With the passing of Colin Powell, Trump shows how low he can go

Commentary

Trump’s mean-spirited statement about another American hero was not completely unexpected. But it did lead me to consider some things.

Amidst the obituaries detailing Colin Powell’s unsurpassed career as an American hero and the accolades from both colleagues and adversaries alike, came this one, which unfortunately, was not “fake news:”

Continue reading “With the passing of Colin Powell, Trump shows how low he can go”

Texas, our Texas*

Commentary

Let’s be clear, y’all. It ain’t my Texas. And I pity the ones who claim it as theirs!

*(Texas, our Texas is the state’s official song)

For those of you who’ve missed it, Texas has been in the news recently. In fact there’s been so much written about the Lone Star state and their Looney Tunes governor, Greg Abbot, they’re giving the Sunshine State and our deceitful governor, Ron DeSantis, a run for the money.

Most of the attention on Texas has been on their egregious and, most probably, unconstitutional, abortion law.

Continue reading “Texas, our Texas*”

October in NYC was great…

Commentary

…but I had to share one more thing

This is a re-issue of the post “October in NYC was great…but” to fix a glitch in the video playback. I apologize for any inconvenience.

I posted an Around the Block yesterday about Covid-19 vaccine passports and how well the verification system seems to be working in New York City. 

To exemplify the success, I referenced the many venues and eating establishment in the City in which showing proof of vaccination to gain entry worked smoothly and civilly. And while I mentioned both the exhibitions and the restaurants, as I wrote yesterday, that was not the focus of the column.

But today I woke up and thought, one of the exhibitions I visited was so exceptional, I had to find a way to share it with you. Which one? To surprise of the many readers who know me and know that I could never be mistaken for a “fashionista,” it was this one, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Brooklyn Museum. Why was it exceptional? Not simply because the House of Dior is one of the premiere fashion houses in the world. Or because of Dior himself or because of the famous in their own right creative directors who succeeded him at the House of Dior, including Yves St. Laurent, Gianfranco Ferré, Marc Bohan, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiurri. And not even because the results of the work at Dior, even to me, were and and continue to be stunning. But because the show itself, the presentation, the displays, the sense of history it portrayed was, frankly beyond description.

Since words cannot do this exhibition justice, here, from me to you, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, the Movie

I hope you enjoy this little filmed slideshow as much as I enjoyed attending the exhibition and creating the video.

October in NYC was great except…

Commentary

…I’m vaccinated but I live in Florida and don’t have a Covid vaccine passport

Sharon and I spent a few days in New York City last week; we hadn’t been back to NY since before the pandemic.

Yayoi Kusama cropped 1 Yayoi Kusama 201611.jpg
Yasoi Kasumi

 We visited the Yasoi Kusama installation at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. It was spectacular. For those of you who don’t know Kusama’s work, she’s a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan.

The next day we went to the Brooklyn Museum to see two special exhibitions, “The Obama Portraits Tour”

and “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams.”

Both were incredible. And the Brooklyn, which I visited at its Children’s branch each year on an elementary school trip, has become a world class museum with exhibitions, permanent and touring, which make it a must-see visit when in NYC.

We also had some great meals. At Dirty French in the Lower East Side, at Clinton Street Bakery for a breakfast that included, if you can believe this, eggs benedict on latkes (can’t get any better than that), at Lamia’s Fish Market, the wonderfully eclectic seafood restaurant in the East Village, at Sarashina Horii, the New York branch of a Japanese soba restaurant that dates back to 1789, and of course, at Katz’s Delicatessen, which opened in 1898, a relative newcomer compared to Sarashina Horii, but where the motto continues to be, “Send a salami to your boy in the army.” Finally, before we left for the airport (and a normally 45-minute ride that took over an hour and a half (Holland Tunnel –– “Fugedabouit”), we stopped at Yonah Schimmel (a relative baby, born in 1910) for the obligatory take-home knishes.

But this post isn’t about what we saw, what we ate and how much traffic there is in New York. It’s about this:

At every place we went in New York City we had to show two things before we were granted entry: a government issued ID and proof of completed Covid vaccinations. These were required at the Botanical Gardens, at the Museum and at every restaurant we patronized. No ID and vaccination proof, no entry. Sorry Governor DeSantis!

But here’s the thing. No one complained. No one pushed back. No one argued. Everyone simply and civilly complied. Experiencing and watching this, I was simultaneously gratified and in awe.

There was one thing that wasn’t gratifying, however. Every time I was asked for my “papers” I had to dig into my wallet to fetch my, now very dog-eared, paper vaccination certificate. Most of my fellow customers, if they had received their shots in New York State, pulled out their smartphone, opened up their Excelsior Pass app and, presto!, their vaccination information, which was stored on New York State’s database, popped up for instant access.

Fearing that if I had to keep pulling that paper certificate out of my wallet (yes, paper…laminating them is not appropriate as boosters and perhaps even more boosters will have to be added…) one of two things would happen. It would become illegible or, I’d lose it, I did the next best thing – scanned my ID and card on to another app, “NYCOVIDSAFE,” which while not linked to a database, would allow me to keep my not so pristine Covid card as safe as possible.

So, here we are, almost ¼ into the 21st Century, living in what is supposed to be the most technologically advanced country in the world, and most of us are rummaging through our wallets, purses and pockets for a rapidly deteriorating piece of paper, a piece of paper that in the current environment, might be the most important one we possess.

I’m going to stop here. But I’d like you to do me a favor. New York State’s Excelsior Pass app is, in the more popular vernacular, a Covid Vaccination Passport. Please tell me why this passport, this pass, is not a universal thing. Please tell me why DeSantis, Abbot, that South Dakota lady governor (I didn’t want to waste any time looking up her name; frankly it isn’t worth it) and just about every other GOP governor is so vehemently against it. I want to hear from you because, believe it or not, after seeing how successfully it worked in New York and how pleasantly compliant everyone was, I’m at wit’s end; I need some help.

Post comments on the site. Email me at tedblock@around-the-block.com. But let me know your thoughts. I’ll include them in a follow up post.

Thanks in advance. And also, apologies to all you readers down here in Delray Beach. The knishes are all gone!

“Cancel Culture” has taught us that Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee have one thing in common…

Commentary

…they were both lousy at their jobs. But Columbus outdid Lee in sheer ruthlessness.

Today is “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” the holiday formerly, and in some places still known as “Columbus Day.” Or, in the New York City school system, “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day.” While on Fifth Avenue in NYC the Columbus Citizens Foundation (CCF) will hold the 77th Annual Columbus Day Parade.

Continue reading ““Cancel Culture” has taught us that Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee have one thing in common…”

American Exceptionalism is over. Was it really ever a thing?

Commentary

A Times’ newsletter gave me the opportunity to review my feelings about the concept of American Exceptionalism. What’s your take?

The subject of today’s New York Times’ “The Interpreter” newsletter is “American Exceptionalism.” In the newsletter, the authors, Max Fisher and Amanda Taub ponder, “Changing American attitudes about their country’s role in the world.”

Fisher and Taub write,

Continue reading “American Exceptionalism is over. Was it really ever a thing?”

‘The Many Saints of Newark’ airs tomorrow

Commentary

For ‘Sopranos’ fans, this prequel is “must see TV” even if the reviews are mixed

I’m not sure about you, but as I write this on September 30, I have only one thing on my mind.

No, not my usual blathering about Ron DeSantis or Marco Rubio. Or immigration. Or our dysfunctional political system. Or…

No, today, the one thing I have on my mind is tomorrow. And specifically, that tomorrow, October 1, HBO Max will, air for the first time, the feature film, ‘The Many Saints of Newark.’ Sorry, you Cory Booker fans, it’s not a story about New Jersey’s junior senator. But it is the prequel to one of the greatest, if not the greatest, show in television history, ‘The Sopranos.’ (BTW, the film will also air in theaters. But why would you want to watch what is essentially a TV show, in a movie theater?)

The film looks at the formation and destiny of a young Tony Soprano and includes many of the usual, but younger, ‘Sopranos’ characters including: Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli in narration voice-over); Livia Soprano (Tony’s therapy-inducing mother, played by Vera Farmiga); Uncle Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll); Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt in the original, John Magaro, here); and two previously mentioned, but never seen ‘Sopranos’ characters, Aldo Moltisanti, Christopher’s grandfather (played by Ray Liotta – can you actually make a mob movie without Ray Liotta?); and Dickie Moltisanti, Christopher’s father (played by Alessandro Nivola).

Michael Gandolfini, left, and Alessandro Nivola in ‘The Many Saints of Newark.’ 

Of course, in what hopefully will end up being the casting coup of the century, Michael Gandolfini, the late James Gandolfini’s son (Tony in ‘The Sopranos’) will play the young Tony. I say hopefully because the younger Gandolfini, not yet an accomplished actor, has an almost impossible burden. Early reviews suggest he nails it…and, according to Jen Chaney in her New York Magazine review, “looks so much like his dad that it makes your heart ache.”

Of course, how can you see a ‘Sopranos’ prequel without thinking back to the original’s final episode which left us all wondering, what happened? Is Tony dead? Did the TV break? Was there a power blackout? Huh?

This week, in Vanity Fair, the aforementioned Steven Van Zandt shed some light on those questions. According to Van Zandt, here’s the true story:

Years later, Vanity Fair did a retrospective on the show and talked to actors and writers. Inevitably, the reporter got to the big question: “How did it really end? What happened?”

“OK,” I said. “I’ve been asked this a thousand times, and I’m gonna settle it once and for all right now. You are going to get the scoop! This is the last time I will ever answer this, so sharpen your pencil.”

The reporter got visibly excited.

“You wanna know what really happened?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Alright. This is it. Are you ready?”

He was.

“The Director yelled cut and the actors went home.”

Thanks, Steven, very helpful.

Tomorrow’s the day however, not to get the answer to how ‘The Sopranos’ ended, but to how it began. I, for one, can’t wait!

Another Viewpoint – Florida’s new surgeon general is not just reckless; he’s dangerous

Commentary

Please be aware, while this story focuses is about Florida, it’s really more than that. It’s about the sorry state of affairs in this country.

I’ve noticed that when I write about Florida-specific issues, I tend to get fewer views. As an example, my recent piece, “Rubio’s pandering knows no bounds,” (https://around-the-block.com/2021/09/15/rubios-pandering-knows-no-bounds/) received about one-half my typical readership. This, despite the fact that while the focus was on Florida’s senior senator, the issue, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley’s warning to China, that he would prevent an attack if ordered by an increasingly unstable Trump after January 6, should have been of interest to all Americans.

With that in mind, I’d like to share an Op-ed I submitted today to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in response to their damning editorial about Florida governor, Ron DeSantis’ appointment of a new state Surgeon General.

Continue reading “Another Viewpoint – Florida’s new surgeon general is not just reckless; he’s dangerous”

Rubio’s pandering knows no bounds

Commentary

Given his history, Marco Rubio’s cynical opportunism in calling for General Milley’s removal is not surprising

Initial responses to difficult situations are often the best measure of a man. In his response to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley’s alleged “undermining of former President Trump,” Senator Rubio showed he’s not a man but a craven opportunist, calling for the firing of the general for treason. Why? Because Milley had the audacity to warn one of our adversaries, China, that he would prevent an attack if ordered by an increasingly unstable Trump after January 6. 

Who is Rubio pandering too? His base, of course. But in this case, it’s a base of one: Donald John Trump. In Rubio’s cynical, unprincipled mind, currying favor with the man who consistently humiliated him during the 2016 presidential primaries seems to be the best way to gain Trump’s support for his own presidential run in 2024 in the event Trump doesn’t run himself. 

But Rubio needs to be careful; he’s running for reelection in 2022. His disgraceful statements about a courageous general doing what was right would suggest that if Floridians had any sense, they wouldn’t send this obsequious panderer back to Washington.

My criticism of Florida’s senior senator goes way back, even before I moved to the Sunshine State.

In a December 2015 post entitled, Washington Post Pulls Cruz Daughters CartoonCandidates Consider Putting Their Families in Ads Hoping For Political Gain,  I riffed that Cruz’s opponents were envying his ability to take advantage of his daughters. Regarding Rubio, I wrote, satirically,

“…he was still weighing whether his ‘hijos’ could be used in tasteful and/or tasteless communication, waiting for some signal as to which would be more politically advantageous.” (BTW, just to show equality in sarcasm, I also wrote, “Senator Bernie Sanders angrily tweeted, ‘I’m so old, I don’t remember if I have any children.'”)

In a piece from January 2016, Sarah Palin to endorse TrumpRest of field scrambling for reality show endorsements,

I suggested that Rubio:

“…is seeking the endorsements of the entire cast of the reality show Cuban Chrome. Unfortunately, due to Rubio’s virulent anti-Castro rhetoric and his constantly shifting positions on immigration, it is unclear whether any of the show’s stars will be able to endorse Rubio without being either jailed in Cuba or deported from the U.S.”

Also that January, in Religion dominating Republican presidential race Cruz and Rubio trying to “out-Christian” each other,

I quoted Marco:

“The presidency of the United States is an extraordinary burden and you look at some of the greatest presidents in American history. They were very clear. They were on their knees all the time asking for God, asking God for the wisdom to solve, for the strength to persevere incredible tests.”

Then moved on to the satirical punchline:

Although Rubio said it was very clear, it is actually not very clear which of the “greatest presidents in American history” were “on their knees all the time” praying to God for wisdom. When pressed to name some of the presidents to whom he was referring, Rubio, channeling one of Sarah Palin’s most famous interviews, said, “Most of them. All of them.” Around the Block reached out to the Rubio campaign for clarification. Rubio’s spokesperson for Christian matters, Billy Bob “Bud” Powell said, “We are on our knees praying for guidance from above on this matter and will provide a list as soon as that guidance is received from on high.”

In a February 2016 post, Rubio becoming multi-religionistChanges religions as often as he changes shoes,

I riffed:

In a clear demonstration that he will pander to almost any group in order to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Florida senator Marco Rubio said today that while he is officially a Roman Catholic, he and his family also attend Evangelical services and, that when he was younger, he was a Mormon.
Speaking at the Reform Jewish Center of Greenville, SC, where he was the only person in the building wearing a kippah, the traditional Jewish head covering, Rubio indicated that he was going to adjust his schedule and begin attending Shabbat services “every Friday night from now on”. “Judaism is very important to me and my family,” Rubio said as his wife, Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio, distributed challahs she had baked that morning. Rubio went on to say that starting next weekend his four children, Amanda, Daniella, Anthony and Dominic would start attending Sunday school at Temple Israel of Greater Miami and that Amanda who is 15 and Daniella, 13, would celebrate a B’not Mitzvah together in the fall.
Later in the day, when asked, given his religious flexibility, whether he would consider adopting any other religions, Rubio answered, “I’ve been looking at many other religions with an eye towards which ones would be most politically advantageous for me from a pandering point of view.” When queried, the Rubio campaign, ever wary of denunciations from Donald Trump, indicated that Islam was not one of the religions the senator was contemplating.

Then, in March 2016 in Rubio wins BIG in Puerto Rico/Loses BIG on Super Tuesday 2Suspends campaign to become King of Puerto Rico,

I reported (tongue firmly in cheek):

In a stunning development, Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced today that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to become the King of Puerto Rico.
Mr. Rubio’s made his announcement after he overwhelmingly won the Puerto Rican Republican primary with 71% of the vote but came in third in both Idaho and Hawaii and fourth in Michigan and Mississippi on Super Tuesday 2. Puerto Rican rules require a 70% vote threshold to become king.
On Tuesday night, Rubio made an emotional speech in San Juan in front of his Puerto Rican supporters, saying, “I am thrilled by the results here in Puerto Rico, so much so that rather than continue to be rejected by the voters of almost all the U.S. states, I intend to embrace the people of Puerto Rico by becoming your king.”

More recently, in April 2021, in Rubio y Cruz: Como dos guisantes podridos en una vainaRubio and Cruz: Like two rotten peas in a pod,

I noted the similarities between these two senators of Cuban heritage including, despite the fact that they were both savagely attacked and demeaned by their then opponent for the GOP nomination in 2016, Donald Trump, and despite the personal insults heaped on them, and despite the animus both had to have had to Trump, both became over-the-top Trump sycophantic toadies once Trump acceded to the presidency. With regard to Rubio:

  • Trump dubbed Rubio, “Liddle Marco;”
  • Trump accused Rubio of wearing make-up at one of the debates, suggesting it was applied “with a trowel;”
  • Trump ridiculed Rubio’s need for drinking water and, at one rally sprayed a crowd with a bottle of water saying, “It’s Rubio!”
  • Trump poked fun at Mr Rubio’s sweating habits, calling him a “nervous basket case” who “perspires more than anyone he had ever seen.” 

I concluded that column with this:

Yes, he’s not as outrageously flamboyant as his wicked colleague from Texas, but, demonstrated by his positions, he’s equally evil. As one of Florida’s Senators, he’s cast some pretty disturbing votes. Most recently, he voted AGAINST the latest COVID-19 relief bill. He also voted:

  • AGAINST humanitarian aid at the US/Mexico border;
  • AGAINST reversing a Department of Education regulation on student loans;
  • FOR the rushed nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett;
  • AGAINST the conviction of the impeached Donald Trump; and more…

Speaking of positions, there’s one thing that you can be assured of: when it comes to taking a stand, opportunism is more critical than conviction for Señor Rubio. Not only is his post-disparagement support of Trump evidence of this, his opportunism during the 2016 campaign was legendary. 

I know there’s more to write and say about Florida’s shameless, opportunistic senator, but you get the point: Florida deserves a lot better than Marco Rubio!

Can you say, Val Demings?