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As the oldest surviving male relative, my father bore the duty of burying his Uncle Koppel. Koppel had survived three years in Nazi concentration camps and the misery of post-war Vienna. He came to America and found success as a dentist. He never married, had no children and lived with his sister, also a survivor. In his 90s, after years of ill health, he finally succumbed.

My father made funeral arrangements with Koppel’s neighbor, a Hassidic rabbi. …


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Woodcut image depicting the life of a writer.

I’m a Woodcut Artist. Recently I was commissioned to come up with a t-shirt design for a North Hollywood Literary Festival. The email from the festival sponsors requested something that “depicts the journey of the creative writer in these modern times when so few people read.”

My initial brainstorming elicited depressing ideas like a writer committing hara-kiri with a fountain pen, the Greek character Sisyphus rolling a massive tome up a hill, a man drowning from the weight of a typewriter tied to his leg. …


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Vitamin sales are a 35 billion dollar industry in America.

I take a lot of vitamins, somewhere between 10–15 pills a day. When I shared this with my doctor he replied, “Congratulations, you have the most expensive urine in the city.” This seems to be the opinion of most American doctors: vitamins are a waste of money. My own doctor said there’s little scientific evidence vitamins do anything positive for your health.

Despite these views, Americans take more vitamins than ever before. According to the online site statistica.com, US vitamin and supplement sales exceeded $35 billion in 2016, up five percent from the previous year. …


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The Big Bad Wolf originally appeared in Grimms Fairy Tales.

When I was a boy, I was afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. It started when my dad brought home a Three Little Pigs record album, a Disney promotion he’d received for filling his tank at a Union 76 station. He left the album on my bed and as soon as I saw those sharp teeth and menacing eyes, I was terrified.

My brother Mark picked up on my fears and began singing, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” happy he’d finally found a way to get back at me for all the times I called him “fatso. …


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Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe was master of the macabre. His gothic stories dealt with death, decomposition, reanimation and premature burial. …


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Kobe Bryant Linoleum Block.

In the 2008 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics obliterated the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant was furious. He hated losing and blamed the defeat on his teammates for being “too soft.” Number one on his list of culprits was teammate Pao Gasol, the seven-foot power forward from Spain. Gasol was thoroughly dominated by Celtics star Kevin Garnett.

Two months later, Kobe and Gasol found themselves as opponents in the Gold Medal basketball game at the China Olympics. …


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Actor John Wayne (1978).

John Wayne dominated movie screens for half a century. He was a tough guy, a man’s man, an all-American hero who lived by his own moral code and let actions speak louder than words. His favorite quote was one uttered by Theodore Roosevelt: “If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

Wayne symbolized a macho, militaristic view of America. He embodied the “Make American Great Again” ethos, a time when life seemed simpler. …


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Actress Lauren Bacall.

Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in 1924 to Jewish Romanian immigrant parents. Known for her smoky voice and mysterious demeanor, she was discovered by the wife of director Howard Hawks, who saw her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. In 1944, Hawks brought Bacall to Hollywood to audition for his film To Have And Have Not. Nervous and quivering during the screen test, Bacall pressed her chin against her chest and tilted her eyes upward. This became known as “The Look,” Bacall’s trademark.

Hawks asked Bacall to choosebetween Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart as her leading man. Bacall chose Grant but Hawks overruled her. While shooting the film, Bacall and Bogart fell in love. Bacall was 19, Bogart 44. Their romance was kept secret from Mayo Methot, Bogart’s wife, who was given to jealous rages and once stabbed Bogart with a knife. …


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Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

Though it’s hard to imagine anyone else portraying Don Corleone, Marlon Brando was not the first choice for the patriarch in The Godfather. Paramount Pictures initially considered the following actors: Ernest Borgnine, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, George C. Scott, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn and Frank Sinatra. Francis Ford Coppola narrowed the list to Brando & Laurence Olivier. When Olivier became ill, Coppola chose Brando.

But Paramount didn’t want Brando. They were afraid the actor was washed up. He’d made three flops in a row (One-Eyed Jacks, Mutiny on the Bounty and Burn!) and he’d become an unruly diva. …


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Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski.

In these strange and surreal COVID days, my wife and I have taken to late afternoon walks to stay sane. …

About

Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.

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