Archive for February, 2010

Though Not Generally Known as a Fashion-Plate…

Posted on February 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

…I will be interviewing designer Tommy Hilfiger next Wednesday, March 3rd, as part of the Alliance Francaise series “Fashion Talks.”

Tickets, available through the link above, are a mere $20.

“I Denounce All This Statement”

Posted on February 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In this video, Wyclef Jean responds to accusations that his charity has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into companies he controls. Or not. You be the judge.

Meanwhile, like the Harvard Foundation, the NAACP is giving Jean an award to honor his fundraising on behalf of Haiti.

Prior to the unfortunate disaster, Yéle Haiti Foundation awarded annual scholarships, started soccer programs for at-risk youth, and facilitated free outdoor films in neighborhoods without electricity.

To be fair, I give the Harvard Foundation the benefit of the doubt that it was unaware of Wyclef Jean’s integrity issues when it picked him as its award recipient, and I gather that informal inquiries were made to check out the allegations. (In my opinion, those inquiries should have been more formal and more persistent.)

Still, Harvard is putting its imprimatur on Jean, and once given this blessing is very hard to revoke. I have no doubt but that there will be more investigation of Yele Haiti, and much skepticism that Wyclef Jean will come out smelling like a rose.

Meanwhile Yele Haiti still remains off Drew Faust’s list of recommended charities….

I am, for some reason, reminded of this scene, featuring Ben Vereen and Roy Scheider, from the classic “All That Jazz.”

“Time to Go”

Posted on February 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Following this blog’s lead—that’s a joke—the NY Post and the NY Daily News both call on David Paterson to resign.

Meanwhile, all three local papers report that Paterson won’t run for reelection.

(Meanwhile, props to local freebie AM New York for best headline: “Lonesome Guv.”)

Paterson should still resign: The incompetence and money-sucking that will occur in the last months of his lame-duck administration will further damage the state.

And in other news about corrupt New York politicians, sleazeball Charlie Rangel was “admonished” by the House ethics committee for taking corporate-sponsored junkets to the Caribbean.

As the Times reports, there are more Gucci loafers to drop.

But the ethics panel, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, did not issue findings in its continuing inquiries into more serious matters concerning Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a Dominican villa, and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.

Like Paterson, Rangel should resign. It’s time to clean this state up.

Does This Movie Trailer Bother You?

Posted on February 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

…’cause the kids are lovin’ it.

What’s Worse than MA Politics? New York Gov’t.

Posted on February 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The New York Times demonstrates today that David Paterson, New York’s blind governor, is also dumb: He pressured a woman beat up by one of his closest aides not to press charges.

This after his very-public criticism of a sleazeball state senator who beat up his girlfriend.

Which raises many questions, not the least of which is why the aide, 37-year-old David W. Johnson, even works for the governor: He used to sell coke and has on three occasions been involved in “altercations” with women, two of which led to the police being called.

Paterson himself is not exactly a paragon of morality: On assuming Eliot Spitzer’s seat, he promptly confessed to an adulterous affair and there are ubiquitous rumors that he hasn’t kicked the habit.

Paterson’s behavior is hurting the people of a state which really needs good governance right now. He should do the decent thing and resign.

The Wild World of Animals

Posted on February 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

As some of you may have guessed, I’m fascinated by the evolving relationship between humans and animals, particularly when we try to get close to animals, even dangerous ones, on solely human terms. Sometimes that works out well enough; on other occasions the hubris inherent in the act carries deadly consequences.

Two stories in today’s news remind me of that.

The first is the very sad story of a whale trainer—truly a fragile definition—killed by an orca at Sea World in Florida.

Witnesses said the male orca, named Tilikum, grabbed trainer Dawn Brancheau by the waist while she stood on a poolside platform and dragged her into the water.

Killer whales don’t attack humans in the wild, and some whale experts think the animal may have wanted a companion (without realizing that this companion couldn’t breathe underwater) or simply got bored by its absurdly close confinement.

Regardless, the death suggests that killer whales—along with great whites, the animal I’d really not like to be underwater withprobably shouldn’t be held in captivity.

The other article, a terrific piece in the Times, is the heartbreaking story of Connecticut police officer Frank Chiafari, who about a year ago responded to a radio call about a chimp attacking a woman.

The victim, Charla Nash, 56, survived. Her recovery from the attack — the chimp bit and clawed off her face and hands — was presented to the world via an episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in November. She was blind, her features lost in a bulbous and livid pulp.

Chiafari himself was attacked by the chimp, which actually managed to pull open the door of the police car before a stunned Chiafari shot it.

Officer Chiafari and paramedics, who had been waiting in their vehicles for the chimp to leave, rushed to the body on the ground. “She had no face,” he said. “Her hands are off. There are thumbs and fingers all over the place.” He called out to her. “I feel bad, but I was hoping she wasn’t conscious.”

But Ms. Nash reached out with the stumps of her arms and tried to grab the officer’s leg….

Inevitably, the memories of that day haunt Chiafari.

“I’d go to the mall and see women and imagine them without faces,” he said.

One’s heart goes out to the man, just as it does to the other victim of the chimp’s attack, Ms. Nash.

But again, this didn’t have to happen. Chimps shouldn’t be pets, and they certainly shouldn’t be treated like humans, fed steak and wine and placed on Xanax as Travis was. It’s one thing to screw ourselves up, another to mess up a different species.

Let me relate a little story to help explain where I’m coming from….

When I was about ten, my family took a trip to Bermuda. One day while  there, we visited a dolphin show held in a beautiful little grotto. We arrived late and missed the first half of the show—it was pretty much what you’d imagine, and I loved every second of it—but near the end the dolphin trainer asked if it was anyone’s birthday. Some kid raised his hand, and the trainer sat him in a little rowboat with a towline attached to the bow. One of the dolphins promptly put its nose through the towline, pulled the boat around the grotto, and returned to the dock.

My family stayed for a second show to see what we had missed, and this time, when the trainer asked if it was anyone’s birthday, I thrust my hand up so fast it probably looked like I was trying to catch a line drive off the bat of Derek Jeter. (Not that one would ever want to do that, but you know what I mean.)

Same thing happened: Trainer put me in the boat, dolphin put its nose through the lasso in the rope, and off we went.

Only this time, the dolphin made a semi-circle around the grotto and then took off like a shot for the open ocean.

I, of course, thought that this was about the best thing that had ever happened.

But the trainer was definitely taken aback, and somehow—by slapping the water or something, I don’t remember—he convinced the dolphin to turn around. To my great disappointment.

As a result, I’ve always had a sense of what profound, spiritual joy humans can derive from interactions with animals, even ones where we’ve trained the animal to do something it really oughtn’t to be doing.

But I’ve also had an awareness that, even in the most apparently innocuous  situations, things can go wrong.

For those, like a killer whale “trainer,” who are willing to take the risks, maybe that’s good enough. But as our interactions with animals of many different species grow increasingly intimate, we’re going to have to strive to find a balance—and that will require not just greater understanding of animal natures, but greater respect.

Brown Getting Pounded

Posted on February 23rd, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Tea Baggers are furious with him. Will he fall into line?

Mr. Romney Goes to Groton

Posted on February 23rd, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The once and future presidential candidate will be speaking at the Prize Day (i.e., graduation) of my high school alma mater on May 12.

This seems a bad idea for both parties involved….probably more so for Romney (should a Republican really be speaking at a prep school these days?) than Groton. Romney doesn’t really strike me as reflective of the school’s best traditions, but he does believe in public service.

Here’s the thing: Romney has always struck me as a basically likable guy who was doing his best in his last campaign to make himself into an entirely unlikable one. We’ll see which way he goes the second time around.

Though I must say, this does make me like him, as no one, not even people who block subway doors, is more irritating than people who lean back in their airplane seat.

Good News about Scott Brown

Posted on February 23rd, 2010 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Didn’t expect to hear that from me, did you?

The Washington Post reports that the Republican from Massachusetts voted for the jobs bill.

Moments before the vote, Brown’s office sent out word that he planned to side with the Democrats, and some last-minute buttonholing by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) andKay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) evidently didn’t change his mind.

“It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s certainly a bill that I felt comfortable enough to vote on, because it’s the first step in creating jobs,” Brown said. “And anytime you can make a small step, it’s still a step.

The Globe reports that four other Republicans also voted for the bill—a hopeful sign that Democrats and at least a few Republicans work together.

Monday Afternoon Zen

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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Morning mist over Napa, 2.18