THE ABSENT - out now!


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


Out Now


My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers

Thursday, December 24, 2009


One is tempted to write off the music of The Cars as pop fodder….Their first album was certainly overplayed on the radio….Ric Ocasek has to be one of the worst lyricists I’ve ever come across….His alliterations and metaphors aren’t clever and a lot of his language is the worst sort of obvious clichés….The music of The Cars was always a battle between slickness and rock and roll and slickness finally won out in the 80’s on the last two Cars albums.

However, the battle made for engaging music on the first four cars albums especially their second one my favorite of theirs CANDY-O….Theirs is the template for much of American new wave music with synths fighting it out with guitars and detached vocals….Was it just me or was the late Benjamin Orr a much better singer than Roc Ocasek? More emotive, with more range….The drums were also real and in fact a key indicator of their slide downhill was when David Robinson began to use electronic drums.

I know for a lot of people in my age range early to mid 40’s The Cars’ music holds a lot of nostalgic value….I always felt The Cars had a professionalism about their music that was at least on the first four albums not just for the sake of being commercial just five guys making great music.

Here’s my favorite Cars song


The cries of anti-Semitism and blood libel that poured down on Swedish reporter Donald Bostrom when he wrote about Israel’s unauthorized use of Palestinians for organ donations was predictable and was followed by the usual claptrap of “see how they lie about us that is why Israel cannot follow international law we are endangered blah blah blah”

Well guess what? It’s true Israel took organs from dead Palestinians without any prior approval….Who knows what information is coming next?

How can we be expected to believe anything Israel says when they deny using human shields, deliberately targeting civilians and all the other human rights violations anyone who has remotely studied the issue knows are true?

Israel has the superior weapons, all the intelligence factors in place, all the pull with America, and many other advantages that make them the dominant power in the region and allowed them to intimidate critics worldwide and thumb their nose at the United Nations but all this has been gotten through genocide, land theft, and generally speaking outright gangsterism.

It’s also built on lies….Israel always immediately lies when caught once again flaunting international law and committing atrocities.

But in this particular case, I have to ask one question….After the separation ghetto wall, checkpoint humiliations, atrocities especially last December’s Gaza excursion, and now organ harvesting and new allegations about human experimentation….


Here’s more info about Organgate (These links are courtesy of the best news website out there)….

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


One of the most enjoyable things about a work of fiction is when it provides an introduction to a real life problem or cultural difference or conflict….THE BROKEN COMMANDMENT by Shimizaki Torson is one such book.

The issue here is the plight of the Etas in turn of the century Japan….The Eta were basically the lowest caste in Japanese culture like the untouchables or Dalits in India….For example, they were not allowed to hold good jobs, sit in train compartments with non-Etas or live in housing with non-Etas or even serve tea to non-Eta if they received a visit in their homes.

Ushimatsu, the protagonist of THE BROKEN COMMANDMANT, works as a schoolteacher, a job he would not have if his true Eta ethnic identity is known….From a young age, Ushimatsu’s father told him never to speak of his Eta orgin to anyone.

The inner turmoil caused by this and the injustices he witnesses against other Etas is the conflict here….The turning points are the death of Ushimatsu’s father, his relationship with a famous writer who is publicly known as an Eta, and politics at the school where he works wherein the principal is trying to get rid of him (despite his being very good as a teacher) in order to promote someone else with political connections.

There’s a lot of “mind talk” that is the main character engaging in discussions in their head….Lots of agonized soul searching that can be a bit repetitive….

This is well-written book that tells an interesting story and is also informative but it could have been edited better….Say 40 or 50 less pages would have made this an even tighter narrative.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book especially Ushimatsu’s fumbling, gentle romance with the daughter of an elderly colleague who is forced into an early retirement….I also found the happy ending satisfying and logical.

It is always interesting what meanings people find in novels….I came across this view

which ascribes homosexual overtones to this book….LOL!!!! I don’t see that at all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Courtesy of Keith Olbermann who has truly become the main source for debunking Republicrat nonsense and spin and lies….

President Obama’s bow?

Well he’s not the first….

Here’s President Nixon bowing to Emperor Hirohito the man who presided over the bombing of Pearl harbor….

Here’s President Eisenhower bowing to Charles DeGaulle leader of FRANCE for god’s sake

Here’s George Bush and the pope

Here’s George Bush holding hands playing kissyface with Saudi Arabian royalty (insert sexuality joke here)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


My appreciation and love of Japanese literature notwithstanding, I can’t help but comment on the deep strain of perversity in Japanese literature….This is of course a reflection on how life was or is lived not a creation of a writer’s imagination…. The details contained in a book like THE WAITING YEARS by Fumiko Enchi are taken from real life….This explains in many ways coupled with the death/honor obsession that while I am as already noted a fan of Japanese literature I am not a Japanophile the way I am an Anglophile.

THE WAITING YEARS concerns Tomo the regal and formal wife of a government official at the turn of the last century who is asked by her husband, a notorious womanizer, to find him a concubine….This would be a woman ostensibly hired as a maid but whose job is to be mistress….Tomo who suffers poor self-confidence due to coming from an impoverished background goes along with this which in turn sets into motion other events….

What I appreciated about this book was how Enchi would show what was on the mind of one character and then shift to the mind of another character and show their viewpoint….I also liked the ending which found one small cutting comment by someone who has been taken advantage of their whole life is enough to start the dominoes falling.

Most of the characters are impressions rather than fully realized personalities (other than Tomo the strongest character here) but that’s okay….Often, Enchi makes a comment about a character by showing what they are wearing or how another person sees them even Yukitomo, the husband who besides sleeping with the barely pubescent virgin concubine rapes a maid(also a virgin) and sleeps with his daughter in law….

This seeming ease of narrative is a trademark of the best Japanese writers and at times, Enchi reminds me of my favorite Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata.

The truth is THE WAITING YEARS is also a very strong feminist novel….One that shows the powerlessness of women at this point in Japanese history….That alone makes this a very important novel in Japanese literary history.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


STOP ME IF YOU THINK THAT YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE, one of The Smith’s last singles and one of their more well-known and covered songs is striking both lyrically and musically.

The lyrics are a powerful contrast between images of violence (car accidents, beatings, going to the hospital, so much pain Buddhist monks would want to kill people) and the love that remains unchanged despite vague allegations of lies and other trust issues not elaborated on….The singer’s loyalty to another person cannot be questioned despite the torture he has endured is one interpretation.

The music is wrapped up in the beginning of the song where it rises to a false beginning than rises again….Everything about this quickly builds a tension that is partially released once Morrissey starts singing the name of the song….I find the music and melody of this song complex and interesting….I was just noticing how the beginning of LOOMER of My Bloody Valentine copies the beginning riffs.

There is such a grand sense of promise in this song….It portends something of great import before it happens and while you are listening to it and in the middle when the opening riff comes back again it is almost like a breather, a break for the listener to collect their thoughts.

This just provides more evidence that Johnny Marr was in many ways the secret weapon of The Smiths….His melodies and unique guitar tunings and song arrangements made Morrissey interesting although I find what Moz has got to say interesting enough on its own….This song also contains one of Marr’s few genuine guitar solos.

Here’s the song….

and here’s the original cover for the single when it was released….


For the last two months, I have been receiving SMS’s and phone calls from a Malay man looking for a girl named Yana….From what I can understand, she must have had this number in the past although that doesn’t really make sense as I have had this number for more than two years and these calls and messages are new to me….More likely it was the old female trick of giving a phony number out to a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The tone of these messages is funny….They have gotten more and more desperate as if there is a deliberate attempt at ignoring him as a suitor but she couldn’t have possibly given him a wrong phone number because he is such an amazing guy.

Actually, this all brings back to me my single days and what a desperate, unhappy, feral time being single was and how hard it was to meet a good person through all the hard bitter gasping women and all the competition there was from other males when you did find someone….Of course, I should add that these comments apply to American women only and when I did want to find a quality relationship or get married, I turned to women from Asia as their intelligence level, knowledge of the world , and morals were so much better.

But I was never a chaser….If a woman didn’t like me so be it….I would move on….Chasing someone in the hope you can beat someone into submission through the sheer power of your personality coupled with expensive gifts and the like is a frustrating, miserable, and silly venture.

I think the attraction between two people is something that at its root is very natural and easy….To labor over this and make it so difficult is to deny love and the human experience.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


GOODBYE TO BERLIN ,Christopher Isherwood’s collection of interlinked semi-autobiographical stories set in the time right before the Nazis came to power in Germany, contains the line on the first page “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." ….There is no better description of what a good writer does and by a good writer I mean a writer who doesn’t allow himself to get in the way of what he is trying to write.

GOODBYE TO BERLIN is famous for is rendering of the decadent world of the Weimar Republic Germany where anything goes at all hours like what we associate with Thailand today perhaps even more in your face is more than that….It is its characters-The clever, thrifty but ultimately caring landlady, the gay couple struggling to keep it together in a climate of fear as the Nazis become more powerful and Sally Bowles the most famous character to come out of this book….But this is not Liza Minelli from CABARET all warm insincerity and overdone free spiritedness….The Sally in the book is a much sadder figure….Taken advantage of, cheated, leading a sham life and ultimately self-destructive.

THE WORLD IN THE EVENING I guess would fall under the heading of a more conventional novel….While I was reading it, there were several times I thought what’s the point….However, I am glad I stuck with it because despite elements that seemed sappy or spoke towards that Hallmark tendency of some writers to try to wrap everything up neatly, the growth of the character and the ending are satisfying….

Stephen Monk, the protagonist, leaves his wife after catching her in what he assumes is an affair….Being independently wealthy, he runs away from Southern California to his godmother’s house in rural Pennsylvania where he promptly fractures his hip after being hit by a car….

Have you ever had something happen that seemed catastrophic at the time but forced you to sit down and think about your life and ended up being a blessing in disguise?....That’s what happens here as Stephen is not only forced to confront his current situation but more importantly his first marriage which ended in the death of his famous novelist wife….

The wisdom given here is one must learn to love themselves before they can really love others….Clichéd? maybe but explained well….I liked how in the first person narration of the Stephen character left out a lot of his selfish and bad acts and he had to be reminded of them by other characters most notably his second wife….I also didn’t understand the inclusion of a couple of neighbors of his godmother who happened to be a homosexual couple until Stephen himself revealed an affair he had with a man during his first marriage….The key here is not bisexuality but the egocentric insecurity of Stephen which led to this behavior….The gender of the person didn’t matter….The contrast of a regular homosexual couple with Stephen is further meant to show how damaged he is.

Christopher Isherwood studied and wrote about Eastern religions and there is that very perfect sense in this book about things happening when you are ready for them and information given to you at the time you can make use of it…This book goes overboard occasionally with needless dialogue but one thing THE WOLRD IN THE EVENING shares with GOODBYE TO BERLIN is Christopher Isherwood’s ability to create three dimensional characters who act in unpredictable ways the way real people do.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I’m not a fan of Oprah Winfrey for reasons I documented here….

However, my wife loves her show so I am exposed to Oprah through her…. Oprah commonly features guests who offer advice to her single female audience on the failures in their love life.

That’s all well and good but I heard something on her show the other day that’s been repeated so much in self-help mythology that it’s become almost taken for granted….No one seems to have stepped up to dispute this….Well here I go!

The guest Oprah had on (who had written an advice book for women) was discussing things a woman should be troubled by, danger signs etc. when considering a man for a relationship….Number one was if the man has no relationship or a dysfunctional and damaged relationship with his mother….”If a man can’t honor that bond” the guest intoned solemnly to Oprah’s female audience “Then he can’t ever honor the bond with you”.

Well ignoring all the strange somewhat twisted and sick Freudian meanings in that statement, this assumes that every mother is automatically a good parent and worthy of a continued bond….If a mother is abusive or fails in her job and only brings pain and heartache to the life of a child (son or daughter) what is the point of a relationship with her or even keeping in touch with her?

Human behavior is often a series of patterns and we learn a lot of these patterns from our parents….If these behaviors are negative or self-defeating in that they hurt our esteem, our belief in ourselves then in order not to slip into these bad patterns and carry on negative behaviors to the next generation, one sometimes has to eliminate the influence of a negative person even if it is a parent.

I speak from experience….My parents divorced when I was young….My mother remarried a man who didn’t want me around ….My mother herself was an uncaring lazy person who couldn’t even be bothered to take me to the dentist when I had a cavity or make sure I was fed at proper times and those are the lesser examples….I could tell worse....She stopped working once she remarried….I was neglected and mistreated and s nobody gave a damn about me….I Haven’t seen my mother since I was 23 years old (I’m soon to be 44) and can’t honestly see anything worthwhile about ever seeing her again.

Closure is a concept invented in the passive/aggressive west where people think far too much and try too hard to maintain negative relationships or relationships that bring nothing positive to their life….There is no reason to have people in your life (including your parents) if they bring only negative influences….If a woman can’t understand this, I suggest to a man to move on….There are plenty of nice girls outside the USA (especially in Asia) who will understand this.

It is really time to end the Oprah Winfrey show….She has lost touch with common sense, with ordinary people, with life itself like Michael Jackson, like Elvis Presley….She should retire and run her business or a foundation or something.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There are really two stories in WHEN I WHISTLE by Shusaku Endo that converge about halfway through the book….One involves Ozu, a middle-aged businessman of minimal success, whose chance encounter on a train reminds him of a friend from high school named Flatfish and the details of their friendship as well as a girl Flatfish had a crush on named Aiko in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II ….Their story is told is told in flashback.

The other story is about Ozu’s son Eichi who has recently completed medical school and is working as a junior level doctor in a hospital….Intensely ambitious, he resents his father’s inferior societal status as his rival comes from a wealthy family and is able to climb the hospital management structure because of connections.

The point of intersection is when Eichi is asked to try new cancer medications on a patient without telling the patient or getting an informed consent….The patient is an older woman whom Ozu recognizes as Aiko when he is visiting his son in the hospital.

This is a beautifully written book and something I find very unique from a writing perspective is Endo shifts styles when writing the two converging storylines….The part about his teenage friendship with Flatfish is written in more of a wistful, nostalgic, sad voice whereas the modern storyline involving Eichi is told in a straightforward no nonsense manner.

I also like how Ozu’s part of the story has a clear ending like a more traditional narrative whereas Eichi’s story ends with conclusion of one problem but no resolution for the character’s future only his continued clawing his way to the top which involves him attempting to marry the chief doctor’s daughter.

Reading into this a little deeper, Ozu seems to represent the old Japan of manners and customs that is fading away quickly whereas Eichi represents the modern Japan modeled on the United States where it’s dog eat dog….The illegal experimentation subplot perhaps mirrors Japanese WWII war crimes and shows how a certain type of thinking still exists there.

A nice start to reading Shusaku Endo….He was often called the Japanese Graham Greene due to his Catholicism….He is much more modern less caught up in existentialist fate and celebration of death than other Japanese writers….I look forward to reading other books by him.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Here’s a list I found interesting from a book entitled SHAKE SOME ACTION: THE ULTIMATE POWER POP GUIDE by John Borack which lists in the author’s opinion the top 200 power pop records….I think the blogger has added his favorite songs on each album as well….

First off, I would say that the definition of power pop I have is limited….Guys in string ties playing a version of pre-1966 Beatles guitar pop with middle 8’s and nice harmonies….The top 200 list has bands as diverse as Squeeze, Nick Lowe, and XTC (whose music I do love by the way) Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield (!), Jellyfish (who seem as much influenced by Queen as they do The Beatles) as well as traditional 70’s power posters such as The Raspberries, The Shoes, The Knack etc.

But I like the fact that the definition has grown to include bands that don’t necessarily follow the rigid rules….Basically, anybody using the template created by The Beatles could be classified in this way…. The instrumentation doesn’t matter.

As far as music history goes, it is now clear to me that power pop as a genre is separate from all the myriad other musical genres it was sort of lumped in with before (60’s British invasion, late 60’s second wave, punk, new wave, post punk, indy music)….It has a clear beginning with The Beatles….It has an underappreciated before its time group that all the current bands praise – Big Star….Big Star is to the power pop scene as The Velvet Underground is to punk and new wave music….It has different sub genres….Some bands are louder and heavier (The Posies or Teenage Fanclub) others are much more retro in their sound and style (Marshall Crenshaw or The Liverpool Echo)….

You can’t go wrong with The Beatles and you can’t go wrong with clever smart three minutes or less songs….Music like that is much missed today.

Here are five songs diverse yes but all could fit under the power pop heading….

Friday, November 20, 2009


There are really two different novels in THE MALAYAN TRILOGY by Anthony Burgess (which encompasses three books that were originally released separately – TIME FOR A TIGER, THE ENEMY IN THE BLANKET, and BEDS IN THE EAST).

One is about the inherent inequalities, contradictions, and tensions in the multi-ethnic society that will become Malaysia (The book is set in the 1950’s right before Malayan independence from the British and ends with the first Merdeka day celebration)….This is shown through the characters who are so well-constructed I know they must be based on real people that Anthony Burgess met when he worked in Malaya.

The other is about the main character (he is the only character who appears in all three volumes) Victor Crabbe a man obsessed with his late wife who died in a car crash he survived….Now, teaching in Malaya at three different jobs he drifts apart from his second wife and has a number of odd, frustrating, and humorous encounters with locals until the surprise ending (which felt a bit rushed to me) where he finds out a shocking truth that renders his life meaningless.

The setting of each book is different….TIME FOR A TIGER takes place in Perak (called by the fictional name of Langchap in the book) where Anthony Burgess really did teach (at Kuala Kangsar boys school)….THE ENEMY IN THE BLANKET is set on the East Coast of Malaysia….BEDS IN THE EAST is set near Penang.

The thing that surprises me the most about THE MALAYAN TRILOGY is despite being set and written 60 years in the past, many of the observations about Malaysian life (particularly about the racial component and race relations in general) still seem extremely relevant….I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing.

Anyway, this is a fantastic read if for one reason….Detail after detail is piled on top of each other….It’s done in such an effortless way and written so cleanly that one not only never loses track of what is happening but can picture all of the events in one’s head….I also find elements of humor are mingled well with the small tragedies and unlucky twists of fate….

Reading this book is almost like a college course on good writing….

Now, I want to find out if the book is really banned in Malaysia ( as I’ve read online and heard a number of times) due to its portrayal of Muslim Malays drinking and having sex outside of marriage or even while married to someone else or if that is an urban legend….While I’ve never seen the book for sale in Malaysia, I did find at my local library in Ipoh (which is run by the government after all)….If in fact the book is banned in Malaysia then that is a comment on life here so perfect, a writer could never dream it up in a thousand years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


As our list crazed society gets ready to start on what was exceptional about this decade, I thought I would mention the band that I thought produced one of the best cd’s of the last ten years and that is Elbow.

Elbow’s first cd, ASLEEP IN THE BACK, is a masterpiece, a combination of exaggerated sensitivity, shuffling arrangements, moments of quiet desperation and expressions of loud emotion….Snatches of quiet beauty push into strange discordant guitar figures or funereal low energy dirges, Guy Garvey’s vocals (which remind me of a more soulful Peter Gabriel) are capable of low rumbling and soaring epic heights, scratchy instrumentation weirdness runs into pretty piano interludes.

The highlight of this record is Newborn, the longest song on the album at more than seven minutes it moves between all the contrasts I just mentioned….And the contrasts are really stunning especially in the long building plaintive middle section with voice and details and swirling keyboards that explode into the chorus one more time at the end.

CAST OF THOUSANDS, Elbow’s follow-up, was a disappointment….Most of the songs either failed to grab or had elements of commerciality (such as a full gospel choir) added to somewhat mediocre songs to begin with.

LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD was mostly a return to form….While not as startling musically as ASLEEP IN THE BACK, it did have a much stronger selection of songs than CAST OF THOUSANDS.

Which brings us to their fourth cd THE SELDOM SEEN KID, well it is better than CAST OF THOUSANDS but definitely not as good as ASLEEP IN THE BACK….However, I would also have to say it is not as good as LEADERS due to the fact that LEADERS had some diversity whereas there is a sameness to much of SELDOM SEEN KID….It’s a good sameness because Elbow is an excellent band with great vocals, arrangements, and songwriting as well as an original sound but some of the songs are a bit too much alike for my taste….

It’s very hard when your first release turns out to be perfect or near perfect….This seems to be the problem Elbow seems to have….Whether or not they can ever top their first release will be a fun question to watch them answer….ASLEEP IN THE BACK will always give me hope.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Generally, books about a dysotopian future present us with a civilization fully functioning under no pressure to change from its citizens and its usually left up to a narrator who struggles against something bigger than himself (namely the government or system that represses him) and is eventually crushed….WE by Yevgeny Zam yatin, 1984 by George Orwell, and BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley are three examples of this.

THE WANTING SEED by Anthony Burgess presents us with something different….At the beginning of the book, England and the world of the future is struggling with overpopulation….There is a one child policy and homosexuality is actively encouraged….Food resources are scarce due to destruction of nature to build housing for people and mystery diseases that kill off a lot of the livestock.

As the book continues though, society begins to break down, there are riots and cannibalism becomes commonplace….At the beginning, the government is in control but not overly oppressive….By the middle of the book, a new type of violent police named greyboys have appeared.

The actions in the book revolve around three characters-Tristam Foxe, a history teacher, Beatrice-Joanna his wife, and his brother Derek….Tristam and Beatrice-Joanna's young son has recently died and she is now carrying on an affair with Derek a high placed official in the government who pretends to be gay which is the only way you can have a high government job or succeed in this future….What happens she discovers she is pregnant again (even if the child dies, it is illegal to have more children in this society) and is not sure who the father is and Tristam finds about her relationship with Derek and ends up in jail and then shanghaied in a new military that is just a front….What is it a front for? Well think of war as a great depopulator and also the phony battles in 1984 and you have a good idea….What happens to all the bodies of the soldiers? Well don’t think about that just keep eating the plentiful tinned meat….

For a such a highly cultured intellectual guy (Writer, musician, linguist, educator, literary critic) Anthony Burgess’s writing is surprisingly earthy, he discusses the most base bodily functions and perverse wretchedness of humankind….His novels are the work of a highly creative yet sloppy mind….Like a big desk with drawers open piled high with important papers and manuscripts….Burgess is also a very fun writer to read….Best description I can think of is a combination of satirists like Evelyn Waugh and surrealists like JG Ballard with perhaps a little Kingsley Amis thrown in especially in the love triangle part.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, his most famous book, is also about a Dystopian future….It is his most disciplined and focused book which may be why it is his most successful work….Truth is I prefer the messy future written about in THE WANTING SEED to any of the other books written about in this post….It just feels more like human nature.


Sometimes a title is all you need to make you interested in a book or a movie or an album/cd….A good example is A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR by Todd Rundgren.

A lot of people who critique music ( I think it would be fair to say most) consider SOMETHING/ANYTHING Rundgren’s greatest recording….It is impressive….A double album’s worth of versatile songwriting and clever melodic twists.

However, while I like Rundgren’s music, he has always been someone more in my second tier of artists….In other words, not everything he has done is essential in fact for a guy so talented in so many ways (singer, musician, songwriter, producer) he has put out a lot of really bad music….In addition to musical self-indulgence and musical experimentation mistakes, there is a sterility factor in his music as if he is putting out what he thinks a good song sounds like rather than what he feels (“soul” if you want to call that).

But enough criticism!....A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR is my favorite Todd Rundgren album and it is amazing especially the first eight songs which are around the two minute mark and some less so but span so many different musical genres in such a short period of times it reminds me of switching the channel on FM radio listening to all the different types of music for different audiences.

This is music that takes weeks to sort out due to all the different melodies styles abrupt switches of melody, depth and versatility….I would also recommend THE HERMIT OF MINK HOLLOW and THE EVER POPULAR TORTURED ARTIST EFFECT as both show Rundgren at the peak of his singing/songwriting powers as well as the self-titled UTOPIA album from 1982 (Utopia being a side band project of Rundgren’s).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I love libraries and one of the things perhaps the main thing I miss about living in the US is the fantastic public library system.

I had visited the library near the school where I work and Greentown and found most of the shelves bare and the book collection pitifully small.

However, I had not visited the main branch of the library until this last weekend….Surprisingly, the fiction book section had a better than expected assortment.

However, the service I received there was horrible….I understand that you can’t expect too much from Malaysian government employees and as someone who has spent time in immigration and seen Malaysian bureaucracy up close, I don’t expect too much….However, to me working in a library is a bit like being a teacher….You do it partly because you love what you are doing and feel it is a good thing….A passion for books is like a passion for educating people….

But I guess that’s not the case in Malaysia….Here’s my story….

I went into the library on Saturday and saw a couple of books I wanted….However, since I am a foreigner, my wife needed to sign up for a library card….This required two photographs which we didn’t have on us….So we came back later in the day with the two photos….At that time, we were told my wife also needed her I/C….Fine so she went back home and got it while I waited at the library….Then when she came back we were told it was too late in the day to process new cards and we couldn’t check out any books that day.

Why couldn’t the %#$&*# useless fat woman behind the counter tell us this before so we didn’t have to make another trip back and forth from my house????

Perhaps I should have taken that as a warning….Today I went back to pick up the library card and check out the two books I wanted originally….One of the books was missing the card inside….The book was so old I think the card holder sleeve had just fallen out….The typical slow braindead subhuman behind the counter said it would take several days to fix this and I would have to wait….This is despite the fact I found the book in the stacks where it would still be today if I had not selected it.

At this point, My wife and I spoke up and I basically let her know what I thought of my experience at the Ipoh library so far….My wife insisted she fix it there and then….Meanwhile, an elderly man who also worked behind the counter said nothing didn’t lift a finger to help and read the newspaper the whole time.

I could sense they didn’t want trouble so gave me the book and handwrote a new card for the inside sleeve….All that trouble just to read a book….Good thing I love reading

In Malaysia, government jobs often seem like a form of social program for people who are not mentally capable of handling real work….I complaint letter to the mayor’s office is in order I think.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Following last week’s win by Republican gubernatorial candidates in seats that were held by Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, many Republicans have made the logical jump to predict the congressional elections of next year will be something like 1994….That is a massive Republican takeover is predicted.

Not taking into account any earth shattering events that have yet to happen, I think this is highly unlikely for several reasons the biggest one being the political reality….In 1994, the Democrats had been in power in the House of Representatives for 72 out of 76 years….There had been numerous scandals such as the house banking scandal and the bounced check scandal that spoke of a group of people who had been in power for far too long.

In the senate, there were a number of retirements on the Democratic side in 1994….In 2010 there will be seven Republican retirements.

In addition, despite losing his re-election race, George Bush the senior didn’t leave the lingering negative aftertaste of his son’s eight year disastrous term….By 1994, people were holding Bill Clinton and the congress responsible for the condition of the country.

Polls show that today’s voters haven’t forgotten the eight years before Obama wherein George Bush wrecked the economy and destroyed America’s credibility….He is still an albatross around the necks of the Republican Party.

The role of reformer/ savior is going to be a hard sell for the Republicans whose negativity is as low or even lower on a number of important issues….They have quite a few of their own scandals to deal with and no master planner like Newt Gingrich in 1994 to help them….Sarah Palin? Don’t make me laugh!

In addition, the Republican Party seems bent on establishing a purity test wherein Republican candidates even incumbents who are not deemed conservative enough may face primary challenges from right wing teabag loony types….The Democrats actually picked up a seat in New York on Tuesday because a right wing candidate running third party upended the moderate Republican who had won the primary and then lost to a moderate Democrat in the general election….I think we will see a lot more of this next year and it will only help the Democrats as you will either have Republican candidates who are too conservative for the districts they are running in or weakened Republican nominees who spent all their cash and resources in bloody primary battles.

The New Jersey and Virginia races hinged more on local politics and featured exceptionally weak Democratic candidates….They are hardly bellwethers for the public mood.

To the contrary of what pundits are saying now, I think the Democrats could even pick up seats next year especially in the Senate….There are a lot of vulnerable Republican office holders.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Damon Albarn of Blur once described the band he was part of, Blur, as an"anti-grunge band" he said, "Well, that's good. If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge."

I admit I hated grunge with a passion and thought most of the music that came out of the Seattle scene in the early 90’s was crap....Bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana somehow found a way to meld the most commercial watered down aspects of punk, heavy metal, and horrid garbage late 70’s AOR bands such as Journey and Kansas into genuinely uninspired unoriginal music that a lot of “me too” people latched on to (Remember grunge musicians for all their public protestations against fame and the music industry to the contrary made highly commercial music).

That is not to say that they weren’t any good bands who were linked to the grunge scene....I have always liked Soundgarden a band with a great sound, a tremendous lead guitarist and enough goofy spaciness to make one not mind the blatant Led Zeppelin-isms.

And lately I have found myself listening a lot to Alice in Chains....

Alice in Chains were a hard band to pigeonhole....Their first cd FACELIFT had a really lean metal sound, big riffs, and powerful “down” vocals....I guess Black Sabbath (the good early 70’s period)is what it would remind me of most.

Before releasing their heavier than heavy second release, they released an acoustic ep entitled SAP, a strange move for a band known primarily a harder sound....Next was their second full length cd (and my favorite) DIRT which contains more than an hour of truly scorching dense metal....This was followed by yet another ep however JAR OF FLIES wasn’t just acoustic it also included strings....It’s an amazing work and shows a group of musicians who have freed themselves from the restraints of a musical genre....Last comes their third full length cd ALICE IN CHAINS which finds the band effortlessly shifting between the different sounds they had experimented with before....There are both semi-acoustic ballads and the usual heavy asskickers.

For me, the late Layne Staley’s vocals are the primary weapon here although Jerry Cantrell is a fluid guitarist and became more of the dominant songwriter as time went on....He also functioned as a second vocalist a la Noel Gallagher and these contributions are also worthwhile.

The recent Alice in Chains reunion?....Well I can’t imagine the band without Staley but that’s just my opinion.


Sunday, November 1, 2009


When a new Morrissey cd comes out, it means a bit more to me than releases by any other band….This is because of my favorite artists of the time I grew up (the 1980’s), he is one of the few still putting out quality music….

That is until YEARS OF REFUSAL his last album of original material which came out earlier this year….I wrote about it here and my opinion has not changed….It has supplanted YOUR ARSENAL as my least favorite Morrissey release.

SWORDS is a collection of b sides from the singles released off his last three cd’s YOU ARE THE QUARRY, THE RINGLEADER OF THE TORMENTERS, and the already mentioned YEARS OF REFUSAL

Morrissey is one of those artists whose b sides and non album tracks are often as good in quality, as well-written as anything on the albums ….SWORDS is the new cd I hoped for when YEARS came out.

There are just so many great songs here….THE NEVER PLAYED SYMPHONIES, CHRISTIAN DIOR, SHAME IS THE NAME, MY DEAREST LOVE, FRIDAY MOURNING….My personal favorites are TEENAGE DAD ON HIS ESTATE which reminds me of some sort of wonderful lost sequel to ORDINARY BOYS off Morrissey’s first VIVA HATE….Great lyrics here as Morrissey identifies those who envy a simpler life….and CHILDREN IN PIECES, a raging rocker about how the Catholic Church (and Catholic schools) in Ireland treat young children which is better than anything on YEARS.

SWORDS provides hope that Morrissey can still write and perform great music….He has worked with producers Jerry Finn and Tony Visconti in recent years….Perhaps he should work with different musicians as well instead of just his touring band.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I am of a generation that just missed the glory days of THE SOUPY SALES SHOW….The Soupy Sales I saw growing up in the 70’s and 80’s was a brilliant ad libber to be sure but confined to game shows and afternoon talk shows.

It wasn’t until I got older that I discovered what an edgy, dangerous comic Sales had been….His famous Children’s show of the 50’s and 60’s was, like The Three Stooges in the past and Spongebob Squarepants now, as much for adults as it was for kids….In addition to the famous incident when Sales, angry about working New Year’s Eve, asked children to take the green paper with pictures of presidents out of their parents wallets and send it to him and he would send a postcard from Puerto Rico, Sales was also famous for adult double entendres which might or might not go above the head of kids (Sales later denied the double entendre story and said it was an urban myth).

Watching videos of him at his heyday one sees an unpredictable energetic comic….A big influence I think on Pee Wee Herman and also on David Letterman, Tom Green, and others who try to do things outside the box.

There’s a lot of good Soupy Sales stuff on YouTube I’m happy to report….

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Theodore Roethke’s poetry is deceptively simple….This perhaps caused me to overlook him when I came across his work before.

MY PAPA’S WALTZ ,which I used last year in my Year 9 English class to explain metaphors, is one such poem….The image of the drunk father with his rough appearance beating time out on his son’s head at first seem like such a shop worn unimaginative clichéd scenario but Roethke’s restrained use of language and the rhythm of the words perhaps also imbued with an integrity of a scene that may or may not have been autobiographical.

Roethke images don’t slice, cut, or penetrate….They ingratiate themselves with your brain rubbing up against literary pleasure centers like a purring feline.

JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR is really just a collection of metaphors describing the complexity of self-examination….”I could do that you think” but I’m sure many musicians think the same thing about the early music of The Beatles….INTERIOR comes to a really interesting ending by the way.

THE RECKONING uses accounting imagery for a soul imbalance something I have done myself in poetic writing….THE WAKING and THE GERANIUM are examples of plain spoken homilies on life’s value and existence.

ELEGY FOR JANE shows that Roethke can produce emotion in the reader….I love the last line of this poem about a student of his who died in a horse riding accident when he acknowledges that he has “no rights in this matter” as he is neither “father nor lover”

Here are three of my favorite poems of his all on one page THE SURLY ONE, I KNEW A WOMAN, and IN A DARK TIME

And here’s a Theodore Roethke page with bibliography….

Friday, October 16, 2009


One module that is always included in the Business Communication courses I have taught is meeting management/ effective communication for meetings.

My observation is there are several common mistakes made in the organization, running, and planning of meetings….

1.) Going into a meeting without a clear objective….Having formal meetings to kick ideas around without first having arranged the frame work for the proceedings or just having a meeting “because we haven’t had one in awhile” (as an old employer of mine used to do)….Meetings are meant to solve problems and and introduce policy….Other than that they are a waste of time….There should always be time for feedback at the end.

2.) Ineffective Time Management….Spending too little or the usual problem too much time on one single issue leads to a meeting that is not effective as objectives are not met….Meetings need a firm moderator with the ability to move it along at the right pace.

3.) Calling last minutes meetings for non-emergencies….Participants in meetings should always be given a fair amount of warning unless it is an emergency otherwise you will have a distracted and frustrated audience one they realize the meeting could have been scheduled for another time as well as non-attendance from those unable to get away from prior commitments.

4.) Too many meetings….Management in all businesses have to meet on a regular business….This is how they communicate important information to each other and also how they discuss the future of the business….However, the rank and file of any given business or other entity be it school, government agency, etc. should not be meeting too frequently….If there is, there’s very likely a problem somewhere

5.) Meetings as time wasters….Once, when a meeting ended slightly before the time it was scheduled to, the manager started doing some silly teambuilding games that took even more time and we ended up getting out later.

What do all of the above situations have in common?

The absence of an agenda clearly stating the order of topics….You can go so far as to include goals in your agenda as well.

The agenda of a meeting should always be planned and written well in advance.

Time management is one of the if not THE most underrated part of management and meetings are one of the most abused areas….Running successful meetings is one of the indicators of how successful a company is in other areas….

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I’m not sure how to even begin to describe this book but here are a few key plot details….

Our hero sells athletic shoes called “jump shoes” for a living that give people the power to leap small distances….One night an ambulance shows up at his house without being called and takes away his wife who is apparently healthy….This being Japan and the novel being one of the most extreme and surreal neither he nor his wife think to stop the paramedics and argue with them why they are taking her away….

The rest of the book involves him attempting to find his wife in the labyrinthine hospital she’s been taken….While clues are given at the end, we never really find out what happened to her….Instead, we have a character called “The Horse” who is am literally walking and adopting the physical motions of a horse….A young girl who is constantly sexually aroused but whose bones are melting so she becomes more and more a blob of jelly….Another character has a disease that makes her turn into cotton and she is eventually knitted into a quilt to be used by her daughter….All the patients in this hospital are sexually active and sneak away to hotels where they are unknowingly taped in action….These tapes are sold by the hospital as erotic accessories

Aside from the odd deviant sex and peculiar incidents (the hero becomes the chief of security for the hospital during his search when he accidentally kills the old chief of security), there is not much here….

This is not the first book I’ve read by Kobo Abe but THE BOX MAN had a clearer structure, had a better foundation for its surreal explorations, and a message….This book is just weird….Fun for those who want a reading experience that makes absolutely no sense….I guess the message in the end is something along the lines of each patient embracing his or her disease but it’s so jumbled it’s hard to figure anything out.

The end of SECRET RENDEZVOUS which finds the hero permanently lost in some kind of maze seems too easy….I would expect more from a book that is so self-consciously bizarre.


Been listening to the back catalogue of The Fall the last week partly inspired by finally hearing their latest cd IMPERIAL WAX SOLVENT….I won’t say I’m the biggest Fall fan but I do respect their fidelity to a certain style of recording and their ability to maintain their integrity while having prolific output.

Or I should say HIS fidelity as Mark E. Smith is really The Fall….My recent Fall listening binge brought to mind some similarities between Smith and Bob Dylan….

They both rattle off their poetry as lyrics over band backing without worry over such melodic niceties as singing or middle 8’s or traditional verse chorus structure unless you count mentioning the same phrase every fourth or sixth line….

Dylan was lucky to be backed by The Band among other talented sidemen on his best albums including BLONDE ON BLONDE and HIGHWAY 61 REVISISTED….They at least injected some drama into dull arrangements which is almost like spoken word when one gets down to it.

Now, I’m definitely not the biggest Dylan fan….In fact aside from great poetry, I’ve always found him a curiously regressive creature who peaked early and produced crap ever since….I never liked his voice and didn’t really like anything he did after the 60’s….

Smith on the other hand while using multiple sidemen over the 30 year 30+ album/cd career of the Fall still continues to produce a bizarre original sound….He’s never lost track of what he’s about unlike Dylan whose a good poet but very very overrated when it comes to every other part of his music….


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Let me get this straight….David Letterman had sex with women who worked on his television show and he wasn’t married at the time….Hey, I got a news flash for you….Sometimes rock stars have sex with groupies!!! I mean duh!

This non-story shows us a couple of things….It must be a slow news week and the right wingers who hate Letterman because he went from one of the most inventive television personalities of all time (not to mention the funniest) to the same but with a social consciousness horrified by what the criminal Bush administration had done to America.

The way he handled this whole thing-up front, no BS showed real integrity and bravery….

I’ve blogged about Letterman before and he is till my hero….

I am just waiting for the Sarah Palin sex scandal and you know there will be one….Someone so obviously hypocritical embracing abstinence and her own failure as a mother as well as her “slutty flight attendant look” as Letterman said….I can’t wait until the pictures come out of her with a caribou or some other nonsense….The contrite apologies, the sex tape and the further crumbling of conservativism of America into a political ideology no one takes seriously anymore even those who claim to believe it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Let me start off with several obvious truths….

1.) There is no such thing nor was there ever such a thing as death panels in any of the various versions of the health care legislation before Congress….Sarah Palin and other right wing minions have been attempting to strike fear into Middle America with these baseless charges….They are disreputable scoundrels….Here’s a fact check…. ….The real death panels in America are called insurance companies and they sentence people to die every day by refusing or denying coverage.

2.) Of course racism is a factor in how President Obama is being treated….I have never seen a president talked about with such a lack of respect by people who really matter not even Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal….When Rep. Joe Wilson shouted liar during the state of the union, it was the actions of a white Southern male of a certain generation who is not comfortable with a black man in a power position….The equivalent of calling a black man “boy” to degrade him and make him less than human….The Republican party only likes black people when they have effectively been neutered or made “white” so to speak such as Clarence Thomas….The way they talk about the first lady is also disgusting and speaks volumes about what passes as political debate from the right wing these days.

3.) I still think President Obama is very lucky to have the enemies he does….When they are not getting caught with their pants down, they are following Glenn Beck a known schizophrenic who has to take behavioral medication….It’s a good thing if he becomes the voice of the Republican party….Good for the Democrats that is.

Now the bad news….

The Obama Administration so far has been hampered not by their policy goals which are correct and why I voted for him in the first place but rather by their priorities….

I totally agree the health care system needs to be reformed but with unemployment at 10% and economic growth continuing to be sluggish does it have to be now?....A reinvigorated Democratic party fresh off spearheading a recovery would have a lot better chance of getting health care legislation through Congress.

The bill that is taking shape is filled with exceptions, compromises, and pandering to the special interests….When weakling Senator Max Baucus caved in on the public option, the bill ceased to have any heft at all….What’s the point of this? Other than getting a bill passed….But if it’s a nothing bill then it is really just a hollow action

And that is my criticism of President Obama and his administration….He plays to the camera a bit too much in a way that is more like showboating and less like getting to work….His failed pitch of Chicago for the Olympics in 2016 was nothing short of a disaster….I don’t understand why this was even on his “To Do” list….Who gives a you know what about the Olympics when there are so many other more important problems?....It looks like he does not have his priorities in line.

I think it is far far too early to call him a failed president as some are doing and I still have “hope” (if that is not too clichéd a term) for his administration….Foreign policy wise he has hit all the right notes and I think he’s been great in that area.

But I also think he needs to sit down with his senior advisors and his cabinet and figure out what is important and remember why he was elected in the first place….Clinton had the same problem and was able to rebound after 1994 with a better agenda to push for….Let’s hope Obama can do the same.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


 “When, three years back, the villagers had their once in a lifetime chance at big money, they all jumped at the opportunity, never realizing they’d be turned into puppets….The former village swarmed with car salesmen, bankers, insurance agents, landscapers, travel agents, promoting overseas tours, real estate agents touring land in Hokkaido no one had ever seen, and even shadier types of entrepreneurs. They coated the town like ants on sugar. The one time farmers with their bulging moneybags were easy prey for the invading hordes….Reality soon set in….”

There are a number of stock literary plot elements in DISTANT THUNDER by Wahei Tatematsu….The farmers who used to work the soil for generations struggling to find a life outside of farming….The plain spoken hero who is filled with integrity….The friend who can’t adapt and does a terrible thing….A lengthy marriage scene that wraps up all the plot details and features the death of an elderly character representing rebirth.

However, because the level of detail is so precise (especially about tomato growing which is what the main character does for a living) this is never predictable or stilted.

Mitsuo, the hero, in his early 20’s works in his small greenhouse which is all that is left of his family farm since his father sold out to land developers….His mother works in construction and various other odd jobs and his father’s elderly mother watches TV at home all day.

There is a nice comparison here between the small strip of land Mitsuo owns and the giant apartment building next door which was built on the purchased land….The character of his father who has left his mother after selling the land and now is living with a bargirl is well drawn….If you provide for your family your whole life and never have a moment for yourself, is this behavior selfish for an older man?

The scenes with Kojii, his doomed friend who is lost in post-farming Japan despite the fact his parents still own rice paddies have a certain poignancy.

I really liked the scenes between Mitsuo and the woman he marries Ayako ….She is as earthy and down to earth as him and their sex scenes are beautifully written saying just enough and not too much.

In fact, Mitsuo and Ayako’s sex scenes and many other parts of day to day life are implicitly linked to farming or, as it all that is left, growing tomatoes….This book is successful in every area of writing but linking it all to the cycle of growing and working the soil is done perfectly.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Today I uploaded to You Tube videos of me reading three of my poems....The poems are GOD'S GETTING TIRED, THE WORLD IS FULL OF THE MENTALLY RETARDED, and THE BURDEN OF EXISTENCE IS NOT THAT HEAVY....

I'm interested in all comments you leave on youtube....Here's the links

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Okay here's the story....Behind my house is a kind of forest as well as housing for military personnel....The other day my wife saw a monkey in our backyard....There have also been large monitor lizards sighted as well as stray cats.

Some animal left something for us but we are not sure which animal....The photo attached is the mystery poop....It was up about four feet off the ground....Our guess is monkey but open to any other ideas.

Maybe I should give a prize perhaps a free bag of this poop???

Saturday, September 26, 2009


My favorite story in Naoya Shiga’s collection THE PAPER DOOR AND OTHER STORIES is INCIDENT ON NOVEMBER THIRD which makes the comparison between a wild duck the narrator has caught and soldiers on maneuvers nearby so tired and exhausted by the training exercises they have been put through that they cannot go any further (Think pre-WWII Japanese army fanaticism).

I find AT KINOSAKI and THE HOUSE BY THE MOAT to be effective thought provoking musings on mortality and existence….Less stories as a series of thoughts and observations linked by one seemingly trivial event.

Both of these stories, like many of the stories in this book, use the natural world and animals as a comparison or sign of what humans should or shouldn’t do….It’s as if primitive superstition or the anthropologist’s definition of it is lurking behind every incident no matter how small.

A GRAY MOON presents us in four short pages a moving portrait of post-WWII deprivations in Japan as well as the failure of human beings to be much help to each other.

RAIN FROGS has a novel theme….Educating yourself will lead someone who isn’t used to that into infidelity and perhaps worse….The ending wherein the hero burns all of his books because he blames knowledge for his simple wife’s one night stand with another man is really fascinating and I imagine could be debated endlessly.

The three other stories dealing with infidelity are remarkable for two reasons….The description of the wife waiting in the snow in INFATUATION is unforgettable and the main idea of KUNIKO which is that too much peaceful living and security is bad for a writer or an artist of any kind and that turmoil is needed to produce any good work is one I have struggled with myself.

This is the second book I’ve read by Shiga….The other was his novel A DARK NIGHT’S PASSING which I discussed here….    He truly is a writer with much insight into the twisted and peculiar variations of the human psyche.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I’m not sure why I like Osamu Dazai’s writing so much….At times, I would say he is my second favorite Japanese writer after Yasunari Kawabata….Two dominant themes of his work go against core beliefs of mine ….1.) I believe in free will and Dazai’s books have a hysterical form of Japanese fatalism that seems pre-determined….No point struggling against it 2.) That fatalism also takes the form of an infatuation with suicide and the sense that nothing will ever get better….I also reject this as hope is all we have and I feel you just have to try your best in everything you do.

Yet I think his two main works THE SETTING SUN and NO LONGER HUMAN are both extraordinary….SUN is about the decay and fall of a once prosperous old lineage Japanese family in the days immediately following World War II….HUMAN is a largely autobiographical story about a narrator who I believe is Osamu Dazai….It’s one of the darkest books in tone I’ve ever read.

Still, while it is true that Dazai has an unrelenting negaitivty that runs rampant but he is also witty especially in his description of other people….He reminds me of Celine in the way he builds scenes that cascade into even worse situations all the while injecting some black humor….He has a savage apathy towards life but also an apathy to a commitment to an action as strong as suicide.

Yeas, he’s weak but a hell of a writer!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I must admit that I greatly enjoy the FINAL DESTINATION films especially the first one which was a clever horror film relying less on blood and gore and psycho killers and more on dread and mystery and suspense….It reminded me of the Val Lewton horror films of the 1940’s where atmosphere and plot twists gave audiences a sense of unease rather than special effects or other obvious horror movie trickery.

Today I saw the fourth FINAL DESTINATION film and found it to be pretty good….Not as good as the first one but certainly better than the third one…. About the same as the second one.

One thing I liked about Part 4 was the ending which was bigger and better than any of the previous FINAL DESTINATION FILMS.

Why do I like this series? Well a sense of inescapable fatalism is really created well as is the existentialist dilemma posed by being next in line for death….The idea of postponing death but never fully getting away from it is a philosophical puzzle that is fun to wrap your head around.

Because the killer is really death himself who is totally invisible and never seen physically except in the form of the horrible yet creative accidents that happen to the various hapless victims, there is a healthier tone to these films unlike the current wave of films that are long on all manner of mentally ill psychopaths committing torture and the like.

I look forward to Part 5….

Friday, September 18, 2009


The best moment on ART BRUT VS SATAN the third cd from the band Art Brut is on the song DEMONS OUT! when the difference is noted between pop success and music of artistic quality “The record buying public shouldn’t be voting” bellows lead singer Eddie Argos before defining the struggle to get something of perceived artistic merit on the airwaves as a struggle with the devil himself “It’s Art Burt vs. Satan….Don’t worry we can take him”.

The good news about ART BRUT VS SATAN is this is their best cd lyrically….They have gradually grown in confidence until they can craft a song like DC COMICS AND CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKES about still enjoying childish things as an adult or THE PASSENGER about the joys of public transport.

The bad news is Frank Black’s fast production of this cd which gives it a rough punk buzz is not equal to their last cd which featured better sounding arrangements and songs with better verse chorus structures.

Art Brut is one of those bands that really are not going to change a lot and in their case that might be a good thing.

Art Brut has been lumped in with a number of other British bands including the Arctic Monkeys which is like comparing a monkey with an eagle….One band in attitude and execution from the late 70’s and the 80’s that Art Brut does remind me of and perhaps was influenced by was The Undertones.

These five Irish lads had great funny songs full of tales of adolescence that sadly many of us could probably relate to….Perfect cousins, driving lessons gone wrong, and girls that don’t talk at all were among the subject that were covered….The two guitar attack was the perfect foil for Feargal Sharkey’s fantastic voice part opera singer part choral master and it in no way suited the music which made for a fascinating dichotomy.

One detail that was front and center in the Undertones songs and which Art Brut could work on was catchy songs structures with middle 8’s and all the other necessary parts of what makes a classic song.

The Undertones made four cds….THE UNDERTONES, HYPNOTIZED, PERFECT TOUCH, and THE SIN OF PRIDE….THE UNDERTONES is pretty good but HYPNOTIZED is a classic, their masterpiece….PERFECT TOUCH is a good record that shows some musical experimentation….THE SIN OF PRIDE is swamped by strings and brass and gets way too far from their original sound.

By the way, the new version of The Undertones that is currently touring around doesn’t include Feargal Sharkey and IMO is best avoided.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


One of my students gave me the box a Mosquito killing device came in….I believe it was manufactured in China….The English instructions are hilarious….These are direct quotes (spelling, capitalizations, spacing)….

Using Limits and the Last Using method
The killer can be used in bed-room,hall,hoslal,,office,chicken farm,animal huslardry,and any other places where needs killing mosquitos. The effective killing spaceof a killer is 16 m, without anything to obstract the killer’s lights.
The killer is designed with power saving,decorating, so it should be used in a place without strong lights. Using the killer correctly or not would affect the killing effect. For example, using the killer in bed-room without turning on any other lights for 10-20 minutes, or put the killer in the darkness under a table while working studying, are all the good ways to use the killer.
Suggested Using Height:0.8-1.2M, and the distance to wall should over 0.3m. The best way is to put the killer before a door, a window, or any other places where easy to kill mosquitos.
We suggest to use the killer 24 hours continually to extend the using limits of the fluroscent tube.
In daytime, put some suitable Lait in the killer’s chassis and it can be used to kill fly.
To improve the killer’s killing effect, it is necessary to clean the dead bodies of mosquitoes on the wire net regularly. While cleaning, turn off the power, open the chassis, and sweep the wire net with soft brush.
Thank you for using CHUANGJI electronic mosquito.
If the power cable is broken, please replace repair place designed by manufactory.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today at my school during morning assembly one of the principals made an excellent point about how the global showbiz culture values celebrity over achievement ….He brought up the endless media hype about the death of Michael Jackson (someone relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things) and compared them to lesser stories about people who also passed away recently but were much more important to our daily lives. I’ve blogged about this before….

Case in point was Norman Bourlag the scientists credited with the Green Revolution….Bourlag in his life was probably responsible for saving a billion people from starvation….More about Bourlag’s accomplishments here

To me this is the definition of greatness not entertainment but something that actually benefits the world.

But debate season is coming up so let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment….Overpopulation is going to destroy the world one day through global warming and other manmade catastrophes linked to too many human beings and not being able source for food is part of how evolution thins animal populations….Did Bourlag and co. prevent natural selection and therefore doom the earth?....Are more people living in overcrowded abysmal poverty really a good thing? Or this the talk of anti-humanist luddite primitives who don’t understand the value of human life

Interesting question….I actually saw people debate this topic years ago when I was in high school and the anti_Borlaug people actually had the better argument that day and won the debate.

I don’t agree….Any advancement like this that doesn’t artificially prolong life but simply gives poor people a way to fight against their environment is a duty to humanity.

RIP Norman Bourlag….A great man

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I’ve blogged about Oasis before and my mixed feelings about them as well as some credit they are deserved for helping launch the whole Britpop thing….Now that they have allegedly broken up (and I have heard this before….I’m sure we will be hearing more Oasis in the future), everyone’s got a list of their favorite Oasis tunes, here’s mine….

The leadoff single from what could be their last release couples recycled but still awesome Beatles riffs with a trademark big sound

I know it’s a total rip-off but I love the lalala ending and the guitar solo….Hard to resist

A B-side with a tremendously snappy chorus and propulsive retro beat

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS is Oasis most underrated release and this Badfinger rocker comes with a wonderful snarl courtesy of Liam Gallagher

I have always felt that this was the foundation song on their breakthrough WHAT’S THE STORY, MORNING GLORY?

Oasis most interesting and experimental song

A near perfect single better than WONDERWALL IMO

Should have been a bigger hit but off a genuinely bad release….The chorus is transcendant

Noel Gallagher’s best vocal effortlessly treads over John Lennon, Glam Rock, and The Verve

Strawberry Fields Forever meets The Stone Roses

The quintessential Oasis song-nonsense lyrics, huge guitar, wonderful surly vocals….The guitar solo at the end is my favorite Oasis moment