Recv'd my advance copies of my third book of poetry TRAVELS WITH THE ANTI-JOHNNY APPLESEED.
Also the link is up now at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Travels-With-The-Anti-Johnny-Appleseed/dp/0985480211/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345958996&sr=8-1&keywords=travels+with+the+anti-johnny+appleseed
“Every word he speaks comes straight from an unedited core of being” – these words from Raj Dronamraju’s third book of poetry TRAVELS WITH THE ANTI-JOHNNY APPLESEED could be said to describe Dronamraju’s own words. But here, the “core of being” is not necessarily Raj’s own self. Rather, moving from possibly autobiographical elements of a narrator’s past and remembered culture in the first of three parts, the second part presents something of the de-centered views of culture itself in the present era—often from an unfiltered and non-judgmental perspective—but revealing political, religious and cultural attitudes all the same. Here the cultural Zeitgeist speaks like internet surfing, TV channel switching, or scanning bulletin board notices. And like some dialectical merging of past and present, the future erupts in the third and last part of Raj’s book as a merging of personal and cultural memory with an inverted recollection of the future to come: hopes and dreams and possible nightmares as well for a personal history—an imperfect future recalled with wit and wisdom. As a coherent cohesive collection of poems, TRAVELS WITH THE ANTI-JOHNNY APPLESEED creates a gestalt experience where the whole is greater than its parts, and dogmatic attitudes are shot down with iconoclastic precision."
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Saturday, August 25, 2012
What a difference a week or two makes. I wanted to follow-up on this post. http://www.rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2012/08/senate-elections-overview-2012-plus.html
Of course Todd Akin’s “rape” comments change everything. If he stays in the race, Claire McCaskill will win. It turns out I was wrong. I figure she pumped up Akin’s candidacy because he knew he was likely to say something stupid and offensive like this. In retrospect, running ads attacking him while the Republican primary was still going on was a very clever strategy. McCaskill as Brer Rabbit, “Don’t throw me in the briar patch” “Don’t give me Todd Akin as an opponent”
This doesn’t change my opinion of McCaskill however. And if the Republicans can get Akin out of the race, replace him with another candidate, the balance will change once again.
MR BRIDGE by Evan S. Connell contains the best description of the microcosm of upper middle class family life (family life in general really) I’ve ever read. The period here is the 1930’s but the description so universal it could be anywhere and it could be any family.
The Bridges who reside in Kansas City, Kansas, the father Walter, a lawyer, whose perspective this story is told through, his wife India a housewife and their three children promiscuous and arty Ruth, hard working and athletic Carolyn, and rebellious slacker Douglas were actually the subject of an earlier book by Connell entitled MRS. BRIDGE which told their life from the viewpoint of India Bridge. I’ve not read that book but definitely plan to.
MR. BRIDGE filters the events that occur through Mr Bridge’s button down point of view. His middle of the road conservatism more status quo than embracing any particular philosophy is used to show race relations, anti-Semitism, women’s rights and a host of other issues. This device works splendidly and the reader sees both a clear picture of how things were at that time in US history and how society would make up its mind about these issues in the years to come. Mr Bridge’s changing opinion on Nazi Germany and the upcoming world war is also shown and I think reflective of a certain type of lazy racist thinking at the time influenced also by negative feelings about the US’s involvement in WWI and the resulting isolationist strain of thought.
Also how Mr Bridge views his family is brutally honest. How he takes his wife for granted and how he harbours incestuous feelings for Ruth. The scene where he finds Ruth having sex with a beau on the living room couch and then thinks about her afterwards is grotesque but also shows a deeply psychological understanding of the father/daughter relationship-how complex it is. His attempts at discipline particularly with his son Douglas are equally well thought out and shown as largely awkward and failed.
Many of the side characters (friends, neighbors etc.) are quite well developed too. Connell has a way of writing that is very easy to read - short matter of fact sentences, unironic thought processes described honestly, quick scalpel-like descriptions. A very complete novel wanting for nothing – More Connell hopefully to be read in the future.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Twin Shadow - CONFESS
Twin Shadow’s (AKA George Lewis Jr.) second album CONFESS continues the same mid 80’s influenced direction as his first FORGET with the only difference being higher production values meaning Casio sounding keyboards and the Linn drum type percussion gives way to modern day mechanization. The result is less endearing less haunting than the first but the songs are equally good. When something is heard for the second time perhaps the novelty has worn off a bit. That being said, while FORGET was one of the best albums of 2010, CONFESS is also likely to make the best of list for 2012.
The Crookes - HOLD FAST
The Crookes find themselves in a similar situation. Their debut album CHASING AFTER GHOSTS was one of the best albums of 2011. For the follow-up HOLD FAST, the songs are less complex and have less atmosphere. This is still a very good band and they seem very relaxed here. I’m looking forward to their next record.
Noel Gallagher - NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
One release I missed from 2011 but sought out after an excellent performance at Coachella was the first solo album by Noel Gallagher NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS. This is a superb record – Gallagher’s best record since Oasis’s second album WHAT’S THE STORY, MORNING GLORY? And perhaps his best group of songs ever. Exquisitely produced with lots of strings and brass and big, big tunes such as Everybody’s on the Run, If I Had a Gun, AKA....Broken Arrow, and Stop the Clocks. Considering the quality of Oasis’s last couple of records before they broke up and how good this record is, I frankly hope that Noel continues on as a solo artist.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Recent developments in the presidential race only underscore what has become more and more clear for the last couple months. Despite early indications, it seems that the Republican party are not going to win enough seats to take back control of the senate. In fact, they may end up in a situation where they have the exact same number of seats they do now.
Now, it is clear the Republicans are going to pick up Missouri and Nebraska. Those two seats are lost causes. Conversely, the Democrats I believe will pick up Massachusetts. An independent will likely win the currently Republican held seat in Maine but will caucus with the Democrats on procedural votes etc. so we can count that as a Democratic vote. So we are back to the same breakdown of Senators we have now 51+47+2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
The Republicans had pinned some of their hopes on North Dakota but Hedi Heitkamp former attorney general is known to the state and very hard to demonize and now she has taken the a slight lead in holding this seat for the Democrats. Ditto for Martin Heinrich in New Mexico whose lead is only growing.
The races in Florida and Virginia still remain tight but the trend now in both races seems to be an ever so slight lead opening up for the Democratic candidates (these are currently both Democrat held seats).
The only races I see at this point in time as true toss-ups are Montana and Wisconsin and even if the Republicans won both (which I think is unlikely) the senate would be 49+49+2 which basically means 51-49 as the two independents would be caucusing with the Democrats.
In addition, Tea Party whacko Richard Mourdock’s win in the Republican primary in Indiana and Arizona’s various controversies (an open seat) may make both of these potential targets for the Democrats. Could they actually increase their majority? We will see.
Granted, this is all subject to change although I think Paul Ryan’s record with elderly voters, his plans for Medicare and Social Security, in addition to hurting Romney and Ryan’s chances in states with large numbers of elderly voters such as Florida might also negatively affect Republican senate candidates in those states as well.
One state where the Republicans thought they might have a chance and where they dumped lots of money is Ohio. Incumbent 1st term Democratic senator Sherrod Brown has a reasonable progressive voting record, certainly much more than you would expect from someone who represents Ohio which on paper is a swing state but is more like a second tier Republican state. However, Brown is unafraid to talk about his record and his beliefs and in a state with a large number of blue collar workers especially hard hit by the endless recession that is respected. No matter what the Republicans have thrown at him, Brown has maintained a steady lead in polls against his challenger so far.
Contrast that with the most endangered Democratic incumbent senator this cycle Claire McCaskill elected the same year as Brown. Granted, Missouri is even more conservative than Ohio but McCaskill has voted with one finger in the wind with no clear cut ideology but her own re-election. She is a supporter of wars and of Wall Street. She has spent much of this election campaign so far running away from her record (in particular her vote for Obamacare) and from President Obama. She is the Blanche Lambert Lincoln of 2012.
In addition, McCaskill ran attack ads while the Republicans were having their primary against Todd Akin, the winner. Why she did this is either because she wanted Akin to be her competitor or she didn’t want him to be her competitor-two different theories. Anyway, Akin, a career politician, a congressman for more than a decade, is a far tougher opponent than the other two in the primary- Sarah Steelman, a Sarah Palin wannabe or John Brunner a multi-millionaire who has never held elected office. This is/was a baffling strategy.
McCaskill could end up being the only incumbent Democratic senator to lose. That should be a lesson.. People respect candidates who state clearly what they are about and don’t try to fudge or runaway from their records even if they don’t necessarily agree with the candidates’ positions.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I’m thinking that M/F by Anthony Burgess must be his reaction to William Burroughs. How else to explain Burgess’s use of stream of consciousness, oddball fantasy crushed into normal narrative, not using quotes when writing dialogue? I wouldn’t be surprised if he even used some cut up technique here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut-up_technique
This story is ostensibly about incest although honestly I got lost in the plot and still don’t really understand how the narrator Miles Faber and his sister are connected. The best I can gather from the postscript at the end and the scene with the lawyer at the very beginning is that incest is a tradition in the Faber family.
Burgess is a writer that usually skillfully transposes his vulgar yet erudite and busy style on whatever genre suits the narrative be it the futuristic sci-fi of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE or THE WANTING SEED or the thinly disguised memoir of THE MALAYAN TRILOGY or screwball comedy like HONEY FOR THE BEARS (the distant relationship between the narrator’s adventures and homosexuality in BEARS and the narrator and incest in this book are similar).
Here I think he may be a little bit out of his depth although the Burgess trademark fast paced storyline keeps things interesting. Burgess meets the Beats (especially Burroughs) and the result is babble conversation, surreal ink-every penned word unreal. This is not Burgess’s best book but worth a read for fans.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
It may seem like a cliché to say that ABSENTIA is the sort of thoughtful, eerie, minimalist horror film they don’t make anymore but it’s true. No huge amounts of gore, people running around hiding from maniacs, false scares, the usual post-slasher film horror movie.
Instead we are treated to a genuinely creepy film which will stick with you afterwards.
The husband of the heroine Tricia has vanished some seven years before the beginning of the film. Tricia is both pregnant (the father is who you think it is-no surprise there) and about to sign papers declaring her husband legally dead. Her younger sister, a recovering drug addict, has also come to stay with her in advance of the delivery date.
How this ties in to a nearby pedestrian tunnel that has a history of being a place where people and pets both disappear and the eventual return of Tricia’s husband albeit in a very different mental state than he was in seven years ago make for a great story.
I particularly liked the updating of mythology to the modern day in particular the new rendering of a very old and familiar creature of legend. The monster, when it appears, is shown only briefly. It is an indie film with a low budget but they found the perfect location which also furthers the suspense.
Every decision the filmmaker made on this film seems to have been the right one - A great story very original highly recommended.
The closest thing I can compare IRON SKY to is DR STRANGELOVE. They have similar endings and a similarly irreverent approach to global conflict.
In this case, a colony of Nazis, who have survived since WWII clandestinely on the dark side of the moon, are exposed to the real world courtesy of a new expedition to the moon sent by the Sarah Palin like US president (I shouldn’t use the word “like”-she’s never identified by name but it is clearly Palin down from her accent to the stuffed polar bear in the oval office) to boost her re-election chances.
The Nazis are like Jack D Ripper in DR STRANGELOVE….They act as kind of a Deux Ex Machina. The real conflict which is exposed is that between the US and the rest of the world.
There are some very funny and pointed scenes about race as well….The astronaut captured by the Nazis at the beginning of the movie (who is not really an astronaut but a male model, selected by the president because he is a celebrity) goes through a skin whitening treatment and is rendered a Caucasian.
The action scenes are quite good. Implied is the idea that flying saucers are in fact an invention of the Nazis. I also found the film exuded a high budget feel (which helped the story). I don’t know if it was a low budget or high budget film.
A great satire and also a fun adventure film.
V/H/S is a kickass update of the horror anthology film. It is one of the few films I’ve seen in recent years that made me jump. It is terrifying at times.
Linked by a wraparound story regarding a group of punks looking for a specific videotape in a dark old house and having to play random videotapes to see if it’s the right one, each story is told through modern technology either through a hidden camera, people videotaping their daily events or in one case Skype.
For me ranking the stories in order of preference, I would say best to worst - 1,2,4,5,3,wraparound
The first story involves a group of the usual young drinking age douchebags picking up the wrong girl in a club. This story was ferocious. I felt I was being kicked in the head the whole time I was watching it. You’ll never hear “I like you” again without this going through your mind.
#2 is a bit more subtle and slower paced but has a neat surprise ending. #4 is told completely in Skype, a clever idea that felt a bit rushed. #5 also felt a bit rushed but ended the movie well and was eerie. #3 was a good story but didn’t have a real ending. Ditto the wraparound story.
Still, this was a film of energy and ideas (6 different directors worked on it- all young horror directors). It was nonstop horror and if you didn’t like the scene you were watching, just wait something better will come soon.
An impressive film on par with the great horror anthology films of the past (American International and Hammer studios especially) but with a modern reboot.
MY PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENT FOR 2012- JILL STEIN AND CHERYL HOKALA-GREEN PARTY PLUS OBAMA 2.0, HYPOCRISY 2.0
I’ve been looking at alternatives to supporting Barack Obama’s re-election. Someone who can combine my priorities with a good progressive platform. I am not a Libertarian but as I‘ve written about many times on this blog I do support Ron Paul’s attempts for higher office based on his top three priorities 1.) Ending US Imperialism and the endless “war on terror” 2.) Legalizing drugs especially marijuana and ending the endless “drug war” 3.) Ending or reforming the Federal Reserve system. In addition, Paul’s is one of the few major candidates who support repealing the unconstitutional Patriot Act.
However, Paul is not running in the general election and I don’t agree with the Libertarian Party’s philosophy taken as a whole. I am not an ideologue and I think there is a role for government particularly in health care which is the big issue of the day. Obamacare was a terrible solution-forcing people to buy private health care is not national healthcare and is about as conservative a solution to the problem as you can get. I believe in a federally funded national healthcare program. I also believe in gun control, electoral reform and a number of other issues normally associated with left wing thought. In addition, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party nominee, is a bit suspicious in his foreign policy belief as I’ve discussed here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/05/falling-in-love-with-ron-paul-all-over.html
I’ve been looking very closely at the Green Party platform and I find I agree with about 70% of it. Their foreign policy which specifically calls for a right of return for the Palestinians and investigation of Operation Cast lead and other horrible human right violations, ending the Cuban embargo, and ending targeted assassinations is exactly the set of beliefs and goals I have.
I also support the Greens belief in universal healthcare, a universal wage, banning private prisons, and banking and insurance reform.
There are a few things I don’t support about them – don’t support making DC a state, don’t support prisoners being allowed to vote, don’t support some of their government/electoral restructuring ideas which would make the USA more like a European parliamentary system(although I do support them on getting rid of the electoral college and public financing of campaigns). I’m also a bit of a global warming agnostic( I believe in climate change but believe the speed in which it is happening being deliberately exaggerated by climate change supporters for political reasons) which is after all their signature issue. While the Green Party supports drug legalization, I don’t think they go far enough. On the legalizing of prostitution, they are actually to the right of most of today’s laws. I also think they don’t go far enough on gun control.
But still 70% is a lot more than I support either the Democratic and Republican party platforms and with the exception of climate change, the issues I don’t support them on are relatively minor. The Green Party nominees this year are Jill Stein for President and Cheri Honkala for Vice President I am endorsing them. The Green Party USA platform is here http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2010/index.php
Meanwhile, while I don’t support President Obama any longer, I do expect him to win another term barring some huge national catastrophe like terrorism or a full-on depression. The Electoral College math still supports his re-election as does the polling in key states. He is also running the right type of campaign against Mitt Romney – hitting him hard and fast on his failure to release taxes, his vulture capitalism, etc. not giving Romney a chance to breathe.
Listening to Obama makes me sick. The man who is campaigning is like the man who campaigned in 2008. Neither is like the president we’ve had the last four years – The one who approved targeted assassinations of US citizens, reneged on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay open, pushed through a flawed and ultimately unconstitutional health plan through, bailed out the big banks without any new tough regulations imposed and gave in on a number of issues(taxes for one) to a batshit crazy Republican congress.
The hope is with the re-election monkey off his back. We will get a new President Obama one who shows that ultimately he is a progressive, not a product of party machinations. We will see- For now, I stand by my assertion – He is nothing but ambition, there’s no desire for hope or change there, just desire to appear successful, the empty vanity of the TV Camera.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk is a writer I’ve been meaning to read for a long time and I’ve decided to start off with one of his more recent books THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE.
My impression of Pamuk prior to reading him based on reviews and conversations who’d read his books was that his writing was in the magic realism vein similar to Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Salman Rushdie but if one uses this book as an example, that’s not really the case at all.
The story of MUSEUM is that of Kemal, a Turkish man in his early 30’s, a member of a wealthy family, engaged to be married, who falls in love with his 18 year old relative Firsun. The first 100 or so pages is taken up with their relationship until Firsun ends the relationship and disappears(she feels Kemal has lied about the engagement with his fiance and how he really feels about her). Kemal, who is genuinely obsessed with her, spends a year looking for her and when he finally finds her, she has married somebody else. His own engagement ends over his continuing obsession with Firsun. He spends the bulk of the next couple of hundred pages ingratiating himself with her family and attempting to win Firsun back (which lasts about eight years). Finally he succeeds and she leaves her husband with tragic results.
The museum in question is Kemal‘s tribute not to Firsun but to his obsession with everything about her. It contains items he meticulously hoarded away from their time together –cigarette butts, empty glasses, earrings, clothes, things taken from her parents’ house in the eight years he was trying to get her back. It’s at first kept in the apartment that was maintained for their trysts but by the end he has purchased Firsun’s parents’ old apartment and turned into an actual museum
The clearest problem with MUSEUM (which I otherwise enjoyed) is its length - 531 pages. This is not a 500 page story but I would say maybe 250. Pamuk’s early scenes describing Kemal’s engagement party and other Istanbul social life are thorough and really organic in the way characters mingle with each other. One doesn’t need an explanation for who every character is as Pamuk sets the scene so expertly. This is a tribute to him as a writer.
However, this breaks down later on. He spends far, far too long showing Kemal’s relationship with Firsun’s family in the lengthy middle wherein she is married to somebody else. Endless pages of descriptions of awkward dinners don’t really help anything.
Pamuk does salvage the narrative at the end though. The last 30 pages which feature Pamuk himself who has been conscripted by Kemal to write the story of himself and Firsun and the museum is like a book within a book.
I have no idea if this is true but it’s a clever way to end the book and gets it back on track. I would definitely read more Pamuk.