Google Plus 1

Monday, November 26, 2007


Jack Calb had a reputation for being a hard-nosed TV interviewer. He liked to ask incisive questions. His broadcast from New York City was the most popular talk show format on the air. Johnny was getting a little too full of himself again. It was a recipe for disaster. Johnny wasn’t worried; he was carrying the ‘word’. He was the Messenger, and now forty million people were going to hear what he had to say. The television interview started off with simple introductions, but quickly shifted into fast forward. People would be talking about it for a long time. They had certainly gotten the ‘word’, and the ‘word’ was, “ The old Johnny is back.”

“So Johnny, you seem to have a checkered past: part charlatan, sometimes sex maniac, part time saint, would be Prophet, and reborn Messenger -- which is it,” Jack Calb asked?

“I’d guess I’d have to say all of the above Jack. I’m a sinner you know. Most of us are. Few of us are perfect. Can you say that you are?”

“Don’t worry about me Johnny. This interview is about you.”

“I worry about everyone Jack, I care. I care about everyone. We all have to if we want to find redemption.”

I’m glad you mentioned redemption Johnny. Can you promise it to our audience? Do you speak to God?”

“I speak to him all the time Mr. Calb. That doesn’t mean he speaks to me.”

“Well Johnny if he doesn’t speak to you, how can you claim to be the Messenger? How can you claim to have the ‘word’?”

“Because I believe I do. I feel it in my heart. My ‘words’ are what I believe the Almighty would want me to say. Who are you to question my motives or my ‘words’? Do you have a better message than one of kindness and caring? Are you the final authority on deciding what’s right and what’s wrong? Do you have the ‘word’?”

“I get to ask the questions on this show Johnny, you are supposed to supply the answers. Let’s stop being evasive shall we? Answer the questions.”

“If I have answers, I always give them. If I have questions I always ask them. That way people know what I know and what I don’t know. I don’t claim to have all the answers. That’s why I’m searching for redemption. I think that’s why we all are. We want to hear the answers to our questions. We want to feel secure. We want a better future and something to hope for. We want salvation.”

Jack Calb cut him off saying, “This is not the place to give a lecture or a sermon Johnny. This is my turf you’re on now.”

Johnny turned red in the face and said, “This is God’s turf Jack, and don’t you forget it. I’m here to spread the ‘word’. Can anybody hear me? I’m here to help all the people care. Can anyone hear me? I’m here to help you find redemption. Can anyone here me? It’s meant for me to be here and deliver the ‘word’. I’m the Messenger. Can anyone hear me? Listen people, I bring you the ‘word’.”

Johnny’s face was turning purple and his gestures became more flagrantly frantic. He looked like a man possessed.

Jack Calb realized he was losing control of the interview and possibly the audience. He started to lose it himself. “Don’t preach to me you quack,” he said. You’re just an over sexed maniac who plays with himself. You’re a phony with a bunch of cliché messages. You’re not worth listening to.

At this point someone in the audience shouted out, “Don’t listen to that bum Johnny. We hear you. We believe. With this the whole audience started chanting, “We hear you. We believe.” They repeated this over and over again, and they wouldn’t stop. Lights started flashing off and on in apartment buildings all over the City in agreement. Remember this was the same place that Johnny helped bring back to life. Here the people loved him. Cabs started honking their horns in the street; they had been listening to the interview on the radio. People rushed out of bars to shout in the street, “We hear you. We believe.” It sounded like the whole town was roaring their approval of Johnny the Messenger, and the ‘word’ he was here to deliver. Johnny was overwhelmed.

Jack Calb turned ghostly white and started to sputter and choke. He was finished. The studio tried to cut to a commercial, but members of the audience took over the control room and continued the live on air broadcast. Station security police were helpless in their attempts to quell the roaring, raging crowd.

Finally the President of the Network rushed on stage and on air told Jack Calb he was a disgrace and fired him on the spot on national TV. He turned to Johnny and begged him, “Please try and bring this crowd under control. We’re listening. We all hear you. We all believe in you.”

Johnny turned to the milling crowd of true believers and said, “ I hear you too. If more people were listening to what you had to say we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. It may be a cliché to say this, but so is life in many cases. What we have to do is to learn to be kind and caring. To offer our friendship even to the Jack Calbs of this world, even to the media moguls that try through propaganda to control our thinking. We must be kind, but no one says we have to be suicidal. We the people have to take control of our own destiny. We have to have a media and press that truly represents our interests. I never advocate violence, but I do suggest this: Until these media influence peddlers start listening to us, and start telling us what we need to hear, I suggest you stop reading their papers and magazines, stop listening to their TV talk shows, stop letting them think we are falling for their thinly disguised prejudiced points of view. If we stand together they can’t stop us. Now please go home quietly. A silent boycott will do more to change things than all the ranting and raving in the world. Thank you for listening. I love you. I need you. I need you to care. With this Johnny left the stage to a thunderous ovation, then the crowd quietly and silently went home to exercise their prerogative. They were boycotting to a man or woman, and so were the vast majority of the people of the City. The masses were speaking silently, and their voice was being heard. The same effect was felt throughout the Country.

All branches of the media were shortly in desperate straights. No one was watching, no one was listening, and no one was reading their garbage anymore. Their advertising revenues went down. They were in jeopardy of financial collapse. They appealed to Johnny for help. He said, “Don’t look to me for help, I’m just a Messenger. If I were you I would go to the people. They are the ones you need to please.”

Finally the media got the message. They elected representatives of the people to their boards and gave them the authority to supervise and question programming decisions. The public seemed satisfied, and went back to watching and listening and reading. But this time the subject matter was what they were interested in; what they wanted to hear.

When Johnny was confronted on the street with the dynamic effect he had on the people, the City, the Country, and it’s financial condition, he said, “The people have spoken, and they didn’t even have to say a word. I am the Messenger. I do the talking around here.”

He certainly does replied the crowd that had gathered to witness the impromptu interview.“ We are listening Johnny. We hear you. We believe.”

Johnny’s fame was restored. His faith was intact. His virtue now virtually unassailable and everything was almost perfect. Except it never really is. God always has the last ‘word’. It seems he had a lot more to say to Johnny, and it started with, Juniors coming home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey - Oops

Hi, this is your new best friend Johnny Oops. Since some people think I am not real, I decided not to eat turkey. In fact I decided not to eat anything so you can have my pecan pie, but that's not going to stop me from wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving.

Even though I don't do turkey, I do do applause, so let me applaud each of you for checking out this blog. Please keep coming back. You have no idea what crazy wild things I am going to write about for Christmas. Either do I. That's what makes this fun. None of us know what is going to happen before it does.

And they tell me I'm not real. It doesn't get any more spontaneous or real than this.

Happy Turkey, Happy Turkey, Happy Turkey.

Your Friend,

Johnny Oops/Arthur Levine

Thursday, November 15, 2007

CHAPTER 13 – STUD - Excerpt From Johnny Oops

I’m home now, two inches taller, well tanned, stomach ripped by swimming and fighting the ocean each day, and fifteen pounds of muscle heavier from Mama Gellet’s cooking. To tell the truth I’m a good-looking seventeen-year-old stud with a very positive attitude. My folks can’t believe it. They think I’m ready to go back to college. We put our heads together and came up with the University of California in San Diego and a major in Humanities. I’m still a philosopher in training and a humanist. The school finally accepted me after much pulling of strings by my Dad and a glowing progress report from Doctor O’Hara. He said my perspective on life and my emotional stability was now superior to that of most of the weirdo’s, which the school matriculated. I’m really proud, I think. Oops, here I go again.

I decided to approach UCSD as the domestic version of the French Riviera. After all, the climate is similar and they are both near the ocean. Granted it’s a different ocean and Danielle won’t be there, but I intend to have fun anyway. Oh yes I will take my studies seriously, but I don’t intend to let them occupy all of my time. The new Johnny Oops is going to be a social animal for a change.

Life seems a lot more relaxed than at Harvard. The kids are less intense. I guess I am less intense. No one seems to spend much time going to class. Surfing and boozing appears to be the order of the day. I had never been surfing before, but it came naturally to me. I guess all that swimming in the Mediterranean put me in shape. Learning how to drink turned out to be a totally different story. I come from a long line of Wilbert men who have proven time and again that they cannot hold their liqueur.

It all started innocently enough. I joined the Sigma Phu Fraternity in an attempt to fit in and make my parents proud of what a social animal I have become.

“Daddy your son is no longer a philosopher nerd, now I’m a social drunk.”

Anyway, I was dazing at a Saturday afternoon booze fest to celebrate the coming of the weekend when one of my fraternity brothers dared me to jump off the second floor porch of the Frat house. My inhibitions released by 3 whisky sours, I happily complied shouting, “This is the life.”

I ended up breaking my right leg. That was the end of my surfing career. I was driven to the University hospital by two of my fellow fraternity brothers who were so drunk that the emergency room attendants at first thought they were the patients. It’s a miracle we got there alive. The doctor in attendance put my two buddies in temporary detox and proceeded to x-ray my leg, which was broken in 2 places. He then set it in a cast, which ran all the way up to my hip saying, “The more immobilized you are, the safer I’ll feel.

A student nurse who helped him apply the plaster aided the good doctor in the procedure. That’s when I met Jennifer. She is a knockout with typical blonde California good looks, a body to die for, and a smile that goes from ear to ear.

While Jennifer and I were waiting for the plaster to dry, I invited her to the Saturday night party at the frat house.

She laughed and said, “I might as well. Someone has to drive you back and show you how to maneuver your wheelchair and your crutches.”

I guess I was a little zonked out from the pain killers by then because I remember mumbling something about, “why don’t we use a stretcher, that way you can have me flat on my back where you want me.” Anyway, I woke up in my room with a terrible headache and Jennifer still in her nurse’s uniform stroking my forehead with a damp washcloth. The guys in the house thought it was the coolest thing ever. Three of them volunteered to jump off the porch next Saturday.

Let me tell you about Jennifer, she is really amazing. Being a nurse and all she is very practical and scientific in her reasoning. After I had recovered a little she suggested that we spend the evening in my room talking as I really wasn’t in any shape to go downstairs and party. That made sense to me. We talked and talked, mostly about me, and my experiences as a philosopher genius. I told her about Dialectic Spiritualism. I told her about my summer in France and Danielle. I never mentioned Alice or Harvard. She told me about growing up in San Diego, about her parents and about her life and her friends. She told me she was a Buddhist. I must have dozed off for a while. When I woke up again, I had this gigantic erection that in true nurse fashion Jennifer ministered to with warmth and kindness. I never had to move a muscle, well only one muscle. It was great.

I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with me. I try to be a philosopher; I try and go to school and study. I try and be a good son to my parents, and all I do is end up having sex. There has got to be more to my life than this. Oh well, until I become mature I guess I will have to settle for what I have. It’s not so bad. I can handle it. I’m pretty tough you know. After all I am a philosopher genius and we are prone to leading really mixed up, sexed up lives. It’s not so bad.
Jennifer and I spend a lot of time together. She’s a lot of fun. Actually she is a Buddhist and has taught me a lot about it. That is a part of Humanities. I’m just pursuing my chosen course of study.

Speaking about studies. I signed up for a course called ‘Recognition’ during pre-pledge week. I must have had too many champagne Mimosas before registration at a rushing breakfast where they try and show you how great fraternity life is. I thought it was a course that showed you how to deal with the public once you become famous. I intent to be a famous philosopher, and a Guru of major importance and acclaim. It turns out this course shows you how to get in touch with your inner self: the real you, your authentic self. The course tries to show you why you act the way you do, and how you can change all that by gaining a better understanding of who you really are. It goes on and on like that until a minor hangover can turn into a major headache. I will never drink before I register for classes again.

The teacher running the class is a Professor Flex or Mr. Fixit, as his few graduating students like to call him. To show you how popular this course isn’t, I was one of only 4 students out of a student body numbering over 10,000 to take it. The good part is that the professor seeing the small size of the enrollment decided to hold classes at his house on Tuesdays and Thursdays at four o’clock in the afternoon, which was when I usually played Hearts at the frat house. He probably saved me a fortune. I gamble just about as well as I drink. In this case I’m not sure it’s genetic. Anyway his wife served tea and hard as a rock chocolate chip cookies, and a miserable time was had by all, but I learned a lot about myself. Much of what I learned I didn’t really want to know, but it is a beginning.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Global Warming – Will God Help Us Solve The Problem?

Orange Groves on the East coast, Palm trees in New Jersey, where is God’s hand in all of this? Are we going to end up like a bunch of fried Bananas?

According to the latest scientific evidence revealed by ABC News and featured in Time Magazine, the world we live in may be warming at a dangerously rapid rate due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide, and other man made pollutants. Glaciers are melting and our shorelines are in danger of being overrun by water. What else would they be overrun with? At the same time, the sun it is hypothesized, is dying. Well, which is it, are we going to burn up or freeze to death?

Climate change is out of the closet and no longer the stepchild of a minority of do-good environmentalists. Today almost everybody is worried about global warming. What is so bad about things heating up? Are people worried that we are creating an environment more friendly to the devil than to God? I for one am not worried about it. I have faith that God will come to our rescue and save us from ourselves. We may be the cause of carbon emissions, but God is the source of all carbon elements. Thank God for God. Where would we carbon-based elements be without God’s inspiration?

What would be so bad about having fresh orange groves or banana plants growing in New York? Perhaps they could supply the fresh juice some Eastern liberal establishments need to develop a more centered philosophy on the environment as it relates to the economics of an expanding gross national product due to the fruits of our labor.

Although over the last fifty years the East has been cooler and the West warmer. There is no evidence to suggest that this anomaly is part of an Eastern liberal conspiracy against the conservative leanings of our heartland or that the trend won’t reverse itself, but then there is no evidence to the contrary. On the other hand if we burn up or freeze to death what will it matter? Who is going to be around to enjoy a man made prosperity whatever the political origins of the underlying economic boom are?

I think it’s all a matter of allowing evolution to take place under God’s good grace. Let’s not underestimate God’s grand design or His capacity to reinvigorate and keep our environment safe for all of humanity. As even the most brilliant of scientists will admit, there are some things we just don’t understand. I believe that there are some things we just have to take on faith.

I was wondering the other day what would be so terrible if the average temperature in the world increased by fifteen degrees over a ten-year period of time. This would mean that in some places we could fry eggs on the sidewalk without the benefit of using cooking gas or electric ovens. Stop and think about how much fuel consumption this warming trend would save. How much could we then reduce heating fuel emissions into the atmosphere by burning less fossil fuel? Maybe global warming is a self-correcting problem. What would be so bad about having palm trees and coconuts grow in New Jersey. I love coconuts. And as far as our shore lines eroding, I thought we could all use more water to help make the planet flourish. Maybe this is God’s way of improving our natural habitat so that it will offer us a more human friendly environment to say nothing of the aquatic wonders it might do for the diminishing swarms of fish we use to feed ourselves with.

Now lets turn to this big deal people are making about a hole forming in the stratosphere or the ionosphere -- I always get my spheres of influence mixed up -- and the potential danger that ozone depletion in the atmosphere poses to human life due to ultra violet ray poisoning etcetera. Maybe it is time some of us grow a thicker skin and stop worrying about the effect of climate changes in the atmosphere that only God can control. Let’s not forget the potential of the Sun dying. Although none of us reading this article will be around to see it happen, I sure have a ray of hope and do believe that God has taken that possibility into account. Again I am not worried. I firmly believe that God has the capacity to effect change. I hope and pray that my great, great, great, great grandchildren are around to experience the kindness and mercy of His actions.

I think we would all be better served to worry about the catastrophic consequences that nuclear annihilation poses to our society. If we don’t stop nuclear proliferation we may all end up living on oranges, coconuts, and bananas again. That would surely eliminate the freezone emissions from refrigerators and automobile air conditioners, but would definitely put a crimp in any travel arrangements we had in mind in our gas guzzling SUVs as well as eliminate the need for food storage except possibly in caves. Is the return of the primitive within us just around the corner?

At the risk of sounding glib, what’s to worry? We are all in God’s hands. Whatever happens it is His will. I do think however, that there is a chance that God will give us the inspiration to see the error of our ways before it becomes necessary for Him to make all the adjustments necessary for our survival Himself. Have you thought about asking God how hot it is going to get around here before we come to our senses and start protecting our environment not only from global warming, but also from the threat of nuclear devastation?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Immigration -- Can We Use God’s Inspiration To Solve The Problem

Is our current policy providing a fertile hunting grounds for terrorists or is the spirit of “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” still alive and well in God’s country?

Talk about “huddled masses”, what do you call twelve million illegal immigrants? Is this what the poet Emma Lazarus had in mind when she used the term?

I have an idea, why don’t we just impose a huge illegal immigrant tax. We could probably eliminate our national debt in no time at all. The only problem with this self defeating strategy is that then no one would want to come to this country. Perhaps we should make it a both ways border tax. That way we could charge these illegal immigrants coming and going. There is nothing illegal about that is there?

We could also double the minimum wage, in which case the farmers might automate and eliminate the need for cheap labor. Our food prices would rise, inflation would set in, unemployment would grow, and our own citizens might become more willing to take low paying jobs again, thus eliminating the need for immigrants altogether except from a ‘do the right thing’ point of view. What about granting them all amnesty? Amnesty from what? I thought everyone has a right to pursue the American dream. So many choices, it is hard to know which to choose

Perhaps if we stopped offering illegal immigrants free health care and schooling for their children we could reduce the flow substantially, but I am afraid we might run the risk of growing our own illegal immigrant terrorists from this formerly hard working lot who would become upset at the lack of equal social services being supplied to them. Besides, we probably don’t have enough buses in this country to send twelve million people home and we surely can’t expect them to walk although that is how many of them got here. Do you think this whole problem is part of a French conspiracy? After all they sent us the Statue of Liberty on which Emma Lazarus’s poem is inscribed. I doubt it. It seems unlikely given that they have their own immigration problems.

What does the temporary or guest worker program proposed by the President and by some in congress really mean? Does it mean that illegal immigrants will have to work in this country until they are granted citizenship and then can stop working and go on welfare or refuse to take the low paying jobs that some corporations originally hired them for? What’s to stop these twelve million illegal immigrants from forming their own unified union and going on strike for higher wages and pension plans? Can illegal immigrants have 401K plans? Can they take tax deductions on their tax returns for foreign travel as a business expense? So many questions and no one seems to have all the answers. What would happen to our trade deficit if these people stopped buying American goods that are made in China? This thing has ramifications that none of us may have thought of. Is this what Emma Lazarus was alluding to when she said, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Are we the golden scapegoat for the world? Why not try to reverse the trend by helping Mexico employ their own citizens at a good living wage. We could even institute a buy Mexican policy. It might be cheaper than buying goods from China considering that we wouldn’t have to pay long distance freight charges.

What should we do to protect ourselves from foreign terrorists who might sneak across the border with all the peaceful and hard working immigrants? Perhaps we should install an honor system instead of a wall. We could ask all the illegal immigrants to report any terrorists crossing over with them – anonymously of course. Another approach that might work is to require all illegal immigrants to travel lightly. We should limit them to one small carry across the border type bag and allow nothing big enough to conceal a bomb. Probably something the size of a passport wallet would be safe.

Another approach would be to make Spanish our primary language instead of English. That way so many of us wouldn’t be able to understand our utility bills that we might have to migrate to England to find a commonly spoken language, then let’s see who revolts against whom. The only problem with this scenario is that the Muslim minority in England might object to being overpowered by a new bunch of migrating American Christians. I almost forgot to mention the negative affect this transmigration might have on our national sovereignty, but then we are not talking about a flock of birds, are we? We are talking about a mass of humanity. When Emma Lazarus spoke of “the wretched refuse of your teaming shore”, do you think she had us, or the illegal immigrants in mind?

You might well ask where God comes into this whole mess. I believe it goes back to my belief that this is God’s homeland every bit as much as it is ours. I can almost see Him using the poet Emma Lazarus’s famous words, “send these the homeless, tempest-tost to me” as His own. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if God put those words in Emma Lazarus’s mind. Maybe we should find a way to honor the words of the poet and the thoughts of God at the same time. How about making all these illegal immigrants legitimate citizens of God’s world. They are anyway, aren’t they? There has got to be a better way to protect the rights of American citizens and at the same time give comfort to these struggling masses of immigrants. Can we look to God for the inspiration to find the answers?

Friday, November 9, 2007

How does God rate in the polls verses the devil?

According to a Fox News poll, ninety-two percent of the U.S. population believes in God. This is interesting because the PEW Research Institute has statistics that show that roughly forty-nine percent of the population attends houses of worship on a regular basis and forty-nine percent attend rarely if at all. Evidently God is more popular than organized religion or going to Church. The Gallop Poll and the Harris Poll and an ABC News poll also confirm this, but God’s popularity percentage verses the popularity of going to church varies with each poll. Sometimes I suppose it depends on how the spirit moves you or what and who you think that God is. Unfortunately seventy-one percent of the population believes that the devil exists, but this doesn’t mean he is popular – thank God.

Of course you can skew the poll results in many different ways depending on how you ask a question and interpret the results. Perhaps this is why the same Fox News poll shows that eighty-five percent of the population believes in Heaven. It is hard to determine if this means that seven percent of those that believe in God don’t think they stand a chance of getting to Heaven (92%-85%=7%) or if they just don’t buy into the whole concept of there being a Heaven, but do believe in God just in case. This same poll shows that eighty-two percent of people believe in miracles. Does this mean that they are part of the vast majority of people who believe it will take a miracle for them to get into Heaven? To make matters worse, while the percentage of people believing in God has stayed relatively constant over the last few years, the percentage believing in the existence of the devil has increased from sixty-three percent to seventy-one percent over roughly the same period of time. I can’t figure out what the hell this part of the poll means. I suppose it is open to interpretation.

I don’t think it is necessary in discussing polls about the popularity of God to mention that these polls are probably correct plus or minus 3% because I doubt that God is running against anybody. Which makes me stop and wonder why if there is no chance of anyone else but God winning, why would anyone take a poll to begin with? Do you think that the devil has anything to do with this insane desire on the part of certain news organizations to take polls about who does and doesn’t believe in God? Why can’t we leave the poll taking to the atheists? They know who they are, and since they represent such a small and unconvinced percentage (8%) of the population, they should be responsible for paying for these polls in my opinion, or do they have the privilege of invoking minority rights. And whom would they invoke them to anyway? They certainly can’t turn to God, can they?

There is an obvious Gender Gap in relationship to these God like polls with women more likely than men to believe in most categories including Miracles by twelve percent and Heaven by eight percent. The one notable exception is that thirty-nine percent of men believe in UFOs verses thirty percent of women. I don’t know what UFOs have to do with God, but my wife tells me that if I don’t get off the subject she is going to send me into outer space. I wonder if she is mad or just wants to give me an opportunity to meet my maker? Please don’t rush me honey, I think I am on a fast track as it is.

Of perhaps more value to this discussion on polls about God is the fact that Fox News says republicans are more likely by eight percent to ‘say’ they believe in God and by fifteen percent in Heaven and by seventeen percent in the devil, while democrats believe in reincarnation by fourteen percent more than republicans. What do they mean when they use the term “say”? Does that mean the republicans don’t really mean it? Why the disparity when if comes to believing in the devil? Are the republicans out to get his vote too? How should we interpret the figures on reincarnation? Does this mean the democrats are hoping they can come back as republicans or just hoping for a comeback? This is all too confusing.

Before we leave the subject of polls about God to their eternal resting place, I think it worth noting that this same poll indicates that young people are much more likely to believe in hell by a ratio of eighty-six percent to sixty-eight percent for those over seventy years old. The same applies to the devil by a ratio of seventy-nine percent to sixty-nine percent. Does this mean that for older Americans their hell raising days are over, or does it mean that the younger generations are hell bent on raising the devil with our established religious traditions? I don’t know. I don’t even know if the younger or older Americans understand their respective positions on hell and the devil any better than those of us caught in the hellish position of being middle aged, which by the way the poll doesn’t cover as an individual age group at all. I leave these weighty interpretations in God’s hands, which, without the benefit of polling statistics, I am sure He will find the grace to interpolate and understand.

The one part of the poll I am really happy about I saved for last. It shows that fully sixty-nine percent of the population believe that religion plays too small a part in our lives. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. Fox News says that this poll was conducted over two days by telephone to over 900 people. What about the rest of the almost three hundred million people in the United States? Don’t we get a say? Has anyone tried polling God for his input lately? I wonder what He would have to say about His poll numbers? I bet He will have the final say.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Grandma Jenny slipped shoveling snow off the front steps of our home in the midst of a fearsome snow storm at the age of ninety-six and broke her hip. She was a feisty little woman who weighed only ninety-five pounds and stood four feet-nine inches tall. The shovel was bigger than Grandma. You might wonder why she was out shoveling snow early in the morning at her advanced age, but it was part of her stubborn and cantankerous nature. And it was a part of her tradition. She didn’t want my father going to work and getting his feet wet in the snow. It was a matter of respect for the man of the house. It was a matter of faith in her traditions. It was her way.

Grandma was from the old country – Russia to be specific. She came to the United States as a girl of fourteen traveling for fifteen days on a tramp steamer, and surviving on bread and water. She lost her provisions, her money, and her clothes on the trip over to thieves that hounded naïve, unsuspecting young girls such as her as a normal part of refugee voyages in those days. Most people though it was the work of greedy members of the crew. She arrived in this country penniless and literally with only the clothes on her back. But nothing could stop Grandma from making a new life in the land of her dreams, or bringing with her the rituals and traditions that were an innate part of her heritage, her faith, and of her very being.

Until she slipped and broke her hip, Grandma Jenny had always been healthy. None of us in the family could remember her having a cold. She attributed her good health to a secret potion of Elderberry Brandy that she distilled in the attic of our Georgian Colonial House. I have no idea where she got the Elderberries from or how she prepared the brew. We were never allowed up to her special place in the attic to see what she was doing. Everything that Grandma did was a secret.

Grandma had a shot of the special potion when she woke up in the morning and when she went to bed at night, that much she told us. To the best of my knowledge it was the only medicine she ever took. On rare occasions such as holidays and birthdays, we were all invited to join her for a sip of her Elderberry Brandy. I was allowed to participate from the time I was a teenager. Boy did that stuff pack a wallop. It is no wonder that Grandma was never sick. The brandy must have killed the germs. My dad didn’t really like it. He was a scotch man. My mother struggled to swallow it. She didn’t drink. We all participated in the ritual. No one in the family was about to insult Grandma Jenny. She was too tough a cookie to be trifled with.

On one of the rare occasions when Grandma Jenny bothered to talk to me, communication was a problem since she spoke only Russian; I asked her what was so special about the secret potion? She sort of half smiled at me indicating that when I was more mature I would understand, pointing at my head. Grandma was great at the universal language of hand signals. I do understand a little Russian, but I don’t speak the language. Fortunately for me Grandma did understand English except when she chose to pretend that she didn’t. Even the dog understood Russian because Grandma fed him and he didn’t speak at all. When she called him to come and get it in Russian, he came running. No one disobeyed Grandma. The dog was a huge Boxer named Slugger. It was amazing to see him cower in front of my Grandmother, and wait for her command allowing him to eat. He sure didn’t act like that with my father or me. He once jumped up on my Dad and pushed him so hard that he fell down and dislocated his shoulder. Slugger wouldn’t dare jump up on my Grandma. The dog knew better.

After Grandma passed away, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was so special about her secret potion and how to make it. Grandma wasn’t big on measurements or recipes. She insisted that you just add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. This was the way she talked when someone wanted to know how to make her yeast coffee cake or her saffron laced ginger-carrot candy. Unfortunately the secrets died with her.

I think I finally have the answer when it comes to her secret potion. It wasn’t the herbs that she added. It wasn’t how high the alcohol content was. It was the love with which she made it and dispensed it to the whole family. It represented to her a melding of old traditions and new rituals. It symbolized her faith in God, and the respect she had for our family and our Country. It was a way for her to celebrate her freedom. It was her way of communicating to us in a language of kindness and caring that we could all understand.

Sometimes when I sip a little brandy late at night to help calm me from the stress of the day and the threat of terrorism or natural disasters, I wonder, couldn’t we all use a little of Grandma’s secret potion to help us through these troubled times? The commercial stuff doesn’t seem to be doing the trick anymore. It lacks the tradition of caring, kindness, and love necessary to make it a special brew. It lacks that personal faith-filled touch of Grandma Jenny. It doesn’t have her tenacious character or her will to survive. It lacks respect.

There are some things that you can’t put in a bottle, smack a label on, and expect to work miracles. Sometimes you have to find the right ingredients in your own heart. Sometimes you have to distill them yourself. Sometimes the secret potion of faith is within you.

Hi, this is a tribute to my Grandmother at this holiday time of the year. Hope you enjoy it, Arthur Levine, the author of the novel Johnny Oops.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Johnny Oops The Virtual Adviser

Hi, I’m Johnny Oops and I’m a genius. What’s your story? Are you tired of not living up to your potential? Don’t worry; I’m here to be your virtual advisor. With me at your side you can realize all your goals and dreams. Isn’t it wonderful?

The first thing I want you to do is to make a short list of what is most important to you and then post these goals in the comment section of my blog. Don’t worry if you are shy about what you really want to do. I have heard it all before. After all I am a virtual spirit, I go on for eternity. You can’t imagine the kind of stuff people have revealed to me. That brings me to an important point. For this to work you are going to have to use your imagination. To start with you are going to have to imagine that I am real. You do have an imagination, don’t you?

Now to some general thesis that are inhibiting you from achieving your dreams and goals – around these parts we don’t have rules, we have thesis. Remember this is all being done on a virtual basis so I assume you are virtually always correct and don’t need to pay attention to rules. I know that I am a virtual genius and almost perfect. Stick with me and you may become almost perfect too. I really can’t help you become a genius. Either it is in the genes or it isn’t, but I can answer your questions, which for some of you is as close as you are going to get to being a virtual genius.

You may well ask how I arrived at this stage of enlightenment. I will tell you the truth. I have spent a near eternity listening to other people and the garbage they carry around in their heads. Sorry if I sound irritable. How would you like to listen to all this nonsense? Then on the basis of all I have heard, I have formed a point of view – a virtual opinion if you will. Let me tell you it isn’t easy living with all the crazy dreams and goals some of you people have.

No, I can’t conjure up a beautiful blue-eyed blond for you no matter what sex you are looking for. In my case I don’t do sex. I have been around to long to really care. If you want a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend you are on your own. What you do with them once you find them is none of my business. I don’t even remember how that works.
No, I can’t make you rich. I don’t do money. Maybe that’s why I’m poor. If you want to be poor; that I can show you how to do.

Yes, I can help you help yourself with your health problems, its called disease prevention. It’s a do it yourself fixer upper. We tell you where to go to get the information to help fix you up. If you are too far gone that’s too bad. You should have started worrying about your health earlier.

I can even show you how to stop drinking or smoking or eating too much. I have and the only thing left is breathing, but since I’m a virtual person I don’t have to worry about that.

Do you have anything to worry about? Tell me what the problem is. Maybe I can’t help. Even if I can’t, it will do you good to talk about it. Remember that I’m your virtual adviser so we don’t have to get too personal, just real friendly if you know what I mean.

So let’s get to work and see how well we can perfect you would be geniuses. What makes you happy, what makes you sad, what do you want to accomplish. The time is now. Seize the moment, get rid of your inhibitions, use your imagination, and post me a comment. You do want to become a virtual genius, don’t you? The world and I Johnny Oops are waiting to hear what you have to say.

To find out how to become a virtual genius and perfect yourself please visit

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can You Remember Your Promise?

Sometimes the daily trials of life makes remembering how talented and worthwhile we really are very difficult, but we have to try and remember our promise. We have to try and remember that which is wonderful and unique about each and every one of us. We have to try and remember the unique gifts God has given us that make us unique.

Do not concentrate on your failures or frailties. Concentrate on the miracle of life that God has blessed you with. Concentrate on the possible – your promise – that which makes you a unique and wonderful person with special talents and the ability to do good. You can make a contribution to society. You have the ability to do so. You have promise.

Your promise is a special gift from God. It is always with you. It may be hidden deep down within you as you struggle to deal with the trials and problems of daily life, but never doubt that you possess this special promise.

You may well ask what your special promise is, but the truth is that you know. You know you have the power to help other people, to protect your loved one, and to benefit society. Sometimes it is not so clear cut how you can achieve these things. That’s what you have to struggle to do. You have to work hard to understand yourself and the good that you are capable of doing. You have to try to fulfill your promise. You have to find your own way of helping to improve our society.

You have to try and understand that you are special, and do your best to fulfill your promise. You have to try and fulfill your destiny. You have to try and be all that you can be.

Don’t let past failures keep you from fulfilling your promise. Don’t let illness or weakness of spirit keep you from achieving your goals. Have faith that God has given you the ability to overcome the obstacles that keep us from fulfilling our promise. Don’t let greed, selfishness or fear get in your way.

It’s all right to be afraid some of the time. It’s all right to feel insecure or threatened by terrorism, but don’t let any of these feelings get in your way of fulfilling your promise. It’s all right to feel bad when your personal relationships aren’t going your way, but don’t let any of that emotional distress keep you from fulfilling your promise.

If you want to be a complete person, if you want to be all that God intended you to be, you can’t let anything stand in your way. You have to fulfill your promise.

To find out more about your promise and view other articles by Arthur Levine please access or

Sunday, November 4, 2007

CHAPTER 35 – COME AGAIN - Excerpt From Johnny Oops

Johnny lay in his hospital bed bemoaning his fate. He was weeping silently, but you could see the tears rolling down his cheeks. He was thinking, “Oh God, what have I done wrong? Why am I so cursed? I have always believed in you. I have always had faith. Why have you deserted me?” There was no answer. For once the Prophet did not have the ‘word’.

Jody sat quietly by his side holding his hand. They didn’t talk. There was nothing left to say. Johnny had ruined everything. He knew it. She knew it. Why berate him? He was a broken man.

Johnny Junior bounded happily into the hospital room. He had his latest bimbo on his arm. He said. “I just stopped in to say goodbye. I’m off to live in the Himalayas and study with the Buddhist Monks. The High Priest of Zen has personally invited me to be his guest. I intend to sit at his feet and learn the true faith -- no more of this Prophet bullshit for me. I’m off to find my soul. Have a nice life mis famila. Don’t miss me. I won’t miss you. Adios.” And with this he was gone. Johnny Junior now stood seven feet tall. He was a giant of a man who had no feelings for his parents, for his girl friend, or for his life. He was part of a new generation of meaningless miscreants who valued nothing, lest of all themselves. In search of his soul indeed, he was so shallow, there was no room for a soul. Buried deep down inside him was a whole lot of nothing. He was an empty, unfeeling, vacuous young giant who found no meaning in anything, and no reason to have the faith he was secretly desperately searching for. With Johnny Junior what you saw was all there was; a large attractive mass of absolutely nothing worthwhile at all.

After Junior left, Jody stared into space and started to weep silently for herself and her lost son and her spiritless, broken husband. Patting her other hand, Jason tried to console her. It was impossible. She was lost in an ocean of grief and self-pity. “What happened to the promise he had,” she moaned?

Suddenly with a start Johnny Senior, who had appeared so out of it that he hardly noticed his son’s leaving jumped up in bed. His eyes were clear and he had a serene smile on his face. “I have been reborn. I have received the ‘word’. It is my purpose in life to suffer these calamities so that I may understand why bad things happen to good people, how sinners find grace, and why good goes hand in hand with evil. That’s it, that’s the reasoned exercise of faith I have been searching for. Now there is new meaning and purpose to my life. May God give me the grace to deliver the ‘word’? Redemption is at hand for all that believe in it. Redemption is at hand for all that follow the path of righteous spiritualism. Redemption is at hand for all the poor souls that are insecure and terrorized by the calamities that befall us all. Thank you Lord. I am saved. I am reborn. I am rededicated to delivering the ‘word’.”

Johnny was truly inspired and truth be told he was inspiring. Nurses from all over the poverty ward where he was staying gathered to listen to his eloquent speech. Patients wheeled themselves over to his bed to listen to him. Those that weren’t mobile craned their necks and strained to here the ‘word’. As they listened a strange feeling of contentment overtook them. Suddenly the fear was gone from their eyes; many were smiling for the first time in weeks.

Jason and Jody couldn’t believe the miracle they were witnessing. The Messenger had returned, and he had the ‘word’. This time it consisted of message after message that was specific to the needs of the people: no more shallow soothe saying bullshit, just the plain simple ‘words’ of a man of true faith, who had been reborn and who had seen the light. He rose from his hospital bed, and dressed only in a skimpy hospital gown addressed the gathering crowd, which now included Doctors and clerical staff who had left their posts to listen to the message.
He bowed his head as if in prayer for a moment, and then raised his eyes to look directly at the beginnings of his newfound flock, and commenced his first sermon as the newly reborn Johnny.

“If we want to find true contentment we must learn to care about others. If we want to find redemption we must truly want to do good. If we want to find inner peace we must trust in the one God. He has reasons for everything he does. It is not up to us mere humans to question his wisdom. It is only incumbent upon us to follow in his path. Be kind to everyone. Be of good faith. You will find inner peace. When you discover the true beauty of your self you will fear no more. You will be insecure no longer. You will find grace in accepting the wisdom of the Almighty. Search for redemption and you will find it. Follow me and we will search for it together, for I am a sinner who has seen the light, who has heard the ‘word’, and who has come again to deliver the message. This time my friends in faith it is the message that is divine not the Messenger. Come join with me and we will receive the ‘word’ together.”
With that Johnny asked everyone to join hands in a spirit of caring and kindness. Slowly the crowd responded. They were mesmerized by Johnny’s ‘words’. There was no clapping or cheering. Only a holding of hands bore witness to the broad smiles of contentment that spread across the faces of the gathering as they clasped hands and became believers. Jody and Jason joined hands with Johnny and the others. A new movement called ‘The Order of Clasped Hands’ was born. A feeling of peace transcended all its followers.

Oops, Johnny had come again. Is this the second or the third rebirth? Things were moving so fast; it was hard to keep track. How many chances does a Prophet get? He better do the right thing this time. Even Prophets have their limits. No fear or doubt plagued Johnny or affected his determination to spread the new ‘word’. He was convinced that for all those that had faith and believed in redemption – salvation was at hand. Johnny was out to spread the ‘word’. And the ‘word’ was that a new and improved Johnny was back.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Thanksgiving, Christmas And New Years

I think I am getting a case of emotionally induced acne. Here it is barely the beginning of November and I am being bombarded with Holiday catalogues and offers of retail store discounts. I am so stressed out with the pressure to give everyone expensive gifts that I am actually in pain. I’m having a stress migraine.

Forget the fact that I haven’t made up my mind yet about what presents to get for who, and whom I plan to spend the holidays with, I am operating on a much more limited budget than usual this year.

I can’t count on a big bonus any more because of the economy. I can’t take out a bigger mortgage on my house to pay for things because of the sub prime mortgage crisis, my credit cards are near their limits, home heating oil is going to cost me a fortune this winter, and I am spending way over my budget on gas just to get to where I don’t really want to go to in the first place.

What’s an average working person to do, I am caught up in a country wide financial crisis that is only partially of my own making – what a pain. This is really beginning to hurt. Tight credit is becoming a nightmare and I have the feeling we are not being told how bad things really are. When will the financial geniuses stop playing musical chairs with our financial well being? When will the music stop? I am worried. I don’t think we are being told the truth.

I am sitting here at my desk trying to get into the spirit of the times, but it isn’t working. I keep thinking about all my problems. How am I going to go out and celebrate the New Year when I’m not really in the mood, and I don’t know how I am going to cope with another year of financial stress?

I am definitely not ready for Thanksgiving, and the endless questions from sometimes well meaning relatives as to how I am doing? The truth is I am not doing too hot. I’m not making enough money, and I am worried about losing my job. I am worried about being downsized or my job function being shipped out of the country.

I really don’t understand how people in other countries can do my job for less money when I am not making enough as it is to cover my expenses. I guess it has something to do with the exchange rate or the falling dollar or my flagging spirits or all of the above and much, much more like hidden inflation. It is depressing. I want to be happy and in the holiday spirit, what about you? I don’t want to be stressed out about financial problems or the threat of terrorism.

I hope you are faring better than me this holiday season. I hope you are looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukah or whatever holiday you celebrate with great anticipation. I hope you have figured out a way to beat this vicious economic circle of spend and borrow that many of us have gotten ourselves into and of borrowing just to make ends meet. I hope your credit card limits are not at their limits.

I look back on holidays past with envy and a certain sense of melancholy. Do you remember when the holidays truly were about family, friends and faith? Do you remember when the material aspects like big presents weren’t so important? Do you remember when our faith in God made up feel more secure, and spending the holidays with the family was a given? What happened to those days? What happened to us? Have we lost our way in this mad dash to accumulate more wealth? Is the pursuit of money all we have left of our character? What happened to the strength and faith of our forefathers? I have faith that long term we can overcome our weaknesses and greed to return to the reality, strength of character, and sweetness of times past so that we can once again feel more secure.

I truly hope you are looking forward to the holidays and the New Year, and I want to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you the best of times. Let’s not forget that we really do have something to celebrate. We are still here. That’s something to be thankful for. We still have people that care about us. And we all have the capacity to make things better. Isn’t this freedom to create a better world for ourselves and our loved ones worth a little financial stress? Let’s get happy and celebrate the spirit of the holidays. Let’s do something that will give us a better future. Let’s become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Let’s remind those we trust to govern our great nation that the people have the real power in this country and we are in pain and stressed out and are not willing to take it any more.

Isn’t it time we tell the politicians that we want to be happy too.

Isn’t it time that we reaffirm our faith in God by trying to be better, caring and loving human beings who have the capacity to believe in God and the future?

Isn’t it time that we understand that God is always with us and will protect us from the terrors and stresses of our time? Isn’t it time, at this holiday season, that we renewed our faith in God and stop relying on money to solve all our problems?

Have a very happy holiday.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Excerpt From The Novel Johnny Oops - Growing Up


Things appear to be returning to what passes for normal around these parts. Alice and I have been readmitted to school. I have learned to curb my appetite for delivering sermons. In fact I have learned many lessons over the past year. The school term is nearly over and I am about to be fifteen. In true anti-climatic fashion, nothing terrible has occurred since my touchy, feely white paper eruption. But surreptitiously a lot has changed. I am getting older and under Alice’s tutelage much more mature. There is practically nothing I don’t comprehend and very little that I cannot do. I don’t claim to be perfect yet, but I am a true genius. I feel that I am beginning to fulfill my promise. That fact is no longer in dispute.

I don’t spend all my time with Alice or in the bathroom anymore. Sometimes I get lost in introspection. I need my quiet time to develop some of the philosophies that come charging into and out of my head. That’s a developmental characteristic of many great thinkers. But no matter what I do, thoughts of my darling Alice keep creeping back into my mind: taking it over, absorbing my attention, making me ache with longing, and swelling me up with passion and love. I am about to burst.

It was shortly after my fifteenth birthday when it happened. Alice and I had gone about as far as you can go in exploring one another’s private parts and titillating each other without actually having sex. Her father had gone to a symposium on Theology in New York City for the weekend where he was to be a guest speaker. My folks had taken a weekend vacation to visit my Uncle Richard in Atlantic City who was ailing. I think his gambling losses had caught up with him. Alice and I had taken advantage of our freedom by making plans to spend the weekend together. Alice said it was time. Who am I to argue with my darling Alice? I was about to burst anyway. There is only so much satisfaction you can get in the bathroom when what you really want is more in the nature of an ultimate social interaction with the woman you love.

Anyway we did it. We joined together. We mixed our essential essences of life. Alice groaned and moaned. I didn’t realize that didn’t signify pain, but rather it meant pleasure. I grunted like a tennis ace serving at 129 miles an hour, and kept murmuring, “I love you, I love you,” as we exploded together into a new reality. It was the greatest thing that even happened to me in my life. Alice said it was great for her too.

We stayed together in my bed in my bedroom where I had been a child almost the whole of Saturday. We caressed each other, marveled at the prefecture of our love, and did it again and again. Each time it was better. Each time we knew more about each other. Each time we felt more fulfilled. It was truly wonderful. Alice said she would cherish this day forever, and that I was the greatest. I always knew I was going to be good. I said I would love her forever. We were very happy.