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

Saturday, March 28, 2009


The description on the back of ANGELS ON TOAST by Dawn Powell describes the characters in this frenetic, witty, and clever book as being “on the make”.

Now, while that expression has sexual connotations, that’s not the only meaning. The characters in ANGELS ON TOAST are all desperately chasing something be it new business opportunities (Such as Lou Donovan or Jay Oliver) or a better deal in life (Eby Vane and Trina Kameray) or just information (TV Truedale) or the opposite sex (all of the above)….Or maybe it’s just a new trap, a new challenge, something to hold you back, to struggle with, escape from….

The idea that American capitalism is synonymous with making a fast buck is both a blessing and a curse although the narrative is so spry and flows so well and is filled with so many funny scenes, one never thinks of the negative sides.

I like how ANGELS ON TOAST moves so effortlessly between the different characters (always a sign of a great writer)….I also like how the book feels like a part of a greater whole….the beginning and the ending aren’t necessarily that but simply where the writer picked up and then left off….One could see the story both with more backstory and also continuing on and on into the future.

Dawn Powell is one of the best kept secrets in literature….Championed for many years by other writers (Powell herself passed away in 1965), many of her books were re-released in the late 90’s….She is definitely a writer I plan on reading more of….On my reading list is THE LOCUST HAVE NO KING.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I hardly buy CD’s anymore….This is partly because I very rarely hear a band that I like enough that I would want to buy a whole CD preferring instead to burn individual songs off the Internet….Of artists I have been a fan of for long periods of time, very few of them are still active….One artist who still releases music that I will always buy is Morrissey.

His latest CD YEARS OF REFUSAL however does not inspire me to write much….Not that it’s bad, there are a number of great songs (SOMETHING IS SQUEEZING MY SKULL, ALL YOU NEED IS ME, BLACK CLOUD, SORRY DOESN’T HELP) it’s just extremely short (less than 40 minutes I think) and many of the songs are very simple(even the ballads) comprising of two or three chords played at different volumes and relying on Morrissey to set the chord changes off by his voice.

Looking back at my personal history of music, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, and The Smiths are and were my favorites….Morrissey has now been a solo artist almost three times longer than, his past band, The Smiths, were together….He is also the only one of those three still making interesting music.

During the seven year hiatus between 1997 and 2004, when Morrissey toured constantly building his fan base but didn’t release any new CD’s, fan excitement really grew and I for one was not let down by his last two CD’s YOU ARE THE QUARRY and RINGLEADER OF THE TORMENTORS which I thought were excellent.

That’s why I’m puzzled by YEARS OF REFUSAL…. The meticulous production and excellent melodies are not on display here despite this being produced by Jerry Finn who produced YOU ARE THE QUARRY….Instead, the result is a bit sloppy although one cannot deny the energy of the musicians nor Morrissey himself who sounds great as always….He has long been my favorite singer and on that score this CD is alright.

Not a bad musical experience if you are a Morrissey fan like myself….Just much lighter compared to what has come before (I think I will do a future post describing the quality of individual Morrissey CD’s)….We will see if this grows on me over time.


One of the greatest myths of the west (especially America) is the myth of the free press….This is constantly harped upon and held up as way in which Western countries are superior to countries in other parts of the world.

Now, it is true that by comparison there is limited government intrusion upon the press but this is substituted with the pressure placed by large corporations, well-financed special interest groups etc….In many ways, these groups are more perfidious and sinister than direct governmental interference because it is much harder to prove their involvement and they are more shadowy and less direct in their dealings.

Two stories that have been obvious to the rest of the world have finally grown in such intensity that they can no longer be denied by the corporate press….

One is that there are many innocent men in Guatanamo Bay whose only crime was to be in Afghanistan at the time of the US military action….For years (and this has been confirmed by released detainees) it has been asserted that the US picked up combatants and non-combatants alike not caring about the difference….Now, the truth is finally coming out.

The other, a more recent event, is that Israeli soldiers deliberately murdered civilians including women and children during the recent Gaza rampage….These murders (and yes it is homicide) did not occur in combat situations….There were scores of allegations and these were of course routinely denied by the Israelinaziss….Well guess what they might be true after all.

Look, I no longer support America with tax dollars or anything else and yes I am biased because I believe in peace and justice and am not religious and have no axe to grind on that score….After listening to the always classy Dick Cheney (who reminds me a of a pig turd in an expensive suit) say the current president has made America less safe and how torture was the most effective weapon of the last eight years and I reflect on the fact this utterly worthless war criminal was the Vice President of the United States, I vow to laugh out loud whenever America takes the moral high road.

And where was President Obama the last few weeks on these issues??? Well actually I don’t blame him that much(at least not yet) because I know the economy is top priority.

On the political battlefields, President Obama seems to have taken a page out of Bill Clinton’s book and deliberately engaged enemies he knows are unpopular or will be unpopular elevating them because he knows it will easier for him to take them on in the war of ideas.

Bill Clinton was fortunate to have Newt Gingrich who was every inch the womanizer he was, had an even more tangled white trash upbringing and on policy issues advocated more orphanages, less of a place for women in society, and who during hard economic times had a hissy fit because he didn’t get the seat he wanted on Air Force One.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago how Obama was lucky to have Rush Limbaugh for the same reasons and purpose and I would also add Dick Cheney to that….A man whose popularity was somewhere slightly below leprosy and painful hemorroidal itch when he left office.

Recently, Obama has targeted the Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, for not wanting to accept the stimulus money unless he could use it to pay down the state debt….I think this is a mistake.

For one, Mark Sanford is not Gingrich or Limbaugh….There’s never been a personal scandal associated with him and he has been happily married with a family for many years.

For another, I believe that Governor Sanford is a man of deep principles not a glory hound….He’s taking this action because he honestly believes it is the best course.

The Obama team perhaps thinks that by elevating Governor Sanford in this fashion, they weaken his presidential chances in 2012….Again, this is wrong….The conservative base love this and it allays suspicions they might have about other parts of his beliefs.

You see, Governor Sanford is not George Bush….He comes from the almost forgotten about Barry Goldwater wing of the Republican Party that are closer to Libertarians than Republicans….The most recent advocate of this type of thinking was Congressman Ron Paul whom Governor Sanford often voted with when he was also in the House of Representatives….In the end, I think what might make doom him is his public rejection of pre-emptive warfare and the fact he doesn’t kiss the pinky ring of the Zionists unless he does a complete about face which is always sickening to watch.

However, as I noted, he is a man of consistency in thought and ideology which is rare….In these desperate times, if President Obama can’t make the colossal bailouts jumpstart the economy for working people, Governor Sanford could be just what they are looking for.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Upon completing THE SOUND OF WAVES by Yukio Mishima, I was left with a very good feeling as if the final happy ending and the folk tale/ fable like construction of the story had imbued my soul with positive energy….A deceptively simple love story set on a Japanese island where fishing and abalone diving are the two primary industries, this book is painstakingly detailed while at the same time poetic and lyrical which is a great balancing act.

This relatively short book while spare and not covering that much time or distance still feels like an epic once it is considered in full….The final scene at the top of the lighthouse (which prior to that had only been shown and described from the outside) is like the final scene of any literary journey….What it symbolizes I think is that the palace of wisdom has been attained after much struggle by the protagonists who can now go on and live their lives together.

I’ve never cared much for Yukio Mishima who always seemed to me to be more famous for being Yukio Mishima and the ridiculous way in which he died rather than for the quality of his literary output….That being said, THE SOUND OF WAVES is one of his earlier books and my past experiences with his writing (which I didn’t much care for) was his later work so maybe I need to check out more of his earlier work???


THE NIGHT PORTER is a film that starts out with a large handicap….Any description of its subject matter (which is about as politically incorrect as one can get) is bound to turn off a good portion of its potential audience.

Set in Vienna in 1957, THE NIGHT PORTER(made in 1974) is about a Nazi war criminal (masterfully played by Dirk Bogarde) who works as the night desk clerk in a hotel….He is aided and abetted by other Nazi war criminals who form a secret network to protect former Nazis….The main event of this process is what they call “a trial”….This is done not to seek justice but to erase each Nazi’s evil history….It involves the burning of all evidence (photos etc.) connecting them to past crimes, the murder of any witnesses and/or victims who can identify them, and a full confession of all they did….This last condition is key….The purpose here is to both cleanse the Nazi of guilt and make a clean break of the past as well as making sure there are no loose ends….After that, he can disappear into a new life.

As Bogarde’s character prepares for his “trial”, he encounters as a guest in his hotel, a woman(played by the eternally beautiful Charlotte Rampling) whom he sexually tormented and engaged in a perverse relationship with when she was a 15 year old prisoner at the concentration camp where he worked….Now, she is the cold and icy wife of a famous conductor….After some back and forth, the two once again resume their sick relationship which grows to include chains and broken glass….This in turn angers his Nazi cohorts who fear their coupling up could bring on the unwanted attention of the authorities

I should mention at this point that despite the overt decadence and sex in this film, aside from some nudity, it is not especially gratuitous….Rather, it focuses on the psychological make-up of both Bogarde and Rampling’s characters and how their pathology brings about their undoing.
For, as is noted by his Nazi brethren, Bogarde was really a minor player, a junior official who pretended to be a doctor in order to fulfill his sick needs (which included an interest in photography)….This is exactly the type of person Nazism attracted and encouraged which is a theme often explored in other European films about fascism such as THE DAMNED (which also stars Bogarde), 1900, and 120 DAYS OF SODOM.

Rampling’s character has already been murdered….This occurred the first time she was abused in the concentration camp (which interestingly enough is never shown) and her innocence was stolen from her….Conditioned at this young age, she can now only relate to the perversity she has a chance to experience again and is not a complete person.

They both fill an unhealthy need in each other….The fact that at the end they both dress up in the outfits they were wearing the first time they met is telling….A deeply thought out character study with a strong statement not necessarily on history or politics but on the convoluted pathways of the human mind….The flashback scenes to the concentration camp days are impressively shot….Filled with black and red, they are almost like a vision of Hell itself….Bogarde’s character in the present is pale and thin (he looks like Bryan Ferry’s slightly less-coiffed, more haggard older brother)….However, in the past he is red cheeked, heavily made up and puffed out like the devil himself.

A unique, unforgettable film but not for everybody….

While Charlotte Rampling was never better than in this film, the key here is Dirk Bogarde….He started his career as a British pin-up teen idol making the usual teenybopper trash as well as war pictures(he himself was a decorated war hero who had a number of hair-raising combat experiences in WWII which he later wrote about)….However, something happened starting with the eerie and unnerving 1963 film THE SERVANT and continuing on until his retirement to write a string of witty, fascinating books on his life in acting and other topics.

Basically, Bogarde at that point went on a run of critically acclaimed often surreal, often extremely arty films made in Europe….In fact, aside from the all-star war picture A BRIDGE TOO FAR, it is one of the most anti-Hollywood careers I’ve ever seen.

In many of them, Dirk Bogarde was the anti-method actor….Rather than physically changing himself to suit the role, the roles were tailored to suit Bogarde and specifically to suit the aging process which showed real life on Bogarde’s face.

What I mean by that ( and I am not attacking Bogarde personally here as I know nothing about his personal life other then he was rumored to be gay) is that Bogarde, while handsome in a pretty, European way started to look more and more like Dorian Gray’s painting….Many of his roles have him as the tired victim of decadence….Even in films where he was meant to be somewhat villainous, his usually brilliant performance enhanced by the worn beauty of his appearance gave even the worst characters he played different sides that the audience could relate to.

It has been said that by the age of forty, you have the face you deserve....Well all I know is that Dirk Bogarde had a perfect look and it suited the films he did (It is of course true he was given very good material to work with)….Very few other actors are so lucky or cursed.


The Curriculum and Instruction Focus Group created as part of the WASC Accreditation process ( and which I am part of) recently sponsored a pet talk at the junior school section of Ipoh International School….When this was first discussed, I understood that this was to be a talk from a veterinarian regarding pet care.

However, when the event actually took place last week, as the little kids lined up, one of the visiting animal people went “ SHHHH” and put her finger up to her lips and said “Please keep in mind our animals are disabled”.

And so the kids were treated to a 26 year old pony (which is like 90 years in human terms) with blood red eyes that hardly moved, several three-legged dogs, and the showstopper….a cat with some sort of spinal paralysis that forces it to stay in a basket and has robbed it of all movement.
Now the original vet idea was a good one….Many kids are pet owners but probably pawn off the actual responsibility of cleaning and caring for the pet onto someone else so it’s good to hear about that from a professional….However, I’m not sure what can be gained from the disabled pet show.

In fact, I find it offensive that people spend this much time and money on animals that probably should be humanely put to sleep….I don’t understand, in this world of starvation and poverty inflicting, you know, HUMANS, and in much of the world CHILDREN, that someone would go to all that trouble to feed and clean a paralyzed cat in a basket.

What rubbish!!!!!!!!!!

When people have so lost their sense of priorities and their sense of fellowship with their fellow human beings, I know that the worst aspects of corrupt, dislocated, non-familial Western culture are starting to leak into and poison the best of Southeast Asian culture….My advice to Malaysia is resist with all your might!!!!!

The other detail, which I found intensely humorous and which I ranted and raved about in front of my classes, was the fact these people, the vet plus some other people who sang and entertained and spoke of disabled pets and apparently have absolutely no life, in fact, travel from place to place showing off these disabled animals.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


Sometimes in literature and in life it is the little details that mean more than anything, that engrave themselves on the memory while the loud so-called turning points of life (love, falling out of love, conflict and of course death) are only acknowledged as important plot points the way one acknowledges the fan or the air conditioner on a hot night….They are key to understanding the story but are like facts from a textbook rather than the images that get under your skin or sear themselves to your consciousness.

THE MAKIOKA SISTERS by Junichiro Tanizaki is a book filled with such little details….Apart from being a classic of any genre (forget about dubbing something as “literature” only), it is one of the most meticulously constructed books I’ve ever read….When I was done reading it, I could of course immediately recall a number of the big events of the novel but I had just as easy a time recalling the smaller events-a description of a meal, the Osaka Cherry Blossom Festival, a Miai ( the Japanese function wherein a prospective bride and groom meet along with family representatives).

The four Makioka sisters are among the most fleshed-out, well described, multi-dimensional characters in all of literature especially the three who live in Ashiya; the sturdy mother surrogate Sachiko, the wild, modern Taeko, and the quiet, reserved, old-fashioned Yukiko.

The third sister, Yukiko, in particular, is important because I believe she symbolizes the death of the old Japan of tradition and formality….Her reluctance to wed and failure to find a husband for most of the book is representative of Japan on one hand advancing militarily to become an aggressive world power and on the other hand still clinging to old quaint customs like arranged marriages and the tea ceremony….Her finally giving in to marriage at the end of the book represents a Japan that can no longer put off war and attacks Pearl Harbor and the upset stomach that plagues her during her wedding and as she leaves for the honeymoon (providing one of the best closing lines I’ve ever read in a book) represents the dark future ahead….One could also discuss the character of the man she married of whom there was a question of whether or not he could maintain a steady income….This was after a number of failed Miai’s earlier in the book with men who were better financial prospects as husbands.

Taeko, the youngest sister, who has several lovers throughout THE MAKIOKA SISTERS, ignores orders from older siblings and people higher in the family structure, has a career (as opposed to most other female characters of the same class in the book who are either housewives or waiting to become housewives), and ends up pregnant out of wedlock, is the unknown future….This is where Japan becomes adrift from its old traditions and culture and patriarchal family structure and becomes a society without values.

But despite all this, this is not a book that is particularly heavy with symbolism….It’s there but addressed in such a precise, delicate manner that the writing never becomes overbearing…. The narrative is also written in such a way so as to get around the usual predictable structure with big telegraphed plot points, conflict, denouement, and resolution….Here everything moves with such reality that when events happen it feels like reality not someone’s attempt to tell a story.

Honestly, one of the greatest books I’ve ever read….If I could pick my own texts for the literature class I teach, THE MAKIOKA SISTERS would be near the top of the list.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Forget about Clint Eastwood and Dirty Harry or even less realistic or interesting action stars such as Bruce Willis and Die Hard….Forget about TV Shows such as THE Wire or CSI….The greatest cop movie (or for that matter cop related story of any medium) is THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

There are several reasons why I feel this way….

1.) This film was not like your typical cop show full of unrealistic violence and unrealistic police lifestyles….It feels like a documentary….In fact, its realism creates an almost opposite effect especially when coupled with the French with English subtitles scenes which reminds one of an arty film, perhaps even European.

2.) Gene Hackman so inhabits the role of Narcotics detective Popeye Doyle that you cease to notice his Oscar winning performance as it just seems like a natural thing....Impressive and one cannot see the actor at all unless you look really, really close.

3.) One of the most striking contrasts I have ever seen in a movie and a powerful statement on the lack of glamour surrounding doing good whereas evil is often luxurious and decadent is the back to back scenes throughout THE FRENCH CONNECTION showing the affluent, cultured heroin smugglers who eat dinner in fancy restaurants, have beautiful young wives, drive luxury cars, know their foods and wines and the low paid detectives who often freeze outside on stakeouts, eat slices of greasy pizza and drink bad coffee in Styrofoam cups, live in cheap apartments in bad neighborhoods, and risk bodily harm on a day to day basis.

4.) There are a number of unforgettable visuals in this movie….The famous car chasing subway scene is fantastic jumping back and forth between the chaser and chasee….The equally famous scene of Doyle chasing French kingpin “Frog Number One” Alan Charnier and getting on and off the subway is equally great ….The first time we see Popeye Doyle and he’s dressed as Santa Claus and the ending (which I will get to in a minute) are memorable.

5.) The ending strips away the plot, the visuals, the fact that this based on a true story and all the other sundry details and forces the viewer to focus on the point in which devotion to duty crosses over into unhealthy obsession….The last scene where Doyle runs further into the abandoned building Ahab-like still seeking his white whale is the perfect summary of where he is going and totally lifts the movie to even a greater plateau of meaning.

6.) It has a pounding soundtrack which is used sparingly but when it is used immediately ratches up the tension.

On my top 100 movie list, I have THE FRENCH CONNECTION at #16.... I have not seen it in several years but I recently found a copy at a local DVD store and, after seeing it again after a while, I might have to bump it up a few spots.


The recent attack on Srilanka’s cricket team while they were in Pakistan is further reminder of how much that country is in danger of sliding into complete anarchy….Of course there are some who might argue Pakistan is already there with the recent giving in on Sharia Law in the wild north and the roughing up and arresting of lawyers and other political opponents of the current regime who were involving themselves in peaceful protest not to mention the whole country being a springboard for terrorist activities in India.

Even a few years ago, it was very clear that if the USA was fishing around for a second country (after Afghanistan) to invade under the cover of “the War on Terrorism” then Pakistan was the most logical choice but don’t ever accuse the USA of logic especially when it comes to foreign policy.

The truth is the USA has created a monster in Pakistan and it has definitely escaped the laboratory and is now ransacking the countryside….

It all started when President Richard Nixon made the disastrous decision to tilt US policy towards Pakistan fearing Soviet influence through India….This eventually resulted in the coup that led to the execution of Prime Minister Bhutto and the installation of military dictator Zia Al Haq who ruled with an iron fist until his death in a mysterious plane accident.

During this time, the USA made another disastrous decision in arming and providing CIA training to Muhajedin fighters(many from Arab countries) who were fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan….No one seemed to grasp the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a temporary situation….What happens once the enemy who united you is gone?....One thing that happened was 09/11….Pakistan absorbed many of these fighters and also was allowed to create the Taliban to further complicate the situation.

The USA made yet another disastrous decision in allowing Pervez Musharaf to remain as the dictator of Pakistan so long….At the end, he was no longer scary merely hapless and bumbling with only the power to remove judges and rough up protesters but not to really combat Al Qaeda and terrorism.

I must admit that I lived in Pakistan from 1978 to 1979 and attended the American School in Karachi….My boyhood impressions were of a wild and woolly place where there wasn’t much law and order(albeit with great food)….I imagine it might be worse now.
One memory I have is the school being closed for a couple of days after Bhutto was hanged in case of unrest.

I have always found it rather amusing that Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, barely spoke Urdu and spent a lot of his life in England….The truth is India and Pakistan should never have split….Pakistan should have stayed as part of India as all Pakistan has to show for 60 years of independence is a history of failed wars with India, coups, political assassinations, general unrest, Islamic fundamentalism and repression of women, and still poverty for much of its people.

So what’s going to happen?....Well, I don’t know but not stopping Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons could turn out to be an even greater mistake then all the ones I’ve already mentioned….There might come a day when the USA needs to act proactively to prevent a nuclear incident from unsecured Pakistani nukes. …If this is the case, this would be one time where America would be justified in acting quickly and without hesitation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I’m used to being disappointed by bandwagon films that is films that everyone jumps on including the Academy of Arts and Sciences which bestow Oscars heaping lavish praise until becomes reflexive like salivating canines instead of really critiquing a film for what it’s worth….A perfect example of this was THE TITANIC a bloated, overextended mess and one of the dullest films I’ve ever seen….I wanted to clap at the end when Leonardo DiCaprio sank under the water ….Another best picture winner I didn’t get was THE ENGLISH PATIENT the delightful tale of a Nazi sympathizer and an unfaithful wife….This film was completely devoid of morality and logic and also incredibly dull.

Which brings me to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE….After watching the massive hype leading up to the Oscar night sweep of multiple categories and listening to my co-workers and friends rave about it, I expected a good film….Maybe I was a bit wary because I’m always suspicious of hype.

What I didn’t expect was an implausible fairy tale full of irrational behavior, impossible situations, nonsensical actions, weird coincidences….I’ve never liked the writing of Charles Dickens for the reasons I just mentioned and SLUMDOG is very Dickensian in outlook, characters, and structure….I just thought much of the film was nonsense.

Many of the characters behave in ways that don’t make sense-would children not matter how desperate behave ways that are so adult in terms of responsibility?….The film, while visually interesting, omits important scenes (the story’s just not told very well)….How did Jamal become a tea wallah?....What happened the night he got separated from Latika and Salim?....Why did the police release Jamal?....How did he get on WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?....The fact that the main actors especially Freda Pinto share much of their screen time with child actors playing their roles is also disconcerting…..Freda Pinto only appears in the film for about 20 minutes (if you add up her scenes) and they are towards the end of the film.

Regarding India and the effect of this film, well my father is an Indian but I’ve never been to India….However, this film struck me very much as the viewpoint of a foreigner looking at India perhaps similar to CITY OF JOY by Roland Joffe (which is a better film) not like a film made by someone who is Indian….For good Indian cinema reflective of India I would recommend the APU trilogy by the late, great Satyijat Ray.

The bottom line?....I just don’t think SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a very good film….In fact it kind of sucks.

A few random thoughts on other unrelated subjects….

1.) My father now has a Wikipedia page….

2.) I also saw TEETH….while it is gory and a bit disgusting, what I liked about it was its skewering of the whole abstinence movement and the idiocy of promise rings and the attack on sex education in public school in America by Christian fundamentalist….A clever well-written film to be sure but, don’t be confused, this is a nasty horror movie (A teenage girl reaching puberty discovers teeth in a very bad place in her body that coincides with her sexual awakening) and because of the cringe inducing emasculation scenes that follow I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again….Still, it’s better than SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE!!!!!!!!!

3.) Also been listening to the music of The Cranes lately especially their first release WINGS OF JOY…..I was inspired by talk of a new Cranes album perhaps coming out soon….My Bloody Valentine is the only band I can think of that clears a room faster than The Cranes….The idea of what sounds like a babbling retarded six year old girl in an indecipherable language backed by weird lopsided string arrangements, guitar bursts of noise, staccato pianos, and primitive drumming may not appeal to most but I’ve always found deep emotion and melancholic power in the arrangements as well as the tone Alison Shaw’s voice.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Courtesy of a Facebook group, I found this link….

Well, it’s now actually 31 years since PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE (or as it’s known in the UK THE JESUS OF COOL….The uptight American record label refused to use that title in case of offending people) came out….I prefer the order of songs on PURE POP to JESUS so I will stick with describing that.

It’s been one of my favorite records since I was a teenager….Nick Lowe shifts effortlessly between different genres of music (rockabilly, punk, big kitchen sink ballads, reggae, radio friendly pop) backed by the crème de la crème of pub rock/new wave (Members of The Attractions and The Rumour not to mention his own band Rockpile)….The irresistibility of the music stands in direct contrast to the bizarre stories Lowe relates….Kids who cut off their right arm, little dachshunds who devour fading filmstars, alligators in the sewers, people who love the sound of breaking glass as well as the Bay City Rollers.

For me, it all comes together and makes sense in the song NUTTED BY REALITY….After a hilarious, funky intro section wherein Lowe talks about the CIA’s attempt to castrate Fidel Castro “because he was the people’s friend”, the song completely changes melody and lyrics and Lowe sings of himself jumping and laughing at people but they don’t get the joke “my pleasure gave no pleasure” ….The chorus explains it all “See I’d been living in a different world and I’d been nutted by reality”….I often feel that way myself….Reality is malleable and should be taken lightly and one should find humor and pleasure in day to day details be they small or large.

Lowe’s tongue is firmly in his cheek as he relates his mischievously malicious lyrics over the undeniable hooks….A great, unique record that has stood the test of time that can be listened to as a whole or in bits and pieces.
Speaking of Nick Lowe, I must reflect on the great symbol to commerciality and uselessness which is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….It’s now clear that it is the Rock and Roll Sales Hall of Fame since the biggest criteria seems to be how many records an artist has sold not the relative artistic worth of an artist’s music….How else to explain how quickly Aerosmith and U2 got in but how slow it took for The Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop?....In addition, there seems to be a big American bias to the rock and roll hall….American bands get in a lot faster than British bands (The Jam and Roxy Music are examples of two bands that were successful that still haven’t been inducted).

Nick Lowe belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for several reasons….

1.) His own solo career ( LABOUR OF LUST is almost as good as PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE and he has made a number of other good records including NICK THE KNIFE, THE ROSE OF ENGLAND and the underrated gem THE ABOMINABLE SHOWMAN) as well as his records as part of Brinsley Schwarz and the one album he made with Rockpile SECONDS OF PLEASURE which is a masterpiece also.

2.) His career as a producer (the hall also honors producers)….In addition to producing most of Elvis Costello’s best records, he also worked with The Damned, The Pretenders, Graham Parker, John Hiatt, and many others.

3.) The hall honors entrepreneurs who start record labels and discover new acts….Nick Lowe helped found Stiff Records which produced records and helped get the careers going of so many popular punk/new wave bands of the late 70’s….He also discovered many of these acts.

4.) The hall honors songwriters….Lowe has written many great songs including two that have become standards – (WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT) PEACE, LOVE, AND UNDERSTANDING? And I KNEW THE BRIDE(WHEN SHE USED TO ROCK AND ROLL).

Add these points also to his work as a studio musician banging along with his aggressive two or three chord style on the bass guitar and you have more than enough reasons for Nick Lowe to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….

Hey, let’s start a petition!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


On Tuesday, my school’s debate team will be engaging in a friendly match with another local school….The topic is THE ROSE IS BETTER THAN THE POTATO….We are opposing the motion.

Actually, having thought about it for awhile, I find this a very interesting topic….The most immediate goal that comes to mind is the defining of the motion….It seems very clear that this is about functionality or utility vs. aesthetics or pleasing the soul.

I had a couple of classes try this out in mock debates and it all keeps coming back to you can eat a potato but you can’t eat a rose (although roses are used for medicine, syrup etc.)….You can’t give a girl a bouquet of potatoes (although considering the price of vegetables lately that’s not a bad gift)….Roses don’t last long and when a potato goes bad it makes all the potatoes nearby go bad ….For some reason, several students brought up the idea of carving a rose out of a potato as gesture to both aesthetics and function.

I still feel the function vs. aesthetic approach is the way to go but I did have another thought playing the role of the opposing team….What are human needs?....Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could classify receiving a rose as self-actualization or self-esteem or love and belonging….The sight and smell of a beautiful and fragrant rose is definitely fits in there somewhere.

However, hunger is definitely a bigger, more important concern to humanity than beauty….One needs the basics such as nourishment and not starving to death before they can tackle a complicated concept such as pleasing the soul and love of art or culture or beauty.

I believe a potato is much easier to grow than a rose as well.


I’ve banked with HSBC for a number of years now and am satisfied with the service I’ve received….When there have been issues or complaints, they have generally resolved them very fast.

I can’t say the same for Maybank which is the Streamyx of banking and is yet another example of Malaysian inefficiency….I am forced to bank with Maybank by my employer although I always remove my salary after it clears and deposit it in my HSBC account….Even that took some doing, as I had to spend a whole morning on the phone screaming and yelling four letter words at imbeciles so I could up the amount to be taken out of my account through the ATM machine at one time so I didn’t have to keep going back over successive days….I had actually asked them to do this when I opened my account and they had agreed and then didn’t do what I asked which is the Maybank way apparently.

Also HSBC’s online banking system is very user friendly and convenient….Maybank’s requires you to get a code number every time you do a transaction, transfer, etc. which again means calling in then remaining on hold for an ungodly length of time and is absolutely customer unfriendly.

Yesterday, my wife had gone in to talk to them about a non-functioning ATM card….She maintains an account for a relative of hers who is overseas and helps her by dispersing transferred funds out of this account towards debts etc….My wife’s ATM card had stopped functioning a few days ago….When she went to Maybank and took a number and waited the half hour to talk to a human being, she was advised to try the card again….My wife did this and then of course it still didn’t work….When she went back to resolve this issue, they tried to make her stand in line again….She refused then they said it was the PIN number….Now my wife has the PIN stowed away in case she forgets it and so produced it and showed them that in fact she was using the right one….They still insisted it was my wife’s fault and finally charged her rm12 for a new ATM card.

I think Maybank stands for we may help you but most likely we may not….An incompetent third world banking operation employing the most useless brain dead cretins it is possible to find….A pile of horse dung would produce the same level of competence as your typical Maybank employee.


In the next four or eight years, I fully expect to be let down (at least a few times)by Barack Obama (despite being a strong supporter of his during the campaign)….I think there are certain interest groups in America whose power is currently too great to be tampered with and Obama, in order to get at least a portion of legislation proposed by his administration through congress, will have to fall into step somewhat.

I was going to wait until the 90 day probationary period is over (as with most jobs when your supervisor sits down with you and gives you an informal evaluation on your performance) before critiquing him but hey it’s been awhile since I blogged about politics….

For everything’s Obama’s done that I disliked he’s done something that I liked….For example, I remain adamantly opposed to the idea of government bail outs to grow the economy….This does not work….It’s like hooking up someone in an irreversible coma to life support….Yes, you can keep them alive but only artificially and if they are removed from the machine they will die….Hooking someone up to life support will not kickstart life in them.

I’m especially opposed to bailout bills when they contain all kinds of unrelated spending for items such as sex education, primate protection, electric trains etc. Some of these items are worthy of expenditure but perhaps can be put off until America is more financially settled again….They definitely should be addressed in separate bills not as earmarked pork.

However, I was very happy when Obama addressed America’s humongous debt promising to half it by 2013….The debt had been largely ignored during the election campaign and since Obama won there had even been disturbing talk along the lines of Reaganomics that one could grow the debt and deficit spending is an acceptable practice….I could not disagree more….We know the deficit spending of the 1980’s in the end made the recession of the early 1990’s worse….It’s hidden tax on a nation’s future GNP and will cause either higher and higher taxes and less spending on essential programs in the future when the bill finally comes due or the government to indulge in the dubious practice of printing more and more money inflating currency in an unhealthy, destabilizing way….I’ve said it before, I remain 100% against the Federal Reserve system….Having the banks in charge of currency is like having Michael Jackson babysitting your children.

In foreign policy, Obama’s silence on what went on in Gaza is inexcusable….There have been some good signals sent to Israel(Hillary’s indulged in some public scolding although one wonders if these are not choreographed with the Israeli government ahead of time) but also nonsense as well….Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people in Gaza whether or not they are terrorists (and one man’s terrorist is definitely another man’s freedom fighter)….Refusing to deal with them is insulting especially when Israel itself I would argue is a huge terrorist organization.

I do though like his tone with Iran and his willingness to meet with them….That is exactly correct although I think he could go farther in this area set a timetable for a meeting, be like Nixon going to China etc….I say go for it….I also think that Obama should open talks with Venezuela and Bolivia and lift the travel ban on Cuba.

Strategy wise, Obama’s been on a tight rope but he’s done a good job….It was once noted that Bill Clinton was fortunate to have the enemies he did because they made him look good by being so shrill, irrational, hateful etc….One could say the same thing about President Obama.

I think the tactic of making Rush Limbaugh the de facto leader of the Republican party is a brilliant one and should be continued….Limbaugh has high negatives not only with those who identify themselves as liberals but also with independents and even a large percentage of conservatives….He is the embodiment of what people have grown to hate about conservatism and Republicans in the last eight years and that is the absolute hypocrisy of their public actions vs. their private lives….Whether it’s publically homophobic legislators trolling public restrooms for sex or Republican draft dodgers knocking Democratic war heroes or President Bush stepping out of a jet on a carrier declaring Mission Accomplished when he did everything to get out of military service a couple decades previous.

Limbaugh is an ultra hawk who also dodged military service due, believe it or not, to a boil on his ass….A family values advocate who has been married three times….A man of supposedly conservative virtues who was arrested for illegal drug purchases….A supposedly self-made man which is fiction as he comes from a very old money family of lawyers and diplomats (his grandfather was President Eisenhower’s ambassador to India)….He has been publicly humiliated by being stopped in airport customs with Viagra but what wasn’t pursued about that story was the circumstances of his trip….He was coming back with two male friends from the Dominican Republic….Now, the Dominican Republic is well known as a sex tourism destination much like Thailand….In particular, sex with underage girls, with children still occurs there….I could easily picture Rush Limbaugh as the type of person to engage in this type of activity….Why else would he need Viagra on this trip (unless he’s gay of course)….It’s embarrassing and sad that a man of great wealth such as Limbaugh has to pay for sex but easy to understand as Rush Limbaugh is a huge, fat pile of sh*t with absolutely no redeeming qualities(and you can quote me on that).

Although things can easily change especially with any worsening economic news, the
Republican Party seems totally lost right now….They don’t have anybody who can step up and take control of the party apparatus and be their spokesman.

Mitt Romney won the CPAC poll the other week for the 2012 election (largely by paying for hotel rooms and other amenities by those who voted) but Romney has to be one of the most unappealing phonies ever to seek higher office in the USA which I have blogged about before….It seems he just says whatever’s popular and one finger is constantly wet and in the air….I’d like to show him one finger!

Bobby Jindal is a dull functionary who speaks in generalities….Imagine Obama without the eloquence or charisma but with double the platitudes….He’s all hat and no cattle as his less than inspiring performance answering the State of the Union showed….

Sarah Palin is still an idiot and I think future idiotic statements from her which are a certainty will doom any future campaign….

Mark Sanford is right about the stimulus bills and the bail outs….I respect his public statements stating he won’t take any of the money despite his state’s needing it ….When he was in the congress, he did show some reticence on foreign policy and perhaps is not as big an Israel supporter which may make it harder for him in a Republican primary….Still, I think he is their best bet.

Before Mark Sanford became Governor of South Carolina, he was in the House of Representatives where he was known as kind of a lesser Ron Paul for his voting record….

And that reminds me that there is one thing that has become very clear recently….Ron Paul looks even more like a genius and a prophet now….He predicted the credit based recession and the falling apart of banks and derivative based investments….He’s always been right about the Federal Reserve, Israel, out of control government spending and interventionism and many other issues.

One other thing that has irritated me about Obama policies is the length of time it will take for US troops to leave Iraq….This is not what was promised during the election….Ron Paul said all US troops would be out of Iraq in 90 days if he took office….That’s what I would like to see….The longer they are there, the longer they will keep postponing their departure.

If Obama falters in the next few years (and I really hope he doesn’t), I may have to start a DRAFT PAUL IN 2012 campaign.


The last century was an extremely bloody one filled with statistically efficient genocide as mankind’s hatred for one another based on differences, religion, etc. met industrial and organizational advancement and technological progress head on.

One of the most horrific episodes of the century (and really one of the worst of the human race’s violent history) was the Cambodian genocide which occurred when the Khmer Rouge ran the country from 1975 to 1979. The sheer ruthless bloodthirstiness coupled with the absolute crazy meaningless ideology behind it which included turning children into killers and murdering anyone who wore glasses or who had a college education wasn’t communism and didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense unless you were a paranoid schizophrenic made this one of the darkest chapters in the behavior of humanity.

It is with great interest then that much of the world watches the United Nation tribunal on the atrocities and genocide in Cambodia….However, as one watches the now senior citizens in their 70’s and 80’s who largely make-up the defendants, one is left with the question why didn’t this happen sooner????

Of course, like most dysfunctional parts of recent world history, the United States plays a big role….It was the United States carpet bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War that so destabilized Cambodian society which allowed the Khmer Rouge to take over in the first place….The United States ignored what was going on until the refugee stream got too great and Vietnam finally was forced to invade Cambodia….For a number of years after that, the United States recognized the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate United Nations representative of Cambodia instead of the Vietnam backed government.

There were even rumors that the United States had a connection to the rise of the Khmer Rouge….During Henry Kissinger’s days as National Security Advisor, his office had clandestine contacts with Khmer Rouge representatives….The person in charge of this was Anthony Lake who later went on to be Bill Clinton’s first National Security Advisor….When Lake left that position and was nominated to be CIA Director, his nomination was stymied and had to be withdrawn supposedly because pictures existed which showed him hugging, laughing with, back slapping etc. Pol Pot a man personally responsible for the deaths of more than a million people!

But what further lessens the process of bringing a government or individuals to justice is either using genocide/war crimes/crimes against humanity charges as a weapon in pursuit of a political agenda or ignoring one country’s behavior while criticizing others, in other words a double standard.

Case in point of using crimes against humanity as a political weapon is the recent charge brought by the International Criminal Court against the President of the Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. Let me say that this is total Bullsh*t….I’ve blogged about the Darfur situation before and the history behind it ….This is nothing more than a CIA operation to destabilize the leadership of this country which has both oil and strategic geographical importance….Ever since oil was discovered, the US through the CIA has funded a rebellion comprised of mostly Christian Sudanese (Muslims are a majority in the Sudan)….To combat this ongoing security issue, the government finally resorted to allowing in bands of militia, bandits basically, and they unfortunately committed atrocities against villagers caught in the crossfire.

Sorry but that’s not genocide, that’s not crimes against humanity….Genocide is the actual attempt to make extinct a group of people who are the same race, religion etc….If this is genocide then what the US did during the Vietnam War is also genocide….Darfur is a gigantic PR scam funded by the CIA and right-wing evangelical groups and unwittingly aided by airhead celebrities….Examine the leadership boards of the main Darfur aid organizations and one can easily connect the dots.

You want to end the violence in Darfur? Tell the CIA to stop funding this covert war of imperialism.

Regarding the double standard issue, I will once again believe in the concept of universal justice for all the day I see an Israeli facing charges before a governing world body.

Now as proof is presented and the real stories come out (since journalists were prevented from entering Gaza), we see that Israel did in fact (as they always do and have done for decades) target civilians including children as part of their ongoing terrorist activities and war of terror against the Palestinian people during the most recent atrocity in Gaza….There are many instances in the recent conflict where Israeli troops opened fire without provocation and without any ongoing battles occurring at the same time in open spaces where identification was clearly possible on adults but also small children.

Israel has still not explained its use of weapons such as phosphorus bombs, nail bombs, etc….These weapons serve no other purpose than terror….If these are not crimes against humanity then nothing is.

It’s very hard to take genocide/war crimes/crimes against humanity prosecutions seriously when Israel gets a free pass….Of course, confronting this issue might force everyone to face the truth which is Israel is in fact a phony nation created by a colonialist mindset of ethnic cleansing.

But I won’t hold my breath to see that prosecuted.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


(Note-Haven’t posted much in the last couple of months about literature but as I have yet another literary care package on the way courtesy of my father and have been loaned a few classics by a colleague, I hope to go back to blogging about this, my favorite subject, in the near future)

There are books you read that are marvelous in construct either because of a meticulously developed or complex interlocking plotline or because of unique fully realized characters with deep personalities or because of a meaning that jibes with the time of its release or even better translates into something timeless that can be discovered anew by successive generations or, as in the case of THE VIOLATED by Vance Bourjaily, all of the above.

I posted on my other blog last year about discovering the writings of Vance Bourjaily and two other excellent books of his….

However, as good as THE HOUND OF THE EARTH and THE MAN WHO KNEW KENNEDY are, THE VIOLATED is arguably his masterpiece.

It is the story of three men and one woman (the sister of one of the men)….All of the characters know each other but if there is something that truly connects them it is the feeling that life has somehow cheated them, screwed them, violated them (although that word seems a bit too strong in this context)….The story takes place over thirty years starting shortly before the depression, going through WWII, and finishing up in the 1950’s.

To sum up a few of the things that makes this such a great book, the characters are not everymen or women or generational role models despite what the blurb on the book jacket says (Regarding the blurb’s flashy praise, I also don’t see much in common between F. Scott Fitzgerald’s superficiality and Bourjaily’s amazing depth)….The characters in THE VIOLATED are unique because they are multi-dimensional, completely independent of the narrative not figures that exist solely to push along the plot….They are lusty, they are real, they are flawed….The fact they are of the greatest generation is important in understanding changing social morays but the book is far more that a comment on a specific period of history….Even the secondary characters are completely explained and each could be the subject of their own novel consisting of the information contained here.

The performance of HAMLET by small children that opens THE VIOLATED and comes up again in the last fourth of the book is an amazing literary mechanism that further rams home the idea of fate and not getting beyond what has happened to us and what marks life has left on us as is the ending which implies mankind’s cycle of frustration continues.

Vance Bourjaily is a writer whose name I want to scream from the rooftops….The fact he is not that well known while there was a lot of hubbub about the recent death of John Updike, an uptight elitist without any sense of realism or imagination, is a great injustice….According to Wikipedia, he is still alive (although in his mid 80’s)….It’s not too late to acknowledge the genius of Vance Bourjaily!