Tagged: essay by michael konik

Vegas, Old and New

While the core business of Las Vegas is the same as it’s always been, i.e., separating people who aren’t very good at remedial math from their money, the style of the place has undergone a well-documented facelift. Gone are the Mob-run grind joints; scrapped are the family destination ambitions; almost forgotten are the days of...

Punishing the Lookers

Based somewhere in downtown Long Beach, California, a technically adept unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that specializes in computer forensics spends the bulk of its workday looking at child pornography. They look at kiddie porn from the Internet. The agents assigned to gather evidence against the suspected pedophiles who create and distribute the illegal imagery...

Astonishing Talent, Astonishing Anonymity

At the annual International Association of Jazz Educators conference, held this past weekend in New York City, one could wander through acres of hotel ballrooms filled with musicians of all ages, colors, and nationalities. And no matter what room one entered, even those chosen randomly or by mistake, one was confronted with so much talent,...

Fear and Whining in Las Vegas

Sprinkled among the reviews for my book “The Smart Money” like so many dog droppings upon an emerald lawn, several notices emanating from Las Vegas — where much of the book’s action take place — have claimed profound disappointment with my use of nicknames for some of the characters. These dismayed critics seem to think...

The Nicest Part of a Worship Service

I don’t attend church services regularly. All the salvation talk is a little much. But when I do, my favorite moment is when the leader asks the congregation to give salutations to those around them. Strangers introduce themselves. Old friends share a handshake. Couples embrace.  In those gentle moments, when the warnings and imperatives have...

Jailing by Example

Manfred Nowak, the United Nations investigator on torture, told reporters this week that governments around the world respond to criticism of their inhumane jails by saying they handle their prisoners the same way the United States does.  How mortifying, how shameful it is to be a citizen of a country that once was considered the...

Good Writers

Readers of my books often ask me what I like to read when I’m not writing. And whenever I post a Thought lamenting our aesthetic culture’s descent into exalted mediocrity and irrelevance, the email correspondence usually includes queries like, “Well, if you don’t think Dan Brown is a good writer, who is, smarty pants?”  I...

Size Queens

Despite our vigorous protests to the contrary, what Americans value more than “family” is quantity. We are a nation of super-sized dreck.  As our population eclipses 300 million — bigger and better every day — we are less inclined to appreciate (or even acknowledge) anything that is accomplished on a small scale. “Go big or...

How to Be Happy, in Three Easy Steps

1) Surrender all ambitions to make, do, or build anything truly great. Trying to achieve greatness will lead to certain failure for everyone, except maybe Tiger Woods. The odds are so stacked against you — like, I don’t know, 10,000,000 -to- 1? — that you’re going to fail in this lifetime and probably the next...

A Modest Proposal for World Peace

The international furor surrounding North Korea’s underground detonation of a nuclear bomb reminds us that several nations on our planet have the ability to obliterate all the others. Hooray for us, we’re one of them! The outrage at Kim Jong Il’s putative procurement of weapons of mass destruction isn’t because he’s starved his country to...