Thursday, June 01, 2006

My interview with Kat

Good evening. Lot to cover. I've got my interview with Kat tonight which will take forever to type up. But first 2 news items from Democracy Now!

US Troops Kill Pregnant Iraqi, Cousin
In other Iraq news, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women Wednesday -- one of them about to give birth. The women were in a vehicle rushing to the hospital where one of the victims, Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, was to deliver her baby. US troops said their car failed to stop in a prohibited zone despite warnings. But Jassim's brother, who drove the vehicle, said he never saw or heard any warnings. Doctors failed to save Jassim's unborn baby. She was the mother of two children. Her cousin was also killed in the attack.

Portrait of the occupation. If you don't look away.

Marine Probe Points To Haditha Cover-Up
A U.S. military probe has uncovered evidence that implicates both Marines and commanders in a cover-up of the killings of innocent Iraqis in the city of Haditha. An army official told the Washington Post officers gave false testimony to their superiors, who in turn failed to investigate information that should have been pursued. The findings back recent statements by Democratic Congressmember John Murtha, who says he was given credible information a cover-up occurred. In Washington, President Bush made his first public comments on the massacre.
President Bush: "I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the -- you know, laws were broken, there will be punishment.”
Meanwhile in Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said his government would hold US forces accountable for unlawful killings.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki: "Mistakes may happen, it is not a strange thing but there is an acceptable limit to mistakes but when they (mistakes) exceed this limit and turn to disrespect to the people's dignity and the people's blood this for us means a disdain of the lives of the innocent."

Are we still supposed to say "alleged" massacre?

Let me note C.I.'s "Iraq snaphot" and then I'll tag and then we'll get into the interview:

Chaos and violence.
As Amy Goodman noted, "at least 50 people were reported dead in violence around Iraq Wednesday. In the day's worst known attack, nine people were killed and 17 wounded in a mortar attack in southern Baghdad.Today? United States military forces in Iraq will receive "so-called 'core values training'" as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show this morning. Reuters notes the timing of the training, as new details emerge about Haditha. Thomas E. Ricks and Ellen Knickmeyer break the latest on the Haditha investigation in the Washington Post. Ricks and Knickmeyer write: "The Bargewell report, which is expected to be delivered to top commanders by the end of the week, is one of two major military investigations into what happened at Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, and how commanders reacted to the incident. The other is a criminal inquiry by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service." The chief finding that has been leaked thus far is that (as Lupien noted) "some officers gave false testimony to their superivors." A second issue is why the "Marine human exploitation team, which helped collect the dead" didn't issue a report that triggered an investigation?
Kim Landers, reporting for Australia's ABC noted: "A preliminary military inquiry has found that US Marines shot and killed two dozen Iraqis, including children and an elderly man in a wheelchair. 12-year-old Safa Younis was getting ready for school when she says Marines entered her home, killing eight relatives." Via a translator, Safa Younis shares the events of November with ABC: "They killed my father in the kitchen. They killed my mother, and my sister Noor. They killed her when they shot her in the head. She was only 15 years old. My other sister was shot with seven bullets in the head. She was only 10 years old."
The early reports on the findings may have put a fire under Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki who tells the Associated Press that there will be an investigation "by a special committee made up of the Justice and Human Rights ministries along with security officials." Fortuntately (or unfortunately) those two ministries do have heads, it's the interior and the defense ministrites that still lack cabinet heads. (Although possibly one or both may be headed by one of the unnamed people that the Turkish Press reported yesterday would be stepping down due to not clearing the "de-Baathification commission" or lacking "proper qualifications.")
Having missed the deadline that he gave himself to have a full cabinet, al-Maliki kind-of, sort-of made the May 22nd constitutionally mandated deadline by leaving the two posts empty. Now, al-Maliki has declared that not today, not tomorrow, but "in three days" "his choices for defense and interior ministers" will be presented. On Monday, we noted a third vacancy and we've noted it here before. There are three empty posts. The national security post (a post one might think was important to the stability of a country) is vacant. "Minister of state for national security" is how the AP refers to the third post.
Not three days from now but today, in Baghdad, construction workers looking for day jobs instead found themselves the victims of a bombing with two killed and at least 21 wounded. This was not the only bombing occurring today in Baghdad. Reuters reports that "[s]everal mortar bombs" have taken the lives of "at least nine people . . injuring 43" and that this attack took place "in the same area" as an attack yesterday that took the lives of nine and wounded 17. The Associated Press notes that two mechanics were gunned down in Baghdad. Reuters notes that more corpses have been discovered --- four in Baghdad, one in Kerbala. The Associated Press notes that mortars which "landed on a vegetable market and nearby houses in southern Baghdad" left at least thirteen wounded.
Throughout the country, unemployment reigns -- Mohamed Taha al-Mousawi ("an adviser at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs") notes that "the national unemployment rate surpassed 60 percent last year." Finally, CBS and AP note that CBS reporter "Kimberly Dozier is awake and alert at a U.S. military hospital Thursday in Germany. She remains in critical, but stable condition."

Now the interview.

Mike: I've interviewed Wally twice -- first after he started his site and then after he came back with a different tactic at his site -- Ruth's granddaughter Tracey, interviewed Cedric, interviewed Ty, interviewed Ava, interviewed Jim, interviewed Dona, interviewed Betty, interviewed Jess, interviewed Rebecca, interviewed community member Ryan (before he was even a community member, we know him as "Kansas" now -- we have a Ryan in the community but this Ryan is known as "Kansas"), interviewed Elaine and most recently interviewed C.I. "Interviewed," if it's highlighted, is where you click for the interview. Now I'm finally getting around to interviewing Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills). First, thank you, Kat. Second, I'm sorry because I didn't realize I'd skipped you until C.I. pointed it out.

Kat: I just figured you didn't think there was an interview here.

Mike: No, I thought I'd interviewed you, probably because in a lot of your reviews, it's like we really get to know you but also because I was trying for an interview and then got majorly bummed when I didn't get it.

Kat: You don't mean C.I.

Mike: No. Thanks for putting that in. Yeah, Wally and me talked about it here and I still got e-mail asking why I was bummed by C.I.? I wasn't bummed by C.I. This was another interview and the person just blew me off repeatedly. So that's their loss and not mine. But that soured me on interviews for awhile because I really did intend to interview everybody. And I feel bad for overlooking you because your response was just as anyone would expect: "Sure, let's figure out when." There was no hassle at all with you. So thank you for that.

Kat: Your welcome, thanks for interviewing me. So I know what I'm up against, what would be your favorite of the interviews you've done?

Mike: Toss up. Elaine because I learned right at the end of the interview that she was starting Like Maria Said Paz. I think she does an amazing job.

Kat: Me too. She's a strong voice and she has a tendency to act like she's not, but she really is. Amazing work this week with "Mini-essay" especially.

Mike: That was great. [Thursday note: So great that it was the main highlight, the one read aloud, by my favorite prof.] So it's between that and the one with Betty because she just takes off. I had questions and ended up tossing most of them because she had a lot on her mind and it was better to come up with questions based on what she had just said. Also, you know this, she's just so nice and she laughs and all. She really put me at ease. I loved all the interviews, me and Wally especially always have fun, but I was nervous on the interview with C.I. That was a big thing for the community and I knew that going in and felt pressure there and also C.I. was exhausted, you could hear it, and I wanted to be sure that I wasn't taking too much time. Tell your C.I. story because that's my opening thing.

Kat: Okay. Not really a question. This was actually in the print edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review so some may know it already. Before I start, Betty's wonderful. Wonderful writer, wonderful friend. She's the Charlotte in my web. She's reading that story to her kids right now so she'll laugh when she reads that. Okay, the non-question. It was at Tower and we'd gone there on the spur of the moment, one of those calls, "I'm going to Tower, want to go?" So I was there, please, I love music. This was about four of five months ago. So we're there and we pick our selections. And C.I.'s always aware of where people are but not really noticing or trying to be noticed and I don't know another way to say that. We're in line. There's a woman with a very young child ahead of us. And right ahead of them are these gang bangers or gang banger wanna-bes. Do you want me to clean up the language on this?

Mike: No, you can use the f-word here.

Kat: Okay. So C.I.'s looking through the CDs and I'm standing there with my mouth wide open because the g.b.s or wanna bes are just harrassing this woman and her child. The woman replied in Spanish, acting like she didn't understand English. That's when I noticed. And they just came back with this really vile talk about how they could smell a certain part of her body and they knew she wanted it, and they were being very specific in front of her kid who was probably six or seven-years-old. C.I. says to me, "Could we be packed in any tighter?" meaning the line, and notices me just staring appalled.

Mike: This is the part that I love coming up.

Kat: I should explain that there are four of these guys and they're tough looking. C.I. hears the last thing they've said to the woman, who can't even be five-foot-two. C.I. doesn't think twice and just yells at them, "Shut the fuck up." They look over and they've got this smirk on their faces then go back to harrassing the woman. C.I. says, "Maybe you didn't understand when I told you to shut the fuck up, so let me repeat: 'Shut the fuck up!'" They're mad now and shouting things with "bitch" in them over and over and making threats. "Want to kick some ass?" C.I. hollers back, "Bring it! Bring it you fucker, right here, right now! Bring it! I'll kick your ass and everyone of your friends' asses." That's a highly edited version of what C.I. hollered. Now this whole time, probably before I noticed, there's a security guard standing by the counter acting like he's not noticing anything. He continues to do so. But they're in a staring match with C.I. and finally decide C.I.'s nuts and split.
Maybe it was the sunglasses at night? But they split. They toss their CDs on the counter and mutter they're out of their. The woman turns around and starts thanking C.I. and C.I., you know there's not accepting a thank you there. So the woman's paying for her CDs and I say, "What would have happened if they'd wanted to fight?" C.I. looks at me like I'm insane, "They're all talk. They don't pull that nonsense unless they think no one's going to call them on it." So it's our turn at the counter, I'm at the next register and suddenly the security guard's rushing over and acting like he was on the job the whole time. The clerk tells him that he should walk C.I. and I out. C.I. says no need, that chickens like that don't wait out in the parking lot. I'm thinking, "Hey, I'd like an escort." But I'm noticing the relief on the guard's face, that's he's not going to have to go out to the big bad parking lot. So we're walking out and I'm nervous, thinking we're about to be jumped for the four men, and C.I., without obviously looking around, tells me where everyone is that's in the parking lot. C.I. says that if they were really a threat, it would have been handled differently but that these were just wanna bes, trying to act tough and goes into a lengthy explanation of how, including the shoes they were wearing. But I was just really surprised because in an instant, C.I. had sized them up and could give you the most detailed explanation.

Mike: I love that story. Question, were you following the rule?

Kat: "No eye contact. I don't make eye contact, or I'm stopped. If you're with me and you make eye contact, even if I don't, we're going to be stopped." Yes, that is the rule for all public outings with C.I.

Mike: How did you get to know C.I.?

Kat: Through The Common Ills. It had just started and, back then, every entry at the site tended to either quote music or open with the words to a verse or chorus. I loved that and it's what pulled me into the site. I started writing e-mails about music, back then the community was small enough that C.I. read and replied to every e-mail, and while we were exchanging them, C.I. said that music was important and I should consider sharing my observations. I'd done some alternative weekly type stuff in college, years ago, but that was it. I really don't think there's much of a shot for a woman in reviewing because I don't think, and I'm sure there are a few exceptions -- Ann Power would be a current one, you can review and be a woman and still maintain your self-respect.

Mike: Talk about that.

Kat: Let me use a concrete example that happened to someone I know. She wrote a very strong, very favorable review of a Heart record, back then they were records. No, no, no, she was told. We don't do that. This wasn't a rave review. It was noting the strong parts of the album and the group. But they refused to run it. They chopped it, let a man add some smears and they ran that. Things aren't as bad as they once were. But whether it was Heart or some other woman, you had to be prepared to attack. Stevie Nicks was attacked viciously by critics. There was a male mentality and if you go back to earlier reviews, you see that. Janis, for instance, Janis Joplin, she wasn't "talented" so much as she was "instictive." Women couldn't think. And you had to write about their appearance. Paul McCartney could release the most pedestrian garbarge, and he often did, not always but often, and the critical consensus would be, "Praise be Paul! We are not worthy!" A woman of the same talent was downgraded. Rolling Stone now includes Carole King on their best of lists with Tapestry, but as late as the mid-eighties, they were still trashing her and refusing to recognize the genius of Tapestry. I think women and out of the closet gay men, who wrote reviews, helped open up the canon some but there was an attitude and you either followed it, or you had your review reworked by a man.

Mike: I know Stevie Nicks' music and like it. With Fleetwood Mac and the solo stuff. We were working on "Crapapedia: Kids don't use it to research papers!" this weekend and that was really the first time, in those discussions, that I was aware that Stevie was crucified like that. Talk about that because a lot of my readers are in college and high school and they may not know about that.

Kat: Space cadet was a popular way to deride her. Now let any guy in tight leather pants sing mystical songs and it was fine and dandy but let Stevie do it and it was time to bring out the meat cleaver, not the knife, because they didn't just want to stab her, they wanted to dismember her. Stevie's had enough success, enough fans and enough of a base, plus stayed in the game long enough, that they've been forced to re-evaluate her. And some of the guys probably had crushes on her and that helped as well. But if you read those reviews today, you'd be appalled by the way she was judged while the very weak song writing of Lindsey Buckingham was hailed as genius.

Mike: But all the songs people know are stuff she wrote like "Dreams" and "Landslide" and "Sara" or stuff the other woman wrote.

Kat: Christine McVie. Right. That's another thing that probably helped her be re-evaluated. When "Eyes of the World" or "Monday Morning" or "Family Man" refused to enter the canon despite all the praise heaped on them, Nicks had to be elevated some. Another example would be Joni Mitchell. Her love life was mocked and dissected. But Rolling Stone didn't do the same to James Taylor. Or Jackson Browne. Or any of the Eagles.

Mike: See, that's stuff that people my age don't know about. You were talking about Joni this weekend. You, Elaine and C.I.

Kat: About that lousy chart they did on Joni's love life. Or the nonsense about who ever is loudest in the mix is who Joni's sleeping with. There was a huge double standard. It still exists. It's not as huge. It's huge, don't get me wrong, but not as huge. You can see it in the Rolling Stone Interviews collection. The first one contains interviews with Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt. The other women, Grace Slick and Carly Simon, are interviewed with the men they're involved with. People aren't going to remember the body of James Taylor's work, they already don't. His biggest hit was written by Carole King ("You've Got a Friend") but he's in there in an interview with Carly and in an interview by himself. They ignore Cass Elliott who was one of the first interviews they did, may have been the first official Rolling Stone Interview.
They don't put that in there. It's one man after another with two women interviewed with their partners and two women interviewed by themselves. The magazine started in 1967 but they never did a Rolling Stone Interview with Janis Joplin. I should explain that there are interviews in the magazine and then there is the Rolling Stone Interview which is a long interview covering many topics. It's the magazine's way of saying, "We take this artist seriously." For the second collection, Joan Baez is the only woman who appears. And let's note that they had to wait until the 1980s to do the Rolling Stone Interview with Joan Baez, apparently it took them that long to decide she had made a contribution that would stand. So that attitude carried over. It's why Lindsey Buckingham became a star to the press. Two women were the audience's focal point but they couldn't acknowledge, the rock press, the importance or that would somehow, in their minds, mean that the Mac, Fleetwood Mac, was soft. So they build up Lindsey in a way that has no reflection on his actual importance to the group. He has an importance to it, but he's not the driving force and he's gotten far too much credit for Nicks' work. Because, later on, he played with gadgets they tried to make him into Brian Wilson but Brian Wilson could write memorable songs. Christine McVie, with one album, had more hits than Buckingham with all of his solo albums. And of course Stevie's racked up classics. "Edge of Seventeen" is a rock classic whether they want to crown it as such or not.

Mike: Talk about Elton John.

Kat: I like Elton John. But when you're including him in the world of great rock, it's awfully strange that you're keeping so many women out because his music isn't all that different from what women have done. But when a woman does it, it's not "rock." It's not "hard" enough. But let Elton do the same basic thing as Carole King in terms of musical treatment and it's rock. If Led Zeppelin was the cut off mark, okay, fine. Squealing guitars, which I like, that's the standard. But that wasn't the standard. It also applied to African-American musicians. And I think MTV may have helped there. Not because MTV wanted to play Michael Jackson, they didn't. They had to be forced into it. But suddenly you had the argument that if Jackson couldn't be played because he wasn't "rock" why were all these other artists and bands getting airplay when there was no way in the world that they were rock?

Mike: So it's better now but still a problem?

Kat: Right. C.I. has this wonderful story about the cassette days and how someone, a guy, looking through C.I.'s cassettes remarked that C.I. only listened to women and men and women who were African-American. C.I. ended up counting the cassettes, with a legal pad, and showed the results. There were something like a thousand cassettes and White male artists were ahead by 50 and groups with White males only were ahead by a hundred. So it was close to equal but not even equal, White males were ahead. But for a lot of males, to see anything resembling parity, White males who grew up on the rock critics, that was too many women and too many African-Americans.

Mike: You get e-mails about how you just review women.

Kat: Yeah. That's when C.I. told me the story. C.I. said, "Kat, go back and count up all your reviews. I know you don't review just women, but count them up and you'll see that this person has the problem, not you."

Mike: Wanna talk about Dylan?

Kat: The artist or the cult around him? There are some early songs that are classics. The later work he's Leonard Cohen without the poetry -- preaching his Old Testament and raging against the world including you and me. If he can get some energy, which isn't too often, he can sometimes put over a decent song. But it's not great and he's not approached greateness in years. I'm still evaluating Joni's nineties output but I have no problem saying Dog Eat Dog was a classic in her canon. That album was trashed so badly. But it's really got some of her strongest work and is miles ahead of the overly praised Wild Things Run Fast which is nothing but wallpaper set to music with her doing songs like "You Dream Flat Tires." The opening track, which blends "Unchained Melody" is great but the album is the Mitchell one I cringe at just when I see it on my shelves. I can listen to any of the other albums but . . . Point is, Mitchell's continued to try and and that's the only album that I think she's ever been disappointing on. Dylan? At this point, over half his output is embarrassing. There was actually a great article on this in The Nation. Richard Goldstein wrote it. C.I.'s always behind on getting The Nation in the mail and C.I. called me up two weeks ago and asked me if I'd read that piece? I hadn't and C.I. suggested I read it. I did and thought, "I need to write about this." It was a pretty clear headed evaluation of Dylan's career and not a cult of piece. I was really impressed with it.

Mike: "I need to write about this." Talk about that.

Kat: Well, Ruth's been on vacation for most of the month of May and we all love Ruth's contributions. So since she was going on vacation, I was going to do seven reviews for the month of May with some of them popping up on Saturdays when her stuff would normally run. I meant to, but those things require thinking, a lot of putting them off, and then actually writing after I've figured out what's sparking my attention.

Mike: You did do seven.

Kat: I did?

Mike: Yep.
1) "Kat's Korner: Pink's not dead or silent"
2) "Kat's Korner: Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam"
3) "Kat's Korner: Need deeper? Check out Josh Ritter's The Animal Years"
4) "Kat's Korner: Richie Havens: The Economical Collection"
5) "Kat's Korner: Neil Young's Living With War -- key word 'Living'"
6) "Kat's Korner: Springsteen's Seeger Sessions"
7) "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way"

Kat: I didn't realize I'd done seven. I have a Free Design one done that will go up shortly. And I've got to read over my Janis Ian review which is a rough draft. The Ian one was supposed to go up Saturday but we wanted to be done with The Third Estate Sunday Review and I made that the focus. After we got done, I just wanted to sleep. So Sunday was out and I wasn't posting Monday. Tuesday I had plans and tonight [Wednesday] we're doing this interview.

Mike: You announced that there would be seven and there were. And one of the reasons you made that announcement was so that Ruth wouldn't rush back from her vacation.

Kat: Right. She needed to have fun with her friend Treva. They'd done a road trip right after Ruth's husband died and it was too soon. This was Ruth's first real vacation without her family where she still wasn't in the heavy grieving process.

Mike: What I don't get is why people think you can do the reviews and still do the the site.

Kat: I know Betty worries when the real world interferes. She shouldn't. She's got three kids and she's the sole support and sole care provider. So I always tell her, "People need to accept that you post when you have the time." When I get e-mails about that, directed to me, my attitude is, "If you want more stuff up, start your own site." I've got a life and I don't put it on hold, or pull a C.I. and put sleep on hold to do everything. God bless C.I., but I wouldn't put my life on hold. I think Rebecca's probably the sanest of all. She'll take time off when she needs to. She won't apologize for it. Or feel guilty about it. But let's bring up something else because we're all helping with The Third Estate Sunday Review and even with being credited in Jim's note each week, it's like, the attitude of some readers, "Well, who cares about that? Where's the new stuff at your site!" I stayed through the last marathon session from beginning to end and I don't know how they do it. Or how C.I. does it and turns around and posts at The Common Ills Sunday morning and then Sunday evening. And it's not like C.I.'s making up for the sleep time in between. I've never known anyone with such heavily scheduled days. The community loves C.I., and the love is mutal, but I'm not prepared to give that kind of time and, since I do need a certain number of hours sleep each day, I couldn't give it if I wanted to.

Mike: You've taken dictation from Ruth and posted her entries before, have you ever done that for C.I.?

Kat: No. No one who has a site is allowed because it might take time away from your site, that's the reasoning there. That's true of Ava and Jess as well, the same rule. Ruth's trying to cover so much and I hope, back from the vacation, that won't be the way it is. I don't care if it's short or long, I always enjoy reading them. But I do know how she works so hard to note this and note that and it's too much work. Ruth's had some entries that could have been five different ones and, even with those, she's left a ton on the cutting room floor. When you take dictation from Ruth, you're also acting as a sounding board as she tries to figure out what she can leave out and what she must cover. She works her butt off. I hope she'll cut her self some slack in the future.
And Dallas, to give him credit, as Ruth does, hunts down her links. C.I. does the tags. If Ruth's typing it up, she e-mails it. It's immediately slid over to Dallas. While Dallas is doing that, C.I.'s creating an entry at Blogger and putting in the tags. There are some of her posts that have had over twenty tags, that takes time. There is so much worth listening to but she can't note it all and, hopefully, won't try so hard to.

Mike: You cover music and Isaiah's the illustrator for the community. I was wondering what you think of his work?

Kat: I love it. He's actually working through several different techniques. If he's doing, for instance, a children's send up, he does it so that it looks like a coloring book and I always wonder if that's ever noted so I'm really glad you asked that question. "A Bug's Lie" was one example of that. Sometimes, he's going for more of a realistic mood and sometimes it's more of a sketch. I could talk about his work for days. He's really talented. When we were all in DC for the September protests, I got to talk to him about this. He was surprised that I had noticed so many things. I also love his bravery. Condi Rice in the blood fur, Bully Boy in the blood box. Those are accurate and funny. But I don't know a lot of places that you could find comics like that. Or what about his comic capturing the year 2005? Bully Boy, bare assed, without a care in the world, the bones of the fallen all around him. That perfectly captured 2005. I loved that.
And I printed up "Celibacy in the City," took it to a photo shop and had it enlarged. It's a poster in my living room. I felt it perfectly captured the Conservative, Republican Woman's idea of being single in DC. The work wives Harrie and Condi with 'single gal' Mary. I love his work. I don't tell him that anymore because that actually creates a ton of pressure for him. If someone loves, loves a comic, his first thought is "There's no way I can live up to that" and it becomes really hard for him to follow up. He also got slammed, as we all know. I don't know that going to a website where you 'create' your own illustration gives you any idea of the work that those comics take or doing them every Sunday. It is a lot of pressure. I think he's very talented. His Michael Hayden comic was perfect. The face was realistic and Michael Hayden as a turtle worked perfectly.

Mike: You're a big fan of his.

Kat: I really am. Drawing wasn't really my thing. I can do it. But my interests lay elsewhere. studying it. Photography, sculpture, murals and crafts were things I was better at.

Mike: Anything to add?

Kat: College was so long ago. That's probably it.

Mike: Did college, this was a question in the e-mails, help you with your art?

Kat: It's such a huge investment, in terms of money, that when I'm asked, I always say that it will give you a background. If you're not ready to strike out on your own yet, get the grounding. You can study by yourself, and you will, but this is really comprehensive. But if you're ready to go for it, go for it. What I saw college do for a lot of art majors with dreams was let them end up with a huge student loan or loans that they then ended up taking a job they hated just to pay off the debt but then there was another debt or another bill. If you're ready for it, strike out and stake your claim. If you need to learn more or you need more time, go to college. And when someone is considering going to college to major in art, they'll usually know which camp they fall into judging by their reaction. If you get a scholarship, I did, then go. Never toss away a free learning experience. But otherwise . . .

Mike: What about the value of a degree?

Kat: Okay, let's say you want to be a painter. Paint. A degree's not going to stop you. You might make contacts in college, but you can make them other ways. A lot of people who want to be painters go to college and end up giving up. Maybe they really didn't want it, maybe they really didn't have the goods or maybe they were beaten down? The latter happens very often because if you have your own visuals and your own technique, you can run into someone very petty who's not interested in your style developing and instead just wants to break you down.
I saw horror stories in nearly every class and I've heard horror stories from friends. If you don't have a technique down, learning about others can help you. But honestly, a lot of people are too talented to be arts major. It's like the Jon Cryer movie Hiding Out, where he goes back to high school and he's got this revisionist teacher teaching about Vietnam and he's all wrong. Cryer's character lived through the period and he knows it. It's a disaster.

Mike: Nina wanted to know if you always buy the CDs you review?

Kat: Yes. C.I. had an advance copy of Sheryl Crow's CD that I was offered but I wasn't interested in the CD after I listened. I've been offered other advanced copies, by C.I., and I pass. If I do end up writing a review, I feel like I might not give the same review if I had it for free. If I've paid for it and it's disappointing, I can say so. But am I going to be as disappointed if I haven't paid for it? I don't think I would be. Or I might rave over something that, if I paid for it, my reaction would be completely different. I turned down the offer of an advance copy of the Dixie Chicks CD for that reason.

Mike: I love your reviews and there aren't a lot like them.

Kat: A lot of people overinflate junk. I had a dream a month ago where Justin Timberlake's second album came out. I told C.I. and was told, "Write that down! He's finishing that CD."
(Laughing) If it comes out and it's junk, I do already have that review written. But you've got the people treating freeze-dried-crap like art. My opinion, they're passionate about the wrong things. But at least they're passionate. What kills music is these critics who think they're delivering a dull lecture on the baroque period. Music, good music, is alive. You don't treat it like a corpse. There are reviews I've loved as reviews that I've disagreed with completely but responded to the passion. I can't take these detached observations and honestly don't think they fit contemporary music -- these aren't museum pieces. If I can give a shout out to two other reviewers, TV reviewers, Ava and C.I. They're incredible. They're like Isaiah in that you can't praise them or it becomes, "How will we top that!" They're very talented and whether it's that Law & Order thing where they were so creative or whether they're explaining why a piece of crap is a piece of crap, or anything else. And they really do break stories. Bill Keller can whine about the pajama clad bloggers all he wants, but Ava and C.I. are doing journalism. Whether it's Elizabeth Vargas or "Katie Was a Cheerleader"or any number of other things. I loved their review of Threshold. And the David Mamet is one that still makes me laugh. They don't take it seriously but it's good journalism and they can say, "Oh, the most we do is work the phones." Uh, what else do reporters at the Times do. The difference is probably that Ava and C.I. can actually get people on the phone because they're talking to people they know.

Mike: Do you know if their friends at The Loop are still mad?

Kat: That was noted because they were asked to note it. At first, they said, "No, you'll look like poor sports." But they wanted it noted so Ava and C.I. noted it. Ava called me last week and said, "Guess what? ____ and ____ now wants C.I. and to note that they're not mad and they think it's funny." It was funny. Too bad the show wasn't. But back to your question, you need to interview Ava again and just focus on the work and she and C.I. do in the TV reviews because there are stories I think she'd be willing to share that would make a great interview.

Mike: I'll do that. But when I interviewed her before, I have to tell you, she played it really close to the vest.

Kat: There are some changes going on that I think will change that. And you know one because she brought it up this weekend.

Mike: Right. Leigh Ann wrote in after C.I. noted that I hadn't interviewed you and wondered who you like that reviews music?

Kat: I don't hate Kelefa. I actually enjoy her writing more than I don't. But when she's wrong, she's really wrong. And by wrong, I mean factually, not opinion. Kelefa Sanneh with the New York Times. There's a guy at Rolling Stone that I won't name because I thought he was doing a put on and now fear he was deadly serious all along. I like Stephen Holden's work at the Times. His is a quieter style but he's charted, in the body of his work, some really important developments. I don't think he gets the credit he should and feel that was true at Rolling Stone as well. Ann Powers is amazing. I remember her review of Ben Folds Five's "Brick" to this day. I rushed out and bought the CD that day, solely on the basis of that review. I'd never heard the group before. That's how powerful her writing is. I don't care for the insta-reviews where you do a few sentences on the last album, note a few tracks from the new one and think you've done anything. You might as well just write "Buy it!" or "Don't buy it!" because there's no real criticism there.

Mike: Ma wanted me to say that your review of Carly Simon's Moonlight Serenade is her favorite review. Period. Of any music critic.

Kat: You're mother is so sweet. And so young. I still can't believe she had all those kids, all you kids. I love her site and my mother reads it. Your mother is reaching people that might not be reached otherwise. Trina's Kitchen, where music and politics blend for a tasty dish.

Mike: A friend at Church, who has never said one word on the war, came up to her and said, "Thank you." She just grabbed my Ma's arm and says, "Thank you." Ma said, "You're welcome." She could tell it was a big deal for the woman and didn't want to embarrass her. Later she visited with the woman and she was thanking her for her site.

Kat: Your mother is very real at her site. She doesn't pretend. I think she reaches people who may not be reached otherwise. You've got recipes and that interests some people so if she can talk you through a recipe and offer some political thoughts, she's got an opening that others might not have.

Mike: That's really true of the sites in the community, everyone's offering their own thing and that seems to speak to people. I called a guy "Dumb ass" in an e-mail I wrote today. I'm saving it to draft to see if I still want to send it tomorrow. But he was having a fit about a comparison that I didn't make, the writer he was defending made it. So he writes this prissy e-mail to lecture me. I went back to the post and read it over. His hero's making the comparison. Do you get a lot of that?

Kat: You want me to go where I don't want to go.

Mike: No, I'm not bringing up the Idiot Barney.

Kat: Okay. Well, I don't read much outside of the community anymore. I tried to give Barney a link and made a point not to even talk about Barney's opinion. He has a meltdown and starts e-mailing me. I tried to respond and then Pristine tells C.I. that my e-mail was rude.

Mike: He was also wanting you to put up a thing at your site.

Kat: Right. We're in it now, aren't we? He wanted something at my site. I said, "Write it, I'll post it." But he didn't want his opinion up there as his opinion. He wanted it up there as my opinion and that's when I said, "Screw it." So since then, I just stick with the community members. I've got the password to both the public e-mail and the private one for The Common Ills and Ava, Jess and C.I. have created a folder called "Kat's folder." They put my e-mails in there and I'll go in and read them. But no, I don't need to read some asshole's thoughts. Especially when he can't even quote me correctly at his site. Especially when he can't grasp that "can" is ability. Someone can do something if they want, doesn't mean they did it or they didn't, just that they "can." It was a really bad period for me because of the site he was with and wanting to be supportive of other women. C.I. asked me how I handled it and was honestly going to go along with whatever I wanted. I said, "Let's put it behind us." Then his friend Pristine couldn't let it go. Ava wrote her a very brief reply that was completely void of any emotion because Ava's aunt had advised her, no matter how it looks right now, do not get personal with that woman. Even with that e-mail, Pristine replies with an e-mailing screaming at Ava. Add in that Jess was already pissed about comments being made privately, in e-mails about me, and then, while we're both supposedly trying to get along, Pristine delinks from The Common Ills, one of the few sites that regularly bothered to note her and Jess had enough. He delinked immediately, without C.I.'s permission, but C.I. never questioned it and, to my knowledge, has never made a statement about that to anyone. Her site didn't get noted in entries. Go to technorati and C.I.'s the only one tagging it. I included the thing on Barney because I was trying to be supportive of the site. I focused on the comments to his post. And the thanks I got was to be told I couldn't write, that I didn't know what I was talking about, that I was rude and just on and on. I know all about it from Jess. He was very upset and that helped me because to have someone so in my corner helped. So did hearing from a personal hero who said, "Don't mistake what she does with feminism." She should have called Barney to the carpet for trying to force a woman to put up his comments under her own name, to devalue another woman's opinion like that. But she didn't. And she claimed to have seen all the e-mails so she should know what her man did.

Mike: Well let's remember this is a site that couldn't weigh in on the war. "War Got Your Tongue?" was written as a result of all this.

Kat: Right. They can't comment. There's a war going on and they're running a site but they can't comment on it. That's nonsense. You're not asking them to endorse a candidate. You're expecting that, since they live in the same world, they can actually have a comment about the war. Kim Gandy can comment. Ms. Magazine can weigh in. As NOW says, "Peace is a feminist issue." I can't imagine anything worse than being a woman of a certain age gushing over David Boreanaz or whatever the hot topic is in junior high. Although in fairness, as readers of Rebecca's site know, junior high kids are a lot more on the ball than Pristine. So I'm not interested in outsiders opinions. What is it that Gina says? It's a private conversation held in a public space. If you're not a part of it and don't want to be a part of it, I don't need to listen.

Mike: A lot of musicians are weighing in.

Kat: But look what it's had to take! And a lot more need to. I'm sorry, when the Rolling Stones weigh in, no one has an excuse. It didn't hurt their tour. It didn't hurt them one bit. A lot of older acts say they can't weigh in because they'd lose airplay. Most aren't getting spun as it is. If they are, it's their oldies. It's not going to hurt them one bit to say what they say privately, to say it publicly. People are dying. How long are they going to stay silent? And that's true of all of us. Until we're all screaming for the troops to come, this war will drag on and on and on. It's illegal, it's immoral.

Mike: We're both Catholic so I'm guessing you know that the last Pope came out against it.

Kat: I loved that. How people on the right use his words on gays and lesbians or abortion to try to shut people up but they all, Peggy Noonan on down, completely ignored him on the topic of the war. I don't base my arguments on the words of any Pope. But for those who do, for those who constantly did, for them to then act like it was never said showed you that they have no morals.

Mike: After the war, what's the scariest thing to you?

Kat: There are a number of things in the world but I guess I'd go with abortion being made illegal. I think we're in serious danger there. And for anyone who missed my post last summer, I have had an abortion. I make no apologies for that. I ask for no forgiveness. I don't hang my head in shame or regret my decision. I did what I needed to do and it's no one else's damn business. I haven't forced anyone to have an abortion or to carry to term. It's each woman's decision and that's how it should be. But the make up of the Court and efforts on the state level, that have long been planned and readied, want to take away choice. That's scary to me. I don't expect to have another abortion. It really doesn't effect me on that level at this point. But I can remember when it was illegal and that does effect me because I don't want any woman to have to go through what he had to in the pre-Roe v. Wade days. We shouldn't have to. It's a medical decision and if you're against it, don't have one. It's that simple.

Mike: You wrote about John Tierney and the issue of would-be fathers.

Kat: Right. If you're sleeping with a woman and this issue is so important to you, you should have taken the time to check in before bedding down. The fact that you didn't, that's your personal problem. That's your fault. Too bad. Be a little more selective in the future when picking partners. And if it turns out that she's changed her position, oh well, guess you didn't know her after all. You're bad. What's really scary, what feminists have always known, is it's not just abortion. They want to do away with birth control as well. You've seen the War on Rubbers in their AIDS 'education.' Expect more of that. Expect a lot more. It's very scary.
More so when you realize that these lunatics don't even have the popular support of the people but are very close to ramming through their views.

Mike: What could stop it?

Kat: Honestly, I think the best shot we have, after fighting to make sure our voices are heard, is time. I think 'fear of the millenium' sent a lot of sinners and backsliders running to the pews. "The sky is falling!" and all of that. That would have weakened some but then you had 9/11. But I think people are getting tired, I hope this is true, of having religion shoved down their throats. A relationship with God or your concept of God is a very personal thing. When people start trying to mandate it or even just define it for you, it grates on your nerves.

Mike: What will stop the war?

Kat: People facing reality. The occupation is illegal and damages Iraq. You can't give someone democracy. Democracy comes from a people. You can't impose it. And it's not your right to tell another country how they will conduct their business. Paul Bremer made all those laws that are damaging to Iraqis. Face reality that we've done everything we can for the markets and nothing for the people. After facing reality, people mobilizing to end the war.

Mike: How many years?

Kat: I think you're right about "years." I hope no more than one and a half. But I think it could be as many as five or more if we don't start speaking out and taking the issue seriously.

Mike: Iraq snapshot. Keep it or lose it?

Kat: This goes up Thursday evening.

Mike: Probably Thursday night. I type really slow.

Kat: Okay, the votes will be in by then. The community is voting on whether or not to continue the Iraq snapshot at The Common Ills or not. Some, I think it's a minority, feel that Monday through Friday means no highlights and that highlights are more important. I disagree. Until every site on the internet is tracking some of the daily events, the Iraq snapshot is needed. I voted to keep it and lose the highlights. In a perfect world, there'd be no need for a choice but it's a lot of work and C.I. can't do everything.

Mike: I agree with you. It really demonstrates what's going on. It's not happy talk or a bunch of ass kissing to officials. It's the events that should sadden you and scare the hell out of you because there's probably so much more that will never know about.

Kat: Agreed. Because most are embeds. They never leave the Green Zone without military escorts and even that doesn't happen too often. I'm glad, for the record, that C.I. called out Dexter Filkins from the start of the site. A lot of people didn't do that. C.I. did. And I don't think Falluja in November of 2004 will play as a proud moment as more and more people learn about the reality of it. C.I. called out Dexy's crap from the start. And has never shied from doing it since. That's important and it matters and we both know P.J. agrees.

Mike: Community member P.J. short for "professional journalist." That did take guts. I think when we see stuff like that, it encourages us all to speak truth to power.

Kat: Amy Goodman, national treasure.

Mike: She is!

Kat: Imagine a world without her, a world with nothing but Dexy Filkins. We'd never know any truth, only the official line.

Mike: You listen to Democracy Now! I do too, but because of my schedule. I like watching it.

Kat: I prefer to listen. I listen to KPFA so I get to hear it twice unless I'm doing errands, work or otherwise -- or unless I sleep in. I just prefer to hear it coming out of my radio. I love KPFA, by the way. It's my local station and I listen to it all the time. Wherever you are, if you have a computer and can listen to broadcasts on it, you can too. "Quit going to the corporate media that lied about the war." That's my message. That and if you can support it, make a pledge to the Pacifica station of your choice. I can hear Bonie Faulkner, Amy and Juan Gonzalez, Andrea Lewis, Kris Welch, Philip Maldari, Larry Bensky and so many more. But if you've got a home computer, you're just as lucky as I am. Utilize the media that's not afraid to present a dissenting viewpoint.

Mike: Anything else?

Kat: That's it.

Mike: Then thank you for doing the interview. I really enjoyed it.

Kat: Me too. Thanks to you.