Wednesday, January 25, 2023


A New York Moment: Ruby, Jules & Me

(Don't ask me why this never got published at the time.)  

Over the last week, I've been reading "My First Time in New York," which is as it sounds -- a four-year old compilation, published by New York magazine, of testimonials of various authors, artists, singers, politicians and other celebrities recounting there first recognizable moment in the Big Apple. One of the earliest is from former mayor David Dinkins (recounting a 1932 story with a punch line that is mildly disturbing at a time when one is reading about NFL players beating their children with a switch, but I digress..). One of the more recent is by James Franco who first got here in 2008 -- as a new college student.  

Most of the stories from the '50s and '60s inevitably had "moments" where the person remembered hanging with friends who, inevitably, became as well-known as the raconteur. Of course, at the time, thy were all just young, hungry, afraid dreamers trying to find their way in a big, seemingly unforgiving city. The tie that binds all the stories though is that same city that, ironically, has a way of teaching lessons and inspiring stories. 

Such stories still happen.  Saturday morning, actress and activist Ruby Dee's memorial service was held up in Harlem. My TV already had NY1 running, so I left it on while working on the computer. At some point, actor Glynn Turman came on to give a testimonial to Dee. He had played her son, first in "A Raisin in the Sun" and later in "Peyton Place." He spoke movingly of how Dee had imparted to him the notion that it's not who you know that's important, but who knows you. Over the years, Dee would remain a friend and mentor to Turman. Ultimately, he concluded, "I feel honored to have known Ruby Dee but I feel so very blessed that she knew me." 

A little more than 24 hours later, I was at the Brooklyn Book Festival, attending a talk with author Jonathan Lethem ("Motherless Brooklyn," "Fortress of Solitude" and many others) and cartoonist/essayist/filmmaker, all around Renaissance man Jules Feiffer, who I was hearing for the second time in less than a year. Last October, Feiffer was on one of the last panels of the New York Comic Con, talking "noir" with artist Darwin Cooke and former DC president and publisher Paul Levitz. At that time, Feiffer talked about his in-progress graphic-novel, "Kill My Mother," a work heavily influenced by classic film noir. The novel was published earlier this month and I had gotten a copy of it in my hot little hands, as I listened to Lethem and Feiffer. 

I'll try to return to the subject of their talk (movements of the Left from the 30s to now) at some.point. But the current tale jumps to right after the authors' talk. The men are signing their books. I get in the Feiffer line. A nice lady handed out Post-Its, urging us to write down our names, and stick the on the page we wanted signed. 

I debated whether I wanted my first name or full name and opted for the latter. When I got to the front of the line, I put my book down in front of Jules Feiffer. He looked at my name and said, "Robert George? The journalist?" Wait, WHAT? I said, "Uh, yes." He said, "From the Post." I said,  "Yes, that's me." "Oh, I enjoy seeing you on [Steve] Kornacki."  Holy crap.

I reminded him that I had seen him last year at NYCC. As I did then, I again thanked him for writing and editing, many decades back, "The Great Comic Book Heroes," a work that helped stimulate my already nascent interest in the graphic medium. Feiffer responded by saying that he was sorry that he didn't recognize me in my "civilian" clothes (rather than TV-friendly jacket and tie, I was wearing short sleeves and tan slacks). 

Wow. Jules Freaking Feiffer recognized my name? Knew me? Was honored to meet me???? Wow. Simply wow. 

Suddenly, Glynn Turman's words from the memorial service the day before returned. "It's who knows you that's important." 

Yes, New York stories still happen. 

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Sunday, June 14, 2015


Transracial Transgressions

The Rachel Dolezal story took over regular and social media last week, quickly becoming the dominant, basically insane story of the moment (not counting presidential announcements). 
Over on Facebook, my friend Tina Dupuy admitted that Dolezal was "kooky and cringe-inducing" but that her parents were "DICKS"! I've seen variations of this line around social media over the last couple of days -- harshly criticizing Rachel's parents for "outing" her. What follows is my response to Tina, slightly edited and expanded for general consumption:
Her parents are dicks? Right. They're such dicks that they adopted two actual African-American kids. In fact, the weird story about Rachel is that she didn't start taking on the black identity until AFTER her parents did the adoption thing. "Well, mom and dad want black kids?? I'll give them another one!"

That's why I give them a benefit of the doubt and her zero. Her parents "ruined" her career? It was a career built on a FALSEHOOD. Furthermore, they came forward only after she made some dubious claims about being a victim of a hate crime. Given that she's lived her life as a lie, skepticism on how far she would go to perpetuate that lie is more than warranted.

Moreover, it's the ultimate in white privilege to put on black face and then decide to shoot for a leadership role in a black organization. And something for those over-thinkers who serously want to make comparisons between the Caitlyn Jenner "transgender" situation and Dolezal's "transracial" assertion (yes, Melissa, I'm talking to you): GET REAL!!

Historically, black Americans who did the opposite -- passed for white -- did so to survive in a racist society. For them, exposure meant true ruin, in some states even death. For Rachel Dolezal, it means momentary embarrassment, more acceptance by a too-forgiving black community, the talk-show circuit, a book deal and, oh, yes, living the rest of her life as a white person! BOO-FUCKING-HOO!

UPDATE: Thanks Tara L. Martin for passing along this Buzzfeed interview of Rachel's adopted (actually black) brother Ezra. Some major duplicity and emotional manipulation going on with this woman.

UPDATE II: For those wondering about "Melissa," this is to whom I was referring. 

UPDATE III: Tip of the hat, too, to Josh Marshall for identifying the original story that launched the firestorm (no, it wasn't The Washington Post).

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Monday, March 02, 2015


CPAC in Black (and Brown)

It's been a few years since I went down to DC to revel in the madness that is CPAC (or "Comic-Con for conservatives" as told one friend somewhat unfamiliar with the goings-on). The last time Newt was one of the speakers. He was greeted like the rock star he once was (he entered the hall to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger.").

Anyway, I hadn't planned on attending this year, but my old Capitol Hill friend Ron Christie asked me to participate in a panel he was moderating called, "The Content of Your Character." Oh, my, what on earth might that be about? Yep, it's another "outreach" thing. Seriously? Haven't we done enough of those. Does anything really change in Republican/conservative environments on that topic? And, oh, yeah, they scheduled us for 3 PM on Saturday, near the end of the third full day. Many people would already be heading for the exits. Do I really need to put myself through this?

But, Ron asked me and, hey, the principles of improv urge you to say, "Yes." (Uh, Robert, remember that definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!)  I chatted with Ron on Friday and told him, if I was going to do this, I'd do it on my terms and say what *I* wanted to say -- not just recite the same old pablum attendees at these gatherings always get.

Anyway, that's what I did. Besides Ron and myself, the panel included Mercedes ("Mercy") Schlapp, wife of CPAC's organizer Matt. Her parents fled Cuba when Castro took over; I met her mother. The memory and the anger is still there. Though I fall into that camp who believes U.S. policy toward Cuba must change, it's hardly a clear-cut case on either side.  Mercedes warned conservatives that, regardless of where they stood on the issue of immigration, the tone they adopted was as important as the policy itself. The fourth person was Patrice Lee, a smart attractive young woman from the organization Generation Opportunity -- a free-market Millenals-focused group. She looked at criminal justice issues as something that could open doors to some in the minority community. Patrice also revealed that she was from the Caribbean island of Monserat. Thankfully, she's Protestant, so I didn't have to lose my "Catholic West Indian black Republican" line!

While we each included biographical moments in our remarks, I tried to focus more on getting Republicans off of the old "Party of Lincoln" baloney candidates inevitably start presenting when they campaign in front of "communities of color." As I said, I'm glad that you support Lincoln's freeing of the slaves, but seriously, what do you have to say to black communities today?

This sentiment also extends to the even-more-prevalent "Party of Reagan" line. I asked how many attendees were born after 1989: About two-thirds of the audience hands went up. These young kids weren't even alive when Ronald Reagan was president. So, why is it "Reagan this, Reagan that" for GOP candidates. I didn't get a chance to make this point, but it's interesting to note that Democrats rarely refer to themselves as the "Party of Roosevelt" or "Kennedy" or "Carter" (uh, well, scratch that one). Next year, they may talk "Party of Clinton," but that's a special case. Democrats do celebrate their legislative legacies...Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, etc. But not the personalities.

Perhaps Republicans might consider doing the same, if they're looking to capture the next generation of voters?

Our CPAC panel can be seen here:

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Friday, February 27, 2015



Your humble sometimes-blogger (hey, I'm still technically here! I haven't put a complete end to RAGGED THOTS as Andrew Sullivan did to The now-departed -- dormant? -- Daily Dish) returned to Opinion Journal on Friday. I chatted with Mary Kissel on the squabbles over New York city mayoral control of public schools. On one side is, of course, the mayor, Bill de Blasio. On the other, is his favorite nemesis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo!

Check out the video for the rest:

 Our NYP editorial will give further context!

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Monday, October 27, 2014


An Open (Farewell?) Letter To AT&T

To whom it may concern:

I shall keep this brief as the bulk of my complaints can be found in the e-mail that I sent two weeks ago to ATT Customer Care. Alas, the lack of response after I detailed the lack of service/poor service at two of your New York stores causes me to take this additional public step.

This letter was sent at the encouragement of a gentleman named MattR running the @ATTCustomerCare handle. He contacted me after I had shared on Twitter my experiences at the above-mentioned two stores. The full letter runs below (minus my e-mail address and cellphone number.) After the letter, you'll learn what the resolution to this from your offices has been.


From: Robert A. George 
To: ""  
Sent: Monday, October 13, 2014 3:22 AM
Subject: Re: Twitter [ ref:_00DE0czFk._500E0FLW36:ref ]

Dear MattR, 

After four days attending a convention at the Javits Center where I needed two power batteries to get through the day, I realized my iPhone 4s is in desperate need of replacement. While my contract isn't up until December, I understand I qualify for an early upgrade with a NEXT plan. 

I wanted to discuss my options at the Manhattan location, 209 W. 34th Street  (7th Ave). I arrived at about 6:20 PM. The lights were on and at least three employees were inside. Two were seated near the far wall, discussing something. A third had his back to the window. On the door was posted Sunday hours of 10:00 AM -7:00 PM (see attached photo which also shows employees). 

I tried the door. Locked. Tried again, obviously locked. The employees continued whatever they were doing. 

As I tried to figure out what was going on, a 30-something businessman (wearing a suit) approached and tried the door. At this point, the employee with his back to the window and door turned and waved (cut off motion) to indicate the store was closed and showed 6 fingers. The businessman shrugged his shoulders and said, "Guess I'll have to go up to Times Square." He left. 

In the next few minutes, several people, including a Marine and a nicely dressed woman came by, tried the door and showed visible irritation that a store that appeared open was closed. 

Interestingly, it wasn't until about 6:40 that the storefront security gate was lowered and the lights were turned off. 

At this point, I decided to follow in the footsteps of the businessman: I got on the subway and headed to the 3 Times Square location. 

This is a bi-level AT&T store -- a few phones and tablets at street level, with the bulk of merchandise one flight down. 

Notably, at street level, there is an iPhone display -- a 6 Plus, a 6 and a 5S. The 6 Plus and 5s were in working condition. The 6 (which I was most interested in) was dead -- or, to be accurate, it wasn't plugged in! I tried to connect it, before an employee finally did so. 

After several minutes, the Apple logo appeared, but instead of turning on, it rebooted again, briefly started, at which point an iCloud login appeared with a password prompt. I asked the employee about it. She said, "Oh, a customer must have done that." I asked, can't you override it? She said "No." 

So, the iPhone 6 reboots again, but is not actually charging (see photo attached). 

FINALLY, the employee tells me, "Oh, you can try the one downstairs." So, I've been standing around for TEN minutes waiting for an apparently defective iPhone 6 to charge -- while there was a working one downstairs all along? 

I went downstairs, tried the iPhone 6 a bit, but was at last exhausted at the customer service (or lack thereof) at two AT&T stores in the busiest part of Manhattan. 

Final note: While outside the Times Square store (where I had begun communicating with your office), I ran into the businessman I met at the 34th Street location. His name is Kevin. We shook our heads over how the evening had gone. It turns out we are both longtime AT&T customers -- dating back to when we'd been with Cingular. 

I can't speak for Kevin, but I'm quite disappointed with the lack of communication and poor service by AT&T customer personnel at two central Manhattan locations. 

Thank you for your time in exploring this matter. 


Robert A. George 

P.S. Apologies for an earlier draft version of this correspondence without photos. 


I sent a follow-up e-mail to make sure that "MattR" received the letter. He responded in the affirmative. Two weeks later, I've yet to receive any response to this letter.  

Instead, one day later, I got this random text "thanking" me for the "social media contact" and asking  how likely I was to recommend ATT service in the future! 

Given this complete lack of attention to what I believe to be legitimate concerns about ATT retail service and now Customer Care, there's no way I can give a positive response -- despite more than a decade with AT&T. With my contract coming to an end in the coming weeks, it seems I should be looking at what Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have to offer in the future.  


Robert A. George 

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Saturday, October 11, 2014


RAG on MSNBC's Kornaki: Is Losing Winning?

It's New York Comic-Con weekend and I had planned four days of freedom. Then, my cell rings on Friday evening -- with Steve Kornacki's producer asking if I can be available Saturday morning to talk midterms. Sorry for the last minute notice, but we want to examine the notion that there's a silver lining to the Dem's (seemingly likely) loss of the Senate. Bill Scher wrote a piece for Politico making that claim. Well, while not exactly thrilled at having to put my analysis hat on pre-NYCC Saturday (the craziest day of the weekend), I agreed to -- and it went well. I strongly disagreed with Scher's thesis (the likelihood of investigations alone would make Democrats -- the president, most of all -- rather queasy at the idea of the GOP having complete control of Congress).

But, anyway, feel free to see for yourself:


Surprisingly, being forced to get "up" early turned out to be its own silver lining. I did a couple Kornacki segments and was at NYCC by 10:30, participated in a promotion for the video release of "One Million Ways To Die In The West" -- and ended up walking away with a free Blu-Ray! Sweet!! And the rest of the day went quite well too.

So, here's to mixing "work" with pleasure!

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Friday, August 15, 2014


RAG on HuffPost Live

My debut appearance on HuffPost Live, the Huffington Post's video channel! On "Political Junkies" with host Alonya Minskovski, HuffPo's Jason Linkins, The Nation's Mychal Denzel Smith and Hot Air's Noah Rothman. We're mostly talking Ferguson. 


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