Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 30, 2009

Best New Dylan Magazine

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:27 pm

I think I’ve already done a post on how Gardener is Gone is the best new Dylan blog.. Now the blogger “eruke” and some Brooklyn based Dylanophiles have produced the best new Dylan hard copy magazine, Montague Street (A “Tangled Up in Blue” –and Brooklyn–reference.).

Check it out and read the blog which has some consistently inspired writing on it.
Some of it–did I mention?–about me.


Best Movie Performance of the Year

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:53 am

David Schwartz invited me to contribute to a year end round-up of the greatest film, tv, YouTube –any kind of moving image — moments of the year.

I picked Christian McKay’s performance as Orson Welles, in Rick Linklater’s Orson Welles and Me. Don’t miss it.

This is an explanation of my choice; feel free to suggest yours in comments.

Seeing Christian McKay’s performance as Orson Welles in Richard Linklater’s film was almost shocking to me. Prior to that time the supreme Welles moment for me was his unforgettable performance as Falstaff — in his inexpressibly beautiful Chimes at Midnight. His conflation of Shakespeare’s two plays, which he directed as well. It was a high point of my Shakespearean experience.

But McCay gives us not the aging Welles of (released in ’65), but the young Welles, at 22, putting his on Broadway. The whole thing is ahectic, thrilling portrait of New York City in the late 30s, as well as a persuasive portrait of Welles manic, chaotic but glorious creative process — and a meditation on the nature of genius.

I’m a big fan of Richard Linklater (see my essay on in the Criterion DVD box set), but this surprises. It’s like nothing he’s done before from After Sunset or is it Before Sunrise (I get them both confused) to the amazing Waking Life.

While I’m not too fond of the Zac Efron ingenue subplot, Orson Welles and Me gives you so much Orson it’s worth the price of too much “Me.”

In case anyone cares it inspired me to write this essay on the ambiguities of genius:.

In which I say: “Linklater has found a British actor, Christian McKay, who
conveys the brusque impatience and urgency of genius convincingly, the blithe and utter self-confidence of it. His performance convinces you that one aspect of genius is never really doubting one’s own genius.”

In Welles case, it had its costs but it was forgivable because he created something immortal and Linklater’s film and Mckay’s performance are fitting tributes.

December 28, 2009

Was The Times " Hoaxed" By TMZ's JFK Nudes "Scoop"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:52 pm

The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether it was just a coincidence that the august New York Times, for whom I’m proud to have written (including eight cover stories for the New York Times Magazine), published an an almost full-page Valentine to the gossip site TMZ this morning.

On the very morning TMZ published what they seemed to think was the scandal scoop of the century (“The JFK Photos That Could Have Changed History”).

This was an allegedly long hidden or lost photo supposedly taken on a yacht in 1956, supposedly showing JFK sunbathing while nude young women cavorted in the sea and on the deck. If real, if released at the time, it could well have derailed his bid for the presidency and, yes, changed history. Of course JFK probably did engage in such behavior many times before and during his presidency, so you could say “fake but true.”

But it was definitely a fake, as TMZ had to admit later in the day when the photo was revealed to be from a 1967 Playboy photoshoot with JFK’s head apparently cleverly photoshopped onto one of the sunbathing men’s bodies. I’m sure TMZ didn’t try to pull a fast one; I’m sure they believed it. They had all sorts of “experts” to vouch for it.

So TMZ was taken in and admitted it. But why did the Times run their big TMZ story today? Before the original JFK story and the hoax revelation? Sadly the Times quotes TMZ chief Harvey Levin telling the Times reporter that TMZ “has the same rigid standards as any operation in America.” Right.

This Made Me Laugh Almost as Much as Ignorant Commenters

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:27 pm

I have to admit that Dave Barry’s “year end review” hasn’t lost a step.

I laughed out loud throughout it–almost as much as I did at the sputtering rage of some historically ignorant commenters here.

JFK Hoax Photo Reveals Most Hilariously Ignorant Blog Commmenter of the Decade

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:26 pm

It’s so tempting to give a group award to some of those on a recent post here. But I have to admit that when gossip site, TMZ, admitted this afternoon it had been hoaxed in publishing “The JFK Photo That Could Have Changed History” this morning, one of the commenters (anonymity shielding brainlessness as usual) earned a place in the ignorant commenter Hall of Shame.

TMZ admitted the photo, of nude women cavorting on a yacht while “JFK” sunbathed, supposedly taken in 1956 (and thus might have “changed history” by denying him the presidency if the scandalous pic was published back then) was actually a Playboy photo-shoot from 1967. But at least two commenters felt theyneeded to share the wisdom that it couldn’t have been JFK in the 1967 Playboy nude photoshoot because he’d been assassinated in 1963!

I’m not making this up. Here’s one:

“6. Photo can’t be of a 1967 playboy shoot with JFK….. He was already dead!!!! If it is a playboy shoot, that’s not JFK.”

Good catch! It was an anonymous commenter (of course) though I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the historically ignorant commenters here came up with this brilliant deduction. C’mon fess up. That’s the downside of your cowardly anonymity. It makes you a suspect for any random stupidity.

Of course, as with all ignorant commenters there was a dark side: one of the first reactions–before it was revealed to be a hoax–was (I swear) an anonymous (natch) commenter who wrote in “I’m glad he was assassinated”. Nice. But not, alas, untypical of anonymous commenter mentality. In fact all too typical.

Why am I not surprised–at both the stupidity and the ugliness?

December 26, 2009

"American Exceptionalism" and the Sin of Pride

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:38 am

Don’t get me wrong, I love America. I honor those who sacrificed and still sacrifice to protect and defend our freedoms.

And unlike most liberals, I actually listen to conservative talk radio. I think El Rush has a good b.s. detector (as well as a good b.s. projector) and I’ll take Imus’ word that Sean Hannity is a nice guy, although his prideful sense of his own righteousness rivals that of the Spanish Inquisition.

In fact, the sin of pride (aka self-righteousness) is what I’m here to talk about today. I’ve noticed a new meme developing particularly on Hannity’s show. Not the old meme in which everyone who calls in gets praised as “a great American” even though Hannity has no idea if he’s talking to a serial killer or an al-Qaeda mole. So long as the serial killer calls Sean “a great American” he must have the superb discernment to be a great American. No pride there. I just feel a guy who needs to be called “a great American” every five minutes might have … some kind of problem. Don’t church-going listeners find this embarrassing and deplorable, by the way? Isn’t pride one of the seven deadly sins? One of the deadliest?

No, the meme I’m talking about is the one where everyone is called upon to pledge allegiance to the doctrine of “American exceptionalism.” Frankly I don’t think many of the callers (and I’m not sure of Hannity himself) know what they’re talking about when they use the word “exceptionalism.” It’s actually a subject I’ve given considerable thought — and study — to in both my book on Hitler and the one on Shakespeare. Was Hitler on the continuum of evil-doers, just at the far outer edge? Or was he off the grid, off the charts, in a realm of “radical evil,” as the exceptionalists argue? It’s not an easy question. Nor is the one about Shakespeare: was he just a very, very great writer or was he off in some realm of sublimity all his own beyond all other great writers, as some exceptionalists argue? Again, not an easy question.

But American exceptionalism? These days, on Hannity’s show at least, it’s mainly used in a simple-minded, dumbed-down, loutish “we’re number one!,” Freddie Mercury “we are the champions of the world,” boastful, sin of pride way. (Remind me all you “values” types: isn’t humility supposed to be one of the cardinal virtues?)

But recently “American exceptionalism” has been used to club Obama, who, when asked (I’m paraphrasing) whether he believed in American exceptionalism, replied something like, “sure, just as the Brits believe in British exceptionalism … etc.” Something like that. In a low key way, but a remarkable instance of intellectual integrity not submitting to the demand for jingoist blather.

In a quietly courageous way, knowing it would be misinterpreted by ignoramuses. He was agreeing he felt pride in his nation. But he could understand others feeling pride in theirs. Does he really expect other nations to bow down and worship the Golden Calf of our pridefulness? And oh, how the historically oblivious tried to turn it against him!

Because let’s look at the definition of American exceptionalism and see if it’s a doctrine anyone who has studied history can take seriously as anything but jingoistic boasting. (Outta my way, lesser nations, I’m cutting to the head of the line ’cause I’m an American and we’re exceptional.)

December 24, 2009

Best Christmas Song: the Pogues in NYC

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 2:02 pm

It may be the best New York City song too. (spare me the Snatra).

I ‘ve posted this Youtube video before. But this year, if you go to comments on this link (after you listen of course), you can find a lnk to the very recent (2 weeks ago) Billy Bragg cover of it.

it really gets New York right. Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2009

My Candidate for Song of the Decade. Yours?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:55 am

You know there have been so many great songs, but I have to say the one that, for me, the one that captures America, the American landscape–the America that slid from great big party to great depression in the past decade–has got to be James McMurtry’s :”Choctaw Bingo”.

You probably haven’t heard it but you should. it’s on a album called “James McMurtry: Best of the Sugar Hill Years”

J.M., you may or may not know, is the son of Larry McMurtry, author among other works of Lonesome Dove. His son’s got his way with words and a great lyrical gift as well. And an outlaw country–Waylon, Willie and the boys–attitude. I could have named his beautiful melancholy romantic ballad “Lights of Cheyenne” as best song, but “Choctaw Bingo” is not only memorable, it’s prophetic: It captured the beginning of the subprime crisis in an epic song about a unforgettable family reunion which managed to make a crazed old uncle’s crystal meth-making a metaphor for the fevered real estate speculation on steroids that brought us low. Still there’s a kind of good natured tragic/comic spirit to the song that makes you lay it over and over when you find it on a juke box in a Texas bar.

If you want to read the half-serious case I made for making “Choctaw Bingo” our new national anthem check this out.

Meanwhile I’d like to hear your nominations for Song of the Decade.

December 18, 2009

Bill Clinton: Lower Than a Yard Dog

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:29 am

Every time I feel all forgive-and-forget about Bill Clinton, all Happy Warrior and all that, he says something to recall what a hard-core lout lies just beneath the surface. I forget him rushing back to Arkansas to insure the prompt execution of a retarded black man took place before the New Hampshire primary, the better to boost his “comeback” that eventually got him the presidency by showing how “tough on crime” he was. I even remember the name of the man, Ricky Ray Rector. I hope the two of you meet in hell.

Yes, I’m a liberal and Clinton supported liberal causes but things like that reminded you that there was something uglier underneath, something uglier even than the underside of Willie Stark, Robert Penn Warren’s Southern populist Huey Long type pol in the best American novel about politics, maybe the best American novel, period, All the King’s Men (if you haven’t read it you’re nigh unto politically illiterate).

It came out again with the racial insinuations during the 2008 primary campaign (just “observations” about Obama’s blackness making him a Jesse Jackson-like figure, of course). I blogged about that but thankfully I haven’t had to pay attention to the buffoon for a while.

But here he is, in full shameless, vicious form, in a quote he gave about the Monica Lewinsky affair in a new book previewed by the Politico.

I won’t go into the question the new book raises about whether Clinton would have or should have been formally indicted and tried for lying to a grand jury. I just want to highlight the response Clinton gave to a question about how the affair will affect his place in history:

“Yeah I will always have an asterisk after my name,” he said, “but I hope I’ll have two asterisks: one is ‘They impeached him,’ and the other is, ‘He stood up to them and beat them like a yard dog.'”

December 16, 2009

Wall St. Bankers Break Through My Outrage Gridlock

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 2:10 pm

So much to be outraged about these days. I’ve got ’em stacked up like delayed flights over Dulles.

Speaking of which, can you believe the nerve of the chief execs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup basically lying to the nation in claiming that “inclement weather” prevented them from showing up at a meeting at the White House on Monday? You know, the one where they wee going to be asked: “Hey guys, we gave you hundreds of billions of taxpayer money to save your corporate jets and your economy-wrecking banks, how about doing a little lending to smaller businesses so they can help create jobs and get us off the ten per cent unemployment dime. That was the purpose after all. Not to preserve your obscene bonuses.”

But nooo. … Despite the corporate jets (and, by the way, the existence of something called “railroads”), the “fat cats,” three of them anyway, turned out to be “scaredy cats.” Afraid to face the music for their depredations, they claimed that “inclement weather” prevented them from flying down for an 11 a.m. meeting at the White House.

And it was all, basically, a lie! Thanks to for doing the kind of investigative reporting that the MSM largely failed to do, demonstrating conclusively that there was no real weather problem that a fat cat who wasn’t a scaredy cat couldn’t have overcome if the railroad was too plebian for him.

It’s not only a rebuff to the White House; it’s a rebuke to the American people who saved their sleazy institutions. They sure came running to Washington when they wanted a bailout! Neither rain nor snow nor inclement weather could stop these greedheads when they were hustling for an unearned hundred billion or two to cover their shady practices, which brought the rest of the economy to ruin.

When Obama used the phrase “fat cats,” some were outraged that he dipped into old-fashioned populist rhetoric.. These frauds proved that they deserved worse.

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