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, December 20, 2015

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE THIRD DEMOCRATIC DEBATE


1.) Got a Lot of respect for Bernie Sanders. He manned up and apologized for the data breach while at the same time pointing out the absurdity of the unfair treatment his campaign received. He also shut a potential Hillary Clinton attack down on this issue. That look on her face when she saw she couldn't make hay out of the data issue LOL Suck it Shitlary!!!!

2.) Hillary Clinton's plan for Syria or as it is also known Marco Rubio's plan for Syria. Also no mention of Putin so far - It's like he doesn't exist.

3.) Even better than the strong statements by the three candidates against Islamophobia was the using of the term "Clash of Civilizations" as a negative....That comes from a book neo-cons always cite by Samuel P. Huntington that posits the theory that the great struggle in the future will be the West vs Islam....I've read it and it's bigoted colonialist BS - one of GW Bush's favorite books supposedly even more than My Pet Goat.

4.) Sanders trying to go on the offense on gun control may have made sense on paper but he opened himself to a valid attack by Martin O'Malley who also went after Clinton who ignored him in response and piled on Sanders. If gun control is your issue, O'Malley has by far the best record. Sanders pointing out he lost his first political race by being too much for gun control is not good because then you automatically assume he won his later campaigns by being against too much gun control (which is true. His gun record sucks).

5.) If there was a debate drinking game that consisted of taking a sip every time Hillary tells a lie, I'd be passed out on the floor covered in my own vomit by this point.

6.) Answers on the Middle East - hollow gibberish from Clinton/O'Malley, a more carefully worded version of what neo-cons are pushing in the Republican Party....Also O Malley is wrong on Somalia....The US has used to drones to kill innocent people, create chaos, and stop an Islamic government coming into power that could stabilize the country.

7.) Sanders exactly right on priorities and regime change causing chaos. Clinton - do both with "moderate" rebels - same nonsense as Republicans say - can't do ISIS and Assad at the same time without causing chaos. Anybody who says otherwise is an idiot or a liar with other intentions.

8.) During intermission, a moment of clarity.... Bernie and Hillary on the Iraq War https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ySJLIc5BJM

9.) The problem(s) with Sanders tuition free college plan 1.) No means testing, people whose parents make 500,000 a year get the same deal as those making 30,000 a year 2.) No work study component 3.) Many analysts have said that Sanders wall street transaction tax won't be enough to cover the costs and what happens if there is another recession?

10.) Sanders dominates the health care issue.... Why is the US the only developed country without a guaranteed health care system? Support single payer...Real contrast to Hillary's tepid incrementalism.

11.)While Sanders answer on law enforcement/police brutality/racism was the strongest of the three, I was disappointed that none of them challenged the question - There is no such thing as "The Ferguson Effect" - Another right wing myth. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/06/17/3670203/ferguson-effect-isnt-real-in-st-louis/

12.) Clinton really made a lot of blunders tonight (ISIS right where want them? You can support a country's government and a revolution against that same government at the same time?) We'll see if they hurt her also also a dumb star wars reference in her closing comments and attempts to scare Dems about abortion and gay marriage....O'Malley was often a non-entity but got in a few good answers - espc. liked what he said about encryption laws and refugees....Sanders was really on point tonight starting with ownership of the data breach....Strong answers although "My mother spent her entire life in a rent controlled apartment" is not a particularly inspiring campaign slogan LOL.


SOME THOUGHTS ON THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE'S TREATMENT OF BERNIE SANDERS


(While it seems like Sanders and the DNC have come to some understanding since I wrote this yesterday, my opinion on this still stands)

While I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter (for reasons I've noted on this blog many times before), I think he is a decent guy with a long history of positive social activism in some domestic areas. Once again, we see what corrupt amoral trash the Clintonites are. People have been distracted by the thought of a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz administration but I find a Hillary Clinton presidency just as worrisome.

1.) This was a clear set-up, entrapment. I think the information was deliberately made available and blamed on a software glitch knowing that human nature means a Sanders staffer would look at it (Sanders and O'Malley info was also available at the same time). Not only that but Sanders has fired the staffer who looked at the released data.

2.) Sanders actually has power here. The 2016 election is starting to feel a bit like 2000 and he should threaten to play the role of spoiler and run as a third party candidate ( perhaps on the Green Party ticket) if the DNC really does try to shut him out.

3.) The fix for Hillary Clinton has been in from the beginning starting from limiting debates to far less than the Republicans to airing them at odd times when football or other programs are on to limiting other forums candidates could appear in.

4.) The head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is a real piece of shit. The poster child for why the two party system sucks. One of the worst stories is when President Obama tried to have her removed as DNC head after Democratic losses in congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections, she threatened to scream "anti-semitism" if he did this.  Here is a petition calling for her immediate removal as DNC head  https://www.change.org/p/debbie-wasserman-schultz-demand-debbie-wasserman-schultz-s-immediate-resignation-as-dnc-chair


5.) If I was still a registered voter in the USA, I would register as a Republican for the primaries vote for Rand Paul to send an anti-war, anti-surveillance state message then vote third party in the general. I've said it many times - The US two party system is not true democracy. It's a duopoly of power maintained by corporate money and the military/industrial complex and by freezing other parties out of the political process.

In addition, a few interesting details that have leaked to the press from Bernie Sanders lawsuit against the DNC.

1.) The exact same firewall glitch occurred last month and was caught by a Sanders staffer who alerted the vendor responsible. It wasn't fixed and of course happened again this month.

2.) A near exact situation happened in 2008 between the Obama and Clinton campaigns - No one was disciplined and the story never reached the media.

3.) The Sanders campaign has alleged their data was viewed by other campaigns. Why aren't they in trouble?

4.) The contract between Sanders, the DNC, and the computer vendor requires a 10 day warning before cutting off access which isn't being followed in this case (there is no provision for immediate cut-off due to misbehavior).



Saturday, December 19, 2015

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE SECOND SEASON OF FARGO


The penultimate moment for me in the second season is when the character of Mike Milligan, a gangster out of Kansas City expertly and naturally played by Bokeem Woodbine, recites the poem Jabberwocky while on his way to commit violence.  For me that perfectly tied together the elements of Fargo, both seasons plus the movie.

These elements are the matter of factedness of the northern midwesterners, the elements of violent crime, the hapless losers - Jerry Lundegaard in the movie, Lester Nygaard in season one, the Blumquists in season two, the solid heroes, the spacey secondary characters (something season two excelled at), the so it goes weird encounters, raining fish and UFO's and of curse the dry humor which occasionally veers into absurdity and slapstick.

Season two was considerably better than season one to me because the narrative flow of two made better sense, felt less bumpy, and featured bigger, more dramatic characters and events.  Woodbine's Milligan was the best but I also liked Nick Offerman as a local attorney and the brief appearance by the always brilliant Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan.

Fargo also did something very interesting - It resolved most of the mob war storyline in the second to last episode and spent the last episode in sort of a pronounced meditation on life and death.  Ted Danson's speech at the end on why he is creating a universal language reminded me very much of Tommy Lee Jones monologue at the end of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.  I also liked the final fate of WoodbineMilligan which was a nod to the finale of THE SHIELD.

With a formula in hand, we'll see where season three goes especially since it is going to take place timewise following season one.  It would be nice to see some variations - perhaps a flawed hero or anti-hero like Walter White.


  

IN CELEBRATION OF CHEAP TRICK


The bad news - The Smiths were snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (As were The Cars, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, and Chic).

The good news - Cheap Trick will be inducted this year!

There are bands that just make you feel good when you listen to their music - No thought needed. They just fill your veins with melodic goodness and Cheap Trick for me is one of those bands.

The secret to their success is not the recognition for all the radio hits and association with AOR as well as the most commercial of new wave acts, but rather that Cheap Trick is a power pop band and a very good one. Never a scene with a strong sense of identification beyond the musical influences especially The Beatles (which were strong indeed), Cheap Trick broke out from the local Illinois power pop bands and the clubs they played in.

It bears repeating that their most immediate influence is and was The Beatles. George Martin even produced one of their records - My personal favorite ALL SHOOK UP.

Although they went off the rails for a bit in the late 80's early 90's into AOR soft pop nothingness, they recovered in time to see their influence everywhere and to make several good independent records in the last decade or two (most notably ROCKFORD).

The elements of a good Cheap Trick tune - The catchy traditional structure with breathless verses and gigantic choruses, Rick Neilsen's crunchy guitars, Robin Zander's totally committed forceful yet enthralling vocals like McCartney straining to sing "Oh Darling". In the 1970's and early 1980's, Neilsen was the primary songwriter although that changed with time.

Sometimes a band's sound is everything. Cheap Trick's sound at their peak (which they have been a lot in their career) was perfect, Beatle-y bursts of hard rock glory but they wouldn't have been able to do it without the great songs....

So many classic Cheap Trick songs but here is my Cheap Trick song masterlist

World's Greatest Lover

I'll Be With You Tonight

She's Tight

Heaven Tonight

Next Position Please

Dream Police

He's a Whore

High Priest of Rhythmic Noise

On Top of the World

Stop This Game


 



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE FIFTH REPUBLICAN DEBATE


Some thoughts on today's Republican Debate....Some very clear divisions in foreign policy in the Republican Party. My comments as always  are objective based on performance, I'm not supporting anyone

1.) Most interesting moment of the night - Marco Rubio admitted, whether it was a mistake or not, that the US in fact did create ISIS, arming it. He said "The US had no other choice".

2.) I'm not sure what planet some of these people live on (In particular Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Chris Christie) talking either as if Russian involvement in Syria doesn't exist or if it is going to be very easy to enforce a no fly zone with Russia already in Syria. As Rand Paul said "If you want WWIII, here are your candidates". Also as Paul once again reminded everyone, Hillary Clinton's policy on Syria is exactly the same.

3.) Kasich threatening to punch Vladimir Putin was unintentionally hilarious and reminded me of rumors in the 90's that Kasich was gay, the reason supposedly both Bob Dole and George W. Bush skipped him as Vice Presidential picks. Kasich also made a comment about ISIS "We need to be able to penetrate these people " LOL.

4.) Ted Cruz had a good night. In particular, he did something really clever - He co-opted Paul's issues (not supporting regime change or surveillance overreach) while still talking tough and presenting himself as the right compromise. That's a winning approach in today's Republican primary. He also did good job on grabbing immigration away from Donald Trump

5.) Cruz also did a good job attacking Rubio on immigration. Poll after poll shows conservatives view this as the number one issue and Rubio is hurt by his seeming moderation and supporting a compromise amnesty bill despite attempts to appear tough on it now.

6.) Jeb Bush should just get out of the race now to spare himself further humiliation. Time and time agin, Trump made him his bitch winning every exchange and crushing his manhood. I was surprised by the end of the debate that he didn't force Bush to put on a French maid outfit and serve him sandwiches.

7.) A very telling moment the split screen caught - Paul openly laughing out loud when Trump said he was going to shut down the Internet.

8.) Christie once again lying about being appointed a US attorney on September 10th 2011 and also some of the claims he made about loved ones on 09/11 are not verifiable. He's becoming downright Gulianiesque.

9.) A strange moment - Ben Carson asked about experience and being ready to be commander in chief of the US military talked about running a scholarship program in the past as comparable.

10.) Paul is the only Republican candidate who has any modicum of sanity on foreign policy and national security even more than a lot of Democrats. Time and time again, he made great points especially about regime change (and thumped both Trump and Christie hard - a bridge closure insult, I've been waiting for that!) but no one seemed interested in engaging him maybe it's because his poll number are so low and they cant be bothered or they know arguing with him is like hugging a tar baby. In the end, you are the one who is damaged in the argument.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FIRST SEASON OF SCREAM QUEENS


While the ending of the first season of SCREAM QUEENS might have gone in a different direction than the absurd parodying of the rest of the season, this collection of jokes on the slasher film genre as well as sending up such topics as the young girls capitalist beauty myths, the concept of "safe spaces, and the wretchedness of fraternities and sororities was never anything more....It's a show of comic moments and the odd bit of slasher film goriness not great but filled with clever scenes.

And when I said moments, there were so many - Deaf Taylor Swift, the Candle Blogger, the goat scene, the TV dinner king, The Beatles teacher, the neck brace and my favorite the battle between the ice cream man and the killer mascot.

So the ending might have been from a different type of show with the killer getting off and the morally twisted sorority girls getting put in a insane asylum but I feel that is beside the point.

One could actually the view the plot (wherein it seems like everyone is guilty of at least one murder) as part of the satire - So ridiculous as to be a joke.

Also kudos to Jamie Lee Curtis as the horny, deceptive dean- She was very good.



A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF FRANK SINATRA'S BIRTH


On the 100th anniversary Frank Sinatra's birthday, I would say that Sinatra sang with the most ease of any singer I've ever heard. He truly was the smoothest of all. There is a power in his voice that is not the product of a visible straining that is discernible in even the best singers. No one did it with as little seeming effort as Frank Sinatra.

Which isn't to say it's not there. Rather it is all very seamless. No missed notes, no vein popping exertion and of course great material from only the best songwriters.

A good example is Fly Me to the Moon wherein a deceptively loose jazzy band jousts in a friendly way with Sinatra has he rides them home with unexpectedly powerful moments of vocalizing.

But one can't Talk about Sinatra without addressing his pop culture persona - The violence, consorting with mafia figures, the love affairs etc. The image perpetuated by shows like Saturday Night Live of an angry, vain Sinatra.

Well I prefer to listen to the music and separate that from papparazzi. If you want to say something positive about Sinatra other than about his music, look at his history in regards to civil right sand standing up to racism. He was well ahead of the curve there forcing Las Vegas to desegregate their hotels for entertainers who performed with him such as Sammy Davis Jr and Lena Horne who could perform at a place like The Sands but had to go to a hotel reserved for black people to sleep. This was a time, even after black entertainers could sleep in the same hotels, when a swimming pool would be drained after Davis had swum in it or all the sheets and pillowcases burned after Horne had slept on them.

And then there's this http://time.com/3857736/frank-sinatra-civil-rights/

Of course Sinatra did later perform at Sun City in apartheid era South Africa and backed Ronald Reagan but he was the type of person who took things personally and he never got over the snub of JFK after helping him campaign for the presidency in 1960.

Frank Sinatra was a complicated public figure who also made a few great films not THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY but also THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and the criminally ignored SUDDENLY pulled from distribution after its too close parallel with the assassination of JFK.

Ignore the caricature, listen to the records, appreciate the voice of a master.



 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

TWO BIG FAILS IN PRESIDENT OBAMA'S POST- SAN BERNADINO TERRORISM SPEECH


If platitudes were pennies, President Obama would be a rich man after his non-noteworthy speech. Aside from that, there were two big problem with what he said. 

Obama San Bernadino speech fail #1 - It's a given that most sane people see tackling the gun issue as equal or greater problem than domestic terrorism but using the No Fly List to manage this is nonsensical. The post-09/11 No Fly List is a disaster full of arbitrarily selected names done in secret. The news is full of horror stories of innocent people who somehow ended up on this list and there have been many lawsuits most noticeably by the ACLU against the government on this.. People stopped from boarding flights in the past due to being on the list include Senator Ted Kennedy, Congressman John Lewis, and the guy who ran Ralph Nader's 2004 presidential campaign. The whole thing is silly - Based on the idea that terrorists would book flights under their own names LOL. I say scrap the No Fly List and start over with a list based on hard intelligence not arbitrary random criteria, secondhand gossip, and where people have traveled (unless there is a clear pattern).

Obama San Bernadino speech fail #2 - It was disheartening to see a tired, worn out Obama repeat that right wing trope about Muslims having to do a better job of condemning terrorism and policing themselves. Nobody asks that of any other group. When some white gunowner goes crazy and shoots up a public space, the opposite happens - People blame other things - mental health, absence of religion etc. It's also disheartening because it continues to perpetuate the false notion that all Muslims in the world are exactly the same, a sort of hivemind like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I live in Malaysia, have visited Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and an area of the old Yugoslavia where there were a lot of Muslims. In addition, I've taught Arabs, Africans, even Chinese and Russian Muslims and I can say that they share common religious rituals as Muslims but each one has retained their unique culture. My response to Bill Maher and other discredited idiots' point that surveys show Muslims around the world support stoning of women , sharia law etc. is that surveys in the USA show large numbers of Americans believe the president was born in Africa or that the moon landing was fake. People will tell surveys anything. What counts is how people behave.


Monday, December 7, 2015

MORE 50TH ANNIVERSARIES - FACE TO FACE BY THE KINKS AND TURN! TURN! TURN! BY THE BYRDS


The fiftieth anniversary of The Kinks fourth album FACE TO FACE which is their RUBBER SOUL in that it opened the door to the greater masterpieces that followed (SOMETHING ELSE, VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY, ARTHUR OR THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE). It was their first record that was totally composed of Ray Davies written songs and finds him exploring voice and his lyrical persona to its fullest at that point in their career with his trademark touches - empathy for the British working man and keen observation skills. A varied musical and lyrical style on tunes like Dandy, Too Much On My Mind, Holiday in Waikiki, Rainy Day in June.

But most importantly reissues come with four extra tracks that are even better than anything on the original version of FACE TO FACE - I'm Not Like Everybody Else, Dead End Street, Big Black Smoke, Mr Pleasant.
  


It is also the fiftieth anniversary of The Byrds second album TURN! TURN! TURN! (The title track was the number one song on the day I was born) And what is frustrating is appraisals I have read of the record in the last day or so mention Roger McGuinn (as they should) and some David Crosby but I have not read one mention of Gene Clark. Of the five original tunes on TURN, three are by Clark and they, along with the inexcusably omitted She Don't Care About Time (ended up as the Turn single's b side), are the best tunes on the record along with the title track.

This lack of respect shown to Clark, truly rock history's least appreciated and most unjustly ignored genius, is typical despite a documentary last year on his life and reissues of all of his solo records. Oh well the global Clark cult is very vibrant and active (just check out their Facebook page).

I wrote more about Clark here....
http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2012/05/70s-review-project-sparks-kimono-my.html
http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2012/06/re-assessing-byrds-1973-reunion-album.html

   


So no disrespect to Roger McGuinn....I recently discovered he has a Twitter account and tweets often and answers questions (which is very very cool) so I sent him a question - What is his personal favorite guitar part you played on a Byrds song? His answer - Eight Miles High intro,break,and outro....I always say The Byrds are my favorite American band of all time and my 7th or 8th overall. McGuinn may not be the greatest guitarist of all time but he is one of the 2 or 3 most influential and also his sound is immediately recognizable - One of my favorite musicians of any style or genre.



Saturday, December 5, 2015

HOW THE SAN BERNADINO TERRORIST SHOOTING SHOWS ONCE AGAIN THE MISTAKE OF CREATING A DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY


I was reading about Tashfeen Malik, the wife or fiance of Syed Farook and co-shooter in the San Bernadino terrorist attack. What jumped out at me was the assertion that she "breezed through" her K-1 Visa screening process and was able to enter the USA relatively quickly.

In 2006, I became curious about what I would need to do if I came back to the USA and brought my wife with me. I knew the law had changed after 09/11. I spoke to the local US embassy but was advised that unless I was planning to move back to the USA permanently there was no point in beginning the process....But I did find out some things about the process - Basically all applications for spouses of US citizens now go to the Department of Homeland Security first where it can take up to six months before being approved only then does the application proceed to US immigration for an additional multi-month period of time.

I feel that this new step and the DHS in general has made America less safe. When you have new layers of bureaucracy, the potential for new cross departmental arguments and screw-ups, you have less security, not more. More holes in the system that potential threats can slip through. The jewel in the DHS's crown the TSA has never caught one terrorist (according to the ACLU and many other watchdog groups) they have however been implicated in many cases of sexual assault and baggage theft. They are only good in creating the illusion of security, nothing more.

Back in 2006, I read through all the applications my wife would need to fill out and there was very very little about personal beliefs, religion etc. And a lot about my financial status - how much money do I make, how much is in my bank account, do I own any property?. Of course those are important. More so though for a European country with a real social safety net - America's is flimsy at best.

I am curious to know if Tashfeen Malik "breezed through" her application because Syed Farook, a US citizen, made 70,000 a year and owned his own home?

Compare that with Malaysia....When I was going through the application process for Permanent Resident status, I was interviewed by the police (which is standard). They asked very few questions about my financial status and a lot about my beliefs and who I was. This made perfect sense to me.

Truth is the DHS did not catch Tashfeen Malik and they would not have caught the 09/11 hijackers either. It's become the go to big statement of Republican bravado for presidential candidates to say "On my first day in office I will do this and I will do that". But if I was president I would submit a plan to close down the DHS within 60 days and revert it's duties back to immigration and the FBI. It' s annual budget is 55 billion dollars a year(!) It's a white elephant, a boondoggle, it doesn't keep America safe. In many ways, it makes America both less safe and less free.

Friday, December 4, 2015

THE PROBLEM(S) WITH THE SO-CALLED "NEW ATHEISM"


Last year, Ben Affleck courageously stood up for Muslims on Real Time with Bill Maher after a number of bigoted statements about them by Maher and Sam Harris. I have addressed the problems with 09/11 liberalism that targets Muslims here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2013/05/the-problems-with-0911-liberalism.html

I would like to take this further. During this discussion, Harris, who is truly a fool, a poorly disguised Zionist who makes an idiot out of himself every time he opens his mouth, stated that Liberals ignore Muslim violence and instead focus on incidents that happened years ago like "an attack on an abortion clinic in the 90's"

The amazing stupidity and duplicity of that comment considering not only the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood center by a Christian extremist that resulted in the murders of three people but also the daily harassment (often violent) abortion providers go through on a daily basis in the USA. Here's a list http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/violence/violence-statistics-and-history/

The truth is the so called "New Atheist" movement is a sham. A creation of those with other hang-ups who choose to couch them in atheism and those who seek to push a xenophobic, pro-Israel colonialist often Islamophobic philosophy. They burn with a scary need for conquest that brings to mind religious invasions in centuries past.

Their patron saint is drunken bi-sexual colonialist Christopher Hitchens who left his first wife when she was pregnant and supported the Iraq War. I wrote more about my specific disagreements with Hitchens here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2011/07/how-christopher-hitchens-finally-jumped.html

Maher increasingly spends the discussion portion of his show complaining about Muslims, tarring them all with blanket assertions like his repeated accusation that since polls he has read (but never cites by name) show large groups of Muslims globally believe in Sharia Law, stoning people etc. (even in Muslim countries where these types of practices are not the law) there are no good Muslims. Of course, this theory if applied to other groups of people - the large numbers of Americans for example who believe President Obama is from Kenya and a Muslim, or believe the moon landing was fake etc then I can assume there are few good Americans. He rarely says a peep about religious persecution in America, how in areas of the South they still teach evolution as myth and creationism as fact. He never says anything about abortion rights and seemed almost dismissive about marriage equality. Maher who has described himself in the past as a Libertarian but whose liberty related beliefs largely seem to consist of smoking marijuana and spending time with black hookers (something he is well known for in Hollywood).

And of course he never speaks about violence against Muslims in America, rather he encourages it with his hate filled rhetoric (What Affleck spoke up against). Maher is also a huge supporter of Israel which is not surprising considering he is half-Jewish, a fact he tries to hide and will only discuss sheepishly if he he can't change the subject.

Whether it's Maher's relentless demonization of Muslims, Harris's dishonest, "thought experiments" where he says things like torture is okay or Israel should commit genocide against the Palestinians then denies it afterwards and whines like a baby after getting called out for his BS hiding behind the cover of "I was just saying", or Richard Dawkins with his many sexist, racist, tone deaf statements, this is not what atheism means to me.

I am an atheist because it is not logical to believe in a God and there is no scientific evidence a God exists not because I hate one group of people or I despise religion and I need a framework to attack it. Truth is many people in my life have faith be they Hindus or Muslims or Christians. Even though it is not for me, I do think religion can be a very positive force in one's life as long as it is not all consuming ( I guess you could say that about a lot of things).

Rather my atheism is an extension of tolerance and openness....Something the new atheists are lacking in spades. Too often the so-called "new atheism" seems like the non-believers version of the Westboro Baptist Church.


 

A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF RUBBER SOUL


"Finally we took over the studio" John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970.

It's been 50 years since the release of RUBBER SOUL. Though not my favorite Beatles album, it is a great, great record in and of itself and was really where they started to flex their muscle in the studio and set up the even greater works to follow.

One thing I've always felt about SOUL - While the hits (Drive My Car, Michelle, In My Life) are all classics, the deep cuts are equally brilliant - Wait, The Word, Run For Your Life. Two of George Harrison's best - Think For Yourself and If I Needed Someone (Interesting discussion on the latter in Roger McGuinn's twitter feed the other day).

In particular, I have always liked Wait - Lennon and McCartney singing different parts of the same song. One aspect of The Beatles that I really liked an felt was underused on later records (which is understandable since it was all in their own worlds at that point).

Also interesting to note, and I have to give credit to Rolling Stone's appraisal of RUBBER SOUL for this observation, htttp://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/50-years-of-rubber-soul-how-the-beatles-invented-the-future-of-pop-20151203   ,a lot of the female protagonists in the lyrics of the songs have a feminist bent - Female driver, woman unavailable to see male because she's busy with her own life, woman has to go work and leaves male asleep in the bath.


A TEMPORARY AGENCY STORY


Just read an interesting article about online companies for temporary/permanent employment agencies that are aiming to do what Uber has done with those who need rides and drivers - That is give prospective employees and employers a platform to interact directly taking a cut.

This reminded me of working for temporary agencies several times when in between jobs in the 1990's. Generally they were awful jobs and the agencies were run by foul, dishonest people but I did meet a lot of eccentric weirdos which is always good for inspiring one's writing.

Lot of stories but one that comes to mind. I was sent to a company in the San Fernando Valley that distributed sportswear and athletic equipment for a couple of months in 1998. I was assisting a Marketing manager, an obese lesbian - very stereotypical (short hair, rode a Harley superbike to work). She also raised snakes as a hobby and kept their photos all over her cubicle. Once she went away for the weekend to some kind of motorcycle event in the desert and hooked up with a guy. Somehow he got her phone number at work and called a couple of times until she finally lost it and let him have it in a loud enough voice the whole office heard "I'M JUST NOT INTO GUYS. I DIG CHICKS!"

Temp agency employment - good times!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RANDOM RECORD REVIEW - THIS GIRL'S IN LOVE WITH YOU BY ARETHA FRANKLIN


Earlier in her career, even after her shift to Atlantic Records in 1967, Aretha Franklin' s recordings often seemed like Gulliver struggling after being tied down by the Lilliputians. Her voice being Gulliver and the repetitive rhythm and blues arrangements, already formulaic, as well as the nagging, smothering backing vocals being the Lilliputians.

By 1970, she'd found a way forward.  THIS GIRL'S IN LOVE WITH YOU is my favorite album of Aretha Franklin's even more so than I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVED YOU or LADY SOUL because she takes a lot of chances here and shows impeccable taste in her choices of covers.

Her versions of The Dark End of The Street and Let It Be (recorded before The Beatles had released their version) are strong and her version of Burt Bacharach's This Girl's in Love With You (changed from Guy) is the definitive one IMO. I also prefer her version of The Weight to The Band's original. It just has more melodic vocal drama. I even like her Son of a Preacher Man a song I've never really cared for.

But the centerpiece of the record is an unusual but still powerful reading of Eleanor Rigby in which Aretha becomes the spinster character and states I AM ELEANOR RIGBY. It's weird but rocks and Franklin nails it. There are also a number of standard R&B fare which she sings the hell out of.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

NO SAD SONGS BY THE LILAC TIME PLUS A SHORT HISTORY OF STEPHEN DUFFY/THE LILAC TIME


I don't know if it is because I am out of touch from living in Malaysia or because Stephen Duffy/The Lilac Time fly so low under the radar (as they have done much of their career) but I have just noticed that The Lilac Time released a new album this past April - NO SAD SONGS.

I am happy to say it is the best thing Duffy has done since 1999's LOOKING FOR A DAY IN THE NIGHT. All the classic Duffy/Lilac musical touches are here - Deceptively simple melodic arrangements, delicately plucked banjo, pedal steel guitar, pretty strings, and what has turned into the signature trait of their recordings, Duffy's beautiful weary/wise voice which uses the deeper range to great effect - Like a less high pitched less whispery Paddy McAloon.

The best songs after a couple listens - The Dream That Woke Me, Prussian Blue, The First Song of Spring, No Sad Songs.

After being in an early version of Duran Duran (but not recording with them) and several synth pop records in the 80's under the name Tin Tin, Duffy made four records as part of The Lilac Time (which for all intents and purposes was him plus his brother now even more so) THE LILAC TIME, PARADISE CIRCUS, & LOVE FOR ALL, and ASTRONAUTS. They are all brilliant (CIRCUS being my favorite) showcasing Duffy's singing and largely acoustic, sometimes Byrds-y shimmering guitar as well as banjos, pedal steel guitars, strings, and other accompaniments. As a songwriter, Duffy documents love in perspective, the after effects of love with a empathic eye and an open heart.

After the first four records, Duffy broke the Lilac Time up for a period and made three albums under his own name - MUSIC IN COLORS (with Nigel Kennedy), DUFFY, and I LOVE MY FRIENDS. COLORS showcases an army of strings, DUFFY is produced by Mitch Easter and features a variation on a Big Star type of Southern Power Pop sound. FRIENDS is the best of the three as it is the most varied in sound and consistent in songwriting and features among the guests Andy Partridge and members of Blur and Elastica.

After that, he reformed The Lilac Time. Of the reformed Lilac records, as I noted above, LOOKING FOR A DAY IN THE NIGHT is the only great one until now. Duffy also made a collaboration record in 2000's with Nick Rhodes under the name The Devils which is moody and nice.

Duffy's music is a real hidden treasure, beautiful, literate, exquisitely produced.



BRINGING DC COMICS CHARACTERS TO TV AND MOVIES - THREE THOUGHTS (AQUAMAN, RED TORNADO, CALCULATOR)


Aquaman is one of my favorite DC Comic characters so I am sad to say I really don't like the look of the Aquaman in the upcoming Batman/Superman film- Tattoos, a long beard (never liked the 90's bearded Aquaman) he looks more like a South Pacific Islander than the King of Atlantis. However, even worse is I have just read the main villain for the Aquaman standalone movie that follows is going to be Ocean Master - Aquaman's half-brother Orm. Now Orm is a decent villain, kind of Loki-ish to Aman's Thor....But Aquaman's worst enemy, his Joker, his Green Goblin, his Red Skull, his Bullseye is Black Manta. He's done the worst damage including murdering Aquaman's young son in the late 70's. I hope they will reconsider and make Black Manta the villain of the Aquaman film.


   
I am looking forward to seeing how they render the Red Tornado on this week's upcoming episode of Supergirl. Always felt that DC Comics introduced the silver age-to-present day Red Tornado to compete with Marvel's The Vision (both are synthetic life forms) but unlike the Vision who was a really complex figure that Marvel used to explore what is the essence of life, what is being alive, Red Tornado was a secondary character with mildly interesting powers....I have not seen the New 52 version so hopefully they have finally developed the character. I do like the Red Tornado as a comic book hero. The trailer and still photos for the TV version look good.

 

Have read The Calculator is coming later this season on ARROW. He's a good DC Comics villain with a lot of potential. The original storyline where they introduced him in Detective Comics fighting a series of heroes in order to calculate their weaknesses before Batman himself was superb. Even better if he wears the cheesy outfit! .





Thursday, November 26, 2015

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE


THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is not a show that one can binge watch despite all the episodes being available at the same time. It is far too balanced in pacing, far too detailed,far too plot driven. It rewards a slow taking in not ripping through it like a long movie.

As I was watching, I was trying to recall the book by Phillip K Dick which I read many years ago. The key point in divergence between our reality and CASTLE'S reality wherein the Germans and the Japanese won World War II and subsequently split the USA with the Germans controlling the East and the Japanese the West with a neutral zone in between wasn't so much a German development of the nuclear bomb but the assassination of FDR in 1933 (which failed in our reality) and replacement by an isolationist that failed to get out of the depression and got into the war much too late.

I found the overall story interesting because it isn't just alternative history but about alternate realities as well as the season finale showed - Reminds me very much of the show FRINGE in that regard.

Some other moments - 1.) In episode seven the look of contempt the butler gives the groveling antiquities dealer in the wealthy Japanese customer's home 2.) The VE Day celebrations with Nazified swastika American flags 3.) The scene in the first episode where it is revealed why the air is heavy with soot.

The actors are almost superfluous. They are all good in their roles but the overall look of the show is the real star - Meticulous and detailed in its use of Nazi and Imperial Japan Iconography transplanted to a conquered America.

My only complaint is the dark look of the cinematography - makes for eye strain. Even when this is shot outdoors, still feels like it's at night. A little lighting wouldn't hurt anybody!

And also props to Hiro Kinagawa who plays a Yakuza boss in a couple episodes. He has also recently had repeating roles in HEROES REBORN and IZOMBIE. Guess Hollywood is short of older male Japanese actors. 



       

TURKEY - THE JUNIOR PARTNER IN ISIS


In the wake of Turkey downing a Russian plane, RT News is running a number of damaging stories including that the Russian pilot was on the Syria side of the border at the time he was shot down and that the shooting down of a Russian plane might have been planned in advance. IN addition, Russia is releasing information that backs up what everyone already knew - Turkey is a recipient of oil from ISIS.

In addition, the late Serena Shim, an Iranian American Press TV reporter, filed news stories that revealed that Turkey was shipping in foreign Jihadist fighters into Syria in trucks labeled as NGO like the World Food Organization. Shim died in a very suspicious car accident in Turkey after reporting tis. Both the other driver and his vehicle have disappeared and there were no witnesses.

The truth is Turkey is the local boss, the junior partner after the USA and Israel in the creation and maintaining of ISIS.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan both as Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014 and as president from 2014 is symbolic of the weird twisted relationships countries have in that part of the world, the almost contradictory policies they practice, enemy of my enemy is my friend type of thinking.

Erdogan has publicly seemed to adopt a harder line on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (although nothing has changed beneath the surface as far as the joint Israeli-Turkish military relationship goes) including allowing Gaza flotillas to leave from Turkish ports. He has also pushed more Islamist type laws seemingly going against Turkey's more secular history. At the same time, he has continued the repression of the Kurds who seek their own state, a large chunk of which is in present day Turkey.  Turkey was also part of George W Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" that invaded Iraq.

And of course he is funding and arming and helping ISIS in every way partly for greed (oil) but also partly along with the above examples as power play to be a leader in the Islamic world. This is a pivot from Turkey in NATO and as part of Europe to Turkey as part of the Middle East.

No one is buying it! Turkey is on the wrong side of most important issues and their surface fealty to Islam and issues like Palestinians are not particularly convincing, window dressing for the media. Let's hope Russia acts soon and bloodies their nose a bit. Thrash ISIS now then Israel and one day Turkey too!

     



Monday, November 23, 2015

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT NETFLIX'S JESSICA JONES


Season One of JESSICA JONES is superb. Even better than its sister show DAREDEVIL. I liked DARDEVIL too but in retrospect it felt padded at times - Could have wrapped it up in 7 or 8 episodes, didn't need 13 eps. whereas so far in JONES every moment counts, something interesting going on all the time. My thoughts on DAREDEVIL are here
http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2015/04/a-few-thoughts-about-netflixs-daredevil.html

Krystin Ritter is a very good Jones - Always enjoyed her work in the past like the mayor's flighty daughter in VERONICA MARS and SPOILER one of the villains in the reunion movie and as Jessie's doomed junkie girlfriend in BREAKING BAD. Mike Colter is a decent Luke Cage although I prefer the 70's afro Cage. David Tennant steals the show as Kilgrave, more of a spoiled stunted childman than a supervillain. He is more than a caricature - Quite a deep take on what was a second rate comic book villain until the JONES miniseries in the 2000's (which this show is partly based on).

Small complaints - Jones power which was ever evolving in the comics is not consistent one moment she can beat up a bar full of guys and lift a car, the next moment three guys with cattle prods can defeat her but in the comics they explained that as a result of the still ongoing affects of the accident that gave her powers. Also the Netflix series is more about humanizing heroes and villains but it would be nice see Kilgrave as he looks in the comics - completely purple (his origin is different here than the comics which deals also with why his skin turned purple) . His supervillain name is actually The Purple Man.

The sensitive theme of sexual assault is dealt with in a very candid non-exploitative manner. This is a show about power in relationships, from Kilgrave as mind controlling rapist to the lesbian lawyer trying to ditch her first wife for a younger second wife to the overprotective overmedicated Sgt Simpson (who is the villain Nuke in the comic )and Trish Walker. (who becomes Hellcat in the comic) At times, this is the most adult of all comics based shows as it has found the elusive path to introducing mature themes into what is a young person's genre and making it feel like part of the story. Brilliantly executed!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

WHO IS REALLY FIGHTING THE BATTLE AGAINST ISIS? PLUS A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT SYRIAN IMMIGRATION TO THE USA


In the wake of the Paris bombings, France felt the need to do something and so bombed Syria. This was like the USA bombing the Sudan after Al Qaeda struck American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and like that action (one that was cathartic and meant to show the relative toughness of a nation), it was a meaningless gesture.

In reality, the US bombed a a pharmaceutical factory killing a night watchman and causing many other death by depriving Sudanese of life saving drugs. They have never provided any hard evidence that this site was connected to terrorism.

The French bombing of Syria was a similar empty gesture. France, by all accounts, bombed a museum, a stadium, and medical clinics, and the areas that were actual Jihadi training camps they did manage to hit had already been ravaged by weeks of Russian bombing. http://www.sott.net/article/306522-Pitiless-war-Illegal-French-airstrikes-on-Syria-hit-stadium-museum-clinics

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin used the G-20 Summit to challenge America and the West to really take out ISIS and call them out for creating and financing ISIS in the first place . This was a clever move as the public face of America might be all about waging war on ISIS, the intelligence and defense communities, who are responsible for the creation of ISIS (as I have noted in past posts), are still more interested in regime change of Syria's Assad and creating disorder to strengthen American hegemony.

There is only one nation leading the fight against the Western creation ISIS and that is Russia. America can lie and hesitate and puff the chest and rain down ad hominem insults on Putin but we know who the heroes are and who is the evil empire (the ones who started all this).

  




In the wake of Paris, there have been a lot of debate about immigration of Syrians to America.


I believe that whether or not a country takes in refugees from a man-made crisis (like a civil war) should be based primarily on one thing - How much did that country have to do with the crisis in question?

Since America but not only America -Britain, France, Germany etc. basically created ISIS (recruited them, funded them, trained them) then they have the moral responsibility to take in the resulting refugees. In the words of Colin Powell "You break it you bought it".

Where I live , Malaysia (which had nothing to do with this and is going through an economic downturn) is going to be taking in 3,000 refugees over the next couple years which I applaud them for.

Too bad morally bankrupt and historically ignorant America is not on the same level of common decency as many of the countries around the world.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

ANGRY ABOUT THE PARIS ATTACKS? BLAME THE USA AND THE WEST FOR CREATING ISIS


The French Prime Minister Hollande has given a press conference where he blamed ISIS for the Paris attacks. I think he needs to point the finger at himself ( and by that I mean all the West especially. the USA and also Israel)- They created ISIS!....The Frankenstein Monster has escaped from the laboratory and is now rampaging through the countryside

If in fact it was ISIS that is responsible for the Paris attacks, blame the United States (and allies). They funded them, they trained them, they helped give them a base to operate from. The most underreported story of the last year is the lawsuit by Judicial Watch that forced the release of Department of Defense memos and other documents that show 1.)The US knew there was no real Syrian resistance and it was all Al Qaeda and other Jihadists (what would morph into ISIS) 2.) That supporting such a group would eventually create a mini-nation, a haven for them which is what has happened in parts of Syria and Iraq. The smoking gun .... http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

The Iraq War started all this (and George W Bush and Dick Cheney are indeed war criminals) but ISIS happened under Obama and I consider this (the creation of ISIS) an impeachable offense. Yes, it's time to talk about impeaching Obama.

While the US brags about killing Jihadi John whom I've always suspected was a creation of imaginative propaganda - Hey at least it's a break from killing women and children with drones, Russia continues the job of destroying ISIS completely! So the West should get out of the way of Russia ending ISIS.

I'd like to end with a modest proposal - All Western leaders that were involved in the creation of ISIS should resign immediately. Obama, Cameron, Hollande, Netanyahu, and anyone else who is guilty of this should take responsibility and tender your resignation immediately!




Thursday, November 12, 2015

PHILOSOPHERS VS WELDERS


Marco Rubio's comment during the Republican Debate yesterday that "America needs more welders and less philosophers" got me thinking.

Of course not everyone can or is able or is interested in going to college. There is nothing shameful about a job that requires vocational training but where Rubio is wrong is in implying that philosophy is useless.

I took a number of philosophy courses as an undergraduate including Contemporary Moral Issues, Introduction to Ethics, Introduction to Logic, and Introduction to Existentialism and reducing this to a utilitarian mindset (what are their uses?) I would say they specifically benefited me by making me a better writer. This was done in two ways

1.) By forcing me to back-up every argument I made in writing with examples and by addressing what was a false comparison so as to make sure the examples cited were germane.

2.) By teaching me analytical skills - What something means rather than what someone says or what they may be trying to say (helps with writing fiction and even poetry as well as grading student papers as a teacher).

Also basic composition skills such as paragraph structure, constructing a topic sentence etc. were often re-enforced sometimes even better explained by philosophy instructors. I would say some philosophy courses were as useful as any pure writing course I took.

THE RAND PAUL DEBATE PLUS HOW RAND CAN CAPITALIZE ON THIS


Watched the most recent Republican debate and it seemed like Rand Paul finally got his message out there. An excellent night for him. 

Some good points he got across....

1.) It's hypocritical to complain about government spending but exempt military spending from your argument. It's not conservative to spend a lot of money PERIOD. Nice to see him slap down that twerp Marco Rubio on this - Rubio can't even balance his checkbook or make his mortgage payments much less find his ass with both hands.

2.) A no fly zone over Syria with the Russians already there is not just some philosophical discussion. It will result in conflict, boots on the ground to back up a no-fly zone, and maybe war. Also Paul reminded everyone that Hillary Clinton's position on this is exactly the same as the neo-cons - Rubio/Bush/Fiorina etc. and the United States were the ones who originally created ISIS.

3.) The Federal Reserve through artificially creating booms and busts and inflating/deflating currency is a major cause of income inequality. Personally, I think the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional and illogical - Currency should be backed up collateral instruments not by thin air. I know Ron Paul also believes in this -End the Fed!....Rand is almost there but not quite -still nice to hear though.



4.) Once again reminding everyone he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning....Paul needs to let out his inner non-interventionist libertarian more often.

The problem with Rand Paul's presidential campaign, at least up until now, is that his strategy of moderating and triangulating his Libertarian views with conservative Republican positions satisfy no one. He lost the non-interventionist coalition his father created and failed to connect with conservatives that would be more likely to vote for someone like Ted Cruz.

Down in the polls but holding steady (unlike say Jeb Bush who is dropping like a stone), can he capitalize on this debate performance? The thing is this year with so many candidates in the race and so much volatility plus the presence of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, there really is a niche for someone with Paul's positions especially on foreign policy.


Paul needs to let his libertarian freak flag fly....Here are some suggestion - He has already talked of decriminalizing marijuana, he should take it one step further - give full voiced support to drug legalization....He has unfortunately shown fealty to Israel (like every other US senator) but I think he should publicly question how much aid they should be given by the USA. He has already done this but backed off when criticized. He should continue speaking out on privacy/surveillance issues such as those related to the NSA and Edward Snowden and also the war crimes of drone strikes.

It's not too late for Rand although he has his work cut out for him.


Friday, November 6, 2015

IN PRAISE OF SQUIRREL GIRL


Had the opportunity to read the first eight issues of Marvel's new Squirrel Girl series, a great character that definitely deserves her own comic book. I have to say this is the best new comic book character series I have read since The Sentry's two 2000 era miniseries. An excellent combination of humor and heroics. Reminds me a bit of Howard the Duck but HTD always leaned more on the humor side. Squirrel Girl is equally in both camps. What I liked - Her social media narrative which begins some of the stories and includes contributions from other heroes (The Hulk is hilarious), her bizarre , epic battle with Galactus, the odd but cool supporting characters as well as the many superhero/super villain cameos (Kraven the Hunter in particular).

  


The running joke of Squirrel Girl is her defeat of the most powerful Marvel characters such as Thanos, Dr. Doom, and the Avengers. We don't see how this happens but rather the aftermath when they are laying on the ground defeated. This new series gives her the framework of attending college and a friend in the form of her hipster-ish black roommate. There is also a potential love interest in Chipmunk Hunk, a fellow hero and student at the same college.

I wouldn't mind seeing a Squirrel Girl animated TV show. I feel that this would be the best venue for her rather than a movie or live action TV show as it would allow her to be herself rather than an awkward live construct that would not satisfy the faithful.




Saturday, October 31, 2015

MUSIC ROUND-UP - OCTOBER 2015


Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott - WISDOM, LAUGHTER, AND LINES.

Great to get a second collaboration release so quickly after last year's WHAT HAVE WE BECOME which was my favorite record of 2014 and one of the best I have heard this decade so far. WISDOM is a little bit less grand than BECOME - Sightly less ambitious lyrics and smaller arrangements (although there is still plenty of studio diversity). Not a criticism though - This is a beautiful record - brings to mind Squeeze/Costello/later XTC/The Divine Comedy and baroque pop as well. Superior to the music Heaton made with The Housemartins and on par with the best records he (and Abbott) made with the Beautiful South. I like every song but the notable ones after a couple listens - I Don't See Them, Lonesome and Sad Millionaire, The Horse and Groom, When Love For Woman Stops. Also all four extra songs on the extended version are excellent especially Real Love which may be the best tune on the record. 



The Chills- SILVER BULLETS

Martin Phillips's (who for all intents and purposes is The Chills) first record in 19 years is spiritually not much different than The Chills heyday and their 1990 masterpiece SUBMARINE BELLS that is pretty 60ish guitar pop but soundwise this is a fairly stripped down low budget affair. The guitars have twang rather than shimmer. However, it's hooky music and in tunes like Tomboy Phillips shows he still has his musical prowess intact plus a songwriting maturity.



Small Faces - THE DECCA YEARS

This may be heresy but I must confess I think at this stage Small Faces were a better band than the Who....Steve Marriott a better singer than Roger Daltrey and a better guitarist than Pete Townshend, the band as a whole - more the sum of its parts than individual freestylers/showboaters, and they really had some great tunes. This collection is everything they did prior to changing labels and making their greatest record OGDEN'S NUT GONE FLAKE. There are a few weak points - didn't realize the Faces had so many instrumentals and they were never a very good cover band but the original songs are fantastic full of desire, anger, celebration, teenage articulation for the society at large. Some faves - All or Nothing, Patterns, In My Mind's Eye, Understanding, among many others. The live at the BBC disc shows how great they were in concert too with the illusion of being out of control but tighter than a duck's backside.


Friday, October 30, 2015

CHOOSING SIDES


What the hashtag I Stand with Russia means to me is support for Russia in Syria against ISIS which is a creation of the United States and Israel to affect regime change in Syria but also to create destabilization that will ensure continued American hegemony in the region along with US client states Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But it also goes deeper than that. There is a conflict coming - The sides are not drawn along such clear ideological separations as they were during the Cold War. Rather this conflict will be over whether we are going to remain a unipolar world with American dominance and all the negative results of that or whether we are going to have a truly bipolar world or more likely a world where American empires fades ( as all empires do) to be replaced by another - China seems the most likely prospect. I do feel America is a dying empire now - All financial and cultural indicators point to this as does overextension abroad.

On one side is America, Israel of course, Saudi Arabia and other US vassal states, a large part of Europe although I think that might change as on issues like austerity and support for Israel the European populace may be going in a different direction....On the other side, we have Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, any country that feels threatened by America's bully boy tactics. In between are countries like India, Malaysia (where I live) that are sort of in the US sphere but could easily switch based on world events and the economy.

What is specifically being fought against is US imperialism, the US overthrowing governments it doesn't like. This type of practice seemed to disappear after the Cold War but has resurfaced with a vengeance in the last decade or so as the coup victims in the Ukraine, Egypt, and Honduras and the victims of attempted coups/regime change in Venezuela and Syria can attest to. The battle here is for the IMF and other groups to apply loansharking principles that keep poor countries disenfranchised and allow the West to exploit them. They call it austerity but it is really just soaking the poor to prop up the 1% - Gangster capitalism. Whether or not a country has valuable natural resources is also a justification for monkey business. Islamic fundamentalism (often created and funded by America itself) is another excuse for America to insert itself not just in The Middle East but increasingly in Africa too. The Iraq war mindset - preemption, the vestiges of colonialism (of which Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is the primary example), water rights, all issues America is on the wrong side of.

Of course, China is also moving in to Africa and I am certainly not holding up China or Russia as moral paragons although neither poses as much a threat to the world's well-being as America. For now, the bigger problem is America and as far standing up to the USA, I'll take what I can get.

Will this new conflict be a hot war or a cold war? There will be  warfare involving Israel at some point perhaps Iran too. American provocations in the South China Sea could lead to conflict as could Ukraine but I tend to think like the cold war, most battles will be between surrogates.

It is clear that after a decade and a half of playing possum (other than responding to Georgia's provocations in 2008), Russia is back and that is a good thing for the world.  This time around the evil empire is the United States (to some of us it always was).



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

UNFAITHFUL MUSIC AND DISAPPEARING INK BY ELVIS COSTELLO


First and foremost, Elvis Costello's autobiography's greatest strength is the way that it is told. Instead of going in chronological order, Costello will start off talking about a subject at a particular point of time then jump to another time connected by the same subject. For example, he describes the first time he heard The Beatles which was when his father, Ross MacManus, a big band singer, brought home the single of All My Loving to learn for his own act then he jumps ahead through his relationship with Paul McCartney to actually performing this song with Sir Paul at a tribute to Linda McCartney in the late 90's.

The most important person in the book (other than Costello) is his father whose life story and also the life stories of his grandparents are rendered in great detail covering world wars and immigration from Ireland. Costello's parents separated when he was a young man and he seems to view his father with a mix of admiration and disappointment, exasperation and pride. His love of all kinds of music was instilled by his father just as Costello's grandfather who worked as a cruise ship singer did the same for Elvis's dad.

Probably what most surprised me most was the lack of vitriol or anger. Elvis is a genuinely happy, well-adjusted person despite his claims of moments of sadness. Even Bruce Thomas, the Attractions bass player, whom Elvis has feuded with on and off is only complimented for his playing. Hardly a nasty word said. The angry young man thing was largely an invention of the media.

Elvis mentions a lot of other famous musicians he met over the years - All the Beatles (except John Lennon) and especially Paul McCartney who he really likes and respects, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Nick Lowe, Paul Weller, The Clash (especially Joe Strummer), George Jones, Van Morrison, Burt Bacharach, Levon Helm, Elton John, Count Basie, Chet Baker, Richard Hell, Graham Nash.

Some of the best parts of the book are when Elvis writes about music especially country music, music minutia, trivia, connections and when he describes specifically how one song by an artist influenced a song he wrote. I liked the part where he discussed writing his symphony IL SOGO and then performing it with an orchestra in Italy - A humorous comedy of errors. I found where he wrote of recording The River in Reverse in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint immediately after Hurricane Katrina to be very moving.

Not much in the way of gossip here. About the only dirt is that Elvis slept with a LOT of women in the early Attractions days In fact, Little Triggers and Party Girl are both written about one nights stands he had with fans. This is mostly described to offer a comparison of how infidelity broke up his father's marriage to his mother and also his own marriage to his first wife. Also I didn't know Elvis was left-handed for everything besides playing or that John McFee played the guitar intros to Alison and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes as Elvis says he was not musically competent enough yet to do that ( I did know McFee played on MY AIM IS TRUE just not to that extent).

Only negative thing I would say is that some of the stories about recording certain records I have read before as the various reissues of Elvis records have always come with extensive written background notes from Elvis himself but in the context of the greater story, it's okay to read it again.

What I took from UNFAITHFUL MUSIC AND DISAPPEARING INK is that Elvis Costello is blessed or lucky (however you choose to look at it). He had a musical lineage, was exposed to a lot of good music when growing up, lived in places (Liverpool and London) that were musical hot beds, lived in a time when music was reinventing itself. Of course, it helps that he is one of the most talented songwriters of all time. He is also an intelligent, quick-witted, intuitive person which reveals itself in the reading. 





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

ELECTION 2016 - THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC DEBATE


1.) Overall, I wouldn't vote for any of these people although there were times where I agreed with one or the other on isolated specific issues. Interesting to see which of my questions came up - Guns for Bernie Sanders, Zero Tolerance for Martin O'Malley, Race for Jim ebb, and Iraq War and Flip Flops/Trustworthiness for Hillary Clinton.  My dem debate questions - http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.my/2015/10/15-questions-for-first-democratic.html

2.) Bernie Sanders had a rough night. Started off weakly (He took a terrible beating on guns) also his continual shifting back to income inequality talking points on a number of the questions made him look scripted, unprepared. His habit of speaking in a louder than necessary voice to answer questions makes him look like a kook (compare him to the way O'Malley and Webb speak). That being said when the question really was income inequality, his answers were passionate and powerful as was his answers on maternity leave and worker issues. He is also right on immigration - Guest worker programs that make slaves with no rights out of immigrants are what countries like Dubai have.

3.) I'd forgotten about Glass-Steagall (glad they asked the question) but it is a defining issue, an important one - Separating the trading/securities aspect of banks from the consumer savings side. The fact Hillary Clinton opposes its reinstatement (The original law was overturned under the leadership of her husband in 1999) should be a disqualifying position for her (like her foreign policy views). It's not debatable that its overturning was a major cause of the 2007/2008 recession. O'Malley did a good job on this issue describing the law as a "firewall".

4.) All the candidates answers on Syria were incomprehensible and completely divorced from reality No fly zone? Vladimir Putin already has that in place. Destroying ISIS military capability? I think Putin is doing that now. Saving the non-ISIS Syrian resistance? No such animal exists. Wish Putin could have appeared via satellite and queried the debaters.

5.) Sometimes a debate like this is good because it smokes out a candidate's beliefs, forces him to take a stand. I have a lot of respect for Jim Webb but his views on gun control, the Iran Deal, get tough on China talk, shakiness on affirmative action makes his campaign a non-starter. Maybe he should run as a Republican - Bring that party some sanity.

6.) An irony - If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get their respective party's nominations, could have a situation where the Democratic candidate for president supported the Iraq War and the Republican was opposed to it. Also if marijuana decriminalization, out of control NSA surveillance, and reforming the criminal justice system are important issues to you, Rand Paul has more progressive views than any of the candidates on that stage. Edward Snowden is a hero despite what Hillary Clinton says and he should not only be given full immunity but also given the congressional medal of freedom.

7.) Regarding Sanders free college education plan, Hillary Clinton is right (give the devil her due). Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the education of the children of wealthy citizens who can afford it. Also yes students should have to work. It didn't come up in the debate but there are real questions about how Sanders would pay for his plan. His corresponding tax proposals may be too timid. Maybe the next debate they will follow-up on this. Martin O'Malley's plan, which also addresses tuition costs as does Hillary Clinton's education plan, is much better.

8.) Overall, I thought Anderson Cooper did a good job as moderator. Kept the candidates within time and called them out when necessary - I liked how he pointed out to Sanders the relative size of Denmark compared to the USA. Only problem was same as Republican debates - The uneven distribution of speaking time - seems to be no way around this.

9.)When asked who she was happy to have as an enemy, Hillary Clinton said the Iranians (perhaps to impress her Jewish donors). That is a strange answer considering America just concluded the negotiation of a major nuclear deal with Iran (Done by John Kerrey NOT Clinton). A more honest answer would have been all the women her husband sexually assaulted and she helped smear and cover up for him. Hillary Clinton = Camille Cosby.

10.) If you force me to pick a winner (if you one must use the whole winner/loser language), I would say Martin O'Malley did well tonight. His strength is compared to the others on the stage he actually did things, accomplished a hell of a lot as Governor of Maryland - Tax reform, ending the death penalty, gun control (He has the best record on guns by far), criminal justice reform, marriage equality, paid leave, you name it. His foreign policy is still largely a mystery which is a big problem - really hope they hit him on this in the next debate. Also he comes off a bit of a milquetoast - Don Knotts would look like Ron Jeremy next to O'Malley.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ALL ISRAELIS ARE GUILTY


Once again, the Zionist run Western media omits recent history in their coverage of Palestine and Israel acting as if events occur in a bubble, coming out of nowhere.

In particular, I am talking about the recent stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians. These are discussed in the biased news media of America and Europe without the provocations and violence that have been committed daily against the Palestinians which came first.

For example 1.) The failure of Israel to charge anyone in the deaths of members of a Palestinian family (including a baby) who had petrol bombs thrown in their house by settlers despite having suspects in custody. The rumor is those suspects are enjoying the high life in wealthy domiciles. 2.) The recent shootings of two Palestinian women, one accused of having a knife although the Amnesty International report on the matter says that was fictitious https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde15/2529/2015/en/, the other a victim of settler harassment who chose to hit her attacker and then was shot and called a terrorist 3.) The continual murder by Israeli troops of unarmed protesters. No, throwing a rock is not the same as shooting someone with a gun.

In general, the problem of the continuing violence against Palestinian both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories by settlers in a form of lynching. The relationship between Israeli settlers and the Israeli Government is very similar to that of local governments and police departments with the KKK and other white supremacist groups in the Jim Crow South.

Overshadowing all of this is ongoing attempts by the Israeli Government to limit access to Islam's third most holy site, the al-Aqsa Mosque, to deliberately create strife so the Zionists can murder more Palestinians

Of course, acts of individual violence are blown up by the news media and treated like they are greater than the daily constant state violence of the colonialist racist state Israel.

Truth is I could care less about dead Israelis. In fact, I consider in this case violence to be morally permissible.

In February of 1945 for two days, the Allies over 3,900 pounds of explosives on the German city of Dresden inflicting heavy civilian casualties. Kurt Vonnegut Jr was therE as a POW at the time and wrote about in his novel SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. I don't have any problem with this. The allies had to defeat the threat of Nazi Germany completely despite collateral damage.

Israel itself has used Dresden as a moral argument in the past for bombing Gaza but I also think it's an argument for targeting Israelis.

In a supported democracy built on the theft of land from others, everyone is guilty. As far as I am concerned, legitimately every Israeli citizen is a target.

Death to Israel? Yes but also death to Israelis until they stop killing Palestinians or even better until the Zionist colonialist scum, the equivalent of a modern day Nazi state, are finally forced to change their behavior by force or economic pressure. Even better if Israel ceases to exist and the land goes back to its original inhabitants not European settler colonialist filth.

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