Stories by Andrew Romano

  • The Case Against Reunion Tours

    "I'm getting tickets tomorrow," wrote a friend, somewhat mysteriously. "Who wants?" For a moment, I was confused. Pavement, perhaps the best indie-rock band of the Nineties, broke up in 2000. Luckily, a clarification landed in my inbox five seconds later: "Oh, right, details: Reunion show. Tue, Sep 21, 2010 07:00 PM. Not sure how much tickets cost." That was all I needed. "Count me in," I typed. "Even though I’ll probably be getting married the weekend after." The fact that my friend pitched the tickets without providing any information on price, location or, at first, timing--and that I agreed to purchase them almost a year in advance, despite what many people might consider a rather "important" conflict—should come as no surprise to fans of Pavement, whose members confirmed plans last Thursday to reunite in 2010 for a concert in New York's Central Park and a series of unspecified "dates around th...
  • Irving Kristol: 1920-2009

    He may have been the least-fetching model ever to grace the cover of Esquire. But when Irving Kristol—essayist, editor, professor—appeared on the Feb. 13, 1979, edition of the venerable men's magazine above a headline that read "Godfather of the Most Powerful New Political Force in America," the distinction was well deserved. Within a year and a half, the movement that Kristol had launched in the late 1960s—a haven, he said, for disaffected ex-liberals like himself who'd been "mugged by reality"—would help propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency, and it would remain the dominant strain in American politics through the war in Iraq a quarter century later. All ideologies eventually fall out of favor, especially in a city as fickle as Washington. What distinguished Kristol, the husband of historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and father of conservative columnist William Kristol, was his eagerness to engage anew with a world that was constantly changing around him. In the wake of World War II,...
  • How N.J.’s Corzine-Christie Clash Could Hurt Obama

    In electoral politics, nothing matters more than narrative. And the heated New Jersey gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie is a good example of why-especially as it pertains to President Obama. As with everything in the Garden State, the Corzine-Christie contest is, shall we say, colorful. (Disclaimer: I spent my first 22 years there; I kid because I love.) It's a familiar recipe. Start with a sprinkling of malfeasance: many of the 44 North Jersey political figures ensnared in last month's corruption/organ-trafficking probe were Corzine supporters; Christie is taking heat for failing to report on his tax returns and financial-disclosure forms a $46,000 loan to a top aide who still works in his former U.S. Attorney's office. Add a pinch of piquant mudslinging: Christie mocks Corzine as "oblivious"; Corzine responds by calling Christie-brace yourself-"Bush's friend." Stir in another...
  • Bipartisan Support: Why Obama Can't Get It

    As fanciful beasts go, bipartisanship is more like a T. Rex than a unicorn—it actually roamed the earth once. Take 1965, for example. Lyndon Johnson had just clobbered Barry Goldwater by 16 million votes in one of the most lopsided elections in U.S. history; Democrats outnumbered Republicans 68 to 32 in the Senate and 295 to 140 in the House. Yet when the jewels of Johnson's "Great Society"—Medicare and Medicaid—came up on the congressional docket, Democrat Wilbur Mills sat down with rookie minority leader Gerald Ford to craft a compromise bill. Six months and more than 500 alterations later, the Social Security Act of 1965 arrived in the Oval Office with the support of 13 Republican senators and 70 of their House colleagues.If that kind of cooperation sounds as anachronistic as a massive reptile, that's because it is. When (or rather, if) Obama's health-care-reform bill reaches the floor of Congress, he'll be lucky to get a single Republican vote. Predictably, this has attracted a...
  • Our Search for Alien Life

    Bipartisanship is bad. Hedge funds are good. And the environment has never been better, thank you very much. For these and 22 other unexpected truths, read on . . .
  • Toilet Paper or Bidet? The Dirty Facts

    Deep down, Americans have always known that wiping their rears with dry paper is ineffective; a classic survey showed that half of TP users spend their days with "fecal contamination"—anything from "wasp-colored" stains to "frank massive feces"—in their underpants. And yet we continue to mock the bidet, the Frenchest of innovations, as froufrou, risqué, de trop. But while personal hygiene is one thing, the future of the planet is another. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day; collectively, we burn through 36.5 billion rolls each year. Tossing all the TP in America would save 15 million trees, 17.3 terawatts of electricity, and more than 473 billion gallons of water annually; the environmental impact of bidets is minimal in comparison. No wonder the Japanese bidet behemoth Toto is gearing up for a massive sales push in the States. When it's hip to be green, ditching the Charmin could -actually make a difference. And not only in our (dirty) drawers.
  • The Future of High-Speed Rail

    "Imagine boarding a train in the center of a … whisking through towns at speeds over 100 … and ending up just blocks from your destination." That's the vision President Obama laid out in April while unveiling his plan to spend $13 billion on high-speed rail (HSR) by 2014. But will it ever become a reality? Next month, D.C. will split the first funds among 11 designated corridors. A road map for the journey ahead: A BETTER-CONNECTED AMERICAAdvocates see HSR as a green way to link the megaregions of the future (shaded). Start with the highest-impact projects, they say, then grow the network. HOW THE U.S. MEASURES UPWith only one slower, shorter line in service (the Acela), we're far behind the leading HSR nations.
  • The Polaroid Lives!

    Over the past five years, I've up-loaded more than 200 pictures to Facebook. Some are of me. Some are of my friends. Most are of me and my friends doing mildly embarrassing things. But none has elicited as much enthusiasm as the snapshot I took recently at a Brooklyn flea market. The response has little to do, I think, with what actually appears in the image: an assortment of old Owl-brand stamps, seen from above. Nor can I credit the other tchotchkes edging into the picture: a beaded necklace, a crystal bowl, a leather sleeve of sorts, a silver object that may or may not be a harmonica. What makes this particular digital photo popular on Facebook is the fact that it doesn't look digital at all. After extracting the original file from my Nikon, I dragged it into a program called Poladroid, which quickly spit out an image that belied my DSLR's multi-megapixel specifications: jaundiced tint, fuzzy focus, textured white border. And yet, the moment I posted the photo online, admirers...
  • Food: Saving the New York City Pizza Slice

    Chef Mathieu Palombino is wearing a New Kids on the Block T shirt—and while it may be ironic, it's not inaccurate. Late last year Palombino, 31, opened Motorino in Brooklyn. His training was tony—Laurent Tourondel, David Bouley—but his latest recipe was rather primitive. Flour from Naples. Tomatoes from Naples. Cheese from Naples. And a massive, 850-degree, wood-burning oven built in Texas by, yes, a man from Naples. "My goal was to make traditional Neapolitan pizza," says Palombino. "The most authentic, the best." Local chowhounds quickly declared Motorino a success, but at least one group disagreed: Palombino's Italian-American neighbors. "They're like 60, 70, and they won't eat my pizza," he admits. "They prefer the place over there—the one with $2 slices." The new kid, it seems, was too old school for the block. And as impressive as his pies are, I get why.Consider the New York slice. It's the city's most enduring gastronomical export: a cheap, cheese-slathered sliver of street...
  • NYC on the Small Screen: Why Its Best Portrayal Has Nary a Cosmo, Pink Stiletto or "Central Perk" In Sight

    It’s no secret that America’s attitude toward New York City is somewhat schizophrenic. Nor is it particularly perceptive to note that pop culture has long reflected our mixed feelings about the metropolis. On one hand there’s the Big Apple: a fizzy, fashionable  escape from suburbia. On the other there’s dark and dangerous Gotham: the city as a source of schadenfreude for small-town residents eager to see immoral urbanites suffer for their sins -- preferably with lots of explosions.In moments of relative calm -- like, say, the pleasant, prosperous 1990s, when the TV version of New York was filled with "Friends" who rarely saw the need to, you know, go to work -- the whole love-hate dynamic can be sort of muted. (See also: Sex and the City, Seinfeld.) But real-world meltdowns always seem to revive our glam-or-grit ambivalence toward the city. During the Depression, public enemies like James Cagney rubbed elbows with screwball sophisticates like Cary Grant; the 1970s...
  • Stumper Signs Off--For Now

    Thank you.When Stumper started a little over a year ago, I'd never covered a presidential campaign--or maintained a blog, for that matter. The thought of writing four or five times a day on a single subject seemed somewhat, well, daunting. Now, 13 months, 18 states, 21 debates, 1,672 posts, 35,416 comments and countless Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches later, it's the thought of not writing four of five times a day that's making me uneasy.But alas: the stumping has ended, and so will Stumper.  It's been an incredible year--jamming with Mike Huckabee, pulling an allnighter with John Edwards, following Rudy Giuliani across South Florida, meeting John McCain in a tiny Iowa diner, sitting in section 139 of Mile High Stadium as Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination. But without you guys, the readers, it would've been pointless. So I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude--for the tips, the ideas, the comments, the kudos and, most of...
  • The Best of NEWSWEEK's Top-Secret Election Project, Vols. II, III and IV

    You can read my favorite tidbits from Chapter One here. Now for the highlights from Chapters Two, Three and Four: Bill's Bile: In the days after his wife's back- from-the-brink victory in New Hampshire, Bill Clinton was full of righteous indignation. The former president had amassed an 81-page list of all the unfair and nasty things the Obama campaign had said, or was alleged to have said, about Hillary Clinton. The press was still in love with Obama, or so it seemed to Clinton, who complained to pretty much anyone who would listen. If the press wouldn't go after Obama, then Hillary's campaign would have to do the job, the ex-president urged. On Sunday, Jan. 13, Clinton got worked up in a phone conversation with Donna Brazile, a direct, strong-willed African-American woman who had been Al Gore's campaign manager and advised the Clintons from time to time. "If Barack Obama is nominated, it will be the worst denigration of public service," he told...
  • A 21st Century President?

    On Jan. 3, 2008, I arrived at the apartment of Paul Tewes, Barack Obama's Iowa state director, as the icy streets of downtown Des Moines filled with young Obamaniacs hugging and cheering, "We did it!" Upstairs, scruffy postcollegiate staffers squeezed between couches and credenzas to celebrate the senator's surprise victory in that night's Iowa caucuses. Cans of Bud Light covered every surface. Youth turnout, I was told, was up 135 percent from 2004, and the under-25 set alone gave Obama 17,000 votes--nearly his entire margin of victory. The next morning, a 25-year-old Obama supporter sent me an ecstatic email. "This," he wrote, "is our next president."At the time, there was no way of knowing what would happen eleven months later. But I had my suspicions. It was clear to me that night in Iowa that Obama had begun to build the first 21st century campaign--a campaign with the potential, I imagined, to propel him to a 21st century victory in...
  • Bush on Obama: 'A Triumph of the American Story'

    Speaking just now from the White House's Rose Garden, President George W. Bush invoked the memory--and words--of Martin Luther King, Jr.--in describing Barack Obama's historic achievement. "It will be a stirring sight to see President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House," he said. "I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have waited so long." The current era of partisan comity will soon come to end, I'm sure. But that doesn't make it any less refreshing--or any less of an opportunity for Obama, should he choose to seize it. Here's hoping...
  • The Results (So Far): 364 for Obama, 173 for McCain

    Obama, 364: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Iowa, California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Indiana, North CarolinaMcCain, 173: Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Montana, MissouriPopular Vote: 52 percent Obama, 46 percent McCain Senate: Democrats 56, Republicans 40House: Democrats 258, Republicans 177 
  • The Filter: Nov. 5, 2008... President Obama Edition

    A round-up of this morning's must-read stories. OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT AS RACIAL BARRIER FALLS(Adam Nagourney, New York Times)Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United...