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Sheldon Teitelbaum Interview

I chat by phone with Sheldon Teitelbaum Monday, June 21, 2004.

Sheli: "I began to work (with Tom Waldman, Steve Weinstein) at the Jewish Journal [of Los Angeles] in late 1985, after returning from a decade in Israel. Gene Lichtenstein was the editor. Tom (his mother was not Jewish, I think, his father was) came out of the USC School of Journalism with an MA, not the general route into Jewish journalism. Steve was more of a short-story writer who came to the newspaper with interests in filmmaking, as I recall. Joe Domanick (Catholic) joined us soon after. He later became a well known police reporter and author of a respected book on the LAPD. Nobody came out of the Jewish journalism world. Certainly Gene didn't. He'd been an editor at Esquire. He was a New York Jewish intellectual. He'd never belong to a synagogue or have any pronounced interest in Israel, so far as I knew. He was of that generation that prized people like Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, and Mordecai Richler. [Gene knew all of those writers but Mailer.] He was new to town. He had no sense of the community, not that any of us did.

"I volunteered to make my niche covering anything that had to do with Israel. Within my first month, I wrote an article about Dennis Prager, who was the head of a major program at Brandeis Bardin. I remember Gene coming back to me that he had run into Barbie Weinberg (one of the machers at the Federation who helped, I think, start the paper). She'd read my piece and insisted that it was not possible that whoever made whatever quote was made. I explained to Gene that I had learned early in my career never to go anywhere without a tape recorder. I immediately come home after an interview and transcribe it. I never use a notepad. I find that it helps with accuracy. Also, when you interview someone, you're not always listening. Your mind is racing. You're dealing with noise. You're thinking of your next question. I found it is helpful to listen a second time.

"I told Gene that I had the tape. I have the transcript. As a journalist, I'd learned that was all you needed. His response was that it was not the truth or accuracy that he was interested in, it was the impression ostensibly made of somebody who is hostile. I said I was not hostile. You can hear it on the tape. I was just having a nice chat. He would not check it. His line from then on, 'I'm more interested in the impression you make in the community than in your craft and your veracity.'"

"He didn't want you to rock the boat."

"Depends who's boat. He wouldn't mind rocking boats he didn't have a foot in. With impunity, he could've run pieces against Marvin Hier and the Wiesenthal Center. He could've written critically of Chabad. Nobody [at the Federation] would've said a word. But there were things that were the bailiwicks of the machers. The paper's independence was nonsense. It was never independent. The Federation put up the money and agreed to buy a set number of issues.

"There was a time that I couldn't bear to read the paper because I thought it was a crock of s---. It's not the case under the stewardship of Rob Eshman [present editor].

"I had a visceral response to Gene's refusal to back us. I had just come out of the Israeli army, where your commander says follow me. He doesn't send you ahead of him. He sets the tone and pulls you forward. He's responsible for you if you cut your finger. And nobody's left behind. That was the credo I internalized during my five years in the army and afterwards in the reserves. It shocked me to see an editor, in the first month, not only fold in front of the community, but offer up his own people as sacrificial lambs. I was gone within eight months. I got an offer from USC that paid better.

"Tom and I did a piece in 1991 for the LA Times Sunday Magazine on Rabbi Marvin Hier. One of the people that Tom interviewed was Stanley Hirsh, who at the time was the president of the Federation. There was a story about Yitzhak Shamir coming to town. Stanley said, and I salute his political impulses, 'I don't want to meet that f---ing dwarf.' Tom quoted it in the piece.

"The LAT's fact checker called Hirsh and he denied it. Even though we had it on tape, The Times didn't want to hear the tape. They didn't want the aggravation.

"Stanley later boasted, 'Of course I said it. What do you think? I'm going to admit it to The Times?' This is the kind of thing that went on all the time and it drove me crazy.

"The second thing that drove me crazy about Gene was that he had no feeling for Israel. He admitted it. He even said to me, 'Our readers have little interest in reading about Israel.' He'd never even been to Israel before he took the job, as far as I recall. After a few freebie trips, he became the Sunday morning pundit. He didn't have a clue what he was talking about.

"I used to write for Present Tense magazine, which was funded by the American Jewish Committee. It made Moment look like the rag that it is.

"People were very closed-mouth in our sense of the Jewish community. Maybe because we showed up as outsiders. Today you just have to go to a Shabbat dinner and walk out with 15 different stories.

"Jewish journalists [for Jewish publications] have low status in the Jewish world. Much like Jewish teachers. They are not taken seriously, even when they sting. If you publish something in the Jewish Journal, no matter how odious, it is still considered washing your dirty linen in public and not going up to The New York Times, even though all the big papers read the Jewish papers for possible stories. The religious community hated it from day one because it wasn't religious. Gene didn't have any feeling for Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. The only one who used to write about it was Yehuda Lev who was to the left of Tommy Lapid [an opponent of Orthodox sway in politics].

"If you have enough confidence as an editor to hire people, you should back them. If you can't back them, you should fire them. Gene did neither, but he was livid when I ran screaming into the night. I left after he told me hwas promoting me.

"The Orthodox were never favorably disposed towards the Federation. So the thinking [at the Jewish Journal under Gene Lichtenstein] may have been, why cover them if their people do not donate on Super Sunday? The Federation's main interest in funding this paper and anything else it does was to get people to donate funds to cover its overhead, and to do good works. In which order of priority I can't say."

"Rob Eshman has bent over backwards to reach out to the Orthodox."

"Rob Eshman has bent over backwards in any way he could think of to reach out to people estranged from the paper. He turned an editor's paper into a writer's paper. He cares about the quality of the writing he runs. That's rare in the Jewish journalism world. I don't think he has any axes to grind. I don't think he has a mean-spirited bone in his body. I think he delights in the pluralism of this community. I don't think he's the least interested in shutting people out of the paper.

"I was asked to do a profile of Michael Lerner for Moment magazine. I talked to many people. I wrote a long piece balanced between his detractors, who were vituperative, and his defenders, who were passionate. I got a phone call from Hershel Shanks at Moment. He really liked the piece. Then I got a call a week later from Hershel. He didn't like the piece. He felt I had been too kind to Michael Lerner. He sent back a version of the piece in which every single statement that might have mitigated a negative profile had been removed. It was a hatchet job. I said to him, if you're going to do that, you're going to have to take my name off. He said fine. The next thing I knew, he sent a check. He put his name on the piece and ran a hatchet job. Michael Lerner was furious with me. He felt I should've know that was what was going to happen ultimately. It was my worst nightmare. I couldn't believe that anyone would do such a thing. On the other hand, I cashed the check. Shame on me!"

"Jewish journalism does not attract our best and brightest."

"Do you think there is a writer for any of these papers who wouldn't rather be writing for The LA Times or a major magazine? Present company included. The best and the brightest may use it as a stepping stone. For my purposes, it worked nicely. I wrote hundreds of articles for The LA Times, The NY Times, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, The Jerusalem Post, The Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Review of Books, The LA Reader, Hadassa, many of them about Jewish topics."

Sheldon Teitelbaum is a Los Angeles-based senior writer for the Jerusalem Report and was a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Wired, Time-Digital, the New York Times, the LA Daily News, the Jewish Journal and the Montreal Gazette winner of Canada’s First Northern Lights Award for Travel Writing, he is now on the market for an editorial position that provides a minimum of two week’s annual holiday, if only for the sake of continued “shalom bayit” (household harmony). 

The Mote In Ellison's Eye

Sheldon Teitelbaum responds to my inquiry on his relationship with Harlan Ellison, the science fiction writer:

Apropos Ellison, this letter to Aharon Hauptman, former editor of the Israeli SF magazine Fantazia 2000, now with Tel Aviv University, in response to Ellison's mention of me in his just published I Robot adaptation, and Aharon's query as to what was going on c/o the Israeli SF Association web site. If you run it, say it is reprinted from the Israeli site.

''Wryly, teeth grinding with the desire to insert a railroad spike at least an inch deep into the left eyeball of such critic-manqu'e as the woefully bitter, jealous and untalented Gregory Feeley or Sheldon Teitelbaum, who regularly kvetch that I am no-price because I don't write novels...''
Harlan Ellison Intro,
I Robot -- a Screenplay

Aharon,

I was not previously aware of the above, having determined never to line Harlan's pockets with my hard-earned shekels.

To the extent that Ellison can now engender any sentiment in me save pity, it saddens me that a so-called giant of Ellison's stature would sully his own book -- and Reb Yitzhak's memory, Z''L -- with such puerile invective. But that is Ellison for you -- as cowering, anal, mean-spirited, and otherwise contemptible a toadeater as has ever infested the stagnant pond he lords over. Apparently this ''shrying'' Svengali of Sherman Oaks continues to swing headless chickens about his pointed head while cursing my name in French fanzines and in prologues to failed screenplays.

''Nebach.''

Understand the pathology here. Ellison states that I ''regularly kvetch'' about his failure to write novels. In fact -- and this can be demonstrated by a LexisNexis search -- I mentioned this all of once in the two decades and some we have been at odds. I have just run a search, and turned up all of two mentions of Ellison in the hundreds of articles I have published since leaving Israel in 1985 in the Los Angeles and New York Times, Wired, Time-Digital, The Jerusalem Report and The Jerusalem Post, in the Los Angeles Reader and L.A. Daily News, in the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star, in Entertainment Weekly, Premiere and Cinefantastique, in Present Tense, Hadassah and Moment, in the L.A. Jewish Journal, in Foundation and Sci Fi Universe, in SF Eye and Midnight Graffiti, in Army Magazine, and more venues than I can list here.

Here are the references that have rendered Ellison helplessly (and wryly) gnashing his teeth for night after sleepless night, year after rage-filled year since 1993. (Not that I know precisely how one can “wryly” gnash one’s teeth, except to point out that Ellison misuses the adverb to protect him from potential charges of violent incitement. Conceivably, one of the thousands of lost souls who hang on to every trickle of blather that dribbles down his gibbering chin will not internalize that his dreams of torturing me are “wry,” and will dutifully show up on my doorstep with railroad spike in paw. Had the book been published in Israel, Ellison would be rotting in a cell in Abu Kabir now, literally gnashing his teeth.)

Meileh.

Copyright 1993 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times October 8, 1993, Friday, Home Edition SECTION: View; Part E; Page 10; Column 1; View Desk LENGTH: 789 words HEADLINE: CRAMMED WITH ENOUGH INFORMATION TO FILL THE UNIVERSE; LITERATURE: COMING IN AT 1.3 MILLION WORDS LONG, THE NEW EDITION OF ''ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION'' SEARCHES FOR ORDER IN AN UNWIELDY FIELD. BYLINE: By THE WOEFULLY JEALOUS, BITTER AND UNTALENTED SHELDON TEITELBAUM, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES “…Questions of editorial judgment remain. The entry on Harlan Ellison, for instance, is embarrassingly fawning, given his failure to contribute a single novel to a field largely shaped by novels. The entire continent of South America is reduced to a single entry…

AND...

Copyright 1990 The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times April 19, 1990, Thursday, Home Edition NAME: MORDECAI RICHLER SECTION: View; Part E; Page 1; Column 3; View Desk LENGTH: 2339 words HEADLINE: MORDECAI RICHLER WAS HERE; AUTHOR: THE CANADIAN'S NEW NOVEL, 'SOLOMON GURSKY,' HAS WON CRITICAL ACCLAIM AND RACKED UP IMPRESSIVE SALES AT HOME. BYLINE: By THE WOEFULLY JEALOUS, BITTER AND UNTALENTED SHELDON TEITELBAUM, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES “…On his permafrost-ridden home turf, the prickly Richler is a caustic social critic who makes Southern California's curmudgeon, Harlan Ellison, seem like Mr. Rogers. If Richler inspires equal degrees of loathing in some circles, suggests Canadian chronicler John Robert Colombo, perhaps the country's ranking anthologist, it may be because he is too worldly, too openly Jewish, too urban and too outspoken to suit some super-patriots in Canada…”

-------

This is it. This is what put this creature in a homicidal tizzy. This is what has generated 10 or 15 years of payback fantasies fueled by impotence, physical and psychological. In the above-mentioned French fanzine, for instance, Monsieur Le Gamad (Critic manqué” indeed – il parle Francais comme je parle Chinois, inal dinak!) attested that I envied him his career and talents. As if any of his readers on any continent have ever heard of me. I am hardly a household name, either in the SF world or in the world of letters. I have certainly -- and having known me for 25 years you can surely attest to this -- never aspired to write any kind of fiction. I have also never aspired to operate on a spleen, build a gazebo, or design radioactive waste canisters either. According to Mr. Ellison, though, I envy and begrudgethose who do these things as well as his own.

This is the response of a certified paranoid who cannot countenance any critique of his work or any accounting of his doings without succumbing to blood rage. What a maroon!

What this “gawad” does not and cannot fathom is that I do not object to his work so much as I do to his comportment as the Napoleonic scold of Coy Drive. He is a bully, he is a mountebank, he operates like a thief in the night, and he does so with impunity because his victims are either terrified of him or cannot be bothered to deal with him at all. If I begrudge him anything, it is his abysmal lack of ''menschlichtkeit,'' and his perennial posturing as a tough-guy (even as he hides behind a bad heart that, per his endless bleating, should have killed him years ago).

Most of all, I begrudge him his sanctimonious self-designation as a champion of First Amendment rights. Ellison will invariably fight for the right of authors, journalists and artists to express themselves as the please, unless, that is, they please to direct their pens in his direction. In which case, the call goes out from Ellison Wonderland to go to the mattresses. Errant editors are rousted from their sleep and threatened with unspeakable torments, writers pilloried, lawyers whipped into demented frenzies, and fanzines mustered in the cause. Almost inevitably (though not always, recalling musings on Ellison’s strong-arm tactics by Christopher Priest, John Shirley, Charles Platt and others), the offending reference disappears from the public domain.

Such is the abject terror of Harlan' s bilious existence that he feels compelled, periodically, to depict himself as the victim of a literary stalking, nay, a conspiracy, led if you will, by me, and undertaken by people I have never heard of (including this Feeley fellow).

Why? Maybe because he remains haunted by the possibility I may one day feel inclined to mention him yet again in passing in periodicals people actually read as a paranoid, puffed-up, mendacious, cowardly, mealy mouthed, needle-dicked poseur. Or maybe because having failed to take me to task in a publication read by as many people as the Times, he can only do so in a book whose sole purpose is not to showcase his failed screenplay so much as it is to use that screenplay as a prop in the latest episode of the endless serial looping in his loopy mind, the one you aptly dub ''Ellison Against the Known Universe.''

In retrospect, though, my comment about Ellison's failure to write novels was ill considered. Short-story-writing is an honorary and difficult craft, and I was remiss insulting those short storywriters whose elegant doorway Ellison has darkened. Had I composed the piece more recently, I might have opined, instead, that Ellison has consistently evinced an idiot savant’s ability to regurgitate Roget’s and use the resulting outpouring as a cudgel. That and a shameless genius for marketing such effluvia as wit to the ''terminal acne cases'' that comprise the mainstay of his readers.

But this wasn't the start of our contretemps by any means. Nor was the subsequent business of the so-called ''Enemies of Ellison.'' That lamentably christened organization was comprised of people who had in fact suffered attempts to shut them down in word, print or livelihood. Lamentably because these poor souls were not Enemies of Ellison in the sense they hoped, as Ellison's cronies insisted, to destroy him. Rather, they were victims of Ellison's endless and insatiable ire.

Am I or have I ever been a card-carrying member?

Be’chayeicha. Six or seven years ago, veteran SF critic Charles Platt created the group by publishing that deadliest of weapons in Harlan's sad, compacted little universe -- a fanzine. When I heard about this from a third party, I asked the L.A. Times Magazine if I might be permitted to cover this otherwise amusing ''affaire de lettre.'' The Times gave me a green light. However, I told my editor that Ellison and I had had a few minor run-ins over earlier articles. I explained that I was concerned that when I called upon him for an interview, he would become abusive, perhaps even violent. I certainly did not want to expose my children, who might answer the phone on my behalf if he called, to his tirades.

I did not recuse myself from the story, as ''Babylon 5'' creator Joe Straczynski later insisted I should (and who kept me off the set of his show when I didn't). Any animus between Ellison and me at that time was largely one-sided, flowing mostly from his direction. Indeed, I eventually concluded that if every individual Ellison purported to detest had to desist from writing about him, there'd be no one left to write about him or call him to account. Not that this would be a tragedy. But it is probably why Ellison invariably inflates his venom sacks in the presence of media. Not a bad scam if you can keep from poisoning yourself.

For my part, approving or disapproving of Ellison remained (and remains) immaterial. There is no such animal as journalistic objectivity. Never has been. Humans are incapable of objectivity, if by objectivity we mean complete neutrality. And no journalist is ever truly neutral. The craft does not require neutrality. It demands professionalism and fairness. The journalist is entirely free to despise the object of his attentions. He is also free to change his mind about his principals should the facts suggest they are more creditable or deserving than they had first thought. He is not, however, free to harass, to invent incident, to give vent to unsupported or insupportable malice, or to deny the person he is writing about a fair hearing and accurate representation. I very much wanted Ellison's response to this group and its contentions. And I wrote to him promising a fair and polite hearing if he wished to confer with me... and a thorough drubbing if he became abusive or violent.

Characteristically, Mr. Ellison concluded from my interview request that I had connived with Charles Platt to initiate the group and give it publicity. This was not true, although I like Platt and sympathized with those I learned Ellison had abused. I was particularly miffed when I learned that Ellison, the self-proclaimed street-fighting man, had punched Charles in the snoot at a convention for allegedly criticizing one of his cronies in a literary journal. Charles, you must understand, is a frail, wan British type, not a brawling Pars fan (except, maybe, in his columns). Ellison punched Platt because he knew Platt would not and could not ever punch back. And he punched him not because Platt had impugned a pal whose memory had been besmirched, but because Platt had once, Ellison reportedly suspected, put the moves on his wife while residing as a guest at his home.

Hell hath no fury like a cuckold, except, perhaps, one who is plainly cuckoo to begin with. Longtime Ellison confidante and horror editor Jesse Horsting suggested to me during an interview about witches that Harlan's blood rages derived from long-standing sexual impotence. But it wasn't enough to take a swing at Charles or, periodically, to defame him before standing-room audiences at science fiction conventions nationwide. Later, according to Platt, Ellison called him, attesting that some of his friends in the Mob had taken umbrage at Platt's writings, and that Ellison didn't think he could restrain them. In Ellison's fever dreams, revved up on mimeographed fanzines, the Bada Bing Gang would soon saddle up for a night ride intent on whacking Charles Platt. And so he gnashes his teeth while dreaming of penetrating his enemies with iron rods. Fortunately for Harlan, I am not a psychiatrist, another of my many failed professions.

But no, that wasn't the start of this danse macabre either. In 1990, I had been commissioned by the Times Magazine to do a lengthy investigative piece about Craig Strete. Strete was an SF writer and teacher at San Jose State University who had been accused by former collaborator Ron Montana of plagiarizing an entire novel, published under Strete's name alone as ''Death in the Spirit House.'' I had never met Strete before. But I could not imagine anyone trying to pull off anything as described, briefly, in Locus. And after interviewing the principals, I was left to conclude that matters were, as you might imagine, a great deal more complicated than depicted by Strete's supporters or detractors.

There was no shortage of blame to go around for what I concluded was a cascading series of mishaps reminiscent of those that sink submarines. One thing goes wrong, then another and a third and fourth. And before the first foul up can be addressed, the vessel, or in this case Strete's career and reputation, reaches crush depth and implodes. There was no villain in all this, except, I was astounded to discover, Ellison. Our deranged scold in the Wonderland Attic had insinuated himself in Montana's good graces, worked him into a froth, and put his own lawyer at Montana's disposal in a bid to sink Strete's ship once and for all.

The story floating about was that Montana had labored over a novel, and then awoke one day to discover it had been printed under a stranger's name, notably Craig Strete. No mention, of course, that Strete and Montana had collaborated on the novel. Or that, upon parting ways, the two had agreed to take their respective contributions and develop them on their own for individual publication. No mention either that the publisher -- this in a conversation with me -- had received the wrong manuscript from Strete, and then failed to substitute it with the correct one when Strete informed him of the switch.

And certainly no mention that Ellison, who had declared to any who would listen that Strete was a fraud, that his claims to have been a script doctor on major Hollywood features was baseless, that even his claim to partial Native American descent was bogus, had reasons apart from generosity or mentorship in egging Montana on in his tireless pursuit of Strete. Strete, you see, had incurred Ellison's wrath some time before by withdrawing of one of his stories from Ellison's still unpublished ''Last Dangerous Visions'' anthology. Ultimately, and quite appropriately as best I could determine, the initial version of ''Death in the Spirit House'' appeared anew under Montana's name alone. Strete, meanwhile, disappeared beneath the waves with nary a trace.

I myself incurred Ellison's wrath the moment I became involved in untangling the web of lies I didn't even know, at first, he had spun. When I became aware of his manipulations, I tried to reach Ellison for comment. Close to deadline, Ellison called me -- at 3 a.m. Still gnashing his teeth, he said, ''This is Harlan Ellison. I am going to talk and you are going to shut the fuck up and take down exactly what I say, and if you say one word, I am going to....'' So I hung up on him. My editor, Bret Israel, told me he took a call the next day from a raving Ellison who, after maligning me at length, threatened the Times with legal action if they ran the story with any mention of him. A few weeks later, the Times informed me it would not run the piece.

Why? Because I had demonstrated that what had been depicted as a breathtaking act of plagiarism proved instead to be a much more mundane publishing snafu. Did I believe Israel? Yes, certainly. The Times were always straight with me. Did Ellison's rant play a part in killing the story? You tell me.

The story ran, shortly after, in the semi-prozine ''SF Eye.'' Ellison greeted its publication with the aplomb of an inquisition victim having his thumbnails snatched out. His proxies flooded the magazine with letters of outrage for several issues, until the editor grew sick of the entire business. There was some mention of this business in the Comics Journal, whose editor, Ellison would later opine, had it in for him. Eager for revenge, our dwarfish Van Helsing commissioned one of the parasite fish feeding the sour old man farts emanating from his rear to produce a hatchet job about me in another fanzines. You can find it on Ellison's site, or Google the title, ''Bugfuck.'' I believe it still appears as a highlighted feature on Ellison's website. The piece contains the damning revelation that I once knocked off a bottle of expensive Scotch Platt's companion had been saving for a special occasion. Duly ashamed at my perfidy, and for other transgressions, I apologized to her and to Charles.

But no, that wasn't the beginning either. At the risk of bringing to mind a low-rent version of Ridley Scott's ''Duelist,'' there was the time within a month of my arrival here in '85 I reckon -- I quoted Walter Koenig about his oft-voiced disdain for William Shatner. I culled this from an appearance on Ellison's late-night radio show, ''Hour 25.'' The quote appeared in Cinefantastique. Van Ellison responded with a demented, six-page diatribe, some of it personal vitriol, some of twisted testament from people unhappy with my reportage in CFQ, most of it warning me against writing about him or his friends again, lest I find myself unable to eat lunch in this town again. What I can't recall is whether he meant I'd get the Julia Phillips treatment or whether he'd have his minions knock my teeth out. I can tell you that while I rarely dined with the ''machers'' of Hollywood, Julia took me for lunch one day to Le Dome, where we tried the duck salad.

On reflection, though, maybe Ellison's midnight snuff film musings go back to my sojourn in Israel. You may recall, back in the good old days of Fantazia 2000, when Ellison weaseled out of his commitment to fly in as guest of honor at Jerucon. This was back in June or July '82, when Lebanon, Peltours and my own organizational ineptitude put the kibosh on our efforts. Alas, Ellison never bothered to inform us that he had pulled out. Eventually, though, he did bluster in the LA Weekly about Israel's inherent thuggishness, not just in Lebanon, but in general. I wouldn't argue with him about Lebanon. But I am left with the sense that, per his modus operandi, he trashed the entire Jewish homeland as a measure of his displeasure either for being held accountable for bailing, as I suspect, because Peltours had not sent him a first-class ticket to Tel Aviv.

I may have sent him a note composed at the UN School overlooking Beirut International objecting to his denunciation of the Zionist Entity, especially in lieu of his biographical posturing as a Jewish folk hero beating off the pogroms he faced as a child in the American Midwest. But I also accepted responsibility for this imbroglio, having pushed for Ellison's designation as GOH in place of the far more deserving, decent and talented Harry Harrison. For this idiocy, as for many other related transgressions, I will doubtless pay dearly, and willingly in the next life.

As for this life, can there be any doubt that once he reads this, Ellison will gnash anew while lathering up his pointed spike? Does one require a science fiction imagination to know for certain that in coming weeks and months he will denounce me repeatedly from the podium of science fiction conventions and in the pages of whatever rag will be thrilled to run anything he tenders, including the tissues soiled with his nightly discharges? Or that his minions will applaud his ruminations thunderously, not because they have ever or should have ever heard of me, but because they love it when cavorts like a demented monkey on a stick? Do you imagine that he will not direct his lawyer to pull out all the stops in removing this letter from the Web, or wherever else it may appear, goading him until he suffers an embolism? That he will not commission a private dick or three to delve into my private life so that he can do to me what he did to Strete and has done to others? Or that he will contemplate following his buddy Robert Blake's example, and look into the exigencies of hiring someone else to do his dirty work? No matter that I make harbor no pretensions either as a writer of fiction or as an SF critic, manqué or otherwise.

No matter that I remain amused by his various efforts to defame me, or that I make no pretenses as to my own purity of spirit and action, past and present. As we witnessed last week so tragically in Israel – and I hope you read this as everything else in this missive with appropriate wryness -- there is simply no calling off an Amstaff once its territory has been defiled. You can beat it bloody and it will keep on coming. That is, until a bullet to the head, preferably two, puts it out of its misery. For my part, I'm in the book. If Ellison wants to come a calling, ''ahalan wa'sahalan.'' I suffer thrice weekly from cluster headaches that center in my left eye, which experiences something akin to 40,000 volts pulsing through it every 40 seconds during six-hour attacks. Folks so afflicted don't gnash their teeth -- they poke their gums with dental picks as a distraction. A spike in the eye would be a welcome diversion. But only if wielded by Ellison. To alleviate his own toothless gnashing, there's a horsewhip in the umbrella stand and a P226 in the vestibule. Ya 'heah, Harlan? We'll leave the light on for ya.

Sheli Teitelbaum
Agoura Hills, California
sheli@earthlink.net

For a former Talmud Torah student, Canada Day's fireworks bring to mind the time someone else nearly destroyed the school. Himself. By Sheldon Teitelbaum.