Monthly Archives: February 2011

The unmasking of @MayorEmanuel

The unmasking of @MayorEmanuel

Democracy’s volume is turned up in Wisconsin

Decrepit beauty

Battle hymn of the tiger child


Ok., so I wasn’t raised quite as strictly as Amy Chua’s daughters. I was allowed to go to sleepovers, an A- wasn’t a bad grade, I could participate in school plays (and did so with enthusiasm) and I wasn’t forced to learn a classical instrument.

But even though I was allowed more liberties, when I first read the excerpt from Chua’s book in WSJ, it was like traveling back in time to my childhood, especially the period after 1989 which is the part that took place in the U.S. And I have to tell you that it was, overall, quite a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Of course I can only say this now, imbued with the wisdom that adulthood brings. When I was a child and teenager, I longed for my parents to be more like my American friends’ seemingly cooler moms and dads. Why can’t I have an allowance? Why do I always have to get good grades? Why do you have to know who all my friends are? Why, why, why, why why??!! Having achieved some distance from the childhood and teenage years though, I can now unequivocally say that the Chinese/Indian/Russian/Jewish/etc. way of parenting is totally the way to go. In fact, where I was allowed more leeway by my parents than Chua’s daughters, I think I could have benefitted from less.

Yes, you read that correctly. I actually think my parents could have been more strict.

The crux of the issue is permissiveness and I truly believe that American/Western parenting is far too lax. You’ve got all these moms and dads out there trying to be their kids’ friends. I remember thinking this was utter and complete nonsense even when I was a teenager. Parents are meant to be parents, not friends. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a wonderful relationship with your parents. In fact, I believe “parent” is a status much higher than “friend.” A parent is owed deep respect, love and gratitude. A friend might eventually reach a status where you respect, love them and are grateful to them, but it’s very, very rare. Parents start out at that level as the default.

What is the end result of this type of parent/child relationship? Yes, sometimes its therapy 😉 But more likely, it’s what Amy Chua expressed multiple times in her recent Chicago Tonight interview and what I absolutely agree with. Like Chua, I deeply love and respect my parents to this day and they have always been my biggest fans (joined in the cheering section of late by my husband of nearly five years :-))

So you see, if done correctly, this type of parenting doesn’t alienate the child from the parent. It actually brings them closer. Because what Chua also reiterated multiple times in the interview and what I can tell you I experienced growing up is that there is a tremendous amount of love that comes with this style of parenting. Somehow, and I still don’t know how they did it, my parents made me feel so loved at all times that I understood completely that their pushing me was for my own good. It was because they loved me so much and believed in me so fully that they urged me to excel. They knew what I was capable of and they only wanted me to live up to my potential. Is there something wrong with that?

Finally, I want to touch on something Chua mentioned at the end of the Chicago Tonight interview. It was the part where she briefly talked about being proud that her daughters were growing up more slowly and traditionally. Again, this mirrors my experience and what it made me realize is that there are many other benefits to raising kids this way besides them getting good grades. Not sure what I mean? Let me spell it out. I’m talking here about all the things parents (allegedly) want to keep their kids away from: drinking, drugs, sex and other self-destructive behaviors. 

I always felt so loved by my parents and so safe and protected in their home, that I could never fathom disapppointing them by taking drugs or even smoking. To this day, I’ve never smoked a cigarette (of any sort) even though my dad smoked for part of my childhood before eventually quitting. I also never drank in excess even though my parents drank and I often accompanied them to dinner parties where the adults imbibed with frequency and enthusiasm. Without going into great detail, I didn’t engage in sexual activity until much later than many of my peers. All of these things and more were freely on offer at my high school by the way. I just didn’t partake in them. 

As I understand, many American parents achieve this level of moral adherance only with strict religious mandates and threats of Hell or other such deterrants. As Soviet Jews who had had the religion beaten out of us several generations ago, my parents weren’t exactly pious. But again, they loved me so much and had sacrificed so much for my welfare and happiness that I would have thought it unthinkable to turn my back on all of that by acting irresponsibly. Perhaps this too is a cultural difference between many Western parents and those of the Tiger parent variety. Western parents seem to focus a great deal more on their own lives than those of their kids. In my culture (and many others) parents can have careers and their own lives of course, but job #1 is always helping their children through life in every way possible and this job supercedes all others.

Ultimately, when I look back, I also realize that my parents taught me self-respect and self-esteem on a daily basis. They taught me to have a strong sense of self and to believe in myself. It’s so ironic to me that people have decried Chua’s methods precisely because they think they would be damaging to a child’s self-esteem. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. When parents set a high standard, a child believes that they can reach it and that they are worthy of success if they work hard for it every day. This eventually produces adults who are ambitious, hard-working and who always strive for better. Sounds to me like a world I want to live in.




This John Paton guy is my HERO

Stop listening to Newspaper people.

We have had nearly 15 years to figure out the Web and as an industry we newspaper people are no good at it. No good at it at all.

Want to get good at it?

Then stop listening to the Newspaper people and start listening to the rest of the world.

And, I would point out, as we have done at JRC – put the Digital people in charge – of everything.

Find new voices and let them push you around.

Someone fills in as me in a Tribune comments section

I was going to get all snark-tastic in response to this “article,” but then decided against it. I think they call that personal growth! Trust me, no one is more excited than I about this development.

Then I scrolled down to the comment section and saw that someone had already done the job for me:


jefferson.1971 at 10:46 AM February 15, 2011

First it was smoking, then teen driving and more recently the nutritional value of public school lunches.  Next up, Groupon.  Good or bad, the Tribune has found itself a new obsession for year 2011.

The bulk of the people patronizing Groupon self-absorbed “crazy busy” yuppies/transplants who, outside of playing marathon-training, have a boatload of free time.  Maybe they should have been out there shoveling all that snow a few weeks ago instead of sitting inside blogging about “dibs.” 

Give it time.  The economy will pick-up and Groupon will fade away.  Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the yuppies.




It’s their stuff. We’re just putting it online.

Recently, I had an epiphany.

I’ve written before about the tension between print and online media and so have many others of course. Let me once again here mention Robert Hernandez’s still recent and still wonderful clarion call to print media. I linked to it before, but in case anyone was too lazy to read it, here it is once more and here’s my favorite part of his fictional dialogue with an Executive Editor or other top decision-maker at any news org:

Look, the biggest obstacle in journalism right now isn’t whether people trust “us” or not. It’s not even the revenue crisis we are all facing and feeling every day.

The biggest obstacle is… you.

[Awkward pause]

Then, if the person hasn’t left the table, I’d say:

I can continue trying to explain these concepts to you, draw my little pictures, employ my weird (often pop-culture drenched) analogies… all to get you closer to understanding these concepts.

Or, you can just admit (and hopefully be okay with) the very strong possibility that you may never really understand.

But, also, realize that it’s not about you… it’s not about you understanding.

That spending time on trying to have you understand, so you can approve, has delayed and hurt us for SO MANY YEARS. We can’t afford that time any more.

Please know that you have a very important role here, but trying to be the visionary when you don’t understand is not that role.

Take that leap of faith by putting your trust in the people who are just as passionate, concerned, obsessed about journalism as you are… trust those “Web people.”

You see, I’d say, that for each category I described, there are amazing Web journalists doing work that is changing our industry, but leadership hasn’t noticed, let alone appreciated it.

I have yet to read anything else that sums up the print/online problem so succinctly. 

So let’s get back to my epiphany. I recently had someone kindly try to tell me that look, print people see things a certain way and it’s just not going to change anytime soon. “It’s their stuff. We’re just putting it online.” When I thought about this further, I thought YES!!! That’s it exactly and therein lies the problem. That single, solitary quote can explain every source of friction between print and online people at a media organization. It helps explain why the print people are ultimately in charge of content creation and delivery. It helps explain why print people drive the development of new content. It helps explain why print people set the tone of a media organization. And let’s be honest, it helps explain a great deal more as well.

Think about it again. “It’s their stuff. We’re just putting it online.” They created it, they own it and they’ll tell you what to do with it. This makes perfect sense to them and why shouldn’t it? They created  this stuff so they should be in charge or what happens to it.

But of course we know this apporoach is problematic. Putting aside for a moment the notion that this thinking presupposes that “web people” have no idea what to do with content, is it even the way art is normally handled? An artist paints something and then a gallery or museum curator decides where to hang it, in what frame, with what lighting, etc. An musician records a song, but their record label may decide whether to release it and a radio DJ will decide whether to play it and even if they play it, when and how often they’ll do so.

Why does all this happen? It happens because while artists are good at painting and musicians are good at making music, they might not be equally good at promoting or selling their work, deciding how to present it to an audience, etc. Now, it’s true that some musicians and artists are good at all of the above. But this is rare and anyway, a gallery owner or a record label exec is just not going to take that chance (or else no one might see that painting or hear that song EVER).

Writers are their own sort of artists with their own artistic temperments. I know, because I’m one of them :-) But what I also know is that these days writing isn’t enough. Writing has to also be seen by the right audience, at the right time, in the right format and in the right environment. And that’s just for starters.

So why do artists, musicians (and we could add filmmakers, dancers, etc) allow their work to be so readily handled by others while writers hang on to it for dear life? And why do people who know better allow it to happen? Maybe you can explain it to me, because I don’t have the first clue.



Seafood and rice deliciousness at Machu Picchu.

When the government breaks the law, it doesn’t count

The exemption from the rule of law has been fully transferred from the highest level political elites to their counterparts in the private sector.  “Law” is something used to restrain ordinary Americans and especially those who oppose this consortium of government and corporate power, but it manifestly does not apply to restrain these elites.  Just consider one amazing example illustrating how this works. 

After Anonymous imposed some very minimal cyber disruptions on Paypal, Master Card and Amazon, the DOJ flamboyantly vowed to arrest the culprits, and several individuals were just arrested as part of those attacks.  But weeks earlier, a far more damaging and serious cyber-attack was launched at WikiLeaks, knocking them offline.  Those attacks were sophisticated and dangerous.  Whoever did that was quite likely part of either a government agency or a large private entity acting at its behest.  Yet the DOJ has never announced any investigation into those attacks or vowed to apprehend the culprits, and it’s impossible to imagine that ever happening.

Why?  Because crimes carried out that serve the Government’s agenda and target its opponents are permitted and even encouraged; cyber-attacks are “crimes” only when undertaken by those whom the Government dislikes, but are perfectly permissible when the Government itself or those with a sympathetic agenda unleash them.  Whoever launched those cyber attacks at WikiLeaks (whether government or private actors) had no more legal right to do so than Anonymous, but only the latter will be prosecuted. 

And as always, you should read the whole article that this excerpt comes from.