Sunday, March 31, 2002

We just got back from a weekend in Los Angeles, visiting with our families. I'm tired as hell right now, but just wanted to post one thing. I sprung my book on them all (parents, in-laws, brother & his fiance, one friend), and they were all very happy and impressed with it.

I don't know why, but I was a little nervous what their reaction would be, but that was unwarranted. Perhaps, I was just being a bit shy. Anyway, they all can't wait for it to be "officially" released and available on many more web sites that it currently is. Should be happening very soon...

... I just found it's now listed on Barnes & Noble (.com)... Click Here to buy it! - Should be on Amazon any day now...

Friday, March 29, 2002

CEO John Browne Demands Government Help - by Seth Dunn

BP has exceeded its emissions reduction target eight years ahead of schedule, and at no net cost. That undermines Bush's claim that the Kyoto Protocol would be too expensive. (from

Thursday, March 28, 2002

The world of comedy had a triple hit within the last day as Billy Wilder, Milton Berle, and Dudley Moore all died. Each of them created work that has survived over the years as groundbreaking works of human humor. Good bye, you'll all be missed.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Yes, a most momentous moment has occurred! My book arrived today! The first copy of Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories is in my hands (well, actually, I put it down to type this, but it's right next to my hands).

It's available now from iUniverse, or, you can pre-order an autographed copy direct from me for $14.45 (includes shipping and all - I should have a box of books ready to ship by April 15). It will be another six weeks or so before it is listed with Amazon, B&N, etc.

Meanwhile - I'm excited! It's quite a feeling to finally have the physical book of my work right here. Wonderful! Now, I've got to update the web site with ordering information... that may take a couple of days...
One of our local government officials has apparently gotten himself into trouble by saying that graffiti "tagging" can sometimes be art. What an idiot.

Not that I don't agree with him. I've occasionally seen some tagging that impressed me from an artistic point of view. It's just that that's besides the point. I like Picasso, but I don't want anybody putting Guernica on the side of my car without my permission.

Whether it's defending graffiti, or persecuting Robert Mapelthorpe, I just don't want any politicians deciding what is or isn't "art."

The correct answer for that local idiot, or any other public official who gets suckered into this debate, is, "It's not a question of art. It's a question of law. Defacing somebody else's property is a crime, regardless of its merits."

Sunday, March 24, 2002

What is it about computer solitaire that's so hypnotizing? Is it really that much more exciting than traditional solitaire? If I weren't so lazy, would I really be getting out the deck of cards and playing solitaire all day long if I didn't have the computer?

Or is it simply a means of procrastinating? I have important writing to be getting to... but first I want to see if I can win ten in a row... or get my statistics up 1/2 a percentage point...

Or, maybe, or maybe I'm just deluding myself, it helps to clear my mind so that I can get to that writing? I do sometimes find it relaxing and meditative. I kind of zone out while clicking on the cards and it moves the stress of the day away so that the creative thoughts can rise to the surface.

At least, that's what I tell myself. Of course, I could be highly deluded... I'll give that some serious thought... right after this next game...

Saturday, March 23, 2002

It was a busy week for us, as report cards were due yesterday. Leslie was working on them all week, and I (of course) was helping out with grading assessment tests and organizing the files for each kid. That, obviously, didn't leave a lot of time for posting here.

Sorry to continue to go on and on about the release of my new book, but it is the most exciting thing going on in my life these days. What I wanted to say about it today, however, is that I've been considering ideas of what to do for my next project.

One thing that bothers me about the book I just did, is that the material is not appropriate to share with my nephews (ages 7 and 10). These guys are a very important part of my life, and I feel terrible that I can't share this with them for several more years.

Which has led me to a decision about what to do next. Looking over my lists of book concepts, I've found one that can be adapted slightly to make an excellent book for teens. In fact, making that change in focus is exactly what it needs to make it a viable concept. So, I'm going to attempt that as my next major project.

Of course, there may be other short stories for adults coming out of here while I'm working on that longer project. But, at least as of this moment, the next book I'm working on will be for my nephews.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

When a local band that can't get signed to a major label puts out their own CD, we call it the underground. The musicians who issued the music are assumed to be far cooler than any of the commercial noise that the official music industry pushes at us. There are fans who won't by anything but independently issued CDs or tapes, and there are radio stations that cater to them.

Independent filmmakers are called mavericks. Their artistic vision is too original and vast to fit into the boxes created by Hollywood. The theatres that show these movies are called art houses, and any city with a population over 5,000 sets aside two weeks each year to honor them with an independent film festival.

It goes without saying that commercial television airs nothing but trash. As a nation, we've decided that the airing of quality shows is so important that we allow a tiny percentage of our tax dollars to support public television. The mission of PBS is to present those shows that could never find a home on bottom-line focused network TV.

But, when it comes to the publishing world, we still look askance at the lowly self-published author. We let the literary establishment set the rules by which all books must be judged. If everything published by "real publishers" were of great literary value, I'd be willing to accept their judgement. But let's look at the record.

For every truly original new novel by an un-established writer, there are two books on how to be a millionaire, three diet-of-the-weeks, four true crime or celebrity biographies ripped from yesterday's headlines, and one novel by an established popular author which may or may not be trash.

Is there anything wrong with that? No! Publishing is a business, just like music, movies, and TV. They will publish what they can sell, and what sells, more often than not, is not great original groundbreaking literature. That leaves a lot of potentially great books unpublished simply because they are not commercially viable. That's simply the free market system at work.

When authors have taken control of their own work, and published without the backing of an established company, it's been derided as "vanity publishing." Let me tell you about my experience with self-publishing.

I self-published my fiction collection, Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories, with iUniverse. I'm an unknown writer working in decidedly un-commercial territory. I don't blame the big publishing houses for not beating down my door. Aaron's Intifada is not going to be a million seller. If all goes well, over the years, I hope to sell a few hundred copies.

I believe that's quite modest. Vanity has nothing to do with it. Vanity would be my expecting a major multi-national corporation to take notice of my book, invest its own resources into promoting my work, and my becoming a household name. Not only do I not expect that; it is not even my goal. I'm self-published, and I'm proud of it.

Before choosing iUniverse for my book, I browsed the site and ordered a few titles. I was quite pleased with what I saw, and what I read. I'm glad to be a part of the Print-On-Demand self-publishing revolution.

We are the mavericks, we are the underground, and, from what I've seen, we are a lot cooler than most of the trash on the best sellers lists. This is not about vanity, it is not about losers looking for validation; it simply about us telling our stories and getting them in print. Don't mess with us: we are the POD rock stars!

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Small injuries add up. Who hasn't been scarred by life in one way or another? Bruised by desire, cut by love, falling down on the job?

You know, those small, slightly discolored, sensitive spots we think have faded away, recessed to the point where we can ignore them, that somebody manages to poke in just the right way to unleash a chain reaction of hurt.

Or that sensitive person who manages to see that hidden bruise, and gently massage in some balm that helps to heal the pain you didn't even realize was still there.

Small injuries add up. Wearing them as badges can weigh you down. Setting them free can liberate you enough to go out and collect some more.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

And here it is... The cover art for my book, Aaron's Intifada and other short stories:
Aarons Intifada - cover art
Like I said before, it was not quite what I was picturing in my mind's eye, but I'm getting used to it, and maybe even getting to like it!

The book should be available and live on (and others) by June 1. Watch this space for the announcement...

Thursday, March 14, 2002

The flu that refused to go away. I swear, I've been fighting this damn thing for over a month now, and missed a day or two of work along the way. This week I've been unable to take any time off to get the rest needed to feel better - in fact, I've been running around working over-time each day.

Meanwhile, somehow, somewhere, in all this insanity, I've sent in my final approval on the cover art for my book. It's not quite what I had pictured, but I'm trying not to be too disappointed. It's still good, and is fitting for the book (most important), and Leslie was very impressed, it's just not quite what I had envisioned. Oh well.

click here for sneak preview of the book site!

Monday, March 11, 2002

Here's a link to a letter to the editor in today's LA Times. It was written by a professional associate of mine:

Maybe Firms Should Be More Like Nonprofits

Sunday, March 10, 2002

We went to the theatre yesterday - We saw "Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman", written by and starring Rob Becker. As you may be able to guess, it's a one-man show, featuring Rob Becker. According to the playbill, it's also "a humorous exploration of the differences between men and women and how those differences make us misunderstand each other." Caveman was the longest-running solo play in Broadway history - beating out even Lily Tomlin's Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe.

While the territory has been well-traveled, the show is still very funny. Of course, one reason why the material may seem a bit familiar is that he's been doing this show for over 10 years now. It's quite possible that some of the lines I thought were recycled probably started with Caveman and were stolen by others over the years.

It's a rather simple show, frankly not much more than a two-hour stand up comedy routine, with only a couple of set pieces: a TV on a table, and a comfy chair, each looking like something out of the Flintstones movie. The key question discussed? "Why are all men assholes?" It turns out, we're not really assholes, we only seem that way when viewed from the female perspective. I was quite relieved to learn that.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

It's really too bad about yellow. Yellow gets such a bad rap - it's weak, it's cowardly, it's got no substance - that I think it's time we take a moment and look at yellow's positive side.

Most important (for writers) is that yellow makes a darn fine color for highlighting text when proofing or researching. Sure, some folks swear by the pink or light blue, but nothing beats yellow for sheer clarity (and if you Xerox the highlighted paper, the copy comes out clean, too).

And let's not forget the life-giving qualities of our yellow sun, without which life would cease to exist. I'd say that the sun certainly plays against yellow's typical character.

And then there's my favorite yellow. Not as bright as the others, but truly delicious: the banana. Perfect by itself, or sliced into a bowl of raisin bran. Nutritious and colorful, I think I'll have one right now.

Friday, March 08, 2002

My book is moving along in the route to print. Last week I proofed the book block, and it looks very good. I like the way they laid it out, the fonts they chose, et cetera.

I didn't like their initial attempt at the cover design. I'd written out my cover concept, but they went way over-board and gave back something completely un-related to any of the stories inside. I re-wrote the concept, with extreme detail on should - and should not - be included. Now, I'm anxiously awaiting the second (and hopefully final) version.

Once everything's approved, it should be only about two months (give or take a couple of weeks) before the book is ready for release. Now, I'm already trying to figure out what to do for the next book...

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Gray Davis has created a monster, and all of California may be paying for it for the next four (or more) years.

A couple of months ago I wrote here about [Democratic Governor] Davis' meddling in the Republican primary. The expected winner of the primary, to see who would challenge Davis in November, was Richard Riordan - former mayor of Los Angeles. Riordan is widely perceived as a fairly moderate on most issues, is fairly well-liked, and came out ahead in head-to-head polls against Davis.

Davis, being the scared little weenie that he is, ran negative ads against Riordan, so that the Republican primary could be won by a lesser candidate that Davis thought he could beat.

The plan worked. Riordan went down in the polls, and Simon rose to fill the void. Simon is widely perceived to be a reactionary right-wing nut, but with Riordan wounded, he managed to raise quite a bit of money and make some splashy ads in the final weeks of the primary campaign.

So, Davis got what he wanted: He's running against Simon. He also got something he hadn't counted on: Simon is now in position to beat Davis. Davis' performance as Governor has been so poor, that a tremendous amount of resources will be going to anybody that runs against him. Davis' little foray into the Republican primary also got Simon something else: The endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. Now, Davis has to run against the most popular politician in America.

The last time a sitting Democratic Governor in California played this kind of game to meddle in the Republican primary was in the mid-60s, when Edmund G. "Pat" Brown (Sr.) was governor. Now, Brown (Sr.) was a damn good Governor, not a weenie like Davis. But, Brown was worried, and so he played around to make sure the moderate Republican did not get the nomination. He wanted the Republicans to nominate somebody so far to the right that he could never win a statewide election. That candidate was Ronald Reagan. I think you can guess what happened.

Monday, March 04, 2002

This is a forward from Michael Lerner. For more information about the Tikkun Community, go to (The phrase tikkun olam means literally "repairing the world.")


I'm writing to ask your help in building a national Day of Fasting in support of peace in the Middle East, an End to the Occupation, and an End to the Violence on both sides. That Fast day will be March 27th from morning till dark (after which many Jews will begin our first night of Seder, at which we will be bringing up the issues of the Occupation, using the Haggadah Supplement printed in TIKKUN Magazine).

But I'm writing also for some immediate help from you in support of the IDF Reserve Officers who are refusing to enforce the Occupation because their own personal experience has led them to conclude that there is no way to serve on the West Bank and Gaza without violating universal standards of human rights, and without further intensifying the violence in ways that just generate new terrorism against the Jewish people and new acts of cruel retaliation against the Palestinian people. So I'm asking your financial support for an ad that we are taking in the NY Times in support of the reservists.

I also want your help in our ongoing project to do education around this issue in your area. Even though this might seem to be a stretch for you because these issues may not be your main concern at the moment, I'm writing to you personally because I feel certain that if you read the material below carefully that you'll agree that you actually should be supporting this venture and can do so without undermining the other things you are involved with. Let me explain.

People in the Israeli peace movement informed me today that Ariel Sharon's recent escalation of attacks on Palestinian towns was his strategy to deal with the Saudi peace proposal: by ensuring that the violence and inevitable response by Palestinians (the horrendous acts of terror this past weekend) would weaken the support for the Saudi proposal (which Sharon opposes because he wants to maintain Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza and has never been in favor of a negotiated withdrawal). The Occupation is close to 35 years old--and in the last few weeks has been enforced in such a terribly oppressive way that people all around the world are expressing deep concern.

Many Israelis are coming to realize that these policies of Ariel Sharon have led to a dramatic escalation of fighting and insecurity rather than security. They have also put Israeli citizens who serve in the Israeli Reserves (mili'um) in an impossible position: because in order to enforce the Occupation, the troops are frequently asked to violate basic standards of human rights, and sometimes to wantonly kill or injure Palestinians.

Recently, these Israeli soldier/citizens are saying that they can't do this any more.

As of today, 320 reserve army officers in the Israeli Army have signed a statement saying that they won't serve on the West Bank and Gaza. These are people who have already served their country, have proved their willingness to risk their lives, but in the course of doing so have witnessed human rights abuses so dramatic and so inevitable when trying to enforce an occupation that they will no longer cooperate.

I am turning to you and to people from every faith, ethnicity, and spiritual background and asking for your help.

Would you please sign the statement of support for them--and help us raise money so that we can publish the ad below in both US and Israeli newspapers? And would you please join the international Day of Fasting on March 27th--in support of the Israeli officers who wont serve, in support of the demand to End the Violence (on both sides), and in support of the demand to End the Occupation? And let your local newspapers and media about these efforts--and convince everyone you can to join the Fast?

This is not just for Jews--the US government has given Ariel Sharon a blank check to escalate the repression on the West Bank. As people committed to non-violence, we also urge Palestinians to follow the strategy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. But at this moment, we need non-Jews and Jews to stand up and be counted.

The Contributions should be sent to Tikkun, 951 Cragmont Ave. Berkeley, Ca. 94708 (credit card info can go to and we will tear up checks or credit card info if we don't get enough money to pay for the ad (unless you specifically specify to "keep the money for other projects in support of the reservists").

Unless you specify not to use your name, we will print the names of anyone who donates at least $250, and if we get enough money to make it a big ad, with more room, then we will print the names of anyone who donates $100 or more.

Please endorse and spread the word about the International Day of Fasting from sun-up to sundown on March 27th--in support of the call to End the Violence on Both Sides, End the occupation, and support the reservists. Also, we are asking Jews to raise these issues at their Seder table on the night of March 27th after the fasting ends (1st night of Passover), and Christians to talk about it in church during Holy Week.

After March 27, and particularly if we succeed in raising enough money to print this ad, we will go into the next phase of our campaign. We will try to create local community meetings with "public opinion shapers" in every corner of the U.S. We will also try to create a network of students and professors on campus who share The Tikkun Community perspective on these issues--and to educate others there. Israeli policy is supported by the US government which blocks every effort at international intervention, vetoes U.N. resolutions calling for Israeli policy to change, and essentially gives Israel a blank check to follow self-destructive policies. We hope to educate community leaders and opinion shapers to a new way of thinking about the Middle East: one that reflects compassion for both sides and a serious commitment to non-violence, justice, and openhearted reconciliation.

We are in the process of developing a 60-80 page booklet to tell the story of the Middle East in a way that shows how decent people on both sides could misunderstand and misconstrue the other side, and then act in ways that gave the most hateful elements in both camps "evidence" for their worst fantasies. We believe that this kind of re-understanding of the situation is necessary on both sides--because We need your help to connect with people of influence, people who shape public thinking, not only specifically on foreign policy issues. Some of these people might be journalists or others working in media. Some might be businessmen and corporate leaders. Some might be judges, doctors, academics at local colleges and universities, writers, high school teachers, union leaders and activists, social change activists who have not dealt with this particular issue, leaders of non-profits, government employees or elected officials (though the latter are least likely to be responsive, given their fear that the organized Jewish community might endanger their future should they speak up critical of Israel's current policies). There are people of influence in your community whom you know or have a way of contacting and who would be more likely to be responsive to you than to us as total strangers. What we are hoping is that you might play a role in creating a gathering of such people in your community or at your home. If you think you might do that, or even if you just want to send us the phone numbers and/or emails of those people whom you think we should invite, please contact Liat at to let us know. Please consider signing and supporting the ad, printed below, and the Fast day I've described. And let us know what you will be doing. And follow the discussion of our plans and our strategy by keeping in touch at

Many blessings to you.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, TIKKUN

HERE IS THE AD FOR THE NY TIMES Support the Israeli Army Reservists who say "No" to the Occupation Over 320 brave Israeli Army Reserve Officers have risked their careers and now face jail sentences because they publicly refuse to serve in the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza. These soldiers have witnessed their own army violate human rights, practice torture, destroy homes, and perpetrate violence against civilians, acts that have become "necessary" to maintain an oppressive Occupation. They won't be silent partners to the Occupation any longer. Nor will tens of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets in demonstrations against the Occupation.

Neither will we.

Join with us and the Israeli peace movement in calling for an immediate end to the Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. We are a committed pro-Israel movement that, like the reservists, upholds the highest vision of what Israel and the Jewish people stand for a world of peace, justice, love of the stranger, generosity, and goodness. We reject all attempts by some sectors of the Jewish community to portray us as self-hating Jews or anti-Semitic non-Jews.

We call for a compassionate, generous, and openhearted approach to ending the Occupation and providing reparations for Palestinian refugees. This is necessary for peace, as is the end of all terror and violence against Israel by Palestinians. We call upon local synagogues and other Jewish institutions to publicly and unequivocally support the Israeli Reserve Officers who refuse to serve, and to demand that Israel end the Occupation.

We invite you to participate in a worldwide day of fasting on March 27, from sunrise to sunset, in support of the reservists and in opposition to the use of violence by both sides and in opposition to the Occupation.

We encourage you to turn part of your Passover Seder on the evening of March 27 into a mini teach-in on the way that Israel is acting as Pharaoh to a population that is seeking its own freedom and self- determination. But don't be one- sided: both sides continue to make self-destructive and immoral choices and both sides bear responsibility for the tragedy that has unfolded in Israel/Palestine. Nevertheless, on Passover, Jews cannot celebrate our freedom without committing ourselves to the liberation of everyone else as well starting with the Palestinian people.

The new Israeli refuseniks have learned the lessons of history: "Following orders" to enforce a brutal Occupation does not work, when doing so means violating international law, human rights, and the basic moral standards of humanity. We join with these reservists in saying "NO" to the Occupation. Will You Join Us?

[ ] I will donate $ 100 (or _____) to help you reprint this ad in other American and/or Israeli newspapers.

[ ] I will join the Fast on March 27 and publicize it in my community.

[ ] I will raise these issues at my Passover seder, or in my church or in my other religious or progressive community and I'll tell you what I tried and what worked and what didn't. Send me the TIKKUN Passover supplement at the email address I've given below.

[ ] Tell me more about how I can be part of your efforts to create education in communities, a campus network, and a campaign to educate media.

[ ] I will join The TIKKUN Community (the basic membership of $120 includes a one year subscription to TIKKUN magazine

[ ] I will subscribe to TIKKUN magazine ($29; $43 outside the United States).

Email: [ ] Yes! I want to know more and become an activist.
Please add me to your email list. [ ] Only use my email list to send membership info.
City, State, Zip

[ ] Enclosed is a check [ ] Charge my credit card:
Card number: Expiration date

Mail to:
Support the Reservists
951 Cragmont Ave
Berkeley, CA 94708

This ad was organized by The TIKKUN Community. Contact The TIKKUN Community ( or 415-575- 1200) for help in planning educational gatherings on college campuses, and in community centers, corporations, union halls, synagogues, churches, mosques, and ashrams to rethink the Middle East.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Last week, I told you that I'd just bought the new [posthumous] CD release by Joey Ramone. Now, the retro trend continues: I've just bought tickets to see The Who in July.

I can't recall if this is their 18th annual farewell tour, or their 7th annual reunion tour, but they're coming around yet again. And we're going to see 'em.

We just saw them a couple of years ago, as part of the Bridge School benefit concert. You know, when The Who were still officially together and recording, I never saw them as frequently as I do now.

So, I'll buy the Joey Ramone CD, and I'll go to see The Who. But, I still refuse to watch "That 80's Show." That would be going too far.

Friday, March 01, 2002

The U.S. government has officially gone underground. A new "shadow government" is all set, and ready to go, and just don't you worry about who these people might be.

Since 9/11, it seems, there's been anywhere from 75 to 150 "high level" officials from various Washington, DC, agencies and departments hiding out in an underground bunker, somewhere along the east coast. The idea is that, should Osama bin Laden nuke DC, there'll be some continuity of government, and some bureaucrats left standing to quell the chaos.

This is the activation of a secret plan that's existed at least since the Eisenhower administration. Aren't we the lucky ones who get to see it enacted?

Shadow Government Activated for U.S. and Shadow Government Ordered After Attacks (Yahoo! News)

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