Say what you want about the South Florida Speaker Series, a succession of three lectures by famed politicos, but you've gotta admit, it's reasonably fair and balanced. It ends May 2 with a speech by splotchy Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly; on March 14, it features a speech by New York City ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And to begin the whole thing, Bill Clinton, the last elected president of the United States, gives his take on things this Sunday.
In case you've been hiding in a spider hole for the last dozen years or so, Clinton was the paradoxically popular-yet-hated 42nd president of the country. Clinton actually accomplished many things that would make conservatives proud. He ended much of the federal welfare system, reversed the deficit, and trimmed unnecessary federal employees. But hating Clinton became a bankable commodity. Rush Limbaugh is only the first example of turning Clinton-hatred into profitability. To a lesser degree, and in the lurid light of sex scandals, the entire national media cashed in on tarring the president. Bizarre claims loomed in the shadows of every quasi-scandal, and they would be reported in a sort of media food chain: the American Spectator reports on the Clinton "body count" (the far right's tally of his alleged murder victims), which in turn makes the Wall Street Journal mention it, which in turn sends it into the mainstream. The whole mess, backed from on high by conservative gazillionaires such as Richard Mellon Scaife, has been covered often in books such as Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars and David Brock's Blinded by the Right.
So what can Clinton tell us about this year's election? He certainly seems to have been overshadowed by the latest cults of personality, such as Howard Dean and Wes Clark. Even contemporaries like Al Gore have stepped past Clinton and further into the limelight by endorsing current Democratic candidates. But at the very least, Clinton can relate one important fact: that anyone in Washington, no matter how powerful or popular, can be torn to shreds by the politics of personal destruction -- or as they call it in D.C., "sport." Clinton's lecture takes place at the Office Depot Center (1 Panthers Pkwy., Sunrise) at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $46.50 to $251.50. Call 954-835-8000. -- Dan Sweeney
Dance from the Far East
In 1994, the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company opened for the Grateful Dead in Oakland, California. That must have been a real trip for all the acid-gobbling hippie dippies in the crowd. The next year, the company performed for the United Nations' 50th-anniversary celebration in San Francisco, just proving they're equal-opportunity dancers. Founder, dancer, and choreographer Lily Cai has been a prominent member of the Bay Area dance community for more than 20 years, and her integration of Chinese traditional dance with Western ballet and modern dance infuses the performances of the troupe. Now the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company makes its way to the East Coast for a performance at Palm Beach Community College's Duncan Theatre (4200 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth). From ancient court dances of Chinese dynasties to sultry jazz numbers, the dancers incorporate sensual movements with props for a night that's more intoxicating than opium and just about as addictive. And that's no ancient Chinese secret. Check out the Lily Cai Dance Company at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $25 to $35. Call 561-868-3309. -- Audra Schroeder
Hey! You got Jews in my Egypt!
You'd think what with the slavery and all, ancient Jewish people would have been loath to return to Egypt after Moses led them into their biblical promised land. But during the first Diaspora, the result of Jerusalem's destruction in 586 BC, that's exactly what many of them did. It had been 800 years since the time of Moses, give or take a couple of decades, and upon their return, they became integrated into Egyptian society instead of enslaved. It was a different world, after all -- the Egyptians were themselves subjects, in this case of the Persians. The Greeks were poking around, getting ready for a few hundred years of Mediterranean dominance. Amazingly, the tale of one Jewish family in this culturally diverse ancient world has survived on eight scrolls. "Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt" showcases these pieces of papyrus, along with artwork and artifacts that correspond to the proper time and place. The exhibit is on display at the Norton Museum of Art (1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach) from Saturday, January 24, through April 4. Call 561-832-5196. -- Dan Sweeney
Ride the Dragon
Geez, it's a busy month for Asian cultural events. If you missed the Japanese new year festival at Morikami Museum a few weeks ago, don't fret. Yes, it's yet another Year of the Monkey celebration, but just to mix things up a bit, this one is titled Dragonfest. That's because the Palm Beach Zoo (1301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach) is ringing in the Chinese new year with dragon dancers, live music, acrobats, martial arts demonstrations, live animal shows, and traditional Chinese folktales and poems by Mandarin Mom. For the more erudite visitors, there will be performers from the Florida Kung Fu Academy and lectures from the Chinese Culture Association of South Florida and the Chinese Association of Science, Economy, and Culture. Kick off the new year starting at 10 a.m. The event is free with zoo admission and open to all ages. Call 561-533-0887. -- Audra Schroeder
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