June Letters II: Black domestics on stage…

Readers respond about black domestics on stage, Gertrude Stein, Anthony Weiner's resignation, to Dan Rottenberg about sex abuse and female naiveté, to Robert Zaller about the Barnes Foundation's financial projections, to Bob Ingram about aging hippies, and about Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers.

Black domestics on stage

     Thank you for “Black domestics on stage,” by Jackie Atkins, but it still made me sad, and a little angry.
     I could feel Jackie Atkins reaching for the nobler side of a black woman portraying a maid during the days when blacks were, legally, allowed to be lynched in this country. You were attempting to take the sting out of it. I appreciated the attempt, but it simply brought up a host of other suppressed emotions.
     As an African American woman, I had mixed feelings about Hattie McDaniel "proudly" portraying a maid. She had no other options as an actress at that time. So she did what we as a people have always done, and still do: take the crap that is served to us and make gourmet cuisine out of it.
     Currently, I'm working with Hollywood producers, developing a major project, and, sadly, not much has changed in Hollywood for any person of color. So far I've been informed by celebrity talent (behind the scenes and in front of the camera) that the Hollywood execs could care less about people of color, particularly African Americans, or their stories. All I could do was sigh, and reflect that, in the 21st Century, not much has changed.
Carla P. Morales
West Philadelphia
June 22, 2011


Gertrude Stein

     Re Reed Stevens’s essay on Gertrude Stein—
     Good— no, great— response to this exhibition. Tells me more that I ever would have known about Toklas. Bravo Reed!
Martha Swanson
Rockport, Mass.
June 24, 2011


     I just saw this exhibit last week and found it to be really fascinating, especially after seeing Woody's take in Midnight in Paris the same week. I wondered about why Alice was so poor after GS's death. I also wondered about their relationship to Fey in the Vichy regime and thought they may have had some deal with him for post-war art trading. Does Reed know about that?
Jane Jacobs
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 22, 2011


     This review was a feast in itself. I could never decide whether Gertrude Stein was a man or a woman. Her work never interested me but she remained a force in 20th Century art. The writer brilliantly captures Stein’s complexity.
Richard Caudill
Campbell, Calif.
June 25, 2011


     For the record, Stein had a sister as well as bothers, and she willed her entire art collection to Toklas (this was contested by Stein's family and Toklas, without benefit of marriage equality, lost them).
     In addition to being an astute collector and appreciator of the most advanced art of her time, she is a groundbreaking modernist writer, who pioneered techniques in poetry, theater, the novel, criticism, and memoir. Like the writing of many of her modernist peers, much— but not all— of Stein's writing resists easy interpretation. But her work has rewarded the careful reading of many, many writers, artists, poets, and playwrights who have come after her.
Mark Lord
Swarthmore, Pa.
June 25, 2011


     I enjoyed the witty article always loved that time period and the fascinating REAL characters who inhabited it and the art they produced which enriches our world today as Reed said forwarded it to my daughters I don't think younger people have the same interest in it but I hope they will follow up on it one lives in the bay area would be a worthwhile visit for her to make I like Reed she is a good friend keeps me posted on SF culture
Roz Daneman
Santa Fe, N.M.
June 25, 2011


     How amusing that you are so judgmental about Gertrude Stein. If she was half as offensive as you claim, then you both share in unfair judgments. Do some genuine research on her and then report back to us with facts, not your under-informed opinions. Until then your comments indicate that you feel that you think; and, think that you feel, which is a highly resistible combination for someone posing as a writer.
James Hellyer
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 22, 2011


     Reed Stevens replies: I’m far too lazy to do genuine research on Stein. However, I have ordered Janet Malcolm’s Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, from my library, and as soon as I finish reading it, I’ll get back to y’all.

     The Gertrude Stein essay made me so jealous that our Jewish Museum doesn't hold a candle to the San Francisco Jewish Museum, which is vibrant, creative, current and continually stimulating. Their changing exhibitions are always exciting. Instead we have a rather humdrum collection of memorabilia with a profusion of storyboards to read in case after case. I went once to the rather dull Philadelphia Jewish and have little interest in returning soon— this said by a museum junkie.
Joan Myerson Shrager
Elkins Park, Pa.
June 29, 2011


Anthony Weiner’s resignation

     Re “Why did Anthony Weiner resign?” by Robert Zaller—
     Although the subject is now history, I maintain that it was much ado about nothing. Yes, Anthony Weiner's Internet escapes were adolescent but what laws did he break. He neither raped nor pillaged. He did not misappropriate funds. He never sold his vote for money from lobbyists. I wish all our political representatives were so upright.
     Think about it: he is a middle-aged male, perhaps becoming slightly uneasy about his sexual powers, so he is whistling in the dark. Not unusual.
Anne R. Fabbri
Wayne, Pa.
June 22, 2011


     Why should Weiner have to resign? If you can't tell the difference between your fantasies and putting images of your body on line, you have major problems with reality and cannot have any part of the public trust. It is not a matter of morality but one of sanity.
Nancy Herman
Merion, Pa.
June 22, 2011

Male abuse, female naiveté

     Re “What should women do?” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook)—
     This opinion piece is misguided and sexist, and doesn't belong in BSR or any other publication. Blaming the victim is nothing new, but I expect better from you, Dan Rottenberg. Are you really putting forth the idea that Lara Logan was "asking for it" because she wore a revealing dress once?
     Women have a right to dress provocatively, especially if they "want to get laid." But no woman wants to be raped. Rape is an act of violence, not of sex.
     You need to educate yourself about the issue before writing and printing a vile piece like this.
Amy Smith
South Philadelphia
June 8, 2011

     Editor’s note:
The writer is co-director of Headlong Dance Company.

     Watch out Dan. You're starting to sound like an old mother superior I had in ninth grade who chastised her fledglings to "dress modestly and never let a man take you to a restaurant that has white tablecloths, because these linens remind a man of a bed.”
     I went down the wrong path. Somehow a burqua and McDonald’s just isn’t me.
Jackie Atkins
Northern Liberties/ Philadelphia
June 7, 2011


     â€œLiberated women” make one very basic erroneous assumption. They imagine that men act and think like “liberated women.” Despite the women’s glib jargon about the battle of the sexes, men-- straight, gay or semi -- are testosterone-crazed creatures endowed by their creator to perform the two important tasks: lifting heavy rocks and knocking up every female in sight.
     Remember, men start wars. Women insure the future of civilization.
     In addition, those of the male persuasion all suffer from a hearing defect. If a woman says no with a smile they hear a yes.
     If you’re female, getting so drunk that you can’t actually remember what you did and need police to escort you home can be considered contributory negligence. Going to his place if you’re not interested in having sex with him— unless he’s glatt gay— is another provocative act. And flaunting your tits— whether genetic or purchased— without being aware of their effect on the stupid sex is stupid, especially today, when friendship with benefits means getting laid without any major emotional investment.
     OK, OK— these comments are written by a woman of 78, who still remembers what it was like to be young and hot. But we put out in a last-ditch effort to hold on to someone who we thought would be a life partner.
     Truthfully, I was never all that attractive or seductive. I was realistic and amusing. My humor came with a nasty edge that turned off prospective rapists far more quickly than even Anita Ekberg’s tits would have turned them on.
Myra Chanin
New York
June 8, 2011

     Editor’s comment:
The writer is the author of the Mother Wonderful cookbooks.

     One recalls the classic '50s photo of Jayne Mansfield leaning over the table at a celebrity dinner as one of her iconic breasts escapes its modest bounds. Such titillation back in the ancient pre-siliconed day! And look at us now!
     Cleavage has become a commodity that every female age 12 and up must display in order to fit in, no matter the discomfort of being squeezed like a lemon (to wit, Julia Roberts). As the father of two grown daughters, I stand appalled at the behavior toward women, from crude and rude to deviant and sick, that my gender so often considers its birthright.
     But that said, I stand equally perplexed at the reckless "Look at my tits, just keep your hands off ’em or I'll shout" double standard of today.
     Oh, and don't get me started on halter-topped female runners/walkers in the park plugged into iPods. "Naiveté" quickly devolves into "sheer stupidity" there.
     Perhaps it's worth acknowledging that Lara Logan's brutal Tahrir Square nightmare must have resulted at least in part from being an intrusive foreign journalist as well as being a comely female (presumably sans cleavage there).
Phil Wagner
Villanova, Pa.
June 8, 2011


     I don't think Lara Logan was dressed that way when she was reporting. I agree with what you say about the appropriateness of behavior and dress but feel that, just as there is freedom of speech, there is also a freedom to be who or what you want to be without inviting murder and or sexual abuse upon one's self.
     What's next? Burquas because men are so weak and lack self-control?
Phyllis Mass
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 8, 2011


     I think you're being a little rough on Lara Logan, no? The “let it all hang out look” is almost a (self-imposed) requirement on the various award show red carpets, but she certainly wasn't all cleaved-up (as in your photo) when those Egyptian goons attacked her.
     That said, I also think SaraKay Smullens' s piece was waaay over the top in laying all the blame on the male of the species while, in general, your response presented a more balanced distribution of responsibility. Without falling on the tired "She was asking for it" petard, you rightly assigned reasonable amounts of blame, encouragement, call it whatever, in the examples you cited.
     When I've been to nightspots where the some women’s' clothing appears to be painted on the relatively few places left to one's imagination, it's tough to argue they're totally innocent victims of some jerk's "testosterones gone wild."
     There's a lot of room for reasonable discussion here, but I still can't give a pass to a woman who subjects herself to the frequency and degree of humiliation cited in Ms. Smullens's most horrid example. When things get that bad, no excuse seems acceptable for sticking around or not seeking help from the numerous sources available.
Paul Decker
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
June 6, 2011

     SaraKay Smullens replies:
A great many women, as well as men, on the deepest level, just do not like themselves and punish themselves for this self hate by enduring incredible abuse. (Yes, this happens in both sexes, but the article referred to was about hatred of women.) They then tell themselves that they cannot possibly cope with a family alone, or being alone; and they fear nasty divorces, for many reasons. Plus, divorce is deeply frowned upon in certain religions.

     I am a 25-year-old female who has lived for well over a decade in the possession of a pair of terrific, ample breasts. They are mine, and I’m quite attached to them. They are as much a part of me as my smile, my eyes, my personality, or my fabulously sexy brain, and I wouldn’t change them for the world.
     I am also making a living in Philadelphia as a costume designer. I think about clothes – a lot. I attempt to always flatter my figure, feel comfortable, and look my best for any given occasion. Occasionally, this might emphasize my cleavage. Shockingly, I have never been the victim of a sexual assault.
     In part, I attribute this to the company I keep. I am blessed with a lovely assortment of male friends, all of whom, to the best of my knowledge, are in possession of a penis. I have never once felt the same way about their genitalia as you seem to: that it should be equated with a loaded gun, and that the sight of my wanton legs, thighs, or cleavage will cause it to unexpectedly go off. In my professional acquaintance, I have worked with a number of directors, producers, and designers who are male, and never once have I been the victim of a sexual assault by attending late-night production meetings in their home.
     Frankly, I think I can speak for them when I say that were I to arrived prepared for the possibility of sexual intercourse in addition to the roster of script rewrites or fabric discussions on the agenda, they would be perplexed and horrified. I cannot envision a world in which I cut out 50% of my companions by virtue of the fact that the “male animal craves drama about as much as food, shelter, and clothing.” How sad that you have such little regard for your own gender!
     Rather than deprive women of the right to their own choices of wardrobe, I would challenge men everywhere to think and act like decent human beings. (Most of the ones I know do).
Katherine Fritz
South Philadelphia
June 8, 2011


     I hope you find great comfort in your new career selling burqas and deadbolts. Your masochistic-she-was-asking-for-it attitude is disgusting. You have lost me as a reader.
Cybele Perry
Lansdowne, Pa.
June 9, 2011

     As a 22-year-old with an arsenal of turtlenecks that could rival anyone’s, I understand that modesty and behavior can help avert uncouth stares and inappropriate comments. However, it is my choice, as a woman, to wear what I will, and nothing is an excuse for sexual violence: From honking horns to rape, it is never the fault of the victim.
     Mr. Rottenberg, your assertions about female "naiveté'" are archaic, offensive, and shockingly incorrect.
     Let's start with your comparison between your neighbors Ann and Sarah. Sarah, you say, invited crimes of sexual violence into her home – against herself, and her child— because she dressed like a flower child and didn't have an alarm system. It would seem that the attacks have far more to do with her careless security than with her choice of apparel.
     I took the liberty of researching where the picture of Lara Logan was from, and it just so happens it is from an awards show honoring female journalists. This “provocative dress” is loose fitting on bottom and hits below the knee. But frankly, that is neither here nor there, because Logan’s attack had nothing to do with the way she presented herself. The men in Tahrir square were repressed and power-hungry, and this manifested itself in a shocking sexual assault.
     Mr. Rottenberg, I understand that you are still in the mindset of a different generation. One of the most liberal feminists I know— my father— had the following response to The Vagina Monologues: “Wow, times have changed. In my day ‘No’ really did sometimes mean ‘Yes’.” It is time for you and me to join forces and to stand up against sexual violence.
Maya Tepler
West Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     You must mean, "Earth to men who want to sexually assault women: it doesn't matter what they were wearing." Otherwise, you'd be holding the victim of a crime accountable for the crime that was committing against them, and that sure doesn't wash, does it?
     "Earth to rich people: if you walk around wearing fancy clothes, most people will assume that you can afford nice clothes. But muggers will take it as a sign that you want to be robbed."
     "Earth to alive people: if you walk around being alive, most people will assume that you are alive. But serial killers will take it as a sign that you want to be murdered."
Chris Braak
Manayunk/ Philadelphia
June 9, 2011

     For your essay to make any sense, you would first have to prove that women dressing provocatively are more likely to be molested than women dressing conservatively. I don’t know if there are any studies to prove this. The experience of your two neighbors hardly constitutes proof. But even if there was proof, it’s sad to think that women should bundle themselves up to feel safe in our society.
     I suspect that one reason some women dress provocatively is that they want to attract the attention of men, with the hope of starting a rewarding relationship. We men certainly encourage this by paying more attention to alluring women. So you might say the blame game – if there is a blame game to be played – starts with us.
     But I think blaming is uncalled for. It’s like blaming merchants for encouraging shoplifting by creating attractive retail displays.
Donald Drake
West Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     Your online publication has long walked a thin tightrope between journalistic standards and irresponsible publication. This instance, though, is simply the lowest point your website has reached. Is it honestly your theory that if all women wore burqas, rape would cease to exist? For I assure you there are plenty of women in Saudi Arabia who would disagree.
     I have serious questions about your editorial process if you feel comfortable allowing this damaging and dangerous writing to pass on your website. Was there no editorial review? Did no one at BSR mention to Mr. Rottenberg that many of the views he believes to be common sense have been called nonsense by not only advocacy groups, but also the U.S. Supreme Court?
     At the end of his essay, Mr. Rottenberg says that it's easier to change our own behavior than the behavior of others. Fair enough. While it is his right to espouse such views, it is also my right as artistic director of a theater company to make it very clear that the Broad Street Review is no longer welcome to Flashpoint's productions. This includes anybody from Broad Street Review, not just Mr. Rottenberg.
     I do this because I simply can't allow the hard work of artists I employ to be subjected to the reviews of such an unprofessional publication. I also do this because, from time to time, some of our actresses wear attractive clothing on stage as part of their roles, and I wouldn't want them to be accused of provoking the male audience members into sexually abusing them.
Thom Weaver
Artistic Director
Flashpoint Theatre Company
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     I'm so angry at the ignorance displayed in this article that it will be wise for me to cool off before writing a dignified response. But Mr. Rottenberg is not welcome to review shows at Brat Productions ever ever ever again.
Madi Distefano
Co-artistic director
Brat Productions
Fairmount/ Philadelphia
June 9, 201


     Editor’s comment: If someone boycotted your theater company because he or she found an idea expressed in one of your productions misguided, how would you respond?

     Madi Distefano replies: There is a big difference between art and journalism. Plays can express all kinds of ideas, but a journalist should do homework before making naive assumptions about why rapists rape and giving dangerous advice to readers. Brat Productions has turned away many audience members over the years that are not comfortable with nudity, homosexuality, vulgarity and general punk-rock mayhem. That's fine with me. I stand by my decision to ask you not to come to my shows.

     Dan Rottenberg replies: Actually, experimental theater and experimental journalism share much in common: open minds, a passion for free speech, a reverence for the right to be different, and a belief that there is more than one way to discover the truth. I would be the first to defend your right to control your audience, but as for BSR, we will continue to welcome submissions from anyone who feels so inspired, including members of your audience as well as yourself.

     Oh, Dan. What were you thinking? Women should keep a low profile? Not be who they are because a rapist/robber will get the idea they're prey? This is caveman thinking.
Merilyn Jackson
South Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     As a fellow man, I don't have any primal urge to rape women or go to war. Such Freudian theories have long been outdated.
Jason Del Gandio
Northern Liberties Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     Rather than adding to this entitlement by suggesting that it’s women who should cover up, why not go after the low-life men who think that a women in a nice looking, revealing outfit is prey? Rape happens because rape is tolerated. Stop the tolerance.
Will Jaye
Fishtown/ Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     What you had written in this article is reprehensible and indicative of the old-boys'-club attitude that is preventing real progress in the realm of human rights. I have forwarded your article to as many people as I could find, around the nation and the world, to expose such an opinion as vile and wrong. I hope you recant what you have said and learn something about humanity.
Lucas Nguyen
South Philadelphia
June 9, 2010

     Rottenberg writes, "Many of the tragedies mentioned... spring from what I see as a naÓ¯ve faith in the power of the modern sexual revolution."
     Really, which ones? The woman who is apparently married to an abusive man? No, there have always been abusive men. The injured woman fondled by an ambulance crew? I don't see how the sexual revolution caused that. The college date rape incident? Now we're getting somewhere. She's a dumb slut for allowing herself to be alone with a guy— is that the idea? The two massage incidents? I suppose the message here is that women should not hold certain kinds of jobs or expect businesses to protect them from being assaulted by their employees.
David DiSabatino
Queen Village/ Philadelphia
June 10, 2011


     I'll be sure to never go to my male friend's home again, because if I do, well, clearly I'm asking for sex, right? If I had a brother, would it be safe to go to his house after dark?
     Women can take all the necessary steps and precautions to protect themselves and still become victims.
Katie Koncan
Burnaby, British Columbia
June 10, 2011


     I’m disappointed that SaraKay Smullens’s recent article, both chilling and insightful, had to be followed up with your backward-thinking jargon. To quote Smullens: “Violent, sadistic men behave the way do because they can.” And the reason they can is because of the victim-blaming and shame-inducing culture we live in— something that was made startlingly obvious by your article.
     Would you ask a male journalist— outside of work— to not pose for pictures during the summer without a shirt? Would you advise your male friends, “Hey, man, listen, I don’t think going to her apartment is a good idea. I mean, what will other people think?” Would you call a male masseur a prostitute?
Jennifer R. Burrini
South Philadelphia
June 9, 2011

     You're a disgusting human being and everything that is wrong with the world. We have the right to wear what we want and say no. If you can't control yourselves, you should be locked up in cages.
Amy Mullen
Fairmount/Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     Not only are you indirectly blaming female sexual assault and harassment on women, but also you are lowering men to barbaric, thoughtless, wild animals who have no sense of decency whatsoever. If I were a man, I would be just as insulted by this article as a woman.
     When you talk as though a society full of people who respect each other can never happen, you become part of the problem, not the solution.
     Obviously, everyone should be careful. I rarely go out late at night alone, and if I have to I always stick to bright areas and keep my electronic devices hidden. But these are rules every person should follow.
Annette Baker
Upper Darby, Pa.
June 9, 2011


     I understand that you're trying to put rape prevention in practical terms, and you are correct in your conclusion that avoiding dangerous situations is a good way to avoid falling victim to crime, be it rape, robbery, or anything else.
     However, women (and men, and children) aren't raped because their personal presentation suggests that they "want it"— they're raped because we live in a culture that tacitly (or not so tacitly) condones sexual assault through a variety of outdated, self-indulgent rationales, your argument being one of them.
     That argument, however, doesn't even hold up: Women in short skirts and low cut tops are not the world's only rape victims, as the recent cases of an elderly woman on the Upper East Side (forced by a stranger to perform fellatio) and a burqa-clad Saudi woman (raped by her driver) can attest.
Rebecca LeVine
West Philadelphia
June 9, 2011


     You alone are responsible for your behavior. Most of us learned that in elementary school.
Byron Butenstein
Snohomish, Wash.
June 11, 2011


     How can any woman tell what a man thinks? It's like a man telling a woman what she thinks. So whatever side of the argument you take, don't speak for me, because you're not qualified to do so.
     There are good and bad examples of both male and female. Personally I know good when I see it.
Mike Riddell
Lymm, United Kingdom
June 11, 2011

     If a male embedded journalist were pulled away from his security forces and subjected to a horrific beating, causing him mental and psychological abuse, would you be blaming him for causing his assault? Would you be commenting on his appearance in pictures, and how they show a portrait of a man who was asking for a series of boots to the head?
     Approximately 1/4 to 1/6 of women report having been the victim of completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetimes, and only 6% of reported assaults end in conviction. Have you ever had an honest and open talk with women about rape and assault, including and especially the women you claim to care about? Women you know have probably been assaulted, and many of those who haven't suffer anxiety about preventing assaults.
Phil Mole
Chicago, Ill.
June 11, 2011


     Women have been raped as a part of war since the beginning of time, no matter what they wore. Your examples don't even support the argument you're attempting to make— an argument, by the way, that is identical to the one used by fundamentalist Islamists to justify making women wear burqas and not letting them leave the house alone because men are crazed, sex-obsessed animals who cannot control themselves.
Jennifer Egmont
Chestnut Hill/ Philadelphia
June 12, 2011


     Men are around attractive, provocatively dressed women all the time, all over the world, and don't respond by attacking them. Conversely, the other sad fact is that men attack women all over the world, every day, regardless of how the women look, dress, or comport themselves.
Matt Ruben
Northern Liberties/ Philadelphia
June 12, 2011


     If the writer really wishes to assert that female journalists with partially exposed cleavage should dress more responsibly as this manner of dress may give an impression that these women are promiscuous, naive, and lead lifestyles that encourage a desire for sex, then male journalists should stop wearing ties when they report, as ties are nothing more (check
your history) than a phallic symbol or, more clearly stated, an arrow that points to a penis.
Ari Benjamin Bank
Fairmount/ Philadelphia
June 12, 2011


     Instead of blaming victims of horrific, unimaginable crimes for their actions, maybe we should mandate castration for the male species!
     I'll continue to enjoy Peter Burwasser’s and Tom Purdom's music reviews, but I've lost a great deal of respect for a publication that I once viewed as a pleasant oasis from other Philadelphia media.
Amy Miller
Logan Square/ Philadelphia
June 14, 2011


….responses to the responses

     It is disappointing to feel the temper of so many of the responses to Rottenberg's comments. Where is the forum for reasoned exploration of a question, an idea? A place where the aim is not a lethal hit but a mutual movement toward understanding?
     Would the theater directors bar all reviewers from any publication that has ever printed a disagreeable idea? An ad from a corporation not totally in line with their politics or persuasions? Would there be a reviewer left in the audience who passed through such security measures?
Mary E. Hazard
Center City/ Philadelphia
Jun 15, 2011


     Looks like my friend, Dan Rottenberg, has gone and done it again! This, according to the backlash I'm seeing on FaceBook and elsewhere— y'know, with those intellects with little to no impulse control.
     I know Dan, and I know that he does not hold the view of women of which he's being accused. I think a careful reading of his opinion will reveal that he's really saying that there are men out there who are truly nothing more than beasts, and that women should recognize that we live in a dangerous world— no, that they live in a far more dangerous world than do most men (although men get raped, too)— and that they need to recognize that "mere" civil and legal protections won't stop a subhuman male animal who thinks he sees an opportunity.
Bert Wylen
Maple Shade, N.J.
June 18, 2011


     Broad Street Review is designed as an open forum on art, culture, and politics, and it has in my view succeeded admirably in this mission, which is why I continue to write for it. Its editor's opinions are not necessarily those of its contributors, nor vice versa. If the directors of Flashpoint and Brat Productions don't want me to review their work because of Dan Rottenberg's views on contemporary female dress codes, I can only say that I shall be more than happy to comply with their wishes.
Robert Zaller
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
June 17, 2011


     I was stunned to see Tara Murtha didn't even bother to actually speak to Dan Rottenberg before hanging him from his thumbs in her weepy, supercilious Philadelphia Weekly piece drowning in fake outrage. Instead, she sliced and diced a piece he had written in his own publication, Broad Street Review.
     Apparently for Murtha, it's far easier to impersonate a blogger and play holier-than-thou as an armchair writer than be a, well, journalist and actually speak to the person you're excoriating.
     While I don't always agree with Dan Rottenberg— and why should I?— I do believe he writes without looking over his shoulder, and that's not a bad thing. I mean, he edits a publication and he was in a dialogue with one of his contributors. I got that, and therefore didn't have to hate on him myself as a reader.
     Actually, Rottenberg's views are consistent with a certain way of thinking. I suspect Camille Paglia might agree with Rottenberg in general. She has written about rape in ways not always pleasant to read, but she celebrates taking individual responsibility for actions.
     We have become a culture enshrining “victimhood.” I urge Tara Murtha as a quote/unquote “writer” to at least impersonate a professional journalist and do her job by contacting the people she's vilifying and at least give them the right of reply.
Maralyn Lois Polak
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 17, 2011


     I am a 50-year-old woman with children, grandchildren, a husband and a full-time job. I had never heard of you until about 15 minutes ago when I read this article. I looked up your website and it doesn't strike me as the rantings of a right wing extremist. Have I misinterpreted your position?
     I assure you I have walked past untold thousands of men, and even if I were showing some thigh, I was not attacked.
Michele Kingsley
Hendersonville, N.C.
June 18, 2011


     I had not seen Dan's response to my article on "the code of silence" surrounding male sadism and violation of women until several people told me about it. I have been asked to respond to it by several.
     I believe that women (and men) have the right to express themselves artistically and creatively through their chosen clothing, and have fun doing so. This is one of the many pleasures of a free society.
     I also believe that common sense for both sexes should prevail, depending on where we are and what we are doing. Further, Lara Logan has always, in my opinion, shown both common sense and professionalism, as well as beauty and style, which I applaud.
     I also want readers to know that other publications turned down the article I wrote, and I am grateful that Broad Street Review published it, as it details very unsettling truths about common abuses endured that many would prefer are neither disclosed nor discussed. I have spent my professional life trying to bring these endured and damaging abuses (including those that are invisible, such as cycles of emotional abuse) to public awareness, where they can be faced and addressed; and I see their impact as lethal both personally and politically.
     I welcome a forum where we could discuss this entire matter together; and I repeat and stand by the concluding sentence of my article: "Violent, sadistic men behave the way they do because they can."
SaraKay Smullens
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 19, 2011


     I am writing to ask the leadership of Broad Street Review to remove Dan Rottenberg as editor of the publication because of an inexcusable editor's letter he wrote in which he blamed journalist Lara Logan for her rape.
     Mr. Rottenberg overstepped the bounds of an editor of a culture magazine to blame Logan, and other women, for being sexually assaulted and in doing so has lost the trust and respect of Broad Street Review's readership. One in four American women (and one in six American men) will be the victims of sexual assault. Attitudes like Mr. Rottenberg's make victims less likely to come forward because they feel the rape is somehow their fault and protect rapists by giving them cover for their crimes.
     Readers turn to Broad Street Review for local arts and entertainment news, not to be blamed for being raped. Please take action immediately to remove Mr. Rottenberg as editor of the site.
Nikki Fraser
Brisbane, Australia
June 22, 2011


     Editor's note: The letter above is the latest of nearly 2,000 identical letters sent to us as part of a campaign organized by the Women's Media Network through www.change.org, a website that generates Internet protest petitions. In addition to the many letters we received in response to my column, we also received several directed to our publisher, Amy Webb, in the mistaken belief that she is my boss. On the contrary, Amy exercises no executive authority at BSR. Her responsibilities here are limited solely to business and technical advice; she has been listed as publisher simply to indicate that our business and editorial decisions policies are kept strictly separate. Letters about our editorial policies should be directed to me.

     When women say they have a right to wear anything they want, they are right— they do. But in a city like ours, when you flash flesh you're likely to get "gritty" in return.
     Additionally, I find it ironic that men in our culture have gone the “modesty” route with their overlong, baggy swim suits, while women keep edging closer and closer to something like total nudity.
     If there is a Dan Rottenberg Defense Fund, I'll gladly sign up.
Thom Nickels
Fishtown/ Philadelphia
June 23, 201


     Women wear revealing clothing for their own sake and not for any man's sake. We don't do it for you, we do it for ourselves. Get that through your head.
Jane Endacott
Portland, Ore.
June 24, 2011


     I love to sit outside in my backyard during the summer. Sometimes, on a hot summer day, it would be nice to take off my shirt. But then the mosquitoes arrive, sucking my blood, driving me inside to get some mosquito repellant and to put my shirt back on.
     I don't think Dan Rottenberg is blaming the victim. He is simply saying; Alas, some men— utterly lacking in moral training— are mosquitoes.
     I tried to "holler back" at mosquitoes, because I really do want to take off my shirt. But all the pests seem to think about is sucking my blood.
     I shouldn't have to keep my shirt on and spray myself with repellents. So the question is this, ladies: How do you train a mosquito to be more respectful?
Rosamond Kay
Germantown/ Philadelphia
June 27, 2011


     Editor's note: To read my response to the responses, click here. To read more letters responding to my columns, click here.

Why the Parkway Barnes will fail

     â€œThe new Barnes and its financial projections,” by Robert Zaller, is without a doubt, the best explication of the Barnes' debacle in print. It is outrageous that no response is "necessary" to the facts presented by the move proponents. This is the reason the courts are the last resort, since behavior that is incompetent, bordering on the criminal, is tolerated by Philadelphia’s elite with public impunity.
     The coming court hearing in Judge Ott's chambers could set aright this tragedy in the making.
Walter Herman
Merion Station, Pa.
June 8, 2011


     I've occasionally disagreed with Robert Zaller's opinions in this forum, but he's spot-on concerning the flawed plans for the Barnes Foundation’s success on the Parkway.
     Setting aside the arguments against moving as many great regional attractions from the suburbs to Center City as they can and the egregious violation of the deceased's intentions for his own estate, this decision still stinks worse than three day-old fish.
     It's amazing that the Barnes-to-city big-money troika could so brazenly move this along so far (think concrete bunker on the Parkway growing uglier and bigger every day) with no credible supporting research or fiscal pro formas. Yet those involved here happen also to be the very same involved in the ridiculous move of the American Revolution Center to Independence Mall— again, with no credible research and a CEO who's managing the project from the nation's capitol.
     Would any venture capital fund look kindly on either of these doomed-to-fiscal failure messes?
Thanks, Professor Zaller, for not letting this issue fade quietly.
Paul Decker
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
June 8, 2011

     Strange things happen all the time. So what would happen to the new Barnes if Judge Ott rules the other way? The Parkway structure now arising structure would be perfect for a contemporary art museum. In that field, Philadelphia pales by comparison to smaller cities like Boston and San Francisco.
Elliott Curson
Center City/Philadelphia
June 8, 2011


     Robert Zaller may be correct in his prediction that the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway will fail because the "official" financial projections are unrealistic. I'm not convinced by his analysis, however, because I am suspicious of a spread sheet prepared by someone who wishes so fervently that the project won’t succeed and has worked so hard to assure that outcome.
     Unlike Zaller and his colleagues among the so-called "Friends of the Barnes," I don’t believe that the Foundation could have been financially viable in Lower Merion. One reason is that he (and they) never factored into their hypothetical budgets the costs associated with running educational programs of the nature and scope stipulated in Albert Barnes's will. This is not surprising because they never believe in that educational mission.
     Their primary objective has been to preserve an elitist past when a limited number of persons had access to the collection, at a ridiculously low fee, so that they and their kind could view the art in quiet and relative privacy.
As I have argued in previous postings, the move of the Barnes' collection to the Parkway offers the most promising opportunity for the Foundation’s educational mission to be fulfilled, a mission never taken seriously during its decades at the current location.
     I say to Derek Gillman and his team: Go for it, even it the balance sheet eventually dooms the enterprise to failure. I don't believe this will happen; but if it does, better that than the ignominious fate of striving to survive in violation of Barnes's expressed intentions.
Gresham Riley
Old City/ Philadelphia
June 14, 2011


     Robert Zaller replies: Gresham Riley thinks I may be right that the Barnes may be doomed on the Parkway but is simultaneously "not convinced" by my analysis because I've opposed the move. Conceding that the Barnes may well fail will not do much for his own arguments about honoring Barnes' educational mission. A failed Barnes will educate no one.
     You can defend moving the Barnes if you argue that Albert Barnes's vision was flawed, parochial, and elitist; some have done so. But you can't do so by claiming you know what the old man wanted better than he did himself.
     Gresham doesn't think my argument that the Barnes would do better in Merion holds water because I don't factor in the costs of "running educational programs of the nature and scope stipulated in Albert Barnes' will." Barnes's will did not contemplate any expansion of the existing educational program, either in scope or content. He never saw it as serving a mass audience; the nature of the galleries he designed it to be conducted in meant that classes would be of modest size. The cost of running the program was accordingly modest too.
     A final observation: Small classes aren't inherently elitist. They are just good pedagogy. It's mass art education, with its cynical marketing of consumerism, that smells of condescension, and contempt for the ordinary citizen.

     Gresham Riley now admits that the Foundation may not be fiscally sustainable on the Parkway, and further offers this new "insight" that Dr. Barnes's ambitious educational mission cannot possibly be accomplished in Merion. This statement strikes me as absurd, given that all of what Dr. Barnes sought to teach is embedded in his carefully designed and conceived gallery and gardens in Merion. What specifically in the field of aesthetic education can the Barnes Foundation do on the Parkway that cannot be done better in Merion?
Victoria C. Skelly
Wayne, Pa.
June 18, 2011


     I just paid my last respects to the Barnes and I was struck by how security is very tight in search of every snickersnee on site. The second floor is closed. It's a case of the Barnes door closing while the hearse is stealing toward the Parkway.
     One more neigh sayer's post mortem.
Mary E. Hazard
Center City/ Philadelphia
June 29, 2011



Aging hippie’s love song

     Re “The love song of an aging hippie,” by Bob Ingram—
     Great article! It brought a laugh and a big, big smile to my face! Keep wishing! Would that more of that world had held onto those hippie sensibilities.
Wil Durant
Yeadon, Pa.
June 15, 2011


     A beautiful tale, or true story? Bob, I never know with you! Every story sounds so real I can imagine being there; seeing, hearing and feeling. I love tie-dyes and connected with the creation and imagery.
Arlene W. Leib
Wynnewood, Pa.
June 15, 2011

     Bob Ingram replies:
The hippie is real, as is the tank top ... the magic is in the mind of the reader. The dude has lousy tanks this year: ribbed rather than straight-ahead cotton.

Lost in Yonkers

     Re Madeline Schaefer’s review of Lost in Yonkers—
     My husband and I went to see Lost in Yonkers at the Plays & Players. Not only was the play— the classic for which it was rightfully awarded the Pulitzer Prize— wonderful, but the actors were incredible, the best local production, I have ever seen. I feel it was worthy of being on Broadway, it was so moving, funny and entertaining. My only regret is that the small viewing section wasn’t filled and that more people could not experience such a wonderful evening of entertainment.
Elsa Van Thyn
Voorhees, N.J.
June 18, 2011


Orchestra confronts bankruptcy

     Re "The Orchestra, the Barnes and the courts," by Robert Zaller—
     A splendid piece, Mr. Zaller. I weep for you all.
Bernard Jacobson
Bremerton, Wash.
June 8, 2011

     Editor’s note:
The writer was formerly program annotator and musicologist for the Philadelphia Orchestra.