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

Friday, September 30, 2011


The picture below is of a duck I saw trying to cross the street in Bali.  It was very bold working it’s way between cars (In Bali, there are very few traffic lights and traffic is a crazy tangle).  Eventually and unfrtunately, this poor brave duck was flattened by a car.

This got me thinking.  Life is about keeping on trying.  There will be points of rejection but you are free to keep trying until you are finally flattened at that point you’ve really got to start something else….

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My goal this vacation was just to relax.  I wasn’t looking for touring around at a breakneck pace or seeing lots of stuff.  I just wanted to chill somewhere preferably with a beach.

Bali is perfect for this.  Here are some random thoughts

Bali is like a cross between Hawaii and Thailand.  Very packed with people and cars but the people are gentle and polite and bow with both hands in greeting like Thai people do.

I stayed for 5days4nights and allowed one day for a tour that cost 30usd and went to three different locations – the king’s temple which was used by the king and his family and is about 600 years old, a national forest which features semi-tame monkeys, and Tanah Rota a series of beautiful “sea temples” which are located right among the crashing surf.

At the monkey forest, a “king monkey’ jumped on my head.  I was told this is highly unuusal as only the smaller monkeys will try to climb you and only if you have food which I had already given away.  Some consider this a blessing by the Hind monkey god Hanuman.

I also reserved one day for shopping.  However, shopping in Bali is very expensive.  Food is cheap but the cost of everything else is exorbitant tourism is their only industry I guess.

My hotel the Santika Kuta Beach was very nice.  I happily recommend it.

The religion of Bali is an interesting mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, and local animist religions.  Very different from the Hinduism I am used to.

The ocean is cold and the currents very strong more like Australia (or California) than the waters of Malaysia which are warm and not very animated.

At the airport when I arrived, the process of getting visa involved standing in three lines- The first line to apply for the visa, the second line to get the visa, and the third lie to go through immigration for the stamp.  As I was standing there, an immigration officer came up to me and said that for an extra 20 bucks (the visa is 25 dollars) I could wave the lines and get my visa and stamp in about five minutes.  I did this and it was legitimate.  I hate standing in lines.

So that’s Bali.  Too lazy to post photos….Add me in Facebook if you want to see them.


Thursday, September 8, 2011


Heading off to Bali for a five day four night holiday.  My original plan was to make my first trip to India this year unfortunately my plans fell through due or logistics-hope to go next year.

Here are some interesting facts about Bali!

  • Bali's capital city is Denpasar
  • Lies between 8 and 9 degrees south of the equator.
  • Population: 3 million people and increasing.
  • The majority of Balinese practice the Hindu religion which they call Agama Hindu Dharma, Religion of the Hindu Doctrin.
  • Total area of Bali approximately : 5,363 square meters.
  • Wet season: November to March; dry season : April to October.
  • Average temperature in the costal areas, about 28ºC during May, June, July; approximately 30ºC in March and October.
  • Humidity is high, from a minimum of 70% to a maximum of 95%.
  • There are eight regencies in Bali: Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan, Klungkung, Karangasem, Buleleng, Jembrana and Bangli.
  • There are three spoken languages on Bali : Balinese and its dialects, Indonesian and a kind of old Javanese called Kawi. English is widely spoken in the tourism areas as well as for business.
  • Dances and dramatic performances form an important part of every ritual on Bali. They are an integral part of Balinese religion and culture and are employed as an expression of the peoples devotian to the gods.
  • Rituals, tradition and culture play in integral part of Balinese life. Most of Bali follow a 12-month lunar calender and a 210 day ritual cycle, called the pawukon cycle calender.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Recently, an acquaintance and fellow music nerd sent me a message asking why I didn’t include any albums by Marvin Gaye on my 500 greatest records list or the addendum

Truth is this was an oversight which I have gone back and fixed.  In retrospect, Marvin Gaye is now considered a bit overrated by a consensus of music critics although I think they are focusing on the wrong parts of his career when they make this assessment just as they did when they proclaimed him the greatest.

I do feel his most famous record WHAT’S GOING ON? ,while a great achievement in its time a very well made record from the heart, doesn’t today pack the full meaning of what it must have meant at the time it came out (although sadly America seems to be slipping back into the same type of problems).  What I most note about it now are the tremendous arrangements, huge, string sections of epic proportions and instruments piled on top of each other.  It's an understatement to say it's a good bunch of songs too.

Gaye is also slightly overrated as a vocalist.  He doesn’t have a commanding voice like Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett for example.  The kind of voice that grabs your face with both hands and bellows .

Instead, his voice is relaxed, natural, Gaye was not the best soul singer of all time as was originally claimed but he was perhaps the most subtle.  His vocals gets under your skin like a little voice in your ear, like the angel and the devil on both shoulders whispering at the same time.

Gaye’s true excellence were his effortless vocals as well as his brilliant use of overdubs to create a vocal group effect utilizing call and respond very well and his conceptualization of albums as complete groups of thematically sequenced songs that ran into each other....Something not done in “black” music at the time.

In particular was his thematically linked 1970’s trilogy of albums about male-female relationships LET’S GET IT ON, I WANT YOU, and HERE MY DEAR.  His signature achievement IMO especially HERE MY DEAR

LET’S GET IT ON is an album of songs about sex not necessarily of the casual type but more like the lust you feel for someone you’ve met for the first time and want to know better.  Here lust is not just a means to an end as the level of want Gaye describes is not temporary under all the horniness, he’s talking of building something long lasting.  The music here is not much different than WHAT’S GOING ON? Loads of strings and a wall of sound.

Even better is I WANT YOU here the couple is beyond the lust stage and are now trying to forge a real relationship.  Sex does figure here but the overriding vibe is of the love felt at the beginning of a relationship – the intensity, the happiness, the passion and there’s some sadness there too although it’s not so clearly defined and I felt more it through Gaye’s delivery than anything in the lyrics.  The music is also different.  A funky bass is now out front.  There are still plenty of strings but more deliberate grooves.  Synthesizers burble just below the surface.

Best of all though is the third album HERE MY DEAR a double album chronicling falling out of love with someone, the break up.  This is the most autobiographical album of his career relating raw details of Gaye’s own divorce from his first wife.  This is also his greatest album a muddy masterpiece to be sure that needs to listened to all together in sequence-Some of the songs don't mean as much to separately. In that regard it’s like EXILE ON MAIN STREET but EXILE has no overriding theme.  Weird sounding synthesisers fight for instrumental dominance on many of the tracks.  It also reminds me of a cleaner sounding THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON.

On LETS GET IT ON and I WANT YOU Gaye’s vocals were passionate but HERE MY DEAR he sounds relaxed but it’s the type of “I don’t give a f*ck” relaxation, a shrug rather than Perry Como.

This is an amazing trilogy of records LET’S GET IN ON (lust, first meeting), I WANT YOU (building a relationship, enjoying the relationship) and HERE MY DEAR (The end of the relationship, the break up)....HERE MY DEAR alone is one of the greatest records of all time and the second best album ever about divorce (after SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS by Richard and Linda Thompson). 



The movie WAITING FOR SUPERMAN is a simplistic narrow sighted almost propaganda type of film about the US education system that among other things pooh poohs poverty and the way we fund public schools, ignores race and inequalities resulting from this, and prescribes charter schools as the answer for all that ails the American public school system.

This article I think best expresses the argument against that point of view

I want to focus on two particular parts of the ongoing debate about US education....

1.) THE ONGOING WAR AGAINST TEACHERS – The line these days is that there are a lot of bad teachers in America and that teachers in general don’t work hard enough.  This is absolute nonsense!  Of course critics are quick to say they don’t want to smear all teachers but the truth is by creating a system where teachers are “rewarded” for class testing scores and other items you are creating a system that may not measure the true value of a teacher.  After all, rote memorization is something drill sergeants do (that’s my #2 point I’ll be getting to) .

The end result of this line of thinking is that there will be a shortage of teachers in the future if this attitude becomes implemented as public policy.  There are some people who have a calling for teaching why else would you take a job with low salary (at first), long hours, heavy workload, no job security until tenure and lots of politics (teachers politics can be worse than corperate politics)?  Making the job even harder with higher pressure will reduce the number of people who take teaching up as a career as there are already the above listed negative attributes of the job.

This coupled with the war against teachers’ unions, often the only thing that makes a teacher’s job liveable ensures an upcoming teacher shortage is inevitable in the current US anti-teacher climate.

I am happy I took teaching up as a career when I left the US but I never taught in the US.  I do see that teachers in Malaysia are treated much better in terms of respect, salary, benefits, training etc than their US counterparts.

I’ll leave the final word to Matt Damon who des a great job here I can’t imagine comparing teaching to being a Hollywood actor

2.) OVERUSE OF STANDARDIZED TESTING – The over reliance on standardized testing which is the main problem with the British system of education seems to really be a problem now in the US.  It isn’t just the rote memorization of facts that create a bunch of robots spitting out dates and names without an understanding of their significance, it’s also types of essay questions that stick to pre-existing formats which actually can be “gamed”. 

How do I know this?  Because I saw it myself when I was teaching the IGCSE curriculum at an international school.  The English essay questions followed several formats and there were any number of websites some free that gave examples on how to write the perfect essay not necessarily in terms of content but in terms of structure that can be replicated without much thought.

Even the textbooks and our lesson plan focused on how to write answers rather than understanding or building English skills (grammar etc.).  Popping in the right words into a pre-existing model for a high score rather than crafting something yourself.

When I taught teenagers, I always strived to get them to think for themselves and to understand what they were learning not just memorizing.  Skills? Hell yes but with a clear understanding of what they are doing and why.

I hope that universally we ( meaning educators) want to turn out well educated people who reason with logic can ask questions and also answer them.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I am now waking up from Obama Defense Syndrome almost three years after his election.

What is Obama Defense Syndrome?

Well, since being elected president, Obama has been subject to the most ugly racist disgusting prolonged attack I’ve ever seen happen to a US political figure.  For those people who thought racism was dead in America, think again!  The birth certificates-He’s a Muslim and hate Islam in general-attacks on his mother’s morality go beyond anything even remotely fair or right and they expose the hate, the jingoism, the racism at the core of right wing groups operating in the USA.

In particular, something that grabbed me as my parents are both immigrants is the sense if you have a funny name and are first or second generation background that you are not truly  an American.

All of this has caused me to adopt a very defensive posture when discussing Obama as one can see from earlier entries on my blog.

Bu the bottom line is now almost three years into his presidency that some of the problems I’ve alluded to earlier cannot be ignored.  Recent debacles like the debt ceiling debate as well as Obama’s caving in on the date of his jobs speech make him look weak even if they are only symbolic or basically meaningless Washington insider issues.

I theorized before about Obama’s rope a dope strategy

It’s now clear Obama’s strategy is to be “the only adult in the room” in other words an even more deliberate (compared with Bill Clinton after 1994)defining of the Republicans as petulant children and enslaved by their extreme right wing who will primary them and vote them out of office if they do not do what they want.  Who knows?  This may still result in an Obama second term especially considering who is running on the Republican side

But in the process of executing this strategy Obama’s looking gutless, weak, and seeming to stand for nothing.  In addition, his seeming collusion with corporatists on any type of regulation, his failure to make higher taxes for the wealthy part of any plans, and worse of all his militarism and failure to correct Bush policies make him seem like another Clintonian hack who is more Republican than Democrat but without their gift for communication, message discipline, and putting together the perfect photo op (even though Obama has taken less vacation time than Reagan or W Bush going to Martha’s vineyard during a time of economic distress is not a smart move).

I think it is now fair in retrospect to give some credence to two specific criticisms brought up during the 2008 campaign 1.) That Obama did not have any experience running anything.  In other words, no management experience-a senator is just one out of a 100 after all. 2.)That he spoke in platitudes and generalities beautiful, poetic ones to be sure but not addressing problems specifically.  I think a lot of people noticed the second one but wanted an antidote for the Bush years.

And yes the Bush years....One must always remember that Obama inherited more problems (wars, depression etc.) than any other president but three years on that is not so strong a defense anymore.

The problem is not ideological.  I’m not sure what Obama stands for at this point.  The problem is that Obama does not know how to govern.  He does not know how to negotiate.  He does not know how to use hard ball tactics.  He leans too much on other people, offices, branches of government to get things done.  He is ineffective at using the bully pulpit of the presidency.  Obama governs like a legislator rather than a president.

Speaking of attacks, this article in The Daily Best website without meaning to totally is an example of what I wrote two postings ago about the attacks on Ron Paul by progressives and why they will never win anything.

The author Michael Tomasky wrote “And yet Paul has appeal (which I find appalling, to riff on Adlai Stevenson’s great old line) among people who would normally find such views risible. I can’t tell you the number of people I encountered in 2008 who said they were Barack Obama supporters first and foremost, but, by cracky, they were also kinda interested in this Paul fellow.  This seemed completely insane to me, a person who sees the world first through ideology.”
Right there is the problem.  Unless the candidate fits every nook and cranny of your ideology you won’t vote for him? Nonsensical and counterproductive! That’s why I set priorities and vote for a candidate based on those priorities.
On foreign policy the area where progressives and Ron Paul supposedly agree? But he does deserve a measure of credit for adopting that posture and holding to it in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s Republican Party, even if he took matters, as is his way, to an indefensible extreme at the last GOP debate, when he insisted that if Iran wants the bomb, that’s Iran’s business.
Yes it is Iran’s business and no that is not an extreme position. Anything else is neo-conservatism or in the case of Mr. Tomasky neo-liberalism which is neo-conservatism’s twin and which actually came first.  Let’s not forget the first neo-conservatives were Democrats, people who described themselves as liberals.
Tomasky also wrote “But outside of that and a few other smaller things—like his support for drug legalization, a long-held and standard libertarian view—he is a conventional right-wing, out-there extremist, and on both economic and social issues” 
I addressed the issue of Paul’s platform on social issues here but what really grabs me from that above quote is his description of drug legalization as a “smaller” issue.
As I wrote before there is tendency among a lot of progressives to think this way and that is completely wrong.  Drug policy is the middle point extending outwards tentacles that affect a lot of other areas-the budget, immigration, law enforcement, the increased privatization of prisons (something I deeply oppose).  I rank drug policy as the second most important issue after US militarism because like ending US militarism there is enough money potentially to be saved and rerouted there to the government’s offers that it would help correct the economy.
If Mr. Tomasky doesn’t understand that, he shouldn’t consider himself “for progress” and he shouldn’t be writing for any major magazine.