WANTED: Poster

March 11, 2018

Sooner or later you will be asked to do a presentation, one requiring a full display of your creative and oratorical skills. So how do you overwhelm your audience if your greatest skill heretofore has been talking behind the backs of your coworkers?

The answer is the poster. Yes, that stalwart of boardrooms and bedrooms, the poster offers style, format, color, readability, attractiveness and showmanship—traits that, when properly applied, can easily camouflage your lack of knowledge.

Here, then, is my brief guide through the do’s and don’ts of creating an effective poster, one that, if followed to the letter, will spellbind your audiences and confound your critics. So let’s get started!


DON’T create your poster on just one or two large boards, especially billboards; they’re clumsy and a real nuisance to lug around. Billboards frequently don’t fit well into a glove box. They strain your muscles and your patience, and when they fall down, they generally tend to crush anyone standing beneath them.

DO make up your poster in a large number of separate sections of roughly comparable size. However, resist the temptation to shape each section irregularly so as to resemble a jigsaw puzzle. Mount each section individually on a colored board of its own of slightly larger dimensions; this frames each poster segment with a nice border. Where the borders are restricted, enhance them with barbed wire.

DON’T vary type sizes and typefaces, especially in the same sentence.

DO design your poster as though it were the layout for a magazine. Select fonts and sizes that work well together and dismiss the ones that don’t with only a week’s severance.

DON’T use too small a type size for your poster. This is the single most common error, aside from writing in crayon. Using 8- or 10-point type will only please your optometrist. And never, ever, use 2-point type except under a court order.

DO use a type size that draws a crowd around your poster. Failing that, offer free beer.

DON’T pick a font simply because it was the only one left after all the others had paired off. More importantly, avoid the urge to choose a font where the lower-case ‘m’ resembles a rear view of someone bending over at the waist.

DO, by all means, use colors in your poster. But always try to use them without letting them know they’re being used.

DON’T leave people wondering who did the work. Put the names of all authors and their institutional affiliations just below the title. It’s also a nice touch to include the full names of any correctional institutions they may have attended.

DO use a high-quality laser printer to print your poster. Where funding is an issue, select someone with good penmanship. Also, consider adjusting the kerningthe space between each letter—to reduce the risk from pickpockets.


DON’T use sexist language. Avoid gender-specific words, as in this example: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 will have his car removed.” Instead, make this gender-neutral with: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 is fired.”

DO consider adding a helpful tutorial section to your poster, complete with photos taken with a hidden camera and instructions on where to leave the cash.

DON’T use chalk outlines to represent the competition.

DO give credit where it is due; just do so in a low voice.

DON’T expect anyone to spend more than three minutes looking at your poster. If they do, check to see if you still have your wallet.

DO be descriptive. Remember, you are not limited to 50 words—unless it exceeds your vocabulary.

DON’T forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered.


DO treat people you encounter with courtesy and respect; however, do not follow them home.

DON’T stand too close to the audience; it’s much easier to deflect objects when they are hurled at you from a distance.

DO realize that a poster should be accessible. A little informality can be helpful, but stop short of calling everyone “baby.”

DON’T put your hands in the pockets of your sport coat if you’re not actually wearing your sport coat.

DO offer a firm handshake to everyone in the audience; this should leave little time for your presentation and get you off the hook.

DON’T fidget or slouch, especially if you are lying on the floor.

DO ask for clarification if you do not understand someone’s question. Then ask again and again and again until they tire of speaking to you.

DON’T use correction fluid to hide a pimple.

DO offer to explain complex formulae as soon as you get back from break. Then take off.

DON’T tease the audience; it can only come back to haunt you later on when, after the presentation, they are outside waiting for you with baseball bats.


When House Arrest Really Is House Arrest

August 28, 2017

A Right Turn Into The 4th Dimension

Not too long ago, if you ran afoul of the law, were arrested and deemed a flight risk, you were locked up in the pokey until your trial. Granted, even in the good ol’ days money talked, and your lawyer could probably persuade a judge lenient or dimwitted enough to place you under house arrest. Today, though, when the courts let freedom ring, house arrest means wearing judicial bling – an ankle bracelet – to keep you within police radar range while you hobnob around the neighborhood, visit old haunts and even older friends, and continue to engage in the same illicit behavior that got you arrested in the first place.

But what if house arrest meant you were truly unable to leave the friendly confines of your quaint little crib? Imagine every front, side and back door that once opened to the outside world now only leads you to some other room within your own home. And every window that once held vistas of the Manhattan skyline or the Bronx County courthouse now only lets you peek into some other room of your own home.

Well, all this and more could be yours, penal contestants, if your dream house were suddenly transported from the 3rd dimension into the 4th dimension.

Turn Right

Now, those of you who finished the third grade and are conversant in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity are no doubt saying, “What the hell are you talking about, you idiot? Time is the 4th dimension! How do you move a house into time?” To which I say, Hold on there, Baba Looie. Let’s think of the 4th dimension as the next logical, geometric construct from the 3rd dimension.

For argument’s sake – and I’m writing this, so it’s my argument – let’s define the first three dimensions geometrically by saying that each dimension exists at a 90˚or right angle to the other. Length is the 1st dimension and width is the 2nd dimension. Width exists at a 90˚ or right angle to length; in other words, if length runs east to west (or west to east for those of you in Los Angeles), then width runs north to south. The 3rd dimension is set at a 90˚ or right angle to both length and width – this is height. As an example, consider a flagpole standing at the corner where Broadway and 96th Street intersect; the neon lights are not as bright at this end of Broadway, so the flagpole should stand out. Broadway represents length, 96th Street represents width, and the flagpole represents height, as well as one more thing to walk into if you’re not paying attention. Where length, width and height all intersect at the same point, we have the three distinct dimensions that define our physical world.

Following this logic, then, the 4th dimension would have to be set at a 90˚ or right angle to all of these three dimensions – length, width and height – simultaneously. Huh?

Let’s go back to the first two dimensions for a moment, shall we? Length and width define a plane, which is a flat surface like, say, a sheet of paper (or, perhaps, the top of one’s head). On this sheet of paper we shall draw a three-dimensional object, such as this cube.


Now, a cube is made up of six faces or squares, and a square, of course, has four equal sides. In this two-dimensional representation, however, we actually only see three sides – the front, the top and the right; we cannot see the side on which the cube sits, nor do we see its left side or its, ahem, back side.

In order to give the above cube the illusion of depth, three lines forming part of the top and right faces of the cube are shortened and set at acute angles to the front face of the cube. Thus, the top and right faces of the cube are not really squares (Got that, daddy-o?), they are trapezoids, i.e., only two of the four sides are parallel. What you are seeing is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional cube; your brain fleshes out the parts unseen. Thus, whenever you see this pancaked version of a cube, you are conditioned to accept it as a three-dimensional object. N’est-ce pas?

Your New Home, Minus The Ceiling

Let’s now imagine how a home would be constructed in the 4th dimension. For years builders have constructed typical (typical?) three-dimensional homes by referring to plans drawn on a two-dimensional plane: a blueprint. To imagine, then, how a fourth-dimensional house would be represented in the 3rd dimension, let’s look from our three-dimensional perspective at a house built in a two-dimensional world.

With grateful acknowledgment to Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926), let us take a look at a 6-room house in the town of Flatland somewhere in upstate New York, where everything, including the town’s residents, exists in only two dimensions. The house would look something like this:




Clearly, the owner is colorblind or the hardware store had a closeout on paint. In any event, the house is laid out like a ranch house with every room on one level. The rooms are numbered 1 – 6. Each room has four walls, and every wall has a huge sliding glass door (Hey, the owner can do whatever he wants!). Each shared wall leads into an adjacent room; walls that are not shared lead outside the house. Thus, room #1 shares one wall, its south wall, with room #2; the west, north and east walls all lead outside the house. Room #2 is an interior room, sharing all four of its walls with the four adjacent rooms – the north wall is shared with room #1, the south wall is shared with room #3, the west wall is shared with room #5, and the east wall is shared with room #6. Room #3 shares two walls, its north wall with room #2 and its south wall with room #4. Room #4 shares only one wall, its north wall, with room #3. Room #5 shares only its east wall with room #2, and room #6 shares only its west wall with room #2. Everybody got that?

You can enter this house through any room that has a wall facing the outside except room #2, which is in the interior of the house. Rooms 1, 4, 5 and 6 have three walls with access into the house; room #3 has two such walls, the west and east walls. Thank goodness the house comes standard with indoor/outdoor carpeting.

Once inside the house, access to each room is somewhat limited. If you are in room #1, for example, the only way to get to rooms 5 or 6 is to pass through room #2; the same is true if you want to get to room #3. To get to room #4, you have to walk through room #2 and room #3, which at 3:00 AM is not likely to win you any brownie points from anyone who might be asleep there.

Well, We’re Movin’ On Up…

Now let’s “fold” this house into three-dimensional space. We do this by folding along each shared wall, just as you would fold a flat piece of paper with six connected squares into a cube. For those whose opposable thumbs leave them all thumbs, this house is in the shape of a cross, which makes this task rather easy.

First, fold room #4 up – i.e., into three-dimensional space – along its shared wall with room #3. Then fold all four sides of room #2 – i.e., along the walls it shares with rooms 1, 5, 6 and 3 – up into three-dimensional space. Finally, connect the south wall of room #4 with the north wall of room #1 and, voila, we have a cube–er, three-dimensional house.

Now, one way to represent our now three-dimensional house in two-dimensional space is to draw it as a cube, as we did above. If we wish to see all the rooms, though, a combination of trapezoids and rectangles is needed to give the impression that we are looking into a three-dimensional cube.

house1 frontback1

The figure on the left is a view of our house looking through room #1 back to room #3, the smaller rectangle; room #2 is the base of the cube; rooms 5 and 6 are the sides; and room #4 is the top.

The figure on the right is the house with the sides stretched to make the relationship of each room clearer, as well as more bizarre. In this figure, rooms 1 and 3 are highlighted, with room #1 in the front and room #3 in the back. Since every side of every face of the cube is actually a wall, every wall then is connected to a wall of another room. What this means is that no wall now leads outside the house. No matter what room you are in, regardless of which wall you punch, walking through its sliding glass door will always lead you into another room.

Stairway To Heaven?

Now let’s put our original two-dimensional owner-occupant in room #1. If he (yes, only a man would let someone fold his two-dimensional house into three-dimensional space) walks through the sliding glass door on the north wall, he now enters room #4. When the house existed in its original two-dimensional state – and the owner was somewhat shy about waking his crazed, knife-wielding cousin snoring away in room #3 – he would have decided to exit the house through the sliding glass door on the north wall, and trudge through the mud all the way to the other end of the house until he finally reached room #4. This could be very disconcerting, especially after a late-night burrito and mocha latte snack, as room #4 had the only bathroom.

When our Flatlander looks through a sliding glass door now, regardless of which wall he chooses, he always sees into the room adjacent to that wall. Remember, in the 2nd dimension there is no concept of up or down because those directions only exist in the 3rd dimension. In the 2nd dimension he reached every room of his house by simply walking – or perhaps gliding – straight ahead, or turning left or right. Now in three-dimensional space, however, every wall is connected to another room, and that other room may well be on another level – the second floor or the basement. But as far as our owner-occupant knows, he is still walking on one level as he had always done, albeit now confused as hell.

With his once two-dimensional house now folded into three-dimensional space, our owner-occupant is unable leave the house, as each wall is now connected to another wall, and there is no wall anywhere leading outside the house. His only escape from his house would be to have it “unfolded” in a lower dimension – in this case, back into two-dimensional space.


Now imagine a three-dimensional house folded into fourth-dimensional space. We here in the 3rd dimension can no more point toward a direction that is at a right angle to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd dimensions than a two-dimensional Flatlander could point to the 3rd dimension, but in theory a dimension outside our world does exist. From our lofty three-dimensional perch we can look “down” and peer into the two-dimensional world of Flatland, just as someone – or some thing – from the 4th dimension can gaze down into our three-dimensional world.

If your gorgeous Park Avenue penthouse were suddenly folded into fourth dimensional space with you inside it, you would find yourself trapped forever within your apartment. Every wall, floor and ceiling would be connected to another wall or floor or ceiling. And if you think of each wall, floor and ceiling as simply another surface on a cube – i.e., the room in which you are sitting and sulking – then you may find that, unless your apartment was folded into the fourth dimension with care, you could exit the sliding glass door on the west wall of your bedroom and find yourself standing on the ceiling of your living room.

Needless to say, 24 hours in this funhouse might well punish you more cruelly and unusually than anything the Supreme Court could have imagined.

A Lesson From The Zen Master

February 17, 2017

A koan  (pronounced: /kuo-an/, Chinese; /mugwump/, French; /boring/, English) is a story, question, or statement etched in wet cement that is used in Zen-practice to test a student’s progress by provoking what Zen masters call the “great doubt” or “Big D.”

The word koan comes from the Japanese mispronounciation of an obscure Tibetan phrase, “Chap sang gawa yo rey?” – literally, “Where’s the bathroom?”

Koans and their study developed in China within the context of open questions posed by Emperor Yong-le (Ming Dynasty) to newly-weds who had forgotten to invite his majesty to the reception. In most instances, the emperor was appeased with a slice of wedding cake, his weight in silk pajamas, and a twirl around the rumpus room with the Missus.

Essence Of Enlightenment

The essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students, as opposed to an earlier practice, wherein a master spent hours yelling at his reflection in the mirror. Whatever insight this “Eureka!” moment might bring, its verification was always interpersonal – and very noisy. Thus, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting to get out of washing the dishes after dinner.

This mutual inquiry into the meaning of the encounters between masters and students gave rise to a paradigm: one now looked at the enlightened activities of one’s lineal forebears not only to understand one’s own spiritual identity, but to also understand why one looked so much like the milkman.

Literary Practice

Koan practice developed from crafting snippets of encounter-dialogue with the literati into well-edited stories. This interaction often resulted with the “educated class” being relieved of their wallets. Eventually though, the methodology was amended to affect a more literary approach: teachers whose vehicles were stolen found their books left behind on the curb.

There were other dangers posed by encounter-dialogue. An early poetry competition devolved into a free-for-all when a contestant was unable to rhyme “solipsism.”

The style of writing Zen texts has evolved over the years, from the use of exclamation points at the beginning of a sentence – indicating a master’s anger over a student’s temerity to even ask a question – to the excessive use of smiley faces and other emoticons.

Koan Practice, or What’s My Mantra?

A koan may serve as a point of concentration during meditation or other activities, such as pole dancing or dating a pigeon. During koan practice a teacher may probe a student’s ken using “checking” questions to validate an experience, or by surprising the student with an obscene phone call.

Koan practice is particularly important among the Rinzai sect. These practitioners concentrate on qi breathing and its effect on the body’s center of gravity – as opposed to, say, looking for oncoming traffic while crossing the street.

A qualified koan teacher provides instruction in koan practice in private, though some are known to allow viewing through peepholes. In one particular case involving a student named Hu, his teacher wrote:

“Concentrate yourself into this jar of pitted olives, Hu. Make your whole body one pickled inquiry. Day and night, work intently at it. Do not attempt nihilistic or dualistic interpretations.”

To which, it is recorded, Hu replied, “Are you nuts?!”

Historical Antecedents of Koan Practice

Before the tradition of meditating on koans, the renowned teacher Huangbo Xi (720–723 A.D.) was recorded to have said, “Yours is a clear-cut case, but I will spare you the thirty lashes.” This came as a relief to his students, who had no idea what their diapered master was talking about.

By the Sung Dynasty, the term koan had evolved to describe a teacher who, after advising a student over a cup of tea at a local restaurant, refused to pick up the check. The noted philosopher and teacher Wan-Yu is said to have instructed his students to contemplate the phrase, “Crime doesn’t pay, and neither do I,” while he slipped out the back door.

Modern Western Understanding

Today, English-speaking, non-Zen practitioners use koans to refer to universal truisms, such as, “A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the original word you thought of,” or ethereal, often unanswerable questions like, “Does being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, refer to Eastern or Pacific time?”

Although there may be traditional answers to many koans, these are only preserved as exemplary answers by masters who couldn’t come up with anything original themselves.

Appropriate answers to koans vary, since different teachers demand different answers. In most cases though, the master is not looking for a specific answer, but rather for evidence that the student can pay the tuition.

Chairman Mao — The Lost Interview

December 13, 2015

In late August of 1975, Mao Zedong, leader of China’s Cultural Revolution and fashion icon, sat down with this reporter at the Imperial Palace — one of his favorite restaurants — for an impromptu interview.

tony garcia:  I really appreciate this opportunity, sir.

Mao Zedong (through his interpreter): You should. So, what do you think of the suit?

tg:  Pardon me?

MZ: My suit. You like it? I designed it myself.

tg:  Oh, it’s very original.

MZ: How about the collar? I call it the Mao Collar.

tg:  Reminds me of a jacket from the sixties called the Nehru Jacket.

MZ: Don’t mention that running dog Nehru! Guy calls me up and reverses the charges. Says he’s dying to play mah-jongg. So I invite him over and what does he do? Steals my design and eats me out of house and home! I should have invited Gandi over; he eats a little popcorn and he’s full.

tg:  Um, to get back to the jacket, I thought it was created in India in the 1940s.

MZ: Hey, it’s has a mandarin collar, doesn’t it?

tg:  Yes…

MZ: So there!

tg:  Right. So how does one address you? As Chairman Mao? Mr. Chairman?

MZ: Either one is fine. Just don’t call me Bunkie.

tg:  Bunkie?

MZ: I told you not to call me that, you sycophantic toady who suckles at the teats of the bourgeoisie! Zhou EnLai used to call me that back in school. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

tg:  I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to offend you.

MZ: Yeah, yeah. So tell me, when was the last time you were in Belgium?

tg:  Last year.

MZ: I understand that in some towns there the women can become pregnant by staring at their shadows.

tg: That’s news to me.

MZ: Never happened, huh?

tg:  I don’t think so.

MZ: I knew it. Damn People Magazine.

tg:  Can we talk about your formative years.

MZ: Which ones were those?

tg:  At Peking University.

MZ: Okay, if you say so. It’s all a blur to me.

tg:  I understand in 1917 you moved to Beijing where you worked at the university library. And it was there that you were first introduced to the sociopolitical theory of Marxism.

MZ: Huh? Sorry, my mind was on lunch. You see the waiter around here anywhere?

tg:  No, I haven’t. Getting back to your introduction to Marxism…

MZ: Oh, good grief, not that nonsense.

tg:  Excuse me?

MZ: Come on — a communist society, free from central government, and based on voluntary associations between the workers? Please…

tg:  I’m stunned; I really am. I mean, you’re the architect of the Great Leap Forward, land reform, the Campaign to Suppress Counter-revolutionaries, the Chinese diaspora–

MZ: What was that last one?

tg:   The Chinese diaspora?

MZ: You’ve got a way with words, you know that?

tg:  Mr. Chairman, I’m asounded that you’re calling Marxist-communist ideology nonsense.

MZ: Hey, I’m 82; I get confused. So sue me already.

tg:  Fine. So how were you able to implement such sweeping reform throughout China?

MZ: One night I had this dream: China as the cultural and financial mecca of the world, with the U.S. as a bedroom community. So I initiated a series of open-air forums, brought my vision directly to our Great Mass of People, and they bought into it.

tg:  That’s amazing — winning over their hearts and minds.

MZ: Well, it didn’t hurt that I also had more guns than our Great Mass of People.

tg:  I’m sure it didn’t.

MZ: So tell me, you purveyor of creeping capitalism, what do you think of Barbra Streisand?

tg:  What?

MZ: Barbra Streisand. You know, “People… People who need people… ARE THE LUCKIEST–”

tg:  I got it; I got it.

MZ: Well I don’t get it. How could she have married that putz Elliott Gould? As an actor, the guy stinks.

tg:  He starred in MASH.

MZ: Well, stop the presses! Elliott Gould was in MASH!

tg:  Not one of your favorite movies, I take it.

MZ: You watch that movie you think the Korean War was all about golf and football, big nose.

tg:  I think Robert Altman, the director, might have been trying to illustrate the absurdity of war.

MZ: Absurdity? You want absurdity? I’ll give you absurdity: Peter Gunn, a great TV show and they take it off the air after 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Mr. Ed, a show about a talking horse — a talking horse! — runs for 8 years.

tg:  It was the kind of escapist entertainment popular back in the 50’s and 60’s.

MZ: Ah, bullshit!

tg:  Okay, let’s move on.

MZ: Hey, before we do, I gotta ask you a question. Is it true some Caucasians still tie themselves together to keep from being snatched away by eagles?

tg:  Not where I live.

MZ: Live in a restricted neighborhood, do you?

tg:  Something like that. Now, during China’s civil war, your forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who then retreated to Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, you founded the People’s Republic of China.

MZ: What are you — writing your history term paper? Get to the present, for chrissake!

tg:  Okay then, let’s talk about President Richard Nixon.

MZ: That guy had the worst Chinese accent I’ve ever heard. Bar none.

tg:  I didn’t know that. It’s my understanding that when Nixon told his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that he wanted to open relations with China, Kissinger told the National Security Council that Nixon had lost his mind, primarily because you yourself had referred to Nixon as a gangster.

MZ: No! I never called him a gangster! I was very sympathetic to Mr. Nixon’s travails. I called him a psychopathic thug. But you know how these things get lost in translation.

tg:  Of course. But it must have come as a shock to you when Mr. Nixon, this staunch anticommunist, sought to normalize relations between the two countries.

MZ: I just thought he needed a fourth for bridge. I heard the guy loved to play cards.

tg:  I see. As I understand it, the subject of detente was first broached at a fashion show in Warsaw, Poland where delegations from the U.S. and China were in attendance.

MZ: Now, that’s true. After the show the American ambassador came running after us shouting in Polish: “I’m from the American Embassy! I saw President Nixon in Washington! He wants to establish relations with China!”

tg:  And how did your people respond?

MZ: They ran.

tg:  They ran?

MZ: Who knew what the hell the guy was saying? We don’t speak Polish.

tg:  Oh. So what did your people do?

MZ: They grabbed this guy who was urinating on a building and asked him to translate. Luckily for them he happened to be the Polish Ambassador to China.

tg:  Okay, okay… In 1969 you declared that the Cultural Revolution was over.

MZ: Yeah. With the Beatles breaking up, I figured it was time.

tg:  Wait — are you serious?

MZ: You trying to start a fight?

tg:   No, it’s just that… The breakup of the Beatles?

MZ: Come on, you couldn’t see that coming? Yoko hanging out at the studio all the time like some nitwit groupie. You hear that album she put out — what was it called, Fly? Sounded like someone strangling a chicken. Speaking of which, here comes lunch! You don’t mind Bird’s Nest Soup, do you?

tg: No, not at all.

MZ: Good. I hope you don’t slurp your soup. I hate that sound. Hate it. Zhou Enlai used to slurp his soup. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

Two Generations Later And Counting…

November 10, 2014

I can still remember where I was when I learned that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated. I was coming home from school that Friday and heard a man and a woman mention it as I waited at the corner for the traffic light to change. The woman had her hand over her mouth, the way women did in those days when they were about to laugh or cry. The man had his hands on her shoulders, not affectionately but the same way a police officer would hold my shoulders six years later when I learned that my stepparents had been killed by a drunk driver.

I spent the rest of that day and many days thereafter sitting in front of a portable television the size of a small freezer. I watched black and white images from a city I was told brimmed with hate; I glimpsed men in suits and narrow ties flit about; I listened to endless questions from reporters and measured responses from White House and Dallas authorities. Occasionally, there was a terse pronouncement from Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin.

— ABC News Bulletin: “We interrupt this program to bring you further details on the shooting of President Kennedy… A man and a woman were seen scrambling on the upper level of a walkway overlooking the underpass in which they believe the shots were fired… Police and Secret Service men quickly pulled their rifles, but it is not known if they returned any fire… President Kennedy, according to a member of his staff, is still alive… He was shot by unknown assailants. So far as we know at the present time, they have not been captured… We have some information regarding the persons who possibly might have fired the shots that struck the President and the Governor. It says, according to the United Press International service, at the top of a hill a man and a woman appeared huddled on the ground. In the turmoil, it was impossible to determine at once if the Secret Service and the Dallas police returned the gunfire.”

— Presidential Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff: “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1:00 Central Standard Time today, here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain… It’s a simple matter of a bullet right through the head (points to his right temple).”

— Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade: “No, he (Oswald) didn’t give any motive. In fact, he denies them both (the killing of President Kennedy and Police Officer J. D. Tippitt).

— Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry: “There’s others we want to talk to… He (Oswald) just denies everything… We have heard that he was picked up by a Negro, in a car… In all of the interrogations there have been an FBI Agent present and a Secret Service Agent present.”

—  Accused Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald: “I really don’t know what this situation is about; nobody has told me anything… I don’t know what dispatches you people have been given, but I emphatically deny these charges.”

— Dallas Detective James Leavelle: “I’ve known Jack Ruby (Oswald’s killer) for a number of years, and I recognized him just as soon as he emerged from the crowd.”

— CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite: “There was what appeared to be a bullet nick in the windshield of the limousine… Parkland Hospital doctors reported as saying they thought at least one bullet entered Mr. Kennedy’s neck from the front.”

In the summer of 1966 I spent two weeks at a friend’s home in Tampa, Florida. He had an uncle—whom I’ll call “Ray”—who I later learned was an officer in the CIA. I had gone off alone to go bowling and was on my way back. As I walked up to the front of the house I could hear music and splashing going on in the pool out back. I was thirsty and decided to enter the house through the front door and head to the kitchen for a glass of water.

Apparently, no one heard me enter—what with all the noise—as in the living room Ray and another man were deep in conversation. The man said to Ray, “There was no way we could live with that, not 24 years of Kennedys. Jack would have been re-elected; that’s 8 years of him. Then 8 years of Bobby and 8 more of Ted? No way.” He stopped when he saw me cross to the kitchen. I smiled at them, but they just stared at me.

Later, as I sat alone in the den listening to their shortwave radio, Ray came in and asked me how I was going back home. By bus, I told him. He then offered me a free trip back to New York City on American Airlines, plus a round trip to any city I wanted to visit, whenever I wanted. He said he worked for Continental Can Company and that they had several seats on American reserved for their executives so that they could fly at a moment’s notice. Being a good friend of the family, I was more than welcome to use one of those seats.

I was flush with excitement. But before I could speak, I had this sickening taste, like bile, on the back of my tongue. At the time I wasn’t quite sure why; I just had this feeling that I should decline his offer. I said that there was so much of the country I wanted to see, and I thought the best way to do that was by bus. Ray smiled, then gave me the sort of look exchanged between friends sharing a secret. He left, but not before saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if we met again.

In 1977, seven top FBI officials due to testify before the House Select Committee On Assassinations died during a 6-month period.

  • Louis Nicholls, former #3 man at the Bureau, J. Edgar Hoover’s liaison with the Warren Commission: heart attack.
  • Regis Kennedy, one of Oswald’s FBI handlers, confiscated home movies of the assassination: heart attack.
  • James Cadigan, document expert with access to classified documents related to the JFK assassination, testified before the Warren Commission: died from a fall in his home.
  • Alan Belmont, an Assistant Director under J. Edgar Hoover, in charge of all investigative work after the JFK assassination, testified before the Warren Commission: died after a long illness.
  • J.M. English, Head of FBI Forensic Sciences Laboratory, examined the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and the pistol Oswald owned: heart attack.
  • Donald Kaylor, fingerprint chemist, examined fingerprints found at the Texas School Book Depository, tied to the Oswald palm print later found on the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle: heart attack.
  • William Sullivan, head of Division 5 (Counterespionage and Domestic Intelligence), who claimed “there were huge gaps in the case; gaps we never did close”: died from a gunshot wound in a hunting accident.

A couple of weeks after I returned from Tampa I was back on my paper route, delivering the Christian Science Monitor. My final delivery stop was the Theological Seminary at Columbia University, where the bulk of my papers was delivered.

Unlike the rest of the campus, the Seminary was quiet. In the late afternoon when I delivered the paper, few people milled about; most were engaged in study or prayer. The halls and stairwells were virtually empty. In the Seminary’s administrative offices I saw the same faces, 6 days a week.

On this Saturday, as with most Saturdays, there were only a handful of my regulars around, and just a couple of office workers. As I approached the administrative building, a man standing in the doorway, whom I had never seen, nodded to me as I passed him. As I went up the stairs, I could see him in the reflection on the stairwell windows. He waved to someone to come toward him.

I dropped off the papers and headed to the top floor. There, a room had been reserved as a small gymnasium, complete with a judo mat, a few free weights, a rowing machine, and a resistance bicycle. I used to spend an hour there each Saturday practicing judo falls from a book I had bought. Once or twice a student would peek in, smile and say hello to me by name—I was, after all, their paperboy—but for the most part no one entered the room while I was there.

If there is one thing I can tell you about gothic architecture, it’s that it produces a resounding, distinctive echo. That afternoon while falling and rolling about the mat, I heard footsteps echoing louder and louder from the stairwell. To me, it was a reminder that my hour was probably up and it was time to leave. I walked down the corridor to the stairwell—no one was there. Perhaps it was the janitor and maybe a student. I had heard what sounded like two sets of footsteps because their echoes were irregular, not the constant, steady peal one hears from one person trudging up the stairs.

I reached the first floor and left the building. Within a few seconds the same man I had seen leaning in the doorway came up to me; with him was another man. Both were fairly tall, around six feet, with light brown or blond hair. It was late summer, but these two had an odd, pasty-white complexion. The doorway man told his friend that I was a good-looking kid. He then asked me if he could take my picture. Every pernicious tale of child predators I’d ever heard rushed to mind. I backed away. The man apologized to me and produced a camera, saying that he meant no harm and really wanted to take my picture to show to his friends. Yeah, right.

I stiffened, preparing myself for the first application of my book-learned judo. Instead, this fellow snapped my picture—twice, in fact. He thanked me and left with his friend.


Observation.  A security service uses surveillance to watch you. They find out what you’re doing, discover whom your contacts, associates and friends are. They learn your plans.


Detecting your adversary. Being able to detect surveillance gives you a margin of safety that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Thwarting your adversary. Knowing that you’re under surveillance means you can begin to thwart your adversary’s attempts to gather information about you. Being able to detect surveillance gives you the opportunity to confuse and confound the security service.


Following the JFK assassination, I heard and read various theories on what had happened that day in November. No one in my underprivileged community believed the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin. We all viewed Lyndon Baines Johnson as the totem of a cabal that had assassinated the 35th President of the United States.

It so happened there were others beyond my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood who doubted the official version of what happened that day:

  • Researcher Sylvia Meagher wrote the critique exemplar of the Warren Report, Accessories After The Fact.
  • State Department Intelligence Analyst Harold Weisberg became one of the nation’s leading authorities on the JFK assassination, collecting over a quarter of a million assassination-related documents as well as writing several books on the subject.
  • Attorney and author Mark Lane, one of the earliest Warren Commission critics, wrote Rush To Judgment, one of the seminal works on the JFK assassination.
  • Mary Ferrell, historian and researcher, devoted her life to collecting books, newspapers, magazines, reports, and declassified documents on the assassination, amassing an extensive database.

There are others, many others—some with various axes to grind, Warren Commission apologists, those fixated on identifying the shooters, and more. It has become difficult to distinguish the wheat from the chaff in this morass. I harken back to my childhood and wonder… If detectives like the men and women in the New York City Police Department had investigated the case, would there be as much disinformation as now abounds?

I wonder if incidents like that which occurred at the Winnipeg Airport would have gone under-reported. There, Richard Giesbrecht, a salesman, had an appointment to meet a client at the airport. While having a cocktail in the airport lounge, he overheard two men talking about Oswald, wondering how much he knew and how much does she (Marina, Oswald’s wife) know. A name was mentioned—sounding like “Isaacs”—who was apparently seen on news film after the landing of the President’s plane. (The FBI later identified this as “Love Field” in their six-page report.) Further conversation could be heard in bits and pieces, such as, “If Oswald is found guilty the Bureau will not stop their investigation.” They talked about “Merchandise coming from Nevada… Too risky in the past months. We’ll have to close up shop temporarily.” Giesbrecht recalled reference being made to the name of a person soundling like “Hoffman” or “Hauckman” (Troy Houghton of the right-wing group the Minutemen?) in conjunction again with Isaacs. One of the men said that Isaacs was to be relieved and the car destroyed (the FBI report identified it as a 1958 Dodge). The other man could clearly be overheard saying, “Isaacs, a man with such a good record would get involved with a psycho like Oswald.”

A declassified FBI document stated that a  .38 caliber revolver was discovered in the immediate vicinity of the assassination site. “For the information of the Boston office on the morning of November Twenty-three, last, a snub nose thirty-eight caliber Smith and Wesson, serial number eight nine three two six five, with the word quote England unquote on the cylinder was found at approximately seven thirty AM, in a brown paper sack in the general area of where the assassination of President Kennedy took place.”

Dallas Police Officers Roger Craig, Seymour Weitzman, Will Fritz, Eugene Boone and Luke Mooney were on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository where a rifle was found. Craig asked Weitzman to identify the weapon. Weitzman, who had owned a sporting goods store and was more of an authority on rifles, picked up the weapon and pointed to the name stamped on the gun barrel: 7.65 Mauser.

A crime was committed that day in November 1963; its result being a new paradigm for public governance. The architects of this model are long since dead. Proving that there was a conspiracy is only a small step toward recognizing that an oligarchic confluence of military, business and financial spheres has rendered democracy to a delusive promise, carted before the public once every four years like leap year where, as if by magic, an extra day is gained.

Love And Hate, Spelled X-K-8

June 3, 2014

A couple of months ago I bought a 2003 Jaguar XK8 coupe with a black metallic exterior (I had originally thought a dust storm had rolled through town until I realized that those flecks of gold were actually embedded in the paint). I had long wanted one of these beautiful cars, and so when I saw one for sale at a reasonable price, I made the leap.

The sleek, sloping lines of my XK8, harkening back to the E-types of yore, seemed to me to embody the human form at its best, providing the second best sensual experience I have ever had while alone. But my romance with my XK8 has not been as smooth as its ride.

1) The Codependent Relationship.  I could function without this car — take the subway, the bus — but leisurely rides on public transportation have gone the way of leather straps for standees. Besides, I need that 340-watt stereo system, leather seats, carpeting and — oh, my — the ogling from passers-by. And, as it turned out, the XK8 needed my bank account to remain mobile.

2) The Controlling Relationship. One partner makes the rules, the other partner follows them.

Rule #1: Any component relying upon electricity to perform its duties will suffer a falling-out with said partner, and the resulting divorce will have catastrophic effects on any component close enough to hear the owner cursing.

Rule #2: Any resemblance between the cost of Original Equipment manufactured specifically for the Jaguar XK8 and similar parts available at popular prices from a local auto parts store is strictly coincidental.

3) The Rebound Relationship. I suffered from a loss of enthusiasm for driving; my XK8 had suffered from a loss of power to the headlamps. We were both wandering around in the dark.

4) The Open Relationship. We are both committed to each other but, truth be told, we have both strayed. I did have a May-December dalliance with a Volvo V70 TC, a tour de force hidden fling with not one but two MG Midgets, and a Roman Holiday with an MGA during the gas shortage of 1973. My XK8 had a spate of adulterous affairs with various service departments of Chicago-area Jaguar dealers before settling down with me in Philadelphia.

5) The Asexual Relationship. Oh, come on, now! I’ve only recently come to grips with why I spend so much time polishing the little beauty.

6) The Trophy Relationship. Who wouldn’t look good in an XK8? Okay, maybe me. Let’s just say I don’t look as bad as someone driving a minivan whilst on a cross-country trip with a 10-year-old who just learned to whistle.

7) The Imperfect Relationship. I know that owning a Jaguar XK8 is like descending through Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell…

1. Limbo: To buy an XK8 or trudge through a slough of Nissan Versas?

2. Lust: Always a favorite. I mean, after all, it is a JAG.

3. Gluttony: You can never have too much leather.

4. Greed: Ah, those who hoard possessions and those who spend lavishly on them. Yep, that’s a Jaguar owner.

5. Anger: Occurs every time I hand over my credit card for yet another Original Equipment replacement part.

6. Heresy: How dare you say there are better made, more reliable alternatives to my Jaguar!

7. Violence: Often follows a stint in Circles 5 and 6.

8. Fraud: Translation: Used car dealers.

9. Treachery: According to Dante, all residents herein reside in a frozen lake. Hmm… must have had that marvelous XK8 air conditioner running full blast.


The Last Word

February 11, 2014

The Last Word…

in the Old Testament of the Bible it’s the word “CURSE”

in the New Testament of the Bible it’s “AMEN”

in Webster’s dictionary it’s “ZULU”

in the Oxford English Dictionary it’s “ZYXT”

in a prepositional phrase it is always a noun

in Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States it’s “VIOLENCE”

uttered by rock iconoclast and classical music composer Frank Zappa in his last interview was “WONDERFUL”

uttered by President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth was “USELESS”

in movie star Steve McQueen’s final interview – for The Federalist, a high school newspaper – was “STUDENTS”

of pioneering union activist Joe Hill, having been convicted on a trumped-up charge of murder and facing death by firing squad, was “FIRE”

uttered on her deathbed by famously tempestuous actress Joan Crawford was “ME”

in the English version of The Koran it’s “MANKIND”

uttered by immensely overweight actor Marlon Brando as Captain Walter E. Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now was “HORROR”

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