Monthly Archives: January 2007

Heaven’s Witness

Heaven’s Witness – Joseph Telushkin & Allen Estrin – 2004

I cut my ‘eyeteeth’ on Agatha Christie mysteries. My parents had a huge collection, and I went through them all. Late high school or early college I found a copy of Harry Kemelman’s Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (1964) in my parent’s storage boxes, and after reading his initial Rabbi Small novel, I went in search of Saturday-Thursday, Someday, and One Fine Day. I enjoyed that they were solid, well-crafted mysteries, but the reader learned stuff about Judaism along the way. In 1992 I was pleasantly surprised with the release of The Day the Rabbi Resigned. (I actually thought that was the last Rabbi Small mystery until a few minutes ago, but The Day The Rabbi Left Town was published in 1996, two years before Kemelman passed away.) I’ve also read a handful of Margaret Truman and Martha Grimes. A couple years ago I discovered Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who has published several encyclopedic volumes of Jewish knowledge and philosophy, has also published a series of mysteries around a character named Rabbi Daniel Winter. I’ve read two of the three, and they are also well-crafted mysteries. When I saw he had published a separate mystery with Allen Estrin, I decided to give it a look.

The theme of the novel centers around reincarnation. An actress is having problems with her voice, and she asks a psychoanalyst to try to use hypnosis to cure her. While under hypnosis, it appears she regresses to a past life, to a teenager who was murdered several years before she was born. The details of the crime are eerily similar to some current murders, providing the psychoanalyst with some difficult decisions to make. I shouldn’t say too much more.

I was definitely hooked, and read through the novel quickly. The characters felt real, as I laughed and cried with them. There are definitely teary moments, as most of the victims are teenagers, and we are forced to watch the police notify the parents. There are also some happy-tear moments. Most of the character-threads are tied at the end, but a sequel would be possible. I felt at the end the body count may have been too high, but that’s my only negative.

The book doesn’t solve the issue of reincarnation. It’s a novel; it can’t. However, the characters aren’t even in 100% agreement at the end on what really happened. I liked that. There are references to Bridey Murphy, Charles Manson, and Guillain Barre. Only the first of which is reincarnation-related, but the other two were interesting to me. I had no idea Richard Nixon declared to the press pre-conviction that Manson was guilty, but apparently he did. Guillain-Barre is one character’s “favorite disease.” It’s not mine. (Or perhaps it is…depends on how one defines, ‘favorite.’)

Television notes:

The inside-back-cover mentions that Telushkin’s Rabbi Winter novels were the basis for several episodes of The Practice. Estrin is a screenwriter and producer and has collaborated with Telushkin apparently on episodes for The Practice, Boston Public and Touched by an Angel.

In 1976 Harry Kemelman’s novels were the basis of a short-lived series Lanigan’s Rabbi. It only lasted four episodes, but Art Carney played Chief of Police Lanigan. Rabbi Small was played by Stuart Margolin (aka Angel Martin from the Rockford Files). Robert Reed (aka Mike Brady) was in the cast, as well as Andrew Robinson — he is now known to legions of Star Trek fans as ‘Garak’, and he’s written one Trek novel.

Wish I could be there

this is where I’d like to be tonight. I just received a ‘bulletin’ on MySpace telling me that that is where the celebration of the Oscar Nomination I mentioned a few posts back is going to be held. And my cousin will be there, of course. I have five hours to get there, before the party begins, but it’s in LA. According to the Lambert website there’s an airplane leaving in 1.5 hours. I could probably do it. And I would try. If I had won the Powerball.

But alas, I didn’t. So if you are in Los Angeles right now, and drop by St. Nick’s tonight, buy my cousin a round. Tell him it’s on me. I’ll pay you back next time I see you. Whoever you are.

Note to anyone doing the math…the time/date stamp is an hour off. It is currently 4:30 California time.

Submission – 1/26/07

I’ve just submitted two poems for a contest being held by Flashquake. These poems are Fibs. A new poetry form created back in April of 2006 by Gregory Pincus.

They also are taking flash fiction under 100 words for the contest, but I don’t have any fiction that short. I did submit an under 1000-word piece for their Spring issue. I’ve tried publishing it elsewhere, but it’s somewhat unusual, and it’s been hard to place. Their normal line limit for poetry is under 35 lines, and almost all of my poetry is under 35 lines, so I might also submit a poem.

I should know the results for both the contest and the Spring issue by the end of February.

I am going to begin metioning my submissions in this blog. That way, when you, my adoring fans, and friends, notice I haven’t mentioned submitting anything for a few months, you can ask me whether I have discontinued the practice of posting the information, or whether I have idiotically stopped submitting stuff; I have a backlog of about 500 poems written (not that all of them are of publishable quality, but many of them are). I should be submitting much more often.

Alexander Jannaeus and Me – Part I

I began writing an essay early this month, and never finished it. I meant to finish it by this past Sunday…didn’t happen. So I figured I’d at least post what I have written so far, as it does comprise a “Part I”, and I can post future parts of the essay as they are written.

167 years before the common era, Mattathias and several sons, including Judah Maccabee, revolted against the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus. This revolt, which lasted until 160 BCE, is commemorated every year in the holiday of Hannukah. The success of the revolt, and the rededication of the Temple which had been desecrated by the Seleucids is celebrated. What is usually not taught to kids is what happened a few years down the road.

When Judah died, leadership passed to his brother Jonathan, and then it passed to their brother Simon. Judah, Jonathan and Simon were good leaders, I beleive, but then the leadership of the Hasmonean Dynasty passed to the next generation. John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, is known for forcefully converting the Idumeans to Judaism. Judaism is proud that there are very few times in our religion’s history that we forcefully converted anyone. This is one of those few sad times. When he died, leadership passed to his wife. (That is something positive to note — women were allowed to lead.) However, their son, Aristobulus, wasn’t satisfied with High Priest, so he threw his mother into jail, and took leadership. At least he didn’t commit matricide, right? His reign lasted only a year, though, and he died a painful illness. (G-d works in not so mysterious ways sometimes.) He was succeeded, unfortunately, by a brother, Alexander Jannaeus. Alexander Jannaeus slew 6,000 Pharisees, starting a civil war that resulted in 50,000 deaths, which was a lot back then. He is considered so wicked a tyrant, that his death on the 2nd day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, in the Hebrew year 3685 (76 BCE), is recorded as a day of celebration. I don’t believe the death of any other Jew has been recorded as a day of celebration for us.

2045 years later, to the day on the Hebrew Calendar. I was born. (You were wondering what this was leading up to, weren’t you?) I can guarantee you that my parents had no idea who Alexander Jannaeus was, and I was not named after him, even though it is assumed that his Hebrew name was Jonathan. This year my birthday on the Roman calendar coincides again with my birthday on the Hebrew calendar.

[I should briefly mention Alexander Jannaeus’s wife, who was also the wife of his brother before he died the painful illness, and who took over the reigns of power after Jannaeus died. She healed the rifts that her husbands had caused. She has a rather famous name. Salome, but she should not be confused with the New Testament Salome.]


Just what the area around the Galleria needs: 2 hotels and more retail. Traffic is already a mess due to the Galleria, Borders-Circuit City-Kinkos shopping strip, and the Target/Dierbergs/Metrolink/Best Buy along Eager road.

Now that I own my home, I think I need to get involved in community discussions more.

[of course, the hotels and retail are going up in Richmond Heights, and I don’t live there. So going to any community meetings likely wouldn’t have helped.]

To the individual who bought the winning powerball ticket:

To the individual who bought the winning powerball ticket at Dierbergs on Tesson Ferry:

[Wait! You bought a ticket there and didn’t hear the news yet? I’ll wait for you to go to and see if you won.]

OK, back now. You did win? Great!

I will gladly write your life story in epic poetry form.
Or ghost write your autobiography.
Or ghost write a novel for you.
You get the idea.
Can’t guarantee it will sell.
You’ll have to pay someone to market it for you.
But heck, you’re the one with the money.

I have no qualms whatsoever about returning to the days of writing on commission. Commissioned art isn’t inferior.

Of course, if you’re willing, I’d prefer a system of patronage. You pay me to create, whatever I will, and in exchange, your name goes into the history books as my patron.

Never miss an opportunity

From the Jerusalem Post

And finally there’s the real dark-horse nomination of “West Bank Story” in the Short Film-Live Action category.

Director Ari Sandel tags his work as “A little singing, a little dancing, a lot of hummus.”

Dark-camel. They should have said dark-camel.

Here’s the picture of my cousin from the film that I posted 2 years ago:

Politics, Religion and Drew Barrymore

If you ever attend open mics, or performances by local bands, you hear it often.

“I have a chapbook for sale”
“I have a CD”

That sort of thing.

Well, over the years I’ve said it often. Not the CD one, but the chapbook one. But the open mic audience is limited. And with a blog, and Paypal, I figured I could expand the audience a bit. Maybe reach 5 or 6 more people. I only have one of my chapbooks — Politics, Religion and Drew Barrymore — listed so far (it’s the most recent one). Follow that link, or the one in the sidebar. (Warning: There are a few poems in this chapbook that, if they were acted out on film, might receive an R or NC17 rating from the MPAA.)

A participant in my Tuesday night writer’s group, who performs at the Hartford Coffee House open mic on Friday nights as well, also put together a chapbook recently, and when he heard I was putting the page together, he asked if he could be on it too. I readily accepted. His poetry is in a style very different from my own, but quite excellent. (No R or NC17 poems to my recollection.) Sample poems are available for both chapbooks.

We’re both handling our own chapbooks through separate Paypal accounts, so unfortunately, it’s not possible to combine the two chapbooks in one order.

One further note. The average size of a poetry chapbook is 20-24 pages. These sold for $3 when I first started out in the early 90s, but they normally sell for $5 today. My chapbook at 48 pages is actually at the maximum recommended size, as any larger, and it would become difficult to staple. Thematically it’s three small chapbooks in one. Due to this I considered a higher price, but due to the shipping and handling charges I had to add, I left it at $5.

And yes, there were many things I could have put in the title of this entry besides the title of the book. And there were many other things I could have titled the book. But this was the title of my blog for awhile. And while it’s been two, maybe three years since Drew’s name has been part of my blog title, entries that mention her still get a lot of hits. I might as well use this to my advantage.

And the nominations are…

Complete list of Academy Award nominations

I haven’t seen any of the movies up for Best Movie, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Anything, or Best Director. I’ve seen one of the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay, and I hope Borat doesn’t win. I’ll be rooting for Cars in the Animated film category, and Pirates of the Caribbean in the handful of technical categories it’s nominated for.

Excerpt you might otherwise not notice…

23. Live Action Short Film:
“Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea),”
“Eramos Pocos (One Too Many),”
“Helmer & Son,”
“The Saviour,”
“West Bank Story.”

It’s unfortunate there’s no category: Best Actor in a Live Action Short Film.