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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


To end 2011 on a good note, I will be releasing a new book of poetry in 2011 entitled SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju.  This is my second book after THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS. 

Release date - June 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


THE FOLDED LEAF by William Maxwell is not a book that’s subtle despite a blurb on the back describing it as being about a love triangle between two boys who grow up together and a girl they meet in college.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Actually, the two main characters, Spud who is good at sports and has a bit of an attitude and Lymie who is poor at sports and sickly but excellent at his studies are in a homosexual relationship.

When I say this, I don’t mean that this is implied.  After all this book was written in 1945, when such things were not normally topics for the arts to address.  However, this book describes things in a way that there should be no doubt about the relationship between Spud and Lymie.  It’s amazingly open in that regard.

“He and Lymie were always the first ones to go up to the dorm.  In the big icy cold bed, they clung to each other, shivering like puppies, until the heat of their bodies began to penetrate through the outing flannel of their pajamas and their heavy woolen bathrobes.  Lymie slept on his right side and Spud curled against him, with his fists in the hollow of Lymie’s back”

In a way, this is a distraction as William Maxwell is one of the greatest American writers of the Twentieth Century.  I wrote about him before here
And still feel he is one of the greatest writers people have never heard about.

THE FOLDED LEAF shows all his strengths-An eye for every detail, an ability to shift mood with a minimum of verbiage, an understanding of how characters to really relate and connect to one another.

It’s a great work that doesn’t burden the story with points of high drama rather allowing the story to unfold naturally.  A great editor for other’s people work in his lifetime (as editor of the New Yorker’s fiction page for 40 years which overshadowed his own writing career) his own writing showed the touch of an expert.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Richard Holbrooke who passed away this last week has recived scores of tributes as a great peacemaker and premier diplomat….Most of these are me too people who just want to speak without knowing anything and certainly know nothing of history

For Richard Holbrooke was a graduate of the Kissinger realpolitik school and conducted himself in the same amaoral way….The blood of American cold war crimes (and there is a lot of it) is also on his hands.

This article sums up his history better than I could

Holbrooke was a chief enabler of Indonesian human rights violations against the people of East Timor committed by the Indonesian government.

In March 1977, Holbrooke told Australian diplomat James Dunn that Indonesia’s geographical location and oil wealth were “of considerable strategic importance to the U.S. As we see it,” Holbrooke explained, “the Suharto regime is the best of possible alternatives, and we will do nothing to destabilize it.” In other words, the Carter administration would not support East Timor, but would, instead of “staring down” Indonesia’s dictator, back him—with weapons, financial assistance, and diplomatic cover. Notwithstanding the horrific results of this policy, Holbrooke had the temerity to proclaim in a 1979 prepared statement to Congress that “[t]he welfare of the Timorese people is the major objective of our policy toward East Timor.” (2)

Just as he had lied to Congress in 1979, Holbrooke misled his listeners in Jakarta twenty years later. Indeed, he subsequently openly bragged about burying discussion of East Timor.

Holbrooke’s chief claim to fame was the Dayton Accords which supposedly ended the Bosnian conflict in 1995. The Clinton approach to Bosnia always struck me as closing the barn door after the horses had escaped. Horrible crimes on a massive scale had already been committed and America comes in at the end and pressures the….Bosnian Muslims the people who were mostly the victim of atrocities.

On top of that, Holbrooke was involved in the breaking away of Kosovo from Serbia….Here the US acted quickly and here the US was wrong….Kosovo has turned into a criminal state full of illegal organ transplanters, drug smugglers, and Islamic terrorists.

Couple this with his lifelong support of Israel no matter what they do and his ineptitude in recent years as the Afghanistan envoy and you have a record that shouldn’t make one too proud….

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Obama’s tax deal – two year renewal of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in exchange for an extension of one year for unemployment benefits- is a bad deal and feels more like capitulation than compromise.
There are several paths Obama can take following the recent election losses in the house and senate….This type of pathetic giving in is the one I had hoped he wouldn’t choose.
In particular, he is now surrounding himself with Clinton people including the big dog himself….This is exactly the kind of something for nothing deal we would expect from Clintonistas who are incrementalists closer in philosophy to the big business wing of the Republican party than to the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Watching the disgusting spectacle of Bill Clinton hogging yesterday’s press conference….The ultimate fame junkie getting off on his drug of choice, I reached the end of my patience with Obama who is increasingly looking like an empty suit rather than a savior….”Change we’ve been waiting for “is still out there I'm thinking.
Coupled with the administration’s giving up on pushing for a continued settlement freeze in the West Bank and this was a terrible week for Obama….I partly chalk this up to who he chooses to associate with.

Friday, November 26, 2010


THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (or its alternate name TWINKLE TWINKLE KILLER KANE) is a hard movie to classify.  It’s starts off as something akin to MASH with a comedic mixture of mental illness and the military then turns into a deeply philosophical series of discussions on the existence of God then turns into a horror movie for awhile then slides into an upbeat ending.

Written and directed by William Peter Blatty (who wrote THE EXORCIST), it’s a one of a kind movie, a truly unique film that features a who’s who of underrated or neglected actors such as Scott Wilson, Stacy Keach (His greatest performance), Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Richard Lynch

It’s hard for me to go into detail what this film is about because it is complicated and I might reveal spoilers.  However, it is both an inspirational story of one man inspiring others as well as a meditation on violence and the Christ figure taking on other’s sins.

This is one of those virtually unknown movies even by film cultists just waiting to be re-discovered….A unique, fascinating, and powerful film.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


DEGREE OF GRAY IN PHILLISPBURG by Richard Hugo is a poem that slaps you in the face repeatedly with striking images….Not just well written descriptions, highly visual, that make it easier for the mind to process….Here is an old man returning to a town he lived in some eyars before when he was young the economy of the town was powered by the boom in silver mining.

The town he returns to is dying….No more nightlife fed by the cash from the miners….The town mill, the sole employer, on the verge of collapse….All the pretty girls have left…. The principal supporting business now is rage.

The old man knows he’s not that far from death….He was 20 when the jail was built 50 years ago….However, he’s reminded by an internal voice that things are not that bad-he has a car that runs, he has enough money for lunch, and his food is brought by a pretty waitress.

That is the shade of gray….What is unique or special about this poems is how the sentences run into each other as if from an outpouring of uncontrollable thoughts from the brain like one’s life flashing before their eyes.

Richard Hugo was a “western” poet….That is he is caught up in classification based on where he was from (Washington and Montana)….One critic described his poetry as where the landscape of the mind meets the real physical landscape.

Here's the original poem....

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I haven’t decided yet whether the SAW films are crudely made torture horror porn or a set of brilliant interlocking films on the human conditions (perhaps the best interlocking film series I’ve ever seen).
What I find is I may be turned off by individual acts of violence as they occur in a particular SAW film but I am always left amused or curious or interested at the end….In other words, I’ve never felt disappointed or that I was seeing something with no depth, that was only gratuitous gore at the end of the film.
In this day and age of searching for easy answers, the self-help tough love premise of the SAW films that is John Kramer’s traps provides an often dead on satire….The useless people here can only prove themselves when faced with death or the death of their loved ones or even the deaths of people they hate.
SAW 7 or Saw 3D as it’s also know although the 3D serves no real purpose I can tell, purports to be the last in the series and it does have an air of finality about it….Without giving anything away, the final fate of Hoffman the protagonist of SAW 4,5, and 6 is satisfying.
I liked how in the final movie we actually had a character who attempted to use the Jigsaw murders as the basis for his own self-help book….Too bad he was a phony (and paid the price for that).
What I specifically like about the SAW movies is how well the films fi together….This isn’t FRIDAY THE 13TH or NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET where a bunch of dumb teenagers get killed in successive films with little to connect them….The intricacy of the plotting as well as the serial nature of the events make the SAW films like one long story instead of individual movies….I still think that the fact the third and fourth movies were basically happening at the same time was a stroke of creative genius.
Is the violence too much?  Well sometimes….I think one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie was the beginning of SAW 6 when two loan sharks had to cut off bits of their flesh – The one who cut off the most would avoid being killed by the trap.
However, the traps themselves are creative and nasty….Any revulsion is offset by respect for the imagination that went into the construction of it.
What’s my favorite SAW film?  Here’s the order from my favorite to least favorite-3,6,1,7,5,2,4  

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I’ve given up on trying to predict this election but here’s what I know for sure-The Republicans will pick up three senate seats (North Dakota, Indiana, and  Arkansas)….They are going to win a lot of seats in the house perhaps 50+ and take control of that body and they are also going to pick up a number of governorships (although not California or New York) which is common for the mid-term of a first term president, that is the other party wins seats.
For the last several months and perhaps going back further, the lazy media have tried to frame this as a wave year….This is the easiest narrative to try to link this to 1994 when both houses of congress went from Democratic to Republican….Of course, there are a number of differences such as having a scandal such as the house bank scandal to run against as well as the number of open seats both of which were present in 1994.
They’ve also tried to spin it into 1980 when Ronald Reagan’s election brought in a Republican senate….Of course, many of those senators were voted out when they were up for re-election in 1986.
The bottom line is Americans have a short attention span, no grasp of history, and demand easy answers to complex problems….They hate government but want it to work for them and provide jobs and ease their anxiety when their debt ridden economy goes South.
Specific thoughts….
1.)    Rand Paul, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino Joe Miller are clown candidates….No wonder they are trying to avoid interviews….Everything that comes out of their mouths is nonsense and when they are unable to dodge reporters they resort to violence (Recent incidents in Alaska and Kentucky for example)
2.)    Alaska could be a surprise as Joe Miller has slipped in polls and the write-in process is very confused. A Democratic win perhaps?
3.)    The fact Obama has cut taxes for most Americans seem lost on people.  Fear has always ruled over logic in the US and we are seeing that in this election
4.)    Christine O’Donnell is pathetic….The Gawker story was cruel but when you are holier than thou well hypocrisy is a campaign issue and when you are not too bright even worse
5.)    Hard to believe the people of Louisiana will return David Vitter to the US Senate considering his frolicking with prostitutes and the fact his aide who is in charge of women’s affairs badly injured his girlfriend
6.)    On election night, watch Kentucky if Jack Conway can win or at least make it close that’s a good sign for the Democrats   
7.)    Full on Xenophobia, racism, and bigotry against immigrants, Muslims, and gay Americans is making a comeback….Not a good sign  

In the end, not much is going to get done the next couple of years and America will continue its decline in this Post-America Pre-China period in world history.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Bryan Ferry’s voice has become a fragile whispery thing….Now on the edge of cracking, whenever it rises to take a high note one can feel the danger of it not reaching , one can feel the strain….This perfectly suited the hazy quiet almost illusionary music of Ferry’s 1994 release MAMOUNA which is haunted record with Ferry as the chief ghost.
The effect of MAMOUNA was like that of some purgatory scene with Ferry ascendant to hitherto unscaled peaks of jaded decadence and the tired majesty, the world weary romanticism this produced in the vocals and the music was the result….It helped that his ex Roxy Music compadres played on many of the songs-Phil Manzanera, Andy MacKay, and the best of all Brian Eno.
Ferry’s new album OLYMPIA is similar to MAMOUNA….After a number of years of cover version records or records that were partly cover versions, Ferry has put out an album that is all original tracks except for one….His voice is just as whispery and fragile as MAMOUNA but the music is a tad more sprightly and less murky like a cross between MAMOUNA and the last Roxy album AVALON perhaps.
In fact I would say this is one of his best solo albums….Nothing can touch the first five Roxy Music album which are oft imitated classics….However, I do like OLYMPIA more than much of his 80’s work which had the tendency to be a bit too slick….Again, Manzanera, Mackay, and Eno are present and there were stories that was originally meant to be a long lost follow-up to AVALON released under the Roxy name.
Ferry sings with a renewed energy, much more energetic than anything he’s done in a long time….The songs themselves are the best batch he’s come up with in decades….As the first song samples TRUE TO LFIE from AVALON, one gets a sense that Ferry has reached a point in his life where he can match his past to where he wants to go musically in the future.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I’ve waited awhile before I commented on this because the media almost always gets the story wrong originally….That is a story becomes a sensation and the news media in their struggle to frame a message pick a convenient black and white storyline and then shoehorn all the information so it fits this.
An example of this would be Phoebe Prince who committed suicide we are told because and only because of bullying….However, it has been revealed that she had emotional problems dating back to her schooling in Ireland and was disturbed prior to the bullying incidents that occurred in the US.
I say this not to belittle the dead but to show how the narrative gets big stories such as the Kennedy Assassination wrong too all in the quest to make the narrative simple that can fit the viewer’s short attention span.
In the case of Tyler Clementi’s sucide due to this outing allegedly because of the illicit webcamming done by his college roommate Dharun Ravi, the question here is one of intent.
Was Ravi a homophobe who wanted to indulge his hate through this actions or was he just a practical joker?  I think the evidence shows the latter….Granted it’s an evil practical joke but according to his friends he always did things like this and would have taped his roommate even if he’d been heterosexual.
The punishment for such a crime should be whatever the appropriate sentencing is for filming someone surreptitiously which is a crime in New Jersey….I don’t believe that this is homicide….Such claims are overreaction….It seems when events like this happen, Americans always look for someone to be guilty, someone to blame and throw their anger at….Sure Ravi is a jerk but I don’t believe he is a murderer.
As for Michelle Wei in whose room he watched the video, I’m not sure what her crime is at all other than giving a friend a place to stay when he was chased out of his room by a roommate seeking to use the room for a tryst.
There is also talk of this being a hate crime which means they will need to show Ravi had a pre-disposition for hating homosexuals as well as the desire to do that….I think that’s going to be very hard to prove
Myself, despite being fairly liberal in a lot of ways, oppose hate crime laws….Why? well any crime against another person meant to be covered by this law- violence, threats etc. is already covered by existing laws that don’t specifically mention race, gender or sexuality….In effect, more punishment is being created for these crimes…. I’m not sure someone being killed for their wallet is any less of a crime than someone being killed for who they are.
But most importantly hate crime laws often have built in restrictions on free speech….For example in Canada one cannot challenge the veracity of the holocaust….Do I support challenging the veracity of the holocaust?  No but I certainly believe in someone’s right to so just as I believe the right to burn the US flag, sell pornography showing consenting adults etc.
Hate Crimes are an overreaction for past ills that went uncorrected during less enlightened times in American history….The answer in a country where the staggering ignorance of the tea party gather members steadily is not legislation it’s education and a lot more of it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Much of the appeal of groups like the Tea Party in American politics is based on the sense that America is in danger of losing something….It is hard for them to define further what they mean…. “America is losing what made it great”….”America is losing its exceptionalism”
This is why so much of their language is couched in the idea of taking the country back….Of course, as has been pointed out many times before, “back” means exactly what?  Back to times before worker’s rights (the five day work week, minimum wage, vacation leave etc.), civil rights and an end to Jim Crow and other racist laws as public policy, women right’s, better healthcare, environmental protections, etc….I think we can agree we all live in a better time now as far as the life of the average American.
No, what they are talking about is the work, wages, and lifestyle of the American worker….Where are the jobs? And what about the high salaries Americans are used to? And what about the things I am told I should buy, a house, a new car every few years?
Well the hard truth is  this time in American history encompassing the post WWII boom up until the 80’s when it started to go south then briefly (and I would argue artificially)restored by the dawn of the Internet age and now back to where the economy logically should be –no jobs, bankrupt, stagnation of wages for those who are employed.
My argument is that the American way of life was always artificial- a form of smoke and mirrors in which the wealthiest part of the population through their establishment of corporations and other entities that employ people allowed Americans to lived a life that was artificially propped up by unusually high wages and financial tools such credit instruments that allowed you to buy a house you really couldn’t afford under normal circumstances.
However, at some point the bottom line became more about profits and less about people (I would say it was around the time of Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980)….Trickle down which was always partly illusion anyway dried up and those high paying jobs that gave Americans an inflated, artificial lifestyle started to be sent overseas to Third World countries with lower wages and without worker protections or environmental protections.
All that was left was the life style which Americans continued to indulge in using debt and instruments such as credit cards to satisfy what they saw as the American dream (defined as conspicuous consumption) until that bubble burst too in 2008.
The bottom line is that life is gone forever and is never coming back….I am one of those who believes that nations, civilizations have their time in the spotlight and then others take over….This next century is going to be about China and maybe India too and the US’s decline will be either quiet and peaceful like Britain’s in the last century or violent filled with strife from people who want to recapture what they perceive as America’s glory years not grasping that that time is gone forever….The worst case scenario would be like post-war WWI Germany.
So how does the Obama administration fit into this?  I think they grasp that Americans were powered by a larger than life standard of living that is now on the way out….This standard of living was why Americans felt they didn’t need national health care and other governmental help programs….It was also why Americans tolerated a regressive tax system that taxes input rather than output….This kind of tax system is guaranteed to make it harder to raise one’s standard of living but it doesn’t matter when there is a lot of money around.
I think the Obama administration sees that the future of America could be very third world in terms of wide spread poverty and a true end to those parts of America which can realistically be preserved unless they can come up with some kind of hybrid that includes European programs such as national health care that can provide a safety net for the US public.
Of course, the tea party rejects this….Not just because in their mind it goes against American individualism and is socialism  but also because many of the Tea Partiers are wealthy people….The Tea Party is not a working man’s movement it’s a movement of millionaires seeking to hang on to their cash and give nothing back to the society in which they or their families became wealthy to begin with….The last gasp of selfish US capitalism and this ugly movement is also bringing out those just below the surface –the racists, the xenophobes, the religious bigots, the religious fanatics, the sexists, the authoritarian fascists....The kind who really do want to "take America back" and not in a good way.
If these people are given power and a voice due to a nostalgic public who believes that they can go backwards in time then America really will be lost.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Here’s the odds-on list for who is likely to be the recipient for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature
Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, is the most favored….Transtromer writes poetry in which there is much beneath the surface….Adam Zagajewski another poet from Poland is fifth on the list….His style is somewhat similar to Transtromer’s….If anything, Zagajewski’s style is even more spare and powerful.
The poetry collection TEN THOUSAND LIVES by Ko Un(second place on the prospective Nobel List) is an attempt to record the people this South Korean poet has met in his life….Considering this collection of poetry was started in jail where Ko Un had been sentenced at the time due to criticizing the government(he was later released), there is a level of detail that one would expect from someone with time to spend searching their mind for every small detail and this level of detail is very skillfully put to use-classic descriptive verse.
An Australian poet, Les Murray, is also on the list….His poems are messy, overflowing with detail.
I don’t care much for the prose writers on the list-Don DeLillo is an awful, mechanical writer, Cormac McCarthy writes potboilers somebody has mistaken for literature,  and Phillip Roth is the written equivalent of a Woody Allen film-the East Coast elitist (often Jewish) as narrator….All three stink IMO.
There are many great Japanese writers….However, Haruki Murakami is not one of them….He is very western in his obviousness – A wannabe Kurt Vonnegut.
I’m a fan of Thomas Pynchon especially GRAVITY’S RAINBOW-An amazing book….William Burroughs but with an actual story and less drug dreaming….However, I think he’s too far outside what the judges are used to….Hard to imagine him winning the Nobel lit prize
So the poets are it this year….Good luck to all of them  

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I was a kid and then a teenager during Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor….When he finished his second term in 1982 (and lost a race to be a US senator), I was in the 10’th grade.
What I recall was that Brown turned into a bit of a joke….His dating Linda Ronstadt….His being dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” (which was later regretted by the columnist Mike Royko who had given him the name) due to his desire to purchase an emergency satellite system….His quixotic runs for the presidency….His problems with the medfly infestation (including the perception he had delayed spraying and this had resulted in more crop damage).
But that’s the past….Over the next few decades, Brown started over working his way up from the bottom including stints as the Mayor of Oakland and the state attorney general….He is now running for the office of governor again 28 years since leaving the office….My first thought is what a joke!  What a retread!
But I don’t think that now….In fact Jerry Brown could be just what California needs….A public servant who is knowledgeable about the ways of government.
The government under attack by the tea party is the federal government….The state government even libertarians acknowledge we need….California has a multitude of grave problems number one being there is no money, not in the state’s coffers, not on the horizon, yet there are scores of services and programs that need to be funded so what to do?....How can California avoid complete bankruptcy?
The other night Jerry Brown debated his Republican opponent Meg Whitman….I can’t stand Whitman….She is a totally empty pants suit….The idea of excessively wealthy people who haven’t even taken the trouble to vote in the past essentially buying an office is disgusting to me….Whitman, herself, strikes me as a “Let Them Eat Cake” royalist who donated money to Princeton while her two thuggish sons run amok there using the N word beating up a female student essentially making Prince Harry and William look like the kids on Little House on the Prairie ….I also don’t care much for the way Whitman treated employees at E-Bay which is probably where her kids learned that behavior
The debate was a complete disaster for Whitman’s campaign….She looked disheveled and unsure of herself and talked only in generalities….Two answers that hurt her-Budget-Brown spoke of specifically how he would go about the process of cutting the budget ….Whitman instead spoke of being tough offering nothing but platitudes…Brown zinged her on her tax cut plan for the wealthy and she didn’t answer him back….Immigration-Brown supports a pathway to citizenship….Here was the chance for Whitman to score a couple cheap points as she opposes this but instead she wimped out talking instead about border security.
Meg Whitman is a corporatist-part of the new royalty….I’m beginning to think what this society really needs is a new French revolution-Bring out the guillotines!  Off with their heads!  

Monday, September 20, 2010


SHAZAM, the second album by The Move, is pop schizophrenia at his best….This was band leader Roy Wood’s finest moment showing his and the band’s versatility despite consisting of only six songs
Side one is made up of three Wood originals - HELLO SUZIE, BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER, CHERRY BLOSSOM CLINIC REVISISTED….SUZIE is a raucous Cheap Trick rave-up complete with iron lunged vocals….DAUGHTER is a beautiful and McCartneyesque….CHERRY BLOSSOM is a re-done version of an earlier hit CHERRY BLOSSOM CLINIC now blown-up from a three minute pop song to a Who style performance piece with spoken word and instrumental interlude.
Side two is made up of three cover versions – FIELDS OF PEOPLE, DON’T MAKE MY BABY BLUE, LAST THING ON MY MIND….FIELDS is a Byrds-type freak-out meandering into psychedelic territory….DON’T MAKE MY BABY BLUE re-makes the Mann/Weill Brill building creation into something off of PARANOID by Black Sabbath…. MIND, Tom Paxton’s country standard, is somewhere between the two approaches heavy but with passionate vocals and some harmonies on the chorus.
The end result is a truly unique album….Following The Move’s first album which is full of clever late 60’s pop and great singles, this was the next step and showed that anything, any song or melody can be retain its full popiness despite whatever genre and instrumentation it is done up in….SHAZAM is also the high point for a band that was never popular in the USA but regardless had a lot of musical influence on the years to come.
The Move made two more albums (which unfortunately introduced the insidious Jeff Lynne) and then morphed into ELO (a band I have never liked).  Wood did make BOULDERS and a couple of other interesting, eccentric pop records.  


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Interesting article by former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky on THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER-two poems by William Blake….I’ve written about Blake before here  

Much of William Blake’s poetry is contrast between the reality of what he sees and his religious or otherworldly inspired imagery which I theorize is the result of mental illness….I think William Blake’s writings show many of the signs of someone who suffered from some type of schizophrenia or other mental disorder that damages perception and produces hallucinations.

You can see that in the first CHIMNEY SWEEPER poem….He starts by talking about the hard scrabble child labor life of the chimney sweep and then switches into dreams of angels and freedom….Although both of these poems are much more in the “real” world then much of his other work.

Great poetry is often a mix of the real and the illusionary….A description of something using tools like metaphor working jointly with bold, hallucinatory language-That which makes it poetry to begin with!
Not a huge Blake fan but do respect and recognize his influence in the way he melded these two modes of expression in his work.        


First off, I must admit I was slow to get on the Rafael Nadal bandwagon….I viewed him first as a clay courter and didn’t initially pick up on the fact of his extraordinary will or in the ability to make major refinements to his game based on surface in order to win.
He is however an amazing champion and has a level of intensity and desire unmatched in tennis….He is the most competitive tennis player, perhaps the most competitive athlete I’ve ever seen.
By winning the US Open and completing the career slam (he has also won the Olympics), Nadal goes from being a very good player, the new Borg perhaps, to serious consideration as one of the greatest of all time.
I made this list awhile back   I would now put Nadal at #4….Considering he is only 24 (perhaps the really amazing part of this), I would imagine he is going to win a lot more slams and the big questions becomes can he win all four in the same calendar year?....He is after all the first man to win the French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open back to back – three different surfaces….When Rod Laver won his two grand slams in the 1960’s, it was three grass court slams plus the French.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


All the pictures shown here were taken by me....
Cambodia-Wow!....Day one was free and easy and day two  found me in the city of Phnom Penh the capital….It is crowded….Old roads that are too small for all the cars not to mention the motorcycles and bicycles….Our tour took us to the Imperial Palace which is a beautiful building part of an incredible compound….The uselessness of royalty, the basic meaningless of saying one person and his relations are god-like enough to rule over other people is forgotten about in seeing the beautiful rendering of the Ramayana that adorns the wall surrounding the royal compound….

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was next and it was one of the most disturbing experiences I have ever had….A high school that was turned into a torture center/prison by the Khmer Rouge and then into a remembrance center featuring many of the torture instruments that were used on people, the cells they stayed in and most disturbing of all the photos of the victims which were methodically taken and recorded….Also on display were paintings of many gruesome torture scenes done by one of only seven people who survived Tuol Sleng.

Day three found us on the road to Siem Reap….It’s a five hour drive not because of distance but because of  the lack of a freeway that makes the driving slow….We stopped at a rest stop wherein young kids attempted to sell me fruit other things and beg off me….Beggars are a common sight here and were advised by our tour group leader not to give them anything as they would all attack you at once like piranha.
Here are some fried spiders for sale….

Siem Reap, Cambodia’s second largest city, is much more modern than Phnom Penh….It is cleaner and and has newer looking roads and buildings….I believe this is due to the nearby proximity of Angkor Wat and other historical sites  and the tourists they attract….Although tourism is currently third as far as industries go in Cambodia with agriculture being first and manufacturing being second, it is fast growing and definitely the engine that drives Siem Reap.
I actually preferred Angkor Tom the capital city of ancient Cambodia to Angkor Wat the largest city….The remains were better preserved.

Also here’s the Ta Prohm temple which was used in the first TOMB RAIDER film….

All in all, I thought Cambodia was  wonderful….It has its ugly spots and it’s fair to say that it has not yet really recovered from the three year genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge or the years before that when US dropped 214 tons of explosives on the country or the decades long civil war in the years after  but I was most impressed by the people-they were reserved yet warm and always polite in a genuine way unlike say what a Western tourist faces in Thailand where people are also polite but always sizing you up for how much money they can get out of you.
I would like to go back to Cambodia and see it at my own speed rather than as part of a tour….It’s truly a great place.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I’m going to Cambodia for a five day tour/vacation….I’d originally planned to go to Vietnam and Cambodia but couldn’t afford to go to both and figured it would be easier to see what Cambodia has to offer in a shorter time vacation like this and catch Vietnam when I have more time (and money)

Cambodia brings to mind the great misfortunes-genocide and other unimaginable horrors in the minds of Westerners….Lately, it has been explored and rendered cute like so much other previously inhospitable terrain by cooking shows who create a lightweight atmosphere as they rub noses with whatever fear factor food they can dig up from the locals.

The Cambodian genocide (which by the way is the direct result of the US carpet bombing which allowed the Khmer Rouge to get into power) didn’t cause the US to break off relations with the Khmer Rouge….In fact, for a number of years after the Khmer Rouge were deposed and their crimes know the US recognized them as the legal representative of the people of Cambodia rather than the actual government.

Angkor Wat I will also be seeing….This is one of those world wonders I’ve always wanted to visit….Angkor Wat fun fact- It was originally meant as worship for the Hindu god Vishnu and translated means “city that is a temple”

More after my trip….



My wife had surgery a couple of months ago to remove two benign growths on her thyroid….The hospital where this occurred was Perak Community Specialist Hospital.

The surgery went well and there was no complications….She was required to stay two additional days after the surgery which is customary in this case.

However, the hospital stay was horrible-rude nurses, being shifted around from room to room three in all after paying for a single room , and the worst thing was the construction that was going on the whole time my wife was attempting to rest after her surgery….They were renovating the floor-something that should be done when there are no patients around….Instead you have the sound of hammering and power tools going in constantly not to mention the workmen walking in and out of your room while your wife lies ill in bed having just had surgery.

I felt a reduction in our bill was due….They refused but advised me to make a complaint which I did….Nothing has happened despite following up so I officially give up but needless to say I will never use that hospital again.

Here’s my original complaint letter….

Dear Sirs,

My wife xxxxxxx underwent surgery at your hospital July 07, 2010 on her Thyroid. Acct#xxxxxx

I would specifically like to complain about several issues and request a partial refund on the room charges.

The main issue I have is with the construction that was going on all day during her stay. This involved drilling, hammering and all types of racket as well as workers going in and out of her room while she was trying to sleep after her surgery. I think that this is extremely unprofessional and no way to run a hospital. To make matters worse, she was also moved around three times during her stay and one nurse on her floor was particularly rude.

If you are going to do a massive renovation such as this, you should close the hospital ward temporarily. It is ridiculous to expose sick people recovering from operations to this type of environment.

Considering the uncomfortable room and what a terrible time she had there after her surgery, I am expecting a partial refund of the room rate I paid which the clerks at the payment office refused to grant me at the check out time.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


It is understandable that one would write off the music of Spandau Ballet….They went from being a synth pop band from the New Romantic/Blitz scene to a top 40 pop group to adult easy listening- the kind of music one might find on movie soundtracks.

However, Spandau Ballet did have two strengths going for it….Gary Kemp, guitarist, keyboardist and songwriter, developed into a Burt Bacharach crafter of exquisite singles….Tony Hadley, the vocalist, had a powerful voice that could overpower a song and then lessen to the barest pulse to convey the rise and fall of emotions.

I was not a big fan….I liked their singles but didn’t buy their albums-pleasant but disposable pop….I have however developed a newfound appreciation of their music largely due to my wife who is a fan.

In particular, the 2009 reunion album ONCE MORE which finds Spandau Ballet going the Eagles route-new acoustic based with string arrangement versions of their hits….This setting perfectly suits Kemp’s pop standards much more than the 80’s studio foppery of the time….Hadley’s vocals are to notch as well.

I don’t think this new version works as well on GOLD (My favorite SP song) or on TRUE which is so ingrained in the collective conscious….However, all the other versions here are tremendous especially their first single as a band TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT which is transformed from a herky jerky example of early 80’s new wave agitation to a breathless intense mood piece.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Yesterday My TV interview for THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS for the show ON THE GO taped previously was shown ( I wrote about the taping at the above link) and I would say it was a success.

It was well edited and showed the URL of my publisher’s site under the screen….I think it did the job of getting the book across to those who saw the program

I focus more on goals than on plans in life….Hopefully, this will be a very positive end to a means.


Two bands that have nothing to do with one another I’ve been revisiting musically are Slayer and ABC.

Slayer is a band I’ve always had deep respect for due to their instrumental chops-the speed at which they play plus their lack of sloppiness and awe inspiring virtuosity….Their tweaking of religious sensibilities only makes me like them more….Whatever hellish process they go through to make their music it’s worth it.

SOUTH OF HEAVEN is my personal favorite of their releases but REIGN IN BLOOD is the important one….Here is where the burgeoning thrash metal meant punk head on….I think Slayer forged something completely new here- Metal power riffing with punk tempos and lyrics halfway between sensationalism and protest….Their 90’s albums found them caught in a bit of a rut but their work in the last decade find them once again operating at 120 mile an hour velocity….The 2000’s albums GOD HATES US ALL, CHRIST ILLUSION, WORLD TURNED BLOOD are all excellent.

ABC’s first album THE LEXICON OF LOVE was different from others of the New Romantics New Wave sub genre in that it relied less on synths and more on strings and big arrangements….They mated the lush sounds of Scott Walker’s 70’s stuff with Roxy Music’s evolution from glam prog hybrid to AVALON jazziness….The end result was a masterpiece – a record full of clever songs each one as catchy as humanly possible.

BEAUTY STAB the follow-up added loud guitars to the mix and the end result was a very good record not on the level of LEXICON but still featuring some great songwriting….After that, they turned into a synth pop band and became more inconsistent with the occasional brilliant tune to remind you of what went before.

TRAFFIC, the first new ABC album in more than decade, came out in 2008 but I have only just heard it….Now basically down to singer Martin Fry and anonymous sidemen, this ABC had the good sense to work with Gary Langan again whom they had not worked with since STAB….The end result is a fun record not completely synthetic full of catchy tunes and Fry’s crooning….A pleasant surprise.

Monday, August 23, 2010


In 1994, Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to takeovers of the US House and Senate using the Contract of America as his main marketing tool….Of course, many of the items in the Contract With America such as term limits were given up on as soon as the Republicans took power.

One idea proposed in the Contract with America was to shut down cabinet level government departments particularly the Department's of Education, of Energy, of Agriculture, and of Commerce in order to save money and eliminate waste.

I can’t say I agree with the idea of closing the Department of Education considering that many states are barely able to do the job of educating their own students but the others are worth discussing especially closing the US Department of Commerce.

The US Department of Commerce’s main task is according to its charter is "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce." That’s a vague but otherwise well intentioned statement. However many of its tasks are done elsewhere.

The United States Trade Representative which is itself a cabinet level position is the main crafter of trade based policy and legislation. The Small Business Administration (SBA) whose job it is to encourage the creation of small businesses in America isn’t under the Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department includes an economic analysis wing but the most complex reports on the US Economy come from the Budget Director’s office and the Council of the Economic Advisors not to mention the Department of the Treasury.

Overlap with other departments and no clear and pressing mandate for a separate Commerce department so why then do we have a Department of Commerce?

Well it’s worth noticing that many of the more recent Commerce secretaries were money people, bag men for winning presidential campaigns – Robert Mosbacher for George HW Bush, Ron Brown, Mickey Cantor, and William Daley for Bill Clinton, Don Evans for George Bush, President Obama wanted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson another well connected campaign money type but allegations of corruption derailed the nomination. It seems like the commerce department has become the vehicle for sitting presidents to focus on fundraising.

When the Commerce and the Labor departments split into two separate entities in 1913, Labor continued on with a clear set of duties. The Commerce Department, however, became a vague entity with no clear mandates that weren’t already being done in a bigger way by other departments. In the days of tightened belts and out of control deficits, if America wanted to save a little money closing down the Department of Commerce would be a start.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I don’t like the sound of the word “partner” when it is applied to human relationships….It feels chilly and cold not like a descriptive term for someone you love.

Partner as a description of someone one is involved with in a relationship is a somewhat recent addition to the public lexicon….The latest edition of Oxford's Dictionary does include this as a third definition….The other two being about business involvement or any activity an individual might be doing with another person.

The word “partner” has evolved I believe as a gender neutral politically correct term of description because of the large number of married couples who stay together for years and may even have children but never legally get married and gay couples who lack legal recognition of their marital status.

I just think it feels like a very impersonal word without any sense of what two people can mean to one another….Wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend are all better I think even lover which seems more vulgar as it refers to the sex act.

That’s just my feeling and I mean no disrespect to the different classifications of relationships in today’s complicated culture….I just feel words that convey that two people are in a relationship should carry more warmth and not be so legalistic as if their love was on a contractual basis

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Yesterday, I was interviewed for the television program ON THE GO which airs Sundays at 8:30 on Channel 201 in Malaysia about my recently published book of poetry THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju….The show I appeared on will air on August 22, 2010….I will be getting my own copy of the show at some point after that in 2010 and will upload.

It was an interesting scene….The host of the program is the beautiful and poised Lakshmi Appadorai, former Miss India Worldwide runner up/singer/actress and tv personality ….The interview took place in the California Pizza Kitchen in KLCC with the backdrop of the park behind the twin towers visible through a window.

The questions were good as was the exchanges they produced….Straightforward and direct….They filmed for an hour or so for an 8 to 10 minute segment….We will see how much of what I said (I also read three poems) makes it into the final interview.

Best Question of the night – What is bad poetry to you and what is good poetry? This allowed me to talk about meaning and definition vs. simple description.

Onwards and upwards !!!!


While reading THE DRIVER’S SEAT by Muriel Spark, I kept having songs by The Smiths running through my head in particular WHAT SHE SAID with its lines “I smoke cause I’m hoping for an early death” and also “I need to cling to something”.

THE DRIVER’S SEAT is the story of a young woman named Lise who leaves London, her home, on a vacation….From the beginning, she takes a number of actions that are bound to get attention-Wearing a ridiculously loud outfit, leaving important things behind where they will be discovered by others or cause her to remembered, striking up strange teeth clenchingly awkward conversations with strangers she meets along the way….In other words, she wants to be remembered by those she meets and the reason is because she is going on this trip to meet the man who will ultimately murder her.

Who this man she doesn’t know and neither do us the readers until the end of the book….His identity is a clever surprise….We are never sure why this bold stroke of fatalism is being undertaken by Lise….We have clues-The boredom of her humdrum job and accompanying monotony, the lack of any real friendships in her life, her eccentric, off-putting behavior but whether these are symptoms or the disease itself we never know. She also clearly wants other people she encounters along the way to remember her in order to tell the police something afterwards

While reading this book (and it’s a short book, a very quick read, barely over 100 pages) the main impression I got was of some kind of grand bedsit miseryguts, perhaps the high queen of bedsit miseryguts, packing each paragraph with rainy day uncomfortable statements on life coupled with really black English wit which in turn was often coupled with a type of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM social faux pas humor.

I should say in discussions about this book there is a bit of debate about Lise’s mental health and what she does….I would argue it is clear she has some level of precognition about the events of the books….She knows that someone she has never met her before is going to kill her at a specific place and it happens….How much visualization plays a part here is up for debate….But I don’t think insanity plays a part in her mental make-up at all….In a strange way, this book is kind of about taking control of your life.

I actually think more of this book the further I get away from it (I read it about six weeks ago)….It certainly stayed with me as I thought about Lise’s existential plight and her extra-sensory solution….I’m about to start another book by Muriel Sparks entitled MEMENTO MORI….She is a writer with a real streak of black humor and great descriptions of the dark absurdities of life.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Let’s be clear about something….George Bush took more vacation days than anybody else as president….He was frequently ridiculed about this especially once America started fighting two wars and then later when America slid into an economic downturn.

I think some of the current criticism of Obama’s vacation time is silly….The grasping at straws of the Fox News distortion team who never found molehills they couldn’t make a mountain out of or videotape they couldn’t distort or someone they couldn’t unfairly slander.

But like it or not there is a certain appearance of uncaring, and appearance of aristocratic apathy towards economic suffering that one gets when they see the First lady in Spain doing aristocratic things and hanging out with the wealthy and with royalty or seeing the president relaxing at wealthy vacation hotspots like The Hamptons or shooting baskets with NBA players.

Obama and family fall right into the hands of the Fox News gang when they are seen engaging in activities such as these during times of high unemployment and home foreclosures….Herbert Hoover, who contrary to popular belief, was not solely responsible for the great depression was tagged for the blame because people didn’t felt he was engaged or cared.

Going back to my earlier point, George Bush did take many vacations but the vast majority of them were to his ranch in Crawford where he was seen to clear brush and other “common” pursuits.

I’m not saying Obama has to re-roof his house or be seen fixing the plumbing but the a lot of the battles this presidency has lost have been on the public relations front….It’s as if the ass kicking political team who won the election were replaced by mushy headed drones when it came to actually being the president and the day to day .

What I’m saying is Obama doesn’t need any more PR headaches….Tone down the fancy vacations….Go somewhere more low key where it can appear he is contact with people and can share what their lives are about….It’s too bad but we do live in a photo opportunity culture.


Thursday, August 5, 2010


Sometimes an issue appears that allows those with underlying prejudices to give vent to them while claiming the fig leaf of arguing a particular point….I think the argument over the building of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” has brought out a lot of people who incorrectly blame all Muslims for 09/11 and/or who just hate Muslims in general.

Case in point is the definition of what is actually being created here….It’s not just a mosque per say rather it’s a Muslim cultural center which will include a mosque (as well as a swimming pool and restaurant).

The other point worth mentioning here is it’s not exactly at Ground Zero but rather 500 feet nearly two blocks away….Hardly in the shadow of the 9/11 site.

Many of the arguments against the construction of the building are built on faulty illegal premises….For example comparing it to building a German community center near Auschwitz….One can’t deny that Nazism was a key part of the German identity in the 30’s leading up to World War II….Islam is a broad religious faith with many different types of practitioners….The Islam in Saudi Arabia has not so much in common with the Islam of Malaysia or for that matter Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian states in terms of the effect it has on their societies and the way in which it is practiced.

In addition, The USA has scrupulously avoided any hint that it may be at war with Islam itself (even if their actions don’t necessarily follow their deeds) The argument that there should be no Muslim community center near Ground Zero seems to send the exact opposite message.

The intent of what the community center is trying to accomplish is another point of debate. Is it a gesture of Islamic warfare with America, as a perceived victory symbol….ummm no here’s what those who are behind the project had to say (excerpted from the New York Times)

The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


The recent TIME magazine cover showing a young Afghani woman whose nose was cut off by family members in a marital dispute deliberately places the words WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LEAVE next to her picture….

At best this is duplicitous, at worst it’s a dishonest way of jacking up support for a failed conflict, a place we should have left a long time ago.

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LEAVE is a dishonest statement because it assumes that is why we are there in the first place….We are not….The US is in Afghanistan because two planes were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center by an organization that was given safe harbor in Afghanistan.

We didn’t invade Afghanistan to free the women of Afghanistan. No matter how worthy a cause that is it is not the mandate of the US armed forces.

Second it is also dishonest because it assumes that this something the US military and NGO’s can actually fix….It cannot….This is neo conservatism at his most evangelical….You cannot force change on a culture, the beliefs of a group of people when that you are trying to change has its roots in centuries of cultural practice…..This is not Nazism a rock star like cult that used natural German subservience to authority this is something much deeper and part of that society that has surfaced in the last couple of decades because of foreign military excursions first the Russians now the Americans.

After all what about all the other countries in the Middle East not to mention Africa where women are treated this way?

This type cover is a Remember the Maine, Gulf of Tonkin propaganda tactic from a magazine run by Democratic Party loyalists….Afghanistan is an unwinnable conflict- what exactly is the goal here? At least in Vietnam there was a goal albeit not a realistic one.

As America enters into a state of constant war at different spots around the globe (Iran is coming up), we have become like the Roman Empire a distracted people are too tired, too unfocused to complain unless they themselves are affected. The only reason people aren’t in the streets about Afghanistan is because there’s no draft. The next stop on this journey is complete bankruptcy and complete military quagmire.

Here’s the original cover and article ….,8599,2007238,00.html

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It was always assumed that having The Internet, 24 hour cable news channels, having all the current news and information at your fingertips was a good thing….That the information age meant that we would be more enlightened and it would also be harder for governments, corporations etc. to hide their actions from people.

This has been proven to be only partly true….While that information is out there so is a lot of noise-nonsense theories, hollow journalistic vanity, media spin, misstatements of fact etc.

The effect has not been what was intended using America as an example….Instead of producing a more well-educated populace as the sole outcome, there is also been the further establishment of a culture of know nothings – The American habit of believing in something that has been proven false such as Obama being a Muslim who wasn’t born in the US or that Iraq had something to do with 09/11.

There is just a lot of static out there. It’s just like tuning into a radio station that is perhaps too far from where you are and trying to find it at its most listenable among the scratches, hums, and bits and pieces from other radio stations that interfere with reception.

When information is delivered this way, the response of those who analyze it should be deliberate. There may be not only more than not only one side but whole other versions of what you are interpreting.

I would specifically like to talk about the Shirley Sherrod case….When watched as a whole her video is not racist at all….In fact, it is the sharing of someone who has risen above racism, the worst imaginable case of racism, and no longer bearing a hard bitter heart (which would be very understandable in her case as her father was shot in the back when she was young by a white farmer who was acquitted by a jury)

I don’t want to waste time criticizing Fox News, Breitbart etc. They are what they are- right wing racist scum and every action they take reveals this.

However, I was extremely disappointed by the shellshocked frazzled Obama administration’s response to this and specifically how they treated Sherrod….I think a few heads should roll starting with Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture and failed presidential candidate….He needs to go-big time!

Monday, July 26, 2010


That perversity goes hand in hand with being Japanese is a stereotype that has arisen in the last six decades or so….If I was to psychoanalyze a nation’s pop culture, I could say that the mechanical efficiency coupled with savage empire/colonial ambitions defeated in WWII have grown inwards and rotted like an infection.

There is no shortage of perversity in SCANDAL by Shusaku Endo about a well-known Japanese writer in his 60’s that is suddenly accused of frequenting a bad part of Tokyo and being involved in all manner of perverted activities.

This is a huge surprise to the writer who has no recollection of ever doing anything like that….Like Endo, the writer in SCANDAL is a Catholic and a pious one at that….The life he has with his wife (they have no children) is organized and full.

The diligence of a reporter reveals that either he or someone who looks like him is visiting brothels, attending orgies, etc….In addition, the writer feels himself growing closer to a young girl he has hired to clean his office.

This book reads like a well-constructed mystery not like the usual pre-destined narratives filled with doom that are a lot of Japanese literature which is both bad and good….It’s not as deep as you are led to believe but it is a fun book to read.

SPOILER ALERT – DON’T READ THIS IF YOU WANT THE ENDING TO BE A SURPRISE – There is some debate about the ending. I interpreted it to mean the writer had a sort of split personality and didn’t remember anything he did. His normal personality saw the bad personality committing these acts as if he was a bystander but was really watching from inside his mind.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Poets are a frustrated lot….Even the best ones are going to have hard time making a living from poetry alone….So real names will be not be used to protect the poets.

Something I really detest in poetry is those who take a piece of prose writing and break it up into what they imagine is poetic form

Case in point was a poet I recently read excerpts from on a poetry review site. He was from a Southern state( rural background) and his poem was about the birth of a calf on his family farm. This was told in a matter of fact style and would have been a good story. However, it was broken up with spaces here and half sentences and the like to make it more “poetic”.

With a little creativity, this could have made a good poem. To me the verse structure with some type of basic rhythm is what it is all about. It doesn’t have to rhyme but it does have to flow. Language is also important. The “straightforward” type of descriptive language in the cow poem was again more akin to a story than the flowery adjectives, the visual language of poetry.

The poet is like the prince of the clouds who rides the tempest … exiled on the ground, amidst boos and insults, his giant’s wings prevent his walking —Charles Baudelaire