What If They Gave A Hotel And Nobody Came?

IMG_6246I was in Washington, D.C. recently and saw this sign in front of the Old Post Office, advertising it as a new “TRUMP” property — in this case, the Trump International Hotel.

The Old Post Office is a beautiful building, and I have no doubt that it will make a magnificent hotel, but . . . the Trump International Hotel?  Doesn’t that seem just a tad inconsistent with The Donald’s recent political speechifying?

How many international visitors are really going to feel welcome at a Trump hotel and are going to be eager to stay there?

When Donald Gets Gonged

Donald Trump is an embarrassment. He’s been serving a purpose, in a perverse way, but now it’s time for him to exit stage left and serve a purpose in a different way.

Trump’s recent comments about John McCain are inexcusable. Obviously, it’s perfectly acceptable for anyone to disagree with Senator McCain about immigration. It’s not an easy issue, and it covers a lot of different big picture items, from employment to trade to national security against potential terrorist incursions. In America, there is room for many different positions along the political spectrum about immigration.

It isn’t appropriate, however, to question McCain’s patriotism, or his service, or to casually dismiss the meaning and impact of McCain’s POW experience. It not only is unfair to the man who was tortured and forced to live as a captive in a North Vietnam prison, it also shows an appalling lack of respect for all of those who have served in our armed forces and put their lives and personal security on the line. The reality of war is that some members of the military may get captured by the enemy, through no fault of their own. When that happens, those members of the military deserve our support, and when they bear up through their POW experience with the courage and dignity and fortitude shown by John McCain, they deserve to be called heroes. This is not a hard question — but apparently it is beyond Donald Trump.

Trump’s entry into the presidential race has been serving a purpose, in a perverse way — he’s been demonstrating by omission the qualities we should be looking for in a President. Do we want someone who responds to every criticism by lashing out with anger and insult humor, or do we want someone who is thick-skinned and capable of responding with grace and intelligence? Do we want a boastful schoolyard bully who never tires of touting his own wealth and accomplishments, or do we want a mature adult who has the skills to build a consensus around a reasoned position? Do we want someone so self-absorbed that he’ll say whatever is necessary to grab another headline, or do we want someone with the self-assurance to work behind the scenes in order to get the job done? In many ways, Donald Trump exemplifies all of the qualities of the anti-President; standing next to him, virtually any candidate would look like a thoughtful statesman.

As a society, we tend to tolerate people like Trump. He’s like a contestant on The Gong Show whose act is so bizarre that it briefly entertains through shock value — but quickly becomes tiresome and uncomfortable. With his comments on John McCain, Trump has crossed into gong territory. I’m glad to see that there seems to be a growing, uniform sentiment that Trump’s comments about Senator McCain are inexcusable. Trump may be serving a purpose in another way: by showing that, in our divided country, it is still possible to develop a true consensus about something.

Chinny Chin Chins

There’s a popular new trend in the cosmetic surgery world of New York City, according to the New York PostMen are going to plastic surgeons in droves to get treated with a new drug that is supposed to get rid of those dreaded double chins.

Ah, the double chin.  That unsightly, flabby slackness of the upper neck that makes you look old and unfit and weak, all at the same time.  It’s an embarrassing feature for any successful man who wants to radiate virility and good health and ruggedness.

But, what to do if you have those worrisome wobbling wattles?  There aren’t exactly neck crunches or other exercises that precisely target that one, flaccid spot.  But now there’s Kybella, a new drug that is supposed to melt that under-chin flab.  Turkey-necked men can go to an approved Kybella practitioner, get multiple injections into their double-chin neck fat in a series of 2 or 4 or 6 treatments — at a price tag of $800 to $1800 a treatment, depending upon how much of the Kybella is needed — and watch the fat cells dissolve and the saggy necks tighten.  Some people might freak out at having a needle repeatedly jabbed into their throat region, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging too many patients.  In fact, so many people are having the procedures that NYC plastic surgeons have had to increase their office hours.

These days, it seems like there is an injection or surgery or wonder drug for just about every less than perfect physical feature.  If only cancer could be dispatched as easily as fat cells in the neck!  Of course, the cost of Kybella might be more than some vain but loose-necked men can afford.  For those members of the double-chin brigade, there is always the alternative that I selected:  grow a beard and forget about it.

Fantastic Faraway Flyby

If you’re near a TV set or computer tonight, you might want to check out Pluto.  The NASA spacecraft New Horizons will be zooming by and sending back photographs and data that will give us our first good look at the “dwarf planet” at the edge of our solar system.

The New Horizons effort is pretty cool.  Nine years ago the spacecraft, which is about the size of a piano, was launched, and since then it has traveled 2.9 billion miles on its journey.  Today New Horizons is closing in on Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, traveling at a rate of almost 31,000 miles per hour, snapping pictures and using its instruments to gather other data.  Already it has taken the first clear picture of Pluto and Charon, with a focus vastly superior to the indistinct blobs produced by the Hubble space telescope.  Eventually it will get to within 7,600 miles of Pluto’s surface.

With this Pluto flyby, human spacecraft have now visited every planet in our solar system.  We should celebrate that, and also celebrate this:  the New Horizons project is one of the most technologically challenging efforts NASA has ever undertaken.  The spacecraft won’t be able to orbit Pluto, it will approach it edge on and then fly by.  That means that New Horizons, which is traveling on an automated control path, has to hit a “keyhole” in space that’s about 60 miles by 90 miles — a remarkably precise target for a probe that is billions of miles away.  If it misses, we’ll just get pictures of empty space.

Starting at about 8 p.m. tonight, engineering data will tell us whether New Horizon threaded the needle.  You can access the NASA live feed here.

Some days, science and technology can be pretty awesome.  This is one of those days.

Detroit, On The (Cutting) Edge

Russell decided to stay in Detroit, in part, because he felt a certain energy there, and in part because it is so affordable.  After living for a few years in Brooklyn, he knew how ridiculously expensive living the New York City artists’ life had become.

IMG_5170As always, Russell has a pretty good set of antenna for a developing trend.  A few days ago the New York Times carried an article about how NYC artists are moving to Detroit for the same reasons Russell has long articulated.  Why not?  Detroit is a cosmopolitan city.  There is still a lot of art-buying wealth there, as well as space galore and buildings available at prices that New York City artists couldn’t even conceive.

There’s a certain vibe to Detroit, too.  The article linked above refers to “ruin porn” — an apt phrase that captures the kind of slack-jawed wonder at the decaying cityscapes that we have noticed in our visits there and reported from time to time on this blog.  The dereliction not only makes you ponder how a great city fell so far, but also what can be done to raise it back up again.  Part of the allure of Detroit for young artists and other risk-takers is the chance to be part of what could be a great story of urban renaissance.  For an artist, that sense of frontier-like opportunity not only is bound to stoke the creative fires, but it also gives the city’s art scene a certain cachet that may well attract attention — and art sales.

I’m rooting for Detroit.

An Abundance Of Musical Riches

Tonight Kish and I got back from a performance at Schiller Park — more about that later — and we decided to build a fire.  When Skipper decided to turn in, I thought I would stay up for while, stoke the flames, drink a few cold beers, and listen to some American music.

But . . . what to listen to, exactly?  Because when you are talking about American music genres, you have the luxury of incredible choice.  Ragtime, jazz, blues, rock ‘n roll, soul — it all depends on your mood.

It’s extraordinary, when you think about it.  This country has produced a series of musical forms that have tremendous, worldwide, everlasting appeal.  We’ll gladly leave waltzes to Austria and opera to Italy, but we’ve cornered the market on just about everything else worth mentioning.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Ask people in France or Japan about Louis Armstrong or John Coltrane or Miles Davis, or listen to British lad Eric Clapton team up with Duane Allman for Derek and the Dominoes’ epic treatment of Key to the Highway, or listen to some early Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis and then hear the Beatles or the Rolling Stones cover those songs, and you realize what a fantastic wellspring of music has been tapped in the United States of America.

Tonight I felt like listening to some blues, so B.B. King and the Blind Boys of Alabama and Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and Odetta — as well as J.T. Lauritsen and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers — helped to brighten and prolong a great evening.  Just listening to it made me proud to be a citizen of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

The Candidate On The Corner

It’s pretty rare when you get to see an actual presidential candidate in person.  I’m really lucky, because I’ve walked past one on the way home from work.

IMG_6135The candidate’s name is Timothy R. Farkas.  On two afternoons recently he’s been camped out at the corner of Third Street and Fulton, at the entrance to the on-ramp to I-70, wearing shorts and a summer shirt, holding a hand-lettered sign announcing his candidacy and happily waving at cars as they passed by.  I shook his hand — that’s what you’re supposed to do with candidates — and took his picture.  He urged me to check out his website, but the address on his sign is wrong. I found his website here.

Mr. Farkas’ decision to pursue the presidency so publicly made me smile.  When I grew up in a more innocent time, people often said that in America anyone could grow up to be the President.  It’s nice to see that some people still believe it.