what was in the headlines yesterday or the day before or maybe several days before in that "moderate" voice you're so fond of using.

We must have missed you standing next to Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn in East Timor, huh? Because surely when you can knock Pacifica, you've done a butt load of things to be proud of. Not just for yourself of course, but for the whole world. Face it, you're a giver!

All we are saying is just take a stand

If Time had any guts (don't make us laugh), Cindy Sheehan would be their person of the year. The fact that she probably won't be, it has a lot to do with you. You who claim the left but can't be bothered by the war. Because surely what the world needs now is . . . distraction.

Mass distraction.

Danny Schechter,, and BuzzFlash are calling for the "Tell The Truth About The War" Campaign. We agree. But we also feel that sites and magazines wanting to get cred for being left and "left" need to start speaking out as well. It's not just the network news that fails us, it's the people who stay silent for whatever reason.

How is it that, after all this time, you still can't find your opinion? Reach around with both hands, maybe you'll fumble into it.

Again, Naomi Klein asked that we bring Iraq to NYC, meaning that we make it an issue that can't be ignored by demanding it be addressed. (Not, as a simp feared, that there be massive riots -- she wiped the floor with simpy -- the key was to bring up her age, he's very sensitive about his own.) But it is ignored as puff pieces and inane criticism is churned out.

Hey, we can talk about Nick & Jessica too. In fact, Ava & C.I. reviewed their special. Of course, Ava and C.I. got the point across early on that war has a cost -- even if Nick and Jessica couldn't grasp it. You can note the real world if you're reviewing something. You can note what's actually going on. It might require actual thought, as opposed to thumbing through your thesaurus, but it can be done.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

What purpose do you think you're serving? We're reminded of a classic film, of one scene in particular:

"I don't think that that's our function, Sally, I think that we're more a base gossip sheet. You know, fun and games for the fellas?"

"I-I just, I want to say that I'm really shocked, I'm just shocked that you'd rather write about a goddamn baseball homerun then what's going on in this hospital. I mean you wouldn't feel that way if they were your husbands."

Since for some of our brave "left" it was "fashionable" to trash Jane Fonda this summer, we might need to point out that the above is from Coming Home. Oh, but wait, she's spoken out against this war. Bright Eyes, he spoke out as well. Maybe you think trashing them qualifies for your war stance?

We think you need to figure out where you stand on the war. Choose a side already. Unless you are just a gossip sheet as well.

Kat's words can be distorted in any manner someone chooses. It doesn't change reality. It doesn't change the fact that anyone who reads her writing knows she's firmly against the war.
So before a writer gets outraged that Kat disagrees with him, apparently after he took time off from scolding Kayne West over points of order, maybe that time would be better spent forming an opinion and actually expressing it. Not on the tired topic of Bob Dylan. No one needed, at this late date, your "moderate" view of Bob Dylan.

What a safe little post that was. On the one hand, on the other. He's wrong but I think Bob's great because . . .

Did you smell a Pulitzer? Or maybe a Webbie? We certainly had to hold our noses reading it.

It's not good enough. The war is about to enter year three. If you're for it, say you for it. If you're against it, say you're against it. Not some mealy mouth "on the one hand but on the other" statement. People are dying and if you can't find a voice you're not helping anyone. The fact that you're writing about "soft subjects" isn't an excuse. Kat can and has weighed in on the war in her CD reviews. Ava and C.I. have taken on Colin Powell and his "blot." This Sunday they highlighted a key line of narration, one that goes to where we are today, in their review of Everybody Hates Chris.

A war's gone of over two years, at what point do you find your voice? Knocking Pacifica or Bright Eyes, or Jane Fonda or Kat, may make you feel you look reasonable. You don't. You look indecisive.

Maybe you're afraid someone will distort your words? Kat's words got distorted, she lived.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

To paraphrase a line Michelle Pfeiffer delivers in The Russia House, "I hope you're not being frivilous with me. I only have time in my life now for the truth."

As of right now, we're looking at 22 American troop fatalites in Iraq. Who knows how many Iraqis have died this month -- Bully Boy don't do body counts. We need the truth and we're not getting it from slams at Bright Eyes or attacks on Arundhati Roy. You know what's "unenlightening"? Your boring us with your useless blathering shout outs to The New Rag. Your inability to speak to the realities we're living through right now. Your blind eye to torture.
That's "unenlightening." And before you use a word that conjures up the enlightenment, you might want to ask yourself what you've weighed in with that spoke to that period because a historical look at Bob Dylan is neither "hot" nor needed when done so poorly. In fact, we'd suggest that you listen to the song Dylan wrote with Sam Shepard and pay close attention when the line about "original thought" comes up because we think you'll be able to relate.

Until then, keep cheering on whatever adult plays a teenager in a push up bra with a flat affect that you feel passes for deadpan. It's post-post-modern! Or maybe more can be wrung out of a Republican's fantasy of women where they're all dithering airheads, just play-things with nothing to do but be helpless or backbite or fight over a man. They're their own play-things so maybe you think that makes the difference? We didn't buy it when Madonna claimed she was showing power because she chained herself.

Maybe the big topic in your home honestly is arguing over what entertainment programs you will watch on TV because you just feel that there are a wealth of choices airing. If so, that's rather sad if you're no longer 14.

You take a stand or you accept that you're frivilous. In which case, stop trashing the people who do have the guts to take a stand against this war.

We support the Tell the Truth movement. We just think it needs to be expanded to include people who seem left but can't find the time to write a thing about the war.

All we are saying is just take a stand

Need a topic? Norman Solomon has rightly pointed out that the air war is getting no mainstream media coverage. Instead of slamming someone who had the guts to speak out or tossing out shout outs to The New Rag, how about writing about that? Too hard? How about writing about Laura Flanders or Amy Goomdan or any of the people who are making a difference. It may not be as fun for you as drooling over a young hottie or play to the beltway but it might get the word out on something that truly matters. And guess what? There are many more names. We're sure you can find at least one that you don't feel the need to trash.

[This editorial was written by 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.]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The roundtable

Dona: This is a roundtable. The following are participating: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Jess, Ty, Ava and myself, 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. I'm moderating. Why me? Because I'm pissed off and because I grew up the only girl in my family so I learned all about pushy boys from my brothers. I was the often the only female on my high school newspaper staff so I learned all about male egos and how men, some men, think they can roll right over you because you're a woman. I learned to stand up to that shit early on. I don't take it. I don't tolerate it. In this roundtable, you will find opinions. If you don't like them, too damn bad. There will be no correction to our opinions. Rebecca has written at length at how some men think they can bully women bloggers. They can't bully me. If you don't like my opinion or anyone else's, do yourself a favor and go somewhere else. I'm passing to Jim who I've designated to do a walk through. Jim.

Jim: Kat, we're going to walk through what happened. This is for the record. For readers, none of us are pleased with the treatment Kat has received. Kat, you posted Tuesday night. Talk us through what you were thinking?

Kat: I was honestly thinking that I would steer some traffic to Pop Politics. I was honestly thinking that noting the flare up in the comments to a post by Bernie would encourage someone to go over. A guy comments that they disagree with Bernie's post. Suddenly it's a dog pile.
I compared it, these were Bob Dylan fans, to the disgraceful booing of Sinead O'Connor at the thirieth concert by what, since they were a tribute for Dylan, should have been Dylan fans.

Jim: And Bernie's opinion?

Kat: I disagreed with it. I made a point not examine it because he was with Pop Politics.

Jim: Because?

Kat: Because we all link to that site because C.I. asked us to. Because C.I.'s very supportive of Christine.

Jim: And what did you think of his opinion?

Kat: Reflexive. He's writing about something in The New Republic on Dylan and he thinks the guy's devoted to Dylan apparently. Overly so. Then he turns around and uses Dylan as a point of reference. He rejects minor points but accepts the larger argument.

Jim: And you told him this?

Kat: Correct.

Jim: How did that happen?

Kat: I got a call from C.I. asking me to check my e-mail. There was an e-mail to me at The Common Ills from Bernie. I go into my e-mail and it's not there. C.I. resends it and I get that one.

Jim: And what did the e-mail say?

Kat: That I needed to re-read his post. Apparently, I'm not smart enough to form an opinion. I must be wrong, he must be right, so I must need to re-read his post.

Jim: He asked you in it to make a correction?

Kat: Right. I need to make a correction. He doesn't say to what. I need to make a correction and, according to him, it should be "obvious." He also seemed bothered that my post focused on the comments as opposed to his post. Which I found ironic all things considered.

Jim: So what happened next?

Kat: I started to reply. Sumner calls and asks me what I'm doing, I tell him. While we're on the phone, he goes to Pop Politics. He asks me if I'm aware that Bernie's already commented on me? No, I wasn't. Sumner tells me, I haven't been to the site, that not only does Bernie comment, but he pulls from a sentence, he prints a partial sentence of mine to try to back up some point he has.

Jim: For the record, the full sentence is: "Bernie can cream in his shorts over who ever he wants. He can even quote the neocon bible The New Republic." He reduces it to "quote the neocon bible The New Republic" implying that Kat's said he quoted it. For Bernie to be that obtuse, we must also assume that he did cream in his shorts. Kat said he has the ability to do that, she didn't say he did it.

Dona: So before someone tells Kat or any other woman that they need to re-read, Bernie needs to learn to read.

Jim: Did you ask for a correction?

Kat: I thought it was the most jerk ass thing I'd seen. But no, I didn't say, "You must do a correction."

Jim: What did you write?

Kat: I explained that I hadn't addressed his opinion because I disagreed with it so I avoided it, due to his being a part of Pop Politics. I noted at the top that I wasn't one to type in smiley faces so he needed to know I was being light hearted except for a lecture. The lecture, a brief one, was that he was too talented to accept the framework from The New Republic.

Jim: Explain the framework because there's confusion on his side apparently.

Kat: He felt, basically, that a TNR writer creamed in his shorts over Dylan. Then he argues agains the guy using Dylan as a point of reference. Buffy St. Marie anyone? Janis Ian? Phil Ochs? Joni Mitchell? Laura Nyro? Pete Seeger? Woody Guthrie? Dylan is not the starting point nor the ending point. Anyone who reads my writing or hears me in a roundtable knows I think he's highly overrated. I think, as I pointed out in my post commenting on the commentators, that I think it's really sad that so few are aware that the songs he's known for from the sixties usually swipe the melody of an old folk song. Don't give him credit for a melody he swiped. Dylan's not a starting point and the Dylan myth month ended.

Jess: I'll jump in to say that you know it has ended and here's how you know, The New Republic's writing about it. We had a joke up here once where Candy Perfume Boy didn't want to read The Weekly Standard editorials because he wanted them to be fresh when they appeared in The New Republic the next week.

Jim: The joke my dad enjoys the most to this day. So you write him back and what, Kat?

Kat: I explained I didn't think I needed to correct anything. I told him he could write something that he wanted up there and I'd post it. I noted that since he'd commented on me, I might have a comment on his as well.

Jim: And then?

Kat: I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I didn't post at my site because I wanted to clear this up before I posted again. I thought I'd do my year-in-review on music. I called Cedric to bounce some ideas off him but he was at church which I'd forgotten because I hadn't realized it was Wednesday. Then I tried to work on a review for an older album because the oldest member in the community, Eli, had asked me to do that and I'd said I would. I did that only once all year. So last week, I e-mailed Eli and asked him to pick something and I'd review it. He did. I have the album and I had some ideas for it. But I was waiting on a reply and I couldn't concentrate on it. So finally I called Rebecca.

Rebecca: (Laughing) I'm either everyone's last choice to call or the last call they must make before turning in.

Jim: Okay, I'm going to switch to Rebecca. Kat explains what's going on and then what?

Rebecca: I told her don't take that shit. She brought up about how C.I. was supportive of Christine and since it was Christine's site and C.I.'s vouched for her, she felt like she needed to try to work this out. She was making excuses for Bernie saying that she's on the west coast, maybe he's on the east coast. I'm on the east coast. That doesn't mean I can't read my e-mail.
And if I had insisted that someone give me a correction, you can be damn sure I'd be checking my e-mail. You don't dump on someone and insist upon a correction and then say, "Hmm, should I go out for ice cream?"

Elaine: I'll toss in the professional opinion that if you write an e-mail like the one Kat got, you are requesting and expecting a reaction and a reply. I find it unlikely that someone wouldn't check to see if they had a reply.

Dona: Our resident psychologist, Elaine. And I'm not joking, she's a trained psychologist. Elaine, I'll be coming back to you in a minute but I want to move to Gina before I forget. We invited Gina and Krista to sit in on this roundtable. Due to the holidays, Gina's in the mall, working, all night. Krista begged off because a) she's working on her own editorial on this for tomorrow's round-robing and b) due to them putting out the extra edition today, they're very short on material. We have Pru's permission to run a commentary she's written here and we hope to do that another time but with Krista scrambling to put together an edition basically from scratch, we didn't want to take any new content that she has. Isaiah's also agreed to do an editorial cartoon to help out, so there will be content in tomorrow's round-robin. Please check it out. Now Gina's point was that she doesn't think Bernie's really bothered by Kat. Her opinion is, and Elaine, you may want to toss on this, that from the e-mail, what's bothered him is what's not addressed.

Elaine: That is a good point. I hadn't even considered that. Good analysis, Gina. So she's thinking that it's Cedric's comments that Kat's quoted that has Bernie upset?

Dona: Yes. And I can see that as a possibility. Passing to Jess. And if you're wondering, we're trying to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. If Ava and C.I. speak less it's because, as usual, they're transcribing. They will be speaking and, when it's time for that, they'll speak slowly because Jim will be transcribing. Jess.

Jess: Cedric, why don't you talk about your comments that you made. You found it laughable that someone would credit rappers as being in debt to Bob Dylan?

Cedric: Yes, I did. I found it laughable and I found it insulting. Dylan with his "Talking this" and "Talking that" songs owes a debt to the blues. So excuse the hell out of my African-American ass if I'm going to be thrilled that a White guy becomes the inspiration yet again.
Now we had a book discussion not that long ago and I talked in that about how some people found it offensive that Cindy Sheehan was being called the Rosa Parks of the peace movement.
I stated that I found that great. I stated that it was tired and boring that the touchstones were always White. I stated that the comparison and others were the best chance for Rosa Park's legacy to live on. Cindy Sheehan did a great thing. I have no problem with her being compared to Rosa Parks. Ms. Parks was a fighter and a brave woman. I'd love it if anytime someone takes a stand, we make that comparison because it recognizes how important Rosa Parks is. To history and to today. So no, I'm not going to get on the bus that says "Rappers are doing stuff and they owe a debt to Bob Dylan." Gina made that point to me in an e-mail. She said she'd called her friends and none of them knew a song by Bob Dylan. I went around the office talking to African-Americans and asked them to name a song by Bob Dylan. They couldn't. Some didn't even know who he was and that includes a woman in her forties. To imply that Bob Dylan has this reach into the African-American community is inane. The White press loves to get all worked over him and they can. But don't start trying to take from the African-American community to credit another White man.

Jess: I'm bringing in Betty now. The reason for that is that some people of color do know who Dylan is and we're covering that via Betty.

Betty: First off, we should note that Gina is Black and she identifies as that, as do I. I don't take offense to someone using African-American and I know that in this roundtable Ty and Cedric identify that way. I do know who Dylan is. My oldest brother went through a period where he listened to nothing except music from that era and it wasn't "Baby Love," it was protest music and acid rock mainly. So I know that period. Periodically, he'll go through a phase where he moves off to restart his life. When he does that, as he's done this year, he puts me in charge of his vinyl collection. That's been the case since I was ten. I know Blonde on Blonde, I know Freewheelin', I know them all. But Dylan isn't "da man" nor is he considered "street." Marvin [Gaye] and Steview [Wonder] would be two names that trump Dylan in terms of influencing Black people. And like Cedric, I do read that as stripping Black people of their own references and providing them with a generic starting point that doesn't truly exist.

Kat: And Dylan's hits are largely know due to others. The Byrds, Peter, Paul & Mary, go down the list. He's lucky to have spent most of his career at Columbia because he's considered their "presitge" act so they keep his catalogue in print. If his albums had been taken out of print the way other artists who sold the same, or female artists who sold more, if they weren't at every music store and if Columbia didn't promote them each year with displays, they wouldn't have the sales that they do have. Like Joni Mitchell's Blue, they have reached their status over time.
And before someone points out that Biograph went gold, it did so as a multi-disc album which doesn't mean that 500,000 people bought it. Sorry to jump in, Betty.

Betty: No, it's a good point. Stevie Wonder popularized Dylan as well. That's not read as a Dylan song, that's read as a Stevie Wonder performance. But I don't think Aretha [Franklin] ever recorded him. She covered the Stones and Dylan because the Black community could respond to them. To imply that Dylan has the same status in the Black community that they think he does in the White community is really stretching the truth. There are people who know his work, Black people. I am one. But don't act like everyone's down with Dylan and all the rappers are trying hard to give him their props and shout outs. I'll also add that when my brother lived at home, when I was a kid, and he'd play Bob Dylan, my mother would call Dylan a hobo. If you look at rappers, you see that they dress with style. They're not getting that from Dylan either and how you dress can be important to the Black community. I heard less about Whitney's drug use after her interview with Diane Sawyer and more about how could she wear what she wore. To them, that said more about her state of mind then her comments. That's not being superficial, that's because we expect the look to convey meaning. That's why Tina Turner will probably never show up for the public without the wig. It's why Lena Horne must always be glamorous, why James Brown must always have a band, well dressed, behind him. Unlike the White community that seems to expect their men to not have any rhythm and be unable to dance, my friends and I don't think that way. We're not going to see a White guy who can dance and move his hands above the shoulders as "gay." We're not going to see a well dressed man as "gay." They may or may not be gay, but we'll see it as someone living up to the standards of entertainer. Mary Wilson or Diana Ross are expected to be well dressed. It says, "I'm a success."

Jess: Cedric, do you have anything to add to that?

Cedric: No. I think Betty covered it. And Betty, Ty and I don't speak for all African-Americans nor are we trying to. But we are offering what we've observed. I know Ty's going to be speaking in a bit but I want to say that. George Michael could get booked on Soul Train. If they put Bob Dylan on performing a song, many of us would scratch our heads and wonder who the guy with the bad voice was. George Michael came on, or even Justin Timberlake, we'd be checking out their moves and, especially if you're young, trying to imitate them the next time we were dancing. But even with George Michael, Gladys Knight had a problem with him being recognized for "Black Grammys." He made some good soul music and some good dance music.
But we're really not, as I've seen, looking to turn over the credit and the props for our people and our contributions to White men.

Dona: And I'm going to bring Ty in now because he has questions and I can tell also that he wants to make a comment.

Ty: Thanks. Betty and Gina live in the south and grew up there. I grew up in the north , Cedric in the midwest. What's being said isn't making me go, "What the hell?" It's very much things that I'm nodding at and recognizing. I'd add that Kanye West isn't going to show up looking like he just hopped out of a train box car. His look conveys what his music is about.

Cedric: Absolutely.

Ty: And in Kat's post, Cedric's comments were tied into Dangerous Minds, the movie. Written by a White man who wants to make sure White audiences relate so the teacher teaches the "ghetto kids" Bob Dylan. That's not reality. Reality is that the teacher, in real life, used rap music. The White community's touchstone is not the same as the African-American communities. Betty's always surprised here when she brings up a song and C.I. knows it because the truth is, though we're supposed to know all the White music, you say "Silly" by Denise Williams to most White people and they don't have a clue. Stacy Lattisaw, Alexander O'Neal, go down the list. These people did impact the music. Quit operating under the impression that a non-hit that's hailed by White people reaches the same audience out of the White community which is a point that Maria also made in an e-mail today. And now we're going to talk about Maria. Because she attempted to point out that Kat was selectively quoted today and that the implication from the selective quote was not in fact what Kat said. Kat, you haven't been to the site today?

Kat: No. I've been told in e-mails and on the phone what happened.

Ty: I got the e-mail copy and paste of that sent to me by Eddie, Martha and Joan. It's being passed around the community. After Maria's post went up at Pop Politics, Christine responded. In that, she offers her opinion which I don't agree with to put it mildly, but I want to address the point of contention for the community. Christine states that if Kat's blog had the ability for comments to be posted, this wouldn't have even been an issue but since it didn't Bernie had to comment at the site. Christine blows off, my opinion, Maria's comment that shortening Kat's sentence misquotes her. But Kat, is that true that Bernie had no recourse.

Kat: Bernie got an e-mail to me. Bernie was told by me that he could write his comment and I'd post it at my site.

Ty: I'm moving over to Wally who posted on this issue this morning. Wally you got e-mails from members when that comment went up. What did you think of it?

Wally: I thought it was silly. I thought there was what was up at that site and what actually went down. Where's Bernie's post or comment that he's demanded correction from Kat? Where is that? I've supported Pop Politics. I talked about how much I enjoyed it and how I'd learned from Ms. Musing in my very first "jot." C.I. didn't have to sell me on the link. I learned about Ms. Musing and Pop Politics via The Common Ills. And I'm reading that nonsense today and thinking, "Way to shit where you eat." Does Christine know what went down? If she does, her comment gives no indication of that. The readers of Pop Politics are already under one misconception due to Bernie's editing Kat's comment to make it appear she said he did something when she said he "can" meaning, as Mom yelled when she saw that, "ability!" Not that he did it. The sentence preceding that makes the same point. My mom was furious with it.
I wasn't even going to post this morning because I knew Kat wanted to give Bernie a chance to respond. I knew C.I. was biting the tongue and that Rebecca had saved the entry she intended to post the night before. Mom asked me why I hadn't jotted because she always checks my site and shows it to her friends at work. I said because I didn't want to go into how I felt Kat was treated. Mom turned into Rebecca.

Rebecca: Good for her!

Wally: I couldn't believe it. She gets upset when she watches the news but that's about it. Mom was saying, Kat thinks focusing on Dylan today is a waste of time, she's made that point over and over. Let him do something worthy of attention. She was saying this was another case of a man trying to tell a woman what she could say and what she couldn't. I go, "Mom, did you talk to Rebecca." Really, it was like Rebecca's post but with less curse words.

Rebecca: Give her time.

Ty: Okay, I'm going to get Mike's take on it because he didn't know anything about the whole issue.

Mike: I sure as hell didn't. I see there's no post at The Common Ills at the usual time this morning and I call Wally because I want to see if C.I.'s okay and I know Wally e-mails and calls.
I used to do that all the time when I started blogging because I'd have questions that were technical or just about a subject. I'm not the newbie anymore and C.I.'s time is limited. But I knew Wally blogged about Florida the day before and thought C.I. might have called. I also knew that C.I. might be doing what Jim's always saying which is, "Just sleep in. You don't have to have a post up first thing in the morning." So I'm talking to Wally who's explaining to me that I don't knwo what's going on. I hadn't even read Pop Politics. I don't usually click on links. I had no idea. And like Wally's mom, I went straight to what Rebecca's says about the men who can't take a different opinion. I was furious. I was on my way to work and couldn't turn around and go home. If I could have, I would've posted right then. After work, when I got to campus, Tony was pissed off about the quote being changed and we were both griping about it and go into class with my favorite prof and as I'm leaving class, he asks me what is going on. He's heard about it too because he got passed a copy & paste e-mail that had gone all over the community. He said you can't do that, you can't alter someone's quote to make it sound like what you want.
Bernie can disagree with Kat. He can't take part of her sentence to change the meaning of what she said. That's not cool.

Ty: Betty, what did this make you think of?

Betty: Oh, you know what it made me think of. The men who call me a "n" word in their e-mails and tell me that if I don't change this sentence or that sentence they know where I live and they're going to come after me. My heart went out to Kat because she's one of the people I can call because she's two hours behind me and it's not eleven at night when I'm freaking out over an e-mail, it's only nine where she's at. And I can talk to her and she'll always talk me down and tell me, "They don't know where you live, they're not coming after you. It's just some jerk getting his jollies." Elaine told me to stop reading my e-mails and I've done that and my life is a lot less stressful. Then this nonsense comes up with Bernie thinking he can force Kat into doing a correction. And he's not even telling people that he did that. He's acting like all he's done is post his opinion and then Kat posted something "so here's a link and she misunderstands me." Here's a clue for Bernie, if you really think she misunderstood you, you don't fix that by leaving out part of her sentence, the part that demonstrates she didn't say you did it, she said you could. That was dishonest. And I thought about how Kat's always been there for me and felt so bad because this was one time I might have been able to be there for her but I didn't even know about it until I read Wally's post this morning.

Dona: Betty's getting choked up and I think we all know where that's coming from. But we're going to move to Ava and the reason is to give Betty a break. Ava?

Ava: It's crap. I don't read the e-mails we get here on our TV reviews. I used to. I used to read everything. Then some guy e-mails about he's watching C.I. and me, which should be laughable because we don't live in the same area, but he's describing a sweater that I did wear and that was my favorite until that e-mail at which point, I threw it away. He was angry about, I think, our comments about Tom Welling. And he wanted a correction and if we didn't give it to him, he was going to slash our throats or something. I forget where we were getting slashed. There have been a lot of e-mails since that I've heard of and knives seem to be very popular.
But I asked Jim about the e-mails. I asked Jim how many women write us demanding a correction on a TV review and how many men.

Jim: And the answer is that one woman has demanded a correction and more men then I can count.

Ava: Which goes to the point that when certain men know a woman wrote something, because there were never any e-mails screaming for corrections or threatening for corrections when we were all doing the reviews or later when C.I. and I were doing them but the credit wasn't up. The minute it's no men, all the sudden it's open season. The only other thing we've had a complaint about that demanded a correction was an editorial on John Roberts.

Dona: A lobbyist and his friends demanded that. There issue had nothing to do with fact but with our opinion. We don't correct opinions. I don't know anyone that does.

Ava: And the point is that threatening or not, there's some sort of unwritten policy that when it's a woman, you can demand a correction.

Cedric: And I was quoted in Kat's post. I was linked to in Kat's post. I found it strange that Bernie e-mails C.I. to get ahold of Kat when she's quoting me and linking to me and my e-mail address is available and I usually do allow comments to my posts. To quote Kat's post: "Cedric's right. The White world needs to believe that Bob Dylan means something to everyone because they've invested so much in him." Where's my e-mail Bernie? Or about my laughing at the suggestion that rappers owe a debt to Dylan. That was me. But there's no come after the man and ask him to correct something. I read Bernie's entry. If there's commentary on what Bernie wrote, Kat didn't make it, I did. If there's a problem with the interpretation of his commentary, take it up with me. But maybe it's just easier to tell a woman she has to do a correction. Maybe that's why these men keep bothering female bloggers? They're tough enough to make demands to women, but they don't say shit to a guy. Sorry for the language.

Rebecca: It is so true what you just said.

Ava: Kat, today you heard from Bernie. Tell us about that e-mail.

Kat: Well when it starts off with "Cat" and I signed my e-mail "Kat" and I write at "Kat's Korner" I'm not real thrilled to read it. I didn't write "Barney," I wrote Bernie. And it's a long e-mail and I'm reading it thinking, well maybe it's an honest mistake. Find what he wants posted from him and put up at the site to be done with this whole thing. There's nothing there that he says quote. He's got some issues that he's not a Dylan freak. In his mind, he's not. In my mind you don't accept that logic, Dylan as starting point, for rap unless you've got a jones for the Dylan. So I'm reading it and thinking, "Rebecca was right." There's nothing in it to post from him unless he means to post the entire e-mail which I assume he doesn't since he neither says to nor is there any mention by him at Pop Politics that he's telling me to do a correction. So what does he want? It looks like he wants me to write his beliefs as my own. I told him, write what you want and I'll post it. He doesn't do that. I'm not going to back off my opinion because he disagrees with it. That's when I decided I was sick of it. I called Gina and said, "I've got your poll for the week." She didn't have to go in until that afternoon and --

Ava: To work.

Kat: To work. Krista has the week off because she'll be working Christmas since she's not able to go home and everyone wants off. Gina explains that to me and says they're almost done with their latest edition and they can get this out late this morning. I say please do. With Eli helping, they had it out in thirty minutes. They were already doing a sotry on this because Rebecca had shared it with Gina the night before.

Ava: And I honestly feel like C.I. came off looking one way because C.I. gave a quote before that e-mail was known. Before Maria attempted to post the problem at Pop Politics over the issue of quoting. And before Christine responded to Maria.

C.I.: I felt like I was bit in the butt. I'm an idiot. Rebecca warned me not to write the person who'd already called me a liar. She warned me that it would bite me in the butt. And it did. It became make fun of hte person was cancer. It was my own fault for giving Bernie the benefit of the doubt. I shouldn't have. I won't make that mistake again.

Rebecca: Yes, you will because you're too trusting.

C.I. : Not with regard to Bernie. I offered no opinion in the round-robin on what had gone on other than to say I thought it was a misunderstanding and that it would be fixed shortly. I was wrong. I often am. But I was trying to high road it and not get into the details. Then I see Christine post that Kat's wrong and Bernie's right. Forget the e-mails, Bernie's not right. Bernie has an opinion. Kat has an opinion. My attitude was that they would work it out among themselves and it was two opinions. When Christine posted her's, it changed. I can understand her need to stick up for Bernie. I can't understand it in relation to Maria who's one of Christine's biggest readers. Maria attempted to get Christine linked for some post all over the net one day. We linked to her at The Common Ills for that post. But Maria wrote fifteen bloggers, female bloggers, trying to get them to give Christine's post the recogniztion that it deserved. And, for the record, no one did. Those women that were linked to by The Common Ills are no longer linked to. Christine did have a wonderful post. And instead the female bloggers Maria contacted either dismissed the importance of the post in e-mails to her or they ignored Maria's e-mails.
Maria was furious because these same women, whom Christine linked to, were jawing on about what a man did that day or what a man wrote that day. So when I got the e-mail from Maria on this, I was really offended. I don't know if Christine knows that Maria still e-mails other sites trying to get some credit for Christine or not, but she does. And Maria couldn't believe that Christine didn't even address the issue of a quote and then wants to say that, unlike Maria, she agrees with Bernie's post. Way to stick up for women. And way to let Maria know that her comments are welcomed at your site when you dismiss the most serious issue that she raises which is that Kat was misquoted. That's not opinion, that's a quote that's been shortened to imply something that the full statement doesn't. According to Martha, Christine has no idea about an e-mail exchange. Now I didn't tell Rebecca to hold her post. I even told Kat on the phone when she got the forward, the second forward, that she needed to handle it the way she wanted. But I thought, this is between Bernie and this is betwen Kat. They'll work it out. That was my mistake. For the record, Kat is right. If someone's going to weigh in on right and wrong other than Bernie, you better be damn sure that I will too. I'm the one who encouraged Kat to write her reviews in the first place. I love her reviews. Even if I don't agree with one, I love it.
She has her own voice, she has her own writing style. Bernie's playing "on the one hand . . . but on the other hand" and there's nothing there but boring. So if people are --

Mike: Coming off the bench to choose sides!

C.I.: Fine, we'll go with a sports metaphor, for you Mike, if people are coming off the bench, you better believe I'm weighing in. Kat wrote a wonderful piece. There's nothing wrong with what she wrote. Christine wants to choose sides, then I'm waving my hands and saying, "Pick me!"

Wally: Just FYI, your sports metaphor was about three.

C.I.: It was Mike's metaphor, I'm not surprised I screwed it up. But I don't approve of the way Kat was treated. I don't approve of strong arming someone into a correction. I don't approve of asking for a correction on an opinion. I certianly don't approve of the suggestion that Bernie had no way to be heard when he had a standing offer from Kat that he only had to follow up on. Had Bernie just posted that he disagreed, that would be one thing. Had he explained point by point, as Christine states she can, how he disagrees with her, that would be one thing. But he crossed a line when he dropepd off the "can" from her quote to imply that she wrote that he was quoting The New Republic. That is a falsehood. Maria pointed that out. Chrstine states that she's read them both. If, with Maria pointing it out, Christine can't grasp that Bernie's altered the meaning of Kat's words by posting a partial sentence, there's a problem. I realize the situation Christine's in and that she's got to navigate it with many hats. I understand that, I can respect it. I don't respect that while a woman's being told by a man that she betterl correct her opinion, Christine's saying that Bernie is right. I don't respect that at all. I feel Kat was bullied. I feel Kat was used by Bernie. And I don't approve of another woman stepping in and saying, "Bernie is right." Bernie is not right. Bernie's actions were not above board, from the private demand for a correction that's never been noted at the site to altering Kat's words, Bernie was not right. If we're going to choose sides, and apparently we are, I'll stick with Kat. I'll support a woman's right not to have to correct an opinion just because a man disagrees with her take on it. I'll support a woman's right not to have her words altered by someone who's claiming he's misunderstood. Christine is a fair person. I'll trust that Martha's correct and Christine had no idea about the e-mails. But that doesn't change the fact that Kat's words were altered by dropping off the "can" and Bernie stating that Kat said she HAD said he quoted The New Republic. That's the point I can't get around. I tried to high road it and let them work it out while telling Kat to do what she wanted and I would support her. I didn't post my entry on this last night because I truly hoped that Bernie and Kat would work it out. That didn't happen --though from the tone of Bernie's last e-mail, he thinks it did. I'm about to start repeating myself so I'm stopping.

Dona: Ava, I want your thoughts on this and Jim can keep transcribing.

Ava: I'm sorry but I don't see where a woman gets beat up online, which is what I see the altering of Kat's meaning, and a feminist doesn't stick up for her. Not only does she not stick up for her, but she says the man was right. The man who posted on a man that's posted on all the time. My feeling, Bernie needs to widen his perspective. My feeling, if I was running Pop Politics, I'd ask, "Why are you writing about Bob Dylan? The special was a month ago." But then I wouldn't slam Bright Eyes as "trite" for "When A President Talks To God" either. But then I'm against the war. And anyone who reads something I wrote or something anyone in this community wrote knows that. I'm not hedging my bets. I'm not trying to look reasonable as I thumb threw The New Republic. And I read Wally's post. The New Republic shows not just disrespect but violence being encouraged towards Arundhati Roy and I have to wonder where the feminism is in that? I didn't know that the rag had done that and certainly it's done things hideous things before. But that goes so far beyond. If you're a feminist, you don't link to a magazine that supports a bunker bomb being used on Arundhati Roy. It's bullshit. And if you link to that magazine, after all it's done to promote the war, and after that bunker bomb nonsense, I have a problem.

Dona: Because apparently it's okay, Ava and I spoke of this today, it's okay to express violence towards Arundhati Roy. That's not any feminism I know of. When a magazine does that, if you're a feminist, you don't link to it. That crossed the line so badly that the magazine should not be linked to. I don't read the rag. I can't believe people are promoting that rag after this. But a feminist shouldn't tolerate that expression of violence twoards a woman. You can call it principles or you can call it self-respect but if you're a feminist you do not support expressions of violence against a woman. Don't you dare write about battered women or women whose lives are destroyed when their homes become a battlefield if you're also going to support that magazine because the line that was crossed is so severe that unless you're willing to take a stand, you're useless to feminism. When a man expresses that kind of violence towards a woman, you either say, "No" or you continue linking to them and promoting them and helping their popularity. Now maybe the women at the site, including Christine, are unaware of what was said about Arundhati Roy. If that's the case, they need to be made aware. And once they are aware, they need to follow feminist principles which means when a man expresses violence against a woman, you don't link to the magazine that houses him. Wally, read what David Zirn wrote.

Wally: "The New Republic thought they would score points with their puffy beltway buddies by printing a call for someone to 'take a bunker buster to [internationally known anti-war author] Arundhati Roy.' The New Republic also thought they'd get away with it. They were wrong."

Dona: They should have been wrong. But apparently, they weren't. Apparently Pop Politics is fine with giving them links which will increase their traffic. I'm not fine with it. If they're unaware of what was written, they should be aware of it. And they should rethink their promotion of The New Republic. That's not feminism. Either your respect a woman's right to voice her opinion without the threat, "joke" or not, of violence, or you don't. This isn't a moral quandry. This is real clear cut. Arundhati Roy, you stand with her or you present yourself as an exception. You tell yourself, "They'd never write that about me." I don't care if they'd write it about you or not, they wrote it about one woman. It wasn't funny and men need to find a way to deal with women other than demanding and bullying and wishing violence. And in my mind, and we're all responsible for our own statements here, in my mind if you're not taking a stand against it, you're supporting it. Especially if you identify as a feminist. You're saying it's okay. Rebecca and C.I. knew of this attack. They found it disgusting. The rest of us, including Wally, only learned of it today. Possibly Pop Politics isn't aware of it. But if you're a feminist runing the magazine, you either take a stand for women or you don't. If you don't, don't claim to be a feminist. Feminism doesn't need you if your support only comes in spurts. What was said about Arundhati is inexcusable. Before you pick apart Kat, you might want to figure out where you stand on that. Wally noted it today and we'll close with it: "As NOW notes, 'Peace is a feminist issue.'" That says it all.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A note to our readers

Sunday morning and we're wrapping it up.

We did something different this week. We posted the highlights and Maria's entry (thank you, Maria) after our break. Usually we wait and post those later. Ty's already read one e-mail from someone afraid that those being up, and nothing else, when he checked at four might mean that we weren't posting new content this week? We are. It's all up now.

In this edition, you'll find "Five Book, Five Minutes" and the books discussed were all suggested by readers. On that, Dona asks that we note the following. From e-mail suggestions, we whittle it down to what we think might be interesting (to read or discuss) and from there we utilize the libraries. (Or most of us do.) The suggestion for the book containing various press pieces on Madonna came at the end of October. We had to hold off discussing it until everyone participating had read the book. Two participants had to wait a bit longer than the rest of us since the book was not in their library system. We think you'll enjoy the discussion (especially those e-mailing to request more music noted in the editions).

Be sure to check out two Pacifica Radio programming notes via Ruth. One airs in less than three hours (and Tom Hayden is a guest). If you miss it, you can catch an archived broadcast.

The holidays are closing in and one reader requested a list of Christmas movies. We tried to add a little more than a list and selected ten movies. (The reader will be surprised by the person selecting the eleventh movie and we thank her for participating.) Jess says to note that although we're being humorous with many of our comments about the movies, we were serious about the selections and those are movies that were holiday movies to everyone participating.

Our essay this edition is on Bob Woodward and hopefully there's a new angle in this essay.

Our editorial is on Bully Boy's "big" speech this week. We thank Isaiah for allowing us to use his illustration. We also thank Dallas for hunting down links for all features.

All of the above (with the exception of Ruth's notes and Maria's entry) were written by:

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

The TV review was, of course, written by Ava & C.I. This week they critique Everybody Hates Chris.

We thank Rebecca, Mike & Betty, Cedric and C.I. for allowing us to reprint their entries as spotlights. And our apologies to Wally because C.I. just asked, "We did post Wally's entry on Florida, right?" No, we didn't. Our apologies. We meant to. If you missed it, click here.

Another thing you might find interesting is a post Cedric wrote last night while we were taking a break discussing the process that produces these editions.

A few have asked where is the news review, when will it return? Dona's plan originally was that it would provide us with an easy entry because we'd spend 15 minutes discussing possible stories, then, with the clock counting down from sixty minutes, C.I. would introduce it and we'd come forward and do our news summaries, critiques, what have you. Since it's a transcript and the deadline was sixty minutes, it should be an easy entry, right?

Well we have added people who contribute each week. Rebecca was on vacation when the feature started, Wally wasn't blogging and we weren't sure that everyone would want to work on something to deliver each week. (Ty felt he'd want to stay behind the scenes and focus on research.) With so many people and so many topics to cover, the feature was taking more than an hour. We're hoping to return to it soon but we've honestly all enjoyed the break.

We hope you've found something that made you laugh or made your wrinkle your brow. We aren't The New York Bland. We do take suggestions seriously so feel free to weigh in if there's a book or a feature you'd like covered. (Dona says, "We take them seriously meaning we consider them. This isn't Burger King. You don't walk up to the counter and place an order.")

See you next week.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Bully With No Plan, Just More Lip

(The above illustration is from Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts.)

Bully Boy spoke on Wednesday. The press was enthralled.

Bully's public speaking, like Bully's first steps, fill the press with parental pride & joy. (And why shouldn't they feel that way? Their war on Al Gore helped him land in the oval office to begin with.) Which must be why the speech was "news" before it was even delivered.

Can't you see the excited faces of the press? "Oh, Bully Boy's about to take a step. Come on, Bully, you can do it. Yes, you can. Who's the big boy? Come on, Bully."

Like most young children, Bully Boy only knows a few words. So he repeats them a lot.

Apparently the catch phrase was supposed to be "Stay the course." Doesn't even have the "zing" required for a Wendy's commerical but proud parents overlook that.

This stay the course nonsense has been addressed and dealt with many times over. But the press must have been giving Bully his first bath (tongue bath?) and missed it. (See this if you're confused as to the fallacy of "stay the course.")

And of course, with the speech, you got the banner. They do love their banners in this White House. This banner read "Plan For Victory." The souvenier booklet accompanying it, National Stragtegy for Victory in Iraq, was woefully short on anything substanative or, in fact, new. As Amy Poehler noted on Saturday Night Live, at thirty-five pages, the big plan's about a third of the length of a Nancy Drew mystery.

While The New York Times front pages Bully Speaks! with David E. Sanger's "Bush Gives Plan For Iraq Victory And Withdrawal," we think, across the Atlantic, The Independent came a little closer to the truth with Rupert Cornwell's "Bush accused of 'recycling tired rhetoric.'"

"I will settle for nothing less than complete victory" joins the Bully Boy boasts beside the claim to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," "bring it on," "major operations in Iraq have ended" and a host of others. It's meaningless. Even Bully Boy looked too wiped out to believe it Wednesday.
(Or maybe that was just the heavy pancake makeup. Did he have another fall off the bicycle?)
Empty words designed to confuse and distort reality.

Just more of the usual Operation Happy Talk. As Scott Shane notes in The New York Times, Bully Boy's got a new nanny. His name is Peter D. Feaver and he's convinced that Bully Boy can turn it around.


No, not the occupation. He's not concerned about that. Which makes him the perfect nanny for Bully Boy. What can be turned around is, according to Feaver, public opinion!

Body counts they don't do. Polling they do religiously.

If Bully Boy will just speak resolutely (and occassionally coherently?), the public will be back on board the war bus faster than Bill O'Lielly can add yet another name to his enemies list.

We don't know what's scarier -- that some in the adminstration believe this nonsense or that we're all footing the bill for Peter D. Feaver's salary?

With the Pentagon having been forced to admit that made up stories (more Operation Happy Talk) were planted in the Iraqi press, you'd think at some point, Bully Boy would realize that he can only tell whoppers for so long.

But damned if he isn't determined to insist everything's going great while everyone in the country can smell the stink wafting out of his nappy.

2127 is the official count for American military deaths in Iraq. In case anyone's forgotten. 15,568 is the Defense Department's count for wounded in action.

Empty words, no matter how loudly boasted, don't bring back the dead. They don't turn an illegal war into a legal one. They don't change the lies that led us to war into truths.

All it means is that Bully Boy got a new nanny and that the press continues to "Ooooh" and "Aaah" his every step through early childhood development while the nation desperately needs a leader.

[This editorial was written by 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.]

TV Review: Everybody Should Love Chris

Thursday nights, on UPN, Everybody Hates Chris. We didn't. Maybe we just don't like orders masking as show titles but, while we never loved Raymond, we really do enjoy Chris.

In fact the shows are bookends in many ways. Everything that was wrong with Everybody Loves Raymond is right with Everyone Hates Chris. Both shows revolved around little boys, but Chris, played by Tyler James Williams, actually is a boy; Ray Romano just played a stunted adult.

There are other differences as well. Thirteen-year-old Chris is attempting to navigate his way in the world as he approaches adulthood. Ray Romano held on to the apron strings like they were a lifeline.

Here's another difference, no one mugs to the camera and tries to milk a laugh (repeatedly) with long pauses. Watching Everyone Hates Chris, you can actually believe you're watching characters instead of actors on a soundstage.

Best of all, instead of Patricia Heaton, her laughable hair "colors" and her delivery that seemed stuck on nag, you get Tichina Arnold as Chris' mother Rochelle. Anyone who ever watched Martin can tell you that Arnold's Pam could give it as good as she got. And that, unlike Heaton, she could do that with snappy delivery and a voice that didn't have you running for the ear plugs.

Rochelle works part-time which is another huge difference. Everybody Hates Chris is set in 1982. Everybody Loves Raymond was set in the present day (though the retro feel may have fooled some). So why is it that wives didn't work on Raymond? Why is it that they had to trot out their own version of thirty-something's worst episode (when Hope returns to work and realizes she belongs at home)? Considering that Somebody Must Love Raymond never tired of the "I make the money! It's mine!" "jokes," you have to be a real doormat (or Patricia Heaton) to put up with that crap.

Tichina Arnold is no one's doormat. And she's already established onscreen chemistry with Terry Crews who plays Rochelle's husband Julius. Along with Chris, the parents have two other children. Imani Hakim plays Chris' sister Tonya and Tequan Richmond plays Chris' brother Drew. Even the children are clearly defined at this point. No easy feat.

The show revolves around Tyler James Williams' Chris and Williams hasn't developed an I'm-so-adorable quality that wipes out so many juvenile leads. (We're keeping our fingers crossed that this continues.) In last week's episode, Chris went from school outcast to desired due to the fact that a (White) coach wrongly assumed he could play basketball. Why did the coach assume that?

Why is the show on UPN?

The cast is African-American and you don't see casts like that on the big three very often in the last few years. Even less so when a show actually addresses racial issues instead of pretending that the family is just the Ward Cleavers with a really deep tan.

Chris Rock provides voice overs throughout the show. We're not fond of narrators. But if you're going to have one, better to go with Rock who's not going to go warm and fuzzy. (Best line delivered by Rock thus far: "Like wars, most fights are started by people who won't get hit.") Rock came up with the idea for this show and is also the executive producer so hopefully the show will continue to reflect his point of view.

You can see it in the boarder Julius rents a room to. Rochelle's suspicious of him. Standard sitcom fare of long ago is that the boarder turns out to be a really good guy. Newer version was that the boarder is crazy and you get him out via some wacky plot. (Think of how Chandler & Joey ousted Eddie on season two of Friends.) That was the newer version.

On Everybody Hates Chris, the boarder is a wanted criminal and a swat team storms the house.
Outside of a gag at the end of Roseanne, we're not recalling seeing anything like that before.

It's a funny movie and it is surprising only because so many shows play it so safe with dated lines and dated subplots. ("Marie! I can too cook!") The subversive moments, when the show veers left instead of driving straight down the center, are what stand out when you watch.

Chris is a real jerk to the few friends he had before he got popular. There's no attempt to pretty that up. Then there's the pop quiz. Chris fails it. When he then joins the basketball team, the teacher lets him retake the test. Chris gets every answer wrong but the teacher gives him a passing grade. When Chris is off the team, the teacher restores the failing grade. It feels real and probably more so because you don't see that too often.

Chris is a horrible basketball player in his one game. As he takes the court, he's full of hope that despite not being good at the game, he'll somehow manage to pull off the impossible. This being a sitcom, it would be in keeping with the genre for him to do just that.

But the show refuses to deliver the obvious and Chris remains awful at basketball. We laughed a lot while watching the show but when we discussed it after what stood out were those moments.

Everybody Hates Chris isn't playing it safe. It's not content to wrap a hoary, old story in some semi-naughty jokes and call it "fresh." The reason to watch this show (and you should) is not because it will make you laugh (though it will, and often) but because it's not talking down the audience. While Everybody Thinks Someone Loves Raymond was content with turning racism into a joke (Frank & Marie's reaction to Robert possibly dating his police partner that's then swept under the rug) and letting everyone off with a pass, Everybody Hates Chris is not going to play that game.

Chris Rock shot to fame not on the wings of jokes about nagging wives. His intellect and ability to blend various topics into a seamless narrative is why he stood out. That same vision (and intelligence) can be seen in Everybody Hates Chris.

This is a show that friends suggested we review early on. We resisted because we don't like to comment on child actors. Though they're often the bread winners in their family, they're still children. We weren't sure we could convey why you should or shouldn't watch the show, so we avoided it until a friend passed on some episodes.

We think you'll enjoy the performances from everyone on the show (Arnold is a standout but we loved her as Pam as well). But what you'll probably respond to even more is seeing a show that's not out to tell the same joke in the same way for the 99th million time. TV is a wasteland for the most part these days. (Dana wondered if we ever caught Medium since we praised it? We record it every week but rarely have the time to watch it. The two episodes we did see this year were of high quality -- and yes, that did include the 3D episode and we did don the glasses.)
So when a show comes along that's willing to treat the audience as adults and assume you can handle something more than usual twists and turns (and tacked on happy ending), it's worth noting. When that show is also as hilarious as Everybody Hates Chris, it's a show you should be watching.

Five Books, Five Minutes

"Five Books, Five Minutes" time. No Mary Mapes book because two participating are still waiting in line at their libraries. We take that as a good sign: people are interested in the topics Mapes is writing about. All the books were suggested by readers. Since the cry of "more on the arts!" is repeated in many e-mails, we think you'll enjoy this selection. Three books revolve around music, one is a humor book and the fifth is a collection of essays.

Participating in this discussion 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.

Jim: We'll start with The Truth Is . . . My Life in Love and Music by Melissa Etheridge "with Laura Morton." Did anyone enjoy this bok?

Rebecca: To paraphrase Peter Falk from the movie In The Spirit, who would've thought an open and proud lesbian could be so boring.

Kat: Next week we're reviewing a book by an artist that is far better than this. I wasn't impressed with this book. It was a laundry list checked off. It never went for anything deep, it never offered any gossip, it never addressed music, in all ways this book failed.

Betty: I didn't hate it but I didn't feel like I'd read a great or even good book. Apologies to the reader who loves this book.

Ava: NK in upstate New York.

Betty: Apologies to NK. I could read the book. It wasn't so bad that I had to put it down. It just wasn't a book that impressed me. The writing just wasn't there.

Ty: I felt page 26 came off well, where she's discussing how she realized she was gay.

Elaine: The book was skimming the surface to me. Go down the list of bad relationships, starting with Jane, and find a moment in any of the writing where she's addressing the relationship instead of "and then this happened and then that . . ." I couldn't. If she'd come to me for therapy, my thought would have been, "She's come out of the closet but she still hasn't come to grips with who she is."

Jim: Did anyone like the book?

C.I.: I'll jump in. I don't know what NK responded to in the book but there are things that people will respond to. Part of that is because of who Melissa Etheridge is. She's, Kat may feel differently, the first superstar who was publicly gay. That's not a minor thing.

Kat: No, I'd agree with you. kd lang was known and Melissa was known. There music was written of and they had a certain fame. Both came out and kd notched up "Constant Craving" and has a devoted following but she didn't reach superstar proportions. Melissa, with Yes, I Am, did.

C.I.: Because she had hits, plural. And not just on some adult contemporary format. She took it over to the pop charts which is a very hard thing to do. She wasn't a hit artist before she came out. She came out, recorded a strong album, and became a hit artist. So that can be inspiring to some. And should be. The book charts this in less than concrete terms.

Kat: I wouldn't call it abstract, that's giving it too much credit. It's on the nose writing that never amounts to more than a summary of the events.

C.I.: But there's a constraint she's working under. By the way, I read this when it came out and didn't reread it for this discussion. So if I'm wrong on something, no surprise, correct me. An abusive relationship, for instance, should have been dealt with in more detail. But there's another level of problems here. Melissa can't be honest. She can be honest about herself. But she can't be fully honest. Which isn't that she doesn't want to be honest. I believe she writes of how kd and she were asking/begging Ellen DeGeneres to come out, right?

Ty: Yeah. Talks about how it's just out there waiting to bite you in the butt and how in her last interview before she came out, the writer was hinting.

C.I.: Okay, well, newsflash, everyone's not out. Everyone Melissa hangs with, including famous people, are not out. She can name Ellen, she can name kd. They're out. But there are artists, male and female that are not out. Then there are artists that have "experimented" and she can't name those either. There's a limit to what she can write. Forty years from now, when other things are known, people will act like some do today, "Dusty Springfield was gay? I never knew!" Melissa did a brave thing coming out. She could have continued passing. She wasn't a star but she did have a devoted following among men who were into rock. Hopefully, they stayed with her. But there was risk on her part in coming out and she deserves applause for coming out. For that reason alone, people may find the book inspiring, gays, lesbain, straight. But in terms of autobiography, she never should have written one because she can't be honest.
There are too many people she knows who are living as she did pre-1993. She can't go into details about that because it's not her responsibility to out them in her autobiography. She can't write about some woman hitting on her at the Grammys before she was out or anything like that. She's trying to write an inspirational book and I think she succeeds. I wish she'd delved deeper but I can see someone reading this book and enjoying it. I can also understand the reactions people have spoken of here because it has been about a decade since she came out and it's easy to forget that it was a big deal. Melissa outed herself. She wasn't arrested, not to slam George Michael, and got outed. A number of big names and modest names still live in the closet. I'm not trying to slam them, just stating a fact. Some of those people are out the way Ellen was prior to "coming out." Which means that everyone in the entertainment industry knew. Everyone knew about Melissa. She wasn't running around on the arm of a man or having the tabloids push a phoney romance. Ellen was the same way. Diane Sawyer's interview with Ellen was rightly criticized because Diane seemed to intentionally miss that point. When every anyone comes out, the press writes about it, someone famous, as though they've pretended to everyone they know that they were straight. That's not the case. There are extreme closet cases but there are a lot more who are open outside of the mag, talk show, news coverage spotlight. Melissa's earned her place in music history based on some strong recordings. She's earned her place in entertainment history for proving that coming out doesn't kill a career. The book could have been deeper but within the corner's she's been shoved into, she's very honest.
I do understand Elaine's point and I wonder how much of that lack of depth had to do with a desire to inspire.

Rebecca: That is a good point, all of them actually. If Suzy Jones and Dirk Thomas are a couple in all the tabloids and she hangs out with them, she can't really write about Dirk's fondness for male porn stars or Suzy's high profile relationship with another woman.

Kat: And I'll agree with that as well. But I also think she was entering a surface period in her life when this book was being made and it's there on the album Skin as well.

C.I.: Which came out around the same time.

Kat: Right. She's open to a point. She will only go so far. On Skin, a lot of people were wanting to hear about her high profile break up. It wasn't there really. She was upset, you get that in a number of songs, but you never really get why. Maybe she's not a confessional writer? If so, then she shouldn't have written a book.

Jim: So C.I. defends the book, but never really lets us know if that's a thumb up or thumbs down, and everyone else says avoid it. Let's move on to the next book. Jess?

Jess: Allan Metz and Carol Benson are the editors of The Madonna Companion: Two Decades of Commentary. This book was suggested by Carol who always wants more music discussed in each edition. The book is a collection of writings about Madonna, offering various perspectives.

Rebecca: I really enjoyed this book.

Cedric: I did too. I think they selected strong writing and I think Madonna's such a known that everyone has an opinion on her.

Elaine: Or her images are well known. She's had a variety of personas, as the collection documents, and with each transformation, this is the "real" Madonna, we're told.

Mike: This is the only book I've ever read that my youngest sister has seen me with and asked to read it after I was done.

Dona: Did she read it?

Mike: Yeah.

Dona: Mike's sister is still in high school and we do have some readers her age so I'm wondering what her reaction to the book was?

Mike: She loved it. She'd say she didn't because one article pissed her off. But she couldn't stop talking about. She was blasting the new album --

Kat: Confessions on the Dance Floor.

Mike: and thumbing through it. She finished it in about five hours which is pretty fast especially since every so often she'd put it down to argue about something in the book. I loved the book, not like her, but I loved it.

Cedric: I enjoyed it too. I think what Elaine said earlier, about the shifting personas, I think that makes a book about Madonna a lot more interesting than a book about someone else. There's so much upheaval going on and so much constant change. And everyone knows Madonna so there's that built in interest of "What are they going to say? Are they going to say what I've always thought?" And the selections have enough variety that most people who've liked Madonna or hated her will find something they can nod along with.

Wally: I think we all know Madonna's music whether we want to or not. It's like osmosis or something. And this was a book I'd recommend. Like Cedric's talking about, it's got something for everyone in it. For someone like me who didn't know a great deal about her past moments, it was strange to read about the Sex and Erotica period. She's really far from that today. I'm not saying that's a good thing. But I think Cedric and Elaine are probably right that people with knowledge of Madonna's different periods and all, they'll find something to enjoy. For someone like me who knows her songs but not really her or whatever her she's pretended to be, it's also enjoyable because there's so much to cover in her career.

C.I.: And since she's always changing, we should point out that book ends with Ray of Light. Those looking for commentary on American Life or her newest CD won't find it here.

Jim: Would you recommend it, Jess?

Jess: Yes, it's a roller coaster ride and the book documents it pretty well. I'm wondering what Rebecca's favorite Madonna persona was?

Rebecca: Well I wasn't offended by the Erotica period. But I think for a lot of longterm listeners, and I like Madonna, the Like a Virgin period and the Boy Toy period will always be among their favorites. Betty?

Betty: I'd pick anything but the True Blue period. Those eyebrows were frightening. But my favorite is probably Like A Prayer. I enjoyed that album and I remember seeing that video on MTV the first time they aired it. We were all excited. What was I, six? I was young however old I was. But there was so much excitement around Madonna then. I loved the album but I loved the video too. Pepsi ended up ending their promotion with her because of reaction to the video which I'm guessing had to do with kissing a black man but I loved it. I loved Sandra Crouch's vocals in the background with "I'll take you there!" That's probably still my favorite Madonna song. I enjoy how it's this sing-song type thing in the verses and then the backup singers take it somewhere else. I find myself singing that song when I'm washing dishes. I'll just be standing at the sink, tired and my mind a blank and I'll realize that I'm singing "Like A Prayer." I enjoyed the book but I read the sections on that period first. You can skip around, which is another thing about the book. You can read it in the order you want.

Dona: I'll note that this book has strong writing in it. If you're interested in criticism or feature writing, you can find some strong examples in this book.

Jim: Alright then, let's move on to the next book. Ava?

Ava: Marshall e-mailed noting that C.I. had cited Hunter S. Thompson's Generation of Swine when C.I. did the entry on the passing of Thompson. Marshall read the book because of that entry and wanted us to note it here if we could.

Cedric: This was a good book full of rage, passion and life. I can remember being really upset that Thompson had died. That seems so long ago now but it hasn't even been a year yet. And reading this book reminded me of why I enjoyed his writing to begin with.

Kat: I'd agree. Not to take anything away from Paul Krugman but Thompson was calling the Bully Boy out and not waiting for the glow from 9/11 to fade. Hunter S. Thompson writes from a place few of us will ever go to but it's inspiring when he takes us there.

Wally: This was like a history book to me because it's dealing with a period I'm too young to remember.

Elaine: (laughing) Want a saucer of milk or a live rat?

Wally: Huh? Oh. (Laughing) I get it. But the thing that stood out to me was how that period just came alive. There were some bits I probably saw in the week long Reagan tribute but there are other things I know I didn't see but I could visualize them.

Ty: I think that's a good point. I'm not a huge fan of Thompson's book on Las Vegas. I like his essays on politics. He brings politics to life. I'm wondering why C.I. chose that book to highlight in the entry. I remember that entry, by the way, and if anyone needs an excerpt of the book, C.I. offers several in that entry.

C.I.: Oh that was so long ago --

Elaine: George is great.

C.I.: George is great.

Rebecca: That's a running joke between them, a long running joke. From the film Shampoo.

C.I.: It is. But seriously, that was so long ago. I'm guessing I pulled all the Thompson books off the shelves and meant to find a quote from that one but got lost in it. It's my favorite of all of his books.

Dona: I remember the entry as well and that is the reason offered in it.

Jim: And I remember opening The New York Times two days later and being surprised because they noted the same book.

C.I.: Probably because, as Wally said, Thompson makes politics come alive and this is one of his strongest collections. Ollie North, Iran-Contra, Poppy Bush, Reagan and others are all present and accounted for.

Mike: I got a lecture for reading this book.

Jim: Really?

Mike: (Laughing) Yeah, I checked it out of the library and Dad walked by and did a double take. He goes, "We have that book." I didn't know it. But this is a big book with him.

Betty: I'm jealous. The most I get is, "What you reading, Mommy?" The only books we "discuss" around the house are children's books.

Jim: So I think everyone's on the same page here in recommending this book? Okay. We'll move on to the humor book. Wally and Mike?

Mike: The picture on the front of the book was Abe Lincolon naked so right away you knew it was going to be funny. It's by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and it's called Naked Pictures of Famous People.

Wally: Mine had four photos of Jon Stewart on the cover.

C.I.: Mike had a hardcover version.

Wally: Well Deidre recommended this book and said that after Mike and me did the interview at his site, she thought we'd love it.

Mike: For the hour!

Wally: For the hour!

Elaine: Their version of "George is great." They're doing their Larry King impression.

Mike: Our favorite part of the book was the parody of Larry King interviewing Adolf Hitler.

Wally: We were on the phone reading that outloud to each other.

Mike: And taking turns on being Larry King. Because we both wanted to be him.

Wally: "Let's go to the phones. . . . Annie from Grand Rapids, Michigan, what's your question for Adolf Hitler?"

Mike: "Tonight, risen from the proverbial dead, we welcome Adolf Hitler!"

Wally: For the hour!

Mike: For the hour!

Dona: Since Wally and Mike can shout "For the hour!" at one another for hours, we'll move over to Betty. What did you think?

Betty: I laughed at the whole book. Martha Stewart's vagina treatments was a favorite, the cult was another one.

Ava: My favorite was "Vincent and Theo on AOL."

Jess: Yeah, I loved that. Vincent van Gogh in chat rooms.

Rebecca: I think my favorite was "The Last Supper, Or The Dead Waiter." I want to note a section of that. All the disciples haven't arrived yet so the waiter, Avram, refuses to seat them. Here's the excerpt, page 69:

Finally, everybody shows up. It's nine o'clock. It's my last table, and the kitchen wants to close. So lucky me has to try and wrangle their order. It ain't easy. Matthew "has" to sit next to Jesus but John is having none of it, because his birthday's Monday and Jesus promised. Simon's blowing into his hand and pretending he farted. Mark and James are pouting because I carded them. Thomas wants a Caesar salad but doesn't believe it when I tell him you can hardly taste the anchovies in the dressing. Paul says he's lactose intolerant and claims if there's sour cream in his borscht, it's coming out of my tip. Judas sits glowering because no one will split an appetizer with him, and the rest of them just giggle at my ASK ME ABOUT OUR KUGEL! button. The way they all behaved, I should have made them order off the children's menu.

Cedric: That was funny. This was really a great book to read and laugh with. I didn't laugh at the book by The Daily Show. It was a bunch of puns and sight gags. This book made me laugh. In fact, I'm giving it to my brother for Christmas. I know he'll laugh and enjoy it too. This isn't one light chuckle that you turn the page after hoping to find another one. This is consistently funny.

Jim: Kat?

Kat: "A Very Hanson Christmas, 1996-1999" is hilarious. The mother of the boys in the pop group Hanson prepares a Christmas letter for the years from 1996-1999 and it traces the ups and downs of the questionable group.

Ty: I was rolling at that chapter. page 17:

HO, HO, HO! Zach has Herpes. There. Are you Happy now? You try controlling an eleven-year-old multi-millionaire with a hard-on for strippers. For those of you wondering about last year's newsletter, there wasn't one. If you must know, I was at a retreat in Hazelden, Minnesota, and they didn't allow pens, pencil or any other sharp implements for that matter. It's been quite a ride . . . quite a . . I sit here, alone in my Hotel suite. Pen in one hand, bottle of Glenlivet in the other. A gun at my feet. Darkness all around me . . .

Jim: So I think that's one we all enjoyed and recommend strongly.

Mike: One more thing.

Jim: Okay.

Mike: For the hour!

Wally: For the hour!

Ava: I saw that coming. Our last book is Postively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina. It's by David Hajdu.

Cedric: I didn't get it. Despite the title, it was the story of Bob Dylan with supporting players.

Kat: I hated this book. I'm so sick of little boys with hard ons for Dylan trying to churn out yet another Dylan book and find a new angle when it's all Dylan, all the time. He didn't grasp the first thing about Richard Farina's music and there wasn't a damn thing to indicate he'd ever listened to a Joan Baez album. Cedric's right, this was the Bob Dylan story but it's been written and rewritten, myths spat out a hundred times over, that Hajdu tries to dress up with some gossip about the other three.

Dona: If Melissa Etheridge's book bothered some people because she didn't go deep enough, this book sported trivia and passed it off as insight. It reads like a VH1 Behind the Music special and I do not mean that as a compliment.

Cedric: I think superficial would be the one word review for this book.

Rebecca: Agreed. This a time line that the writer fleshes out with trivia, no deep thoughts, no criticism offered. Who's fallen into bed with Dylan today seems to be the key motivating factor for each chapter. When Hajdu is bored, he checks into Richard Farina's bed. The women all come off as props.

Ava: And Joan Baez is not a prop. She had a whole life going on outside of Bob Dylan and a number of other books have dealt with it. He's not interested in that. He's not interesed in the music. He's only interested in the myth of Dylan. My one word review would be "yawn."

Dona: Ava and I were really disappointed with this book. We've been learning that period of music for about a year now and we were both excited when this book came up in an e-mail.

Jim: Clyde of Fresno.

Dona: Clyde's e-mail. We read the book and felt it was another blow hard who has man-crushed on Bob Dylan for years trying to masturbate in print.

Jess: Name the myth and it makes it into the book. Beyond boring, this was insulting.

Cedric: And that's partly because he's got nothing but who hooked up with who on his mind. The author's not interested in the music, he's not interested in the time period. If I wanted to watch Entertainment Tonight, I would. I picked up a book to read. It was a waste of time.

Jess: But nice cover. It's an old concert poster.

Jim: And that's it for this week. Next week we'll have at least one book on music as well. Mike picked it Wednesday and everyone's already got their copies. What else? Hopefully Mary Mapes.
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