Category Archives: Writing

Excerpt from Muhammad Ali Retrospective

In honor of the passing of “The Greatest,” the following is a short excerpt from my book Muhammad Ali Retrospective (Boffo Socko Books, 2016):


It is Muhammad Ali Day in New York City and the Champ is talking about his plan to fight his two most formidable ring rivals, George Foreman and Joe Frazier, one right after the other on the same night. It is a joyously demented scheme. When I ask my friend Nick Storoff, one of the most experienced and knowledgeable boxing writers in the City, whether there is even a remote possibility he is serious about going ahead with the stunt, Nick says, “Unequivocally, absolutely, irrevocably no. He’ll never do that.” “Never?” I inquire. “Never,” comes the reply, “And I’ll be saying that right up to the night of the fight. The guy has done so many incredible things. You just never know with Ali.”

At least the plan answers the question of what, after going to Africa, whupping George Foreman, regaining his crown and earning five million dollars, Ali could do for an encore. So I am encouraged to ask, “Champ, have you ever considered fighting Foreman and Frazier in alternate rounds?” “Noooooo,” replies Ali, turning the idea over and over in his mysterious mind, “I don’t think it would work.” Then suddenly he leaps toward me, grabbing the lapels of my raincoat with a startling deftness and a touch so light I am immediately assured he’s not serious. “Hey, Man, are you trying to be funny or something?”

Is the con-man afraid he is being conned?

“No, Champ,” I assured him, “I’m serious.” But of course all the time I’m trying to persuade him I’m serious, I’m laughing and laughing.

Back on the press bus going to Rikers Island, Nick tells my story to the other reporters with considerable relish. While I enjoy the attention, I also understand that as a communication, my first encounter with Ali was a failure. For his response, while delightful, foreclosed the possibility of further consideration of an interesting idea with which Ali was, for a moment, intrigued.

“Nice campus,” grunts a grizzled veteran boxing photographer as the bus pulls into the front gate of the Rikers Island Adolescent Remand Center. The reporters guffaw. The place does look like a community college, except for the barbed-wire fence, windows with bars and the fact that the site is located on the glide path into nearby LaGuardia Airport.

Louis Farrakahn, Muslim Minister, a slick and smiling man in a black fez and sunglasses, introduces Muhammad Ali to the inmates. The Champ emerges from behind a curtain and strides to the podium as the prisoners roar. And while the substance of his talk could be construed as cruel (in its vivid evocation of what it’s like to be in jail – a feeling the inmates know far better than Ali and presumably don’t need to be reminded of), the fact is that Ali, and only Ali, can lay it on the line and get away with telling the inmates they’re fools for landing in jail.

Here is how Nick Storoff described the scene in his newspaper column the next day: “Ali lifted his hand and there was quiet. And when he began absolutely seriously, by saying, ‘I want to thank all of you for coming here today.’ the inmates broke up, the laughter rolling at him in waves he rode deftly back to them. ‘Somebody told me you couldn’t help it!’ he said, and this time he was laughing with them . . . Soon he was telling them the kind of things a podium is good protection for . . . ‘Ask yourself – was it worth all this, what you did to get in here? You think you’ll never get caught. But why are we in here if we never get caught? Way before you there were bad cats, Al Capone and Dillinger, and for some reason they never won either. Life is too short to spend in a place like this . . . You wake up in the morning and you ‘re in jail. Nothing to do but wait for sleep and then sleep comes and you wake up the next morning and you’re still in jail. You can’t get in your car and drive anyplace you want. Can’t eat the food you like. Can’t get out, run around, take a jog in the park or be with your loved ones, a wife or girlfriend. Don’t spend your life in no jail. What could you get that could be worth all this? Ten million dollars – and I know you didn’t get no ten million dollars – Ten million dollars ain’t worth two years in jail.”

Yet Ali’s rap is filled with contradictions. After trying to sell the inmates on good behavior he calls himself a bad cat and issues a challenge to the baddest cats in the hall. He asks where the bad guys are and the entire audience hollers, “Here!” “Now who’s the baddest?” says Ali and several hands go up. “See that little Dude over there?” Ali responds, pointing to one of the inmates, “He’s not bad, he’s crazy!”

His contradictory message is clearly confusing to many in his young audience. Sometimes the prisoners think Ali is kidding and he is constrained to tell them to “Listen good, ’cause I’m being serious.” Other times, Ali is plainly joking and putting them on, but the kids take it seriously. How does he feel and what does he really think?
With his serious rap out of the way, Ali climbs down from the stage to jive with a prisoner rock band. They slam into a blazing boogaloo and Ali does the shuffle, shadowboxing in time to the music. The crowd roars, chanting, ” Ali, Ali, Ali” on the beat of the drum.

Then Ali returns to the podium to talk about his boxing plans, including his scheme to fight Foreman and Frazier on the same night. Ali uses his body and hands as he talks. When he mentions Joe Frazier, he evokes him by impersonation. When he mentions driving a car, his hands move up to take the wheel. It is extremely intriguing and I suddenly realize that for the past fifteen minutes I have not given a thought to notes, pictures, the tape recorder or anything else related to reporting the event. I’m mesmerized and can’t think of anything but enjoying the rapid-fire poems, jokes, riddles, boasts, insults and stories.

“How many of you inmates would like to see me fight Foreman and Frazier on the same night?” “RAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!” “How many wouldn’t?” A few hands were raised. “You see those guys? Look at ’em. And when I leave, git ’em and whup ’em!”

Ali finishes and is accorded a standing ovation. As he strides down a corridor leading out of the building, he is stopped by two City officials who ask him to pose for a picture. Ali lines them up, a $40,000-a-year Commissioner on each flank. Suddenly the men notice Ali has leaned his arms on their shoulders and is now curling a huge fist in their faces. The men squirm with discomfort and the Champ mugs, the flashbulbs pop and Ali laughs and walks away. Perfect!

Moving down the hallway, he jumps into the secretarial pool to deliver some kisses and hugs, closing the door on the press saying, “See you later fellas.” The ladies are still squealing as Ali walks back into the sunlight, dabbing a smudge of vermilion lipstick from his cheek. The secretaries still chatter with surprise and delight. Muhammad Ali knows how to make people happy.
But inevitably there is another side to all this. For at the conclusion of his lecture, Ali said, “Where’s the warden? I want to see the warden.” In response, a middle-aged Black man in a Department of Corrections uniform, smiling, clearly excited (thinking, perhaps, that this was his moment in the sun with a Black champion he, too, admired), came forward. Ali looked him over with disdain, turned to the audience and recited:

“While the body of the prisoners are in captivity,
the mind of the warden is in prison.”

The prisoners howled their approval and the warden looked crushed beyond consolation. So Muhammad Ali knows how to hurt people, too. So much complexity. So much contradiction. What does he truly think and how does he really feel? I’ve got some ideas, but like Nick Storoff says, “You can never know for sure with Ali.”

Want to read more? Muhammad Ali Retrospective is now available as an ebook on Amazon for just $4.99 or for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited Subscriber. Not a subscriber? Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited with a 30-Day Free Trial.

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Muhammad Ali Retrospective: The Greatest of All Time

Fortunately I spent a long time many years ago writing an entire book about “The Greatest” because today I’m not sure I’ve got the words.

Rest in peace…

You’re my man!

–Muhammad Ali to Henry James Korn on 12/10/1974

Muhammad Ali Retrospective


Dream-champion or media myth?  The times and lives of a Heavyweight King, uncovering the startling yet profoundly plausible possibility that this eccentric hero might truly be the greatest man in the world.  Muhammad Ali Retrospective by Henry James Korn is an innovative collection of stories, essays and articles by an award-winning author.

Video: Muhammad Ali Retrospective

reading by Henry James Korn on Vimeo
Running Time: 32:20
Franklin Furnace, New York, September 21, 1978


“With the publication of Muhammad Ali Retrospective, Korn fulfills his promise and emerges as one of the most polished, expert professional writers on the scene.  Korn is obviously derived from the School of Mailer but in a sense Korn has gone Mailer one step better and got rid of Mailer’s looseness, loquacity, and omnipresent “I” without losing his specific hard-imaged language and psychological penetration. This book should be put on all required reading lists of contemporary U.S. fiction.”
Choice: the Journal of the American College Library Association

“Henry James Korn’s new book about Muhammad Ali evokes a sense of Ali’s triumph and the tragedy of Black America.  It is well researched, carefully thought out, and most important, lyric, as poetry is lyric.”
-Roger Kahn

“For all those who admire the Champ and what he represents, Korn’s innovative book will prove their belief in Muhammad Ali as Superman.”
 BooksWest Magazine

“In Muhammad Ali Retrospective, Henry James Korn’s wry, affectionate collection of perspectives on the Champ, the fighter emerges as a man as well as a myth.”
The Village Voice

Muhammad Ali Retrospective is an unusual and provocative view of an unusual and provocative subject: this daring blend of fact, whimsy and outrageous speculation may be the only sensible way to approach a man who is never what he seems.”
-Robert Lipsyte

Book cover of Muhammad Ali Retrospective by Henry James Korn
Muhammad Ali Retrospective by Henry James Korn
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Ebook version of Exact Change is now available on Amazon

My first book Exact Change: Short Fiction is now available on Amazon!

Here’s a quick excerpt from the publisher’s website:

Henry James Korn’s first book, this collection of short form fiction was originally published by Assembling Press in 1974 with an original lithograph cover by photographer and print-maker Scott Hyde.

It now finds a new life in digital form as an e-book. Of particular interest to modern audiences are several clear links from Korn’s late 60’s and early 70’s literary experiments to the anticipated major themes, characters, and plot points in his forthcoming debut novel Amerikan Krazy.

Memorable stories include King Kong in the Kitchen, The Condemned of Altoona, and One Thing Perfectly Clear. It also contains one of his earliest modular experimental efforts The Pontoon Manifesto which was published separately in a variety of formats.

Source: Exact Change: Short Fiction | Boffo Socko Books

I’d kindly ask those who enjoy reading it to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, or your own blog. Sharing via social media is also appreciated!


Buy now on

P.S.: You can get it for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. If not you can join now for 30 Days Free.

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COMPASSION MATTERS: The Tibetan Photographs of Tom Lamb

Originally Published: 10 November 2015 in Laguna Beach Art Magazine.

China’s economic and military hegemony has His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Independence Movement on its knees and the Peoples Liberation Army is about to break its arms and legs.

While Communism and reincarnation are by their natures incompatible, the Chinese Government insists on having a defining role in the selection of the Dalai Lama’s successor. In the meantime, if you utter the Dalai Lama’s name on the streets of virtually any sizeable Chinese city, you will likely be arrested and possibly shot.


Tragically, Chinese intransigence regarding this contentious issue has driven the exiled Nobel Prize winning spiritual leader into a geopolitical wilderness in which his most faithful followers routinely set themselves on fire to protest the subjugation of their homeland’s religion and culture. Tibet’s colonizers, backed by a vicious constabulary, refuse to change their tune on the subject of Tibetan autonomy. Nevertheless, His Holiness Dalai Lama continues to search for a middle ground while maintaining empathy and compassion for all.

Seldom Seen by Western Eyes

Despite the dangers, Laguna-based environmental photographer Tom Lamb has willingly traveled across the roof of the world to photograph blessings proffered by Tibetan elders and their heirs. In 2014, for example, Lamb trekked into the Himalayas to the remote and stunningly beautiful Palyul Choekhorling Monastery. There he witnessed the enthronement of His Holiness Drubwang Pema Norbu, a beatific child who has been recognized as the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche, a venerated teacher who died in 2009 after revealing the Four Cycles of Heart Essence. In a singularly revealing and joyous portrait by Lamb, created when the photographer was in what he describes as “a meditative walking dream state,” a golden child raises a small bouquet toward heaven as rose petals fill the air and flutter to the temple floor, signaling the conclusion of a five-day religious celebration seldom seen by Western eyes.


Lamb was at the Dalai Lama’s side on a rare visit to Norgeyling, a remote Tibetan settlement camp in central India, a journey that increased Lamb’s admiration for those enduring hardship in exile. Lamb subsequently travelled to Vancouver, Canada, where His Holiness met with Tibetan arrivals who had recently been granted Canadian citizenship. In June of 2015 he accompanied His Holiness to his home in exile in Dharamsala, India, for the first of many 80th birthday celebrations and prayers for a long and healthy life. Lamb also attended a benefit in Orange County where His Holiness addressed issues such as climate change and Tibetan cultural preservation. This benefit was followed by a Global Compassion Summit at UC Irvine and the Honda Center where His Holiness Dalai Lama interacted with fellow Nobel Prize laureates, teachers and students.

A Concerned Photographer Embraces Contradictions

After training as a visual environmental educator and documentary photographer at the Hartford Art School and the Rhode Island School of Design, Tom Lamb has devoted his career to environmental and cultural issues affecting indigenous people. At the same time, he has advanced local and international environmental and cultural causes such as his newly formed Nying-Je Foundation for the preservation of Tibetan culture.


Lamb has created dramatic aerial photographs of worldwide challenges from a land use and preservation perspective. His photographs are also intended to help the viewer understand how land functions as social space. While seeking transcendence, this concerned photographer embraces the real world’s ironies and contradictions.

Lamb was the Vice President of the US-China Environmental Fund, the first non-government environmental organization with an office in China. There he was project director for the Beading International Friendship Forest at the Badaling Great Wall and the Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve project in Sichuan Province. During his stay in Western Sichuan in the early 1990s, Lamb encountered the art, culture and traditions of Tibet. It was this experience that subsequently inspired him to create panoramic views of the Lhasa glacis as well as capture the stark beauty of the Tibetan grasslands. By accident or fate, he was the first Westerner in 50 years to gain sanctioned access to Aba County, a previously lost horizon where he captured gobsmacking views of earthen structures, mountains and monasteries while continuing to make empathetic photographic portraits of Tibetans from many walks of life.

Art & Faith Can Contribute to Peaceful Solutions

On the surface, Lamb’s photographs are seductively beautiful. Their colors, patterns and textures emerge as lyrical abstractions that free the viewer from references to perspective, scale and function. In so doing, they reveal an inner beauty and spirituality that resonate with the Dalai Lama’s most inspired teachings. While more strife on the roof of the world probably lies ahead, Tom Lamb’s Tibetan photographs metaphorically implore the hotheads on both sides to give peace a chance.

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See more of Tom Lamb’s work at

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Muhammad Ali on his 39th Cover of Sports Illustrated

I was happy to see The Greatest appear for the 39th time on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

It’s almost as if he knew I was about to release the e-book version of my 1976 book Muhammad Ali Retrospective.

The two related Sports Illustrated articles:

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