Saturday, September 21, 2013

SHADOWS ON BLEECKER STREET Milton Polsky and Warren Wyss

       I am an avid researcher of history, and I also love a good thriller, and authors Milton Polsky and Warren Wyss have cleverly combined both of these genres in their new book. A young college professor is murdered and a rare book from 1838, with an inscription by Frederick Douglas himself, is missing from his rooms. The narrator in the book, an older teacher, sets out to find the book and solve his friend’s murder. The mission leads him to search for clues along New York’s famous Bleecker Street, by taking a walking tour along this historic street.

      Along the way, we visit the homes and hear the stories of the illustrious former inhabitants of this part of Greenwich Village.  Who knew that towering figures such as the following movers and shakers...
Revolutionary Essayist Thomas Payne
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger

Great Saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker

Beleaguered comedian Lenny Bruce

Eloquent poet Walt Whitman

Ex-slave & Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

 and most of all... 

All lived along or nearby this vibrant street.

Actually, regarding the identity of the killer, I must confess I figured it out around page 173 but that didn’t lessen my enthusiasm for reading on. By then I was hooked on revisiting Bleecker Street itself, having spent many past hours of my well-spent youth at the clubs and cafes along the route described so well by Polsky and Wyss. 

Read the book. Lose yourself in New York’s fascinating history. You’ll be glad you did.
Publisher: Puck Press;

Friday, September 20, 2013

YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING or The Cultural Arsonist’s Literal Reading of The Bible Joe Wenke

Cover: Gisele Xtravaganza

Dedicated to Thomas Paine and Christopher Hitchens, this irreverent and often hilarious book tells numerous stories from the Bible in modern satiric shorthand. A cheery skeptic, Joe Wenke makes one realize how contradictory and illogical these famous stories are. Like Wenke, I’ve always had a problem with the Old Testament God. His changes of mood from benevolent to harsh to downright punitive confused me. Who is He? How can He be so creative and then suddenly turn cruel? In chapters titled “Weird Laws” “God’s War Crimes” and “Free Will” author Wenke explains this capriciousness with savage humor and cleverness.
You will laugh as you read Wenke’s saucy version of your favorite stories. There’s Adam and Eve and their two competitive sons; Noah and the impossibly over-loaded Ark; Abraham’s zealous embrace of circumcision; Moses and his wayward followers; Samson’s baldness problem; David the singer vs. Goliath the behemoth, and crazy Saul; Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 mistresses; poor tortured Job who keeps the faith throughout, and other zany tales.
Author: Joe Wenke
Just when I was afraid Wenke was taking cheap shots at religious people’s beliefs, to my delight he found a hero. Yes, the much over-exposed and badly portrayed in film and portraiture, the one and only Jesus. To Wenke, “Jesus is cool!” He likes the guy. Hey, this is someone even atheists can admire. The true philosophy of Jesus is told with gentle humor: “Jesus is God. It is what it is, and he is who he says he is. So there!”
The proof, to quote Wenke: “Jesus hangs out with lowlifes; Jesus is into working women, working girls included; Jesus loves children; Jesus hangs out with tax collectors too, so even if you’re from the IRS, you won’t freak him out; Jesus has answers for every trick question; Jesus can be gentle, but he’s right in your face if the situation calls for it; Jesus is for the laborer and those who are ’heavy laden’ He promises rest; That’s Jesus, and that’s cool!”
Clearly, Wenke sees Jesus as not necessarily God (or the son of God) but a really great guy. One whose philosophy holds water – holy or not – and that if people would stop using Him as a weapon and actually listen to what He proposed, and live by it, the world would be a better place. Most religions claim they want Peace and Love but when are they going to heed the real message. No disrespect here, but gentle satire and a plea for loving kindness.
Wenke leaves us with an intriguing series of unanswered questions: Why was Lot’s wife turned into salt and not some other condiment? How can it rain for 40 days and nights in the desert and flood the whole earth? Was Jonah eaten by a whale or a fish and how could he have survived three days in there? Who were the Three Wise Men and how did they know where to go? And, best of all, whatever happened to Joseph, husband of Mary, after 12 year old Jesus sassed him in the temple? Seems he just vanished.
            Read the book. Wenke is cool!
Publisher Trans Uber LLC, Stamford, Connecticut. Contact:
 This review published in Athiests United monthly newsletter: 'Rational Alternative' October, 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Last October 17, 2012, I was horrified to see this effigy hanging from a tree in a neighbor's front yard. I had already read in the newspapers that sights like this were being put up as Halloween decorations. As this was West Hollywood, I did not think the young men who lived in the house were racists. Assuming they did not realize the historical meaning of a hooded man hanging high in a tree I decided to place the following letter on their front gate.


Dear People:

The effigy hanging from the tree in your front yard is deeply offensive.  It resembles photos of lynchings of black men from trees - that went on in the South for nearly a hundred years after the Civil War. 

These photos were objects of amusement to racists and of horrible injustice to men and women of decency.  Also, the fact that you chose to hide the face within a grey hoodie suggests Trayvon Martin is being hanged in your front yard.

I don’t know if you are being insensitive or deliberately provocative with this choice of a Halloween decoration.  Either way, I would suggest that you take it down before passersby less polite than myself take offense and act upon it. 

Even if you intended no harm, I think it unwise to expose whoever lives in your house to consequences brought about by a misunderstanding.


                                                          A concerned neighbor

I am happy to report that the next time I passed their house, the hooded man had been taken down and was now sitting disconsolately on their front porch alongside cut-out orange pumpkins and a large black cat.