Celebrate National Banned Books Week!

As the American Library Association is fond of pointing out, in the US the last week of September is set aside to celebrate the importance of free and open information, and that many books that provoke controversy are still available.

Many works were lost during the Nazi regime, and going back even farther, at the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria.  Most of this can be attributed to attempts by one conquering group to control another, by restricting what they are allowed to read and to think.

A book-lovers nightmare, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451describes a totalitarian regime that employs firemen not to put out fires, but to set them.  The fuel?  Books.  ALL books.

Ideas and creative thinking are deemed dangerous, and society is controlled by incessant and vapid television programming and medication.  So far-fetched!  That could never happen NOW!

Oh wait….

Image:  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, it could.  Read this article from CBC News.

These days, most objections to a book are for excessive bad language, sexual themes or situations, or violence.  Some believe that if it offends them, then it must be offensive to everyone.  Access to material must be controlled, because what if a tightly-regimented young person comes into contact with a new idea?  This will not do.

Are those books behind that little guy? Quick, do something before they infest his brain with ideas!

Image:  Milan Jurek via stock.xchng

Relax, folks.  Schools and libraries know what they’re doing, I promise you.  If they included something you’re not sure about, why not take a look at it yourself before you erupt in fury?  I’ve heard a lot of people complain about a book or film they never read or saw.  How do you know if there is a problem unless you check it out?

Children’s author Betty Miles wrote a book called Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book, a story about two classmates who inadvertently create controversy when they read a picture book about puppy birth to younger children.  It illustrates beautifully how crazy parents can get when their children are exposed to certain subjects.

My take?  Start teaching kids young.  Birth and death are part of life.  People are different-looking and act different sometimes, but underneath we’re all pretty much the same.  I think it’s wrong to keep information from anyone.

Granted, I’m not talking about subjects that are beyond a young kid’s understanding, or adult-oriented.  There’s no need to shove too much crazy at them too soon.  But we don’t give them enough credit–kids are pretty smart.  And they can spot a hypocrisy faster than anyone on the planet.

“You lied to me about where this stuff comes from, didn’t you?”

Image:  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have brains for a reason.  Without them, we wouldn’t have antibiotics, the Hubble telescope, or laundry detergent that removes grass stains.  There would be no medical advances, no Harry Potter series (a frequent entry on the banned books lists), and no smartphones.  Yeah, that one would hit you were you live.

ALL the cool cats have them.

Image: koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net  

Interestingly enough, the captcha code for that image download was “arbitrary rightwit.”  Sounds a bit like an Elizabethan insult.  I think it’s an apt description of those who are determined to control other people’s reading, don’t you?

I dearly hope that someday I write a book that someone wants to ban.  Not for gratuitous sex, blood, or violence, but one that challenges people to think a bit.  Some people don’t like to do that.  I have a couple of ideas.  Perhaps you’ll see me on that list someday.

When you choose a book to read this week, make sure it’s one from the Frequently Challenged Books list.  Keep knowledge accessible to everyone.  Visit and support your local library today!

More Favorite Books

A while back, I did a list of some of my favorite books.  Since I have hundreds of them, and have been insanely bored, I thought I’d post another.

Lately I’ve been culling my massive collection, in case I can’t find a job and have to move.  People always say, “It’s so cool you have so many books!”  Yeah, until they have to help you pack them.  Hopefully, I won’t have to, but even so, I’m getting tired of dusting them.   In the process I’ve rediscovered several books I forgot I had.

In no particular order, below find more of my favorites.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

If you know nothing about World War II, you probably know what happened to the Jewish people of Europe when Hitler began to lead Germany in a devastating sweep across the continent.  Those who couldn’t escape the initial lockdown ended up in hiding.

Anne Frank and her family, along with acquaintances the van Pels family and an elderly dentist, Fritz Pfeffer (these names are changed in the published diary), hid in a secret apartment above her father’s business in Amsterdam from 1942 until 1944, when some rat fink told on them.

Anne wanted to be a writer, and it’s heartbreakingly clear she would have been a good one.  Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the war.  He published his daughter’s diary, which documents not only Anne’s family and relationships with the others in hiding, but much of the war itself.

My seventh grade class read this and saw the 1959 film.  I can still remember how devastating it was to learn that human beings could do this to one another.


Number nine in Emile Zola‘s Les Rougon-Macquart novel cycle, Nana tells the story of an attractive girl who rises from a slatternly beginning in the gutters of Paris to become a celebrated courtesan.  In her wake, she leaves a trail of broken, ruined and destitute men.   I read this one first—my aunt loaned it to me when I visited her in London after my high school graduation.  Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

Zola, the premier example of the Naturalist school of writing, is extremely easy to read.  In naturalism, heredity and environment are believed to contribute to one’s eventual path in life.  Emphasis is on believable situations, written as they would be in real life.

Give Zola a try.  I think you’ll like him.   He even has a Facebook page.  :)


I have never read this one in school.  Usually Frankenstein is offered instead.  Actually, in college I took two classes where I had to read Mary Shelley’s book.  I finally managed to eke out a damn good paper on Dracula. 

Written by a strapping Irishman named Abraham “Bram” Stoker, the novel takes us from England to Transylvania and back again, as the hapless Jonathan Harker travels to the Count’s castle to enact a real estate transaction for his employers.

Stoker wrote believably about Transylvania, although he never went there.  The book, written in a mostly epistolary style, is surprisingly action-packed.  Sprinkled throughout, we find the latest in late nineteenth century technology, such as Mina’s typewriter and Dr. Seward’s phonograph recordings.

The noble vampire is defined in this book.  Before that, tales of bloodsuckers featured mostly Eastern European legends of filthy, long-nailed and bloated corpses.  But Dracula is not a romantic figure.  On the contrary, he’s like that scary uncle you always felt uncomfortably nauseated around without knowing why.

The Little House books

Yes, I love these!  Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved children’s series chronicles in fictionalized form her pioneer childhood, from around age five through her marriage to Almanzo Wilder at eighteen.

I don’t think these books should be restricted to kids.  There is a lot adults can get out of them as well.  It’s fascinating to read about pioneer life at that time.  The television series based on the books, Little House on the Prairie, ran from 1974 to 1982 and was watched by legions of devoted fans.

Interesting side note:  I have The Little House Cookbook, with all the foods from the books and a ton of cool historical information.  You can get it here.

The Ingalls family. From left to right: Ma (seated), Carrie, Laura, Pa, Grace, Mary (seated).

Image:  www.discoverlaura.org

Cages of Glass, Flowers of Time

Charlotte Culin’s 1979 novel about a battered child explores the conflicted feelings victims have about their abusers.  Claire Burden is fourteen, recently torn from her neglectful artist father to be raised by her alcoholic mother, herself an abuse victim.  Claire loves to draw as her father did, but Mom doesn’t want her to, because it is painful for her.   Frightened and lonely, the young girl gradually emerges from her dark existence, nurtured by two loving friends.

This young adult book is so good.  I read it in high school and looked everywhere for it.  It’s out of print, but I finally found a copy on the internet.  Highly recommended.  I can’t find any other works by this author, and that’s too bad.

Clive Barkers Books of Blood

Technically, these aren’t one book, but six volumes of short stories by one of the masters of horror, Clive Barker.   I had been a horror fan for a long time.  When the first volume was published in 1984, I devoured it with my mouth open and my eyes wide.  It was unlike anything I’d read before.

Barker has since penned quite a few novels that weave fantasy and horror in a completely unique way.  Several of his works have been adapted into films that have terrified millions, notably The Hellbound Heart (as Hellraiser) and “The Forbidden,” a story from Books of Blood: Vol. 5 that eventually became Candyman. 

I met him in Los Angeles around 1992, at a Fangoria magazine horror convention.  He’s a very nice man.

Doesn’t seem like the father of demonspawn like Rawhead Rex…

Image:  imbd.com


That’s all for now.  I’m sure as the culling continues I’ll unearth more books I’d like to share with you.  Until then, happy reading!*

*Unless you’re browsing the Barker stuff late at night, that is.  Heh heh heh.

Have Fun at Work on Talk Like a Pirate Day!

This post originally ran on September 19, 2010.  A chat friend wondered today how to enjoy the upcoming holiday at work, so I decided to repost it in advance, so those of you who will be working on Pirate Day can prepare.  Arrr, happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to ye!

YARR!  Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye scurvy bilge rats! September 19th be the day!

Every year on this momentous occasion, would-be pirates dress up, scoff a tankard o’grog and dance the hornpipe in celebration of a bit o’ silly fun.

How did this holiday start?  Well, me lubbers, click on the link near the crow’s nest of this article for a detailed explanation of why people are running around saying things like “Ahoy!” and “Avast!” today.  It’s mostly for fun, and we all could use a pint o’ that!

How do ye celebrate this day of days, ye be wonderin’?  Ye talk like a pirate, that’s what.  And act like one, iffen ye can get away with it.  But what if you’re at work, as ye may be next year, when the holiday falls on Monday?

If yer captain isn’t too scurvy of a tyrant, ye can answer the phone with a hearty “ARRR!”  If he’s a whip-crackin’ slave driver, ye could stage a mutiny. Or ye could keep it on the QT, among yer shipmates (coworkers).

Some ways to enjoy Pirate Day at work:

  • Make up a pirate name and insist everyone call ye by it.  Find one here!
  • Call people things like “bilge rat,” or “knave.”  Everyone will think yer nuts, but that’s part of the fun of it!  Look here for some language help.
  • Wear something piratey to work.  Fer the menfolk, a casual dress environment means ye can wear a Jolly Roger t-shirt, a bandanna or an eyepatch even, if yer cap’n don’t have a peg leg up his arse.   A hoop in yer earhole will lend a seafarin’ touch.  If yer stuck wearin’ business clothes, a skull tie pin or somethin’ subtle be yer best bet.  Wenches, ye can wear a frilly ruffly blouse and skull earrings, or some epic hoop earrings if ye like.  Add some boots and black pants with a scarf for a belt and ye have a nice pirate outfit that don’t look like yer gonna walk the plank.
  • Add pirate clip art to all yer emails.
  • Eat lunch at a buffet that serves things like chicken legs, fried fish, mashed taters, and hearty breads and desserts.  Pirates ate a-plenty when there was plenty to have.  Pack ye a big, meaty sandwich and some chocolate coins for sweets if there’s no galley nearby or ye can’t jump ship.  Throw in some oranges so ye don’t get scurvy!
  • Read Treasure Island on yer break.  Gotta keep up the image!
  • Describe things in nautical terms.  Like “The Chumley account is three leagues from bein’ complete!” or “”Hoist the mainsail, and let’s finish our slog before Happy Hour!”

Use yer imagination, lubbers, and if ye come up with some other ways to make the daily deck-swab on next year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day a rip-roarin’ party, post ‘em in the comments.  Shovin’ off now.  Enjoy, me hearties!


SWF, 40-ish, scrolling through the local dating site:

1.  Do not put a picture of your dog as your photo.

2.  Super Mullet!

3.  If you’re wearing a ball cap and holding a fish, no.

4.  Christ.  I’m a woman, not a women.

5.  Put your goddamn shirt back on.

6.  Who is the bitch in the picture?  If it’s your daughter, why is she in your dating photo?  Stand on your own.   If it’s not your daughter, HELL no.

7.  Why do so many men take MySpace pictures of themselves behind the wheel?  Unless you’re driving a Lamborghini, I don’t give a shit.

8.  I thought the bald head / goatee thing was out.  Guess not.

9. A karate stance would be more impressive if you weren’t wearing a dorky fleece jacket and cap, standing in front of a closet door.  Grow the hell up.

10.  That puppy is cute, but you ain’t.

11.  I’m not even looking at your profile if it doesn’t have a picture.

12.  You’re not him.

Breakups suck.