THE ABSENT - out now!


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Out Now


My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers

Friday, December 30, 2011


I think it would be a natural tendency while reading A SHOOTING STAR by Wallace Stegner to think it was overwritten, to think perhaps this is a story that could be told in a much more pithy fashion with much less verbiage and much less interior conversations that is conversations a character has within their own mind.

Sabrina Castro, the titular heroine of STAR is almost completely unlikable.  A wealthy woman from an old money family married to a society doctor at the beginning of the book, she quickly enters into a downward spiral starting with an affair she had had immediately before the start of the book.  She separates from her husband and moves back in with her frail, elderly megawealthy mother with whom she’s had a distant, antagonistic relationship with in the past.  After that, she suffers several further degradations although not as many as are implied by the blurb on the back cover of the book.

Stegner counters the navel gazing, selfish, frustrating antics of Sabrina with the story of her best friend who married and settled down as well as Sabrina’s older brother’s machinations in getting his hands on the many acres of land still under the control of her mother.

These sideplots are not as interesting.  What is interesting about this book is Stegner’s absolute totalist eye for detail.  He sees everything in a scene and is able to make the reader see it too.  I also commend him for spinning a readable entertaining yarn out of what on the surface seems like something I would not normally be interested in.  Stegner is a great writer – my review of his masterpiece BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN is here

Here’s a passage from A SHOOTING STAR where it sums up succinctly the mindset of Sabrina, what is driving her, the explanation for this is less clear.

If B stood for boredom, N for Neglect, D for a do-nothing tradition I for instability, T for time, and C for conscience then

(B₂+N)T+1+D   = X, for explosion
But what about the violence of her collapse, for which there was not only no adequate motivation but very real and puritanical inhibitions?  What if, a normally intelligent, highly fortunate, reasonably sophisticated woman, you suddenly blew to bits, and nothing set you off but accident, and nothing steered you from then on but furious uncharacteristic feelings like those that must drive the she-murderers of the newspapers?  What if all unexpectedly you found yourself vulgar, hysterical, spiteful, and uncontrolled?  What if one hour you were frantic with lust for one man, and the next anguished with pity and duty for another, and the next wild with revenge against them both, and all the time full of desperate loathing for yourself?  What if your metabolism, personality, mind, changed suddenly as if you had been fed a horrible mess of personality-changing drugs, Miltown and Benzedrine, bolts and jolts, Spanish fly and whatever it was they were supposed to put in the men’s food in the army-saltpeter?         

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


The Ron Paul as racist corporate news meme has picked up steam with two new talking points.

As I’ve said before, I can fully understand how Paul’s inaction here could offend a potential voter and that this would preclude that voter from supporting him.

However, these two new talking points still fail to do what the news media (and the puppet masters of both the Republican and Democratic parties) are attempting which is to directly tie him to the newsletters’ content.

The first talking point is the two interviews (two I’ve seen there may be more) one of which stems from the early 1990’s where Paul acknowledges these newsletters.  Okay just to be clear there is no smoking gun in those interviews.  No one’s disputing the fact Paul was aware that he had a newsletter with his name on it.  What is being debated is how much he knew about the newsletter’s contents.  Those interviews simply show he knew of the newsletter’s not he was intimately aware of what his ghostwriters were writing under his name.  This in no way contradicts what he has already said.

I still find it not believable that a man without a shred of public racist beliefs expressed in over 40 years of public life would somehow put them in writing in vulgar and crude language he never uses in any of his interactions in the public sphere.  It does not make any sense at all.  It still seems much more likely that a busy man in and out of congress, a practicing Ob-Gyn running several other businesses would turn over the running of his newsletter to others without any oversight.  Paul himself admits this managerial mistake.

And it also explains the second talking point which is the newly minted elaborate conspiracy theory connecting libertarians with white supremacists through the libertarians courting of the paleo-conservatives in the early 90’s days of militias and Ruby Ridge and Pat Buchanan’s insurgency candidacy against the Republican Party establishment.

Well again this might all very be true but what it does have to do with Ron Paul?  He is not tied to this operation in any way.  Instead, I think it bolsters his story on the newsletter.  The same man, Lew Rockwell, who publicly admitted writing some of the editorials in his newsletter under Paul’s name is the same man who was spearheading this effort.  He has on and off connections with Paul over the years but that’s guilt by association to automatically assume they agree on everything.

In any event, Paul has publicly disassociated himself from these beliefs every time he’s been interviewed but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Unfair or double standard?  Let me tell you a story.  

In 1984, a democrat running for the senate in Tennessee spoke out against legislation outlawing discrimination  based on sexuality and said that homosexuality is not something “society should affirm”.  He also took campaign donations from the Westboro Baptist Church (yes the people that picket soldier’s funerals).  Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, even had his son serve as a delegate for this senator when he ran for his party’s nomination for president in 1988.
I am of course talking about Al Gore. 

Gore was never seriously questioned on any of this both in 1988 or more importantly when he was Bill Clinton’s running mate in 92 or 96 or when he was the party nominee in 2000.  You see he “changed” but he had to change because he had taken stands and directly consorted with unsavory homophobes.

In the case of Paul, he never affirmed the views in the newsletter and in fact spoke the opposite.  That’s the truth!  The double standard news coverage likely emanating from the political establishment of both parties is scared to death of Paul and in their desperation this is what they came up with to blunt his rising poll numbers in Iowa and everywhere else. 

Friday, December 23, 2011


Here’s my final list of favorite records for 2011….The top 15 from bottom to top with a few honorable mentions….I have discussed most of these at one time or another on my blog during the last 12 months.

15.) CREDO by Human League
14.) HELPLESSNESS BLUES by Fleet Foxes
13.) RED BARKED TREE by Wire
11.) BAD PENNY by Spectrals
10.) BLOUSE by Blouse
9.) SUCK IT AND SEE by Arctic Monkeys
8.) SMOTHER by Wild Beasts
7.) THURSDAY by The Weeknd
6.) CADENZA by Dutch Uncles
5.) PALACE by Chapel Club
4.) FAMOUS FIRST WORDS by Viva Brother
3.) A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIX by Bombay Bicycle Club
1.) HOUSE OF BALLOONS by The Weeknd  

Honorable Mentions – THE OLD MAGIC by Nick Lowe, BRILLIANT! TRAGIC! By Art Brut, KAPUTT by Destroyer


I can totally understand those who find the racist articles published in newsletters with Ron Paul’s name on them too much and cannot support him for that reason.  This is certainly the closest thing to a scandal he has ever faced in his political career.

They are vile to be sure and even if one accepts Paul explanation that he did not write them, that they were ghostwritten  (which I do as the “voice” in those newsletters is very different from Paul’s voice), then he has at best showed managerial incompetence at something he was in charge of for 15 years or more.

But I also feel that if he was a racist than his views would have come out somewhere else but they have not.  You can search his whole career going back 40+ years and you will not find any incident of racist speech by Dr. Paul.  His views on civil rights are consistent with his libertarian views overall and while I respectfully disagree with them as I do feel there is a place for the federal government in civil rights enforcement, I think the consistency of his views on a whole host of matters makes this not stand out as an instance of racism as opposed to if it was the only issue where he advocated such a federal hand’s off approach.

I myself still support him for the simple reason that many of his positions are the opposite of an increasingly xenophobic, racist, and homophobic Republican party and an increasingly corporate, disengaged, and disorganized Democratic party.  Paul’s position on drug legalization would remedy the situation of a disproportionate amount of African American men in prison.  Ditto his position against the death penalty and how that would affect African Americans.

Ron Paul has never vilified Muslims nor used the language of the Evangelical Christian in this new form of political crusade.  In fact, he has even asked voters to put themselves in the shoes of Muslims in countries attacked by the US.  This is something a very good International Relations professor whose course I had in college did and it is the key for the US to fit into a global society.

Ron Paul never talks about how gay people ruin traditional marriage and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the other night he basically indicated that states have the right to legalize whatever voluntary association they want.

I contrast all these details with a president who swears fidelity to human rights and much of the things I just described that Ron Paul has endorsed.  However, this humane “democratic” president has done the exact opposite of what he said he would do especially in the foreign policy arena.

So I say trust somebody’s actions not what they are supposed to have said.  Look at their history- consistency is not the hobgoblin of small minds but rather a definer of the iron in somebody’s soul, the consistency of his character. 

Here’s a quote from Paul himself….

Rosa Parks is one of my heroes. Martin Luther King is a hero. Because they practiced the libertarian principle of civil disobedience, non-violence. Libertarians are incapable of being racist because racism is a collectivist idea, you see people in groups. A civil libertarian sees everyone as an important individual, it’s not the color of their skin that is important like Martin Luther King said. What is important is the character of the individual. You know what is really interesting though? And this could be behind it. Because I as a Republican candidate, probably am getting the most number of black voters and black supporters.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I’ve written before about my love for the TV show THE NIGHT STALKER or KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER.  Now all the episodes are up on youtube and I have been watching them the last few weeks.  I’ve come up with a list ranking them in order.

Some notes....

THE ZOMBIE, THEY HAVE, and SPANISH MOSS are basically tied for number one. THE ZOMBIE and SPANISH MOSS are truly scary.  Both have gripping conclusions (Kolchak in a junkyard, Kolchak in the sewer).  THEY HAVE is also a great episode containing all of the elements that made the series great – humor, suspense, Kolchak’s relationship with Vincenzo and the police.  I love the alien I just wish he was not invisible for the whole episode which Is why I don’t rank this episode number one by itself. All three of these episodes are very inventive and well written.

As is HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS which is many fans’ favourite episode.  It is great perhaps the most original episode and features maybe a tad more humor than other episodes.  It also showcases one other strength of the show - great guest appearances In this case Phil Silvers.  THE SENTRY, the last episode, gets bashed in Stephen King’s book DANSE MACABRE but I think it’s a good premise and well done.

For the middle group, MR RING deserves notice because it is one of the few episodes where we feel sorry for the monster.  TREVI, BAD MEDICINE, and FIREFALL are truly creepy episodes.  KNIGHTLY is not so creepy but has hilarious characters.  DEMON, LEGACY, and CHOPPER, are not so creepy but strong nonetheless.

Of the bottom group, THE VAMPIRE and THE RIPPER rehash storylines from the two telemovies that came first although THE VAMPIRE at least has a good death scene for its villain. PRIMAL SCREAM was just not a good premise execution once or idea wise.    

Lately, I’ve been thinking of doing some fan fiction for Kolchak.  I have plenty of ideas but don’t have the time.  Maybe one’s the list:

1.)      The Zombie
2.)      They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be
3.)      The Spanish Moss Murders
4.)      Horror in the Heights
5.)      The Sentry
6.)      The Werewolf
7.)      Mr R.I.N.G
8.)      The Trevi Collection
9.)      Bad Medicine
10.)  Firefall
11.)   The Knightly Murders
12.)  Demon in Lace
13.)  Legacy of Terror
14.)  Chopper
15.)   The Energy Eater
16.)  The Devil’s Platform
17.)   The Youth Killer
18.)   The Vampire
19.)   Primal Scream
20.)   The Ripper

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Three Stooges.  In addition to their being perfectly realized characters, each is the perfect expression of a type of personality made extreme (Read a half-comedic piece by a a psychiatrist many years ago that suggested that the Three Stooges were the living embodiment of the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego – guess which was which).

I also liked the fact the Three Stooges were usually poor and their victim were often wealthy snobbish people.  The Stooges often had manual labor jobs but were also musicians.  They were counterculture figures without a doubt.  The Three Stooges are the 99% percent.

Perhaps I am reading too much into this.  Anyway, as we are now in a time a bit similar to the time when the Stooges made it big – a time of economic downturn and unemployment, it makes sense for a Stooges revival.

I was filled with trepidation when I first heard that a new Three Stooges film was coming and that actors would be playing Moe, Larry, and Curly.    I saw the trailer today (my bday of all days) and I feel a bit better.

Truth is it looks pretty good (about as good as can be expected).  We’ve got the Stooges in an orphanage, Stooges spoiling a dinner party, Stooges in a modern world with an I Phone joke and Snooki getting an eye poke!....In fact, I’ve read the Stooges becoming reality TV stars is a subplot.

And the three actors playing Moe, Larry, Curly seem to have the parts down and all the trademark moves although the actor playing Curly is a bit tall as are the other two as well.  Always thought part of the Stooges humor came from the fact they were all small men and everybody else was giant in comparison.

And oh yeah Larry David in the new film as a nun!  Here’s the trailer

And here’s one of my favourite Stooges episodes

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I recently saw two films that through the story of a band or musician relate the greater story of the DIY scene of late 70’s early 80’s DIY American punk.

The first one was WE JAM ECONO.  The Minutemen were my second favorite band of the indie American punk and I’ve often gone as far to say my third favorite American band of all time.  A powerhouse trio who coupled funk Gang of Four/Wire bass to a clear guitar tone and stream of consciousness beatnik type lyrics to very pointed political statements.  They made many great records especially their masterpiece DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME a double record with over 40 amazing songs.  

This documentary, like their philosophy towards touring and recording which is summed up by their expression the WE JAM ECONO title, is stripped down no frills.  It tells the story of how bassist/singer/songwriter Mike Watt met guitarist/singer/songwriter D Boon as kids when Boon jumped out of a tree onto Watt in their hometown of San Pedro, Ca. we hear about how they took up instruments encouraged by Boon’s mother and then had their eyes and ears opened by the first appearance of punk rock (“Punk rock changed our lives” as they sang in one of their most famous songs “History Lesson Part II”).

Recruiting local drummer George Hurley, they set about making records on the SST label and touring incessantly before Boon was killed in a tragic auto accident in 1985.  The film treats Boon’s death much like it treats the details of The Minutemen’s life as band-straightforward with a minimum of sentiment although the scene with Watt, his lifelong friend who has honored Boon in every other project he has done since, where he states what a dark day that was and then stops speaking is emotional.

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET is a biopic about the late Darby Crash the singer for the punk band Germs who were peers of the Minutemen but were based closer to the action (clubs etc.) in Hollywood.   They made one classic record GI, one of the first hardcore records and a real template for what as to follow before Crash’s heroin overdose death in 1980. Despite this being a film with the actors, the format is like a documentary with interviews with the real life characters and Darby (all played by actors).  Again starting your own scene out of nothing and perhaps being a little bit freaky to begin with (being the school outcast) are the repeated elements here.

Of course, this being a movie as opposed to a documentary film, there is the desire to tell a dramatic story that would resonate with the average filmgoer (not someone who is freaky or the school outcast).  The end result has been roundly criticized for its glamorous look.  The actor playing Darby Crash looks like he just stepped out of an episode of 90210 (although he does a decent job of imitating Crash’s snarling vocal delivery).  This lush filmmaking look doesn’t catch the smell of sweat or the feelings of tension in a punk club and I’ve never seen shooting up heroin look so clean before.  In addition, the film also downplays Crash’s homosexuality leaving us the viewer to infer much of what is going on.

But what WHAT WE DO IS SECRET and WE JAM ECONO have in common is the idea of a community forming and out of that community comes a movement and that is do it yourself.  Unfortunately music breeds a much more immediate and driven type of fandom.  I am very DIY myself when it comes to my books and my writing.  I have an independant publisher and do much of my own promotion.  However, it’s much harder to build a community out of that.  Still, on line is a different situation and I am making efforts there.


The frequency of so-called “progressive” attacks on Ron Paul are increasing….I read new ones every day from the largest sites to small-time bloggers…. They must be scared of truly progressive voters abandoning our Republicat president Obama.  Earlier I wrote this about progressive orthodoxy  I posted this on an “Americans against the Tea Party” Facebook page earlier today. 

"I consider myself somewhat progressive and I certainly don’t believe in all of Ron Paul’s beliefs but I have been surprised and a bit amused by a the load of criticism coming down him from the left….There’s seems to be a fear that he is going to somehow take votes away from President Obama and even though these articles don’t mention the president by name if you are criticizing a candidate and telling others not to vote for him then you must be indirectly telling them to vote for Obama….Well let me just say from a liberal perspective there are plenty of reasons not to vote for Obama.

1.)Increased hawkishness and increased drone strikes killing women and children not only in Afghanistan but Yemen and other places
2.) Maintaining and even increasing the drug war
3.) Continuing to kiss Israel’s ass and allow the slow motion genocide of the Palestinians
4.) Collusion with corporatistsm – Obama is the candidate of the banks, investment, and mortgage houses
5.) Continue to chip away at civil rights under the aegis of fighting terrorism

There’s nothing progressive about any of that!

I like the fact that Paul is around to state a point of view on issues (bombing Iran, the drug war) that other candidates (including the DEMOCRATIC president) won’t or can’t….He’ll never be president but Obama, at this stage, is nothing more than a huge disappointment." 

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Earlier this year I wrote The Weeknd’s debut CD HOUSE OF BALLOONS was very likely the best thing I would hear this year.  I have not changed my opinion on this.  The sleazy grooves literally sweating out from the tracks, the voice, a lost soul in hell, isolated in the mix, music haunting but also seemingly too languid to stand up on its own make this a unique record.  Now in the same year, we have a second album from The Weeknd entitled THURSDAY.

Just to get this out, no, THURSDAY is not as good as HOUSE.  It has much more going on more instruments, more vocals, just more of an instrumental palette but loses something in terms of mood.  It’s more watered down to be sure but I interpret that through what I’ve read of the intent of this music.  In fact, THURSDAY is the second in what is projected to be a trilogy.  THURSDAY has the feel of the day after the party is still going on but its daylight and perhaps some people have gotten some rest, perhaps the sunlight brings a feeling of freshness as if the night sleaze has been washed off.

BAD PENNY is the debut album of Spectrals which is an English one man band project.  Despite being only 21 years old, Louis Jones shows a mastery of the studio and through his sound a knowledge of music history.  This really brings to mind the Phil Spector Wall of Sound despite the fairly low budget of this record.  At times, Jones’s voice reminds me of Roddy Frame’s.  A very promising debut.

 2011 was also a year for musical reissues and rediscovery.  Through the reissue of I WANT YOU, I rediscovered Marvin Gaye’s Relationship trilogy which I wrote about here

Another artist I’ve rediscovered and whose musical output I’ve since explored deeper is Al Green.  Green had one of the longest uninterrupted hot streaks of any artist when it comes to releasing quality records.  Everything he did from the beginning of his career in the late 60’s up until his full conversion to Christianity in the late 70’s is pretty good.

CALL ME is his masterpiece.  They way Green’s ultrasmooth voice nudges and massages these songs along backed by Al Jackson Jr.’s strong backbeat, the swirling organ, scratchy guitar, and beautifully light strings.  Green doesn’t just act out love songs he becomes them and the songs swell with his very being.

 Two other records I’ve rediscovered by Green are AL GREEN EXPLORES YOUR MIND and AL GREEN IS LOVE.  EXPLORES is a tad rougher than the other albums he was making at this time, more guitar, more wild vocals and it contains the original version of “Take Me to the River” even better than The Talking Heads fantastic cover version.  LOVE is a concept album of sorts with every song being about love. Although most of the “love” here is spiritual, there is still room for earthiness too.  The music manages the tremendous overstatement of this record brass and string x infinity, huge percussion, Green’s voice epic dominating over all.

Another 2011 rediscovery was Jackson Browne which I gather is kind of a guilty pleasure.  Many of my friends can’t stand him and view him as the epitome of self-directed whiny California singer/songwriters.  Me?  I think he’s a superb lyricist with amazing insight into the way people think and feel and his voice is a dependable, warm instrument.  He can be boring but his best records are packed full of sensitive statements on love and loss.  I definitely also think his ballads are better than his faster songs.  His greatest album, his most consistent, is LATE FOR THE SKY.  The title track sums up the missed connections of life, the breakdown of communication of lovers better than any I’ve ever heard.  THE PRETENDER is probably my second favourite.  How does one cope with the tragedies life throws at us?  Through music!  A beautiful record....