A Bull in a China Shop
When the bull is the top dog,
you have to let him into the shop —mixed metaphors be
damned. And so Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the polls
among 17 Republican candidates vying for the presidential
nomination, was given a prime position within the emporium
last month. It was called a debate and it wasn’t pretty.
Meaning, it was reality TV at its best! And while in today’s
news cycle it’s old news, the moments, images and impact
in the aftermath still linger. Especially in light of the
polls that followed.
From Megyn Kelly’s first question
to The Donald on his less than flattering remarks concerning
the female gender (“You once told a contestant on
Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her
on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament
of a man we should elect as president…”),
to a post-debate salvo fired by him the next day ("You
could see there was blood coming out of her eyes." "Blood
coming out of her wherever."), what more could an
audience want? Which explains why 24 million people, a record
breaking number for these sorts of things, tuned in. Which
explains why I, who never watch Fox News, was among them.
That women represented 53% of the vote in
the last presidential election with a 55-45 margin over men
in their voting for the Democratic party, matters little to
Trump. He probably doesn’t have time for such statistical
analysis any more than he has time to be politically correct.
And in his interpretation of that concept, he makes no distinction
between eschewing political correctness, and being vulgar
at best; hateful at worst. Do we want a president who is going
to blurt out any crude thought that occurs inside his oddly
coiffed head? Especially when dealing with thorny issues having
dangerous global ramifications?
Apparently we do. Or at least 24% of those
polled following the debate. His sizable lead over the other
candidates even ticked up a percentage point or two in the
aftermath. Though the china shop to its credit, held up well
under his bullish bombast.
Fox News asked some tough and direct questions
not only of Trump, but of the other nine aspirants as well.
Particularly admirable, in that Fox is coming from the same
ideological place as the folks they were grilling. Call it
a shining example of tough love. Though one could quibble
with the absence of some questions (on climate change and
environmental issues for example…unless they think them
irrelevant) or the addressing of a particularly odd one, which
the Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newson, called
cringe-worthy. It came towards the end of the night by someone
on Facebook, and it’s hard to imagine this kind of literal
question being given airtime in this kind of forum on any
“I want to know if any of them
have received a word from God on what they should do and
take care of first.”
Though Megyn Kelly, noting the weirdly worded
question, did begin by posing it lightly: “Senator
Cruz, start from you. Any word from God?”
who elicited the most heat from the bull’s Nostrils
was particularly noteworthy throughout the night. At least
to this viewer who had only been familiar with her in passing
via the news story of election night 2012, when she had the
audacity to question Karl Rove on the air as he was in the
midst of a mathematical meltdown over Fox’s projection
of Obama as the winner: “Is this just math that you
do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this
real?” Talk about being politically incorrect.
She apparently has not been without her own
controversies though, once stating that Jesus and Santa Claus
are white. Which she later rescinded saying, that she was
only “speaking tongue in cheek.” (Though let it
be noted that she never called Santa a fat slob, or got on
Jesus’s case as being homeless and living off the kindness
of hard working strangers.).
She was a lawyer prior to becoming a journalist,
a news anchor, a political commentator. Some said she played
none of those roles in baiting Trump during that midsummer
night’s dream. Or, in keeping with the bull metaphor,
she waved a red flag in front of the beast causing it to freak.
To which I say, “Ole!” As did most of the other
16 Republican candidates. Clearly on this night, playing before
an extended audience, she emerged a winner. She raised her
public profile. Which is the way wins and losses are assessed
in these times. Ask Jeb Bush.
It will be interesting to see what Round 2
brings this month on the 16th when CNN—in the person
of Jack Tapper, host of their “State of the Union”
show— gets to mind the store. How much china will the
bull break this time? “Must-See” TV? You betcha!
Mind Under Matter
A Kiss Reconsidered
The 15th of last month represented
the 70th anniversary of the news that Japan had surrendered,
which in effect ended World War II. Called V-J Day—
though technically that is September 2nd with the signing
of formal documents— it was a day of euphoria in which
people took to the streets across America in a collective
One overly exuberant (and inebriated) sailor
in Times Square, took liberties in kissing seemingly every
woman in his path. Famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured
one of those unsolicited kisses planted on a non-consenting
nurse—full on-mouth with 45 degree body dip for added
flare— in what has arguably become the most iconic of
photographs ever taken. And it has only been within the last
three years, that the participants, both of whom are still
living, have been positively identified as George Mendonça
and Greta Zimmer Friedman.
And as a particularly interesting footnote,
Mendonça was with his date on that day of his serial
kissing; a woman named Rita, whom he would come to marry.
(She is standing in the background of the photo.). And according
to a news story that ran not long ago, they were approaching
their 69th wedding anniversary.
That moment in turn, has inspired a series
of sculptures by artist Seward Johnson, which in an obvious
play on words, he entitled Unconditional Surrender.
The original was first installed in Sarasota in 2007, and
it has since moved about as if on tour, to San Diego, Hamilton,
New Jersey, Pearl Harbor, New York— in Times Square
of course. And when it showed up last year in Normandy, France,
a French feminist group petitioned to have it removed immediately,
claiming that it depicts an act of sexual assault on a woman
who did not give verbal consent to being kissed, and essentially
When I caught sight of it last month, it did
now seem a bit icky. Especially given its mammoth 25-foot
size, which only magnifies the transgression as evidenced
once again, by the nurse’s posture and body language.
It can hardly be called compliant.
But beyond what is debatable
about the appropriateness of that kiss, is that it emerged
from a state of mass and spontaneous—the operative
word here— euphoria. When did that last happen? Where
people took to the streets to celebrate as one? And under
what circumstances can you imagine something like that ever
Yes, we celebrate each New Year in this very
Times Square. As we do Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As we do
in parades for one thing or another in the cities and towns
across America every year. But all are planned and well-orchestrated.
What now would make all of us suddenly, and joyously, take
to the streets unscripted? If anything, more the likely we
would “take to the Tweets.” But even in that contemporary
forum of spontaneous expression, there would no doubt be dispute,
with not everyone being on the same virtual page. Which brings
one to consider war itself: what winning of what war today
would be cause for celebration? How do we even define war
any more, much less what constitutes the winning of one?
Ultimately what grabbed me looking at that
statue, is how much more complex our life and times have become;
how less black and white than that summer’s day in ‘45.
With that, we made our way over to Chez Josephine’s,
a retro Paris bistro— circa: pre-war 1930’s—
on 42nd Street and 9th Avenue, for a cool drink to beat the
Unearthing a Poem in a Tabloid Rant
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
Mister Mayor, tear down this mall!
Then rumble the bulldozers downtown to liberate
to let traffic flow through
the bustling city again, instead
of diverting it
into gridlocked steel centipedes
of blaring horns and belching fumes,
stalled commerce and mounting road rage.
Start backpedaling on all
those precious bicycle lanes
that have been shoved down the gagging throat of the city
by your predecessor
who appealed to the urban kale farmer vote
and the bike Nazi’s
who speed through our city
without license plates or responsibility
fueled by a sense of arrogant entitlement
traffic signs, red lights or speed limits.
Sometimes killing people.
Denis Hamill, Daily News)
Come September: The Pope and Colbert
One thing these two men have
in common, is that they are both devout Catholics. Of a pope,
that’s to be expected. (Though who am I to judge?).
But of a sharp witted satirist who went on to fame by way
of mocking political and religious institutions and their
attendant beliefs? Come on. You’re kidding.
In truth, Stephen Colbert is actually a fervent
Sunday Mass-attending Catholic who also teaches Sunday school.
And he self-proclaims to be “the most famous Catholic
in America.” But in an exchange once with Cardinal Dolan
on “The Colbert Report,” in his inimitable style,
Colbert had this to say about Pope Francis:
“I don’t care for the guy.”
I’ll tell you why: here’s the thing: he’s
too soft. He’s too soft on sin, for me, this pope.
You heard what he said about atheists? He said even atheists
are redeemed by Christ. If even atheists are redeemed
by Christ, why have I been going to Mass every Sunday?
I could have gotten another nine holes in!”
Of course he will drop his mock political
conservative character when he succeeds Letterman on September
8th, in one of the more anticipated entertainment events this
At the time of the announcement of this changing
of the guard, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler, indicated
that the exact format for “The Late Show With Stephen
Colbert” was still being worked out. And that “He’s
aware that he’s introducing audiences to his real self.”
And that regarding the show, “Parts will be traditional
and there are other parts he will do differently.”
It will be interesting —an understatement
for network executives who live and die by the ratings—
to see how he fares in a different approach to the late night
genre. Interesting especially, vis-à-vis, the excessively
desk slapping, hand clapping, Jimmy Fallon. She went on to
say, “He is still deciding whether to open the show
with a monologue.”
man who won’t be opening his show here with a monologue,
is Pope Francis. Although with this pope, you never know.
(Pope to Pop More Surprise in 2014? JANUARY,
2014 MUSE-LETTER). All clown noses aside, his trip to
the U.S. this month with stop offs in Washington, New York
and Philadelphia, might not be without some controversy along
He will be the first pope to ever address
a joint meeting of Congress (September 24th). And as he has
taken on some hot-button issues that clash with the views
of most Republicans, it will be interesting to see their eactions
if he reiterates his disdain for Trickle-down economics, “racist
and xenophobic attitudes" regarding undocumented immigrants,
and climate change naysayers.
On the other side of the aisle, how will they
react to a pro-life message? Assuming he sends one. And what
will it say if he doesn’t?
This pope is cut from a different cloth; not
one to offer a simple blessing and let it be. And his July
encyclical on climate change was particularly eye catching,
in that he was coming from a place that was science based
and sociologically driven, and not one steeped in theology
or Christian doctrine:
"A very solid scientific consensus
indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing
warming of the climatic system. ... A number of scientific
studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades
is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases
(carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others)
released mainly as a result of human activity."
"The idea of infinite or unlimited
growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers
and experts in technology ... is based on the lie that
there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and
this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit."
Some might wonder, whatever happened to a
cherished tenet of separation of church and state? Others
might question whether an “outsider” has the right
to come into our house and lecture us. (Assuming that’s
what he winds up doing.). Which is what many also wondered
not long ago when Netanyahu was invited to address Congress
without their first consulting the president. (An unprecedented
action which some called unconstitutional.). And of course,
one can’t help but wonder what Trump might have to say
about all of this? (“Pope’s a losuh!”?).
In any case, according to Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch
McConnell, “We have more requests for this appearance
than anything anybody can ever recall around here.”
Beyond their shared Catholicism (and Liberal
bent?), what Colbert and Francis suggest through their divergent
callings, is a still a further sense of the blurring of lines
that once seemed clearly delineated between politics and entertainment,
news and entertainment, politics and religion, religion and
entertainment…between so on and so forth.
It has been posited, that on the night of
April 19, 1994 when Bill Clinton, a sitting president, was
asked at a town hall meeting aired on MTV whether he wore
boxers or briefs, and he answered laughingly (“Usually
briefs”), that the line between politics and entertainment
was not only forever blurred but totally erased. (Imagine
asking that question of Eisenhower?). And in this vein, I
found it telling that so many heavyweight politicians of both
parties lined up on camera to kiss up to Jon Stewart on his
farewell show. Some even joshing in a way to show they were
hip and got the joke that for the last sixteen years was on
As to the blurring, erasing or crossing over
lines between religion and entertainment, or religion and
politics? What were Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and all those
TV evangelists doing if not that very thing? Which supports
the argument that maybe nothing here is new, just never much
thought about or discussed before.
So good luck to the pope at his secular podium,
and to Stephen Colbert, out of character and behind a desk
of a different color. And dare they be mentioned in the same
breath? In an odd and offbeat way, yes. Both this September
are “Must-See” TV. Along with the aforementioned