Sunday, December 31, 2006

The 3,000 mark has been reached

This morning's editorial ("Editorial: The 3,000 mark looms") noted the 3,000 marker looming. It has now been reached. 3,000 US troops have died in Iraq as a result of Bully Boy's illegal war. It's actually more than 3,000. Edward Shaffer is one example. He died last week, in a Texas hospital, where he'd been attempting to recover from the wounds he received in Ramadi from a roadside bomb. He didn't recover. And he and others like him aren't included in the 3,000 count. [ICCC includes Shaffer in their count. The Defense Dept. noted Schaffer's Dec. 27th death on . . . Dec. 31st.]

The Iraqi count? Well the US military keeps a count. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) broke the news at the end of June (when it was still Knight Ridder Newspapers) that the US military had been keeping a count since July of 2005. They won't release the count to the press or the public. They can get away with that because the media doesn't press them. The mainstream doesn't and the independent media doesn't. In fact, many Americans don't even know a count is kept.

You can be sure it's an undercount. But a count is kept. US tax payer dollars pay for a count. The count doesn't qualify for "national security." But it's kept from us.

The Lancet study estimated over 655,000 Iraqis had died since the start of the illegal war. The US administration wanted to dismiss the count. That was the perfect time for the press to demand that the US government release the count they've been keeping since July of 2005. But it didn't happen.

Not much does happen.

We talk to people we know, we go around the country and speak to students, and they care. The illegal war matters to them and they want it to stop.

The media? Big or small, it doesn't seem like a pressing issue. That The Nation magazine couldn't profile one war resister in 2006 was shameful. In 2007, they finally print an article on Ehren Watada. Isn't it past time to start holding the media accountable? All of it?

That includes small media which doesn't want to address Dexter Filkins' 'reporting.' It's so funny, they want to talk about the slaughter that went on in Falluja but the man who reported it as a video game? They can't mention his name.

They can bore you repeatedly with Judith Miller. They can pretend like she was the only one. They can pretend like no one else cheerleader the war while she was doing it or since. That's not reality.

Reality is the 3,000 mark has been reached. Reality is media is doing a shit poor job covering the war. Pretending that either hasn't happened is prolonging the war.

We want to end the war. We're sick of all the nonsense. All the people too afraid to speak up. All the people too scared to use their own power. And the ones who aren't scared? We're sick of them being useless. We're sick of the traveloguing by independent media. We're sick of Iraq being sidelined repeatedly because no one can roll up their sleeves and address it. We're sick of the peace movement not being covered. We're sick of FAIR pointing out that PBS's The NewHour didn't have a peace activist as a guest in the six months FAIR studied when FAIR's own CounterSpin didn't have a peace activist on as a guest in the same six months and hasn't had one on since.

We're sick of an indepenent media that thinks it can point the finger at big media when it doesn't even try to do anything. Not booking a peace guest is an example. Not covering war resisters is another. Not having a columnist at any of the big left magazines who covers the peace movement is another. Don't call yourself a "peace columnist" if you've not covered one rally or demonstration. You can chide about a "torture election" but you just look foolish to anyone who knows your work because they know you've done nothing.

Or maybe you're the woman who slammed GreenStone Media. Democracy Now! played that horrible speech. Does that woman really think she's done anything amazing in 2006? She's started an organization that will address the economy. Oooh, we're so impressed. She didn't write about Abeer that's for damn sure. She started an organization that might promote her two books. The last one didn't sell so she needs to do something. But she can stand up at a gala and trash GreenStone Media (without knowing their purpose or what they've done) but the same day she was doing that, the news should have been that Ricky Clousing was being charged with desertion for resisting the war and not only did she not note it, none of the indy outlets did the next day (including Democracy Now!). You want to throw stones at GreenStone Media? How about doing your own job first?

There is a war going on and it's been dragging on for almost four years. Save us your dopey little humor and your other bullshit.

Get serious or accept that no one takes you seriously.

Media, big and small, demonstrated how useless they could be throughout 2006 (with few exceptions).

Matthew Rothschild and Christopher Hayes can waste everyone's time going after the 9-11 Truth Movement, but what did they write about war resisters? (It's probably a good thing the factually challenged Hayes didn't write about them. And when is The Nation GOING TO ISSUE A CORRECTION TO HAYES' FALSE CLAIM ABOUT WHAT JOHN KERRY SAID IN HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH AT THE 2004 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION!)

2006, for most of independent media, was one long stroke session. We're sick of it. You get serious and do your job or expect to be called out.

The 3,000 marker has been reached. If you've made a fool of youself in 2006, don't even bother trotting out the tired topic of "Judith Miller" because you're just as bad she is.

Last January, this was how Isaiah saw the year 2005.

2006, if independent media had bothered to use their power, could have been about ending the war. Didn't happen. We're tired of it. We're tired of "War Got Your Tongue?" and we're tired of people who waste everyone's time. Find a way to cover war resisters and the peace movement or quit kidding that others are apethetic. Apathy starts with yourselves.

You can't change the dismal performance of 2006. You can make a real effort to do better in 2007.

Truest statement of the week

Sign a petition, vote, and call it a "Sweet Victory," apparently.
The Nation, in 2006, was about as political as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs across the country. In print, week after week, it seemed to revel in just how useless it could be -- such as the 'philosophical' rant of AlterPunk about how the New York Times shouldn't run unsigned editorials -- which, as dubious a basis for a column at it was, might have carried some (mild) weight were it not for the fact that The Nation runs . . . unsigned editorials.
Among the many useless articles was one by Ruth Conniff in the June 26, 2006 issue of The Nation which was entitled "How to Build a Farm Team" ("Identify candidates. Add money. Watch the numbers grow."). This was one of the many articles that demonstrated The Nation was more concerned with being a party organ for the Democratic Party than in covering the issues that mattered. Or possibly you'd prefer the April 24, 2006 issue which covered the 'issue' of injecting religion into politics to win seats (for Democrats) with Dan Wakefield ("religious progressives are making a comeback"), Frances Kissling (who actually raised issues), and Michael Lerner ("The left's most powerful weapon could be a spiritual vision of the world.").
There was time to chase celebrity ambulances ("Can Schwarzenenegger Be Defeated?" asked on the cover of the June 5, 2006 issue -- all politics are local -- when a celeb's involved, apparently). There was time to visit the world of What If? (the February 6, 2006 issue featured not one but twenty pretend State of the Union addresses). And always, there was time to send how-to lists to the Democratic Party (one example: March 20, 2006 issue contained Fred Block's "A Moral Economy" -- "To seize the political moment, Democrats need a better narrative.")
In what might have been an attempt not to "forget the ladies" (Abigail Adams would be so pleased), the May 22, 2006 cover proclaimed "It's Mother's Day." Now someone at the magazine missed the point that Mother's Day was created for peace so instead you got the classicist "The Motherhood Manifesto" by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. (Women without children got no shout outs in 2006, for those wondering.) The insulting article was an adaptation of an insulting book published by . . . Nation's Books.
Well if Simon & Schuster can use 60 Minutes to promote their wares, why not The Nation? The most 'radical' suggestion in the article? Start "a whole new conversation about motherhood". Redbook couldn't have put it better. That article, more than any other, may capture The Nation in 2006 -- three-plus-pages leading up to the start a conversation "answer." (As Trina noted: "It read like a make-work project that was done between luncheons.")
Start a conversation, sign a petition, VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! If it gets any worse in 2007, look for the cover story: "The Revolution Starts With You: Brush After Each Meal!"

The above is from C.I.'s "2006: The Year of Living Dumbly (Year in Review)." Jim's father called a few minutes ago and asked if we were doing a "Truest Statement of the Week" this week. We said we just wanted to get some sleep. He said he had a pick and, come on, it's Jim's dad. Of course we're going to listen. We had no idea what he was picking and we had him on speaker phone. C.I., believe or not, was the last to realize what was being reading out loud. (C.I. was very sick last week.) Jim's father said the whole thing's wonderful but for truest statement, "That's the one."

Editorial: The 3,000 mark looms

Weeks ago, Bully Boy began trying hard to give the impression that he was rethinking Iraq -- his illegal war that he chose to start. There was the ouster of Donald the Rumsfled, then there was the announcement of it. Then he went on his notion of a listening tour -- invitation only and all the ones speaking had supported the illegal war. Fearing what the James Baker Circle Jerk might recommend, Bully Boy began gathering his own group of 'experts.'

All this time later and still nothing. Sometime in January, he intends to announce a 'change,' a 'plan.' Nothing must tax or disturb him and he really needed a Christmas break because the 2006 campaign meant he had to travel which is the closest to work he's ever come.

While he's dillyed and dallyed, his illegal war of choice has only resulted in more deaths. Iraqis? The car bombings and multiple bombings have become even more deadly and common. Educators continue to be targeted. The civil war he fueled (pitting Shia against Sunni) is full blown now and may yet factionalize into a third group if he's able to conduct the radis he wants on the al-Sadr neighborhood of Baghdad. Two weeks ago, the 'plan' was to pit the other Shi'ite groups against Moqtada al-Sadr and Najaf was even turned over to Iraqi control as part of that effort but when al-Sadr wasn't ostracized, last week saw one of his aides gunned down at his own home. The result was "thousands" of Iraqis chanting "No to America" in Najaf.

While he has no idea what to do, why not fan the flames?

It's not like he's over there.

December is the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq this year. 109 have died and the Bully Boy, like The New York Times, doesn't seem too concerned about that. Did he have a jolly Christmas?

2998 US troops have died in Iraq in his illegal war. (Those who died after leaving Iraq are not included the count -- such as 24-year-old Edward Shaffer who died last week at the Texas Brooke Army Medical Center from injuries he sustained in a November bombing in Ramadi.)
2998, two away from the 3,000 markers. The number would be much higher if it included those who were shipped out and died or those who took their own lives after returning. There are the ones coming home with physical and/or mental wounds. But by all means, take your time deciding how to end the illegal war you chose to start.

The 3,000 marker is right over his shoulder. The administration promised a cakewalk. They also promised WMDs and that didn't pan out either. The war was built on lies and now it's just built on the dead bodies of those unfortunate enough to be in the war zone.

As long as the war is allowed to drag on, the number of dead and wounded will only rise. America has turned against the war. At some point, citizens are going to have to demand that their elected officials respect them and end the illegal war.

Note the following:

United for Peace and Justice:

Another Grim Milestone -- 3,000 Deaths Too Many
More than 2,990 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. By the time you read this, the death toll may have reached 3,000. We must bear witness to this tragic milestone, even though many people are already beginning their celebrations of the new year. And when we do take action on this occasion, we must remind others that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men have also died in this outrageous war and occupation. Our call to end this war and to bring all the troops home now must be heard in every corner of the country! The killing must stop. Click here for some suggested ways to bear witness.

Military Families Speak Out:

MILITARY FAMILIES MOURN 3,000TH TROOP DEATH, PARTICIPATE IN NATIONWIDE VIGILS AND CALL ON CONGRESS TO END THE IRAQ WAR Family Members of Fallen Soldiers and Families of Troops Currently Deployed in Iraq Available for Interview Dec 29, 06 On the eve of the 3,000th troop death, the next horrific milestone in the Iraq war, Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an organization of over 3,100 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, calls on the 110th Congress to honor the fallen and prevent further deaths by taking action to end the Iraq war. read more »


3000 Deaths Too Many As Bush considers sending thousands of additional troops to Iraq to control the violence, our troop death toll nears the 3,000 mark. It is crucial that we commemorate this grim milestone in Bush's disastrous war by pressuring Congress to bring the troops home NOW, and to stop this insanity NOW! Click here for CODEPINK suggested actions you can take.

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
First off, we loved last week's edition and we marvel that Ava and C.I. were able to do what we never can (and what we didn't this week), get an edition completed and posting before 7:00 am EST. It's 10 minutes until noon on the East Coast. Fortunately, the core six is not on the East coast.

But we do tip our hats to them and thank them for picking up the slack and then some when four of us were out of pocket due to the holidays.

The following worked on this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

We thank them and we thank Dallas for his help as link locator, soundboard and more.

Highlights -- Kat, Mike, Rebecca, Cedric, Betty and Wally did the picking and the writing -- they made some strong choices.

Joan Mellen lecture on JFK assasination 1-28-07 -- We just said how good it was not to be on the East coast anymore and then something like this comes along . . . If you're in the NYC area on January 28th, you should check this out.

The Nation Stats -- Ava and C.I. implemented this feature last week. We intend to pursue it throughout the year. Near the end of 2006, some friends of C.I.'s started noting that women really weren't making it into the magazine. C.I. went through the 2006 issue up to the point and saw not only was that true, it was worse than most who had sounded alarms had realized. Just to add to that feature, we'll give you a running total here -- in the first two issues of 2007, The Nation has featured 7 pieces written by women and 20 by men, that's almost 3 men for every 1 woman published.

10 Songs We Made Our Own In 2006 -- As Ava noted on this feature and the next one, "See, that's why we finished on time." Meaning, these both involved lengthy discussions and, in several instances, someone insisting we all listen (over phone lines) to one song that they really felt needed to be in the top ten. This feature looks at older songs.

10 2006 Songs That Made It For Us in 2006 -- And this feature looks at songs that were new in 2006.

Joke of 2007 -- Don't pass this news onto Bob Somerby's until he's had his morning coffee.

Let's Make Bad Film: Destroying Marilyn -- A longtime reader wanted a Marilyn Monroe feature and had a film in mind. We were happy to comply and the only real difficulty was in choosing an illustration because we did four. Monroe's fun to paint.

Life With Elmo . . . and Warren Bell -- Ava had another tip for us, "This is why we finished on time." Meaning? This feature was written and it was fine. It may have even been better than what's up. But those of us not participating last week (this was finished for the last edition but held over to put us ahead this week) wanted to add our input. We probably could have saved at least one hour if we hadn't done that. (The illustration was done yesterday.)

TV: Fall 2006 -- like so much bad sex -- C.I.'s coming off the flu, Ava probably still has another day (and I, Jim, have a cold -- just tossing that out there, I didn't work on this feature). They're on Vicks, Tylenol and pills found in the medicine cabinet. Thinking that with last week (when they helmed the edition), we'd been done early, they went ahead and wrote this while they were at their sickest. They say it would be completely different if they'd waited until the last hours of this edition. Want to stay up and take another crack at it? Ava: "Hell no." We think you'll like it.

Editorial: The 3,000 mark looms -- Thank you to a friend of C.I.'s who phoned right when we were about to post the editorial. Did we look at the number we painted? Huh? "2300" is what we had painted. Why? We're tired. Some of us are sick. No one caught it. C.I.'s friend saw the illustration posted at The Common Ills and called to warn us. (Thank you.) We quickly redid it.
And thank you to Rebecca who photoshops all the illustrations.

Truest statement of the week -- We were waiting for the paint to dry (and C.I. had put it in the oven, to be honest, to hurry it along) when Jim's father (my dad) called. We put him on speaker and he wanted to know what we were going with for truest statement of the week. We told him we were so far behind and so tired that we hadn't even thought about it and as soon as the 3,000 illustration dried in the oven, we were posting the editorial, the note to the readers and calling it a "day." He said he had a pick for truest and we all said, "Shoot." (Meaning, "Go ahead." Not "Shoot" as in cursing -- if we were cursing it would have been much stronger.) He starts reading it and we're laughing and nodding except C.I. who's trying to figure out what it's from? It's from C.I.! And it is the truest statement of the week. (Thanks, Dad!)

If we had it in us, we'd edit another feature we wrote for this edition. We don't. We're wiped out. We'll probably run it next week. See you then.

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

TV: Fall 2006 -- like so much bad sex

One of the scariest TV images of Fall 2006 was Bo Derek, granny glasses perched on nose, body looking like a sack of potatoes, splayed across a couch repeatedly with legs spread. Luckily, only those who had the misfortune of catching MyTV's Fashion House (a very small number of the population) were exposed to Bo trying to throw her legs around the world, but, in one form or another, 2006 was the year TV put out and who knew sex could be so bad?

The press created genius offered up the much hyped Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada that only served to alert women around the world that sex with Aaron Sorkin would be far worse than what Catherine Keener suffered through in Your Friends & Neighbors. Sorkin is a talker who can't shut up. If you must partake, invest in ear plugs.

Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada played like a singer determined to sing on every beat. But damned if the Water Cooler Set didn't try to tell you it would be ground breaking TV, continued to tell you that it would be after the first shows tanked -- and then they lost interest and tried to slink away as the show continued to tank. To correct something, it was never a West Wing reunion, though the Water Cooler Set swore it would be. Stronger arguments could be made for it being a Jack & Jill reunion since two actresses hailed from that show -- but the Water Cooler Set would have to know that this was not Amanda Peet's first television series, despite what the press created genius told them, to be aware of that.

The Water Cooler Set played out like a thirty-plus single so desperate to get hitched they'd swallow and repeat anything they were told. Which is why TV criticism currently floats in the toilet next to the majority of the TV programs.

On daytime TV, Rachel Ray started out early in the program with Ray noting that a spice rack does not belong over the stove and stating they'd be moving that very soon. As of the programs that aired last week, the spice rack is still over the stove which is a bit like the lover who promises that they will work on the foreplay but never does.

In the land of primetime, the trend was toward the one-minute-men competing for bragging rights over who could ejaculate the fastest. The, er, hands down winner was Swift Justice -- the show viewers couldn't shove off themselves fast enough. Call it a sports reel or Cliff Notes to Perry Mason, but don't call it entertainment -- no viewers did. That's because entertainment has to offer up . . . entertainment. Highlights don't cut if for a weekly show. Audiences want to be drawn in, not rubbing their weary eyes.

A lesson that the anonymous sex encounters should have taken to heart as well but instead we got those shows populated with characters you didn't know because no one cared enough to make them interesting (see Kidnapped and Vanishing especially). These were topped only by the fix-up, where the Water Cooler Set hyped something so much that you knew, going in, it wouldn't live up but you had no idea it would be that bad. 'Till Death is the sort of non-comedy that should have you swearing off blind dates forever and wondering, as you hurry to your car, "What am I? An asshole magnet?"

But still you persisted thinking their must be something out there and along comes Six Degrees which seems to offer so much promise but instead expects you to be amused as it teases itself all night and casts you in the role of detached voyeur. It couldn't even make it as a good sex tape because those generally have to feature people with hot bodies. After enduring an exhibitionist who only cared that he got off, you come across something like Big Day and figure it'll be like hopping into bed with an old friend -- a few minutes of excitement and days filled with guilt. Instead, you're so bored by it you actually sample Standoff which is worse -- like being in a three way with two introverts.

Characters. Relatable characters, relatable events. They were in short supply in 2006. Lot of people offering pale copies of TV shows and movies they grew up on but nothing remotely lifelike.

Things were so bad that the pushy Shark, that everyone says no to, starts to seem like a candidate for the night. But you know tomorrow morning, you'll still have to live with yourself and, besides, who wants to sleep on the wet spot?

The bar scene's not all losers. There's What About Brian which easily became the most improved show in the fall of 2006 when it realized Rosanna Arquette needed to be out front. Yet, it was a bit like going out with an adult who still lived at home with the folks since you never knew when the moment would be spoiled with an unpleasant intrusion (such as the appearance of Barry Watson).

Just when you were ready to ditch the whole scene muttering they were all gay or married, a few worthy contenders showed up. Heroes stands as one of the best of the fall season, an hour you can spend with no morning after regrets. Then there was the slow builder Men in Trees which provided some of the strongest writing and acting on television. Yes, we recommended it be moved to Thursdays and, yes, it has been. If you haven't caught it yet, you're cheating yourself. Also true if you missed Day Break -- which ABC has washed its hands of. At some point, this will become a popular DVD set and a cult classic and, when it does, remember t'wasn't the Water Cooler Set that attempted to steer you to the show.

Veronica is very upset with us. She notes that last year at this time we stated Vanessa Williams should be starring in her own NBC sitcom and "now she's starring in an ABC, hour long sitcom that you haven't even reviewed!" First, Veronica, go back and read that commentary a little closer. In the same paragraph, we also mentioned Salma Hayeck's efforts to bring Betty La Fea to ABC. The show Vanessa Williams stars in on ABC? That's Betty La Fea or Ugly Betty. Our hopes about it bringing more diversity to primetime bore out.

But Ugly Betty didn't need a review from us. The show was slotted for the daytime schedule this summer but ABC quickly realized they had something too important to burn off. The support for the show goes high up and that's why it's gotten the build up it has.

We do at least 52 TV reviews each year. We stick to broadcast TV because many of the readers do not have cable. Which is why we explained, early on in the fall season this year, that we were grabbing shows that were iffy. Heroes may have been our first review of the big three; however, that weekend we almost went with Kidnapped but friends assured us the network were sticking by it. (They didn't.) When we reviewed Heroes, it hadn't aired (and we didn't realize that or we wouldn't have held the review -- we don't do spoilers). There was some concern at NBC that it wouldn't find an audience. Like the Water Cooler Set, NBC was sure Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada would be a hit and was afraid that Heroes would tank. If we hadn't reviewed it before it aired, if we'd waited a few weeks, we wouldn't have reviewed Heroes in the fall. From the moment the overnights came in on the first episode, it was obviously a hit now and we were trying to get to the shows that might not stick around.

That was both to put readers wise to things worth watching (and not watching) and to make sure we had enough things to review for the year. With one exception, we've reviewed all the ones we planned to because they were on the endangered list. In the new year, we will be reviewing Ugly Betty, 30 Rock (hey, we're Tina-sters as our Mad TV friend dubs us), Brothers & Sisters and other shows.

Veronica noted that the review of Men in Trees steered her to the show and the program is now "my favorite of this year." Men in Trees is a good show and had there been more strong shows that needed attention, we would have been glad to steer you towards them but Fall 2006 didn't have a lot to offer period.

Noting one member of the Water Cooler Set who slammed Men in Trees, Veronica wondered if he had something against women? Veronica, if you remember last week when we discussed Charlie's Angels, he was the one we were referring to who slammed the show on the basis of the women's hairstyles. He's long trashed anything and everything with a woman who didn't just stand on the sidelines applauding the males. We're upfront about being feminists attempting a feminist look ("a," not "the") at TV. We wonder how it is that one man can now be in his fourth decade of reviewing TV when he's slammed women repeatedly and yet never been called on that? We'll assume it because that attitude is more the norm than many will cop to.

The hump and pump has had their day and then some. As they continue to pleasure themselves, viewers (like many of their former lovers) tune out. In the meantime, Salma Hayek has brought a hit to ABC and that was no easy task. There are many lessons there but one of the most important is that if you want to capture viewers, you're going to have to look beyond the White Male set wanting to recreate their childhood from long ago (in animated or live action form). We'll go into that more when we review the show next year but for now we'll note that while many viewers could relate to what was on the screen, it was revolutionary that it aired in the first place. Give the credit to Hayek, she earned it.

Life With Elmo . . . and Warren Bell

You thought Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was bad? Meet Warren Bell, his replacement.

Bully Boy nominated Bell to the board of the Coporation for Public Broadcasting in June of this year. Even with a Republican controlled Senate, Bell couldn't get confirmed. So in the week leading up to Christmas, Bully Boy put Bell on the board via recess appointment.

Bell is a contributor to The National Review, a right-wing periodical, and that's alarmed some. At The National Review, he's announced he's anti-choice (May 11, 2005), he's demonstrated his 'sensibilities' ("Let's be real for a second — there's a Brokeback Mountain flavor to figure skating, except for Canada's Elvis Stojko, who would do reasonably cool things like make his long program 'A Tribute to Bruce Lee'." -- Feb. 13, 2006), called for a boycott of the WB and NBC over their airing of condom ads and attested that he sees no value in singing ("Since when are we all so excited about singing? Wasn’t the talent portion of Miss America the boring part?" --
June 2, 2005), bragged about his campaign donations to the Bully Boy (March 31, 2005), exposed and stroked his inner Jerry Lewis by declaring women weren't as funny as men (January 31, 2005), and, on August 10, 2006, issued a long whine:

Yesterday the head of Disney's Touchstone Television and the head of casting for ABC/Disney called me to, er, suggest that According to Jim might do a little better this year in terms of casting minorities in significant roles. Our admittedly dismal track record was recited to me -- two Asian-Americans, one Latino (oh, dear, is that the rightterm?) in roles of "guest star" billing during the 26-episode course of last season.

Bell has declared, "My intent for my service with CPB is to ensure a strong healthy, vibrant public broadcasting system for everyone to be proud of. My politics can't enter into it. It's not a partisan position."

His politics can't enter into it? We wish it were so but his opinions already entered into his comedy -- take for instance the deplorable record on casting minorities and his whine when ABC/Disney pointed it out to him. (For which he had to issue an apology.) He's not fond of the arts either. Why does that matter?

From the CPB website:

CPB is the largest single source of funding for public television and radio programming. CPB funds diverse and innovative programming that's useful, educational and cultural.
Most CPB-funded television programs are distributed through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). CPB-funded radio programs are distributed primarily through National Public Radio (NPR), American Public Media, and Public Radio International (PRI). CPB created PBS in 1969 and NPR in 1970.
CPB does more than invest in quality programming; it helps parents and teachers educate children. CPB intends to help every child learn.

Diverse programming? Diversity is a word that Bell sneers at.

From the CPB's mission statement:

The fundamental purpose of public telecommunications is to provide programs and services which inform, enlighten and enrich the public. While these programs and services are provided to enhance the knowledge, and citizenship, and inspire the imagination of all Americans, the Corporation has particular responsibility to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.

Creative risks? Bell's gone from one lousy sitcom to another (he's rarely stayed around too long -- he was off These Friends of Mine before it was Ellen, he joined Coach late, and ususally his so-called sitcoms were cancelled early). Bell knows how to make cookie-cutter, standard fare, sitcoms, with White casts and nothing else.

While his politics should alarm, the greater shock is that a hack with no experience in broadcasting (the creative end isn't broadcasting) who has never done anything other than churn out yucks is suddenly fit to sit on a board that's mission is to provide programming that's not the run of the mill offerings from network TV.

Bell told The Los Angeles Times: ""I'm a comedy writer. I'm not on a crusade, except to maybe make PBS a really great network for people to watch." Like Tomlinson, he doesn't listen to NPR (which the board is also responsible for). Like Tomlinson, he prefers sports radio. He has no news background, no background in anything other than substandard sitcoms (many of which were quickly cancelled). It's a bit like hiring William Hung to open for Tony Bennett. If he weren't conservative and a big donor to Bully Boy's campaign, he'd never have been considered for the job and would instead be attempting to figure out if the fat husband & skinny wife combo could be milked for another year's worth of laughs? (No, and it didn't even qualify for one season's worth of laughs.)

He's made cracks about Elmo which is why we've used Elmo for our illustration. This is what Warren Bell can offer public broadcasting, Elmo, with a hand in his boxers and a beer in his other hand, saying, "No jugs, but check out Zoe's can!" Ernie (like the goofy sidekick in all of Bell's bad sitcoms) says, "You're funny, Elmo." To which Elmo replies, "Get away from me, you big homo." As is often the case in Bell's works, the female says nothing and is just there for show value, but, hey, as he explained himself, women just aren't as funny as men.

Let's Make Bad Film: Destroying Marilyn

Janet, a longtime reader, often offers suggestions in her e-mails for features. One thing she enjoyed the most in 2005 was the reviews of Jane Fonda's comedy films and she wishes we'd review films more. Last week, there was a strong chance that C.I. was going to review two films that were about to open but, at the last minute, C.I. thought the edition was already "light enough." We'd told Janet, ahead of time, to look for that possibility. When it didn't come to pass, she had a request, Marilyn Monroe's Let's Make Love.

Janet noted that we've been doing illustrations for the site since September to give it a visual look and offered that there's no stronger visual than Monroe. Janet also noted that the film was on TV often, easily available for purchase or rental and one of the least discussed of Monroe's films.

She offered other reasons for reviewing the film (in all she had 30 reasons) but she didn't need to hard sell us because this is one we've all seen and, in fact, one that's a frequent for the core six (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.) when we complete the edition and are ready to fall out. Ty figures we've watched that film about six times since June and notes we watch it and not Some Like It Hot (which we all love) because it's easy to fall asleep on Let's Make Love.

If we're in a chatty mood, we'll stay up snacking and discussing what's wrong with the film or how to improve it. Ava and C.I. will always stress that it should have been remade with Vanessa Williams and Ben Affleck in the leads.

One thing the film demonstartes, to us, is that if Something's Got To Give had been filmed and edited by Cukor (Monroe died before it was completed -- and before some idiot e-mails to say she was fired, she was also rehired before she died), it would have finished Monroe's film career.

George Cukor's often termed a "woman's director" which is both because he made many films starring women and also code for the fact that he was gay. Monroe wasn't Cukor's type of woman and that's obvious throughout the film. In some sections of the film (early and middle especially), she's sporting hideous hairstyles that Billy Wilder would never have approved in test shots. But Cukor liked a certain type of woman and the film is largely the story of Monroe's struggle to be Monroe (she wins in the end) while Cukor tries to remake her into his ideal woman (sophisticate).

Monroe's big moment from the film, the thing that gets featured in specials on her, is her performing "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" and if you've only seen clips, you're probably only familiar with her face. There's a reason for that. The scene is badly lit and badly shot. Monroe had been heavier onscreen before but most directors didn't settle for lighting that emphasized her belly, Cukor did. Even the close ups are marred by a disaster of a hair style which is far too fussed over to pull off what's supposed to be a light moment -- where Monroe blows a lock out of her eyes. The footage was so appalling (shot over two days) that Cukor was told to reshoot which he never did.

The only scene that plays worse is when Frankie Vaughn and Monroe are doing a seductive song and Cukor has the cameras too high and Monroe comes off looking obesely fat as she waves her arms.

Who did Cukor love? Yves Montand. Montand's carefully lit throughtout and shot so that the bump on his nose is actually appealing. Setting those shots up, choosing those angles took a lot of care -- the attention Cukor refused to give to Monroe -- the star of the film.

Much is made of the fact that it was a difficult shoot but that usually focuses on the affair between Montand and Monroe. The biggest conflict came from Cukor's having a star he didn't like whose talent he didn't respect.

Before the film began shooting, when the studio saw the test shots, they insisted (Buddy Adler insisted) on changes -- make her look like the Monroe of Some Like It Hot or Bus Stop. That wasn't done. Not only was that not done, no changes were made at all and Monroe's saddled with a ridiculous fussy hairstyle for the early part of the film that will remind many moviegoers of Vivian Leigh's hairstyle when she played the faded beauty Blanche du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Though Leigh was Cukor's idea of the epitome of class, the fussy hairstyle only made Monroe's face look long and tight.

Leaving the look of the film for a moment, the worst problem with Let's Make Love is the script. Originally called The Billionaire and to be filmed starring Gregory Peck, Monroe was added at the last minute by 20th Century Fox. When the studio decided to add Monroe, work began on the script to beef up the female lead. (The last writer to work on it would be Arthur Miller.) That was a big problem, casting one of the few bankable female stars at that time in a part that wasn't a lead. Though Peck would leave the project as the female lead got built up, it never became about Monroe's character. Consider the song and dance numbers her waving the scarf for the race to begin and the role to be as much an aside as Natalie Wood's in Rebel Without A Cause. Wood was establishing herself as an adult actress in that film, Monroe was coming off the biggest film of her career (Some Like It Hot). Adding Monroe to a pre-packaged film wasn't the way to create a Monroe film.

In some male idea of 'cute,' her character, who is both an adult and a working actress and fairly aware in matters of business, is revealed to live at home with her father. Though it provided Montadt with a close up to appear bemused in, it did nothing for Monroe's character. None of the scenes do. She's den mother to the cast of the play she's starring in and also so stupid that she can't figure out that Montand is a billionaire and not a struggling actor. As Sugar Kane, she was convincing in failing to grasp that Daphne and Josephine were actually men, but Sugar Kane was a comedic confection, no such care was taken in the writing of her character Amanda.

The film exists as a showcase for a male lead. As noted earlier, that was supposed to be Gregory Peck but when he dropped out, Miller and Cukor argued for Yves Montand who had never made a studio film in America before and had limited English skills. As lovingly as Cukor films him, the problems with the English language couldn't be overcome. He's fine when he's speaking but when he starts singing the problem's not his accent but that he slurs all syllables to the point that audiences frequently have no idea what the lyrics to the songs are. Since he's repeatedly called upon to sing, that is a huge problem.

Throughout the film, only Tony Randall and Frankie Vaughn are consistently strong (Vaughn's so strong, you find yourself wishing the studio had gone with him for the lead and not Montand after Peck backed out). Throughout filming, Monroe was late and absent which isn't surprising when she plays a character with no written moments. The thing that saved the film was the Screen Actors Guild strike.

Winning a Golden Globe (for Some Like It Hot) and leaving Los Angeles during the strike gave Monroe a fresh perspective. When she returned, the fussy hairstyles were history (and the attempts to win Cukor's approval were as well). In those later scenes, she looks like the Monroe America loved and acts like her as well -- so much so it's as though the other scenes were filmed by a Monroe impersonator. By that time, the film was overbudget and The Misfits was gearing up for filming (and Montand was due in Japan for a concert tour). It was too late at that point to reshoot but why the reshoots of "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" weren't done early on (the studio had been told the problem was with the sweater Monroe wore in the scene) and why, after being told that the makeup and hair tests were unnacceptable, Cukor insisted on that look for the early part of filming are questions worth asking.

After the debacle of Let's Make Love, 20th Century Fox's decision to finish out Monroe's contract by reteaming her with Cukor (who couldn't stand her and found her lacking in talent -- despite surving footage demonstrating Monroe was effective in Something's Got To Give, Cukor couldn't stop bad mouthing her and telling the studio she had lost it) was a huge mistake. Which is why one of her demands when 20th Century Fox wanted her back to finish filming Something's Got To Give (after firing her) was that Cukor would no longer be director (and the studio agreed with that demand).

Let's Make Love stands as Monroe's worst film because (a) there was no Monroe role in the film -- any number of B-actresses could have played the part, (b) she was saddled with a director who didn't respect her and lost all interest in her when he couldn't reshape her into what he saw as a lady, (c) Montand's slurring vocals, and (d) you don't sideline Monroe.

Sugar Kane was one of the three lead characters of Some Like It Hot, she wasn't merely "the girl." With another female character, the script doesn't work. In Let's Make Love, any woman could have fallen for the billionaire and it wouldn't have made a difference because she's only window dressing -- it's his arc of growth, his storyline.

In the fifties, a great many actresses had been sidelined (Bette Davis, etc.) and one of the few to become an actual star during that period was Marilyn Monroe. Judging by 1960's Let's Make Love, the studios had already begun their disinterest in women so the male-male buddy pictures that would come to dominate were hardly surprising.

[Notes: Betty is a huge Marilyn Monroe fan. She and C.I. mapped out the areas that we needed to cover and we interviewed the daughter of 20th Century exec, a crew member of Let's Make Love and a friend of Monroe's for this feature. Cukor friends and allies might tell a different story, we're not interested.]

Joke of 2007

Those who love their 'nonfiction' books smutty and fact free should run to the book stores August 28th. The rest of us should just howl with laughter.

That's the day Little Brown and Company will release Her Way : The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The 400-plus page book (picked up by John Murray Publishing in some foreign outlets) is scribbled by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.

Gerth is of course most famous these days for the destruction his 'reporting' caused Wen Ho Lee. Only the most deluded would refer to Gerth as a "reporter." He and Van Natta Jr. share lodging at The New York Times and they were both once singled out by a judge.

It wasn't a badges of honor or lollypops Judge Norma Holloway Johnson was handing out in November 1998. No, she was singling them out as go-to-boys for Ken Starr and company when they wanted to leak grand jury testimony.

Gerth goes back even further, having been the original idiot who inflated Whitewater into a national frenzy because reporting was just too hard for the scribbler. As Gene Lyons explains in Fools For Scandal, Gerth's big source (described by Gerth as "stable, careful and calm") was a man who had two years prior used the insanity plea in a bank fraud case.

That wacky Jeff Gerth.

You just know his latest opus will tax every bit of creative energy he has in him. And you just know Bob Somerby's going to be begging that's a slow news week so he can highlight each and every mistake, falsehood and lie (well, many, no one could highlight each and every) in the book.

But after you finish laughing, grasp that the jokes on you -- Gerth's still employed at The New York Times. (Remember, they only fire women.)

10 2006 Songs That Made It For Us in 2006

We made a list of twenty and then whittled it down to ten.

1) "Not Ready To Make Nice," Dixie Chicks, Taking The Long Way Home.

Call it our own personal theme song. We think more than any other song in 2006, this summed up our own personal attitudes.

2) "Better Way," Ben Harper, Both Sides Of The Gun.

Ben Harper getting trippy with it. One listen and you're hooked.

3) "After The Garden," Neil Young, Living With War.

It had us at the first rumbling chord. The lyrics nailed it: "Won't need no shadow man running the government/ Won't need no stinkin' war."

4) "Living With War," Neil Young, Living With War.

Here's a tidbit, the Iraq snapshots not dictated over the phone this summer were written with this song playing over and over in the background. "And when the dawn breaks, I see my fellow man, and on the flat screen, we kill and are killed again, and when the night falls I pray for peace . . ." Only when a CNN friend of C.I.'s asked "Jesus, do you listen to that song 24-7?" did it get rotated. As Kat puts it, summer 2006 to her will always be C.I. at the computer, going phone to phone, hunched over the keyboard, typing away like it was a musical instrument.

5) "Yell Fire," Michael Franti & Spearhead, Yell Fire.

"Revolution never comes with a warning." To some, it seems to require an invitation and even then . . . "Put 'em up, put 'em up".

6) "Time To Go Home," Michael Franti & Spearhead. Yell Fire.

The whole CD, but especially this song, reminds the core six of a trip we took the park with Kat. At some point during that, a mother called "Snacks" and three kids went running happily until the oldest boy said "I'm going to beat you" and a race resulted. (As Kat noted at the time, wouldn't it be the one vowing to "beat" -- not "win" -- who'd lose? He fell and the other two kept running.)

7) "Crashing Down," David Rovics, Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.

"It can happen in a moment, Sometimes it does, When what could be is, What shouldn't be was, There are times when you've got to stand steady, There are other times when you've got to be ready . . ." When it all comes crashing down, indeed. Describing the current state of the (mis)union and opening the album with a fast paced song. Mike's personal memory of this song was attempting to memorize court cases for a test by pacing around his room for hours starting at two in the morning while he had this song on repeat.

8) "Happily Everafter In Your Eyes," Ben Harper, Both Sides Of The Gun.

We have to agree with Kat, Ben Harper gave the best concert in 2006. Those of us who caught him twice on the West coast remember blasting this song on the way back. One of the most beautiful songs of the year.

9) "Half-Assed," Ani Di Franco, Reprieve.

The guitar hooks you first, then come the lyrics and the Ani's vocals. "You start tripping,
And I start slipping away" delights not only for the rhyme but also because of what Ani does with "way" in "away." By the time she continues with "I was taught to zip it, If I got nothing nice to say, And down in the Texas of my heart, Driving a really big truck, Headed down a dirt road, My love is scrunching up its features" you grasp she's written another classic song that you'll be humming for the rest of your life.

10) "Dear Mr. President," Pink, I'm Not Dead Yet.

The lyrics are strong ("How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?, How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?, How do you walk with your head held high?, Can you even look me in the eye, and tell me why?") but we think what nails the song for us is the mixture of Pink's vocals with Amy Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (the Indigo Girls).

10 Songs We Made Our Own In 2006

2006 was the year that music seemed to emerge from its long slumber. You didn't have to look for the exception (Green Day) and wonder where everyone else was, 2006 was overflowing with good music. In addition to the new stuff, we also found ourselves embracing some older stuff heavily. This was part of a list of thirty that we finally broke down to ten. Our rules were it had to be brand new to at least three of us [The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; and Wally of The Daily Jot] no earlier than 2005 and it had to be played or sung often by us during 2006. That elimates Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas and many others because we knew their songs long before 2005.

1) "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)," Melanie, Beautiful People: The Greatest Hits of Melanie.

How can you not love a song that includes the following: "For sometimes when we have reached the end, With the velvet hill in the small of my backs, And our hands are clutching the sand, Will our blood become a part of the river, All of the rivers are givers to the ocean, According to plan, according to man"? Near the end of 2005, we heard this and adopted it strongly in 2006 (core six listened to the CD four times last week alone).

2) "We Can Be Together," Jefferson Airplane, Vounteers.

If you ever wondered what the Airplane could do but only had time for one song, this is the one. They do it all in this song. Soft harmonies, vocals that attack, mellow to marching, it's all here.

We can be together
Ah you and me
We should be together
We are all outlaws in the eyes of America
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
But we should be together
Come on all you people standing around
Our life's too fine to let it die and
We can be together

A favorite of Flyboy's as well. (Flyboy is Rebecca's husband.)

3) "Both Hands," Ani DiFranco, Living in Clip

We're going with that version but any is wonderful. Memory most tied to this? The Troops Home Fast. C.I. did it for over thirty days and near the end, when the will was sagging, this was the song that would get played. You only think "Napolean," "32 Flavors," "Educated Guess," etc. is the best song Ani DiFranco ever wrote until you hear "Both Hands:"

I am watching your chest rise and fall
Like the tides of my life,
And the rest of it all.
And your bones have been my bed frame
And your flesh has been my pillow
Ive been waiting for sleep
To offer up the deep
With both hands
In each other's shadows we grew less and less tall
And eventually our theories couldn't explain it all
And I'm recording our history now on the bedroom wall
And when we leave the landlord will come
And paint over it all

4) "Bomb The World" Michael Franti and Spearhead, Everyone Deserves Music.

Jess, Kat and C.I. knew Michael Franti and Spearhead's music. The rest of us? Not really. (In fact, even NY days when Jim, Jess and Ty were roommates, Jess would not let any Michael Franti be borrowed by the other two for fear that it would walk off -- we now see why.) When Yell Fire came out, C.I. bought copies for everyone and that was most of our introductions to Franti & Spearhead. We quickly dug deeper and this is probably our favorite song other than the tracks on Yell Fire. Somebody play it for the Bully Boy.

We can chase down all our enemies
Bring them to their knees
We can bomb the world to pieces
But we can't bomb it into peace
Whoa we may even find a solution
To hunger and disease
We can bomb the world to pieces
But we can't bomb it into peace

5) "Comfortably Numb," Dar Williams and Ani Difranco, My Better Self (Dar Williams).

Pink Floyd. Man. And it's got to be the best Floyd cover ever. During the week-plus we were all together, it seemed like either Elaine or Mike was always playing this song so, now that we know they are a couple and were then, we always think of it as their song. When the chorus kicks in and Ani comes in, forget "waves," it's like a refreshing rain. "I can't explain, you would not understand, this is not how I am."

6) "The War Drags On," Donovan, Fairytale.

Like every other member of the community, when this song started being quoted every week at The Common Ills, we were like, "Huh?" (It's now quoted twice a week.) Why this song and not some other song? It started on the Sunday entry which was the international scope entry with many highlights from community members outside the US so it made sense to use Donovan. The lyrics also applied to Iraq. This was one of the first thing the five relocators (Jim, Dona, Ava, Jess and Ty) listened to when we left NY. The album, Fairytale, also contains several other strong songs (such as Donovan's cover of Buffy St. Marie's "Universal Solider" and his own "Colours"). "They're just there to try to make the people free, But the way they're doing it don't seem like it to me, Just more blood letting and misery and tears, That this poor country's known for the last twenty years And the war dra-a-a-a-a-gs on."

7) "(Up On) Cherry Blossom Road," Heart, The Road Home.

If you ever doubt the power of Ann Wilson's voice or her ability to shade and interpret, check out this live track from 1994. If you enter the Heart canon after their mid-80s comeback, you'll be shocked by how much Wilson can cut loose when given the room (fans of the group's seventies work will be less surprised but still impressed). If you don't love it, maybe you need to hear Dona and Betty cut loose as they sing along.

8) "The Flesh Failures," The Actors Fund of America Benefit Recording, Hair.

Track credited to Norm Lewis, Harris Doran, Tribe. Blame Rebecca for this one. She loves, loves the Hair soundtrack. This is the track we all love to sing along with, swooping low for the deep notes: "We starve, look at one another short of breath, Walking proudly in our winter coats, Wearing smells from laboratories, Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy, Listening for the new-told lies, With supreme visions of lonely tunes."

9) "Follow," Richie Havens, The Best of Richie Havens.

Kat got this as a gift when we were all enroute to meeting in DC for the September 2005 protests. She brought it along and Mike and Wally couldn't stop playing it. This was the song they zoomed in on. In the time since, we've all learned the lyrics and if Mike's out here and a guitar's handy, he demands Jess play it and we all sing along.

Let the river rock you like a cradle
Climb to the treetops, child, if you're able
Let your hands tie a knot across the table.
Come and touch the things you cannot feel.
And close your fingertips and fly where I can't hold you
Let the sun-rain fall and let the dewy clouds enfold you
And maybe you can sing to me the words I just told you,
If all the things you feel ain't what they seem.
And don't mind me 'cos I ain't nothin' but a dream.

And that's just the first verse.

10) "Diamonds On The Inside," Ben Harper, Diamonds On The Inside.

Is this a country song? Or more of a nod to Jimi Hendrix? We don't know, we just know we love it. Ben Harper we all knew. Some, like C.I., Elaine, Rebecca and Kat, knew all his work. Others of us knew some of his work. When Both Sides Of The Gun blew us away and we were wanting more, this was the most pleasant discovery as we dug into his earlier work. "What you say and do not mean, Follows you close behind."

The Nation Stats

Continuing the tracking that began last week, we offer the stats on the latest issue of The Nation. Please note, we won't have stats next week because this is billed as "a double issue" which strikes us as strange because a "double issue" to our minds means an issue that has twice the number of pages; however, the issue is 40 pages which is the same amount of pages in the December 4, 2006 issue which wasn't billed as a "double issue" and which is, in fact, eight pages less than the May 8, 2006 issue which wasn't billed as a "double issue."

Cover the back of a military service member (White, male).

Jon Wiener's "The Last Lennon File"
Chris Hedges' "Get Carter"
Amy Alexander's "We Got To Do Better"
2 males, 1 female

Calvin Trillin's "A New Policy for Iraq"*
AlterPunk's "And the Beat Goes On . . ."
2 males?

Marc Cooper's "About Face"**
Mohamad Bazzi's "People's Revolt In Lebanon"
Ian Williams' "Annan's Principled Pragmatism"
3 males

Richard J. Evans' "Hilter's Beneficiaries [. . .]"
Omer Bartov's "Five Germans I Have Known"
Judith Levine's "Spring Awakening"
2 males, 1 female

The previous issue feature 11 males and five females which didn't even amount to women getting half as much space. This issue? 9 males, 2 females. Though it may be hard to believe if you studied the 2006 statistics (in C.I.'s column in Polly's Brew last Sunday), the magazine is published by a woman (Katrina vanden Heuvel). Last week was shameful, this week is flat out appalling.


* No we're not questioning AlterPunky's boyhood. Calvin Trillin we counted this time. We'll let readers decide whether we count him in the future. He does four lines of poetry. Though The Nation bills him as a columnist some involved in the writing of this edition can remember when Rolling Stone ran poetry in their album reviews and no one billed those contributors as "columnists." (Many of whom wrote more lines.)

**We're going by the table of contents; however, Marc Cooper actually has two pieces in the issue, the second isn't billed in the contents. If you're interested in reading the second article and you do not subscribe . . . From C.I.'s Friday "Iraq snapshot": "Marc Cooper has an article entitled 'Lt. Ehren Watada: Resister.' The Nation makes the article availble online to subscribrs only for whatever reasons but seems unaware that they've published it for all (subscribers and non-subscribers) on Yahoo -- click here." Note, The Nation finally covers war resisters in print. Which was apparently so taxing, they needed to take a week off right after hence the so-called double issue. When we renew our subscriptions, maybe we should half the amount owed and tell them it's a "double payment"?

Joan Mellen lecture on JFK assasination 1-28-07

We'll be noting this again in January, but we'll note it right now. Author Joan Mellen will be speaking Sunday, January 28th at 7:30 p.m. in NYC at the 92nd Street Y (92nd Street and Lesington Avenue). Mellan, a professor at Temple University and the author of seventeen books, will be presenting a lecture on the JFK assasination . . . and beyond. Tickets are $25.

Mellen's latest book is A Farewell to Justice which probes the assasination of JFK. She was a guest on Law and Disorder November 7, 2005. And the March 15, 2006 broadcast of KPFA's Guns and Butter featured her speech "How the Failure to Identify, Prosecute and Convict President Kennedy's Assassins Has Led to Today's Crisis of Democracy." You can also read a transcript of that speech here.

Again, that's Sunday, January 28th, 7:30 p.m. the 92nd Street Y in NYC.


We (Mike, Rebecca, Kat, Wally, Cedric and Betty) have picked out the followings as the must reads from last week.

"2006: The Year of Living Dumbly (Year in Review)" -- C.I. calls it and you will be agree and you will laugh. This is the thing to bookmark and come back to throughout the year to see if the media's improved any.

"2006 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley say writing was easy, it was tabulating all the votes that was hard.

"Kat's Korner: 2006 in music" -- Kat looks back at 2006 in music.

"The truth emerges from his fat mouth" -- you've waited for the answers, you've wondered how Betinna ended up with Thomas Friedman. There have been hints throughout, now find out the answer.

"Guns and Butter, Norman Solomon, et al" -- Kat always says she's just going to do short posts at her site but every now and then, she's got a lot to get off her chest. This was our favorite of last week.

"Ham and Potato Casserole in the Kitchen" -- Trina (Mike says "Ma") gives you a recipe (which Mike says really is good) and also takes a look at 2006 where she salutes the women who made a difference and notes one who was AWOL in 2006.

Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THE DUCK AND COVER BULLY BOY!" and Cedric's "Coward-in-chief" -- the joint-post men are at it again -- finding the cowardice that lurks deep within the Bully Boy and on the surface as well!

"dear democracy now" -- Amy Goodman asked for feedback this week and Rebecca gives her some.

"Correction to Barbara Ehrenreich on Democracy Now! today" -- Dona and Trina both said that this post had to be noted. Ehrenreich wanted to talk about Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and GreenStone Media. Too bad she didn't bother to find out any facts before speaking. Too bad Amy Goodman and company either thought it was too cute for words or didn't grasp how off the mark Ehrenreich was.

Cedric's "Bully Boy hopes to hope it away" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY'S REAL PLAN!" -- those joint-post men just don't let up on the Bully Boy -- too bad more Americans aren't as tenacious.

"The Ford & Brown blather" -- Cedric demanded this post both because of Ford and because of James Brown who, Cedric says, should have died with the sixties "before he could destroy his own reputation."

"Big grab bag post" -- we need to add one more name to the top. We were trying to decide which of Mike's posts to go with and Flyboy popped into the discussion to say, "Grab bag, it's obvious." :D

"NYT: In The Garden of Judith and Miller" -- C.I. notes there's a new Judith in town.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday morning and we want to scream, but the edition's up.

Let's note who participated:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally of The Daily Jot;
and Ruth of Ruth's Report

Woah! say you. Where are Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess?

All are with their families and that was the plan. But we didn't realize that the plan was also the weekend off. Dona had said she was taking the weekend off. Ty we were hoping would. (He hits the e-mails harder than anyone else. He's off e-mails until the new year.) We thought it would be: Jim, Jess and C.I. steering this edition. Jim had a family emergency/drama come up and Jess ended up God knows where but out of cell phone range. Mike and Wally figured out that it would all fall on one person.

One of us (Ava) was scheduled to work on the TV pieces and nothing else. When Mike and Wally pointed out the obvious, it became an Ava and C.I. edition.

Let's note what we've got.

Highlights -- Kat, Mike, Rebecca, Elaine, Wally and Betty picked those out and wrote this. Thank you guys for that. Thank you for your help as well and thank you to Dallas for soundboarding and link hunting.

Applause to Amy Goodman -- Dona says "short pieces!" and usually remembers that in the final moments. With the good role modeling she has set as an example, we got our short pieces out of the way early. This was one.

Applause to Rolling Stone -- and this was another. RS covers Watada.

TV: Victoria's Real Secret -- reading the e-mails here this week, we found Theresa's. We weren't planning on reviewing this, and then CW aired. We wrote her and told her we would be grabbing the trash. We also e-mailed this to her ahead of time to make sure she was okay with the mentions from her e-mail. (She'd said she was but it's one thing to say "Use anything." It's another to see it used. Fortunately, she was fine with the review.)

The Nation Stats -- a short feature that, if nothing else, gives us reason to continue the subscriptions.

The One about Keefer Madness and CJR -- again, we read the e-mails this week. We agree that Keefer Madness is a horror. We also agree that his 'work habits' are as well.

The Nation's Slap In The Face to women -- we think the title says it all. Ava: "Ironically, C.I.'s big concern when I showed up was that the edition planned was too light. Too light? I looked at what was planned and what was written, I arrived after the writing for this edition had started, and said, 'No, it's not too light.' And I felt this was but one example." C.I.: "Thank you to Ava for changing her plans but she did not have to."

The story of 2006 -- Rebecca said, "Don't you Robert Parry this!" Meaning, don't act like it didn't happen. (Robert Parry warned everyone about Robert Gates for weeks before the confirmation hearings. He hasn't said it, but should, he was right.) Rebecca wanted us to note, for the first time ever, pieces were going up at 7:00 a.m. EST. And we're not even on the east coast. So we said it. When Rebecca pointed that out, we asked if everyone was up a bit more. They were and we wrote this piece. (Rebecca photo shopped illustrations, thank you, Rebecca.)

Mr. Tony's appointment -- Mr. Tony. Might make a good hairdresser but a lousy, lousy prime minister.

Roundtable -- our roundtable and Elaine says everyone's going to ask why we (Ava and C.I.) didn't talk more. We're always the notetakers. We think this is a strong roundtable and we know readers enjoy them.

TV: Looking forward . . . by looking backward? -- what is I? That's what Ty kept asking us. We had no idea. E-mails kept bringing it up. It's a network and some people have a show or two on that they enjoy. Some wonder if they should watch. So we took a look at it. By the way, on Charlie's Angels, if they stay in order, they're in season three right now. Charlie's Angels? We always want to write about that show and we agreed to do I just so we could. Is the review any good? We don't know. We don't care. We're exhausted. We consider the big achievement the Charlie's Angels cards that illustrate the story. Those are via an actress friend. We asked late and the answer was, "Do you know how late it is?" Yes, we did. We said, "Never mind, someone's got the card with Cheryl Ladd holding the palm tree branch over her naked body, so we'll use that instead." We didn't have that but we knew that would have her hauling her cards over pronto. She has the full set (including never peeled stickers) and, before anyone writes, they aren't for sale. She's currently attempting to get the van to compliment the dolls (TV show, not movie). We thank her for the use of the cards and she also picked the ones to use out. She would want it noted that there are five shots of Farrah Fawcett, five of Kate Jackson and five of Jaclyn Smith.

Editorial: 2007? -- what's 2007 going to be? That's up to all of us. Take ownership of it.

And that's it. Hopefully something's of use. We're just glad it's over. We have one feature in the can for next week. It's a lighter look at a topic. So we finished on time (actually early since we now go by PST time) and actually have one feature already ready for next week. Not bad for flying by the seat of our pants.

If you're celebrating the holidays, happy holidays. If you're not hope you have a good week. Barring the other four reading this edition and asking, "What the f**k was that?" we'll see you next week.

-- Ava and C.I.

Editorial: 2007?

The illustration is how Isaiah summed up 2005 ("Bully Boy Exposed"). 2005 was the year Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford, set up Camp Casey and got the peace movement kick started. It was also the year that the 1,000 mark was passed for US military deaths in Iraq.

The inept (and criminal) response to Hurricane Katrina exposed the Bully Boy, the illegal, warrantless, NSA spying on American people exposed the people, his refusal to meet with Cindy Sheehan and answer her question of what 'honorable cause' her son, Casey, had died for exposed the Bully Boy.

The nation was turning against the illegal war and against the Bully Boy. The opinions on both

only hardened in 2006, though for most of the soft ball coverage, you'd never know.

But that's the reality we're at today.

2965 is another reality today. That's the current total of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of Bully Boy's illegal war. (Over 655,000 Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war.) The 3,000 mark is just on the horizon. For the 'cakewalk.' For 'liberation.' For any of the lies that Americans used to believe in large numbers but no longer do.

And here's the new reality, via Isaiah's "Condi Rice for LIAR-ALL Bully Products," Condi as oblivious as possible saying that the illegal war is worth it. As the Guardian of London reported, Condi thinks the illegal war "was worth the cost in US lives and dollars."

This from a womn with a tanker named for her.
As laughable as her idiotic statement is, the reality is that whether she's lying to herself or just Americans, she's on the defensive. She has to defend the illegal war.

There's no defense for it but that's what's happened in 2006, even the War Hawks are on the defensive.

The peace movement did that. 2005 saw Cindy Sheehan bring it back to life. 2006 saw US war resisters go public in larger numbers. 2007? Sky's the limit and, chances are, even Condi knows that. From exposure to defensive posturing. 2007 can be about ending the war.

TV: Looking forward . . . by looking backward?

Once upon a time, there were . . .

Wait! Let's start over.

Once upon a time there was a proselytizing net-lette. Bringing in the sheeves, if not the dough. But now high ambitions and 'moral character' matter less than just staying solvent. Now it's called "I."

It's the "I TV Network." "I." Formely Pax TV. We were honestly unaware of it until Ty kept telling us it was repeatedly coming up in e-mails.

In a world where the choices are Pax TV or I, we'd argue the newer version is the less damaging. That's largely due to the fact that, unlike Pax TV, there are no sappy, moralizing dramas created for the network currently. Not only that, they aren't currently planning to make any.

Like Pax TV, I exists to sell you religion -- a peculiar strain -- but it's also got to make money -- something Pax forgot.

So during the week, Monday through Friday, they offer up an hour of Green Acres repeats (some Fridays, they air The Partridge Family and The Monkees in this hour), an hour of Growing Pains repeats (Welcome Back Kotter on Fridays), an hour of Mama's Family repeats, an hour of Diagnosis Murder repeats and, here's the shocker, an hour of Charlie's Angels repeats.

Sometimes you get a movie tossed in. Most of the time, the other hours are filled with infomercials and 'inspirational' programming. The hope is that . . . Well, let's let the netlette tell it as they explain why they went from Pax to I:

The new network name is a reflection of our expanded program offerings and renewed focus on delivering timeless, diverse entertainment to viewers of all ages. Throughout the broadcast day, the network delivers a mix of original series, classic TV favorites, movies, specials and sports the whole family can enjoy.

"Throughout the broadcast day" really just means primetime. Otherwise, you're more likely to stumble across end of timerss Dwight Nelson and Doug Batchelor, et al. I, like Pax before it, and Jehovah Witnesses most weekends, just wants to get inside your homes. So much so, that they're willing to offer up the program for which "jiggle TV" was coined, Charlie's Angels.

Once upon a time, there were three little girls . . .

And the I ads agree as they show Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd and Tanya Roberts. They're epecially fond of the cleavage shot where Julie (Roberts) is on top of a speeding car. Shots of all three are chosen for the jiggle factor.

Is that a White Flag waving in the cultural wars or just another sign of hypocrisy?

As you ponder that, ponder Charlie's Angels. The ABC powerhouse ran five seasons and, like too many shows today, there are seasons you're better off skipping.

The first season, the one that took the successful TV movie and made it into a phenomenon remains the best. Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith play Sabrina, Jill and Kelly -- former police officers who became private detectives and work for an unseen Charlie. The humor (or, some would argue, what passes for it) is a bit more adult so are the situations. That includes not just the infamous "Angels in Chains" episode but also adult characters -- Sabrina's divorced (Bill Duncan, played by Michael Bell, appears twice in season one) -- and the adult settings (massage parlor, adult films).

Jackson, Fawcett and Smith were news. Three women headlining an hour drama was news in the fall of 1976. Not all that much has changed all these years later.

In 1976, along with the jiggle factor, the other primary criticism was that the three detectives weren't independent since they 'took orders' from Charlie, an unseen male. Took orders? Charlie's heard at the beginning and the end of most episodes (an exception being season four's "Toni's Boys"). At the beginning, he discusses the case, at the end, he discusses the case. For the rest of the hour, the Angels, with comic foil Bosley (David Doyle, present for all five seasons), are acting on their own. To get how revolutionary that was -- and still is -- for TV compare and contrast it with the likes of Alias where a woman is surrounded by men -- a Queen Bee idea that was tired long before Police Woman went off the air. Jill, Sabrina and Kelly worked together.

We aren't saying the first season (or, indeed, the concept) wasn't worthy of scrutiny or criticism, but we are saying that, considering all that's come since, Charlie's Angels is far from the worst offender. And on that first season, you had three adult women playing three adult women. All three were near thirty (Fawcett and Smith were born in 1947; Jackson in 1948) when the series began airing in the fall of 1976, all were more athletic looking than emaciated looking, and, though they'd laugh at each other's jokes, they weren't bumbling airheads.

The first season is the strongest. After that, Farrah Fawcett leaves the show and ABC decides to go "young." That meant moving the show to an earlier time slot (and the hours mattered in those days -- the later you aired, the more adult you could be) and it meant adding Cheryl Ladd to the cast.

Ladd playing Kris, younger sister to Jill, brought the smut factor with her. Kris would voice the lines about where to hide a gun in a bikini, Kris would go to a nude beach (in her series debut) and Kris would always be 'pretty.' Farrah Fawcett was (is) amazing beautiful. That didn't prevent Jill from going undercover as an athelete. With Kris the series went to Candyland. Seasons two and three contain strong work by Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Jackson was given many more situations to shape in the first season but her deft touch is still present in seasons two and three. (She's the only actress nominated for an Emmy -- twice in fact -- for the series.) Moving to an earlier time slot meant losing a lot of Kelly's wisecracks and it's to Smith's credit that you don't immediately grasp how radically her character has changed. But you do grasp that it's kiddie time as Ladd's every moment, for two years, is spent pleading "Like me." (Most noteable in the phoney laugh Ladd utilizes throughout both seasons which tends to end as a question mark. Even in laughter,'lil Kris begs permission.)

Season four is generally considered the worst (though it did better in the ratings than the fifth and final year). Kate Jackson leaves the show and any Shelley Hack shows up as Tiffany. Much is made of Hack as the problem for season four but the real problem lies with Ladd who suddenly drops Kris' 'like me' young girl attitude and has nothing to replace it with (though she appears to be chafing to fill Sabrina's role as team leader). Had Ladd kept the persona, Hack might have fit in better. Though inferior to season one, season four's actually one of the stronger ones overall. Before you scoff, do you remember the episode where an Angel's strung out on smack? That's season four and Jaclyn Smith pulls it off. By the final two-parter (an ambitious, soapy storyline for the show), Kelly and Kris are at odds and, though it doesn't feel like Charlie's Angels, it showed more daring than anything the writers had tried in years. Naturally, all of that will be forgotten before the opening of the fifth season.

Season five is when Charlie's Angels turns itself into a joke. Before, all three lead characters were trained detectives (with police experience), in season five, Julie Rogers is added -- apparently for cup size -- to the team. On Sunday nights or Saturday nights, audiences didn't give a damn about the psudeo-empowerment of "Any idiot can be an Angel."

The first season spirit is what Drew Barrymore brought to the two films Charlie's Angels and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Three adult women work together and enjoy working together.

We think, if nothing else, I can remind (or show for the first time) TV audiences of that concept. It was revolutionary. There's a TV critic still at his same post (you knew it was a 'he,' didn't you?) who trashed Charlie's Angels from the start -- the TV movie that preceeded the film -- and possibly a feminist critique in the future could focus on the critical reaction to the show? Male critics really didn't like the show. Give 'em a Honey West or Emma Peel (or later a Sydney) surrounded by men and that they could enjoy -- but three women seemed to frighten them. So you got criticism revolving around the hairstyles of the leads and that sort of thing.

The TV landscape since Charlie's Angels hasn't shown much improvement. You've got your all male cast action shows and you're all male plus token woman action shows but, with the exception of Charmed, you really haven't had anything else. (Buffy fans -- everyone was support to Sarah Michelle Geller -- as the title signaled, it was a one-woman show.) Watching Charlie's Angels on I may make you appreciate even more what Rose McGowan did as Paige. Like Ladd, McGowan came into an existing show replacing an audience favorite. Like Ladd, McGown came on as the younger sister. Like Ladd, she utilized humor. Unlike Ladd, her first two seasons do not play like one long prat fall.

The I lineup is interesting because it offers examples for today. Watching Mama's Family will demonstrate that there is no life for King of Queens in the future -- both shows feature a lot of yelling, a lot of bad attempts at humor and a cast that never takes off. Growing Pains will explain to you why so many sitcoms should die (boring performers, boring writers). Green Acres will demonstrate that My Name Is Earl is hardly breakthrough TV.

And Charlie's Angels? Already it's too much for I -- which was originally airing it after Mama's Family but had to move it to the last hour of primetime due to concerns over the 'racy nature.'

It's sad statement for our society that thirty years later, Charlie's Angels can still cause a panic.

All those years ago, ABC's big concerns was with the team in the field -- who would rescue the Angels? The suits weren't reassured by the response that the Angels would rescue themselves.

Not a lot's changed in thirty years.
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