Cain And Italy

The news coverage for the last few days has been dominated by allegations of sexual harassment by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.  The steady drip, drip, drip of new information and accusations has knocked all other news off the front page.

I don’t mean to downplay the importance of dealing properly with incidents of sexual harassment, nor do I mean to be insensitive to the issue of potential misconduct by a presidential candidate — but I think it is ludicrous that the Cain story has commanded more attention than, say, the ongoing debt problems in Italy that have toppled a government and threaten to send one of the largest economies in the world into a default that would be devastating for the global economy.

In America, we always seem to fixate on tawdry tales of misconduct by political figures.  Our recent history is littered with characters like Elizabeth Ray, Fannie Fox, and Donna Rice.  Once they were featured in headlines; now they are forgotten.

The Cain story deals with incidents that allegedly happened more than a decade ago. Cain himself is merely one of eight candidates for the Republican nomination who hasn’t received even one vote yet, because no primary will occur for weeks.  The Italian problem, in contrast, could cause crippling losses on the part of banks that hold Italian debt and thereby plunge the world into another recession.  Which story is more important?

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Russell’s Video

Russell’s artistic reach has expanded from paper and canvas to video.  He’s posted a few videos of his creation on the Vimeo website.

The video below is about 2 1/2 minutes long and is set to an instrumental version of The Doors’ Hello, I Love You.  It features images of Brooklyn, trains, the Vietnam War, a shoot-’em-up video game, and even a brief peek at the venerable Webner House itself.  I think it’s pretty darned good.

Badge Of Honor

I voted this morning at one of the churches in our neighborhood.  Voting at a church seems appropriate because voting, too, is a ritualized, communal experience.

I like to vote early.  In Ohio the polls open at 6:30 a.m., and I was there at 6:45.  There’s a certain comforting sameness about always voting at that time of day.  The church has a bake sale with an honor basket where voters are expected to pay for any purchases.  The tureen of coffee isn’t quite fully brewed.  The seniors manning the registration table, and the high school kids who take your voting ticket and walk you to the machines in order to get “service hours” credit, are fresh-faced and upbeat.  I get in and out quickly, and walk back to my car with a whistle and a spring in my step.

I always wear my “I Voted Today” sticker with pride.  Unfortunately, this year the sticky stuff on the back was cheaper than usual, and my sticker fell off before I even made it to work.  Inside me, though, it was as if the sticker were still there.

Joe Frazier, R.I.P.

I was saddened to read of the death of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, one of the great fighters during last years of the golden age of boxing.

Frazier won a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics and held the world heavyweight title for three years, from 1970 to 1973.  He was best known, however, for his three titanic bouts with his nemesis, Muhammad Ali.  Frazier won the first, and lost the last two, but all of the fights were legendary clashes.  It is almost impossible to overstate the excitement and anticipation for each of those fights — especially now, when boxing has retreated far into the back pages of the sports sections of daily newspapers — but the entire sports world focused on Frazier and Ali as they trained, traded verbal jabs, and then stepped into the ring to fight for real.  I always rooted for Ali, but I respected Frazier because you knew that Smokin’ Joe was going to give every fight his very best.

For those of us of a certain age, Frazier also is remembered for his performance in an early version of a reality show called Superstars and carried on ABC.  The show pitted athletes from different sports against each other in a series of events, like the 100-yard dash or bowling.  Frazier is vividly recalled for his classic floundering, near-fatal efforts in the unfamiliar environs of swimming pool.

Frazier, who died of liver cancer, was only 67.  He will be missed.  With Smokin’ Joe dead, Muhammad Ali shaky and hobbled by Parkinson’s syndrome, and George Foreman selling cooking equipment, the golden age of boxing seems very far away.