Monday, October 30, 2006

Rankin File--The Book Report

Ian Rankin is yet another writer that might have slipped under my radar were it not for another fortuitous word-of-mouth recommendation. Crime fiction, and genre fiction in general, has never really been my thing. I'm not a literary snob by any stretch. It just never really appealed to me, unless you count science fiction in high school and a lengthy James Ellroy binge in the 90s. When someone describes a writer though, as offering keen portrayals of class struggle and strife, explorations of moral and ethical questions that go beyond the standard good vs. evil cops and robbers games, along with very believably human characters, it's hard not to give it a shot.

With this in mind, I delved into Rankin's Inspector Rebus series with still a little SKEPTICISM--which I will say flat out was entirely unfounded. The series is set against the backdrop of Edinburgh, Scotland (mostly) where the inhospitable weather becomes nearly as central a character as Detective Inspector John Rebus. Rebus is a hard boiled, hard nut, obsessive sort, not at all stereotypical, but familiar to the genre. He's almost an anti-hero, surly, drunk, seriously flawed, anti-social, self-destructive, self-depracating--Do you like him yet? He is actually very hard not to like. He's got a lot of traits, including vulnerability and a self-sacrificing willingness to do the right thing no matter what, that every guy at some point in his life at least secretly aspires to attain more of.

So I'm on the tenth book in the series in about two months, so this can't really be any sort of a review or a report, and space limitations prevent me from hammering down the several thousand word "Why You MUST Read This" screed I wrote in the throes of legendary vodka haze a few days ago. I can say that you will probably enjoy these books unless you're seriously feint of heart.

The series is also somewhat of a noir-ish travelogue of a Scotland you won't see as a tourist--and a treatise on Scottish culture, which being a first generation American of Scottish descent I found particularly illuminating. There is a companion book to the series also, called Rebus' Scotland (special thanks to the Blogistani for posting this one from downtown Karachi)which is a great read as well. Ethnic background is something I've always taken for granted so the last couple months have been rather an eyeopener.

So, start at the beginning. Another great reward is not just seeing Rebus and assorted returning characters and their dynamics developing and changing, you get to watch Rankin grow as a writer as the series progresses. The first book is Knots and Crosses.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Public Television Damages Children

If it wasn't bad enough when the NEA turned every last one of us into homosexuals, and we have to go to New Jersey to get married, now we've got PBS out to ruin our innocent young children. IT'S MADNESS!!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grateful Dead?

Why is this man smiling like the Mona Lisa? Does he know something we don't? Does he have the answer to some cosmic question? Has he just had a good meal? Great Sex? A prescription to Xanax with unlimited refills? Looks like he's got something on his mind doesn't it? I'll tell you exactly what it is. It's because he's FRIGGIN' RICH and he doesn't even have to go to work to make his dough!!!! Wouldn't you be smiling?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cafe Glossophagia

French Fried Tourists

Belgian Waffle

Plastic Bertrand after whom the Belgian Waffle was named, is just cool enough in an odd way, to make it into the Glossophagia Hall of Fame. I will humbly admit that I've never heard more than the one song that appears on the above menu; it's his "cover" of Jet Boy Jet Girl, by The Damned--But it's enough. It's more than enough. Thank you Bertrand (Plastic?) for getting my eyebrow locked permanently in the Spock position.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tribute to Pablo Neruda

Spanish is a romantic, lyrical romance language
Even when ideas don't translate well to English
But gentleman, do not despair
When you have failed to please her.
I will take over
And send her reeling towards ecstasy
With my Native Tongue

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tribute to Allen Ginsberg

I saw the best grocery boys of my generation destroyed by Nintendo, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the produce aisle in California at dawn, running from Walt Whitman. And America... I said to the hippies in Grant Park:
That's a nice ass!

And lest you think I disrespect the man, I'd like to add this:
DAMN NEAR THE GREATEST POEM OF ALL TIME. This is so far ahead of its time that it not only still applies but will unfortunately continue to apply for generations to come.

Stories From Home, Part 1

*****Editor's note: This is a submission from the anything but submissive blogger heretofore and hereafter known as CelticGods. I will certainly entertain any and all submissions from any willing participants. Enjoy******
Sunday Football, Kingston 13

When my wife and I moved from New York to live with her mother in Kingston Jamaica, I came to love Sundays. Friday had been my favourite day of the week previously.
There is just a certain feeling about a Sunday in Jamaica.
I would rise as early as I normally did, perform my ablutions, chase the dogs out into the yard, and take up my position on the verandah. My wife would sometimes call out from the kitchen at the back of the house : "Hey Bwoy, get up off yuh backside and guh roun’ the coolie man shop and bring a poun’ a flour (or stick of butter or box milk) and a Gleaner, or yuh nah get any dumplings."I would slip on my yard shoes and scuff around to 7th street to the shop. More likely than not I would run in to one or more of the boys lounging by their front gates, trying to recuperate from Saturday night’s entertainments and diversions, making plans for Sunday’s traditional football match.
"Wha’ appen Supe’?" Bird said.
"Mornin’Bobby, Yes, Picky Bird, Greetings Chiney Dread!"
"So, Supa John yah guh play in goal fi wi today?" asked Chiney.
"Suppose to, what time?"
"We will come check you at yuh gates ‘bout one"
‘Nice. Lickle more time, right now, me deh pon a mission"
I continued to First Avenue and around to 7th Street and stepped across and into the shop.
"Mornin’ Miss Ramtulla"
"Good Mornin, Mas John"
"Beg yuh a pound a flour and a Gleaner."
"One Dollar ten cent, please"
"Oh, and a Craven A please"
"Yes, please"
"Five cent more"
"See money here, Thanks, Later now"
I walked around the other way down 7th Street, lighting my cigarette from a stick match drawn from the pocket of my ‘501's (which btw were the envy of several older gentlemen in the area) reaching to 2nd Avenue and then down quickly to 6th Street corner and back home.
"See it here Darlin"
"Give me the flour and go and sit down an read yuh paper, see yuh coffee here. Yuh breakfast soon come."
Yes, This Was Life: sun dappled through the leaves and branches of the two julie mango and two pomegranate (pronounced: pongo nut) trees in the front yard. The yellow, soft, life-affirming sun, a warm cup of coffee and the Sunday Jamaica Gleaner. The Gleaner....Ian Fleming put these words in his master spy’s mouth to describe his feelings: "Good old Gleaner", exclaims 007, The Times he would read for concealment; The Gleaner he read for pleasure" Fleming wrote in The Man With the Golden Gun. I always had a small anticipatory thrill as I opened the main section and turned immediately to the Editorial and Commentary pages which were populated in those turbulent days by Morris Cargill, John Hearne, Carl Stone, Dawn Ritch; yes this was a newspaper with a personality.
Soon my wife came with two plates of sauteed callaloo, with Scot’s Bonnet pepper, onion, scallion and salt cod, fried dumplings, fried breadfruit and boiled banana and more coffee for me and a cup of cerassee tea for herself.
Mmmmmmm, nice.
I made short work of mine and then it was back to the paper, giving the main news to my darling missus and moving on to the Sports section. How, I often wondered, did the Gleaner, manage to have better Grand Prix motor racing coverage than the vaunted NY Times? Little past 1pm, I saw the lads coming down the street, playing keepy-uppy with the football as they progressed. The venue would be Tinson Pen today.where there was proper pitch, instead of street football with the small goals and front walls of the yards as touchlines.
I joined them as they reached our gates and we walked together and turned down Second Ave and down to 5th street as the breeze picked up and big rain drops started to fall. Tropical raindrops so large that you feel each one individually as they pelt you and they soak instantly through your clothes to your skin. The skies can blacken in moments and it can rain like the end of days for 15 minutes and then, back comes the sun, clouds move off, and quickly it is like nothing ever happened.
All 7 or 8 of us ducked into a man’s little shop to wait out the storm. We huddled there smoking cigarettes, waiting and talking, while it poured, the scent of dust, tobacco and sweat filled my nose, as the ancient thunder rumbled across the Liguanea Plain, and the torrents drummed on the zinc six inches above my head.Where I leaned against the wall, I could see out of the shop, through the small window and down the street and into the distance, far up into Red Hills where in those days just a few large white houses sat on the crest of the cool hills, high up, gleaming brightly out over the hot dusty Kingston sprawl. Truly, it wasn’t so far in distance to Red Hills, only a couple of miles as the John Crow flies, but in reality it could almost have been another planet to where we were standing in a little West Kingston shop made from tongue and groove boards, a corrugated zinc roof a display counter faced with wire mesh, crocus bags of rice and chicken feed, in a dirt front yard store of a ghetto street in Greenwich Farm.
After the storm had passed, the sun gleamed bright and baked off the rain as we walked the rest of the short distance to the football pitch near the small Tinson Pen aerodrome.The brief rain had left the surface unplayable for more than a kickabout with large puddles in both goalmouths and in other places on the pitch.Bobby and I found a dry spot and sat down under a tree. I fished in my pockets for a packet of Rizla and a stick of sensi which we divided and set to building our spliffs.
These we smoked in silence while we sat and watched our brethren kick the ball around, feeling the cool breeze after the rain, untilwe got up and headed home for supper.
Bwoy, I did love a Sunday!
by Donal McCallum copyright

Friday, October 20, 2006

The War: Real Perspective

If you want the real perspective, this statement is a must read. Pat Tillman's story is only the tip of the iceberg--just one of hundreds of thousands that make up the big picture--the lies that we have tolerated--and the guilt that we will all bear until we take some kind of real effort to make it right. Chanting rhyming slogans outside government offices on our days off are not enough. Voting for the "less of two evils" is not enough. It's time to shut this down. Thanks to CelticGods and Jimmy Sligo for sending this article my way.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rule of the Bone: Book Recommendation

I've got great luck with book recommendations, probably because I'm lucky enough to have some well read friends. The luck is doubled when you live in a neighborhood where people leave boxes of books for the taking out in front of their houses. That's what happened with this one. Just when i was getting ready to buy, there it was... So, that said, this book has been described as a modern day Huckleberry Finn, and the elements are there in the story, but more in the narration. Russell Banks successfully finds the voice of a 14 year old kid from upstate New York and runs with it. He absolutely nails it, which makes me green with envy but that's another story. The narrator isn't so much a runaway as one of those kids that's been cast aside by his alcoholic mom and abusive stepfather. It's a common enough story but there's nothing really common about getting inside the head of someone that's been through it and that's where Banks got me. I can't really do a proper review because there are a lot of images and thoughts I'm still processing--and I should warn that it's not a wonderful, pastoral jaunt through the north woods. Saying that some of it isn't so pretty is an understatement. The story is filled with an army of lowlife types that most people are lucky enough never to encounter--and hearing about it all from the voice of a kid--albeit a streetwise kid--makes some of it all that much more unsettling. But I'll list this one as Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Will your progeny be Morlock or Eloi?

You know longer have to feel guilty for being a superficial cad because you're now doing it for Science and the future of mankind!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


In one of those spells of weird cosmic confluence, the first two telemarketers to bollocks my early-to-bed plans were the Policemen's Benevolent Association and the New York Blood Center, both telling me what a hero I would be if I'd drain some of my excess stuff into their coffers. After their calls I unplugged the phone but my sleep was disturbed by dreams of Sally Struthers and having a round faced, sad eyed penpal in Bolivia.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Heave ho, let it go

New York's Most Musical Toilet Closes For Good This Time

I've willfully ignored free passes to several of the last shows at CBGBs, because I don't really want to be part of the faux-sentimentality surrounding the story (and I'm also pretty sure that Hilly isn't a victim here and got over big-time). It's really a question of nostalgia and they ceased being vital years ago anyway.

That said, I was watching the news the other day and two things pissed me off:

1) Every news story plays up the CBGB's is headed to Vegas and "punk is dead" angle. They never got the significance anyway, much the way they never really get anything and can't even get a weather forecast right most of the time. Mainstream media never supported punk but if they look around, the basic sound and fashion (or the watered down, revisionist version) has gone mainstream and as Ben Folds said "Officer Friendly's little girl has got a mohawk." Every Buffy and Skip are tattooed and pierced and the frat boy types that used to group up by the baker's dozen to whip my ass now all sport London '77 punk fashion, which never reflected the downtown New York scene anyway.

2) Two networks couldn't find a single person over 25 to interview for their stories, with the exception of Hilly Kristal, who looks terrible, btw. I suppose it's no worse than the alternative media exhuming nothing but old nostalgia junkies but it still rankles. That'll teach me to watch the news.

Mike Ness, whom I love but recognize that he is the king of all poseurs (but he's been doing it so long that it's real) says, "Does anybody remember when this music was dangerous?" I watched the series of Tom Snyder "punk" episodes recently--and I remember seeing them the first time with my parents, but I don't remember quite how I felt then--I remember my parents reaction was no worse because they'd already lived through T Rex and David Bowie and Alice Cooper and were pretty convinced it was all about drugs and homosexuality anyway. Now I just want to see that old episode of CHiPs where they had to infiltrate the punk "gangs" and bust drug dealers.

Honestly, I don't remember feeling dangerous, nor superior, and least of all like I was part of something or special. Quite the opposite, it was just a sort of "place" to be. Most people I knew/know who were punks, or hippies or freaks weren't dropping out of anything or rejecting anything. Most of them, myself included, had already been excluded or rejected anyway, or felt it. Quite the opposite of trying to be special, it was more like basking in anonymity--the fashion show came a few years later.

Anyway... if you remove my soapbox now perhaps I will have become weightless and levitated.

Last of the Mohicans

Sunday, October 15, 2006

And here we go

This is the start of things. This is the start of what I always promised I wouldn't be involved in. Now, for the first time, I am eating my own words. I suspect it will be the first of many times. Hey, at least I admit it.