About Me

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I'm a business journalist and a fiction author. My novel Mute is available now from Silver Leaf Books.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

All set for my Miami Book Fair presentation

One week away from my presentation at the Miami Book Fair International and I’m itching to go.

This speech will be more emotional than anything I’ve ever done. Yes, I’ve spoken to large groups before. Usually the focus is journalism, social media or tips on writing. This time it’ll be personal.

It’s been difficult to talk openly about why I chose the themes in my novel Mute. There are things in my life that I couldn’t talk about for many years. I couldn’t bear even thinking about them. Yet, they fueled the emotions in my writing. 

No more secrets. I’m telling my story. 

Join me at the Miami Book Fair and I’ll tell you how this science fiction murder mystery is a metaphor for my life. Why was the mute girl who needs saving? What is the symbolism behind animals infected with purple tumors? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guess who’s speaking at the Miami Book Fair this year…Me!

I’m thrilled to be one of the authors the Miami Book FairInternational has invited to speak this year.
If you haven’t attended the fair, it’s a must-see event for book lovers. Thousands of people pack the Miami Dade College campus downtown, where there are hundreds of street vendors and presentations from notable authors from around the world.
The headliner this year is Dan Brown, as he will kick it off on Nov. 17. I’m perhaps a little further down the lineup card, but I’ve still got a nice spot.
It’s amazing. Years ago I was in the audience at the Book Fair, an aspiring author trying to gleam a nugget of wisdom from the professionals. Now I’m going to be behind the microphone.
I’ll be presenting on Sunday, Nov. 24. The exact time and place haven’t been determined, as the fair hasn’t released its final schedule yet. I believe I will be grouped with other Florida authors and, of course, I will talk about my novel Mute.
I’d also like to mention the other projects I’m working on. There will be a Miami-set thriller coming out next year with my name on it. More on that to come...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Raising a Golem, and other fun features of Jewish mysticism

Is raising a golem – turning a mound of dirt into a super powerful humanoid – folklore or is it a part of Jewish history? The more I read into it, the more I found a case for the latter.
A friend from Chabad lent me The Golem of Prague by Gershon Winkler, which recalls the stories of a golem raised in the late 1500s to fend off attacks on the Jews, and then cites examples in Jewish texts that show such a thing happened several times before.
A golem is indestructible and incredibly strong. Unable to talk, it follows the directors of its creator, although it does so robotically without using common sense. Ask it to fill a bucket with water and it'll keep going until the house is flooded.
Convinced, I went to my back yard and started crafting a new left tackle for the Miami Dolphins. 

From the 1920 film "The Golem of Prague", before CGI

Turns out I’m probably not qualified for such a task. It takes a Torah sage who understands the process of creation and can use G-d’s true name and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to infuse a spark of life into inanimate objects. The secrets are part of the ancient Book of Formation, although only a master of Kabbalah could understand how to carry them out.
The stories in The Golem of Prague were translated from the writings of Yitzchak ben Shimshon HaKohen Katz, the son-in-law of the sage who summoned the golem, Rabbi Moreynu HaRav Loevy, widely known as the Maharal. His statue still stands today in front of Prague’s City Hall.
At the time the Jews were being unjustly accused of drinking Christian blood before Passover. Of course this made no sense because the Torah specifically forbids drinking blood, human or animal. The Maharal asked G-d through a “dream quest” (contemplating a question, sleeping with a blank piece of paper under your pillow, and waking up to read a message). He was told to create a golem, so he drew a figure of a man in the mud along the Vlatava River and performed a ceremony that involved three people circling the figure while reciting the Divine Names.
No, he didn’t use a lightning strike. But some scholars believe the golem stories inspired the original Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley.
So what super powers did the golem have besides beating up people who attempted to plant corpses on Jewish property? The Maharal gave the golem an “amulet of invisibility” so he could rescue prisoners and deliver notes. I’m looking at the Judaica store catalog for one of those…
The golem also had the power to see spirits, including angels and demons. In one instance the golem walks through a cemetery and identifies the fresh grave that had a body removed because there wasn’t a spirit hovering over it. Actually, Jewish texts say that animals can see spirits as well. If you’re dog is up all night barking at shadows, or you cat jumps at nothing, maybe they see a mean spirit.
Spirits aren’t always quiet. The book has two instances were spirits of the dead communicate directly with the Maharal, once in a dream and once with a spirit speaking to an entire courtroom during trial. See, there is something they haven’t tried yet on Law & Order.
One of the chapters later in the book explains that Kabbalah isn’t black magic or witchcraft. It is the legitimate way to create miracles with G-d’s will, as opposed to bending the rules of nature to do evil.
Read more about creating Golems here. And if you succeed, please find something more interesting for him to do than yard work.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Untimely death of Miami Dolphins stadium funding push lacks closure

Whichever side of the debate over public funding for the Miami Dolphins’ renovation of Sun Life Stadium you were on, the biggest frustration all sides can share is that the way the measure died left no closure on the issue.

That means the stadium won’t look like this:

Thousands of people had already cast their votes in a public referendum on taxpayer-support stadium renovations when the clock ran out on the accompanying state bill on Friday. It wasn’t voted down by the Legislature. Speaker Will Weatherford simply declined to bring it for a vote.

The immediate consequences are that Super Bowls 50 and 51 (no silly Roman numerals for me) are almost certainly going to San Francisco/Santa Clara and Houston. The long-term issue is whether Sun Life Stadium should get a major overhaul. It was built in 1987 and at some point it’ll outlive its usefulness unless hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in it.

Should taxpayers contribute to that renovation along with the billionaire owner of the Dolphins? Is attracting a handful of Super Bowls and college football championship games a good return on investment for the public? If the stadium referendum had gone to a referendum this month, up or down, the answers would have been delivered. 

Win and the Dolphins get the money with an endorsement from the public. 

Lose and owner Stephen Ross knows he can’t go that route, at least for many more years. So he’d have to accept the stadium the way it is, or go for a less ambitious renovation with private funding.

A partial roof wouldn’t motivate me to attend games anyway. I’ll stand in 90-degree heat or the rain to watch winning football.

Even a vote in the Florida House (the Senate passed it) would have brought more closure. It was telling that the opposition included many representatives from Miami-Dade County, which stood to benefit the most from the Super Bowls and other events the renovation aimed to attract. But we’ll never know whether it truly had enough support from elected officials.

The bottom line was that one man, Will Weatherford, blocked it. The speaker position changes on a regular basis. The Dolphins can try again when they have more friendly leaders in Tallahassee. The problem is they didn’t get an answer as to whether the public truly supports them.

In politics, as in football, there’s always next season.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Media screwed up big time on smear of Senator Menendez

In an age when an unproven accusation can spread like wildfire on the Internet, too many media outlets are guilty of repeating shoddy information that damages reputations. That’s what happened to New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. 

It started when The Daily Caller, a conservative website, publicized a story shortly before election day citing confidential sources that the Democrat had sex parties with underage hookers after flying to the Dominican Republic on the private jet of a wealthy doctor. Never mind that the women and the man in the accusatory video weren’t identified and they offer no proof beyond their words (which later turned out worthless).

Then similar accusations were echoed by government watchdog the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, citing emails from a supposed “whistle blower” Peter Williams. Never mind that they didn’t meet Williams, or verify that he’d be in position to know such things about the senator. 

The story got picked up by mainstream media – nearly all national outlets and many local newspapers. Did these outlets talk to the supposed prostitutes? Did they verify the story from their own sources? No.

None of them explicitly said Menendez was guilty, but being accused of adultery, pedophilia and political corruption are damning labels. This had to hurt Menendez not just professionally, but in his personal life.

Now it turns out the story is BS. Police in the Dominican Republic say the supposed prostitutes in the video were paid to lie about the senator. They actually have never met him. Now the tone of the stories has shifted to “Who Framed Senator Bob Menendez” and “Official Seeks Mystery Man Linked to ‘Smear’of Senator Bob Menendez.”

Hello? Where was that self-righteousness at these same media outlets when they allowed themselves to be the mouthpieces of that smear campaign? 

Anyone can accuse people of horrible things, but that doesn’t mean the media has to repeat those allegations and drag people through the mud. That is especially true when the person making the accusation hides behind a wall of secrecy. The credibility of the source, and whether they’ll survive public scrutiny, must always be considered. 

 I’ve been told many shocking things about individuals and companies that I haven’t released in my paper. Why? Either because I couldn’t verify it, there was enough doubt in my mind that I didn’t feel reasonably certain it was true, the source had too much of an ax to grind for me to base my trust on them alone, or I felt that the accusation, while interesting, was too personal and not fit for a business audience. 

I know that my paper picks up stories from other outlets. I’m not comfortable quoting a story based on confidential sources that aren’t my own. That’s what the mainstream media did wrong with Senator Menendez’s case. They based their reporting on confidential sources The Daily Caller and CREW had, and even they apparently haven’t confirmed the identity of those sources. 

Who is that guy in the video with the hookers? We don’t know. But he looks trustworthy. Let’s take his word that this senator slept with them. 

And then they trusted emails to CREW, not directly to their media outlets, by a guy who may not even be using his real name. I get plenty of tips from anonymous emailers and, while I might follow up to verify them by other means, I’d never use them as a source in a story. Yet, these mainstream media outlets did that with second hand emails. That was terrible judgment.

Part of the problem is media peer pressure. One paper might be sitting on a story they aren’t sure of, then a competitor reports it with shoddy sourcing. All of a sudden, the first paper has to match them. And from there it spreads, true or not. Few have the courage to sit there with their arms crossed and refuse to publish a story they don’t believe in.

Of course, Senator Menendez has no real recourse for this smear campaign. If he could find the guy in the video who paid the girls to lie – and whoever set him up to it – he’d probably have a claim, but the media that irresponsibly picked up the shoddy story won’t pay for it. The libel laws allow you to saw pretty much anything about the public figure and, as long as you didn’t know it’s a total lie when you said it, they can can't do much about it. 

However, there is another price that the media pays, and we all pay it equally. It’s a loss of credibility.