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Out Now


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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


THE BIRTHDAY BOYS by Beryl Bainbridge is a fictional retelling of the tragic Scott Antarctic expedition which led to the deaths of all those involved.  It is separated into five sections with each section being the first person account by a real life figure including Robert Scott himself.  The sections are in chronological order with Scott’s own entry, the third, being the longest.  It is the fifth and last entry by the ship’s captain, Lawrence Edward Oates, that is ultimately the most powerful because it reveals the fates of all the main characters.

The most positive thing I could say about the writing of this book is Bainbridge’s meticulous research not just on the expedition itself (as well as the backgrounds and relationships of the main characters) but on what people wore and ate at this time in history.  I could really visualize a scene on a ship, in a pub in this point in history in England.

Bainbridge spends a lot of time with details here.  She attempts to insert some quirks that make a character unique but that seems to take a backseat to her descriptions.  I think it would be interesting with this type of narrative device to see more of how the characters view each other.  Bainbridge does do this but not enough and it’s only the last section where we really notice it.

I also think the climax is rushed.  With the previous four sections, Bainbridge takes a long time setting up the journey and the character of the people involved with it.  In the fifth section, all of the sudden they’re lost in the Antarctic wilderness and doomed.

The Amundsen vs. Scott rivalry to reach the South Pole first is a fascinating story, one that needs very little embellishment to be interesting.  Bainbridge does a good job with the human element here but I wish she had spent more time on the actual story.

This is the third and last Bainbridge book I’ve reviewed recently.  She’s a good writer whose style shifted away from the personal and the satirical over the years but I think that style suited her work better.     


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Peter Hook’s birthday was the other day.  He is my favorite bassist of all time.  The way he approaches the bass guitar as a lead instrument and the tone he gets out of his bass result in massively powerful musical moments.  His style is unique and he stands out among all of the different variations of rock music

One of his greatest moments is the song “The Perfect Kiss” from the New Order album LOWLIFE.  This was the first New Order album I listened to all the way through.  I was a fan of Joy Division and liked New Order’s singles but this seemed like their first clear statement as a long playing record.

The major difference between Hook’s work in JD and NO is the tone of his bass had deepened by the time of LOWLIFE.  “She’s Lost Control” and other JD songs had every high bass parts.  Hook approached  the bass the same way but the sound was different.

On “The Perfect Kiss”, the central riff is played quite high but the last two minutes in which Hook unloads a blistering, unrestrained solo is considerably deeper.  The complete history of Peter Hook as bass player in seven minutes plus!

I remember seeing New Order live in 1988 and a friend I went with commenting that Hook’s bass was like a bell and that it haunted him in dreams that night.  That’s the perfect commentary on the genius of Peter Hook.

New Order is currently touring without Peter Hook-that seems ridiculous to me.  New Order without Peter Hook is no order!  


Dennis Miller was never what you would call particularly talented.  He traded on a sort of post 70’s Second City mock hip ironic comedic delivery, the kind that says that everything the audience is seeing is a joke, and the use of metaphors dredged from pop culture/sports/history trivia to get a gig on Saturday Night Live where he was primarily known for reading the fake news on Weekend Update as his improv comedic acting skills were not the equal of other cast members.

After that, he had a talk show that was cancelled after less than a year, another one that lasted longer, and appeared in a few films such as BORDELLO OF BLOOD.   He also failed dramatically as a commentator on Monday Night Football Basically, he bounced around unable to find a niche in show biz outside of returning to stand-up comedy.

And then 09/11 happened.

Miller’s transformation into right-wing political commentator was sudden and vigorous.  He had included aspects of political humor in his stand-up before but that was usually confined to  insults or other schlocky non-germane observations.

However, Like Christopher Hitchens (but a lot less believable) Miller tried to remake himself as a fire breathing conservative horrified by what he viewed as the treasonous behavior of liberals in reaction torture, the Iraq War, etc.

It was and is a pretty good act but I think that’s all it was.  Miller was a third rate comic approaching hasbeenland fast and I believe this was his reaction, his desperate attempt to salvage his career.

And think this tells us a lot about him.

Truth is when he tells his new right wing jokes about the French being bags of scum and people trading Abu Ghraib photos as if they were trading cards and using words like towelhead and also mocking immigrants, I think he’s doing it because he knows he can make a career there.  There are enough jingoistic right-wing racists in America to sustain a comedian’s career

So whatever Klu Klux Klan rally he’s addressing now, he’s a sad little man who mocks others in Hollywood but has for some time sported really bad hair plugs and now looks like Charles Manson’s child molester younger brother.  He pitches tired insults at President Obama while just a few years ago he was licking the ass of George W Bush, the worst president of my lifetime perhaps of all time.

Dennis Miller is a pathetic piece of shit.  I’d offer to beat the holy crap out of him if we ever met but he’s not worth the effort.  It’s sad that the beautiful model in the Kajagoogoo 80’s video “Too Shy” married him….Hey maybe she’d like to have sex with a real man for a change!!????  I think being married to a turd like Dennis Miller would make a woman a bit desperate.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


In the years that have passed since the original Bhopal pesticide plant disaster, 20,000 or more people (and 20,000 is a very conservative estimate) have died not just from the initial event but from the aftereffects such as the presence of residual poisons in the ground and water.

Basically, the surrounding area was destroyed, an area of land was made unlivable and the mortality figures don’t take into account those who are still alive but with severe incurable health problems as well as those whose lives are irrevocably damaged by the death of loved ones and also by the end of their livelihood (thousands of farm animals also perished)

Union Carbide agreed to pay 450 million in a onetime settlement with the Indian government as well as being required to set up medical facilities for ongoing treatment of those still struggling with effects of hazardous chemicals but that does not seem like a lot when you consider the damage, destruction, and loss of human life as well as the sheer amount of negligence that resulted in this tragedy.

But that is not end of the story according to Amnesty International

More than 25 years after the disaster, the site has not been cleaned up, the leak and its impact have not been properly investigated, more than 100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems without the medical care they need, and survivors are still awaiting fair compensation and full redress for their suffering.   

Union Carbide has always stuck with the story that what happened was the result of sabotage but they refused to release the results of their own internal study and also indentify the saboteur or even provide evidence that would prove this theory.

The bottom line here is there were many things wrong at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal before the gas leak including (from Wikipedia):

  • Factors leading to the magnitude of the gas leak include:
  • Storing MIC in large tanks and filling beyond recommended levels
  • Poor maintenance after the plant ceased MIC production at the end of 1984
  • Failure of several safety systems (due to poor maintenance)
  • Safety systems being switched off to save money—including the MIC tank   refrigeration system which could have mitigated the disaster severity
Other factors identified by the inquiry included: use of a more dangerous pesticide manufacturing method, large-scale MIC storage, plant location close to a densely populated area, undersized safety devices, and the dependence on manual operations.[4]
Plant management deficiencies were also identified – lack of skilled operators, reduction of safety management, insufficient maintenance, and inadequate emergency action plans

In 2001, Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical which has taken the position that it is in no way legally responsible for anything Union Carbide did before.

Now Union Carbide has been announced through Dow Chemical as a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics.  This is just disgusting.  The message this sends is that it is okay for big corporations to place facilities that produce dangerous chemicals in poorer overcrowded areas in third world countries.  In addition they have never really lived up to their responsibility in taking care of the victims, their families and cleaning up the site of the disaster.  Former Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson remains a fugitive from Indian justice refusing to respond to the warrants for his arrest.

It’s a travesty that Dow is allowed to be an Olympic sponsor and I for one will not be watching the Olympics if that remains the case.    


I am tempted to describe YOUNG ADOLPH by Beryl Bainbridge as a book whose clever premise (Hitler visits his older half-brother’s family in England sometime before WWI when he was in his early 20’s) isn’t enough to carry a rather thin story but then I went back over some of the details presented in the novel that point to the formation of the adult Adolph Hitler and my opinion increased somewhat favorably.

This is fairly minor novel but with an interesting topic and clever inside jokes about the development of a young Adolph Hitler.  It’s also very funny in places.

The Hitler in this book is a lazy, easily irritated, self-centered dreamer with a fondness for sleeping and plagued by delusions of bearded men chasing him.  His paranoia is a motivating factor in everything he does here.

We see through Hitler’s eyes a number of items that would later be associated with Hitler – for tattooing numbers on people in a hostel to identify them to how easy it is for one civil servant to boss around a lot of people provided he has the authority to growing a moustache, it’s all here….Hitler is already an anti-semite and a racist before the start of this story and one can assume the rest f the blanks in Hitler’s character will be filled in with his experiences in World War I.

Despite the subject, the tone here is light.  Hitler continually gets in to jams involving harebrained schemes and has screwball slapstick encounters with the residents of the boarding house where his half-brother lives.  At one point, he even dresses up as a woman.

Not a particularly heavy book but a fun read – humorous, inventive, and inoffensive despite the subject matter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Thanks to streaming video websites, there are now repositories of links to classic TV shows that can be watched online.

Living in Malaysia this is a godsend as local cable channels show only newer television programmes and Hulu and other network affiliated streaming video sites for older shows are not available in this country.

It has also allowed me to catch up on a few shows I missed in the last ten years since moving to Malaysia because they were now shown here.  One of these is VERONICA MARS

I have over the last month finished watching all three seasons of VERONICA MARS and can say now that IMO it is the greatest television show of the last ten years.  I love the British version of THE OFFICE very much and HEROES too (although it’s last season was silly and kind of a joke) but VERONICA MARS has some of  the most complex interesting funny storylines I’ve ever seen on TV.

For starters, it merges a number of different genres as effectively as would be possible in the one hour TV drama format.  VERONICA MARS was a smooth combination of TWIN PEAKS, MURDER SHE WROTE, and 90210.  It had good detective work, realistic teenage angst, and three dimensional multi-faceted characters. 

What tied everything together and I think elevated it to a higher level of originality was the darkness behind the multi-part story arcs that tied everything together.  In the first season, Veronica’s best friend Lilly Kane is murdered.  Her boyfriend, Lilly’s brother, dumps her for reasons that will be explained later in the series.  Her father is recalled as sheriff and starts a detective agency.  Her mother runs off deserting the family.  Worst of all, she is drugged and raped at a party (and this is all happens in flashback in the first episode!).  However, the story is never dragged down by all of this.  It keeps its light/dark balance even enough and a large part of this is due to Kirsten Bell’s performance as Veronica.  To say she has a handle on this character would not be fair in its meekness.  She not only understands Veronica, she understands what is to react to life as Veronica Mars and how these situations would affect her if they and she were real.  She really gets the deep inner strength of the character.

The second season story arc involving the sabotage of a school bus and the deaths of student passengers was even more elaborately plotted.  The first season is excellent but the second season is the show’s highwater mark and the last several episodes of that season one of the greatest tragic brilliant things I’ve ever seen on TV.

The third season, which saw the show switch networks, had shorter story arcs and was not as dramatic as the first two with Veronica now a college student.  There was a rushed quality to some of the storylines.  However, the show had not lost its balance and was still enjoyable.  It finished not like a show going off the air but a show that could be taken up again at any time.

I would also like to comment on teen sexuality as it is portrayed on VERONICA MARS. Here we have a show that presents teen sexuality not as the issue of the week that must be dissected and discussed in great detail with characters voicing different societal viewpoints as if it was a CNN debate.  Instead, it’s just part of life.  That’s quite groundbreaking in its own way.  I do think there was perhaps too much hooking up on the third season as some of the characters including Veronica herself seemed a bit whore-ish but again this openness is refreshing on TV since it is more like real life.

Also I do have an idea for a VERONICA MARS reunion movie.  Have Veronica come back to her high school ten year reunion and have a murder there which she must investigate.  I really do hope to see a VERONICA MARS film one day….           



I must comment on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s recent article on persecution of Christians in the Muslim World.

The issue here isn’t whether or not one agrees or disagrees with religious persecution.  I totally agree that what goes on in Egypt and Pakistan vis a vis not only Christians but also in general how women are treated is disgusting.  I am all for not measuring different societies by the West’s own warped yardstick but that is clearly wrong.  I don’t know anybody who disagrees with this. 

The issue here rather is what she’s left out by attempting to place a number of completely different situations under her all purpose heading of Muslim persecution part of the ongoing effort to sell the world particularly the USA on the narrative that there is a global Muslim conspiracy to take over the planet as if they were the Borg on Star Trek; The Next Generation.  But more on Hirsi Ali’s motivations later.

The best way to address this to take each situation separately and breakdown what she has said.

1.) NIGERIA – Hirsi Ali here is on the same page with that coalition of right wing fundamentalist Christian groups and neo-conservative Zionists who are pushing Nigeria as a future target of US intervention.  The truth is much of what feeds Islamic insurgency group Boko Haram is religious but the fervor under the religion is more about discontent with the corruption than the actual spread of Islam much like Communism in third world war countries.  After all, no one wrote Newsweek cover articles when Shell Oil colluded with the Nigerian government to have environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa executed on trumped up charges?(which I wrote about here   Oh I forgot Nigeria’s  our ally so we just looked the other way.  Eliminating the foes of a government who are non-violent and less extreme has the effect of driving people into the arms of more extreme groups and building them up.  This has happened time and time again in US history Iran under the Shah being the prime example.  In addition, The US loves to get involved when it can get control over another country’s oil.  More on the Nigeria situation here

2.) SUDAN – Hirsi Ali completely ignores the history of the Sudan in her writings.  There was no real trouble in the Sudan until oil was discovered in the 1970’s.  At that point, the CIA funded an insurgency under the banner of so-called Christians.  This was finally ended by Sudan splitting into two countries but this was a phony insurgency created by the CIA to get a country’s oil.  Religion was just a cover for that.  I wrote more here

3.) IRAQ – Hirsi Ali conveniently leaves out the Iraq War and its negative effect on Christians in Iraq.  By ignoring history (a favorite trick of neo-cons), she makes the readers think these events occur in a vacuum and consequently feed her anti-Muslim theories.

4.) WORLD VISION IN PAKISTAN OR ANYWHERE – Hirsi Ali complains about the treatment of World Vision in Pakistan. World Vision has long been a front group for the CIA hiding their agents within its organization.  If they are in Pakistan or any third world country, Muslim or otherwise, it is not a good thing for that country.  More info here

5.) INDONESIA – Again, she shows little knowledge about the local situation and/or history.  The main problem in Indonesia is race.  The Chinese are a very small group but own a lot of the country’s wealth.  This has led to a lot of anger on race/poverty lines.  The fact many Chinese are Christians only exacerbates the problem but it is not the main issue there.  Race, poverty, even overpopulation are more important –religion is just the match for the kindling.

Hirsi Ali is a member of the American Enterprise Institute, the neo-conservative think tank which pushed the Iraq War.  In addition to supporting the Iraq War, she also supports military action against Iran.  She supports Israel’s continued human rights violations against the Palestinians and has also lately spoken out against Muslim immigration to the Netherlands-very hypocritical considering her background.

I think she’s a scam artist -a pretty non-white mask that is worn by bigoted groups with a right wing Christian, neo-conservative agenda.

She is what I have now titled a “phony atheist”.  What does that mean?  Phony atheists are people like her, Geert Wilders, Christopher Hitchens who proclaim atheism and a dislike of religion but definitely criticize Islam more than other religions and align themselves with Neo-Con Christian fundamentalist and Zionist based groups.  I am a true atheist.  I hate all religions and have no doubts that if Christians ever got control of the US we would resemble Afghanistan under the Taliban in no time.

Also I just want to say at the heart of many Muslim vs. Christian disputes in the world is the subject of proselytizing, that is, attempting to convert non-believers or adherents to another faith to your religion.  Christianity is the most aggressive in this and this behavior is illegal in a lot of Muslim countries setting the stage for conflict.  As I’ve said before, I’ve had Christians come up to me and say “Have you found Jesus?” but, having been to four Muslim countries and lived in two, I’ve never had a Muslim come up and ask me “If I’d found Allah”.  I have also witnessed US Christian missionaries attempt to bribe people into joining their religion. Arguments about free speech detached from human rights questions such as torture and other matters are where the West often makes mistakes in trying to force itself on other countries.  The missionary as an agent of converting “heathens”, the missionary as agent of quiet subversion, should have died out a long time ago.     


Monday, February 6, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Aside from being well read and also familiar with all the post modern conventions of the novel, I was pleasantly surprised to realize at one point while reading THE BOTTLE FACTORY OUTING by Beryl Bainbridge that I had no idea where this book was going.

On the surface, this is a confined carefully plotted “small” novel taking place in a set period of time, in a set environment with a couple of well defined characters and several other important supporting characters.

But underneath is something else and that something else is open to debate or at least more than one type of genre/style description – Is it a black comedy?  Commentary on the plight of women in a man’s world?  Commentary on class structure? Commentary on the failure of communication between men and women? A murder mystery?  A horror story?

The facts of the novel are simple – mousy Belinda, afraid to stick up for herself, a perpetual victim, and buxom six feet tall, manic, aggressive Freda are unlikely roommates in London who also work together at a small bottling plant (of wine) run by Italians.  The book deals with the tragic, ridiculous, humorous events that transpire when they join their fellow mostly male employees for a weekend picnic outing at a nearby park.

Once I finished reading this book, I realized immediately how much I loved its uniqueness and its unwavering commitment to its own universe.  This is a book written by a writer who not only knows specifically what they want to say but has a created an exact world for the telling of the story.

Hard to think of a time where I have encountered a writer with more control over their narrative, that is, control that is not seen by the reader nor stifles the plot.  A fantastic book!


One of the most interesting facets of social networks is interacting with those who have produced something you enjoy.  In other words, exchanging comments with writers, musicians etc. basically with those who are famous for their art.

I have had the opportunity to communicate directly with Eric Matthews whose music with its beautiful orchestral arrangements and seamless vocals I’ve enjoyed very much.  He’s an irascible, contrary type but his observations on a whole host of subjects are always interesting.

Before Eric embarked on a solo career, he was part of a duo named Cardinal ,along with Australian singer/songwriter Richard Davies, that made one self-titled album in 1994.  And what a record it was!  Davies, the Lennon to Matthews McCartney, was the primary singer although Matthews could also be heard and there was a lot of harmonizing.  His clever wordplay was elevated by Matthews spacious arrangements or was it the other way round?  

It’s been long awaited but Davies and Matthews have reunited as Cardinal 18 years after their debut and put out a second album entitled HYMNS.

I will describe the new record this way – Harmonies? Bigger Chamber Pop? Perhaps not so structured around piano and string and acoustic guitar as the first album – there are more drums here, more standard pop rock fare.  I find songs like “Love Like Rain” which follow an  electric guitar XTC power pop direction to be less interesting than songs like “General Hospital” (my favorite song after the first few listens) which layers vocals on top of vocals as Davies voice rings through with a pleading quality.  However, I am happy to state the interesting songs are the majority.

To put it simply, both men seem to be bring out the best in each other – Davies gives a harder edge to Matthews music and Matthews arrangements give the proper backing to Davies.

“I want you to change but stay the same” goes a song on HYMNS named Rosemary Livingstone and that sums up my feelings initially upon hearing about a Cardinal reunion and album.  This record goes places the first one doesn’t and is bigger in sound (there is more brass courtesy of Matthews in addition to harmonies and strings).  Maybe it doesn’t connect as emotionally, as directly as the debut but it’s a good and satisfying if much delayed follow-up.  Hope it’s not another 18 years before the third Cardinal album!