52° (F), raw and raining is what it is on this June 2nd; the same as it was on June 1st. Now there are places getting much worse weather, so this is not any cry for sympathy. However, this is a beginning to summer unlike any yours truly has experienced in the last couple of decades in New York. The season may not officially begin until June 21st, but the warm 70° and 80°+ weather had always settled in for the long haul by the start of June. The current chilly snap feels like yet one more tentacle of this past winter that did not want to die, reaching up from the cold grave when we thought it had finally truly gone. Continue reading I Like New York in June
All posts by Sean Curnyn
Bob Dylan: “Obsessed with Aging”?
Anything Bob Dylan does continues to be grist for the media machine, as if he were a slightly more hirsute Taylor Swift, and the news that he would appear on the second to last episode of the “Late Night with David Letterman” show duly got the presses rolling. I was struck by the angle taken in New York’s Daily News, where, underneath a photo of the “legendary rocker” was this bit of editorializing: “The singer has been particularly obsessed with aging as his own career winds down.” Aside from begging for the observation that we all should be glad to have as many number one albums as Dylan when our careers are winding down, it made me wonder: Is Dylan really obsessed with aging? The article also states: Continue reading Bob Dylan: “Obsessed with Aging”?
A Rat in Need …
Researchers at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan have been investigating whether rats are helpful to one another in times of trouble, and to what extent it might be said that they possess powers of empathy. To that end, they performed a series of experiments with rats in cages separated by a door that the rats could learn to open with their paws. They demonstrated that, in ordinary circumstances, a rat would not open the door to enable entry for another rat in the separate area of the cage. However, if the other rat were in distress—specifically by virtue of struggling in a pool of water—the rat in the dry area would tend to figure out how to open the door and allow that distressed rat inside to safety. Continue reading A Rat in Need …
B.B. King Moves On
Rest in peace, B.B. King, passed on at the age of 89. He essentially did something very simple, but to a very high and dedicated standard, and he kept working with his gift right up until the end. You can’t say better than that. But actually you can: You can also say he always seemed like an exceptionally nice man. Buddy Guy called him “the greatest guy I ever met,” and no doubt a lot of people will be remembering him similarly. Continue reading B.B. King Moves On
Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours
Frank Sinatra passed away on May 14th, 1998. I recall thinking at the time that with Sinatra gone, all bets were off—anything might now happen in this sad old world. (And I think the record would show that my fears in that respect have been proved entirely correct.) Continue reading Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours
Dog Flu is Spreading
The canine influenza A H3N2 virus kicked off its run in Chicago, that toddlin’ town, several months back, and has been spreading across the Midwest. Today a case has been reported in Houston, Texas, so it seems that this virus has gone well and truly viral.
The CDC says, among other things, that: Continue reading Dog Flu is Spreading
God’s Q & A
Pew Research Center study just came out finding a decline in the percentage of Americans who say they follow an established religion, and an increase in the percentages who claim to be either atheist or agnostic or “nothing in particular.”
I doubt that I’m the only one who spotted a tone of triumphalism in the resulting media headlines, such as: “Study: More Americans than ever spurning religion” (CBS); and “The Rise of Young Americans Who Don’t Believe in God” (New York Times). Continue reading God’s Q & A
Frank Sinatra Sings at the White House (1973 – Complete Film)
It would always be a great time to rediscover this wonderful treasure, but it’s especially apt now, in this, Frank Sinatra’s centenary year. On April 17th, 1973, Frank Sinatra performed at the White House, on the occasion of a state dinner in honor of Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti of Italy, with President Nixon, First Lady Pat and assorted dignitaries as his audience. It was a sterling show, and it was recorded, but never officially released. For my part I didn’t even know that a complete film of the evening even existed, although the audio has been released over the years in bootlegged form. (My first encounter with the concert was hearing the great Jonathan Schwartz play some extracts of it on New York’s old WQEW in the early 1990s, when I also happened to be in the first full flush of Sinatra fan-dom.)
Frank Sinatra had famously announced his retirement in March of 1971, so this 1973 show was a special exception to that status … and also turned out to be effectively the end of it. His orchestra on the night was the United States Marine Band, with the great Nelson Riddle conducting (including on some of his own classic arrangements), with Al Viola sitting in on guitar and naturally Bill Miller on piano. Continue reading Frank Sinatra Sings at the White House (1973 – Complete Film)
Andy Statman at Charles Street
If you’re ever visiting New York City (or indeed if you live in the area) and are looking for a truly only-in-New-York thing to do, you could most certainly do no better than to check Andy Statman’s concert schedule and see if you can catch him at his home base of Charles Street, in the West Village, where his trio plays informal gigs in the basement of a humble synagogue. Andy Statman plays clarinet and mandolin; in fact, that’s exactly how he was described to me when I first heard of him, and naturally (me being me) I pictured in my mind’s eye a man playing a clarinet and a mandolin at the same time, and I thought to myself, “That’s pretty amazing.” Continue reading Andy Statman at Charles Street
Morning Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Leonard Cohen
A little while back, Mrs. C. came across a prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that we often return to when, as on our better days, we find a few minutes in the morning to stop and pray. It turns out it’s quite well known in the right circles, and there are a variety of English translations, but I’ll include here the one we know best: Continue reading Morning Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Leonard Cohen
Delicious Insects: Good for You, Good for Earth
Popping up in some news outlets today were remarks made by former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in an interview with The Guardian, where he advocates the consumption of insects as a source (for humans) of animal protein. He says:
Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. They make up part of the diet of two billion people and are commonly eaten in many parts of the world. Eating insects is good for the environment and balanced diets.
This of-course is nothing new in the world of environmentalism. Satisfying one’s need (or desire) for animal protein with meat has long been considered inefficient and wasteful, due to the energy required to fatten cattle and the like, and the large tracts of land needed to support them and their families. At the opposite end of the scale, instead of raising a cow in order to have it convert grass into nice juicy hamburgers, it would be most efficient of you instead to simply eat the grass yourself. It cuts out so many middlemen and, as we know, it all ends up going the same place anyway.
These kinds of arguments (albeit less elegantly-made) have so far failed to convince very many people to do the right thing. So the campaign has advanced to moving people away from eating large animals and towards eating very small animals instead. Insects don’t require vast fields on which to roam and feed. In fact, as you may have noticed, you can pretty much feed an army of ants with just a splotch of spilled strawberry jam. Cockroaches will seemingly eat anything, even newspaper. And in any case you will rarely actually observe an insect sitting down and eating at all; it may well be that most of them simply live on air and sunlight. If so, then if we could ourselves eat insects, we could achieve our own long cherished dream of living on air and sunlight, albeit just one step removed.
These are weighty facts, and indeed all of the data, once you analyze it (as I have), is highly persuasive. We should be living on bugs. The thing is, unfortunately, that I’m not quite ready to eat insects myself. There are reasons for this that stem from a troubled childhood, and we really don’t need to get into all of that now. However, there’s no question in my mind but that it would be a good thing if everyone else switched to the insect diet, and so here are some recommendations for beginning on that path.
You must not, of-course, simply squash the nearest bug and put it in your mouth. This is because you really don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You might eat an insect that is needed for other purposes, or one that has a wife and kids at home, or one that once ingested will make you see strange shimmering colors and sing John Denver songs.
You need to be guided towards eating insects that have been properly selected, carefully raised, and humanely slaughtered. (Slaughtering insects humanely, I need hardly tell you, requires the proper instruments and superb eyesight.) Fortunately the answers are right here, and you can obtain all the environmentally-correct animal protein you need quickly and reliably via Amazon.com.
You can do no better than to begin with cricket flour. “Cricket contains twice as much protein as beef, as much calcium as milk, as much Vitamin B12 as salmon, and 17 amino acids, including Lysine.” You can begin by sprinkling your cricket flour on other less environmentally-correct foods, and then progress steadily towards removing those foods until you’re eating nothing but pure cricket. At the time of writing, it is priced at $12.97 for, well, just under a quarter of a pound, and … what a bargain, when you consider that it takes approximately 1,100 crickets to make up this little bag of “flour”! Can you imagine the labor involved in capturing and humanely slaughtering all of these
little buggers beautiful creatures?
And no one said that saving the Earth would be cheap.
One thing, however: just a piece of advice to the manufacturers. If I personally were marketing cricket flour, I would probably tend towards a more generic kind of packaging. That is, I would put it in a bag that doesn’t feature a big picture of a bug with many legs and antennae and so on. Maybe I’m crazy.
On the other hand, if you prefer to know exactly what you’re eating and glory in it, then what you’ll be wanting are the Crispy Fried Achetas with Salt. Here you can revel in the gorgeous legs, the delicate antennae, and that unmistakable and satisfying crunch as it all goes down. Achetas are basically crickets from Thailand, and click the following link to enjoy a wonderful YouTube video of one in its natural environment. Gets your mouth watering, I bet.
Order through the helpful links here, and this site will earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. So, while you’re saving the Earth, you’ll be saving THE CINCH REVIEW too, and the reward for that in heaven will be boundless.
We live in an age of near total surveillance. For my own part I live in New York City, where I know I can’t walk fifty feet without being recorded on someone’s camera. But far beyond that, we know that the “intelligence community” has access to all of our digital communications and activities, and likely our analog ones as well. We are given to understand that all of this is the price we must pay for safety, in order to thwart would-be terrorist attacks.
Being “under surveillance” meant something different back in the old days, when the entire population wasn’t being subjected to it. Remember the quaint concept of being tailed? That meant an actual human being would be watching where you went and what you did, from a discreet distance. We’ve all seen the old movies and cop shows, with the guy outside in his car, keeping his head down and going through endless cups of coffee, pastrami-on-rye sandwiches and cigarettes.
How old fashioned and ridiculous. Except that if the bad guy under surveillance left his house, armed and dangerous, with mayhem on his mind, the guy who was on his tail was actually in a position to stop him from accomplishing his ends, or at least to call for back up. This is as opposed to the effectiveness of a roomful of 20-something-year-olds in their cubicles combing through millions of emails for provocative keywords in order to compile reports to forward to some slightly older dweebs in middle-management.
You probably get where I’m going with this, but let’s go there anyway. It’s well known that Boston marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “under surveillance” by U.S. federal authorities due to previous radical Islamic activities and due to the fact that Russian intelligence services had warned U.S. intelligence services about him. Yet, despite this “surveillance,” he and his brother, Dzhokhar, were able to assemble pressure-cooker bombs in their home and then carry them and place them right beside innocent people, including children, near the finish line of the Boston marathon. Some surveillance, huh? (But I’m sure that their emails were all properly scanned for provocative keywords.)
And just the other day in Garland, Texas, a man named Elton Simpson who was “under surveillance” by the FBI since 2006 for jihadist activities was able, along with accomplice Nadir Soofi, to leave his house, armed with an AK-47 and dressed in body armor, and drive unimpeded to the site of an exhibition of cartoons of the alleged prophet Mohammed, and get out of his car and commence firing. (Luckily, Simpson and his jihadist friend were forced to permanently revise their plans by a Garland traffic police officer working security at the event, armed only with a pistol and a cool head.)
So, even putting aside all of those pesky constitutional issues, the question is this: What is all of this universal surveillance getting us, versus putting actual tails on actual human beings planning actual harm to real people?
And if individuals who are “under surveillance” are capable of getting away with these horrific acts, then what does “surveillance” mean other than the total loss of privacy of the general population? That is, we are accepting George Orwell’s 1984, in the name of stopping bad actors who the authorities are ultimately not willing to actually target and stop.
I don’t know about you, but as a U.S. taxpayer I’d prefer to be paying for those cups of coffee and pastrami-on-rye sandwiches to keep hands-on tabs on the bad guys versus all of these huge databases and associated data analyzers who are keeping tabs on absolutely everyone to little or no effect.
What can I say? Like Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, I guess I’m just old fashioned.
Emmylou Harris and Co. – “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” is a song that just doesn’t get old, and Emmylou Harris is a singer about whom you might say the same thing.
Currently available via Youtube, here she is with Rodney Crowell, Amos Lee, Mark O’Connor on fiddle and (naturally) Steve Martin on banjo.
One by one they were unseated
One by one they were led away
Now their memory has departed
Will we join them all one day?
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have a new album out imminently, titled The Traveling Kind. There’s a preview available at NPR.org.
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Jihad in Garland, Texas
We might have woken up to news of dozens of people shot to death at a cartoon exhibition in Texas, with scenes of corpses and pools of blood, and triumphant announcements from jihadists declaring that the “honor of the prophet” had been avenged, in a repeat of events that occurred on January 7th, 2015 in Paris, France. Instead, thanks to the good shooting skills of some members of the Garland, Texas police department*, two would-be enforcers of the rules of Islamic sharia are dead, having only managed themselves to wound a security guard before they and their AK-47s fell to the ground. And may that security guard have a speedy and complete recovery. Continue reading Jihad in Garland, Texas
Bob Dylan – “Autumn Leaves”
Bob Dylan recently added the song “Autumn Leaves” to what has been for some time a very fixed live set list. He’s long been playing two sets divided by an intermission, and now he is finishing that second set with “Autumn Leaves,” whereupon he and his band depart the stage and are entreated back for the encore, which continues to be “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Stay With Me.” “Autumn Leaves” is only the second song from his new album Shadows in the Night that he’s chosen to play live (alright: he did “That Lucky Old Sun” live some years back but that’s a different context). Recent accounts say he’s knocking them dead with this song and in fine form overall. Continue reading Bob Dylan – “Autumn Leaves”
Frank Sinatra – “Send in the Clowns”
“Send in the Clowns”: It’s an odd song, isn’t it? A bit queer, you could even say. It’s not so easy to get a handle on what it’s about. But undeniably it’s also rather rich, in terms of its musical dynamics and lyrical drama, and I do think that’s why so many singers have been drawn to taking it up and seeing what they can make of it. It’s been sung by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Grace Jones to Roger Whittaker to Van Morrison to … well, maybe that’s quite enough range right there for any song to claim. Continue reading Frank Sinatra – “Send in the Clowns”
Coyote Caught in Battery Park City, New York
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town / The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down / The people ride in a hole in the ground … and the coyotes have now traversed this town all the way down to the Battery, in the form of Manhattan’s modern and posh Battery Park City, nestled in the southwestern tip of the island. Today a female coyote was cornered after a long pursuit by the NYPD at a sidewalk café in that neighborhood, shot with a tranquilizer dart and then delivered to the ASPCA. Continue reading Coyote Caught in Battery Park City, New York
We’ve Redesigned Ourselves
Not at all trying to steal the limelight from Bruce Jenner, but as you might have noticed we at THE CINCH REVIEW have completed a significant redesign of our website. As they say in Blighty, a change is as good as a rest, and there’s nothing we like better than rest, so we felt we just had to make a change. Of-course, these things are always stressful. There were many fractious meetings, long nights and bitter tears. The design team fought for stunning aesthetics; the sales team made the case for more ad space; and the editorial team just wanted something that would generate compelling content automatically.
In the end, as you can see, everybody got their way.
Last Words of George Jones
The singer George Jones died two years ago. His widow Nancy Jones was recently interviewed, and she revealed something of what his final moments were like. He had been hospitalized for five days suffering with fever, blood pressure and respiratory problems. Nancy reports that over the course of those five days his eyes were closed, and he didn’t speak. Then, while she was talking with one of the doctors at the foot of his bed, he suddenly opened his eyes and said, “Well, hello there, I’ve been looking for you. My name’s George Jones.” And then, only moments later, he passed away.
Nancy is convinced that George was talking to The Man Upstairs. “I know in my heart he was talking to God and he has gone to heaven,” she said.
I don’t doubt for a moment that George Jones went to heaven (because if he went to the other place then the Devil really does have all the good music, and I don’t buy that) but I allow myself to idly wonder if it was specifically God he was talking to in that moment. Some others who’ve had similar very-near-death experiences and come back instead recall seeing a being or beings (familiar or not) who seem to be there to lead them onwards to that next level. No doubt an appointment with God is on the agenda, but, like Paul Simon said, you have to “wait in the line.” And I think on meeting God you’d understand that you don’t have to tell Him your name. So I do think George Jones was seeing an emissary, maybe something like a booking agent for the next world.
In more earthly matters, the George Jones museum has just opened its doors in Nashville.
The Strange Inclination of Christian Church Institutions Against Israel
I am continually and genuinely perplexed when major Christian institutions—whether that be particular Protestant denominations or indeed the great Roman Catholic Church—seem to go out of their way to take official positions on matters of international relations that specifically run counter to the expressed security interests of the people of Israel. It is not at all that I think these churches ought to reflexively support the line of the Israeli government of the moment, but rather that I cannot understand why they feel obliged to put themselves out there officially on the given issue at all, versus merely doing what religious teachers are after all most qualified to do, which is to lead people in prayer for good and peaceful outcomes. Some of us Christians actually devoutly believe in the real power of prayer and conversely have much less faith in the power of bishops and priests to make accurate judgments on matters pertaining to hard-nosed international diplomacy, economics and military strategies. (Call us crazy.) Continue reading The Strange Inclination of Christian Church Institutions Against Israel
Billie Holiday and What a Little Moonlight Can Do
Today’s the centenary of the great Billie Holiday’s birth, on April 7th, 1915. She died far too soon, only 44 years on the earth. Although she packed a good deal of wonderful music into her career, imagine what she’d have accomplished given another couple of decades; with her light, unstrained but supremely articulate way of singing (and given good health) she could have gone on to make masterpieces and electrify audiences well into her old age. Looking back from the perspective of 2015 it seems like hers was one of the first of the celebrated premature deaths of great musical talents that became a long tragic string.
But perhaps that itself is a false perspective; perhaps people have always had this tendency to glamorize the tortured artist or poet who dies too young, too sensitive for this world. Whatever the case, I say screw all that. It’s never a good thing for that talent and that life to come to such an abrupt stop. Imagine Bob Dylan dead in 1966 from the excess and pace of his life then; what a waste to an extent we’d never even have appreciated. Imagine Sinatra in his gloom of 1952, swallowing something lethal or slitting his wrists: what an unspeakable tragedy that we’d never have heard his greatest work still then to come.
None of this is to blame Billie Holiday in the slightest way. She had to fight multiple real demons, and seems hardly to have gotten a break from birth to the grave, from A through Z. What’s amazing is that she managed to record so much great music during the time she had, and stay so true to her talent, and have such a transformational impact on popular singing (most notably on Frank Sinatra, who himself then impacted so many others, and whose centenary is also celebrated this year).
Using that talent, singing as only she could do, surrounded by other hip, gifted musicians, and in her element, she communicated a joy of being alive that soared in spite of the broken world through which she tripped.
“What A Little Moonlight Can Do.” (Below via YouTube, from 1935)