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

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I’ve been fortunate enough lately to be able to catch up on some TV shows of the last couple years I’ve missed in particular BREAKING BAD, FRINGE, and THE WALKING DEAD.

Is BREAKING BAD the greatest show ever broadcast as many reviewers have said?  Well I don’t know about that but it is excellent.  It’s amazingly well written, had characters that grow and reveal themselves bit by bit just like in real life.  We also see that the actors have room to go off like soloists in music each getting their little (or big) moment to show us their interpretation of the character.

In particular , Bryan Cranston as Walter White the meth dealing cancer stricken  chemistry instructor is not only one of the greatest characters in television history, it is one of the best realized roles by an actor in that medium.  The way the role fills out so far (I am currently watching the beginning of the 2nd season episodes) is perfect and the dark path Walter White is headed down is a terrifying spectacle you cannot avert your eyes from.

FRINGE is like THE X FILES meets LOST.  Like THE X FILES, we have a select group of FBI agents investigating unexplained phenomena and like LOST we have the esoteric metaphysical side story in this case parallel universes which have gradually become the dominant overriding main story.  Unlike, THE X FILES, there are no “separate” stories.  Allof the weird phenomenon is connected to the main story.

I have recently watched the first three seasons of FRINGE and while I think the character of the insane scientist Walter Bishop is superb also a very realized role by John Noble and very humorous too, The character of Peter Bishop I found sort of blah until the second season (he has gradually gotten more interesting which is probably the point as he is the linchpin of the story).  The character of Olivia Dunham, Peter’s will though or won’t thoughlove interest and in many ways the dominant character I didn’t like at all.  She was played as humorless professional who nonetheless is still weak enough to make numerous mistakes.  The alternate Olvia, “Fauxlivia” from the parallel universe is very interesting though. 

The stories got better over the first three seasons and each season was better than the one before it.  The idea of parallel universes with different versions of ourselves is an interesting one and as this has gradually consumed the whole show, they’ve done good job expanding this mythology.  It really is an engaging show.

THE WALKING DEAD started off promisingly.  I’ve enjoyed the comic book by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore but the TV show has watered down the plot and extended the storyline not killing off characters at the time they died in the comic book or not killing them at all.  They have also dragged out events to focus on human relationships and building up characters (who are not necessarily that interesting).  This has had the effect of killing the drama of a zombie invasion and when an encounter with a zombie happens, it’s like water given to a thirty man.  The good news is ,despite an increasingly boring uninteresting second season, the finale was terrific and introduced the TV version of one of the best characters of the comic book Michione as well as the prison the survivors hide in where much future action takes place.  The dark side of the main character, Rick Grimes, has also started to appear.  There’s word that the main villain of the best part of the comic’s run The Governor will be appearing in season 3 which I think is great news for the future of this show.

In the last couple of decades, there have appeared shows that had multi-story arcs and plotlines that zigzagged in and out throughout a season.  Two examples of that were WISEGUY and THE SOPRANOS ….Neither show I particularly liked because while they had attempted the scale of something bigger, you never forgot they were TV.

Shows like BREAKING BAD and FRINGE (not to mention THE WALKING DEAD in its better moments) are like mini-movies grand in scale with big production values.  That’s a good development that keeps television relevant and competitive in the do it yourself online era.        

Friday, March 23, 2012


This week The Tennis Channel is counting down the top 100 tennis players male and female of all time backwards from 100 to 1.  I’ll go into later the mindset of tennis journalists that makes lists like these nonsensical but I wanted particularly to talk about one pairing that the tennis journalists always get wrong and that is Stefan Edberg vs. Boris Becker.

On the Tennis Channel list, Edberg is ranked at 25 whereas Becker is ranked at 21.  At first, their careers seem exactly the same.  Both won six grand slam tournaments Edberg two each of the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open while Becker won the Australian Open twice, Wimbledon three times, and the US Open once.  Edberg was also runner-up at the Australian Open three times, The French Open once, and Wimbledon once while Becker was runner-up at Wimbledon four times.

Becker had the lead in their head to head 25-10 although Edberg won three out of four grand slam meetings and the one time he won the year end masters he beat Becker in the final.  Becker won more overall master events titles though.

Boris Becker never won a clay court tournament while Edberg won several and was a runner-up at the French Open.

Edberg held the number one ranking for a longer period of time (72 weeks) than Becker (12 weeks) and was considered the best player in tennis for two years (1990, 1991) whereas Becker was just considered the best for one year (1989).

Becker had a better singles record in Davis Cup overall as well as a better record in Davis Cup singles matches against Edberg but Edberg was part of more winning Davis Cup teams than Becker( 5 to 3).

Edberg won the Olympic tennis event (1984) whereas Becker never won the Olympics.

Edberg had a much better junior record too winning all four grand slams in one calendar year whereas Becker didn’t really play that much junior tennis.

The people who compile such lists tend to give a lot of weight to head to head rivalries that occurred at the time of a player’s dominance.  It is true Becker had better head to heads against the top players but he also had terrible records against players that were predominantly known for clay court play.

Actually I think head to heads are a silly way to measure a player’s whole career from the perspective of history.  Players should be measured against their record as a whole not against each other when it comes to history.  Why?  Rafael Nadal unless he really keeps it going is likely to end up with less grand slam tournaments won than Roger Federer yet he has a winning record against Federer.  However, from a statistical point of view overall, Federer will go down in history as the better player as it should be.  One slam wonder Richard Kraijcek and two time grand slam runner up Misloslav Mecir are players with excellent records against the top ten of their times which included some of the greatest players in tennis history but certainly not historically on the same level as multiple winners of grand slams.

Edberg ever so slightly has the better stats, the better record.  On any greatest tennis player list, I’d probably put them back to back but I’d also put Edberg first.

There are other faulty placings on the tennis channel list-  Mats Wilander who won seven grand slams(including three in the same calendar year 1988) held the number one ranking for 20 weeks, and had a great Davis Cup record is ranked lower than Becker or Edberg (a mistake IMO) as is the ranking of Bill Tilden below that of Jimmy Connors.  Tilden had more grand slams (10 to Connors’ 8) and was the better Davis Cup player and more dominant player in his time.

I’ve never seen a more incompetent lot than tennis journalists.  Many tennis journalists write from their heart not from their brain allowing favoritism to rule over the science of statistics because tennis is actually a fairly easy game to review.  There are four grand slams and how many a player wins comes first in any consideration of a player’s career.  There are rankings and Davis Cup and other things like the Olympics.  These all add up.

However, tennis journalists often ignore these hard facts to fetishize players they find interesting.  I like Boris Becker and he was definitely an exciting player to watch but that shouldn’t count in his place in history.  Just the facts please!  Tennis journalists too often value the entertainment factor over actual win loss and a player's indisputable record.  These days I often completely turn down the volume when watching tennis on TV.  



Well like an animal that has been hit by a car but is still alive gasping for air at the side of the road, the Republican primary is limping on.

Sure Mitt Romney will likely be the nominee barring anything dramatic but no one is excited about this….What else have I learned?

In 2008, a long and hard fought primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made Obama a better general election candidate.  It made him better on his feet in impromptu speaking occasions and in debates.  It developed his “ear” in terms of hearing what would be a message that would not go over well and what would be a good message for a presidential candidate.  It also forced him to find additional fundraising sources and to create campaign units in states that aren’t normally friendly for Democrats.  These all helped Obama win the presidency in the general election.

Mitt Romney on the other hand has gone from a bland flip flopping business executive to the stereotype of plutocrats staggering from gaffe to gaffe as if he was punchdrunk.  He has gone from your typical Republican businessman type candidate to an etch a sketch laughing stock.  He is now an even weaker candidate than he was last year (and I think he was a pretty weak candidate to begin with as I outlined in 2008 )

Not many would argue that America is still suffering from the effects of the 2008 credit recession/depression.  It is clearly the number one issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.  However, Rick Santorum spends all of his time talking about homosexuals, contraception and abortion.  He doesn’t just want the government in bed with you, he wants government chastity belts issued to everyone.  Santorum is a big government conservative which basically means he is a fascist.  He is also a theocrat as he recognizes no separation between church and state.  This is a very funny when you consider his wife shacked up with an abortionist for several years in the 1980’s

The marital history of Newt Gingrich is well known – Divorced twice; both wives were ill at the time he sought divorceS from them - first wife with Cancer, second wife with Multiple Sclerosis.  He also had moved on to new wives at the time of the divorce.  In fact his third wife was his mistress for many years while he was married to the second wife.  He had numerous other affairs during his first two marriages and didn’t pay much in child support to his first wife eventually stopping payments entirely.  Yet so called value voters, Christian conservatives were so eager to find someone to challenge Mitt Romney (who was not sufficiently conservative in their eyes) that they readily embraced Gingrich (and sexual harasser Herman Cain for a time) warts and all.  These are the same people who criticized Bill Clinton.  There is no group of politically active people more fill of shit in America than the values voter.
In 2010, the tea party wreaked havoc in Republican senate primaries forcing out more electable establishment candidates (some of whom were incumbents) for insane ideologues therefore costing the Republicans these seats and allowing the Democrats to maintain control of the senate.  As the Republican presidential primary season winds down, they have all but disappeared.  After swearing to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming the nominee, it seems the tea party will fail at this task.  They have also seemed to fail at primary challenges to two of their biggest establishment Republican targets- Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch.  A dying movement of morons and their provisional head Sarah Palin has also been permanently discredited in so many ways.  She now truly is a reality star but that's all.

Despite all the noise and rhetoric, the two parties basically agree on the transformation of America into an evil empire with a permanent wartime economy and the ability to throw anybody into jail for forever without a trial as well as being totally under the thrall of Israel and Neo Conservative foreign policy goals.  As I’ve written before, Obama has been a complete disappointment in this area.  What America needs is a true anti-war, anti-imperialism candidate and I’m willing to forgive Ron Paul on some of his crazier positions if he is that candidate.  The organized attack on Dr. Paul by the establishment left shows how cognizant they are of progressives' possible defection due to Obama’s part of the imperialist foreign policy machine.  They are scared of where these people might turn.  I know I won’t vote for Obama!    


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


It’s an indisputable fact that following World War II, many not just Nazis but Nazis who could conceivably be called war criminals were recruited by the West particularly the United States to help in the cold war effort.

Spymaster Reinhard Gelen who was an intimate of Adolph Hitler’s became a main intelligence asset after WWII.  The brutal way the CIA treated the peoples of other countries who chose to stand up to their own US backed authoritarian governments is I believe a direct descendant of the Nazi influence .  In addition, he used the power he’d been given to help many other Nazis escape justice.

Joachim Peiper who masterminded massacres in Russia and Italy as well as the massacre in Malmendy, France of 80 US POWS served ten years in jail and then rose to assume a major role within Porsche until public outcry forced him to step down

Kurt Blome was accused of experimenting on prisoners and also taking part in euthanasia.  He was hired by the US Army Chemical Corp to work on chemical warfare following WWII.  

, and Werner Von Braun, inventor of the V2 rocket and clearly linked to the Nazi use of slave labor, was given safe haven in the US and helped with the space program.  Tom Lehrer once sung about Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

I don’t necessarily think two wrongs make a right but I want to bring this up when discussing the case of John Demjanjuk who passed away the other day.

The tale of John Demjanjuk was not one of justice long delayed but rather instead a tale of prosecutorial misconduct, blind vengeance, mistaken identity, and the double standards I mentioned above.

To recap, Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who was captured by the Nazis while fighting with the Red Army during WWII.  After being held for awhile, he was retrained as a guard (common for Russian POW's at the time)and spent time at several concentration camps including Trawnicki and Sobibor.  After the war he immigrated to the US where he raised a family and lived quietly until 1977 when his citizenship was revoked following an Immigration and Naturalization department investigation that concluded he had lied on his original immigration application about his past.

In 1986, he was extradited to Israel to face trial for being Ivan the Terrible a war criminal from the Treblinka concentration camp.  He was convicted and sentenced to death but this was overturned on appeal when it was shown that there was no way Demjanjuk could have been Ivan the Terrible and in fact another man had already been identified by the Soviets as Ivan.

So Demjanjuk was sent back to the US where he became the victim of a vengeful bureaucracy who hate to see their divine judgment overturned.  They went after him with great zeal but in the end all they could find out was what they knew at the beginning - he had been a guard at several concentration camps.

Again, the US stripped of his citizenship and finally Germany agreed to prosecute the ill, 80 years old + Demjanjuk.  Their rationale here was that during Demjanjuk’s time at the Sobibor camp it was an extermination camp only not a concentration camp so even though there is no actual evidence Demjanjuk committed any atrocities, just by being there he is guilty.

This is a very tenuous argument.  Technically, everybody’s guilty in that case.  What about when the United States commits atrocities against the citizens of a country it invades? Who is ultimately guilty?  The soldier who commits the crime, the commanding officer, even the politicians who vote to fund these wars and what about the people in a democracy?  They vote for the governments that start these wars so aren’t they also guilty?

I remain convinced that John Demjanjuk was not guilty of anything except fighting to stay alive after being captured by his country’s enemy during wartime and of winning against an out of control INS department (the real villain here).  His case became a cause célèbre for those eager to dredge up Nazism in a time when it is going to be increasingly harder due to old age and health to find any Boogeymen so as not to talk about the war criminals of today-the Neoconservatives .  Let’s talk instead about the real crimes that are going on in the world now in Palestine and other places.  

Monday, March 19, 2012


For those that thought that America automatically became a postracial country after the election of Barrack Obama as president and that racism immediately disappeared, if you need a more open and shut case of why that is not a realistic view consider the case of Trayvon Martin.

Visiting (with his father) his father’s girlfriend at a gated community in Sanford, Fl., Martin who was 17 years old, unarmed, and had no criminal record nor any record of problems at school stepped out to buy some skittles and a coke.  Enter George Zimmerman, an overeager Neighborhood Watch volunteer with a criminal record and a history of annoying his neighbors and also calling 09/11 as he did that night to report Martin who he felt was acting suspiciously wearing a hooded sweatshirt (it was raining) and stopping to look around (he was a stranger in the neighborhood.  I don’t consider that unusual if you need to get your bearings).  Despite being told not to, Zimmerman confronted Martin, a struggle ensued, and Martin ended up dying from a shot fired by Zimmerman which he claims was in self-defense as he was attacked by Martin.

Several of the comments made by Zimmerman on the 09/11 calls indicate he was indulging in racial profiling.  It’s also clear he was looking for a fight.  Zimmerman has yet to be arrested and was released after questioning.  In addition, the police did not administer a drug and alcohol test to Zimmerman which is normally the case when a shooting happens.

I don’t think we need to waste time here.  The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division needs to get down there quickly and launch an investigation.   

The Sanford police should also be investigated.  They have deliberately spread misinformation about the case to protect the killer 1.) They reported Zimmerman had a “squeaky clean” record when in fact the opposite was true 2.) They refused to release the 09-11 tapes until pressured and in fact initially lied about what was on them 3.) They initially said Zimmerman fired two shots; a warning shot and a kill shot when in fact only a kill shot was fired 4.) They tried to pressure witnesses into changing their story in particular who was the one screaming that night Martin or Zimmerman. Most witness thought it was Martin whereas the police said it was Zimmerman.

At least, all the top brass in the Sanford Police Department should be fired in addition to Zimmerman being prosecuted for murder.  I could also say something about Florida’s crazy self-defense laws and gun laws but that’s another topic.

I don’t normally sign petitions but this is just such an egregious case of racism, almost like a lynching, that I feel very strongly about it….Here’s a petition you can sign if you feel the same


Thursday, March 15, 2012


The type of thought known as contrarianism that is taking the contrary opinion when it is not popular but still right in the mind of those applying it has mutated to the point where it is now divorced from logical argument .  On the international front, think of Christopher Hitchens’s more and more torturous, winding, logically and morally impaired defensive diatribes in favor of the Iraq war.

Or on an another topic, more domestic and local, one can look at the writing of Katie Roiphe to see someone whose ego, whose own vision of themselves has gotten in the way of their writing.

Now let me just quickly say that there is nothing wrong with being contrary.  While many liberals have rallied around President Obama due to hot buttons issues like abortion and contraception not mention the whole racist birth certificate issue, I have not due to Obama’s shameful embrace of Bush era neoconservative foreign policy and the willingness of progressives to ignore this.

However, this latest article by Roiphe  is based on the argument put forward by conservatives after the public outcry against Rush Limbaugh following his sliming of  Georgetown student Sandra Fluke as a slut for speaking out on the issue of public funding of contraception, that there is a double standard when condemning public speech that is deemed hateful or demeaning against women. Conservatives get slapped for it, liberals get a free pass.

In particular, she is discussing the notion of “slut shaming” and she divides her argument into four examples/sections

1.) The first example is that of photojournalist Deborah Copakan Kogan who wrote a memoir wherein she discussed a number of her love affairs as part of the story.  Roiphe links to a review of the book to buttress her argument that this was held against Kogan.  However, the review she linked to says nothing of the kind and instead I would say makes the argument for female empowerment much stronger than Roiphe has ever done mentioning that Kogan ended up acquiescing to the desires of men and acting out their promiscuity as well as marrying and having children giving up her career also an expectation of a woman’s role in society.  She did not stake out a role for herself in a feminist identity.  Here’s an example from the review:
Photojournalism goes with sexual adventurism the way big-game hunting goes with colonial conquest. When I think of great photojournalists, Robert Capa, so dashing and daring and dead at 40, comes to mind, but so does Ingrid Bergman, the world-renowned beauty he seduced and abandoned. In the mythology of the profession, a photojournalist is a man who seeks scoops first, danger second, and sex third, each with the same intensity and urge to depart in the morning. Deborah Copaken Kogan is a woman who embraced this image wholeheartedly, not aiming to change anything about it except the rule that says only men get to act that way. That she should have pursued photojournalism and one-night stands only briefly before trading them in for marriage, motherhood, and a less risky line of work seems, somehow, inevitable. Being a woman does impose different rules and require other accommodations, and it isn't sexist -- or Darwinian -- to admit it.       

 2.) Roiphe mentions Elizabeth Hardwick’s literary critique of the works of Mary McCarthy as another example.  Again, a total twisting of facts and context.  Hardwick was a literary critic writing about a writer.  She wasn’t a social commentator or a columnist (like Roiphe).  She is seeking to analyze the work of the writer through her life (that’s what the literary critic does).  There’s no judgment that I can see there.  Roiphe also tries to say that Virginia Woolf calling Rebecca West a “gypsy” is another example.  Writers feud all the time and I am not sure what “gypsy” meant in the parlance of the times Woolf and West lived in but this seems like an awfully big stretch.  Also is Woolf (who died in 1941) considered politically a liberal by today’s political definitions?

3.) Roiphe also discusses the media reaction to John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter focusing on the fury directed at her.  Again, I think she twists the story to make it fit her narrative.  The reason people hate Hunter (and John Edwards too) is that his wife was dying of cancer (perhaps due to the fertility drugs she took to have more children after their first son died) at the time the affair was exposed.  Public sympathy with Elizabeth Edwards was the motivating factor here.  Roiphe then goes on to talk about media reaction to Mimi Alford, a woman in her 70’s who recently came out about her affair with JFK.  Here again, the issue is not sluttiness but another bottom feeder feeding off the legacy of a dead leader.  By the way, in both cases, Roiphe seems to imply the men got off in the court of public opinion.  She’s dead wrong there.  There are very few politicians, heck, I would people in general, past and present as unpopular as John Edwards and Kennedy?  Well the gossip pages have been full of his affairs and the sordid details of his family for decades.

4.) Roiphe’s last point is her most far out and tenuous.  She goes on to describe the college hook-up scene in detail and the promiscuity of young women.  I am not sure what this has to do with her original argument about a liberal double-standard.  When I was in college, those engaging in organized decadence like the activities Roiphe describes were those involved in the Greek life (fraternities and sororities) they were almost all conservative Republicans (Reagan lovers at the time-the 1980’s).  I don’t see how she makes the connection between this behavior and liberalism.  By doing this, she is just as bad as Limbaugh himself.

Al Franken said “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts” Roiphe has provided examples that in no way support her argument.  This is also a cautionary tale on using article links.  Don’t be so lazy as to assume an article on a subject matches what you are trying to say. Remember to read the article first.  Any idiot can embed lots of links but will be exposed as such by anyone who takes the time to read the links

The issue of false equivalency the idea that liberal hatespeech (if it exists and I am unconvinced of that) is just the same as conservative hatespeech is not supported by specific case by case details.  Bill Maher went after a public figure, Sarah Palin, who herself was insulting others with horrible abuse some of it I think was an incitement to violence .  Rush Limbaugh, through repeated rants, defamed a student who at the time was making the point that contraception is sometimes needed for other medical conditions and, on top of it, he also lied about the specifics of what she said..  There is no comparison there.     


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I didn’t really understand what Sakae Tsuboi was doing at first in her book TWENTY-FOUR EYES.  The reputation of this novel is that it is ostensibly anti-war.  The last third of the story is definitely that showing how the mindset of blind patriotism led the Japanese to a sort of mass suicide in World War II.

But even before that, TWENTY-FOUR EYES carefully lays out the Japanese traditions of honor and not questioning authority and their negative effects on the life of the citizens.  It also shows the hard life of fisherman and villagers in a small, remote, seaside Japanese town as seen through the eyes of a new schoolteacher.

The schoolteacher, Ms. Osoi, the book’s heroine, enters and re-enters the lives of her students for the next 20 years starting when they are children.  By establishing such a well constructed foundation, the anti-war statement when it comes seems much more part of a larger social critique rather than the usual kneejerk political expression crudely translated into fiction.

I did have a hard time keeping the names of the 12 students straight in my head but the edition of the book I read had a list of their names at the beginning with a brief description so that was helpful.

This is a very subtle book and it tells you things so carefully and with so much control that when it finally slips in the knife and you see how brutish, violent, death obsessed, and authoritarian life in Japan was at the first half of the last century, you don’t feel you are being lectured to or manipulated.

The sad dinner party that ends the book wherein Ms. Osoi, at this point a war widow who has also endured the death of a daughter, reunites with what’s left of her students in 1946 (many of those still living have experienced harsh fates – one blinded in combat, one a prostitute etc.) is very emotional.  At that point the book came together for me and I understood I was reading the work of not only an exceptional writer but an exceptional plotter who knew how to craft a message story that didn’t beat its reader over the head….Like the mother who carefully disguises medicine for her child in something edible.


Sunday, March 4, 2012


THE SOMETHING RAIN by Tindersticks

There are two directions that a band like Tindersticks can go in at this point in their career.  They can either hunker down to their core sound repeating the same record over and over again becoming dull and repetitive or they can go do something completely different alienating many of their old fans.  Tindersticks instead has found a third way beefing up their songwriting with a newfound inspiration in the process making THE SOMETHING RAIN their best record in more than ten years.

Although they appeared at the same time as The Divine Comedy and My Life Story and came under the general heading of chamber pop.  Tindersticks relied a lot more on atmosphere and never found the poppier route that these bands were able to travel on.  Their last few albums had a sameness to them as if they were going through the motions

From obvious singles like “This Fire of Autumn” and “Slippin’ Shoes” filled with jazzy horns and strings and Stuart Staples wonderfully ageless voice with more lush spoken type atmosphere with “Chocolate” and “Frozen” THE SOMETHING RAIN combines a spike in their songwriting consistency with inspired arrangements and a spryer sound- a return to glory!

REIGN OF TERROR by Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells second album REIGN OF TERROR is exactly where I had hoped they would go following their debut TREATS.  On their first album, burst of guitar, cheerleader rhythms, and fade in fade out hammering percussion combined to produce something one of a kind but also deeply catchy.

The main difference between TREATS and REIGN is the lack of empty space.  On TREATS, in between all the hullabaloo there were moments where the music didn’t reach, a second there, a second here of empty space.  On REIGN there is no empty space every second is jammed with sound.  The use of synths and programming are like spackle filling in the holes in a song when  everything else doesn’t quite reach.  These songs feel more finished more complete than the ones on TREAT.  I loved TREATS but REIGN may be the best album I’ve heard so far this year-really amazing!