Thursday, July 31, 2008

Management, Corporate-Style

I am not a self-help book kind of guy. I don’t read them and I certainly never thought I’d want to write one. Someone as screwed up as me shouldn’t be giving anyone advice. But, after almost 20 years working for one corporation or another, I discovered a management principle that was just too good not to turn into a self-help book. I think the title says it all, but if not, here are a couple of excerpts to illustrate:
How Bad Managers Make Themselves Look Good By Making You Look Bad
© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

Chapter 7/ The "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" Corollary

After I'd been on the job for about four years, an old friend of mine who had worked for the company for a while almost twenty years earlier came back to the fold.

The first thing I did on his first day was say hello.

The second thing I did on his first day was to tell him something that had taken me my first several months to put together. It was definitely something in the air, but not seeing it sooner and adapting my strategies to deal with it had hurt me in some small ways. My friend was coming in at a higher and more politically sensitive position than mine, so I thought he should have as much information to work with about the place as possible.

What I told him is what I call the "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" Corollary:

Everybody can do your job better than you.
Everybody's too busy doing your job better than you to do their own jobs.

This is prime Münchhausen behavior. What better way to prove your indispensability than to be surrounded by such a collection of lunkheads that you've got to do their jobs on top of your own? When shown a piece of a project—especially one outside the Münchhausen Manager's area of expertise—he will be quick to point out how you missed the boat, how you can make it better. This is usually an opinion formed in utter ignorance of the actual requirements of the project.

It doesn't matter.

They can do it better.

And then, of course, it's a total muck-up. And it's your fault. When the Münchhausen Manager made his suggestions—they were, after all, just suggestions—you didn't tell him that his ideas were outside the specs. You should have known better. You should have told him!

(Notwithstanding that to have actually done so would have lead to your having your head physically removed from your body and punted down the corridor like a soccer ball.)

Meanwhile, that design or approval or those specs that you've long been in desperate need of having approved are in the limbo of the Münchhausen Manager's in-box, awaiting his attention. And he will get to it. Soon, just as soon as he's finished straightening out Louise down in manufacturing...!

Like all the worst Münchhausen managerisms, the "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" Corollary is a bit of Trickle Down Management, quickly and gleefully adopted by the lowlies as their own path to promotion and power. Be all-knowing and all- letting- the- world- know- you're- all- knowing and you too can actually attain a position of power.

The good thing about following that strategy is that by the time you do actually attain a management position, everybody will already hate you.

Chapter 11/ The “Dollars for Bullshit” Quotient

A high-placed executive of a good sized company likes to quote a pet theory of his own devising:

No job is worth more than $20,000 a year.

For every dollar you're paid over and above that amount, you're required to take that much bullshit. For the baseline $20,000, you shouldn't have to live with much, if any, bullshit. For $30,000, you have to take $10,000 worth. For $40,000, $20,000 worth of bullshit, and so on. So, following this theory, the average worker bee at his company should be fairly stress free.

In reality, companies are chockablock with managers always on the look-out for the lowest paying drone on whom to pin the blame and to whom the door is shown.

Middle-managers manage middlely by brow-beating and intimidation. A $25,000 a year assistant will be warned there's zero tolerance for screw-ups while a superior walks away from costly or embarrassing mistakes with a slap on the wrist and a mild warning. The assets to properly do the job are denied and the drones are told to adapt...but they'd better not screw it up while they're struggling to do the impossible.

So, yes, a grand theory.

Just not one that applies to you.

It, like all the lofty executive utterances on the great responsibility of power, exists for one reason and one reason alone: to evoke pity for the utterer. The executive knows anyone he quotes the Bullshit Quotient knows that he makes more money than they do. And a hell of a lot more than $20,000. What he's saying is, under this theory, he's taking bullshit. A lot of bullshit. Probably six or seven figures a year worth of bullshit.

Can you conceive of how much bullshit that is?

The answer is, of course you can. You've just heard it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Last Arion Story

I created a sword & sorcery comic book series for DC called Arion, Lord of Atlantis which ran from 1982 to 1985. I’ve always been particularly fond of Arion and company, which I got to write again in the '90s, but never felt as though I’d been able to properly resolve the characters and their stories. In 2000, I found the opportunity with a short story I contributed to Oceans of Magic, an anthology edited by Brian M. Thomsen and Martin Greenberg. In it, the aged immortal sorcerer supreme of Atlantis takes to sea aboard his ensorcelled ship, the Yar, sailing off for the final battle against his ancient foe, Celepha. The story, finished in May 2000, was my closure:

© 2000 Paul Kupperberg

Thalis dreamed of Kahna.

She was the Amazon, tall and muscular, skin the color of burnished bronze, hair braided in a tight tail that hung to within inches of the floor. She was the most beautiful, the most dangerous, the most desirable woman he had ever known. Even before he saw in her startling sightless gray eyes the same soul reflected back that he had seen three time previous. He whispered, “Kahna,” and she whispered, “Thalis,” and they were together again.

She stood in his dream on the terrace outside his quarters. The sun was rising and the morning breeze was warm. Her arms were wrapped across her chest but as the sun rose, its golden light bathing the First City’s gleaming towers in a light so brilliant as to be painful, she slowly spread wide her arms, raising on her toes, turning her face to the sun and laughing like a delighted child.

Thalis lay in his bed, watching through the doorway the golden light wash over her golden skin, the silk of her robe shining like white fire in the morning sun.

As he watched, he was content to live forever, if only so the memory of the moment would never, ever die.

* * *

At sundown on the second day, Celepha sent creatures to attack the Yar.

They were three, exploding from the roiling waters to surround the heaving ship. They were twice the height of the Yar's main mast, waterbeasts dark and featureless save for gaping, dripping maws lined with coral teeth sharp enough to rend wood and metal. The first of the beasts closed its jaws around the ship's railing and the serpent roared in rage and pain.

Thalis strode from beneath deck, staff in hand, and screamed an incantation of fire at the beast. The spell surged through him and the great staff, and tore a gash in the fabric of reality that separated this world from the Darkness, releasing a torrent of eldritch fire that turned the raging thing into a howling column of steam. He turned the staff on the second beast, releasing the magical bonds that held the waters to this shape even as it swooped down with its jaws wide to snatch the old sorcerer from the rain washed deck. The attack died in a torrent of sea water that sent Thalis crashing to the planks.

The third and final beast found its throat caught in the teeth of the serpent and it bellowed and thrashed as it tried to escape Yar's grasp. The serpent held firm, until the beast decided to return to its primal form rather than face humiliating defeat. It collapsed into water, washing back into the sea that birthed it.

Thalis regained his footing and, wiping the stinging salt of the sea from his eyes, held high his staff to the thundering clouds, and screamed, "I am coming, Celepha!"

Lightning flashed, making night as bright as day. Thunder shook the very air around the ship.

"Celepha mocks us still," growled the serpent, its great head whipping back and forth.

Thalis tightened his fist around his staff. "Celepha toys with us," he said. He knew what she too must know. He was one old man, weary of life and of living. What did a god have to fear from one such as him?

* * *

Thalis's staff was carved of the wood of the first tree felled to build the First City.

The gods had gathered members of the Twelve Tribes inhabiting the world and brought them to the place on the edge of the Great Sea and decreed that upon that spot was to be constructed the First City of Atlantis. A craftsman named Argon had taken his axe to the great tree and felled it with twelve blows, grunting the name of each tribe as his blade bit into the wood.

The tree fell. A piece of wood as thick as a grown man's forearm and near three lengths tall splintered off the tree when it fell to the ground. Thalis took up the splinter.

"Here is the nexus of all the magic of the One," Wynsgar nodded in approval at the place the gods had directed them to. "Atlantis shall grow great and powerful here. Its people will spread out across the world, but its heart will ever thus beat here, upon the lands that the gods have gifted us."

Thalis took out his knife and began to carve at the top of the staff the visage of Atlannis, first of the twelve deities. When he finished the carving, Atlannis smiled out at him. Over the years, the visages of the rest of the pantheon joined Atlannis on the staff.

Now, so many thousands of years later, he feared to look at the staff lest he find the mother of all the gods no longer smiling.

* * *

Thalis huddled in a chair in the cabin wrapped in furs and coverlets. He would not, could not bring himself to lay on the berth. How could that be right, without Kahna to share it with him?

"Yar," he whispered.

"Yes, Thalis," replied his old friend.

"I cannot sleep," the old man said.

"Perhaps that is best," the ship said softly, in a voice like sea spray through the riggings. "Think of the dreams you will miss."

Thalis closed his eyes. He saw swimming before him the faces of thousands. Of Kahna, of Gith, of Shanar, of Wynsgar, of countless others he had known, had loved, had lost. His life had surged through the ages, bloody with violence and destruction. He had received his share of wounds, had faced death too many times to remember, but he was still here.

How many had he lead into brutal, ugly deaths?

He could count each and every face, passing like specters from the Darkness before him now. Then he would know how many.

His eyes snapped open, banishing the ghosts. He sighed. "Ahh, well. There will be time for sleep later."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekly World News II

An article I wrote in April 2005:


Silver Springs, MD–The Republican Party is going to the dogs. And they’re proud of it! The GOP announced last week that scientists at the Newt Gingrich Institute, a conservative scientific think tank in suburban Maryland, has successfully trained dogs to sniff out liberals wherever they might hide.

“After years of research we discovered that liberals have a scent unique to their political persuasion,” said Conservative Psychologist Dr. Silo Barksley, D.V.M. “It's the most important political breakthrough since the wiretap.”

Republican political operative Roseanne ‘Ro’ Virginia Waid was one of the first conservatives to applaud the Gingrich Institute’s achievement.

“We’ve been needing something like 'The Checkers Project' for the longest time,” Waid said. “Ever since 2000, when we started staging Republican campaign events that were closed to anyone who didn’t agree with us, liberals have had this annoying habit of sneaking into our rallies and town meetings and asking questions our candidates either couldn’t or didn’t want to answer. Frankly, such unscripted spontaneity was making our guys look incompetent.”

“There's a problem with liberals that goes beyond their political ignorance,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Whit Bread, “Dress them up in nice clothes and cut their hair and you can’t tell what they believe just from their appearance.”

According to Dr. Barksley, however, liberals will no longer be able to fool conservative door-watchers with a simple disguise. “We conducted a detailed analysis of the problem starting with a simple premise: if you can’t see a difference, can you smell one? After all, you used to be able to smell Hippies. Assuming the answer was 'yes' we wondered, ‘What would a lefty smell like to a dog?’ Since canines have a sense of smell many thousand times more sensitive than humans we searched for, and found, a scent that set liberals apart.”

Dr. Barksley’s research assistant, Selma Alabama, was in charge of analyzing the liberal smell. “Many ingredients go into the smell of liberalism. Some of it is easy to document, such as bargain-brand herbal shampoos, baby powder, compost, and Snapple tea. Others, however, were tougher to recreate, especially the odor of recycling centers.”

Major Danny “Bulldog” Domo, a retired U.S. military canine handler runs the Republican dog training program. “For some reason, those little prissy dogs like Shitsus, Pomeranians, and Lhasa Apsos are best for this work,” said Major Domo. “Guess it takes a yippy dog to know a yippy-liberal, you know what I mean? Anyway, trainers are sprayed with ‘the odor of sanctity,’ as I like to call it, and the dogs are taught to sniff them out.”

So far, ‘Ro’ V. Waid is wildly enthusiastic with the results of the program. “We held a town meeting in Boston last month. You know, Massachusetts is just crawling with liberals. Thanks to our liberal-sniffing dogs we were able to weed out dozens of lefties who tried sneaking in right at the door.”

Whit Bread agrees, saying, “That was probably the first totally liberal-free town meeting we ever held. In fact, we even managed to cull several left-leaning Republicans from the herd before they could make trouble. I’d venture to say there wasn’t a single dissenting voice or original thought in the whole place. It made me proud to be a Republican.” The Republican leadership is considering expanding the program. A spokesperson for Repesentative Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the party's main attack dog, said, “Considering the partisan battles we expect to wage in the coming months over such issues as Social Security and Medicaid reform, imagine how helpful it would be to nip Democratic opposition in the butt–if you’ll forgive my bon mot.”

“My only concern is that the dogs will go for Ted Kennedy first,” Bread adds. “Chomping on him will keep our entire canine corps busy for days.” He paused. “Maybe even weeks.”

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Jewish Writer

By the way, I've been meaning to mention this since I started And Then I Wrote...:

The illustration I use in my profile is by Joe Orlando (1927-1998), one of comics greatest artists and editors. I was lucky enough to know Joe during our shared time at DC Comics and considered him a friend. He was also my editor on several projects and even drew one or two stories I wrote. (It's difficult to explain exactly what that means to someone if they've never written comic books OR have written them but never had the privilege of having a legend--and I mean a real legend; not some recent marketing or self-labeled wannabes--draw what they've written. I got into comics in 1975, just as my generation of young punks was replacing the legends, so I was fortunate enough to see my words translated into finished stories by some of the truly greats on several occasions, not only Joe but Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, George Evans, Gil Kane, and others.)

Anyway...Joe would often noodle in a sketchbook while he talked with writers and artists, and this portrait was one such noodle, produced some time around 1983-1985, when I actually was a young Jewish writer, likely during a plotting session for either a Super Powers minsieries (comics based on the DC superhero action figures by Kenner) or a continuity arc for The World's Greatest Super-Hero: Superman syndicated newspaper strip. I photocopied the page from his sketchbook, the use of an overworked early-80s Xerox explaining the crappy reproduction of the piece.

Thanks, Joe!

Hey, Laaady!

Jerry & Me, March 1995 (backstage at the Broadway production of Damn Yankees)

I am a Jerry Lewis fan. Big time. I can't explain it and I long ago stopped trying to rationalize it. It's just what is: my eyes are blue, I have ten toes, I love Jerry.

But it's not an unconditional love. Sometimes, he goes off the deep end, such as was the case with his ill-fated production of The Day the Clown Cried, a film about a clown in a Nazi death camp. Over lunch one day, mid-90s, fellow DC Comics editor Brian Augustyn and I were riffing on this and I noted that the only thing that could be more tasteless than Jerry’s efforts to do a concentration camp film would be his doing one about Hitler. And we were off to the races! One tasteless scene after another was thrown about and, first chance I got, I wrote not only several scenes in the form of a screenplay, but a 2,000 “essay” about the history of this lost screenplay. In it, Hitler is a well-meaning but bumbling world leader forced into a world war by an idiotic bellhop, played by Jerry. We even worked up a 1960s-era casting list for the film:

Cast of Characters
The Bellhop .................................... Jerry Lewis

Adolph Hitler ................................... Gale Gordon

Eva Braun .................................. Kathleen Freeman

Anna ................................. Anna Maria Alberghetti

Gohring ......................................... Jesse White

Himmler ....................................... Milton Fromme

Mussolini ........................................ Joe DiRita

Neville Chamberlain ........................... Peter Lawford

Winston Churchill ............................. Maurice Evans

FDR ............................................ Tony Randall

The Italian Ambassador .......................... Vito Scotti

French Premier Daladier.....................Franklin Pangborn

Emperor Hirohito.................................Jerry Lewis
Gohring’s Aide..................................Howard Morris

Josef Stalin .................................. Jerry Cologna

Below is perhaps the most tasteless thing I've ever written, following a scene in which Hitler has just had an argument with Eva Braun over her addiction to buying shoes:

© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

Hitler is coming down the hallway, engrossed in the papers in his hands. Soldiers stand at attention along both sides of the corridor, rifles in hand.

Mmm, yes... a good plan of attack would turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor...! But I had best check the map. Now where did I put those maps...? Ahhh, yes...

(Hitler stops in front of the closet where the Bellhop had hidden all the hundreds of shoes which Hitler had ordered Eva Braun to get rid of.)

... Of course, in the map closet. How positively silly of me.

Hitler opens the door...

... And is immediately and totally buried under an avalanche of women’s shoes. Every color and type of shoes. Thousands of them. They keep pouring out of the closet, far more shoes than could possibly have ever been jammed inside in the first place. Hitler is felled by the first wave, arms flailing, shouting, knocked down and covered. Several soldiers rush towards the growing mound of shoes to rescue their leader.

Finally, the avalanche slowing to a trickle, the soldiers succeed in fishing Hitler out of the pile, pulling him clumsily to his feet by his arms. He’s literally up to his chest in shoes.

(doing a slow burn)
Oooohhh! Shoes...

Just as he succeeds in getting his footing, the dazed Hitler is hit on the top of the head by one last shoe that comes bouncing out of the closet. This staggers him and he almost goes down again, except for the soldiers, who catch him under his arms.


Enraged, Hitler shakes free of the soldiers’ helping hands and begins to kick at the thousands of shoes piled up all around him, sending them flying as he screams, losing all control.

I have had enough of these shoes! I want them gone, do you hear me? I want the shoes to go... get them out of Germany! I never want to see another shoe in Germany as long as I live! Destroy them all! Destroy the shoes!

A game of “telephone” begins in the corridor as the nearest Soldier standing at attention turns his head to look at the next Soldier further down the corridor and relays Hitler’s message, and so on and so forth down the line with ever increasing FAST CUTS from Soldier to Soldier. This continues until it reaches the last Soldier in the line, who stands at attention at the door of Gohring’s office.

Der Fuhrer wants to be rid of the shoes!

Reichfuhrer Hitler orders the removal of the shoes!

Der Fuhrer wants the shoes out of Germany!

Destroy the shoes!

Get rid of the shoes!

Der Fuhrer hates the shoes!

Herr Hitler would have the shoes destroyed!

The shoes must be eliminated from the Reich!

(slow, confused)
Get rid of the...what did he say? The...Jews? Oh well...!
(shouts down the corridor)
The Fuhrer demands the destruction of the Jews!

Soldier #10 stands outside Gohring’s office, and when he receives the word from Soldier #9, he flings open the door, shouting into the office. Seated at the reception desk there, guarding the door to Gohring’s inner sanctum, sits Gohring’s Aide.

Ja! Der Fuhrer orders the destruction of the Jews!

Gohring’s Aide is caught by surprise by Soldier #10’s sudden and loud announcement, jumping out of his seat. Papers go flying as Aide almost falls from his chair.

Der yoiks in himmel!
(recovers, hand to his chest)
You don’t hafta shout! Now, vhat vas dat message again, bubbie?

Der Fuhrer orders the destruction of the Jews!

Gohring’s Aide repeats his previous jumping out of his seat in reaction to the shouting. Soldier #10 goes, closing the door behind him.

Dat boy’s got himself ein attitude prrrroblem!

Recovering, Gohring’s Aide straightens his uniform, smoothes his mussed hair, then steps up to Gohring’s door. He raps smartly on the door with his knuckles, then shakes his hand sharply, making a face because it hurts his knuckles. Without waiting for a reply, the Aide opens the door and enters the office.

A message from our beloved Fuhrer, Herr Gohring!

Vas ist?

Der biggenbossen sends word he wants alles Jews in Germany destroyensplatt!





Well, he is der Fuhrer, and if that’s what he wants...!
(shakes his head)
A shame, though.

Vhy ist dat, mein high und mighty ubermensch?

Well, some of my best friends are Jewish...!

Added: July 30, 2008, 1:03 P.M.:
The Adventures of Jerry Lewis © the respective copyright holders

Rob Kelly, friend of "And Then I Wrote..." (and proprietor of the fine Aquaman Shrine, listed in my links section) just emailed me: "Did you see, they found Jerry Lewis was carrying a gun in an airport? He read your piece and he's comin' for you!"

All I can say is: "I meant no harm!"

Thanks, Rob!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

If it's Sunday...

Over on the Friends of Will and Gerry blog, friends Will Jacobs and Gerry Jones have opened their space to fellow writers to post bits and pieces of their writing. This week, they are kind enough to put up, in addition to the quite funny Grapes of Wrath: The Maunderings of Percival Peregrine Oatenshaw by Chris Wright, an excerpt from my upcoming book Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury (Citadel, October 2008)...a different piece, I might add, than the one I ran here last week. And there is, of course, always Gerry and Will's own excellent work to be found there as well. Thanks, guys!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And The Award Goes To…

I’m a member of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), an organization founded by Lee Goldberg and Max Allan Collins for writers of movie, television, comic book, RPG and videogame adaptations and novelizations. You’re invited to check out the IAMTW website, where you’ll doubtless recognize the names of many of our members.

Yesterday, the group presented its Second Annual Scribe Awards for excellence in licensed tie-in writing at the San Diego Comic-Con on a panel hosted by member Andy Mangels. This year, the awards went to:

Best General Fiction-Original
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants by Lee Goldberg

Best General Fiction-Adapted
American Gangster by Max Allan Collins

Best Speculative-Original
Stargate Atlantis: Casualties Of War by Elizabeth Christensen

Best Game-Related Original (Special Scribe Award)
Eberron: Night Of The Long Shadows By Paul Crilley

Best Speculative Fiction-Adapted
30 Days of Night by Tim Lebbon

Best Young Adult-Original
Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew #10: Ticket Trouble by Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon

Best Young Adult-Adapted
The 12 Dogs of Christmas by Steven Paul Leiva

Grandmaster Award
Alan Dean Foster

Congratulations to all our winners. I recommend all these fine efforts, as well as the works of the other nominees, a list of which can be found on the IAMTW website.

Kansas City, There I Went

In September 2005, I was invited to Kansas City, Kansas to participate in a brainstorming session for a company developing some new intellectual properties. I accepted the invitation for several reasons: (1) I was being paid, (2) it was for a company for which my brother-from-another-mother Rick Stasi worked, and (3) Kansas City barbecue, particularly a place called Zarda (Rick periodically ships me bottles of their sauce for home consumption).

The session discussed several properties, but one in particular interested me: Hey, Sophie! They had a bare bones concept: 14-year old New York girl is forced by circumstances to go live in the Louisiana bayou with a grandmother she hardly knows. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, with elements of the supernatural and even time travel thrown in and, when all was said and done, they wanted me to develop the story and write a series bible and a young adult novel, the first of what was hoped to be a nine-book series.

I started Hey, Sophie! in October and wrapped it up in April 2006 but due to a set of circumstances that would in themselves make a fascinating novel if I could ever unravel the chain of events, it and the rest of these IPs died on the vine. Which left this YA novel, all written and that I’m moderately pleased with, just sitting there, unpublished and not likely to be...there’s nothing I can do with it because it doesn’t belong to me (I was just, legally, at any rate, the work-made-for-hire writing monkey on it).

But here’s an excerpt from a chapter of Hey, Sophie!, wherein Sophie, who’s miserable being where she is and far more accustomed to riding the subway than rowing around the bayou in a pirogue (which isn't a dumpling, but a kind of small Cajun canoe), finds herself doing just that with Juan, the kid next door to whom she had previously been entirely rude:

© Stirred Water Studios

Chapter 5

The canoe drifted freely, going nowhere in particular. Juan pointed to a rock jutting up from the water about twenty feet to their right. “See that rock? Take a good stare and tell me what you think you see.”

Sophie squinted at the rock as they drifted by. It was...just a rock. A big, wet boulder. Well, okay, Sophie thought, that bulgy part there looked kind of like an animal’s leg...a dog’s paw. And that curve there could be a dog’s back and, just like that, Sophie saw it.

“A dog!” she said with delight. “Like a beagle, standing looking at that tree there. See, there’s his nose and muzzle and his tail and everything.”

“We call it the Dog Rock, and his tail’s a sign to follow right to the channel we came in by. She leads right back out to the lake right north of your grandmere’s house.”

He next pointed behind Sophie. She turned to see two large old tree trunks that had fallen across one another to form a giant X in the water. There was room under the bottom triangle of the X for their little pirogue to pass through. “That’s Hue’s Spot, ‘cause it was Robierre Hue who toppled those trees trying out his new chainsaw ‘bout twenty-five years back. But row through Hue’s Spot and keep going dead west, just follow the sun, and you’ll hit Yvonne’s Wharf over t’Warrenstown in about an hour. Other signs’ll tell you what direction you’re headed, how far you’ve gone, and how much farther you got to go.”

“Any chance of finding any of this on Mapquest?” Sophie said miserably.

“Don’t make a bahbin, girl. You’ll learn your way in no time, I gar-an-tee!“

“I don’t even own a bahbin, whatever it is,” Sophie said.

“It means don’t pout--and from the look on your face, you own plenty of bahbin. Come on, Sophie, admit it, ha? The bayou’s not so bad.” Juan’s face suddenly lit up and he pointed with the paddle off to one side. “Oh, Sophie, look at that!”

At first, Sophie wasn’t sure what it was she was looking at. It was a chunk of something, a log maybe, stripped of its bark to show the white wood, drifting along the still water less than a dozen yards from them. She blinked. Did that log have...eyes? And, wait a second. The water was absolutely calm. Their canoe hardly moved without Juan’s paddle in the water, but that log was making pretty good time on its own.

Sophie blinked again. Okay, not a log...

An alligator.

A white alligator!

At least six feet long from pale nose to pasty tail.

Sophie screamed. Juan shushed her; and the air around them filled with the screech, twitter, and cry of a thousand birds. The ‘gator ignored her and kept swimming.

“You doin’ it again, Sophie!” Juan warned. “That ‘gator just mindin’ his own business.”

Sophie leaned as far back away from the receding alligator as she could without toppling over the side. “Right--and his business is eating people.”

“Now you just bein’ silly, Sophie,” Juan said, dipping the paddle back in the water. “Gators don’t practically never attack people. Anyway, girl, don’t you know albino gator’re good luck.”

“To who?”

“To us, to whoever sees ‘im. They’re as rare as hen’s teeth, girl.”

Sophie never took her eyes off the alligator, just making sure that it didn’t sneak back to eat the boat and them. “Do hens have teeth?”

Juan sighed. “No, Sophie. Hens do not have teeth--and there ain’t a whole lot of albino alligators neither.”

“Okay, so I feel lucky we’re still alive and he didn’t eat us, so why don’t we go home and...”

Juan’s eyes went suddenly dark and he held up his hand, silencing her.

“Huh? What’s...?” Sophie started to say in a whisper; but Juan made a shushing sound and quickly, but gently, moved the paddle in the water. He looked scared. And if her been-paddlin’-round-these-parts-since-I-was-in-diapers guide was afraid, Sophie decided she was perfectly justified in being terrified.

“Juan!” she hissed. “Is it a gator?”

As he rowed towards a thickly wooded outcropping, he whispered hoarsely, “Listen!”

Gripping the sides of the boat, Sophie frantically swiveled her head around, trying to hear anything unusual among the chatter of birds and the squeaks of small animals.

“I don’t,” she started to say, then stopped. She heard it now, a slow rhythmic splash and thunk somewhere near. And something else. Whistling! It didn’t sound like a tune of any kind Sophie had ever heard, just a series of random low-pitched notes. It was kind of creepy.

Sophie held on for dear life as Juan paddled around the stand of trees as if trying to outrun the fast-approaching whistler. When they were on the far side of the trees and shielded from view by the thick foliage, Juan brought them to a stop. Only then did he turn and look at her, raising a silencing finger to his lips. He gently parted the brush and pointed through it for Sophie to look.

The splash-thunk and atonal whistling drew closer.

On the one hand, Sophie didn’t know if she really wanted to look; she had visions of some hockey-mask-wearing movie villain rowing by in a coffin, using twin axes as oars. On the other hand...well, she was just too curious for her own good not to look!

Sophie followed Juan’s finger, peeking through the reedy underbrush.

And, considering she was expecting the worst, what she saw wasn’t particularly frightening at all. It was a large man on some sort of shallow flat-bottomed boat that he pushed through the water with a long wooden pole.

The man himself was tall, probably over six feet. But it was difficult to tell much about him at all the way he was hunched over, his head bowed and covered by long, greasy hair. He was dressed in worn dark clothing and wore a black cloak tied around his neck. Watching him, Sophie felt a wave of sadness pass through her. The way he stood, the air of loneliness about him...Sophie didn’t know what it was about this person, but she didn’t get the sense he was anyone to be afraid of. Still, Juan seemed to think he was and he ought to know.


As he passed the trees behind which Sophie and Juan hid, the man turned his head ever so slightly, just enough so Sophie could see one eye looking at her through the hanging curtain of stringy hair.

Sophie gasped and yanked her head back, her heart thumping in her chest.

But the man kept going, poling his boat past them and disappearing down a channel to the right of the Dog Rock. Neither Sophie or Juan moved until he was long out of sight and they could no longer hear his whistling over their own shallow, frightened breathing.

Finally Sophie said, “Who the heck was that?”

“That was T-John,” Juan said, as though that explained everything.

“Don’t make me beg you, Juan,” Sophie begged.

“T-John, he the old mystery man of the bayou. When we call someone ‘T,’ it mean petite, you know, like small.”

“That guy wasn’t so ‘T,’” Sophie said.

“No, ma’am, he ain’t. And he ain’t none too friendly neither. Folks round here say T-John been living alone in his shack in the bayou forever. Papa Pierre the oldest man in town, over one hundred years old, they say, and he remember T-John polin’ that very skiff through these same waters when he was a boy and his papa remember the same thing.”

“Oh, come on,” Sophie said. “No one’s that old. What’s so dangerous about T-John that we had to hide from him?”

“Well, my papa say to stay away from him and that good enough for me,” Juan said with finality. “Ever’one know you keep your distance from T-John.”

“But why?”

“You ask him!”

“Hey, I’m just visiting. How come no one’s ever bothered just asking him what’s going on?”

“T-John don’t talk. He mute. Ever’bod’ know that, too.”

“Gee, excuse me for not reading the handbook, okay? I’m not up on all this stuff. Mute swamp hermits and Big Foot’s a little out of my experience.”

“All y’all got to know is you don’t go tuggin’ at a gator’s tail,” Juan said. He turned his back to her and lowered the paddle into the water. “C’mon, I best get you home.”

“Geez,” Sophie said. “I think someone’s taking their bayou lore a little too seriously.”

Juan shot her a dark look over his shoulder. “Maybe someone ain’t takin’ it serious enough.”

They traveled home the rest of the way in silence.

That night, Sophie slept with a light on in her room.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekly World News

In April 2005, I began writing for Weekly World News, the World's Only Reliable Newspaper. In February 2006 I became Senior (then Executive) Editor of the paper until it folded in August 2007. While I did articles about all sorts of things, I enjoyed writing political satire the most. Here's a piece I wrote in August 2005:


Washington, D.C. – Ever since its ratification on September 17, 1787 the Constitution of the United States of America has served as this nations’ blueprint for freedom.

Over the centuries, emerging nations have used this remarkable document as a literal blueprint for their own constitutions.

But one new nation has gone a step further. Instead of merely using America’s Constitution for inspiration and guidance in the drafting of one of their own, the Republic of Iraq has purchased the U.S. document outright.

“Lock, stock, and copyright,” affirmed Ibrahaim al-Jubburi, a lawyer for Iraq’s Ministry of Constitutional Concerns. “But we’re open to a licensing agreement so the U.S.A. can maintain its democratic ideals.”

“The boss kind of wanted to keep this one quiet,” Wayne Nugget, the Second Deputy Assistant to the Third Undersecretary of State admitted sheepishly. “The Secretary of State came up with the idea on the first day of a three-day meeting in Baghdad to discuss constitutional issues. He muttered something about having to spend two more days in ‘this hell-hole,’ then stood up and said, ‘Why don’t you just buy our Constitution? It’s worked pretty darned well for us,’ and then he caught the next plane home.”

Sharif al-Fahcokted, a member of Iraq’s 275-member Transitional National Assembly, said, “At first we thought he was kidding with us, you know? But when the Secretary didn’t come back after about fifteen, twenty minutes, we realized he wasn’t joking.”

His colleague in the Assembly, Mahdi Lazeei added, “Then we thought, well, what the heck? Their Constitution’s worked for them for almost 225 years, and we weren’t having any luck being able to come up with something of our own that all sides could agree on.”

“The price,” said Iraq’s Minister of Finance, Abdul Ot’thedouh, “was pretty reasonable, considering what we’re buying. And we did happen to have the six billion dollars in American currency on hand. In cash.”

Assemblyman al-Fahcokted hastened to add, “Of course, that price includes all the Amendments as well.”

“Look, I’m not telling tales out of the mosque when I say that things have been pretty messed up around here,” said Mahdi Lazeei. “We had the American governing commission, than the Iraqi Interim Government, now the Transitional National Assembly, and who the heck knows what’s next.

“So we spent a few dinars and bought a used Constitution to make things a little easier on ourselves. I mean, we don’t have running water or electricity, for crying out loud!”

“This is an outrage,” fumes Tom Paine, spokesman for Protect Our Constitution, Keep My American Republic Contained (P.O.C.K.M.A.R.C.). “The Constitution and the democratic ideals it outlines belongs to all Americans and can’t be bought or sold.”

“Guess again,” says U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits us from selling the Constitution. At least that what my staff tells me.”

Besides, the attorney general points out that should the administration push legislation through Congress strengthening the Patriot Acts, selling the Constitution to Iraq won’t have much of an impact on American life. “I mean,” said Mr. Gonzales, “it’s not like we’re really using it all that much these days, anyway.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Zombie King

In March 2008, I submitted this piece to an anthology of flash fiction (stories under 500 words) about zombies. The initial response from the editor was, “Absolutely love it. I am moving the story to the second round of reading,” but it didn’t make the final cut. And yet, it still lives!

© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

Yeshua was different after his days in the desert. Newly baptized and cleansed of earthly sin, he walked into the desert to fast and pray. Upon his return, forty days hence, he claimed to have fought the undead incarnation of evil and temptation. The wounds suffered in his battle were horrible to behold but he would not let us tend to them.

“I am as I shall ever be, Judah,” he said and went out to minister to the pain and suffering of others while insisting we ignore his own.

His presence in Jerusalem upset the authorities. Those of us who followed him feared for his health as his wounds festered and maggots ate at him. When he ran amuck through the temple, we were fearful. Loukas and I restrained him before the horror of his sickness could manifest to the throng, but no matter the cause of his rampage, while the Romans might ignore much, they would not countenance interference with their commerce.

At the Passover meal, he rose, his skin pale and bloodless as one dead and commanded we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. We did as he bade, to share in his fate if that was his desire, but it was then I saw what had overwhelmed him and knew what must be done.

As we prayed that night in the garden, I bid him farewell with a kiss and then the temple guards came for him. Shi’mon was the first to fall to the sickness and, in his berserker rage, put his sword to a guard and made to consume his foe before Yeshua bade him cease.

The governor had no choice but to sentence this once-mortal abomination to the cross like a common criminal. He was left to die at Calvaria and when that was done, Marcus and Loukas removed his body, moldered as one dead for many days, to a cave and sealed that cave with a great boulder.

On the third day, his mother Mariam came to anoint his body and found Yeshua waiting for her, dead yet behaving as one alive. The stench about him caused her to reel and he made to conceal the hideousness of his form beneath the shroud in which we had laid him to rest.

“Forgive me,” he said as he hobbled away to feed elsewhere the hunger that would become familiar to all of us who had eaten of his flesh.

And so we would follow, for he was Yeshua, our king who had risen again.

the end

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Artist and a Gentleman

I just read that Golden Age comic book artist Creig Flessel has died at the age of 96. I had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with Creig in 1994 when we were both guests at a comic book convention in Kansas City. My buddy/brother Rick Stasi, one of the convention organizers, asked me to present Creig with a Lifetime Achievement Award at that show, one of those things that conventions hand out to guests of honor on a fairly regular basis. In Creig's case, however, it was well-deserved and entirely heartfelt, as was the short speech I gave along with the award.

The following day, Creig came over and handed me a copy of one of the numerous how-to-draw books he had done with Lee Ames, DRAW 50 PEOPLE (Doubleday, 1993). The Sandman sketch and inscription pictured above were on the title page. I treasure it more now than ever.

© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

Some things are just plain obvious.

For instance, back when I first started reading comics, I would go to this used book and comic shop in Brooklyn to feed my habit on pretty much a weekly basis. This place carried used comics by the ton, comics that could be had for 10¢ and up. But the real treasures, the Golden Age and ECs... the expensive stuff, was kept in a glass showcase at the front of the store. I couldn’t afford these treasures, of course... even though the comics that go for tens of thousands today were available for mere tens of dollars in those days, but to a 12 or 13 year old on a fixed income of allowance and after school jobs, 20 or 30 bucks then might as well have been ten thousand.

But even if I couldn’t afford to own them, I was allowed to look at those treasures, and one of the things I remember are the covers. Especially the good ones... obviously. One of the artists behind a lot of those covers was a man named Creig Flessel.

The Golden Age was the formative years of the comics industry, and like the developemental stages of any person or art form, there were, obviously, growing pains. A lot of this art forms early stuff was pretty crude, often written and drawn by creators with more heart than ability, so even the good ones managed to stand out... and the great ones were like shining beacons, thrilling their readers and alerting the coming generation of creators to the potential of this new medium.

Creig Flessel was one of those beacons. He began his professional career in the mid-30s as an illustrator for the Street and Smith pulp magazines before moving to DC Comics in 1936. His amazing covers graced many early DCs, such as ADVENTURE COMICS, MORE FUN COMICS, and DETECTIVE COMICS, including the very first issue of that historic title. Flessel’s work was alive, his characters warm and breathing on those glossy four color covers... if you don’t believe me, see if you can locate a copy of ADVENTURE COMICS #44, wherein a very surprised Sandman is caught in the act before an open safe when the lights come on. Or ADVENTURE #46, with Sandman leaping over a fence to blast a different thug with his “gas gun.” Or, one of my all time favorites, the cover of DETECTIVE COMICS #15, featuring a top hatted jewel thief, the mirror behind his head showing the reflection of the two cops entering the room with guns drawn.

Creig ‘s work also appeared on the inside of comics, writing, drawing, and/or coloring such features as SPEED SAUNDERS, THE BRADLEY BOYS, PEP MORGAN, SHINING KNIGHT, and, of course, the original SANDMAN. He went on to assist on the syndicated strips as DIXIE DUGAN and L’IL ABNER, worked in advertising for clients like Ralston, Royal Crown, Campbell’s, General Foods, and Bulova, and was a regular contributor of both covers and comic strips for BOYS’ LIFE.

Creig Flessel is an illustrator, a first-rate artist with an eye for detail and a delicate, masterly ability with brush and pen.

Creig Flessel was one of those bright lights of the Golden Age and now, almost 60 years since he first put that brush and pen to paper to create some of the most memorable images of his time, we’re here to honor him, to let him know that we remember him and his contributions to comics.

As I said, some things are just plain obvious. And it’s obvious that there are fewer people more deserving of receiving the Kansas City Comic Convention’s Lifetime Achievement Award than this year’s recipient, Creig Flessel.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Prologue to a Book I'll Probably Never Write

Every now and then, I'll start writing...something. An opening line will pop into my head, a concept, sometimes even a whole book or story and I'll start typing, just to get it out of my head and onto the page. I may have no where to go with it, no hope of selling it, but I'll write it anyway. It's an itch that has to be scratched.

I write a lot of media tie-ins, books and stories based on existing properties from other media, mostly from the pages of comic books. I enjoy the challenge of taking a world usually presented in words and pictures and telling its story in words alone. Something about the process removes a large part of the suspension of disbelief a reader needs to bring to reading a comic book story, no matter how well done it is; words are words, but line drawings on a page take the story a step or two away from reality and make it that much more difficult to believe.

This was one of those itches. It's the prologue for a Superman novel, inspired in part by the literary qualities of Tom DeHaven's excellent IT'S SUPERMAN (Chronicle Books, 2005). I started playing around with it in October 2007:

Superman and all related elements © 2008 DC Comics
© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

prologue/at the end of time

He was no stranger to loneliness.

His was a life begun in exile, a family destroyed, a child thrust into a world in which he never truly belonged, try as he might. A stranger in a strange land, made all the worse that it was a land populated by beings who looked so much like him but were not, finally, like him at all.

He was steel.

They were bone China, fragile translucent shells containing lives that broke so easily, wore out too soon.

Still he tried being one of them. Lived among them, loved them. Some of his foes tried exploiting that love, always a mistake, but others just mocked him. They, who were connected to humanity rejected the very bonds he would have given up everything to enjoy.

For all his brilliance, he never really did understand them.

Nor they him. They saw in him abilities far beyond their comprehension and did what humans have done since developing cognizance: they deified him and all those like him. Instinct gave them no choice but to put him on a pedestal above them...or fear him. They did that, too, he was convinced of that. But once they saw he meant them no harm, was in fact, benevolent, they recognized the wisdom of dampening their fear and doing nothing to antagonize him or his ilk. It was all so complicated, exhausting. Heartbreaking. It was, he could admit to himself now, here, at the end of time, the reason he chose, finally, to go. All the public pronouncements about his work being done on Earth, leaving mankind to guide its own destiny into the future, intergalactic age...

He still missed them, though he seldom thought of them anymore.

But when he did...

The images summoned by his mind’s eye made him smile. He forgot nothing, of course. Every moment of his life was stored somewhere, just waiting to be retrieved by any outside stimuli or, sometimes, when he was thinking of nothing at all, when he would just turn off his thoughts and drift, without care to time or destination, through endless nowheres, they would come up like some random shuffle of songs on the jukebox in Doc Parson’s soda fountain. Pete knew how to drop in the nickels and punch the keys in just the right combination to make the old contraption, its colored lights flickering as bubbles percolated lethargically through the plastic tubing on its weathered face, play a mélange of bits and pieces of songs on its dual-turntables that never failed to crack them up, Sinatra mixing with Hendrix fading into Pat Boone, jumping suddenly into Ozzie or the Who, and Pete would grab the nearest girl, usually Lana, and they would dance, trying to keep up with the music and laughing so hard as they breathlessly sang out the words, or at least something close to them...


That was a road he didn’t dare follow, not again. And surely not now. He had trod it before, past the endless, eternal sea of faces and memories, smells and sounds, the curse of perfection, at least where his memory was concerned, and found only sorrow and, at times, madness waiting at the other end. He would see...

Lana, on a perfect summer’s day in childhood, a day not long after the one in which he remembered realizing that she wasn’t just the kid down the road, a classmate and pal, but had, somehow, without his realizing it, become a…female. They had been playing softball all morning in the field out back from Mr. Snyder’s barn and she was laughing at something Pete said as they piled into the dim, cool interior of Doc’s on Main Street for something cold and sweet to quench their thirsts. Her startling red hair was tied back with a yellow ribbon in a ponytail and she wore white shorts, dirty white Converse high-tops and a gray Smallville High t-shirt that was plastered to her back with sweat stains from their hours under the Kansas sun.

He was holding the door for everyone else and as Lana filed by, filling his nostrils with her clean, sweaty, vanilla and jasmine and god only knew what combination of hormones and pheromones scent, she turned her laughing face and green eyes to him and winked and he felt his knees buckle, the more-than-pals feeling awakening with a scream. It made the breath catch in his chest and his heart to pound so loud and so hard that he thought the whole town could hear it. Later, years later, when their lives, intersecting circles that came into contact all too infrequently and often for all the wrong reasons, had reached the safety and comfort of platonic intimacy, she confessed that she too had found it difficult to breath when he was around and isn’t it funny that both of them, feeling as they did, needing only to reach out their hands to one another across the Formica tabletop at Doc Parson’s to touch happiness, could never find even that one-inch of courage to accept what they both knew was true.

Neither of them ever made the leap.

And later...later it would be too late.

...but for just an instant, a sigh of déjà vu, eternity was a summer day and a winking emerald eye...

And of such insignificant increments and fleeting moments are lives altered and histories rewritten.

Not that it mattered any longer. Doc and the jukebox were long gone.

As was Smallville. And Lana and all the women who followed her, though none had ever meant quite what the freckled face redhead had. Still, he remembered their names. Every one of them.

Everything was gone, gone so long that time had finally begun to run out, even for him. Had he ever really expected to outlive the universe? Maybe, once, before he learned all there was to learn and, among that knowledge, the certainty that all of time and all of space and the myriad, diverse threads that twisted around each other to weave the vast tapestry of the multiverse were linked. Time dribbled away to nothingness in everywhere, every universe calved from the same mother lode of energy, at the same time. He had long ago worked out the physics of the universe’s birth; knowing that, it was easy enough to calculate the antithetical event.

Yet still he wondered about that last instant, when all time and space was gone but for the last tick of the cosmic clock. The singularity would be unimaginable – the entirety of the cosmos compressed into a single space – time/space elongating as it approached this ultimate black hole. Would it continue stretching on into infinity, the distance to the event horizon decreasing by half, then half again. And again, dividing ad infinitum, forever forestalling the end? Nonsense science, he knew, but enough to make him think to ride time’s final instant into oblivion and see. Or join with the seething mass of heat and energy that would, when conditions were right and the cycle began anew, explode into new existence. But of course he wouldn’t. He still had much to do before he considered oblivion, labors that begin, paradoxically, when time ends.

Paradoxes and ironies. Love, hate, happiness, sorrow. All irrelevant now that there was no one left but him to appreciate or experience...anything. If a tear falls in a forest and no one is there to feel its pain, does a heart still break?

He allowed himself a small smile. As he always suspected: Sarcasm was the last thing in the universe to fall.

The last second came, but before memory was undone and all hope crushed under the weight of the universe, Lex Luthor shifted and was gone, back to when there was a future to look toward...

# # #

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Satan's Work, I Tell You!

I've been making my living as a writer for more than 30 years. I write it, someone pays me and it gets published for people to buy. That's the natural order of things. You can understand, then, why this internet concept of "information wants to be free" sets my teeth on edge.

But, I suppose, like Costco giving away samples of pizza rolls and cheesecake in the aisles, sometimes you've just to give people a little taste of something before they know they're going to like it. Then they can pay for the big, industrial-sized pallet of pizza rolls.

So, it was in that spirit that I entered the blogosphere. And that I link with the Friends of Will and Gerry (, a site devoted to posting chapters not only of Will Jacobs and Gerry Jones's own works-in-progress (My Pal Splendid Man and Million Dollar Ideas) but of other writers as well. Every Sunday, they'll be adding new free fiction to the site; yesterday it was an excerpt from Joe Quirk's book, It's Not You. It's Biology: The Science of Love, Sex & Relationships (published by Running Press) and a short story by Mindy Newell (an old friend and, like Gerry Jones, a DC Comics writer of yore). Next week, there'll be more stuff, including another excerpt from my own Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury.

Check it out. You might just find you really like our pizza rolls.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury

A little something from JEW-JITSU: THE HEBREW HANDS OF FURY by Rabbi Daniel Eliezer and Paul Kupperberg, photographs by Robert Simses.

Coming from Citadel Books (November 2008). Feel free to pre-order your copy today on (Order here). Really, I wouldn't mind!

Du oifn fun der mensch
© 2008 Paul Kupperberg

Rabbi Sausalito Ben Venuto of Sicily was once asked by a student, “Rabbi, why is it that the wisest of men, when asked a question of Torah, always pauses before he speaks?”

The Rabbi paused, narrowing his eyes and studied the inquisitive young scholar. He began to stroke his long, gray beard, nodding slowly in deep thought.

“As it is written,” said the Rabbi at long last, “the Talmud is so vast, so complex, even the wisest of the wise must naturally reflect before divining the single right answer he seeks from its multitude of layers and infinity of complexities.”

“Ah, and where exactly is this written?” replied the excited student, his quill poised at the ready to make note of the source of this rabbinical wisdom.

Rabbi Ben Venuto paused once again, then at last replied, “Let me get back to you on that.”

What does this have to do with the practice of Jew-jitsu, du oifn fun der mensch, or the “way of the righteous man,” the sacred Jewish art of self defense? Absolutely nothing, but since when is it such a bad thing to discuss a little Torah?

And, come to think of it, danger can be like the story of Rabbi Venuto. Often, it has nothing to do with anything else, coming upon us as a sudden and unwanted digression in the unfolding saga of our lives. One moment, we are discussing Torah, the next, we are engaged in mortal combat with some bulvan.

Thus, like the Talmudic scholar in whose mind rests the answers to almost six thousand years of accumulated Jewish learning, the student of Jew-jitsu must always be at the ready to answer danger with swift and decisive action. A klapn to the kop, a zetz to the kiskas, listen, a person shouldn’t be allowed to defend himself?

* * *

So what’s it all about, this Jew-jitsu?

I’ll tell you what it’s not about! Yes, there is a lot of hitting and kicking and geschreing, but that is only a byproduct of the discipline, the training of the mind and the body to become as one, to be as aware of your immediate environment as David was with Bathsheba.

It’s also not about a nice white set of rabbinical Jew-jitsu robes, or the color of your tzitzis as you progress through the ranks, or the bowing and the formality, ‘Oh, rabbi, thank you for your wisdom,’ ‘Oh, rabbi, thank you, rabbi, I shall treasure that forward hip throw for all the days of my life, rabbi,’ or any of that meshagass. No!

Jew-jitsu is about the chai (no, not like the tea, this one’s pronounced k’hí ... no, deeper, back in your throat, with that Khhuhk, Khhuhk sound. No? Okay, listen, you’ll practice later on your own, bubbee.)

Chai, in Hebrew, is spelled with the letters het and yod and means “living.” It’s part of the same word family as l’chaim, the Yiddish toast meaning “to life.” And because het and yod add up to the number eighteen in Kabbalistic interpretations of Hebrew, eighteen is a lucky number to Jews.

And that is why we follow the Eighteen Forms. Because eighteen means life and life means luck and luck, as it has been said by Rabbi Tony Faro of Las Vegas, favors the prepared son of Yisroel. Thus are those who accept the way of chai and follow the path of the Jew-jitsu macher walking the walk of life, of health, of happiness, and, go figure, maybe even a bissel knowledge.

* * *

Is that it? Is that what Jew-jitsu is really about?

Yes! It’s all about you! What more could you ask from a faith-based martial art?

But it’s also about the guy next to you, and your wife, and his wife, and your cousins, even that shnorrer brother-in-law of yours, and everyone else. Once you step into a chaider to study Jew-jitsu, you want to think about yourself, who’s going to stop you? Who else are you to think about? You’re in training! Of course you’re going to focus on yourself, so stop being so neurotic already.

People often ask me, “Rabbi Eliezer, do you have to be Jewish to practice Jew-jitsu?”

I tell them not to be such goyishe kops! Of course not! You don’t even need to belong to a Reformed temple. Jew-jitsu is for any righteous individual who seeks to right a wrong or prevent harm coming to himself or another human being. Or his property. And the property of the immediate family, some mamza comes along wants to start a ruckus, you’ll give him what for.

Jew or gentile, this book will start you on the road to enlightenment. But before you turn the page and embark on that long and arduous journey, please take a moment to pause and remember that which was written by Rabbi Zalman Lipton of London, “Sit, sit, have a nice glass tea, relax first, tell me how’s by the family, then we’ll get down to cases.”
Rabbi Daniel Eliezer
Jew-jitsu macher, 10th degree tallis with black tzitzis
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.
3 Cheshvan 5768 (October 15, 2007)