Is It Possible That the Problem With Almost Everything Is…a Three-letter Word? I Have Great Tickets I Can’t Use: Want Them? And Free Tickets to a Toni Morrison Event. And Sondheim, GLüCK, Dylan, and More Protein

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Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
Office Space


I was small and smart and mouthy — a bully magnet — so I learned early to mistrust and fear the male of the species. I thought it was just me, but as I grew older and wrote reams of journalism, I noticed that all the assholes were male. (At AOL, when I could assemble a team, I hired three women. They were known as “Jesse’s Angels,” and they were.) More recently, I couldn’t help but notice that female CEOS and political leaders get more done. But it wasn’t until I read Philip Slater’s The Chrysalis Effect: The Metamorphosis of Global Culture that I understood the context. Some samples:

These forces are within the Left, within the Right, within the West, within Islam, within everyone and every institution…. Currently, the world is in the middle of an adaptive process, moving toward a cultural ethos more appropriate to a species living in a shrinking world and in danger of destroying its habitat –– a world that increasingly demands for its survival integrative thinking, unlimited communication, and global cooperation.

What this means for the near future: “more Nazi-type movements…the last convulsive attempt to hang on to the Controller era.” (Reminder: He wrote this in 2008!) How does the story end? Consider the caterpillar:

A caterpillar happily consumes leaves — hundreds of times its weight every day. It begins to eat less. It spins a chrysalis. New cells begin to appear in its body. Its immune system attacks these cells and destroys them. But more appear. They overwhelm the caterpillar’s immune system — they liquefy the caterpillar. And they use that liquefied mass to create a new organism.

The caterpillar is Control Culture — male culture. It wants to stop time, to build walls, to dominate or kill anything or anyone different. The butterfly is Integrative Culture — collaborative, progressive, harmonious.

The Controller doesn’t see misfortune simply as a problem to be solved. His first thought is to find out who to blame.

Sound familiar? You want to read — and underline — this book.


A few years ago, when I saw Brian Fallon in Brooklyn, I stood next to a couple who had flown in from London to see him — he inspires that level of fandom. He’s playing next Tuesday, 2/23, 7:30 PM, at Town Hall in NYC, and I have 2 excellent tickets, in the orchestra, on the aisle. And I can’t go. If you’ll watch two videos, you’ll see why I’m sad, I paid $116. Your price? Make me an offer at

The New Yorker has published Sondheim’s last interview. The last question: What in this room inspires you?

The pillows! [Laughs.] Nothing, nothing. Just the room itself is terrific. The problem is that it’s distracting, because you look out—see, the great thing in New York is that there’s nothing to look at. Lenny Bernstein had a twelve-room apartment, and he wrote in a room about twice the size of this. Looked out at an alley. It had no light. It had some homemade bookshelves—not even good ones. A bar. A coffee table. A couch. An easy chair, and a piano. And that was it. No distractions. That is the only thing I regret: that this is so pleasant.


In the 1970s, Pete Seeger was invited to sing in Barcelona, Spain. Francisco Franco’s fascist government, the last of the dictatorships that started World War II, was still in power but declining. A pro-democracy movement was gaining strength and to prove it, they invited America’s best-known freedom singer to Spain. More than a hundred thousand people were in the stadium, where rock bands had played all day. But the crowd had come for Seeger.
As Pete prepared to go on, government officials handed him a list of songs he was not allowed to sing. Pete studied it mournfully, saying it looked an awful lot like his set list. But they insisted: he must not sing any of these songs.
Pete took the government’s list of banned songs and strolled on stage. He held up the paper and said, “I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to sing these songs.” He grinned at the crowd and said, “So I’ll just play the chords; maybe you know the words. They didn’t say anything about *you* singing them.”
He strummed his banjo to one song after another, and they all sang. A hundred thousand defiant freedom singers breaking the law with Pete Seeger, filling the stadium with words their government did not want them to hear, words they all knew and had sung together, in secret circles, for years. What could the government do? Arrest a hundred thousand singers? It had been beaten by a few banjo chords and the fame of a man whose songs were on the lips of the whole world.


Literacy Partners is doing a Good Thing: presenting a “Virtual Public reading” of Toni Morrison’s novel, “The Bluest Eye,” 2/23 and 2/24, at 7 PM. Readers include Edwidge Danticat, Angela Davis, and Jacqueline Woodson. This late-life reader read it with his daughter, and, years later, asked Morrison to sign a program for “a white kid who felt her book deeply and struggled to write a good paper on it” — she smiled as she signed. Click for free tickets.


Many of you have purchased Louise Glück: Winter Recipes from the Collective, a book of poems that I described as the best book of fiction I read last year. In a recent interview, she tells a story from her childhood:

When my sister and I were little, we spent a summer in Europe with our parents. Most of the time we were in Paris, in a convent school. But for two weeks we went to Switzerland, and we stayed in a hotel that had a little balcony. My sister was 4½ and I was 7. We were playing a game of my design: We were lost in the woods, having to survive on nuts and berries. We had to search for nuts and berries—that was as far as the game went. So we started in different corners of the balcony, and my sister almost immediately said, “I found a Hershey’s Kiss.” And I said, “No, Tezzie, we’re in a forest. You can’t find a chocolate kiss. You have to find a nut or a berry.” She said, “I found another.” I said, “You don’t understand the game.” And then she opened her hand, and there was a chocolate kiss. The lady upstairs was throwing them down to the balcony. It was the funniest little scene. All my life I’ve wanted to do something with those magical kisses.


Mike Cunningham is a longtime regular at Gramercy Tavern, a Danny Meyer flagship. In this interview, he talks about meeting Meyer.

The first time I ever met Danny Meyer I was at the bar at Blue Smoke and the staff had given him a big build-up about me and my patronage and I was gushing about how much I love the place, and the first thing he ever said to me was, “How can I make this better for you?”

Yet another reason to read Meyer’s book.


Thirty years ago, on David Letterman’s 10th Anniversary show, Jan. 18, 1992, at Radio City Music Hall, Bob Dylan and a host of musicians performed “Like a Rolling Stone.” In addition to Dylan, the musicians included Chrissie Hynde (guitar, harmony vocals), Sid Mcginnsss (guitar), Steve Vai (guitar), Carole King (piano), Paul Schaffer (Hammond organ), Edgar Winter (saxophone), Doc Severinsen (trumpet), Jim Horn (baritone saxophone), Maceo Parker (alto saxophone), Fred Wesley & Pee Wee Ellis (trombone), Will Lee (bass), Anton Fig (drums), Jim Keltner (drums), Rosanne Cash, Nancy Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Michelle Shocked and Mavis Staples on backup vocals. Especially wonderful: Carole King on piano, Mavis Staples at the end, and — of course — a scowling Dylan.

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