Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Reading

Buff Beach: No, not a place with muscle boys in Speedos… at least not the Speedos. Haulover Beach in Miami celebrates an anniversary.

No one at a Haulover Beach party on Saturday seemed embarrassed that nearly everyone showed up in the same outfit — their birthday suit.

The party was on Day 2 of a three-part celebration of the 17th anniversary of Haulover’s establishment as a ”clothing-optional” stretch of sand. It also marks a belated observance of National Nude Recreation Week. Festivities continue Sunday.

The activists who worked to get Miami-Dade County to allow them to swim without swimsuits were out in force to mark the occasion.

”We’ve seen so many people learn to enjoy the beach. It really does feel good,” said Shirley Mason, one of the early pioneers with the group South Florida Free Beaches that brought nude bathing to Haulover in July 1991.

Mason said she realized the county needed a nude beach when a doctor told her husband that sun and salt water may help treat his painful full-body psoriasis. But they had trouble finding a place to go.

After researching the law and working to raise awareness, Mason’s group succeeded in getting the county to designate several hundred yards of Haulover Beach as clothing optional.

But after all her work, on Saturday Mason was one of the only clothed people in sight. She said she had too much organizing to do outside the beach for the party to relax in the buff.

Almost everyone else on the crowded beach was stripped down to bare skin, lounging under umbrellas or soaking up rays for a line-free tan. A picnic, ice-cold margaritas and even a kiosk offering therapeutic massages were all part of the fun-in-the-sun festivities.

Go here for a gallery of pictures…all G-rated.

I Hope I Get It: That song from Chorus Line echoes through the heads of kids at theatre camp.

In the cozy lobby of what was once a Catskills hotel, nearly 300 children were sitting in chairs and on the floor, crammed in and anxious. It was Day 3 at Stagedoor Manor, a theater camp in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., and in just a moment, the campers would learn which roles they would play in shows like “Aida” and “Les Misérables.” And the wait — the interminable wait — would be over.

For now, the children, age 10 to 18, were singing “All That Jazz” from “Chicago.” In unison.

Matthew Koplik of Tenafly, N.J., now in his sixth summer at Stagedoor Manor, has suffered through this wait before. “I’m trying not to think about it,” said the 18-year-old aspiring actor, a recent graduate of the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan.

Above his shoulder hung a bulletin board showing celebrities who got their start at Stagedoor Manor: there’s a photo of Natalie Portman and Bryce Dallas Howard in a 1996 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” next to one of a young Zach Braff in “Godspell.” A sign reads: “Before they were stars … they were YOU!!”

In the fall, Mr. Koplik will enroll in the musical theater program at Emerson College, where administrators at his auditions repeatedly praised Stagedoor. “It’s like the secret handshake,” he said.

The cast lists were posted, prompting a mad but orderly dash. Mr. Koplik was pushed and pulled, finally reaching the front. He scanned the list. Hugging and screaming followed: He had been cast as the lead in “Bat Boy: The Musical.”

The frenzy that many children face to get into the right school is particularly acute for those who aspire to a career in the performing arts, and attending camps can be a steppingstone to Broadway or even Hollywood. The competition among these children, and among the camps vying for their tuition money, is more heated than ever.

Then again, spending the summer riding horses and hiking through the Rocky Mountains was good enough for Darryl Hannah, Jason Ritter (son of John) and Ethan Browne (son of Jackson).

Frank Rich: How Obama became acting president.

It almost seems like a gag worthy of “Borat”: A smooth-talking rookie senator with an exotic name passes himself off as the incumbent American president to credulous foreigners. But to dismiss Barack Obama’s magical mystery tour through old Europe and two war zones as a media-made fairy tale would be to underestimate the ingenious politics of the moment. History was on the march well before Mr. Obama boarded his plane, and his trip was perfectly timed to reap the whirlwind.

He never would have been treated as a president-in-waiting by heads of state or network talking heads if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals. What drew them instead was the raw power Mr. Obama has amassed: the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings. (Even “Access Hollywood” mustered a 20 percent audience jump by hosting the Obama family.) Power begets more power, absolutely.

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

Never mind. This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq’s $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That’s the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The “change” that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality — sometimes through Mr. Obama’s instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it’s change you happen to believe in or not.


The election remains Mr. Obama’s to lose, and he could lose it, whether through unexpected events, his own vanity or a vice-presidential misfire. But what we’ve learned this month is that America, our allies and most likely the next Congress are moving toward Mr. Obama’s post-Iraq vision of the future, whether he reaches the White House or not. That’s some small comfort as we contemplate the strange alternative offered by the Republicans: a candidate so oblivious to our nation’s big challenges ahead that he is doubling down in his campaign against both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Obama to be elected commander in chief of the surge.

Doonesbury: Remembering George Carlin.

Opus: Forget the crime; get to the punishment.