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Out Now


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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I was reading an article about Laurence Harvey the other day.  When you are a famous person or at least someone with a body of work in a specific field especially if it is something that is more subjective like acting, those who write about you will try to come up with an easy identification, one that will be spoken about until it becomes fact in many people’s minds.

It is now the conventional wisdom to say Harvey was not a very good actor.  That he was wooden and lacked the ability to convey emotion.  It’s also been alleged that he slept with many important people of both sexes which explains how he appeared in so many big budget films despite not really having a following/fan base.

Or so it goes.

I can’t discuss the latter details as that is for the biographers but I feel Harvey was a better actor than most people give him credit for.  Was he limited yes but consider this….For an actor in real life whose public persona was that of an effeminate dandy, Harvey did a good job playing tough guys i.e. THE ALAMO, working class stiffs i.e. ROOM AT THE TOP, and brainwashed killers i.e. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (his best role).   

Harvey also did a very good job bringing out the talents of other actors and actresses.  He is not the most reactive of actors and was a bit of a blank slate like a harder version of Montgomery Clift.  This I think to some extent forced actors and actresses working with him to try harder to put more of themselves on the screen.  This might be why actresses working with him were often nominated for academy awards and three won – Simone Signoret, Elizabeth Taylor, and Julie Christie.

Harvey also had the look and intensity of the actor who takes himself from role to role.  His quiet , squinty exterior character is not that much different than Clint Eastwood.  I always thought there was an uncomfortable joyless rhythm to the way Harvey spoke and that may sound like an insult but it’s not.  Harvey picked the right roles (or they were picked for him) ….”Right” because they suited his delivery.

Harvey died at a young age (45) and made many films in such a short period.  A lot of them were quite good and Harvey is quite good in them.  I think this may also mean Harvey was a film actor in a time when the stage was still equally important to many thespians.  He knew how to have a relationship with t the camera, to do things only the film camera would pick up.  Such skills might be lost in the footlights of the theatre.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


(Neil Young is not my favorite artist although I do like him very much nor did he produce the best record of the 1970’s but he did produce a number of stellar records within that decade so I’m giving him his own post)

AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970) Young’s best record and it’s like a textbook of what makes him great – His singing voice, perhaps music’s most honest vocal, his deceptively simple songwriting, his ability to alternate loud and soft styles for the same effect.  His best collection of songs – Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Birds, When You Dance

RUST NEVER SLEEPS (1979) Young closed out the decade with his second best record.  Perhaps his best expression of the loud and the soft as he very clearly tells those who wrote him off him or any aging rocker in the wake of punk rock and the death of Elvis F You.  Relevance x 100.

ZUMA (1975) Young at his most solid, pretty ballads but also a barn burner like Danger Bird where he can solo away.
TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (1975) Hailed by many as his masterpiece.  His mediation on death and loss and drug abuse in the wake of the deaths of two people close to him must be listened all the way through.  It is brilliant and moving but many of the songs here are too tired sounding and weird to exist separately.

HARVEST (1972) Young uses acoustic based music, some country influences, and strings to produce a quiet melodic record of very nice songs.

ON THE BEACH (1974) His most challenging record of the 70’s.  It’s weird sure but also arty and the songs are very diverse. 



I have always considered EM Forster to be one of my favorite British writers.  This is largely based on HOWARDS END which I consider one of my favorite novels.  A perfect mediation on the basic unfairness of class and also patriarchy.  It also had great characters and the same type of gossipy trivial speech that can be too much when it is the centerpoint of the story but in a well defined narrative like this with a higher meaning only adds to the depth of the story.

I bring up the trivial speech as part of a character’s development/interaction because this is also Foster’s weakness.  He has a tendency to make this as the forefront coming off like a later day Jane Austen but with more of an edge and more of an underlying meaning.

However, it is has been a long time since I’ve read anything by Foster and even longer for anything other than HOWARDS END which I’ve reread a few times over the years.

I came across a collection of four EM Foster novels in one volume in my local library – WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD, ROOM WITH A VIEW, HOWARDS END, A PASSAGE TO INDIA and decided to embark on a Foster re-read.

Well first off HOWARDS END is just as good as I remember it for the reasons cited above.  It has not lost anything and this time around I caught the fact that Foster had taken great pains to fill in the side and background characters in even though their time “on screen” is limited.

WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD is an interesting story but not a masterpiece.  Foster always had a hard time making it clear and not confusing who different characters are in a scene and their relations to one another (and he loves crowded scenes).  I lost track a few times of who was who in this book.  Also it feels bit rushed especially the end- some of the changes the shrewish matriarch goes through just didn’t feel right – Not a enough time was given to flesh her out that we would feel she was capable of this.

ROOM WITH A VIEW is worse.  Like Jane Austen on steroids….Now I don’t like Austen for reasons I mentioned here  and the back and forth dialogue and attempt to be clever I find boring and cloying.

A PASSAGE TO INDIA should have been his best book – It came towards the end of his career after he’d built up his talent, it was about an even more substantial topic- colonialism but it’s a bit confused.  I’m not sure if Foster couldn’t figure out how to tackle this type of topic or if he tried and was unable.  The end result is just not satisfying-scattershot and too cut up between the different sort of stories as well as how the stories are told.

So EM Foster in review – a mixed bag….Still love HOWARDS END though.  It would be on any favorite book list I would put together.     


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Rather than continuously praise Roger Federer with superlative adjectives, it is much easier to simply look at his stats and specifically the records he has broken.

The two that are the most immediate after his victory over Andy Murray in four sets in the 2012 Wimbledon final are his tying Pete Sampras’s record of seven Wimbledon championships and regaining the #1 ranking.  The ranking is most important because by doing so Federer equals the total number of weeks at #1 record set by Sampras and next week he will pass the record.  

Now I’ve written about Andy Murray before and the problems with his game  but watching him in that final was like watching someone deliberately try not to win.  Not “try” in the sense, he wasn’t making an effort to win but “try” meaning he was doing everything wrong.  First off, whoever advised or coached Murray as a youngster to develop a two handed backhand instead of a one handed slice should be shot.  Yes, a number of two handed players have won Wimbledon but they made changes to their games for the grass surface.  Bjorn Borg and Lleyton Hewitt both had slice backhands and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both ran around their backhands and stood in.  All four players play or played very aggressively on grass which as part of the reason they did very well there.

Andre Agassi, also a two hander and a Wimbledon winner, won because he took the ball so early on both the forehand and the backhand side it became an offensive shot.  Murray, on the other hand, stands so far behind the baseline (and the distance got further and further as the match turned in Federer’s favor) and is far too defensive to do any real damage against someone like Federer.

Murray’s body language is that of a frustrated loser.  One doesn’t have to be an ice man like Borg but the way Murray hung his head, his dour, droopy posture screams ‘I’m losing this match.  I have no chance of winning”.

Part of Murray’s problem might be his coach-Ivan Lendl.  Now Lendl was a great champion but he had many of the same problems as Murray early in his career – Had a reputation for choking in finals, lost his first several grand slam finals, had very negative body language also he never won Wimbledon.  Perhaps a change of coach is in order.

Ina any event once the roof was closed and the variables were eliminated from the game, Federer went on kill mode.  A fantastic performance and considering neither Nadal nor Djokovic are at their best right now, Federer has a very good chance to win a record 6th US Open later this year.     

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The immediate connection that crossed my mind when I started reading CHRONICLE OF MY MOTHER by Yasushi Inoue is with another Japanese novel THE TWILIGHT YEARS by Sawako Ariyoshi.  That however is a surface likeness.  YEARS was a novel and was very external.  It utilized literary mechanisms and dealt with the elderly father’s senility as viewed or encountered by others.

MOTHER ,on the other hand is autobiographical, straight forward in description.  Much of it is an almost clinical examination of Inoue’s mother’s senility – how it manifests itself, patterns, and what happens when it does.  Particularly interesting (and sadly touching) is how he describes the order of his mother’s forgetfulness, how she wipes out each decade backwards from her 80’s (she is 80 plus at the beginning of the story) to her 70’s to her 60’s etc.

Another interesting part of the way Inoue tells his story (this is his mother’s story) is the book is divided into three sections and she passes away at the beginning of the third section.  The rest of that section flashes back to her last few days alive as well as some incidents from her past which she is now reliving through her senility. 

MOTHER almost reads like a scientific case examination.  At times, it may feel a bit cold but it is a very thorough examination of the mind of someone undergoing senile dementia.  It is never boring and flows very well.  It’s sad but that’s the inevitable process of life- something Inoue never loses sight of despite his closeness to the subject.

By the way, my post THE TWILIGHT YEARS can be found here


Monday, July 2, 2012



A CERTAIN TRIGGER, the debut album of Maximo Park, is a great record – Clever and sprightly with melodic twists, filled with great songs brimming with emotion.  The follow-up OUR EARTHLY PLEASURES was similar but not quite as deft musically.  MP’s third album QUICKEN THE HEART was a disappointment.  They sounded like they had lost all their energy and drive.

It might be too much to ask that that they reach the heights of TRIGGER again. NATIONAL HEALTH, their newly released fourth album, is energetic and fun.  Far better than QUICKEN but the songs are simpler.  I enjoy this record because I like MP’s sound- A low rent Roxy Music with Paul Smith’s strong vocal presence.  I hope they can find the inspiration to duplicate TRIGGER again but this will do until then.


In 1982, Chris Stamey left The dB’s.  His fellow singer/songwriter Peter Holsapple carried on for a few more records but the end result was like a bird with only one wing.  Gone was the jittery pop.  In its place was a smoother sound.

FALLING OFF THE SKY, The dB’s first album with both Stamey and Holsapple in 30 years, does not attempt to recreate their original edgy version of pop instead the sound is wistful very reminiscent of later day Squeeze.  I think it might be too much to go back in time.  These are men in their 50’s and this is mature pop music.   

Marriages - KITSUNE

The My Bloody Valentine mothership which has inspired a 1,000 other bands has also had the sometimes negative effect of creating a trap with no exit.  A lot of bands copy their sound note for note without finding a way to put in their own personality.

KITSUNE the debut album by the group Marriages finds a way out of that dead end. A less cacophonous, more relaxed take on shoegaze, these guys can really play as well.  A promising start.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


“The Counterfeiter” by Yasushi Inoue is one of the best character studies I’ve ever read.  Without ever actually introducing the character of Hosen Hara in present time (he appears only through the recollection of others), Inoue has created one of the most powerfully tragic characters I’ve ever come across.  The failed artist turned producer of illegal fireworks and forger of his friend’s, the great artist Keigaku , paintings .  The distance between the Mozart and the Salieri’s of the world is small indeed.

The actual name of the books is THE COUNTERFEITER AND OTHER STORIES and there are two other stories.  The second story, “Obasute”, contrasts a narrator’s modern dysfunctional family with the legends of a mountainous area in Japan where people left their parents to die once they got over a certain age.  It’s the second best story.  A bit brief and not fleshed out but perfect descriptions of the characters and I liked the connection made at the ending. 

The third story “The Full Moon” contrasts the season of the harvest moon with the lifecycle of a Japanese executive from his promotion to his downfall.  A clever idea but not as deftly written as the other two.  Again, Inoue really has a way with endings.

The trick of “The Counterfeiter”, the secret to the story’s brilliance, is how you don’t see the detail even though it’s there so skillfully is it enmeshed in the narrative and pared down to its barest necessity.  I really look forward to reading more Inoue.


I’ve never liked Sting.  I did like some of The Police’s songs- they say that only truly talented, well versed musicians can produce deceptively simple pop songs.  It wasn’t great stuff but decent radio fodder.

Sting by himself is awful though.  Boring old man music filled with hoary cliché’s like David Carradine used to pronounce on Kung Fu.

Even more so, Sting has always struck me as a sanctimonious smug self-righteous asshole.  A truly obnoxious person.  A bit of a joke at this point.

I’m not a fan of Bono in any way but at least he does make an attempt to walk the walk.

Uzbekistan has emerged as one of the world’s worst dictatorships where they boil political opponents in oil, open fire on peaceful unarmed demonstrators, and where child slave labor is used   The dreadful re-emergence of the realpolitik type of thinking in wake of 09/11 means that human rights have once again been decoupled from diplomacy and foreign relations allowing Uzbekistan a pass under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Sting’s gibberish about the ineffectiveness of boycotts is nonsense.  Boycotts or the threat of such are responsible largely for the end of apartheid in South Africa and for improving civil rights for African Americans in America.  I believe it also helped get Aung Syiu Kui released in Myanmar.  I think boycotts could in fact bring about real change in the Israel/Palestine situation by forcing Israel’s hand (perhaps the only way to force them) which scares them so much they’ve gotten their puppets in the US house and senate as well as the country at large to threaten those who attempt it.

Sting is a greedy, hypocritical piece of shit.  Walking on the moon? As far as I’m concerned he can stay there.