The North

The-North-Slow-Down-This-Isnt-the-Mainland

The descriptor “easy listening” connotes saccharine elevator music, and “goes down easy” suggests diluted medicine. The debut album from The North, a Brooklyn-based piano trio, is called “Slow Down, This Isn’t the Mainland,” and the entire recording is indeed easy like Sunday morning and smooth as a polished seashell. But there’s nothing insipid or cloying; the journey is an aural pleasure. Recorded in Hawaii, “Slow Down” is relaxed, gentle, charming, approachable, and utterly pleasurable. The band covers Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan beautifully. The bulk of the project, though, is devoted to lyrical originals, mostly by pianist Romain Collin. His virtuosity, like bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Abe Lagrimas, never calls attention to itself. The North is all about songs — melodies and grooves and especially dynamics. Imagine the Bad Plus blissed out and chilling on a beach. The result is one of . . . → Read More: The North

Poem: How the Revolution Started (First in a Series)

pee-in-cup-400

He’s outfitted for combat:

Ankle boots; black dungarees; Sam Jones belt with cuffs and mace and other tools of the craft; bulletproof vest; sunglasses; implacable stare.

And a gun, holstered at the moment.

The nametag says “Ortiz” or it could be “Gomez” or “Gonzalez”

Or whatever you want it to be.

He’s standing in the parking lot

Guarding the bank where inside there must be more money than Mr. Ramirez will earn

In his lifetime.

 

Sometimes he imagines with a sense of wonderment

The origin of all that he protects: Where did it come from? And then this is the part Mr. Garcia always returns to, like a reliable reading spot: What did all those people streaming through the doors

That he oversees and protects, how did they get it?

What did they do? What was their trick?

Besides being born here?

He . . . → Read More: Poem: How the Revolution Started (First in a Series)

Rob Gleeson

rob gleeson

Network television viewers might be acquainted with Rob Gleeson as a charming second-banana in various national commercials. Aficionados of the Los Angeles improv-comedy scene know him as a charming leading-man in various stand-up and storytelling shows. Raised in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, minutes from the Konik childhood homestead, Gleeson’s energy and visage are Midwestern unthreatening, which serves him well when shilling for corporations. But his astonishing improvisational chops are what’s got us excited. A recent epic appearance on “The Todd Glass Show” podcast with fellow comic Ian Karmel demonstrated that Gleeson has the ears and wit to create humor out of virtually nothing. You’ve seen him, whether you meant to or not. Now, listen and smile.

Generosity

generosity is good

Generosity makes everyone involved feel good. Both the recipient and the giver derive pleasure from the act of sharing, albeit in different ways. (It’s better to give than to receive?) Generosity is one of the easiest ways to instantly manifest joy, to create what’s commonly understood as “good energy.”

We all like getting surprises; we all like being thought of by others. What’s less universally appreciated is the benefits that accrue to the giver: a sense of well-being, of bigheartedness, of grace. When you give from the heart, you have no motive other than to brighten the life of someone else; when you do, the sun shines on both of you.

“Give until it hurts” is a popular credo in the political bribery industry. But true generosity involves no pain. As the kids say, it’s all good.

We’ve been making a point of reminding ourselves to be . . . → Read More: Generosity

We’re No (April) Fools

We're No Fools

In the spirit of light-hearted playfulness of April Fools Day, the Los Angeles Times tried to pull one over on their (dwindling) readership. But the cleverest among us realized their ruse, and instead of feeling perplexed and outraged we enjoyed a hearty chuckle. All in good fun!

The April 1, 2014 edition’s lead editorial, on page A10, was headlined “Climate change here and now.” The sub-head said: “Crop yields are down, deaths from heat are up. A U.N. panel’s report should be a call to action.” The editorial encapsulated the report’s most alarming warnings – impending disruption of the world’s food supply; dying oceans; droughts – and concluded that, in a rational world, the report would be more than enough to propel world leaders into action.

The final sentence: “We [should] discuss how quickly we can reduce [climate change’s] severity by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and which . . . → Read More: We’re No (April) Fools

Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing”

the most important thing

When a performance is difficult to explain yet utterly cogent to live audiences, something suspiciously like art is probably happening. In the case of composer Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing,” a mélange of music, video, dance, and comedy, the results are wildly entertaining, formally provocative, and resolutely their own thing. That’s not easy in a culture built on reiteration. But the Israeli-born, Berklee-educated, Brooklyn-based Koren appears to have an essential quality intrinsic to liberated creators: fearlessness. Disembodied heads singing in harmony; tiny hands clapping and snapping; nonsense syllables conglomerated into a symphony — “The Most Important Thing” is subversive, surreal, and, if you’re hip, unmissable.

Poem: Better Angels

love thy neighborhood

Out on errands, out on foot seeing and breathing

whatever passes for Nature

in Hollywood,

I – which means you-me-we-us – you were doing what you always do on gentle mornings

cinematically sunlit from the back:

you were noticing. Walking and noticing

energy organizing in most attractive and repellent ways. Seeing a fraction of the all and, overwhelmed

by the majesty and the emptiness,

the majesty of the emptiness,

you sigh smile

stepping once more into the opposite of the abyss.

 

Earlier this morning you returned the phone message of

someone who calls you only when she wants something.

(She wanted something; you tried to be generous.)

Later today you’ll rendezvous with

someone who meets you only when he wants something.

(You will try to be generous.)

Now you’re at the stoplight, waiting to cross the Boulevard thrumming with the echoes of Kenyan feet.

Karmic accounting . . . → Read More: Poem: Better Angels

Honestly

which mask today

Folks who begin sentences about themselves with the word “honestly” are subtly implying that there are times, perhaps many times – this particular time when they’re talking to you being an exception, of course – when they’re not honest. That’s why they’re prefacing their personal revelation with a qualifier, a certification of authenticity. This time, you can be assured, they’re not being dishonest, and it’s good to be reminded.

Honestly, we didn’t think we could ever write an essay this open and vulnerable.

This must be a mistake, we thought. These “honestly” people probably mean to say “candidly.” They’re making what used to be known in the days of Strunk & White as a “usage error.” Since we’re accustomed to hearing passing Runyon Canyon hikers (most of them under-30, most of them female) use the word “like” dozens of times – honestly, dozens! – in a single . . . → Read More: Honestly

Poem: On Watching a Bee Expire in the Garden

bee on the ground

Death and life are interchangeable,

inextricably entwined.

Without a brain there is no thinking,

no motoring of the mind.

Fret not about the end impending

when you suppose you’ll not be able

 

to kiss and laugh – oh, all the pleasures

almost justifies the pain.

Without a wound there is no succor,

unwelcome drought, cherished rain.

Call it fated, then call it luck, or

consign your dance to humble measures.

 

But dance you must. And singing! Loudly.

And loving oddly. And now

you see that when the playing concludes

what’s left is not about how

or when you tamed unbearable moods.

No. Embrace your death – and life – proudly.

Poem: When We Make Contact

The Other and Us

When we make contact

with the extraterrestrials, the Aliens as they’re called – the Other in its most foreign form –

when we do, what do you think will happen?

What will you feel?

Relief? Fear? Bewilderment? Ecstasy?

Will they be exactly like us, much improved? Or – and this seems more likely – will they

be nothing like us, magically so?

Who will be more intelligent? More evolved? Who will have

figured out the mystery of the universe most fully?

Could it be us? Would that make you happy or sad?

Will black holes and fifteenth dimensions and all that’s sublime and inscrutable

become known and understood?

Would that make life better or worse for you?

When we make contact with whoever is out there,

anything could happen.

Anything might happen.

And though we can’t quite yet hear their calls across the galaxies, maybe that’s . . . → Read More: Poem: When We Make Contact