"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

By Mark Twain

Read by Patrick Fraley

Audio Partners

6 CDs, 7.5 hours


The unabridged audiobook of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer recently released by Audio Partners Publishing Corp. does exactly what a good audio book should do: It brings the text to life.

Admittedly, it would be tough to make as entertaining a writer as Mark Twain seem dull without doing a complete hatchet job, but voice actor Patrick Fraley makes the classic tale of 19th-century American boyhood gleam like the gem it is.

While Tom Sawyer is the poorer literary predecessor to Twain's masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is still more than worthwhile reading and listening. Using tales of Tom's comic mischief and imagination to illustrate the human foibles of conformity, pride, superstition, greed, jealousy and prejudice, the author offers his own ironic comments in a wry manner well captured by the reader.

Fraley, who has put his talents to use in numerous audiobooks, radio programs and cartoons, has clearly studied actor Hal Holbrook's practiced interpretation in cultivating his own. Fraley evokes Twain's Missouri drawl ably, though his take on the various character voices edges on the cartoonish at times, leaving the adult listener wondering if he has picked up something from the juvenile section.

While Tom Sawyer is suitable for children, Twain wrote it more with adults in mind. Fraley manages to capture the dry sarcasm of Twain's observations on human nature without milking it, and his leisurely pacing makes the entire 7-1/2-hour package a relaxing experience eminently recommendable as commuter listening.

--Kevin Wood





Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun

In Your Ear



Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Concert for George

Warner, 3,400 yen (CD)

Whether you view them as long-lost musical gems, heartfelt tributes or crass attempts to turn leftovers into cash, CDs and DVDs hitting the store shelves for Christmas this year prove that phony or not, Beatlemania has not yet bitten the dust.

Of the three items here, Concert for George is the only one to provide anything that approaches new music. A live two CD recording of a tribute concert held on the first anniversary of George Harrison's death, the album provides a better musical look at the concert than the film of the same event, which cuts back and forth between rehearsals and performances by concert organizer Eric Clapton, former bandmates Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and others.

The first disc features Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar, performing and conducting mesmerizing yet impressively energetic Indian music.

The second disc is more conventional rock written by the Quiet Beatle and performed by those who knew and loved him. While it suffers from some of the usual excesses of live tribute concerts, such as Billy Preston's overlong "My Sweet Lord," Concert For George provides a showcase for a terrific songwriter who was too often overshadowed by the Lennon-McCartney hit factory.


THE BEATLES

Let It Be...Naked

Toshiba-EMI, 2,667 yen (CD)

Let It Be...Naked is, in essence, something of a correction. The original album was recorded in 1969, before the lushly layered Abbey Road. The original intention was to rehearse a number of new songs with an eye to performing a live concert and to film the whole process with the concert providing the film's climax. The four lads from Liverpool were unable to settle on where and when the concert would take place, finally compromising on an impromptu gig on the roof of the recording studio.

The film was made and the tapes handed over to hit-making producer Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector, who added strings and choirs to the live recording and even slowed down the tape on "Across the Universe" to turn out a chart-topper.

The 2003 version is stripped of Spector's dross and uses different takes for some songs. Six of the 11 tracks are virtually unchanged, though the sound quality has been drastically improved. There are two good reasons to buy this release: to hear what "The Long and Winding Road" really sounds like now that it has been excavated from the mound of saccharin it was buried under for 30 years; and the inclusion of "Don't Let Me Down" not previously on the album.

The bad news is that the bits of studio chatter and telltale Beatles humor have also been stripped away. In Japan at least, an effort has been made to make up for this with a second disc of between-takes banter. "Fly on the Wall" really is only for the truly obsessive, but it does give a brief first look at a few songs that ended up on later solo albums.


JOHN LENNON

Lennon Legend,

EMI Records, 3,890 yen (DVD)

The latest attempt to stripmine the collective memory of John Lennon for cash, the Lennon Legend DVD, is surprisingly good. A number of previously unseen film clips, such as Lennon's last live performance in 1975, and bits and pieces from the family archives are included along with 20 song videos.

The gut-wrenching video that accompanies "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" will allow you to reclaim the song in all its idealistic glory.

Collectors should also note that a two-DVD set Ed Sullivan Presents The Beatles is also available.





Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun

I didn't even know he was sick

Some people have way way way too much time on their hands

http://uberkinder.5u.com/paul/index.html

Friday, December 19, 2003

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Panorama of history, science and comedy



Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Quicksilver

By Neal Stephenson

William Morrow, 926 pp, 27.95 dollars


Reading Neal Stephenson's latest tome, the 926-page Quicksilver, is like lugging a heavy cooler of beer to the beach on a scorching hot day. The container is heavy and awkward to carry, and getting through the entire contents is a daunting task, but in the end it is delightfully frothy, refreshingly cool and leaves us thirsty for more when it's finished.

Quicksilver is billed as volume one of The Baroque Cycle and will be followed in April by The Confusion and in October by The System of the World. Because of Stephenson's earlier success as a science fiction writer (through the excellent novels Snow Crash, The Diamond Age and Zodiac), this book is viewed by some as belonging to that genre. In truth, it is historical fiction about science.

Quicksilver is a sprawling story about the germination of the seeds of the modern world in the 17th and 18th centuries, focusing on the beginnings of modern science, economics, politics and even language. But in Stephenson's mansion there are many rooms: Quicksilver is also a rip-roaring adventure yarn, a biting satire, a biography of several notable historic figures, a political and military history of the latter part of the baroque period in Europe, the story of the founding and early years of the Royal Society of London--and if you whack a potato hard enough with it, it probably even makes julienne French fries. It is smart, funny, erudite and an addictive page turner. The book's length, however initially daunting, is meaningless. Certainly it is the only 900-page novel that leaves the reader impatient for a pair of sequels.

Obviously, this single volume is several books packed into one. The author breaks it into thirds, each focusing on a key character.

The first opens with a mysterious traveling salesman of alchemical supplies arriving in Boston in 1713 to seek out the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal (sic) Arts, Daniel Waterhouse. A small boy named Ben Franklin guides him to the door of the Puritan scientist, whose father had been a close associate of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Dr. Waterhouse is needed back in London to settle a dispute between his Cambridge University roommate Sir Isaac Newton and his longtime friend, the noted German polymath Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Liebniz, over which one of them was the first to invent calculus. On his voyage back to London, Waterhouse's ship is pursued by the pirate fleet of Edward "Blackbeard" Teach. Flashbacks from Waterhouse's younger days feature the great plague year of 1665, the great fire of London and the founding of the Royal Society--and that is just in the first 150 pages.

The second section, "King of the Vagabonds," concerns the adventures of Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe, who goes from a childhood in which he and brother earn their keep by swinging from the legs of men on the gallows in the London suburb of Tyburn to hasten their demise, to stealing an ostrich and a harem girl from the Turkish camp at the breaking of the siege of Vienna. Nicknamed for the results of an unfortunate accident with a cauterizing iron suffered while being treated for syphilis, Shaftoe is slowing going mad. One of the weirdest and most entertaining scenes in the book--which has a pretty high overall standard for entertaining weirdness--is his hallucination of dancing nuns, singing galley slaves and lascivious fishwives performing a movie-musical production number in the streets of Paris that would turn Busby Berkeley green with shock and envy.

The third section is largely devoted to the adventures of the aforementioned harem girl, Eliza, who wanders Europe with Jack, settling in Amsterdam for a time and becoming moderately well-to-do as an early stock trader before becoming William of Orange's spy at the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. Much of this part is told through coded letters between Eliza and Liebniz, which are intercepted and read by agents of both kings.

As packed with plot threads as the book is, Quicksilver is also a learned discourse on the evolution of alchemy and astrology into modern science and mathematics, and the birth of banking, stock markets and modern capitalism.

One of the most entertaining devices Stephenson uses is his scattering of anachronisms throughout the story. At one point Eliza writes from Venice about the phenomenon of "canal rage" among gondoliers and Waterhouse is warned not to get on Isaac Newton's "s--- list."

Hindsight makes for a certain amount of amusement as well, with a minor character sampling the first tea brought back to England by a traveling scholar and pronouncing it "inoffensive enough, but I don't think Englishmen will ever take to anything so outlandish."

Trimmed of its numerous frills, which include a handful of short plays, digressions into scientific and historical in-jokes and some astonishingly detailed descriptions, Quicksilver could have been half as long and still been a great swashbuckling historical adventure. But such economy is not always desirable; Hamlet is four hours long, and trimmed of its frills it becomes a soap opera about a mopey, rich Danish mama's boy. The devil may be in the details, but so are the delights of Quicksilver

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Star-spangled sissies


Canadian flag causes flap in the U.S.
Maple Leaf on baggage irks 'sensitive' Americans

Jack Aubry
The Ottawa Citizen


A group of Canadian climbers celebrate their ascent of Mount Logan by waving the Canadian flag. While such achievements warrant national pride, Americans express irritation at the habit of Canadians using the flag while travelling to express nationality.

CREDIT: Jeff Holubitsky, Vancouver Sun

ADVERTISEMENT



OTTAWA -- Canadians should be careful not to appear "boastful" to Americans, who are insecure because of the war in Iraq and admit they are annoyed by northerners showing off the red maple leaf on their luggage when they travel, a recent federal report warns.

In focus groups held this fall in four U.S. cities where the federal government is opening consulates, Americans acknowledged they don't know much about Canadians.

"Some participants expressed a certain amount of annoyance at what is perceived as a systematic attempt by Canadians to make the statement that they are not Americans by sporting the maple leaf," said the recently released report. "This underscores the American sensitivity at feeling rejected by the rest of the world ...."

A front-page story by the New York Times this week, which declared that Canada's stance on social issues is opening rifts with the U.S., is unwittingly confirmed with the findings of the report.

Canadian comedian Rick Mercer said at a recent Toronto show that being attached to America is like "being in a pen with a wounded bull," joking that between gay marriage and pot smoking, "it's a wonder there is not a giant deck of cards out there with all our faces on it."

The report says even Americans who blame the Bush administration to some extent for the country's poor relations with the world, do not seem to understand why friendly countries and neighbours such as Canada would want to distance themselves from Americans.

For instance, an American from San Diego is quoted saying: "What bugs me about Canadians, if I may, is that they wear that damn patch on their bags, the Canadian flag patch. That way, they differentiate themselves from us."

The report is based on eight focus groups conducted in September by Millward Brown Goldfarb in San Diego, Raleigh, Denver and Houston where Canadian consulates are in the process of opening.

Pierre Bechard, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, said Millward Brown Goldfarb was paid $49,543 for the October report and focus groups. He said the findings will act as a base for the consulates to work to understand how much Americans understand about Canada and how they feel about their relationship with their northern neighbours.

© Copyright 2003 Vancouver Sun

by Clifford Krauss • Wednesday December 03, 2003 at 10:20 AM


From gay marriage to drug use to church attendance, a chasm has opened up between US and Canadian cultures on social issues that go to the heart of fundamental values. A more distinctive Canadian identity — one far more in line with European sensibilities — is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States.


canada.jpgehqrxz.jpg, JPG image, 169x104

Published on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 by the New York Times

TORONTO, Dec. 1 — Canadians and Americans still dress alike, talk alike, like the same books, television shows and movies, and trade more goods and services than ever before. But from gay marriage to drug use to church attendance, a chasm has opened up on social issues that go to the heart of fundamental values.

A more distinctive Canadian identity — one far more in line with European sensibilities — is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States.

"Being attached to America these days is like being in a pen with a wounded bull," Rick Mercer, Canada's leading political satirist, said at a recent show in Toronto. "Between the pot smoking and the gay marriage, quite frankly it's a wonder there is not a giant deck of cards out there with all our faces on it."

Mr. Mercer acknowledged in an interview that he was overstating the case for laughs — two Canadian provinces have legalized gay marriage, and Ottawa has moved to decriminalize use of small amounts of marijuana. But in the view of many experts the two countries are heading in different directions, at least for the time being.

Recent disagreements over trade, drugs and the war in Iraq, where Canada has refused to send troops, has made the relationship more contentious and Canadians increasingly outspoken about the things that separate them from their American neighbors.

"The two countries are sounding more different — after 9/11, dramatically more different," noted Gil Troy, an American historian who teaches at McGill University in Montreal. "You hear a lot more static and you see more brittleness."

Of course there have been frictions before, for instance during the Vietnam War, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau welcomed American draft evaders, but the differences in those years were more political than social. Analysts say that Canada and the United States have always been similar yet different, and that the differences are often accentuated at the margins.

But today, many analysts and ordinary Canadians said in interviews around the country, the differences appear to have moved center stage, particularly in social and cultural values.

The nations remain like-minded in pockets, but the center of gravity in each has changed. French-speaking Quebec, with nearly a quarter of the population and its open social attitudes, pulls Canada to the left, just as the South and Bible Belt increasingly pull the United States in the opposite direction, particularly on issues like abortion, gay marriage and capital punishment.

None of those have resonated much over the last decade in Canada, where the consensus on social policy seems more solidly formed, its fissures narrower and less exploitable.

Chris Ragan, a McGill University economist, observed: "You can be a social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not in Canada."

Drugs are one point of departure. A bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana is working its way through the lower house of Parliament, bringing threats from the White House that such a law could slow trade at the border.

Recently, while musing about his retirement plans, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said he might just kick back and smoke some pot. "I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he said with a smile. The glibness of the remark made it nearly impossible to imagine an American president uttering it. But in a nation where the dominant west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few Canadians blinked.

When Massachusetts's highest court ruled for gay marriage, the issue loomed over American politics. Conservatives vowed to change the Constitution. President Bush said he would defend marriage. Even the major Democratic presidential candidates backed away from supporting gay marriage outright.

Contrast that with Canada, where two provincial courts issued similar rulings this year. With little anguish, Canada became only the third country — after the Netherlands and Belgium — to allow same-sex marriage as a matter of civil rights.

Canadians themselves are not wholly united on the issue. Most elderly and rural Canadians express reservations, and the Canadian Anglican Church is almost as divided over homosexuality as the American Episcopal Church. Still, Canadians remain tolerant of the shift.

More than 1,500 gay and lesbian couples have married since the court rulings. "The Canadian reaction to same-sex marriage has been mostly positive," said Neil Bissoondath, an acclaimed Trinidadian-born Canadian novelist and social critic.

But the same issue in the United States "has upset the fundamentalist Christians who drive a lot of the politics in the country, especially with the present administration in power," Mr. Bissoondath added.

Rachel Brickner, 29, a political science graduate student at McGill originally from Detroit, said that despite her own liberal views, she sometimes tired of the anti-Americanism she encountered among Canadian students.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she said, an old roommate told her that "the U.S. deserved 9/11 because we're bullies."

"Canadians are quick to blame the United States for not knowing about Canada," she said, "but Canadians make a lot of ignorant statements about the U.S." No Canadian city reveals differences as much as Vancouver. It looks like any American city, except for a drug culture that is so abundantly open. The police rarely interfere with bars, storefronts and even offices where people can buy or smoke marijuana. A "compassion club" distributes marijuana legally to cancer patients and others who have doctors' notes.

The city opened a publicly financed and supervised injection site for heroin users in September. The federal government, meanwhile, is preparing to start an experimental heroin distribution program for addicts in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in 2004.

The changes in marriage and drug laws, said Michael Adams, a Toronto consultant and polling expert, "means Canada is moving in the opposite direction with the United States and closer to Europe."

In his new book "Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values," he argues that greater Canadian tolerance reflects a fundamental difference in outlook about everthing from the ethnic and linguistic diversity of immigrants to the relative status of the sexes.

Mr. Adams notes that weekly church attendance among Canadians has plummeted since the 1950's while American church attendance has remained virtually constant.

To many commentators the two countries seem to be exchanging their traditional roles, one founded in America's birth as a revolutionary country and Canada's as a counterrevolutionary alternative.

During the Depression, under the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States was the progressive force, while Canada stubbornly held on to conservative economic policies.

By the mid-1960's, though, Canada shifted to a far more activist government, moving to a national health insurance system. Not long afterward, the Vietnam War began siphoning popularity from the Great Society experiment of President Johnson. The trends have only widened since.

Not all analysts see a big, lasting divergence. Some like Peter Jennings, the ABC News broadcaster who was born in Toronto and became a dual American and Canadian citizen in May, believe that Canadians have actually drawn closer to Americans. Nevertheless, Mr. Jennings said Canada had become "a socially more relaxed kind of place."

"Canada, as it is with some of the European countries," he added, "is trying to balance some of the market forces with public policy, which is not as apparent in the United States, where the pursuit of happiness and individualism are very much alive."

Still, a cultural gulf is widening.

"In the 70's we were taught Canada would be absorbed by the United States, and in the 80's it looked like it was happening," recalled Douglas Coupland, the Canadian author known for his cultural commentaries on both sides of the border. "Then came the latter part of the 90's and it was like some high school class 16-millimeter film where you see the chromosome duplicates, then realigns, and finally the cell splits.

"And that process only seems to be quickening in recent months."

The New York Times Company


Saturday, December 06, 2003

Last month's CD review


Robert Randolph and the Family Band
JapanTour -- Dec. 9 - 12
The cat is out of the bag on one of the best kept secrets in music.

The aptly titled Unclassified is the first major label release by Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

The group's roots rock R&B sound is slightly different from the standard guitardriven instrumentation, eschewing a second rhythm guitar for John Ginty's funky Hammond organ and piano. The key difference though is that the band is built around Robert Randolph's pedal steel guitar instead of the usual six-string electric sound.


While slide guitar is a rock and blues staple, the more fluid sound of the pedal steel guitar is generally associated with the slippery, weeping sound of Nashville's country crooners. The 10, 13 or 20 stringed pedal steel guitar is played seated at a desk-like platform, plucked with a pick, fretted with a slide and foot pedals are used to modify the sound. They may not look as cool as a low-slung Stratocaster, but they sound like a blues dobro on steroids in the hands of an expert like Randolph.

New Jersey native Randolph, 25, came to the instrument through the "sacred steel" tradition of the House of God Church. Congregations unable to afford expensive organs began substituting the pedal steel guitar to accompany choirs in the 1930's and an African-American tradition grew up apart from the instrument's country and western roots. Randolph's father was deacon in the church and his mother a minister and Randolph began playing pedal steel in church as a teenager, after his parents divorced. His father remarried with the daughter of sacred steel legend Ted Beard, who taught Randolph the basics and encouraged him to play in church.

Joined by cousins Danyel Morgan and Marcus Randolph on bass and drums respectively, the Family Band was born.

Randolph's sound is reminiscent of slide guitar great Duane Allman, Canadian rock and blues slide player Jeff Healy and Lenny Kravitz filtered through Stevie Wonder, with a dash of Stevie Ray Vaughn's blues fire thrown in for good measure.

Anchored by the Morgan's funked-up bass, Unclassified is energetic, soulful and driving, with Randolph's extended seat-of the pants soloing broken by occasional keyboard wails and screams and impassioned vocals from both Randolph and Morgan, whose clean falsetto gets a work out on the funky Stevie Wonderesque rave-up "I Need More Love" and the more mellow, minorkey "Problems."

Randolph may be the star attraction, but Morgan is the band's not-so-secret weapon with his complex slap and twang playing style giving the Family Band a driving funk-soul feel.

Randolph's gospel roots show through despite the secular songs, giving tunes like "Going in the Right Direction" a decidedly spiritual flavor in a Sly and the Family Stone kind of way.

The ballad "Smile" is a true family affair that features Randolph on acoustic guitar and shining guest vocals from Robert's sister Lenesha Randolph and cousin Ricky Fowler.

Playing to the frontman's true strengths, four of the 11 tracks on Unclassified are instrumentals. "Squeeze" has a southern rock jam feel to it, with the combination of pedal steel and Hammond organ evoking the best of the Allman Brothers Band The album's closing track, the instrumental "Run For Your Life" is so scorching it ought to come with a warning to keep it away from flammable liquids.

The level of talent, soul and great grooves found here ensure that more will be heard from Robert Randolph and the Family Band and their December tour of Japan should be one of the year's hottest tickets.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Baker praises Japan's Iraq efforts



Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker said Thursday the relationship between his country and Japan is "the best it has ever been."

In a luncheon speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, the 78-year-old Baker encouraged Japan to take its "rightful place as a great nation," but warned that with such a role come great responsibilities and implied that a willingness to project a nation's power overseas, including through the dispatch of military personnel, was part of fulfilling those responsibilities.

Beginning his remarks by offering condolences for the deaths of two Japanese diplomats in Iraq, Baker said, "We share the grief of the families and the Japanese people on the loss of these two brave public servants."

He praised the steps the government has taken thus far in support of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and reconstruction effort in Iraq, and enumerated the U.S. successes in the rebuilding of Iraq.

He also addressed Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, calling Japan "a great superpower" and reaffirming U.S. support for the effort and his personal belief that the prime minister was "up to the challenge" of leading the nation to a major role on the world stage.

Responding to questions about the possibility of terrorist attacks in Tokyo, Baker said, "Terrorism knows no boundaries." He said no nation was safe, but ultimately the best defense was strength and the best course for Japan was to join with other nations to show terrorists their attacks would not go unanswered.

The key political significance of Japan's dispatch of Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, regardless of the number, was that it symbolized the "unity of free peoples to face down terror." He said such a dispatch would demonstrate Japan's sense of responsibility as great nation and would be an expression of national determination for the country to "participate fully and freely in the cause of peace and stability."

The U.S. ambassador and former White House chief of staff under U.S. President Ronald Reagan said the global realignment of U.S. military forces currently being considered could lead to a reduction in U.S. troops in Japan. Whether any changes in the deployment of U.S. forces in Asia would involve reducing the number of personnel stationed in Okinawa prefecture or relocating them elsewhere in Japan was not yet know, he said.

The one thing Baker said he could be sure of was that, "nothing we do will diminish our commitment to the security of Japan. "

Baker reiterated the U.S. contention that evidence prior to the invasion of Iraq strongly indicated the presence of weapons of mass destruction, saying that the failure of the United States to find any WMD was an indication of the skill of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussien's regime at concealing such weapons, not proof the weapons did not exist.

Asked if the United States intended to take any action on WMD possessed by Israel in its efforts to eliminate WMD in the Middle East, Baker said Israel's possession of nuclear weapons was considered an accomplished fact and that his greatest worry was the threat posed by nuclear weapons in the hands of the "politically unstable regime" in North Korea.

"An accident is one thing, but an accident with a pocketful of nuclear bombs is something else," he said. Such an accident could take many forms from an error in orders by a junior officer in the demilitarized zone to a deteriorating political situation prompting a preemptive strike.





Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

'scuse me whilst I dance the happy-happy-joy-joy dance and break out the champagne

Robber baron lord Tubby of Fleet gets his

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Plenty of blood and food for thought In the Miso Soup>
In the Miso Soup
By Ryu Murakami
Translated by Ralph McCarthy
Published by Kodansha International
180 pages

By Kevin Wood
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

In his more than 40 books, author Ryu Murakami (69, Coin Locker Babies) has strived to shock Japanese readers into a reaction, to wake them from their complacency and ennui and convince them to recognize and act upon their individual nature. The most recent of his works translated into English, In the Miso Soup, continues in that vein
Winner of the Yomiuri Literary Award in 1998, In the Miso Soup, with its jarring portrayal of horrific violence, caused a stir when it was serialized in 1997 The Yomiuri Shimbun around the time a 14-year-old boy decapitated a child in Kobe.
The novel revolves around Kenji, a 20-year-old independent, unlicensed nightlife tour guide who specializes in showing foreign tourists around the seamier side of Kabukicho’s red light district, and Frank a middle aged American with a murky past, a wallet full of 10,000 yen notes who appears to specialize in hypnosis and murder. A few days before the end of the year, Frank answers Kenji’s advertisement in the Tokyo Pink Guide and hires the young man to guide him through “the massage parlors and S&M bars and “soaplands” and what have you” for three nights, the third night being Dec. 31, which Kenji has promised to spend with his 16-year-old girlfriend Jun.
However, the wrath of a jilted high-school age sweetheart is the least of Kenji’s worries. He is first contacted by Frank while reading a newspaper report of schoolgirl’s dismembered body being found in Kabukicho and from the first time he meets the American, he senses there is something not quite right about him. By the end of their first night on the town, spent reading a Japanese-English glossary of sex terms aloud to giggling hostesses at a lingerie pub and taking a few swings at a batting cage, Kenji suspects Frank is the killer.
Midway through their second night together his suspicions are confirmed when Frank slaughters everyone in a matchmaking pub with a sashimi knife in one of the most grisly scenes you are likely to read outside of an old Tales from the Crypt comic.
The most stunning thing about the murders aside from their grotesque brutality is Kenji’s reaction both during and after the killing. He is stunned into utter submission, even when Frank leaves him alone in front of a police box after suggesting he go to the authorities, Kenji cannot summon up the courage to turn the psychopath in and ends up returning with the killer to the abandoned building Frank has been living in and listening to him tell his life story.
On New Year’s eve, the third and final night together Frank wants to hear the 108 chimes of the temple bells, promising to release Kenji afterwards.
The novel touches on a number of subjects and themes common in Murakami’s work: the symbiotic love/hate relationship between Japan and the United States, teenage prostitution, the generation gap in Japan and the moral vacuum of modern society.
Murakami was born in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1952 and spent the first 18 years of his life living in the shadow of the U.S. Navy base at Sasebo. He was kicked out of school for his part in protesting the U.S. military presence. His debut 1976 novel Almost Transparent Blue about young people turning to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in response to the absence of protest against the U.S. military domination of Japan won the Gunzo Prize for New Talent and the Akutagawa Prize while the young author was still an art school student.
In that novel, African American soldiers abuse Japanese prostitutes who refuse to resist their ill treatment. In similar fashion, Kenji cannot seem to even criticize Frank to his face, much less act to halt his murderous rampage. The only time he refuses Frank’s commands to take part in the circus of the macabre, it simply means Kenji gets to sit out that particularly gruesome dance while still being spattered in his front row seat. Murakami, who has previously described himself as “a child corrupted by America” seems to be pointing out that Japan is still in thrall to the violent, magnetic and often schizophrenic culture of U.S. dominance.
He also explores the cracks in the Japanese system at length, speculating that high school girls engaged in enjo kosai are “selling it” not simply because they can, but for the cold comfort being desired brings to a lonely life and for the reinforcement of the their individuality being chosen by men gives them. He is critical of the hypocrisy of those who live only for financial gain while criticizing others for the same lifestyle.
In the Miso Soup has plenty to say about Japanese and American culture, provide one can get past the salty depictions of horrific violence. Ralph McCarthy’s able translation captures the rough argot of street life without distracting from the story and preserves both the brutality and finesse of Murakami’s original work.

Follow the money

Looks like the Democrats will have some money to counter the Republican cash from Haliburton, Bechtel et al.
George Soros has also contributed heavily to campaigns to legalize marijuana in Nevada and other states and has contributed billions to democracy projects in the former soviet bloc, Asia and Africa. He is becoming my favorite James Bond villian millionaire - those people so rich they could be villians in Bond movies (think Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and thier ilk)Billionaire Soros
takes on Bush. Ousting president ‘central
focus of my life,’ he says

Monday, November 10, 2003

What do the Montreal Canadiens have that the Toronto Maple Leafs don't?
.......







wait for it!











Colour photos of their last stanley cup victory!

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Sign #321 that the apocalypse is imminent
Yes, just in time for the budding facist on your all-amerikan khristmas listthe talking Ann Coulter doll

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This article is an older one from Salon.com - by posting it I am probably violating copywrite, but I hope it will entice a few people to subscribe to this excellent web magazine.




Grounded
A federal agency confirms that it maintains an air-travel blacklist of 1,000 people. Peace activists and civil libertarians fear they're on it.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dave Lindorff



Nov. 15, 2002 | Barbara Olshansky was at a Newark International Airport departure gate last May when an airline agent at the counter checking her boarding pass called airport security. Olshansky was subjected to a close search and then, though she was in view of other travelers, was ordered to pull her pants down. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have created a new era in airport security, but even so, she was embarrassed and annoyed.

Perhaps one such incident might've been forgotten, but Olshansky, the assistant legal director for the left-leaning Center for Constitutional Rights, was pulled out of line for special attention the next time she flew. And the next time. And the next time. On one flight this past September from Newark to Washington, six members of the center's staff, including Olshansky, were stopped and subjected to intense scrutiny, even though they had purchased their tickets independently and had not checked in as a group. On that occasion, Olshansky got angry and demanded to know why she had been singled out.

"The computer spit you out," she recalls the agent saying. "I don't know why, and I don't have time to talk to you about it."

Olshansky and her colleagues are, apparently, not alone. For months, rumors and anecdotes have circulated among left-wing and other activist groups about people who have been barred from flying or delayed at security gates because they are "on a list."



But now, a spokesman for the new Transportation Security Administration has acknowledged for the first time that the government has a list of about 1,000 people who are deemed "threats to aviation" and not allowed on airplanes under any circumstances. And in an interview with Salon, the official suggested that Olshansky and other political activists may be on a separate list that subjects them to strict scrutiny but allows them to fly.

"We have a list of about 1,000 people," said David Steigman, the TSA spokesman. The agency was created a year ago by Congress to handle transportation safety during the war on terror. "This list is composed of names that are provided to us by various government organizations like the FBI, CIA and INS ... We don't ask how they decide who to list. Each agency decides on its own who is a 'threat to aviation.'"

The agency has no guidelines to determine who gets on the list, Steigman says, and no procedures for getting off the list if someone is wrongfully on it.

Meanwhile, airport security personnel, citing lists that are provided by the agency and that appear to be on airline ticketing and check-in computers, seem to be netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups.


Virgine Lawinger, a nun in Milwaukee and an activist with Peace Action, a well-known grassroots advocacy group, was stopped from boarding a flight last spring to Washington, where she and 20 young students were planning to lobby the Wisconsin congressional delegation against U.S. military aid to the Colombian government. "We were all prevented from boarding, and some of us were taken to another room and questioned by airport security personnel and local sheriff's deputies," says Lawinger.

In that incident, an airline employee with Midwest Air and a local sheriff's deputy who had been called in during the incident to help airport security personnel detain and question the group, told some of them that their names were "on a list," and that they were being kept off their plane on instructions from the Transportation Security Administration in Washington. Lawinger has filed a freedom-of-information request with the Transportation Security Administration seeking to learn if she is on a "threat to aviation" list.


Last month, Rebecca Gordon and Jan Adams, two journalists with a San Francisco-based antiwar magazine called War Times were stopped at the check-in counter of ATA Airlines, where an airline clerk told them that her computer showed they were on "the FBI No Fly list." The airline called the FBI, and local police held them for a while before telling them there had been a mistake and that they were free to go. The two made their plane, but not before the counter attendant placed a large S for "search" on their baggage, assuring that they got more close scrutiny at the boarding gate.


Art dealer Doug Stuber, who ran Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential campaign in North Carolina in 2000, was barred last month from getting on a flight to Hamburg, Germany, where he was going on business, after he got engaged in a loud, though friendly, discussion with two other passengers in a security line. During the course of the debate, he shouted that "George Bush is as dumb as a rock," an unfortunate comment that provoked the Raleigh-Durham Airport security staff to call the local Secret Service bureau, which sent out two agents to interrogate Stuber.

"They took me into a room and questioned me all about my politics," Stuber recalls. "They were very up on Green Party politics, too." They fingerprinted him and took a digital eye scan. Particularly ominous, he says, was a loose-leaf binder held by the Secret Service agents. "It was open, and while they were questioning me, I discreetly looked at it," he says. "It had a long list of organizations, and I was able to recognize the Green Party, Greenpeace, EarthFirst and Amnesty International." Stuber was eventually released, but because he missed his flight, he had to pay almost $2,000 more for a full-fare ticket to Hamburg so that he would not miss his business engagement. In the end, however, after trying several airports in the North Carolina area, he found he was barred from boarding any flights, and had to turn in his ticket and cancel his business trip.

A Secret Service agent at the agency's Washington headquarters confirmed that his agency had been called in to question Stuber. "We're not normally a part of the airport security operation," Agent Mark Connelly told Salon. "That's the FBI's job. But when one of our protection subjects gets threatened, we check it out." Asked about the list of organizations observed by Stuber, the Secret Service source speculated that those organizations might be on a list of organizations that the service, which is assigned the task of protecting the president, might need to monitor as part of its security responsibility.

Additional evidence suggests that Olshansky, Stuber and other left-leaning activists are also seen as a threat to aviation, though perhaps of a different grade. A top official for the Eagle Forum, an old-line conservative group led by anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, said several of the group's members have been delayed at security checkpoints for so long that they missed their flights. According to Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organization, an American member of the Falun Gong Chinese religious group was barred from getting back on a plane that had stopped in Iceland, reportedly based on information supplied to Icelandic customs by U.S. authorities. The person was reportedly permitted to fly onward on a later flight.

Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, says his group has documented over 80 cases -- involving 200 people -- in which fliers with Arabic names have been delayed at the airport, or barred altogether from flying. Some, he says, appear to involve people who have no political involvement at all, and he speculated that they suffered the misfortune of having the same name as someone "on the list" for legitimate security reasons.

Until Steigman's confirmation of the no-fly list, the government had never admitted its existence. While FBI spokesman Paul Bresson confirmed existence of the list, officials at the CIA and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service declined to comment and referred inquiries back to the TSA. Details of how it was assembled and how it is being used by the government, airports and airlines are largely kept secret.

A security officer at United Airlines, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the airlines receive no-fly lists from the Transportation Security Administration but declined further comment, saying it was a security matter. A USAir spokeswoman, however, declined to comment, saying that the airline's security relationship with the federal transit agency was a security matter and that discussing it could "jeopardize passenger safety."

Steigman declined to say who was on the no-fly list, but he conceded that people like Lawinger, Stuber, Gordon, Adams and Olshansky were not "threats to aviation," because they were being allowed to fly after being interrogated and searched. But then, in a Byzantine twist, he raised the possibility that the security agency might have more than one list. "I checked with our security people," he said, "and they said there is no [second] list," he said. "Of course, that could mean one of two things: Either there is no second list, or there is a list and they're not going to talk about it for security reasons."

In fact, most of those who have been stopped from boarding flights (like Lawinger, Stuber, Gordon and Adams) were able to fly later. Obviously, if the TSA thought someone was a genuine "threat to aviation" -- like those on the 1,000-name no-fly list, they would simply be barred from flying. So does the agency have more than one list perhaps -- one for people who are totally barred from flying and another for people who are simply harassed and delayed?

Asked why the TSA would be barring a 74-year-old nun from flying, Steigman said: "I don't know. You could get on the list if you were arrested for a federal felony."

Sister Lawinger says she was arrested only once, back in the 1980s, for sitting down and refusing to leave the district office of a local congressman. And even then, she says, she was never officially charged or fined. But another person who was in the Peace Action delegation that day, Judith Williams, says she was arrested and spent three days in jail for a protest at the White House back in 1991. In that protest, Williams and other Catholic peace activists had scaled the White House perimeter fence and scattered baby dolls around the lawn to protest the bombing of Iraq. She says that the charge from that incident was a misdemeanor, an infraction that would not seem enough to establish her as a threat to aviation.

Inevitably, such questions about how one gets on a federal transit list creates questions about how to get off it. It is a classic -- and unnerving -- Catch-22: Because the Transportation Security Administration says it compiles the list from names provided by other agencies, it has no procedure for correcting a problem. Aggrieved parties would have to go to the agency that first reported their names, but for security reasons, the TSA won't disclose which agency put someone on the list.

Bresson, the FBI spokesperson, would not explain the criteria for classifying someone as a threat to aviation, but suggests that fliers who believe they're on the list improperly should "report to airport security and they should be able to contact the TSA or us and get it cleared up." He concedes that might mean missed flights or other inconveniences. His explanation: "Airline security has gotten very complicated."

Many critics of the security agency's methods accept the need for heightened air security, but remain troubled by the more Kafka-esque traits of the system. Waters, at the Eagle Forum, worries that the government has offered no explanation for how a "threat to aviation" is determined. "Maybe the people being stopped are already being profiled," she says. "If they're profiling people, what kind of things are they looking for? Whether you fit in in your neighborhood?"

"I agree that the government should be keeping known 'threats to aviation' off of planes," Ibish says. "I certainly don't want those people on my plane! But there has to be a procedure for appealing this, and there isn't. There are no safeguards and there is no recourse."

Meanwhile, nobody in the federal government has explained why so many law-abiding but mostly left-leaning political activists and antiwar activists are being harassed at check-in time at airports. "This all raises serious concerns about whether the government has made a decision to target Americans based on their political beliefs," says Katie Corrigan, an ACLU official. The ACLU has set up a No Fly List Complaint Form on its Web site.

One particular concern about the government's threat to aviation list and any other possible lists of people to be subjected to extra security investigation at airports is that names are being made available to private companies -- the airlines and airport authorities -- charged with alerting security personnel. Unlike most other law-enforcement watch lists, these lists are not being closely held within the national security or law-enforcement files and computers, but are apparently being widely dispersed.

"It's bad enough when the federal government has lists like this with no guidelines on how they're compiled or how to use them," says Olshansky at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "But when these lists are then given to the private sector, there are even less controls over how they are used or misused." Noting that airlines have "a free hand" to decide whether someone can board a plane or not, she says the result is a "tremendous chilling of the First Amendment right to travel and speak freely."

But Olshansky, alarmed by her own experience and the number of others reporting apparent political harassment, is fighting back. She says now that the government has confirmed the existence of a blacklist, her center is planning a First Amendment lawsuit against the federal government. CCR has already signed up Lawinger, Stuber, and several others from Milwaukee's Peace Action group.

Monday, October 27, 2003

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the—the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."
President* George W. Bush
Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The best democracy money can buy
I'm reading this guy's book right now on the theft of the 2000 election among other things. It is excellent and a must read for anyone who wonders how the world really works.

As the rockets were crashing into the rooms on the floors below him, was Paul Wolfowitz recalling Dubya's challenge to the Iraqi resistance to 'Bring it on" or was he simply hoping he remembered to bring some dry shorts?rocket attack

Friday, October 24, 2003

here's a couple of good pieces from Salon about right wing arrogance in the Excited States

stupid phone tricks

and dissent? what dissent?

No its not a new Japanese punk band - learn more about the newest craze from Germany :Porno Karaoke

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

100 great books
The Guardian and the Observer (two big English newspapers) have combined to present a list of the 100 greatest novels.

here are the top ten
1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.

2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.

3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
The first English novel.

4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery of Swift's vision.

5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.


6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
One of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.

7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good.

8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French, and ferocious.

9. Emma Jane Austen
Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma never fails to fascinate and annoy.

10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron

For those too lazy to follow the link, some other notables you might be interested in:

14. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

21. Moby Dick by Hermman Melville

24. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

31. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

61. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

66. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

68. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Monday, October 13, 2003

How do Kirk Hammett and Joe Perry come ahead of Neil Young?

Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists
for those too lazy to use the link here's the top 20 plus one:
1. Jimi Hendrix (naturally....)
2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band
3 B.B. King
4 Eric Clapton
5 Robert Johnson
6 Chuck Berry
7 Stevie Ray Vaughan
8 Ry Cooder
9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones
11Kirk Hammett of Metallica
12 Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
13 Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
14 Jeff Beck
15 Carlos Santana
16 Johnny Ramone of the Ramones
17 Jack White of the White Stripes
18 John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
19 Richard Thompson
20 James Burton
21 George Harrison

Clearly there are some problems with the list that are the result of it being a Rolling Stone list - a lot of emphasis on guys who are very new and hip (Jack White is #17 and Buddy Guy is #30? Don't make me laugh) or are known more for the notoriety or influential nature of their group than thier actual chops/solos/skill (Johnny Ramone? Kurt Cobain?) though it is nice to see the real king of Rock and Roll at number 6.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Esti mundus Furi abundus (the universe is unfolding as it should)

Habs bounce back from opening loss to Sens, destroy Make-believes 4-0



a change in management can make all the difference

Friday, October 10, 2003

Once again proving the yanks have no sense of humor, obvious Mr. Waters need to have a few toke and chill the hell out...


PM's jokes on marijuana outrage U.S.
Canada 'ashamed' of Chrétien, drug czar says


Sheldon Alberts and Janice Tibbetts
The Ottawa Citizen


Friday, October 10, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The White House's drug czar lashed out yesterday at Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for relaxing marijuana laws and said Canadians are "ashamed" over the prime minister's recent jokes about smoking marijuana when he retires.

John Walters, director of the National Drug Control Policy Office, said Mr. Chrétien was being irresponsible when he said last week that he might try marijuana when he leaves office next February.

Canadians "are concerned about the behaviour of their prime minister, joking that he is going to use marijuana in his retirement," Mr. Walters said to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"They're ashamed."

Canada is "the one place in the hemisphere where things are going the wrong (way) rapidly," Mr. Walters added. "It's the only country in this hemisphere that's become a major drug producer instead of reducing their drug production."

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who is shepherding the federal government's marijuana legislation through the House of Commons, responded that Mr. Walters should "look in his own backyard" before criticizing Mr. Chrétien.

"There are over 10 states that have in place what we call alternative penalties, so you know, if it is not correct to move in that direction, maybe he should spend some time talking to his own states," Mr. Cauchon said.

Mr. Walters' criticisms of Mr. Chrétien came following an effort by the prime minister to make light of his government's controversial decriminalization legislation.

During an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Mr. Chrétien said he had never tried marijuana, but might once decriminalization legislation is approved by Parliament.

"I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal," he said. "I will have money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."

Jim Munson, Mr. Chrétien's director of communications, declined to comment on Mr. Walters' claim that Canadians are ashamed of their leader.

"I am not going to get into those kind of comments. I mean, they have their point of view and we have our point of view," Mr. Munson said.

The prime minister, while joking about his own lack of personal experience with marijuana, also spoke about the need to crack down on growers and dealers of marijuana, Mr. Munson said.

The bill was handed yesterday to a special parliamentary committee, instead of the busy Commons justice committee, which would not be able to hold public hearings on the controversial legislation until after Christmas.

Randy White, a Canadian Alliance MP on the special committee, said that members do not intend to rush the bill. The Americans will be among the witnesses who will be invited to the hearings.

© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Highway 61 rerevisted by Tim Cahill

You can tell Le Petit Gar from Shawinagin is ready to retire and clearly doesn't give a shit what the press says. You have to love that.

Chretien jokes about trying pot once it's decriminalized, ready to pay fine

Canadian Press


Saturday, October 04, 2003



WINNIPEG (CP) - It's an unlikely retirement scenario for Prime Minister Jean Chretien: he's at his lakeside cottage, sipping tea with his wife Aline - and smoking a big fat joint.

The 69-year-old prime minister has never smoked marijuana, he says, but he joked in an interview this week he might be willing to give it a try once it's decriminalized. Chretien made the joke in an Ottawa interview with the Winnipeg Free Press published in Friday's paper.

Chretien was asked how it felt to have bills for decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing same-sex marriages as the exclamation points to his lengthy political career.

"I don't know what is marijuana," Chretien replied.

"Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."

On a more serious note, he defended his government's marijuana bill, which he is trying to pass this fall in what is expected to be his last parliamentary session.

He said replacing criminal sentences with simple fines is a more realistic way of punishing marijuana users.

"The decriminalization of marijuana is making normal what is the practice," Chretien said.

"It is still illegal, but do you think Canadians want their kids, 18 years old or 17, who smoke marijuana once and get caught by the police, to have a criminal record for the rest of their life?

"What has happened is so illogical that they are not prosecuted anymore. So let's make the law adjust to the realities. It is still illegal, but they will pay a fine. It is in synch with the times.

On same-sex marriage, Chretien said he thinks it is better to err on the side of giving more rights than taking away rights. But he didn't want to talk about whether that view has caused him problems as a Catholic.

"My grandfather had been refused holy communion because he was a Liberal organizer," he said. "For us, my mentality, my religion belongs to me and I will deal personally with that. I am a public person in a very diverse society, and I don't think I can impose every limit of my morality on others, because I don't want others to impose their morality on me."

Monday, September 22, 2003

Oh to be back home and listening to the cbc blues series

With the western world supposedly beseiged by snarling, foaming at the mouth, fanged, three-eyed terrorists intent on eating our children it nice to see the attorney general of the Excited States is spending his limited resources well.
the next step will be arresting reggae singers for singing about weed

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

well I almost had a bit of a dust up at the office last night. For a branch of the world's largest newspaper our editors seem to have a funny idea of what constitutes journalism.
A couple of examples:
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
I think most of us will have heard of the 5 Ws (Who what where when why) Well where I work "who" is usually a well guarded secret, even when the name is in the public domain. The above story has two main actors in it, one who is on trial for accessory to murder after the fact(destruction of evidence). His name is therefore a matter of public record, but the oiks at the parent paper won't use it because they think it might identify the other main actor in the story - a police lt. who has been accused of accepting a bribe. Said Lt. was interviewed and testified at the trial and his name is also therefor a matter of public record, but we don't run it because he might not like it.
example two shows us how accurate stats can be used to twist the truth
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
this one concerns the number of foreigners arrested in the first half of the year. The police say the number is up by 20 percent from last year to just over 9,000 and that about 240 of those were arrested for "murder and other violent crimes". Sounds like a massive crime wave committed by those pernicious foreign devils doesn't it? Spot the logical/statistical fallacy yet?
9,000 arrests out of how many? 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?

five minutes of web cruising later we find out that in 2002 2,735,612 crimes were reported to police, including 1,340 murders and that in all, 542,115 arrests were made
Current year stat are not yet readily available in english, but would have been included in the report the DY story was based on. When I mentioned this I was told that because it wasn't in the original japanese story, we could not add it to our story.
The next day I checked the other two main english language dailies and found out that while we at the Daily Anonymous didn't have the essential background info to put the crime stats in context, our rivals did.

The international Herald-Tribune/Asahi:
"Crimes allegedly committed by foreigners accounted for only 1.39 percent of all criminal cases in the half-year."

The Japan Times:
"Crime allegedly committed by foreigners, a popular media scapegoat, accounted for a scant 1.39 percent of all cases in the half-year period. The total number of arrests and papers sent to prosecutors, including those involving Japanese, reached 1.34 million in the first six months of this year."

It is the classic propagandists big lie. "Our country is in peril, the communists have receive triple the number of votes in this latest election compared to last election." says the red baiter, not telling us that last time they got 20 of 200,000 votes cast and this time they got 60 out of 300,000 votes cast.

The problem is when I complain about these things, the editors look at me like I've grown an extra head. "We Japanese don't like to use too many names, we like to keep thing anonymous" said one editor (good of her to speak for the entire population of 128 million) and of course as all Japanese know (and as we keep telling them) "Foreigners are responsible for most of the crime in Japan"


Now obviously if both rival papers had the information it was readily available, probably contained in the same report from the NPA. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that the writer for the Yomiuri Shimbun intentionally left out the information.
Could there be an agenda at work here?
You bet your (insert off-colour colloquial expression here) there is.
A quick search of our database turned up a half dozen similar stories, all with the same information missing. It also turned up four editorials that followed the stories, calling for measures to be taken to halt the rising flood of criminal foreigners.

conclusion: I work for facists here at Partoftheproblem, Inc.

Is the ministry of truth taking job applications?

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

this article does not exactly inspire faith in the democratic process

www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Co...ageid=968256289824&col=968342212737
rather it calls to mind Frank Zappa's "Dumb all over"
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/lyrics/You_Are_What_You_Is.html#Dumb

Sunday, August 31, 2003

seem to having a little trouble with the new comment function due to reblogger being offline at the moment but I will try to sort things out in the near future.

Meanwhile consider the benefits of thisme hearties, ahrrrr! and this too ye scaborus sea-dogs

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Nice to see this coming from an American, rather than a Canadian.

This is an article from a paper in Pittsburg.

"It's not just the weather that's cooler in Canada"
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Pittsburg, PA Post-Gazette
You live next door to a clean-cut, quiet guy. He never plays loud music
or throws raucous parties. He doesn't gossip over the fence, just smiles
politely and offers you some tomatoes. His lawn is cared-for, his house is
neat as a pin and you get the feeling he doesn't always lock his front door.
He wears Dockers. You hardly know he's there.
And then one day you discover that he has pot in his basement, spends his
weekends at peace marches and that guy you've seen mowing the yard is his
spouse.
Allow me to introduce Canada.
The Canadians are so quiet that you may have forgotten they're up there,
but they've been busy doing some surprising things. It's like discovering
that the mice you are dimly aware of in your attic have been building an
espresso machine.
Did you realize, for example, that our reliable little tag-along brother
never joined the Coalition of the Willing? Canada wasn't willing, as it
turns out, to join the fun in Iraq. I can only assume American diner menus
weren't angrily changed to include "freedom bacon," because nobody here eats
the stuff anyway.
And then there's the wild drug situation: Canadian doctors are authorized
to dispense medical marijuana. Parliament is considering legislation that
would not exactly legalize marijuana possession, as you may have heard, but
would reduce the penalty for possession of under 15 grams to a fine, like a
speeding ticket. This is to allow law enforcement to concentrate resources
on traffickers; if your garden is full of wasps, it's smarter to go for the
nest rather than trying to swat every individual bug. Or, in the United
States, bong.
Now, here's the part that I, as an American, can't understand. These poor
benighted pinkos are doing everything wrong. They have a drug problem:
Marijuana offenses have doubled since 1991. And Canada has strict gun
control laws, which means that the criminals must all be heavily armed, the
law-abiding civilians helpless and the government on the verge of a massive
confiscation campaign. (The laws have been in place since the '70s, but I'm
sure the government will get around to the confiscation eventually.) They
don't even have a death penalty!
And yet ... nationally, overall crime in Canada has been declining since
1991. Violent crimes fell 13 percent in 2002. Of course, there are still
crimes committed with guns -- brought in from the United States, which has
become the major illegal weapons supplier for all of North America -- but my
theory is that the surge in pot-smoking has rendered most criminals too
relaxed to commit violent crimes. They're probably more focused on
shoplifting boxes of Ho-Hos from convenience stores.
And then there's the most reckless move of all: Just last month, Canada
decided to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. Merciful moose, what can
they be thinking? Will there be married Mounties (they always get their
man!)? Dudley Do-Right was sweet on Nell, not Mel! We must be the only ones
who really care about families. Not enough to make sure they all have health
insurance, of course, but more than those libertines up north.
This sort of behavior is a clear and present danger to all our stereotypes
about Canada. It's supposed to be a cold, wholesome country of polite,
beer-drinking hockey players, not founded by freedom-fighters in a bloody
revolution but quietly assembled by loyalists and royalists more interested
in orderand good government than liberty and independence.
But if we are the rugged individualists, why do we spend so much of our
time trying to get everyone to march in lockstep? And if Canadians are so
reserved and moderate, why are they so progressive about letting people do
what they want to?
Canadians are, as a nation, less religious than we are, according to
polls. As a result, Canada's government isn't influenced by large,
well-organized religious groups and thus has more in common with those of
Scandinavia than those of the United States, or, say, Iran.
Canada signed the Kyoto global warming treaty, lets 19-year-olds drink,
has more of its population living in urban areas and accepts more immigrants
per capita than the United States.
These are all things we've been told will wreck our society. But I guess
Canadians are different, because theirs seems oddly sound.
Like teenagers, we fiercely idolize individual freedom but really demand
that everyone be the same. But the Canadians seem more adult -- more secure.
They aren't afraid of foreigners. They aren't afraid of homosexuality. Most
of all, they're not afraid of each other.
I wonder if America will ever be that cool.

Monday, August 25, 2003

The perfect song for both rainy days and sunny days is:

eensy weensy spider

J.

ok, I take up this challenge with aplomb. I found Les' list a tad literal. Janis' Summertime always sounds wintry to me.

Summer:
Steal my Sunshine - Len
Hot Fun in the Summertime - Sly and the Family Stone
Long Hot Summer Night - Jimi Hendrix Experience

Rainy Day:
Rainy Day, Dream Away - Jimi Hendrix Experience
Riders on the Storm - Doors
The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin

Mike

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Right-o folks, a Woodshed Challenge. Les (Tokyo Blues) Coles is compiling a cd of the best summer songs and the best rainy day songs. The criterion is that the song must 'evoke summer' or 'the feeling of a rainy day'

so far we have:
In the summer time -Mungo Jerry
Summertime- Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the holding co.
Sunny Days - Lighthouse
Summer in the City -?@Lovin' spoonful
walking on sunshine - Katrina and the waves
Summer time blues - eddie cochran
we're here for a good time - trooper
dock of the bay - Otis Redding
Sunshine Superman - Donovan


Rainy day women #12&35 - Bob Dylan
Rain- Beatles
Stormy Weather- Lena Horne
Stormy Monday - Allman Bros
You are like a Hurricane - Neil Young
Looks like Rain - Buddy Guy
I'm fixing a hole - Beatles (sgt pepper)
Lousiana - Wild Magnolia
Rainy day people - gordon lightfoot
Rainy night in Georgia- Gladys Knight & the pips
Rain down on me - blue rodeo
Rain on the roof - lovin' spoonful

Saturday, August 23, 2003

This is from the .blues blog maintained by my pal and fellow Yomiuri scribe, Les Coles. He also maintains the excellent tokyo-blues.com check out the harp lesson there or the edited version on the bbc's hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.
Les 6:50 PM [+] ::
...
Feel like going down the crossroads?


Voodoo doctor auctions Devil's Pact services on eBay

Eastern England (Aug. 22) -- Author and Voodoo practitioner Doktor Snake is auctioning his services on eBay to help musicians gain fame and fortune by making a pact with the Devil at the crossroads - just like 1930s bluesman Robert Johnson reputedly did.

Snake, author of "Doktor Snake's Voodoo Spellbook" (St. Martin's Press), says he has made the pact himself (before he got a publishing deal) and that he intends to personally guide winning bidders through the Crossroads Rite.

Snake says he will also provide a "genuine Devil's contract," which will serve as a binding agreement between the musician and the Lord of Darkness.

He does stress, however, that it is not as Satanic as it sounds.

"What lies at the heart of the Crossroads Rite is not about the Devil," he explains. "The Devil as prince of all evil is really a Christian invention. In the Crossroads Rite, the Devil is more a teaching spirit that gives you access to your inner-genius."

Snake claims that, during the 1990s, a number of now high-profile rock singers and musicians consulted him about performing the Crossroads Rite before they became famous. He says confidentiality prevents him from naming names.

He is confident that he can help winning eBay bidders gain fame.

"This is a foolproof method of achieving a meteoric rise to fame and fortune," he says.

Doktor Snake is a practising Voodoo doctor (or witch doctor), currently living in Norwich, Eastern England. Unusually for a professional Voodoo practitioner, he is white.

As chronicled in his "Voodoo Spellbook", Doktor Snake's Voodoo mentor was the late Earl Marlowe, a Trinidadian "conjure man" who Snake played in a band with in London during the 1980s. Marlowe took him under his wing and taught him the arts of Voodoo - along with the secret lore surrounding the Devil's Pact at the crossroads.

Doktor Snake's eBay auction goes live at midnight on September 7th

Thursday, August 21, 2003

IN YOUR EAR



Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

THE THORNS

The Thorns

Sony Music Japan Int'l, 2,400 yen


Grab your 12-string guitar, California folk-rock has returned.

The tasty three-part harmonies of singer-songwriters Pete Droge, Shawn Mullins and Matthew Sweet instantly evoke the The Byrds, the early work of The Eagles and especially Crosby, Stills and Nash, with an occasional hint of Tom Petty, the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas.

All three are accomplished solo artists and producers. Despite being accustomed to working alone, they were keen to try a more interactive project.

After things clicked during a brief demo session in the spring of 2002, the three spent a couple of weeks writing songs on a ranch in California's Santa Ynez Valley and in a suite in the Montrose Hotel in Los Angeles. That autumn, they were joined in the studio in Atlanta by producer Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train), ace session drummer Jim Keltner and E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan.

The result is 13 tracks (plus two extras just for Japan) that hark back to the best of the aforementioned bands while creating a new melodic, harmony-driven power-folk for the new century that owes more to 1970s pop singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne than traditional folk roots. No faux-soul boy band nasal whinging tweaked in the studio here, these guys are the real full-throated deal.

The lead track "Runaway Feeling" has a steering-wheel tapping feel and simple catchy progression that could fool the listener into thinking they've stumbled onto a lost track from Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, and the melancholic "Dragonfly" could have been the lead single from a Vietnam-era Crosby, Stills and Nash album. "Long, Sweet Summer Night" is the kind of short, sweet pop tune that Brian Wilson wishes he could still write.

The production and arrangements are polished and bright, but the rougher original demo of "Brambles" featured as a bonus track for Japanese release indicates that The Thorns might benefit from a looser, more acoustic-based approach that lets a darkness into their California sunshine.



VARIOUS ARTISTS

Masked and Anonymous

Sony Music Japan Int'l, 2,400 yen

While film soundtracks rarely feature enough new material to merit critical attention, an exception must be made for Bob Dylan's latest cinematic effort, Masked and Anonymous. By all reports, the movie, directed by Larry Charles, is surreal, and the soundtrack certainly reflects that with four new performances by Dylan and 10 by other artists covering his compositions, often in other languages.

The Magokoro Brothers' "My Back Pages" with its Japanese lyrics might provide a good entry point for Japanese interested in seeing what all the fuss is about. Los Lobos add a little Latin spice to the semi-cajun "On a Night Like This" and the album even includes an Italian rap version of "Like a Rolling Stone." One of the most interesting interpretations is Sertab Erener's Arabian-flavored "One More Cup of Coffee."

America's greatest living songwriter tackles the traditional bluegrass number "Diamond Joe" and the Confederate anthem "Dixie" with equal aplomb and his scorching reworking of "Cold Irons Bound" from his 1997 Grammy-winning album Time Out Of Mind is the high point of the album.

A must-have for serious Dylan aficionados, but for the casual fan there are better collections of covers available.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Get with it people! The Beatles are tired! Van Halen is way better....&*$#$^%^#(....
Sorry about that, The spirit of John Shymko just took over my typing hand for a moment. Me like Beatles too!

Mike,
I actually had a dream about the Golden Nugget the other night. I owned the place and you were patting down the kids for quarters!
Ah, nuggin'.

J.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Ah, the venerable Beatles. I can't seem to get very far from the first band I ever loved. My obsession with the Fabs contributed to my eighth-grade social outcast status, and next month I begin rehearsals to perform the entire White Album live at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. Check it here. I've been listening to that album over and over again for the past month, sometimes playing along and sometimes not, but it does not take a fatty of kind bud to affirm the essential goodness of all things Beatle. Funny thing about the moptops. Unlike, say, Dylan, Beatle outtakes tend to deserve their obscurity. I've listened to a few of the studio boots from the White Album era now and I can say that not one of the performances really deserves a place on a legit Beatles album. Not so with Bob, whose "Blind Willie McTell", "Series of Dreams", etc could easily have supplanted a few of their more favoured contemporaries ("Union Sundown" and "Disease of Conceit" spring to mind).

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

seriously the new Gibson book is really good too!

Great googly moogly as the man said.
Hiromi and the kids are up in Miyagi-ken ( I know that means fuck all to any of you, you're sitting there saying "well okay is that the next block or further away or what? Who, What, Where, When,Why is Miyagi?

Well actually Miyagi is an area in Northern Japan, it's the area my wife is from. She has gone up to her parents place with the youngins for Obon, which sort of the Japanese festival of the ancestors.


Long story short - I have the place to myself, and myself to myself for that matter, so tea has been consumed, if you catch my drift, and lo and behold, Nippon Public Broadcasting - NHK- just so happens to have Hard Day's Night on the schedule tonigt.

directed by Richard Lester, who also directed John Lennon in How "I Won the War" and Michae‚Œ?@‚x‚?‚’‚‹ in "The Three Musketeers" among other things.
‚h?@‚„efy any of you to roll a fat one and sit down and actually watch "A Hard Days Night" and not decide these guys are absolute geniuses!
I know its been said a million times by a million different people but-

Damn, the Beatles are a REALLY good band.

Really, really, good

Saturday, August 09, 2003

more archival stuff from the yomiuri, though some of you might be interested in this one.

Gibson now just 15 minutes into the future



Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Pattern Recognition

By William Gibson

Putnam, 368 pp, 25.95 dollars


William Gibson is a study in contradictions. The author of seven science fiction novels, he often denies being a science fiction author. He wrote his first novel, 1985's award-winning Neuromancer--which led to him being credited with launching the cyberpunk genre and coining the term cyberspace--on a manual typewriter.

While his previous works have been set in a dystopian near future, his latest, Pattern Recognition, is ostensibly set in the present, though some of the technology and practices described are so cutting-edge as to give the novel a sense of being set in the almost-future of next week or next month.

Though Pattern Recognition dispenses with the techno-wizardry and orbital communities posited in Gibson's earlier work, his recurring themes of the authenticity of art and the nature of creativity are still present. In terms of plot, Pattern Recognition echoes Neuromancer, centered as they both are on a search for the elusive creator of mysterious works of art.

Cayce Pollard is an intuitive marketing consultant, a "coolhunter" who can tell at a glance whether a design will catch on or flop. She is also obsessed with "the footage" a mysterious series of compelling video clips of unknown origin that keep appearing on the Internet, spawning a dedicated subculture. When the eccentric head of a London advertising agency persuades her to seek out the creator of the footage, Cayce bounces from London to Tokyo to Russia with danger, betrayal and intrigue stalking her every step of the way.

Perhaps as a bit of self-satire of his earlier writing, which was sometimes criticized for using brand names in place of adjectives, or perhaps as the kryptonite to her coolhunting superpowers, Gibson saddles Cayce with a bizarre allergy to certain trademarks and logos, with Bibendum the Michelen Man causing nausea and too much Tommy Hilfiger leading to panic attacks. Cayce even has to have the Levi logo ground off the buttons of her jeans.

Cayce is also in mourning for her father, a former government "security expert" and probable CIA man who may or may not have been at the World Trade Center when he disappeared in New York on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Cayce has inherited a touch of her father's professional paranoia and his legacy looms large in the story.

Gibson has an impressive ability to create with a few deft phrases original characters like Cayce who, while seeming impossible, are eminently believable: Hubertus Bigend, the too-handsome and ultra-persuasive cutting-edge advertising whiz that his former lover, a friend of Cayce's, describes as a "real Lombard--loads of money, but a real dickhead"; Boone Chu, a Chinese-American "white hat hacker," security consultant and failed dot.commer from Oklahoma; Hobbs-Baranov, an abrasive, alcoholic retired mathematician and code-breaker obsessed with an early mechanical computer/calculator created in a concentration camp.

As in most of his books, the characters are not always as fleshed out as they might be and sometimes more attention is paid to their clothing than to their motivations. Nor is sparkling dialogue Gibson's strong suit, with conversations existing more to move the plot along than to develop characters.

However, when it comes to creating an atmosphere or capturing a specific feeling, few modern writers can touch him.

Evocative descriptions of places, from the "cyclopean Stalin-era buildings in burnt orange brick" of Moscow to the "manically animated forest of signs" of Shinjuku, Tokyo, fill the book. Where other writers these days are prone to throwing around postmodern references to television programs, movies or pop music, Gibson is more likely to reference architecture and design, graphic art and obscure subcultures such as Japan's "Otaku covens."

As the man who described cyberspace before there was an Internet, Gibson is especially adept at capturing the feel of bulletin board conversations, the paranoid fear of having one's personal Internet history and e-mail laid bare, the closeness of an e-mail relationship, the eeriness of hearing an e-mail friend's voice for the first time and the shock of a first in-the-flesh meeting between old e-friends.

While Gibson's best science fiction efforts have been set in a near-future that seems so real it could be last week, Pattern Recognition is set in a near past that feels like next week. This is by far his most complex work. By stripping away the action-movie violence and Buck Rogers (by way of William Burroughs) gadgetry that, while entertaining, often obscured the more serious themes of his earlier works, Gibson has managed a mature novel of considerable depth and perception that is rife with insight into the nature of electronic relationships, mass culture and the commodification of creativity.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

sorry more archiving

Not much white marble in George Pelecanos' gritty Washington



Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Soul Circus

By George P. Pelecanos

Little, Brown; 352 pp; 24.95 dollars


When most of us think of Washington, the first images that come to mind are of the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, of prosperous middle-aged white men in suits and ties going about the business of running the most powerful nation on earth.

Those familiar with the work of crime writer George P. Pelecanos may have a very different vision of the city. In Soul Circus, his 11th novel set in the roughest neighborhoods of Washington, Pelecanos gives the reader a close look at the world of gangs, guns, poverty and drugs that dominates much of the U.S. capital.

Pelecanos' Washington is a dark, dirty and dangerous place where even ex-cop private eyes like Derek Strange and Terry Quinn walk softly down some streets.

Soul Circus follows directly on the heels of Pelecanos' 2002 bestseller Hell to Pay and the 2001 novel that introduced Strange and Quinn, Right as Rain. Strange, a rock-steady pillar of the African-American community in his mid-fifties, has taken on the younger, hot-headed Irish-American Quinn as a partner in Strange Investigations.

Following up on the events of Hell to Pay, we find the two working for lawyers defending drug kingpin Granville Oliver. Strange has been retained to find the former girlfriend of Oliver's right-hand man, whose testimony can keep him off death row, while Quinn is involved in trying to find the ex-girlfriend of the loser brother of a local street gang leader.

As in his previous work, notably the three novels featuring hard-drinking investigator Nick Stefanos, even the heroes have flaws. The quick-tempered Quinn is unable to back away from the smallest affront and Strange has more than one skeleton in his own closet. While both act heroically on occasion and do their best to do the right thing, their very human weaknesses are what ultimately make the two protagonists sympathetic, realistic characters.

That gift for creating believable, detailed characters extends even to the most minor players in Soul Circus, with characters who pop up in only a few scenes expertly drawn with a minimum of exposition.

Where other authors might supply a quick stereotype or faceless cardboard cutout, even the counterman in the diner and the parents of the kids on the peewee football team Strange coaches have unique identities and distinct faces. Pelecanos has mastered the art of showing us a character through minimal but vivid description, realistic dialogue and believable action rather than long paragraphs of back story and explanation.

While mastering all the conventions of the hardboiled genre, Pelecanos is not a slave to them and manages to make political and philosophical points about race relations, gun control, feminism, masculinity and honesty without it interfering with the readers enjoyment of the story.

Pelecanos clearly argues that the easy availability of firearms is one of the greatest contributing factors to violent crime, even using Nick Stefanos, the hero of three of his earlier books, in a cameo role to drive the point home.

While offering a bleak view of life in the ghettos of Washington, Pelecanos also shows how small acts of decency can make a difference in the world and refuses to fall into the usual trap of having one tough good guy solve all the world's problems with his fists and a gun. Hollywood-style violence without consequences does not exist in the real world and Pelecanos shows how the death of anyone diminishes us all without preaching.

With Soul Circus, Pelecanos should garner the fame he richly deserves and take his place in the pantheon of noir greats alongside Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy.

Friday, July 25, 2003

hey wow cool! swift responses - just like an almost conversation. I agree that kindereggs are less than wonderful but don't think they should be banned. I wouldn't buy them for my kids for a few years yet as they are too young and could choke on the bits, and the chocolate is awful.

I'd be all for taking costa rica into the fold. their constitution bars them from having an army!

Kev,
I moved (or I should say my family moved, I was far too young to pick up the couch) to Michagan when I was 2 years old. We moved back to Canada when I was about 6. Apparently, was was very relieved because I didn't want to get drafted in the U.S. I was never officially an American citizen. I think the deciding factor to move back to Canada was when a knife fight in the school yard behind our house interrupted a patio party.

As far as the anex project goes, I think we have unofficially annexed Costa Rica. Ceri and I were there a couple of years ago and encoutered many Canadians. There is even a Canadian newspaper. I highly recommend Costa Rica as a vacation destination.

P.T.
Kinder eggs are evil and should be banned worldwide. They are environmentally nasty and could cause young children to choke. Not to mention the wasted time trying to put the toy together.
And the chocolate sucks.

"Land of the Free" my ass!

If Kev's book review($23, eh....) has left any doubt in your mind.....
Any nation that would ban Kinder Eggs oughta be #1 on the Axis of Evil list. Here's a LINK to a story explaining the whole sordid tale.

P.S. I think the Turks and Caicos should anex us.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Jason, didn't you once tell me you were born in Michigan?

As far as the island thing is concerned, I think its a great idea. It would seriously change the Turks and Caicos and in the long run I think it would have an impact on Canadian culture too.

sorry, just archiving stuff from the yomiuri site

The power of sex, drugs and cheap strawberries



Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Reefer Madness

By Eric Schlosser

Houghton Mifflin, 310 pp, 23 dollars


Those picking up this book expecting a collection of lurid tales from the counterculture--after all, it is named for a 1937 propaganda film about how smoking marijuana turns clean-cut kids into ax-murdering maniacs--may be in for a surprise.

Having exposed the "dark side of the all-American meal" in his 2001 best seller Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser turns his considerable talents to an examination on the trillion dollar underground economy of the United States.

The book is built around expanded versions of three previously published magazine articles on marijuana laws, illegal immigrant labor and the pornography business, bracketed by an introduction and conclusion that discuss the role and nature of the shadow economy.

By and large, Reefer Madness is a damning debunking of the free market mantras and moral hypocrisy of pro-business political conservatives.

Schlosser begins with a look at the economic and legal consequences of the largest U.S. cash crop--marijuana.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared the opening of the "War on Drugs" in 1980 and in 1982 appointed the first "Drug Czar," Carlton Turner, who believed smoking pot was responsible for young people being involved in "anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations" and that marijuana use caused homosexuality.

Schlosser points out the inconsistencies in the way offenders are sentenced in different parts of the country. "In New York State, possessing slightly less than an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana brings a 100 dollars fine, if it's a first offense. In Louisiana, possessing the same amount of pot could lead to a prison sentence of twenty years." He details the way some law enforcement agencies have become financially dependent on the income derived from property seizures connected to drug investigations.

In particular, Schlosser highlights the way the political race to demonstrate how tough candidates are on drugs has resulted in penalties that far outweigh the crimes they claim to punish.

"A conviction for a marijuana offense can mean the revocation or denial of more than 460 federal benefits, including student loans, small-business loans, professional licenses, and farm subsidies... federal welfare payment and food stamps. Convicted murderers, rapists and child molesters, however, remain eligible for such benefits."

He exposes the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing rules that send people to prison for more than 20 years, and often for life, for offenses as minor as selling drug paraphernalia such as water pipes.

The second section details the plight of migrant workers in the California agricultural industry, mainly through an examination of the use of illegal immigrant labor in the strawberry farming business. Schlosser contends that the farm industry in the United States (and to a growing extent the meatpacking, textile and other industries that rely on cheap, semi-skilled labor) has become dependent on illegal immigrants. The underground economy relies on untraceable, untaxable cash transactions, and Schlosser asserts that nearly 30 percent of workers in Los Angeles County are now paid in cash.

Large agribusiness corporations skirt labor laws through sharecropping arrangements straight out of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, while the law punishes illegal immigrant workers far more severely than those who employ and exploit them.

"Left to its own devices, the free market always seeks a work force that is hungry, desperate and cheap--a work force that is anything but free" concludes the author.

The final section traces the history of the pornography industry in the United States by looking at the various attempts over the years to legally define obscenity and rule on what people can or cannot legally see, while telling the story of the founding father of modern porn, a former comic book salesman who built an industry that generates the same revenue as Hollywood's domestic box office receipts.

This section also serves as a primer on the fine art of tax evasion, tracing the efforts of porn magnate Reuben Sturman to skim off and hide hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid funding the government's long-running campaign to convict him on obscenity charges.

While the section is somewhat outdated in that it lacks much information on the financial impact of the Internet on the porn industry, it does provide a revealing look at a legal industry that is largely subterranean.

Overall, the strength of Reefer Madness is Schlosser's ability to put a human face on abstract statistics and tie dry historical facts to interesting human drama.

The only real complaint is that each of the main sections of the book could, and should, have been expanded to fill entire volumes of their own.