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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A couple of new music vids/good tunes

#1. Sufi devotional music from a shrine in Tamil Nadu in southern India. Check out The Nagore Sessions on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Nagore-Sessions/dp/B001TKK50A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293079279&sr=1-1

#2. "Wicked Wire" by Philly psych band The Asteroid No. 4. New tune from their latest album. They're on Amazon too, and elsewhere.




Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lively interview of Voodoo Funk-meister

The guy behind VoodooFunk.blogspot.com, Frank Gossner, has an interesting interview over at another blog called Dust and Grooves. The link to the whole interview is here:

http://www.dustandgrooves.com/2010/11/frank-gossner-brooklyn-ny.htmlhttp://

Voodoo Funk is a great blog with piles of interesting music (see the link below right, on the sidebar) and Frank is himself a mightily opinionated guy, as can be seen from this extract from the intervie win which he rails against CDs and, even more so, against MP3s. I am curious what people have to say about this. Is he just being a Ludditmp Or does he have a legitimate point?

In the interests of full disclosure, I'll admit to having no problems with CDs, though I have yet to warm up to mp3s. Yeah I have an iPod-type device, but I mainly rip tunes from my physical CDs... I think I've downloaded stuff (apart from free sample tunes) maybe a half dozen times in my life. (Free tunes, on the other hand... well I've got thousands of those.)

Here's Frank's rant:

"Vinyl is the most civilized way to listen to recorded music.

For my personal taste, the best music ever recorded was all released on vinyl. Why would I want to listen to it on any other format? If you're into art, would you want the original painting or a digital print?

The CD always was a shity format. I mean sometimes I would buy some, like for example when my wife and I recently went on a long road trip. The CD to me was a substitute for the music cassette but no replacement for the record. The music industry thought, "Oh, these crappy things are real cheap to manufacture and they're good enough for the idiot consumer out there" and for the most part they were right. I remember those technology embracing fools who in the mid- to late 80s sold off their record collection for cheap and "switched" to CDs. It's funny how most people are willing to sacrifice quality and content for what they see as technological progress. Today they have to realize that they're sitting on a pile of worthless plastic.

Now we have MP3s and a lot of people say it's a great thing how music is now not anymore seen in connection with a physical format but only as the sound itself. Great, you've made it from a 12" album with room for cover art, lyric sheet etc to a ringtone for your cell phone. Some people call this advancement. I call it pitiful. People are sticking cheap plastic plugs into their ears and inject badly compressed audio files into they hearing cavity. This doesn't have anything to do with enjoying music. It's consumption on the most primitive level. This whole mp3 culture really pisses me off. And you can take those ugly "docking stations" and disgusting miniature speakers and shove them. Maybe that's why they're shaped so ergonomically.


I'm not an audiophile. I'm not the kind of guy who spends thousands of dollars on a hi-fi system but you need some real speakers and you want your music to sound like it has some balls.

I grew up listening to Punk Rock and I still believe that the best way to listen to music is really loud, drunk and with a bunch of friends. Fuck an iPod.

It's a shame that besides a few specialized boutique stores, there are almost no record stores around anymore. Record stores were great places to hang out, meet people, talk about music, browse through records and check out new stuff. Sure you can argue how nowadays all of this can be done in cyber space but is this a good thing? Call me an old fuck but I still believe in leaving the house every once in a while and in socializing with real people in the real world. I'm glad if I don't have to stare into an LCD display every waking minute of the day. I don't have a desk job but if I imagine having to sit at a desk all day and stare into a computer screen and then go home and do the same thing in order to talk to friends, shop for music etc. this just seems so incredibly sad and boring.

People have this weird trust that every new piece of technology has to be embraced, that technological progress always is a great thing, especially if it makes certain aspects of your life more easy and less time consuming. Now what do they do with all that extra time? Let me tell you, they don't do fuck all. They throw out another hour or two updating their Facebook accounts. You walk into a bar or a club these days and you see people staring into their "smart" phones instead of concentrating on getting shitfaced and chasing real life tail. That's some embarrassing and shameful shit.

I know... I'm writing a blog myself (although that's more or less just an archive of reports stemming from my 3 year stay in Africa) and it's ironic how I'm writing all this shit for another blog and probably some people will read this after having had a link sent to them via Facebook or Twitter or some other shit but I hope you understand what I'm talking about. I think it's just getting too much. Sometimes when I grab a book, I have to force myself to really read as in really consciously read and digest each word in every sentence instead of just briefly scanning page after page for the most basic content? Sometimes I catch myself having read a few pages when I have to realize that I've not caught anything but the most rudimentary shit and have to go back several pages and start over. And I think it's the same thing with music. If almost all you could be interested in is available instantly, you consume with haste. You can really immerse yourself into a book or into a record and I think this doesn't really work to this extend with an e-book or with sound files.

Imagine to switch on your stereo, flip through stacks and stack of records to find something that fits your mood, pull the record out of the sleeve, put it on the turntable, sit your ass down in a nice and comfy chair, hold the cover, look at it and listen to the music. Now imagine scrolling through your iTunes library, hit play and sit there in the bluish glare of the screen which makes your face look like the undead... you think you're enjoying music? You think you're having a good time? Think again."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Great song

Even if you don't like hip-hop... it's epic

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is a little late...


...but I just watched this movie over the weekend. Twice.

Anvil! The story of Anvil is, well--the story of Anvil. Anvil are a Canadian heavy metal band, not the best in the world but not the worst either (trust me). I saw them play in a tiny club in New York in I think 1983 or so; the closest thing they ever had to a hit was something called "Metal On Metal," which pretty much sums up the band. But they were fun. And then they disappeared.

Except, they didn't. For the past 30 years they've been working day jobs, scraping together the cash to make records, playing obscure clubs and then going back to work Monday morning. This documentary is astonishing--it's a tribute to people who enjoy very little fame or success in the arts but keep at it anyway out of love for what they do.

I'll admit: it got me pretty misty a few times. Those guys would be me in another life.

Even if you hate metal, throw this in your netflix queue and check it out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Arundhati Roy on Kashmir

The Indian army has over half a million troops in Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan that is the size of Ohio. Half a million troops to contain what the govenment claims is 500 Islamic militants trying to stir up separatist trouble. That's over a thousand soldiers per "militant." Something about the equation isn't quite right.

Below is an editorial by Arundhati Roy, essayist and author of The God of Small Things (great book if you haven't read it) describing her recent travels there. It's long but worth reading. Obama apologists should pay particular attention to the opening three paragraphs.


KASHMIR’S FRUITS OF DISCORD

By Arundhati Roy

November 8, 2010

A WEEK before he was elected in 2008, President Obama said that solving the dispute over Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination — which has led to three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 — would be among his “critical tasks.” His remarks were greeted with consternation in India, and he has said almost nothing about Kashmir since then.

But on Monday, during his visit here, he pleased his hosts immensely by saying the United States would not intervene in Kashmir and announcing support for India’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. While he spoke eloquently about threats of terrorism, he kept quiet about human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Whether Mr. Obama decides to change his position on Kashmir again depends on several factors: how the war in Afghanistan is going, how much help the United States needs from Pakistan and whether the government of India goes aircraft shopping this winter. (An order for 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, worth $5.8 billion, among other huge business deals in the pipeline, may ensure the president’s silence.) But neither Mr. Obama’s silence nor his intervention is likely to make the people in Kashmir drop the stones in their hands.

I was in Kashmir 10 days ago, in that beautiful valley on the Pakistani border, home to three great civilizations — Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist. It’s a valley of myth and history. Some believe that Jesus died there; others that Moses went there to find the lost tribe. Millions worship at the Hazratbal shrine, where a few days a year a hair of the Prophet Muhammad is displayed to believers.

Now Kashmir, caught between the influence of militant Islam from Pakistan and Afghanistan, America’s interests in the region and Indian nationalism (which is becoming increasingly aggressive and “Hinduized”), is considered a nuclear flash point. It is patrolled by more than half a million soldiers and has become the most highly militarized zone in the world.

The atmosphere on the highway between Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar, and my destination, the little apple town of Shopian in the south, was tense. Groups of soldiers were deployed along the highway, in the orchards, in the fields, on the rooftops and outside shops in the little market squares. Despite months of curfew, the “stone pelters” calling for “azadi” (freedom), inspired by the Palestinian intifada, were out again. Some stretches of the highway were covered with so many of these stones that you needed an S.U.V. to drive over them.

Fortunately the friends I was with knew alternative routes down the back lanes and village roads. The “longcut” gave me the time to listen to their stories of this year’s uprising. The youngest, still a boy, told us that when three of his friends were arrested for throwing stones, the police pulled out their fingernails — every nail, on both hands.

For three years in a row now, Kashmiris have been in the streets, protesting what they see as India’s violent occupation. But the militant uprising against the Indian government that began with the support of Pakistan 20 years ago is in retreat. The Indian Army estimates that there are fewer than 500 militants operating in the Kashmir Valley today. The war has left 70,000 dead and tens of thousands debilitated by torture. Many, many thousands have “disappeared.” More than 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus have fled the valley. Though the number of militants has come down, the number of Indian soldiers deployed remains undiminished.

But India’s military domination ought not to be confused with a political victory. Ordinary people armed with nothing but their fury have risen up against the Indian security forces. A whole generation of young people who have grown up in a grid of checkpoints, bunkers, army camps and interrogation centers, whose childhood was spent witnessing “catch and kill” operations, whose imaginations are imbued with spies, informers, “unidentified gunmen,” intelligence operatives and rigged elections, has lost its patience as well as its fear. With an almost mad courage, Kashmir’s young have faced down armed soldiers and taken back their streets.

Since April, when the army killed three civilians and then passed them off as “terrorists,” masked stone throwers, most of them students, have brought life in Kashmir to a grinding halt. The Indian government has retaliated with bullets, curfew and censorship. Just in the last few months, 111 people have been killed, most of them teenagers; more than 3,000 have been wounded and 1,000 arrested.

But still they come out, the young, and throw stones. They don’t seem to have leaders or belong to a political party. They represent themselves. And suddenly the second-largest standing army in the world doesn’t quite know what to do. The Indian government doesn’t know whom to negotiate with. And many Indians are slowly realizing they have been lied to for decades. The once solid consensus on Kashmir suddenly seems a little fragile.

I WAS in a bit of trouble the morning we drove to Shopian. A few days earlier, at a public meeting in Delhi, I said that Kashmir was disputed territory and, contrary to the Indian government’s claims, it couldn’t be called an “integral” part of India. Outraged politicians and news anchors demanded that I be arrested for sedition. The government, terrified of being seen as “soft,” issued threatening statements, and the situation escalated. Day after day, on prime-time news, I was being called a traitor, a white-collar terrorist and several other names reserved for insubordinate women. But sitting in that car on the road to Shopian, listening to my friends, I could not bring myself to regret what I had said in Delhi.

We were on our way to visit a man called Shakeel Ahmed Ahangar. The previous day he had come all the way to Srinagar, where I had been staying, to press me, with an urgency that was hard to ignore, to visit Shopian.

I first met Shakeel in June 2009, only a few weeks after the bodies of Nilofar, his 22-year-old wife, and Asiya, his 17-year-old sister, were found lying a thousand yards apart in a shallow stream in a high-security zone — a floodlit area between army and state police camps. The first postmortem report confirmed rape and murder. But then the system kicked in. New autopsy reports overturned the initial findings and, after the ugly business of exhuming the bodies, rape was ruled out. It was declared in both cases that the cause of death was drowning. Protests shut Shopian down for 47 days, and the valley was convulsed with anger for months. Eventually it looked as though the Indian government had managed to defuse the crisis. But the anger over the killings has magnified the intensity of this year’s uprising.

Shakeel wanted us to visit him in Shopian because he was being threatened by the police for speaking out, and hoped our visit would demonstrate that people even outside of Kashmir were looking out for him, that he was not alone.

It was apple season in Kashmir and as we approached Shopian we could see families in their orchards, busily packing apples into wooden crates in the slanting afternoon light. I worried that a couple of the little red-cheeked children who looked so much like apples themselves might be crated by mistake. The news of our visit had preceded us, and a small knot of people were waiting on the road.

Shakeel’s house is on the edge of the graveyard where his wife and sister are buried. It was dark by the time we arrived, and there was a power failure. We sat in a semicircle around a lantern and listened to him tell the story we all knew so well. Other people entered the room. Other terrible stories poured out, ones that are not in human rights reports, stories about what happens to women who live in remote villages where there are more soldiers than civilians. Shakeel’s young son tumbled around in the darkness, moving from lap to lap. “Soon he’ll be old enough to understand what happened to his mother,” Shakeel said more than once.

Just when we rose to leave, a messenger arrived to say that Shakeel’s father-in-law — Nilofar’s father — was expecting us at his home. We sent our regrets; it was late and if we stayed longer it would be unsafe for us to drive back.

Minutes after we said goodbye and crammed ourselves into the car, a friend’s phone rang. It was a journalist colleague of his with news for me: “The police are typing up the warrant. She’s going to be arrested tonight.” We drove in silence for a while, past truck after truck being loaded with apples. “It’s unlikely,” my friend said finally. “It’s just psy-ops.”

But then, as we picked up speed on the highway, we were overtaken by a car full of men waving us down. Two men on a motorcycle asked our driver to pull over. I steeled myself for what was coming. A man appeared at the car window. He had slanting emerald eyes and a salt-and-pepper beard that went halfway down his chest. He introduced himself as Abdul Hai, father of the murdered Nilofar.

“How could I let you go without your apples?” he said. The bikers started loading two crates of apples into the back of our car. Then Abdul Hai reached into the pockets of his worn brown cloak, and brought out an egg. He placed it in my palm and folded my fingers over it. And then he placed another in my other hand. The eggs were still warm. “God bless and keep you,” he said, and walked away into the dark. What greater reward could a writer want?

I wasn’t arrested that night. Instead, in what is becoming a common political strategy, officials outsourced their displeasure to the mob. A few days after I returned home, the women’s wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (the right-wing Hindu nationalist opposition) staged a demonstration outside my house, calling for my arrest. Television vans arrived in advance to broadcast the event live. The murderous Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu group that, in 2002, spearheaded attacks against Muslims in Gujarat in which more than a thousand people were killed, have announced that they are going to “fix” me with all the means at their disposal, including by filing criminal charges against me in different courts across the country.

Indian nationalists and the government seem to believe that they can fortify their idea of a resurgent India with a combination of bullying and Boeing airplanes. But they don’t understand the subversive strength of warm, boiled eggs.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Feels like a milestone

As you can see from the helpful Flag Counter up above, the number of visitors--unique visitors--to this site has been growing, and the number from the USA has recently passed the 1,000 mark.

I find myself strangely moved by this.

This blog started three years ago, but I only added the Flag Counter about six months ago, so the actual number is probably much much higher--but this is offset, maybe, by the fact that my writing for PopMatters only began about six months ago too, and I think much of my traffic gets driven here by my reviews on that site. Anyway a lot of people who visit seem to come back (which is why the counter number on the right is so much higher than the Flag Counter numbers, which only record unique hits. That, plus the counter was added several months earlier).

So, let me just take this moment to say thanks to all of you who take the time to click a link or type an URL and come check me out. There are people all over the world doing this, and more every day. It's appreciated.

Now the question is... which will I get first, 2,000 Americans or 100 Australians? Or 200 Brits? Or 50 Pakistanis, or 10 people from Myanmar? Stay tuned.

E-books, Kindles and Nooks

I am curious what people have to say about them.

The whole e-book things has pretty much bewildered me. Here you have a more or less perfect object--a book--which holds an astonishing amount of information in a compact form, which is portable and easy to read, required no batteries or power source, and best of all will still work perfectly when you take it off the shelf 20 years from now. I just haven't seen the need for an electronic version, myself. I've thought the whole e-book phenomenon is an elaborate way to get suckers to pay for something that they already have, and then force them to upgrade every 18 months or so.

Now I'm less sure of this. I have students--creative writing students, who read a lot and think about stories and so forth--who love e-books. They tell me they're convenient and portable and enable the user to cart around dozens or hundreds of titles at once. They're better for the environment because they don't consume trees (hmm, but they consume power, and those computer factories aren't exactly enviro-friendly, and neither are the old Kindles chucked into landfills).

Then there was this interesting article on PopMatters about it all:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/133251-barnes-and-noble/

So I'm wondering, am I just being a conservative reactionary loser? (Wouldn't be the first time.) The kind of guy who starts every second sentence with, "When I was your age..." ? After all, I think comic books are a legitimate narrative art form--something that would have gotten me laughed out of Oberlin 25 years ago. Am I making the mistake with e-books that I accuse other people of making with comics? Confusing the form with the content?

Or to put it another way, am I confusing the physical artefact of the book itself with the important stuff, which is the story contained within the book? Is Beowulf just as good on a Kindle?

I have a hard time believing it, but I'm less certain than I used to be. I used to roll my eyes about computers too, back in 1995 or so. And cell phones. And Walkmans. (Remember them?) I'm seeing a trend here. I hardly touch my cell phone, but sheesh, I'm on my laptap hours every day.

Somebody--set me straight here. Are e-books just as good as the "real" thing? Or does something get lost in the digital, plasticized, software-upgraded translation?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hate to say I told you so...


...but as I said two years ago, I voted for Nader.

Here's a lengthy article by Tariq Ali that appeared in the Guardian not long ago. Ali, if you don't know, is a writer and essayist originally from Pakistan, who has lived in the UK for decades and written a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also the editor of the magazine New Left Review.

Here is his latest book.

Here's a link to his site:


Here is his Guardian essay:


The guy says a lot of things that are a.) true, and b.) discomforting to many people. All the more reason for him to keep saying them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sister Fa!

Senegalese rapper Sister Fa combines kora and hip-hop beats with some spitfire vocals, not a word of which I understand. Great song anyway.



Here's a link to her record on Amazon, for more clips:

http://www.amazon.com/Sarabah-Sister-Fa/dp/B00260YMAQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288941992&sr=8-1

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Uzee spills the beans!

Here's video from YouTube--YouTube!--that someone posted from an event in San Francisco, where the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan has been doing various things to promote the Granta issue in which she appears, as well as other things. I had no idea she was going to tell stories about her beloved husband, however. But here you go.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Truly Awesome.

Check out the video from Australia's Axis of Awesome. It lives up to its name... oh man.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Granta 112


Granta, the well-respected British literary magazine, is devoting their current issue to... well, check the cover. The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan has a significantly hefty story in there, as do some other well-known people (Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid) as well as a wide range of lesser-known (in the West anyway) fiction writers, poets, journalists and visual artists. (The art is especially eye-catching, I think.)

Well worth a look, I think, and something like eleven bucks at Amazon right now. Pretty good deal for 250+ pages of hot-off-the-press stuff.

It's been catching good reviews too, from a number of UK papers, The Economist and, in the US, the New York Times Book Review (who mentioned Uzee by name and singled out her story. Hah!) Here's a link:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Danish rappers from Morocco, Pakistan, and Honduras...

...singing a cover of the song "Aicha" by Khaled, a Moroccan rai singer who had a huuuge hit with this back in '97 or '98. We were living in Rabat at the time and man, you heard this song just constantly. Good song though, so it was okay... Good remake too. And I find this video interesting, for a number of reasons.

Hey, newsflash everybody who's terrified of the headscarf: It's just a scrap of cloth! Get it?


God Bless America!


Sometimes I love my country. Not all the time, but sometimes. Jacob Isom is a my hero, and the United States of America produced him.

"DUDE, YOU HAVE NO QUR'AN!"

Here's the YouTube video of the whole story, complete with quote in context (and for those of you who don't know the story... he was defending the Qur'an, not demeaning it. Unlike that idiot "preacher" who wanted to burn it. He's the kind of guy who makes me grind my teeth about my country, but that's another story):


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My kind of football player

I'm not even a Steelers fan, but you gotta love Troy Polamalu. He looks like the unholy love child of Johnny Unitas and Macy Gray. Also, he's an amazing player.

Despite this... go Pats! I wish Troy played for them.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's not on Ground Zero and it isn't a mosque. WTF, guys?

Even if you hate Keith Olbermann, please watch this.

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist..."


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Floods in Pakistan Worsen. Please Consider Helping.

Pakistan's been going through a rough time lately, even more than usual. The plane crash in Islamabad, then some riots, bombings and shootings, and now this.




If you can spare some cash, the people could sure use it. The waters show no sign of diminishing and in fact are flowing southward, which will only worsen the situation as it moves into southern Punjab, Sindh and, god forbid, Karachi.

Here's a link to some places you can donate, either online or by mailing a check. There's always the Red Cross, too.

http://alkhair.co.uk/home/

http://edhifoundation.com/contact.asp

Thanks.

15 Overrated American Writers

The Huffington Post has published this interesting article by Anis Shivani (yeah, me neither) about the 15 most overrated American writers working today. It's a fun article and bound to raise a few eyebrows, and what strikes me is how few of these people I have actually read (Amy tan, Jumpa Lahiri). Based on my limited knowledge, hey, this guy might be on to something...

Here's the link to the article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anis-shivani/the-15-most-overrated-con_b_672974.html#s123759

And for you people who hate links, here's his list. Any thoughts?

1. William T. Vollman
2. Amy Tan -- I read something once. She seems to be one of these people who writes the same story over and over with minor variations, but that may not be fair.
3. John Ashbery -- I actually heard him read at the U of Arizona when I was in grad school. I had no idea what was going on. Shivani offers a quote that seems about right.
4. Mary Oliver
5. Helen Vendler
6. Antonya Nelson
7. Sharon Olds -- read her a lot in grad school when I was trying to date poets. She writes a lot about, like, sex and her father. Often in the same poem, if you get my drift. I used to like her stuff but haven't read it in ages. She had a book called Satan Says, which I thought was a killer title for a bunch of poems.
8. Jorie Graham
9. Jonathan Safran Foer -- a big gun among young writers but I've never read anything by him.
10. Jhumpa Lahiri -- yeah man, somebody explain this to me. I read a few stories from Interpreter of Maladies and was amazed at how poor some of them were. Never read The Namesake; it seems dull.
11. Junot Diaz
12. Louise Gluck
13. Michael Cunningham -- wrote The Hours, which I never read, but like everyone else I saw the movie.
14. Billy Collins
15. Michiko Kakutani -- apparently a reviewer for the New York Times, not a writer per se.

I realize this may come off as sour grapes, and maybe it is, but I also think it's an interesting list and something to think about. Shivani gives his reasons and has a historical perspective too in a discussion of Pulitzer Prizes awarded in the first half of the 20th century. It's interesting to see who was being recognized at that time (Julia Peterkin, Oliver La Farge) and who was overlooked (Faulkner, Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson). Willa Cather won for One of Ours but not for My Antonia. So it's nothing new, exactly, but the hype machine is, perhaps, operating at a greater pitch these days than in the past.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great review in The Asian Review of Books

The Geometry of God has gotten a killer review by the always-astute Nirinjana Iyer in the latest issue of The Asian Review of Books. To wit:

"Given that most books with the slightest connection to Islam feature covers with veiled women baring their kohl-lined eyes for the curious outsider's gaze, THE GEOMETRY OF GOD's black-and-white American edition's jacket depicting an animal skeleton is probably fair warning that Uzma Aslam Khan's Pakistan is going to get in the way of the sensationalized portrayals of the country so beloved by mainstream (Western) media. In her third book, Aslam gives us a female paleontologist, charged writing about the erotic, and a profound inquiry into the often-vexing relationship between faith and reason. Add to these riches the voice of a blind child "taste-testing" words, and THE GEOMETRY OF GOD becomes that rare creature, a novel where the urgency of the message is matched by the verve of the narrative."

That's just the first paragraph. Read the whole essay here:

http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/arb/article.php?article=1107

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pink Floyd to Israel: Tear Down the Wall

Ah, the epic power of rock and roll...

"Washington – For the first time in half a decade, rock legends Pink Floyd reunited for a benefit concert in England to raise money for young Palestinian refugees, MSNBC reported Tuesday.

Roger Waters and David Gilmour, joined by a full stage of keyboardists and drummers, both picked up the guitar to play for the more than 200 fans gathered to see the Oxfordshire concert. The reunion was unpublicized prior to the curtain's rise.

The proceeds from the benefit concert went to the Hoping Foundation, an organization that focuses on the “next generation” of young Palestinians, mostly refugees. Their projects include a film workshop, a scouting group in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and a UN Relief and Works Agency yearbook. The event raised over half a million dollars to benefit the group.

The Pink Floyd duo played a number of classic and fan favorites, including “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two).”

Waters has been involved in pro-Palestinian activism for years. In 2006 he spray painted "tear down the wall" on Israel's West Bank separation wall in the city of Bethlehem. He also worked with the United Nations to produce a short film about the wall's impact on life in the West Bank.

A slew of musicians, including Elvis Costello and The Pixes recently cancelled concerts in Israel in protest of Israel's Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and the deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid
flotilla on May 31st. "

http://palestinenote.com/cs/blogs/music/archive/2010/07/13/pink-floyd-reunites-for-palestinian-benefit-concert.aspx

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Osama Bin Laden comedy movie is banned in Pakistan. Surprised?


So, an Indian film called Tere Bin Laden (Without You Laden) is making waves in India for being the first terrorist-inspired comedy, and in Pakistan for being (*sigh*) banned. The more things change...

According to newspaper reports, "the movie is is about a Pakistani journalist desperate to get a visa to the US who pretends to score an interview with the elusive al-Qaeda chief after finding a look-alike."

Sound innocuous enough, no?

Well, apparently--NO.

Faiza Khan, a journalist based in Karachi, has an interesting article about the government's response in The Times of India. It's well worth a read as she touches on a number of important points. An extract:

"The censor board, to be fair, is known to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, merrily releasing graphically violent local films whose vulgar depictions of sexuality would shame the Marquis of Sade, while banning 'The Da Vinci Code' (due to Pakistan's profound respect for its Christian minority, often expressed by denuding them of all their rights and massacring them in their homes). As such, TBL's falling foul of Pakistan's censors is imminently un-newsworthy in itself; it is the unprecedented reasoning for the ban, however, which sets alarm bells ringing.

"TBL isn't being banned for the usual reasons — that it's injurious to the national image or because it might encourage young people to have sex or an independent thought, nor because it's an Indian film and the rallying cry of the post-Partition subcontinent has long been 'loathe thy neighbour'; it's being banned for fear of reprisal from those whose sentiments will be wounded by a frivolous film referencing bin Laden. 'Tere Bin Laden' will be kept off Pakistani screens for fear of encouraging attacks on cinemas and inviting more bombs and bloodshed. While this is a very real thr-eat, throwing up your hands in anticipation of defeat is not a fitting response. Immaculate security at cinemas that goes beyond a frail old man with a gun sitting next to a decrepit metal detector would be a suitable response. Having a Pakistani red carpet launch, a fitting honour for one of the country's most popular young singers, would be a suitable response. Having the gumption to poke fun at bin Laden and at the world's perceptions of Pakistan would be a suitable response.

"The nanny state has yet again proved itself as the type of nanny that shakes your baby when you're not looking. The driving logic appears to be that kowtowing to the demands of terrorists, in this case anticipating them even before they've been aired, will somehow discourage them. What then might we do if these terrorists start objecting to women in the workplace, or on the street, to the existence of religious minorities, or the government, the army and the institution of democracy? Oh, wait. The ardent hope is that if one stays under the radar, and changes the way one lives in order to not ruffle their feathers, perhaps they will leave us be. On the plus side, perhaps this will render the Taliban redundant; after all, who needs them when the government is willing to do their job for them?"

Here's the link to the whole article:


And another article in Pakistan daily newspaper Dawn:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

So... who do YOU write like?

The web site I Write Like offers to analyze a sample of your writing, then tell you which famous writer you most resemble. Go ahead, try it... You know you want to.

I submitted a paragraph from my latest novel-in-progress and was told that I write like, well, see for yourself:

Could be worse I suppose. Could be better, too.

Come on, try it! Right here: http://iwl.me/

Monday, July 12, 2010

Great New Band

Reviewed these guys for PopMatters--it will be forthcoming sometime, don't know when. The band is The Tamborines, the album is Camera and Tremor, due August 2. They rock, in a fuzzed-out, poppy-melodied, slabs-o'-distortion kind of way. Been listening compulsively for a week or two. Check out the song while reading the entry below. More please!


So, what's on your iPod? And more important, how do you listen to it?

Here's an interesting article on PopMatters.com discussing the way the iPod and similar devices may be changing the way we listen to music, especially new albums. With downloads so easy and accessible now, there is a tendency for new records to get sort of lost in the sea of freshly-downloaded songs. An extract:

"... The act of listening to an album front-to-back repeatedly seems to be a harder task to do in the age of the iPod. And it’s only getting worse as some people are now seeing the process of storing music on a portable device like an iPod as a bit archaic as opposed to storing your library online “in the clouds”. It’s also more of a challenge to listen to an album front-to-back if your music is on a phone or iPad where other applications vie for your attention.

"I count myself among those who probably shouldn’t have a 120GB iPod. Whenever a new release comes out, there’s too much of a temptation to rip it to your iPod as quickly as possible so the album can be absorbed in your library. And there it stays, along with 50 or possibly 500-plus other albums. At work, surrounded by distractions, I find it best to put the iPod on shuffle. Part of the reason is to break songs out of their album settings so I can listen to them individually, while another reason is an insatiable curiosity about how the iPod shuffle can make a mix that includes Modest Mouse, Thelonious Monk, Baroness, and Lucinda Williams sound utterly logical.

"Unfortunately, this results in sort of a backlog of releases. Be it a bargain $3.99 find at a record shop, or a $7.99 “week of release” sale, albums keep getting added to your library. In the past, depending on how many cassettes you could hold in your backpack or how many disc you could fit in a CD wallet, you had to make sacrifices. If you wanted to give an album a few listens, the best way to do it was to just bring that album. Nowadays, if an album doesn’t get your attention, you have another hundred or so just waiting to be accessed with the touch of a finger."

There's more, and there are some interesting comments too. Here's the link:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/128011-play-it-again-please/

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Geometry of God review

What do you know--Ploughshares, the Boston-based literary magazine where I once spent a summer reading through the slush pile for editor DeWitt Henry, has reviewed Uzee's book The Geometry of God. The writer is mostly positive, with a couple judicious criticisms that I personally (ahem) disagree with, but I think he gets it right much more often than not:

http://www.pshares.org/read/article-detail.cfm?intArticleID=9330

Needless to say, anyone who has not checked out the book is encouraged to do so, as it thoroughly rocks. Amazon page below (US):

http://www.amazon.com/Geometry-God-Uzma-Aslam-Khan/dp/1566567742/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278197978&sr=1-1

and Amazon UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geometry-God-Uzma-Aslam-Khan/dp/1906598657/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278198030&sr=8-5

Monday, June 28, 2010

Attention UK readers! (And others)


The UK edition of The Geometry of God by the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan was released earlier this month by Haus Publishing. It's a great book, but don't take my word for it... trundle on over the Amazon.co.uk and have a look:

It's a nifty hardback with jacket art by Paul Klee. What else could you want? Well okay, it's also compelling and funny and sexy and full of unexpected twists and wordplay. And it's emotionally wrenching... but hey, that's what books are for. You'll see.

On the sidebar to the right you can find some links to some US-based reviews (Oprah, Kirkus). You can go to the Haus site directly for more info and some review extracts:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I have met my evil twin.

His name is Sasquatch and he rocks.



New album called III is pretty riff-worthy and consistent. I recommend them highly. previous album, creatively entitled II, is also great.

Hmm... a torture dungeon, or rotten fruit? I think I'll choose the fruit.

According to thie item from the BBC, various countries have have different ways of coping with the dishonorable exits from the World Cup by their soccer teams. I'm not sure that I believe that Uday Hussein had a special dungeon built, complete with slavering dogs to eat the hacked-off legs of the national team's players... but you never know I guess.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10402967.stm

Italians chucking rotten fruit? Well yeah, that seems a fair bit easier to swallow. I wonder what English fans will have in store for their team... or will they just blame the ref?

And by the way: yeah, the officiating has been atrocious. Nothing new in that, sad to say, but this might be the most-ever non-goals given and goals not-given that I've ever seen. (Although Cameroon's five disallowed goals in 1998 remains the gold standard of lameness, in my view.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cultural wasteland, or cultural renaissance?

Here's an interesting essay by the always-reliable Leonard Pierce over the The Onion A.V. Club that brings up the question of whether we are living in an era of widespread cultural dross or cultural renewal and excitement. Pierce comes down heavily on the side of "'renewal and excitement," as I tend to as well--if I didn't, I couldn't write reviews for a site like PopMatters. But he has some interesting things to say about nostalgia and its contribution to what he sees as a widespread sneering disaffection for the current cultural milieu. An excerpt:

"First, why—other than the natural laziness that informs most nostalgia—do so many people think that the culture is in decline? Why is the belief that things were better in the mysterious “before” so common that it jumps from generation to generation, like baldness or a bad ticker? While the tendency to be politically conservative knows no particular age, cultural conservatism is as predictable as prostate cancer.

"Part of this, I think, is because of the way people naturally tend, as they get older and gain more responsibilities, to stop paying as much attention to pop culture as they did when they were younger. A 23-year-old with an entry-level job, few expenses, and lots of free time finds it easy to fill that time with immersion in indie films, musical micro-genres, and new developments in videogame technology. Two decades later, when that same person has a wife, kids, and a mortgage, he likely has more to think about than the latest literary trend or hotshot graphic novelist. Once it becomes harder to make grapes part of your regular diet, it’s a lot easier to assume that they’re all sour anyway.

"But beyond that, one factor in why I believe we really are living in a cultural golden age—the way technology has made art of all sorts more available to everyone than at any previous point in human history—also works to fuel this longing for the past. Particularly for the generation that grew up without the Internet, the easy availability of culture doesn’t seem like a boon; instead, by flooding everyone with an astonishing amount of choice, it seems instead to curse them with so much to choose from that it’s easy for their minds to shut down. In the face of media oversaturation—and media decentralization, which contributes to a situation where there are few trusted voices of authority to act as cultural guides—it’s tempting to just write it all off as a bunch of crap you’re better off not knowing about.

"For younger generations, though, or older people who surf the culture and the web with equal ease, the flood-tide poses another problem: We develop a shortened attention span almost out of necessity, in order to avoid being overwhelmed by how much information is out there. As a result, we can focus so much on temporary tendencies in the culture, on micro-movements and what are likely passing phases and crazes, that we start to take them as signs of an overall decay. We forget that cultural tendencies are sporadic, inchoate, and unforeseeable, and begin to think of the trend of the moment as a harbinger of some eternal, irrevocable change. Auto-Tune isn’t just annoying; it’s the end of music as we know it. The music industry’s digital-age difficulties don’t mean the business is changing; they mean it’s ending. In 2007, there were so many good movies, it was one of the greatest years in film history. Now, only three years later, a year of duds signals the death knell of the entire art form."

And the whole essay can be found here:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/are-we-really-in-a-cultural-golden-age,42451/

Some of the comments are worth reading as well. One early poster mentions how nostaligia is often fueled by college-age students, which I had never thought of. (Faced with the responsibilites of school and jobs and life, they yearn for the good old days--you know, the mid-'90s--when they didn't have to worry so much.) Dunno if it's true but it's an interesting thought in any case.

As ever, I am curious what people think about this. Read the whole article--or don't--and then feel free to drop a line as to whether we're doing all right, in cultural or at least pop-cultural terms. Or were the '60s and '70s (or some other era) really the high-water mark?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good Show Sir


Here is a link to a hilarious site of AWFUL SCI-FI and FANTASY BOOK COVERS. They are photographed and sent in with comments by the people who find them. Very funny and great fun to troll through for an hour...

http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/

I have also added a link on the list of "Interesting Blogs and Sites" on the sidebar to the right. Have fun, kids.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Word!

In the beginning, the Bible tells us, was the Word. Likewise, many rappers begin their songs with this same invocation. “Word’ is used as a kind of ritualistic throat-clearing, a preparation for both listener and speaker; it is a way for the rapper to declare, more or less: “Everybody pay attention here, because what I am about to say is both important and true.”

Of course, it is often neither. Increasingly (from what I can tell) rap, or “hip-hop” if you prefer, falls into a circular form of self-parody in which “keeping it real” paradoxically means saying the same thing as everyone else, in more or less the same way as everyone else. There are exceptions—The Coup, Atmosphere, Abu Nurah, maybe Ana Tijoux (below)—but boy oh boy there’s a lot of dreck out there.

Which is what makes Reggie Watts’ parody so entertaining. When he starts with “Word,” it sounds just like a zillion other rap songs, but when he follows it up with “adjective—pronoun…” he’s letting us in on the joke, and by the time he winds up the intro with “Where my gerunds at?” he’s got me, at least, hooked.

What follows is a fairly brilliant satire of way too many rap songs. It’s all here: the nonsensical reliance on a handful of swear words, the mindless sexual boasting, the fetishistic weapon love, the bragging about wealth. And also what passes for “attitude” these days, which is really just another word for belligerence, directed at everybody, based upon nothing.

I first heard about Reggie Watts on The Onion’s media page. Here’s a link to an interview, in which he discusses the song below, among many other things, and there’s another truly awesome YouTube clip:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/reggie-watts,41712/

Then check out the song, but BE WARNED: DO NOT LISTEN TO THE VIDEO IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY OBSCENITY! There is a lot of it. If you are at work, you might want to listen to this once you get home. Kids, make sure your parents are out of earshot. Parents, likewise vis-à-vis the kiddies.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

No doubt you have noticed...

...the radical redesign of The Party Never Stops. This was, like so many things in my life, entirely unplanned. When I got out of bed this morning the last thought running through my head was, "I think I'll take some time to revamp the old blog this afternoon." Actually that's not true; the last thought running through my head was, "I am a squid." The thing about the blog was only the second-to-last thought.

But then I signed on here and found some nifty new templates. I quite like this drizzly runny magenta-and-orange thing, though I expect some people will hate. Ah well. What's actually good about it, and was the deal-maker for me, is that it accommodates these extra-large-sized YouTube windows they're using now. And I think it's generally an upgrade from the old-lady-wallpaper look that I was using before.

So stay tuned, and hopefully I'll be able to keep you entertained in the months ahead, or if not entertained, then maybe puzzled, at least.

The World Cup

Hey kids, I don't really have terribly strong thoughts on the World Cup; I mean, it's fun to have an international competition and everything, it's just too bad that the sport involved has to be soccer, which, you know, isn't all that thrilling. (First score this tournament: 1-1. Second score: 0-0.) BUT--as can bee seen from the handy little flag chart right under my picture at the top of this page, the neverending party has been getting a number of looks from our pals around the world. So, thanks for dropping by--and I hope your team, whichever that may be, exceeds your wildest expectations this time around.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A song I like.

Ana Tijoux is a Chilean-French rapper and this song is called "1977." Not sure but I think it's about Pinochet (?). Worth a look, IMO.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back in town














Uzee and I are back from 10 great days on the North Shore of Oahu. Much relaxation was to be had, of the staring-at-the-waves variety, also sea birds, lizards, strolling on the beach, snorkeling, Mexican food etc. We found killer snorkeling in Shark's Cove, home to a quartet of sea turtles that we hung out watching for a while, and also cuttlefish (i.e., little squid), tons o' butterflyfish, Achilles tang, and numerous other things. No sharks or rays, though, too bad, and only one little eel.
Here are some pics:















This is me looking bad to the bone at Shark's Cove. There aren't really sharks there, apparently, it's just a name that sounds cool. I'm not sure why I'm glowering, since i was having a really good time on the days we were there. Maybe the sun was in my eyes.
















We rented a cabin on the water, and right out front there were these great tidepools full of little fish and crabs and things. For Uzee and myself, this is pretty much an invitation to sit and stare for a while. Be sure to include the sighing winds and sloshing waves in your mental re-creation of this moment.









No, she's not staring at the sunset, but at the turtles who were crashing around in the surf, up against the lava rocks that formed the tidepools. Apparently there's tasty morsels for the turtles to eat, because we observed a lot of this behavior at various points around the North Shore (from both in the water and on shore). I tried taking pictures of the turtles too, but that was pretty much hopeless.
Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was our 4-hour hike to Kaena Point, the northwesternmost tip of Oahu, a very rugged and undeveloped area. In the winter you can see whales offshore. We didn't see any whales, but we did spot a few albatross fledglings who had not yet taken to the air, and then, at the very point of the Point, a pair of monk seals sloshing around in the water. Playing, fighting, flirting, I don't really know. But they were mighty comfortable and we ended up watching them for 45 minutes. These creatures are critically endangered, so this was a gift...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Plenty more reviews at PopMatters.com

Books, records, comic books... Here's the link:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/archive/contributor/649

Latest entries include record reviews of Crooked Still (yay!) and Radar Brothers (meh), plus a number of fun novels. Check it out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No. No. No.

As someone who lived in Pakistan for 10 years, from 1998-2008, it pains me to see that nation acting in breathtakingly stupid ways that only serve to reinforce every negative image that my own country, the US, already has about it. The people of Pakistan deserve much, much better. The latest way in which their country is failing them is by the recent imposition of a ban on Internet sites such as Facebook, Youtube, and many others. Ostensibly this is because of insults to the prophet Mohommad, but really, it's an attempt to control information and people's access to it.

I have a message for the government of Pakistan: Hey guys, this attempt will fail. It always does. It may work for a while, but sooner or later, people will find a way to learn what you don't want them to know, and then, you know what? Your credibility will be shot. (Not that you have a great deal to begin with, but that's a conversation for another day.)

Here's an excellent blog posting by someone named Sabeen, a Karachi native, blogger and more eloquent human being than I am on this issue:

http://www.bitsonline.net/beanz/?p=300

And some more mainstream press coverage of the issue:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/countrywide-protests-050

Until now, Pakistan's Internet policy, and actually its media policy in general, has been fairly liberal (many international TV channels available, Fox News and al-Jazeera among them, plus many Indian channels that were banned for a short time, then reinstated, international music channels and so on), so this giant step backward into a grasping attempt at totalitarian-style idea control is higely disappointing. Hey guys, if you don't like what people are saying about the prophet... don't listen. Or, have a conversation in which you explain your point of view. Or, get mad and insult them back. Whatever. But you can't close your eyes and stop up your ears and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.

On second thought--yeah, you can do that. Just don't presume to force everyone else to do the same thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An interesting (and long) article on the current state of the publishing industry...

...from an April issue of The New Yorker. Touches on Amazon's Kindle, the i-Pad, traditional publishers, the Macmillan/Amazon spat, and quite a bit more. Worth a look if you have the time and interest:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_auletta

Monday, May 17, 2010

R.I.P., Ronnie James Dio

Dio! What can you say, other than, "Duuuude, that guy can holler?"

Okay, you could probably say other stuff, but still. He could holler.

He also supposedly invented the devil-horn hand symbol thing as the universal hand-rock signage, which is pretty cool, and will earn him forgiveness (from me at least) for using that dumb-ass synth line in "Rainbow in the Dark."

And just in case you have no clue who or what I'm talking about, here's this:

Uzee at HBMF

Here are a couple pics of Uzee reading and signing books in beautiful downtown Honolulu on Sunday, at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival. The crowds were smaller than last year, but the weather was great and a fine time was had by all.

Below: working her mojo on the crowd...






...And keepin' the customers satisfied:


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hawai'i Book and Music Festival!

The 2010 edition of The Hawai'i Book and Music Festival is taking place Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16 in downtown Honolulu. It should be fun. Here is the site for info:

http://hawaiibookandmusicfestival.org/

Of special note is the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan, who will be appearing at the Author's Pavilion on Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. to sign her books and generally hobnob. She will also be giving away killer bookmarks that were printed up special for the event. Barnes & Noble, who are sponsors of the pavilion, have assured her that copies of her books will be available. Anyone lingering around Honolulu should make plans to stop by this fun and worthwhile event, and say hi to Uzee. (I'll be skulking around nearby, most likely, but you can pretend you don't see me.)

The weather's supposed to be perfect, too. See you there...

Dave Maine, music reviewer

Yo. Check out the unlikely rave review I wrote for an even more unlikely compilation entitled Lagos Disco Inferno over on Popmatters.com:










...and while you're at it, here are a couple more book reviews from the same site:









All in all, it's a terrific site, well worth a visit and/or bookmarking. They cover movies, DVDs, comics, and all things poppy-cultural as well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shirin Neshat






...is an Iranian photographer who takes interesting pictures. Here is my review of a big retrospective book of her work:

















I Like her stuff.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm no expert...

...but based on what I've seen, this interesting article by Jay Baron Nicorvo makes some mighty interesting (and relevant) points about the current state of the publishing industry:

http://www.guernicamag.com/features/1688/third_degree_burns/

An excerpt:

"Editors have to run around anxious to find the book that’ll help them keep their jobs. Most editors these days are speculators. They’re no longer asked to acquire the books that readers will read a hundred years from now—books that not only preserve the culture but further it. They’re expected to acquire the books that readers will want to read today, and so instead of reading manuscripts, they read the current cultural landscape. They assess the mass market to figure out which manuscript might be the next bestseller. Literary editors at commercial publishers, the few who still acquire novels, have become investors. [John Maynard] Keynes writes that investing is, “so to speak, a game of Snap, of Old Maid, of Musical Chairs—a pastime in which he is victor who says Snap neither too soon nor too late, who passes the Old Maid to his neighbour before the game is over, who secures a chair for himself when the music stops.” But Keynes made another, more lasting, comparison, what has come to be known as the Keynesian beauty contest.

Keynes thought investing was like newspaper competitions in which “the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view.” In order to win, competitors are forced to select the outcome most selected by others, whatever their personal preference. “It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree, where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” If there’s anything that’s killing American fiction, it’s not MFA degrees and the institutions that bestow them. It is this: the third degree."