"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Promoting Crime Fiction Reviews Dennis Palumbo's PHANTOM LIMB

Psychologist Daniel Rinaldi’s newest patient has made a deal with him: he’s got just one hour to talk her out of committing suicide. Then she’s kidnapped

This fast-moving American thriller is narrated by  Rinaldi, and involves a good cast of classic noir characters: wise-cracking ex-actress Lisa Harland and her rich, older husband, Charles, who runs most of the city; ex-vet security guard Mike, and James, Charlie’s wastrel son; the enigmatic kidnapper Julian, and his tame thug, Griffin. On the side of the angels are spunky Agent Gloria Reese, good cop Polk and bad cop Bigler. Rinaldi is a genial hero, still carrying baggage from his past. The action is constant, with guns, explosions, hair-breadth escapes and a tense ending with a surprise perp.

The dialogue is snappy. This is the fourth Rinaldi novel, and although previous events are mentioned, there are no spoilers, and it reads well as a stand-alone.

A page-turning American thriller with a likeable psychologist hero.

You can order PHANTOM LIMB from your favorite independent bookstore, or from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.

You can also order PHANTOM LIMB direct from Amazon.

Read more at Promoting Crime Fiction

Pang Brothers on American Horror Film

“When it comes to horror Americans crave explanation. Every detail has to be logical. Why is the ghost flying? Why is the ghost walking? Why does the ghost attack that guy and not the other guy? They keep asking.  This is a ghost movie. Ghosts are already illogical.”

Author and psychotherapist, Dennis Palumbo, Comments on the Psychology of the Hollywood Beard

Whether they're used to signal a new phase (Letterman's "retirement beard") or personal hiccup (Ben Affleck's "breakup beard"), chin whiskers come with their own semiotics. Says Jimmy Kimmel: "When David Letterman would come back from vacation with a beard, I always felt betrayed because I didn’t like that he had a personal life."

David Letterman's " retirement beard," spotted in full gray, bushy glory on Sept. 28 in Manhattan, announced more definitively than any press release that the CBS host had left the Late Show building for good. The strangely Middle-earthian whiskers went viral, tickling the Internet, which spewed judgments on how the 68-year-old — who had been hosting a late-night show for 33 years running — had let himself go. One superfan gave a thumbs-up, however. "I will have the same beard when I go off the air," Jimmy Kimmel — who, upon his return to the Live! desk this summer, debuted his own swarthy beard to decided acclaim — tells THR. "It will be growing down to my knees; people will expect me to bring presents down chimneys." As to the reason his idol underwent such a drastic style change, Kimmel suggests that growing a beard signals a switching-off of a public face: "When David Letterman would come back from vacation with a beard, I always felt betrayed because I didn't like that he had a personal life."

In Hollywood these days, a beard is not just a beard. Sometimes, as Kimmel theorizes, it symbolizes a transition. Says industry psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo: When someone retires or "a show is canceled or on hiatus, you can finally just relax and grow your beard if, as a performer, you've always been clean-shaven," he notes. This year, television actors who have sprouted hiatus beards include The Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki and Modern Family's Ty Burrell. "A beard is a new look, a new role that's out of character, showing a different facet of your personality. Performers love a new role," adds the Sherman Oaks-based shrink. Casting directors might now look differently at Jamie Dornan, whose heavy whiskers at the Golden Globes were seemingly grown to obliterate any memory of the slick Christian Grey, while the Chrises, Pine and Evans, sported face fur that obscured wholesome hero miens at the Oscars. Observes hairstylist Anna Bernabe, whose Hollywood clientele includes such bearded stars as Liam Hemsworth and Michael Fassbender: "I think it's a way for a guy to express personality and try something new when he's between jobs. It's a switch-up from the clean-shaven Mad Men look, a different angle on manliness."

Meanwhile, after a grueling awards-season campaign, 2014 winners Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey grew — and kept for nearly a year — wild and woolly post-Oscar beards. Comedian Patton Oswalt compared the latter's look to a "rail-yard hobo," while the former paired his bristles with a prominent man bun. "Beards may also signal a regression, a return to rebellious adolescence," says Palumbo, who has been treating Hollywood patients for 28 years. "If you're wearing a beard, the point being made is one of rebellion against the responsibility and obligations that the actor may feel in his public role. Beards reflect the anti-authority illusion of personal autonomy and authenticity, harking back to a time when the performer was free of expectations of how he should look, or how he's always been seen."

Beards have their dark sides, too. Conan O'Brien grew a full one during his self-described depression fol­lowing his firing from The Tonight Show in 2010. Ben Affleck's breakup beard after the announcement of his divorce from Jennifer Garner did laps around the web. And in March, Jon Hamm showed up post-rehab at the Mad Men premiere in a white dinner jacket with clear eyes and a salt-and-pepper beard. "On a deeper psychological level, people in the public eye who are going through a divorce or scandal, or whose most recent movie bombed at the box office, are perhaps trying to break free of their well-known personal or professional images, now suddenly exposed to the embarrassing glare of the media," notes Palumbo. "In other words, they're hiding. Beards throughout history have been a disguise, a way to hide in plain sight."

Of course, some beards are purely professional. Directors' beards are practically an industry ritual. "With a beard, suddenly Jon Stewart is not the wisecracking former talk show host, but a director and producer," says the therapist. "It seems that any time an actor or writer wants to direct a film, they'll often grow a beard." He warns that beards are "an assumption of authority for artists only. You're never going to see Les Moonves wear a beard as the head of a network — it doesn't look serious."

Other notable recent beards cultivated in the line of Hollywood duty: Kit Harington's growth inspired rounds of "Is Jon Snow really dead?" speculation following Game of Thrones' season-five finale. Leonardo DiCaprio's The Revenant production beard, worn for an extended period to cover reshoots, juiced nasty rumors of it housing fleas, while Indianapolis Colts quarter­back Andrew Luck pronounced his whiskers "lucky" in an insurance commercial that aired during NBC's Sunday Night Football. Then there's Jay Leno's bald-headed, hairy-chinned Uber-driver disguise, donned as a viral marketing stunt to promote his CNBC show Jay Leno's Garage, premiering in the 10 p.m. slot on Oct. 7. Referencing the recent outcry over the dearth of women and people of color on late night, Kimmel jokes: "They talk about diversity in late night, and it's about time that had something to do with facial hair."

Regardless of whether the beard is grown for transformation or disguise, for professional or personal purposes, "it's not like the actor is aware of unconscious motivations," says Palumbo. "As far as he's concerned, he's just a guy growing a beard. And no doubt feeling extremely cool doing it."

Don't Botch the Beard: Grooming 101

When growing a beard, patience is key, says Jason Schneidman, a groomer who has tended to the whiskers of Hugh Jackman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. "It takes 10 days of growth — then I can see the change in my clients. We can decide whether to keep going — or not," he says. Schneidman starts out with an evenly clipped face. "I determine it by eye. If a guy has a narrow face, then it's great when [the beard is] fuller; if the guy's face is very square, [the beard should be] a little pointier."

Liam Hemsworth and Michael Fassbender's groomer Anna Bernabe says that today's chins sport a more natural, less "coiffed" look: "The perfectly shaped beard has peaked. Sometimes you see the line around the neck and it's distracting — I don't want to be noticing the beard before I notice the face." Says men's groomer Cathy Highland, who works with Benedict Cumberbatch: "What's current is longer, fuller beards. A little stubble from a week's growth is looking dated now. It makes you look like a soap star, not hip and cool."

The beard boom has led to a new grooming category, with "so many great specialized oils, soaps and face washes," says Schneidman. There are at least a few steps to bearded skin care, including shampooing and conditioning (Highland prefers sulfate-free Clean Everyday shampoo, $20). "One thing guys forget is to moisturize underneath their beards because the skin is covered up. On some men, it starts to get dry and flaky," says Bernabe, who recommends Tom Ford's beard line. But "if you're not fussy, you can buy an Ace comb from the drugstore and comb it. Use a natural oil and with your fingers run a little through your beard," she says.

In true Hollywood fashion, if a man can't grow it naturally, cosmetic surgery can help. Beard transplants, usually done with hair taken from the back of the head, can run $10,000 to $15,000 and take one to two weeks for recovery. Beverly Hills' go-to beard-transplant surgeon, Gary Perrault, whose clients range from industry execs to Middle Eastern potentates, says that many of his patients are "actors who want to achieve a certain effect, and maybe their beard was too patchy" or they wish to look more mature. "A lot of patients are young men who don't have facial hair," he says. "It's a small part of our practice and not really growing, but maybe it will," he says, noting that the procedure makes up 10 to 15 percent of his current practice. "I'm noticing more people with beards."

Rina Tham with honored guest Baza Guru Rinpoche, and composer Russ Landau Hosts book-signing of inspirational memoir, “Lucky Number 9: Journey of a Rubber Tapper’s Daughter.”

Meet Author Rina Tham and Baza Guru Rinpoche, October 11
October 8, 2015 -

Topanga author Rina Tham and her family, along with honored guest Baza Guru Rinpoche, and film and television composer, Russ Landau, will host a book-signing of Tham’s inspiring and motivational memoir, “Lucky Number 9: Journey of a Rubber Tapper’s Daughter.”

The public is invited to the open house, October 11, from 3–6 p.m., which will feature music by world renowned Sitar and Tabla Maestro, Rajib Karmakar Ji, and Vineet Vyas Ji on Tabla.

“Lucky Number 9” is the compelling story of Rina Tham’s impoverished childhood in the jungle of Malaysia.

Her philosophy is that if you live with your heart open, fear becomes an adventure. “In many ways, I had less than most, living on the rubber plantation, saving pennies for food, fighting for floor space by the window, never seeing Father, tapping trees at dawn with Mother. Then there was my arm, it brought panic….” Read how Rina overcame poverty, debilitating health issues, many other dramatic challenges and how her ultimate triumph over such adversity has resulted in a deep desire to give back to the world.

“My intention and goal today is to put this book in the hands of a girl, boy, woman, man, anywhere and especially in the isolated communities deep in the jungles of our God-given world. That would be a start,” Tham said. “This is my gift to share because I care for and love you all. It is my passion to give back.”

Rina will soon be travelling to India, Bhutan and The Pacific Rim to promote her book. If you would like Rina to be part of any special motivational programs—especially for children—you are encouraged to contact her directly at rina@luckynumber9.org. Tham will donate 100 percent of all book sales to Yoga Gives Back to support programs for mothers and children in India.

All are welcome. Namaste.

Light snacks and refreshments will be served at Froggy’s Topanga Fish Market, 1105 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga 90290.

 Paperback and E-books are now available at amazon.com, with signed copies available locally at: Bhutan Shop, 415 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga, CA 90290; and the Topanga Office, 1861 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Suite D, Topanga CA 90290.

Reposted from The Topanga Messenger 

Encore! Dr. Fuddle Celebrates Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's 100th Anniversary

Encore! Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s anniversary concert returns.

Some 700 ticketholders will attend the Tower of Talent concert, marking Children’s 100th anniversary, at the Alliance Stage/Woodruff Arts Center at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, sponsored by Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits, owned by benefactor Michael Greenbaum.

Photo by Marcia Caller

Jaffe Robyn Spizman Gerson joins Michael Greenbaum, the owner of Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits, and Warren Woodruff, the author of “Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton.”

The event is coordinated by Robyn Spizman Gerson and inspired by musicologist and beloved classical music teacher Dr. Warren Woodruff and his book “Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton” (soon to be a major movie).

Gerson has assembled a world-class team of talent by pulling together Woodruff, Thomas Ludwig of the Beethoven Chamber Orchestra, Lynn Stallings of the Atlanta Workshop Players and Maniya Barredo of the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre to raise the curtain for  “Beethoven to Broadway” to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The idea was initiated and fully funded by Greenbaum, who is dedicated to a legacy of support for medically fragile children.

“During the High Holiday time of self-reflection, I thought about the passion for my own grandchildren and others who are less fortunate,” he said. “I have enough to live on and the rest to do good with. My father stepped up to the plate to help others ever so quietly. That is my legacy. Music is healing. And as Dr. Woodruff says, ‘One note can make a difference’ for these medically fragile children.”

Melisa Morrow, a CHOA development officer, said, “Greenbaum’s generosity thus far has developed in his honor a rehab room where families can stay while recovering children learn how to function. We’re currently evaluating this year’s Greenbaum project.  It may involve advancing technology. Greenbaum knows that CHOA is a nonprofit where all children are treated equally.”

“We’ve already sold 500 tickets and secured 50-plus world-class children ages 6 to 16 performing an amazing program of orchestral strings, pianos and dancing,” Gerson said. “Greenbaum is generously covering 100 percent of the expenses so all revenues can go directly to the children. He is an angel in disguise.”

She added: “This is one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done. We’ve raised WAY over half a million dollars in just two years. One of the many impressive performers is 8-year-old Angelica Hale, who received a kidney from her mom. Her Streisand-esqe emotion is amazing; she recently sang the national anthem at the U.S. Open. The children are appearing on Channel 11 with astounding responses for a sneak peek.”

The chairs for the event include Marianne Garber, Alvaro Arauz and Linda Suvalsky, who are backed by such generous supporters as Sara Blaine and Mendel Rotenberg of eSBe Designs, who created a bracelet in honor of Children’s Healthcare.

“So many people have been touched by Children’s … from a broken arm to a heart transplant,” Gerson said. “The bottom line is you’ll want to bring the family to this event. These kids will knock your socks off.”

The VIP reception before the show is sold out, but a few more spots could be reserved for generous contributors. Regular-admission tickets are $30.

What: Tower of Talent
Where: Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6
Tickets: $30 standard, $75 VIP; www.choa.org/toweroftalent

Reposted from Atlanta Jewish Times