in: “I did not have sex with that woman." Monica
Lewinsky is back.
But before we dismiss her once again on the
grounds of presumed “bimbo-ness,” or worse, “15
minutes-of-fame” expiration, and therefore profound
irrelevance, she has some interesting things to say. And she
says them very well in a finely written and thoughtful essay
in the current issue of Vanity Fair.
A first impulse in various quarters upon hearing
of her return, was to question her motives and timing. Lynn
Cheney (wife of Dick), while on Fox News promoting her new
book, went so far as to suggest that Lewinsky has been paid
off by the Clintons to address this old scandal now, rather
than have it brought up later during the 2016 campaign. And
beyond that, the sarcasm on some fronts in the rhetorical
question will this woman ever go away! is almost
If one reads the piece, “Shame and Survival,”
some answers to those questions will come from Monica Lewinsky
herself. They will come from an intelligent 40 year old woman,
who earned a Masters Degree in social psychology from the
London School of Economics in 2006. No, she is not the “narcissistic
loony tune” as Hillary Clinton once described her. No,
she is not a stalker. No, she is not a slut.
And beyond having some specifics of that scandal
addressed, the reader will get something much more compelling.
In fact, Vanity Fair promotes the piece on its cover—
above handsome Jon Hamm’s head—in gold and black
font as: MONICA
LEWINSKY on the CULTURE of HUMILIATION.
Who better to have something to say on that subject than someone
who was once a poster child for it? She says, and who can
really dispute it...
“We have created, to borrow a term
from historian Nicolaus Mills, a ‘culture of humiliation’
that not only encourages and revels in Schadenfreude but
also rewards those who humiliate others, from the ranks
of the paparazzi to the gossip bloggers, the late night
comedians, and the Web ‘entrepreneurs’ who
profit from clandestine videos.”
David Letterman, in a surprising moment of
candor, while discussing with Barbara Walters recently an
interview she had done with Lewinsky in 1999, owned up to
his own cheap shots back in the day:
“I started to feel bad, because
myself and other people with shows like this made relentless
jokes about the poor woman, and she was a kid. She was
21, 22 or something,”
“I feel bad about my role in helping push the humiliation
to the point of suffocation,”
Monica Lewinsky matters. And not really for
any impact she could have on the 2016 presidential election,
even though Rand Paul has already opened that door in saying
about Bill Clinton: “we shouldn’t want to associate
with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his
office.” The assumption being, that as Hillary does
a lot of associating with Bill, she is somehow complicit in
the crime? Thus tainted? Yet, the conventional wisdom (at
least at the moment) is that it would be a misstep for the
Republicans to try to use Lewinsky to their advantage.
No, Monica Lewinsky matters for the reasons
that Letterman now regrets. She matters, because the pop culture
so matters in defining how we perceive that which is going
on around us. It has long been maintained for example, that
John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live are
primary sources of news for younger generations. For many,
the news starts with a joke.
So will she ever go away? Maybe not.
In fact, Barbara Walters in that Letterman
interview seemed cryptic in alluding to how at one time Lewinsky
was being considered for some sort of TV position, but didn’t
want it. And with her now attempting to clear the air, and
perhaps becoming less toxic to some potential high profile
media outlets, Lewinsky might reconsider if another offer
(s) was forthcoming. We could be seeing her around on a regular
basis. Especially given her now publicly professed goal: “…to
get involved in behalf of victims of online humiliation and
harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.”
Stay tuned. Or not.
The Third Avenue
Rail by rail
and girder by
they tore it down.
Rivets as big as fists
the Great Monkey Wrench
And we had gathered
in the streets
the heart released
And sang “Noel.”
And looked up laughing
faces to the sun
seeing it as though
for the first time.
What bit of it
there was before
had labored much
through latticed layouts
of tracks and ties
light then strobed
by rushing trains
on cabs and cars
on cobble stones.
How that chimera
above our heads—
the stickball days
of sawed-off brooms
the ersatz bat;
the strike zone chalked
upon the wall—
and belching thunder
as if to proclaim
the Ironclad Nation.
Riders aloft in
the belly of the beast
would turn their gaze
through desperate windows
that gulped for air
in airless Augusts
to see men billowed
in boxer shorts
in satin slips
in Hopper paintings.
It was commerce and art
for the price
of one Liberty dime.
Yet allegiance now
with the god of the sun
the chance to become
born again and
Avenue El, Reginald Marsh 1931
In the Beauty of the Horse
Horses have had a high profile
of late. No pun intended.
What with their powerful athleticism on display in the running
of the first two races of the Triple Crown last month, or
at the other end of the spectrum, their unassuming grit as
laborers— in the continuing controversy of carriage
rides through Central Park—one is reminded of their
We tend to not give them much thought, for that is the nature
of the beast. The beast being us.
As if the very existence of the horse itself
in all its majesty
and fortuitous utility
whose foal can stand in the hour of its birth
then gallop in clover
by sunrise tomorrow—
as if that were not enough
we put wings on one
and a horn on the forehead
in need of our own creation.
When California Chrome won the first two legs
of the Triple Crown (with the Belmont coming up on June 7th),
I was reminded of just how flat out stunning, a horse in full
gallop can be.
Going beyond sport, a horse race is a piece
of performance art—packed with a colorful edgy drama—
that is unrivaled in any other form of spectator entertainment
I can think of. Even better than a round of Bocce on First
Avenue in the East Village.
by Jabin Botsford for The New York Times: Kentucky
Derby 2014 won by California Chrome
While California Chrome was the favorite in
its races, it sparked remembrance of a long shot Derby winner
I had picked at an OTB parlor in ’71, not long after
off-track betting became legal in New York. His name was Canonero
II; a horse imported from Venezuela. Some racing pundits have
said it was arguably the most astonishing upset in the Derby’s
True or not, when one has made even a small
wager on a big race, a stretch run in which one’s horse
is making a move, can illicit an involuntary reaction of intensity
unlike that of any other spectator event. And that day when
“my” horse won, I took some ownership of his performance,
as I had done due diligence in handicapping the race. Aren’t
we brilliant; we the masters of the universe. If but for a
couple of minutes. (Chinatowner in the 4th; MAY,
So just how much bidding should a horse do in our behalf?
Which is just a short ride around the block, and on to the
controversy surrounding the horse and carriage rides in Central
New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, vowed
that one of his first acts in office would be to abolish horse
and carriage rides. Many agreed, feeling that these horses
are ill treated in being forced to work in bad weather, noise,
pollution and allegedly shoddy living conditions back in their
Not so, said action-adventure actor Liam Neeson,
who has put a rugged face on those in opposition. And according
to the polls, they now represent a resounding majority of
two-thirds of New Yorkers who want the horses to stay. (They
shoe horses, don’t they?).
It’s not as if there are no laws concerning
the well being of these horses.
in Central Park
There will be
no horse and carriage today.
There are laws on the books about just how much
even a beast of burden can bear. Besides
all the lovers have gone out of town.
The horses meanwhile get a respite from the heat
and a respite from rides through romantic notions.
For want of such notions kingdoms have been lost.
Today in this way
the horses are kings and we are the horses.
Blinders about our eyes as we trudge on
in a deep sweat searching,
for where else to go until this subsides.
Animal Rights is invariably a hairy issue. For all the praise
I have just heaped upon the spectacle of a horse race, jockeys
do take to the whip to shift their steed into another gear.
Something of course, not even a horse and carriage driver
plodding along at a few miles an hour ever does. And yet we
know that race horses are given the finest care and attention,
reflecting the investment owners have made in their well being,
and hope of financial reward.
there would seem to be no simple agreement as to exactly what
the relationship between humankind and the horse ought to
be in a modern age—certainly Paul Revere needed one—
it would seem that a Central Park solution should start at
least with limiting the riding season. Say, to something along
the lines of eight months a year, in a reconsideration of
the guidelines regarding temperature extremes. Currently,
carriage horses are prohibited from working when the temperature
is 18 degrees or below, or when above 90 degrees. (There is
no consideration for the humidity index or wind chill factor).
As it is now, the horses do get five weeks
off a year. (How many do you get?). But it is painful to see
them standing out there interminably on winter nights (albeit
in a blanket) awaiting a trickle of people who might think
it cool to take a ride in frigid weather. Further, rides should
be restricted to the park and not the streets. And it would
seem that space can be provided inside the broad expanse of
Central Park for horses to await their riders. And finally
of course, all of this sits on some documentation that the
horses are not being overtaxed in the weight they pull, nor
in their living conditions in the stalls.
Though not having gone horseback riding in
about twenty years, the very sight of a horse can make my
day; at times, seemingly almost transformative. But is that
the reason for their existence? To make us happy?
Maybe I ought to read Monty Roberts’
book, The Man Who Listens to Horses, published in
1996 and on the Times Bestsellers list for 58 weeks. In effect,
hearing it right from the horse’s mouth.
Quote of the Month
also realize that spirituality and making art are
not such different practices. Both call upon the
animating force of the unseen.”
of The Art of Intimacy
9/11 Memorial Museum Opens
“If the 9/11 museum due to open next year, turns out
to be anything like that of the Memorial Museum in Oklahoma
City, we are in for a rather chilling experience.” (9/11
and Oklahoma City, OCTOBER,
Opened to the public on the 21st of last month,
long after the originally scheduled date of the 11th anniversary
of 9/11 in 2012, it was worth the wait. Yes, it is chilling. But beyond that, the thoroughness of this
museum… its detailed history, not only of that day but
noteworthy and connected events prior to it… the aftermath
of it… the homage not only to the dead but to those
who survived and thrived in their finest hour… the very
layout and design of the place itself…will make it a
must-see point of destination. Though for some, understandably,
memorial museums reminding one of senseless death and destruction
will not be found on their itineraries.
I began my visit there the following gray
day, with a stop off at the memorial North Tower reflecting
pool, in a computer-aided search for the names of two nephews
of a childhood classmate. They had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald
in that tower. And if the concept of six degrees of separation
holds, and as 9/11 claimed 3,000 lives, we all “know”
someone who died that day. Above the cascading waterfalls,
“Reflecting Absence,” their names are forever
cut in bronze.
Entering the museum, one begins an immediate
and long descent leaving daylight behind, as it is set seemingly
in the bowels of the earth— befitting the hell that
was Ground Zero? And while you have been made aware of one
particular recent controversy—there have been many since
the very idea of this place was conceived—regarding
the relocation of the remains of unidentified victims from
the medical examiner’s office to this site, one never
feels that one is trampling on the dead. A plaque will later
tell you, “they are reposed behind this wall.”
There is a comfort in the space. It is so
cavernous, creating in the process, an almost cathedral atmosphere
among the ruins. Though one critic from something called artnet
news would vehemently disagree with my take, calling
it “catastrophically subterranean, unrelentingly gray
and brutally secular.”
What was surprisingly captivating in terms of “décor,”
for want of a better word, was that a lot of the twisted metal,
chunks of concrete, burned out vehicles and transfigured everyday
artifacts, would seem as if abstract sculptures if they were
sitting in some Chelsea gallery. We would wonder what the
artist was trying to get at, when at one point we’d
happen upon a perfect ribbon fold, neatly made from a multi-ton
column of steel.
As we tend to turn to poetry in times of an
inexplicable turn of events, you might expect to see a quote
somewhere. And there it is, centrally placed upon a wall,
taken from Virgil’s “The Aeneid” and positioned
within a commissioned artwork entitled Trying To Remember
the Color of the Sky on That September Morning. Though
even the quote, like much else about this museum, had been
criticized. On an op-ed page of The New York Times,
someone deplored it as being taken out of its proper context.
Your interpretation will vary. Just as everyone’s remembrance,
associations or awareness with 9/11 will.
Photos and montage by Ron Vazzano©
Ultimately, this is not a one-size-fits-all
place. It is a memorial museum, with “memorial”
being the operative word. It is not the Metropolitan Museum
of Art. The families of victims will view it in a far different
light than will I, or Basim from Beirut or Biff from Butte.
But the feeling one walks away with, is that we are at one
with each other at such times. Tragedy is a uniting force;
the height of irony reinforced far below the street.
Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts: Theater,
Music, Dance, Film, Poetry, Puppetry, Youth Program, Visual
Arts, featuring performances by F. Murray Abraham and Tammy