Saturday, October 3, 2009

Death by Irish

Play like a champion For the third week in a row, the Fightin' Irish have done their best to give me a freakin' heart attack. Let's have one without quite so much excitement, guys, how about it?

It was a cool and gloomy day, so we decided not to tailgate. Some people go all out and have tents and generators and heaters...we just do lawn chairs, so it wouldn't have been much fun sitting outside for a couple of hours before the game. We left here around 2:00, had no problems getting to the Stadium, got parked, and headed to the Stadium. Since it was supposed to be kind of chilly, I layered, and I really didn't get chilled at all. My LL Bean river driver shirt (two layers, cotton on the inside, wool on the outside), my Jeff Samardzija jersey, my barn coat with quilted lining, and my blue and gold striped scarf. I was ready, baby! Just my hands and nose got a little bit cold, but it really wasn't bad. We did get rained on, though, for most of the second half. We took a couple of ponchos with us, and they protected us from the worst of it. (Ironic note: we got these ponchos one year when we were at DisneyWorld, so they had Mickey Mouse on them. We had them stored in the garage, and a real mouse chewed a hole through the chest and back of the one Ken put on. Dirty rat.)

It stopped raining towards the end of the second half, which was good...because it wasn't the end of the game! AGH! Washington kicked a field goal to send it into overtime! Nooooo! Irish get the ball first, bada bing, bada boom, touchdown! Now it's up to the defense (which, quite frankly, left something to be desired during regulation, except for three awesome goal line stands). They hold through three downs, and Washington has enough time to try for a touchdown on their last down. (A field goal does them no good at that point, remember.) The quarterback drops back, throws to the end zone, a guy has it within his grasp at the one yard line, on the verge of scoring...WHAM! Two Notre Dame defenders hit him from either side and POP! he coughs the ball up. No catch, game over, Irish win 37-30! The crowd goes wild! High fives with each other and the guys in front of us. YAY!

Man, it really was one of the most exciting games I've seen in a while, so I'm glad we were able to be there for it. Who cares about a little rain?

ND football We were sitting by the Washington section, and they were pretty cool. There was one guy who I at first thought was being kind of a jerk by saying stuff to the Notre Dame fan next to him...but turns out they were together! (Married, I think.) He actually ended up being a nice guy, just a very enthusiastic fan, and Ken went up to him after the game and shook his hand, and said, "Good game." The guy grinned and said, "Hey, it's better than last year!" (I don't remember the score, but we blew 'em out.) We aren’t ND alum, but always try to be good ambassadors of the city and of the school, and be respectful of the other team and their fans. Most feedback we hear from other teams is that it’s a great experience to come to South Bend and they’re treated very well. I’m sure there are always exceptions, but for the most part, I think people stay respectful and decent. That’s the way it should be.

The half-time show was pretty fun this time, too. One of the songs they did was "Walk Like An Egyptian," and at one point, the band set down their instruments and did just that. It was really cute. Oh, and there was some little kid behind us who, late in the fourth quarter, started yelling, “Let’s go defense!” even when Notre Dame had the ball. Haha! I told Ken, “I think someone had a little too much game day candy!” Man, that kid was hyper. I think it made his day, though, when the Irish scored a touchdown to reach 30 points, and his family lifted him over their heads (the touchdown pushup) 30 times and we all cheered for him. I’m grinning…that was really cool, and it’s fun to see kids enjoy the games so much!

A fun game and great day spent with my hubby and cheering for the Irish! My voice is about shot, so I'd better shut up now! [grin] Visit Ken's blog for his take on it and a couple of pictures. I'm looking forward to watching the highlights on our local news tonight. There's nothing like being there in the Stadium, but you can definitely see the plays better at home. Yay Irish!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blame it on Rio

Rio Naturally, I was disappointed to see that Chicago lost their bid for the 2016 Olympics. I think what was shocking to a lot of people was that they were out in the very first round! I kind of thought it would come down to Chicago and Rio, with Rio winning. I was right on the second part! Well, we had already started saving for them, so we'll see if we head to Rio for the Games. I'm hesitant to be immersed in such a huge throng so far away from home, but we have plenty of time to think about it and plan.

Hard to believe that South America has never hosted the Games, and it is definitely their turn. I hope this brings Brazil good things! I appreciated Ziggy's comments about being a host city...I'm sure there are definite drawbacks to being one. I remember my Atlanta relatives talking about when the city was doing construction for their Olympics--the road construction was awful! At any rate, a hearty congratulations to Brazil!

Predictably, certain people are seeing this as a failure on President Obama's part. Get a grip, people. In the grand scheme of things, and in international politics, this is not that big of a deal. He tried, and the bid was unsuccessful. Riddle me this, Batman: if he had not gone to make a pitch, and Chicago lost the bid, would you be saying that it was his job to go, that it was his fault that Chicago didn't win? I'm guessing yes. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. What I find really pathetic is people gloating and crowing about this as if it was some huge failure on Obama's part, ignoring the fact that this meant a lot to a lot of people, and probably would have provided much-needed work for a whole lot of people in our area. Have people really become that petty? Never mind...that was a rhetorical question.

Aubrey and Beth Last night, we headed downtown a little after six, so we could grab a bite at Buffalo Wild Wings. As we went to sit down, I heard someone say "Beth!" I looked over, and there was a small group from the lab! Greg, the two Erins, Aubrey, and a couple of people who didn't work there when I was there. In fact, it was a little going-away party for someone who wasn't there when I worked there! Time marches on, doesn't it? It was good to see everyone, and I mostly got to talk to Aubrey since we sat by her.

We weren't any too pleased with the service, though. Very disappointing. It took forever to even place our order, and we told the waiter that we had to be at the show at 8, and one of the Erins had to be at work at 8. When we finally got our food, there were all kinds of problems with everyone's orders, missing sauces, the wrong beer, what have you. Ken and I ordered two small beers, they didn't come for ages, so I practically had to chug mine, and then we got charged for two large ones. By that time, we were out of time, and couldn't even dispute the charge. I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but it was so bad that I think I'm going to have to write a letter. It really was unacceptable service, and surprising, because when we've been there before, it's been great. We'll probably go back, but if that guy is our waiter, we'll move.

Morris We made it to the Morris with a mere five minutes to spare. Robin started right on time, and I'm afraid I wasn't able to take any pictures. I took a few of the Morris (isn't it pretty?), but a security guy came up to me right before the show started, and said, "No pictures once it starts." I was a good girl and abided by the rules.

I thought Robin did a great job, and everyone I know who went said they also loved it! He got a very warm welcome, and started off right by talking a little bit about Notre Dame, Touchdown Jesus, that sort of thing. Always a good thing to talk specifically about the area. He got surprisingly political in this red state, although our county leans Democratic. I forget what he said about Sarah Palin, but it got a "Woot!" from me! He talked about his heart surgery, and did a long bit about genitalia that was hilarious. It definitely was not kid-friendly!

I'm really glad we went--we both enjoyed it a lot, and Williams is still a great stand-up comedian. We got rained on, but so what? We had some great laughs!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weapons of Self Destruction

Tonight we're heading downtown to the Morris to see Robin Williams on his Weapons of Self Destruction tour. This show was originally scheduled for April, but he "called in sick" due to some silly little heart problem. What a wimp. (Seriously, I'm very glad he's okay and back in action!)

It actually worked out better, because our original seats were in the third balcony. When the new date was announced, I got online right away and managed to get seats on the floor--I think we're in the ninth row, or something like that--and we returned the other ones. Score! I'll take my camera and maybe I'll get a couple of good shots. We're both looking forward to it. Neither of us have seen him live, but always enjoyed his stand-up specials. I cracked up when I found this clip in which Robin talks about how golf was invented. [Language warning]

Heeheee! I don't know if he'll do that bit tonight, but it's hilarious!


Chicago 2016 The President is in Copenhagen today to make his case for the 2016 Olympics in Sweet Home Chicago. Good luck, Mr. President, and Mrs. Obama, too. We're pulling for Chicago, because we hope to get tickets for a couple of events (we've already started an Olympics fund). It comes as no surprise to hear that his haters think he shouldn't be doing this (despite the fact that it's not unusual for heads of state to lobby for their country's bids, as both Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin did), that he should stay here and focus on our problems (he's flying in today, making his pitch, and leaving...he's not even staying for the announcement tomorrow), and what's the big deal about getting the Olympics, anyway? One word: JOBS. One idiot (I think it was the Imbecile Beck) said something about how that's no big deal--we need jobs now, not in 2016. Just like Rome, you boob, Olympic facilities aren't built in a day. If we get the bid for the 2016 Olympics, they'll get to work almost immediately with plans, logistics, construction bids, and contracts. Everyone from engineers to lawyers will benefit, and once construction starts, there will be plenty of those kinds of jobs for thousands of out-of-work Chicagoans.

Not to mention the incredible amount of tourist dollars that would flow into the city and the state of Illinois. We might even get a little bit of "fallout" here in South Bend, as we have some excellent practice facilities. I read on Route 66 News today that towns all along Route 66 in Illinois would benefit from tourist dollars, from Chicago itself (the start of the Road) to small towns like Litchfield (home of the Ariston Cafe) to the capital city Springfield, with its historical sites including the Abraham Lincoln home and library. People from overseas love Route 66, and you can bet that plenty of them would find time to take in a few sites along its Illinois length.

This is what makes me crazy about short-sighted people like the Imbecile Beck. I'm not a supergenius by any means, but even I can see the long term and ripple effects of bringing the Olympics to Chicago. (Yes, many are good, but some are bad. It can be a hassle for those who live there, with all the construction going on, and there is always the question of what to do with the facilities after the Olympics are gone...Chicago's Olympic Stadium would be temporary, negating that problem.) These people who can only see issues and the world from within their own narrow point of view like to state things in simplistic terms, without bothering to go outside their limited field of vision and see beyond the here and now. I don't know if it's an inability to process complex ideas or thoughts, but they just can't seem to figure out how various actions can come together and have consequences other than the immediate. They have no vision.

Anyhoo, as I've said before, Obama could find a cure for cancer and certain people would find fault with him for doing so. So bring it home to Chicago, O-Team!

Obamas and BerlusconiSpeaking of the Obamas, did you all see this picture of their meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi? Berlusconi has a reputation as a...well, apparently he's kind of a lech, and he kept trying to get Michelle Obama to give him a hug, making that "c'mere...c'mon!" gesture with his hands. (I'm picturing Dr. Evil chasing Scott Evil around the conference table in his Evil Lair, trying to get a hug.) I tell ya, Michelle can straight-arm a lecherous Prime Minister better than any NFL player pushing off a defender! Nicely done, Mrs. Obama. I love all the expressions in this picture. The Prime Minister's look of innocence--"Come to Papa!" The President's look of "Don't even think about it, Silvio." And Michelle's diplomatic smile and arm held straight out, saying, "This is as close as you're getting, Signore." Isn't it amazing how a photograph can capture a moment?


Happy October, and rabbit rabbit rabbit! Evil spirits begone from Nutwood!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writin’ stuff, doncha know

Oktoberfest Hey, I forgot to tell you about our Oktoberfest party! We enjoyed ourselves, and I thoroughly loved eating some sauerkraut. I put some on top of my brat with some mustard, and then had a little on the side. Mmm. I have to say that their cole slaw is also mighty tasty...they put a little dill in it.

The place was packed, and I told Ken that they've hit on a very good idea with their Mug Club. It keeps people coming back, and they really do have good deals on drinks and food. They also had a DJ there from one of the local classic rock stations, and they played some rock trivia for prizes. I told Ken that next time we're sitting by the DJ so we can play! Two tables played against each other. Five questions, worth two points each, but only one point if you had to go to multiple choice options. With the first table's questions, I got ten out of ten. With the second table's, I got nine out of ten (the question was about a trio out of Flint, Michigan, and I had to hear the list to know that it was Grand Funk Railroad). I am a rock and roll trivia juggernaut! Haha!

Duke of Wellington IPA The new Oktoberfest beer was okay, but I prefer my Duke of Wellington India Pale Ale. Apparently I prefer hoppy beers, with citrus tones and quite a bit of bitterness. Who knew? I'm not sure what other beers are like that, but I know I really like Blue Moon, and Duke of Wellington reminds of that. We got our Growlers--grrrrr!--refilled, mine with Duke of Wellington and this time Ken tried the Three-Headed Monster, a blend of Stout, Bock, and I think Duke of Wellington (he can correct me if I'm wrong).

And no, I didn't yodel, although it was tempting.


Change of subject...although I might need a drink after writing about this.

You've probably all heard that Sarah Palin's book is coming out in November. The title is to be Going Rogue: An American Life. ::giggle::

I'm sorry, but I can't hear "goin' rogue" without thinking of SNL's excellent skit, with Tina Fey as Palin and the real John McCain appearing on QVC. When "Sarah" breaks away and whispers, "Okay, I'm goin' rogue here!" it just cracks me up! That part happens about three and a half minutes into the skit.

I think I'm going to start using that phrase once in a while. If I do something out of my ordinary routine, I'm going to announce, "Hey, I'm goin' rogue here!" And if Ken tries to get all bossy with me and tells me what to do--he's such a tyrant, after all!--I'll say, "I'm goin' rogue here and not doing what you tell me! Because I'm a maverick!"

Palin and comic book No, I won't be buying "her" book. I don't believe I'll check it out from the library, either. I have plenty of good books to read, and if her Facebook updates are any indication, I would not find any edification or words of wisdom there. I'll be content to find excerpts online and ridicule discuss them here. I'll give you fair warning before I do any of that, so if you don't want to read it, you can click your way right out of it. (Now would be one of those warnings.) I can tell you that I'm really looking forward to it, though, and that I'm expecting plenty of comedy fodder. I'll be like a kid in a candy store! A candy store filled with grizzly bear skins and big ol' king crabs on the shelves, wolf pelt evening wraps and limited edition prints of the list of books Sarah thinks should have been banned from the Wasilla County Library. A store with designer eyeglasses frames and a makeup counter that stocks every shade of lipstick known! A magical place with archival photos of BD and AD (Before Drilling and After Drilling) ANWR. A place where we can return to an America that never really existed, a place where men were men and the women ran for office and milked it for all they could. A place where the Constitution is followed as written, with none of those pesky Amendments that allowed women and blacks to vote. A place that (for a small fee) will rid you of the influences of witchcraft and purify your soul!

Ohhhh, yeah! I am delighted! Christmas is coming early at Nutwood!

David Letterman has already mined some comedy gold with this Top Ten List. Paul has a great line in here, but what this clip doesn't show is that at the end, when they're talking about Palin appearing on his show to promote her book [cue the look from Dave], an assistant tells him she's going to be there on the twelfth. Dave says, "Really? The twelfth of what?" Of course, the answer is, "The twelfth of NEVER!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jane, you ignorant slut

Point Counterpoint I'm pretty sure I don't have any readers named Jane. If so, this was not targeted towards you! Some of us of a certain age remember the early years of "Saturday Night Live," when Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd would engage in a debate on the Point-Counterpoint segment of "Weekend Update." Jane would always go first, and Dan's immediate retort when it was his turn was "Jane, you ignorant slut." It's one of those phrases that has entered into our pop culture, and it still makes me laugh!

The other day, I wrote about paranoia and the blogging hazard of people thinking that you're addressing them with what you write. I mentioned that I believe that writing is not always a good way of communicating (although it's the one I like the best) and got this comment from Rebecca:

I do think writing can be an in-depth form of communication when used specifically to inform someone of what exactly you are thinking. Sometimes, without the distraction of body movement, pauses, and vocal interruptions, a person can convey everything they need via the written medium.

However, for it to be truly effective, it does need a follow up 'talk' ~ Just my oh so very humble opinion. For example, I think this written entry is detailed, nicely conveyed and leaves little for the imagination to expand on. I had no doubts or confusion about your thoughts.

Rebecca and I exchanged a couple of emails about it, and I think we both see where the other is coming from. (Thanks for your kind words on my writing in that entry, too, Rebecca!) I do agree that writing is a great form of communication, and I do my best communicating in that forum. I don't feel that I'm a good speaker, and I don't enjoy talking on the phone. I try to write with clarity and specificity, and hope I succeed most of the time. However, I still feel that subtle nuances in speech patterns and body language can't be conveyed by the written word. As I wrote to Rebecca, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to this is the interpretation by the reader. If they are of a particular mindset, they could very well interpret your words in a completely different way in which they were intended.

I found an interesting couple of articles about communication. The Aristotelian process deals with what he called rhetoric, the study of communication. His process dealt with oratory, but I think it can be expanded somewhat to include written discussions. He divided rhetoric into three components: speaker (writer), subject, and listener (reader), and believed that the latter is what determines the speech's end and object, and holds the key to whether or not effective communication occurs.


I think that where any communication breaks down is when you are dealing with a hostile audience. Whether it's a room full of people who disagree with your message, or readers who have their own agenda and own mindset, no matter how clear your words or your writing, they will refuse to hear or understand your meaning. In other words, they already believe they know exactly what you are trying to convey, so don't feel the need to process an alternative view. They interpret things the way they want to, regardless of your intentions.

How do you communicate? Do you try to read, process, and understand a subject so that you can write or speak coherently and understandably on it? Anyone can throw a few quotes and definitions out there and try to make a case for whatever they're trying to prove, but unless you can gather the information and comprehend it to the best of your ability, your argument will remain incoherent and often nonsensical.

Communication2 In Aristotle's process, shown in the above diagram, a project (whether a speech, an article, or a blog entry) begins with identifying what you are trying to convey and researching it. Read and learn what your arguments can and should be, based on facts, your own emotions and passion, and the ethical considerations of your subject. Next, consider the logical connections and flow of these things. How do your thoughts fit together? What point leads logically to the next? What flows well? Third, "pretty it up." Put your vocabulary and command of the language to work. Use compelling imagery with your words, but keep it understandable and clear. Finally, tie it all together and deliver your message with authority, knowledge, and persuasion. If you've done your homework, your argument will make good sense and your audience, listeners or readers, will at least listen and think about what you have to say. You might not convince them, but I'm willing to bet you'll get an "I can't say I agree, but she does make a compelling argument."

The best writers I encounter, in print or on the Web, and the best speeches I hear have this in common: they fully comprehend the issue at hand, they are able to weave facts and information into a coherent narrative, and they are able to deliver their argument with clarity and conviction. The worst come across as pretentious, spouting disjointed ramblings and random facts and figures, inject meaningless invective, and are unable to put it all together to make any sort of convincing argument, let alone something that might be enjoyable to read. (Aren't you proud of me for not mentioning Sarah Palin?) I think it really helps to try and figure out who you're trying to reach, and what you're trying to accomplish. Is your purpose to make people think about something, perhaps bring them over to your position? Or is it merely to further your own agenda and justify your own way of thinking? If you don't have the courage of your convictions, if you don't have facts to back up your stance on a subject, if you can’t be coherent, how can you hope to convince others of the rightness of your position?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do these Lederhosen make me look fat?

Magic in books A little follow-up to yesterday's entry about Banned Books Week. Someone who runs a site called Safe Libraries felt the need to leave a comment with a bunch of links about why they think Banned Books Week is kind of stupid. Why do people do this? It's obviously something I feel very strongly about, and do they think I'm going to suddenly say, "You know what? You're right. It was a mistake for me to write about Banned Books Week. I take back everything I wrote." I've left it up, though, in the interest of fair play, and because they didn't post anonymously.

The gist of the articles that I skimmed were that "banned" is a misnomer, and very misleading on the part of the ALA, as no books have been "banned" in the U.S. for years. Technically true. You know why? Because of those of us who say that it is wrong to do so and because it is unconstitutional. The challenges are still happening, but increasingly unsuccessful because I feel that the majority of people believe that no book should be removed from library shelves because of others' objections. Let me say it again: if you don't want your kid reading a particular book, do what you can to keep them from reading it--that is your right as a parent. I've got news for you, though. Kids will do whatever they can to find ways to push the envelope and to learn about things you don't want them to learn. I speak from experience, because I was once a kid. I still remember sitting in a Study Hall with my friends Kathy and Steve, looking up synonyms for "genitals" in the thesaurus. If I recall correctly, our favorite was "meat," and it gave us the giggles so bad we could hardly breathe. (Now it makes me laugh that it seemed so hilarious at the time!) Sheer silliness...but trying to stop kids from figuring out such things is like trying to empty the ocean with a sieve. They'll find ways.

The main goal of Banned Books Week, as I see it, is to draw attention to a long history of censorship and remain vigilant that such challenges are defeated. My friend Tim left a comment that included this: "That is the real danger of all this book banning - the chilling effect it has on librarians, publishers and authors." I would add "attempted" before book banning, but he is right. If an author is successfully challenged and their book is removed from library circulation, they may experience a spike in sales due to the "forbidden" factor ("The controversial best-selling book BANNED by the Hicksville Public Library!"), but might that banning not affect the way they write their next book, resulting in self-censorship and a dampening of the creative spirit? Might a publisher hesitate to take on a book because of past controversy? Or a librarian decide to not order the author's next book for the library because there was such a hassle with the previous one?

As I wrote yesterday, an attempt to restrict books is an attempt to restrict ideas. If that is your goal for your own family, good luck with that. One individual or group has no right to restrict books from others. End o' story.

I was looking at the list of banned classics last night, and it was astounding. Many of these books were banned in the 20's and 30's and beyond, and were still being challenged as recently as the 80's. It's interesting reading, especially some of the reasons and the wording used in the challenges:

  • blasphemous
  • undermines morality
  • obscene
  • smut
  • trash
  • filth
  • the use of 'damn' and 'whore lady', a "filthy, trashy novel" (To Kill a Mockingbird)
  • "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal" (Lord of the Flies)
  • indecent, "does not represent traditional values" (Of Mice and Men)
  • teachers "can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again" (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
  • burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church as "satanic" (Lord of the Rings)
  • "filthy, trashy sex novel" (A Separate Peace)

Jeez, everybody's a critic, huh?


Lederhosen So, I'm celebrating Banned Books Week, and it's a cool and blustery fall day here at Nutwood. What to do, what to do?

Break out the Lederhosen, Helmut, we're goin' to Oktoberfest!

Das ist richtig, Ken und I will be heading over zu Granite City Food und Brewery diesen Abend für eine "Mug Club" party. Wir essen brats und sauerkraut (at least I will...Ken kann nicht stand sauerkraut, but Ich liebe the stuff), und they'll be tapping their new fall Bier called, appropriately enough, Oktoberfest. Ich feel ein yodeling fit coming on!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The book burning starts at dusk

Know I would like to wish everyone a very happy Banned Books Week. That's right, all week long, we get to bash on freedom of choice when it comes to what others read, do our best to remove the books we think are perverse, subversive, and just plain unpleasant (or books that we don't agree with), and generally force our opinions onto others. To kick off the celebration, we'll start with a big ol' bonfire tonight, toss those nasty ol' books into the fire, and dance around like insane little gremlins, cackling with delight and evil glee.

[Listening to my director in my earphones]

What's that you say? Banned Books Week isn't about burning them? It's about reading them?

Ohhhhh. My mistake.

Anyone who has been reading me for a while knows that is a highly sarcastic title and start to this entry. Quite frankly, I think it's a little snarky of me, too! I'm feeling sassy today.

Banned Books Week, according to the American Library Association, "is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States." Most of you probably know by now that I love to read and that I'm a big fan of books. Not just the action of reading; not just the physical presence of books held in my hands; I love the idea of reading, the ability that it gives each and every one of us to learn, to know, to step outside our normal lives and discover something about another place, another time, another way of life, another culture. Books are a way to travel without ever leaving the comfort of our home.

Banned book I've never understood those who would seek to ban books. Just that phrase makes me cringe. I understand if people don't want their kids to read certain things; that is their right. However, in attempting to remove books from school and public libraries, they are also restricting others from reading those books. That is unacceptable, and it is unconstitutional. (That seems to be a popular word these days.) Just as in restricting others from listening to certain types of music because you object to the content, no individual or group has any right whatsoever to keep others from listening to music or reading what they wish to read. In your own home, if you want to limit your child's reading exercises to Chinese takeout menus, have at it. But don't tell me and don't tell my library that I cannot read certain materials because you find them objectionable.

The restriction of books is nothing less than the restriction of ideas. For those who would keep others from reading certain books or other types of media, it naturally begs the question, "What are you afraid of?" The ALA site includes a list of books that have been challenged recently, as well as a list of classics that have been banned or challenged throughout the years. Here is the complete list of those challenged in 2008-2009 (it's a PDF file, so takes a moment to load), and here are a few of the books on the list.

  • Go Ask Alice Still? This book has been around since I was in junior high school (and yes, it was in my library, and I read it). It was challenged in one school district because of descriptions of drug use, but the book was retained in the library. The kid dies of an overdose, so you'd think it would be seen as the cautionary tale it is rather than glorification of drug use.
  • Black Hawk Down Removed because of foul language
  • Brave New World Challenged because of sex and drugs, but retained
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Yep, this is not a joke. A parent challenged this because they felt the depiction of racist behavior in the book would frighten black children. The book was retained.
  • Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series Challenged because of sexual content; retained.
  • And Tango Makes Three This story of two male penguins parenting a chick in Central Park Zoo was challenged because one parent said the book "is based on one of those subjects that is best left to be discovered by students at another time or in another place." Yeah, like in the boys' locker room.
  • The Catcher in the Rye Challenged
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Again, not a joke. The book was retained, but teachers have to attend seminars on how to deal with issues of race before they can teach the book in their classes.
  • The Color Purple Challenged because of homosexuality, rape, and incest.
  • The Lovely Bones Moved to the faculty section because it was thought to be too frightening for middle school students.
  • A People's History of the United States Challenged as "un-American, leftist propaganda." It was a secondary textbook in an Advanced Placement history class, and students also read an article critical of the textbook.

Banned Books Week2 Some of these challenges are ongoing, but many of the challenges were rejected and the books retained in the library. This is encouraging news, because it's getting harder and harder for individuals or groups to try to dictate to others their own narrow view of the world. Even well-meaning challenges, like not not wanting to subject kids to the racist behavior or dialogue present in To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, seek to ignore history. Such behavior happened. Reading about it can lead to *gasp* discussion about why it's bad behavior and why it shouldn't be tolerated today. As with other censorship issues, you have the right to not read, not listen, not view. You do not have the right to dictate to others what they can read, hear, or view.

I hope you all get a chance this week to curl up with a good book. When you do, take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a place where others cannot restrict what we read because of their own beliefs. Happy reading!