Tag Archives: Reading

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.

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.

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.

Resistance to Pumpkin Spice is Futile

Full confession: I wrote and scheduled the first version of this post in the depths of Summer, convinced that “Fall flavors” would be in stores before the end of August. I was not wrong.

“But why?” you may ask. “Why must the end of Summer be sullied with an impatient corporate lust for seasonal profits that ignore all seasonal boundaries?”

You know why.

For everyone who protests it’s not Autumn yet, remember: it’s always Autumn on some planet in the Collective

Allecia Vermillion covers the intriguing origin story of the Pumpkin Spice Latte (aka PSL) for the magazine, Seattle Met. If you’re at all interested in the devilish details about “pumpkin spice” has become an seasonal omnipresence, enjoy (perhaps with an already available PSL).

The Nutty History of Nutella

Continuing my Friday theme of food posts, I switch from savory to sweet. This week, it’s Emily Mangini’s article for Serious Eats which goes into the history of Nutella. Okay, apart from a lot of hazelnuts, it might not be that nutty, but if you like food histories like A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, you’ll find this a nice appetizer of an article.

A connection to last week and Sriracha does actually exist for me as, while I know I saw the distinctive Nutella containers growing up, I only really tried Nutella in earnest the same place I started regularly consuming Sriracha: Indonesia.

Look, after being introduced to Vegemite, I was more than happy to try some other spread on bread.

As American as Sriracha Meat Pies

Look, I’ve been doing food posts for the past few Fridays, so I’m not going to stop now… certainly when I can share the story of Sriracha, which is a surprisingly American story.

Illustration by Koji Yamamoto

Okay, maybe it’s surprising to me because I first noticed Sriracha when I was in Indonesia, which was sometimes next to homemade sambal on the table. I got so used to its omnipresence at Indonesian food stalls, the first time I saw Sriracha back in the States, I thought, “Oh, it’s that brand of sambal!”

Well, Brian Gray and Connie Lo over at Vice correct my misconceptions about Sriracha and give you quite the tale of Americana as well.

(And for the record, I have put Sriracha on meat pies, because that it both just and right).

Infinite Ire in Infinite Combinations

I’m well overdue in updating my rankings of every episode of every Star Trek series because, in case you haven’t noticed, they keep on coming out with new seasons… and new shows!

And if you’ve seen my rankings for both Discovery (seasons 1 and 2) and Picard (season 1), you’ll know that I am okay with both, space warts and all. There has been far, far worse Trek.

If anything, I’ve grown weary of the people who can’t deal with the fact that both those series (and Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds) are all in same timeline as the original series (and all the 90s shows), despite clearly having bigger budgets and designers feeling free to utilize them.

Candid photo of certain Star Trek fans watching Star Trek.

Craig Elvy over at ScreenRant.com has a good summary of modern Trek’s divisiveness. In many ways, the new shows really are different… though in many ways, the ire has remained very similar to the 1980s wrath at there being a new Star Trek show (The Next Generation) without the original cast. And while I agree with Elvy that “Most viewers – even the unhappy ones – can appreciate how adhering to almost 60 years of canon isn’t feasible…” there are some few unhappy ones that refuse to admit infeasibility… and they are dang loud about it.

For more details, I guess that will go into my expanded rankings… one of these stardates.

McRib: From Only the Best Boneless Pigs!

Continuing the Friday food series and hinted at earlier this week, it’s time to talk about the McRib: McDonald’s occasional and much-coveted porcine menu item.

The McRib: and object of cult-like desire unless you’re in Germany or Luxembourg

Unlike the Choco Taco, I have had a McRib within recent memory (though I think it was still in the Before Times). I have not used the online McRib Locator, though I know people who have that site permanently bookmarked on their browser. Now, I am somewhat interested in comparing which I like more: McRib or Choco Taco? Or is this the perfect cult food item meal?

In any case, NPR’s Peggy Lowe delves deep into the processed meat history about the origins of McRib in an article that may surprise you.

Stargate’s Staying Power… or 25 Years of Kawoosh

On this date in 1997, the TV show Stargate SG-1 premiered. To this day, 25 years later, that still elicits “wait, like that 90s film Stargate?”

Indeed.

The series soldiered on through 10 seasons and a couple wrap-up movies. Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe followed, and a legion of fans are still very much around for this lesser known, but very much beloved “star” franchise.

Over at Inverse, Ryan Britt details some of the ways that Stargate SG-1 became an unprecedentedly successful reboot of sorts. He does slight the original ’94 movie a bit sharper than I would (my dad and I saw it in the theater and found it to be a perfectly adequate “Doctor Who story with a budget”). However, I can’t deny that the TV series far eclipsed the film, doing worldbuilding far beyond anything that one could possibly imagine for a feature nor would expect when confined to filming locations in British Columbia.

If you saw and heard this picture, you might be a fan.

I caught the first season when it first aired, but then only saw episodes intermittently, only really sitting down to watch the whole series (and then Atlantis and then Universe) after they were all off the air. If you’re a fan of military sci-fi, the early episodes are easy to jump into, with its Star Trek-meets-G.I. Joe styling. What really gets fun, however, is as the seasons progress, and the upstart humans of Earth really start to improve their technology as the bad guys begin to realize they’re more than a nuisance.

And besides the honest-to-goodness arms race that goes on over the seasons, there are the characters you really come to enjoy along with some absolute standout episodes like “Window of Opportunity” and the two-part “Heroes.” Indeed, I’ve thought of what sort of playlist I could concoct to get introduce people to Stargate, get them to “Window of Opportunity,” and hopefully get them hooked on watching the whole series.

Image: Allison Corr (from the Gizmodo article)

If I sound enthusiastic for the show, I’m not alone. Eleanor Tremeer has a great piece in Gizmodo noting the achievements Stargate and providing a lot of fun history behind the production, the people, and how they all evolved — and her interviews really illustrate what made the show work so well — and why it has fans even though it’s been off the air for over a decade. (Fans do not seem to want to acknowledge Stargate Origins, a web miniseries from 2018. I have yet to seek it out.) She also hints at the beginning and then at the end of the future of Stargate, something I’ve seen buzzing ever since Amazon bought MGM, the Stargate rights holder.

Naturally some people are very passionate about what Amazon should do. Adam Barnard has a plea to uphold the legacy and continuity over on GateWorld — and I can’t say I disagree. General Carter would be wonderful to see. Stargate Universe ended in such a way that one or more of the characters could appear at any time in the future. There’s a rich backstory they built so that any sort of Stargate: The Next Generation doesn’t need to ignore all that has gone before. As Jack O’Neill would say, “We’ve been in worse situations than this.” Lock that chevron. Lock it, I say!