Tuesday, July 25, 2006

C.I. guest posting for the vacationing Kat

C.I. here filling in for Kat. Let's get the snapshot out of the way, "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continues but the media's more interested in seeing if al-Maliki will give Bully Boy class and if Bully Boy will give al-Maliki . . .
Reuters reports a bomb ("car driven") in Mosul left eleven wounded, "rocket-propelled grenades" fired "on the main road between Kirkuk and Baghdad" at "two fuel trucks" killed two drivers -- a third was kidnapped; a roadside bomb in Mosul wounded three Iraqi soldiers; and, in Baghdad, a road side bomb took the life of one police officer and left three wounded. AFP reports three bombs going off in Baghdad "killing two civilians and a policeman wnd wounding many bystanders." Allowing for the police officer in Baghdad noted by AFP and Reuters to be the same person, that leaves five dead.
Reuters reports a shooting death in Ishaqi which took the life of a police officer, a drive-by that killed a police officer in Baghdad, four wounded in Daquq ("working for a private Iraqi company which deals with the U.S. military") and two dead ("gunned down inside their car") in Baghdad. The "inside their car" noted by Reuters appears to be "a family of Shiite civilians" who had been threatened and were attempting to flee but were killed with another family members wounded (AFP).
Reuters reports six corpses were discovered in Baghdad, seven in Suwayra ("shot dead . . . blindfolded), and two near Falluja ("gunshot wounds").
That's all the media has to spare for events in Iraq as the rush is to DC to note the new romantic comedy When Bully Met Puppet . . .
Here's the set up. An obnoxious, paunchy post-middle-age male decides to invade Iraq. He and his flunkies make a lot of false claims and assertions that are generally known to be false in real time. For example,
Michael Ratner, Jennie Green and Barbara Olshanksy will write in 2002: "Despite the pervasive use of the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction' in many of the Bush Administration's speeches discussing Saddam Hussein throughout 2002, there is no evidence of a developed nuclear weapon program in Iraq. Indeed, all reliable, detailed evidence from independent experts reveals that the current weapons capacity in Iraq is small -- smaller and far less advanced than that of other counries around the world that are actively threatening peace in their respective regions" (Against War With Iraq). But out of some desire to let the lifelong loser make yet another stab at 'success' in some form, in any forum, the mainstream media largely either stays silent or cheerleads.
The spoiled playboy gets his hobby (and many die). He toys with and discards Ibrahim al-Jaafari (the cad!) and along comes Nouri al-Maliki. Cue love theme on the soundtrack. Puppet is Bully Boy's favorite kind of Iraqi -- one that's spent over two decades out of the country.
Now after long distance exchanges and one brief (shining) moment, they're face to face and the question for the audience is: "Are their sparks?"
Don't expect sparks to fly but expect the Puppet to get a lesson in who pulls the strings.
The BBC offers this recap: "When the two leaders met in Baghdad last month . . . The mood then was unusually positive, reports the BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington -- but this latest meeting comes on the back of a failed security operation in Baghdad." The AFP reminds: "Baghdad's descent into chaos has claimed more victims as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in Washington under pressure to restore order and pave the way for the departure of US forces. As gunshots and bomb blasts echoed around the capital, the Iraqi leader went into talks with US President George W. Bush knowing that both the Americans and his own supporters are disappointed with his handling of the situation."
A meeting of two leaders? Sounds more like a performance review.
Getting far less attention is
the reconciliation meetings going on Cairo with (AP): "Some 30 delegates representing Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other smaller minorities are participating in the discussions sponsored by the Cario-based Arab League."
In peace news,
the Latin American News Agency reported Friday: "Costa Rican filmmaker Daniel Ross . . . won the prize of the screenplay contest called by the Program for the Promotion of Production and TV Coverage of the Ibero American Documentary (DOCTV-IB)." Ross will now have $100,000 for the budget of his film, Dear Camilo, which "will portray the story of [Camilo] Mejias, from the perspective of two Costa Rican friends, former classmates he meets after 10 years." On the subject of activist and war resister Camilo Mejia, he is not 24 years-old. Those who've noted coverage of an accident in Florida involving a 24 year-old Camilo Mejia and wondered, it's not the same Camilo Mejia (the activist Mejia was born in 1976).
After serving in Iraq, Mejia returned to the US and went AWOL, surfacing in March of 2004 at a news conference held at the Sherborn Peace Abbey
Alison O'Leary Murray (Boston Globe) reports that Sherborn Peace Abbey, "founded in 1988," is in need of funding. Along with being the setting for Meija's news conference, the abbey also "was involved in a protest by a group calling itself the Peace Chain 18, who chained themselves togeter at Natick's Army Labs to protest military intervention in Iraq."
Writing for The Huffington Post,
Michael Brune notes that he and others with the Rainforest Action Network "are joining Code Pink and thousands of others around the world who are fasting to end the war in Iraq and to bring our troops home now." Brune writes: "Each day we wake up, rush to work, get together with friends, get caught in traffic, get caught in office politics, get caught in emails . . . and each day so many time zones away, another family is terrorized at gunpoint, another young soldier is killed, a home is destroyed, a child is killed while her sister is raped. And if you live in America, it's being done in your name."
YubaNet notes: "hunger strikers who started fasting against the war on July 4 will set up 'Camp Al-Maliki' across from the Iraqi Embassy to await response to a letter sent by the group to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki." Today is DAY 22 of the Troops Home Fast action -- at least 4,350 people from around the world are participating. The fast is ongoing and people wishing to grab a one-day fast to show their support can do so at any point. If you missed the July 4th start, you haven't missed out on the protest. Information can be found online at CODEPINK.
Finally, in Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues with "Soldier Two" (Kovco's platoon sergeant by most accounts) testifying.
Malcom Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that Soldier Two testified that he "had heard the commotion in Private Kovco's room on the night of April 21 and found the private's room-mates, Soldiers 17 and 19, kneeling beside the body. He saw the nine-millimetre pistol on the floor and shifted it aside with his hands in case someone accidentally discharged it." Ben Doherty (The Age) reports that "Kovco's platoon sergeant did not want to look again" at Kovco's body. This is presented as the reason why the body of Bosnian Juso Sinanovic ended up arriving in Melbourne and not the body of Jake Kovco. Soldier Two is quoted saying: "I was devastated and am still upset by the mix-up." Australia's ABC notes that Soldier Two was flown in from Baghdad to testify and that he "said he was not given detailed instructions of his role as escort, and was not told that he had sole responsibility for identifying the body during the repatriation process." Doherty notes that Soldier Two's DNA was tested and "neither Soldier 2 nor three military police officers involved in the initial investigation" match the DNA found on the gun ("its slide, handgrip and trigger"). Doherty concludes with: "The two soldiers who were in barracks room eight with Private Kovco when he died will be DNA-tested when they arrive back in Australia later this week."
Note that this is the inquiry's stated goal/action today and that another turnaround wouldn't be surprising at this point considering its past history.

Check out Mike's "Lot of things." Elaine's "Sent By Earth (Alice Walker) and thoughts on the media 'coverage'" is a must read and a number of community members have noted it since it went up last night. Wally's latest is "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY PULLS AN ALL NIGHTER!" and Cedric's is "Thoughts on the Bully Boy."

I'm tired and I don't know what to write about but Martha e-mailed that a fun post (to read) might be about "TV: 24 -- like 60 Minutes with less action" which Ava and I wrote.

We're both glad people enjoy reading them. Sometimes, they're fun to write. Usually, we have fun in the writing stage. But it can be a pain in the butt. For instance, this week, we have no idea what we're going to write about Sunday. I'm busy, Ava's busy and there are times when Friday rolls around and a friend takes pity on us and gives us some copies of their show. There really have been times when we've been too busy to pick anything out and we blink -- it's Saturday. (So thank you to the many people who were kind enough to provide tapes.)

But when we finish those things, we're done with them. We don't reread them. We don't say, "Hey, remember when we wrote . . ." In fact, Elaine once read random (apparently humorous) lines to me without saying they were from the TV reviews and I didn't even recognize them.

We're just trying to get done. On a good week, we've spoken to someone with the show or someone involved in it (on some level). On a bad week, we're scrambling to get something together.

Martha noted that one person was offended by a review. Actually, it was two people. They'd provided tapes of their show and we said it had cancellation written all over it in our review. (I know that's in there because it was screamed at me over the phone by one person who was offended.) Both have gotten over it.

Ava and I don't make any deals. We never say "Give us tapes" or talk to us and you'll get a rave. We have trashed shows friends were working on and except for that one show, everyone's been fine with it. I don't mean fake fine with it. I mean calling one of us in laughter and wanting to read their favorite line.

There was that one time and that's the only time it's happened. Are others on or with a program offended? Yes. We know that ahead of time and we honestly don't care.

If someone we knows is doing a great job, they'll get praise. If they're not, they'll get noted. Or we'll note that we're taking a pass on them. (We also took a pass on one person's acting -- and noted this -- because we didn't care for the person at all and felt our feelings were too strong to evaluate the person's acting.)

Martha (and others) have several times e-mailed asking what our favorite one was? The one from the week before because it's done. Good or bad (we never think they're any good), it's done and we don't have to worry about that.

There are writing sessions where the last thing written is the TV commentary. We're working with everyone on the other pieces and there's no time to grab until near the end. By then, we're about to fall over and that's happened too many times. It's soured our enjoyment probably.

We just want done. We want it over. We do laugh during it and if one of us laughs outloud we usually think, "Well, there's at least one laugh in there." But what stands out the most for us is how tired we are when we get around to writing those things and how we just want it over.

We watch the episode or episodes together. (Even if we focus on only one episode in our review, we've usually seen more than one episode.) Either physically in the same room or over the phone. At some point during that, an offhand remark will be made by one of us and will forget it. Then we're looking at our notes and realize that offhand remark is really how we see the show. There are times when we watch something and after we'll know we hated it or loved it but that's really all that we're registering and then come across that comment in our notes and realize that's chief in whatever response we had.

Would we like a week off? The site always says it will take one off and never has. Yes. But if we took a week off and the site had new content, we'd hear about it. So, like I do with The Common Ills, Ava's got a calendar and we both mark off the days as though we're serving time.

On a good session, after we start writing, we can dash something off quickly. However, it's also happened that we're winding down a review when it hits us that something stood out more and we'll trash it and start all over.

There are a lot of e-mails that go to the site (and Ava and I avoid reading those) that Ty will ask a question on so he can write a reply. (Thank you, Ty.) Ava and I are asked why we hate everything occassionally? We don't hate everything.

We don't care for rip offs that add nothing. We don't care for bad writing or bad acting. We think a lot of shows get passes for various reasons. Do a sitcom with a "plain" or "ugly" cast and you'll usually be judged (elsewhere) as funnier than you are. (Think Taxi or The Office.) But is it really funny? Funny, to us, is it makes us laugh out loud. In terms of drama, it has to move us.

Bad drama can move you, bad comedy can make you laugh. Usually that has to do with the perfomers when that happens. And it's also true that performers with a ton of energy can make a bad show bearable or even good.

We both have favorite shows but not many of them on today. If I had the time, I'd watch Medium. We watched and gave it a rave. I've seen it once since. That's it. I don't have the time to sit in front of a TV. If there were more shows like Medium (which NBC has pulled from fall and won't air until spring), I'd feel like I was missing something.

I don't feel that way. And I'm someone who, in better TV times, could sit in front of the TV and watch and watch and watch. Shows I've loved? (Incomplete list, just what comes to mind.)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Seinfeld, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, Will & Grace (until the series finale) . . . When they added Addie to Gimmie A Break, the show was very funny to me. Telma Hopkins and Nell Carter played off one another very well. Sometimes it can be that simple -- two performers on a so-so show lifting it higher due to the chemistry between them and the fact that their delivery makes the lines funnier than they are.

Dramas? St. Elsewhere comes to mind.

And there are performers I'll watch in anything. It can be the worst show in the world and I'll watch it if someone I enjoy is on. Susan St. James is someone I'd watch in anything. She's very funny. Jane Curtain is also very funny. Beyond the script for both women.

I don't care for the shows where women sit on the sidelines. If they're comedies, I don't care for women who play 'straight men.'

I'm sure I go in, before watching a show we review, with a prejudgement. That doesn't mean my mind can't change. I thought we'd rip Kelly Rippa apart. (Hope & Faith.) We watched it and she was zany. She was a wonderful sitcom actress in that part. She surprised me and I'm never afraid to note that or to note when someone does.

Some of the biggest complaints come from when we note reality -- that a teen heart throb can't act. Nick Lachey being one example. His fans (male and female) feel he is very good looking. That's fine. Dream and drool if he's to your taste. But don't kid yourself that he's an actor. (He could become one at some point, but he's not acted yet. He's posed.)

People were offended that, in the first season of the show, we said Joey was hideous. It was hideous. It was never going to be funny. It's what happens when people have no ideas and start tossing out a grab bag of "this will be off the wall!" It wasn't. And, as we noted, most shows about the entertainment industry aren't funny and aren't successful. For every Cybil or That Girl, there are a thousand shows where the lead wants to be famous in whatever art form and it's just not funny. (This fall there will be two shows about the entertainment industry -- one a drama starring Amanda Peet and Matthew Perry; the other produced by Tina Fey and a half-hour sitcome with, among others, Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin.)

I grew up watching TV (watching what everyone considered "too much" TV). I'm not opposed to the TV. I'm not opposed to watching (I don't have time these days). But I don't like watching bad TV.

When we say a show is worth watching, we're not playing "Excellence in TV programming!" We're looking at whether or not it's worth watching for the entertainment value. If it's not, it's not. It can have all the praise from the usual water cooler set and be a really bad show. We don't try to hype or tell you what's 'hot.' The people who read those reviews (at least when we used to read the e-mails) are looking for something to watch. Something that they can watch beyond a 'everybody's talking!' phase.

We're also usually discussing the way it treats women and people of color. (On the latter, for most shows, by ignoring them.) But if you like something, you like it. What we write shouldn't change your mind. We may point out something you didn't notice but you're the one watching.
I mean, Somebody Loved Raymond. Not everyone, but somebody did.

We'll note if someone's undressed a great deal because there are young parents among the readers who want a heads up if some show is something they can watch with their kids or not?
We should do the same with language but most of the time, that probably flies over our heads.

We are trying to be funny (and always convinced we're not pulling it off). Some readers never watch the shows and they just read the reviews to laugh. We try to have a point, even if we don't belabor it. And we are providing a feminist critique. ("A," not "the.")

So that's what we're going for. What's been most popular? The Bully Boy press conference (which we treated as a sitcom) was very popular, Nick & Jessica Reporting for Duty was, the review of Barbara Walters' interview with Colin Powell, Prisonbreak, and by the time we're getting to that, it's probably based (my opinion of whether or not it was popular) on friends and not e-mails. The CSIs have been popular and the Law & Disorders. Commentaries like "Katie Was A Cheerleader." But, although we usually remember a point we were making or trying to make, we don't usually remember the lines. Mike was telling us the other day that his friend Tony loved the line in the Supernatural review about the show being like gay porn where the leads forget to take their clothes off. We didn't remember that joke. We're really just trying to get through those things and get to sleep. The hours are long on the editions -- usually over 15 -- and since they start in the evening or at night, we've already both been half a day. So it's over 24 hours and we just want to be done.

The jokes are there to (hopefully) make someone laugh. We're usually more focused on the points we're trying to make. So maybe that was interesting, maybe it was boring. Who knows?
This was my third guest post for Kat. I'll try to do one more this week. Kat does return shortly. She'll be back before August 1st. If I had a calendar in front of me, I could say when exactly.