Monday, September 30, 2002

"With an economic rebound nowhere in sight, some veterans of the dot-com bubble are abandoning the Bay Area for places as far afield as Haiti, Honduras and Ghana. ... Their road to the Next Big Thing is the same one taken by a previous generation of idealistic young Americans: the Peace Corps."

"Peace Corps recruiters nationwide have noticed a jump in applications since President Bush called on Americans to volunteer in his State of the Union Address in January. But in the Bay Area inquiries began to pick up back in spring 2001, coinciding with the dot-com collapse."

The Peace Corp is also pleased to be reaching out to the former dot-comers, and has been targeting them in their outreach. They're "looking for applicants who can innovate and be flexible -- skills many dot-commers learned on the job. 'They are coming from a unique work setting, where creativity and the ability to think outside the box are at a premium, ... We need creativity to think of new solutions to age-old problems.'"

Read the whole article from the Mercury News

Saturday, September 28, 2002

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
- Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command, Nuremburg trials, 1946

"When Fascism comes to America it will be called anti-Fascism."
- Attributed to Huey Long, governor of Louisiana, 1930's

Friday, September 27, 2002

New season, part two: "West Wing" continues to be the only show worth paying attention to, and "Scrubs" continues to be the only comedy to be anything close to original (well, not that close, but closer). The season premieres of these two shows did not disappoint. "Ed" came close, with a guest appearance by Danny Devito as a psychologist/grifter, but could easily get lost this season with re-treads of the Ed & Carol are they / aren't they storylines.

"Friends" - hopefully in its final season - did amuse me slightly, I'm embarrassed to admit. But this show has always been like that; a guilty little pleasure that you know is a waste of time, but can still make one laugh.

The final new show that I watched last night was "Good Morning Miami." A strong supporting cast may get me to watch this one or two more times before passing judgement, but the lead characters look like they might get very annoying and very cliche very quickly.

Look, I know that two posts in a row reviewing television shows is a total waste of time. But isn't it a slight relief from fretting about the situations in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Don't worry, I'll get back to fretting about impending doom soon enough.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Another new television season is upon us, and from what I've seen so far, go buy some new books. Last night was my first taste of several new shows (through the magic of the remote I was able to be disgusted by two or three shows at a time). Here's what I saw:

"8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," "In-Laws," Bonnie Hunt's new show (what's it called?), "Hidden Hills," and "Frasier."

The first three of those are "new" shows, but from very old molds. I actually had hope for "8 Simple Rules" (despite its awful title) and "In-Laws" because of the casts. Even familiar, pleasant personalities couldn't save these shows from their complete lack of originality. Then there's Bonnie Hunt. Why the Hell does she have another pilot on? Hunt had made 8 pilots in the last 12 years, and all of them have bombed. Why does she still have a career?

"Hidden Hills" was not copied from an old mold. It was copied from a recent mold ("Malcolm in the Middle"). Of the new shows, this is the one with the most promise. Of course, that's not saying very much.

Finally, "Frasier" rounded out the night, with the wedding(s) of Niles and Daphne. The only truly funny moment (of the show, and the night) came towards the end with Saul Rubineck showing up as Daphne's former fiance, Donny. We can only hope that this will be the final season of "Frasier," a once great show that has gone well past its expiration date.

Actually, the funniest thing on all night was a Bud Lite commercial. Woman calls man at work and says, "Tonight let's play 'Stranger.' When one of us gets home, the other will be dressed up in a French maid's outfit, wearing a blonde wig, and carrying a six-pack of Bud Lite." (Guy's expression shows he's into it). Later, the woman, now dressed in the sexy maid's outfit and wearing the wig, picks up the six-pack and goes to answer the door. There's the man from earlier, dressed identically to the woman (and holding a sixer of Bud Lite), "Oh, you meant you were going to dress up..." She slams the door in his face. The neighbor down the hall opens his door, looks over at the guy in the French maid's outfit and says, "Well, hi there, stranger!"

Tonight I'll be watching the season premieres of "Ed" and "West Wing" (as well as the finale of "Big Brother"). Let's just hope that these two shows still have the power to entertain that they did last year.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

After my "no hope" posting of a few days ago, I'm pleased to share the following article with you:

Palestinian girl gets life-saving kidney from Jewish victim of suicide bombing

"On Friday, a Jewish student from Scotland died of the injuries he received when he was
the victim of a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus. On Monday, his kidney was transplanted into a Yasmin Abu Ramila, a seven-year-old Palestinian girl living in Jerusalem."
Read the article here

This touching little story is the first glimmer of hope I've seen from Israel/Palestine in a long time, and yet it was nearly invisible to the major news media. Sure, they don't want to be accused of serving fluff in the face of a serious situation, but without this human face of the people involved we don't get the full story.

Read this article, and remember that there are human beings on each side of this war.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Here's another way to sell books that I hadn't considered. Just stand on the sidewalk of a busy street holding up a half-dozen copies in your hand. Don't say anything, no shouts out "Books for sale!" No signs "Author will sign own work." Just wait for people to come up and ask what it's all about.

That's what Bert Glick was doing along Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz on Saturday when I spotted him. The low key approach worked. Walking past him one way he probably had five or six books. There wasn't time to stop, but I made a note to check out his book on my way back. Forty-five minutes later I passed again, and this time stopped to talk to him. He had one book left, which I bought for $10.

1) His poetry is quite good - and I don't normally read much poetry. You can find his books for sale on his web site:

2) I need to gather the guts to go out next weekend and do the same thing with a stack of my books. No need to make a big production about it; just stand there holding up a few books and see what happens. But how should I dress?

Sunday, September 22, 2002

It's the end of September, so why the Hell is it over 90 degrees out there today? It's quite a scorcher, so we ducked into the movie theatre to suck up some air conditioning for a couple of peak-heat hours.

We saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - It was very funny, but not as great a movie as we'd been led to believe. The best parts: Lainie Kazan and Michael Constadine as the bride's parents. If you haven't seen it yet, don't be in a rush to go (unless you need to escape the heat), but do put it on your rental list for later in the year.

Now, it's back to avoiding the news of the real world. I think I've got some fiction to write...

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The news is just too depressing to even write about. This week started for me with Yom Kippur, a day of reflection, spirituality, and a search for redemption and peace (both within and for all). Tuesday and Wednesday I took part in a local conference that addressed multicultural issues, and attempted to build bridges among the many different ethnic and racial communities within the San Jose area.

During the second day of the conference came the first of two new Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel. By weeks end, the Israeli's had retaliated by laying siege to Arafat's headquarters, and blowing it apart along with any hope for peace that may have existed a week ago. Not surprisingly, that's precisely what the suicide bombers wanted; to end the hope for any negotiated peace.

Through it all was the constant sounding of the war drum from our "leaders" in Washington (or should that be war drumb?). Like the Israeli's foolish attack on Arafat, this will only escalate tensions and terrorism, rather than calm them. The very ills that these acts of war seek to prevent, or retaliate for, will be fertilized by these actions.

Somehow, I need to get back to the space I was in during the first part of this week. But that's not enough. Unless we can all find our way there, I'm finding it hard to see any hope on this sunny morning.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Death by proxy?

I've been thinking a lot about our "leaders" rush toward a "preventive" war with Iraq - who hasn't been? I've, of course, wondered if it's just an election year stunt, I've wondered if they actually know something that they're not able to share with us that would show the need for such an attack, I've ruminated on all sorts of possibilities. But what I keep coming back to is that we're just using Saddam as a proxy for Osama.

Our army has been unable to kill the guy we really want, so we're going after the guy we think we can get to make the administration feel better. The American people are terrified of the unknown terrorist who may repeat the attacks of September 11, 2001, so we focus our anger on the known terrorist we think we can get.

Saddam, in this situation, is like the virgin being prepared to be thrown into the volcano. He can be sacrificed (who'll miss him?), and the world really would be better off without him (probably). So, what's wrong with that?

If what we're really worried about is Iraq's potential use of biological or nuclear weapons, then our attack, and his imminent demise, are the one thing sure to release such an attack from Iraq. Which again leads us to the policy options explained by Arthur Schlesinger in the article linked in the post below. Read it, if you haven't yet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"The policy of containment plus deterrence won the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country. Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States."

This article, by Arthur Schlesinger, perfecty and succinctly puts the case as I imagine it to be. I encourage you to read it, and to pass the link on to others.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is a day of forgiveness, prayer, and redemption - not just for the individuals, but for the community. Over and over again, through all the liturgy, was the thread of creating peace as the means to righteousness, and that aggression, violence, and war are sins. Throughout the day, we prayed for peace.

This is one of the prayers, sung in Hebrew as "Oseh Shalom." May God who makes peace in heaven cause peace to descend on us, and on all Israel, and on all the world. Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

(a copy of the newsletter that I just emailed to my subscriber list)

Dear Friends,

Since my last message to you all I've posted two new short stories to my web site and garnered several excellent reviews on my book, "Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories."

The most exciting of the reviews comes from Midwest Book Review, who gave me five stars on, and concluded by saying that Aaron's Intifada was "...strongly recommended as an impressive and engaging anthology that reflects Goldstein's skillfully original storytelling talent."

You can find more information about the book, including sample stories and links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others, at the official book web site:

The two latest stories posted to my site each came about as the result of writing contests. One was the winner, while the other was 1st runner-up. See if you can tell which one got the higher score:

The Fortune Cookie
"One day in her life, Cora Lynn decided to stop being the custodian of other peoples' memories." An old woman searches for herself in the gifts that others have brought her.

The Forgotten Key
"I no longer predict the future, and with the way things have worked out, I'm beginning to doubt I ever did." A psychic searches for the key to his own hidden past.

And, of course, there's nearly always something new posted on my weblog:

Thanks for your support, and keep on reading!


Ken Goldstein

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Looking back, I see that I haven't posted any book reviews for a while, so here are three quick reviews of last month's reading...

The Cadence of Grass - Thomas McGuane
Dysfunctional families at their most entertaining and devious. This novel has both the wide open scope of the Montana it takes place in, and the uncomfortable intimacy of a jail cell. Family ties are questioned and pitted against loyalties of marriage and business, and none emerge unscathed. A few small parts of this novel dragged for me (multi-page descriptions of a horse's actions), but each time it returned to the family, it pulled me in deeper, pushing me on to the satisfying end. A truly great American novel. My grade: A

Who Moved My Cheese? - Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Advice books is a genre I normally avoid, so perhaps I shouldn't be reviewing this - or, at least, you shouldn't care too much about my review - but somebody gave me the book, and it was short enough (94 pages), so I read it. Mainly I continued to read it only to see how much worse it could get. The simplistic point of the book (don't panic, move with the cheese) is made in the first paragraph, and then just repeated hundreds of times. Because Dr. Johnson thinks we're all morons, he gives this advice in the form of a parable. The parable, however, reads like an un-edited children's book manuscript. My wife's second grade class would be bored with this story, and think it beneath them. Yet, Johnson somehow sells millions of these to "adults." The book did inspire me, however, to write my own simplistic advice book and make a million dollars too. My grade: D-

Oh, the Things I Know! - Al Franken, Ph.D. (Hon.)
Apparently, Al Franken also thought it would be easy to get in on the advice book bandwagon (and dollars). This hilarious send-up of the genre was just what I needed to get over my cynicism and recover my sense of humor after the Cheese book. Though not his funniest book (I love the political aspects of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" and "Why Not Me?"), this is still a must-read for fans of Franken's dry wit and intellectual humor. My grade: A-

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I've been finding it difficult to handle all the 9/11 tributes and memorials on the television and radio the past several days, and don't know how I'll make it through today without succumbing to participating in some ritual.

The only 9/11 TV show I watched all the way through was on PBS this past weekend. It was about the undocumented workers ("illegal" aliens) who worked and died in the World Trade Center. Nobody's sure how many there were, since many of their families and friends are afraid to ask about them, lest they be deported.

The show (which was in Spanish, with English subtitles) focussed on four women from Mexico who each lost their husbands. At the beginning, one of the women, in her remote, poverty-stricken village, tried to imagine what happened in New York. Surrounded by one and two room adobe huts, she says that her husband worked in a "big house - maybe four of five stories tall."

A few of the women then traveled to New York in search of their husbands, or, failing that, at least some answers. Coming from such rural remoteness, it was difficult for them to fathom that people could be turned to dust, leaving no trace, in just a moment.

Lacking documentation, they couldn't prove their husbands even existed, let alone had jobs and died in the attack, and therefore couldn't apply for the survivor's benefits that were available. One woman stayed on in New York with her children, to start a new life. The others returned to Mexico to tell their families that their search was in vain.

I just re-read my entries here from last September 11, and my recollections of that day, posted on September 12. I think I'm avoiding the pain right now, because it's just so hard to go through it all again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Monday, September 09, 2002

It wasn't the most exciting weekend, with spending Friday night and a good part of Saturday in temple for Rosh Hashanah, but we did get some things done.

We went to the movies and saw One Hour Photo. We each really enjoyed it, although it was somewhat flawed in certain areas. Robin Williams was excellent - actually, all the performances were very good, as was the production design, and the music. Only a few holes in the story line kept it from being a better film.

One thing for certain, this movie will help sell a lot of digital cameras. In fact, I think setting up a digital camera concession stand outside any theatre showing One Hour Photo would be a great investment.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Affordable housing a higher priority than new tax cuts
Americans say Congress should spend to help low income people, economy"

A report just issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says that while the Bush administration is pushing "additional tax cuts to revive the economy, a majority (52%) of likely voters says spending more money to make sure low income people have housing they can afford to rent is more important than Congress cutting more taxes... In addition, 61% say that Congress spending more money to make sure low income people have housing they can afford to rent is good for the economy."

Read the press release and see they survey results on their web site.

You can certainly put me in that majority. What's amazing is that 48% of people think that tax cuts are more important, when these cuts only benefit about five to ten percent of the population. No matter how put upon the working poor and middle class have become, many still believe that they're part of the elite. Not so; the gap between those in the top ten percent income bracket and the other 90% of us has continued to grow wider.

Many of us now think that we're in a recession. Why wouldn't we think that? The Tech sector is moribund, layoffs are common, the stock market is down. We're certainly in an economically stagnant, downturn situation. But, as Michael Moore suggests, take a look at those at the top. They're not hurting. There's no recession for them. (The proof here locally is that even with 7.5% unemployment, you still can't buy a house for less than $450,000).

The stock market may be "down" - but it's still about three times higher than it was at the start of this economic expansion. The majority of the wealth created in the '90's is still there. But the folks who have control of it don't want any to trickle down to you or me. And so they create the myth of a recession so that we won't ask for our share. At least, that's what Michael Moore suggests in his latest book, "Stupid White Men."

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Happy New Year! This is the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah) today, and the beginning of a ten day period of introspection that ends with Yom Kippur (day of atonement) on September 16.

Looking back over this last year, I see it has had its stresses and changes, but has been a better year for me, personally, than the year before. A year ago I was unemployed and not sure where life was heading. There are still questions, of course, but I'm in a far more secure spot than last September. I enjoy my job, have received nothing but praise and promotion from my employer, and am looking forward to my second year there. I've also published my first book since last Rosh Hashanah. I was just starting what would become the title story one year ago.

For my family, it has been a mixed bag. I was realizing last night that we've not been to any funerals within this last year. In the previous few years Leslie lost several of her older family members. On the other side, my brother's divorce, and our nephews moving to Connecticut, has been at least as hard as many of the deaths had been.

The world situation, too, has gotten both more stable and more frightening, if that's possible. At Rosh Hashanah services a year ago we were still in the shock of September 11 (the Jewish calendar does not line up well with the traditional Roman calendar - last year Rosh Hashanah came just after the 11th). We were living in a state of complete uncertainty and fear. Now, we've gotten used to the added airport security and the never-ending war on terrorism. An impending war on Iraq (which may have already started) depresses us, but hardly more than a mumbling of protests have been heard. We're becoming more accepting of losing our freedoms to a security state, and that's more dangerous and insidious than any mad bomber could be.

So, as we enter into these "days of awe" I recognize my personal blessings, and search for ways to extend that good luck to others around me. Happy new year.

Friday, September 06, 2002

The California Gubernatorial race is getting uglier by the minute, with most voters looking for any choice besides the two major party candidates.

You've already read here my endorsement of Green Party candidate Peter Miguel Camejo - but that's nothing new for me to be openly going Green. What is new is that when I tell that to people they're not giving me the "you're crazy" scoffing look. I'm getting looks of interest, and consideration.

I've also heard several associates saying that for the first time, they're thinking of not voting at all - which would be a terrible waste.

In one recent poll, Dick Riordan came out in the lead. The only problem with that is that Dick Riordan isn't running. He was defeated for the Republican nomination several months ago. It seems Republican voters are having a change of heart about who they did nominate.

That nominee is Bill Simon, whose latest bit of scandal (he's had many) involves his many positions on gay rights. To a survey conducted by the Log Cabin Republicans (a gay Republican group) he said that he supports domestic partner benefits and a state-wide Gay Pride Day.

When asked about those answers at an event for a more traditional (right wing) Republican group, he said he supported neither of those positions, and explained his survey answers with something along the lines of, "When I gave those answers they were answers to the questions that I was given at that time" (or something like that).

After having time to sort things out, the official story now is that a staffer had filled out the Log Cabin questionnaire and used the auto-pen to sign it. Bill Simon was immediately dis-invited from a Republican fundraiser in Hollywood set for the following day.

Not that incumbent Governor, Democrat Gray Davis, is doing much better. He just managed to pass a new state budget (months late) that he openly admits is insufficient, has very little to do with reality, and will lead to deficits. Not the sort of sound bite you want to put out in an election year.

Is it any wonder I'm depressed about the state of the state?

Monday, September 02, 2002

If you read this post today (Labor Day), turn on your TV immediately, and find the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. What the hell happened to Jerry? He's bigger and scarier than most Sumo wrestlers!

Speaking of bad television, you've by now heard, of course, that CBS is planning to do a "reality" version of The Beverly Hillbillies - They've been searching the Ozarks for a true hick family to move to BH. (Insert your own Anna Nichole joke here).

Well, now, not to be outdone, Fox has announced they're planning a reality version of Green Acres. You don't need to read the whole story (although it's entertaining), here's the two best quotes...

* "The... concept has been in development for several weeks..." Wow! You mean they didn't just announce it the same afternoon they thought of it?


* "Also unknown is whether the series will even use the name 'Green Acres,' as neither Fox nor [the production company] owns rights to the title." Well, it's not like anybody in Hollywood would sue over their "intellectual" property.

Since we now know that not owning the rights to the show you want to remake isn't a problem, I suppose I can announce my own plans to produce a new reality series: Survivor: Gilligan's Island.

I'll be casting for a real-life tour boat skipper and first mate, a real farm girl, and a real egghead professor. I'll then be putting them on an island with a well-known millionaire and his wife (Bill & Melinda Gates?), and a real movie star (maybe Meg Ryan?). The millionaire and movie star will each be playing for charity.

Can't you just see the "regular" people fawning over Meg the first few shows, then plotting to voter her off saying, "America's sweetheart isn't so damn sweet when she hasn't showered for seventeen days..."

I'd tell you more, but I need big money to spill the rest...

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