Monthly Archives: November 2015

Just a Reminder

This is just a reminder that I’ll be doing a book signing tomorrow (Saturday) at the Rolling Hills Estates branch of the Palos Verdes Public Library between 10 AM and 1 PM . The library is located at 701 Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates.

I hope to see you there!

Advertisements

Paris: Where to from Here?

The civilized world has been seized with revulsion over the recent slaughter in Paris, and there has been no shortage of pundits pontificating upon the motivations of the human monsters who planned and executed the attack. At the risk of offering just another opinion among the many, I am going to be arrogant enough to offer my own take on the situation.

First, I am struck by the political correctness that I have seen, the bending over backwards not to blame Islam as a whole for the events, and by the Democratic nomination seekers in particular not to call the perpetrators radical Islamists. Instead, they’ve simply referred to them as “jihadists”.

The specific, trigger motivations of the attackers probably span a spectrum, but the core of it all clearly and indisputably is religion. Let me be clear, however, that I do not single out Islam as the only cause of such behavior. Far from it, in fact. Consider the holy warfare of the Crusades, the self-righteous persecution of Jews by Christians during the Inquisition, and the Christian bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan, not to mention the increasingly bigoted and incipiently dangerous pronouncements of some on the religious right, who would create an American theocracy. This time, however, it is radical Islamism, and to soft pedal it in the interest of political correctness is to avoid confronting the larger issue of behavior committed in the name of religion, in general.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me state clearly that I am not indiscriminately anti-Muslim. What I am, however, is adamantly against radical religious behavior regardless of its sect of origin. Thus, in the present case, radical Islam has become the justification for ISIS and Al Qaeda and their regional offshoots to commit aggression and atrocities on levels that demand both condemnation and active countermeasures. To see rape as a holy rite, to commit widespread and indiscriminate murder, and to glorify ignorance and bigotry is an obscene throwback to the dark ages warranting no sanctuary the modern world.

There are those in our country who now would have the U.S. engage much more actively in another hot war in the Middle East. If the lesson of Vietnam taught us nothing about involvement where we do not belong, however, then the Iraq war certainly should have. It most definitely has led us to the mess we’re seeing now, namely, a war unwinnable by us against committed forces fighting on their own ground. The answer, then, must come from nations in the region, with technical and material support from us. After all, we did lay the groundwork for the current chaos, and so have a degree of responsibility now for helping to end it. But we must not impose the clear provocation of placing American combat troops in the region, which will only make things worse.

What happened in Paris was barbaric and only the latest warning to humanity about the evils which can be justified by repressive, dogmatic, fundamentalist religion and the poverty, ignorance and bigotry it fosters. Our response, however, needs to be thought through carefully. Both political correctness and wholesale reactive and aggressive actions have no place in determining where we go from here, so let’s all take a deep breath and think this through, carefully and responsibly.

Upcoming Zendoscopy Signing

On Saturday, 11/21 from 10 AM to 1 PM , I will be participating in a local authors’ fair at the Peninsula Center branch of the Palos Verdes Library, located at 701 Silver Spur Road, Rolling Hills Estates (main entrance located on Deep Valley Drive).

I will be signing my book, Zendoscopy, so if you don’t have a copy and can stop by, please do so. I’d love to sign a copy for you! Even if you already do have a copy, bring it and I’ll sign it for you.

Here’s the full text of the book’s review by B. Case, a top 500 reviewer for Amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, warm, and wonderful, December 26, 2014

“Zendoscopy,” by J. Allan Wolf, is a fictional memoir that tries to be both emotionally honest and delightfully hilarious. It succeeds admirably at both. I haven’t enjoyed a work quite like this since I read David Niven’s autobiography, “Moon’s a Balloon” some 42 years ago. That bestseller captured the essence of the famous English actor’s sparkling personality mostly through a collection of outlandish (but narrowly true-to-life) tales. It’s the same with this book. It’s the personality of author that shines through loud and clear out of the pure joy of the reading experience.

“Zendoscopy” defies categorization. I called it a fictional memoir because it reminded me of Niven’s autobiography. But I could just have easily have said that it was a character study, a coming-of-age-novel, or a collection of linked stories. Whatever it is, in summary, it covers the early life of a geeky, insecure, and bright young man named Sherman Alt. The stories start with his birth in a hospital where a plumber’s plunge serves a vital role. It ends with Alt as a medical doctor with a wife, a home, and a major plumbing problem. In between are many stories that help describe what it was like to grow up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The stories cover a broad range from serious to slapstick. It’s a work full of wry humor, ironic circumstances, and somewhat exaggerated tales. Many of the stories have to do with the main character’s adventures and misadventures with the opposite sex.

On a serious note, the book covers the journey of one man toward self-acceptance and the deep psychological reward of a validated life. It’s impressive the way the author pulls off this serious theme from a book that is mostly light and brilliantly funny.

Wolf’s prose is rich and polished. He keeps his readers engaged by focusing almost entirely on action and dialog rather than weighing down any particular piece with too much descriptive prose. Most of his character development takes place through authentic action and dialog. As a result, these secondary characters flash to life off the page.

As for the meaning of the unusual title, “Zendoscopy,” trust that there’s a gratifying explanation at the end of the last story. And, yes, it’s tied together with further revelations about the honorable, rational, and world-loving character of Sherman Alt.

Naturally, the perfect audience for this book would be other bright, geeky men who grew up in the same time period (i.e., Baby Boomers in their mid-60s). But I am sure the many universal themes in this book can resonate nicely with a much broader range of readers. As far as humorous anecdotal story collections go, this book gets an easy five stars in my rating scheme. It’s brilliantly written and had me smiling almost constantly and laughing out loud a number of times.”

   So, plan to attend if you can. If you can’t, you can still get hard copy from Amazon.com or the e-book format for Kindle. The book is also available from multiple other online sellers.

Debate Follies

Did you watch the recent Republican presidential debate? Yes? No? Well, I did, and I sure came away with some definite impressions.

First, let me get the matter of the questioners’ conduct out of the way. Let’s just say that they won’t be getting any awards for brilliance: “What is your biggest weakness?” This is a question worth asking? What was the expectation? That each of the participants would admit to being an idiot? The answers, such as they were, were no more intelligent than the question. While things didn’t get much worse than that, they certainly didn’t get a lot better.

Still, the real issue is what we heard from the nomination seekers. Let’s start with Jeb Bush.

Bush, in the face of falling poll numbers and correspondingly falling contributions, decided it would be a good idea to attack fellow Floridian Marco Rubio. It was a mistake from which he never recovered, as Rubio’s response demolished him. Already lackluster, Bush did nothing during the debate to make himself attractive as the party’s nominee.

Carly Fiorina didn’t so much as flame out as, well, not flame in. Her problem is that she was an awful CEO at Hewlett-Packard, presiding over the disastrous acquisition by HP of Compaq and watching HP stock tank as a result. No matter what she says, she obviously couldn’t manage HP effectively, and as a result can’t convince people that she can manage the country.

Ben Carson? Wake me when he wakes up. I swear, listening to him is better than Ambien. If, however, you do listen to him, what you’ll learn is that a) he’s a religious nut and b) he knows nothing about taxation, budgeting, or how he’d work with Congress.

Donald Trump wasn’t even very entertaining. Maybe he was depressed over the fact that Carson leads him in several polls. Or maybe he was just tired. Or maybe he’s so far out of his league in terms of knowledge of how to govern that he simply couldn’t say anything substantive.

John Kasich was more animated than in his prior debate exposure, but every sentence out of his mouth seemed to start with, “In my state of Ohio,” a repetitive mantra that ultimately was boring. John, we know you take credit for everything good about Ohio, but how the hell will you do it all for the country?

Ted Cruz, who all the political pundits say is a great debater, seems to be great only at not answering the questions he’s asked. One may give him credit for his diatribe against the media, but it’s old hat. All Republicans complain about the media, the War on Christmas, welfare cheats, Planned Parenthood… So, Ted, tell us something we haven’t heard from the Tea Party. Do you really want this whiny guy to occupy the White House? And given his background, analogous to that of President Obama, why aren’t other Republicans asking for his birth certificate?

It’s hard to know where to begin with Mike Huckabee. Personable, articulate, and somewhere out there beyond left field. Just listen to what he says. You want to live in a Christian theocracy? He’s your guy. Well, unless you want to be even more fundamental with Carson.

Chris Christie comes across like a charging, belligerent bull. He’s the steamroller in the competition, attempting to roll over the issues with aggrieved bombast. Yes, just what we need in the federal government today: more bombast.

Rand Paul often says things that seem to make a lot of sense. Then he veers into the ditch saying stuff that makes no sense at all. He didn’t say much of anything to stand out from the crowd during the debate.

Marco Rubio, came across as the most capable and presidential of the participants. Not, you understand, that I would support him. No, I’m still a card-carrying, ACLU and Planned Parenthood supporting, unreconstructed liberal, and proud of it. But Rubio, in fact, behaved well, was articulate, and didn’t come across as a nut case.

Mostly, the nomination seekers all laid out grandiose plans that ignore the fact that the Presidency isn’t a monarchy. If you believe that any of them can singlehandedly make the changes they’re proposing without a peep from Congress – even a Republican Congress – I’d like a few of whatever pills you’re swallowing. My advice: don’t dive into the rabbit hole with any of these guys.