Friday, August 05, 2005

Thomas Friedman makes the party by not attending

"Too Much Pork and Too Little Sugar" is my husband Thomas Friedman's latest. He wants to be "with it" and "happening," he told me. He wants to be "in the mix." He wants to be "relevant, you know, like Jess." See the thing is that our upstairs neighbors Jess and Ty are having another Friday night bash. Thomas Friedman's been dropping hints all week that he wants to go.

Yesterday, he cornered Ty in the elevator practically begging for an invite. Ty looked at Thomas Friedman, then over at me.

"Bettina's always welcome," Ty said nodding to me, "but you really stink the joint up."

"'Stink the joint up?'" Thomas Friedman quoted back. "Is that good?"

The doors opened to our floor. I rolled my eyes at Ty and grabbed Thomas Friedman by the elbow to prod him on out of the elevator. Still trying desperately to be cool, Thomas Friedman was tossing out anything that popped into his mind, not unlike one of his op-eds actually.

"Catch you on the flipper, fro," Thomas Friedman offered trying desperately to be cool.

"Fro!" Ty hollered as the elevator doors started to close, "What the f-"

As the doors closed and the hum told us that the elevator was moving upwards, Thomas Friedman kept punching the button repeatedly.

"Wait!" he screamed.

Finally giving up, Thomas Friedman looked near tears.

"We were connecting, Bettina," Thomas Friedman whined. "Me and the housey were connecting!"

"Homey," I corrected as I unlocked the front door.

Thomas Friedman hates to be corrected because, of course, Thomas Friedman is never wrong.

"Fine," he huffed. "Me and my perps were connecting."

"Peeps," I corrected and then thought maybe "perps" was the correct term for guys who choose to hang out with Thomas Friedman.

All through dinner, Thomas Friedman kept bragging about how he "stinks up the joint." He was sure that we'd be attending the party tonight.

I finally had to set him straight. I could've let him continue to be confused but, to be honest, some days my only joy comes from popping his inflated ego and watching the gas fly out of the old bag.

Thomas Friedman refused to believe me.

"Bettina, I know you think that because it's 'your people' that you know everything, but you don't. 'Stink the joint up' is like when a Fro tells another 'Dude, you are b-b-a-a-a-a-d-d!'"

"First thing," I informed Thomas Friedman, "it's 'bro,' not 'fro' which could be seen as racist. Second of all, bros are not generally surfers and don't tend to refer to one another as 'dude.' Third, 'stink the joint up' means just what it says."

Thomas Friedman pushed the peas around on his plate for a few minutes then complained that he was tired of 'soul food.' They were green peas. We ate them with broiled halibut and arugula salad. This was hardly salt pork and molasses, as I informed Thomas Friedman.

"Salt pork and molasses," Thomas Friedman repeatedly slowly. "I like that. Pork and sugar."

"Salt pork and molasses," I corrected him.

"No, Bettina, pork and sugar. It works better that way."

Apparently "Nutbush City Limits" is a song that never made it onto Thomas Friedman's iPod.

When I said that, he suddenly exclaimed, "Technology!"

No, I corrected, Tina Turner.

But then I grasped that Thomas Friedman wasn't really communicating with me. He was writing his column in his head. The usual free association amalgam that either frustrates readers looking for a consistent argument or delights lazy minds.

"Lord, help me," I prayed this morning as Thomas Friedman handed me the paper, the main section, opened to the op-ed page.

Hadn't I done enough already? I'd fixed his bacon and sausage because he must have both, says he's doing Atkins, but I haven't seen him drop one pound. I'd whipped up his garden omelette. Yes, I'd even "pruned" him, making him a glass of freshly squeed prune juice.

All I wanted right now, at that moment, was to sit for a second and drink my cup of coffee in silence. That was obviously not to be.

"Wow, I am so relieved" is his opening. He was nudging me expectantly as he stood beside me.

"Biting wit!" he exclaimed. "Devastating sarcasm! You think only those TV reviewers you're so fond of can do that? You're wrong!"

Thomas Friedman was referring to "Veronica Mars is from Mars" which is a hilarious TV review I made the mistake of showing him. Now if I read a strong op-ed, I know not to show it to him. He gets very angry. "I write better!" he will insist convinced that noting strong writing by someone else means he's a lousy writer. He is a lousy writer. But that's not because others are better than he is, that's due to the fact that he is a lousy writer.

I know not to mention Alessandra's writing in his own paper unless I'm bored and wishing to a see a snit fit.

"Alessandra! Oh she's so cool! Oh she's so funny! Oh she is so with it! Alessandra? Salamander! That's what I say, Bettina, Salamander!"

So it was my mistake to show him the review. It was so funny that I felt it would make even Thomas Friedman laugh. I forgot that the entire world is competing with Thomas Friedman.
In his mind.

"The World Is Flat!" he will cry proving that even at his most melodramatic, he's still trying to hawk that book that has made him the laughingstock of the book world. "Trade barriers and information ones have opened up! Everyone is competing with me, Bettina! The entire world is competing with me!"

Good news for the world, it's winning the competition.

His very weak attempts at devastating sarcasm couldn't prompt laugher on a playground, not intended laughter at any rate.

From sarcasm, he immediately slides into his version of Medowlark Lemmon mode as he begins globe trotting around the world, tossing out anything, hoping something might stick.

"Pork and Sugar" is the only thing binding his free association together. There's pork in the energy bill (not the only problem with the bill) and there's sugar in Brazil. As anyone who's suffered through Thomas Friedman's writing knows, he will get from point A to point B, and do so in the random, rambling manner that will weaken any point that might be in his argument.

As I continued reading, desparate just to get the end of the damn thing, I thought to myself, "At least he's not attacking anyone this morning."

Then I came across his continued war on Islam. If there's anything he hates more than the French and America, it's Islam. I think the hatred of the French goes beyond our visit to the French bakery that went so badly. I think it also has to do with the fact that while the French are known for their cheeses, they tend to look down on cheese in a can. Thomas Friedman takes it very personally when his personal taste is called into question.

But he had more to complain about and whine about and you know he was going to shore his xenophobic, freakish rant on something. No surprise that today it was 9/11.

Reading his hectoring on the topic of 9/11, I was reminded me of something Mrs. K said the other night on the phone.

"Bettina," she said in a delicate tone, "I really think he believes that everything in the world not only happens to him but that it happens only to him."

I think Mrs. K has a good point.

"Did you love it?" Thomas Friedman asked, grinning broadly.

As I attempted to search for something, anything, I could praise, I quickly realized not to even bother. When it's time to praise Thomas Friedman, you have to jump in quickly to get ahead of him.

Not wanting to compete, I grabbed my cup of coffee and tuned him out so I could enjoy this moment of peace while he carried on listing all of his accomplishments.

This afternoon, he cornered Jess in the lobby. Once again begging for an invite to the party.

"Party?" Jess asked. "There's no party."

As Jess beat a hasty retreat, Thomas Friedman seemed perplexed. Was it all a misunderstanding?

Of course not. There is a party. It's ongoing as I write. And we can hear the people above us dancing, laughing, having a good time.

"How is that possible!" Thomas Friedman roared.

Because you're not there, I thought to myself, because you're not there.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Can you hear Thomas Friedman?

So my husband the not so great Thomas Friedman has been trying desperately to reach Patti. She won't take his calls. The choice between Friedman or her cats was an amazingly easy one for Pats.

That hasn't stopped Thomas Friedman from sneaking out of bed, grabbing the portable phone, hiding out in the walk in closet and screaming to her answering machine, "Are you there!!! Can you hear me!!!! Patti, can you hear me now!!!!"

If it weren't all so pathetic, it wouldn't be so laughable. Which is a lot like one of Thomas Friedman's columns if you stop and think about it.

"Calling All Luddites" is in fact that the title of his latest. If someone doesn't know what a Luddite is, they shouldn't feel too bad. I'm not sure Thomas Friedman knows. It's not like he provides a definition. Luddites, as I understand it, first was a term for workers in England who, unhappy with the Industrial Revolution, began going after the machines.

The only Luddite I personally know is Thomas Friedman who dismisses my calls for a dishwasher ("Bettina, you are the dishwasher!"), a washing machine, a food processor or anything beyond that non-electric "sweeper" as bad for the environment. Which seems a lot of hog wash if you want my opinion because as he goes through one styrofoam cup after another each day, or one aerosol can of hairspray a week, thoughts of the environment don't seem to penetrate his head. Maybe the increasing number of added highlights cause thoughts to bounce off?

Thomas Friedman finally met a real, living, breathing fan today. Or at least someone who knew his name and knew his writing and walked up to say, "I've always wanted to meet you Thomas Friedman."

His chest swelling with pride and pomposity, Friedman wavered between dignified and giddy (and really just came off looking squeamish throughout).

"Of course, of course," he insisted extending his hand.

"Why do you hate America?"

Thomas Friedman's mouth dropped at the question.

Then the man, looking closely at Thomas Friedman, asked him if he was drunk or had pink eye. That's a question I've often wondered.

Stomping his feet and screaming like a banshee, Thomas Friedman quickly gathered quite a crowd. Even for Central Park, Thomas Friedman's actions were "exotic."

I was picturing him being carted off to Bellvue and weighing the options of that. Then I realized that getting him out would take tremendous work on my part because proving him crazy was a much easier task than proving him sane.

So with everyone watching Thomas Friedman throw a tantrum, I whispered in his ear, "The crowd wants your Sybill!" Immediately, Thomas Friedman found his focus. He grinned at me, nodded as he loosened his tie and began his monologue:

Oh look at you painted up in your little halter top, you're nothing but a litle slut. I'm a Puerto Rican lady senor. You're nothing but a little slut Sybill Ann Dorsett. I'm not a slut. I'm not a slut. I'm not a slut. I ain't no slut!

While he did this, I stood behind him circling my finger around my forehead to indicate that he was nuts. When he finished, I started clapping and others joined in out of pity.

Thomas Friedman strode out of the park feeling quite proud of himself.

"The thing is, Betinna," Thomas Friedman boasted, "you have to be able to reach people. Me, I can do that. I'm the thing you see on the Home Shopping Network that there's only a limited number of and by the time your call's finally answered, I'm all gone."

"Yeah, crap," I said.


Covering, I pointed to some dog poo up ahead and immediately Thomas Friedman went back to explaining how lucky the world was to have him and why that is. Some days, I wish Patti would answer his phone calls. Can you hear him?

Better question, would you want to?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Found in the paper, 2 interviews and 1 TV review

Found in the paper.

Sitting down with Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix

We're almost scared to type the following: another community member has started a blog. The last time we typed that, the same evening a community member stopped blogging. Is it a jinx?We hope not.

Members of The Common Ills are familiar with the name Cedric. He's been an active member in the community weighing in with his thoughts and providing input on things that matter to him. Now Cedric's started his own site: Cedric's Big Mix.

Let's start with the title, how did you come up with that?

I planned to call it Cedric's Master Mix. I even typed that but then started thinking, "I'm African-African and I don't want 'master' in my name title." It may seem like a small thing but I probably spent twenty minutes debating it. A master mix is a good thing. But when I saw my name in front of the two words, I thought, nah, I'm not going like that.

A mix, in music terms, refers to a remix or a mix tape usually. Is that what you were going for?

Yeah because the hope is that I'll be able to pull some samples from all the community blogs and highlight them. So Cedric's Big Mix.

We're adding you to our link list. How's the word going on your site?

Well C.I., Mike and Elaine have all steered traffic my way and of course I've told all my friends about it so I'm getting a nice number of e-mails. I'm not sitting pretty yet, but I'm sitting!

You're using the same program that C.I. uses for the mirror site for The Common Ills and that Folding Star used for the mirror site for A Winding Road.

I'd written C.I. about it and got some feedback on it. I also wrote the UK Computer Gurus about it. They said they set C.I. up there because it's a mirror site and you can copy and paste something and it will go up exactly as it appeared. Let's say I want to put up your editorial, I'm going to have to copy and paste and then go through and space the whole thing, right?

Right. We do that with our blog spotlights and it can be a pain.

Well this lets you just copy and paste. When you paste it, it's up there. That's why the UK Computer Gurus set it up as a back up site for The Common Ills. They figured it was the easiest thing. And that's why I picked it because it is easy. I'm doing links when I can remember at the bottom of the posts, like a blog roll. That's the thing I don't like about it, that I can't have a blog roll. But I'd probably only do links to community member's sites so that's cool.

What made you start?

I felt like there was stuff I wanted to say and that I needed to do my part to make sure that everyone was getting noted for the work they're doing. That kid West got slammed by the site we're not supposed to give name to but when that happened it was obvious that gatekeepers were going to come after The Common Ills and Rebecca and I'm thinking, "I'm so sick of that shit." So my way to counter it was to not just be a member but to do my own site.

How often do you plan to blog?

I don't have a schedule. I work nine to five. I'm not blogging in the morning, no way on that. I usually roll out of bed, into the shower, rush to get dressed and then rush to work cursing the whole way. Nobody wants to read anything I could write in the morning. I'm not cancelling a date to blog. And while I appreciate what C.I. does, I'm not doing multiple entries. I've got work, dating, friends, family, church and I try to be active in my area and go to town hall meetings and help out where I can so I'm not laying it down like I'm going to be blogging seven days a week.

What are your hopes with Cedric's Big Mix?

To be one more voice, to be a spark like Eminem rapped, to say, "Look it up, I'm doing my part, what are you doing?"

You'll be writing about music and movies, you have written about them, and about politics?

Right. I e-mailed Kat before anyone else after I did my first thing and was all, "Is this cool?" Because Kat is the musical voice in the community. She said it was more than cool and that I should think about doing Cedric's Big Mix CD reviews for The Common Ills. I don't have that kind of time but I appreciate the confidence and props. I'm going to try to tell my truth and keep it real. It's about giving props and paying it back because I get a lot from The Common Ills community and I want to be giving something back. And let me give a shout out to Mike who's helped me and offered solid advice. (Laughing) I think he's just glad to not be the newbie on the block.

You haven't mentioned television yet and we were wondering if you had any thoughts on TV portrayals since you've weighed in on movies?

Not really. I'm not into TV that much. I mean, I grew up on Happy Days and Gunsmoke, my grandfather's favorite show, and A-Team and 21 Jump Street and all that stuff. But there's not a lot I want to check out anymore. I loved Martin and that was probably the last show that made me laugh. Jamie Fox's show was okay. I feel bad for cutting on him like that but it wanted to be funnier than it ever was. UPN has a few sitcoms that are probably okay but there's this whole now we'll name check some obvious thing like do another Stevie Wonder is blind joke that's just old and tired. And you'll hear the audience go wild like someone just said something new and funny. But it's not funny. It's just stuff like "You ain't no Halle Berry!" And people are howling like it's funny. It's like name checking and it's not like life. I think it's insulting really. I got an uncle and an aunt who are like stand up and competing for laughs. They're telling funny stories and jokes and they don't need to name check because they're talking about real life and stuff that actually went down. I was talking with Ava and C.I. about that because they do TV reviews. Tonight they're doing one that they don't think is funny and it's for the same reason. I was like, "It's tired. It's insulting."
But that's not just with black sitcoms. I mean, none of the sitcoms on any network are funny to me. And TV really sucks. I wish it weren't that way but I really don't have time for it so . . .There's a world outside the front door, you know? I'm not going to zone out to avoid it.Closing words?
I'd say get out there if you want to put it out because if we all put it out, we get it out there. When I read the thing on save the community, I was glad I had already started up because I mean there is this whole attitude of "C.I. will say it." Or someone else will. And we need as many voices as we can get out there. We're up against a corporate media that thinks a crumb tossed here or there cuts it. They'll lie to you to push tort reform or war or any other crap. They're not interested in you, they're not out to protect you or help you. Realize that and take action. It's like the whole nation's spent too many years sleeping or zonked out in front of the TV and we need to get back to the idea that this is about our lives. We got so screwed up because we counted on others to speak for us. So it's time to get out voices out and lay our truths down. And right now we can do that on the internet. We need to be doing that while we can. It might not be that way forever. So take action now. I mean like, The Common Ills did Black History Month, okay? But like who else was laying it down? Not a lot. So you either take a part in the dialogue or you'll be left out in most avenues, you know? As an African-American male, I can go to sites and somebody's piping off and in the comments someone will point out, "Hey, that's kind of overlooking black people" and they blogger will rush in with, "Oh, I support black people!" And maybe that cuts it with white people, but if you're African-American, you're sort of like 'Uh-huh." Or they're obsessing over something in another country and holding that up as "See, we talk about black issues." There are black issues in this country. The prison issue is something that I don't see a lot of places. You know what I'm saying? Or maybe a site has a link to The Black Commentator and they think somehow that covers it. "Oh, I've got a link." They publish once a week but cause there's a link there no one needs to note them? They come out on Thursdays and they got this great mix of stuff and I wait and wait to see who's going to give them a shout out and there aren't a lot of sites that do that. I can count on The Common Ills and sometimes it seems like that's it. So it's really important if you're a minority that you put out your own voice because you're not going to be heard otherwise. You can sit on your ass and point your finger but you aren't doing nothing to change anything. And you can scream "racist!" but it might just be people not knowing. If you're not putting it out there, how's anybody going to know?It's like the Democratic Party and I hear this from a lot people I hang with. They want our votes but they really don't know our issues, you know? Or they don't care about them. I voted for John Kerry but I really don't think he spoke to us and using a surrogate to speak to us at this late date is kind of insulting to me. I've got nothing against Jesse [Jackson] but if you can't relate yourself to people, to all people, why do you want to be leader of the United States, you know? Maybe Kerry can relate. He ran a bad campaign. I felt like his wife knew how to relate to people. I felt like Kerry or people controlling the campaign wanted to play it safe. Want to know how to override the southern strategy of appealing to racists? Come out strongly against racism. Come out strongly in favor of inclusion. What happens is someone plays the race card and the other candidate moderates. They need to stop doing that. If some candidate's using the southern strategy, make it an issue. Get on TV and say, "My opponent can't appeal to racism but I'm for everyone and I think it's disgusting." Instead, they get scared and worried. And it looks like they're afraid to be associated with blacks, or women, or gays or Latinos, or Muslims or whatever. Jesse's Rainbow Coalition had power but he blew it. Maybe he'll get back on track. But it seems like you got Republicans playing the southern strategy to appeal to white racists and you got Democrats too often afraid to call them on it because the right wing press will rip them apart and because they might look too close to blacks. If you don't want to look close to a community, don't expect them to turn out in large numbers to support you, you know? Little gestures are insulting. We should have moved past that a long time ago.

Mike of Mikey Likes It!: One Month of Blogging

C.I. pointed out that Mike had just celebrated his first month of blogging. Besides being worthy of note, we also thought it merited checking in with Mike. Mike started blogging on June 20th. We first interviewed Mike on July 3rd so as we close out the month of July, we sit down with Mike again.

One month and what have you learned?

People like to talk about sex. Seriously. Even if they say they don't like sex, they want to weigh in and all. This comes up because the middle half of my posts are usually where I dip into the e-mails and note something someone's written.

Sometimes you provide an immediate reply and other times you just note the question and open it up for people to weigh in. Is this because you're uncomfortable with a question or because you're not sure you can weigh in?

Sometimes but sometimes it's also, honest, because I've got to get out the door for a date. Cedric's attitude is if he's got a date, he's got a date, so the blog can wait. I try to blog Monday through Friday and some on the weekends. Usually what happens is I've worked and gone to school that day and I come home and eat dinner, then hop in the shower, towel off and sit down and type up an entry. If I'm moving quick, it's a longer one but if I'm slow, it's a shorter one.
And honest, a lot of times, it's tossed out just because I don't have time to deal with the question because it deserves more thought than I have had time to give it and all.

What's been the biggest surprise?

From readers or like a technical thing?

Start with readers?

That they share so much. I summarize their e-mails when I note one but they go into real detail and stuff. I'm glad they feel comfortable sharing stuff with me.Technical?How much work the whole thing is. I mean like links. You've got to find what you're linking to, copy and paste the quote or quotes, then make the hyperlink and if you've got several in one entry that can take a lot more time than I ever thought it would.

We're lucky because Dallas helps out every weekend by looking up our links. The other thing that takes up a lot of time are fixing the spacing or punctuation on something you copy and paste.

Right because like punctuation, if they use a certain font, you fix it or you end up with little blocks or question marks where quotes should be. And like spacing gets completely tossed out the window a lot of times when you carry something over with a copy and paste.

Which is why we understand Cedric's decision to use Blog Spot and not Blog Drive.

Yeah, like he post one of Isaiah's cartoons and he just has to run the mouse over it and hit copy, then goes to his page and click paste. It's up. But like in Blog Drive, we have to either e-mail it to our site or use the thing where we insert it in an entry which means finding out the web address, clicking on the image icon, waiting for the next page to load and it always drags on my computer, then putting in the web address, then clicking done and waiting and waiting for it to pop up in the post. And it's the same for Cedric with text. He just has to copy and then paste. He doesn't have to fix it up or anything.

Cedric's talked about how his starting blogging meant you were no longer the newbie. Do you feel that way?

Yeah cause I mean I was always asking C.I., Jim and Rebecca questions, for instance. And it's nice to be on the receiving end some. A lot of the questions I would ask weren't technical and that's how it is with Cedric. He'll be like, "Can I run something by you?" and that's cool. I really consider him a bud. I know he runs stuff by C.I. too and I'm really glad that he wants my input too which is mainly just saying, "'Yeah, I can follow that' or 'Wait, you lost me.'"

You'd spoken before about how your parents read your blog and how your mother was fine with any topic if you made it funny. We noticed that this week she weighed in with some advice to your readers.

Oh yeah, that was so cool. It was on crotch rot. (Laughs.) That was an issue that had been raised twice by readers and I'd dealt with it and all but like Ma had another point of view on it that I'm glad she shared. Like the smell factor can also be caused by your drawers. And I didn't even think about that because I live at home and we got a washer and dryer. But like if you're living on your own and you're having to pay every time you wash or dry a load, you may be tempted to scrimp and just pull the clothes out when they're done. Ma's point was that sometimes underwear's not dry. This really applies more to guys because their underwear is usually thicker, I guess. I mean y-fronts and boxer briefs and stuff like that usually have more layers than say a thin pair of boxers or most women's panties. So like the pouch can take a little longer to dry. If it's not dry and you're tossing it in the basket and heading home, you really need to hang those up to dry all the way out or they will mildew and they will smell. You might not even notice it. But I love that Ma weighed in.

You're also noting Democracy Now! each day.

Yeah, that came up here and I thought, you know I should do that. Because we do have the power over our own sites. So like I can complain about how this mainstream thing or that got it wrong and give them a link which adds to their traffic or popularity or I can steer traffic and help the popularity of something I believe in like Democracy Now! and even if people don't go there, they're aware of it and it does add to their online popularity. But that point really made sense to me and I try to do that. If I believe in a site, I want to make sure that people know it. I don't want to be one more blogger going, "ABC News reported today" or something. That's cool if someone likes ABC News but I don't.

You're also noting other community sites a lot lately.

Yeah, Rebecca called me and asked me to do that while she was on vacation and I'm happy to do it. She did that at her site and she believes in it so I'm doing it. She knows that links can be a pain in the butt and she didn't want to put more pressure on Elaine. So I told her sure thing. C.I. wrote about feeling bad this week that it wasn't happening over at The Common Ills but I mean, the computers got screwed up, C.I.'s got work and volunteer stuff on issues and there's only so much time in the day. So I'm happy to fill in for Rebecca.

What are your feelings about Kevin Benderman's sentence?

Private Benderman cause they busted him down from Sgt. which was disgusting in and of itself.I think Elaine called it right two Fridays ago when the larceny charge was tossed and she noted that this didn't mean to get excited. They, the military and the administration, wanted to make an example of him and they did. But the thing is, he'll get through this and he's the one setting the example. The administration just looks petty and vindictive.

Other than sex, what do you readers like to talk about?

Recruiters. I don't think a lot of people get how mad people my age and younger are about them being on their college and high school campuses. And like this past week, the DLC was calling for something like unfettered access for the recruiters. It's hard for me to believe that they're that unaware because most of that group's so old that they can remember the protests from the sixties over recruiters on campus. I think it's just that, as usual, the DLC is out of touch. And they honestly don't care about actual people, just about how they look, you know? But my readers are really bothered by recruiters and there have been some blistering e-mails about the DLC this past week. Which is good because that group's dying out and when they do something idiotic like they did, it just makes it even more obvious to people my age that the DLC stands for nothing.

We got positive feedback on the "1 Book, Ten Minutes Amy & David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers" from last week.

Me too. You know I posted it over at my site and people were really interested in that book. Hopefully, that means a few more people read it. And great if they bought it because the money goes to support Democracy Now! but the message is so important that it's great if they just pick it up at the library and read it.

You really enjoy participating in the discussions.

Yeah. Even if I'm just listening. I just like the give and take and how someone sees something that somebody else might not notice or when someone builds on a point that someone else's has made. I just really enjoy that. They're fun to do and fun to read when they go up. I know they take up a lot of time and it's a lot of work for Dallas to hunt down the links and for Ava and C.I. who are doing transcriptions. And then there's the editing and all. Like tonight that whole point that C.I. had about The Times that got taken out --

C.I. took that out.

Right. Thought it was way off topic. But I really liked that and thought those were strong points. I wish C.I. would speak more and all but I know there's the "I don't want to dominate the discussion." But it's like there's thought behind it and all. And like, I'm a Common Ills member and there's stuff that comes out in the roundtables and all that won't make it over to The Common Ills. That's another thing about the give and take. Because there are other people present, I think everyone's a lot freer in their comments. When we're doing our sites and stuff and writing stuff, there's this attitude of, "Wait, am I being clear?" Or "I need to make sure to point this out." But when it's a group, you can usually count on someone else clarifying something if you've been confusing or making a point you might have forgotten. So that's really cool. But I did like C.I.'s comments about The Times and I know they won't make it over to The Common Ills. I was also expecting Jess to make his point that we're all like the Mamas and the Papas of the internet in his opinion.

Jess: I completely forgot about that, Mike. Sorry.

It's cool. But I really liked that point because we do believe in peace and like Cass Elliot was political and a lot of people don't seem to know that. But she was and so were the others. And I like seeing us like that, you know? We're just doing it our way and if someone likes it great, but if not, we ain't sweating it. And Kat would say we're very "organic."

Kat: (laughing) I'll get you for that McKinnon!

But we are. We're just doing our own thing. And I mean Elaine's really a strong voice.

Elaine: Thank you.

I'm serious. You are bringing up issues like war lust and peace and you're just so focused on that. I really respect what you're doing. And I think your voice makes a difference. And like if you put all of us together as a group, we're covering so much and all. Like Cedric's post that you're highlighting and all. I mean Cedric just let it hang out and I respected that. And like Betty's offering that humorous, ongoing critique about neoliberalism and colonialism. I mean there are just so elements that, as a group, we cover. So I really do like the idea of us as the Mamas and the Papas of the internet, keeping it real and standing for peace. It's like you got a bunch of Beach Boys or somethings trying to make justifications for the war and doing all this blind flag waving and then you've got us over here the hippies and peace lovers. And like how dare anyone trash people like Jess's parents cause they stood for something and stand for something. And Jess is so cool today because he was raised with some real values. So yeah, put me in with the Mamas and the Papas because I think that's a supreme compliment.

When you spoke of the documentary, renting it with your sister, you said that you ended up dreaming you were in a band. The documentary on the Mamas and the Papas.

Yeah. That was a pretty cool dream. I wish I'd have it again. It was Jess on guitar and stuff. Kat was doing keyboards. Me and Ty were drummers. (Laughing) The band had two drummers! Jim was on bass. And like Rebecca, C.I., Betty and Ava were singing.

Jim: What about Dona?

She was producing the album.

Jim: I can see that.

Now Cedric's joined the "group" so if I have the dream again, I'll need to figure out what he's doing. But it was a pretty cool dream. One of those dreams where you wake up with one eye and since you don't have to get up right away, you shut your eye and try to go back to the dream. Pretty cool.

Well before we close, we need to discuss the Chinese Zodiac because we've found out more about your sign the Ox.

For real?

No, we're joking.

Thank God because that really did freak me out last time.

TV Review: Veronica Mars is from Mars

Feel for Kristen Bell. Really feel for her. She's twenty-five and stuck playing a headstrong and plucky high schooler. On TV -- which means her character, Veronica Mars, is a real drip. As if a 25 year-old trying to portray Shirley Temple sans curls isn't difficult enough, it gets worse, oh does it get worse. Sexual tensions flies all around Veronica, but none of it is aimed at her. She's like a straight woman hoping for a hook up at a Cher concert.

Veronica Mars, for those who've missed it, airs on UPN although Friday night an episode we like to call the "Knock Down That Closet Door, Mary!" aired on CBS. Since this is no Joan of Arcadia, you can forgive viewers who were caught unaware and left to wonder if same-sex flirting is the new machismo for the young male set?

Like a less disrobed version of Oz, Friday night was all about the boys. The episode offers a poker game before the main titles which allows the fellows to get to know each other. Weevil catches your attention early on. (No, we're not making that name up.) Played by a 22 year-old Francis Capra, all we can say is he's a long, long way from his great-grandfather's It's a Wonderful Life. Right away, Weevil sets the tone telling a cigar sucking Logan, (23 year-old Jason Dohring) "You look pretty comfortable with that thing in your mouth."

We're imagining the usually staid CBS Friday night viewers asking one another, "Honey, did I hear that right?" Yes, you did. And hold onto the bran, there's more coming. Banter, the type one may be more used to coming from the mouths of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, gets tossed around quicker than the cards in said poker game. The climax to the scene, or maybe just more intense foreplay, is Weevil winning only to find that the five thousand dollars is gone. He's starts making noises about turning the other boys upside down ("and inside out?").

Weevil's supposed to be bad ass. He works hard to establish that point and possibly he could frighten a few on Rodeo Drive -- which must be the "street" he hails from. Here's a tip for Weevil, a pout is not a sneer no matter how many times you utilize it.

So this "bad ass" has just learned he's out five thousand dollars. Thinking things are about to get nasty? Maybe, but not in any traditional way that the CBS viewers are used to. No fista-cuffs, no blood shed. But clothing, that gets shed.

Weevil insists that the four boys strip. And naturally, none of them have any objection to that because Straight Outta Malibu might get all . . . what exactly? on their asses.

The camera's on their asses. Or on two of their boxer clad asses -- Logan's and Duncan's (Teddy Dunn, age officially unknown but we're told he's 24) . The camera really lingers on the cheeks before pulling back to note all four boys standing in boxers (apparently they phoned one another that morning in a "Boxer or briefs?" conference call) while Weevil pouts at them, making noises about how he will get his money out of them one way or another, and Sean (Kevin Sheridan, 23 years old) moans, "This is the worst game of strip poker ever!"

Before you get your hopes up (or other things) calm down and remember it's not HBO, it's broadcast TV.But don't get too disappointed, all that's happened before the credits will be relived repeatedly in flashback as various boys get to retell their version of Chippindales Poker.

Take for instance Logan, who we see, in Weevil's flashback, on his knees before Weevil at school.

The opening line to this curiously staged scene? Logan to Weevil, "If you're asking me to the prom again, the answer is still no." Weevil's explains this -- and much, more more -- to Veronica who's obviously on The Case of the Homoerotic Subtext.

All she need do is keep her eyes and ears open. Because shortly after Duncan suspects Logan of being the thief (it's very Postman Always Rings Twice as the fellows turn on one another) the drama flares up as Duncan ends it with Logan:

Duncan: And I'm over it.

Logan: What, are we breaking up now? You want your best friend charm back?

Apparently tired of the boys having all the fun, Veronica hunts down the fifth hand in Chippindales Poker, Connor (Travis Schuldt, 31 in September but he's playing a non-high schooler) on the set of the movie he's starring in. A lot of talk is wasted by Logan and Veronica about Connor's "six pack" -- there's not one. So we're guessing that what has Veronica slack jawed is Connor's erect nipples -- nipples which seem to greet her as she bends and leans her head towards his torso for a closer look.

We're trusting that you're getting the point so we're leaving out the whole narrative of how when Logan was ten, Rosie Perez came to his birthday party to wish "Lauren" a happy birthday and brought a purse as a gift for "Lauren." The boys may have only one thing on their minds but we're not guessing it's "girls."

We're not knocking it, we just wish they'd upfront it. We're expecting that the CBS viewers were deeply, deeply confused when this show popped up Friday night.

It's hard not to be confused. Veronica's mother is dead. In this episode. Later it will turn out that she's still alive. Logan's parents have a whole Cheaters melodrama brewing and his father Aaron (Harry Hamilin) is a movie star while his mother Lynn (Lisa Rinna) is fond of boozing it up as Aaron beats Logan with a belt. Considering that Rinna's lips appear to have swollen up even more than when she was last spotted on Melrose Place, we're wondering if there's an as yet unrevealed subplot where Aaron uses the same belt on Rinna's mouth?

"This is confusing!" we hear some of you saying. We're not done yet. Duncan's parents? Somehow involved in Veronica's mother's death. (That's not a death, but you don't find that out until after this episode.) While Veronica's chasing down The Case of The Jock Itch Blues, her father (Enrico Colantoni) is actually a private investigator and Lynn's hired him to find out which one of Aaron's extra-marital affairs has resulted in death threats.

Veronica will figure out the twists and turns of her case before her father susses out his. At lunch, she'll announce that she knows who the thief is and all she needs to prove it is for another poker game to be called. All boys will keep their pants on in this one, but then, there is a lady present.

Prior to Veronica's announcement, Logan will join Sean and Duncan at the table. As Logan grabs a slice of pizza, Duncan will stand and huff causing Sean to ask, "Will you guys kiss and make up already?" The impish Logan will blow Duncan a kiss. And, later on, Veronica will note of Duncan's iced tea, "How very musical theater of you!"

Is your mind reeling? Let's cut to the chase. Before the episode comes to a close, we'll learn that rich boy Sean isn't rich and that he stole the five thousand (Weevil will disappear with him briefly -- presumably to work out some payment agreement despite the fact that Sean is dirt poor and has shoplifting charges), Veronica will scream at Duncan's father about the fact that he had something to do with her mother's death (or "death"), Duncan's father will confront his wife and pull her out of the party. Rinna will grin throughout all of this (she paid a lot for those lips, people!) up until Alex is stabbed, Logan will watch his father bleeding and hesitate before calling an ambulance.

"Woah!" you sigh thinking you've digested it all. Not really.See the whole season, Veronica's on the trail of the person who killed her best friend Lilly (who, unlike Veronica's mother, will stay dead) as well as trying to determine who date raped her ("her" being Veronica, not the friend -- we know, it is confusing).

If you're thinking that it's all very Lace ("Which one of you bitches is my mother?") and Lace II ("Which one of you bastards is my father?") let's underscore that by noting that the date rapist is revealed to be . . . Duncan! Drugged with GHB by Logan! And that Duncan broke up with Veronica because of the fact that she may be . . . his sister!

Paternity is solved by the finale which also informs us that Logan's dad Aaron (Hamlin) was the person who killed Lilly! Veronica also, in that episode, will kick her mother (remember, she's come back from the "dead" by then) out of her life because Mom can't lay off the booze! As though this life and death and back to life thing were easy!

What was CBS thinking when they made the decision to spring this show on Friday night viewers only recently weened off Nash Bridges? And what is Bell thinking with the hair style?It works for Patricia Arquette on Medium because she's playing a busy mother of young children. On Bell, it never quite works.

Nor does the wants-so-bad-to-be-Twin-Peaks vibe when it's combined with the sort of knowing, insider commentary by "high schoolers" last heard on Dawson's Creek. It's honestly as though they attempted to combine everything they could think of ("they" starting with creator Rob Thomas -- no not that Rob Thomas) starting with the banter of screwball comedies, the pulp of film noir, the scandal of a page turner you're embarrassed to be caught reading, "topical," "teenagers" (played by adults) and a heaping dose of homoeroticism. The latter was the only thing that actually held our interest.

Bell didn't. On the episode we watched, it wasn't that she was too glum which would, all things considered, make sense. She was, after all, the victim of a date rape with a then still dead mother, a dead best friend and suffering from questions of paternity. What we couldn't take was Little Miss Plucky seeming to forget any and all long running sub plots from scene to scene. Yes, it's a hell of a lot to keep with up but Bell didn't seem able to and the character lacked a gravity that recent events seemed to dictate that she should have.

Too many plot lines and too little attention mars Veronica Mars. On UPN it may develop a cult following but if it wants to play on the big three, it needs to work on reigning in the hyper activity and Bell needs to work on creating a character whose suffering plays like something more than "I so cannot believe he sprung a pop test on us!"

Also saw a great thing on The Common Ills by Rebecca.