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Archive for May, 2010

The Constant Called Change

The one constant companion at every stage of our lives is: Change.

Very few things in our lives can resist change.

Of course, there are a few facts that come to mind, almost instantaneously, that are seemingly exempt from change. One such is:

The sun rises every morning in the east.

However, it is said that our beloved sun is a dying star. It will not die in our lifetime or in the next however many lifetimes of humans, but it is predicted that in 5 billion years from now the sun will run out of hydrogen and fall into itself.

So, in a way, even the sunrises are constantly undergoing transformation, though we cannot discern it.

My point?

Nothing, whether living or inanimate, escapes change.

(Yes, in honor of this topic, I have changed the picture in my blog’s header :).)

Here are some quotes about life and what role change plays in it:

  • God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

                                                 – Reinhold Niebuhr

  • Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.

                                               – Unknown

  • There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.

                                                 – Winston Churchill

  • You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

                                                  – Mahatma Gandhi

  • Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.

                                                – Unknown

  • Things do not change; we change.

                                                  – Henry David Thoreau

  • When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.

                                                 – Benjamin Franklin

  • Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.

                                                 – Unknown

  • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

                                                – Anatole France

And now, to end on a somewhat lighter note:

  • The world is changing so fast I’ve got societal vertigo. 

                                               – Terri Guillemets

Lastly, if Hazel Soares can earn a degree at 94, then isn’t making a sincere effort at embracing change (especially if it’s in the right direction) the least we can do?

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Witty Monikers

In this day and age when everything and everyone is competing for attention with everything else around, one thing a company (or a store) needs in order to stand out is an uncommon or witty name.

If the name or tag line makes people (who could, in the future, become customers) pause and take notice, then whoever came up with the moniker got it right. If it makes people smile, then they have scored a major point.

Here are some titles/names, which I have come across myself, that seem to have an idea similar to what I allude above.

Just to add a little fun to the post, I made it into a little game. Care to play with me?

Match the following:

Pair each of the names on the left column to the correct product or service on the right.

Name of Company/Store       Type of Product/Service Offered

1) Hiny Hiders                           a) Jewelry and watch repair

2) Image Cleaners                    b) ‘Make your own’ Sandwich place

3) On the Spot                          c) Piano store

4) Who’s Your Geek?                d) Play care center

5) Shades of Green                   e) Fitness and weight-loss centers for women

6) Goin’ Postal                           f) Windshield repair

7) Curves                                  g) Products related to extreme sports

8) Kiddin’ Around                       h) Laundry and dry cleaning services

9) WaterWorks                          i) Women’s clothing

10) Crystal Clear                        j) Personalized Products and Gourmet Foods

11) Which Wich?                        k) Company that makes stalls for restrooms

12) Watchamacallit Fashions     l) Nursery

13) Heart’s Desire                     m) Installation and repairs of computers

14) Adrenalina                           n) Car wash

15) Encore                                 o) Mailing and shipping services

My favorite among them? Hiny Hiders, of course. I came across it in a public restroom recently (I let the cat out of the bag on that one, didn’t I?) and laughed out loud. You have to give it to the wicked and risqué sense of humor of whoever came up with that name. Maybe, more so to the spirit of whoever actually went ahead and registered the company in that name :-).

Goin’ Postal comes a close second for me…

Have you come across any that made you chuckle or pause, even if only for a moment?

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Does the title sound like a mix-up of metaphors? I agree. I had to do that to be able to do justice to what I want to say…  

This is kind of a meta-philosophical post, but the mood I find myself in today calls for such a one.  

I recently had a discussion with a friend, and it has got me thinking.  

It’s admirable to be able to stretch yourself and grow, especially in fields that do not offer you the comfort zone that you are used to. You begin with a dose of mettle, and keep going with gumption and sometimes with nothing but stubbornness and gritted-teeth as your aids.  

If all these are driven by love for what you are doing, then you’re among the lucky ones, because not everyone has the same luxury when they have to make a drastic change in career or lifestyle or both. Many have to tread that path out of sheer despondency and desperation.  

However, at times, there comes a situation when we need to revisit our goals and learn to give up, if that’s the right thing to do.  

Have you ever been in this situation before? You are walled in by a solid wall of rock on three sides, and the only way out is to slowly backtrack the way you entered into the tunnel. Which in turn means, you undo all the work you have put into:  

  • Gathering up the courage to even think about traversing the dark and unknown tunnel.
  •  Searching for the resources that such an adventure demands.
  • Convincing everyone around you (not even counting yourself) that it is the right thing to do and you know what you’re doing.
  • Garnering the wisdom and knowledge that came your way during your journey through the various stages of the tunnel. True, you’re not really giving these up, but you have to give up actively making use of what you learned.

Late one evening, as I sat waiting for my critique buddies to show up at the book store that we regularly meet, the conditions happened to be just right and there blossomed this rainbow. I took that as a sign (call me superstitious, but I tend to see signs everywhere these days) and decided to adopt it as my very personal light at the end of my tunnel :-). (Picture taken with the help of a not-so-advanced phone camera, by a not-so-mature hand.)

 

  

  

And then when you do come out of the tunnel, tired and dispirited, what do you notice? That the world around you has changed while you were on your quest. Nothing seems the way you left it. Everyone has somehow learned to move on without you in their midst. And you begin to feel like you would never belong anywhere again.  

I have not experienced anything quite like this myself (not the latter half, at least) per se. I have, however, put myself on the not-so-sturdy limb of a tree by getting into the writing field. The journey has been something of a revelation – sometimes wonderful and exhilarating and at times scary and unfamiliar – at every stage so far.  

Sometimes I can’t help thinking: what if this tunnel of mine, which I’m having a great time traversing, ends up with no light at the end (notwithstanding the fact that the light may mean different things to different people)?  

Will I be able to retrace my footsteps in time? Will I be able pick up the pieces and move on? Will I be able to find another pursuit as meaningful and enjoyable as this one?  

I don’t know the answers to these questions at this point in time. None of us knows ourselves well enough to guess how we’ll respond to such a hypothetical situation. If we do venture any likely and theoretical reactions, they will be just that – guesses. Not real.  

I sincerely hope that:  

            There never comes a time when I may even need to contemplate these questions.  

Do you ever feel this way about things in life? If so, how do you come out of these ponderous and ruminative thoughts?  

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Yes, it’s another award day at my blog. And I love these days, obviously!  :-)

I have been lucky enough to keep company with some amazing friends in blogosphere, these last three plus months, since I have begun blogging.

Every day I learn so much, be it from reading others’ blogs or carrying on conversations, via comments, in my own blog.

Every day brings a new experience. For instance:

  • An ‘aha’ moment when I read about how feminism might mean something entirely different for another woman
  • Wonderment when I read that others have déjà vu moments similar to mine
  • A warm feeling of camaraderie when someone whom you have never met comes to your blog and says that she’s happy to have happened upon your blog
  • Comprehension when someone disagrees with your comment/blog and explains why and you get it
  • A sense of belonging when a fellow blogger gives your blog an award

Recently my blog has been granted the following awards:

Jai Joshi from Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree passed on the “You are My Sunshine — Supportive Commenter award”. I’m so happy that Jai deems me one of the true supporters of her blog. It’s not hard for me to do that, believe me. If you haven’t had a chance to visit her blog yet, do so now. She packs a mean pace into her stories, and every Friday she posts a snippet from Indian mythology. A sure treat!

My blog has also been deemed bright and sunny by both Susan Fields at: An Insomniac’s Guide to the Writing Life and Heather at: The Sunset Won’t. It meant a lot to me to be told that the issues/topics I discuss manage to brighten a corner, albeit a very small one, of blogosphere.

Susan blogs about topics that you can’t help but like both as a writer and a reader. If you’re looking to network with other writers, get on board Susan’s happening blog.

Heather’s site is sunny and warm. Her blog’s name, whose tagline reads: “Many things can wait… but the sunset won’t”, says it all. Her blog is constantly on the lookout for what makes humans happy, among many other things.

If you haven’t checked out their blogs, better late than never!

And then a new writer-friend Dawn Simon at Plotting and Scheming bestowed the “Prolific Blogger Award” on mine. Gosh! For once, I was rendered speechless. It’s a wonderful feeling to be thus recognized by a fellow blogger.

Dawn’s posts include topics that both writers and readers can dig into: the conferences she has attended, the authors she has networked with, and insights into writing and revising. Do tune in to her blog!

Now, time to pass these awards on. I love this part as much as receiving the awards.

I would like to pass the:

 You are my sunshine – Supportive commenter award to some of my friends who consistently have my back with their insightful and timely advice and comments.

Lua Fowles at: Like a Bowl of Oranges.

Dawn Simon at: Plotting and Scheming.

Suma Subramaniam.

The Sunshine award to those blogs that get me thinking and keep me smiling.

Josie at: Highheels and Slippers.

Barb at: Creative Barbwire.

June Hur at: June H – Follow Her Journey to Publication.

The Prolific Blogger award to those bloggers who consistently churn out post upon post of funny, thought-provoking topics. One of the to-dos for this award is to link to the Advance Booking post, where this award has originated. (Also, please find the other rules for passing on this award in that post.)

Jai Joshi at: Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree.

Aspiring Novelist at: Mightier Than the Sword.

Sharon Mayhew at: Random Thoughts.

Susan Fields at: An Insomniac’s Guide to the Writing Life.

Kelly Polark.

Now, all those friends who visit my blog on a regular basis, but do not have a blog of their own, make one! And those of you who do blog, but do not accept awards, please begin to do so… If only so I can pass on these fabulous awards to you! :-)

Seriously though, I really appreciate the love and support you all have been showering on my blog ever since I started jotting down my thoughts here. In this world of crazy, busy schedules, the fact that you continually make time to tune in to my world means a lot to me.

Thank you, each one of you, from the bottom of my heart!!

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Newton’s Apple Tree Headed to Space *

Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree to Experience Zero Gravity – in Space **

Newton’s Apple Tree Bound for Gravity-Free Orbit ***

Have you come across enthusiastic headlines and captions like the ones above, for the past week or so, in dailies, weeklies, blogs et al?

No? Well then, allow me to be the bearer of some exciting and interesting tidings.

Remember the illustrious apple tree underneath which young (twenty-three year old) Isaac Newton, physicist and mathematician, sat one afternoon, mulling over all the concepts, ideas and notions vying for attention inside his head?

And then the aforementioned tree deemed it the right moment to plop an apple next to him. If it were any other mere mortal, I think s/he would have picked up the apple, dusted the dirt off, taken a crunchy bite out of it and gone on with their musings.

Not so our man of the moment, Sir Isaac Newton. The wheels of his mind began to turn faster: Now, why did that apple fall straight to the ground? Why did it not travel sideways a bit before it fell? Or, why did it not just fly upwards?

A light bulb went off inside his head: Of course! It is because earth pulls things towards it.

And from thence was born: The Universal Law of Gravitation.

Are you going, at this point, “Hmm… Hema’s nattering on as if she has been sitting right next to Newton when the apple fell, and heard him think these questions out loud. What baloney!”

No, of course, I wasn’t there myself, but here’s what William Stukeley, one of the first biographers of Sir Isaac Newton, said as told to him by the subject of his biography himself:*

It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself … Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.

Where does the apple tree in space enter into the picture? I’m coming to just that.

British-born NASA astronaut Piers Sellers carried with him a 4-inch sliver of the apple tree, beneath which Newton sat those 350 years ago, aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on its final mission. (The shuttle is currently on a 12-day mission that began on the afternoon of Friday, the 14th of May, at 2:20 P.M. EDT, to deliver some hardware to the International Space Station.) 

Sellers is flying the piece of wood for the Royal Society of London, of which Newton was a former president. It seems that this piece of tree has written on it, in 18th century lettering, the words:

            I-S-dot-Newton

Fourth generation scion of the tree from Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton’s childhood home

Now, isn’t that exciting? What do you think Newton would have said if he were around? He definitely would have approved.

The piece of the tree will be returned to the Royal Society following the Atlantis’s return to earth from the twelve-day flight.

Now, here’s my question for the day, dear readers:

            If you were given the chance to pick one thing that would be made part of a time capsule to be buried (don’t know how that would be done, but let’s just leave it at that for now) in space for extra terrestrials to find, what would you choose?

My answer: A bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because some of the earliest forms of life on earth are believed to have originated inside the ocean.

There’s also another aspect to water on earth that intrigues me no end. What exactly is it? That’s a whole another post for another day! :)

* – CBS News

** –  The Guardian

*** – NPR

NASA’s Mission Page – Has videos of the lift-off of the shuttle and in-depth information about the mission.

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I participated in a webinar led by agent Mark McVeigh a few weeks ago. He had invited a group of writers, who follow his blog, to this webinar; I happened to be one of the lucky participants!

Mark worked as an editor for eleven years, most recently as editorial director at Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division, before he opened his own literary agency, The McVeigh Agency.

He spent 90+ minutes explaining the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry: how to get a literary agent, how to present your work in the best possible light to people in the business, and how to make connections with editors and others in the industry. He left plenty of time at the end to answer the questions that we had.

His presentation was clear and concise. (He was a sixth grade teacher before he entered the publishing industry and his experience in that field and his love for teaching came shining through during the session!)

And the added bonus? None of us had to rush to the airport on time, take a two/three hour trip to get to the destination, or check into a hotel in order to attend the seminar.

We used a web tool to connect, so we could not only hear each other, but also see each other. All we had to do was log in from wherever we happened to be at the time for which the session was scheduled!

Do you want to grow as a writer? Then you have to hear Mark’s advice in that area:

  • Write every single day.
  • Get into a routine to write.
  • Be part of a critique group – online or face-to-face or both.
  • Become involved and immersed in the writing community.
  • Work on different genres for different age groups: get out of your comfort zone.

At Mark’s suggestion, a number of the participants, including myself, immediately formed an online critique group.

I found out soon, much to my delight, that this group is pretty eclectic in the genres and age groups for which it writes. I belong to a wonderful face-to-face critique group already, and now I’m very excited about being a part of this new one also.

Overall, it was a pretty cool session — one which gave me a chance to not only learn from one of the pros of the publishing industry, but also connect with a bunch of like-minded writers who are willing to learn and grow alongside me.

I hear Mark is planning on conducting more of these webinars, which don’t require anything special besides a webcam on your computer. Keep your ears to the ground!

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I have come across several kinds of book clubs: 

  • Those that have both men and women meeting on a regular basis to discuss books
  •  Some that meet in a book store
  • Those that are led by a librarian from a school or a public library
  •  Still others that focus on a particular genre (Mystery book clubs or Philosophy book clubs, for instance) or a particular set of people (book clubs for mothers)
  • Those that are virtually led by a celebrity (Oprah’s book club)
  • Parent-child book clubs

  

In this post, I’d like to focus the spotlight on the last one in the list above. 

A likely scene from a Mother-Son Book Club

 

In a parent-child book club, usually, the children are expected to choose a book for the month and pitch it to their peers and the parents present. Each month, both the parent and child read the book(s) selected for that month. When the meeting is held, the lead asks open-ended questions about the subject of the book and both parents and children gathered share their opinions with each other. 

In my experience, a parent-child book club is a beautiful concept, and the best use of the time (an hour a week or month, or whatever the frequency may be) in the case of both the parent and the child involved. 

Here are some positive aspects of such a book club, as I see them: 

  • If you’re the parent, you get to meet other like-minded parents who are invested in their children’s growth as a reader. Chances are you find that you share other common interests with them.

  

  • If you’re the child in the equation, you get to meet other children who like reading and are not shy about making that fact public knowledge.

  

  • You show your children by your actions that reading is an admirable quality.

  

  • Affords less time for the child to waste on T.V and video games.

  

  • Motivates the child to read a book with careful attention for comprehension.

  

  • Teaches children to be open-minded to others’ opinions and responses.

  

  • The children get a kick out of telling the parent, for a change, what to read. It is a wonderful way to boost their self-esteem by letting them know that you value their judgment.

  

  • If you’re anything like me, you have one or two genres that you naturally gravitate towards, when you pick up a book to read. When you belong to a book club, you are at times forced to read some other genre – one that you may have never even thought to try – and you may surprise yourself by actually liking it.

  

  • Your child will get to taste a lot of genres before he/she learns what she prefers and doesn’t like to read.

  

  • It’s a solid way to tell your children that you care about them and their interests. As a building block to the parent-child relationship, it goes a long way.

  

  • It’s a great means to instill tolerance in children, by exposing them to history and other cultures around the world.

  

  • Children learn to express themselves coherently in public.

  

  • We tend to forget that children have a public and a private persona just like adults. As a parent, we’re usually exposed to the private side of our children. Book clubs offer a great opportunity to parents to get a glimpse into how children carry themselves in public.

  

  • It gives great confidence to children to be able to express their opinions and have adults pay undivided attention to them.

  

  • Whoever said “out of the mouths of babes” was not kidding. You may be surprised at the depth of understanding for a subject that a child can pack into his/her answer. They have such fresh and unadulterated perspectives that you may end up learning more from them than the other way around!

  

  • Nothing can beat this last point: as a parent, can there be a greater pleasure than to watch your child express an opinion that is diametrically opposite to that of the whole group gathered around her, and be able to hold her ground and justify her stance?

And these are only some of the plus points of a book club that involves a child; I could go on, but will stop here for now. 

Note: If you’re a reader, writer, editor, literary agent or a good Samaritan at heart, you may want to visit: Do the Write Thing for Nashville*. 

This site is auctioning off signed copies of books, critiques and more from authors, literary agents, editors and other professionals from the publishing industry, in an effort to raise money for the victims of floods (that resulted from the record amount of rainfall on May 1st and 2nd of 2010) in Nashville, Tennessee. 

* Thanks, Rachel, for forwarding this link to me!

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I mentioned in my post last Monday that I happened to go to an Agent/Editor Day ten days ago, held by the local chapter of SCBWI.

I already shared with you my impressions from the topic discussed by Rachel Orr, the agent from Prospect Agency.

Now I present my impressions of what Margaret Miller, the other speaker for the day, had to share with all the writers gathered to hear her talk.

Margaret Miller is an editor for Bloomsbury Children’s Books USA, having moved there from Harper Collins Children’s Books in summer 2008. Authors she has worked with include Dan Gutman, Daniel Pinkwater, Philemon Sturges, Ann Rinaldi, and Kathy Lasky. At Bloomsbury, she will focus on middle grade and Young Adult fiction, with a few select picture books.

Margaret’s topic for the day was:

Working with an Editor: Your Bill of Rights – What to expect when you’re working with an editor when you, the writer, decides to submit your work directly to an editor at a publishing house without the aid of a literary agent.

Margaret basically explained the nuts and bolts of the relationship between an editor and an author at various stages of the book’s life:

  • Before a writer submits his/her manuscript to an editor.
  • When a writer gets an offer from an editor.
  • During the editing process.
  • After the editing process is finished.

She had this to say about what an editor means to an author:

  • an advisor
  • a champion
  • a therapist
  • a cheer leader
  • the one person who will read your manuscript with the utmost attention

She encouraged writers to:

  • keep their relationship with their editor professional (it means do not call her every single day, please!)
  • choose an editor who will help them to fulfill their vision for their book and
  • choose a literary agent to represent them, if possible.

One point that Margaret made in the course of her talk heartened me, because it is one aspect of the publishing industry today that keeps me awake at nights: book promotion by the author.

Let me explain.

Looks like in this technology-crazy world (sorry, I know that’s a strong statement, but isn’t it true though?), everybody’s attention is being pulled in several directions every second. So, most everyone is, whether willingly or unwillingly, trying to promote themselves and/or their products.

Authors and their books are no exception. Even if each publishing house has its own publicity and sales force, authors are expected to work hard at self-promotion and also at publicizing their books.

This includes school visits, making use of internet as a tool, book signing tours etc.

I hear everywhere these days how important it is to brand yourself, as an author, in order to promote your work. This means hosting your own web site in addition to blogging, face-booking, tweeting, and networking in all sorts of ways that you can think of.

That is all well and good, but the amount of time that an author has to put into publicizing his/her one book is time that the author spends on:

  • not working at her craft
  • not putting time into his next project
  • not working at improving her style and content
  • not networking with a very important group of people: his core critique group
  • not taking some time to relax and rejuvenate herself, before she can tackle all those ideas hammering at her brain

Yes, these all worry me.

That’s why I loved what Margaret had to say before she went on to answer questions:

It is good to network, but not networking won’t necessarily make or break your book.

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Here’s part 1 of the same post: Feminism: What Is It? – Part 1

This post may not be the best one for your little tykes at home to mull over. However, if you wish to use it as a conduit to discuss the world at large with them, then I’m glad to be of assistance!

Here are my responses to questions 4 and 5 posed at us, the five participants. Please remember that the whole debate/conversation had its basis in the article written by Charlotte Raven.

In my opinion, it is a personal choice how anyone wants to conduct oneself, but once someone gets into the public eye (as a celebrity), they become role models whether they want to or not.

They may deserve to act as they wish as individuals, but they also have a moral responsibility and accountability, at that point, that come with fame.

  • Cuban: It looks like womanhood – whatever that means, and please, contribute your own thoughts to the definition of that word – and feminism are mutual friends and foes, depending on the context and the individual. What’s your take on it?

Hema: What is womanhood? There is no one universal definition for it, because it means different things to different women. In fact, I would take it a step further and say that the word means different things to the same woman in different contexts.

Womanhood (free of all cultural connotations attached to it), for me, is basically defined by the sum of all the principles a woman holds dear.

I do not agree that depending upon the woman in question and the context in which she finds herself, feminism and womanhood are rivals.

If a woman’s view of feminism (because even this word has many layers to it) is in-line with the principles she upholds, then she could be a feminist and still be true to her definition of womanhood.

We hear every day about women (in their own confessions) who are forced to compromise their integrity, among other things, to achieve success. It is my belief that in cases such as this (where the woman has the luxury of thinking about success as opposed to survival), there has been a deviation between the woman’s ideals and her definition of success, or there wouldn’t even be a question of a compromise.

And her choice that led to the compromise is a personal one, and cannot be blamed on feminism.

  • Cuban: In the same way that market forces created the metrosexual man at the end of the 90s and beginning of the 2000s (clean-shaved chins, a more effeminate look and Brazilian waxes, although I would definitely stop at the latter), the same consumerist, publicity machine gave birth to pole-dancing, guilt-free promiscuity and alcohol-fuelled hen nights. Female liberation or misogynous Neo-colonisation?

Hema: Can we blame this new phenomenon entirely on consumerism?

This is definitely not female liberation. If it is, then it is implied that all those (majority, I would like to point out) women who refuse to embrace this so-called trend are: subjugated, down-trodden, and uncouth.

Also, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it colonization, because that would imply that the larger chunk of today’s women think that way, which is untrue. If anything, this tendency is as much a personal choice, on a case by case basis, as anything else.

And why should it be called misogynous, when women are the ones facilitating this shift, to the most extent, by choosing such a lifestyle? I blame it on a combination of: excess of love for themselves, a skewed definition of success, and the fashionable “I’m worth it” attitude going overboard.

I realize a little explanation is in order here:

My response above has been a general one about the trends in existence now (with respect to the role models that abound around us and their influence on the choices that the young make), rather than a commentary on pole-dancing for pleasure or any of the other lifestyle choices listed in the question above.

I am not well enough acquainted with these and so would not profess to have any informed opinions about them, except that they are not for me.

To view how the other four participants responded to these two questions, tune in to Cuban’s blog!

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