Author: Michael Konik

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Coming to Grips with Imperialism

If you’re an American under the age of 30, your country has been “at war” almost every day of your life. Not that it directly affects you. Or hardly anyone, really, except members of the lowest socio-economic classes. We were at war for every single day of the Obama presidency and today, with a very...

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The Garbage Problem at Skid Row and City Hall

The Black Plague of the 1300s, transmitted by infected fleas attached to vermin, claimed millions of lives across Europe, erasing whole villages and towns. Until that time, organized municipal garbage collection didn’t exist. (Either did plumbing or flush toilets.) England, according to the history books, was the first nation to devote dedicated crews to picking...

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False Flags, Bad Data and Untrustworthy Authorities: The Oncoming Harm Facing Runyon Canyon

The Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council (HHWNC) is an all-volunteer advisory board with lots of strong feelings and almost zero political power. At regularly scheduled meetings held at the Durant library, the HHWNC fields the concerns of local residents and stakeholders, many of whom are vexed about preposterous and harmful developments being allowed in the...

A Chinese Man with a Latin Name and Many Dangerous Ideas

His Chinese title was Mang-tze: Mang the Master. Just as European scholars changed his philosophical predecessor K’ung-fu-tze into “Confucius,” Latin-trained historians of the West called him “Mencius.” He spent most of his adult life (378-289 B.C.) counseling princes and kings, teaching them to rule like philosophers instead of barbarians. In his final years, he composed — or...

Knock Down the House

The award-winning documentary Knock Down the House by director Rachel Lears, covers four working-class, “regular” women — a registered nurse, a bartender, a coal miner’s daughter — running for Congress during the 2018 mid-term elections, including the sensationally charismatic, eloquent and inspiring Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who, most of us now know, shocked the world by defeating an entrenched...

Ancient Questions, Modern Answers

When we consider regions of the world less “developed” than ours, let’s keep in mind Europe (and its imperialist offspring around the globe, like the United States) were also once Medieval. We, too, were once benighted, ignorant, backwards. Long ago, our civilization preferred the mystical powers of alchemy to the rational comforts of science, the...

The Driveway Mural

It began as a New Year’s folly, an impulsive lark. Some children and I splashed a few square panels of our concrete driveway with old house-paint from the cellar, shrouding the dull stone with color and shapes. We thought it looked pretty good, so the next day I did another panel, and then another the...

A Modest Proposal for Optimal Use of Artificial Intelligence

If you’re still in the camp that believes a near future dominated by artificially intelligent machines is nothing but a dystopian daydream, consider this: Not long ago, an artificially intelligent computer program called AlphaZero, hooked up to industrial-strength, Google-supplied processors, was given the rules of chess. That’s it. By playing countless games against itself, billions(?),...

Free Solo

The impossible is possible. We understand the concept in theory; films like “Free Solo” remind us of the thrilling truth. The movie documents climber Alex Honnold’s attempt to scale Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan cliff face — more than 3,000 feet of virtually perpendicular rock — without ropes, clamps, or nets, using only his claw-like hands,...