Originally posted December 29th, 2005
By Michael Konik
A reader of this space wrote to say that she was in the middle of “Ella in Europe,” my book about traveling abroad with my American dog. She was afraid to ask — but she wanted to know if Ella was still with us. She also suggested that I post an update every now and then for devoted readers and dog-lovers.
So here goes: Ella is still with us. She’s 11 now — she’ll be 12 in April. She sleeps more than ever, and she gets up slowly (unless there’s human food involved). She has some arthritis and a couple of small benign cysts on her back. Despite the usual indignities of being an old(er) dog, she seems quite healthy and happy. She’s still white as snow, still preternaturally expressive with her ears and tails and eyebrows, like Gromit, only with a mouth.
Originally posted December 23rd, 2005
By Michael Konik
Despite what proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel” preach; despite the tithing that power-hungry pastors collect from their entranced flock; despite the malicious claims allegedly found in the Bible that gays, Hindus, and connoisseurs of erotica are destined for eternal purgatory — despite all the hateful crap that religion teaches us – we believe there’s still love, joy, and peace to be found in Christ’s teachings.
The ancient philosopher-orator-charismatic is increasingly hard to recognize in the portrait painted by modern exponents of his legacy. But this weekend, when millions of people who identify with Jesus of Nazareth celebrate his birth — and, subordinately, the fleeting pleasures of consumerism — we all, Christian and non-, might do well to remember what all the fuss was about when this crazy Jewish guy started spouting inscrutable epigrams a couple thousand years ago.
Originally posted December 21st, 2005
By Michael Konik
Setting aside the fact that the Stock Market’s valuations often have no connection to anything resembling reality; and notwithstanding the fact that interest rates paid on cash deposits barely cover the cost of driving to the bank to make them; and forgetting for a moment that the southern Californian real estate market may or may not be one enormous bubble that may or may not be on the verge of popping — aside from all that, municipal bonds are a beautiful way to invest.
Their return on investment isn’t as high as riskier ventures, although the tax-free earnings they return make them progressively more valuable as one climbs the taxation brackets. They have almost no chance of becoming the next Google or Las Vegas. But they almost always return what they promise: a stodgy, fair premium on investment, and they’re largely immune to the vagaries of “trading,” . . . → Read More: The Beauty of Municipal Bonds
Originally posted December 15th, 2005
By Michael Konik
Two professional singers live on my street. One is an emerging star named Mae who both critics and fans praise for her soulful and passionate vocals. The other is Sheryl Crow.
While there’s no accounting for taste — which is another way of excusing America for preferring Janet Jackson to Tierney Sutton — it must be said that when both the singers on my street are put on equal repertory footing, when they both sing what’s known as “jazz standards” from the Great American Songbook, Mae is clearly the superior vocalist. If you’ve seen the Cole Porter biopic “Delovely,” in which Ms. Crow had the misfortune of singing alongside people like Natalie Cole, you know what I mean. For further proof that Ms. Crow’s management team is more powerful than its client’s vocal chops, check out the Tony Bennett duet album, “Playing with My Friends,” in which Crow’s . . . → Read More: A Tale of Two Singers: How Familiarity Breeds Contempt
Originally posted December 8th, 2005
By Michael Konik
The astonishingly strange saga of Stanley Williams, a murderer found guilty by four courts, reached the zenith of its narrative arc yesterday when the Los Angeles Times published a full-page advertisement (paid for by celebrity supporters, one assumes) in which the convict pledged his allegiance to God and asserted his dedication to “redemption.” He did not, however, acknowledge responsibility for personally ending the lives of four innocent people.
Williams, the founder of the Los Angeles street gang, the Crips, repudiated all allegiances to the hoodlums he mentored, if not invented. He did not, however, offer any apologies to the families whose lives he ruined with his brutal acts of violence.
Two sectors of society that would normally appear to be working at cross-purposes — famous hip-hop entertainers and the NAACP — have joined together in a crusade to garner clemency for Williams, whose execution date looms after . . . → Read More: The Strange Case of Stanley Williams, Icon
“I welcome that debate.” — President Barack Obama, reacting to the disclosure of a secret domestic surveillance program operating under his watch.
“I welcome that debate,” I said to my wife. She had just discovered that I’d been having — actually, that I am currently having and intend to continue having — an affair with one of the hot flexible chicks in my yoga class.
Some bitter friend of my wife’s knows the girl I’ve…
We’re like every other patriotic American: when our beloved country is under attack, as it is at this very moment and every other moment of every day, we’re delighted to sacrifice our constitutional rights.
Whatever gets the job done, that’s our view. And if beating Islamic terrorists means being spied…
The time we’re living in is being called the Technology Revolution. It’s given us personal computers and cell phones and devices that, we all agree, make our lives altogether better. Everything is more efficient, more connected. Things can be ordered to appear at your door, getting lost in your car is…
Luckily for Barack Obama, news of improper shenanigans at the IRS stole attention from the week’s biggest story: that the President’s Justice Department had secretly seized call information from at least 20 phone lines belonging to Associated Press reporters, including personal cell phones and the main switchboard of the AP’s…
Aside from the usual side-effects of hypnotic music — tapping toes, pumping heads, swaying shoulders — one of the interesting results of listening to the Cambodian Space Project is the onset of what feels vaguely like a psychoactive hallucination. They’ve got a delightful weirdness factor (at least to unseasoned Western ears). You feel transported. But [...]