Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

A Public Essay about Small Stores…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death,My Own Personal Hell,Rage!,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 1:14 pm on Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014

Public Essay: Why support small Brick-and Mortar stores? Why bother? Some old man or woman selling a limited selection of whatever they sell or create. Walmart, Target, E-bay, Starbucks are infinitely more accessible, have mountains of things to sell and are coast to coast enterprises. You see one, you’ve seen them all.


Then why travel? Why visit little villages with unique pottery or cool coffee shops? Why go anywhere or meet anyone with the passion to create an imaginative, determined and one of a kind store? The odds of success are irrational. Some shopper can usually buy anything the small stores try to sell for so much less online. Brick-and Mortar shops?? Why not kill ‘em all and just stay home in bed punching buttons and have stuff brought right to your door? That’s the life we all want, isn’t it?

(Read on …)

I Seek the Praise of Ordinary Men, a 2007 poem of protest against war in Iraq…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death,Politics,Rage!,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 8:40 am on Friday, October 24, 2014

I originally wrote this poem on Friday, April 13, 2007, after interviewing Mike Hecht, the 88-year-old man who wrote the forward to my first book. He was the cantor on Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Repentance) in my temple for forty years, the now sadly extinct B’nai Torah in Highland Park. His job, an honor in Judaism, was to blow the shofar, or ram’s horn to announce the beginning of a new year, every Rosh Hashanah, usually occurring in the fall.  Mike died May 16, 2009, a week after his 90th birthday. I saw him the day before, May 9th, and gave him a birthday card featuring Yoda from Star Wars on the cover with the movie’s theme music playing when he opened the card.  He laughed, as he lay on his bed, and then asked me as I turned to leave him, “But Bob, who is Yoda?” Surprised at the question I paused, thought about how to explain the connection and then said, simply: “Mike, he’s you. Yoda is you.”

That was the last time we spoke.

This is the link to my eulogy for him. I miss him still. http://www.differentslants.com/?p=701

I noticed there was a line in the last part of my description of Mike that seemed to vibrate. I thought about what it meant, what I really was trying to express and that line became the title of the poem. I realized it was a protest against the 2nd Iraq war began by then President Bush and VP Cheney, after false clams that there were weapons of mass destruction there. Years later, Iraq is now disintegrating into three parts.  A new war is now raging there, and the future of the area is unknown.

I also added this part (in 2007) for people to think about:

Today, beginning last night, is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Take a moment to think about it. Whether you are observant or not, whether you think about Judaism less than a minute a year, would have made no difference to Hitler. Who your grandparents or great-grandparents were, would be enough reason for the Nazis to kill you.

I think about that, and wonder what I would have done, if I were trapped in a situation like that, today.
What would you do today, if you knew then, what you know now?  Maybe the poem will motivate you to action. I hope so.

Robert M. Katzman

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Aloft in Wisconsin…by Robert M. Katzman

© October 11, 2014


She called me her Eagle. I called her my Swan.


We collected many of those ceramic birds at yard sales and flea markets, over the years. Now they have all flown away, somewhere. We remaining two old birds have shed so much besides feathers. All the chicks are also gone. Feeling weightless is so freeing, but we now seek a smaller nest.


Our exploration of the possible has gradually taught us about seeing life, land, rivers, shores, some buildings abandoned and some buildings preserved. And how we learned to perceive people differently, as well.


Not so surprising to us, but nevertheless causing a stark loneliness was a confirmation of our assumption that in so many small places with red-painted farms, “The People of the Book” have run out of pages.


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A Rabbi Can’t Mend a Broken Heart…by Robert M. Katzman (updated)

Filed under: Jewish Themes,Philosophy — Bob at 1:28 pm on Wednesday, September 24, 2014

(copyright May 1, 2011)

Introduction to: A Rabbi Can’t Mend A Broken Heart

This new poem was inspired by, and written expressly for Rabbi Debra Nesselson.

Watching her blossom over the last year from being a relatively quiet figure heard from the bimah only occasionally—to becoming the voice and face of B’nai Torah Congregation to the world—has fascinated me.   She is her own fairy-tale.

Today, Friday June 10, 2011 Debra Nesselson becomes a Rabbi for the rest of her life.

Her choosing to leave behind a career as a lawyer after spending seven years to become that, to spending another eight years transforming herself into a Rabbi so she could understand the law in a far more fundamental way, means Debra has spent fifteen years to get to where she is today.

More than a quarter of her entire life.

How many people would ever consider doing such a thing?  Very few. 
Maybe we didn’t know what we had in our new Rabbi before today, but we certainly do now.

Here’s my poem to celebrate her new role in this important Jewish institution.
If anyone deserves a poem to contemplate their lives, it’s Debra Nesselson. 

(note:Rabbi Nesselson left our temple two months later. Not all things make sense, but what I wrote about rabbis remains what I believe.  I still respect and care about Debra Nesselson. (2nd note) After a tumultuous period of temple politics over philosophy, and a merry-go-round of different rabbis, the sixty-year-old temple closed almost exactly three years after I first posted this poem.  A tragedy.  This note was amended on September 24th, 2014, just before the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, 5775.  I remain friends with and infinitely respect Rabbi Nesselson.)


  (Read on …)

The Curious Cops of Wales…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Cops,Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Jewish Themes,My Own Personal Hell — Bob at 10:26 am on Thursday, September 4, 2014

Originally published on © October, 2008 I was a very obscure writer. Now only slightly obscure, and hopeful

(#1 of 4 chapters, all here this time. 21 rich pages or 15,775 words. Don’t be shy. Take a chance on me)

Bendith Duw ar Bobl Cymru a`u plismyn gwaraidd!!!
(God bless the Welsh People and their civilized policemen!!!)

My original motivation to travel to Britain for the first and only time, in 2001, was to investigate Notting Hill.

Notting Hill was long famous, even before the warm-hearted film of the same name with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, for its incredibly congested, unbroken mass of bargain-seeking and perspiring humanity crushed within its mile long length, as the best flea market in Europe.

While I did find beautiful ceramics, overflowing tables of eccentric flotsam and jetsam, and the original 1964 Beatles periodicals I was actually seeking, as well as a priced-to-sell full suit of medieval English armor for mounted combat or jousting, the memory I find that lingers longest are my three unplanned days in Wales.

The distance from London to Cardiff, the capitol of Wales, was slightly less than driving from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin. Interesting places are much closer together in Great Britain than in the States. The approximate size of the former homeland of the world wide British Empire is about the same size as Illinois and Indiana, together.

Britannia…small, but mighty!
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June 8th 1964… by Robert M. Katzman

© August 22, 2014


Fifty years ago

This happened:


At five, six, seven years old

Curses and slaps

In the middle of the night

Eight, nine, ten years old

Beatings without end

And no reason

Eleven, twelve, thirteen years old

Trapped in closets,

Whipped with leather belts

Metal belt buckles


Fourteen: June 8, 1964

My long glass fish tank shattered

Water and dead fish everywhere

Bookshelves toppled

My face was smashed with fists

But I couldn’t hit her back

I escaped the monster

Screaming into the black night


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