Thursday, November 20, 2008

Local Jewish Author Suffers Theft

By Aliza Libman

Brookline author Michael Burstein was dismayed to discover this week that two boxes of signed copies of his first book, I Remember the Future, were damaged and stolen during shipping.

Burstein, whose book of award-nominated short stories was published by Apex Publishing at the beginning of November, had been signing and personalizing preordered copies of his book. He shipped six boxes of books back to Apex, two of which arrived on Saturday, November 15.

Jason Sizemore, the publisher at Apex Publications, says that one box was entirely intact, but completely empty, while another was damaged and all books inside were not salable. Sizemore thinks his losses will amount to over $300, but only if the other boxes are not damaged or missing books.

“I’ll have to replace the books,” Sizemore explains, noting that the people who ordered these books may have to wait an extra month to receive the copies. While he is not certain about the total loss, since the last four boxes have not yet been inventoried, he notes that it will be a substantial loss for Apex, a small press publisher.

Apex, which has been in business since 2005, has an annual raffle this time of year. Sizemore says they have extended the raffle deadline to December 15 as a result of the loss of Burstein’s books.

“Originally, it was intended as a small fundraiser to help offset the losses incurred for publishing short fiction online,” Sizemore explains. “But now, I’ll probably have to use the raffle money … to buy replacement books.”

The damaging and disappearance of these copies of I Remember the Future has followed what both Sizemore and Burstein called a successful book launch. Hundreds of copies of the book were preordered, and the book party held at the Brookline Public Library on November 2 was so well attended that Burstein was autographing copies for two full hours.

“The fact that people were willing to wait in this line to get copies of the book signed, I think that can be garnered as a sign of the success of the party,” he says.

Sizemore, who is also happy with the sale, is nonetheless glad that Apex decided to publish Michael Burstein’s first book.

“He’s a great person to work with,” Sizemore says.

Both Burstein and Sizemore are disappointed with the United States Postal System. However, Burstein remains hopeful that the missing books, which are easily identifiable because they are personalized, will resurface, allowing them to get law enforcement involved. The USPS did not respond to requests for comment.

To find out more about the Apex Publications Raffle, visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Freedom of Information" - Gotcha!

Twice in the past year, I have received letters from the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner because a certain scum-of-the-earth requested emails from York under the freedom of information act. The nice people at the commission explained to me that some emails I wrote fall under this request.

I explained to them precisely how I feel about said scum-of-the-earth professor, and that I consider the law a bit scary - why can they subpoena my emails? I am a not even remotely a public employee.

It is one thing for emails to be forwarded about accidentally or internally; it is quite another to tell people after the fact that their email can be demanded by any Ontario resident at any time for the purposes of transparency.

I think the unintended consequence of such legislation will be that people won't email public officials to share their opinions - a time-honored North American tradition.

This week, I sent a note about Brookline day care laws to my 15 town meeting members and my 5 selectmen (most of whom are women). A fair number responded.

At the bottom of her response, town selectman Betsy DeWitt wrote:
When responding, please remember the Secretary of the Commonwealth considers email a public record.

That appropriate disclosure is exactly what Ontario needs. Private citizens have a right to find out in advance that their emails are not considered by the state to be private.

Massachusetts 1, Ontario 0.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Aliza's tortellini-spinach-tomato-feta soup recipe

This recipe comes at the request of the Friday night Settlers collective. I made it to commemorate the yahrtzeit of my grandfather Manny, who passed away five years ago yesterday. I wrote this five years ago and I still mean every word. But in the meanwhile, I thought a meal of soup, pasta, and bourbon-glazed potatoes followed by rum cakes would be a fitting tribute to a man who liked good food as much as I do and good books even more. While I'm certain my grandfather might have liked this soup had he tasted it in his pre-quadruple bypass era, I should note that a generation ago, kosher feta cheese and kosher tortellini were not in my family's good German cooking arsenal.

2 onions
3 carrots
2 packages of frozen spinach
1 massive can of tomatoes (I used 28oz crushed.)
consomme powder
16 oz. frozen tortellini
2 pkgs of feta (8 oz each)

Heat oil in saute pan (or 8qt soup pot, if you saute in your pots.)
Saute 2 chopped onions until translucent and beginning to brown.
Add 7-8 cups of boiling water and some Osem chicken consomme. (I never measure the amount of this.)
When boiling, add 3 chopped carrots and simmer for 20 minutes.
Then add the frozen spinach and simmer for 20 minutes more.
Remove soup from the heat and use a handblender to blend it partially. (Don't blend it completely.)
Return soup to low heat and add frozen tortellini. Simmer for 10 min.
When you're sure the tortellini and carrots are cooked to your satisfaction, remove the soup from the heat. Open the feta packages and pour the water the feta is packed in into the soup. Crumble the feta and put it into the soup. Cover the pot and let it sit for 10-15 minutes so that the flavors meld together.

Serves 8-10?

Some notes:
This is a very thick soup, so you need to cook it on a very low heat to avoid stuff sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Be careful with your spicing early on - you want the rest of your soup to have flavor, but feta is very salty and flavorful and will provide most of the flavor the soup needs.