Stop The Madness

(Photos compiled by the  New York Daily News)

I have been slow to comment about the mass shooting in Orlando because words have escaped me following such a heinous act. The facts are that a madman entered a popular nightclub and unleashed a torrent of gunfire that killed 49 people and wounded another 53, most of them gay. Was this a hate crime, a terror attack, or the kind of mass shooting that we’ve grown all too accustomed to, recently? The shooter, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghani immigrant parents, pledged allegiance to ISIS, which immediately raised concerns that this tragic event was a terrorist attack, but the shooter has been described as unhinged, violent, and even gay. He was also known to law enforcement and had been under investigation on previous occasions in 2013 and 2014. Whatever the case, why was he legally able to obtain automatic weapons and enough rounds of ammunition to wreak such quick and devastating carnage on an unsuspecting group of partiers? Why should anyone be entitled – stable or unstable, terrorist or not – to purchase automatic weapons and so many rounds of ammunition? As I have written before, the founding fathers could never have fathomed that weapons would be invented that would be capable of killing so many people, so quickly, let alone be used so indiscriminately against innocent fellow American citizens when they wrote the second amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing our right to bear arms. They must be turning over in their graves as gun advocates and NRA members continually use their words to justify the sale of weapons and ammunition that can and have been used to inflict murder on such a mass scale. 

I Am Woman

Courtesy Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I generally avoid online conversations about politics and religion, but I do post about newsworthy events. This post definitely qualifies as newsworthy because, for the first time in our nation’s history, a woman has become a presidential candidate of a major political party.  It certainly took long enough. Our country was founded over 200 years ago and it took more than 100 years for women to even earn the right to vote and nearly another 100 years before a woman was nominated for the office of the presidency. Hillary Clinton accomplished that feat last night, when she clinched the nomination after her decisive win in California. Many other countries have had female heads of state, such as Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, and others so it is about time that the United States catch up to their international counterparts. What happens next remains to be seen, but for right now, I hope that all females take a moment to bask in this accomplishment. 

Forever The Greatest

As legend has it, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, took up boxing so that he could beat up the thief who stole his bicycle. He channeled his anger over the theft into an illustrious career as a boxer, first winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and then going on to become the most famous athlete in the world.

His career was derailed when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War on the grounds that it was in opposition to his religion. He was convicted of dodging the draft, suspended from boxing for 3 ½ years, stripped of his boxing titles, and vilified by mainstream America. He returned to the ring after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the boxing commission reinstated him.

Muhammad Ali was undefeated but out of practice when he fought Joe Frazier in a hotly anticipated fight at Madison Square Garden, billed as the Fight of the Century of just the Fight. He lost that particular match, but went on to fight many others, including a rematch against Frazier called the Thriller in Manila, and a win against George Foreman called the Rumble in the Jungle. He probably boxed well past his prime and took too much pounding to the head that resulted in Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological impairment that left him with slurred speech, accompanied by tremors, and eventually loss of movement.  

Ali proclaimed himself The Greatest and then lived up to his own hype. In addition to his boxing prowess, he was confident, funny, witty, and caring. He was also a principled peace activist and a philanthropist. My father has always been one of his biggest fans. He proudly displays an autograph that he got from Ali, when he met him aboard a plane in the 1970’s. Ali gave autographs happily because he treated people in the way that he wished to be treated. President George W. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon him in 2005, the highest civilian honor, calling him a ‘man of peace’ and the ‘Greatest of All Time’. RIP The Greatest

Tragedy at the Zoo

(Courtesy Cincinatti Zoo)

There has been a huge public outcry over the shooting death of Harambe, the majestic, seventeen-year old silverback gorilla at the Cincinatti Zoo. Let me start off by saying that my family and I are ardent animal-lovers. We love our dog and we travel the globe to view (not kill) animals in their natural habitats. Having said this, I believe that the zoo was justified in the action that it took. Here are the facts of the case: A little boy, perhaps three or four years of age, climbed into the gorilla enclosure and was being tossed and dragged through the water by Harambe. The gorilla may have been playing with the child or trying to protect him, but no one can be sure what his intentions were. The gorilla handlers successfully called two female gorillas out of the area, but Harambe did not heed their commands. The zoo had two choices — neither of them good. The first choice was to shoot the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart, which would have agitated the gorilla and taken too long to take effect, possibly leading to the death of the child. The second choice was to shoot the gorilla to death and rescue the child. The zoo staff chose to put the life of the child before the life of the gorilla, a choice that while tragic, was the right one to make. I am saddened by Harambe’s death, but I completely understand why this was the only sound option.

People have been calling for the arrest of the parents and have been vilifying them in the press and on social media. Whether the parents are awful – I have no reason to believe that they are -is irrelevant. The gorilla enclosure should have been impenetrable — no ands, ifs, or buts — especially to children. There should have been absolutely no way to get into that exhibit. Children can tear away from any kind of parent — bad, good or great — for the seconds that it took for this child to climb into the unsecure exhibit. The zoo needs to re-evaluate its safety barriers and upgrade them so that accidents like this can never happen again.

We should mourn the loss of Harambe. We should question the legitimacy of zoos that fence in animals. However, we should not lay blame on the parents. I have read posts by people claiming to be super-parents who could never have an accident occur on their watches. I believe that this accident could have happened to any child or any parents. Let’s hope that better barriers are built to prevent future tragedies.

Splish Splash

Along Fifth Avenue at the entrance of Rockefeller Center, sits a very unusual site: a giant swimming pool rising upright from the sidewalk to the height of a four-story building. Unsure of why a pool might be situated along a busy stretch of Fifth Avenue, I discovered that it is not a swimming pool at all but rather a sculpture of a turquoise blue, mid-century, California-style swimming pool. The artists responsible for this sculpture are Michael Elmgreen of Denmark and Ingar Dragset of Norway, whose most well-known sculpture is Prada Marfa, a tiny replica of a Prada Store dropped in the desert 26 miles from the tiny city of Marfa, Texas (population 2000).  

Tishman Speyer, the owners of Rockefeller Center, commissioned this piece in conjunction with Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization that exhibits art in public spaces with the goal of bringing culture to a wide audience without any barriers of entry. The piece, when viewed from behind resembles an ear, so the artists decided to call it Van Gogh’s ear, named for the artist who famously cut off his own ear.

This piece will be on display until June 3, 2016 on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street.

Computer Age Couture

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened its 2016 exhibit entitled Manus x Machina, which refers to manmade versus machine made. On exhibit are approximately 200 garments ranging from haute couture pieces that were made by hand utilizing the precise measurements of the client to contemporary pieces made for the current spring season utilizing computer technology and other machine  techniques. Typically haute couture has been identified as being more exclusive and better made than ready-to-wear and machine made garments, but the advancement of computer technology has enabled designers to use new techniques, principally 3D printers, to construct unique, contemporary garments that are every bit as exclusive as haute couture apparel. Handmade and machine-made no longer have to remain mutually exclusive of each other, but can be complementary to one another.  

This exhibit will be on display throughout the summer, so be sure to check out these works of art. 

American Psycho

British artist, Cornelia Parker, recently installed a commissioned piece of art called Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two American icons inspired this piece: an old red barn and the eerie house featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. The house, which appears to be a full building dropped in place on the rooftop, is actually just a façade like one that might be found on a movie set. Ms. Parker built the house out of reclaimed wood from a one hundred year old barn that was slated for demolition in upstate New York. The juxtaposition of this Victorian-style house against the backdrop of the New York City skyline is highly unexpected. The exhibit runs through the end of October.  

Disclaimer: I don’t know the woman in the picture, but she was wearing  a very theatrical outfit/costume, so I thought she would liven up my photograph.

A Day At The Races

Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Derby

 Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who was the grandson of American explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, founded the Kentucky Derby in 1873 after attending the Epsom Derby in England. He returned to Louisville, KY determined to build a similar venue for thoroughbred horse racing, stateside. He obtained land from his maternal uncles, the Churchill brothers, and built Churchill Downs, which he fashioned after Epsom Downs. The dress code at Churchill Downs is similar to its English counterpart with women and men, smartly and elegantly attired with hats complimenting their ensembles.The tradition of donning elegant millinery has continued to this day, with some women wearing elaborate creations festooned with feathers, ribbons, and/or bows.  

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to the mother-of-all-mothers, my mother! I don’t always acknowledge all of the things that she does for me, which is why this day exists — to remind people like me to celebrate their moms.  My mother provides me with sage advice, unconditional love, and unlimited support.  While she is my greatest cheerleader, she also tells it to me straight.  She doesn’t always tell me that I am right when I am wrong or that I look great when I don’t or that I deserve something that I don’t and I appreciate her for her candor. I love you, Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Derby Day

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

The Kentucky Derby is not simply a race to determine the fastest three-year old thoroughbred horse in the country. It is an event steeped in tradition and pageantry for both the horses and the spectators. People come dressed to impress, sip Mint Juleps, and wager bets on the outcome of the race. Women wear beautiful dresses complimented by elaborate millinery (hats) and men wear coats, ties, and fedoras. Held in Louisville, Kentucky at the Churchill Downs racetrack since 1875, the Kentucky Derby otherwise known as the Running for the Roses attracts an enormous crowd with over 167,000 spectators in attendance this year and more than 16 million tuning in at home. The track is 1 1/4 miles long or, in horseracing parlance, 10 furlongs.  It may take only 2 minutes to run the race, but for breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, spectators, and bettors, it is the most exciting couple of minutes of their lives. The winner takes home a purse of $2 million, gets draped in a garland of red roses, and has the chance to win the Triple Crown if it goes on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in the following weeks. Nyquist, jockeyed by Mario Guiterrez was the horse favored to win, and he did not disappoint. He posted a time of 2:01.31 minutes, which was the 14th fastest time in the race’s 140 year history. Congratulations to Nyquist and good luck to him as he seeks the Triple Crown.