Originally posted August 19th, 2014
By Michael Konik
Guitarist Tom Chang’s debut recording,Tongue & Groove,is an arresting, curry-flavored gumbo of jazz, contemporary classical, and South Indian Carnatic music. What this mélange sounds like is newness personified, a foreshadowing of the globalization of musical cultures. The sonic unfamiliarity doesn’t jar; it seduces. The title track opens with a 30-second vocal percussion solo that would make Bobby McFerrin smile, followed by a blazing groove worthy of Brian Blade. The album features tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, acoustic bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Gerald Cleaver, Akshay Anatapadmanabhan on kanjira and mridangam, and Subash Chandran on konnakol. And at the nexus, Chang, who can (and does) use his guitar like a master ventriloquist channeling distant voices.
Originally posted August 12th, 2014
By Michael Konik
Committed environmentalists know that nuclear power is bad. Evil. The worst. We’ve been trained by incidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima to fear the inevitable disasters that radioactivity will surely wreak upon our energy-hungry world. Not to mention the apocalyptic weaponry that nuclear power begets. It’s a settled issue. According to the provocative and enlightening documentary “Pandora’s Promise,” a beautifully made and persuasively argued challenge to progressive-minded Groupthink, the issue is far from settled. Indeed, director Robert Stone suggests that thanks to third- and fourth-generation reactors, some of which are being designed to use their own radioactive waste as fuel, nuclear power may prove to be a better answer to our energy questions than wind and solar. Crazy? Blasphemous? A cynical propaganda ploy by rich folks with atomic investments? Watch, learn and decide for yourself.
Originally posted August 5th, 2014
By Michael Konik
The painter, writer, and progressive thinker Ben Shahn died in 1969. But his thoughts on Art and Life read today like a freshly-digitized TED talk. His famously provocative — as in provoking genuinely new ways of looking and cogitating — series of 1950s lectures at Harvard were collected into a graciously illustrated short book, originally published in 1960, called “The Shape of Content.” You may know Shahn from his portrait of Martin Luther King on the cover of Time (1965). Reading him 50 years later reminds all of us, creative and otherwise, that the What of art, the content part, has and always will be a meandering path to social justice.
Originally posted July 29th, 2014
By Michael Konik
Remarkable comedic talent in young people is easy to spot. It presents itself insistently and clearly. What the precocious possessor of the talent will do with it — develop it or let it wither — is hard to predict (as demonstrated by our previous comedy New Discoveries). In the case of DC-raised, Los Angeles-based comedian Brandon Wardell, 22, we have a hunch that he’s going to be making people laugh for a long time. Already, he’s a fine joke writer and a confident orator, with flashes of conceptual brilliance that recall Bo Burnham, another young man intent on doing his own thing. We sense in Brandon Wardell a nascent artistry, a growing acceptance of his comic individuality. It should be an interesting journey to watch.
Originally posted July 15th, 2014
By Michael Konik
For anyone who suspects (or has figured out) that much of what is commonly understood to be The Truth About Life is actually a series of mistakes, lies, and fantasies, the film “I Am” is a powerful affirmation that we’re onto something. Director Tom Shadyac used to be Director: Tom Shadyac, the auteur of big-budget Hollywood comedies starring Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy. Addicted to more of everything, Shadyac acquired and consumed and wondered why the hole he was trying to fill never seemed complete. After a serious illness, he switched paths. “I Am,” made with the craftsmanship of an old pro, chronicles Shadyac’s exhilarating journey toward enlightenment. Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky are some of the thought leaders interviewed, along with a menagerie of brilliant authors and scientists speaking plainly and clearly. What they — and the New Tom . . . → Read More: I Am
In the spirit of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and legions of performing social critics, many modern day comedians see themselves as truth-tellers. Their performance is a kind of philosophizing, a search for meaning in an inscrutable universe. Comedian, improviser, and enlightenment-seeker Danny Lobell‘s podcast “Modern Day Philosophers” is an ingenious hybrid of traditional philosophy — Plato, Hegel, Kant — with “modern day” philosophy, Lobell’s comedian friends. The dual joys of the show are learning (by filling in the gaps in your scholastic reading, or being reminded Who said What) and laughing at the insights, rants, and anecdotes provided by Lobell and his guests, who range in intelligence and erudition from Very Smart to not. Sometimes MDP is clever, sometimes it’s stupid. But the impulse to learn and laugh is omnipresent. It’s our kind of show.
Originally posted June 17th, 2014
By Michael Konik
Do you agree? Check this box to proceed…after reading several pages of legalese rendered in 6-point type. Didn’t bother? If you care about the increasingly obscure concept of “privacy,” the film “Terms and Conditions May Apply” is mandatory — and frightening — viewing. Director Cullen Hoback carefully examines those “T&C”s that we “agree” to millions of times a day, and shows with chilling clarity how Facebook, Google, Amazon, YouTube, and all our other favorite Interweb sites are knowingly and happily serving as giant data collection centers for themselves and for the government. You may not care now, but one day when your browsing habits become the basis of an FBI visit you’ll look back at this groundbreaking 2013 film and sigh.
The 2009 science-fiction movie “Mr. Nobody” evaded our radar during its initial release. Now it’s on our very slim shelf of films “worth watching again.” Directed by Jaco van Dormael and starring a precociously talented Jared Leto, “Nobody” has a central story — a boy on a train platform who is made to choose between divorcing parents — and a clever conceit — Nemo Nobody is the last living mortal (120 years old) in a society of immortals. But this film’s intense pleasure is in visual, narrative, and philosophical digressions that miraculously lead back to the plot. It’s a work of magnificent imagination and virtuoso technique. “Mr. Nobody” recalls the Coen Brothers at their best.
Reggae. World. Rock. Social consciousness. Dharma Gypsys, Volume Two is music for yoga, meditation and revolution — and for obsessive replaying. Created by celebrated yoga teacher and former death metal guitarist Daniel Overberger, the DGs are a collective of some of Hollywood’s coolest musicians, including one of our favorite jazz vocalists, Charmaine Clamor, who leads the chorus on the “No GMO” anthem “Wicked Garden.” Each Gypsy adds her pungent spice to the musical stew. The result is one of the most compulsively groovy records ever to serenade a downward dog.
It would be convenient to lump performers like Kate Berlant into a category called “experimental comedy” or “alt-alt comedy.” But sometimes what Berlant does onstage isn’t necessarily comedy. It’s a kind of art. Yes, she’s fabulously funny, especially when yammering haughtily but nonsensically, like a New Age academic on hashish. And she earns laughs by finding the silly and absurd beneath the surface. We love that Berlant is also blazingly smart. And fearless. And utterly comfortable with uncomfortableness. Seeing her handling the energy of the moment is mesmerizing.
I’m hoping something good will come of my early exit. So it won’t have been a big waste.
I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic. Jesus Christ died for all our sins yet we find increasingly perverse ways to thank him and his Father. He just wanted us to love each other. That’s the challenging part for us, right?
The original Golden Rule — “treat others as you wish to be treated” — sounds fantastic in theory, but isn’t really possible to apply practically, as evidenced by the lives each of us lead. Or maybe it is being applied and is difficult to recognize. Maybe how people wish to be treated…
America’s religious leaders, some of the most esteemed and respectable citizens in our republic, are helping us understand that our precious freedoms — the ones our brave soldiers fight and die for in faraway dust bowls most of us can’t find on a map — are once again under attack….
In a story headlined “Pot’s popularity, state law create trying times for U.S. prosecutor,” a Los Angeles Times reporter named Joe Mozingo attempted a sympathetic profile of a United States attorney who works closely with DEA agents to imprison Americans for possessing or selling cannabis, even when those Americans are…
Guitarist Tom Chang’s debut recording,Tongue & Groove,is an arresting, curry-flavored gumbo of jazz, contemporary classical, and South Indian Carnatic music. What this mélange sounds like is newness personified, a foreshadowing of the globalization of musical cultures. The sonic unfamiliarity doesn’t jar; it seduces. The title track opens with a 30-second vocal percussion solo that would make Bobby [...]