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

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Recently I assigned another project in my Performing Arts class entitled The Toilet Paper Roll Man.

The rules were simple....Take a common toilet paper roll and create a figure out of it....Didn't necessarily have to be a man....Could also be a woman or any other creature.

Like The Box Man I did last term, the point here was to plan and execute a project....This was one was more individual....Although I did allow one partner, most students chose to do it by themselves.

For some reason I cannot uload the photos here....It takes forever....I hope this site is not becoming like Xanga.

So I have posted them on my Facebook page under "Raj Dronamraju".

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I’m not much of a fan of short stories….I just find they are either underdeveloped and unable in their short format to deliver a story with sufficient narrative depth or they are like a joke with a punchline….Once you know the ending you don’t need to really dwell on it.

The only exceptions to this are the writing of Somerset Maugham, one of my favorite novelists but also my favorite writer of short stories, and Japanese writers who have a gift for fitting a novel’s worth of characterization and meaning into a shorter format.

Case in point of the latter is RASHOMON AND OTHER STORIES by Ryunosuke Akutagawa….The six stories here are all use an economy of prose to invoke deep emotions as well as communicate almost parable-like lessons in morality coupled with a Zen detachment….Not an easy task!

My favorite is YAM GRUEL about how one desires to get his fill of something that really satisfies him as opposed to just the taste he is usually given….When he finally gets it, he discovers the wanting is better than finally getting the amount he desires….I often feel the same when I think about Western food and then when I finally go for a steak or a banana split I’m full very quickly….This can apply to anything in life….A very sharp analysis of how the human mind functions.

One confusing aspect of this book is the classic movie RASHOMON by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is actually based on the first story in the book IN A GROVE not the second story RASHOMON which is the creepiest tale in the book….Still this does not detract from the pleasure of reading either story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I was once teaching the Present Continuous tense to my Year 9 class and as an example of an ongoing action that may not be occurring every single second I used the sentence “I am reading a book on ancient history” meaning the book is being read by me until completion but not necessarily at that very minute.

A better example would be FOR LOVE ALONE by Christina Stead which I just finished after almost two months of dogged effort….This is not to say it is bad book….In fact, it is a brilliant book densely packed with details of landscape and characters who twist and turn and meticulously crafted dialogue that allows lengthy intellectual discourse that reveals not only what it is that enslaves much of these characters in their rigid social positions but also supposedly those who delude themselves with their more “open” ideas….The concept of love as something entered into voluntarily and that can be shared as opposed to something restrictive that keeps us in bondage.

A sort of unofficial sequel to Stead’s masterpiece THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN (which I wrote about here)….FOR LOVE ALONE reads both like the work of an older, more mature person and of a less free, more insular writer.

It finds Teresa Hawkins, the heroine (and stand-in for Christina Stead for this book is very autobiographical) wanting to break away from her stagnant home life in Sydney Australia and job as a teacher….Her father is a selfish, autocratic bully just like the character in THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN but here he only appears at the beginning….Deliverance seems to come in her tutor graduate student Jonathan Crow from a poor family who is planning to attend school in England….This also encourages her to go to England….Their strange masochistic relationship of mutual frustration (which also brings Teresa to England) is unlike anything I’ve come across before in literature although I’ve unfortunately met people like this in real life before.

When real healthy love encompassing physical intimacy enters the scene in the last fourth of the book in the shape of older American James Quick separated from his wife and living in London (based on Stead’s real life husband William Blake), the dramatic contrast is great but her ability to express her love through sex after the bottled up repression of the years before takes another great twist in the last fifty pages where Teresa discovers that having been denied what she wanted during the neverending back and forth with Jonathan Crow she would now like to try love and men….This James Quick allows her and the book ends on a genuinely unique note as Teresa, having just had an affair with a friend of James (with his approval) reflects that monogamy isn’t necessarily necessary in a secure and loving relationship but is probably the easiest course.

With Stead, often her descriptions of scenes and characters and the dialogue which follows are so meticulously detailed and feature such interesting analogies and such a high level of awareness that one doesn’t notice the plot, in fact the real action in this 500 page book doesn’t occur until the last 150 pages.

I find the short preface by Mary Kathleen Benet makes a very salient point that culthood seems to have alluded the career of Christina Stead….One of the reasons for this she theorizes is that Stead writing is completely undiluted so packed is it with ideas and technical wizardry….There are passages in her books that will make your jaw drop so beautifully written, so perfect, and so complete are they….It’s the equivalent of seeing a great piece of art.

I can’t wait to read more Christina Stead….


Recently saw THE WATCHMEN and here are my thoughts….

As I consider the comic perhaps the closest the comic book world has come to producing something greater than itself….That is to say a timeless piece of literature rather than something as trivial or disposable as say a comic book, I did have some trepidations.

First the good news, the characters of The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan are perfectly brought to the big screen….The way they are portrayed is totally faithful to Alan Moore’s vision and their look couldn’t be any better.

All of the big details from the comic book are intact….The change of the ending from phony alien invasion to phony Dr. Manhattan attack actually makes sense and produces a cleaner, simpler storyline.

However, the smaller elements of the story, some details that are key in understanding the behavior and evolution of the characters are missing from the film and that stops THE WATCHMEN from being completely satisfying.

1.) While we see the details of Rorschach’s brutal childhood and the event that turned him from a normal costumed hero to a Punisher type vigilante (although the punishment he doles out to the child killer in the comic book-leaving him handcuffed in a room with a rapidly growing fire and the only way out for him is to saw through his hand – is much cleverer than the hacking he does in the movie) we don’t see what actually made him Rorschach to begin with….How he accidentally discovered the cloth with the unusual changing color properties while working in the garment industry nor how that it was intended for delivery to a woman named Kitty Genovese(a real life person) who was later murdered outside her apartment building in full view of the people who lived there and yet no one lifted a finger to help her despite her screams for help….This story explains how Walter Kovacs became Rorschach and is also a perfect story to underline much of the varying points of view on justice etc. expressed throughout THE WATCHMEN….Leaving it out is almost criminal.

2.)In the film, after Rorschach visits Night Owl to tell him about the Comedian being murdered, Night Owl then visits Ozymandias to explain what Rorschach said….This doesn’t make any sense….Why wouldn’t Rorschach go to see Ozymandias himself?....He visited everyone else….In the comic book, Rorschach did go to visit Ozymandias and the resulting exchange was tense and very entertaining and also foreshadowed future developments as neither of them like each other as they represent the polar opposites black and white view of good and evil vs. the ends justify the means….It is also strongly implied that Ozymandias is a homosexual something not really discussed in the movie although his fanatical narcissism is still intact….Night Owl is a passive character and the movie conversation is not so interesting.

3.) The final conversation between Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias in the comic book is a perfect closure of the Antarctica finale…. “Nothing ever ends” is the perfect comment….For the movie to not show this brilliant dramatic scene makes the finale just end like the air going out of the balloon….I also find that not showing Dr. Manhattan walking over Night Owl and Silk Spectre as they are sleeping after making love and giving his final benediction on Planet Earth and humanity again robs the story of closure and drama.

4.) In the comic book, Ozymandias’s origin is shown just like Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and Silk Spectre….In the movie, it’s only briefly mentioned….Another misstep.

Is THE WATCHMEN unfilmable? No and as this movie proves you can actually do an okay job….The Comedian’s funeral with its multiple flashbacks is an example of exactly getting the tone of a scene from another source right on film.

However, the little details are also important….Not having them causes the characters to not feel so real or alive or multi-dimensional….In the end, that’s perhaps my main criticism of THE WATCHMEN film….Some of the characters don’t feel complete on film.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The way I see it there are two ways to view Dick Cheney….One is a true believer in doing whatever it takes to protect the USA from terrorist strikes and who values security over international law and US hegemony over diplomacy.

The other way is as a cynical opportunist who also is not above making a quick buck….The kind of man who used 09/11 to launch a war against an unrelated country in the interest of seizing its oil….He is willing to do whatever it takes for US capitalism including torture.

I subscribe to the latter view with a lust for Machiavellian political backroom influence thrown in as well….I can’t think of any current political leader who less reflects the golden vision that many still see as America….I just think he’s a poor excuse for a human being and a criminal….For a greater description of Dick Cheney, I would recommend THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE by Ron Susskind which perfectly lays out just how evil and venal the vice president as well as how truly responsible he is for the f’ed-up mess we find ourselves in now.

Comedian Wanda Sykes joked at the national press dinner event last week that she would tell her child if two cars pull up and ask you to go for a ride and one has a stranger in it and the other has Dick Cheney in it get in the car with the stranger….I would go one step further….If I was in a room with Osama Bin Laden and Dick Cheney and I had a gun, I’m not sure who would I shoot first maybe Cheney since he seems to be sort of indestructible.

Seriously though, Cheney’s recent flurry of television appearances to justify torture, Guantanamo etc. are odd but also very telling about his true character….This is his life work and the pinnacle of his power in addition I believe further digging will expose Halliburton’s role in a number of scandals (overbilling and having trucks without cargos drive across Iraq so as to be able to bill the US government for the hours are just the tip of the iceberg ) and he is trying to nip that in the bud.

Of course, like much of the Bush Administration, there is often a complete lack of awareness of reality in much of what he says like his recent criticism of Colin Powell….I’m not the world’s biggest Colin Powell fan who now seems like a gutless fool who ruined his whole career with that United Nations speech but I certainly respect a decorated soldier and war hero over an armchair warrior and chicken hawk conservative like Cheney who took four deferments from going to Vietnam and now cavalierly sends young people to die and to kill other people.

Going back to my earlier comment about shooting Cheney, I actually believe that many of Dick Cheney’s action as vice president are treasonous- they made America less safe and helped make Cheney richer.

The word “fascist” is thrown around a lot as a pejorative but I think Cheney actually fits that description.… After all, Webster’s Dictionary describes a fascist as “someone who believes in a governmental system marked by a centralized dictatorship and an often belligerent nationalism”….Substitute neo-conservatism for nationalism and you have Dick Cheney in a nutshell.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Last week and even in the early parts of this week, I was quite prepared to write a detailed analysis of Monday’s Student Council elections….However, this has been a volatile race and what seemed uncertain not too long ago now is a race with a definite front runner….Slow and steady wins the race and the tortoise approach has definitely worked….As the current once and future front runner once remarked “I’M NOT STUBBORN….I’M CLEVER!” or as it sounded CCCLLLEEEVVAAAHH.

Seriously, this has been a very exciting race with enough drama and changes in fortune for five presidential elections….There’s been the solid and consistent front runner, the dangerous and unpredictable challenger who came out of nowhere, the flashy candidate, and others who could have easily jumped into the spotlight at any given time given the right opportunity….The public speeches and debates were also very interesting.

In the end (and this is high school after all), it all boils down to who is the most popular but there was a period of volatility in the race towards the end of the first week that was genuinely exciting to watch….Congratulations to whoever wins….You deserve it!

The Ipoh International School’s Annual Production is coming up in a few short weeks (too short in my opinion. The time spent practicing is really not enough this year)…. This year I am attempting to put together my own number – A version of the Schoolhouse Rock song “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”….It might not happen due to any number of chaotic elements but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway, I hope it’s better than last year’s experience as I had a frustrating time with my first production….I couldn’t actually do a number with a class as I was relatively new to the school then and had just become a home room teacher….There was no time….So I was assigned to the general production committee instead….My duties consisted of auditioning actors (most of which had been nudged by me into auditioning in the first place) with the other committee members for the lead roles and co-writing the script although truth be told I wrote or re-wrote most of it especially the dialogue.

The frustration came at the end….I was removed from the committee five days before production to became an assistant to the principal….This was ok as I didn’t have to do much….However, everything else I did seemed to have been forgotten….At a staff meeting, one of the other committee members got to his feet and thanked everyone in the committee by name except for me….This oversight occurred a few other places as well as a number of people were thanked publicly but never me….A the end of the production, everyone involved in the production (teachers, staff, etc.) were called on stage at the end by name except for me….Even people who didn’t do as much work as I did were called.

I guess I was kind of the invisible man last year….Anyway, I’m not a credit hog….I just hope things will be fairer this year.

Today we had a half-day training and it was a well organized lesson on communication in the classroom and different styles and methods a teacher can use albeit very basic in its level….There was nothing I had not heard many times before

As I went through this training as well as watched the video of a teacher we were supposed to critique, it brought to mind one fact….You can have the best lesson plan in the world but if you are unable to engage the students due to your manner, accent, tone of your voice, appearance, attitude etc. then you have still failed because the student will not learn and retain what they are supposed to out of the lesson.

I thought it was great that we were given time to critique the trainer’s communication skills….I commend him heartily for allowing us to do that….Many participants had comments including myself….I found the slow very ponderous tones of his voice sleep inducing….It might be cultural but a little more drama and using the voice as a tool for emphasis (rising and falling for importance as points are explained and also speeding up and slowing down the pace) would help his presentation greatly.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Dom DeLuise was yet another actor who fit the real actor label….His recent death brought back some great memories….

THE END is a strange Burt Reynolds vehicle made in the late 70’s wherein he find he is dying and looks for a way to commit suicide….The second half of the film takes part in a lunatic asylum that Reynolds is confined to after a failed attempt to do himself in….DeLuise’s performance as a crazy Polish-American murderer that befriends Reynolds is genuinely hilarious.

Dom DeLuise was in several Mel Brooks films including THE TWELVE CHAIRS, BLAZING SADDLES and SILENT MOVIE. He also worked with Gene Wilder in a few of his films including the underrated THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES SMARTER BROTHER where his role as a very strange Italian opera singer criminal was another gutbuster….He even directed one comedic film the police comedy HOT STUFF which he also starred in….He appeared as a very smelly criminal in THE CHEAP DETECTIVE.

On television, DeLuise appeared as incompetent magician Dominick the Great on THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW in the 1960’s which helped launch his career and on THE DOM DELUISE SHOW which ran in the late 1980’s and which featured the legendary Charlie Callas as a wacky neighbor.

Actors like Dom DeLuise who are actors first comedians second are a vanishing breed replaced by idiots who mouth the same lines over and over as tired reoccurring characters then transition into pre-packaged movies that consist of one joke (MALL COP!) over and over and more catchphrases.

Friday, May 1, 2009


The recent death of veteran TV star Bea Arthur (star of Maude and The Golden Girls) is a sad reminder of the passing of many of the golden greats of the TV era….These were real actors dramatic but also comedic (not to be confused with comedians….It’s a completely different skills).

Many of these actors had much more personality and real-life peculiarities (which I mean in a good way) than the cookie cutter petty boys and synthetic females one sees in big screen movies.
Since childhood, I have been a fan of these more real actors as well as the TV shows they starred in such as THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, GREEN ACRES etc….This is real life!

Here are some of my favorite “real” actors….Can you identify them?