Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Bikini Diplomacy, Art Aliens strike Again, Rand Paul and Daddy's Coat-tails

Iran & Israel:
Joe Klein
Richard Haass
Peter Beinart

Miss USA:
Tunku Varadarajan
Benjamin Sarlin
"The Iranians are the world's worst negotiators. They've managed to infuriate everyone." - Kenneth Pollack
"What matters as much or more than the new sanctions themselves is the unhappiness of Iran's leaders with their country being put in the global penalty box for all to see." - Richard Haass
"I was raised to love Israel, and I will teach my children to love it. But we don't get to choose what is true. And if you love Israel not only because it is a Jewish state but also because it is a liberal democratic Jewish state, a state that strives to embody the best in the Jewish ethical tradition, there is only one decent response to these truths: fury. If you're not angry, you're either not paying attention or you don't care." - Peter Beinart

I came across Tunku Varadarajan's opinion piece in the Daily Beast, and couldn't help but notice that he had titled his article from a phrase I coined from my previous post on Rima Fakih, who won the Miss USA beauty pageant. I take it as a compliment, and the phrase is so obvious that he could easily have come up with "bikini diplomacy" on his own. I find that many of the phrases I write do end up on other blogs and web sites, but I rarely find out until months have passed. The person I look up to in this matter is Mort Sahl, who often took the day's newspaper up on stage with him and crafted jokes and a monologue based on the day's events. He may even still be alive, though hasn't performed since being blacklisted by the Kennedy administration...

Evidently, Rima's crowning by the Donald Trump organization has caused controversy, mostly from right wing websites who are writing negatively about having a Muslim woman wear the coveted crown. Tunku makes some good points on the difficulties many immigrants have assimilating to American culture: "I can think of few sets of cultural norms that are as mutually exclusive as those of Middle America, on the one hand, and the Shiite faith, on the other." The social concepts of a woman's role is very different, and our insistence on individuality and celebrating female beauty can be seen as a liberating force to women who have traditionally been kept cloistered and covered. Even CNN jumped into the mud with an article titled: "Miss USA: Muslim Trailblazer Or Hezbollah Spy?"

Lefty blogs would dismiss the pageant as a whole, as demeaning to women, exploiting them as objects, and promoting a culture of airhead bimbos. Its true that The Donald didn't want another Carrie Prejean incident, and probably wanted to get as far away from the blond stereotype this year, so brunettes may have had an edge. First runner up was an adherent of tea party talking points, so maybe it balanced out politically. Where I lived for 30 years in Santa Cruz, California, they had the Miss California pageant during the days of budding radical feminism. An alternate, Myth California pageant was formed as a theater of protest, with gowns made out of meat, and one time blood was thrown on the steps of the pageant auditorium so that guests had to walk through it to go inside. Which prompted the pageant to move to San Diego. The women I knew were supporters of the protests, so I tend to think of beauty pageants as artificial creations that support breast implants and botox injections and wearing way too much makeup... but, as a guy, I do like the swimsuits... And I don't even want to get into the sick, pathetic, obsessive culture of pageants that begin with preteens that have blossomed since the death of John Benet Ramsay and made into reality shows on cable television...

It is a good thing, and an intended consequence to talk about our culture, what role something like a beauty pageant portrays to the world, what values are seen as positive by our immigrant cultures, where we clash or mesh together. For many women the world over, something as silly as winning a beauty title is a lesson in the struggle for their rights as humans. In places like Afghanistan, where we have built schools and encouraged women to get an education, we have imposed a change that has often had violent repercussions, ripples that will be felt for years to come. Besides, Rima Fakih is one happy woman, her family is proud of her, even women in Lebanon are happy for her, and that is all that really matters.

art aliens strike again...
It looks like the art-loving aliens have struck again, this time sucking up some painting from a museum in Paris. OK, someone actually broke a window and went past the non-existent security: "Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse worth an estimated $124m have been stolen from a museum in Paris, in what could be one of the world's biggest art thefts." Art theft is actually pretty common, the news rarely goes beyond a local newspaper and a couple of art magazines. So many of the world's masterpieces are locked up in people's private vaults that we will never see them unless they are loaned to a museum for lots of money. Some other recent thefts during the past few years, and you can see that they are well spread out geographically:

  • February 2008: Four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet, valued at over $162m, stolen from Zurich museum.
  • August 2007: Two Bruegels, a Sisley and a Monet, stolen from Jules Cheret Museum in Nice, France. Recovered the following year.
  • February 2006: Works by Salvador Dali, Picasso, Matisse and Monet taken from museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • August 2004: Edvard Munch's The Scream and Madonna, valued at $100m, stolen from Oslo museum. Recovered, damaged, in 2006.
  • December 2007: Two Van Gogh paintings stolen from museum in Amsterdam.

feeling randy...
Now that the primaries are over in a few states, the spinmeisters are trying to make the results seem like something that matters and that we should care. More importantly that Rand Paul won in Kentucky, is he using his daddy's coat-tails to climb into the ring? does he actually have any opinions of his own or is he just a spouting pez dispenser of conservative libertarian highlights? Are there too many opthamologists in Lexington? Does the Paul clan think they are building a political dynasty to rival the Bushes or Kennedys? Was Rand named after the think tank and will he do a cameo on Justified, but only if you think he is an Elmore Leonard character? He is being touted as a life-long doctor, not a politician. As a doctor, he is interested in diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions, which fits right in with our over-medicated society...

For a long time, many of Ron Paul's ideas were considered crack-pot, he fit right in with the John Birch crowd. Now, with the audit the fed bill, he suddenly has become mainstream. Ron Paul supporter were complaining that the tea party had stolen their ideas and way of phrasing the issues, now the proverbial son says he is an ardent tea party supporter. It will be fun to keep an open copy of Conscience of a Libertarian whenever Rand will be interviewed or in debate to see where his ideological sources are when he opens his mouth. I know one thing, after having been sucker punched on the Rachel Maddow show last night, I don't think he'll ever appear there again. Increasingly, she is doing this to guests she disagrees with, instead of having an exchange of ideas. Which is too bad, because she is a smart woman; she just sucks at one on one debating...

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