Embrace Your Inner Laggard

I’m not as smart as my television. It has hidden panels with mysterious ports. Its remote control has fields of buttons that I dare not traverse, lest I render it completely inoperable and have to summon some nineteen-year-old in a two-toned Volkswagen to sneer at me in my own living room.

So sometimes I just watch a movie, because I know how DVDs work. For the same reason that I rarely buy music, I’ll forsake movies once they’ve all become bits of code summoned from across the Internet—because I am entirely muddle-headed about digital ephemera. Too often something I download on one device gets ignored by my other devices like the redheaded stepchild at a family reunion. Then it gets its feelings hurt and disappears altogether.

I’ve lost entire swaths of the Hank the Cowdog oeuvre this way. I have friends who know how to wire their homes to make their digitalia accessible and cooperative. If they want Hank the Cowdog, they can call up a tale in surround-sound, command pictures of a north Texas landscape to scroll across their TV screen, and simultaneously send enlightening information about various species of dogs to their kids’ digital tablets. [Read more...]

An Orchestra Against Ignorance

The alumni magazine of Brown University, my alma mater, begins its article on a unique orchestra like this:

“We are an orchestra against ignorance.” That’s how Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim describes the West-Eastern Divan, which consists of young musicians hailing from Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Picture a teenage violinist from Israel; his name is Ilya. Picture a teenage violinist from Lebanon; his name is Claude. They know nothing of one another’s lives. Or, actually, they think they do know about each other’s lives, because each has been raised on negative stereotypes about the other. [Read more...]