Sunday, September 26, 2010
-- Tariq Ali, Democracy Now!, September 21, 2010.
Speaking of that, everyone I know in my wide circle of concern is either unemployed or underemployed. For example, my son, a new father, is working three jobs just to provide for his small family and hasn’t worked in his trade as a land surveyor for a year and a half. Andy’s story is not an unusual or special one. The job market has certainly not been made "stronger." The housing market has not been made "stronger" and OUR economy is as weak as my newborn grandson. It has no muscle tone or control and can only whine and scream because that’s the only way it can express itself now. At least my grandbaby is adorable.
I can name a few institutions that have been made “stronger” since 9/11: The Police State and all its apparatus; the Military Industrial Complex and its tentacles: the Pentagon, the State Department, war profiteers, corporate media; Wall Street; the surviving banks; and especially the government. The rich are literally getting richer, and the poor are growing poorer. The income gap is wider than it ever has been since 1929!
-- Cindy Sheehan, "Did He Really Say That?" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox).
Late, late and late. At the end of the edition, there were about 30 empty yogurt containers on the floor, numerous empty soft drink containers, remnants of shrimp gumbo, and everyone was on the floor ready to fall out.
Thank you to all who worked on this edition:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
Turning to what we came up with.
Undercovers. If you've seen the show, you probably nodded throughout the article. It really does take two.
We'd hoped to do a roundtable this week. If you e-mailed asking for something to be noted and got an e-mail back that we would, that would have been in the roundtable; however, it will have to wait until next week. We're just too damn tired today. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
Barack had so much fun, he pulled the bitchy all over again on Monday. And it said a great deal as he insulted and ridiculed peace activists. It said a great deal about him and a great deal about the left.
For example, an allegedly anti-war group had their leader appear on Pacifica Radio last Monday and instead of holding Barack accountable, listeners were served up s**t on toast in the form of "John McCain would have been worse." Really? That's what we have to aim for? That's it, that's the be all you can be in America? Least worse.
For every Tariq Ali able to speak the truth, you have at least 100 'leaders' and 'voices' who can do little more than whore for the Democratic Party. They'll excuse it, they'll spin or they'll just ignore it. What they refuse to do is to stand up for those in need, let alone stand up for themselves.
That's pretty disgusting.
And so is Barack.
There's so much confusion about what's happened with Barack's approval. Many on the left ignore reality and run to the "It's racism!" lie to explain the huge drop in approval for Barack. The first place he lost support significantly was with men. Men were always Barack's hardest target group to win in the primaries. He managed to win over a large number of them in the 2008 election.
But, following the election, he's managed to send a large number packing.
How did he do it?
It never helped that he actually, physically puts his nose in the air. That didn't help him. It didn't help him that he gets manicures. It didn't help him that he dressed like a dandy. It didn't help him that, when irritated, it looks like he's about to exclaim, "Oh, pooh!"
The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama doesn't come off like a man. He is the ultimate metrosexual and, bad news for him, that trend peaked before he even campaigned for the White House. He's always just a little too polished, just a little too well dressed, just a little too on. You never see him as authentic because there's nothing real about him. He's a cover boy. He's the equivalent of a Playboy centerfold. And each day, he gets more distant and more detached.
George W. Bush had to wear cowboy gear to approximate manliness. But some gave him credit for trying. Bill Clinton never appeared -- certainly not in those jogging outfits -- as if he was striving to be the best dressed in the room. He came off like a man, yes, like the average man, America's stereotypical notion of what a man is.
Barack's Ron Glass in The New Odd Couple. He's Niles on Fraiser. And, no one takes that seriously.
Barack wanted to insult the left repeatedly last week. And all he did was remind America yet again just how bitchy he can be. And bitchy? Really not a quality most Americans find attractive in a man. No. Not at all.
And the thing about bitchy? It doesn't hide reality. In other words, if you're going to ridicule the left for expecting you to get results and actually accomplish something, maybe you shouldn't have given deadlines by, for example, for closing Guantanamo and failing to meet that deadline.
Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "
Since she's playing one of the two leads, Samantha Bloom, that's a big problem. Did no one explain to her the need for lightness in a romantic comedy? It's as if Tyne Daily were cast as Jennifer Hart instead of Stefanie Powers. Boris Kodjoe plays Steven Bloom and he's hitting all the right notes for romantic comedy. As we watched a cafe scene that was supposed to be light and playful culminate with Mbatha-Raw asking, "It takes a honeymoon to buy me a rose?", the problem was obvious: Mbatha-Raw and her awful voice. When Jane Fonda, in her Acadamy Award nominated performance for The Morning After, goes deep voiced in the midst of con that's not working to ask, "What about Vegas? You fly to Vegas?" it's funny. But among the reasons it's so funny is that's not how her Alex speaks normally.
But there's Mbatha-Raw bearing down on every line, unable to speak on the breath, shredding her vocal chords to the point that it's painful to listen to her speak if you've ever studied voice. Well not every one of her lines. At one point, she asks, "Who's he with?" That line reading? It's where her voice should be in nearly every scene. It would not only make the line readings sparkle, it would allow her to better fit with co-star Kodjoe.
Were Mbatha-Raw playing a supporting character -- say Francie on Alias -- we're sure many people would applaud her 'gutsy' performance. But guess what, this isn't a supporting role, this is a lead. You play lead in a TV show to be a star, not to be a quirk.
Steven and Samantha Bloom are an African-American couple and this is TV's first action show revolving around African-American characters and first romantic comedy show. The press would have you believe that a lot is riding on this show. It's not. Cosby was a massive hit. The kind that comes along once every twenty years. And yet the only real attempt to ape Cosby was CBS' short-lived Charlie & Company. So any pressure that anyone involved with the show feels should really vanish. Yes, it would be wonderful if Undercovers was a huge hit and, being a huge hit, suddenly shows debuted on the Big Three with African-American leads. (Shows, not "other shows," Mbatha-Raw is British and self-labels Black. Boris Kodjoe is Austrian.)
However, that's never been the pattern. So if expectations are weighing anyone down, they should let them go.
There are, however, a lot of problems weighing down Undercovers. For example, it is not just that Mbatha-Raw drags the scenes down currently, it's that she just doesn't match up with Kodjoe.
Last month, there was a big panic about the show. A friend with it asked us for input and we said flat out that the problem was Mbatha-Raw's delivery. We made it clear that they either recast the role or give her some real direction. We were blown off and some crack about feminists was made which really pissed us off so that was it on our input on the show until it aired on NBC Wednesday night. As the viewer reactions matched some of the critical response (critical response was largely confused as to what the problem was, viewer response nailed it as Mbatha-Raw), suddenly we were prophets and geniuses and our butts couldn't be kissed enough.
But we really still don't believe we were heard. We were listened to, but we weren't heard.
The feminist crack had ticked us off because we were presented with a show already filming, already in production, and we were trying to say what was best for that show. We didn't advocate for a backstory, for a subplot, for female characters to round out the show. We looked at the show as is and made the call that the female lead was played too real (viewer reaction is "butch") and that they needed to get the actress to lighten her performance so that she could sparkle. We have many feminist issues, for example, with Covert Affairs but Piper Perabo's performance wasn't among them (as we've noted "Annie's nothing but a cupcake. She's not a real character. So let's not pretend that she is."). In offering input on Undercovers, we were focusing on how to make the show work around the two leads cast.
Boris Kodjoe is a TV star, possibly the TV star of the season. If Undercovers crashes and burns (initial ratings underwhelmed) the industry talk on him should allow him several other chances to strut his stuff. He became a star in the first minutes of Undercovers when he was everything America wants of a male TV star. He was funny, he didn't take himself too seriously and he was sexy.
By contrast, Gugu Mbatha-Raw was just sexy. But not even as sexy as she could be because her voice was always either nagging or barking. The lines were not written to be that way. In one scene, if you paid attention, Boris was undermined by sticking to the script. His comment was basically telling her "Calm down, it's going to be okay." But she was using that flat harangue and there was nothing panicky about her delivery.
Our main input was that she was playing the role too cerebral and she needed to be taken out of Acting Studio 'motivation' and focus on sense memory if she's going to find her character. The character is light and lives above the shoulders, she moves with grace and leaves every woman she encounters wishing they were her. We're not saying carrying all that off is easy. Very few actresses can or have been able to. Audrey Hepburn is, of course, the template. But there have been others. On TV there was Stefanie Powers. The most recent actress to emerge with that quality would be Thandie Newton.
When one lead is coming off light, the other needs to as well or you've got no chemistry between the two leads. It's the difference between, for example, pairing up Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and paring up Fonda and Robert De Niro. (Or De Niro and any actress. Smart actresses long ago learned to say no to being De Niro's romantic costar because there's nothing to work with.)
Gug Mbatha-Raw delivers her line readings as rants when they're not written that way. And the effect on TV viewers is off putting. Not really a smart way to go when this show would depend on an older audience than, for example, Lost. If you're a working mother of one or more children, how much sympathy are you going to have for the nagging, ranting Samantha who has her dream job (catering) and her dream man and none of the obligations that spell R-E-A-L L-I-F-E?
When we were zeroing in on her line readings before the show started airing, the exasperated reply was that Mbatha-Raw was saying the lines as written. No, she wasn't. She was saying the words that were written but they were never intended to be rants and nags and barks and gripes. Her admonishment of the staff (an acting choice) in her initial establishing scene was completely wrong. Not just for the character, mind you, it was wrong for the scene. Seconds after that, she will be told by Steven that she's too nice on the staff and pays them too much (the staff includes her sister). Saying the lines as written in her establishing scene would have meant the audience nodded knowingly when Steven later complains.
She is not serving the text, she is not serving the script, she is not serving the show. She needs direction.
When we returned to that after the first episode aired, the first question was, "You're not going to write about this?" Actually, that may not have been a question. It may have been an order: "You're not going to write about this!" Of course we are. To weigh in on the show without doing so would be providing a half-assed review not to mention concealing from the readers some things they should probably know.
We were immediately hit with, "Well we're fixing things."
We hope they are. We really do. But we're aware this isn't 1970. Are the producers? CBS offered Mary Tyler Moore her own sitcom and the promise that they would air 24 episodes of it. (After viewing the pilot -- or, rather, after test scores on the pilot, CBS attempted to back out of the deal.) TV shows rarely get that kind of commitment these days. More importantly, MTM worked to make sure the pilot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was perfect before it was filmed. This idea that you can put a show on the air and then start fixing the problem? In what world?
And though the viewers will most likely note how off the lead actress is and how that performance harms the entire show, the reality is that an actor needs input and guidance and if Gugu Mbatha-Raw had gotten any, her performance wouldn't be so bad. (She's not a bad actress at all. She's just playing this part wrong.) And that doesn't fall back on her, that falls on the show runner. And failure to grasp that a romantic comedy depends upon two actors meshing their styles also falls on the show runner because, as Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston noted so long ago, "It Takes Two." Undercovers only has one.
Some background. From the VA:
Agent Orange is the name given to a specific blend of herbicides used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 during the Vietnam conflict. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides to remove leaves from trees that provided cover for enemy forces. Some Vietnam Veterans were exposed to these herbicides.
As is the VA's right (under the Agent Orange Act of 1991), Secretary Eric Shinseki expanded the conditions in Vietnam era veterans which can be associated with Agent Orange: Parkinson's disease, leukemia and heart disease. Shinseki didn't just wake up one day and, on a whim, make a decision. The decision was based on medical science.
Senator Richard Burr didn't get that. He never really did. But he's a Republican so we weren't all that surprised when he put money concerns (cost of payouts) over the government's obligation to pay for the costs of war. But then the crazy came over to our side of the aisle via two senators, Jon Tester and, especially, Jim Webb.
Thursday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing [see C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)" and Kat's "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole"]. And what really stood out was just what an ass James Webb can be.
He just doesn't see the relationship between Agent Orange and any of those conditions and, besides, if people live long enough, they still end up dying of something, right?
And though Shinseki testified 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were dropped on Vietnam, Webb wanted to disagree on that as well.
Webb is neither a scientist nor a doctor and, judging by the hearing, unable to understand the work done by either. Michael Leon (Veterans Today) reports:
This morning, while posturing as the earnest student of empirical investigation, Webb prefaced his hostile line of questioning of witness Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki saying Webb is concerned about protecting the “credibility of our [VA] programs.”
I was hoping Shinseki would pull out a can of aerosol composed of dioxin [tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)] and offer to spray it around the Committee room and see if anyone of the august senators had a presumptive problem with it.That would have been something. Instead, we got Webb and Tester trying to appear concerned about something other than money. They never managed to pull that off.
What a charmer Webb is. The reality of that was possibly best captured by an anecdote Webb's third wife, Hong Le Webb, shared with The Washington Post: "He says that if [U.S. troops] hadn't rescued me, I'd be snaggletoothed and selling pencils on the streets of Saigon." Is it really any surprise that he's up to marriage three? Anyone want to take bets on whether there will be a marriage number four? Five?
Before he could ever get to marriage number six, he'll have done untold damage to veterans and this assault on Vietnam Veterans will just be the first step unless he gets the point quickly that this is unacceptable. Joe "Ragman" Tarnovsky (Veterans Today) issued a call, "I urge all Veterans and their supporters to contact Senator Richard Burr, Senator Jim Webb and all the other politicians that want to balance the budget on the backs of Veterans." If you don't answer the call?
"Today," declared US Senator Daniel Akaka this morning, "much of our focus will be on Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange. However, it is important to note that the same process is already in place with respect to presumptions related to the first Gulf War. And, as many know, we are just beginning to hear about the consequences of exposures to potential toxins in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and exposures at miitary installations -- such as Camp Lejeune and the Astugi Naval Air Facility."
Coming in at the number one spot was the jaw dropping 30 Rock. No, not Matt Damon's embarrassing attempts at acting. The big problem here was that this epsiode, written by a woman, on a show created by a woman, included this: "And this morning I made love to my wife and she was still asleep so I didn't have to be gentle." Really? Rape jokes, Tina Fey? That's what 'feminist' Fey has come to? Treating rape as a joke? If a man had written that 'joke,' there would be a huge outcry. The fact that a faux feminist wrote it did not make marital rape amusing.
In second place? Guest stars a plenty could be found throughout the week. Some (Matt Damon) humiliated themselves. One more than held her own: Jennifer Aniston. Aniston showed up on Cougar Town reteaming with former Friends castmate Courtney Cox and playing a therapist with a bucket of issues all her own. "5 . . . 4. . . 3 . . . My anger is a puddle, I simply step out," she declares after slamming into a car in the parking lot.
Third place was the life lesson, the theme that kept popping up over and over all week: Life is a cliff and you have to jump in. This was established in the first three minutes of Undercovers and the before the main title on Fringe and approximately 13 minutes into The Event.
Pop culture references? What would television be without them? "More creative!" responds actual writers. But why not get an easy laugh off the work of others? It certainly helped Tina Fey advance her own career, right? So for reasons that make no sense, the lead on Community weighed in on the Twilight films and novels: "Men are monsters who crave young flesh." It's how Bobby on Cougar Town ended up announcing, "Check this out! David Caruso: 'We're going to solve this'." And in the best move, Community went with a Twitter account entitled Old White Man Says which everyone agreed would make a lousy TV show.
Fifth place went to Cougar Town's creation of a new game. Grayson explained, "Movie Mash Up. You take two movie titles that share a word, combine them and then you describe that movie. For example a killer whale gives out golden tickets to see who gets his candy company." Free Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "A Fat cartoon cat gets to play catch with his dead father." Garfield of Dreams. "A crime solving dog deals with racism in Brooklyn." Scooby Doo The Right Thing.
Sixth place was reality which can be both painful and ugly: Around the time Betty White's reduced to drinking her own urine for laughs (Community), maybe it's time for her to be a bit more choosy about what offers she accepts.
Next up is slow beginnings. Detroit 1-8-7 served up roughly thirty minutes of back story before finally hitting its stride in the final moments.
Eight place? Around the time Busy Philipps' Laurie was talking to Dan Byrd's presumably sleeping Travis, it became clear that Cougar Town was the most multi-textured show and, at the start of season two, had already achieved the interconnections that some shows take years to achieve and others never even reach.
At ninth place was just how good it was to see Maura Tierney back on TV (The Whole Truth) and be reminded of what a strong actress she is. Added bonus was the fact that she and co-star Rob Morrow actually have onscreen chemistry.
And finally, the reality that the chest hair makes the man. James Wolk proved that on Lone Star coming across like a fully formed man as opposed to boyish smoothie Sean Wing on The Whole Truth. One you'd love to hop in the sack with, the other a child you'd like to buy Boy Scout popcorn from.
Reading the above, you might think it was a monologue written for Megan Mullally to deliver on the debut of The Karen Walker Show. Sadly, that's not from a comedic sketch or any kind of a put on, it's from the mind or 'mind' of Judith Warner. And even sadder, she's deadly serious.
Over 4,700 foreign service members have died in the Iraq War. But the biggest tragedy of the illegal war but the real tragedy is what happened to Judith Warner. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have died in the Iraq War. Iraqis will suffer birth defects for generations to come as a result of the depleted uranium and other chemical warfare. But the biggest tragedy of the illegal war is Judith Warner's loss of an au pair.
How green was her valley?
Plenty green . . . because it was full of her s**t.
From Senator Daniel Akaka's office:
COMMITTEE EXAMINES PROCESS FOR CREATING PRESUMPTIVE DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Veterans' Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing today on the existing VA process for presuming service-connection for veterans' disabilities. Looking beyond the recent expansion of Agent Orange-related presumptions, witnesses and committee members discussed potential improvements to the process to be used in connection with possible exposures to future generations. (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the
"By granting 'presumptions,' VA creates a blanket assumption of service-connection for a group of veterans, bypassing the standard process for disability claims. The process Congress set in place for Gulf War Illness. We have a responsibility to set up an appropriate process for potential toxic exposures from Iraq, Afghanistan, and on military bases where there may be environmental hazards. It is critical that the process for establishing presumptive disabilities is sound, science-based, and transparent," presumptions serves as a precedent for said Akaka.
The Committee's witnesses included and former-Secretary , as well as medical and scientific experts.
More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: veterans.senate.gov
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
"Professor Priss" and "The war isn't over" -- The two most requested highlights of the week by readers of this site, Trina and C.I. take
"Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)," "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)" and "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole" -- C.I., Ava, Wally and Kat report on Thursday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing where Jim Webb and Jon Tester attacked the payment of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Stand Up Barack" -- Isaiah's latest on Barry's backstabbing of the left.
"Cold Pasta Salad in the Kitchen" -- Trina and her readers serve up an easy to make recipe.
"those morons in congress" -- Stephen Colbert was not a hit, Rebecca explains why.
"The White House's latest attack" -- Ruth on the White House's attempts -- in the midst of the Great Recession -- to cut food stamps.
"Roberta Flack soars, KFC dumpster dives" and "Heart's rocking return" -- Kat's music posts.
"Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" and "Chuck, Fringe" -- Stan goes to the movies and Mike talks TV.
"Taking Aim" -- Ruth covers radio as does Ann:
"Penguin Classics" and "THIS JUST IN! CLIFF NOTES!" -- Cedric and Wally, short and sweet, says it all in one line.
"Bully Boy & the Showboat Express" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.
"The never-ending attacks" -- Betty on the constant assault on women.
"Blockbuster Video" -- Blockbusters financial problems continue, Ruth offers a reason why they lose customers.
"Margaret Witt wins" -- Marcia weighs in on the court verdict.
"The raids, the continued crimes" -- Elaine breaks down how hopey & changey is the drug that kills.
"b.p., fish and more" -- Rebecca hasn't forgotten the Gulf Disaster.
"Congress wants another vacation (throw the bums out)" -- Marcia on the never ending vacations.
"Trivia" -- Stan does a light post.
"Peace and those who work to stop it" -- who keeps us from peace.
"Barack the big let down" -- Mike on the obvious.
"THIS JUST IN! ALL SYSTEMS FAIL!" and "It's not all posing?" -- Wally and Cedric on the celebrity in chief.