Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

May 31, 2007

The Hiss Case: For Those Who Still Care, I'm Point Number 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:03 pm

I just got back from a big party thrown by the New York Times Book Review and though there were many luminaries, my favorite encounter was with one of my favorite people, Victor Navasky, former editor of The Nation, now chairman of The Columbia Journalism Review

He told me that my theory of the case had been “point 8” in his recent keynote address to a conference of Alger Hiss case scholars held at NYU.

In his key note speech Navasky, one of the few sane holdouts for Hiss’ innocence (he conceded–this is hot news in some circles–that he now believed Julius Rosenberg was a spy though not the kind of spy who “stole” the “secret” of the atomic bomb), told me he’d enumerated the ten theories of the Hiss case.

There were the varieties of those who believed Hiss was guilty, the varieties of those who believed Hiss was framed by Nixon. And within this latter camp were those true believers who advanced as “evidence” the fact that Hiss continued to maintain his innocence until his death. Yes, it’s true, this is considered a strong point by many Hiss dead end true believers.

Why would he do that, they’d say if he weren’t actually innocent.

In point 8 Navasky summarized my opinion on the case: Hiss was guilty but in maintaining his innocence he was continuing to maintain the operational practice of spies: never admit anything, because your admission could incriminate those still operating, or give credence to those who believed that the kind of spy network Hiss (I believe) belonged to, was far more prevalent and influential on policy and history than those who operated the networks would want us to believe.

In other words, I believe Hiss spent his life after he was released from jail deceiving his own supporters in the Hiss-is-innocent movement into wasting their lives on a lie, because he was in fact guilty as sin. his very guilt was justification for his bad faith to his deluded followers.

This is not what Navasky believes and he told me he thought a forthcoming essay by Kai Bird in The American Scholar would cast further doubt on the Hiss verdict, particularly whether Hiss was in fact the code name “ALES” in the Venona papers. (If you don’t know the “ALES” controversy in the Venona papers–ALES was supposedly Hiss’s Soviet secret cable traffic code name–I just don’t have space to start explaining it, Go Google).

I look forward to the new “ALES” controversy. It’s a fascinating case. And I’m pleased now to think of myself as “point 8”.


My Debt to The Debt to Pleasure

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:49 am

New York Magazine recently asked me and 60 other writer/critic types what is the most unsung novel of the past ten years. People are always asking me what to read, as if there isn’t enough reading material on the left hand column of this blog to keep them busy. But for those who have already availed themselves of these selections and wish to re discover the pure pleasure of a writer intent on giving pleasure rather than delivering a message, please read the book I picked for the New York Magazine survey: John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure. I guarantee you will be grateful to me. I suddenly feel evangelical about it, which is why I’m putting in a blog pitch for it as well. Perhaps because it gives one a taste, an echo some of the same kind of sensual pleasure that the most pleasurable novel I’ve ever read–Nabokov’s Pale Fire–offers.

But have you ever had the experience of reading prose with the synesthesia like pleasure of a ripe peach. The Debt to Pleasure is like that. I dare you not to love it.

Bob Kerrey: If only…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:20 am

So I’m listening to Bob Kerrey on the former Imus show, this morning hosted today by Joe Scarborough and once again I can’t help thinking that the Democrats nominated the wrong Kerr(e)y. There’s something appealing about the genuine thoughtfulness of the guy, the lack of pretense that he has all the answers.

“All of us are struggling,” he said. He was speaking specifically about all of us struggling with Iraq. But somehow there was another more resonant dimension to it: “All of us are struggling.” Perhaps because I find myself struggling (with work, beginning a new book is always the hardest part). But I had a sense that in some spirital way Kerrey had a feeling for human struggle that most politicians just mouth off about.

He was remarkably candid about his own party: “The Democrats,” he said are now just about “bring ’em home and don’t care” what we leave behind.”

He was no less kind tot he Republicans: “They’re just confused.”

When he talked about getting out of politics, he said he did it because “I wanted to get married and the woman I wanted to get married wanted to have a child “and he wanted to raise a child “out of politics”.

What was interesting was how eloquent he was in support of Barak Obama. “He ought to make a speech and say ‘yes, it’s right my middle name is Hussein, I have Muslims in my family. I can talk to the Muslim world and tell them we can be your friends if you’ll let us, but if not we can be your worst enemy.”

Wow. as Charles Mc Cord said “He ought to be advising Barak Obama.” Yes. As a matter of fact maybe he should be running with him.

Get back in the game Bob Kerrey. There are all too few like you.

May 26, 2007

The Most Intriguing Moment on The Sopranos, So Far

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:46 am

What was the full-length version of that idiot Rozerem commercial doing in the last episode? You know, the sleeping pill ad whose premise is that the familiar figures of your dreams miss you because of your insomnia, so you need to drug yourself back to their drowsy embrace. The one which depicts said dream figures as Abe Lincoln and what seems to be (I’m not a zoological expert) a beaver(!)?

Does anyone dream in such obvious symbols? Is the prospect of returning to a dream world populated by such symbols really enough to drive one to drug oneself into insensibility? Wouldn’t it rather cause one to seek out some counter-sleep drug like provigil to avoid the possibility of ever encountering these apparitions?

But even more puzzling, yet genuinely, esthetically intriguing is the decision of the writers to offer it in full on a tv screen in the “A.J. attempts suicide” episode. We see the stunted pasty-faced little creep (has there ever been a less sympathetic character despite all the last minute efforts of the series to make him seem geopolitically aware?) watching tv in the dark. And there on the tv is Abe and the Beav shilling for Rozerem. The tv-within-tv scene leaves out only the brand name of the pill.

So what gives? Are the Sopranos writers trying to say something about the idiocy of commercial tv they’ve escaped? It’s got to be more than just telling us A.J. has insomnia. Is it another moment of self-recognition by the Sopranos writers: we’ve abused symbols (those ducks!) and dream sequences enough.

Could they be suggesting that the stupidity of the Rozerem ad had a role in driving A.J. to suicide?

It’s not like it’s keeping me up at night, but if somebody has a better idea, I’d like to hear it.

May 25, 2007

Open Letter to Director Peter Sellars, Wherever You Are

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:30 am

Dear Peter Sellars,

You don’t know me, but one of your Harvard classmates contacted me through the comments function on this blog. Having read my account of the life changing experience of seeing Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (in %%AMAZON=0375503390 The Shakespeare Wars%%) she spoke eloquently of her life-changing experience of seeing the Dream you put on in Cambridge. her letter is a beautiful tribute to you, to the power of the play and a plea for you to return to it and do it again. A plea I second, and hope by re printing (with her permission) her letter to me, hope to encourage, facilitate. I know I want to see it. I want to write about it, I want to think some more about what it is about this strange mesmerizing play that gives it so much power in the right hands. Just what is it about “the secret play” some gifted directors are able to find within it.

So here’s the unedited letter. You can contact me (I won’t post your reply unless you specifically ask me to) through the comments function on the blog) if you felt any inclination. I’ve left the letter writer’s name out, although I think she won’t mind–to help you recognize her– if I say her first name is Lisa.

Dear Ron,

This is on a different subject entirely. I have been reading your
book–The Shakespeare Wars, and am finding it stunning, not only because
of what it says, but because of the narrative voice, which is so
immediate and authentic. But I felt I had to write to you about the idea of
the “secret plays”, because I am certain, so certain, that I saw
the nearest thing to the “secret play” of Midsummer Night’s Dream
ever produced on this planet, so I feel sure the secret plays
“exist,” or rather can be uncovered, or close to. And seeing one in
production was an utterly life changing experience.

I guess I need to credential myself I was an English major at
Harvard ’76-80, took Shakespeare with Harry Levin (who was aging, but
still lovely & inspiring), then was All-But-Dissertation in the U.C.
Berkeley English Ph.D. program where I survived massive doses of
postmodern lit crit theory, & took Renaissance Poetry with Stephen Greenblatt
(I think you pretty nail him in your book).

Anyway, my classmate from Harvard ’80 was a director named Peter
Sellars, who did some stunning Shakespeare there, including a Lear at the
Loeb which wasn’t perfect but was still totally earth shattering. (My
friend Wayne Koestenbaum said about Sellars’ mid 80s production of
Cosi Fan Tutte: “It was like an EEG of Mozart.” That’s the kind of
thing Sellars could do.)

In 1983-84 Sellars started a Boston Shakespeare Company which never
entirely took off but one of the productions was this Dream. And it was
as if Sellars, like a Puck, had let drops of a magic potion into the
waters of the play which turned them utterly clear, and you could see
clearly down, down, down…and you could see that, indeed, it had no
bottom. The sensation of watching this was like flying, or like reeling in

Sellars got to the secret play by cutting the play somewhat and
using only four players, two men and two women, speaking all the parts,
from the top all the way to the bottom, so to speak. As in a dream.
Oberon continually shifting into Theseus, Theseus into Demetrius,
Demetrius into Bottom. The play became not just a play but a flickering
dream made visible, one long, unified poetic text being woven into
theatrical action while all of Booth’s ˜ideational static” was
nonetheless glittering visibly for the audience to both hear and behold.

So when you mentioned the secret play, I felt I had to tell you about
Sellars’ Dream. I kept wondering as I was reading your book whether
you had seen it. And I would give almost anything to see that Dream of
Sellars again. Maybe I am writing to you because I imagine that
maybe you, of all people, might convince him to stage it again!

May 20, 2007

The New Assassination Books (2):Trying to Prove Too Much

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:16 am

The problem with Vincent Bugliosi’s anti-conspiracy theory book, Reclaiming History–despite its many virtues is that it appears he’s allowed the conspiracy theorists to drive him crazy.

The problem manifests itself in Bugliosi’s conflation of two cases. There is the case that Oswald fired the only shots that day, a case which I believe Bugliosi has massively established. But then he tries to establish the case that, in addition to shooting alone, Oswald acted alone.

There’s a difference. Oswald could have been the lone gunman but not the lone conspirator. Establishing that Oswald had no confederates, no cohorts, no infliuences–essentially no motive but a pure personal psychological one unrelated to politics, for instance–is far more difficult and it is in this portion of the book–where Buglioisi attempts to demolish the idea that Oswald might have had any motive for killing Kennedy that might have involved others that Bugliosi overreaches, flails and stumbles.

Oswald may have fired his shots alone, but who pulled the trigger in his head? Bugliosi doesn’t persuasively rule out the possibility that others may have been i involved in egging him on or paying him off. He does not persuasively paint a portrait of what did motivate Oswald if it was purely personal. Bugliosi mistakenly is determined to destroy every motive sugggested, because he fears any one of them could open the door to a “conspiracy theory”.

Consider the way he attempts to argue away any organized crime theory of the assassination. the way he substitutes hectoring lawyerly argumentation for evidence.

The organized crime theory has always had the most plausibility of any of the conspiracy theories to me. The Kennedy brothers crusade against the mob dated back to the mid fifties when JFK was Senator and RFK was gung ho counsel to the Senate Rackets Committee attack on mob influence on organized labor. They made jimmy Hoffa into a national villain and symbol of mafia corruption.

When they resumed the crusade when JFK became president and RFK attorney general they made targets of some of the most vicious murderous figures in America, Jimmy Hoffa, Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante–and, thus, themselves. Various mobsters were heard by associates and on tape talking about killing one or both Kennedys. They had personal grudges.

The highly respected chief counsel of the House Select committee on Assassinations which re investigated the Kennedy murders in the late 70s, G. Robert Blakey lays out the mob hit case in The Plot to Kill the President which was published by New York Times Books in 1981,. It is a sober prosecutor’s brief. Nearly two decades later an ex mob lawyer Frank Ragano wrote a book in which he claims he was present when new Orleans mafia head Carlos Marcello and Miami crime boss Santos Trafficante agreed to kill JFK on behalf of Jimmy Hoffa. Wild as this story sounds, it was thoroughly checked out and believed by two respected investigative reporters I know, the late Jack Newfield and Nick Pileggi, and Pileggi told me recently he still believes there’s merit to it. Bugliosi attempts to poke holes in the story but doesn’t entirely demolish it.

The only problem in the mob case to my mind is the weakness of the link between Oswald and the mob. (Yes Jack Ruby had mob connections, but, as Buglioisi demonstrates not as close as conventional wisdom has it). There is some slender evidence linking an uncle of Oswald to an associate of New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello. But Bugliosi argues that the mob wouldn’t have been foolish enough to hire a flake like Oswald to carry out a task of such utmost gravity. On the one hand he says they’d use one of their own because of of training and experience, on the other hand he says they’d never use oneo fo their own becuase it might be traced back to him.

Maybe yes, maybe no. The leaders of the mob were not rocket scientists. Bugliosi argues that the mob made it an established practice never to kill cops or public officials for fear of a backlash. maybe yes, maybe no. There wa no precedent for anything like the Kennedy hit. On the other hand there was no precedent for anything like the Kennedy attack on the mob. And in matters of precedent there’s always a first time. And using a flake like Oswald who might not be identified as a mob associate, a flake who had his own Cuba related reasons to do the job might have made Oswald a smart chocie.

One thing you can’t argue with: if th emob did it, howeer ilogical and unprecedented and poorly thought out, they got away with it, so post-hoc arguments about how theywouldn’t do it because it would backfire and they wouldn’t get away with it are null and void.

Here’s an example of the kid of argumentation Bugliosi employs to deny a mob hit possibility;

“Would [the Mob] hire someone who is an expert gunman with a track record of successful murders, a reliable professional hit man with a proven history of being close mouthed. Or would they get a nut to do it, increasing the likelihood the nut would simply pint the finger at them, and their only defense would be that they could say to the authorites, ‘Why would I get a nut to do something like this.?'”

But this is exactly the argument–the mob wouldn’t have used a nut like Oswald, so the mob couldn’t have done it–that Bugliosi buys intoto get the mob off the hook, so maybe a mob choice of Oswald is not so stupid as he posits.

Nor is his argument that the mob wouldn’t have dared kill JFK because RFK would go after them like a mad dog convincing. Because, in fact after killing of JFK, Bobby Kennedy soon resigned as Attorney General and Justice Department prosecutions of mob figures dropped off dramatically. Just the opposite of what Bugliosi contends the mob was thinking in abstaining from killing JFK. If it was a mob hit to relieve unrelenting Kennedy assault on them, it worked.
He gets all twisted up trying to read the mind of the mob to find reasons why they wouldn’t do it, but this is not evidence–it’s amateur psychologizing.

He even says that if the mob wanted to get Kennedy they would have used sexual scandal blackmail rather than murder. And to bolster this he even buys into JFK’s reputed remark that if he didn’t have sex constantly he got severe headaches. Isn’t that true of everyone? (Kidding).

By the end of the chapter his desperation and illogic is evident. This is what he calls an argument:

Quite apart from the absence of any evidence as well as the illogic, that organized crime killed Kennedy we know that this theory by conspiracy theorist is absolutely negated by many other theories they cherish…” Then he goes into a litany of all the conspriacy and cover up theories that he’s largely disproved.

But this is so transparently a flawed logical gambit: just because mob theory contradicts other demonstrably false conspiracy theories it must be false as well, merely because it involves a conspiracy? No. if mob theory turns out to be true it’s irrelevant that the other conspikracy theories are false. Their truth or falsity has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of mob conspiracy theory.

This seems so obvious that you wonder why someone as intelligent and scrupulous-at least in the majority of the book, devoted to proving Oswald was the lone gunman could advance it with a straight face.

My theory of Bugliosi’s theory of theories: conspiracy theory drivel that passes for evidence in most conspiracy theory books has made it impossibile for him to consider objectively the notion that oswald fired alone but wasn’t a “lone nut” but rather a politically motivated, or pay-off motivated hitman.

Bugliosi has done a great service with he first two thirds of his book (O. fired the only shots). He has not convincingly proved a negative; that Oswald had no allies or confederates. What went on in Oswald’s head is still an unsolved mystery.

May 18, 2007

Two New JFK Assassination Books: What to Think (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:15 pm

I’m going to sort of live-blog, over an extended period, my reading of Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History and David Talbot’s Brothers. Bugliosi’s massive 1500 page book is an attempt to disprove all conspiracy theories and validate the Warren Commission conclusion that Oswald acted alone. Talbot’s book about the relationship between JFK and RFK gives credence to several conspiracy possibilities and clearly suggests the case has not been solved in any convincing way.

Before beginning let me set out the arc of my own thinking about the question which I’ve written about and researched sporadically ever since I became a writer. I can trace my fascination with the controversy to the time I attended a lecture by one of the first most outspoken Warren Commission critics, Mark Lane.

From the beginning there were always two categories of criticism of the Warren Report: that the investigation was deeply flawed. And that it’s two conclusions–Oswald was a lone gunman and that he acted on his own, with no confederates or backing from others–were wrong.

It’s important to remember that a badly flawed investigation can still come up with the correct conclusions. I guess the best way to describe my own trajectory is that I went from believing that a flawed investigation came to the wrong conclusions to a belief that a flawed investigation was right on the first premise of its conclusion–that Oswald was the lone gunman–but had failed to prove that he acted alone in the sense that he wasn’t shooting Kennedy on behalf of some group of associates, real or imagined–pro or anti-Castro Cubans, the KGB, the CIA, the Mafia, right wing Southern racists, the military industrial complex etc.

The Warren Commission in other words had failed to solve the problem of motive. The report was weakest in sorting out Oswald’s actual political allegiances and personal psychology. So I’ve come to think that Oswald was the only one who fired shots that day but that a real and significant aspect of the case remains unsolved: what went on inside Oswald’s head, what were his motives and were any of his dubious political zig zags–as a marine he defected to the U.S.S.R., supposedly embracing communism, then re-defected to the U.S. with his Russian wife, and proceeded to engage in pro-Castro activities although some have seen this as a front for anti-communist, anti-Castro infiltration motives. or was he infiltrating anti-Castro groups for pro-Castro reasons? (Just what was Oswald up to when he visited the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City the month before the assassination and asked for a visa to visit Cuba? Did he want to go there to ingratiate himself with the Fidelistas, to further infiltrate them or to assassinate Fidel?)

Did any of his encounters with Cuban and anti-Castro intelligence assets, with the KGB, the CIA, even (at some remove) the Mafia have some causal relationship to the assassination. Or was it the act of a lone gunman acting out of deranged self-aggrandizing motives. or did he have a political motive: revenge for U.S./Kennedy sponsored assassination attempts on Castro? That’s what people from LBJ to RFK seemed to believe at one time or another.

I spent some time investigating the question of Oswald’s allegiances, re tracing his steps in New Orleans in the summer before the assassination in the shadowy territory between pro and anti Castro groups, the landscape filled with various informers fanatics and front groups that Oswald navigated in New Orleans and Dallas. (even visiting the famous address– 544 Camp Street–that played host to a seething warren of pro and anti-Castro groups Oswald had strange relations with. (You can read my account–“Oswald’s Ghost”–in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%.

So when I read about Bugliosi’s book and his claim that his two-decade-long investigation had put to rest all doubts, quashed all conspiracy theories, I was hopeful that at last we could achieve (that dread word) “closure”. Then I heard about one of the features of Talbot’s book, the Howard Hunt “confession”, one that seems particularly dubious to me. But Talbot’s book does serve to give credence to the doubts about, the mystery of Oswald’s motivation, doubts far more widespread than I’d ben aware of, though I’d known of some.

So I decided to approach both books a bit at a time focussing on the question of motive.

Let me begin with a hole in Bugliosi’ s book, a late-breaking development that he was likely unaware of before his book went to press: the new take on the Nosenko case in CIA counterintelligence veteran pete Bagley’s memoir Spy Wars. A new take which has forced me to reconsider the case and it’s relation to Oswald and the Kennedy assassination.

You remember Yury Nosenko, right? He was the KGB defector who gained asylum in the U.S. in 1964–while the Warren Report investigation was still ongoing–with the sensational claim that he seen Oswald’s KGB file and that the file disproved any notion that he could have been working on behalf of the Soviet Union in killing Kennedy.

It was, in a way, welcome news because, although evidence of KGB complicity was absent, Oswald had been a defector to the Soviets, which raised the question of whether his re-defection to the U.S. might have been part of some mission, one that unfolded on November 22. 1963.

Potential Soviet complicity with Oswald (retaliation for the supposed humiliation of the 10962 Cuban Missile crisis?) caused fears of nuclear war. No one wanted t hat. Nosenko’s message was accepted although within months Nosenko himself was targeted by CIA counter intelligence, led by James Jesus Angleton, who accused him of being a “false defector” sent to the U.S. to spread “disinformation”.

Which might mean his testimony there was no KGB connection to the assassination was fabricated to cover-up a real connection.

For nearly 15 within the CIA and longer outside, the theory that Nosenko was a “KGB plant” became conventional wisdom. Although no one seemed to want to take the KGB assassination complicity implication seriously.

Then after Angleton was fired, the verdict on Nosenko within CIA was reversed and what seemed to me to be a air tight case for his legitimacy was made by British journalist Tom Mangold (a case cited and adopted by by Bugliosi).

But just last month Yale University Press published the memoir of Angleton deputy Pete Bagley in which, to my surprise, Bagley made a remarkably strong case for the Angletonian view that Nosenko was in some way a plant a witting or unwitting conveyor of disinformation which called his Oswald reassurances into question.

In an essay inThe New York Observer (Feb. 12, 2007) “The Spy Who Came in From Geneva”, I argued that Bagley’s book may call for a “re revision” of thinking about Nosenko and “goes a long way to rehabilitate the Angletonian view” long dismissed as paranoid.

It’s a minor point, I don’t believe there’s evidence the KGB had anything to do with the assassination of JFK, yet Nosenko–the revised standard conventional view of him–occupies a large place in Bugliosi’s dismissal of the possibility of KGB involvement. It causes him to cite all sorts of self serving statements by KGB and Soviet leaders about how “shocked, shocked” they were about the assassination and how they couldn’t imagine why anyone would entertain the notion of their involvement.

Bugliosi’s reliance on self serving statements (what are they going to say: “yeah we did it”?) here and in his examination of the possibility of Cuban/Castro involvement illustrates a weakness in his argumentation. Attempting to refute a report that Castro had spoken before the assassination of the possibility that assassination attempts on him might “boomerang”–lead to revenge–and another even more persuasive report that Castro knew of Oswald’s visit to the Cuban Embassy and of threats against Kennedy he made there, Bugliosi relies on Castro’s personal denial. Such reports were ridiculous on the face of it, Castro unsurprisingly says.

Well of course he’d say that now. Self serving statements are admitted as evidence when they support Bugliosi’s view of the case when, if they hadn’t he’d cross examine them to death and then leave them for dead in his withering prosecutorial way. This doesn’t mean I agree with the reports that suggest Cuban or Castro involvement. It’s just that Bugliosi’s claim that he’s blown every theory out of the water shouldn’t rely so heavily on self serving denials.

It also illustrates the tragedy of Bugliosi’s truly heroic effort: new information continues to emerge, adding, undermining, subverting what we know, or think we know. I will focus in my next posts on his evaluation of various conspiracy theories, particularly the KGB and Castro ones and critique his method of argumentation. Not to take anything away from his epic effort, but to sharpen the debate.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: Required Viewing

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:45 am

My usual wake up time is 5 a.m or earlier and I like to make a cup of Yerba Mate (I know this level of detail is riveting to you, but try Ancient Wisdom brand yerba mate extract–two teaspoons per cup–it’s uplifting and life affirming) and see what the dregs of film on cable are on offer. Because I’ve got about 60 channels of all-movies all the time and every once in a while in between Die Hard 2 and Rent you discover some amazing overlooked gem. Well not as often as “every once in a while”. Once in a long, long time.

Which is when I discovered (on Starz Cinema) the painfully beautiful, painfully sad documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. About an Austin based musician and artist whose career arc and cult status can’t help remind you of Brian Wilson. I love Austin, I love Brian Wilson and now I love Daniel Johnston whose life and work raises the eternal questions of the relation between suffering and beauty, madness and art.

It’s a film (directed by Jeff Feuerzeig) that left me feeling deeply moved, strangely inspired, torn between being grateful for the gift of such people and the price they pay for giving it.

I don’t want to describe it any further. I just want you to see it. Rent it, Netflix must have it. I don’t want to feel alone with this early a.m. apparition.

May 11, 2007

A Small Tragedy….

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:19 am

…in the scheme of things., yes. But when I got back to my Chicago apartment, the one the University is renting for me for the duration of my fellowship, the one with the beautiful oceanic view of Lake Michigan, I got a jolt of one-degree-of sepaaration pain.

The building’ handyman approached me and asked if i knew anyone on my floor had a cat. When I said I didn’t know he said he was asking because a cat had jumped or fell from a high window that afternoon and killed itself on the concrete below.

It was an all-white cat, he said. This stirred memories: did I read somewhere, or was it an urban legend that all-white cats are blind? In any case it was heartbreaking because, evidently the owner hadn’t come home, missed the cat’s greeting, started searching frantically and finally come upon the awful truth.

I would not want to be that owner. Spring lasted less than a week in Chicago, it went from winter to summer when I was gone for a few days. Windows are opened to let in the lake-shore breezes. Responsible cat owners never leave home with an open window or a fragile screen, there are too many stories like this one. If you’re a cat owner and don’t take precautions please do it now, before it’s too late.

The image of that pure white cat falling through the air, perhaps blind to the beauty of the world it was leaving behind, the beauty it gave to the world, is almost too much to bear.

“But Hodge shall not be shot. No, no Hodge shall not be shot.”

–Samuel Johnson on the fate of his pet cat during a rampage by a madman cat- killer in London. The heartbreakingly tender line that is the epigraph for the greatest novel of the past century, V. Nabokov’s Pale Fire

May all our beloved cats remain safe.

Good Airline Service?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:07 am

Seriously. I never thought the day would come when I’d be praising airline service, it’s usually all so bad that one feels gratitude when it’s not purely awful. But ever since I’ve been doing this writer-in-residence fellowship at the University of Chicago and I’ve had to go back to New York for various reasons, I’ve been using Delta’s new New York/Chicago shuttle (or semi shuttle) service. it runs from the old Marine Terminal Building at Laguardia to non-hellish (i.e. non O’Hare) Midway in Chicago.

I like the old deco-era Marine Terminal Building; I like the fact that I’ve been able to book (relatively) cheap flights through Travelocity as long as I reserve 2 or 3 weeks ahead of time. I like the jets Delta flies: these (relatively) small Embraeur jets I’ve never flown before, only two seats to a side, smooth rides.

The one thing I don’t like, the only reason I’m doing this post, is not product placement, but selfishness: not enough people seem to know about the service and thus it might be discontinued which would be inconvenient for me. My flight to Chicago a couple days ago barely made it into double digit passenger numbers (“a very light flight” the woman at the gate put it).

So I write this wondering why more airline experiences can’t be as efficient and pleasant as this. And hoping it might attract a few more customers so it won’t disappear the way most decent consumer services do.

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