Culture

A Case for Empathy

I recently read an essay by Namwali Serpell, author of a new and widely acclaimed novel The Old Drift, called The Banality of Empathy. Her main issue: art doesn’t promote empathy. And even if it did, why would that be good? Serpell asks this because to her empathy means to “be” or “inhabit” or “consume”…

Will Vigilance Matter?

I’m a little late to the hit sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem. I’d heard of it years ago, but before I recently started reading the book I didn’t realize Barrack Obama had given it a thumbs up, or that Amazon had planned to spend a fortune to bring what has become a trilogy to the…

2+2 Now = Everything

This is not about fake news. That’s a separate realm. It’s where truth dies when the size and effort of the lie is enough to give it credence. This isn’t about relativism, though that’s very much alive. It’s thriving in Canada, where the governing party is tying itself in knots talking about my truth, his…

Free Solo is Genius on Film

Free Solo is the name of the National Geographic documentary about Alex Honnold’s years long effort to climb El Capitan without any ropes. It’s an ironic name because the endeavor came at a steep emotional cost to both Honnold’s relationships and film crew. And, since El Capitan is 3,000 feet high, Honnold ran the risk…

The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Man

I don’t know Jeff Bezos. Never met him. Nevertheless, not long after his darling Amazon reached at $1 trillion valuation, I’m nominating one of his remarks for The Stupidest Thing Uttered by a Smart Guy. The list of candidates for this title is both endless and growing. But context helps Jeff’s case. Real earnings are…

image by Jennifer Adomeit

Our Home and Native Land

I came across, I don’t remember how, an interesting interactive map quite a few months ago. I didn’t fiddle with it much, but its premise has sort of been lingering in the rearward reaches of my consciousness ever since. After recently writing about our “convenient realities“, the map demanded attention. When it comes to Western…

This Is Why You Keep Practicing Piano!

I’ve loved The Doors so long it never occurred to me that some people don’t. I was mesmerized by the opening sounds of The End as it played in Apocalypse Now when I first saw it as a ten-year old. (I was too young to “get” a lot of the movie, but not too young…

Death and Dying, Life and Living

I have no clue how typical my Twitter feed is. It pulls in tweets from a swath of viewpoints, some famous and some social-media famous. Last week it filled up with tweets about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain: mourning their deaths, praising their talents, thanking them for their contributions, praising them for their grace during…

Waiting for Go D’oh (to Return)

From our present perch a survey of the past might lead us to conclude that life has never been more absurd than it is today. Still, if we muster some discipline, we should admit that more likely than not the human condition remains the same. So, as 60+ years ago, we still prize the Samuel…

Anyone Tired of This Yet?

Massacres in the U.S. are like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. They just keep happening. The difference is that unlike Bill Murray, no one seems to be learning anything from re-living the horror over and over and over. (Wait, what’s that familiar definition of insanity, again?) Is anyone getting tired of this yet? Of the…

Unity or Conformity?

A snippet from Hans Eijkelboom’s book People of the Twenty-First Century gives compelling evidence that the herd mentality is alive and well, even in this age when each of us is implored to ‘be yourself’. True, the photographs on display are dated, but there’s little reason to doubt the trend toward conformity has changed — and plenty…

A Wonderful Reminder from Fugazi

It doesn’t come close to being there. But it comes closer to being there any just about any other footage around. In crazy times — no, in all times — it’s worth remembering that what is good in people is precisely whatever it is that compels them to create. And to be moved by what…

You Elected Him, and Now You’re Surprised?

Only if you’ve never seen his highlight reel.. Here’s how he deals with criticism:   Here’s how he deals with personnel decisions:   Here’s how he treats women:   Here’s how he treats diplomacy:   Here’s how he treats contractors:   Here’s how he deals with policy making:   Here’s how he treats golf scorecards:  …

A Case of Mistaken Identity

There’s lots to be said about evolution, faith, and technology. This site is premised on their interaction over time, and especially in these days. Meghan O’Gieblyn, in her piece Ghost in the Cloud, gives  a sincere update on all three. As a Christian who lost her faith, her search for salvation in technology — and the people she finds…

Eyes, Not Webs, Connect Us

There are about 18 billion of them on Earth. Eyes, that is. Peering into them might just save us. Is a scarcity of eye contact crippling modern culture, as performance artist Marina Abramovic believes? Well, it’s certainly not be the only thing, but addressing that avoidance could go a long way to curing our modern…

Lost Art of the Music Video

Not sure if MTV or MuchMusic shows music videos anymore, but artists are still making and uploading them. Many go directly to the trash heap and deserve to be forever unseen, or if seen then wiped from memory. And yet a few prove that the art form is still an outlet for a wellspring of creativity.…

Happy Birthday Mr. Beckett

Were he still alive, Samuel Beckett would be 111 today. Since his death, the world has become more absurd, perhaps more than even he could have imagined. We’ll have to forge ahead without him. But not without his works, nor without celebrating his great efforts to bring them to us. A toast to him and his everlasting…

Fan in Praise of Music

Most of the time it’s best to just let the music speak for itself. That’s especially — maybe always — the case with Radiohead. But on rare occasions awe and adoration are on full display along with the music, and you catch/feel a glimpse of beauty. With the band back in arenas, the time for that…

To Generate Change, You Need to Create Empathy

Want to know why some Trump voters still support him, even after he’s vowed to destroy programs that keep them afloat? Want to know why some college students feel they need “safe places” on campus? Want to know why addicts keep going back for more, overdose after overdose? Here’s a clue: start with a little…

The Irony Is Killing Us

Havoc has a name — and a fixed-move-out-date-residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The tendrils of ineptitude and turpitude slithering from out of there have already wrought devastation within and without cherished borders. Surely, the destruction is not done. On the bright side, most of what has been and will be done can be undone. On…

Poetry and Painting in the Age of Google

Google Arts and Culture, the site and the app, is technology in service of the human. Sadly, it’s little known and probably one of the most neglected of all Google’s properties. But since it is the best bi-product of your privacy-invading, data-mining, banner-ad-generating covenant with Google, it also (nearly) makes Google worth the price of admission.…

The Magical Need of the Artist

It was scribbled in these parts years ago that “it shall be known from here forward that music has the word’s power to communicate quintupled.” It was an awkward way of saying writing can’t connect human hearts the way music can. Now in NT Times Magazine Wyatt Mason has given word to that thought. He does so…

Taking the Bible Thumpers Down a Notch

It’s pretty clear that from right around day one, the Bible was weaponized. That holds for some, not all, of its authors and editors, and most especially for some of its readers and preachers. A percentage of them have always put the word of the Lord in service of their goals, using the Good Book to…

Ang Lee Pokes at Our Complicity

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is an important story of war and media that falls short of its mighty ambitions. That’s OK. But it made news of Ang Lee’s interest in turning the story into a movie, um, surprising. Then the trailer disappointed. It looked like Lee’s idea to film in the 4K resolution at 120…

Humans and Tech in Harmony

It’s a tech story and it’s a people story. Not about the downsides, the bad habits, the life sucking waste of time of games/apps/social media, nor the digital self help apps designed to make up for all of those. It’s about a company (Bell Canada) gathering men and women from sports and entertainment to use…

Time to Fight the Hard Fight

Things are looking down. Just take a gander at how our prospects have taken a turn since the inauguration. But the world is still in one piece, and now, before it splinters, is a good time to figure out how to turn this around. Where to start? How about with a gripping and oh so relevant…

Sweetness!

Sublime creative forces are alive and well, and giving us all cause to celebrate — all the more because they are joining forces. Gorillaz, the brilliant love child of Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett, haven’t released a new track since 2011. But the wait is now over, as the band has in a stroke of…

Comedian in Chief

Donald Trump’s tweets, disturbing on many levels, are a real treat. Isn’t it better to know what the man is thinking from moment to moment, than not? They’re also good for a laugh. Take the knee slapper of a picture he tweeted of himself writing his inaugural speech. Seriously, “deep thoughts” or what? This one alone…

Small Victory in a Year of Big Losses

On December 31st, it seemed that when most of the globe was ringing in the New Year, the celebrations were mainly about ringing out the Old Year. For most, 2016 was a year of huge losses on so many fronts. But thanks in part to the world of politics, where those of opposing views dug their entrenched…

Hole in the Heart

The Washington Post reports that “Americans are dying from a rash of pathologies, sicknesses and addictions that experts call “diseases of despair.”” But don’t believe for a moment that this collection of disease is limited to the U.S. It’s a global thing. The question is, what’s at the source? What are so many people missing…

Epidemic Defined

If you want to see what an epidemic actually looks like, you don’t have to go far. If you live in America, or Canada, it’s right around your corner. Don’t feel like going outside? The NY Times provides a great view you can enjoy from your armchair. Amazingly, when a terrorist wreaks havoc on a…

The Empathy Project

“He auctioned off the pistol that killed Trayvon Martin. She watched her child die in a mass shooting. Can they change each other’s minds about guns?” That’s the big question in the lead of a stellar read in NY Magazine. Whether minds were changed or not in this instance, you’ll have to find out. Missed, perhaps,…