By Zachary Klein

Last week I began thinking about today’s column and knew I didn’t want to spew another tirade about the state of the country, world, or my own politics. Not that there wasn’t plenty to rage about given the past few weeks, but hell, it’s the holiday season and I didn’t want to play Grinch.

It’s that strange time of year where the holidays have put an end to the normal part of 2014 and the new year has yet to begin. So here are flashes of the flotsam and jetsam that are floating through my head.

Sony and The Interview. After all the stories and interviews with Sony executives, I began to wonder whether they hacked themselves. No way would they ever get the audience and ticket sales for that crappy movie had they gone the traditional route. Now? A lotta people are going to make a fortune. If I were North Korea and gonna hack, I would have gone after their financial passwords and bank accounts. You know they need the money.

Level playing field. If, after all the newspaper articles, television talking heads, incarceration statistics, grand juries, and the number of gunned down Black men and boys, I hear the term LPF again, I really might choke myself. Or, at the least, smash my head against a wall. There’s only so much bullshit I can tolerate and that one is used up.

Tim Burton. How can a guy who is as talented and creative as Burton turn out a snoozer like Big Eyes? Let’s hope he learns from this loser. Mr. Burton should stick to weird and crazy which he does very, very, well and stay the hell away from straight.

And speaking of movies:

Foxcatcher. I knew Steve Carell was in it before I went and, while I’ve seen The Office countless times, I didn’t recognize him playing John du Pont until a quarter of the way through. Either Carell was absolutely terrific or I’m starting to lose it. I’m going with the former—a way to feel good about both of us.

The Hobbit. How the hell many of them are there?

Tavis Smiley and David Ritz. Not a film but finished their book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year and, while learning a large amount of information I hadn’t known, the most important “take away” was the regeneration of my belief and commitment to non-violence as the only meaningful agent of change. I won’t publicly “marry” non-violence in front of a congregation the way King actually did (“I take thee…”), but I’m not about to change my mind. Begin with blood, end with blood.

Holiday habits. For the first time in at least thirty years the tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the usual assortment of suspects went south for a variety of good reasons. And will probably never be the way it was. (Yeah, I hear Streisand in my head, too). As completely legitimate as it is, and while we were a significant part of its demise because of new family constellations, I still hate it. Call me a stick in the mud.

Binge TV. If you know me you know I love television. It’s kept me company virtually my entire life. To survive my addiction, I don’t hold its programming near to the standards I do with other art forms. But now there’s a new twist thanks to “on demand” cable and Netflix. It’s possible to watch an entire series one after another until its conclusion. Or, in the case of this past week’s Marco Polo (Netflix) until the season’s end. The show? A poor man’s Rome which wasn’t at all rich. So what? I can’t fuck like a bunny anymore and I’m too fat to binge eat, drink, or smoke. So, unless we’re going out, I’m a telly camper.

Facebook. Yep. There’s an enormous amount of criticism, most incredibly well deserved. Nonetheless, I’ve met people who I honestly consider good friends through this medium and am grateful. Believe me, if I had the opportunity, I’d go drinking with all. I love the idea of “one world” and while we’re light years away from even visualizing that, FB is a small step. How else could I have connected with people from different cities, countries and race who I’ll never meet but care for any way. Yeah, it’s a strange new reality and I don’t have a clue whether it’s a good strange, but it makes me happy.

So speaking of happiness:

Matt Jacob reboot. Matt’s move to Polis Books has publically begun. Polis is reissuing the first three books of my Matt Jacob novels individually and in a set during February and publishing the new book of the series in March. Made for a hectic week of working with BoismierJohnDesign (the great people who created and maintain my website) swapping out the old covers for new and placing the first chapter of Ties That Blind on its own page. Got it done and felt pretty damn good working with both companies.

Family. Two new granddaughters at the same time! Two new additions to those I already adore and love. I plan to enjoy every moment of their lives as long as I’m around. And frankly, I’m hoping for at least twenty.

So there it is, folks. A small piece of my head and without a rant. (Well, maybe there was a mini one tucked in there.)

Happy New Year and may it bring peace to all.

“The difference between what we do, and what we are capable of doing, would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi


“A rose is a rose is a rose.” So is an action flic, but Zero Dark 30, the film about the hunt for, and capture of, Osama Bin Laden, has raised hackles throughout the entire political spectrum. As if a rose is not a rose. A friend sent me a review by Rabbi Brant Rosen (, which covers most of the criticisms aimed at Z D 30, so I’ll use as a foil to write about the film and its controversies.

According to the rabbi, the movie opening with the words, Based on firsthand accounts of actual events, means it’s “insidious” not to be historically accurate. Sorry, I think “based on” signals the viewer that what we are seeing is not a documentary but rather a fictionalized account of a true story. Countless films, books, and plays use “based on” as a jump-off and rarely get blasted.  So why is this night…?

In his post Rabbi Rosen continues: “From an artistic point of view, I can say without hesitation that I was riveted by ZDT from beginning to end. Kathryn Bigelow is clearly one of our most talented American directors, particularly in her ability to construct a film with a palpable sense of documentary realism. In so many ways she, along with screenwriter Mark Boal, and her entire filmmaking team had me in the palm of their collective hand.

Which is why I also found ZDT to be a morally reprehensible piece of cinematic propaganda.”

Perhaps Rosen feels that the movie’s ability to blur fact and fiction worked too well, but that ultimately should be a compliment, not a criticism.

Rosen complains that the use of 911 call recordings from the September 11th attacks was purely manipulative. Since the movie is about the hunt for Bin Laden it should have begun with the chase. Problem is, Rosen didn’t write the screenplay. The screenwriter, Mark Boal, chose to frame the context with the reason for the hunt and, while the voices from that day are chilling, his decision was dramatically sound. When you think about it, films, books, art, and entertainment are inherently manipulative. Even those that purport to be objective—including journalism.

Rosen then moves to the issue of concern to many, including government officials: Z D 30 glorifies the use of torture by graphically showing it and suggesting torture yielded important information. Of course there was torture. It was well known government policy, euphemistically “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But glorification, or even endorsement? Frankly, I think those scenes are Rorschach tests that tell as much about the viewer as anything else. In reality, the movie makes it quite clear that the essential clues in finding Bin Laden came from painstaking detective work and not torture—a fact often overlooked by those who complain about “glorification.”

I saw the film’s take on torture as a pretty accurate picture of reality. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Also, as Michael Moore pointed out in an interview, ( the real question about torture isn’t whether it “works” or doesn’t. Torture is a moral question and, in his opinion (mine as well), it is wrong. Z D 30 neither condemned or glorified. It showed. Perhaps the rabbi might have felt better if the movie began after President Obama outlawed the use of torture just as he wanted it to begin after the attacks?

Rabbi Rosen formulates, “Beyond this issue (torture), ZDT is dangerous for an even more essential reason. As Peter Haas pointed out in a recent piece for the Atlantic ( it represents a new genre of “entertainment” he calls “embedded filmmaking.”

Near as I can tell embedded filmmaking seems to mean that Bigelow and Boal had “special” access to government information that raised concerns, including some by senators, that the Obama administration had granted that access for political reasons. According to the Inside Movies’ writer Anthony Breznican ( this simply isn’t true–though a CIA official did spend forty minutes with the two. In fact, careful perusal of related documents shows no indication that anyone in the administration helped shape the movie, despite that forty minute meeting.

But more importantly, even if “special” access were true, so what?  Does the rabbi remember Woodward and Bernstein? Would he have called them embedded journalists because of their connection to Deep Throat?

I’m no fan of the relatively recent phenomena of wartime embedded reporters. In fact, I despise it. But that doesn’t mean I think every story to come out of Iraq and Afghanistan was simply government sponsored propaganda. And I don’t think Z D 30 is either.

Finally, Rabbi Rosen points out that “The CIA and the U.S. government are the Good Guys, the innocent targets of terrorist violence, the courageous warriors seeking justice for the 9/11 victims. Muslims and Arabs are the dastardly villains, attacking and killing without motive…Almost all Hollywood action films end with the good guys vanquishing the big, bad, villain—so that the audience can leave feeling good about the world and themselves—and this is exactly the script to which this film follows.”

Duh. If Z D 30 does what virtually every action film does, what’s Rosen’s point? Why pick Z D 30 to complain about? On top of which, no one I know who has seen the film recounts walking out feeling “good about the world and themselves.” And, as far as portraying Arabs and Muslims as bad guys, what films about Dessert Storm, Afghanistan, or Iraq hasn’t? From the moment cowboy pictures hit the screen, it’s been us against them. A huge aspect of our culture has been based upon that idea.

Truth is, I believe the firestorm about this movie is over the top. Over the top political correctness from progressives and over the top from those on the right who holler about Obama propaganda.

I left feeling I’d just watched one hell of a thriller. Two and a half hours flew by without one butt squirm. The story was well framed, the characters well drawn. Jessica Chastain was amazing and believable in her role as Maya the obsessive agent who is unable to let go of her hunt for Bin Laden. Indeed, the last scene shows Maya alone in an H-130 aircraft and, when asked where she wants to go, the tears begin to flow. Her twelve year obsession resolved, she doesn’t have anywhere to go. But I also left the theater grappling with the issues the rabbi raised regarding torture, our government policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sense—or lack thereof—about spending the time, money, and people power to track down and assassinate one individual. Issues raised, but not simply answered, by a film based upon a true story.

Zero Dark Thirty grabbed me, held me, and made me think. You really can’t ask much more from any movie.

“A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.” ~G.C. Lichtenberg


And I’m not even talking Romney.

The day after the first presidential debate, I wrote a rough draft for today’s post, trying to exorcise my fury about Romney’s neck breaking flip-flops and outright lies.  I also wrote about Obama’s incomprehensible somnolence and lackadaisical performance.

Problem was, so did the rest of the world.  Since there’s no reason to repeat much repeated news and opinion, I’m bringing the election closer to home: the Massachusetts Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown that has garnered national attention.

For weeks we have been pummeled upside the head with Brown ads that attack Warren’s assertion that she is part Native American because she has no papers to prove it.  Since her employers have publicly said that she had been hired on the basis of her skills rather than background, one might think Brown would stop the attacks.  Not Mr. Brown.

Then what’s good for the goose… I’d like Scott Brown to prove he’s a Caucasian male. Don’t talk to me about skin color, which is often misleading.  I want something more than what he was told by his family.  On top of that, I demand to see proof that if he actually is a Caucasian male, he was never given a leg up throughout his life because of it.  I want all his previous employers to publicly proclaim that Brown had never jumped past a person of color or a woman of any color because of the box he checked.  Your turn, Scott.

Then, just to be clear about his constant claims of “bipartisanship,” let’s peek at some of Mr. Brown’s Senate voting record:

A study of Republican Scott Brown’s voting record in the U.S. Senate by ProgressMass reveals that, when Brown had the opportunity to oppose Republican obstruction in the U.S. Senate and demonstrate bipartisan leadership, he voted overwhelmingly with his Republican colleagues.  This finding runs directly counter to Republican Scott Brown’s recent claims of bipartisanship.  Brown voted with his Republican colleagues at a rate of over 75% (over 93% prior to Elizabeth Warren’s entry into the Senate race) to block legislation that had the support of 50 or more Senators, measures that would have passed the U.S. Senate on a so-called “up-or-down vote,” according to the ProgressMass review of Brown’s Senate record.  In other words, during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, when Republican Scott Brown was faced with a choice between bipartisan leadership and partisan obstruction, Brown chose partisan obstruction over bipartisan leadership 3 to 1.

Among the 40 measures with majority support in the U.S. Senate that Republican Scott Brown voted with his Republican colleagues to obstruct were:

4/26/10: S. 3217, Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (Senate Vote 124)
The bill was the original financial regulatory reform bill, increasing accountability and transparency, and ending “too big to fail.”

7/27/10: S. 3628, Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act (Senate Vote 220)
This bill would have increased transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns, in response to the notorious Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, as well as prohibited foreign influence in federal elections.

9/28/10: S. 3816, Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act (Senate Vote 242)
This bill would have given companies a two-year payroll tax holiday on new employees who replace workers doing similar jobs overseas, as well as revoked provisions of the tax code that encourage companies to outsource their workforce.

11/17/10: S. 3772, Paycheck Fairness Act (Senate Vote 249)
This bill would have provided more effective remedies to victims of gender-based discrimination in the payment of wages.

12/8/10: S. 3985, Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act of 2010 (Senate Vote 267)
This bill would have provided a one-time payment of $250 to all Social Security recipients to help compensate for the lack of a cost-of-living adjustment.

12/9/10: H.R. 847, James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Senate Vote 269)
This was the original version of the 9/11 first responders bill to improve health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 first responders who were exposed to dangerous toxins and were now sick as a result.  The bill would establish a federal program to provide medical monitoring and treatment for first responders, provide initial health screenings for people who were in the area at the time of the attack and may be at risk, and reopen the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation for losses and harm as an alternative to the current litigation system.

5/4/11: S. 493, Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Reauthorization Act of 2011 (Senate Vote 64)
This bill would reauthorize the “Small Business Innovation Research” (SBIR) and “Small Business Technology Transfer” (STTR) programs, which Scott Brown earlier said provided “vital resources to small businesses nationwide, and this reauthorization is incredibly important for Massachusetts and our country,” and signed on as a co-sponsor of the measure before Republicans lined up behind a competing measure.

5/17/11: S. 940, Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act (Senate Vote 72)
This bill would have eliminated five tax subsidies for U.S. oil companies and closed a loophole that oil companies exploit to disguise foreign royalty payments as taxes and reduce their domestic tax bill.  Resulting savings would have been applied to reducing federal budget deficits.

10/11/11: S. 1660, American Jobs Act of 2011 (Senate Vote 160)
The bill would have created an estimated 1.9 million jobs nationwide, including 16,000 in Massachusetts.  It would have extended several stimulus measures scheduled to expire at the end of 2011, including the employee payroll tax holiday, and extended unemployment insurance, helping over 170,000 Massachusetts residents.  It also included several measures designed to prevent layoffs and encourage businesses to hire new workers, including: $35 billion in aid to local governments to help slow job losses in the public sector, about $100 billion in various infrastructure improvement programs, tax credits for businesses that hire long-term unemployed workers, and reductions in the level of payroll taxes that businesses have to pay.

10/20/11: S. 1723, Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011 (Senate Vote 177)
This bill would have invested $35 billion in state and local governments, including $591 million in Massachusetts, to prevent layoffs of public workers and first responders, including an estimated 6,300 education jobs in Massachusetts.  The spending would have been offset by a 0.5% surtax on all income earned above $1 million.

11/3/11: S. 1769, Rebuild America Jobs Act (Senate Vote 195)
This bill would have invested $50 billion in infrastructure repair, plus another $10 billion in an infrastructure bank, which would provide loans for private, revenue-generating infrastructure projects.  The spending would have been offset with a 0.5% surtax on all income earned above $1 million.  The measure would have created an estimated 11,000 jobs in Massachusetts and invested $850 million in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure.

12/1/11: S. 1917, Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011 (Senate Vote 219)
This bill would have reduced employment tax rates in calendar year 2012 (payroll tax holiday period) for both employers and employees to 3.1%.

12/8/11: S. 1944, Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011 (Senate Vote 224)
This bill would have extended through 2012 the reduction in employment taxes for employees and the self-employed.

3/29/12: S. 2204, Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act (Senate Vote 63)
This bill would have limited or repealed certain tax benefits for major oil companies while extending a number of energy efficiency and renewable energy tax credits.

4/16/12: S. 2230, Paying a Fair Share Act of 2012 (Senate Vote 65)
Known as the Buffett Rule, this bill would have enhanced tax fairness by ensuring a 30% effective tax rate on income exceeding $1 million.

And while this is not Brown’s entire voting record, it sure doesn’t reflect anything close to bipartisanship.  (Which side are you on, Brown, which side are you on?)  It’s Romneyesque.  Two-faced lies and bullshit.  Is it any wonder this so-called Caucasian male is reduced to ugly personal attacks?

“The most violent element in society is ignorance. “
Emma Goldman


Throughout the past few years many aspects of Boston have been depicted in books (George V. Higgins, Dennis Lehane, Robert Parker novels and more) as well as in the cinema.  Most recently, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, The Departed to name only a few.  Not surprisingly the reader or viewer is mostly treated to the underbelly of the underworld–though there have been some exceptions—Good Will Hunting, for example.

As a detective fiction writer, I too use Boston as a background for my mysteries.  But the alpha and omega of my town is neither the crime world or its historical significance and the preservation of that history.

Boston’s real backbone is its neighborhoods—each with their own name and often cultural differences.  The North End, seat of our Italian population, South Boston (about which much has been written and filmed), and many others like the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester.

I live in Jamaica Plain (JP), one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhood with a mix of Irish, Hispanic, gentrified Whites, African Americans, gay men and lesbians, and Asians.  During my thirty years of living here, I’ve watched the housing market undercut a swatch of that diversification with house and rental prices.  Still, there’s a reasonably decent mix of community people, which, in a provincial city, is pretty difficult to find.

Over the course of a year there are Dominican and, Puerto Rican festivals, Little League, Wake Up The Earth parades and celebrations.  There are farmer’s markets, night time lantern walks around Jamaica Pond (about a mile and a half in circumference), and in the deep of winter, public Caribbean parties.

But my favorite community weekend is Jamaica Plain Open Studios (JPOS) when local artists and crafts people line the streets, open their houses and apartments, use public spaces and local businesses to exhibit their work.  Begun around 1993 after the JP Multicultural Arts Center was forced to close for economic reasons, the yearly September event draws people from the entire city.  In fact, other Boston neighborhoods (Roslindale, South Boston, etc) have followed suit with their own Open Studio days.

I’m sure Boston isn’t the only city that showcases its local artists, nor the only one with open studio weekends–whatever they’re called.  But JPOS is mine and I want to present some sights from this past weekend.

This watercolor above by Peter Bass is of JP Center, the heart of the neighborhood and one of the major locations of JPOS.  Churches, theaters and  public buildings present groups of artists’ work; individual artists open their homes.


Here are some examples of what we saw in the Center.  The first artist below turned out to be an old book rep friend of mine who has become a landscape designer and jewelry maker, Barbara Trainer and second two below are the work of Anna Koon.








The other end of JP was home to factories and their workers’ housing.  Another center for artists is a restored brewery, now home to an annex of Sam Adams, and other factories that have been converted to artist spaces.

More jewelry, more crafts, more art.  We spent an extra long time in the studio of Maggie Carberry, whose work hangs in our kitchen and in the dining room of my in-laws.

Lest you think this show is just for adults, let me add one last picture:

I would love people to put their own community pictures on my author page on Facebook.  And if you feel like it, it would be great if you “liked” the page.



Last week I wrote about a few emotional issues that reared their ugly head as I grew closer to opening the new website and putting up my Matt Jacob Mystery Novels for sale.

This week I’m taking on some practical concerns I have yet to answer.  That is, how to cut through the overwhelming content and indescribable noise that lives and breathes on the web.  I don’t expect to make a fortune with my books, but I do want to be read.  (DO YOU HEAR ME, MR. GOLDBERG?!?!?)  I believe my novels have something real to say about people, relationships, and life.  And while writing a novel is an amazing experience of discovering one’s self, I have no taste for shouting into an abyss.  There’s also a driving desire to be heard.

I had someone helping me with this area, but no longer.  Probably why my concerns have jacked.  So I do have some publicity plans, press releases, and will hope for an “author’s blog tour.”  In my heart of hearts, though, I believe in word of mouth.  People read because friends and relatives tell them about books they like.

An interesting example of this was a book called Women Running With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.  First published in 1992, at the time I wrote for legacy houses, the book went nowhere for years.  But then something happened.  Book reps from publishing houses (these were the days when a lot of reps visited bookstores unlike today) began to pass the book around among each other, house notwithstanding.  (Another phenomena I discovered back then was that reps from different houses often partied together and hung out with each other.  Since I was pretty tight with my own rep, Barb, Sue and I were often invited to these parties.)

They threw me a curve.

These were the most literate people I met in the traditional publishing world and used to give each other books and discuss them all the time. Well, WRWW caught fire with the publishing reps who talked it up to their bookstores, who eventually began talking about it to their customers, who began talking about it to their friends.  After years of languishing, the book became a bestseller and is still selling.

As the moment of this writing, a decade later, it is #2,503 on Amazon with 191 reviews, 8,013 ratings and 676 reviews on Goodreads.  This word-of-mouth wave was begun by house reps.  Today there are just skeletons of local reps and few independent bookstores.  But these waves still happen in stores and online, whether they are tsunamis (A Million Shades of Gray) or smaller swells.

Solving this publishing issue ain’t gonna happen by honing my craft.  Might not go away by using my imagination–but I gotta try.  The question is, uh, try what?  As a friend of mine Bruce Turkel,, once said about slicing through this noise (and I paraphrase) “Nobody knows nothing.”  And Bruce is a man who has spent his entire adult life in advertising and market branding.

Since I started this project and word got out, I’ve received dozens of emails from companies telling me they really know how to market on the Internet.  Frankly, I believe Bruce.  If Facebook’s stock gets smacked around because they have trouble attracting advertisers despite millions upon millions of users, then it seems absolutely true that “Nobody knows nothing.”  Or that successful paradigms for advertising and/or selling become outdated as fast as last year’s cell phones.  Maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe.

But if that’s going to happen, I’m gonna need your help.  There’s around a thousand of you who have been following my posts.  I don’t receive too many comments so I’m a bit hard-pressed to understand why you follow me, but perhaps that’s not important.  I only hope you’ve found many posts to be interesting.  And that those of you who will read my books and glom onto what I’m trying to do with detective fiction find the attempts successful and an enjoyable read.

In a week or two (boy, was I off with my timing) my new site will actually be up and running and will include all the links to buy my digital copies.  I’m asking you to not only buy a copy, but to tell as many people as possible–by talking it up, writing reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your own blogs if you have them.  And ask your folks to tell as many people as they feel comfortable with.  I always liked the old Almond Growers Association’s ad campaign: One can a week, that’s all we ask.

Word of mouth is like the Great March; it begins with a single step.  Which I no doubt will remind you again, and probably again (sorry) down the line.  But I’d like to thank in advance each of you who decide to take that step with me.

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” ~ Leo Tolstoy