Author: Michael Konik

Vocal Jazz, Old and New

The ethereal jazz singer Jeanne Lee would have been 80 this year. A re-release of her duet album with New England Conservatory titan Ran Blake, “The Newest Sound You Never Heard,” more than 40 years after its 1966-7 recording, reveals a thoroughly modern singer unafraid to sound like no one but herself. This vocal individuality...

Announcement: Why You’ll Be Hearing Less from Me

Today I’m delighted to announce my semi-retirement from writing. It’s been more than 30 years I’ve been doing this professionally, 20 years since my first book. Now it’s time to do something else. For the people who care about my work, don’t worry. Writing will continue. These essay Thoughts will continue (probably) to be published...

The Hate U Give

America’s ongoing oppression of people of color, expressed most viciously in police brutality against unarmed black men, is the subject of director George Tillman, Jr.’s film version of Angie Thomas’s book “The Hate U Give.” (The title refers to a Tupac Shakur lyric riffing on the theme of “you reap what you sow.”) The movie...

Corruption in Los Angeles: An Update from City Hall

The persistent showers pelting southern California this past week served as poetic foreshadowing for the hard rain that’s about to fall on some of the well-dressed crooks who control Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s absurd delusion that he’s somehow “presidential” is about to end. Charlatans posing as “community leaders” soon will be exposed. Once powerful...

A Modest Proposal for Medicating Our Children

Kids who can’t (or won’t) sit still and be quiet aren’t normal. They have a disorder. They have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a serious disease that requires serious treatment. And if you don’t believe us, ask any pediatrician with a prescription pad. Since they’re desperately unwell, these ill children require medicine. Two of the best...

On Chess, Mind Control, and Smashing Paradigms

As in any ideological system, young chess players are inculcated with seemingly inviolable commandments:  Thou Shalt Arrange Your Pieces to Control the Center, Thou Shall Not Move the Same Piece Twice Until All Other Pieces Are Developed. In what you might call the romantic era of chess, before the development of artificial intelligence, these commandments...

Rescuing a Hippo, Killing a Horse

At the World Championship Match, in Helsinki, Finland, they reached a complicated position where The Champion intended on sacrificing a knight. The giveaway was not an obvious tactic; with all the minor pieces still on the board, the position offered a large number of possible variations, all of them leading to interesting circumstances, but nothing...

Derren Brown’s “Sacrifice”

The British mentalist, magician and showman Derren Brown has long created television specials of enduring power and controversy. Much of his work concerns psychological manipulation and social coercion. In our view, shows like “Russian Roulette” (filmed live on a 15-minute delay) and “The Push” (in which an average member of the public is convinced to...

I Am Hitler’s Driver

Thanks to their proximity to important people everyone knows, unimportant people whose names we don’t remember, “regular” folks like me and you, often have a fleeting opportunity to change the course of World History. Henry the VIII’s chef; Napoleon’s personal physician; Hitler’s driver. With a little help and a lot of courage, each of them...