Monthly Archives June 2024

Joe Biden Must Step Aside

It comes down to this: Joe Biden—his feelings, his hopes, his accomplishments, his legacy—is not bigger than his country. And right now, that country he wants to lead again through the next four years is in mortal danger from the menace that is Donald Trump.

That makes it imperative, a moral duty, that Biden thinks only of his country, and not himself, in making way for someone younger and more nimble to prosecute the case against Trump. That was the only task Biden had two nights ago, and he failed miserably.

That stiff, slack-jawed and mentally meandering 81-year-old man who stood haplessly on stage, unable to respond in any meaningful way to the usual fire hose of lies spewing from the mouth of his opponent, will not be improving with age.

Yes, he had a cold, he’s a lifelong stutterer, and his staff should be prosecuted on grounds of political malfeasance for obviously stuffing his head with statist...

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Jon Batiste Learns to Breathe in Monumental “American Symphony”

There’s a scene some 40 minutes into Netflix’s stirring documentary on musician/composer Jon Batiste when his adult self is back on the piano bench with his long ago teacher from Juilliard School of Music, working on Beethoven’s “Appassionata” sonata. Batiste starts in and his teacher brings him up short within seconds, even grabbing his hand off the piano as he sternly implores, “You have to breathe; you are not breathing!”

The teacher demonstrates, Batiste tries again, the teacher stops him again and says, “If you don’t breathe, it’s like a computer, it doesn’t express anything. You want life. Breathe!”

In some ways, the whole plot of “American Symphony” can be seen as Batiste working very, very hard, both out of virtuous striving for excellence and an absolute, desperate quest for emotional survival, to learn how to breathe. (The “wanting life” part has always seemed well in hand.)

Batiste is plainly on...

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Farewell, Oh Strange, Exhilarating, Hurtling World: James Dickey’s “Falling”

At just under 2,200 words, James Dickey’s “Falling” occupies a special place in the poetic lexicon. It does so as a kind of fever dream that turns a dreadful event plucked from a news item of the day—a flight attendant sucked out of an airplane and plummeting to her death—into a celebration of the human imagination (Dickey’s) and the “freedom,” if you will indulge me that word given the circumstance it describes, to be found in truly, fully and deliciously letting go to death and extinction.

The poem requires only eight stanzas, hence most of them are quite long. That’s by way of preparing you, though my hunch is you will have no trouble falling right along with it.

Each stanza seems to gain speed and become more densely packed with the almost hallucinatory imagery Dickey conjures for his heroine, whom he immortalizes even as her own mortality flies up to meet her at the approximately 12...

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Brilliant Songs #47: Jacob Collier’s “Audience Choir”

Let me start with what might be an audacious claim that could make for a fun parlor or brewpub back-and-forth next time you feel inclined to jump-start a conversation or veer it away from the sordid unpleasantries that dominate our 24-hour media cycle today. To wit: what, in your opinion, is the highest of the art forms?

Much as I love and admire the arts in general and various artists in particular, I have my own unequivocal answer to that question. I think music is the highest art form—the most powerful, soaring and transformative ever devised.

Actually, “devised” strikes me as not quite the right word, given how music seems, at its most baseline level, to be pre-thought, pre-verbal, both springing from and speaking to some deep inchoate need and capacity of our bodymind to recognize, appreciate, organize and replicate sound, rhythm, and other musical elements into an organic whole for our pleasure, jo...

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A Measure of Justice, At Last

Friday morning, feeling my way down under the outward, cork-popping joy of the previous evening’s news regarding Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of felonious conduct, I found something more basic: a sense of simple yet profoundly felt relief. Something akin to the completion of a long project that had presented multiple obstacles and taxed my patience and commitment and faith that I would ever see it come to fruition.


All his life, Trump had sneered at decency, laughed off honesty as fit only for suckers, marshaled his millions of inheritance dollars to hire an army of lawyers and henchmen who helped him stay one step ahead of law enforcement, the IRS, the creditors he had stiffed, the women he had abused, the students at his fake university, the contributors to his fake charities, his failed ventures in steaks and airlines and casinos and apartments, and perhaps most grievously of all, his...

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