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by Michael Kabran

24 Feb 2010

My 2009 was largely devoted to music-making (and the drinking of copious amounts of lagers) with too little time spent checking out new music. As a result, one of the big resolutions I made for 2010 was to hear more new works—at least a handful each week. It was ambitious, but, through the first month and change of 2010, so far so good. Certainly it takes time to fully digest some music in order to form an educated opinion and make any weighty decisions. But, well, weighty decisions are overrated anyway! So, I present to you my personal favorite jazz of 2010: a highly uneducated—and frequently irritable—compendium. (Note to readers:  Keep an eye out for an upcoming piece on my least favorite jazz of 2010, which is much funnier.)

Favorite Piano Album:
Orrin Evans—Faith in Action (Posi-Tone)
I’ll be one of the first jazz fans to admit it:  the jazz piano trio format usually bores me to tears and makes me value my Nation of Ulysses albums as if they were the last drops of Alagash Curieux in the universe (though, I usually do anyway). While there are certainly some phenomenal piano trio albums in the history of jazz—Oscar Peterson, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, to name a few—most of the trio albums I’ve heard in recent years were self-indulgent exercises in musical masturbation. They essentially served as demo recordings, creating a relatively inexpensive means for the pianist to obtain gigs and earn coveted positions in the bands of larger fish. That being said, young jazz tuna (the term “lion” is so overused!) Orrin Evans’ latest effort, Faith in Action, is one of the best trio recordings I’ve heard in recent time. I’ll cut to the chase: it’s accessible, filled with bluesy solos, swinging rhythms, and playful harmonies. Most importantly, this music is overflowing with emotion, passion, soul, and humor—and all from a trio! Drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Luques Curtis kill.

by Lara Killian

24 Feb 2010

Health care has been in the news lately, especially in the US. You might have noticed.

As I’ve been getting older and taking more control over my own personal health, I’ve become more concerned about the costs, naturally—but also more interested in why doctors do what they do.

The concept of getting a second opinion is timeless. But what are the factors that influence whether a patient gets listened to and treated appropriately? I picked up Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think to try to get inside their heads.

Groopman, a professor at the Harvard Medical School, writes an accessible account of his experience trying to thoughtfully comprehend medical practice in various specialty areas. Unsurprisingly, the best care seems to come from situations where patients question their doctors closely, and when doctors have the time and space to base clinical practice on the best evidence available.

When doctors are rushed, or patients are unwilling to communicate clearly and assertively, mis-diagnoses are more likely. Groopman offers a variety of anecdotes about situations where a patient moves from specialist to specialist, trying to find the correct diagnosis. The doctors who seem the most successful are those who approach every patient with an open mind and treat them as a whole person. After reading How Doctors Think, I feel better about questioning the need for a test and the reasoning behind a diagnosis. How do you feel about your next doctor’s visit?

by Steve Leftridge

24 Feb 2010

There are those out there who prefer the audition shows to the actual American Idol competition, and tonight’s first live broadcast, on which the Top 24 girls competed, proved that those audition lovers might be on to something this time. Oh, yes, it’s ladies night, oh, what a night… if you enjoy maudlin, uninspired singing over lugubrious arrangements, followed by awkward prattle from the judges. It was a very disappointing night from the girls, especially since the ladies are, by and large, a far stronger collective than the boys and Simon had made news this week by predicting that one of the girls would win the whole thing. And what’s up with the tacky set changes, with the judges sitting in front of an under-the-sea backdrop that cuts out the audience?  Boo. Then again, perhaps that nautical motif is appropriate, if only because the evening indeed felt like watching a sinking ship. In any case, here are the evening’s awards:

Best performance: It’s tough to come up with anything here, as none of the 12 singers flashed anything truly special. The night was dominated by mid-tempo songs and, call it nerves, every performance was oddly distant. I’ll give last night’s edge to Ashley Rodriguez’s version of Leona Lewis’s “Happy”, although with reservations. She’s one of the only girls who has the chops, the performance skill, and the presence to be taken seriously as a potential star. If anything, she pushed a little hard last night; if she relaxes, she’ll be a standout. Runner-up: Crystal Bowersox has a chance to catch fire. Advice: Lose the harmonica. She can’t really play it, and it just got in the way when she needs to be leaning into that mike and belting with power.

by Chris Barsanti

24 Feb 2010

What if antidepressants were not just too easily available and overly prescribed by doctors—as has been argued in many venues for years now, though to no discernible effect—but didn’t even work? That’s the takeaway premise of psychology professor Irving Kirsch, Ph.D., in his new book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth.

By examining a broad spectrum of research, using both the published drug studies and the deep well of unpublished research which many drug companies would prefer stay hidden, Kirsch presents the all-too-plausible theory that there is essentially no positive effect from taking antidepressants. In fact, comparing test results between patients taking antidepressants and those taking active placebos (a drug that isn’t an antidepressant but has other, noticeable side effects, so that the patient can tell something is working on them), Kirsch found no statistically significant difference. Actually, he found that it didn’t seem to matter what drug patients were taking, as long as they knew they had ingested some kind of active drug, they improved by about the same degree. So much for the last few decades’ great advances in pharmacology, it would seem.

by Matt Moeller

24 Feb 2010

The actor best known for playing hard-headed bad-ass lawman Bullock in HBO’s much acclaimed historical Western drama Deadwood is back as… a bad-ass lawman. Type-casting anyone? Speaking of that, Tim is starring in a feature film out this Friday, February 25th called The Crazies, as… you guessed it, a bad-ass lawman. Unlike The Crazies, the new FX show actually looks good and I am glad to see Olyphant back on TV playing another man of righteous violence and intensity. This time around he plays a U.S. Marshal by the name of Raylan Givens, who has been assigned to the area where he grew up after he ruffles the feathers of the higher-ups. Check out the début episode of Justified on FX, March 16 at 10PM ET/PT.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Tibet House's 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Celebrated Philip Glass' 80th

// Notes from the Road

"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.

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