Sunday, October 27, 2013


Jim:  Readers have been e-mailing demanding a roundtable so it's roundtable time.  This will be a brief one and  remember our new e-mail address is Participating our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't):  Grant wants more book coverage.  Ava and C.I. just covered Linda Ronstadt's new book Simple Dreams -- I mean they just finished writing that piece.  I read it out loud to everyone and we were thrilled and ready for a roundtable.  They objected.  Ava, why?

Ava: We still have to write our TV piece.  If we are going to do a roundtable, C.I. and I would prefer to do it after we're done with our TV piece.

Jim: C.I., you know Linda and that's one reason you didn't want to cover the book.

C.I.: Correct.  She has Parkinson's, as she announced in August.  I like Linda but after that announcement wasn't sure about the book because I was afraid that I'd censor myself as a result.

Jim: But you didn't and what's interesting to me is you and Ava enjoyed the book and thought you would be writing a rave review.  That didn't happen.

Ava: We like the book in many ways.  But we don't go into a piece with the idea that we know where it's going.  We explore.  C.I. will note something to me that I missed, I'll do the same with her.  We were half-way into the piece when we realized we were going to use a quote from a man who used to play with Linda and that we were going to call out the book's omissions.  

Jim: And you two have talked about that before and, honestly, I really have never taken it seriously.  I always just assume that's what you say.  But we were on the phone Friday evening discussing your upcoming book piece and I mean, it spun around completely when you sat down to write it.  I mention that because reader Sally says she really feels, when she reads your TV pieces, like a conversation is taking place and Brandon says there's so much life in the writing you two do.

Ava: We're two people who respect each other's opinions and trust each other enough to fly by the seat of our pants.  We don't know what we're doing until we do it.  Suddenly, a phone call or a conversation takes new meaning and we use it in what we're writing.  We don't come in with fixed notions.  And that's why we'd prefer to do the roundtable after we do our TV piece.

Jim: Last week's "TV: NBC provides the glee" was huge.  I noted in my note that edition that you two were doing reporting and that I wish you'd do that more often.  Sharon, Jeremy, Lloyd, Rory, Jason, Diane and Jeff e-mailed to say they agreed with me on that.  To clarify for anyone not familiar, Ava and C.I. cover TV for this site and do a great job.  Often, they just offer analysis.  Sometimes, they'll mix in some reporting.  Every now and then, the piece is just reporting, like 2011's "TV: Why bad TV happens to good viewers."  Now reader Bill has a complaint.  He thinks it was cruel of you to make fun of a child's acting abilities?

Ava: I don't know he's talking about.  We've never -- what is he talking about?

Jim: He just e-mailed that he thought it was cruel.

Ava: I have no idea.  

C.I.: He's not talking about our writing.  In -- what was it, in "TV: The sewer that is NBC" there's a comment, that's what he's talking about.  

Jim: Okay, I got it up.  Hold on.  What am I looking for?

C.I.: Somewhere around Sean Saves The World, we note we don't cover child actors.

Jim: Got it.  "Don't bring up the child actor.  We've been on the beat forever and, in 2005, once covered a child's acting abilities.  A friend then called us on that.  We've never reviewed child actors since."  That's what he's talking about?

C.I.: If he's talking about our writing, yes.  For some reason, he felt the need to judge Ava and myself and used that line to insist we had been cruel to children.  Try reading, Bill.  The show was Hope & Faith, it was April 2005.  We praised two child actors in it and we noted the bad writing of two children characters -- stressing it was the bad writing.  We would not insult a child actor, that's pretty stupid to do.  But, a friend who was a child actor and had to struggle to become accepted as an adult actress, called us regarding the praise.  She pointed out that if she were ten and came across us praising a child, if it was her, the expectations would be heavy.  If she was in the show or another show we had just written about and she hadn't been praised -- even though she hadn't been trashed -- she'd be convinced she was a failure.  So that's why we don't mess with children in our reviews.  Even praise could cause problems.  So we don't cover children.  We never did a hit piece on child actors, Bill misinterpreted the statement and wanted to gripe about us so he invented something that never happened.

Ava: Okay, that makes sense.  I was wondering because we don't say bad things about children and, after that one time, we don't even say good things.  That's why we never reviewed Malcolm In The Middle and one of the reasons that we've still yet to weigh in on Modern Family.  

Dona: On books, Jim's pointing to me, in addition to Ava and C.I.'s book pieces, we did two this summer "Rock Chick: Book discussion" and "Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Resistance."  Ava, C.I. and Betty are actually batting around an idea that we're supportive of which would increase book coverage here.  But we are covering books.  We also cover comic books regularly as well.

Ty: Jim's pointing at me.  One of the most popular pieces is The TESR Test Kitchen series.  Every week, for example, at least 30 e-mails come in asking us to taste this food or drink.  If people stopped e-mailing suggestions tomorrow, I'm sure what we already have would be enough to last a year or two.  The TESR series is an attempt to have a little fun and to try a new product.  Some readers have proposed lengthy articles.  No.  This was a one-off.  We weren't planning on it but we needed something -- and needed something quick -- to fill holes in our planned edition.  So this came up as a short feature.

Jess:  Thomas wants more movie coverage.  We have a regular feature, Film Classics of the 20th Century.  I don't believe we've done that since August.  We're trying to do one this edition.  Stan covers movies at his site.  Betty sometimes does a movie review at her site and Ann and Stan look at the year in DVDs each new year.  I know the week night bloggers are planning another movie theme post where they're all going to be blogging about a movie topic on the same night.  Like when they all did their Bette Davis movie posts earlier this month: "Old Acquaintance," "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?," "The Letter," "beyond the forest," "Dark Victory," "All About Eve," "Jezebel," "Dead Ringer," "Now, Voyager," "The Little Foxes" and "Working It For BP (Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte)."  But in terms of films on the big screen?  We can repost but we're not really covering those.  It goes against our purpose as we outlined it eight years ago.  We're happy to cover home video.

Jim: Reader Bailey wants more coverage of spying and notes that Kat's "The illegal spying" and Marcia's "The illegal spying" went up within minutes of each other and had the same title but were different posts.

Marcia: I was embarrassed.  I was just grabbing a title.  When I saw it was also Kat's, I was embarrassed because she wrote a lot more on the topic than I did and I thought, "Please don't let people skip her post thinking they've already read it at my site."

Kat: Don't give it a second thought.  And my readers want more music coverage from me.  Not just reviews.  They know there probably won't be another for a bit.  But they want music blog posts.  I do those sometimes but sometimes I have to cover what's going on.  Like Bailey, I think the illegal spying by the US government is a big issue.  That's why I wrote about it, that's why Marcia did.  It has been covered here at Third repeatedly.

Trina: And it's on every week's list.  Sometimes our attempt at an article on the topic fails and we're able to grab something on the topic for a Truest or a Tweet of the week.  But we have covered it here and people need to realize that in our weekly writing session, we try a lot of topics that we're unable to pull off.  So you need to check the truest statements of the week and other features to see if we're ignoring a topic or not.  

Jim: Good point, Trina.  Thank you for that.  Each week, we have four to five articles which fail to make the cut.  We had a tech article we tried a few weeks back that Ruth and Mike were leaders on.  Mike?

Mike: I got a Samsung tablet.  I don't hate it.  But I bought it mainly because I was bored and we were in airport -- Elaine, our child and me -- and my iPad was in my suitcase.  And there has been so much confusion for me with regard to this tablet.  Ruth got one as well and she read the instructions in full and still had problems.  Ruth?

Ruth: Let me impart our big knowledge.  To charge, plug it into your laptop with the cord that goes under "SAMSUNG."  You can also plug that into an electrical outlet . . . If you have a power cord!  They enclose this piece that I could not figure out forever.  The same end that you plug into your laptop?  You can plug that into this piece.  You then put this piece on a power cord.  But Samsung didn't feel the need to provide you with one and how do you know it's not going to be too much power and overcharge it.

Isaiah: Which is my problem or I caused the problem.  I dropped my laptop and it shattered.  This was like back in June.  And I go to Office Max -- because that's right next to the house.  I get a brand new laptop for less than 300 and I plug it in to charge.  And it never charges, after several hours.  I take it back and the guy looks at it and says it's fried and gives me a new one.  I take it home and am about to plug it in when I realize that I used the wrong cord last time.  I used the cord from the laptop I dropped.  Both were HPs but the one I dropped was huge and this one is much smaller.  I share that story with Ruth and freak her out about her tablet.

Mike: And that's why we wanted to write about the tablet.  It's really a good tablet.  I actually prefer it to my iPad but it's features are not explained well.

Ruth: There are computer people.  C.I.'s one.  Give her five minute with any cell or tablet or laptop or whatever and she will be able to show you what it can do.  But I am not so inclined.  

Rebecca: I want to get back to what gets written.  First off, it's not easy to produce craft.  I'm not trying to be insulting.  But every week we do, for example, Iraq.  Sometimes, it's just not there.  Not because we don't care but because of some other reason.  For example, at my site last week?  I didn't do a theme post, I nixed us doing one.  I was too tired the whole week.  I was about to fall asleep the night I wrote "lee majors was just eye candy" -- about to fall asleep at the computer.  And my plan was to write about Guantanamo but I was just falling asleep.  I shook myself awake and thought of Lee Majors, I'd watched The Six Million Dollar Man that day, and ended up with this ridiculously hugely viewed post.  I'm embarrassed.  There were like 89,000 views of it by Friday and it was a nothing post that I don't even remember because I was that tired.

Elaine: And your point, Rebecca?

Rebecca: Yeah, my point.  Sorry.  The important topics do need covering.  But some times, you're just not up to it.

Elaine: I agree and I disagree.  If I do one half-way decent post on a serious topic in a week, I'm okay with that.  But I have to have at least one.

Stan: I feel lazy because I spent the whole summer on TV and movies at my site and they still take up 3 posts a week.

Elaine: No, don't.  Your "The Good Wife part two" was about the divisions in this country and I thought a rather inspired take.  More importantly, arts coverage is important.  Art can be a metaphor, it can be so much.  Equally true, as a society we seem to forever be losing our abilities to address art -- let alone analyze.  So art critiques -- like so many of you do at your own sites -- can actually spark thoughts and discussions.  

Cedric: I agree with Elaine.  For me, the problem is those people who just write talking points at their sites.  You know idiots like --

Wally: Joan Walsh?

Cedric: Great example.  She's tearing into Ezra Klein last week for telling the truth about signing up for ObamaCare.  The truth, Joan explains, must not be told because then the right will run with it and the media will cover it and blah blah.  She's an idiot.  She's just admitted she'll lie in her own column for partisan reasons.  She really should have been fired by Salon long ago.

Wally: The day she is, that's the day Chris Matthews stops bringing her on his lousy program.

Cedric: In that case, let me start a petition to hasten her disappearance from TV.

Ann: I agree with Rebecca and Elaine's points as well as Cedric's.  I'm the last one who started a website in this group so let me talk as someone who read this site long before I participated in the writing here.  Ava and C.I. are the site's calling card.  Their TV coverage is the reason I kept coming back -- and even the reason I remembered the site.  They were covering some stupid show and were doing it in a fictional way where they interjected themselves as characters and they managed to bring war resistance into that piece.  I loved it.

Jim: C.I.?  Ava? 

Ava and C.I.: Hidden Palms.

Jim: I can't even picture that show in my head right now.  Anyway, Ann?

Ann: And that's what kept bringing  me back.  I'd read the other pieces but the TV is what brought me back.  You are a once a week site and sometimes that wasn't enough so I'd use the archives and find older TV pieces that Ava and C.I. had written before I started reading this site in the summer of 2007.

Dona: I agree, Ann.  It's the first thing that registers about this site, it's the focus of the bulk of the e-mails and it is the strongest writing here. I've always said that if I could save anything from this site it would be Ava and C.I.'s TV pieces and a few of our editorials.

Betty: Agreed.  And it's also true that, here, we're always trying to find new features.  That's what Ava, C.I. and I are working on right now, that Jim was talking about.  A way to up book coverage.  Every week, Ava and C.I. cover TV.  We do an editorial and we do a series of other articles.  It's a mix.  And I think that's why the site works and why we're still all able to stand each other.  Seriously, when we're trying to write a serious article and it's not working -- after several attempts and drafts -- if we weren't able to say, "Okay, let's do something else," we would be at each others' throats.

Mike: That's an important point.  You really have to accept that sometimes an idea -- no matter how important -- is just not going to work.  That's probably been the biggest lesson I've learned here.  

Jim: Alright, we'll wrap it up with that.  Again, this is a rush transcript.

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