Is That a “Thing”

I got another phone call from someone who said, “Based on what studies have shown about you, you would be interested in ….” I spaced out what studies showed that I would be interested in—seniors health something; I was thinking, “Oh, no, not again.”

Is this a “thing” now, unsolicited phone callers telling you that studies showed you liked something and reading from scripts but unprepared to answer questions?

I hesitated for a long time, not sure how to respond. The silence got awkward. He started his script as if I had said, “Sure, go ahead. Can’t wait.”

Finally my mouth started to move. I spoke slowly. At times, the seconds between words were louder than the words themselves. He stopped talking.

I said, “Based on whose studies does it show that I would be interested?”

He hung up on me before I could finish my question.

“Ken Wachsberger’s Puns” Released as Ebook on Smashwords



I’m happy to announce that the ebook version of my new book, Ken Wachsberger’s Puns and Word Plays for the Job Seeker, is available as an ebook as of today, March 7, and I want you to have a copy of it as my gift.

It is available from Smashwords, the writer-friendly platform of choice for independent writers who want to publish electronically. It is also available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

Its usual price will be $2.99. But for you, it’s free, in ebook or pdf format, during the entire month of March. Simply place your order using the following coupon: HM65Z.

I hope you enjoy it. It’s a funny book if the reviews can be believed, and you know you can use the laughs.

Who’d ’a Thought?

I didn’t expect to write a book about puns. The topic wasn’t on my radar of ideas that could be turned into books one day.

  • All of my previous books—histories, memoirs, textbooks—require long periods of concentration to finish.
  • Puns can be read, I’m told, in twenty minutes.


  • My previous books are an antidote to TV watching.
  • Puns can be read during commercials of an hour-long TV show.


  • The “Am-I-good-enough-to-write-a-book?” phase for some books lasts longer than it took me to write this book.

But a pun came to me one night: “You’ll never get rich being a member of the loyal opposition, but you’ll earn a dissent living.” I woke up laughing and wrote it down. The next day, I posted it on Facebook and launched a pun war that evolved into this book.

 Trajectories Collide

Meanwhile, on a different trajectory, my father, who died in 2011, was approaching what would have been his one-hundredth birthday, which is this April 15, 2018.

When the two trajectories intersected, I remembered that my dad was one of the legendary dinner-table punsters, and so his birthday became my deadline to publish the book. The copyright date is his birthday and the release date, today, is my folks’ anniversary.

I’m grateful for the artistic support and inspiration from Tom Petiet, legendary Ann Arbor artist and actor.


  • Get your free copy here or from one of the booksellers I mentioned above, using the code HM65Z. Or,
  • If you still prefer feeling the pages of a book as you read it, you can purchase softcover copies here.

If you can be so inspired, please post on honest review wherever you purchase the book.

Thanks if you’ve read this far.



Emily’s Reflections on 2017 and Wishes for a Happy New Year 2018

As the year 2017 ends and we prepare for the new year, Emily has more profundity to share than me so I’m pleased to give her this guest blog post:

* * *

Image result for happy new year 2018 images

Wow! I can’t believe that 2017 is almost over. The older I get the faster time goes, it seems. While I celebrate two New Years each year I see that there are certainly differences between the two although they certainly overlap in some ways. The Jewish New Year in the Fall is about the spiritual. In other words, what can I examine about myself that is keeping me apart from the divine and to work on those pieces of my life to be a better human being.

The New Year that we will usher in tonight is also important to me. First, it is based on the calendar of which my paycheck is based. You bet I take that seriously. But it is also the New Year that allows me to look at my earthly life of the past year; where I’ve been (both figuratively and literally), look at what I have in life and to feel gratitude for it, and look to the future to those places where I’d like to go (again, both figuratively and literally). Of course, my future is predicated upon my plans aligning with G-d’s plans but looking forward is one wish I always hope to have.

It’s been quite a year! First and most importantly, I was granted one more year of health and well-being. Although I’ve been eating way too much and exercising way too little during the holiday season, I look forward to getting back on track in 2018 and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. Next, I can never truly express the gratitude I have for my family! Ken has been my partner for over 40 years (of which 38+ have been married years). He is a wonderful man in so many years and I look forward to another year to continue our “happily ever after” story together.

Both David and Carrie are the best of children (albeit they are most certainly adults). They are living their own adventures and I love hearing about their lives. I am truly blessed that, as adults, they still want both Ken and me to be part of those lives. I have many other family members (both by blood and chosen) and friends who are wonderful human beings. We may not always agree politically but they are all terrific people and I am so lucky that they are in my life. This past year we made new friends, both when we traveled to Spain and Las Vegas, and here at home in Ann Arbor. They are all great people and I look forward to seeing them again, in what I hope won’t be too far in the future.

I am grateful for having steady employment. I’ve met a lot of terrific people during my experience at the State of Michigan and I’ve learned a lot in 2017. I truly believe that the Children’s Trust Fund where I work plays an important role to strengthen our families so that all children can grow up to their full potential. I’ve been there 9.5 years and I’m always amazed at the fantastic child maltreatment prevention work being accomplished across the state.

On the hobby front, I continued my singing and am honored to perform with the Ann Arbor Comic Opera Guild. Our next play, Apple Blossom, will be coming up in three weeks in Ann Arbor (so, locals, please think about coming and look for the ads). My voice teacher Lynda has a special place in my life and she has helped me to be a better soprano and person.

I live in a great city. It is no mystery why Ann Arbor gets high ratings year after year in a variety of polls. OK, so January and February aren’t the best, but, hey, where is there perfect weather all year round? Michigan in summer is perfection and one of the most beautiful states I’ve seen. To behold the Straits of Mackinac is like seeing one of the world’s greatest wonders. In this lovely city of Ann Arbor I have a nice home and neighbors. On days like these past couple of weeks, in the sub-zero temperature range, I feel intense gratitude for having a warm home, hot showers, electricity for lights and watching Law and Order reruns, and having healthy food on my table.

I look to 2018 with optimism. There will be the usual irritants closer to home and situations around the world that will be upsetting but I truly believe that we will all be OK. To get the new year started, we are sharing the evening with friends who will come over for a celebratory dinner of appetizers, cream sauce-seafood enchiladas and spinach-cheese enchiladas, Mexican rice, frijoles, and chocolate mousse. Oh, there will be lots to drink, too, both leaded and unleaded varieties. We’ll watch the ball drop in Times Square (like so many others do) and I’ll use tomorrow to get psyched up for Tuesday’s return to work.

I know this was a long narrative, but it really comes together to wish you and yours a wonderful and happy New Year celebration, and only good things in your lives in the coming year, 2018! Enjoy!

Sanctuary Action in Ann Arbor: First Joint TBE-STC Event

The Temple Beth Emeth and Saint Clare Episcopal Church Joint Sanctuary Committee is pleased to invite members of the two congregations and the community to an evening discussion on “What Is Sanctuary?” with Mary Anne Perrone:



When: Wednesday, November 29

Where: 2309 Packard, Ann Arbor

Time: 5:30-8:00 p.m.

It is Mary Anne’s fourth presentation at the address, her first at a co-sponsored event. The evening will begin with food and fellowship from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by the presentation. The event, which will take place in the Social Hall, is free and open to the public; donations will be accepted.

Mary Anne is a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS). She has been at the forefront of the movement to educate the community about immigrant rights and the growing nationwide sanctuary movement.

Members of TBE and St. Clare, feeling the urgency to become actively involved, are exploring possible ways to respond jointly including what it would mean if they were to declare their shared building a sanctuary congregation. If they declare, the arrangement would possibly be the first interfaith sanctuary congregation in the country.

  • What is the sanctuary movement and why now?
  • What does it mean to be a sanctuary congregation?
  • What role should TBE-STC play in the sanctuary movement?

Don’t miss this event.

For more information, to volunteer to help, and to RSVP for the dinner, please contact Shoshana Mandel Warner at

Landmark Hip Hop and Rap Digital Collection Nearing Completion

On September 29 of last year, I announced the birth of Hip-Hop and Rap, NA Publishing’s new project to digitize hip hop and rap music magazines from the eighties to the present. To begin, I had before me a long wish list of titles whose publishers were going to receive invitations to participate.

How It Came Together

Over the next year, I sent invitations to as many publishers as I could locate. Some responded; others didn’t. Many of the titles were now nearly forgotten or known only to a limited readership. Unlike with the underground newspapers of the Civil Rights and Vietnam era, librarians did not actively collect hip hop and rap zines. Publishers often didn’t preserve their own archives. If I couldn’t locate a rights holder to request permission, I had to pass on that title.

Urban Ink

But through an evolving social networking campaign that included email, text, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the phone, as well as the background research of NA Publishing’s Connie Harrison, I discovered other titles that weren’t on the project’s original wish list and was able to locate rights holders and contributors. I developed warm relationships with long-time members of the hip hop and rap community—like Cherryl Aldave, publisher of Headz, the first hip hop zine in North Carolina; and Kevin Beacham, co-publisher of Caught in the Middle, out of Chicago—who gave permission for their zines to come on board and then introduced me to friends and fellow publishers of other zines past and present. Brian Lassiter, producer, writer, and legendary archivist whose hip hop roots in Atlanta, Georgia, go back to the mid-eighties, gave freely of his time and connections over the phone and through emails. I expect my team to scan many issues from his collection.

One more friend I have to add: the legendary DJ Stef who gave permission for me to include Vinyl Exchange, out of San Francisco, and then provided my team with a complete run of issues to scan. A week after we received her package of past issues, Stef died suddenly. One of her last acts before dying was to write a testimonial letter about the project to Annabelle Udo-O’Malley, publisher of Rewind, who then joined the project. When I received the news of Stef’s passing, I contacted Annabelle. She said she was in the process of answering Stef when she received my message.

All of them understood the mission of this project: to preserve hip hop and rap magazines going back to the founding years and to make them accessible to a new, wider audience.

Just in Time

And just in time because many early hip hop and rap zines are hard to find and are nearing extinction. To date, the collection is slated to include the following titles:

4080, The Bomb, Caught in the Middle, Chicago Rocks, Clout, Da Industry Insider Magazine, DJ Times, Elemental, The Flavor, The Flypaper, Ground Level, Headz, Hype, Lava, Murder Dog, Ozone, Philly Street Buzz/Street Buzz/Da Buzz!, PROP$ Magazine, Rap Fanatic, Rap Guide, Rewind, Scribble, Straight From The Lip, Street Flava, Thick Magazine, Urban Ground, Urban Ink, Vinyl Exchange, and Wax Poetics.

But we have so far been unable to locate any copies of some of them. With others, we have located and identified only incomplete runs.

Your Help Is Needed

If we can’t find originals, the titles won’t make it into the collection. I need your help.

  • Do you have copies of any of the above titles in your library collection or personal archives that you could loan us? We will cover all costs for shipping and handling and return them, still in good shape, when we are finished.
  • Did you publish a zine yourself that should be in the collection? Although we are close to completion, we still have room for a few short-run titles or one long-run title. Let it be yours.

Hip-Hop and Rap is the third digital collection in NA Publishing’s Music Magazine Archive Series. The first two, Rock and Folk (still in production themselves but much further along), can be viewed at


password: Hendrix

Last year, Hip-Hop and Rap was a vision. Today it is about to become a reality. Kate Ferguson, former editor in chief of Word Up! and Rap Masters, has called it

… an invaluable resource to historians, educators, researchers, and other aficionados of music, entertainment, and pop culture….

You can help make it better. Write to me at


Peggy Organizes the N.A.Z.I. Party

How do we respond to Nazis and other white nationalist anachronisms? My friend Peggy paved the way years ago when I was still a young hitchhiker in the seventies. I was travelling through her hometown somewhere in the Deep South.

First Amendment vs. Right to Cry “Fire”

An unusual news drama was unfolding while I was there and it culminated the Saturday before I left. It seemed that the year before, an official of the local Nazi Party had burned down the fence and slaughtered 10,000 head of cattle that belonged to a Jewish cattle farmer. He was doing time now and the rest of the party had announced a march through town and a rally to be held at the jail to organize his defense drive.

The march had originally been scheduled for a year before when his conviction was handed down, but the Jewish community, small though it was, had risen in indignation and challenged in court the legal right of the Nazis to parade their brand of prejudice and bigotry through the streets. The Nazis fought back by raising the cry of “First Amendment.” The Jews countered with the “Right to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” argument, claiming that the mere presence of the Nazis could inflame the emotions of the townsfolk enough to cause a riot, but they lost, and the march and rally were set for that Saturday.

The Mayor and the Whorehouse

The conservative press supported the Jews, while conceding that their opinion was based more on moral feelings than legal precedents, and so did the shrewd politicians, who knew full well that there were more Jewish sympathizers in their constituency than Nazi sympathizers.

The mayor, who had survived a scandal the year before that found him on the wrong side of a police raid on a downtown whorehouse and who knew that it would be an issue in his up-and-coming bid for re-election, announced self-righteously that, yes, he would uphold the constitution of this great country and permit the march to proceed but that he did not support their racist doctrine and was even so offended by it that, if in the event there was a counter-demonstration, he would be willing to speak at it to make his opinion known.

Naturally, this was a carte blanche invitation to all peace-love groups in town to organize a counter-demonstration, which they did. It was also an obvious hint from the mayor that he wanted to speak at it, which he did.

According to Peggy, the whole scene was a farce because it was so predictable, so she organized a counter-counter-demonstration to counter both the demonstration and the counter-demonstration. “The Nazis’ best weapon is their public reputation,” she explained before the big day. “They issue orders by threat alone and people obey because ‘they’re the Nazis.’ Now they’re threatening to hold a march and people are reacting with fear and hatred. Some fear the Nazis and will probably hide in their houses all day. Others are promising to ‘give those damn Nazis some of their own medicine.’ Either way, we help them promote their macho image.”

Meanwhile, she continued, the national media had already created a major spectacle out of what otherwise would have been an insignificant march. “Media from all over the country will be there to cover it. Anything that happens will be news. We can co-opt the headlines by attacking the Nazis where they’re strongest. Since the Nazi reputation is effective only when people take them seriously, we have to not take them seriously. In fact, not only should we not fear them, we should laugh at them, and relate to them as the clowns that they are.”

Yippies to the Rescue

What Peggy did was to invite the community, through posters that she hung on smooth surfaces all over town with a sponge and Pet Milk so they couldn’t be torn down, to: “Join the N.A.Z.I. Party.” The party was organized by a group of activist Yippies who called themselves the Nutty And Zany Idiots, and whose initials spelled N.A.Z.I. The participants gathered at the college, where make-up specialists from the theatre department painted their faces white and their noses red. They all wore swastika armbands on their arms and marched to the park in goosestep formation. At the front of the line was another clown, this one with a black painted mustache: “Der Füermonger—Adolf Hitler.”

Between Adolf and the other marchers was a cart being pulled by a jackass named Jack. In the back of the cart, two women held a giant mirror in the direction of the marchers so they could see their own reflection. Symbolically, Peggy explained, this showed that our march was the mirror image of the other Nazi march.

Jack Sticks It in Adolf’s Ear

At the park, everyone gathered around a stage and Adolf rose to address the crowd. The crowd began chanting, “Stick it in his ear, Jack,” because the theme for the march, which appeared on all the posters along with the appropriate picture, had been “Watch Jack stick it in Adolf’s ear.” Peggy’s friend Bill led Jack on stage and positioned Jack’s ass in Adolf’s ear. The crowd roared with approval, and then Peggy announced that the N.A.Z.I. Party would now begin and everyone was invited to join. Refreshments included lox and bagels and the crowd danced the hora to the accompaniment of Peggy on her guitar.

We all had a great time, much to my relief. I had expressed misgivings about possible violence at the rally but Peggy dismissed them as unfounded and unnecessary paranoia. “They’re marching to the jail, we’re marching to the park, and that’s close enough for me,” she explained. “I don’t want to meet them until the next morning’s paper includes us in the same article.”

Further, she predicted, “The media will love it. The fearful image that the Nazis nurture will be punctured and the story told the next day will be one of absurdity rather than one of fear.”

That’s the Way It Was

Actually, only about thirty people showed up to march, but the Nazis didn’t do any better. The counter-march had about a hundred because the mayor was there, but some of them left early and joined us in the park.

Sure enough, the voracious appetite of the media gobbled us up. The mayor, who was known to be a closet anti-Semite, was blasted by the press for “prostituting his beliefs, as perverted as they are, for the sake of a few votes,” a charge he didn’t need seeing as he was trying to erase his whorehouse escapade from the public’s memory. The Nazis were outraged by our taunts and a small band showed up at the park to hassle us, but when they saw the cameras they retreated because they didn’t want to look like fools.

We, however, did succeed in looking like fools, which is what we wanted seeing as we paraded as their mirror images. The festivities began at noon so that the TV stations could write their stories and get them in to their editors for the 6 o’clock news. That night, when Walter Cronkite announced “That’s the way it was,” we celebrated with a batch of Bill’s special carob brownies.

Mexicans Who Stay Behind: The Other Side of Immigration

We read every day about immigrant individuals and families who come to the United States. Many of them are our friends.

  • But what become of the communities they leave behind?
  • Why do family members and friends remain in Mexico?

Director Roy Germano and his team interviewed over 700 Mexicans living in towns where about half the population came to the United States to find jobs and a new way of life. Through an approach that is described as “both subtle and thought provoking,” he offers a unique view on the issue of undocumented immigrants in his film, The Other Side of Immigration.

Come see it and join the conversation.

Where: Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Road, Ann Arbor, between Eisenhower and Stadium.

When: Monday August 28, 7 p.m.

The event is co-sponsored by TBE’s Social Action Committee and the Genesis Social Activities Committee. It is free to the public, and so are the refreshments.

Calendar of Social Action Committee Events

Monday, August 28 | 7:-00 – 9:00 | TBE Sanctuary

Film: The Other Side of Immigration

Based on over 700 interviews in Mexican towns where about half the population has left to work in the United States, The Other Side of Immigration asks why so many Mexicans come to the U.S. and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, director Roy Germano provides a perspective on undocumented immigration rarely witnessed by American eyes, challenging audiences to imagine more creative and effective solutions to the problem.

Saturday, September 9 | 11:30 am-12:30 pm | TBE Adult Lounge

Guest speaker: Margo Schlanger

How will becoming a sanctuary congregation affect TBE’s liability? What legal issues will arise? Will the congregation’s nonprofit status be threatened? The Social Action Committee answers these questions and more in its third Community Conversation. Special presentation from guest speaker Margo Schlanger, University of Michigan Law professor who is part of the legal team fighting to defend Detroit’s Chaldean community in federal court.

Monday September 18 | 7:00-9:00 pm | TBE Sanctuary

Guest speaker: Mary Anne Perrone

Should Temple Beth Emeth become a sanctuary community? What does that mean and how does a congregation do sanctuary? What are the ramifications? Why is sanctuary even necessary and what is its goal? The Social Action Committee (SAC) answers these questions and more with this repeat appearance from guest speaker Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS).