Michael Konik http://michaelkonik.com Home of the Thought of the Day Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:04:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://michaelkonik.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-SmileyReefer-160x160.png Michael Konik http://michaelkonik.com 32 32 27508317 The Leak You Weren’t Supposed to Hear About http://michaelkonik.com/the-leak-you-werent-supposed-to-hear-about/ http://michaelkonik.com/the-leak-you-werent-supposed-to-hear-about/#respond Sun, 25 Sep 2016 15:05:26 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10347 wikileaks-logo-01Comb through Wikileaks carefully enough and you’ll stumble over United States Government documents that make you wonder, “Can this possibly be real?” You realize why the people who run our government want to keep their programs secret: when something is so outlandish that it makes the average citizen think “they’re making this up,” it’s probably easier to just not tell anyone.

Thank you, Edward Snowden! Thank you, Julian Assange!

Don’t worry, reader. You haven’t missed anything yet. You’re not supposed to know about the CIA’s covert machinations. That’s why what I’m about to reveal hasn’t trended on Twitbookgram or become a celebrity cause. But soon — at least until something more interesting comes along, like an adorable cat-playing-the-piano video — everyone is going to be talking about the Termite Squad.

The Termite Squad is an American secret political assassination program, transforming hospice-bound elderly women into suicide bombers. That’s right: They take 100-year-old great-grandmothers, strap them into a weaponized wheelchair, and park the geriatric martyr next to a worthy target.

Healthcare costs are reduced. Patriotism advanced.

No one but the families of our national heroes was supposed to know. But a brave woman named Joan Galt has changed all that. And she’s ready to tell her story.

Assuming this writer does not perish unexpectedly in unusual circumstances: More soon . . .

 

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Homeless Problem Fantasia http://michaelkonik.com/homeless-problem-fantasia/ http://michaelkonik.com/homeless-problem-fantasia/#comments Sun, 18 Sep 2016 16:13:17 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10335 sign-of-the-timesWhat if – and we know this is far-fetched and vaguely ludicrous – what if every person in Los Angeles who has the means and the space were to “adopt” a non-violent, non-alcoholic, perfectly harmless homeless person, giving that man or woman (or family?) a place to sleep and bathe that’s not a freeway underpass?

What if the donor could set the ground rules, dictate the terms?

What if, in a utopian scenario, welcoming a homeless person into your space was only slightly weirder than welcoming into your space a cousin from Milwaukee you only met once before, at a childhood wedding? Potentially awkward; totally manageable, probably. And you would do it, because that’s what family does for family. So, what if we slightly enlarged our conception of “family” and everyone who has a spare guesthouse on their property, or an empty bedroom in their house, or an expansive lawn to pitch a tent – what if we all were to foster family a homeless person?

You can surely find a million reasons why this scheme wouldn’t work and can’t work, and some of them might be true, but let’s just imagine for the sake of discussion the scenario proposed: You’ve got some tent-in-lawnextra room at your crib/backyard/estate, you allow someone to live there, rent-free, for the simple reason you want to love your fellow man as much as you might an adopted puppy, or a lizard you rescued from a lawnmower incident. What would happen to “the homeless problem,” we wonder?

Too bad it’s all too challenging: the logistics, the security, the hygiene. Too bad this isn’t easy. Because if it were, surely we’d all be doing it, right?

We’ve got the spirit, that’s obvious. Every other day someone you know proudly announces ”a new member of our family” procured from the neighborhood cat shelter, or a Guatemalan adoption agency, and sometimes even the streets. We have a great aptitude for generosity, that’s for sure. It’s just that puppies are way cuter than some homeless dude. Fluffy wins.

billie-beachYou know how good it feels when you rescue a three-month-old terrier-poodle from the pound? Instead of buying from a breeder, you literally saved this little girl’s life. You know how good that feels? And when she looks you in the eyes and somehow tells you how grateful she is that you chose her, this sloppy little muppet, to be your baby, you know how intense that feels? The love?

Imagine what it might feel like to do the same thing for a human being.

How would you feel about yourself? That you were too generous? Too Christ-like in caring for the least among ye?

Or might you feel pretty darn grateful for being able to help a stranger, grateful for the chance to be a giver of kindness, grateful to be blessed with abundance and with a will to share the goodness?

It’s a nice fantasy.

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Tenth of December http://michaelkonik.com/tenth-of-december/ http://michaelkonik.com/tenth-of-december/#respond Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:10:17 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10331 George Saunders writes stories about regular people who aspire to be better. Better fathers, better husbands, better achievers. They almost never succeed. Their heartbreak, their delusions — this is the crux of Saunders’ work, and although his stories are laugh-out-loud funny, they’re never cruel. He writes about America — about us — with unwavering compassion. Yet “Tenth of December,” his latest collection, subtly critiques the value system that sends most of us scurrying after nothing, a society in which curating one’s plummeting self-esteem is a full-time job. Not only is Saunders a dazzling writer with spectacular tone control, he’s a true original who “sounds” like no one else. He is blessed, and so are we readers.

george-saunders-tenth-of-december

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The Anthem and American Patriotism http://michaelkonik.com/the-anthem-and-american-patriotism/ http://michaelkonik.com/the-anthem-and-american-patriotism/#respond Sun, 11 Sep 2016 17:01:06 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10325 patriotism-in-questionFor proud Americans who might question this author’s patriotism, let us reassure you that this micro-essay is being written while standing.

When it comes to our national anthem, we don’t fool around.

Unlike certain professional athletes, we understand the powerful symbolism in standing for a song about a symbol (a flag, “The Star-Spangled Banner”), a song that symbolically celebrates “bombs bursting in air,” one of our country’s fondest phenomena, and “the land of the free,” one of our fondest myths. When you stand, preferably with hand over heart, for the playing of an ode to an obscure battle – hooray, we’re winners! – you send a powerful message to everyone else standing near you: we’re all patriots at this moment, no matter how much we cheat on our taxes or outsource American jobs to India. We’re all literally standing for the same thing. Especially those of us unashamed to sing the heart-stirring lyrics. And isn’t that what our troops are fighting for?

Seriously, don’t the sitters and one-knee-kneelers get it? Not standing for our national anthem demoralizes our brave boys and girls in Afghanistan and Iraq. What’s1968-protest the point of their tremendous sacrifice (besides low gasoline prices) if the folks they’re dying for don’t think our flag deserves its own song? With the word “spangled” in the title, if not the lyrics.

Whether or not your agree with the ideology behind not standing for the anthem, we must acknowledge that the current crop of celebrity recalcitrant standers are

successfully drawing attention to America’s ongoing problem with racism, a malady that afflicted our republic at the time of the tune’s creation and that persists until today. Our national dialogue on race is getting redirected for a minute. Thank goodness the latest police shooting of an unarmed black man and the North Dakota pipeline protest and the Clinton Foundation’s graft and outright election fraud during the Democratic primaries and climate change and whatever else is happening in the world have gotten their cycle or two of attention and faded from our national consciousness. Now we can concentrate on the things that really matter, like who is and isn’t standing on NFL sidelines.

patriotismcandidatesYour participation is even more mandatory than before. We need you.

The televised football contest is a kind of war simulation. Therefore, attending a game is itself a patriotic act. Those of us who stand and cheer the warriors – the players – and salute the flag and bellow gustily about watching over ramparts are doing our small part to support the war effort, the one we’re not able to actually participate in except from a safe distance. Other than consume the products and resources we’re told to consume by the kind sponsors of our sports entertainments, what’s the average person to do?

Answer: Sing. Loudly and out of tune if you must. O, say can you see? Because someone has got to show those protester types that there’s nothing so terribly wrong with the Land of the Free that anyone’s patriotic reverie ought to be rudely interrupted for a critical discussion on race.

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A Very Short Thought About Labor http://michaelkonik.com/a-very-short-thought-about-labor/ http://michaelkonik.com/a-very-short-thought-about-labor/#respond Sun, 04 Sep 2016 19:41:50 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10319 Pieter_bruegel_il_giovane,_estate_02We live in an oligarchy and call it “democracy.” We organize ourselves in a gaffed system of corrupted socialism and call it “free market capitalism.” We send poorly educated victims overseas to die for our war-making industry and call them “heroes.” So it probably should come as no surprise that one day a year we “celebrate” Labor while doing all we can to avoid paying laborers a righteous wage the rest of the year.

Almost all of us are enslaved, on some level, by the create-consume-dispose paradigm. Let us emancipate ourselves — and our brothers and sisters who labor much harder and for far less — from this foul state by remembering that the greatest work we can perform is that which serves the divine spirit coursing through every human being, and every other creature and object on this miracle of the galaxy. When Labor receives the respect and rewards it deserves, we’ll need no once-a-year holiday to excuse our daily depredations.

 

 

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Andrew Cockburn on America’s Role in Yemeni Slaughter http://michaelkonik.com/andrew-cockburn-on-americas-role-in-yemeni-slaughter/ http://michaelkonik.com/andrew-cockburn-on-americas-role-in-yemeni-slaughter/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 16:01:29 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10316 It’s not a fun read. Most will avert their eyes, as we tend to do when confronted with imagery and information that contradicts the comforting stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we stand for. But Andrew Cockburn’s “Acceptable Losses” article in Harper’s magazine should be mandatory for all American citizens, especially those who think our bloated military is filled with “heroes” keeping us “safe” and protecting “our freedom.” Cockburn, the brilliant investigative journalist, reports on our “ally” Saudi Arabia’s reckless bombing of Yemeni civilians, hospitals and food-distribution centers — carried out with American F-15s, American cluster bombs and American expert “logistical support.” The unrighteous carnage will continue so long as we elect unrighteous leaders.

cockburn on tv

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At Dodger Stadium http://michaelkonik.com/at-dodger-stadium/ http://michaelkonik.com/at-dodger-stadium/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 17:01:43 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10309 dodger stadiumYou attend a baseball game once-a-year. You don’t follow the sport or the players. Long ago, when you were a boy, you were a true fan who knew all the statistics and the nicknames, the characters and the storylines. These days, you’re only vaguely aware of who’s starting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even less aware of who’s playing for the other guys. You have no investment in the outcome of the contest, financial or otherwise.

You go for the spectacle, the grand circus of light and sound and motion, the hordes of humans swathed in blue and white. The players: beautiful in their graceful power. The field: radiating chlorophyll. The night sky: endless yet intimate. The air: redolent of grilled onions and cooked meat. Dodger Stadium itself: an elegant dowager confidently reassured by her place in history.

Being there is a pleasure, a constant offering of sensual enticements.

Except for the advertisements.

They’re everywhere.

Well, not everywhere. The players are not yet stickered with corporate logos, like NASCAR racers.

But almost every place a perspicacious marketer could hawk his goods is now “sponsored,” “branded” or “supported” by those with something to sell. The outfield wall. The scoreboard. The loge-level partyfoul foul pole boxes. The foul poles.

Yes, the foul poles. If you should chance to look at the gleaming yellow spires towering from the left- and right-field corners – and it’s sort of hard not to throughout the game – you’ll be reminded to Fly a Certain Airline. The message is affixed to a stiff banner that extends a foot-or-two off the pole into fair territory. If, say, Justin Turner or Corey Seager launched a fly ball toward the bleachers and the foul-line and the ball stayed just fair it would collide with the airline advertisement, simultaneously scoring a Home Run and a grand slam of value-added product placement.

Hooray.

We like to tell ourselves that Major League Baseball is “America’s national pastime,” an entertaining exhibition of grown men playing a child’s game. Maybe that’s right. For what could be more American than treating every person in attendance as a potential customer?

baseball advertisingAt the ballpark, our national urge to consume – whether pig innards served as “Dodger Dogs” or an international airline served as an umpiring tool – is reinforced with every pitch and at every interregnum in the action. Not participating in the commercial charade is only slightly less patriotic than neglecting to stand and applaud for the “Military Hero of the Game.” Few can say exactly why our brave soldiers are currently in Afghanistan or Iraq, but we all know intuitively that their sacrifices make our freedom to purchase stuff possible.

And to Fly a Certain Airline the next time we travel to the Middle East, preferably on non-war-related business.

When you make your annual sojourn to the stadium, you’re reminded at every turn how heartlessly mercenary the sport has become. This brilliant pitcher earns many millions of dollars, and that slugger earn many millions more, and, yet, in the curious mathematics of modern capitalism, they’re probably underpaid. Absent the coddled players, without their numbered presence and exalted skills, most of us probably wouldn’t pay to come to a place where our entire purpose is to cheer on cue and buy whatever’s being sold, whether $6 water, $15 beer or the comforting fiction that our cherished athletic competitions somehow transcend the tacky American imperative to make a profit.

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Councilmember David Ryu’s Leadership Problem http://michaelkonik.com/councilmember-david-ryus-leadership-problem/ http://michaelkonik.com/councilmember-david-ryus-leadership-problem/#comments Sun, 21 Aug 2016 16:39:52 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10289 councilmanryu10On July 14, the Parks & Open Spaces committee of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council (HHWNC) considered the future of Runyon Canyon Park. Public comment was heard on whether or not the HHWNC should recommend the immediate termination of the Memo of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Los Angeles and a euphemistically named group called “Friends of Runyon Canyon” (FORC), which has a contract with the City to manage certain aspects of the park.

Two people spoke in support of FORC; one of them was a FORC board member. On the other side, 49 people spoke in opposition of the group (including, it should be noted, this writer).

The massive disparity was no surprise: FORC is roundly reviled among Runyon Canyon park-goers for attempting to build a secret basketball court – a sponsored horizontal billboard  — in the middle of the canyon,  and for drafting plans to construct a parking lot on top of the yoga meadow, and for a litany of other missteps and mendacities that have cost L.A. taxpayers nearly $200,000. Hundreds of people have signed an Open Letter to FORC, asking them to step aside; more than 1,000 have joined Citizens Preserving Runyon and Runyon Canyon Defenders, groups dedicated to preserving Runyon Canyon and removing FORC before they do additional damage.

They’re extravagantly unwanted.

This fact became even clearer six days later, on July 20, when the full HHWNC met to consider the termination motion. Again, resident after resident expressed their distrust and dislike of FORC. This time not a single person spoke in support of FORC; indeed, not a single FORC board member was in attendance for the vote.

Which was not close. The tally was 17-0 to terminate the MOU and fire FORC.

Unanimous. No plausible case could be made that there was another side to the story. No one from HHWNC voted for FORC to remain in Runyon Canyon.

An unequivocal message had been sent to Councilmember David Ryu, in whose District 4 Runyon Canyon is situated. We the people of the HHWNC want the City’s MOU with FORC to be terminated.

A couple of days later, Ryu released a statement through a spokesperson: “The Councilmember believes that the MOU should not be terminated at this time.” Hisryu exultant spokesperson wished to stress the “at this time” part.

“At this time,” the majority of constituents in CD4 will not support the re-election of David Ryu if he doesn’t comprehensively clean up the mess in Runyon Canyon. Let’s remember, Ryu initially provided “positive support” for FORC’s basketball court. Although he responded appropriately to an emergency meeting of the HHWNC and a lawsuit by asking RAP to halt construction, Ryu has never withdrawn his support of FORC, offering, instead, praise for their ineptitude. He’s never suggested FORC should face any consequences for their misdeeds, including a serious ethics violation by founding member Joshua Kopel that could lead to criminal charges. He’s turned his back on the voters from HHWNC who helped put him in office, making a mockery of the Neighborhood Council process. That’s usually not a good move if you wish to have a long career in politics.

Maybe David Ryu, a first-term Councilmember who campaigned as an “outsider” immune from the corruption of City Hall insiders, is a once-in-a-generation wise man who has insight far better than the collective wisdom of his constituents.

Or maybe he doesn’t fully understand what an elected leader is supposed to do. That would be “represent the will of those he represents.”

Anastasia Mann, President of the HHWNC, said, “I am disappointed that David has not yet vetted the position taken by the board on behalf of the stakeholders, but I understand his reasoning. I feel our city reps should take our positions VERY seriously.”

la-me-ln-koreatown-celebrates-20150520-001Ryu’s campaign pledges to honor transparency and maintain the integrity of the Neighborhood Council system are in jeopardy. Sources tell us he’s about to capitulate to developers on the hotly contested 8150 Sunset project, which the HHWNC has also strongly opposed.

Since his press liaison did not reply to written questions, we can only speculate why Councilmember David Ryu wants the MOU with FORC to remain in place when his most important advisors – the HHWNC board representing CD4 stakeholders – have told him unequivocally that FORC has got to go.

That David Ryu would behave in ways that damage his reputation and invite rampant speculation suggests that there must be a pretty big carrot buried somewhere with his name on it. Why else would he risk enraging voters and ruining his future?

The short answer is that this is merely Business As Usual in a rigged political system, where wealthy benefactors call the shots. All the letter-writing, all the meeting-attending, all the public hearings – the process is reduced to a sordid charade when the decision isn’t really made by “the people” but by influence-peddlers. The HHWNC has no credibility as an advisory body when 17-0 votes are ignored. Why should the public bother participating in local government when the end result has nothing to do with them?

FORC’s co-founder and first President, John Gile, is a “professional fundraiser” or “bundler,” or, depending on your view of how democracy ought to function, a “fully legal money launderer.” His job is to bring large donations – no strings attached, of course – to his clients, who include Hillary Clinton, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and CD13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, chair of the Parks committee – which oversees the Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP). The General Manager of RAP, Michael A. Shull, was appointed by Garcetti. Shull and RAP blithely gave approval for the notorious basketball project — shepherded by John Gile and FORC’s current President Don Andres — before a citizens’ lawsuit changed their mind.

Shull and RAP also decided to “reimburse” the basketball court’s opportunistic donor, even though documents presented at a public hearing showed that claimed work wasn’t done, the financial figures didn’t add up and the City wasn’t contractually obligated to pay anything. This abdication of fiduciary responsibility no longer garners much attention; it’s understood that the citizens aren’t really involved in making money decisions anyway.

Now, whether or not you think the Democratic National Committee is a quasi-legal mafia or a quasi-criminal mafia, we can all agree that it’s a kind of mafia, whereHillaryu made members are protected and unwanted interlopers, like Bernie Sanders, are institutionally opposed. The DNC’s true colors were exposed by Wikileaks this summer. They’re not an honest organization, to put it kindly. They rigged the primary in favor of a serial liar – as proven by the FBI, no less – whose Clinton Family Foundation does on a wholesale level what John Gile does at retail: collect “donations” in exchange for favorable treatment. And when a corrupt phony like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is forced to resign, she’s promptly offered another nice job.

David Ryu (along with Garcetti and the rest of the Los Angeles establishment) is an ardent Clinton backer; how that jibes with a concern for “transparency” only he can say. This much is clear: in the case of terminating FORC, someone other than the voters of CD4 guide his decision making.

In the coming weeks, you’ll probably hear a lot of credible-sounding assertions from Ryu and his cronies claiming that so-called “Friends” groups are a vital fund-raising tool for a cash-strapped City. Actually, these groups are also a convenient way for City officials to abdicate their management responsibilities, outsourcing work that they’re supposed to be doing themselves – like managing our parks. In the case of FORC, the group has cost the City more than it’s raised, and their dedication to “transparency” – there’s that word again – is questionable at best. This additional layer of fogginess seems to comfort our politicians. Numerous CPRA (public records) requests have gone unanswered; numerous documents relating to FORC’s notorious demolition and construction that ought to be on file are missing. They “forgot” to inform the HHWNC about their basketball court.

FORC LandYet, if you’re a politician, there’s something useful in having a “Friends” group to handle donations: You don’t have to beg rich people for money, you have friends do it for you.

You’ll also probably be hearing about FORC’s alleged assistance in raising funds for a major land purchase near Runyon Canyon, the “knoll” at 2450 Solar Drive. This acquisition would have minor impact on park visitors, but it would have a major impact on preserving the view of Ms. Julie Anderson, a founding member of FORC. After reviewing hundreds of documents – which include multiple bankruptcies and several acts of mortgage fraud – we’re of the opinion that the City is attempting to buy land it already owns from someone who doesn’t really have the right to sell it. In other words, a complete boondoggle dressed up as an act of preservation, with suspicious connections between the Trust for Public Land, former CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge, and his chief-of-staff Carolyn Ramsay (who lost to Ryu in the race to replace her document-shredding boss). More details on this dirty deal will come to light soon.ryubeingryu

In the meantime, everything’s working the way it was designed to work. The developers are getting “spot” zoning exemptions and private meetings with elected officials while the general public waits hours to speak for two minutes to those same elected officials looking at their phone. On September 18, Mayor Eric Garcetti is hosting a legal bribery event disguised as a concert – tickets $150-$2,700 — in which he and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl are the featured entertainment. (This is not a joke).  The proceeds go to the Hillary Victory Fund.

Lubricated by the constant flow of money, our pay-to-play system is functioning perfectly. Unfortunately for everyone who cares about the future of Runyon Canyon — and Hollywood, and the City of Los Angeles — FORC and David Ryu seem to be comrades on the same team captained by Eric Garcetti, who stands for re-election in 2017.

He’s already raised $2.2 million, with help from the ex-President of FORC.

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Chance for Peace http://michaelkonik.com/chance-for-peace/ http://michaelkonik.com/chance-for-peace/#respond Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:02:11 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10282 ike and bernieDid you hear the latest hippie rant from Bernie Sanders? Or maybe it was Jill Stein.

This is what was said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Poetic, right? But clearly the words of a leftie progressive idealist who doesn’t quite live in the real world.jill on war

Actually, the “cross of iron” speech was originally called the “Chance for Peace” speech, and it was delivered in 1953 by Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President of the United States and Supreme Commander of the NATO Allied Forces during World War II.  A career military man, a member of Augusta National golf club, a classic conservative.

This is how far right our country has moved in the subsequent 60 years: Eisenhower today sounds like a Berniecrat. Comparing military spending to stealing from the people is not something you’ll hear from either Money Party nominee in this year’s Presidential election. Whether neoliberal Democrat or demagogue Republican, the military-industrial complex isn’t something to be warned against, as Eisenhower did; it’s who you work for.

gandhi-21The business of America is war-making and will continue to be war-making until We the People collectively demand peace. Not a conditional, theoretical, Utopian peace, but comprehensive, leading-by-example demilitarization. This is obvious. And necessary. All we are saying is . . . what Lennon, Gandhi and, in his own way, Eisenhower said: We have a chance for peace. Let’s not squander it.

Electing leaders who are adamantly anti-war would be a promising start.

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Francisco Pais: Verde http://michaelkonik.com/francisco-pais-verde/ http://michaelkonik.com/francisco-pais-verde/#respond Tue, 09 Aug 2016 16:59:33 +0000 http://michaelkonik.com/?p=10278 Guitarist Francisco Pais comes from a small town in Portugal where every shade of green seems to burst forth from the land. On his new album “Verde,” numerous threads from guitar history comprise the compositions, weaving an aural quilt of engaging sounds. You hear shades of Hendrix, Waters, Clapton — and all the jazz titans you can name. You also hear Pais’ expressive voice — and his extraordinary band, which includes Ferenc Nemeth on drums and Myron Walden on tenor sax. Far from “easy listening,” Pais’ music is easy to listen to. And enjoy. Recorded without edits or isolation, “Verde” is pure pleasure.

verde

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