Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas (Talking Post)

Christmas Day. For a little while longer. Hope everyone had a good day whether they were celebrating something today or not.

I had a weird e-mail on that but I'll get to that in a bit and this is what Jim has dubbed "a talking post." Jim used to enjoy those, done by C.I., but would always be going, "You should have opened with ___ and then ___ and then ___." He didn't appreciate the beauty of talking posts from his journalism classes. :D Of course, by the time he started guest posting for the rest of us, he had discovered both their charm and their attraction. :D

It's just a way to talk. And The Common Ills is a conversation. If something gets too much outside attention, C.I. will deliberately pull back. When someone was kind enough to repost a thing I did and I got all this attention from people who do not normally drop by this site, I pulled back as well. And finally got the point about how you do not want too much attention because then you've got a whole crowd of people tuning in that you're really not trying to speak to. And then you can get a rush of 'fame' and start catering your posts to them. But most of them are just following whatever's 'hot' and they're e-mailing you telling you to talk about this or that and it's never the illegal war. Not trying to sound like an 'expert' here because while I never thought there wasn't a point to talking posts, I really didn't get why C.I. or Ava and C.I. for that matter would pull back from attention. I respected their view and didn't question it or mock it but I really didn't understand it until this Italian site reposted something I'd written. I didn't even know they had done that. I log into my e-mail account and instead of my usual e-mails, I've got all these e-mails. And it freaked me out.

But I remembered what Ava and C.I. had been saying all along and I thank them for that because otherwise this would be a different site today. It wouldn't be "Mikey Likes It!" that's for damn sure. That crowd hung around for about four posts and then were gone. But during that time they e-mailed non-stop with, "Cover this __!" and "Why aren't you covering that!" and "Enough on the war!" By day three they were threatening to never read again, by day four they were e-mailing me the kiss-off e-mails.

And I could have done what they wanted. But like C.I.'s says, "I'm not a jukebox." :D You can't just push a button and here the song you want to hear.

When an entry C.I. wrote early on got mentioned on NPR, right away, C.I. said, "Never again." Back then, I wouldn't have known how to write those things but I do know now. And it really is a weaker way of using your voice, obviously if NPR's citing something, it's not going to be hard hitting. So you can do that and flatter (C.I. wrote that thing tired and it only went up because there wasn't time to write anything else -- C.I. wasn't trying to flatter) and be part of the big echo chamber that acts like everything's just a little off but a quick fix will save us all or you can tell the truth.

And if you look at the response to The Common Ills, you know there is a big audience for the truth. They'll find you and they'll find you on their own and through word of mouth. If NPR's plugging you or the other institutions, you're being plugged because they think you're 'safe' and that you won't rock the boat too much. You'll say, "Oh, the sea is rocky today!" but you won't say, "And the boat's taking on water." You'll never note the leak in the boat or that it's sinking.
I think it's known that Jim's brother blogged for a little bit and was pretty big online back before the 2004 election and then packed it in because he didn't care for the echo chamber that was coming into being. And that's all that they gave us and all they still give us, linking to 'Ezra' and to 'Matthew' and you know the drill. Claiming that the country needs some changes but rushing off to Time, Newsweek, The Atlantic, etc. Because it was never about changing anything, it was about setting up a career for themselves.

Anyone telling the real truth isn't going to end up working for a MSM magazine. Don't fool yourself that it's 'breaking through.' As C.I. was noting as early as 2004, they've cut off the head of Cokie Roberts and a million new Cokies have sprung up in their place. There's been no media revolution, just a change of the occupants in the deck chairs.

They didn't value their power. Because truth telling and communicating wasn't enough for them. It was always about them wanting to be the ones invited to the chat & chews.

C.I. doesn't do interviews as C.I. and when Ava and C.I.'s stuff first started getting attention at The Third Estate Sunday Review (and for two years after really), requests for interviews would come in all the time and Ava, who never splits from C.I., would say "no." Jim would be going, "Okay, C.I. doesn't do interviews. But you can do interviews. They want both of you but they'll take either of you." And Ava would say no.

It's probably about once a month now that a request comes in. But their point was always, "Why would we need to do an interview? We have the space to say whatever we think already? You can quote from our writing, if you want, but we're not interested. Thank you."

But if you start getting on that media circus ride, you're not really going to say what you think. Either to the media or at your own site. You're going to start self-censoring because maybe Air America won't have you back on, or maybe you won't get on CNN again, or maybe . . .

You get the point.

So I'm really glad that we'll go out having maintained our independence. We didn't try to curry favor. We didn't pull punches. And when someone said, "You can't go there!" we went.

I really do like seeing the community members online as the Mamas and the Papas of the web. :D And that alone is a good enough reason to go out in November of 2008. :D

Let me talk about the e-mail. It was from someone who identifies as religious and wanted to know why we're ashamed of being religious. She wrote "all of you" and listed sites, so I'll answer for myself and then move to "all of you." I'm Catholic. I've never denied that. I've never pretended that wasn't the case. Anyone coming by picks up on that if they stay awhile and any regular reader knows it. Kat's Catholic as well and that's known and mentioned at her site and it pops up in some of her CD reviews. Ruth's Jewish. I don't know if Cedric and Betty have noted their specific denomination online but they have repeatedly talked in roundtables (and Cedric at his site) about their churches and Christianity. In terms of others with sites, I don't know if they have talked about in roundtables or at their own sites. One doesn't believe in any higher power which is certainly their right. Others do.

The e-mailer was thrilled that C.I. came out today as religious. The woman needs to re-read the site. C.I. will never use an 'crowd pleaser' to hide behind. C.I. will not hide behind God, the flag, the military or any other 'safe' topic to "couch my view on." For all the e-mailer knows, C.I.'s the one I spoke of who doesn't believe. (I'm not saying it's C.I.) "Ruth's Report" went up last night and Ruth had another report she planned to post. It was noting that she was Jewish and when her husband first started out as a doctor he was always working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Her point was why does independent media take days or a week off for Christmas? There are non-Christians, including Jewish people, in independent media. Some of them head magazines, some of them host programs. So why does independent media shut down completely for a Christian holiday? Her point was that the medical community had a higher degree of responsibility and professionalism.

She saw an e-mail right before she posted that let her have a way to weigh in on Iraq Veterans Against the War and how they are doing their Winter Soldiers Investigation in March (13th through 16th) and that's their day. So she wrote a new report and posted that.

In "Motor Scooters in Iraq" C.I.'s explaining how we will get softer stories in our papers on Christmas Day and that's because less people read the paper on Christmas Day so no one wants to break a big story then. While C.I. was typing it a friend who's visiting for the holidays, who used to be a daily newspaper reporter, pointed out that the writer of the story C.I. was talking about (Cara Buckley) would probably get a snide little remark from a media watchdog (like CounterSpin) about how it wasn't a hard article. It's not. It's not news. It's a feature story and that's what you get today. But little media's taking days or the entire week off so they really have no point to criticize and then C.I.'s bringing in the points from Ruth's report that didn't go up. That has to do with independent media. It shouldn't be read as anything other than a critique. And if you listen to Pacifica, you probably heard -- last week -- hosts saying, "We'll see you again next year." Hosts of once a week or daily programs who were taking off last week. Are they all Christians? No. In fact some are Jewish. Why do they need two week vacations to 'celebrate' a holiday they won't be celebrating and why do listeners need to be stuck with two weeks of repeats?

For the record, C.I. -- go back to the early days of The Common Ills -- called out the nonsense of Air America taking two weeks off for Christmas as well. So did Rebecca and Rebecca will tell you how shocked she was to hear Rachel Maddow show up after a two week vacation where repeats of Unfiltered were offered noting some story from the Saturday papers (that she wrongly said were in the Sunday New York Times and Washington Post) and telling listeners that the fact that Maddow was talking about proved how important Air America was and how needed. If it was needed, maybe the whole network shouldn't have taken two weeks off?

And that's a good point. Whether you claim to be news or public affairs, if you're considering yourself a professional (I'm not talking about blogs) where do you get off doing nothing for two weeks? They've already got their vacations during the year. But they all go dark and that's really nonsense.

So that was what C.I. was addressing, media.

In terms of me, I regularly make many points that acknowledge that I believe in Jesus. I'm not embarrassed about it. But Catholics don't try to convert (at least not in this country! or in this century!). And I wouldn't be interested in doing so regardless. People believe what they believe. Either because they were raised that or they thought about it on their own or both. So some people don't believe in any Higher Power and that's their right. And some people don't believe in Jesus and that's their right. And some people practice Eastern religions or other things and that's their right.

There was a comment in the snapshot yesterday that someone saw as C.I. believes in ghosts! :D That made me laugh because I was on the phone with Jess and C.I. was dictating the snapshot (they were running errands) on another cell phone and I go, "Jess! Tell C.I. to redo that statement. Someone's going to see it as religious!" So Jess tells C.I. and "eternally damned" (may the people trying to brain wash Iraqi prisoners be eternally damned) became "eternally haunted." And I thought that was a good save but I'm checking my e-mails this morning and someone's written that they believe in ghosts and they're so glad to know C.I. does too! :D (I'm not saying C.I. doesn't believe in ghosts. I'm not saying C.I. does. I'm saying that wasn't the point of the statement.)

I was checking my e-mails because all my relatives were over. And my great aunt on my dad's side, who doesn't usually come each year because she lives in Chicago and has some children there and it's a long trip when you get older, was there. And she goes, "Now Micheal, what is this 'web' I keep hearing about? I understand you are on it." :D

I was laughing so hard. Not at her. I gave her a big hug and we went into the kitchen to get on Ma's computer so I could show her what the web was and all. She wanted to see my site and Ma's too. And I showed her other stuff too. (She goes, "Don't show me anything dirty. I know there are a lot of dirty things online." :D) So we were looking around at different stuff and I was showing her how to use a computer mouse (I don't know why they call it a mouse -- she asked me that and I told her "I don't have that answer" :D). So she goes, "Well what sort of people read you and your mother?" So I got into my account and had to explain what e-mails were (I'm not making fun of her, the net is something that she's never seen). She said, "Oh that one looks nice." She was pointing to one that had a title of "Dearest." I explained that none of my readers would use that and when you get "Dearest" it is a spam e-mail. Then I had to explain spam and my brother helped me out by telling her it was like all the junk mail you get in your physical mail box. So we were looking and there was an e-mail from the vet I quoted and my great aunt was really glad about that (because of "manners" and because I had posted his comments so people could get the kind of stuff this bad media is causing). So she wanted to see the kind of e-mails Ma got and Ma is at the stove pulling together this feast so she shouted out her password and we log in and there's a woman needing help. She even put her phone number in. Because it was a Christmas cooking emergency, Ma called her. She wrote about it today in "My oven doesn't work!" and my great aunt said that between helping that woman and putting up the veteran's comments, Ma and I were "doing good work." So there you go. :D

All of Ma's relatives live close by but some of Dad's relatives live out of the city. The people on her side all know about the web and it was interesting today because I realized how much I take for granted. She'd been trying to remember, my great aunt, a movie she saw about Christmas that she just loved once upon a time but she couldn't remember the title and had tried to rent it at her local video store but only knew that Barbara Stanwyck was in. They kept telling her it was Christmas in Connecticut (sp?) and she kept going, "No." That's not the one she meant. So I showed her how we could pull up movies and just pull up Stanwyck's movies on IMDB. We were looking through the lists and she goes, "That's it! Meet John Doe!"

Dad's got that and I told him and he gave it to her. She tried to pay him for it and he goes no and goes for her to keep it cause it's at all the stores. But she was so excited to be able to find her answer online.

Her daughter told me they tried to get her a computer a few years back but she wasn't interested at all. She says now they're going to get it for her as a birthday gift (her birthday is January 11th). So that's pretty cool. But Elaine and I went into the kitchen with her and showed her different stuff. She wanted to see Elaine's site too. So we went there and she read Elaine's "Call out Katrina vanden Heuvel." She goes, "Good for you dear. There was a time when they wouldn't even let us vote." :D

So it was a pretty good Christmas. Got to see a lot of the family, got to stuff my belly full and then some, and I got to see some excited faces opening presents. And, we have my niece this Christmas, which is pretty cool. This was her first Christmas (she was born in July). And we all watched Meet John Doe after the excitement so it was just a really nice day.

I should probably add that we talk about Iraq in my family on Christmas. I hope others celebrating did as well. That was pretty much a two hour discussion around the table with everyone weighing in.

Regardless of whether you celebrated it or something else or nothing, I hope you had a good day too.

Be sure to read Wally's "THIS JUST IN! U.S. MILITARY KILLS 'TERRORIST'!" and Cedric's
"Christmas in Baghdad"