Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Next, On A Very Stupid Oprah

Many legal analysts are advising Herman Rosenblat [above] to use an insanity defense if brought up on fraud charges for lying about his Holocaust love story, based on the fact that, "he's had to have [his wife's] voice rattling around in his head for more than 50 years."

I have to confess I am loving this story about the scam played by two old screwballs regarding how they 'met' while one of them was in a concentration camp during World War II. The reason I'm loving it is because it points out in glaring clarity just how stupid most people in the media really are. We subscribe to this myth that the people we see on TV or read in the newspapers [if there are any of you left out there who do so] are somehow brilliant, knowledgeable and credible. That they are diligent about checking their facts. But it is, indeed, a myth. Most reporters are lazy, shiftless, ne'er do-wells who - if not for spellcheck -- couldn't be hired to write a shopping list let alone a news story.

Well, with that off my chest, onto the story. Oprah Winfrey once dubbed it the "greatest love story" she had ever heard: a boy held at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and a girl on the outside who tossed him apples to keep him alive. They eventually married and grew old together. Can't you just hear the violins? Can't you just hear Oprah's audience weeping, and an entire nation of house fraus joining in on the melancholy chorus? And that sanctimonious bag of wind Oprah herself looking with those big cow eyes into the camera saying, "we'll be right back." Herman and Roma Rosenblat first appeared on Winfrey's gabfest more than 10 years ago and she has repeatedly milked the story for tears. Why, just last month, Winfrey told her Nation that it was, "the single greatest love story in 22 years of doing this show."

This makes for a 'very special Oprah', if not for the inconvenient fact that the Rosenblats were full of shit. And, to be fair to that bloated waste of [much too much] space, Oprah was hardly the only one who got scammed. These two lunatics - the Rosenblats, not Oprah who only looks like two people - told this story repeatedly over the years and got a book deal, a movie deal and worldwide coverage in the media. These two maniacs even got into children's literature with Angel Girl, based on their story.

Now, I'm reading 'authorities' on anti-Semitism are fearful that the fact that this story was fake might give credence to those who deny the Holocaust occurred. I have a news flash for these 'experts': I doubt a lot of Holocaust deniers are regular Oprah-watchers.

As in stories like this in the past, there is an act of contrition on the part of the guilty. In this case, Herman Rosenblat issued a statement through his literary agent - yes, this bozo has (or had) a literary agent, meanwhile I'm writing this for an audience of 3: "Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple? Because I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people. I brought good feelings to a lot of people, and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world. In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream." As you can see, Mr. Rosenblat is still full of shit.

Herman Rosenblat really was in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II -- a subcamp of Buchenwald -- and he really has been married to Roma for decades - meaning he's been incarcerated for more than 60 years.

Berkley Books immediately canceled publication of Rosenblat's memoir, Angel at the Fence, which was set to be released in February, although the movie version will go forward - viewers of any of Oliver Stone's movies will not be surprised, seeing as how Hollywood's grasp of historical accuracy is about as dead-on as Oprah's sense of smell.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NASA Reports on the Columbia

The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, January, 2003.

I remember well the Space Shuttle Columbia crash on February 1, 2003 - as no doubt we all do. I was home alone with the kids, who were then just over a year old. I got five minutes without Barney and flipped on the TV to see what adults were doing and saw it on CNN. It is a strange feeling to be witnessing something like that and to have only two one-year olds to converse with about it. I just remember thinking, "God, this is weird not being able to talk about this with anyone."

I bring the Columbia disaster up because NASA came out with a report on Tuesday outlining in pretty close detail what the last minutes of the lives of the crew were like. As the ship careened out of control, alarms sounded in the cabin. The pilot, William McCool, pushed several buttons trying to right the ship as it tumbled out of control. Neither he - nor any of them - knew it was useless. Before the Columbia crash, standard NASA procedures directed the crew to spend more time preparing the shuttle than preparing themselves for their return to the atmosphere. A few of the astronauts weren't wearing their bulky protective gloves and still had their helmet visors open. A few weren't fully strapped in. One of them was barely seated. Within seconds, the darkened cabin lost pressure and the astronauts blacked out. If that loss of pressure didn't kill them immediately, the violent gyrations that knocked their unconscious bodies all around the ship surely did.

The report lists events that were each potentially lethal to the crew: loss of cabin pressure just before or as the cabin broke up; crew members, unconscious or already dead, crashing into objects in the module; exposure to a near vacuum at 100,000 feet; and crashing to the ground.

Among the conclusions in the report was a warning that astronauts need to better prepare themselves for landings. It is important to note that even had the astronauts been securely strapped in, wearing pressurized suits and still conscious, in the specific case of the Columbia and the damage to the shuttle, they were doomed regardless. Their fate was sealed, actually, on takeoff: once the ship was damaged upon leaving the atmosphere, there was no way to get them back safely without the ship disintegrating upon reentry.

For future crises, however, better preparation might keep astronauts conscious longer, allowing them more time to try to correct a situation before catastrophe.

As it was, with the little time the crew did have on the Columbia, NASA's new report indicates that they made a valiant effort to identify the problem - and no doubt it was best that they had no idea that there was nothing they could do. "It was a very disorienting motion going on," Wayne Hale, NASA's deputy associate administrator, said Tuesday. "There were a number of alarms going off simultaneously. The crew was trying very hard to regain control. We're talking about a brief time in a crisis situation."

Killed in the Columbia crash along with pilot McCool, 41, were commander Rick Husband, 45; payload commander Michael Anderson, 43; David Brown, 46; Kalpana Chawla, 41; Laurel Clark, 41, and Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, 48.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Twas A Very [Weird] Year

Most columnists, bloggists [word?] spend the last few days of the year looking back on said year and reminiscing about it. So, I can reminisce with the best of them. The top issue of 2008 is a toss-up between the economy and the election of Barack Obama. Since without the economy I'm not sure there'd be a President-elect Obama, I'm going to go with 'economy' as being the single biggest news event of the year.

First, a disclaimer: like everyone else, I've no idea what happened. I do know that part of the problem was an inflated real estate market, an incestuous relationship between the worlds of banking and investments, and something having to do with derivatives. I'm a pretty well-read guy, and I've tried hard, but I still can't get my arms around this derivatives thing and what it is. The best I can come up with is it's like a farmer who agrees to sell chicken shit next spring, at a price set today. If the price of chicken shit goes up, the farmer is screwed because he's stuck selling it at the price he set before the rise. If the price of chicken shit goes down, however, the farmer is rolling in it because he's selling at the price he set before the decline. Essentially, then, "it's the chicken shit economy, stupid."

Now that we've got the biggest story out of the way, here's a look back on 2008....sort of:

1 President Bush rings in the new year by announcing he will not run for another term of office. The White House shortly thereafter issues a release that the "President was joking and, of course, knows he is limited by the 22nd Amendment to two consecutive terms." This leads Vice President Cheney, however, to ask a reporter "the 22nd Amendment of what?" When told "the Constitution," Cheney tells the reporter go fuck himself.
23 Senator Barack Obama [D, Ill.] refuses to comment on polls showing him with a lead over fellow candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton [D, NY] in the primaries, although he admits on Oprah that it falls into the category of "things that make you go hmmmm."
3 Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee [AR] tells Late Night with David Letterman, "this country will never elect a black president. Remember, you heard it here first." Huckabee goes on to say, "the Phillies will never win the World Series, O.J. Simpson will never go to jail, and Mumbai is the safest vacation spot in India." Shortly thereafter, he withdraws from the campaign.
29 In an effort to avoid confusing their newborns, 345,030 pregnant mothers refuse to deliver their children. "Just when in the hell do I celebrate the kid's first birthday?!" demanded Mrs. Emmajean Smythe, of Keokuk, Iowa.
12 New York Governor Elliot Spitzer [D] falls in bed with a prostitute named Bubbles and tries to claim to his wife, "Look, she fell through the ceiling above and right into my bed." Noting that Dennis Rodman tried the same line once with Carmen Elektra, the New York media are skeptical of the claim, although Mrs. Spitzer says she loves her husband, although she does look like she's been hit by a two-by-four. Spitzer resigns later that day, claiming he needs to time "to fix the ceiling."
1 Another baseball season begins, with Yankees' general partner Hank Steinbrenner predicting a championship for his team in October. "Remember, you heard it here first," he boasts. When asked if the Yankees might not make the playoffs, Steinbrenner retorts, "You've got a better chance of seeing Alex Rodriguez leave his wife for Madonna and then converting to kabala."
20 Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [D, Mass] is diagnosed with brain cancer. As millions of well-wishers send up prayers and thoughts and wonder how hard it will be for the country when Kennedy goes, the family of Mary Jo Kopeckne offers to help the country learn how to cope when a loved one is gone.
16 California legalizes gay marriage.
17 The California Bar asks for help from other western states in handling the suddenly large volume of gay divorces.
4 Senators Obama and John McCain [R, AZ] - the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees - celebrate the nation's birthday by signing a document that says, in part, they agree, "to name only the most responsible, well-qualified, trustworthy and capable" person to serve as their vice president.
5 McCain confides to Letterman, "I had my fingers crossed when I signed it."
23 Obama names Delaware Sen. Joe Biden [D] to serve as his vice president. "I think Delaware deserves a break from him," Obama jokes.
29 Not to be outdone, McCain matches Obama's selection of a senior U.S. senator with over 30 years experience in major foreign and domestic policy issues by nominating Alaska Governor Sarah Palin [R]. "I believe in the [George] Costanza theory," McCain tells Letterman that night. "My first instinct was to choose someone capable, so I did the exact opposite and hope it works out for the best. Can't hurt: it's not like I'm going to win!"
9 In the first of three debates, Obama and McCain spend 45 minutes arguing over whether moderatator Jim Lehrer should be addressed as "Jim", "Mr. Lehrer" or "Jimbo".
23 In preparing for debates next month, Sarah Palin sprains her brain trying to pronounce Biden's name. "She spent so much time working out 'Mahmouhd Ahmenajad' that she just fainted," said a McCain source.
9 In their first and only debate, Biden and Palin both agree that, "[Biden] is more qualified than any of them [McCain, Palin or Obama] to be president." Biden later tells The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, "Jesus Christ, I was fucking kidding - what the hell's wrong with you people?" The Obama campaign later issues a statement that Biden, "didn't know anyone still watched The Tonight Show," and apologized for his language.
27 Sen. Ted Stevens [R, AK] is finally convicted of something. While the federal government tried him on charges of bribery, extortion and other crimes, his conviction this time is for continuing to wear those ridiculous ties. While sentencing is delayed until after the election, prosecutors are calling for the death penalty.
4 Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States. "Better him than me," McCain tells Letterman that night, eschewing an address to his supporters for the more informal give-and-take with the talk show host. Later, CBS announces that McCain will replace Paul Shafer and lead the Letterman band beginning January 5th.
5 Murderer O.J. Simpson is sent to jail. While trying to state that Simpson's murder of his ex-wife and another man in 1994 played no role in the conviction, prosecutors break out laughing. "Sorry, let me try that again," said one. O.J. promises - if the judge will release him - "I will find the real guys who did this." The judge adds another 20 years for the outburst.
9 Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich [D], tired of all of the publicity President-elect Obama has been receiving, succeeds in his attempt to steal the limelight - and a few other things - as he is indicted on numerous charges. Citing the conviction in the Ted Stevens case, however, prosecutors throw in a charge of "hideous hair", "just in case we can't get [Blagojevich] on the real stuff," jokes a prosecutor.
So, with a few days left, hopefully there will be no other major stories this year to ruin this wonderful timeline. Happy New Year.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Parson Brown, Farmer Gray and Celine Dion

I love Christmas as much as the next guy - well, unless that guy is in Manheim Steamroller, I guess. Don't love it as much as I used to, granted. One of the reasons I still do like it is Christmas music. I love Christmas music, but not all songs are created equal. I believe that any Christmas song written or recorded after 1970 [when John and Yoko's Happy X-Mas (War is Over) was released; the single greatest Christmas song ever written] has to pass a real strict test:

1)Is it by Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, or anyone else Oprah tells me I'm supposed to like?
2) Is it peppy and do I get excited when I hear it?
3) Is it Elvis?
4) Did the singer add lyrics to what was a perfectly wonderful song, thus 'suckifying' it?

By number 1, that eliminates about 1,000 songs. The fact that Yoko Ono let Celine Dion listen to Happy X-Mas - let alone record it - is a travesty much more serious than her alleged breaking up of the Beatles. No one - and I repeat no one - can fuck up a perfectly classic song like the three artists mentioned in number 1. They can make even the most cheerful of Christmas songs make you want to crucify Christ yourself.

Elvis? Well, anything Elvis does is classic, which goes without saying. Elvis could have recorded the Twelve Days of Christmas hopped up on Percodan and Jim Beam and it'd be a classic [actually, now that I think about it, I think he did that in 1974]. It's not Christmas until Elvis says it's Christmas.

Looking at those four criteria, there are a very few songs in the last 40 years to make the grade. Here are a few of them:

1) Wonderful Christmastime - it's McCartney, for God's sake. 'Nuff said.
2) Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth - this Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet is my all-time favorite. I believe the story is that Bowie wrote the lyrics of Peace on Earth either while they were taping or shortly before they were taping Bing's 1977 Christmas special, in September, 1977. Crosby loved it and the two are wonderful on it - you just have to get used to Bing and Bowie being in the same century, let alone the same room, together. It's also one of my favorites because it's Bing's last recording. He died 10 days after it was made.
3) Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You - Billy Squier didn't do much, but this one's fantastic and never gets played. Squier's right knee had more singing ability that any of the 'artists' in category 1[above] put together.
4) Step Into Christmas - it's Elton, for God's sake. 'Nuff said, again.
5) All I Want For Christmas Is You - yes she's crazy, her weight fluctuates more than Oprah's and I can't stand 99% of what she does, but this Mariah Carey original is just simply a classic, and was from the moment it was released.

I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones I can think of. But, even as much as I love classic Christmas songs, having listened to them pretty much nonstop for the last four weeks, I've realized that I never really thought about some of the lyrics. Take Do You Hear What I Hear? Take a listen:

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
"Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child, shivers in the cold;
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold."

So, they find this kid freezing and they bring him precious metals?!?! That's a good way to kill an infant, pal. Try a blanket next time.

Or, try Winter Wonderland:

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town.

The obvious question here is: who the hell is Parson Brown? If this were California, he'd be a 450-pound bearded transvestite who is violating Proposition 8 by marrying gay couples in the winter.

Another favorite is Sleigh Ride. Here, we hear:

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray,
It'll be the perfect ending of the perfect day.
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace where we'll watch the chestnuts pop, pop, pop, pop

First of all, singing the songs without a single stop? What if I have to pee? Secondly, is Farmer Gray supposed to be Jesus? It's apparently Gray's birthday and it seems a bit symbolic that he'd share the same birthday with Christ, right? Also, most farmers I know would not be too thrilled if a couple dozen strangers came barging into the house on Christmas Day. In fact, that's probably a good way to get yourself shot.

So, with that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Or, as a guy I used to work with used to say, "Merry fucking Christmas." He'd normally say this on his way to church.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Review: John Lennon By Philip Norman

For most of my life - at least the last 28 years of it - I've been fascinated by the life of John Lennon. His words, music, ups, downs, genius as well as destructive behavior make him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century.

Norman's book is fabulous, so I'll get that out quick and up front. Norman criticizes earlier Lennon biographer Ray Coleman for not bringing Lennon 'to life' in his early 1980s work, Lennon.

Well, Norman certainly does bring Lennon to life. Here we see all aspects - good and bad - of John Lennon, from small child to that warm December evening in 1980 when it all ended

Yoko Ono agreed to interviews over a three-year period. While she did not want this to be an official biography, she did want to see the finished manuscript before publication. Unfortunately, she was not pleased, telling Norman that he was "mean to John". I agree with Norman's response that he certainly didn't feel he'd been mean to John and join with his hope that Ono will eventually come to understand what Norman was trying to achieve.

Even more than Ono - and a fascinating interview with Sean Lennon that appears in the Afterward - are the dozens of interviews Norman did with the Lennon cousins, aunts, his step-mother Pauline and countless other 'little people' in Lennon's life that have never before been interviewed. Through one cousin, Norman was given access to all of John's Aunt Mimi's correspondence, which shed a fascinating light on the woman who played such a strong role in his life that right up until the end - the day he died - he religiously called her twice a week and wrote her countless letters about his life in America, even though he never did manage to get back to England to see her after his departure in 1971

There are countless examples in this book of funny stories that have never before been revealed about Lennon. For example, during a jaunt down Cold Spring Harbor in 1979, as his boat passed the home of Billy Joel, Lennon called out to him, "I've got all of your records!" [John loved "Just the Way You Are"]. In his conversations with Mimi, he'd always begin with, "It's 'Himself'," as a greeting. In the late '70s a promoter offered The Beatles $50 million to reunite for three concerts; while Lennon had been an obstacle to such a reunion in the past, when Neil Aspinall called John at the Dakota to tell him about the offer, he was shocked that John agreed, "Neil, I'd stand in the corner on my head for a year for $50 million!"

There is also a tinge of sadness throughout the book, as we all know how it's going to turn out. Despite that knowledge, however, I still found myself becoming incredibly sad as I read the final pages - hoping for what, I don't know. Hoping he wouldn't die? That's how vivid a portrait of Lennon Norman has drawn that you're actually rooting for him until the very end. The last months of his life were a whirlwind after nearly five years out of the spotlight. The circle of life is here as well: on the day he died, in preparation for a second photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, John had his hair shorn into a 'teddy-boy' 1950s style: at death, he looked not unlike the young tough Beatle from Hamburg.

Norman also asks Ono the question that has puzzled me all of these years: with all of their faith in numerology, astrology, tarot, etc, didn't Yoko receive some signs that John was in danger? For the first time, here, she reveals that - indeed - their on-staff astrologer [that's right, they had an astrologer on retainer, right along with their lawyer and their accountant] did tell Ono shortly before John's death that, "I see a woman with long black hair - she must be your sister. She is crying and she is holding a child. It must be your sister." Ono remembers telling the woman, "I have a sister - but she doesn't have a child." For some reason, Ono never once thought the vision might be her - even though as early as 1968 she had a premonition that if she stayed with Lennon she would be victim of some great tragedy

Finally, here Ono for the first time says that she and John actually had a run-in with Mark David Chapman on December 7th - the day before he murdered John. Chapman approached the two of them quite aggressively, and began taking photos of them. Angry, Lennon began to chase after Chapman to grab the camera. "Don't, John, leave it," Ono remembers saying. "If they get me," Lennon prophetically told her that day, "it'll be a fan."

The famous photo of Lennon signing an autograph for Chapman hours before the murder might have been quite a different photo: Chapman had intended on killing Lennon then and there. Unlike the day before, however, John was so nice to Chapman that the would-be killer lost his nerve and kept his gun inside his jacket. Ono has no recollection of that encounter on the 8th, nor does she have any reason to believe that Lennon knew that the man he was granting an autograph was the same man he'd chased the day before.

In conclusion - and I know this is a long review, but the book is 800+ pages! - this is a must-read, regardless of how much you think you know about John Lennon. It will make you miss him even more.

copyright 2008 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.