Friday, September 23, 2016

Why is it acceptable to be ridiculously rude to writers?

Yesterday I attended a literary luncheon for the witty, wonderful Emma Donaghue, whose new book The Wonder I can't wait to read. As Emma spoke I scribbled notes in my bullet journal to share with fellow writers and students. During the lunch, I remarked to a woman sitting at the table that I'd been taking notes because I, too, am a writer.

Rude question number 1: "Have you published anything?"

me: "Yes actually, let me think, FIFTEEN BOOKS."

Rude question number 2: "And you actually make a living from that?"

me: *starting to explode internally but still being my mother's daughter externally* "Well yes. I can't afford to do this without making a living from it. I have a family to support."

Said woman was a career woman herself - finance apparently. It just makes it all the more insulting and infuriating that she would ask me such rude questions.

Of course, as any creative person knows, this isn't the first time I've been subjected to this line of questioning from random strangers at a social event. The same people who wouldn't DREAM of asking a hedge fund person they don't know "Are you beating the indices this year?" or a heart surgeon "What's the survival rate of your patients" in a social setting, feel they are entitled to treat those of us engaged in creative pursuits with absolutely no respect.

I won't pretend that making a living from creativity is easy. It is HARD, HARD work. I wrote ten books in three years - not to mention countless political columns and some essays, and I also taught creative writing to kids and was an adjunct in an MFA program. To put it bluntly, I worked - and continue to work - my freaking ass off. But I am doing what I love and am completely passionate about, and that is what makes the difference. When I worked in Finance, working this hard felt like work. I enjoyed my job, found it interesting, and I learned a great deal, but I wasn't passionate about it.

I'm beyond tired of creatives being the Rodney Dangerfields of the career world.

The next time you open your mouth to ask a writer, artist or singer a rude question, ask yourself if you'd ask it of your investment advisor or orthopedic surgeon. If you wouldn't, please close your mouth.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What is the difference between cultural appropriation vs cross-fertilization? A sincere question.

Recently, the amazing cantor at our synagogue, Magda Fishman (if you get a chance to hear her sing, run don't walk!)encouraged me to join our synagogue choir after a lifetime of thinking I couldn't sing. I've now taken as my motto the line from Florence Foster Jenkins: "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

I was driving home from rehearsal last night (we're currently on double time rehearsals for the High Holy Days) and one of my favorite cover songs came up on shuffle:

I wasn't a happy teenager, and I listened to a LOT of Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon is still one of my favorite albums of all time, and the necklace I wear around my neck is the "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" I got for my 40th birthday, which I never take off unless I have to for medical or security reasons. One of my first bylines was a review of Pink Floyd's Wall Tour concert in my high school newspaper.

It didn't make me upset when Wyclef Jean did this cover, as it appeared to for some angry commenters on You Tube. I LOVED the fact that the same music that provided me meaning and strength as a disaffected, depressed white female teen in the suburbs did the same for two refugee teens of color in the projects of New York City.

It's the same thing I felt when I went to a Talking Dreads concert at the Fairfield Theater a little while back -

I've always loved the Talking Heads. Went to see them in concert in the 80's a bunch of times - including in Chapel Hill when I was in college. Seeing their music performed by Mystic Bowie with this new and different energy was nothing other than awesome.

One of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs is When the Levee Breaks.

But that was a rock n roll, driving version of Memphis Minnie:

I have them both in my collection. But when the shizzle hits the fan in my life, I tend to listen to the Led Zeppelin version, because it the driving drum beat gives me strength. Maybe that's my inner teen rock chick?

I guess this all got me thinking about the question - where is the line between "cultural appropriation" and "cross fertilization of ideas"? I ask this in a genuine way, as a creative person, who was brought up to learn from and appreciate and respect all cultures.

My late Grandma Dorothy said this:

"We are all part of one humanity. There is no pure group . We are all mixed up through commerce and conquest through the ages."

"How can we trace the influence of one group upon the other...through the arts, through music, through dance, through theatre, and literature!"

So I continue to ponder this, and welcome constructive response.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Political Correctness" and The Golden Rule

For years, we've been subjected to people complaining about "political correctness", but in the 2016 election candidate Donald Trump has made it an election issue in itself.

Source: NY Times, Republican Debate Coverage

“I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore. So if you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully-crafted lies, and the media myths the Democrats are holding their convention next week. But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.” Donald Trump GOP Convention speech

Before I even get into the discussion of why I have such a problem with people who proclaim loudly "I'm not PC", let's just unpack the idea that political correctness means lack of truth, by looking at the Politifact record of non-PC "there will be no lies" Donald Trump and the woman he constantly (and immaturely) refers to as "Crooked Hillary."

Source: Politifact

Well, what do you know? It appears Mr. Straight Talk is more crooked than the person at whom he's hurling the epithet.

What was that childhood phrase? “I’m rubber, you’re glue; Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Perhaps Mr. Trump never learned that in the school yard?

Now that we've cleared up the idea that being "not PC" doesn't necessarily equate to being honest, I want to talk about what we mean by the idea of political correctness. When I was a child, it wasn't called political correctness. My parents called it "manners." My parents called it "having respect for other people." My parents called it "respecting and learning from other cultures." My parents called it "treating others the way you'd like to be treated."

This last is what we call "The Golden Rule" and it is common to pretty much every faith and spiritual system in the world.


That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it." - Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a


All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:12 King James Version

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.


"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 3

Native American Spirituality

"Respect for all life is the foundation." The Great Law of Peace.
"All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk

"Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself." Pima proverb.


"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4

"Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'" Doctrine of the Mean 13.3


Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Udana-Varga 5,1


"This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you." Mahabharata 5:1517


"Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not." "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself." Baha'u'llah

This is a sampling. You can find more at

My friend Neal Byles draws the excellent webcomic With the Band and you should totally go follow him right this very minute on Facebook and Twitter. Here's his WWJD take on political correctness:

And another great one from Neal:

Remember The Golden Rule: treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. It might just help prevent you from sounding like a bloody idiot.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Eric Trump, Sexism and Misogyny - An Action Call to Men to ASK QUESTIONS instead of TALKING.

With the first woman being confirmed as a candidate for the office of President of the United States, the very same week that the serial sexual predator Roger Ailes was forced to resign from Fox News for allegedly harassing women for decades - enabled by his top staff, it appears, which makes it all the more sinister and revolting, this election is becoming a perfect storm for confronting the sexism and misogyny that most of us women have been facing for our entire lives - in school, in the workplace, in the legal system, in government, on the Internet, in dealing with companies, in advertising, in pretty much every facet of our lives.

Last week, I wrote a piece for CTNewsJunkie after Trump's unsavory campaign manager, Paul Manafort, said that women would vote for his candidate because “They can’t afford their lives. Their husbands can’t afford paying the family bills.”
As a woman who is self-employed, owns my own home, pays my own mortgage and makes my own investment decisions you can imagine I didn't take that very well. I am not alone. But this is the "America" this cave man and his cave man candidate apparently want to "bring back."
This is the "great" America they remember.

Let me tell you, it wasn't so great for women - and what makes me so furious is that I never imagined that the kind of sexism and misogyny that I put up with 30 years ago when I entered the workforce would still be in play - in fact even worse in some cases - when my DAUGHTER would be two years away from graduating college. Thanks to the religious extremists in this country (who ironically, are quick to blame OTHER RELIGIONS for being extremists) women - especially lower income women - in many parts of the country are struggling to find healthcare.

Yesterday, women were "treated" to Eric Trump the young, privileged white son of an older, privileged son, (both men who have got to where they were because they were born into wealth) - say this "Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman. She wouldn’t allow herself to be subjected to it".

Well, she was the boss's daughter and she was subjected to it. Of course, when they found out she was the boss's daughter they apologized. But what about all the women in the world who AREN'T the boss's daughter. What about them, Eric? If your sister, who IS the boss's daughter gets harassed EVEN THOUGH SHE IS THE BOSS's DAUGHTER and she IS a strong woman, how the heck you make such a moronic argument?


I'm issuing a challenge to all the men I know - and even those I don't who might be reading this.

I'd like you to go and ask questions of all the women you know. LISTEN.

Don't talk. ASK them about their experiences. Talk to your mom. Talk to your grandmother. Talk to your peers.

Ask them if they've been harassed. Ask them if they've been abused. Ask them if they've been roofied.

Ask them if they were ever put in a situation that made them deeply uncomfortable.

Ask them if random guys tell them to smile on the street, like it's their obligation to smile just to make a random guy on the street happy even if THEIR MOTHER MIGHT HAVE JUST DIED.

LEARN. I would love to hear back what you find out.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An open letter to FAIRWAY management regarding your tasteless, puerile, "Juicy Melons" advert

Dear Fairway Management,

Clearly you have issues with managing your company. After all, you recently had to go through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, which signals to me that you don't always make the smartest choices.

But for a company trying to emerge from Chapter 11 to send out a sexist advertisement to WOMEN? What the heck are you thinking? I'm not going to post the advert here, because I don't want to give you the viral publicity you were apparently craving. Instead, I'm going to tell you this:

1) I unsubscribed from your email list.
2) I'm informing you that I'm not shopping at any of your stores until you issue an apology to me, my daughter, and to every woman who had to be subjected to that ridiculousness in the year 2016.

But here's the most important part. I'm letting you know just how much money I've spent with your company since you opened in Stamford in October 2010, so you know how much this ridiculous mishegas is costing you:

2010 $1474.44 Store opened in October
2011 $3495.41
2012 $4890.49
2013 $4849.39 includes $559.61 from Fairway Catering for Dad’s shiva
2014 $3965.85
2015 $3799.12 includes $287.15 from Fairway Catering for Mom's shiva
2016 $2088.93

Total $24,563.61

You see, Senior Fairway Management, I know all this because despite having a pair of "juicy melons" attached to my body, I have an MBA in Finance, I own my own house, invest in a financial portfolio, decide what car I'm going to buy, and make many other decisions about my life. I've achieved the success I have in my life while fighting exactly the kind of stupidity, sexism, and discrimination that ridiculous, puerile ad represents on Wall St, in publishing, in agriculture, in journalism, dealing with auto mechanics, dealing with plumbers, dealing with banks, and I never in a million years thought that by the time my daughter would be a few years from entering the workforce, she would STILL being facing this kind of crap.

So I've learned to put my money where my mouth is. When my investment broker disagreed with an instruction I gave him and told me "Ask your father" (even though my father had Alzheimer's at the time and, let me reiterate, I have an MBA in Finance and had worked as a financial analyst) I moved my investments to another firm. And that is what I am doing now.

Firms like yours need to learn that SEXISM DOESN'T PAY. It costs you money.

I hope for your sake all the bros and sexist idiots that liked that ad make up for the dollars you will lose from pissed-off intelligent, fed-up women like myself.

UPDATE: I decided to update with an image of the ad that was retweeted by Fairway Corporate Twitter referencing that women were upset with this ad and making light of it, with a totally disgusting hashtag:

For all of you at home who might not be aware of the more sordid meaning of the reference, allow me to make your stomach turn:

Again I ask: What sentient being in 2016 would think this is a good marketing strategy - particularly for a SUPERMARKET?

Friday, July 15, 2016

The "Malignant Hazard of Privilege"

On the recommendation of my friend Lee Strasburger I'm reading MEMOIRS OF AN ANTI-SEMITE by Gregor Von Rezzori

I haven't even reached Von Rezzori's writing yet, because I've been thinking so much about one of the last paragraphs in Deborah Eisenberg's introduction:

"How many actually evil people does it take to accomplish a genocide and reduce much of a continent to ash? Only a handful, it seems, but that handful requires the passive assistance of many, many other people who glance out of the windows of their secure homes and see a cloudless sky. It's easy enough for most of us to distance ourselves from attitudes of virulent racism, but what about from carelessness, casual snobbery - either social or intellectual - inattentiveness? Rezzori reminds us painfully that the great and malignant hazard of privilege is obtuseness."
"Yes, we wonder, what does it take to be a "decent person"? Maybe the most significant component is luck - the good luck to be born into a place and moment that inflicts minimal cruelty and thus does not require from us the courage to discern and resist its tides."

As another politician, one who has a phD in history says things like this:

and politicians and "nice" people in my extremely privileged town behave like this and people fight over which lives matter in more in slogans (seriously Mike Huckabee? I thought this was the Onion, not the Hill) instead of confronting the real structural inequities that exist in our country, Eisenberg's words resonate.

Last December, I wrote an op-ed entitled: Now is the time for moral courage: Politicians can't be bystanders to hate speech. Sadly, moral courage appears to be in short supply. Is it due to the malignant hazard of privilege?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Now more than ever: DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING

The last 48 hours in our country have been heartbreaking. And frightening. And then infuriating, as people with preconceived notions start making assumptions based on no information and making public statements threatening the life of our President, (looking at you, Rep Joe Walsh)
and staking claim to their sides. Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. I can believe that Blue Lives matter while simultaneously recognizing that there are grave injustices in our legal system and that there are many, many documented instances where the police have behaved unethically, and innocent black men and women have lost their lives without justice being served.

In our country, "justice" is for white people with the funds to buy it. That's something I learned in my late teens. Lady Justice isn't blind, the way she is portrayed on the courthouse steps. That's the ideal, but sadly, it isn't the reality in our country.

We are at a particularly dangerous time right now. Trust in government institutions is at low ebb. Election rhetoric has divided the country even more.

Now maybe it's because of my upbringing, where I was taught to look at everything from the outside, and very, very critically, but if I were a foreign government looking to destabilize the US even further, getting snipers to fire at police during a Black Lives Matter protest would be the perfect way to achieve that. I mean, look at what's happening this morning. More division. Dallas was on lockdown earlier this morning. It would be a propaganda win for a foreign power.

Has our government has ever taken measures to destabilize other countries? Of course we have.

It could be anyone. Don't assume anything. Remember, assume makes an Ass out of U and Me.