All posts by Sean Curnyn

God question and answer

God’s Q & A

God question and answerA
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 White House

Frank Sinatra Sings at the White House (1973 – Complete Film)

Frank Sinatra White House

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 Charles Street

Andy Statman at Charles Street

Andy Statman Charles StreetIf 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

Dietrich Bonhoeffer morning prayer

Morning Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Leonard Cohen

Dietrich Bonhoeffer morning prayer

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

Under Surveillance

“Under Surveillance”

Under SurveillanceWe 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. Continue reading “Under Surveillance”

Emmylou Harris Will the Circle Be Unbroken

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.

    Jihad Garland Texas

    Jihad in Garland, Texas

    Jihad Garland TexasWe 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

    Autumn Leaves Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan – “Autumn Leaves”

    Autumn Leaves Bob Dylan
    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

    Frank Sinatra – “Send in the Clowns”

    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 Battery Park City New York

    Coyote Caught in Battery Park City, New York

    Coyote Battery Park City New YorkNew 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

    The Cinch Review

    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.

    George Jones last words

    George Jones’ Last Words

    George Jones last wordsThe 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. Continue reading George Jones’ Last Words

    The Strange Inclination of Christian Church Institutions Against Israel

    IsraelI 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 centenary

    Billie Holiday and What a Little Moonlight Can Do

    Billie Holiday centenaryToday’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. Continue reading Billie Holiday and What a Little Moonlight Can Do

    Spring Allergies To Be EXTRA Severe This Year

    Unusually tough allergy season

    It’s the first week of April, and the headlines are piling up already:

    “CDC warns spring allergies could be severe.”
    “Spring allergies hitting early, could be more severe this year.”
    “Spring allergy season has arrived, and it could be a bad one.”

    Ever get the sense you’ve been here before? Actually, everyone’s here each and every year. It’s always the same. Just as with global warming, where any and every kind of weather event proves the theory, so with allergies: any and every kind of winter and early spring sets the stage for an especially tough allergy season. We reflected at greater length on this phenomenon last year:

    As Usual, It Will Be an Unusually Bad Allergy Season. Continue reading Spring Allergies To Be EXTRA Severe This Year

    Leonard Cohen and George Jones

    Leonard Cohen’s Bow to George Jones

    George Jones Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen is about to release an album of recordings from his most recent concert tours: not so much the hits as the rarities. On it will be his performance of “Choices,” a song that George Jones made his own and made famous. George Jones and Leonard Cohen were both on concert tours in 2013. George Jones was then 81; Cohen was a fresh-faced 78 going on 79. George Jones didn’t quite make it through his tour, falling ill and then passing away on April 26th. His had been intended as a farewell tour, and indeed it was titled “The Grand Tour,” after his classic record of the same name. And Leonard Cohen’s new album is titled Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour. Continue reading Leonard Cohen’s Bow to George Jones

    William Tyndale’s Easter

    Tyndale Easter
    William Tyndale (1494–1536) was the first person to translate the Bible directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts into English. His translation also formed the basis for the King James version, completed roughly 80 years later by multiple committees of translators. It’s been estimated that over 80% of the KJV New Testament is from Tyndale, and over 70% of the Old Testament. And since the King James Bible has been such an incomparably massive influence on the English language (almost a center of gravity since its publication) you could make the argument that no single individual has had more influence on the English language than William Tyndale. For his efforts, he was burned at the stake, as making the Bible available in the language of the common people was not a healthy occupation to be engaged in at the time. (Some may well be wondering whether it will be déjà vu all over again before very long, but that’s an altogether different kettle of fish.)


    If Tyndale had set out to have an impact on the English language for centuries to come, he doubtless would have had no idea how to achieve it, and perhaps would have sat frozen at his desk, quill in hand, until his landlady threw him out on the street for being behind on his rent. No one could achieve a task so great by deliberately attempting it. The task he took on was monumental in itself, but at least specific: to put the Holy Scriptures into words that any English speaking person could understand. By performing this task to such a high standard, he simultaneously achieved things of which he couldn’t possibly have conceived.

    It’s just a pity he missed out on all the royalties.

    Tyndale’s original translations are available in the public domain, but the different spellings in common usage at that time make them laborious for the modern reader to get through. Fortunately, a scholar named David Daniell completed modern spelling editions of Tyndale’s Old and New Testaments some years ago, and here is a passage from the Gospel of Luke, chapter twenty-four:

    On the morrow after the sabbath, early in the morning, they came unto the tomb and brought the odours which they had prepared and other women with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, and went in: but found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were amazed thereat, behold two men stood by them in shining vestures. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them: why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here: but is risen. Remember how he spake unto you, when he was yet with you in Galilee, saying: that the son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

    And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the remnant. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary Jacobi, and other that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles, and their words seemed unto them feigned things, neither believed they them. Then arose Peter and ran unto the sepulchre, and stooped in and saw the linen clothes laid by themself, and departed wondering in himself at that which had happened.

    Happy Easter.

    ……

      Coyotes Now Colonizing Rooftops in Queens (and Why They Should Be Put on the LIRR)

      Coyote roof QueensAs if to follow up on our story from a few weeks ago (“Coyotes in New York City”), a coyote was spotted prancing atop the roof of a bar in the New York City borough of Queens a few days ago.

      Our previous story was really about the surprising development of coyotes showing up in Manhattan, which is a strange island nation about three thousand miles west of France. Queens, by contrast, is generally considered to be a part of the United States, albeit that due to its geography it is possibly even harder for coyotes to get to as opposed to Manhattan. Nevertheless, this is not the first sighting of a coyote in Queens. Continue reading Coyotes Now Colonizing Rooftops in Queens (and Why They Should Be Put on the LIRR)

      Chabad Making Old Things New

      ChabadA happy and blessed Passover to all of those observing it from us at the CINCH HQ.

      I’m a Christian, but I found fascinating a recent article in the Boston Globe on the exponential growth of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch organization. In the Boston area Chabad has grown from 7 synagogues to 26 over the past 20 years, but their growth has been nationwide and indeed worldwide. After the 1994 death of Chabad’s most recent leader, the by-all-accounts-inspiring Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, many suspected Chabad would fade away, but instead they have exploded, growing “faster in the last 20 years than in the previous century.” Where are their congregants coming from? Continue reading Chabad Making Old Things New

      bob dylan shadows in the night review

      (Review) Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

      Review of Bob Dylan Shadows in the NightI’ve long harbored the sense that it’s a bit farcical of yours truly to “review” a new Bob Dylan album; being as much of a fan as I obviously am, my enthusiasms tend to run over: I get carried away (especially absent any humorless editor to beat me down). Why pretend to offer an unbiased review? On the other hand, everyone has his or her own biases, declared or no. A review is most useful or interesting to a reader to the degree that the reader either shares those biases or at least appreciates their presence.

      However, the special way in which it is impossible for me to pretend to offer a coldly objective review of Bob Dylan’s Shadows In The Night is this: I happen to know that he recorded this album for me. That has to affect things on some level. You see, while I like to think that I have eclectic taste in music, a quick glance at the CDs on my shelves or the gigabytes on my external hard drive would reveal that the music I’ve collected from two particular artists far exceeds the music I’ve collected from any other. Although I’m not into making lists of favorites—top ten favorite female singers, top ten favorite country songs, blah blah blah—there’s no necessity to sit back and wonder who my two all-time favorite musical artists are. They are Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan. Continue reading (Review) Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night