CommentaryCommentary

Bob Dylan Abides with “Stay with Me”

So, on his current tour—or, if you prefer, the current leg of his “Inevitably Going to End One Day” tour—Bob Dylan has been closing his shows in an unprecedented manner, with a song he had never sung in concert before. I’d daresay that precious few singers have sung this song in concert before (and I’d […]

Posted on November 25th, 2014

Why Sad Music is Cheering

Science sometimes makes so complicated those truths which are so very simple.

Posted on November 5th, 2014

Bob Dylan – “Never Gonna Be The Same Again”

Although it was during the mid-1980s that yours truly happened to become a Bob Dylan fan, listening to his albums from that period has sometimes seemed like a guilty pleasure. While I’d stick up unreservedly for a certain number of those songs, there are those others that just seem silly. Yet, sometimes I kind of […]

Posted on October 30th, 2014

Ebola, God, Just Sayin’

These kinds of things tend to be quickly swept away in the major media outlets, so I’m just pausing for a moment to highlight them.

Posted on October 28th, 2014

U.S. Ebola Response Resembles a Dog’s Dinner

This Ebola outbreak is the kind of event that exposes the fault lines in human nature, and we are in the process of seeing the result.

Posted on October 26th, 2014

Leonard Cohen Predicts the Future

So, the other day I saw Leonard Cohen (who as previously mentioned has a new album out) being interviewed on a British television program and during it he was asked if he believed he was an optimistic person, and I thought his response to this question was quite penetrating and timely.

Posted on October 20th, 2014

Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

In Spain, a nurse’s aide named Teresa Romero Ramos contracted Ebola from a patient (in a manner that has yet to be confirmed). In response, authorities quarantined her husband, Javier Limon, and three other people. And then today they killed her dog, a twelve-year-old mixed breed named Excalibur.

Posted on October 8th, 2014

Leonard Cohen on Being Jewish

Speaking of unnecessary yet needed things, Leonard Cohen (now an octogenarian) has just released a new album, titled Popular Problems. At a press availability in London …

Posted on September 30th, 2014

Heschel on the Need for the Unnecessary

“The soul is sustained by the regard for that which transcends all immediate purposes.”

Posted on September 30th, 2014

Strange Days, Weird Monsters, and Prayers

Look at today’s headlines. Here in the twenty-first century, we turn on our various electronic devices and see photos and read stories of human beings having their heads chopped off, mounted on spikes, and displayed to inspire terror and disgust beyond bearing. And it is not as some strange vestige …

Posted on August 15th, 2014

Music, Mali, Melody and Wales

An old saying goes that God made man in his own image, and to some of us it has also always seemed that music is closer than anything else we can identify to the language of God; if these things are so than it kind of makes sense that it is in music that we can best find our commonality as human beings.

Posted on August 6th, 2014

Articles of Faith (and How to Commit Genocide and Get Away with It)

Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is simple enough and says the following:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Posted on August 1st, 2014

A Church with no God

An article in the UK Telegraph alerted to us to the curious “Sunday Assembly” godless church movement. Although the idea was originally hatched by some comedians (literally-speaking) in London, the article focuses on a congregation in the somewhat unlikely locale of Nashville, Tennessee.

Posted on July 27th, 2014

The Bee Gees via Bob Stanley

A cracker of a retrospective on the Bee Gees was recently delivered by Bob Stanley (“Islands in the Stream,” Paris Review). It’s actually just one piece from his book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, and the verve and charm with which it is written makes yours truly very interested in reading the whole opus.

Posted on July 27th, 2014

James Garner 1928 – 2014

It’s difficult to re-imagine my own childhood without The Rockford Files in it, and I daresay it must be the same for many others. Sure: it was just one of a bunch of detective shows on TV (and the 1970s produced some great television) but there was something special about Rockford. Who couldn’t relate to him? He was no superhero; he broke the rules, wisecracked his way out of situations, was unafraid to show fear for his own skin, worked for the pay-off but—you always knew—had heart of gold underneath his jaded exterior that prevented him from ultimately doing anything truly wrong and mean.

Posted on July 21st, 2014

The World Dithers While Israel Fights

In Nigeria, the jihadist group Boko Haram is reported to have massacred at least 100 people a few days ago while attacking, taking over and largely burning down a town named Damboa. They gunned people down as they fled their firebombed homes. The official death toll is naturally expected …

Posted on July 21st, 2014

Elaine Stritch and “Two’s Company”

The media is full of those paying articulate tribute to Stritch as a legend of Broadway and the stage, but I can’t do that, having never seen her perform live. I do have a lot of respect for those who pour their chief energies and talent into live performances that exist in the moment and live on only in the memories (and reviews) of those who saw them. Elaine Stritch did some other screen work (recently a role on a show I’ve never seen named “30 Rock”) but all I really know her from is this English sitcom …

Posted on July 18th, 2014

“Forever Young” at the 2014 All Star Game

The interesting thing about this to Dylan fans might be the evidence that “Forever Young” is one of those Bob Dylan songs that has insinuated itself into the national (and global?) consciousness to the extent that it can be referenced on such an occasion. Perhaps then it is one of those Dylan songs that will outlive even the memory of his name. That might seem an odd thought, but we don’t mind odd thinking around here.

Posted on July 17th, 2014

“Autumn Light” – Ron Sexsmith with Don Black

I’m sure that if you’re a music lover you’ve had the experience of being suddenly struck by a song you’d heard before but had not been especially moved by until then. Music being what it is, and our brains being what they are, it just works out that way sometimes. The song might have just passed over or through you until it happened to find its moment: a moment when the right nerve of yours was exposed to be touched by it.

Posted on July 14th, 2014

World Cup Blues (United States versus Germany 2014)

On the face of it, it seemed completely absurd, but I had to concede that the gentlemen doing the commentary were far more knowledgeable than I on the subject of World Cup football. These were the experts, who presumably knew the game from the bottom up, at the local and national and international level. I was just some American dweeb without cable TV who was tuning in because it seemed like the thing to do on the afternoon of June 26th.

Posted on June 26th, 2014

A Young Punk, a Knife and an Elderly Couple

It’s a bloody and unspeakable vignette far too common in America and in this broken world generally. A 25-year-old man had been doing odd jobs in a neighborhood in Springfield Township, in the state of Ohio, including for a 92-year-old World War II veteran named Hugh, and his wife Ruby, aged 89. Apparently he got the idea that they might have a lot of cash in their home.

Posted on June 23rd, 2014

George Herbert and Samuel Menashe; Improvidence and Faith

Very recently I happened upon one of those discoveries (new at least to me) that seems sufficiently obscure to justify being written down, and especially so while it’s still at the frontal area of the old lobe. It is merely a beguiling echo perceived in two poems, written respectively by two poets separated by about 330 years.

Posted on May 20th, 2014

Death is not the End

Just when you might think it’s become old hat, that you’ve been there, done that and moved on, death has this way of reasserting itself in one’s life in some novel and unexpected way. Endlessly resourceful, death may sometimes take a holiday but, just like taxes, will always return demanding to be paid.

Posted on April 6th, 2014

As Usual, It Will Be an Unusually Bad Allergy Season

It will start earlier, end later, be more intense, more merciless, even more inescapable than before. And each year it is for its own special and particular reason.

Posted on March 30th, 2014

Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell

On Valentine’s day, February 14th, a week after his arrest, Mr. Murdough was locked into a cell on Riker’s Island at 10:30 p.m., in the “mental observation unit,” where he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, in case of any suicide attempt. So much for supposin’. Four hours later he was found dead.

Posted on March 20th, 2014

Neil Young’s Pono is Launched, and Fidelity in Digital Music Gets Debated

Championed and promoted by Neil Young, Pono is here (at least for those willing to cough up the dough on the Kickstarter campaign). Content for the PonoPlayer will be sold by the PonoMusic online store. The CEO of PonoMusic, John Hamm, promises “studio master-quality digital music … the way the artist recorded it.”

Posted on March 12th, 2014

Memories of Pete Seeger

[Editor’s note: It’s a privilege to here publish this kind, wise and unflinching remembrance of Pete Seeger from Bob Cohen (aka Cantor Bob), who knew him, sang with him, and for a time traveled with him.] I am writing about my mentor and one-time hero of beloved memory, Pete Seeger, or as young women called him back in the day: “Pete’s eager!” I learned so much about the rich, humorous, plaintive, and energetic repertoire of the folks of the U.S.A. and also all over the world from Pete. And I learned from him how …

Posted on February 20th, 2014

Brisk Walks “Boost Your Memory”

Time was that the average human being would go for a brisk walk pretty regularly, for the purpose of fetching water, or firewood, or pursuing a comely potential consort, or escaping from aggressive neighbors wielding spears, or retrieving the newspaper from the lawn. But the internet has changed all that.

Posted on February 18th, 2014

New York City Winter

There hasn’t been a winter like this in New York City since … well, since there were wolves in Wales.

Posted on February 13th, 2014

Cantor Bob at 75

Yours truly has been blessed to get to know a little bit the inestimable Bob Cohen over the last several years through shared interests in music and related shenanigans. In his current life, he is Cantor Bob Cohen of Temple Emanuel in Kingston, New York, and yesterday held a shindig there in celebration of his 75th birthday; essentially it was a chance to play music with and and for his friends, and intersperse it with stories of how he became the Bob Cohen he is today.

Posted on January 27th, 2014

Ariel Sharon: One Last Victory

Following his stroke in 2006, Ariel Sharon was diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state.” A few years later a hospital manager was quoted as saying that “the part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs, is intact, but beyond that there is nothing, just fluid.”

Posted on January 11th, 2014

A Merry Little Christmas with Hugh Martin and Mark Steyn

I’m cognizant that it could be considered a little odd to pen an appreciation of an appreciation, but here I do so anyway (just in case, I suppose, someone might appreciate it). The multifaceted writer Mark Steyn recently reposted on his website an audio tribute he made to the late songwriter Hugh Martin (who died in 2011). Martin is the composer of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” …

Posted on December 23rd, 2013

Snowstorm in Central Park

The statue of Balto (hero sled dog of 1925) watches over the first real snow of winter in New York City today.

Posted on December 14th, 2013

It’s All Good: Bob Dylan and Saint Augustine

So, in addition to exploring the idea that all things are good, you may notice that there’s another way in which Augustine’s train of thought jibes with Dylan’s. One of the verses in Dylan’s song goes “Wives are leavin’ their husbands, they beginning to roam / They leave the party and they never get home / I wouldn’t change it, even if I could / You know what they say man, it’s all good” …

Posted on December 8th, 2013

Morrissey’s Seminal Influence

There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of a great EUREKA! moment, and yours truly experienced it today while reading a review of the new autobiography from Morrissey, the achingly-literate British pop-singer and songwriter and former front-man of the Smiths. Apparently, in an aside while writing about …

Posted on December 7th, 2013

Natural Wonders and Belief in God: Important New Research

Once again, scientists have directed their telescopes and most advanced instruments upward, have spent long months studying the data and spending their grant money, and emerged to deliver their important conclusion: The sky is blue.

Posted on November 27th, 2013

Sandy Hook Again

That is, that they are motivated by a desire to inflict spectacular harm that attracts universal attention—even deliberately competing to outdo previous mass killers—in the expectation that the same universal attention will then be focused on themselves and on their own nurtured grievances, frustrations and hatreds, whether contained in published manifestos or not.

Posted on November 26th, 2013

What if Richard Nixon Had Won in 1960?

This got me thinking: if Richard M. Nixon had been the winner of the 1960 presidential contest, would men’s hats have remained in fashion? On consideration, I don’t think so, because I don’t entirely buy the idea that JFK alone altered that fashion; I think it was bound to take place, and he merely hurried it and provided a prominent symbol. Yet, this train of thought leads to other speculations. The 1960 presidential election was one of the most closely-contested in American history. John F. Kennedy ultimately beat his opponent with only 0.1% of the vote.

Posted on November 22nd, 2013

New Video for “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

It is bad enough, if I may say so, that so many of our pop-musical memories are affected by what occurred in the 1980s, namely the MTV revolution and related phenomena. But there is no need to attach a video of any kind to a record as magnificent as “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Posted on November 18th, 2013

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella

A smile can’t change the weather, or stop an earthquake, or deflect a bullet, but somehow it seems to be able to make these and the other challenges of life easier to bear. As it says in the old Charlie Chaplin song

Posted on November 9th, 2013

River of Love – T-Bone Burnett

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

Posted on October 27th, 2013

Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

And his was a true New York voice, albeit one as dark as the shadow cast by a dumpster in an alley behind a strip-bar. When he released his album New York in 1989, the title itself had an air of redundancy: wasn’t all his stuff about New York? But that one had a special time-capsule-like quality, capturing the city at the very lip of the abyss.

Posted on October 27th, 2013

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – The Erasmus Lecture

Yours truly was fortunate enough to attend, and judging by the energy and passion of Rabbi Sacks’ talk, he is not interested in fading away, but looks rather likely to relish his new freedom and devote it to advocating for the value of faith in the contemporary world.

Posted on October 24th, 2013

Visiting the September 11th Memorial

“But,” I went on, “you can’t really get past the fact that it’s a drain.” The water runs down the sides, and then goes down the hole in the middle. You can call it a waterfall if you like, but waterfalls are not enclosed in this way.

Posted on September 12th, 2013

Heschel on Good and Evil

Seen from God, the good is identical with life and organic to the world; wickedness is a disease, and evil identical with death. For evil is divergence, confusion, that which alienates man from man, man from God, while good is convergence, togetherness, union.

Posted on August 30th, 2013
  • Subscribe Via Email


  • ADVERTISEMENTS









  • Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

    Join other followers