Ava here (The Third Estate Sunday Review). I always think, "Today's the day that I'll have time to write something for the mirror site." Or that I'll be able to repost something. That never happens because the e-mails always pile up. That's with Jess and I both helping C.I. and still they'll pile up. I don't know how C.I. ever managed alone . . .
We get e-mails at The Third Estate Sunday Review but a good week is probably a little over 400 and the average is probably more along the lines of 200. The members account alone (at The Common Ills) exceeds a thousand a day on a slow day. And that's only because many members have started utilizing Gina and Krista and their round-robin. The public e-mail account, which many members still utilize . . .
I have no idea. That's because C.I. tries to stay focused on the membership so Jess and I do as well. I know that Mondays are always a "Oh My God" login moment. C.I. will have grabbed some e-mails there for the Sunday night entries but only the ones from members with headings that make it clear that they are for the Sunday evening entry. Two Mondays ago, Jess phoned and said, "Guess." It was over 6,000.
So that's what takes up the bulk of my own computer time.
Ty and Jess have now twice filled in for C.I. for the Sunday entries (the ones about reporting from outside the US mainstream media) and a number of e-mails came in asking me why I didn't join them? Putting out The Third Estate Sunday Review is an all night marathon. (The print version gets every thing -- even scraps. Only the ones one of us or most of us or all of us feel strong about make it online.) After we're done with that, I crash (usually around nine or ten a.m.) and wake up around three or four p.m. I don't even want to look at a computer Sunday evenings.
There are some evenings, and Jim will back me up on this, that I don't even want to look at Jim. I'll ask Dona if she and he can go out. Jim's a great guy and would/will make an incredible editor but I lack his enthusiasm for all nighters and for explorations. He will toss something around and around and just "open it up" to discussion. By four in the morning, I just want the edition completed already.
If C.I. and I haven't had time to write our TV review by that point, everyone's running interference for us because Jim has a million ideas. But it's never been an issue of not knowing what to write in a TV review, it's been an issue of C.I. and I being able to grab the time.
Dona's usually the best at saying, "Back off, Jim." (Usually in much stronger terms.) That may be due to the fact that they are a couple but it's also due to the fact that she's a very strong willed person herself. As a team, they make the best editor.
Jim's enthusiasm never flags and that's great in many ways but, for instance, Ty had the idea for an online novel and we did two chapters. It was Ty's plot and we would all just adds bits and pieces to his plot. But then Jim's enthusiasm was so great that Ty just felt like it was time to walk away from it because it was no longer the plot he had been setting up.
That's not to dog on Jim. He'd agree with everything I've written and there are Sundays where, without that enthusiasm of his, we'd end up with no online edition at all. But he knows there are Sunday evenings when I don't even want to look at him. By Monday, he can make me laugh and I really do want to hear what he thinks about whatever, but after the marathons I've o.d.ed on Jim. It's not as bad as it once was. And Elaine gets thanks for that because she set a boundary that, if she hadn't, would have destroyed Jim and my friendship.
I don't want to hear, on Sunday evening, what the edition could have been or should have been or how I could've worded something or should've worded something. He has strong feedback (and not all negative) but I've gotten maybe five hours of sleep and seen the weekend fly out the window ("again," as Dona says) and the last thing I want is to even think about the edition that was just finished. By Monday, I can handle the autopsy but not before then.
I'll use the rest of the space to answer some of the questions that pop up the most frequently.
Did Rebecca start her site first or did The Third Estate Sunday Review?
Rebecca was the first spin off site from The Common Ills. She beat us by a few days. Folding Star of A Winding Road followed us, if I've got the time line correct on that.
There was already a community member sharing with my name.
Are Jess and I a couple?
I've made it a point not to talk about my personal life. Dona and Jim are much more upfront about their personal lives and that's great for them. I don't care to do that. It may have to do with the nasty and threatening e-mails that came in from the moment it was announced that the TV reviews were done by C.I. and myself. There are wonderful members in the community and, if I did decide to share personal details, I'd take it to the gina & krista round-robin. I just feel that some of the online stalkers had more than information as it was when the first wave of e-mails came in.
What is Ty like?
Ty is the sweetest person in the world. Jess is the most easy going. Ty just has a sweet quality that radidates from him. Everyone loves Ty. He's just that kind of guy.
What is Dona like?
A lot of people seem to think she's a "bitch." They never think that about Jim. With Jim, he's just a man doing manly things. With Dona, a lot of people feel that she must be a "bitch" from the way things come off online. She's not. She can be tough when it's needed. I've actually learned to toughen up because of her example. She's never been silenced in any situation I've observed. That's with any group, even a group of males telling her, "Oh I disagree." She can handle herself and I admire her strength. She also has a very goofy side that she only lets her closest friends see that is very endearing.
I think the issue of "bitch" comes up both because she's a strong woman and because of the fact that she's (and it's obvious in any discussion or roundtable we run) the one keeping time and saying, "Okay, let's wrap it up." We once did a roundtable that went on five hours. The full transcript went into the print edition. Never again. Thankfully Dona will remind us all of that.
Thankfully, Dona doesn't get worked up about how she's seen (by people who've never met her). She takes it all in stride. She also doesn't get bothered by the mash notes to Jim whom a number of women (and a few men) have decided is sex on stick apparently.
Did we know we'd be doing this for over a year?
I can't speak to that except second hand. I was a last minute thought. Dona brought me in because we were friends. I knew the guys but I didn't know them that well. Did I think it would last this long? I thought it was something we'd do for a few months. I am pleased that so many enjoy each week's editions but there are times when I wish I had a weekend off.
Some would argue that I got that on Christmas since I sat that one out; however, C.I. and I did write a TV commentary for that edition. And Jim's always saying, "If you want a weekend off, you should take one. You and C.I. can just write the review early and you can have the weekend off."
But as much as I may hate the process in the final hour, I really wouldn't want to miss out. There's a lot of fun, a lot of exchange, just a lot of wonderful moments. But when I'm tired, I'm tired.
Why did you start when you did?
My understanding is that everyone had been talking about starting a site for at least a week, maybe two, then I got invited in and that Saturday (when we started) Jim had gone to a speech for a campus group. Jim will tell you it was an amazing speech (not hard to believe) and that the whole time he was thinking, "That sounds just like C.I." Afterwards, Jim approached and said, "You're C.I. of The Common Ills." C.I. was taken by surprise because no one had made the connection and it was a case of a nonpoker face giving it away. So since C.I. was in our area, it seemed the perfect time to start up.
C.I. wasn't supposed to help with every edition. We just got very lucky. The first edition we had C.I. with us and that was great. The second week, we had C.I. on the phone and now we're often on the phone with many people. My favorite times are when C.I.'s present physically. I don't know why that is.
Maybe it's because I can exchange a look and it be read so we can go off and do the TV commentary. I do not like doing a TV review or commentary at six am. I'm tired and don't feel I have anything left to offer. But there are times when we've had to do that. Dona's usually good about suggesting that C.I. and I get off the group call and just get on the phone with each other to work out that week's piece. But if it's crazy and/or intense, that might get overlooked by all of us. Then it's six am and I'm trying to think, "Is it funny? Are we getting our point across in any way?"
Do you and C.I. really not read the TV reviews?
Not a word. Sometimes someone will read a section of them to us. If we know that's what's going to happen, we'll both stop the person. I had a professor last semester who really enjoyed the TV reviews and wanted to discuss them with me. I went to her office and she really knew them. I thought it was going to be just a general, "How do you do this? What made you notice that?" Big themes. But she was really into the TV reviews and probably highly disappointed that I'd have to repeatedly ask her, "Which review are you talking about?"
When we review something where we know people working on the show, do they ever get mad at the reviews?
The easy response is: If they do, they've never said so. The longer response is that some people we know, we don't honestly care for and could care less what they think. There's an actor and a reality show person who hate us, hate us, hate us. We could care less in either case. And there's an overrated producer (not one with a franchise) who despises us and attempted to find out who had leaked something to us. He fingered an actress and even though she denied it (and was telling the truth) he was convinced for months that it was her.
There are times when we end up strongly criticizing a show and we didn't know we were going to. We may not have realized how much we disliked it until we're going over our notes. If someone with the show is someone we're really close to, we'll fire off an e-mail giving them a heads up that they might want to avoid the review because we really hated the show. If we had them done earlier, we'd call (as we've done at least three times) to warn them that we're really going to town on their show.
Do you miss the news reviews?
I think I'm the only one who doesn't. (C.I. may not miss them but would never say that.) They were created as a way to do a quick feature. One hour tops. We'd do it like Democracy Now! in terms of it being a real time transcript and we'd all be working on our stories with C.I. anchoring (at Dona and Jim's request, C.I. didn't want to anchor). Dona thought it up and it worked very well at the beginning but then it didn't. And when it's taking two hours, that's really too long. I always went near the end and would tell Jim and Dona mine could be cut out completely for time or that they we could go through and reduce what I had prepared. But there are other people who would work really hard and they'd end up having to cut or maybe not even make it. And sometimes, the report wouldn't be ready, the next one, so C.I. would have to stretch. I had the information and had no problem with that. Jess can do easy and Betty was a wiz at it. I remember Cedric being good at it as well. But it can put pressure on people and not everyone was comfortable when Dona would say "Stretch this out, the next piece isn't ready."
Did you really read The Common Ills before you started the site?
Yes, we all did. You can see us highlighting stuff prior to the start of The Third Estate Sunday Review. Jim and Dona were among the first members. I wasn't. It was probably right after Thanksgiving that Dona turned me on to The Common Ills. But all of us were readers/members before we started our site in January of 2005. And we still are. We don't highlight as much because we do have our own site. It's not fair to others, in our minds, since we have our own site. But there are requests that members with sites highlight more. Mike, Cedric and Wally are good about doing that. If Dona highlights something, about once a month, everyone in the community pays attention. I tell her she's more respected while Jim's more loved. And Jim will tell you, he enjoys hearing that. I kid him that if there was a children's book about him it would be entitled James & the Giant Ego.
Why no more members participating in the editions?
We capped it. It's too hard to manage as it is. (And everyone who helps is appreciated.) Plus there were issues in the past of waiting for someone to help out or assist and it never would come about. It's less of a headache.
The highlights are always from the community, was that planned?
No. We'd hoped to highlight from outside the community. That was the original plan. But there are so many sites now that it's not a problem. In fact, there are so many now, that the problem is figuring out how to highlight only one entry from a site.
Do you enjoy reading the e-mails?
Yes, I do. They're filled with wonderful wisdom and shared experiences and they sometimes include a news story I wasn't aware of or one that I'd heard in passing and hadn't realized how important it was.
So this is my entry for "winter." Hopefully, I'll do at least one for spring.