Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

October 30, 2007

Hollywood Hypocrisy: The Case of David Cronenberg

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:36 am

So I’m reading The New York Post‘s “Page Six” gossip column this morning and I almost knocked over my coffee. Here’s the item that did it:

“David Cronenberg, director of the smash Eastern Promises is still mad at writer-director Paul Haggis for naming his 2005 Oscar-winning racial drama “Crash” just nine years after Cronenberg had his own movie called “Crash” about wackos who get sexually excited by car crashes. ‘I’ve told [him] that he was a [bleep]hole basically for doing that. And so have many other people,’ Cronenberg tells Complex magazine. It’s very disrespectful not only to me, but to J.G. ballard who wrote the book…Haggis just co-opted the title…” Haggis had no comment.”

Shame on you for your sanctimonious tone, Cronenberg, you shameless hypocrite. Remember the film you made Dead Ringers, about the strange death of identical twin gynecologists? Your film was ostensibly based on a novelization of the real life case of the Marcus twins in New York City. A novel called Twins. But before the novel came I co-wrote (with Susan Edmiston) an extensively researched non-fiction account of the case called “Dead Ringers” that appeared in Esquire. (and is reprinted in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%)

Well as it turned out Universal Pictures approached Cronenberg’s production company and told them they had a Danny DeVito comedy called Twins coming out and asked Cronenberg to change his title, and reportedly gave him an expensive sportscar in return for changing it.

And what did he change it to? Our title, Dead Ringers! Without the courtesy of asking.

We spent nearly a year researching the facts of the case that he profited from. So who’s the “[bleep]hole”, “disrespectful” phony who “just co-opted the title” in that case?

You owe me a sports car, Cronenberg.

But it’s not just me. Seriously, this is why nobody respects Hollywood types. They rip off writers who do the creative work and then get into a hissy fit if they feel it happens to them.

As a member of the Writer’s Guild I hope that a strike brings these hypocrites to their knees. I don’t think it’ll happen, but they deserve it.

October 29, 2007

Shocking Inside DC Scandal Rumor: A Media Ethics Dilemma

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:42 pm

So I was down in DC this past weekend and happened to run into a well-connected media person, who told me flatly, unequivocally that “everyone knows” The LA Times was sitting on a story, all wrapped up and ready to go about what is a potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate. “Everyone knows” meaning everyone in the DC mainstream media political reporting world. “Sitting on it” because the paper couldn’t decide the complex ethics of whether and when to run it. The way I heard it they’d had it for a while but don’t know what to do. The person who told me )not an LAT person) knows I write and didn’t say “don’t write about this”.

If it’s true, I don’t envy the LAT. I respect their hesitation, their dilemma, deciding to run or not to run it raises a lot of difficult journalism ethics questions and they’re likely to be attacked, when it comes out–the story or their suppression of the story–whatever they do.

I’ve been sensing hints that something’s going on, something’s going unspoken in certain insider coverage of the campaign (and by the way this rumor the LA Times is supposedly sitting on is one I never heard in this specific form before. By the way, t’s not the Edwards rumor, it’s something else.

And when my source said “everyone in Washington”, knows about it he means everyone in the elite Mainstream media, not just the LA Times, but everyone regularly writing about the Presdidential campaign knows about it and doesn’t know what to do with it. And I must admit it really is was juicy if true. But I don’t know if it’s true and I can’t decide if I think it’s relevant. But the fact that “everyone” in the elite media knew about it and was keeping silent about it, is, itself, news. But you can’t report the “news” without reporting the thing itself. Troubling!

It raises all sorts of ethical questions. What about private sexual behavior is relevant? What about a marriage belongs in the coverage of a presidential campaign? Does it go to the judgment of the candidate in question? Didn’t we all have a national nervous breakdown over these questions nearly a decade ago?

Now, as I say it’s a rumor; I haven’t seen the supporting evidence. But the person who told me said it offhandedly as if everyone in his world knew about it. And if you look close enough you can find hints of something impending, something potentially derailing to this candidate in the reporting of the campaign. Which could mean that something unspoken, unwritten about is influencing what is written, what we read.

Why are well wired media elite keeping silent about it? Because they think we can’t handle the truth? Because they think it’s substantively irrelevant? What standards of judgment are they using? Are they afraid that to print it will bring on opprobrium. Are they afraid not printing it will bring on opprobrium? Or both?

But alas if it leaks out from less “responsible” sources. then all their contextual protectiveness of us will have been wasted.

And what about timing? They, meaning the DC elite media, must know if it comes out before the parties select their primary winners and eventual nominees, voters would have the ability to decide how important they felt it to the narrative of the candidate in question. Aren’t they, in delaying and not letting the pieces fall where they potentially may, not refusing to act but acting in a different way–taking it upon themselves to decide the Presidential election by their silence?

If they waited until the nominees were chosen wouldn’t that be unfair because, arguably, it could sink the candidacy of one of the potential nominees after the nomination was finalized? And doesn’t the fact that they “all” know something’s there but can’t say affect their campaign coverage in a subterranean, subconscious way that their readers are excluded from?

I just don’t know the answer. I’m glad in a situation like this, if there is in fact truth to it, that I wouldn’t have to be the “decider”. I wouldn’t want to be in a position of having to make that choice. But it’s a choice that may well decide a crucial turning point in history. Or maybe not: Maybe voters will decide they don’t think it’s important, however juicy. But should it be their choice or the choice of the media elites? It illustrates the fact that there are still two cultures at war within our political culture, insiders and outsiders. As a relative outsider I have to admit I was shocked not just by this but by several other things “everyone” down there knows.

There seem to be two conflicting imperatives here. The new media, Web 2.0 anti-elitist preference for transparency and immediacy and the traditional elitist preference for reflection, judgment and standards–their reflection, their small-group judgment and standards. Their civic duty to “protect” us from knowing too much.

I feel a little uneasy reporting this. No matter how well “nailed” they think they have it, it may turn out to be untrue. What I’m really reporting on is the unreported persistence of a schism between the DC media elites and their inside knowlede and the public that is kept in the dark. For their own good? Maybe they’d dismiss it as irrelevant, but shouldn’t they know?

I don’t know.

Update. For further thoughts on this subject and the reaction to it see the post dated Nov. 2 above.

The True Face of Putin Supporters (2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:50 pm

I usually don’t ublish abusive and/or anonymous comments and this was both. (I just don’t understand why such bold and fierce partisand cower behind the veil of anonymity).

But this exerpt from another document on my Kasparov post proves my point (and illustrates the point I was making in the post on :The Art of intellectual Self Defense”)

Note tht for all the bluster about lying there is not a single example given. And no facts to back up the bluster. Ad hominem attacks on Kasparov don’t disprove the vicious and murderous nature of the thugocracy he opposes. (And of course he doesn’t want his family held hostage by these KGB thugs. This doens’t undermine his personal courage.).

I wish Putin had turned out differently. I initially believed his rise was a positive development. That some stability was necessary. But stability doesn’t have to mean autocracy and murder. I think the U.S. bears a share of responsibility that he (and Russia) have turned out to be enemies of their own citizens’ liberty. .

But the implication in the rant excerpted below is that Russia has no problems with democracy and human rights, it’s all lies made up by Kasparov. Anyone who believes that makes himself a laughingstock.

Sadly we’re seeing the return of the Stalinoid Big Lie.

Here’s the excerpt from the brave anonymous commenter. Read it and weep for the tragedy of history:

“Kasparov’s lies follow the same pattern:

• Putin is ignorant criminal and cannot have any arguments (at least presented on US TV); he is guilty of all crimes happened in Russia and former USSR during all times

• Any Kremlin’s statement which does not suit the theory about criminal Putin’s regime is a lie and is a part of Putin’s plot

• Kasparov has a right to consider any assumption made by himself as absolute truth and proven fact

• Any fact that does not fit into the story about evil Putin does not have any relation to the subject and is just another Kremlin’s lie

• Any fact that strengthen Kasparov’s story about bloody Putin regime is of course real and proven, even if it has been just made up by Kasparov

• Fact which Kasparov did not bother to familiarize himself with does not exist even though it is well-known to public”

The True face of Putin Supporters (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:14 pm

Here is the view of democracy and elections by one of the commenters to my Gary Kasparov post. (By the way the entire comment was initially published by mistake (mine) as a entry that made it look as if I authored it. No. I just wanted to excerpt it so that people are under no illusion about the nature of of the arrogant stalinoid throwbacks among Putin’s supporters and how they rationalize their crushing of demcoracy and dissidents:

“Elections in Russia are not supposed to choose governments, they are an opportunity for the people to show their support for the existing government by voting for it en masse. The biggest fear of the Russian government is that they will get a low turnout of people voting for them. A large turnout of people voting for them gives them legitimacy. Winning with 60% of the vote from 25% of the electorate would raise the specter of what they call ‘social tension’.’

Don’t you love that! Elections are an opportunity to show support (or else). Yes, lock people up if they threaten to cause “social tension”. That says it all.

October 26, 2007

"A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:41 am

I think I’ve found the solution for the (thankfully few) who attempt to post abusive, bigoted or sadly witless comments on this blog and haven’t read my repeated posts about my comments policy.

It’s a book called %%AMAZON=13978185322 A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense%%. It’s by Normand Baillargeon, a professor at the University of Quebec and is available from Seven Stories Press, translated from the French by Andrea Schmidt.

Many would-be commenters on this and other blogs–and indeed many bloggers would profit from it. I know I have. It’s about how–and how not–to make arguments. I was particularly drawn to his “Rules of Argumentative Decorum” which I will try to use as a guide in moderating comments. Particularly Rule 4 which is the one most often violated by the abusive commenters:

Rule Four states: “You can only defend a thesis with arguments that are related to it.”

This basically rules out those who are intellectually incapable of addressing a subject without employing childish insults. Oh, I guess I need to explain “ad hominem” to these people. It means you don’t address the argument or the opinion, but instead resort to attacking the person making the argument. Usually because they are unable to mount a substantive defense of their opinion, or it’s based on factual (or general) ignorance. I suggest those whose comments aren’t posted get yourself a copy of Prof. B’s book and it will help you on an exciting voyage of self discovery.

October 24, 2007

Exclamations!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:33 pm

One commenter has criticized my more-than-opccsional exclamatory style on this blog. Which helped me thingk it through. I think blogging is a naturally exclamatory form, meant to express the excitement of the moment (and I’ve always been an excitable boy). I get the most pleasure out of posts that feel like I’m calling up a friend and saying “Did you see THAT?!” Or if not the most pleasure, a pleasure that’s specific to blogging.

I’ve done what I consider thoughtful essays on this blog. But I’ve done what I thought were thoughtful essays in periodicals and in books. The blog form however,–or one form of the blog form, I know there are many varieties on the spectrum–seems to me particularly suited, designed to express the emotion of the moment and not read as if carved in stone. It’s riskier that way, but I think people in general know it’s meant to represent an instant response, often at least. They can tell when it is. And the exclamations help underline that. They do!

Wow! I Just Watched Gary Kasparov on "Hardball" and..

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:43 pm

…the guy is incredibly impressive. I’ve never heard a more incisive analysis of geopolitical game playing than the one he just gave. His analysis of the Bush-Putin-Iran game of three dimensional chess is revealing. (If I find an MSNBC transcript I’ll post it). His description of how Putin is outplaying Bush in geopolitical chess is persuasive. His critque of U.S. failure to stand for human rights in Russia is saddening. His description of what Putin’s state is really like (“a police state, a corporate state a KGB Corporation” something like that) is convincing. His courage is inspiring.

He’s running for President of Russia a hopeless but important statement. I wish I could vote for him.

October 21, 2007

Incredible! Tim Russert Has managed to Make Stephen Colbert…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:12 am

…utterly unfunny. I’m watching what has to be the most cringe-inducing moments on the history of American television. I don’t know how he did it, but Russert who I generally kind of like, may have the worst comic instincts I’ve ever seen. He’s trying to play along with Colbert’s put-on Presidential candidacy by putting on that he’s taking it seriously. Playing the tough interrogator, putting on a parody of himself. Although he’s almost revealing that he already is a parody of himself.

This is not comic. It’s tragic. I mean I think Colbert’s a genius for his high wire act of sustaining a one-joke concept for night after night. It’s laugh out loud brilliant. You keep waiting for it to become too obvious and heavy handed, but his show almost never hits a false note.

Yet somehow with Russert mock “grilling” him, it all seems to come crashing to the ground from that high wire. it makes you want to avert your eyes from the wreckage. It’s a moment that will go down–way, way, down–in the history of bad comedy and skin crawling embarrassment.

I think it’s going to be legendary. I’m sure it will be YouTubed in a moment and if anyone sends me a link I’ll post it.

But it’s just so so painful I don’t think I can watch it again.

Update: Here it is.

October 20, 2007

Hillary, Nicholson: Strange Chinatown Coincidence

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:55 am

So this is a little strange isn’t it? Early this morning, the day after the Hillary Clinton Chinatown fundraising-scam story broke with all its baroque strangeness, one of the cable channels broadcast Chinatown which I regard as the greatest American movie of the past half century.

What I’d forgotten is that the movie shares more than a name with the fund raising scam (look I’ve endorsed Hillary but I’m not naive enough to believe that, on the basis of the L.A.Times story alone, there’s something not quite legit about these busboys and ghosts making 2k contributions to Hillary of their own volition or even knowledge, all with the connivance of “neighborhood associations”).

The scam in Nicholson’s Chinatown is eerily similar: an association of rich big shots use the names of unwitting front people on whose behalf they finance their campaign to buy up property in their name, for a lucrative land speculation scheme. In the movie the unwitting front people are residents of a nursing home, but it’s a similar kind of deal.

In each case you almost have to admire the ingenuity of both scams. (I’m not defending Hillary’s Chinatown operation, but one of the reasons I endorsed her was that I believe, in this hideous perilous world America needs a machiavellian President not a naif.)

Anyway watching Chinatown again was awesome! Every time I watch it I find new things to admire. Here’s one this time: the way it’s really an epistemological meditation. On what you can and cannot know.

Chinatown a metaphor for the inability to know. Jake’s progression from “when you’re right, you’re right” as an expression of certainty, to an ironic expression of the inability to know when you’re right. (Over and over again he learns by finding out he was wrong, not right, but still doesn’t learn enough not to be undone by what he doesn’t know.) Or as someone (I think it was Jake says, later in the movie) “You never know.” Being a private eye is all about people who want to know more than what’s good for them. It’s about the way everyone is a “private I” a secret unto even themselves.

Anyway all of this gives me the chance to tell my one Jack Nicholson story.

When I was out in LA interviewing him in his Mulholland Drive home for the New York Times magazine we got into a little tiff.

The interview had been going well, he was talking about the craft of acting in a extremely specific way I hadn’t heard him talk about before and I’m always fascinated by that stuff (The interview is reprinted in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%). So maybe I was greedy and I complained to him that the two afternoon sessions he’d agreed to might not be enough. (this was session two) and we sort of argued over it and he kind of snarl/drawled in that Nicholson way: “Well maybe we should cancel the whole thing, Ron.”

And suddenly I was presented with a dilemma. I could lose what was turning out to be one of the most interesting interviews with an artist I’d ever done. But if I backed down the interview wouldn’t have been as good as it could be, I thought stubbornly. it was kind of foolish, making the perfect the enemy of the good as they say.

But what I said was: “Well Jack. I’m a philosophic guy. If you think we should cancel the whole thing maybe that’s the right thing to do.”

He turned on his heels and walked away, left me sitting there looking at the Picassos. He went for a dip in his pool overlooking the hazy flatlands below. Came back, completely ignoring me sitting there, went upstairs and took a shower. Came down and said something like “Where’d we leave off” and continued the interview. I got the third session too.

A great little moment of staged drama! I felt I’d witnessed a Nicholson performance. I know he was a far more machiavellian manipulator than I could ever hope to be, but I also felt I’d successfully called his bluff.

When you’re right, you’re right. But then again, “you never know”.

October 17, 2007

Modest Proposal: Move the Entire U.N. to Darfur

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:00 pm

It was a bittersweet return. I visited the UN yesterday for the first time in a long time. The occasion was a screening of an important documentary produced by my friend John Roche and called Return to Afghanistan.

The film itself is about a bittersweet return. It’s the moving and courageous chronicle of the journey taken by the Afghani brother and sister filmmakers who made the much-admired Firedancer about Afghani exile life. Here we see them in Afghanistan in footage shot a few weeks before 9/11 when the Taliban still ruled and women were literally not allowed out of doors. And then after the liberation, when they return and try to show Firedancer in a stadium where, once, women who violated Talibanic sharia law were executed.

It was powerful, uplifting and also a bit ominous in the way it made the newly-won freedoms seem so perilous.

Why was the experience of going to the UN itself bittersweet for me? The last time I’d been there had been back around the Millennium to attend a press conference/reception at which Ted Turner and then-wife Jane Fonda announced Turner’s purported billion dollar gift to the UN. So idealistic! (Does anyone know what happened to that billion by the way? Somehow I suspect the full billion has not yet reached the poor and diseased it was supposed to help, in fact I wonder how much if any reached the UN at all.)

I’d been there before the Turner/Fonda press conference of course. Many high school field trips, boy scout troop trips, you name it. It was the destination of choice for do-gooder indoctrination. And back then it had seemed so hopeful and sleek and modern. It was the shrine of enlightened liberalism that would transcend petty nationalism and prejudice and lead us into a united world promised land. Indeed when I was growing up I was so inspired by my visits I even joined the United World Federalists which advocated a world ruled by the UN.

And now. Now it’s a haunted house to me. Two genocides and one ethnic cleansing verging on genocide and the UN is 0 for 3 in taking any effective steps to have halted them.

I picked up a program of UN activities on the day of the screening. Thirty pages of meetings. All well meaning on the outside. Even the “Working Group” devoted to “criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission”.

I know through the reporting of Claudia Rossett among the few who have focussed attention on it, not just the financial crimes, but the horrors committed by UN “peacekeeping forces”.

But these crimes of commission are petty compared to the crimes of omission: the failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the on going genocide in Darfur.

On p. 26 of the UN’s Daily journal there’s stark evidence of its failure. it’s a General Assembly agenda item:

“Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda…Report of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia…”

Yes, lots of reports on ineffectual, after the fact, action. No mention of the way UN peacekeepers had cut and run when the mass murderers went to work. no prosecutions of the UN for a shameful record of failure, for dereliction of humanitarian responsibility.

And no mention of Darfur. There seems to have been some kind of meeting on the subject on another page in the agenda item. but while the murderers went about their business in Darfur, the well fed, expensively clothed UN delegates and bureaucrats bustled around attending to such self-parodic business items described this way:

“There will be informal ‘informal’ consultations on agenda item 13 (i)(United nations Forum on Forests…conveyed by the facilitator…in Conference Room D.”

Yes, you read that bureaucratese right: “Informal ‘informal’ consultations”. That says it all doesn’t it?.

The only inspiring thing about the visit was the film, the presence of a 100 inner city kids invited to watch it and the appearance on a post-screening panel of a UN delegate from Afghanistan who had replaced the Taliban theocratic fascist rep. But the UN did nothing to facilitate that did it?

I think it’s time for the entire UN to immediately adjourn to Darfur, set up shops (including Conference Room D for the all important “informal ‘informal'” consultations of the Forum on Forests).

Maybe that will make it impossible for them to avert their face from ongoing mass murder they have pledged, but failed shamefully, to stop. Maybe they will reduce their agenda from 30 pages of useless meetings to one item: stop the killing.

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