THE ABSENT

THE ABSENT
THE ABSENT - out now!

CRIPPLED HEARTS

CRIPPLED HEARTS
Out Now - For sale on Amazon and other onlne book sellers

SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju

SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju
Out Now

THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju

THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju
My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers www.rajbooks.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

DAVID LETTERMAN'S RETIREMENT PLUS WHO SHOULD REPLACE HIM?


I have been mulling over what David Letterman has meant to me in the last few days since he announced his upcoming retirement in 2015.  I say “meant to me” because his show (and I am more talking about the first late night programme he had on NBC LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN than the CBS one THE LATE SHOW) deeply influenced the way I thought in terms of finding clever, creative ways to “rebel” against a society I neither liked nor cared for.  This wasn’t the intention of him or the show’s writers but it perfectly pushed the philosophy of Theodore Adorno that entertainment and materialism go hand in hand and distract an anesthetized, overworked populace into not complaining about their government, their leaders.

I also appreciate the ridiculous in humor but only if it's tied to a sense of self-deprecation or some other device that has roots in our world so we can relate to it from our vantage point.  Letterman was the witness poking holes and mocking his own jokes, his own ridiculous set-ups, his cast of bad actors, oddballs, and misfits such as Larry “Bud” Melman (Deliberately reading off cue cards badly) and Chris Elliott (himself a third wall construct of winking “I’m in on it”). 

And the way he talked to his guests as if they were blowhards and self-important and needed to have the air let out of their sails (which they were of course).  So many great other moments –  viewer mail, throwing things off a building, crushing them with a hydraulic press, Dave’s grab bag, supermarket finds, stupid pet tricks, stupid human tricks, Dave working the drive-thru at MacDonald’s and Taco Bell, Dave doing the show in his office, Dave’s Christmas special, Brother Theodore and Harvey Pekar.

And Yes Dave was not as energetic as he got older.  His CBS show was more like a regular talk show.  However, the apolitical Letterman unloading on ignorant bully Bill O’Reilly clearly angry about the evils of Iraq War was a dramatic and jarring moment and showed what a great man of character Letterman is.

And Letterman himself is what it’s all about.  The show at its peak reflected his sensibility and he is one of the most creative, principled, funny people to grace the medium of TV.

In regards to who should replace Letterman, my pick would be outside the box.  I would suggest Norm MacDonald.  He is not only a quick wit and one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time, he has shown on his recent podcast that he can conduct successful in-depth interviews.  Norm MacDonald would be my choice.

Handicapping the names currently out there....

STEPHEN COLBERT – I like Colbert and I like the Colbert Report but he is a comic actor.  He plays a role.  He is not a comedian and as himself he is quite normal and ordinary.  I don’t think he is right for this type of show.

CHELSEA HANDLER – A mean, unfunny bitch who only selectively insults those celebrities not being handled by her PR firm.  Like Joan Rivers without any talent or sense of humor.  A disaster if she’s picked.

JON STEWART, ELLEN DEGENERES – Neither have the edge to host a show like this.  Neither have an interesting enough personality to carry a talk show at this hour of the night but at least Stewart is funny.  DeGeneres is for housewives and senior citizens only.

CRAIG FERGUSON – Of all the discussed possibilities, the one that makes the most sense.  He has a less ironic even more silly take on the Letterman brand of humor and is likeable.  The English/Scottish sometimes forget to root their often ridiculous sense of humor in a  reference point we, the audience, can relate to so hopefully if he gets the gig he will remember to do that.               

               

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT WILSON PICKETT


Wilson Pickett tore apart songs with a big, booming, cutting voice.  He tore apart songs with great gusto.  His early records have the crazy power of Little Richard but with more guitar based backing tracks and less surreal songs.  The1960’s established Pickett as a performer of great singles such as "Land of a Thousand Dances" and "In The Midnight Hour".  The Pickett vocal sound was one of contained emotion escaping – Be it joy or desire or hurt.

Pickett was the opposite of Otis Redding whereas Redding was stodgy, dull, and oversang everything (perhaps the creator of the oversinging style prevalent on American Idol), Pickett attacked the song directly then fell back dodging and weaving like a boxer through the melody.  He also co-wrote or chose better material as well.

By the end of the 60’s, Pickett also started making great full length records.  His masterpiece HEY JUDE came out in 1969 and the title track is my favorite cover version of a Beatles song by any artist.  Recorded in Muscle Shoals, the backing accompaniment is raw, earthy, human especially Duane Allman who empowers the proceedings.  There are numerous other classic songs here such as “Night Owl” and “Toe Hold”.


Next Pickett made the album RIGHT ON.  Considered a bit of a stopgap between HEY JUDE and WILSON PICKETT IN PHILADELPHIA (his other masterpiece), RIGHT ON is a good record in and of itself.  The standouts are two very often covered songs “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Hey Joe”.  Pickett’s versions IMO are the definitive ones because he slows everything down and stretches out these tunes into the works of high drama they deserve to be.


Next was IN PHILADELPHIA which is Pickett’s second best record.  Having Pickett work with the progenitors of the popular at the time Philadelphia soul sound (consisting of beautiful orchestral songscapes) the production team Gamble and Huff was an inspired choice as the velvet backing instrumentation only serves to boost Pickett not hold him back.  Quite a lot of guitar on this record too.


Pickett did make one more good record DON’T KNOCK MY LOVE which was recorded in Muscle Shoals and featured the same muscular backing sound as HEY JUDE but after that he slid into disco and less inspired music.


The greatest thing one could take away from Wilson Pickett’s singing career is that it is important for the vocalist to challenge himself and put himself in different situations.  Pickett did this admirably and the result is a legacy of classic songs, standards that transcend genre. 
      


    

MUSIC ROUND-UP - APRIL 2014


Elbow – THE TAKE OFF AND LANDING OF EVERYTHING

Starting off with one of the best debuts not just of the last couple decades but maybe in rock history, Elbow has since then succumbed to a kind of musical inertia, slowing the pace more and more into predictable big chant choruses with heavy percussion.  This record is a slight improvement over their last record with much better songwriting and a louder guitar sound.  I haven’t given up hope on Elbow but they need to kick out the jams a bit.



Neil Finn – DIZZY HEIGHTS

I am a huge fan of Split Enz and have enjoyed some of Neil Finn’s solo records especially TRY WHISTLING THIS.  I was not a fan of Crowded House's bland commerciality however.  On his newest solo record, Finn’s voice is so produced it’s almost ethereal.  This is a pretty record that bogs down a little bit during the slower tracks where Finn’s gift of melody can get submerged.  Much better are the faster songs like Pony Ride and Strangest Friends.



Black Submarine – NEW SHORES

Black Submarine features two members of the Verve, guitarist Nick McCabe and bassist Simon Jones, and a number of others in a sort of a collective.  I prefer the songs that feature the female vocalist over the ones with the male vocalist.  The true star here is McCabe’s huge expansive sound contrasted against the equally big backbeat which acts as sort of a safety net.  A fabulous return to the kind of late 90’s Britpop big rock song as commercial single.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A FEW THOUGHTS ON TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON ONE


Here are my thoughts on the excellent first season of the TRUE DETECTIVE series.  SPOILERS are present of course!

1.) I originally didn’t get into this series.  While it has great performances and great atmosphere, I found the plot to be not that complicated and a bit pedestrian.  Well, after finishing the series, I came across this quote in Rolling Stone’s review of the series “The journey is more important than the destination” and that too me is what it’s about. The story told here is secondary to the people that inhabit it and where they are operating.

2.)  I believe that distractions play a big part in the story.  The evidence of the recently painted house that is the big discovery that points them to the killer was there for quite some time but Cohle was wrapped up in drugs and his own weirdness and Hart with his wife and the cheating and the fallout from the divorce as well as their dislike for each other.  Once they got back together and got their heads straight, they figured it all out.

3.)  What about the finale?   Reading a lot of complaints today but to me it made perfect sense. Any mystery worth its salt has red herrings and TD is no exception.  Just because they hinted at something doesn’t mean it has to come true.

4.)  In regards to not catching all the members of the cult, I think Cohle was right when he said they got the one they’d been chasing.  The murder cult actually broke up sometime in the 90’s but Errol Childress kept on killing because he enjoyed it.  When the cult was in existence, he was their main servant.  He would find the girls, kidnap them and after the cult had their weird ceremony involving rape and torture, he would kill them and clean up.

5.)  What about Cohle’s Synaesthesia ?  He did say that the hallucinations he had stopped once he stopped taking drugs but he said that in the present day to the detectives who suspect him of murder so who knows.  I still think that was a delusion at the end, the otherworldly portal he saw in Carcosa.  I think all the supernatural stuff in this series was a red herring.

6.)   Cohle’s appearance before the two detectives investigating the new case in 2012 in the first four episodes was a performance of sorts.  It reminded me of THE USUAL SUSPECTS but in this case Cohle was pretending to be a useless drunk and a weirdo to pump them for info.  We see when he meets up with Hart again that he is still a good detective and has that storage locker full of investigative material.

7.)  Something interesting I noticed – The drawings Hart’s daughter did in episode 3 (which combined with some other things made it seems she was a victim of molestation perhaps by the same cult) don’t look like her having sex, they look like Errol Childress and his wife/sister/mother/lover

8.)  Possible twists that didn’t happen – One I thought of was that not only is Hart’s creepy stepfather-in law molesting his granddaughter and is involved in the cult but Hart’s ex-wife is also in on it.  She murders Hart at the end but Cohle figures her out and get her before she gets him.

9.)  Another great thing worth noticing was the dialogue especially Cohle’s speeches on  human existence.  I’ve never seen a detective show or movie with such great extended conversations

10.)  Comparisons with other shows?  Well one I thought of while watching TD was TWIN PEAKS without the sense of humor but with the odd characters, the supernatural intruding on a case, and the creative use of natural settings. 

11.)  The soundtrack by T Bone Burnett was great especially his opening credits tune.  I also liked how music was used in particular hearing “Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?” by Richard and Linda Thompson in episode 7 as Cohle meets Maggie in the present day.

12.)  This was one of the rare times when a happy ending made sense 





Friday, March 7, 2014

RECONSIDERING WILD BEASTS PRESENT TENSE PLUS NADINE SHAH LOVE YOUR DUM AND MAD


After listening to Wild Beasts PRESENT TENSE a few more times, I really feel I didn’t do it justice in my review earlier this month (see a couple entries in my blog before this one).  It really is the perfect balance between what made them great musically in the first place and a refinement of their sound that doesn’t ruin them or get too far away from what they are all about.  The songs may be be their best bunch yet – Mecca, Wanderlust, Nature Boy and perhaps their greatest song of all time A Simple Beautiful Truth.



Nadine Shah’s debut album LOVE YOUR DUM AND MAD is really powerful with great creeping majestic arrangements.  Shah’s voice hits you on many levels raising the hair on the back of your neck, causing a twinge in your heart.  The songs showcase not only Shah but also the guitars and the melodies.  I hear a lot of comparisons between Shah and PJ Harvey and Nick Cave but unlike the both of them she can a.) Really sing b.) Really spin a catchy tune.  Best songs – To Be A Young Man, The Devil, Floating, All I Want.  



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

EGYPT, UKRAINE, VENEZUELA, AND NED (THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY)


NED (The National Endowment for Democracy) was established in 1983 by funds allocated by the US Congress.  In those days, it functioned primarily for the promotion of democratic infrastructure in communist countries.  Right wing dictatorships friendly to the USA were more or less exempt from NED’s attentions during the Reagan years.  Even though NED receives funds from the US government, it functions independently with not much oversight.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NED disappeared a bit from the public eye although its funding actually went up from 15 to 18 million in the 80’s to 25 to 30 million in the 90’s.  Still, failed efforts were made by the congress to kill it and it was not so important an organization to worldwide imperialist status quo in the Clinton years.

Then the Bush Administration came into power, 09/11 happened, and NED all of a sudden roared back with a more expanded mandate – Not only autocratic regimes were to be targeted but also democracies that refused to toe the West’s line of capitalist exploitation.

This culminated in recent events in three different countries.  In Egypt, NED contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Anti-Morsi activists( including those who advocated violence against civilians and against mosques) as well as former members of the Mubarak dictatorship.

In Ukraine, NED was key in mobilizing forces against democratically elected  Viktor Yanukovych .  NED set up so-called student reform groups which are really just muscle, thugs, to riot and cause trouble.  In Ukraine, many of those in those so-called student groups were Neo-Nazis, skinheads, right wing haters.  A lot of NED’s activity is also geared towards the press and how they interpret an action such as a coup or a revolution.  They manipulate the press with bogus data using right wing organs such as the Washington Post to name an example and interfere in elections.   

In Venezuela, NED has done much the same.  Being very involved in the coup that temporarily displaced Hugo Chavez as president in 1992.   Chavez knew they were the enemy and indentified them publicly taking steps to make sure they could not cause trouble on his watch.  Unfortunately, Hugo Chavez has passed away and his predecessor is not as strong a figure so NED has once again put its operation into full swing – Riots, thuggery, press manipulation.

So what is NED’s agenda?  NED isn’t so much an organization for the spread of democracy as it is an organization for the spread of capitalism.  Unfortunately, that means in many countries such as the three I have mentioned true wealth ends up being in the hands of a very small group.  This is what Hugo Chavez fought against, what Morsi started to fight against in Egypt.  It should be noted that the NED backed winner of the 2004 Ukrainian election, the so called “Orange revolution”, Viktor Yushchenko was a former banker who believed in “austerity” a code word for punishing poor people and rewarding even more those at the top.  The IMF is often in cahoots with people like this.

In the case of Ukraine, the 2010 election winner Yanukovych had been elected on a platform of staying neutral no NATO but no Russia either.  However, in 2011, he became aware of efforts by NED and other shadow groups sponsored by the West in mobilizing weapons, money, manpower against him.  He predicted his fate in a speech in 2011 and started the natural shift back towards Russia and against EU membership.

NED is the vanguard of a dying, evil empire and that empire is the United States.  It dominates through bullying and thuggery but those days can’t last long.  The fact they can no longer keep their plans secret is a big step.

I share many people’s general disgust at Vladimir Putin (his corruption, his homophobia, his autocracy) but supports his efforts in standing up to this attempt at fascism.  Imagine if Russia tried what NED (on behalf of the US government) is trying in Mexico....


Saturday, March 1, 2014

MUSIC ROUND-UP - MARCH 2014


Cheatahs – CHEATAHS

The Cheatahs debut record is a competent showcase of the band's less stodgy take on Shoegaze.  Their version of Shoegaze really swings.  Songs like Leave that Remains and Geographic bubble up big and alternate speed and fuzziness.  Only weak spot is the generic vocals but the music is good enough you don’t really care about the vocals.



Phantogram - VOICES

Phantogram combines the age old combo of female torch singer with a guy behind machines that make the usual feet moving beats and rugged new wave soundscapes (and also chips with a couple vocals and harmonies).  This is quite a pretty take on this, quite a good collection of songs.  My favorites are Nothing but Trouble and I Don’t Blame You.




Wild Beasts - PRESENT TENSE

For the Wild Beasts fourth album, they’ve taken the high pinnacle drama and castrato vocals of the first two records, acknowledged the heavier keyboards of the third and topped it off with a more rhythmic guitar sound that anchors the whole thing.  It’s an improvement from their last record which had too much technology but still is not on the power level of their first two.