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

Friday, December 30, 2011

A SHOOTING STAR BY WALLACE STEGNER


I think it would be a natural tendency while reading A SHOOTING STAR by Wallace Stegner to think it was overwritten, to think perhaps this is a story that could be told in a much more pithy fashion with much less verbiage and much less interior conversations that is conversations a character has within their own mind.

Sabrina Castro, the titular heroine of STAR is almost completely unlikable.  A wealthy woman from an old money family married to a society doctor at the beginning of the book, she quickly enters into a downward spiral starting with an affair she had had immediately before the start of the book.  She separates from her husband and moves back in with her frail, elderly megawealthy mother with whom she’s had a distant, antagonistic relationship with in the past.  After that, she suffers several further degradations although not as many as are implied by the blurb on the back cover of the book.

Stegner counters the navel gazing, selfish, frustrating antics of Sabrina with the story of her best friend who married and settled down as well as Sabrina’s older brother’s machinations in getting his hands on the many acres of land still under the control of her mother.

These sideplots are not as interesting.  What is interesting about this book is Stegner’s absolute totalist eye for detail.  He sees everything in a scene and is able to make the reader see it too.  I also commend him for spinning a readable entertaining yarn out of what on the surface seems like something I would not normally be interested in.  Stegner is a great writer – my review of his masterpiece BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN is here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2009/04/big-rock-candy-mountain-by-wallace.html

Here’s a passage from A SHOOTING STAR where it sums up succinctly the mindset of Sabrina, what is driving her, the explanation for this is less clear.

If B stood for boredom, N for Neglect, D for a do-nothing tradition I for instability, T for time, and C for conscience then

(B₂+N)T+1+D   = X, for explosion
           C
But what about the violence of her collapse, for which there was not only no adequate motivation but very real and puritanical inhibitions?  What if, a normally intelligent, highly fortunate, reasonably sophisticated woman, you suddenly blew to bits, and nothing set you off but accident, and nothing steered you from then on but furious uncharacteristic feelings like those that must drive the she-murderers of the newspapers?  What if all unexpectedly you found yourself vulgar, hysterical, spiteful, and uncontrolled?  What if one hour you were frantic with lust for one man, and the next anguished with pity and duty for another, and the next wild with revenge against them both, and all the time full of desperate loathing for yourself?  What if your metabolism, personality, mind, changed suddenly as if you had been fed a horrible mess of personality-changing drugs, Miltown and Benzedrine, bolts and jolts, Spanish fly and whatever it was they were supposed to put in the men’s food in the army-saltpeter?         





Tuesday, December 27, 2011

RON PAUL AND RACISM PART 2


The Ron Paul as racist corporate news meme has picked up steam with two new talking points.

As I’ve said before, I can fully understand how Paul’s inaction here could offend a potential voter and that this would preclude that voter from supporting him.

However, these two new talking points still fail to do what the news media (and the puppet masters of both the Republican and Democratic parties) are attempting which is to directly tie him to the newsletters’ content.

The first talking point is the two interviews (two I’ve seen there may be more) one of which stems from the early 1990’s where Paul acknowledges these newsletters.  Okay just to be clear there is no smoking gun in those interviews.  No one’s disputing the fact Paul was aware that he had a newsletter with his name on it.  What is being debated is how much he knew about the newsletter’s contents.  Those interviews simply show he knew of the newsletter’s not he was intimately aware of what his ghostwriters were writing under his name.  This in no way contradicts what he has already said.

I still find it not believable that a man without a shred of public racist beliefs expressed in over 40 years of public life would somehow put them in writing in vulgar and crude language he never uses in any of his interactions in the public sphere.  It does not make any sense at all.  It still seems much more likely that a busy man in and out of congress, a practicing Ob-Gyn running several other businesses would turn over the running of his newsletter to others without any oversight.  Paul himself admits this managerial mistake.

And it also explains the second talking point which is the newly minted elaborate conspiracy theory connecting libertarians with white supremacists through the libertarians courting of the paleo-conservatives in the early 90’s days of militias and Ruby Ridge and Pat Buchanan’s insurgency candidacy against the Republican Party establishment.

Well again this might all very be true but what it does have to do with Ron Paul?  He is not tied to this operation in any way.  Instead, I think it bolsters his story on the newsletter.  The same man, Lew Rockwell, who publicly admitted writing some of the editorials in his newsletter under Paul’s name is the same man who was spearheading this effort.  He has on and off connections with Paul over the years but that’s guilt by association to automatically assume they agree on everything.

In any event, Paul has publicly disassociated himself from these beliefs every time he’s been interviewed but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Unfair or double standard?  Let me tell you a story.  

In 1984, a democrat running for the senate in Tennessee spoke out against legislation outlawing discrimination  based on sexuality and said that homosexuality is not something “society should affirm”.  He also took campaign donations from the Westboro Baptist Church (yes the people that picket soldier’s funerals).  Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, even had his son serve as a delegate for this senator when he ran for his party’s nomination for president in 1988.
 
I am of course talking about Al Gore. 

Gore was never seriously questioned on any of this both in 1988 or more importantly when he was Bill Clinton’s running mate in 92 or 96 or when he was the party nominee in 2000.  You see he “changed” but he had to change because he had taken stands and directly consorted with unsavory homophobes.

In the case of Paul, he never affirmed the views in the newsletter and in fact spoke the opposite.  That’s the truth!  The double standard news coverage likely emanating from the political establishment of both parties is scared to death of Paul and in their desperation this is what they came up with to blunt his rising poll numbers in Iowa and everywhere else. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

MY TOP 15 RECORDS OF 2011


Here’s my final list of favorite records for 2011….The top 15 from bottom to top with a few honorable mentions….I have discussed most of these at one time or another on my blog during the last 12 months.

15.) CREDO by Human League
14.) HELPLESSNESS BLUES by Fleet Foxes
13.) RED BARKED TREE by Wire
12.) WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM THE VACCINES by The Vaccines
11.) BAD PENNY by Spectrals
10.) BLOUSE by Blouse
9.) SUCK IT AND SEE by Arctic Monkeys
8.) SMOTHER by Wild Beasts
7.) THURSDAY by The Weeknd
6.) CADENZA by Dutch Uncles
5.) PALACE by Chapel Club
4.) FAMOUS FIRST WORDS by Viva Brother
3.) A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIX by Bombay Bicycle Club
2.) CHASING AFTER GHOSTS by The Crookes
1.) HOUSE OF BALLOONS by The Weeknd  

Honorable Mentions – THE OLD MAGIC by Nick Lowe, BRILLIANT! TRAGIC! By Art Brut, KAPUTT by Destroyer


RON PAUL AND RACISM


I can totally understand those who find the racist articles published in newsletters with Ron Paul’s name on them too much and cannot support him for that reason.  This is certainly the closest thing to a scandal he has ever faced in his political career.

They are vile to be sure and even if one accepts Paul explanation that he did not write them, that they were ghostwritten  (which I do as the “voice” in those newsletters is very different from Paul’s voice), then he has at best showed managerial incompetence at something he was in charge of for 15 years or more.

But I also feel that if he was a racist than his views would have come out somewhere else but they have not.  You can search his whole career going back 40+ years and you will not find any incident of racist speech by Dr. Paul.  His views on civil rights are consistent with his libertarian views overall and while I respectfully disagree with them as I do feel there is a place for the federal government in civil rights enforcement, I think the consistency of his views on a whole host of matters makes this not stand out as an instance of racism as opposed to if it was the only issue where he advocated such a federal hand’s off approach.

I myself still support him for the simple reason that many of his positions are the opposite of an increasingly xenophobic, racist, and homophobic Republican party and an increasingly corporate, disengaged, and disorganized Democratic party.  Paul’s position on drug legalization would remedy the situation of a disproportionate amount of African American men in prison.  Ditto his position against the death penalty and how that would affect African Americans.

Ron Paul has never vilified Muslims nor used the language of the Evangelical Christian in this new form of political crusade.  In fact, he has even asked voters to put themselves in the shoes of Muslims in countries attacked by the US.  This is something a very good International Relations professor whose course I had in college did and it is the key for the US to fit into a global society.

Ron Paul never talks about how gay people ruin traditional marriage and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the other night he basically indicated that states have the right to legalize whatever voluntary association they want.

I contrast all these details with a president who swears fidelity to human rights and much of the things I just described that Ron Paul has endorsed.  However, this humane “democratic” president has done the exact opposite of what he said he would do especially in the foreign policy arena.

So I say trust somebody’s actions not what they are supposed to have said.  Look at their history- consistency is not the hobgoblin of small minds but rather a definer of the iron in somebody’s soul, the consistency of his character. 

Here’s a quote from Paul himself….

Rosa Parks is one of my heroes. Martin Luther King is a hero. Because they practiced the libertarian principle of civil disobedience, non-violence. Libertarians are incapable of being racist because racism is a collectivist idea, you see people in groups. A civil libertarian sees everyone as an important individual, it’s not the color of their skin that is important like Martin Luther King said. What is important is the character of the individual. You know what is really interesting though? And this could be behind it. Because I as a Republican candidate, probably am getting the most number of black voters and black supporters.









Sunday, December 18, 2011

RANKING KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER EPISODES FROM FIRST TO LAST


I’ve written before about my love for the TV show THE NIGHT STALKER or KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER. http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/666925978/the-night-stalker-as-case-in-point-of-something-being-as-good-as-we-remember/  Now all the episodes are up on youtube and I have been watching them the last few weeks.  I’ve come up with a list ranking them in order.

Some notes....

THE ZOMBIE, THEY HAVE, and SPANISH MOSS are basically tied for number one. THE ZOMBIE and SPANISH MOSS are truly scary.  Both have gripping conclusions (Kolchak in a junkyard, Kolchak in the sewer).  THEY HAVE is also a great episode containing all of the elements that made the series great – humor, suspense, Kolchak’s relationship with Vincenzo and the police.  I love the alien I just wish he was not invisible for the whole episode which Is why I don’t rank this episode number one by itself. All three of these episodes are very inventive and well written.

As is HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS which is many fans’ favourite episode.  It is great perhaps the most original episode and features maybe a tad more humor than other episodes.  It also showcases one other strength of the show - great guest appearances In this case Phil Silvers.  THE SENTRY, the last episode, gets bashed in Stephen King’s book DANSE MACABRE but I think it’s a good premise and well done.

For the middle group, MR RING deserves notice because it is one of the few episodes where we feel sorry for the monster.  TREVI, BAD MEDICINE, and FIREFALL are truly creepy episodes.  KNIGHTLY is not so creepy but has hilarious characters.  DEMON, LEGACY, and CHOPPER, are not so creepy but strong nonetheless.

Of the bottom group, THE VAMPIRE and THE RIPPER rehash storylines from the two telemovies that came first although THE VAMPIRE at least has a good death scene for its villain. PRIMAL SCREAM was just not a good premise execution once or idea wise.    

Lately, I’ve been thinking of doing some fan fiction for Kolchak.  I have plenty of ideas but don’t have the time.  Maybe one day....here’s the list:

1.)      The Zombie
2.)      They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be
3.)      The Spanish Moss Murders
4.)      Horror in the Heights
5.)      The Sentry
6.)      The Werewolf
7.)      Mr R.I.N.G
8.)      The Trevi Collection
9.)      Bad Medicine
10.)  Firefall
11.)   The Knightly Murders
12.)  Demon in Lace
13.)  Legacy of Terror
14.)  Chopper
15.)   The Energy Eater
16.)  The Devil’s Platform
17.)   The Youth Killer
18.)   The Vampire
19.)   Primal Scream
20.)   The Ripper





Thursday, December 8, 2011

MY THOUGHTS ON THE THREE STOOGES TRAILER


I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Three Stooges.  In addition to their being perfectly realized characters, each is the perfect expression of a type of personality made extreme (Read a half-comedic piece by a a psychiatrist many years ago that suggested that the Three Stooges were the living embodiment of the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego – guess which was which).

I also liked the fact the Three Stooges were usually poor and their victim were often wealthy snobbish people.  The Stooges often had manual labor jobs but were also musicians.  They were counterculture figures without a doubt.  The Three Stooges are the 99% percent.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this.  Anyway, as we are now in a time a bit similar to the time when the Stooges made it big – a time of economic downturn and unemployment, it makes sense for a Stooges revival.

I was filled with trepidation when I first heard that a new Three Stooges film was coming and that actors would be playing Moe, Larry, and Curly.    I saw the trailer today (my bday of all days) and I feel a bit better.

Truth is it looks pretty good (about as good as can be expected).  We’ve got the Stooges in an orphanage, Stooges spoiling a dinner party, Stooges in a modern world with an I Phone joke and Snooki getting an eye poke!....In fact, I’ve read the Stooges becoming reality TV stars is a subplot.

And the three actors playing Moe, Larry, Curly seem to have the parts down and all the trademark moves although the actor playing Curly is a bit tall as are the other two as well.  Always thought part of the Stooges humor came from the fact they were all small men and everybody else was giant in comparison.

And oh yeah Larry David in the new film as a nun!  Here’s the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WriZI1NnD5Y

And here’s one of my favourite Stooges episodes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWFswXpqhR4





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WE JAM ECONO AND WHAT WE DO IS SECRET - DIY HARDCORE PUNK AND THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY


I recently saw two films that through the story of a band or musician relate the greater story of the DIY scene of late 70’s early 80’s DIY American punk.

The first one was WE JAM ECONO.  The Minutemen were my second favorite band of the indie American punk and I’ve often gone as far to say my third favorite American band of all time.  A powerhouse trio who coupled funk Gang of Four/Wire bass to a clear guitar tone and stream of consciousness beatnik type lyrics to very pointed political statements.  They made many great records especially their masterpiece DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME a double record with over 40 amazing songs.  

This documentary, like their philosophy towards touring and recording which is summed up by their expression the WE JAM ECONO title, is stripped down no frills.  It tells the story of how bassist/singer/songwriter Mike Watt met guitarist/singer/songwriter D Boon as kids when Boon jumped out of a tree onto Watt in their hometown of San Pedro, Ca. we hear about how they took up instruments encouraged by Boon’s mother and then had their eyes and ears opened by the first appearance of punk rock (“Punk rock changed our lives” as they sang in one of their most famous songs “History Lesson Part II”).

Recruiting local drummer George Hurley, they set about making records on the SST label and touring incessantly before Boon was killed in a tragic auto accident in 1985.  The film treats Boon’s death much like it treats the details of The Minutemen’s life as band-straightforward with a minimum of sentiment although the scene with Watt, his lifelong friend who has honored Boon in every other project he has done since, where he states what a dark day that was and then stops speaking is emotional.



WHAT WE DO IS SECRET is a biopic about the late Darby Crash the singer for the punk band Germs who were peers of the Minutemen but were based closer to the action (clubs etc.) in Hollywood.   They made one classic record GI, one of the first hardcore records and a real template for what as to follow before Crash’s heroin overdose death in 1980. Despite this being a film with the actors, the format is like a documentary with interviews with the real life characters and Darby (all played by actors).  Again starting your own scene out of nothing and perhaps being a little bit freaky to begin with (being the school outcast) are the repeated elements here.

Of course, this being a movie as opposed to a documentary film, there is the desire to tell a dramatic story that would resonate with the average filmgoer (not someone who is freaky or the school outcast).  The end result has been roundly criticized for its glamorous look.  The actor playing Darby Crash looks like he just stepped out of an episode of 90210 (although he does a decent job of imitating Crash’s snarling vocal delivery).  This lush filmmaking look doesn’t catch the smell of sweat or the feelings of tension in a punk club and I’ve never seen shooting up heroin look so clean before.  In addition, the film also downplays Crash’s homosexuality leaving us the viewer to infer much of what is going on.

But what WHAT WE DO IS SECRET and WE JAM ECONO have in common is the idea of a community forming and out of that community comes a movement and that is do it yourself.  Unfortunately music breeds a much more immediate and driven type of fandom.  I am very DIY myself when it comes to my books and my writing.  I have an independant publisher and do much of my own promotion.  However, it’s much harder to build a community out of that.  Still, on line is a different situation and I am making efforts there.




RON PAUL AND PROGRESSIVES REVISITED


The frequency of so-called “progressive” attacks on Ron Paul are increasing….I read new ones every day from the largest sites to small-time bloggers…. They must be scared of truly progressive voters abandoning our Republicat president Obama.  Earlier I wrote this about progressive orthodoxy  http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/08/ron-paul-and-social-issues-setting.html  I posted this on an “Americans against the Tea Party” Facebook page earlier today. 

"I consider myself somewhat progressive and I certainly don’t believe in all of Ron Paul’s beliefs but I have been surprised and a bit amused by a the load of criticism coming down him from the left….There’s seems to be a fear that he is going to somehow take votes away from President Obama and even though these articles don’t mention the president by name if you are criticizing a candidate and telling others not to vote for him then you must be indirectly telling them to vote for Obama….Well let me just say from a liberal perspective there are plenty of reasons not to vote for Obama.

1.)Increased hawkishness and increased drone strikes killing women and children not only in Afghanistan but Yemen and other places
2.) Maintaining and even increasing the drug war
3.) Continuing to kiss Israel’s ass and allow the slow motion genocide of the Palestinians
4.) Collusion with corporatistsm – Obama is the candidate of the banks, investment, and mortgage houses
5.) Continue to chip away at civil rights under the aegis of fighting terrorism

There’s nothing progressive about any of that!

I like the fact that Paul is around to state a point of view on issues (bombing Iran, the drug war) that other candidates (including the DEMOCRATIC president) won’t or can’t….He’ll never be president but Obama, at this stage, is nothing more than a huge disappointment." 



Saturday, December 3, 2011

TWO CD'S I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO PLUS 2011 A YEAR OF MUSICAL REDISCOVERY AND REISSUE


Earlier this year I wrote The Weeknd’s debut CD HOUSE OF BALLOONS was very likely the best thing I would hear this year.  I have not changed my opinion on this.  The sleazy grooves literally sweating out from the tracks, the voice, a lost soul in hell, isolated in the mix, music haunting but also seemingly too languid to stand up on its own make this a unique record.  Now in the same year, we have a second album from The Weeknd entitled THURSDAY.

Just to get this out, no, THURSDAY is not as good as HOUSE.  It has much more going on more instruments, more vocals, just more of an instrumental palette but loses something in terms of mood.  It’s more watered down to be sure but I interpret that through what I’ve read of the intent of this music.  In fact, THURSDAY is the second in what is projected to be a trilogy.  THURSDAY has the feel of the day after the party is still going on but its daylight and perhaps some people have gotten some rest, perhaps the sunlight brings a feeling of freshness as if the night sleaze has been washed off.


BAD PENNY is the debut album of Spectrals which is an English one man band project.  Despite being only 21 years old, Louis Jones shows a mastery of the studio and through his sound a knowledge of music history.  This really brings to mind the Phil Spector Wall of Sound despite the fairly low budget of this record.  At times, Jones’s voice reminds me of Roddy Frame’s.  A very promising debut.


 2011 was also a year for musical reissues and rediscovery.  Through the reissue of I WANT YOU, I rediscovered Marvin Gaye’s Relationship trilogy which I wrote about here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/09/marvin-gayes-relationship-trilogy-lets.html

Another artist I’ve rediscovered and whose musical output I’ve since explored deeper is Al Green.  Green had one of the longest uninterrupted hot streaks of any artist when it comes to releasing quality records.  Everything he did from the beginning of his career in the late 60’s up until his full conversion to Christianity in the late 70’s is pretty good.

CALL ME is his masterpiece.  They way Green’s ultrasmooth voice nudges and massages these songs along backed by Al Jackson Jr.’s strong backbeat, the swirling organ, scratchy guitar, and beautifully light strings.  Green doesn’t just act out love songs he becomes them and the songs swell with his very being.


 Two other records I’ve rediscovered by Green are AL GREEN EXPLORES YOUR MIND and AL GREEN IS LOVE.  EXPLORES is a tad rougher than the other albums he was making at this time, more guitar, more wild vocals and it contains the original version of “Take Me to the River” even better than The Talking Heads fantastic cover version.  LOVE is a concept album of sorts with every song being about love. Although most of the “love” here is spiritual, there is still room for earthiness too.  The music manages the tremendous overstatement of this record brass and string x infinity, huge percussion, Green’s voice epic dominating over all.



Another 2011 rediscovery was Jackson Browne which I gather is kind of a guilty pleasure.  Many of my friends can’t stand him and view him as the epitome of self-directed whiny California singer/songwriters.  Me?  I think he’s a superb lyricist with amazing insight into the way people think and feel and his voice is a dependable, warm instrument.  He can be boring but his best records are packed full of sensitive statements on love and loss.  I definitely also think his ballads are better than his faster songs.  His greatest album, his most consistent, is LATE FOR THE SKY.  The title track sums up the missed connections of life, the breakdown of communication of lovers better than any I’ve ever heard.  THE PRETENDER is probably my second favourite.  How does one cope with the tragedies life throws at us?  Through music!  A beautiful record....



        

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WHY TAX CUTS EQUAL JOB CREATION IS NO LONGER TRUE (IF IT EVER WAS)


Growing up in the Reagan Republican dominated 1980’s, we were always told that tax cuts for the richest Americans and consequently the businesses they created and/or owned, managed etc. was the fuel that spurred the engine of job growth.  In other words, that there was a direct connection between cutting taxes on the wealthy and how many new jobs were created in America.

Well that’s questionable. In retrospect, was the damage to the deficit and the creation of debt worth the creation of jobs many that were temporary and/or paid the lowest wage possible?

But allowing that as a valid point for the moment, what was “true” a decade or longer ago is definitely not “true” anymore.

Why do I say this?  Because the oft discussed growing distance between the 1% superwealthy and everyone else indicates that this connection if it ever existed does not exist any longer.

The superwealthy in this country are no longer tied directly to job creation in the USA for wealth acquisition.  Rather, they invest in companies that have moved overseas to take advantage of lower wages, no environmental laws, etc.  This is what Globalism and NAFTA has wrought.

They are also able to grow their wealth through investments outside of the normal stock market shares in companies.  The repeal of the Glass-Steagall act in 1999 by President Clinton working hand in hand with Republicans got rid of the separation between commercial banks and investment banks.  The creation of a number of complex and unethical investment instruments (derivatives) allowed people to invest in the predicted collectability of bundled debt.  It was like a form of gambling and what they were betting on was if people could pay their mortgages and credit card debt when it was exposed that in fact this was a house of cards and people were funding their mortgages and credit card debt with more debt everything collapsed.

But the superwealthy were not affected too badly by this.  The government bailed out the big players under the excuse that bank failures affect the little guy too.

The bottom line is the lack of a real safety net, the lack of real government assistance in education and in health care is creating a permanent underclass without access to these services and without access to jobs in depressed economic times.

The paying of taxes at this point is a necessity for the other 99% to live decent lives.  Those jobs supposedly created by the Bush tax cuts are not coming, were never coming.  The acquisition of wealth among the superwealthy is no longer reliant on the American worker.   

I also commend the Occupy movement for advancing bringing back something like Glass-Steagall-Let’s get rid of the notion of “Too Big to Fail” once and for all.        


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MUSIC THAT FEELS LIKE A HANGOVER - GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD BY ELVIS COSTELLO AND COSI FAN TUTTI FRUTTI BY SQUEEZE


GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD by Elvis Costello and COSI FAN TUTII FRUTTI by Squeeze share much both in the way they were perceived when they were first released and the general feeling they give the listener.

Both are quite a bit darker than other albums in these particular artists’ oeuvre.  Maybe “darker” is not the word maybe “murkier” is better.  Both use odd sounds and more synthesizers than normal to achieve their desired effect.


GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD has often been derided as one of Costello’s worst records.  I have never understood that as from a songwriting perspective it’s one of his strongest collections.  The result of keeping an office, 9 to 5 hours, and writing at a desk I recall reading.  Yes, the sound gets in the way from time to time but I would rank it my sixth or seventh favourite better than GET HAPPY and better than any albums he did after it with the exception of KING OF AMERICA.

The effect of the dense smoky sound at times is very close to 80’s radio synth fodder (“The Only Flame in Town”) other times older sounding and organic (“Joe Porterhouse”) At times pounding and harsh (“The Deportees Club”) other times icy and glacial (“Love Field”).  The overall effect ends up being likenthat thick headed feeling, like a hangover the next morning, groggy from too much to drink. 

Costello both produces songs that are in keeping with his normally inscrutable elliptical style of wordplay (“The Great Unknown”) but also tries to write quite conventional tales of the foibles of romance (“Room With No Number”, “Inch by Inch”).  The end result is this is both a challenging record and a fun record.  Costello balances the two quite well.  I also want to give props to “Worthless Thing”, “Sour Milk Cow Blues”, and “Peace in Our Time” three great songs.


Squeeze might have had some influence on the development of the more deliberately poppy side of Costello’s songwriting.  However, the despair among the melodies on GOODBYE (Costello was going through a divorce from his first wife at the time of the recording) may have had some influence back.

COSI FAN TUTTI FRUTTI was the first album Squeeze made after reuniting following the two principal members lone album under Difford and Tilbrook.  Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook’s one record without using the Squeeze name was filled to the brim with synthesizers so it wasn’t surprising when COSI was the same.

But what was and still is surprising is what they do with them.  Whereas, the D&T solo labum was nothing but poppy near hits (although it did close out on the slow and eerie “The Apple Tree” about nuclear war perhaps a precursor to the songs on the Squeeze reunion album), COSI is an album of deep disorientation filled with bad drug experiences (“Big Ben”), family problems caused by drinking (“King George Street”), infidelity (“I Learnt How to Pray), domestic violence (“Last Time Forever”) even terrorism (“Hits of the Year”).  Even a simple statement of the support of a loved one like “By Your Side” is turned into a desperate plea not by the lyrics but by Tilbrook’s normally beautiful McCartneysque vocals distorted so they sound like someone undergoing great emotional pain. Keith Wilkinson’s amplified bass also contributes to this mood.

Here the hangover effect is much more direct with alcohol figuring in at least half of the songs’ lyrics and even directly in a title (“I Won’t Ever Going Drinking Again”) interestingly the last song on the record as if the whole record was nothing but a bad drunk’s nightmare.

This is not to say the music here is not catchy in Squeeze’s hybrid Beatles way, it is very much and in among the sadness is pretty music but Squeeze once had a song entitled “When the Hangover Strikes” and here they come close to actually creating the musical sound equivalent of that.  The synthesizers on COSI are neither warm nor welcoming they are either completely inhuman or sound like crying, the accompaniment to a very blue mood.      

      

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT JON HUNTSMAN


Today I watched the foreign policy debate of Republican presidential candidates which took place in South Carolina.  This was probably the least controversial debate so far, the one where there was the most agreement among the candidates and the least fireworks except for Ron Paul who advances such “controversial” notions that bombing other countries makes more problems than it solves, that torture is not only morally and legally wrong, it doesn’t produce quality info, and the extrajudicial assassination of Anwar Al Awlaki, a US citizen, sets a bad precedent.

But aside from Paul, whom I’ve liked and supported for a long time as you can tell from my numerous posts about his candidacy, I am getting more and more impressed with Jon Huntsman.  Huntsman’s selling point this primary season is that he is reasonable, believes in evolution and climate change, is not a religious extremist and will not pander to the most hateful elements of the Republican Party.  Of course, this a hard sell in today’s batshit insane tea party GOP which is why he has about the polled support of 1% (You don’t want to know the other 99% in this case).  He is basically a Bush Republican not George W Bush but George Bush his dad.  He is a 1988-1992 Republican.

I have no illusions about Huntsman.  He is the son of a billionaire and his fiscal platform is a bit hazy, flat tax, a cut in corporate tax  none of which are bold enough solutions to the current problems America faces.  I don’t think he gets it on the superwealthy and not paying their share.  He is a “100 % pro life”.  While moderate in some ways foreign policy-wise, he also bows before Israel and talks tough on Iran.

However, what impresses me about Huntsman is he was governor of one of the most conservative states in America, Utah, and did not govern as an ideologue despite having the necessary legislative votes to do so.  Some examples – despite being against gay marriage, he supported civil unions as a compromise IN UTAH!.  He supported driving privileges for illegal aliens (which I actually oppose so he’s to the right of me here) as well as more visas for foreign skilled workers.  When’s the last time you heard a presidential candidate especially a Republican one say he wants more immigration? He also has supported Cap and Trade as well as an increase in the federal minimum wage.  He also agrees with Ron Paul on pulling the troops from Afghanistan and banning torture.

What Huntsman’s record shows is that he knows how to govern, how to compromise and how to craft legislation with a legislature something President Obama has problems with.  He’s not a slave to ideology, he’s not a fanatic to any dogma and is basically running a similar campaign to what Obama did in 2008.  In addition, Huntsman has said he’s more spiritual than religious and has an adopted Indian daughter who he allows to practice her Hindu faith and his wife is Episcopalian so I don’t think his Mormonism would get in the way of his governance.

If Huntsman changed the focus of his fiscal policy, adopted some more of Ron Paul’s foreign policy and end the fed, I could even consider supporting him in a future presidential campaign.        

In addition unlike Mitt Romney plastic and phony and the rest who are angry or crazy or some mix of the two (I am excluding Paul here who speaks just fine), Huntsman speaks like someone who thinks before they talk which is a rarity in the Republican party these days.  In another saner time, he’d be front runner for the nomination.




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

MUSIC ROUND-UP - THIRD ENTRY FOR 2011

My third posting for 2011 on what I've been listening to. My first one is here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/04/music-round-up-for-2011-so-far.html
 (a review on their second album also released this year is forthcoming) 
Here's the new entries.... 
FAMOUS FIRST WORDS By Viva Brother
It’s like 1995 again and here we have the classic Brit pop sound – Nothing new here but such a glorious well produced collection of songs (Nice to hear Big Oasis guitars again) that it pushes the music sugar spot again and again regardless of originality.

LE NOISE by Neil Young
Neil Young’s best album in 15 years.  The hook here is that there are no drums either the songs are buried in orchestral feedback or are acoustic.  In the last decade, Neil’s albums have often been ambitious and contained a couple great songs but also much filler.  Here we have consistent songwriting all the way through and Neil sings these songs with such grizzled majesty.

BLOUSE by Blouse
Synthpop from Portland, OR  with a beautiful torch singer type female vocal over the blips and beats and occasional guitar and Peter Hook type bass rhythms.  The difference is the amount of memorable melodies they produce here.  A band I will be following in the future.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIX by Bombay Bicycle Club
I wasn’t sure what this was going to be like. After the herky jerky new wave throwback of their first album led to the almost completely acoustic arrangements on their second album, would the third album be synthesisers or a full orchestra or death metal perhaps??? No the end result is closer to the first album albeit less frenzied with some pianos and other things thrown into the mix.  Here the songs are slower, longer and there is an older man’s wisdom behind these tired vocals and lyrics.  A good record - let’s see what they do next

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MY NEW POETRY PROJECT 50 PEOPLE PLUS A REVIEW OF MY TWO POETRY BOOKS

Some info about my new poetry project I am slowly starting work on entitled 50 PEOPLE (from my other blog which is dedicated to my poetry)
Also a great review for my two poetry books THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY and SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT - CLARENCE THOMAS THEN AND HERMAN CAIN NOW


I must admit that in the summer of 1991 when the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas took a dramatic turn following accusations of sexual harassment, I believed the accused over the accuser.

It wasn’t that I didn’t find Anita Hill credible as a witness.  It was more the lack of corroborating evidence (both witnesses and other women who had been harassed by Thomas) as well as her continued association with Thomas after he had first crossed the line.

I also was offended by the link made between Thomas, a single man at the time, and his viewing of pornographic films.  If watching a pornographic video made one automatically a sexual harasser then every man in a developed country would be out propositioning and annoying women.

However, there has been a lot of information brought out in the years since the hearings and Thomas’s elevation to the Supreme Court (Much of it hidden or neglected during the original hearings).  There were other women who the senate chose not to hear from who could confirm Thomas’s behavior as well as confirm that Hill told people about Thomas’s treatment of her.  In addition, Thomas interest in porn wasn’t the common variety man/woman stuff but his tastes were more perverse leaning towards bestiality among other kinks.  We have learned a lot about sexual harassment since then and Thomas fits many of the standard patterns of the textbook harasser.

I, 20 years later, now believe that Anita Hill likely told the truth.  Much of Thomas’s career is built on fraud especially how much of a big role affirmative action played in his rise and which he consequently has tried to eliminate for anyone else coming after him.  As far as his performance as a Supreme Court Justice goes, I feel he’s been a sub-par justice and a corporate stooge

At this time, there is nothing close to the amount of information that was out on Hill-Thomas about the sexual harassment charges leveled at Herman Cain.  Apparently, the National Restaurant Association which he was CEO for in the mid 90’s settled at least two different harassment claims by two different women with cash payouts (which also stipulated confidentiality).

I think Herman Cain is a narcissistic boob- A vanity candidate running for the presidency to increase his asking price as a public speaker and to get a talk show on the Fox News Channel.  It’s only the self-immolation of Rick Perry and the lack of any other serious conservative alternative to Mitt Romney that has elevated him to a higher position as a candidate.

Cain is almost totally ignorant of anything outside finance and even there his 999 tax plan is regressive and would increase the tax burden on the working poor and middle class.  It’s a great deal for the superwealthy though.

I’ll be waiting to see if there’s fire as well as smoke here.  I do believe that sexual harassment is pattern based-that is a person who uses their position to harass a subordinate or other employee will continue this behavior until dealt with so if Cain is really guilty of this then more stories of those subjected to this harassment should be forthcoming.  

  




Monday, October 24, 2011

POST-DIGITAL REVELATION BY J.D. CASTEN


POST-DIGITAL REVELATION by my friend J.D. Casten is best classified as book length verse although the last section is partly told in narrative form.

I think the best way for me to describe what this is about is to talk about creation as an artist and as a lifeform.  The first page introduces us to a narrator literally willing himself into being.

$ira la round  de la de da up: I was writhing in the twilight
A wizard of ooze – translucent and snapping open
Eyes burst forth and in precise bisections illuminate
Radiate rotation and in erratic adjustment turn
With confidence and style, stretch, yearn, learn, laugh

Through much of the first 2/3’s of POST-DIGITAL REVELATION, God and devil imagery collide with the conscious perceptions of the narrator.  The devil prepares his hell while God is less of a materially rendered being.

Is your truth evil?

An evil invention?
The invention of evil?
Everything is a lie!  Morality, mortality
They mean nothing to me
Is it moral to feel morally superior?

This often is augmented by his paranoia, his sense of being part of something greater.  His storypoem is one of eternity and machines and one of the mind functioning under external stimuli.  Much of it is presented in the language of dreams.

The collective perspective rediscovers itself
Light eons from the beginning, collecting
Fragmented pieces of an eternal puzzle
That refract and reflect all that prior
To the opening of the inception     

The Big Bang theory and aliens are introduced later.  The aliens in particular represent another part of the dream mind regurgitating back on itself what it knows from pop culture.

The aliens began to shape shift
With chameleon colors changing
Into various human representations
Found throughout history
From E.T. to Mr. Spock and then
Settling on the Great Gazoo from the
The Flintstones cartoon show

It is the last two chapters with the introduction of scientist Dr. Christine Herold where perception and the revelation of the possible identity of the narrator that gives us a twist like something out of a novel by Phillip K Dick.  In fact if Dick had written poetry, it would have been something very similar to POST-DIGITAL REVELATION I imagine.  I am also reminded of a more lucid William Burroughs.  Casten explains himself and his vision in a way that is well thought out not the overly hallucinatory cut-up style of Burroughs.  In his short punchy stanzas (in most of the first four chapters) one is also reminded of Allen Ginsberg and his ability to slide back and forth between scenes of seeming non-reality and scenes of what feels very real.   Of course, the spirit of William Blake resides here as well-man having no problem breaking down the wall between himself and an otherworldly experience and bearing witness to this

To me, as a poet, there is nothing harder than creating book length connected verse.  I am planning a future project along these lines but I know it will be a tough execution.  Even harder is creating something that tells a story using this format.  Throw in the changing perceptions and the answer might be this couplet appearing towards the beginning:

If we cut through this tide of delusion
And got to the real illusion.

J.D. Casten is also my publisher and more information on his book, his music, and publishing company can be found here - http://postegoism.net/Casten.html