Archive for the 'books' Category

Banned Books Week 2013

Friday, September 20th, 2013

jbc’s recent posts about “Eleanor and Park” make this an opportune time to point out that next week is Banned Books Week 2013.

The website is a great resouce to learn about the attempts at censorship in schools and libraries across the country, and what you can do to help fight back.

I would also like to personally recommend that folks check out Americus — a really great, all-ages appropriate, graphic novel about fighting censorhip in a small town library against a Harry Potter-esque fantasy novel. It came out a few years ago, but uplifting stories about overcoming intollerance never really go out of style.

fREADom of Information

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

With the economy in shambles and the election as depressing as usual, I thought I’d try to lighten the mood a bit by reminding people about Literary Censorship, and the attempts of narrow minded people to suppress materials from public libraries.

Yes that’s right, it’s time for Banned Books Week, September 27 to October 4, 2008. The American Library Association has a lot of great background material on Banned Books Week, as well their annual list of most frequently challenged books from last year. (A challenge is when someone formally requests that a book be banned/removed from a library)

So do yourself, your community, and the world a favor this week: read a banned (or challenged) book; buy your children a banned book and talk to them about the issues of censorship and why that particular book scares people; visit your local library and make a donation, ask the librarians how they deal with attempts to ban books and if there is anything you can do to help preserve intellectual freedom.

Larry Craig’s Exit Strategy

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I’ve been thinking through tomorrow’s announced press conference, at which it is widely reported that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) will announce his resignation from the Senate.

I hope that’s all he does. As I think through the various scenarios, though, I have this paranoid sense that, faced with the loss of everything he’s defined himself by, faced with the prospect of public recognition, of his own personal recognition, that he is not only a liar, but far worse, an abomination of the sort he was taught to despise from an early age, he might decide that his only way out is to kill himself.

Which is an inherently ludicrous idea on the face of it. Like the heckler who called out disdainfully at the end of his September 28 press conference, “what if you are gay? Come out of the closet.” It’s just not that big a deal, once one accepts the simple fact that his being attracted to other men is neither a disease nor a moral failing. It’s just how he is, like being left-handed.

I wouldn’t even be thinking about the possibility of a televised suicide, probably, if it weren’t for the example of Bud Dwyer. But there’s something about the zeal with which Craig has been asserting his non-gay-ness that makes me wonder how he will handle the announcement tomorrow. There’s something tense and fractured and brittle about him; he’s lived his whole life in this cage of his own construction, refusing to face the truth. How will he deal with reality? Will he be able to?

If I had to put money on it, I guess I think he’ll just continue the way he has. He’ll assert that he’s not gay, and did nothing wrong, other than the lapse of judgment that led him to plead guilty to the bathroom-incident misdemeanor. More in sorrow than in anger, for the good of the party and the people of Idaho, Nixon-like, he’ll step down. And then he’ll just continue in the closet.

But there’s that self-loathing, that mental illness, that underlies the choice to stay in the closet, and it just makes me nervous. And then there’s the Idaho factor, and his military service.

Sigh. Maybe this sense of dread I’m feeling is Stanley Kubrick’s (and Matthew Modine’s, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s) fault.

Update: So, I’m not the only one who’s anxious about this: blacktygrrrr, commenter Harold on this Rolling Stone item, and this copy-and-pasted version of the same comment in the Boise Weekly.

Later update: Whew. Resignation announced, still alive, still in the closet.

Being Mma Ramotswe

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

The new #1 Ladies Detective Agency book is here! The new #1 Ladies Detective Agency Book is here!


Yeah, it’s true. The new #1 Ladies Detective Agency book (The Good Husband of Zebra Drive) is here. If you haven’t read the whole series, you need to go out right now and get the first one in paperback, or at the library, and read them all the way through. They’re all the same, it’s true, but they’re also all different, and the cycling through the sameness and differences builds in power over the course of the series.

It sounds goofy to me to talk about how profoundly beautiful and wonderful these books are. I want you who haven’t experienced them to seek them out, so I want to talk about how amazing they are. But I don’t want to build up expectations that will only be realized slowly, gradually, as the stories unfold.

Hm. It’s something of a dilemma. I’ll have to think about that while looking at the big, beautiful sky above Carpinteria. And while I’m doing that, you can go to this page at, and see if they’ll send you the first book for free: Alexander McCall Smith exclusive. “While supplies last”, it says, and that was posted a few weeks ago, so you may need some luck there. But it also has an mp3 of Alexander McCall Smith reading a new short story based on Mma Ramotswe, which I haven’t listened to yet, so we’ve both got that to look forward to regardless.

In the meantime, I thought this was cute: Apparently a Hollywood adaptation is being done, which is worrisome, but the director is Anthony Minghella, who really is the perfect choice, and the screenplay was co-written by Richard Curtis, so that’ll probably be okay. And then there was this interesting passage in an article on the website of the (South African) Cape Film Commission, quoting from the Sunday Times of London (isn’t the Web wonderful?) Tlou mum over Mma Ramotswe role.

Botswana Minister of Health, Prof Sheila Tlou remains mum over media reports that she is the number one contender for the role of Mma Ramotswe in the multi million pula Hollywood production. Reports from the UK link the minister to the coveted role in the US$40 million film based on serialised novel No. 1 Ladies Detective by Alexander McCall Smith.

UK- based newspaper Sunday Times has quoted the author of the serialised novel, rooting for the health minister: There is one person who is really keen to play Mma Ramotswe and who has played her twice on the amateur stage in Gaborone and that’s the minister of health, Sheila Tlou.

In my view she is Mma Ramotswe and in her view she is Mma Ramotswe, the paper quoted the author.

I can not comment on what international newspapers have reported. It is just speculation right now and we will cross that bridge when the time comes, Prof Tlou said.

See, the reason that’s cute is this passage from the latest book. Mma Ramotswe and her adopted daughter, Motholeli, are up early, and Motholeli asks Mma Ramotswe if she ever thinks about whether she’d like to be someone else. This causes Mma Ramotswe to reflect on the people in her life, and the whole passage is great, including a beautiful payoff at the end, but as much as I’d like to I’m not going to quote the whole thing, so you’ll just have to get the book and read it, and again, read the whole series leading up to it so you get the full impact.

But I have to quote this part:

Motholeli, the cause of this train of thought, now interrupted it; there was to be no enumeration of the consolations of being forty-ish. “Well, Mma,” she said. “Who would you be? The Minister of Health?”

The Minister, the wife of that great man, Professor Thomas Tlou, had recently visited Motholeli’s school to present prizes and had delivered a stirring address to the pupils. Motholeli had been particularly impressed and had talked about it at home.

“She is a very fine person,” said Mma Ramotswe. “And she wears very beautiful headdresses. I would not mind being Sheila Tlou… if I had to be somebody else. But I am quite happy, really, being Mma Ramotswe, you know. There is nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Nope. Nothing at all.

Who Wants To Potty, Because It’s Time To Die!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Elmo, one of the most popular Sesame Street characters in the past decade, is at the center of yet another marketing nightmare. Last fall, the Elmo Knows Your Name doll made some news when people realized you could program Elmo to say anything you want. But this week, Elmo reached a new low: A woman in Dallas bought a copy of Potty Time With Elmo, a talking book with buttons that play audio clips of Elmo giving encouraging advice to toddlers. But one of the buttons in her copy of the book makes Elmo laugh, and then say “Who wants to die?” like some sort of 1960s BatMan villan.

There are at least two seperate videos of the woman and her copy of the book available…

Some people online have speculated that the word “die” is the where the recording cuts out of something else (lie “try to go potty”) but other sources indicate the phrase played when the same button is clicked on other copies of the book is “Uh-oh! Who has to go?” — So I don’t see how it can be a glitch, someone did this on purpose. News reports all agree that the company that makes the book has recieved “several complaints” so presumably this isn’t the only copy with this behavior.

As you would expect, dozens of ebay auctions have poped up for RARE Potty Time With Elmo Book ” Who Wants To Die ” NEW.

(Thanks to the Colbert Report for bringing this to my attention)

Karen Karbo’s Goodbye, Moon

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

This op-ed piece by Karen Karbo from the NY Times was kind of cute, at least for someone who has read Goodnight Moon to his kids as many times as I have: Goodbye, moon.

Drum on Menand on Tetlock’s ‘Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It?’

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

I really liked Kevin Drum’s droll snark at the end of his item on Louis Menand’s review in the New Yorker of Philip Tetlock’s new book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?: Foxes and hedgehogs.

So there’s your lesson for the day. Avoid ideologues on both left and right. Stay away from people who have unshakable faith in their convictions. The more confident someone sounds, the more likely they are to be wrong. Steer clear of cranks with big theories. Pay more attention to statistical and actuarial formulas than to expert opinion. And ignore the folks at Power Line. They aren’t due to be right again for a long time.

Sounds like a pretty solid set of guidelines.

Mary Mapes on Rathergate

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Mary Mapes, the former CBS producer who was made the fall gal, mostly, for the 60 Minutes story based on the almost-certainly-forged Killian memos about Bush’s spotty National Guard service, has a book out. As profiled in the WaPo: Ousted CBS producer comes out swinging.

Mapes is now pushing a book, called “Truth and Duty,” about the botched “60 Minutes II” story on Bush’s National Guard service that led to her firing. She ladles out plenty of blame but largely defends what she still considers a fair piece of reporting, although an independent panel accused CBS of having “failed miserably” to authenticate the documents before rushing the story to air.

The article is pretty old, but I meant to link to it when it came out, and forgot to until now. I find it interesting both as an example of someone working to salvage her reputation in the face of a pretty cut-and-dried case of error, and because big stories like this tend to get clearer, rather than murkier, with the benefit of a little hindsight.

Controversial Books: They Aren’t Just For Burning

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

It’s that time of year again. September 24th to October 1st is Banned Book Week, sponsored by the American Library Association. This is a great week to go to your neighborhood independent book store and pick up a banned book.

My personal favorite has to be Captain Underpants for “offensive language and modeling bad behavior”. Have a sense of humor folks, seriously.

Dinosaurs Attacked the Ark!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

Here’s a fun item from net.kook theferret: The weirdest book I ever got.

(P.S. Sorry I’ve been lax on posting lately; I’ve got a Wikipedia obsession going on, and have been caught up in updating an article on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on Iraqi WMD. Sigh. This too shall pass.)

The Pleasure of Steve Martin’s Company

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

So, I’m screwing up my courage to begin Seriously Writing a Book (again). And I think (for me at least) this is a little like a mother deciding to have another child: Sufficient time since the first birth has to have elapsed for the memory of the pain and inconvenience to have faded, and you have to have enough happy memories of snuggling with the kid or watching her laugh or whatever to overcome the ones about how hard it was to make the damn thing and push it out. (Or not. I could be completely talking out my ass here, being blessedly male.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Anyway, you may have noticed that Steve Martin writes books (and essays) these days. Here’s an item from The Believer, in which herself-an-author Meghan Daum interviews him about a bunch of stuff, including what it’s like for him to write books: Interview with Steve Martin.

I [Heart] Precious Ramotswe

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

I’ve tried to get Janus/Onan to read Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series before, but I don’t know if he ever followed the suggestion. Having just finished the latest book in the series, I want to remind him, and everyone else who hasn’t read these, to make a point of doing so. If you have read the previous books in the series, but haven’t read the latest one yet, you owe it to yourself to do that. It’s the best yet, and that’s saying a lot.

Here: I’ll even link to the evil one-click-patenting bookseller to make it easier for you to buy it: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies.

There’s a gentle folk wisdom to these books, a magic that is subtle, but powerful, and it builds as you read more of them.

Also recommended is the book’s official website, where you can read answers to fans’ questions delivered both by Alexander McCall Smith andby Mma Ramotswe herself: Alexander McCall Smith: Ask the Author.

In Which I Admit It for My Factious Purposes

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

A brief reading for the season, courtesy of Dickens, who I’m told undertook A Christmas Carol mainly for the money, being in desperate need of cash in the fall of 1843. But then, like all good obsessives, he got caught up in the venture, and the rest is history. Anyway:

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!’

Ignorance and Want