Category Archives: Various and Sundry

Real Secret Societies You May Not Know

What with the casting I’m working on for our show, Quorum, I’ve been thinking about actual secret societies, and how secret they actually are.

Enter Jackie Mansky writing for Smithsonian magazine. Per the article, actual secret societies are often centered around good causes (certainly as far as the members are concerned). Not only that, but these days, they’re aren’t not too secret. Indeed, their existence is often in plain sight even if their purposes might seem mysterious.

Yeah, a traditional secret society in Quorum would totally be a front organization designed to throw people off track.

Or is that what the actual secret societies are doing? </dramatic-chord>

Cleaning Up Personal Data Online

Firmly in the “getting around to it” folder is this NPR article about changes with Google’s tools to take personal information out of searches from earlier this year.

More later this week. Right now, I’m in the midst of a sizeable casting for Jabberwocky Audio.

Oh Yeah: Columbus Day

I mean, if I’m going to post for the vikings yesterday, I might as well do this today:

Yes, there’s way more nuance to be had in the historical record. For now, enjoy the snark.

Vikings in Myth and Movies

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole earlier this year, going through the various “experts in [X] talk about the treatment of [X] in movies.” When I saw this one, I knew it had to be this year’s Leif Erikson Day post. (Because of course I have to have a Leif Erikson post. Have you seen my name?).

Banning Books? Process Schmocess

In the video post from Monday, John Green briefly mentioned how one of the challenges to his book Looking for Alaska amounted to a person talked to a school official about a page in his book.

The problem is, this kind of scenario happens a lot for challenging books. A single person is bringing this to the attention of a single official and there’s no process in place to review requests, challenges, or concerns. And even when there is a process, many of the school districts or other governmental entities aren’t inclined to follow their own process, as was the case for the Waterloo, Iowa school district back in 2015.

There’s actually plenty of great orgs out there fighting the good fight, but I’ve always enjoyed the work of these folks.

Not only did only one person challenge the book (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), the school district pulled the book without following their own process for challenged books. And more often than not, many groups don’t want attention paid to any process (I guess it’s uncomfortable to admit you erroneously acquiesced to someone’s discomfort).

And lest you think that this was just some isolated case from seven years ago, would-be censors are still at it. And it’s not just a book being in someone’s course plan. It’s books in libraries and even books being sold in commercial book stores per this lawsuit filed in Virginia.

And if a decision has already been made to keep the books in libraries, well you can always have a re-do and remove those icky books from school libraries as they did in Keller, Texas recently. In fact, when the regular public library decided to let it be know that this week was, in fact, Banned Books Week, the city government thought that was very improper and had that social media announcement deleted. Adults or even kids might know books that made other people uncomfortable are available to read… at will!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about the kids. I mean, really: what’s going to happen to the kids if they read these books? Will they have nightmares for weeks, requiring medication or hospitalization? Will they need therapy for years and years from reading these books? Where is the documentation about these horrible, book-inflicted maladies that strain our medical infrastructure to the breaking point?

What’s that you say? There isn’t a health crisis from reading books? There might be (gasp) questions about the world?

Then we know what to say to censors, who stridently insist they’re protecting the children. Keep the disinfecting sunlight shining.

Video

If a Worldview can be Destroyed by a Novel, the Problem is not the Novel

You may wonder what authors think about when their books are banned, so why not frequent vlogger and author John Green who found his book, Looking for Alaska, in the crosshairs of censors. I should note this particular video is from 2016, referencing the top challenged books of 2015. There’s usually a lag time compiling the data: while it’s interesting, it’s not necessarily pressing.

However, the video is also under 3 and a half minutes and –assuming you’re not put off by the editing style that presents him as a hyperactive Q flitting to either side of the video frame– he covers a lot of philosophical ground in that time.

He notes one of the challenges to the book involved one person reading one page and raising high dudgeon on that basis alone. I’ll delve into the phenomenon of how flimsy many of these book challenges are later this week.

In the meantime, enjoy his thoughts on books, society, and what goes on in school superintendent offices.

For Banned Books Week this year: Maus

Next week is Banned Books Week, and as longtime readers may know, I always make a point of reading a banned or challenged book at this time of year. You can check out the most challenged books of 2021 or just do a bit of web searching to find historical lists and find something that might tickle your fancy in a way that scolds and censors feel your fancy should not be tickled.

The books I’ve read during the time of this blog have included The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Persepolis, Beyond Magenta, and It’s Perfectly Normal. This last one, a great follow-up to It’s Not the Stork, is a tremendously useful resource for kids and parents (often reading together to facilitate discussion).

And although I just linked to an online store (actually a coalition of independent bookstores), I found just about all of these at my local library, either in physical copy or electronically.

Having said that, this year I’m going to dive into a copy of Maus which I was inspired to order when a school board decided to ban it from their curriculum — and evidently, I was not alone. Like many of the books I listed above, Maus has been one of those works I’ve meant to read for years –I even recall reading sections of it in school way back when– but I’ve never sat down and read through the whole thing.

So why now? Because my kids have already asked me about evil in the world and how it can happen and what happens next and what one can do. Because they know the stork isn’t gonna bail them out. So I have a copy, ready and waiting for those sorts of discussions.

Because I’m thinking of the children.

May your reading selection send scores of scolds and censors to their fainting couches.

Patton Oswalt: Galactic Cinema Scoundrel

I’m going to save some of my posts for Banned Books Week for, well, the week itself, but I mention it here in order to spur you on to make a reading selection, possibly from the website, possibly from visiting your friendly local library.

Instead, we have Patton Oswalt rating his top 5 and bottom 5 films with the zeal and wit you have likely come to expect.

Now, knowing that Oswalt is a total cinemaniac, I kinda wanted a longer list with more deep cuts, but it makes sense to me that he’s not going to do that for the bottom five. I mean, the odds of someone deciding to watch Independence Day are far greater than someone clamoring to watch Defcon 4… so he’s doing everyone a favor by getting some people to pause on the former.

I especially like him raising the concept of films getting audiences to buy into too much — which really is a sin when it comes to sci-fi films: they’re already getting you to buy into any of a number of not-strictly realistic worldbuilding anyway. Besides which, my experiences have been that audiences of fantasy and sci-fi fare want to know how this particular world works, so they are both up for the unusual, but impatient with the patently illogical.

For my own top 5 science fiction films, we’ll see if they’re the same as my 2020 sort. I suspect they will be different.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, of course the headline was clickbait. But tell me you wouldn’t want to see Patton Oswalt as, say, a smuggler in a Star Wars film. “Even I get boarded sometime and I wasn’t about to let those illegal lanyards hang about my neck!”

Prep for Banned Books Week 2022

Next week, September 18-24 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of, depending on who you ask, the freedom to read, sticking it to The Man, both, or perhaps all of them and so much more.

Odds are I read challenged or banned books throughout the year, but for the life of this blog, I’ve tried to make sure to do so during the coming week. In part, the most challenged books of a given year are often new ones I haven’t had to check out (though I have gone to classics I somehow missed growing up like The Catcher in the Rye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

In case you’re wondering about what to read, the Banned Books website has some top challenged books, but if you want more options the folks in Collier County, Florida labeled a list of 115 books that have “… been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

Thanks, “Some Community Members.” Kids: your reading list awaits.

Star Trek Day, 2022

I’ve had a busy week, so I’m just pointing you to the recap of all the reveals and videos and tidbits from yesterday’s Star Trek Day.