Originally posted October 26th, 2014
By Michael Konik
At the Middle School two driveways down the street,
Hollywood safari vans tote tipsy tourists and King of Pop-culture purists
to contemplate like jurists the Michael Jackson Auditorium, whose much-lauded eponym
was sleek and slim, and boyishly indiscreet.
At this school, Russian parents take parking spots and umbrage,
when their children start to bleat
about the Czech (or Slovak?) wreck teaching home ec with no respect for Moscow discotheques, who expects to check classwork bereft of facts about the colossal crime in Crimea carried out by the usual suspects.
To my American neighbors, it sounds like the indirect vivisection of Vladimir Putin’s next election. Dollars and cents, rubles and shekels.
Vikram Gandhi is a handsome and charismatic filmmaker; Kumare is an Indian guru who espouses a nice-sounding mélange of yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, and chanting — all standard stuff for seekers of Wisdom. Gandhi’s documentary shows how Kumare, with the help of two fetching female assistants, builds a fabulous reputation and a community of followers. The catch? Kumare is Gandhi in disguise, abetted by a terrific Hindi accent. Is he a false prophet, a powerful teacher, or both? The answers are surprising and enlightening — exactly the kind of revelations we expect from our gurus.
Originally posted April 8th, 2012
By Michael Konik
Sometimes our chaotic, unknowable, seemingly random Universe arranges itself with perfect symmetry. In these moments of bracing clarity, authored by a Creator (in whatever guise or nomenclature you prefer) whose sense of irony is matched only by her/his/its sense of wicked humor, our innate foolishness and learned stubbornness are robbed of their pretensions. We see what we have wrought – and then pretend we didn’t, because, despite our professed wish for “change you can believe in,” change is the process we’re most unwilling to endure.
Last week provided several of those The Way It Is moments, with several illuminating events happening almost simultaneously, twinned like opposite sides of a coin, as though the worm-hole theories of modern physicists were getting an earthbound demonstration. Our chief prophet of change you can believe in, President Obama, who seems intent on being as big of a disappointment to as . . . → Read More: Perverse Priorities
Originally posted September 1st, 2011
By Michael Konik
My dear mother is a knee-jerk liberal hippie Democrat progressive pro-labor vegetarian yoga-doing leftie. For most of her adult life she’s served as one of the most beloved and revered elementary school educators in her community. She’s taught across the spectrum of scenarios: inner-city public school with “at risk” students; suburban public school with “smart kids” using all the best learning tools; and private college-prep school with privileged children enjoying every advantage in the world. At every milieu Mom has succeeded: her children learn what they’re supposed to at their grade level and then much more. They leave her classroom prepared for the next grade and for an inquisitive, thoughtful life.
My mother is a great teacher, not just a very good one. Her classroom is a place of wonder and imagination, like a hybrid Children’s Museum-Zoo-Library-Art Studio-Epigram Factory. The bulging file of thank you letters . . . → Read More: Educating Everyone Excellently
Originally posted April 10th, 2011
By Michael Konik
If we can put aside millennial-old inquiries into the nature of Truth, assuming such a thing exists, we can agree that propaganda, which is less concerned with veracity than with delivering a particular message, is a kind of prevarication. A lie. A tendentious assertion that’s antithetical to our notion of Truth.
I was reminded of this uncomfortable tension when my family informed me that my nephew and nieces, ages 8-10, were being inculcated at school with a “zero tolerance” policy toward drugs. The children, I was told, were alarmed to learn that their Uncle Mike, who has written an honest book about marijuana, was, according to what they were being taught in public school, breaking the law and ruining his brain.
Their parents warned that when I next saw the kids they would have many questions and would want explanations.
Mother’s are like dogs: Everybody thinks his is the best.
Unless we’re living in billions of parallel universes, everyone having the best mom (or dog) is impossible. So I would like to clear up any confusion surrounding this question and set the matter straight. It is I alone who have the best mom in the world.
Sorry. I’m just a lucky guy.
Now, I’m big-hearted enough to recognize the lovely and endearing qualities all the other mom’s out there possess, and I’m gladdened to know that countless sons and daughters enjoy something approaching the satisfaction I enjoy. Nothing in life matches a mother’s love and affection, her concern and care, her passion for her children. Maternal nurturing is one of the brightest forces in the known universe, and all of us fortunate enough to have a mother to guide us and protect us know the beauty . . . → Read More: My Mom
Originally posted October 14th, 2005
By Michael Konik
Aside from the concept of family, few pursuits are more important to Americans than education. Our politicians return to the theme as insistently as the repeating leitmotif of a pop song: We must invest in our future; we must spend more, do more, care more so that the quality of education improves — and, the logic follows, the quality of life for our children and society in general will improve.
It’s a constant and unwavering belief: Education is our number one priority (except when there’s a war on or our oil interests are being threatened.)
But what would happen if everyone, not just the sons and daughters of the economically privileged, got the best education money can buy? Who would labor in our factories, drive our trucks, stock the grocery shelves? The vocational point of getting a good education — aside from becoming a wiser and more . . . → Read More: Do We Really Believe in Education?
All the regulars at Marty Erndel’s Thursday night poker game had nicknames calculated to offend anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be invited to Erndel’s exclusive weekly affair. To the players, this was a big joke: Aside from the seven regulars, the Lucky Seven they called themselves, no one knew the game existed. Not the wives, the girlfriends, the media, the congregations, the board members, the secretaries, the IRS. No one.
If, like us, you don’t watch much television and, therefore, effectively shield yourself from the indignities of all the marketing/messaging/propaganda used to sell products and “lifestyles,” when you come face-to-face with the fire-breathing beast, your ignorance of Basic Ideas might take your breath away.
Now’s the perfect time to assess our nuclear option. (We would have said “re-assess,” but for most of us a critical assessment hasn’t ever happened.) Now’s the time to make a big change. A series of scandals involving our nuclear weapons force has spurred leading war-makers, like Barack Obama and…
“Revolutionary Words.” Sounds intriguing, and possibly…violent?
Not that kind of revolution. We’re talking about the bloodless kind, the mind revolution, each individual looking deep and changing the one and only person he/she/we are able: ourselves, one at a time. “Revolutionary Words” are those that dare to speak the truth out…
If a candidate pledged to legalize drugs and prostitution, end imprisonment of all but the violent, rig the financial system to operate in reverse (making the rich get poorer and the poor get richer), slash military spending by at least 50% and then repatriate all the brave men and women…
The Los Angeles-based Filipino-American singer-songwriter Kira Hooks has a beautiful life ahead of her. Based on her debut recording, “Elephant Heart,” twelve well-produced original songs that defy strict genre categorization — think “jazz and soul-inflected pop” — almost anything’s possible for this extravagantly talented musician. Hooks is a good writer, and a good instrumentalist. But […]