Sunday, April 17, 2011

Truest statement of the week

When I watch the show business-like broadcasts of the news, I'm aware of a deliberate manipulation of the stories in service to higher ratings. At least Rupert Murdoch admits it. But the difference between any foreign news programs and ours is striking. We are not global thinkers. We are globally oriented only in the sense of caring about an international event in light of how it relates to us.

-- Shirley MacLaine, I'm Over All That And Other Confessions.
Shirley MacLaine

Truest statement of the week II

Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts -- those who march to the beat of their own drum -- are weeded out.

-- Chris Hedges, "Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System" (Information Clearing House).

A note to our readers

Hey --

We thank all who participated this week which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with? Huh? We?

Jess hurt his back during the writing edition. Not joking. We're all confused by that. He was sitting. He must have had a pulled muscle that just came loose with the pain. At any rate, that did effect the session.

And led us to rely very heavily on Ava and C.I. As you will see.

We're probably going to grab another statement from Shirley MacLaine next week as well. There's a "truest" on nearly every page of this book (I'm Over All That). You should really pick it up, it's a great book.

And the great Chris Hedges explaining the point of the education system in the US today.

This was a suggestion of Ty's and we were all on board especially when Jess couldn't go to the hospital -- too much pain -- and we ended up addressing it. Well I (Jim) watched. What ended up happening, after Jess was in too much pain to head for the car, was Ava offered to call an ambulance but Jess didn't want that so C.I. sighed, said, "Okay, lay down flat on the floor, face down," explained she once threw out her own back (and, yes, that was turned into a scripted moment, as Elaine quickly pointed out) and she knew what to do. Jess screamed like twenty little girls. I've never heard such screaming. He also got up off the floor and could stand up straight and no longer had any pain. C.I.said, "I'm probably good for that just once." :D So this became the editorial and it's the best editorial we've ever featured. (That's not bragging, we didn't write a word.)

Ava and C.I. worked their butts off this edition. So much so, that I told them their other feature could take the place of TV and no one would mind. I knew their fans wouldn't, I knew our readers' wouldn't. But given the chance to take a pass, they surprised me by explaining that they had to write a TV piece. Had to. Look, they explained, there's a new show that needs to be ripped apart. But even that got put on hold by them. Why? A stereotype got exploded last week and they had already decided that they would be writing about it. So you got this. Not because I begged. Not because they didn't do anything else. But because they believe this is a major TV moment. Read it and see if you agree or not.

This is the piece. Oh goodness. This is long and they could have gone on and on. For example, they cut a piece after they talk about how Shirley explores and thinks. The part they cut was explaining that as Tina book "draws to a close, she remarks on how strange it is that her low rated show is still on the air" and, in that half a sentence, she comes the closest to thought she may ever get." Shirley MacLaine has a new book, Tina Fey has a first book. Shirley's a writer. Tina? Do not miss the ending. They debated rewriting the entire thing when they learned, via a Sunday afternoon phone call, that a number of 30 Rock writers feel Tina ripped off their routines and put them in her book without crediting them. This is a major 'malfunction' on the set of 30 Rock currently. Don't be surprised if Tina doesn't end up commenting on it. Not having the time, they just added a sentence to their second to the last paragraph.

We don't dislike Historiann. We just wish she'd done the work required before announcing she was wrong to slam Katha. The slam was earned. We all wrote this but it does feel like an Ava and C.I. piece. Strangely enough, they were the least involved in the writing of this, leaving half-way through the writing of the piece to go work on their book piece.

Don't you love Americans who go to Iraqi FaceBook pages and ask the Iraqis to stop posting so much because it really interferes with their issues? No? We don't love 'em either.

Mike and the gang wrote this.

ANd that's what we came up with. We'll see you next weekend. Our e-mail address is


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

Editorial: Friday of the Free!

We've done several editorials on the ongoing Iraqi protests. This week, we thought we'd shut up and let The Great Iraqi Revolution speak for itself:

Great Iraqi Revolution

April 15th. What am I to write to you about today? It is the Friday of the Free! For this is what our young revolutionaries have called it. I will start with the demonstrations on Tahrir Square in Baghdad . Of course all the bridges and streets leading to Tahrir were cu...t off but people came all the same and are still there. They are chanting that Maliki is a liar and a thief. They are chanting that whoever does not say Tahrir, “Liberation”, his life is a loss. They are daring the security forces that are there in great numbers to detain them. I have always known and told you what we are made of, how could the Americans have ever thought that they can colonize us? You can feel the atmosphere of Tahrir. You can see and feel the life that is Tahrir. Tahrir belongs to the People.


A man of 50 who cries, says: ‘Death to Iran ! Death to America ! Death to Maliki! 80% of Parliament and the people who rule are Iranians, there is no loyalty to Iraq . Long Live Iraq ! All our sons are in detention centres, my 16 year old son is in prison. Iraq is the crown on our heads. We will all die for Iraq. Iraq will live forever!’ Then there is a young man who shouts: ‘Down with sectarianism! Down with the Quota System! Death to Iran! Let all Iraqi Young Men rebel and fight for Iraq! If Mohammed is a Sunni then I am a Shia, but we are all one. We are all brothers. We all have the same blood!’ Women cry and men, grown up men shed tears of agony and anguish for Iraq and for our sons and daughters, for our country that has been raped and pillaged.


Ah, the scenes in Tahrir were phenomenal, because Maliki and his henchmen yesterday ordered people to demonstrate in two football grounds, again on a sectarian basis, can you imagine? But he is a stupid man and so are his advisors. The Iraqis are much too intelligent and clever for all of this and proved that they are now at the point of no return in their rebellion and revolt. They assembled in Tahrir and told Maliki and his parliamentarians to go and play football in the stadiums he has assigned.

The young man who said let's all unite and fight also said that he was sure a massacre was going to be committed by the security forces against the demonstrators today. But these same security forces could not stop them from coming to Tahrir. Men, women, and children, Muslims and Christians are speaking out about the “government's” criminality against them – it was amazing and enthralling. The crushed Iraqi middle class in all its colours and hues is out and will remain out. This is the beginning of civil disobedience, all very peaceful but full of force. The women who are in Tahrir are in the hundreds, all women whose sons or husbands have disappeared in the secret prisons of Maliki and the Occupation. But Iraqis have broken the chains. The world should watch this. But the world is silent and apparently deaf and blind. Where is the free western press? Reading the New York Times one would believe that their correspondents are living on another planet. All the mainstream Press is silent, in fact.

liberation square 5

Today, there were also large demonstrations in Basra, all over Anbar province and in Babil as well. In Diwaniya they were threatened by the security forces that they would all be detained. Of course, in Sulaymaniya the crowds are in the tens of thousands on Azadi Square . The scene is developing and the protest is building up. Then there is Mosul, where for the past 6 days a huge demonstration and gathering has been gradually growing in numbers and today there are 12,000 people in The Square of the Free, (renamed by the revolutionaries), the old prison square. All the tribal sheikhs who had not sold themselves to the occupation came from the very south of Iraq , from Nassiriya and Basra . There were tribal sheikhs and leaders from Kut, Diyala, a contingent of Kurdish demonstrators from Sulaymaniya. They came from Haweeja and Tikrit. The Christians in the north as well as tribal leaders from Anbar, Kubaissa and Fallujah. We have come together again, this time publicly, for all the world to see.


But what is most amusing is that today the American Occupation's helicopters made a grand entrance on the stage demonstrating that the American Administration really does believe the democracy it alleges it brought to Iraq is in fact equal to garbage… literally! It was funny and it is all on film: daily, since the vigil and demonstration started in Mosul, American helicopters buzzed the demonstrators and the demonstrators answered back by throwing their shoes at them in disdain! Today, the helicopters performed what they considered their coup de grace, by flying very low over their heads and throwing down bags of garbage. When the people were asked for comments they answered that the Americans throw garbage every day since the occupation: all the depleted and enriched uranium, all the white phosphorous, all the drugs, all the disease, tyranny, oppression, plunder, theft, lies and illiteracy they brought with them. So we, Iraqis, know everything and we will have justice at the end of the day, when a new dawn comes. The feeling is that it is going to be quite soon.

TV: Exploding a stereotype

Gay men -- like all other people -- come in many shapes and sizes. Except on your TV screen. There, like many other groups, they are stereotyped.


We've long railed against that here, such as in 2005 when we tackled that alleged sitcom Freddie:

As the father of one of the children Freddie took to The Rocky Horror Picture Show arrived to confront Freddie, and to reveal his own homophobia, Prinze Jr. and Green tried to girl it up (which is the only way TV likes to portray gay men) and it was funny. It was offensive but it was funny because the actors had to really notch it up several levels since they weren't starting from a base of perceived straight masculinity but instead from an asexual base. (Oh the curse of teen boy pin ups.) Watching them flounce and argue over who was 'the wife,' was hysterical. Not because of the tired lines or stereotypes. But because it was so obvious that the pedi-set had somehow mistaken them for manly men prior to this scene. It was all about as convincing as George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" video.

Freddie aired (briefly) on ABC. Last Wednesday, ABC debuted Happy Endings with not one, but two episodes. And, at least a little, TV changed.

The publicity material we got from ABC declared that the show starred Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert but the episodes we watched featured only one star: Adam Pally.

Pally plays Max and, if he never does anything else, he'll now be a chapter in TV history not unlike Maude's abortion, Little Ricky's birth or Rhoda's wedding. Max is gay. Max is not like any gay character you're used to seeing on TV.

He's not flaming (basically ever gay male on a sitcom except for Will on Will & Grace) and he's not Will. We've long explained here why that stereotype was promoted by the entertainment industry. We'll give it one more go.

In the early days of film there were many stars and, yes, some were gay and lesbian. The Tom Cruise of his day (in terms of box office) was William Haynes and Haynes was gay. Haynes was also athletic and played athletic roles. The "pansy" was a film type long before the movies discovered sound and the primary purposes of that archetype was (a) to get laughs and (b) to promote the idea that gay was something you could easily spot. This allowed multiple gay and bi performers to be above suspicion. Silent film star, "Latin lover" and sex symbol Ramon Novarro (the original Ben-Hur), was nothing like Edward Everett Horton, Franklin Pangborn and others who played the "pansy" in the silents and early talking films, so therefore, Ramon or Haynes couldn't be gay. And having programmed America film audiences into what "gay" was, Rock Hudson couldn't be gay, right? He was so 'manly,' so non-Edward Everett Horton.

The construct worked as the ultimate closet and protected so very many . . . investments. (Did it protect gay performers themselves? Books by Richard Chamberlain and Tab Hunter -- among others -- would suggest that celluloid closet was about as healthy as the 17th century's iron maiden.) The hinges got taken off Wednesday when Adam Pally's Max (a) stole the entire focus in both episodes and (b) showed a gay man who was neither flaming nor self-pitying.

He's sarcastic, he's funny, he's as "Mac Daddy" as How I Met Your Mother's Barney and . . .

Maybe Max is best defined in the scene where Penny (Casey Wilson) advises Alex (Cuthbert) on the kind of roommate she should get.

Penny: You know what you should get is a real gay guy.

Max: Woah.

Penny: Come on, you're a straight dude who likes dudes. I want a gay who will watch house flipping shows with me and grab my boobs in a platonic way

Max: So you want a stereotypical, cartoonish, Sex in the City gay? That's offensive.

Penny: The heart wants what the heart wants.

Many years ago, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show ("My Brother's Keeper"), Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) was distraught because her brother Ben (Robert Moore) was hitting it off with her nemesis Rhoda (Valerie Harper) only to bathed in relief when Rhoda informs her there's no romance and Ben is gay. Max is another breakthrough.

And he's sexy as hell which presents the only dilemma: Is it good that Adam Pally's playing the part?

He's great in the part. He was sexy in the first episode aired Wednesday night with hair out of Doogie Howser and bad clothes (the second episode featured a much needed hair cut and a new manner of dressing for Max). He's funny. He's truly gifted in this role. (He's been funny in his previous work. He's never been on fire like he is in this part.)

So what's the issue?

He's straight in real life. (He's married, in fact.) Max is such a huge breakthrough that, yes, the sexuality of the actor does matter and a gay friend who makes documentaries forwarded us a list-serv where he and others explore whether Max would have been more revolutionary played by a gay actor or whether the fact that Pally is straight will allow Max to permeate pop-culture more than would likely happen if a gay actor had been cast?

These are important questions worthy of discussion and debate and they won't be answered in one day, one week or one month. Max is a game changer, to be sure.

And Pally's the breakout of the show. He's not, however, the only great thing about the show. Damon Wayans Jr. is from a famous and talented family which includes much more than just the father he's named after. As Brad, he's Brad. You instantly forget, even with the resemblance to his father, that he's Damon Wayan's son. He's a strong actor and the best scenes on the show are when Max, Brad and Penny are riffing. Penny is the other great thing the show has to offer. Wilson's fresh off her Saturday Night Live run and allowed to do so much more here than she was there. When they're riffing about gay husbands or debating the merits of the term "chicksand" or anything similar, the show is everything a sitcom could be.

Elsewhere? Eliza Couple plays Jane, Brad's wife. With Wayans, she's lifted to a higher plane of acting. With Cuthbert, who plays Jane's sister Alex, she's sitcom standard. Worse, yeah, we're going there, the eye brows. Someone needs to shape them and needs to do so immediately. She looks like an overgrown child (and not a pretty one) with those eyebrows. Pluck, tweeze, do something. Her forehead is not her best feature and those eyebrows draw the attention there.

They made over Max from the pilot to the second episode. But they couldn't do anything about Couple, Cuthbert or Knighton? Cuthbert can not wear a middle part. Her face is much too wide. She can zig-zag or grab a side part or no part at all but the hair needs to be fixed and should have been fixed before filming began. Cuthbert is supposed to be playing the Rachel (like Jennifer Aniston's character in Friends, Alex starts the show walking out on her wedding). If you're going to ape Rachel, give her a memorable hair style. And then there's Dave. Did Knighton just emerge from 1994?

What's with the flannel, the scruffy chin and above the lips hairs (which have a lot of gray in them for a young, leading man)? And how about the hair on the head which appears to have been styled by someone with a severe crush on Ren McCormack?

Along with failing to come up with a look for the two performers they meant to be the stars of the show, they also forgot that whining gets old real quick. If you're just meeting two characters, as audiences are Alex and Dave, you need to have reasons to find them interesting. Whining doesn't really cut it.

That was really driven home in the second episode when Dave had a one night stand that quickly became "chicksand" and he whined and whined and whined throughout the episode as he was unable to break up with her. More and more Dave reminded us of a scene from "The One With Chandler's Work Laugh" of Friends, where Janice (Maggie Wheeler) explains to Ross (David Schwimmer) that the magic is gone.

Janice: You're a very sweet person, Ross. Uhm. Unfortunately, I don't think I can take another second of you whining.

Ross: Let me make sure I'm hearing this right. You. You're ending this with me. Because. I'm. Too. Whiney? So you're saying I've become so whiney that I. Annoy. You. Janice.

Janice: Well yeah.

Ross: Oh. My. God.

And it was funny. Ross had become way too whiney. And Janice, of all people, being the one to point it out, whiney Janice, was funny. Funny is not Dave whining in one episode after another. Is he a grown up or is he a little teenager living at home with his parents?

Zachary Knighton's Dave was left by Alex at the alter. He was her groom. So he would be despondent. And we saw that when he was hiding out in his apartment, eating chocolate (the bride half of the chocolate bride and groom figures) and living in his bathrobe. That was established. And then we need to grow up and we need to move on. But Dave keeps being whiney and a victim. Not only does that drive viewers away from Dave, it also makes it difficult for them to identify with Alex because they're left to wonder (a) she was attracted to this or (b) she turned Dave into this?

Knighton, Cuthbert and Coupe aren't awful -- and Coupe's hilarious when she's opposite Wayans -- but not enough time has been spent figuring out the characters looks or their place on the show. While Wilson, Pally and Wayans regularly take the show on one laugh spiral after another, Knighton, Cuthbert and Coupe play characters as predictable as NPR's Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me Republican jokes.

And let's go there too because does no one but us wonder how the show repeatedly makes Republicans the butt of jokes? This week, they're ridiculing people who support Donald Trump's run for the GOP presidential nomination. Seriously? When one poll after another -- including the latest one by National Journal -- puts Trump in the lead among GOP voters? So NPR thinks it's funny not just to make fun of Trump but of a large number of Republican voters? And then there was the mocking of hair. Trump's hair? If you're covering TV and you're covering him, we'd assume you'd have to at least acknowledge it. We've certainly mocked it when we've written of his TV appearances. But to also make fun of Mitt Romney's? What's wrong with Mitt Romney's hair? And to portray him as vain and staring in the mirror?

Barack got mentioned. They mocked and jeered at the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, in order to lavish Barack with praise which was almost as disturbing as David Simon's bullying remarks about how he 'runs' things -- disturbing in the current climate where employees continue to lose rights. Mainly we wondered though if Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me was attempting to explain that NPR did not stand for "National Public Radio" but, in fact, "National Partisan Radio."

We're all for making fun of and mocking politicians. We just didn't realize you could mock only one side while taking tax payer money.

What does that have to do with Happy Endings? We're not fans of narrow views. Whether it's stereotypes of gays or stereotypes of Republicans. We're fans of things that expand, not narrow, thought. Happy Endings is a sitcom in need of some help. It's also the strongest one ABC has debuted since Cougar Town.

Books: One writes, the other types (Ava and C.I.)

Conventional wisdom might argue differently but the plain truth is that, no, everyone does not have a book in them. Two famous women have released books and one can write and one can't. The two women are film star Shirley MacLaine and TV personality Tina Fey. Future aspiring writers should remember Virgina Woolf's observation, "Books are the mirrors of the soul." Some who attempt to write, sadly, have nothing to reflect.

Shirley MacLaine

The good news? Shirley's I'm Over All That And Other Confessions is a nourishing book which is a joy from the start. This will be Shirley's eleventh best seller (the book is selling briskly) so many readers are probably fully aware that she can keep you spellbound around the campfire. This go round, she's writing shorter chapters and linking it to time passages. There is spirituality, yes, there is also talk of why she continues to dye her hair, how sick she is of the TSA, Bill O'Reilly at a dinner party versus Bill O'Reilly gearing up to tear you apart on TV, the Iraq War, an affair with Robert Mitchum, discussions of sexuality . . .

In fact, there's really only two things she doesn't discuss in this book. As she notes, she is extremely curious and has lived her life in pursuit of knowledge and understanding. She notes a favorite quote from Albert Einstein, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." Earlier in the book, she shares:

One intelligent friend told me years ago that I shouldn't delve with too much curiosity into the "unanswerable" mysteries of life or it could lead to insanity. I really listened to what this friend was saying to me, but I just can't feel that having a strong sense of curiosity is a bad thing. I have always felt safe because I was curious.

And, elsewhere in the book, she can trace that to her parents and the sense of safety they instilled which allowed her to be secure enough to climb fences and leap hurdles. This is a satisfying book to read.

Jane Fonda revolutionized the home entertainment industry with her Jane Fonda Workout tapes which led many a home to start their first home video libraries. Shirley revolutionized the way many -- not just Americans -- looked at spirituality. In the book, she notes her part in helping to bring New Age spirituality to a wider audience. We're aware of three reactions to those sections of the book: 1) Agreement, 2) Considering and 3) Disbelief. But "boredom" is attached to none of the three reactions. [Elaine's journaled about her enjoyment of the book in "Book recommendation: I'm Over All That," "The Guardian and belief" and "I'm Over All That."]

Shirley's book is full of life and will not only surprise you, it will also make you laugh out loud. By contrast, Tina Fey's book (or 'book') offers very little.


is weird in every way imaginable including the cover which finds Fey's head put on top of a man's body. There's some deep self-loathing there and, if she had any curiosity at all, she'd have a book in her. But she lacks curiosity, she lacks depth and she's never been able to get beyond the surface.

Despite calling the large font (even in the non-large print versions) collection a memoir, it's not. It's a boring little book. And one is reminded that, if nothing else, it could have been funny. Jane Wagner, for example, can write hilarious skits, hilarious sketches, hilarious plays, hilarious essays. Ellen DeGeneres has now written two hilarious volumes. (We're on the road every week. One thing we always pack? Ellen DeGeneres' My Point . . . And I Do Have One in paperback. There are countless times when we're under the weather or depressed and reading out loud from the Iditarod section or "Ellenvision" will restore our sanity and good mood.) Fran Lebowitz, Nora Dunne, many, many women have written hilarious books.

Tina Fey is not one of those women. In Shirley's book, Shirley talks about art in acting, in writing and in speaking and notes that you have to be authentic. If you're authentic, if you speak with truth, people will listen.

There's not an honest or genuine moment in Bossypants. For some reason, Fey decides to include a bra fitting in public (as a child). Fine, that could be funny. But you have to follow it through and you have to be honest. Instead, she gets cutesy and does the equivalent of a bad SNL skit, she "drops the cow." (A reference for a skit that doesn't have a natural ending.)

Ellen, writing about the Iditarod, uses a circular style and language that increases and builds and adds to the humor. By contrast, Tina just can't shut up. There's a bit she's especially proud of, a so-called mother's prayer. As with her responses to internet critiques, the thing is overwritten and desperately in need of an editor who could shape the crude and unfunny lump of clay into a humorous sketch. Tina thinks just adding more and more words will make it funny but instead it makes her the drunk at the wedding party who won't stop yacking about her last bad date and how she's going to end up single and how awful that would be.

Hint to Tina, funny people don't get avoided.

In between her poor attempts at low comedy (there's nothing that screams "Peabody!" in this book), she shares some stagnant and uninformed -- and often untrue -- stories. We'll be very kind to her (much kinder than she was to us recently on the set of 30 Rock) and stick to the work episodes but, please note, we could call her to the carpet for the lies she tells about her personal life as well.

Tina Fey is not a feminist. She road that pony to get a little publicity but that was then. Until 30 Rock gets cancelled (as soon as Alec leaves), don't expect her to pose as a feminist again. If you never got how non-feminist she was, the must-read in the book is her section on Saturday Night Live, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.

Tina tells a cute little (fact free) story about joining Saturday Night Live as a writer and being surprised because Chris Kattan is playing Rocky's wife Adrienne and not one of the women in the cast. She writes that she was shocked by that and implies that she would have objected strongly but, she explains, it was her first week on the show. She was taken aback by this. Completely unprepared for it.

Fact: Tina Fey joined SNL as a writer in 1997. Fact: Tina Fey was hired because of the non-stop criticism SNL was receiving for their rampant sexism.

This was not a one day story. This was not a one month story. It was a regular and repeated observation.

In December of 1994, US magazine ran an eight page article on this subject, Tom O'Neill's "The Incredible Shrinking Women Of Saturday Night Live." (Subtitle? "They don't get air time, they're not taken seriously, and they're mad as hell. But they're not going to take it anymore.") Sarah Silverman is well known today. Back then she was in the opening paragraph explaining she had been fired, that Lorne and company "don't know half the s--- we can do" ("we" being the women, two who'll be gone before the article goes to print). Julia Louis-Dreyfus will go on record stating, "It was bad there. Pret-ty bad." Victoria Jackson, who had defended the show against charges of sexism previously, confessed, "I was totally wrong. I was underused. All the women were underused. The women who complained were right! SNL is a boy's club." Jane Curtain will declare, "It was a dark, male place. There was an overall feeling among the men that women were basically just not funny." Nora Dunn will explain, "You only have to watch the show over the last 20 years. Women never got much air time. It's not because we weren't talented. It's because we were women."

And we're only on page two of the article. The claim will be made that some of the women weren't writers and you have to write your own material -- but the claim will be rejected because the heavily used Phil Hartman and Chris Farley did not write their own material.

That was the major story on the sexism, it wasn't the only story and all it took was Chris Farley and Adam Sandler playing 'mall girls' (or any group of men playing women) for critics (in the 90s, we actually had TV critics) to note that it wasn't that SNL didn't want to write women characters, they just didn't want women to play them.

Tina Fey comes from Second City, a launching pad for many in SNL. If you ever think we're too harsh in our critiques of SNL, go check out the current Second City troupe and ask them their thoughts. That is not a new development. And when Tina was with Second City, she was very familiar with all the criticism of Saturday Night Live. But, hey, if you don't believe us, maybe you'll believe . . . Tina Fey: "I'd had my eye on the show forever, the way other kids have their eye on Derek Jeter." That's what she told Virginia Heffernan for a New Yorker profile which ran in the November 3, 2003 issue.

Why she can't be honest in her book is beyond us. She's more honest on 30 Rock where it's noted that Liz was hired because she is a woman. She can't stop lying. While sexism is present, she rushes to assure it's not Chris Kattan who is sexist or Lorne or any man. Sexism just apparently floats around the studio, you understand. (She also acts as though that was the only incident where a man took a woman's part. In the episode she's referring to, Tim Meadows also played Oprah and Will Ferrell also played Janet Reno -- facts she 'forgets' in her retelling.) We can't imagine racism being dismissed and tolerated the way Tina does sexism or being explained away the way Tina does sexism.

Last week, Jane Curtain (a real actress and talent) appeared on Oprah along with Chevy Chase, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey and Tina Fey. Jane entered the news cycle by observing, "They [women] were working against John [Belushi], who said women are just fundamentally not funny. You'd go to a table read and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He would whisper it. He felt as though it was his duty to sabotage pieces that were written by women."

Jane spoke the truth. And it pissed off some SNL writers from her time on the show. They need to get over their damn selves. Reality, when Lily Tomlin first hosted the show, the women on the writing staff worked really hard to come up with some showcase moments. One of the skits that emerged was construction worker Lily Tomlin teaching rookies (Jane, Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman) how to ogle and call out at men. This meant Lily and Gilda trying out such lines on the teaching assistant as "You little tease, you little juicy buns." Everyone knew it would be a funny skit. And it was written for . . . John Belushi. Belushi gave his usual half-assed read through when a sketch was written by a woman or women and tried to tank it. Unsuccessful there, he then announced, at the last minute, he would not play it. Dan Aykroyd stepped in at the last minute as the teaching assistant which is the only reason it ever made it on air.

It's really funny how what Jane and every other woman had to fight -- and fight for decades -- on SNL in Tina's book just happened. No one was at fault and no one was a sexist. Certainly, in the world Tina portrays, John Belushi wasn't being cheered on by Lorne and others as he called ___ (female host) a c**t and worse (yes, there is worse).

Virginia Woolf observed of writing, "If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people." And that certainly explains Tina's bad book and her inability to tackle sexism.

She wants readers to know that she made sure, when first asked to play Sarah Palin, that it wasn't going to be a skit where Hillary was a "dyke."

It's interesting that she writes that and very telling. It goes to just how toxic SNL can be for women. The show would portray Hillary Clinton as a "dyke." That was even a possibility to Tina?

Tina was applauded for her "Bitch Is The New Black" sketch in 2008. In the book, she's telling yet another story on that. As we've noted before, the film studio (Baby's Mama) made it clear to Tina that they found the skit controversial with young males who they just knew would swarm all over Baby Mama because what teenage male doesn't drool over the notion of two women close to forty trying to have a baby? As we've noted, when Tina caved to the studio, that's when we began our walk away from Fey. Back then, she had a cute little story where she blamed the writing on others. In her book, suddenly she's a co-writer. But, you understand, that key line, "Bitch is the new black," it wasn't from her or from any writer. Her stylist gave it to her.

Of that monologue from Weekend Update, Tina wants you to know, it wasn't an endorsement of Hillary. See, she felt bad because Hillary wasn't connecting to voters and reporters and so people were saying stuff about her. Tina never calls out the 'stuff.' Or names any of the people, of course. (Chris Matthews might not do another cameo on 30 Rock if she called him out, right?) And it's real funny how Hillary got more votes than Barack Obama and Tina's pretending that Hillary couldn't connect.

Not only does Tina share that people just didn't like Hillary, she shares that Bill Clinton called her the next morning to congratulate her for the monologue and, hours later, so did Hillary. She gets a little jab in about Hillary wasn't as on the ball as Bill since Hillary waited a few hours before calling Tina Fey. Apparently, the most important thing in Hillary's primary campaign in February 2008 was immediately calling Tina. That, in Fey's mind, is how you run a campaign.

Having basically written that Hillary was a bitch who couldn't connect with voters and tossed out that, if she hadn't objected, the writers were likely to make Hillary a "dyke" coming on to Sarah Palin -- all of which follows Tina's claims that no one is really sexist at SNL and that sexism just happens, Fey now wants to pose as a feminist.

Chevy Chase, she wants you to know, never faced the criticism she did. Or Will Ferrell. And they played Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. Tina's convinced she's being judged unfairly and, seemingly bored herself with her own whining, she wants you to know that the criticism of her (Tina) isn't fair to Sarah Palin either.

Tina Fey's a damn liar. We've covered this at length at this site. We were not Sarah Palin supporters, we were not going to vote for John McCain. That didn't not mean that we'd pull a Katha Pollitt and take one for the team in silence. Sexism is sexism and we'll call it out.

Tina wants to rewrite history. Here's one example where, in real time, we were explaining the problems with Tina's sexist portrayal of Palin.

At the time Palin was running on the McCain ticket, she was a sitting governor and the mother of a young (four month old) infant. There were many ways to spoof her. We didn't see pulling up your skirt in a scene as one. Tina Fey begged to differ. And while she's fond of blaming Seth for those skits, let's note that hiking up the skirt was not written, it was something Tina came up with in rehearsal.

She sexualized Sarah Palin. For what reason? How was that okay? With the exception of Bill Clinton, we're having a really hard time thinking of a politician who was sexualized. (Nancy Pelosi was portayed as an S&M dominitrix on SNL, so maybe we should change that to "national politican"?) 2008, for those who've forgotten, included rumors that John Edwards was cheating on his wife -- his wife who was so fond of attacking Hillary and declaring she'd led a 'happier life' and that her husband hadn't cheated on her (Elizabeth Edwards was lying and was aware of John's 'advances' with other women since at lest 2002). SNL would wrap up a season in May 2008. No Sarah Palin jokes because she wouldn't emerge on the national scene until the end of August. Also that summer, it would turn out that John Edwards did have an affair and did have a baby (he and his wife were denying it but the whole world knew). He would give a woopsie-I-lied interview on Nightline. SNL wouldn't ridicule that either.

It would take months and months of criticism from us in 2008 (both here and to SNL friends) and require 2009 to roll around before John Edwards could be ridiculed for his sleazy nature. But Sarah Palin could be sexualized in skit after skit.

Tina didn't see the problem? (She knows the problem. This criticism really ticks her off because it's accurate. Equally true, Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase and others didn't announce to the press that they didn't like the politician they were playing. Tina, however, did.)

She wants to insist that it's sexism, the criticism of her. ' None of the men ever got it.' Well Saturday Night Live never played it like they did in 2008. You had a head writer who made clear that Barack was his "guy" (and Seth also donated to Barack's campaign financially) and that, therefore, Barack was not going to be made fun of. Idiots picked on Fred for his Barack impersonation when Fred did a great job, the problem was the writers gave him nothing. As we noted throughout the first half of 2008, Barack, on the show, existed in a bubble. He spoke. He appeared in debates. That was it. Hillary? Cold cream and curlers in one skit.

Barack was not mocked, was not made fun of for anything. That was true when the show came back on in the fall of 2008. It's never happened before. When Bush ran against Gore, both were ridiculed and mocked. When Kerry ran against Bush, same thing. When Carter ran against Reagan . . . It's never happened before. The show had never been allowed to choose a side and be so partisan when it came to presidential elections before.

As former SNL writer Steve Higgins explained in the 2002 book Live From New York, "An interesting election year is good for us. This last one with [writer James] Downey and the cold openings on the debates, that's what really swung everything. People loved the show again. When it's the political stuff, the best is when somebody who's a Democrat goes, 'Oh, you really gave it to Bush,' and somebody who's a Republican will go, 'Oh, you really laid into Gore.' That's the reaction we should be getting."

Yes, that is the reaction they should be getting. And when they're not getting that reaction, they should be very concerned.

Sarah Palin was mocked by the show for her experience which they considered unimpressive. She'd been a council person, a mayor, an oil and gas commissioner and then a governor. The only governor of her state as opposed to Barack Obama who'd served in the state assembly (accomplishing nothing) and then been one of 100 US Senators. As Ralph Nader pointed out, of all the candidates on all the national tickets in 2008, Palin was the only one with executive branch experience. Sarah Palin was running for vice president, Barack was running for president. In what world was it acceptable to hold her to a tougher standard than him?

We didn't want to read Tina's book. We knew it would be bad. We knew NBC suits were pissed off that she'd focused too much on that bad book and not enough in writing scripts for her forever floundering TV show. (Of the 19 episodes aired so far this season, "writer" Tina wrote one and co-wrote a second. And the last 8 new episodes of the show? Low rated. So low rated that all but one episode of the previous season got higher ratings than the last 8 new episodes of 30 Rock.) But we kept being told it was so bad that we had to read it (including by two of Tina's former SNL co-stars).

They weren't lying. Each page drains you to the point that you're almost too wiped out to flip the next one over. Each page is Tina lying and offering up the most superficial and surface --

You can't call them "thoughts." In fact, the word for it, for the entire book, is "smalk."

"Smalk," Shirley MacLaine explains in her book, is small talk. And she's done with that. She's over it. After reading Tina's book, we feel like we are as well.

Are we willing to soul search ourselves so that when emotional or material hard times come we are equipped with the kind of self-knowledge that will see us through? Self-searching while you're on top is a non sequitur, a contradiction, an unnecessary endeavor, and sometimes even a killjoy.

That's Shirley and those are actual thoughts, not just words strung together. Shirley's exploring, she's being honest, she's telling a story. And it's a quite story, there she is sharing conversations she had with Stephen Hawking, over there she's offering her discussion with the Dalai Lama on karma, here Indira Ghandi's asking her if she's really CIA, there she is sounding off on politicians and not playing partisan games. (She's over partisanship as well.)

The only sad part of I'm Over All That is when you reach the final page and finish the book. You wish it were a night club act and Shirley was just taking a brief intermission. By contrast, reading Tina Fey's Bossypants was akin to enduring Chinese water torture and the only relief was in wondering if Kay Cannon and Tom Ceraulo ghost wrote sections of the book for Fey or whether Tina just repeatedly ripped them off? (As someone with 30 Rock pointed out to us, Tina's 'writing' about cruise ships plays it awfully close to the Crimson Tide talk in the episode Cannon and Ceraulo wrote this season. In fact, on the set of 30 Rock, a number of writers are noticing how their material ended up in the book Tina Fey "wrote.")

The most generous explanation is that, realizing she was in over her head, Tina threw in everything. By contrast, Shirley offers restraint. And the two things she doesn't mention in her book? Brother Warren Beatty or daughter Sachi Parker.

Poor Little Historian Uninformed At Last

Was it access or just the inability to do the work?

We had to wonder. A reader e-mailed a link to a post by Historiann (Ann M. Little) swearing that we would love it.

If their hadn't been an update, we might have like it. "Sexism at The Nation? Surely not!" went up March 22nd. In it, she held Katha Pollitt accountable.


All it took was one comment from Katha and Historiann was slobbering:

See Pollitt’s responses in the comments below, in which she reminds me of the columns and blog posts she wrote about the sexism displayed during the 2008 Democratic Primary. It was hyperbolic and unfair of me to wonder if she had “sle[pt] through” the primary, because she wrote about the coverage of Clinton and was particularly critical of the sexism on the left and in the pages of The Nation. I appreciate that she took the time to correct me and to engage in the conversation below.

Actually, Historiann was correct the first time and wrong in the update and she apparently doesn't read before doing updates because one of the most damaging pieces -- self-damaging -- which Katha wrote was provided by Katha in the links in her comment.

First off, it's good to know Katha's no longer depending upon her friend to e-mail sites and ask them to change things written about her. But Katha lied in 2008 and whored for Barack. Dropping back to 2008, from "Editorial: Raw emotions (Ava and C.I.):"

Now maybe everyone's decided to take Katha Pollitt's stated oath which she revealed when she felt 'forced' to call out Tom Hayden's latest sexism last April: "I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign." Guess what, Katha, we don't do our "bit for" feminism by staying silent. That was in April that she broke (and announced) her vow -- one she's gone back to. So, basically, at the start of the year, Pollitt's admitting, she decided to let sexist attacks from Barack's campaign and his supporters slide until after the election. Wow.

Historiann had asked, "Only, did you sleep through all of the coverage your rag and its contributors provided of the 2008 Democratic primary?" No, she didn't sleep through it. She endorsed Barack in February and then refused to call out sexism until April.

Historiann missed it. She missed a whole hell of a lot. Here's Katha's (first) comment left on Historian's post:

  1. Actually, I wrote many times about sexism against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign, including sexism on the left and at The Nation. A sample

    See also “Dowd versus Clinton, chapter 3465” here

    My longest piece on anti- Hillary misogyny was “Hillary Rotten” in
    “Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary” ed. Susan Morrison (2008), a shortened version of which appeared in Elle: .

Reading may be fundamnetal but it's apparently difficult for Historiann. She'd asked about 2008. Katha responded with weasel words ("2008 campaign"). All these glorious links? How many are from 2007? Three. Only five of her links are during 2008.

The Tom Hayden one is from 2008 and we've already dealt with it. The Nader one?

Read Katha's post. It's not a defense of Hillary. Nader said something about Hillary (apparently that she shouldn't drop out) and Katha rips into Nader and attacks him and conveys that if Hillary should follow Ralph Nader's advice, Hillary will be a destructive force. In other words, while claiming otherwise, the column (from March 2008, months before the primaries ended) is calling for Hillary to drop out of the race.

That's five of her eight links that we're disallowing.

"Iron my skirt"? Where Hillary's likened to a "bitch" in the first paragraph and where Katha advises readers, in the second paragraph, "love her or loathe her . . ." That's a defense of Hillary against the sexist attacks?

No, it's not.

We also question the crap that is "The Weepy Witch & the Secret Muslim," especially for this part:

I've written many times about sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton as an old, ugly, castrating witch-and-what-rhymes-with-it, but Gloria Steinem's New York Times op-ed in defense of her, "Women Are Never the Front-Runners," was not helpful, to put it mildly. "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life," Steinem wrote. "Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter)." Yes, black men got the vote first, although they could be lynched for using it. Shirley Chisholm, the black Congresswoman who ran for President in 1972, did famously write, "Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black."

It's cute that she calls out Gloria while she admits she bit on her tongue for months about men before Tom Hayden 'made her scream'. But we're calling her out on that because of her comments elsewhere on Gloria's column. See, Katha likes to embelish. The above is from February. By March 2008, she was telling The Los Angeles Times:

"Even if it were true that white women were more oppressed than black men" -- as Steinem suggested -- "that still doesn't mean you should vote for Hillary Clinton," Pollitt said. "It might mean you should fight for better enforcement of anti-sex-discrimination rules, but it doesn't mean you should vote for the candidate most likely to wage a war. "

Gloria Steinem never said "white women." Gloria Steinem about all women. But that became the talking point launched by a thousand-and-one liars (including Lie Face Melissa Harris-Lacewell).

Historiann needs to answer as to whether she didn't do the work required or if she was seduced by access.

She might also consider that one of Katha's favorite topics is to write about The New York Times and how it has more male columnists than it does female ones. Katha has never publicly called out her own publication. However, we did a year long study of the bylines in 2007 and published "The Nation featured 491 male bylines in 2007 -- how many female ones?" -- answer: 149.

Historiann asked if Katha had slept through the Democratic Party primary? That primary was from January 3rd through June 3rd. The first 'primary' (caucus) was held in Iowa, the last primaries were held in South Dakota and Montana. That's the period Katha would need to be weighing in. She slimed Hillary, she distorted Gloria Steinem's column (repeatedly, we can provide other examples). Instead of rushing to apologize to Katha, Historiann should have shown some backbone and, yes, self-respect. She was right when she made her first call and she shouldn't have backed down.

And she should have been challenged about the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin as well. Refer to "Katha Pollitt Journolist" and you'll find us contrasting what Pollitt wrote publicly about Palin at The Nation:

John McCain chose the supremely under-qualified Sarah Palin as his running mate partly because she is a woman. If you have a problem with that, you're a sexist. She talks incessantly about being a mother of five and uses her newborn, Trig, who has Down syndrome, as a campaign prop. If you wonder how she'll handle all those kids and the Veep job too, you're a super-sexist. "When do they ever ask a man that question?" charges that fiery feminist Rudy Giuliani. Indeed, Palin, who went back to work when Trig was three days old, gets nothing but praise from Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson and the folks at National Review, who usually blame all the ills of modern America on those neurotic, harried, selfish, frustrated, child-neglecting, husband-castrating working mothers. Even stranger, her five-months-pregnant 17-year-old, Bristol, gets nothing but compassion and respect from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and others who have spent their careers slut-shaming teens for having sex--and blaming their parents for letting it happen.

versus what Palin wrote privately on Journolist:

Unfortunately, palin is kind of cool. she's not a brittle pastel- suited nut, like some of the eagle forum types. if she weren't in politics, we would probably really like her.

Nation readers never got that from Katha. Why not?

"We can’t be passive. she won’t destroy herself" is how Katha urged on the attacks on Palin.

We're trying to be kind to Katha these days. But we will not -- now or ever -- allow those who embraced or aided sexism in 2008 to rewrite history.

Idiot of the week

At the Great Iraqi Revolution, a website following the ongoing movement in Iraq, a little whiney baby posted a really ignorant comment.

OK, this is my second appeal. I wholly support your freedom struggle, have been against U.S. presence in Iraq from day one, have marched, spoken, written and emailed to my Congress and Pres., ......but I cannot have from 6 to 15 news posts from you daily. This totally colonizes my F/B, leaves no room for other things. If you can't control it, then I'll have to block you, which I don't want to do. Thanks.
April 10 at 10:43am · · Comment

Poor little American princess from Texarkana, now living in Sonoma. Her FaceBook page is being "colonized" by Iraqis posting about their revolution. Shame on you naughty Iraqis!!!! Don't you realize how important Janell and her entire FaceBook page is to the world? Don't you realize how precious and holy she is.


We don't either.

What we find laughable is supposed 'friend' of Iraqis Janell takes it upon herself to lecture them about what they post to their site and to accuse them of 'colonizing' her FaceBook page. Colonizing.

Janell is the Idiot of the Week.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"I Hate The War" -- most requested highlight by readers of this site. Joy e-mailed that she's always surprised by what C.I. focuses on and wonders how she came across the Embassy's FaceBook conversation? We can answer the last because we asked, one of C.I.'s friends with the State Dept mentioned it to her Wednesday and she said she'd try to work it in when she got a chance.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Disappointment You Can Believe In" -- Isaiah's latest.

"Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on Congressional hearings she attended last week.

"Lemons and sour pickles" -- Betty talks food.

"dump mcchrystal"

"the end of all my children"-- Rebecca on the cancellationof All My Children.

"Another candidate with birth certificate issues" -- Ruth notes Mitt Romney needs to produce a birth certificate as well.

"Jay Carney is no journalist" -- Jay Carney, as Kat notes, better not try to get back into journalism. No one can trust him.

"No perspective" -- Marcia explores the standstill.

"At Long Last Love" "Bond," "Bette Davis" and "Netflix and Bette Davis" -- Stan and Mike and Trina talk movies.

"brothers & sisters," "No Ordinary Family" and "Chuck and Huff" -- Rebecca, Stan and Mike talk TV while Ruth and Ann talk radio:

"Lila Garrett's blanket of hatred"

"Book recommendation: I'm Over All That," "The Guardian and belief" and "I'm Over All That" -- Elaine journals about Shirley MacLaine's I'm Over All That And Other Confessions.

"The spoiled child" & "THIS JUST IN! NO EXPECTATIONS!" -- It's all about Barry for Barry.

"Scott Ritter loved Barack (did he jack off on cam for him too?)," "Pig Ritter," "Guess who's back on trial?," "Iraq snapshot" and "In Baghdad, they call for Nouri to step down" -- community commentary on Pig Ritter.

"Baby War Hawks Dominate Horse Race" -- Isaiah dips into the archives for this comic on Barack and Hillary.

"The latest problem for Michelle" -- Trina on Michelle and her groupies and how they work to tick parents off.

"Aging" -- Marcia goes for a science post.

"Little Princess in the White House" and "THIS JUST IN! HE'S SUCH A GIRL!" -- Cedric and Wally cover our starlet.

"dump mcchrystal" -- Rebecca advocates that the general be dumped.
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