Poem: What’s in There?

kid-with-cellphone2

You could say our addiction to convenience and comfort has been successfully repackaged as the highest end for our brilliant technological means.

Or, you could say that we’re in the grip of a nationwide plague. Of…A.D.D.

Or, you could say we’re simply a country of poorly developed adult minds with the collective attention span of squirrels during mating season.

Or, you could look up, my fellow fool – if you can tear yourself away from the sacred screen.

You’ll see discontented Americans waddling morosely to their cars, wondering why having more of everything hasn’t yet made them happier about anything.

No one smiles at me on the street, anymore. Yeah, that bond has been broken. We can’t look each other in the eye.

Because we’re all face-down in our palms, making marvelous use of the opposable thumbs God gave us and our fellow monkeys. They’re digging for grubs. We’re digging . . . → Read More: Poem: What’s in There?

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

cosmos TV show

What happens when one of the best series ever to appear on American television is remade with 2014 CGI technology? A cheering glimpse of What’s Possible — on television, in our brief lives, out there in the distant ether. We’re exposed to one compelling version of The Truth. “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey,” recently broadcast on Fox and now streaming, is a brilliant celebration of Science, of the scientific method, of Reason’s triumph over Superstition. Hosted by the Carl Sagan of our time, Neil Degrasse Tyson, the series escorts us laypeople to the most distant reaches of our universe (and beyond), in both directions, inward and outward, answering many profound questions yet still marveling at the mysteries we’ve yet to solve. “Cosmos” is the best thriller series on TV.

We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists

The Bad Guys

The Enemy Who Hates Our Freedoms has gotten unruly, crossing borders dreamed up by imperial empires. Impudent weeds with AK-47s and machetes impertinently raise their masked heads, taunting, braying, slashing American throats and luring the big bad bully into yet another unwinnable war. It’s time to mow the grass. Here we go. Again.

It’s been 13 years since the Bad Guys got our attention and, barely trying, won the War on Terror. They left us terrified and flummoxed and hysterical, perfectly prepared to plunder our treasury in exchange for the delusional belief that we would be more secure, that somehow – and this would all work itself out, we were assured – our drones and bombs and torture camps would eliminate the threat, not increase it.

Well, reader, you and your neighbors have spent trillions to feel better. You and your precious children are altogether safer today than ever before, . . . → Read More: We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists

Grand Fatilla’s “Global Shuffle”

grand fatilla

The world music collective Grand Fatilla consists of Club d’Elf bassist Mike Rivard, electric mandolinist Matt Glover, accordionist Roberto Cassan, and percussionist-singer Fabio Pirozzolo. We mention this because the astonishing breadth of the group’s repertoire sounds like there are about 14 virtuoso musicians at work. Grand Fatilla specializes in nothing – except consistent excellence. On their debut recording, they perform authentic, spirited versions of Bulgarian dances, Italian tarantellas, Turkish and Irish songs, Moroccan trances, and some deliciously groovy tangos. Recorded beautifully in a refurbished church, “Global Shuffle” is currently our favorite reminder of planet Earth’s astonishing diversity of sublime music.

More Work, Less Money = Progress

income-inequality-gap

This year the United States economy recovered all of the jobs lost during the great Wall Street Recession.

But here’s the even better news: The newly created jobs pay an average of 23% less than the ones lost in the “downsizing.” According to a report issued by the United States Conference of Mayors based on 2012 Census data, higher-paying jobs in the construction and manufacturing sectors have been replaced by jobs in the lower-paying sectors of healthcare and hospitality.

It gets better. From 2005 to 2012, the analysis shows, the top 20% of earners were responsible for more than 60% of all income gains in our fine and fair republic. The bottom 40% enjoyed a 6.5% increase.

. . . → Read More: More Work, Less Money = Progress

Matt McCarthy

Matt McCarthy

Comedians have their strengths. Some are good with “paper” — prepared written material. Some are expert improvisers. Some create indelible characters. And a few, the rare ones, can do it all. Matt McCarthy, a longtime New York comic currently destroying Los Angeles, has got the magic. We’ve seen him in several realms, including bar-raising sets at Troy Conrad’s comedy-improv shows “Prompter” and “Set List,” and he’s amazed and delighted in every setting. You might have seen him in TV commercials or heard him on his wrestling podcast — he was a writer for the WWE before joining The Pete Holmes Show staff. But when you experience McCarthy live, you’ll understand why both audiences and fellow comics consider him a unique sensation.

Honoring Our Laborers

Laboring

As we make final preparations for the most solemn American holiday, Labor Day, our mind turns to ways that we, and perhaps all of us, can make Monday’s national celebration of workers into a perfect expression of how we all really feel about laborers.

Vegas, baby!

Disneyland?

Another less exalted way of honoring those of us who actually work is to take a small slice of time out of our vacation – thirty minutes maybe? – to ask ourselves a simple question: Why do I believe what I believe?

It’s a useful line of inquiry. Had the millions of Americans . . . → Read More: Honoring Our Laborers

Is the Tall Man Happy?

is_the_man_who_is_tall_happy_an_animated_conversation_with_noam_chomsky

Driector Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) is currently flummoxing viewers with his persistently inventive “Mood Indigo.” But of all his blazingly original creations, the 2013 documentary “Is the Tall Man Happy: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky” might be his most densely wonderful work. Gondry and the indispensable linguist and social critic Chomsky have a wide-ranging chat. But instead of filming the discussion, Gondry animates it (beautifully and strangely). The result is simultaneously light and trippy, heavy and profound – and consistently mesmerizing.

News Quiz

News Quiz

Who said what?

“This act of violence shocks the conscience of the world.”

A) Eric Holder, on the Boston Marathon bombing.

B) Reverend Al Sharpton, on the slaying of another unarmed black man by American police.

C) Prime Minister David Cameron, on the downing of Malaysian Air #17.

D) None of the above.

“They are killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and . . . → Read More: News Quiz

Tom Chang’s “Tongue & Groove”

tongue & groove

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.

. . . → Read More: Tom Chang’s “Tongue & Groove”