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

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The boy who cried wolf
This is real attack dog campaign advertising. Is is the best the republicans can do? (Ooooh scary puppies, nice doggie, nice doggie, go chase that congresscritter) It looks like a Greenpeace ad! Check out the truth from the pack themselves

Thursday, October 21, 2004

this just in

"Four more years of George Bush will be like four more years of syphilis," the famed author said yesterday at a hastily called press conference near his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. "Only a fool or a sucker would vote for a dangerous loser like Bush," Dr. Thompson warned. "He hates everything we stand for, and he knows we will vote against him in November."

Thompson, long known for the eerie accuracy of his political instincts, went on to denounce Ralph Nader as "a worthless Judas Goat with no moral compass."

"I endorsed John Kerry a long time ago," he said, "and I will do everything in my power, short of roaming the streets with a meat hammer, to help him be the next President of the United States."

HST - Bush-Cheney worse than Nixon

The Good Doctor Thompson, one of our spiritual leaders here in the woodshed, has profferred his opinion on things political from which we quote:

"If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd."

"Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him."

"You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

In your ear
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Real Gone
Sony Music Japan, 2,520 yen

He's been a beatnik piano balladeer, a channeler of Kurt Weill, a Dadaist antirock star and now a human beatbox and protest singer. Tom Waits has never been content to sit still creatively, and the latest effort in his 30-year career, Real Gone, continues to push the artistic envelope.
Waits barks, grunts, sputters, hisses and growls out a backbeat that clangs and booms like a trash can hurled down a fire escape on the abrasive, but compelling opening track "Top of the Hill." Just try to get it out of your head.

In many ways Real Gone picks up where 1999's Mule Variations left off, with Waits eschewing the piano for sparse blues and R&B guitar riffs, sheet metal percussion and sinister, often apocalyptic images to accompany his vocal rhythms.

Waits refers to his most recent work as "cubist funk" and songs like "Metropolitan Glide" and "Shake It" have a raw groove that gets into your bones. Others, like the quasi Afrobeat of "Sins of the Father" haunt the mind.

"Grim reapers or grand weepers" is how collaborator Kathleen Brennan classifies her husband's songs and Real Gone has plenty of both. "Green Grass"--a love song from a dead man urging his lover, "Lay your head where my heart used to be. Hold the earth above me. Lay down in the green grass. Remember when you loved me."--may be one of the saddest songs Waits has ever written, and they don't get any more grim-reaperish than "Dead and Lovely"

A spoken-word piece, "Circus," mines the familiar Waits enthusiasm for colorfully named dead-enders like "Horse Face Ethel" and "Poodle Murphy," who would "like to hammer this ring into a bullet."

But there's a new sort of song for Waits on Real Gone. "Day After Tomorrow" is a letter from a soldier who is coming home from war and Waits' first clearly political song, reportedly inspired by fears of a draft.

Waits is still the best lyricist this side of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, reeling off lines like "Night is falling like a bloody axe" and "Black cellophane sky at midnight" that paint a dark, gritty vision of a broken-down world. Real Gone is a shattered stained-glass window in a burned-out church.

His rusty-barbed-wire-and-whisky voice was never made for radio, but anyone who doesn't appreciate Waits as one of the most emotional, evocative singers around may as well stay in the shallows with the boy bands and Britney Spears. Real Gone is way out there in the deep water, where you can't see the bottom.

Universal Music, 2,600 yen

Mark Knopfler continues making movies with his fourth post-Dire Straits solo album, Shangri-La, his most narrative yet.

There are biographical tales about McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, boxer Sonny Liston, skiffle king Lonnie Donegan and Elvis Presley, a murder mystery, a look inside a strip club, a fisherman's lament and even a fugitive's "Postcards from Paraguay"

It wouldn't be a Knopfler album without some love songs, and we get two here, the simple waltz-time "All that Matters" and the downcast "Whoop De Doo" ("If I'm over the moon, it's because I'm over you").

While Knopfler's extended staccato guitar solos used to be one of the highlights of any Dire Straits album, he is considerably more restrained these days, opting for a warm, layered sound, while still providing some great chunky country-blues rhythms and jazzy riffs

Neal Stephenson vs. William Gibson
Regular readers will know that I admire both of these writers and for good reasons. Check out Mr. Gibson's blog - he's pretty political and have a look at this interview with Neal Stephenson in which he outlines his extremely destructive clashes with Gibson

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Things go Yeatsian for people like us
Kevin Wood Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

People Like Us
By Chris Binchy
Macmillan, 244 pp, 10.99 pounds

Chris Binchy's People Like Us, the story of a Dublin family's implosion, brings to mind the work of another Dublin writer, William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Living in a small house in Dublin, Paul Walsh and his family are driving one another to distraction for lack of elbow room. The three children bicker incessantly, Paul and his wife, Ruth, have no privacy, and 17-year-old Clare is sharing a bedroom with her 7-year-old sister, Louise, while brother Fin, the middle child, has only "a box" of a room to himself.
When Ruth suggests moving to a larger home in the housing estates on the edge of the city, Paul has his doubts, but since Ruth is the one who always seemed to know what was best for the kids and family, he keeps them to himself.

While North American suburbs tend to be the domain of the middle class, it is clear that to Walsh the move is step down the social ladder, to a place just a hair above the slums, not the sort of place for "people like us." Gangs of bored teens hang around the neighborhood with nothing to do but drink, fight and antagonize the neighbors, not at all the sort Paul wants his older daughter involved with. But as with the move, Paul is powerless to stop things once they are in motion and before long his daughter is moping about the house giving him the silent treatment, driving a wedge between her parents.

As things spin out of control, violence erupts, innocence is lost and Paul finds himself doing and saying things in anger he never thought he would, driving his family farther apart every time he tries and fails to make a stand, while Clare pushes him in all the wrong directions with the furious righteousness peculiar to teenagers.

While Binchy is no Yeats, his prose is not without a certain rough poetry of its own. He skillfully creates a mounting sense of unease, illustrating Paul's discomfort in his new surroundings. He takes the reader into the minds of not only Paul and Clare, but also Robbie, the budding psychopath who leads the local gang of yobs, and Joe, the slightly odd neighbor who is the target of much of Robbie's scorn.

In Paul, Binchy shows us a well-intentioned but weak man, who defers to his wife to avoid rows, getting up on his hind legs and speaking his mind at precisely the wrong time and in the wrong way. Paul's pent-up resentment leads to explosive anger the reader can empathize with even while it repels them.

His portrait of Robbie, a bored boy who delights in trouble if only to break the monotony, is a nuanced look at someone whose inability to articulate or examine his own feelings has made him brutal and ambitionless.

Clare, with her selfish emotional manipulations and indignant teenage outrage at her father's failure to trust her, also becomes in the end a "rough beast, its hour come at last."

People Like Us is an insightful, engrossing examination of how things fall apart.

"You can be sure and be wrong"
Ron Suskind's long article on Bush's faith that he is God's instrument on earth in the New York Times is worth registering with the paper