Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Internet Generation

Dec. 25, 2006:
In which I embarrass myself in the pages of Newsweek...

Google "Andrew Romano." You'll find some impostors—like the Yonkers, N.Y., lawyer currently lodged in the top spot (damn him). But there's also a lot of me out there. You can snicker as I stare seductively at the camera in a college head shot. Gag as you listen to "Valentine's Day," a song I wrote for my girlfriend. Dig up my favorite films, my cell-phone number and the names of all my friends. Did I say "a lot"? I meant "way too much"...

"And in the End..."

Dec.25, 2006:
When George Martin first auditioned the Beatles in 1962, he thought "they were pretty awful." He signed them anyway. Now, more than four decades later, Sir George, 80, has ended his run as the Fab Four's legendary producer with a just-released CD of mash-ups and "reworked" tracks. ("Love"). He emailed with Andrew Romano.

(full text below)

When you returned to the master tapes for "Love," did you discover anything that surprised you?
I had forgotten some of the stuff we did, but it was all familiar of course. I just realised what a great band they were. They were just kids when we did it in the Sixties. I guess I fell in love with them all over again.

You recombined, remixed and rearranged familiar Beatles tracks for this project. Did you ever think "Perhaps we're going too far?"
I thought more about going too far when I worked on 'Sgt. Pepper' than on 'Love.' One of the advantages of growing really old is you don't give a damn any more.

What was going through your head when you wrote the new string arrangement for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" that's featured on "Love"?
George. He was such a good guy, loyal to the end and a very thoughtful person to his intimate friends. So love for him was there, along with apprehension that I might not fulfil the high expectations that were apparent. Olivia came to the session, which added to my fears, but when I saw a beaming smile from her I knew we were okay.

People like me would've killed to be in Studio Two while you and the Beatles were recording. Was it thrilling at the time?
Thrilling to be in Studio Two at Abbey Road? You're kidding! It was our workshop, and like most workshops, a bit grubby and dowdy and lacking in atmosphere, but it worked. The people at Abbey Road were my friends, great folk and good at their jobs, but the management had no idea what we did. So when the Beatles complained that it was like a factory floor they generously installed their idea of psychedelia--a gantry with three fluorescent tubes, one white, one red and one blue.

If the Beatles had the technology you and your son Giles used to make "Love" back in, say, 1967, how would it have affected the process--and the final product?
Probably Sgt. Pepper would not have been as good. Having few tracks to play with, pretty primitive sound effects and very little outboard gear made us work harder to get what we wanted. Ingenuity was a necessity and we were pushing our technology to its limits. And it was fun, too!

Which Beatles tracks do you have a particularly strong reaction to--positive or negative?
Strawberry Fields Forever: it is such a wonderful piece of magic that could only have come from John, and I told him so when I first heard it, with a personal performance from him on acoustic guitar and voice. Hey Jude: Paul could write great anthems, and this is one of the best, and the final chant is an inspiration. Here There And Everywhere: a simple melody and gentle lyric that is pure McCartney. I wish I had written it. Negative: I have wiped them from my memory!

Are there any songs that you've always wanted to do over?
John one told me he would like to record everything all over again. When I remonstrated with him I said "You can't mean it, what about Strawberry Fields?" He looked at me over his steel specs and said "Oh, especially Strawberry Fields!" No. I would leave everything just as it was, except... I do prefer [the "Love" version of] 'Within You, Without You' with Ringo's drums from "Tomorrow Never Knows."

Was John just that cool?
John was certainly a very cool person. But there are plenty of cool people around now. Ravi Shankar for one, and Roger Federer for another. But not George Bush.

What would John have thought of the "Love" project were he still alive?
At first he would have hated the idea. But as we got on with it he would have dived in as well, I am sure.

You did so much to shape the Beatles' music. All modesty aside, is it fair to call you the fifth Beatle?
No. I hate that epithet. There never was a Fifth Beatle. I was just a guy who was lucky enough to sign them and enjoy working with them on some great music.

One last question, George: are guitar groups on the way out?
Of course not.

Can Gunfire Really be 'Contagious'?

Nov. 29, 2006:
Five NYPD officers fired 50 shots at an unarmed man. Critics called it murder. But some experts say 'contagious shooting' is actually to blame.

Five New York City police officers went to work last Friday having never fired their 16-shot semiautomatic pistols on patrol. But by early Saturday morning, they'd all pulled the trigger for the first time—shooting a total of 50 rounds at Sean Bell, an unarmed 23-year-old who allegedly hit an undercover officer and an unmarked police van with his car after leaving a Queens strip club. The barrage killed Bell and renewed a debate about whether police are more likely to use excessive force against unarmed—and predominantly black—men. (For many, Bell's death brought back memories of the infamous 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who died in a flurry of 41 bullets after reaching for a wallet that police thought was a gun.) City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the Bell incident "deeply disturbing," and the Rev. Al Sharpton said that it "amount[ed] to a firing squad." But defenders of law enforcement claim a combination of inexperience, fear, confusion and lack of training can cause what's known in police parlance as "contagious shooting"—gunfire that spreads, in the heat of the moment, from officer to officer. NEWSWEEK's Andrew Romano talked to former police officer Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, about whether contagious shooting could explain last week's tragedy. Excerpts...

Did Ballot Measures Send a Message?

Nov. 8, 2006:
Rounding up the ballot measures, post-Election Day.

In recent years, ballot initiatives have become a key part of the Election Day calculus, with both parties maneuvering to pack ballots with hot-button issues designed to frame the debate and drive voters to the polls. Yesterday, 205 propositions in 37 states were put to the public. In several contests, social conservatives suffered significant defeats: in South Dakota, voters rejected a law that would have banned virtually all abortions; Arizona became the first state to defeat an amendment to ban gay marriage, and Missouri approved a measure backing stem-cell research...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Betting the House (and Senate)

Nov. 5, 2006:
Forget polls. Politicians and policymakers could soon turn to “prediction markets” to take the nation’s pulse—and plan their next move.

What could Tom Patrick possibly have to do with the future of politics? He is 49 years old. He once won a national bridge tournament. He lives in Yekaterinburg, the fifth-largest city in Russia. To his west are the Ural Mountains; to his east is Siberia. His business card says “commodities trader,” but right now he is “between jobs.” Which means that the first thing he does each morning is fire up his 128K-modem and steer one of his five computers (three desktops, one laptop, one HP iPaq handheld) to the just-launched Washington Stock Exchange. For much of the rest of the day, Patrick, an avowed political junkie with undergraduate degrees in psychology and math and an MBA from the University of Chicago, will “trade” on the WSX ( He will buy shares of a stock called “George Allen (R) to Win VA Senate Seat.” He will sell “Barack Obama (D) Announces ’08 Campaign.” And when all is said and done—at 2 a.m. in Yekaterinburg, when the U.S. business day is ending—he will have pocketed a substantial sum of “money.” (Internet gambling is illegal on U.S.-based sites, so the exchange deals in play money, which it calls Washington dollars.) Patrick—or 20010101, his nom d’écran—currently tops the WSX’s list of most profitable players. His take: W$45 million. His closest rival trails by W$31 million. “I’m doing this every waking hour,” he says. “Much to my wife’s chagrin"...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Horror in the French Quarter

Oct. 30, 2006:
A love story born in Katrina's shadow comes to a grisly close.

The first crime scene was merely gruesome: Zackery Bowen, a 28-year old New Orleanian, lay bloodied and limp last Tuesday after leaping from the rooftop terrace of a posh French Quarter hotel. But the second was unfathomable. "I had to take my own life," read a note in the dead man's pocket, "to pay for the one I took." Bowen went on to write that he had "calmly" strangled his girlfriend, Adriane "Addie" Hall, twelve days earlier. But he hadn't stopped there. When the cops arrived at the couple's apartment, they found Hall's charred head in a pot on the stove, her partially seasoned limbs on turkey-roasting pans in the oven and carefully chopped carrots still piled on the kitchen counter...

Remembering Michelle

Oct. 23, 2006:
UVM mourns a missing student found dead.

For a week she was missing, and then she was lost forever. As word spread through the small city of Burlington, Vt., Friday evening that police had finally found the body of University of Vermont senior Michelle Gardner-Quinn, hundreds of students gathered around "healing fires" on the campus's central quad. They sat or stood in small groups, with ribbons of green—Gardner-Quinn's favorite color—pinned to their coats. Some held candles, or Kleenex, or cups of hot chocolate. Others silently wrote prayers on pieces of kindling and placed them on the fires. Above a collage of old photographs, two words were printed: ALWAYS REMEMBERED...


Sept. 28, 2006:
MySpace gets all civic and stuff. has a knack for making comedians (Dane Cook), rock bands (Arctic Monkeys) and scantily-clad models (Tila Tequila) cool. But now the social-networking colossus is setting its sights on a slightly squarer property: the ballot box. On Wednesday, the site will begin steering its tens of millions of members to, a new in-house page where they can register to vote and—with a single click—tell their entire network of friends to follow. It's Rock the Vote goes viral. "Putting the simplest voter registration tool on a platform that already reaches 54 million unique monthly visitors is a huge step in promoting civic engagement," says Jeff Berman, MySpace's senior vice president for public affairs. "This is where people are spending their time. The potential is enormous"...

In Defense of Facebook's News Feed

Sept. 7, 2006:
Stalking people is fun.

You know those freakish siblings who are also the best of friends? Who talk regularly? Who hug on occasion? Who act like they "care" about each other? Well, my sister and I, not so much. Don't get me wrong. I love her and all—but this might be the first she's heard of it. Which is why when I logged on to late last night—like millions of bored teenagers and twentysomethings in bedrooms, dorm rooms and rented apartments everywhere—the words came as something of a surprise: "Laura Romano is in a relationship. 11:32pm." I'm 24. An older, warmer brother might have preferred to learn of his sister's budding romance in person. But I wouldn't have had it any other way...

Hot Subject

Aug. 21, 2006:
A is for Arabic.

As a college senior, Dana Stroul had just decided to study Arabic—and Mom was, well, skeptical. "We had some heavy talks," says Stroul. But this was after 9/11, and it wasn't long before the lucrative offers came rolling in: "Once she saw the opportunities, she was relieved." These days Stroul, 25, is earning her stripes as a counterterrorism analyst at DFI Government Services in Washington...

Pass the Haggis

Aug. 21, 2006:
Americans choose Scotland for college. Who knew?

At an age when most toddlers were singing along to Raffi, Zarya Rathe got hooked on Celtic music. She listened with her mom—a violinist—and played herself. So when the time came for college, Rathe applied to four schools in Scotland, ending up at the University of Edinburgh. "I wanted to do something different," she says. Except that when Rathe arrived in Gaelic 101, she was hardly alone. "It was all Americans"...

Can the Dems Win in Tennessee?

Aug. 14, 2006:
Harold Ford, Jr., and Bob Corker face off.

After a bitter primary, Tennessee Republicans chose former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker as their U.S. Senate candidate. But on the eve of the decisive day, it was the virtually unopposed Democrat who couldn't sleep. "I was up all night," says Harold Ford Jr., the young congressman campaigning to be the South's first black senator since Reconstruction. "Elections are like Christmas morning for me"...

How American Myths Are Made

Aug. 7, 2006:
The stories we tell to cope with national traumas.

The story of workaday men and women rising to greatness is one of America's most cherished myths. As a term, myth is much misunderstood; hearing it, many people take the word to mean "lie," when in fact a myth is a story, a narrative, that explains individual and national realities—how a person or a country came to be, why certain things happen in the course of a life or of history, and what fate may have in store for us. Myths are a peculiar hybrid of truth and falsehood, resentments and ambitions, dreams and dread. We all have personal myths running through our heads, and some chapters would withstand fact checking while others would fail miserably...

The Next Big Thing?

July 3, 2006:
The right marries talk radio and the netroots. Should Kos be scared?

Hugh Hewitt is a master of multitasking. Week after week, the sanguine, persistent pundit hosts his "center-right" talk radio show from a nondescript office in Orange County, Calif.—and more than a million people tune in. Two computers flank his mike. While on the air, Hewitt uses the first to surf news sites, then swivels to the second during breaks to update his well-trafficked blog. "Both spoken words and written words are powerful," he says. "Acting in harmony, the effect is exponential." Just ask Rick Santorum. In May, he urged Hewitt's listeners to fork over campaign funds, and the host, ever eager, posted a link. Donations shot up 500 percent...

Middle School of Rock

June 19, 2006:
Smells like 'tween spirit. Blame the internets.

Of all the bands debuting in Brooklyn bars last weekend, the most remarkable may have been the Tiny Masters of Today. Since December, the sibling duo's brief, bratty songs have tallied more than 13,000 listens on, prompting British record label Tigertrap to snap up their "Big Noise" EP, due out in July, long before they'd played a single show. Oh, and we forgot to mention: Ivan, guitar, is 12 years old—and Ada, bass, is 10...

Walking a New Beat

April 24, 2006:
How cops are using MySpace to crack cases.

As far as Jennifer Joffe was concerned, the party started the night of Feb. 23, when she let four friends raid the liquor cabinet of her mother's Boulder, Colo., mansion—and it ended when she stumbled up to bed. But the next morning it was clear that Joffe, 18, had missed some revelry. Mirrors were shattered. Walls were spattered with blood. Police say $40,000 worth of property was gone. And Joffe was certain that she'd been sexually assaulted (Joffe is a pseudonym; NEWSWEEK does not name sexual-assault victims). What she didn't know, however, was who was responsible for the rampage—and, without other witnesses, neither did Detective Ali Bartley. Until she spotted on Joffe's PC. "It was like a Pandora's box," says Bartley, who spent the next few days monitoring Joffe's online network of "friends" (and friends of friends) and assembling a "police lineup" of suspects from the portrait photos displayed on their profiles. By March 14, Bartley had arrested six young men—two of the original partygoers, plus four friends they invited over while Joffe slept—in connection with the crimes...

A 'Fantastic Voyage' Into Your G.I. Tract

Feb. 20, 2006:
A little videocamera that you can swallow. Trust me, I did it.

Gastroenterology has always been high on grossness and low on glamour, but you'd never know from visiting the Manhattan offices of Dr. James Aisenberg. On a recent evening, the lanky physician led a NEWSWEEK reporter into an exam room, lowered the lights and parked at a PC. Tonight's feature presentation: a full-color video of the reporter's empretzeled innards—from gullet to gut to small intestine. Eight hours earlier, he'd swallowed a bullet-size capsule—the PillCam—packed with a tiny blinking camera set to transmit two photos per second to a wearable hard drive. Now Aisenberg was pointing out a "beautiful" shot of the bile duct. "This is the sexiest technology imaginable," he says of the device, which he's used to detect digestive-tract ailments in more than 400 patients. "It's 'Fantastic Voyage'—and it's changed gastroenterology as much as any single breakthrough in the past 10 years"...

The Rise of the 'Yupster'

Jan. 9, 2006:
It's the Invasion of the Indie-Yuppies. Or the Grups. Or the Yupsters.

Music fans, rejoice: "list season"—that wintry instant when our nation's critics whittle a year of records into tidy top 10s—has come again. According to the album-review aggregators at, Bob Dylan scored highest in 2001. Tom Waits took '02, '03 was Led Zeppelin's year and Brian Wilson owned '04. So who's winning this round? Some guy named Sufjan Stevens. That's "SOOF-yawn"—in case you haven't heard of him...

Boeing's New Tailwind

Dec. 5, 2005:
Airbus falters; Boeing soars.

On Dec. 7, 2003, Boeing executives arrived in Dubai for the city's biennial air show—and they were hoping for some good news. After all, the company's profits and stock price were slumping, and with 13 years since the last new-model launch, its product lineup looked stale. But the worst headline was yet to come: by the year-end, Boeing would, for the first time, deliver fewer airplanes than rival Airbus...

Endless Dylan

Sept. 2, 2005:
Down in the flood.

How much Bob Dylan does one man really need? For me, the answer is “all of it.” You'd think 31 albums, eight live discs, four greatest-hits collections, two boxed sets, a pair of documentaries, one novel, one sketchbook, one movie and one motion-picture soundtrack was enough. But no. That was the tally two years ago. Then we got “Masked & Anonymous,” Dylan’s latest “movie” (I use the term loosely). Then SuperAudio CD reissues of his 15 must-have records. Then, the first volume of his "Chronicles.” Then his complete "Lyrics.” Then a concert disc recorded at New York's Philharmonic Hall on Halloween night, 1964. And—that’s right—I got all of it...