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I’m Your Man – A Walk Through Nostalgia – the Biography of Leonard Cohen

By Jai Pee
I remember in the seventies a friend saying to me that no personal record collection was complete without at least one Leonard Cohen album in it. At that time – must have been around 1976, and not wanting to be outdone, I rushed out and bought the first two albums I came across – Songs from a Room and Songs of Love and Hate. When I played them I was flabbergasted – I had never heard anything more depressing, laboured and distasteful, with the possible exception of a couple of songs on Lou Reed’s album Berlin. When I challenged my friend saying something like “Why the hell do I need this suicidal stuff in my record collection?” the reply was that I should listen again and again and the songs might grow on me. Like warts, I thought! But I did listen again and again and when a year later I found myself going through a severe period of depression, listening to them not only brought me a strange sense of comfort but an equally strange kind of release. I had become something of a convert!
This marvelous biography of the great man, by Sylvie Simmons, is a treat to read and a worthy tribute to an incredible life. It is a real page-turner and gives readers a deeper and more meaningful insight into the man himself, his thinking and his extraordinary character. It must have been about 1979 when the real revelation of his genius came for me, when I first remember hearing Judy Collins sing Suzanne – I was hooked and equally I was hooked on this book from the very first page with its intriguing title “Born in a Suit”. The biography leaves no stone unturned – the author deals in intricate and fascinating detail with his Jewish family background in the Westmount area of Montreal before the second world war, his university life with its trials and tribulations and then – perhaps the most fascinating of all – the almost endless list of lovers that entered and left Leonard’s life right up to the present day. The stories are astonishing! I’m Your Man is certainly the most appropriate title anyone could think of – and who thought of it? Leonard Cohen of course, as it is the title of one of his later songs and the title of a marvelous DVD made in the first decade of the new millennium to celebrate the work of this remarkable artist. The book covers everything and everyone – his love of Greece on the island of Hydra, his modesty when he became famous, his time at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, his two children Adam and Lorca, the musicians and singers with whom he associated – Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Janis Joplin, Nico and Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Mungo Jerry, Jackson Browne, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, record producers including Phil Spector and on and on – his great love for his Zen Master Rishi and his ordination into the ranks of Buddhist monkhood and so much more. It is a wonderful and engaging read – all 500 pages – and it comes almost up-to-date in May 2012, following Leonard’s impressive schedule of world tours, new loves and new songs and even more of his bountiful poems.
To be a page-turner, any book, and especially a biography, needs to be stimulating, readable and interesting – the author realises all of this with her very well written prose, the careful balance she achieves between social and work-related issues in Leonard’s life, the fascinating deeper personal details which trigger so many nostalgic thoughts and memories, and the way in which her writing is totally non-judgemental. Sylvie Simmons has an admirable style. Having said all that I do have two minor criticisms: the photographs are inserted in the text and thus printed on matt paper, many of them being old and the result is that a lot of them are dark and the people in them obscure and unrecognizable; and the second thing I would have loved for reference would have been a list of all his poetry books with dates and the albums/CDs/DVDs also with dates. Overall however, I would recommend this book to any friend and further recommend having any of Leonard’s DVDs or CDs or poetry books to hand to be watched, listened to, or read between the main text of the book – that gives the whole experience so much more meaning.
I’m Your Man – The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons: published by Jonathan Cape, London, 2012.

 


Life at 33 1/3: Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality

By Carl Meyer

Released: July 1971
Side 1:
1. Sweet Leaf (5:05)
2. After Forever (5:27)
3. Embryo (Iommi) (0:28)
4. Children Of The Grave (5:18)
Side 2:
1. Orchid (Iommi) (1:31)
2. Lord Of This World (5:27)
3. Solitude (5:02)
4. Into The Void (6:13)
All songs written and composed by Black Sabbath except where noted, all lyrics by Geezer Butler.
The cough, out of nowhere, tears the silence into pieces, its mighty echo bounces from the walls, zigzagging through your mind. The shock is paralyzing even if it lasts for less than five seconds. It is so terrifying and unexpected that you instantly become disorientated. Pure horror. It makes your hair stand on end.
Then the guitar riff unfolds in its heavy, oily rotations – pushed right into your guts by the immaculate power of the band. “All right now!” It must be the strongest opening seconds on any album in rock history. Even today, 42 years later, that exploding cough is just as jarring. And when “Sweet Leaf” hits you, there is no turning back. It owns you, you feel like building a tiny altar for Black Sabbath.
“Master Of Reality” is their third LP. It is monumental and straight to the point. The debut-album was more varied, slightly slapdash, and included a brave flirt with the epics. “Paranoid”, whose title track became a massive hit single, was more focused.

Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne perform on stage in this January 1973 photo. (Wikipedia/Commons).

“Master Of Reality” doesn’t mess about; its huge, dark sound is established by the opening bars, and they (almost) never shy away from it. There are three exceptions: two short, acoustic Iommi-instrumentals and the super slow, airy and unexpectedly beautiful lament “Solitude”. These disruptions are necessary, otherwise the album would have pushed the listener so hard against the wall that he would suffocate.
Iommi’s special guitar tunings (down to C# from the normal E) - copied by Geezer Butler’s bass to match — gave the music a lead heavy and gloomy timbre. The low tuning adds to Iommi’s signature guitar sound, a meandering, fuzzy drone as it coils itself around the unusually lazy, almost sticky tempo of the tunes.
With this the band achieves a brutally slow attack on the senses that feels absolutely threatening. It’s a sound that countless bands have tried to copy, none has ever even come close. What Black Sabbath delivers on “Master Of Reality” is the ultimate heavy. And they walk it with such effortless grace. Contemporary metal tries to achieve this with speed and noise, Black Sabbath does it with style. Less is always more.
The album sleeve was misinterpreted at the time. Many thought it was supposed to be some sort of invitation to a Black Mass by the devil himself. They were in for a surprise when they got to the lyrics. One of the cuts, “After Forever”, is a catholic song of worship to religion and God. Now stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, you death metal-addicts!
There are also songs of global concern for our present, our future and the coming generations. This album cares big time. Lyrical depth like this was absolutely unexpected on a heavy rock record in 1971.
The disc should be played so loud that your neighbours attack your front door with a baseball bat - only at that level you will get the full effect of the power of the lower register that is hidden in the vinyl grooves. The force is simply delicious. It is the Tony Iommi-show all the way. His guitar sound is incomparable, it fills the entire room. If you never heard the album before, you’re sure in for a treat. You’ll be hooked. Forever!
Ozzy Osbourne deserves honour too. A wonderful voice in these surroundings, his blistering moaning is the fingerprint of all classic Black Sabbath recordings. No empty gestures, none of the nerve-racking howls that seem to be the standard of later heavy rock-bands. Ozzy is a glorifying individual, he doesn’t sound like anybody else.
He is also a very funny guy to party with, as I experienced when he invited me with the band to a porn club in Gothenburg in 1974. When the live show started, Ozzy pulled down his pants and charged for the naked couple on the stage with a roar of delight, only to have us all thrown out. Then we tried to fit all into the back seat of a taxi cab, impossible of course as people kept falling out on the other side of the car until all of us lay in a pile on the frozen street laughing, the taxi driver drove off, angry, and we started walking.
“Master Of Reality” was ripped to shreds by the critics in 1971. Today it is considered one of rock music’s greatest classics, regardless of weight class. I loved it from the moment that cough split my brain in two, and I was so annoyed by the lukewarm review in New Musical Express. Today it feels good to know that Black Sabbath won.
NB: Next week’s review: Iron Butterfly: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.


Chiang Mai Watercolours

Wut is one of the six artists on display at Sangdee Gallery.

By Shana Kongmun
Sangdee Gallery on Sirimangkalajarn soi 5 is hosting an exhibition by five Thai artists under the tutelage of Ajarn Thanakorn Chaijinda and the delicate paintings gracing the walls are lovely to behold. As Veerawut Muttarak one of the artists pointed out, he wants his paintings to offer a calming effect, and the landscapes, flowers and other paintings offer just that.
Ajarn Thanakorn’s magnificent golden landscape dominates the entrance but take care to walk around and view each painting. From ethereal Impressionistic landscapes to detailed portraits of places and animals to a less than simple pen and ink drawing, the exhibition showcases the talents of these artists as they visualize places from as afar as Venice, Burma and as near as Doi Suthep.

Thanakorn Chaijinda’s landscape offers up a golden glow.


Capturing Thailand through Google Glass

By Don Freeman
By the time the Christmas holidays roll around this year, I’ll have one of the first sets of Google Glasses in Chiang Mai. Imagine being able to walk our mountains and temples and capture the sights, sounds and experiences hands-free. That’s what Google Glass will allow me to do and most people here won’t even realize that my “Glasses” can do everything my smartphone can do.
Google is getting ready to launch Google Glass sooner than expected. The launch was previously expected in 2014. Company CEO Sergey Brin has now publicly moved the launch to later this year. At the TED 2013 Conference last month Brin performed a live demonstration of Google Glass. He said the product launch will occur just in time for the Christmas holiday shopping season.
The Glass field looks to be a competitive arena and Google is securing first-mover advantage. Other companies have filed patents indicating that they are developing a similar product. Microsoft, Apple, Blackberry, Samsung and Sony are all rumored to be developing their own glass product. All these companies see the Glass market as the next big market after the mobile handset and smart phone device category.
With Google Glass, the user has a wearable computer that has the same features as a smartphone. Everything is visible through the head mounted display. The first demos that have been seen appear to look like regular eyeglasses. There’s even speculation that one day the Google Glass can be fitted with prescription lenses.
Google Glass will operate via voice commands. If I want to take a picture or record a video, I just say “Take picture” or “Record video”. One of the most exciting aspects is that I can share what I’m currently seeing with anyone I want to via a Google Hangout through Google+ or Gmail.
How many awesome sunsets or sunrises have we seen here in Thailand? I can record the sunset or sunrise and shoot the live video and invite my friends to view it with me and see what I’m seeing with Google Glass. So what I’ll be doing is viewing the scene, recording it and talking to my friends at the same time as we all watch it. It’ll be like having them with me.
For me the most exciting and functional aspect to Google Glass is the ability to incorporate directions and maps visually. I’ve always wondered why Google spent so much time and money with Google Street View and mapping the entire world. Now I know why. With Google Glass, you can ask for directions and it will give them to you in Google Glass. Now when you’re driving or walking, you have the directions right in front of you hands-free.
Google has effectively bundled all of their services into a usable wearable computer. If you want to Google something, just ask and the answer will show up in Google Glass. If I need to translate something into Thai, I just ask Google Glass and I get the translation and pronunciation. As all of us expats know living here in Thailand, this feature alone is priceless and makes Google Glass worthwhile.
The Glasses themselves are strong and light. Colors available include charcoal, tangerine, shale, cotton and sky. Recently Google CEO Larry Page went on the New York City Subway wearing the Glasses and most people failed to recognize that he was wearing Google Glasses.
The deeper I delve into the Google Glass product, the more excited I get about the stock. Google’s stock continues to make new highs and the stock is up 16% so far this year and up 45% since June 2012. Most analysts price targets for Google now range from $900 to $1000. The company has a forward P/E of 15 and that’s still very cheap for a growth company. Google has an operating margin of 26%, which is one of the highest in the industry. Google has over $48 billion in cash on its balance sheet, or $145 per share.
The momentum players see a compelling valuation and a company with tremendous growth prospects. The creation of the Google Glass product is truly revolutionary. Technologists have been wanting to create a wearable computer for the past 50 years, but none have been able to do it and develop a commercial product. Google looks to have done that and that’s why I’m not only buying Google Glass, but also buying Google stock.
10 Cool Things you can do with Google Glass
Take pictures with voice command
Access Google Hangout,
Record a video and share with others real time.
Pop up a reminder for you next appointment
Weather Reports
Dictate Texts and messages to friends and family using Google’s cloud-based speech recognition
Travel Alerts
Access Google Maps and get Directions
Don Freeman is president of Freeman Capital Management, a Registered Investment Advisor with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He has over 15 years experience and provides personal financial planning and wealth management to expatriates. Specializing in UK and US pension transfers. Call 089-970-5795 or email: [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

I’m Your Man – A Walk Through Nostalgia – the Biography of Leonard Cohen

Life at 33 1/3:Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality

Chiang Mai Watercolours

Capturing Thailand through Google Glass