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, 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.