Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Jess: Roundtable time.  I'm moderating because Ty, Ava and C.I. didn't want to.  Remember our e-mail address is thethirdestatesundayreview@yahoo.com and we can also be reached at common_ills@yahoo.com.  Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jess; 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 and this is a rush transcript.


Jess: First up, I think C.I. read 100 books in the last two days.

C.I.: Four today, five yesterday.  Nine total.

Jess: Okay but book coverage is going to be increasing in the community.  Rebecca, you wrote about it in "a few thoughts" so why don't you talk about it.

Rebecca: Awhile back, we upped book coverage.  Community wide.  Everyone would take a week where they noted a book.  

Ava: This was in 2018 and compiled in "In 2018, we read books."

Rebecca: Thank you.  We don't like to repeat but a lot of readers and community members wanted more book coverage.  We did some this year in the community newsletters but they wanted something like what we did in 2018.  So we're going to do that but with a twist.  And I'm tossing to Marcia who came up with the twist.

Marcia: What if, I said, we focused on digital?  A lot of us have AMAZON PRIME and watch various films and TV shows and we may also have AMAZON MUSIC and stream music.  AMAZON also has unlimited KINDLE where you pay a monthly fee and you get to read some of their digital books for free.  So what if that was what we did in 2021?  We'd be able to cover books and, at the end of the year, we'd be able to show what you could do with a monthly subscription to the service. 

Ruth: And this made it interesting for me.  I am always reading anyway.  Like Rebecca and Marcia and Stan, I live in cold weather and so winter is sit in front of the fireplace and read weather.  I am also biased for print books.  So this will get me out of my usual space and let me explore the world of digital books.  I sign up next week.  I think Rebecca already did.

Rebecca: I did.  And let me note that if anyone reading is thinking about sampling the service, I signed up Wednesday and it gave me a two month trial period for free before the $9.99 monthly fee kicks in. 

Jess: Okay.  I'm going to toss to Ty who wants to bring in a few e-mails.

Ty: Susan Kazann e-mailed saying she's not one for New Year's resolutions "but 2020 was not good for me.  I want to make some changes.  I'm not sure how."

Stan: Can I grab that one?  You just do it.  And you do it one step at a time.  Figure out what you want to do different and start doing it.  I hate doing laundry.  I don't hate it because I hate adding detergent to the machine.  I hate it because I hate hanging up clothes.  So what I've learned to do is do the wash on Saturday.  When it's done in the dryer?  I grab four pieces of clothing and hang them up -- or put them away if it's socks and underwear.  Then I go do something else.  Then I go back and do four more pieces.  That way I'm doing little breaks and I can manage it.  If I told myself I was going to have to hang everything up, I'd just end up leaving it in the dryer.  

Wally: Why Saturday?

Stan: I have free electricity on the weekends -- from Friday at 6:00 pm to Sunday night at 11:59 pm.  So I do laundry on the weekend.  I try to get it done on Saturday so I'm not scrambling on Sunday.

Wally: I think Stan's right. It's like the saying that a journey begins with a single step.  If, for example, you want to workout more in 2021, you can't look at it beyond what you can do each day.  You've just got to work out one day, get it started.

Rebecca: Or drinking more water.  Right before we started this, C.I. asked me if I had my ice water and I said, "Nope, let me go get it and I'll let you know when I'm back."  Let you know because I'm participating via phone.  But I want to drink more water.  I've gotten away from my habit of drinking a ton of water -- probably since November.  I want to get back in that habit.  So it's one thing at a time, adding and doing what I can as I go along.  Stan's right.

Ty: Okay, Jeff Power writes to ask if anyone knows The Us Bunch Kids.

Isaiah: The what?

Ty: The Us Bunch Kids.

Ruth: They were like Our Gang or The Little Rascals.  It was a group of children that starred in serials playing children.  

Marcia: Playing children?

Ruth: Right.  Shirley Temple, for example, got a lot of attention before she was Shirley Temple by starring in some burlesques where she and other children pretended to be adults.  After that brought her attention, she then went on to star in films and become one of films' biggest stars.  But what she did before that?  Baby Peggy was doing it. Baby Peggy was one of the first child stars.  And I mean star, not a child actor.  She is before my time, I am not that old, but I do know of her from hearing about her from my grandparents when a Natalie Wood or Elizabeth Taylor would be in the news and they would explain to me that before those ladies were adults, they were child stars and child stars were really common.  Jackie Coogan, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, certainly Judy Garland, a lot of actors had found success as child stars.  Most of them ended up ripped off.  But outside of the BABY BURLESKS and the Baby Peggy's work lampooning Pola Negri among others, children tended to play children.  That was true of The Us Bunch Kids.

Ty: Okay.  Thank you, Ruth.  Not sure if Jeff was e-mailing to see if he could stump us or if he had heard the term and wondered what it referred to.  Next up, Brooke Wallingford e-mails to ask if we plan to cover movies?

Jess: We have covered movies here from time to time.  Before the pandemic, for example, we covered a film with "THE CON IS ON is hilarious" back in 2018.  And of course our films of the 20th century series continues.  We don't do it as much as we once did; however, we still do it.  And Ava and C.I. are considering tackling a just released film for their media coverage this edition.  Ty, does she specifically ask for any type or kind of movie.

Ty: Nope.  That was the whole e-mail.

Stan: I'd like Ann's thoughts on movies in this.  In a normal year, Ann and I would be gearing up to do our annual piece looking at the ten best films of the year but this isn't a normal year.

Ann: No, it's not.  I'm worried we won't even be able to come up with a list of ten.  Maybe we should whittle it down to five?  And let me also note that in last week's "TV: A lead -- not a star, never a star -- implodes," Ava and C.I. covered two films -- THE PROM and LET THEM ALL TALK.  

Jess: You're right, Ann.  Thanks for catching that.  So, Ann and Stan, you'd have to include NETFLIX and others to get to ten solid movies due to the pandemic and the lack of theatrical releases?

Ann: I'd assumed we'd include those but, even including them, I can't think of ten solid films in 2020.  I didn't care for most of the films NETFLIX aired.  I'll give them credit for having content at a time when the networks all played the 'pandemic left us with nothing' card.  But most of their content wasn't worth watching to me.  That's true of AMAZON and others and, on AMAZON, I was very disappointed in director Steve McQueen's series of five films for AMAZON.  Only ALEX WHEATLE worked as a film, for me.  LOVER'S ROCK started strong  but quickly drifted and lost my interest.  Only ALEX WHEATLE delivered as a film, for me.  

Stan: I watched seven minutes of LOVER'S ROCK, excited about this party that was going to happen but I can only take so much build up before you better deliver.  It didn't and so I bailed.  But I will make a point to check out ALEX WHEATLE since you liked it.  What are we to make of Shonda Rhimes' new show on NETFLIX.

Cedric: Garbage.  Garbage that's started to rot before it showed up at NETFLIX.

Ann: I'd agree and I made it through two episodes before saying enough.  It's like STILL STAR CROSSED, that ABC show she did that was an immediate failure.  Why's she focusing on the British?  I get it with the director Steve McQueen, he's from that area.  Shonda's in the US.  I'm just tired of it.  She's African-American so why can't she write about them and hire them?  And with both projects, White women are the leads.  Is there a reason that Shonda's doing this?  Clearly, ABC was fine with her writing shows about White people, why'd she have to leave ABC to churn out this stuff?

Cedric: It is sad and you look at what Ava DuVernay has tried to do since moving to NETFLIX or at what Kenya Barris has tried to do and it's disappointing that Shonda's first project is a bad romance show featuring one Black actor among a large cast of White people and it's based on a bad romance novel by a White woman.  I thought the whole point of these deals on the part of NETFLIX was to up the content of African-Americans that their service provided.  

Betty: But Shonda's never been interested in lead characters who are Black.  SCANDAL and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER were the exceptions.  GREY'S ANATOMY, PRIVATE PRACTICE, FOR THE PEOPLE, STATION 19, etc revolved around White women -- Anglo or Hispanic.  And remember that on SCANDAL, the bulk of the cast was White.  That was also true on HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.  Now if the show were actually delivering, I don't know that we would be raising this issue.  I think we'd be like, "Oh, another fast paced thriller from Shonda."  But it's not delivering and it's nothing that anybody needed so I think it's right to note what a disappointment it is and how it's disappointing on so many levels which, yes, does include that at a time of Black Lives Matter, Shonda's bored us with a basically all White cast for a show supposed to take place centuries ago in England.

Marcia: What I want to know is how bad is INVENTING ANNA?  That series also has a White lead but it was supposed to be Shonda's first NETFLIX series and it started filming in October of 2019.  Meaning it wrapped its first season -- maybe only season -- before the pandemic.  NETFLIX does eight to thirteen episode seasons.  BRIDGERTON started filming over two months after INVENTING ANNA.  So what happened there?  Does INVENTING ANNA suck that bad?  But what I really want this discussion to include is a conversation Betty and C.I. were having after I was on the phone and waiting for others to join.  I even texted Trina.

Trina: She did.  She asked me if I could hear Betty and C.I. too -- I could -- and whether I thought this would be included in the roundtable?

Jess: What were they talking about?

Trina: ROLLING STONE's awful 500 greatest album's list.  

Betty: Marvin Gaye was the starting off point for that.  I don't know how he came up but we don't agree that WHAT'S GOING ON is the best album of all time and we wouldn't put it in the top twenty.

C.I.: It was a White-poll in that African-Americans were barely included and, when they were included, it was for something that had a White seal of approval.  So you don't get Millie Jackson, for example.  You don't get a lot of people.  And though YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK is a seminal album, it's not one on their poll.  Luther didn't get White approval.  His career was lived on the R&B charts.  He had seven number ones on that chart, he had 38 songs make the top forty on the R&B charts.  On the pop charts?  He had 12 songs hit the top forty.  Only two hit the top ten.  The highest he got was number two with Mariah Carey on their duet "Endless Love."  

Betty: He was a singer.  And he was a songwriter.  His NEVER TOO MUCH album made it on the list at number 362.  And that was it.  Where was BUSY BODY?  Where was his GIVE ME THE REASON?  He was a real artist and ROLLING STONE didn't recognize that.

C.I.: Nor did they recognize the level of his success.  He had 10 studio albums in a row go platinum in the US.  Ten.  Bruce Springsteen couldn't claim that.  They sold over a million copies in their first 12 months of release.  Ten in a row.  The streak was broken by I KNOW which only went gold.  But his next two studio albums -- also his final two -- also went platinum.  And we're not done.  He had a Christmas album go platinum and he had three hit collections go platinum.  That's 16 platinum albums.  Even now, find the solo artist that matches that record.  Bruce Springsteen?  No.  He now has 17 platinum albums.  Now.  But, for example, THE WILD, THE INNOCENT, THE E-STREET SHUFFLE came out in 1973 and didn't even go gold until 1977 -- it didn't make to million seller until 1990.  Luther's platinum albums all sold a million copies within 12 months of their original release.  

Betty: He got no respect from ROLLING STONE.  Marvin?  Didn't matter that he stole credit for the songs, RS loved him and loved pretending he was one of them.  He's a predictable singer who sings some old White man's idea of how a Black man should sing.  He was never MOTOWN's best singer.  Their best singer?  Smokey Robinson or Levi Stubbs or any of The Temptations.  In terms of artistry?  Stevie Wonder.  Of the men at MOTOWN, Stevie was and remains the real artist.  Marvin didn't even realize "What's Going On" was a hit and didn't want to sing it.  It took his then-wife Anna Gordy to convince him.  Yeah, that's right, he didn't like the song -- he also didn't write it.  The writer had offered it to the Four Tops and to Joan Baez before it was offered to Marvin.  He has a talent but that album is not the best album of all time by any means.  It shouldn't even be in the top 100.  Let a Black man sing about politics and the White ROLLING STONE goes ga-ga.  Let him sing about love and the White-centric publication is bored.  That was the gist of our conversation.  


Ty:  One more e-mail.  George2392 e-mailed about "Our 15 favorite albums of the last 15 years" with two points.  First, not every album got a photo.  Second, there are no albums from 2020.

Elaine: I'll take the second point.  We avoided 2020 because we didn't know which ones would 'stand the test of time' the way that, say, Sade's album had.  The headline on that piece is misleading because before we started compiling our list, we had agreed to that.  Obviously, Fiona Apple and Bob Dylan had albums we loved this year -- among others.  But we were careful to include only ones we felt had been 'time tested.'


Mike: And we agreed to that rule because there was huge support for Apple, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ricky Martin and I forget the other one but right there you had five albums from this year and that's why we came up with the rule of 'time tested.'  

Kat: Pictures?  Only one album doesn't have a cover and that's Ben Harper.  He's got two on the list.  One got a photo, the other didn't.  That was a last minute piece.  We hadn't even thought of illustrations until after we wrote.  It was decided to take cover photos from the illustrations of reviews I'd done for the albums.  There was no illustration to Ben's first album because I don't think I started including the cover in my reviews until 2006.  Again, we were pulling that together quickly and I argued it was fine to only have one Ben cover since he was the only artist that had two albums on the top 15.

Jess: And on that note, we'll wrap.



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