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You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

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Every year, during the lead-up to Banned Books Week, my newsfeed floods with stories of library read-ins, exhibits, and scavenger hunts for banned books. The normal flow of stories about actual book bannings, parental challenges to books, and censorship dries to a trickle. Why, it’s almost as if the forces of darkness and the American Library Association have declared a cease-fire in honor of BBW.

Or maybe not. In Foxboro, Massachusetts, a poster exhibit extolling press freedom has been removed from the Boyden Public Library following complaints over “graphic” and “inappropriate” content. As the local newspaper headline has it, Library Exhibit on Censorship Is Censored (and damn them for not showing us the posters in question).

“… anything that the left and the media don’t like will be gone and it will fully finish their plan to remake what we are.” Per pundits on Fox News, if statues of slave-owning Confederate generals are banned, the Bible will be next in line.

In August, web hosting service GoDaddy evicted The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site, which has since relocated to the “dark web” (I don’t know what that means, but suspect it means “a server in Russia”). This month, Gab.ai, a chat site for white supremacists, is being accused of self-censorship by users after complying with domain registrar AsiaRegistry’s demand that it take down a post mocking Charlottesville murder victim Heather Heyer.

“I hope that no student will ever attend a school where a parent challenges or bans books, but if they do, I hope that ‘Ban This Book’ prepares them for the fight, and teaches them that they actually can make a difference in that debate.” Author Alan Gratz, talking about his new book for young readers. Sounds subversive to me … stand by for parental challenges in three, two, one. …

Good (but buzzword-laden) argument for a diverse literary canon in public schools.

Banned book history: on November 17, 1961, Laurence and Geraldine McGilvery were arrested at their home in La Jolla, California, victims of a San Diego Police Department sting operation. Their crime? Selling a copy of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” to an undercover officer.

“These melodramatic accusations of book banning are just manufactured hysteria and fear mongering.” So says a lady in Thousand Oaks, California, who goes on to demand that a local high school ban two novels, “Snow Falling on Cedars” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” No melodrama here, just keep moving, folks.

In 1977, comedian Richard Pryor got his own show on NBC. He pulled the plug on after only four weeks, fed up with censorship and content restrictions.

In Idaho, parents have challenged the inclusion of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984” in the Rigby High School curriculum. The school says it hasn’t pulled the book. Students say otherwise. In the end the School would announce that banning “1984” was not banning it, and students would have to believe it. It was inevitable that the school should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.

YCRT! Banned Book Review

montana 1948Montana 1948
Larry Watson

This is a short novel about growing up in northeastern Montana. I’m not sure it’s technically classified “young adult” (like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which it somewhat resembles, it can be read by all ages from the early teens up), but it’s often assigned to high school students.

In Wisconsin in 2011, parents attempted to have “Montana 1948” removed from school libraries and reading lists, claiming it was too adult for young readers. By “adult” they meant there was sex in it, which is certainly true: sex is at the heart of the family scandal the narrator describes.

The narrator, an older man recalling events that happened when he was 12, tells us about growing up in a small town where his father is sheriff, his uncle the town doctor, and his grandfather a prominent and powerful rancher. His family employs a live-in Indian housekeeper from the nearby reservation, Marie Little Soldier. Marie falls ill with pneumonia and the family wants to call in the doctor, the boy’s uncle. Marie is almost hysterical in her opposition to seeing the doctor, and when the mother insists on calling the doctor anyway Marie is forced to tell her that the uncle takes sexual liberties with female Indian patients, and that he’s been doing it for years. The boy’s father, as sheriff, is put into a situation where there are no good answers, no easy choices.

The story, of course, is about what happens next, but the core of the story is the rapid growing up a 12-year-old boy has to do in a situation like that. Before the crisis, he worshiped his uncle. He has doubts that his father will be strong enough to face up to the popular (with the white people of the town, that is) uncle and his fearsome, politically-connected grandfather. He sees the strain the situation puts on his parents’ marriage. He witnesses some shocking confrontations between various actors in the story. And he does grow up.

Well, you ask, what’s the problem with that? Sounds like a great story, and very much like “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As sex scandals go, the one at the center of “Montana 1948” doesn’t hold a candle to the one Scout’s father, the unforgettable Atticus Finch, has to deal with (of course people still try to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird” too). There are many parents … and unfortunately some school district superintendents and even librarians … who don’t think 15- and 16-year-old kids are ready to deal with adult situations, especially ones where sex is involved.

So how’s the book? Very, very good. It’s simply and directly told, and there’s more than enough detail to tell you the author knows what he’s talking about when he describes rural Montana life: the twitchy relationships between whites and native Americans, small-town politics, and the pleasures and hardships of life in that hard land. I was very impressed, and I don’t compare “Montana 1948” with “To Kill a Mockingbird” lightly … Larry Watson’s novel earns the comparison.

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21st Century Hardships, Part the Third

We’ve finished painting the walls of our home office, one of two repurposed bedrooms (the other is Donna’s sewing & embroidery workshop). Donna’s going to sand and repaint the baseboards, which the flooring guys will reinstall when they come. I guess the last thing will be the reinstallation of the wall unit and Murphy bed. Well, no … in order to clear the decks for all the work that needed to be done we had to take everything out of the home office … putting it all back is the last thing.

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Several days of work remain. Meanwhile, old friends are stopping by for a few days in early October. The home office may not be done by then, but that’s okay because our friends will stay in the guest bedroom. Right now that room’s full of home office stuff. And what an incredible amount of stuff that is: clothing, framed artwork and photos, plaques & career mementos, boxes and boxes of important papers, letters, and records … we aren’t pack rats, but damn, we’ve collected a lot of stuff over the years.

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We’re putting wood laminate flooring in the home office next week, so except for reinstalling the wall unit and Murphy bed, the office will be done and we can start putting everything back in it, freeing up the guest bedroom. It’ll work out. If the contractors stay on schedule. If the Good Lord is willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

All this work brings back memories of a life on the move, clearing and cleaning quarters every three years in order to move halfway around the world to new postings, reversing the process upon arrival, and every single time having to strip wallpaper and repaint … sometimes just a room or two, sometimes an entire house. I thought we were done with that when we moved into this house 19 years ago (the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere by a factor of seven), but of course we aren’t, and never will be. There’s one more move in our future, the one we avoid talking about, never mind planning for.

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The Woodford Automobile Museum: a Pictorial Guide

21762063_10155684774727346_1850872221875368091_nA while back, people on Facebook were filling out the “Five Cars I’ve Had” survey. I started to fill it out too, but quickly gave up. It was for young drivers, not those of us who’ve been around for a while. It couldn’t come close to conveying our automotive history: Donna and I have owned way more than five cars, and most of them weren’t in the survey’s photo database. The solution? Find my own photos and write my own survey.

I’ll start with family cars, the cars my parents owned: the ones I learned to drive in and cruised around in during my teens.

When I was just 10 or 11, my father started teaching me to drive out in the woods behind base housing at Ramstein AB in Germany. He had a military-surplus Jeep, and that’s what we used. I learned to shift, though I probably wasn’t any good at it. When my own son was old enough to learn to drive, I made sure his first experience was with a standard transmission.

1946 jeep

1946 Willys Jeep

Later, of course, there were pre-marriage cars from my high school and junior college days in Sacramento, California, 1961-1965.

My father bought a one-year-old Mercedes Benz sedan in 1956, when we were stationed in Germany. We shipped it back to the States and it was our family car until 1965. It was the car I really learned to drive in, starting at age 15. I wrecked it twice; my sister Sue (who learned to drive in it too) wrecked it once. It had a flathead four, four on the tree, and non-canceling turn signals you controlled with the horn ring on the steering wheel. Oh, and a Blaupunkt radio. It was big inside, and solid as a brick. Ours was blue but otherwise just like the one in the photo.

1955 mb 180

1955 Mercedes Benz 180

Dad bought a used 1958 Ford in ’62 or ’63, when we were living in Sacramento and I was in high school. It had a monster engine with a four-barrel carb but was otherwise pretty plain Jane. The car in the photo is, I think, Canadian; American Fords had different trim. Ours was red & white.

1958 ford

1958 Ford Fairlane

Dad went off to Pakistan on a remote tour in 1964 when I was a senior in high school, and my mother bought a clapped-out Henry J for me to use. It had the “big engine,” a Kaiser Supersonic Six, but the intake manifold was cracked and it whistled when you gave it gas. My mother made seat covers for it from old bedsheets. It wasn’t quite the same color as the one in the photo, but like that one, it was greenish and puke-like. It lasted about six months.

1951 Henry J

1951 Henry J

When the Henry J went to meet its maker she bought a 1949 Mercury for me to drive. It was pink with brown tuck & roll upholstery. In 1965 I posted a note on the student union bulletin board at American River Junior College, looking for someone to ride to school with me and share gas expenses. That’s how I met Donna, my wife of 51 years. The first day I was to pick her up I rolled up in the Mercury. She rolled her eyes.

1949 Mercury

1949 Mercury

When Donna and I were first married and living in Germany, we didn’t have a car of our own. We rode the bus to work, but my folks would sometimes let us use their second car, an old VW. Unlike the fancy 1955 model in the photo, their ’55 was a non-export model with no chrome: gray with gray bumpers, something a Mennonite might drive. It had mechanical brakes, a non-syncromesh transmission, and semaphore turn signals. We took it on weekend drives up and down the Rhine River and on our honeymoon to Basel, Switzerland.

1955 vw

1955 Volkswagen

Now it’s time to move on to the cars Donna and I have actually owned, the ones we’ve bought and paid for on our own.

Upon our return to the States in 1967, the first car Donna and I bought with our own money was a used Chevy II. We picked it off a lot in downtown Detroit. Ours was a black two-door with red bench seats, a real stripper: no chrome strip on the side, no radio … reminiscent of the VW my folks would loan us in Germany.

1965 chevy II

1965 Chevy II

We drove the Chevy to California, where we lived for the next several years. In 1968 the Chevy’s engine seized and we bought our first brand-new car, a Volkswagen convertible. Like the one in the photo, ours was a beautiful yellow.

1968 vw convertible

1968 Volkswagen

When I finished work on my master’s degree at Sacramento State in 1972, we sold the convertible, replacing it with a used 1964 VW camper. Donna, our little boy Gregory, and I drove the bus all the way east to Detroit, visiting family and looking for work. We basically lived in the thing for three months, eventually driving it back to Sacramento, then on to Montana, where I’d found a teaching job.

1964 vw camper

1964 Volkswagen camper

We bought our second brand-new car in Montana, a 1972 Toyota Corona Mark II. Ours was blue. It was a really sweet car, built in the days when Toyotas were made with incredible levels of quality.

1972 toyota

1972 Toyota Corona Mark II

Perceiving my new teaching job in Montana to be a dead-ender, I joined the USAF in 1973 and went off to officer candidate school and pilot training. Some time during our first assignment in Oklahoma, we passed the Toyota to my sister Cecelia in Missouri and inherited my grandfather’s Olds Cutlass.

1968 olds

1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass

After Oklahoma the USAF took us to Holland, Alaska, Florida, Japan, Hawaii, and Nevada. During those years we owned several cars, most of them used. The best of all was the Datsun 280Z we bought in 1978 to celebrate my F-15 assignment. I had wanted a Corvette, but Donna found an almost-new Z with only 700 miles on it, and as with all of her decisions, it turned out to be the right one. We drove the Z for almost 16 years and never once got tired of it.

1978 datsun 280z

1978 Datsun 280Z

We shipped the Z to Holland, where, between 1978 and 1982, we also owned two used VW buses. Both were 1972 models: the first was a khaki ex-Dutch military van; its replacement was a white civilian van that had been converted into a camper.

1972 vw van

1972 VW van

Just before leaving Europe for Alaska we bought a new American-spec VW Quantum station wagon and shipped it and the Z off to Anchorage. Unlike the one in the photo, ours was a chocolate brown color. We drove our turd-colored Quantum, along with the Z, through assignments in Alaska and Florida, selling it in 1989 just before moving to Japan.

1982 vw quantum

1983 VW Quantum

Backing up a bit: while we were in Alaska, sometime around 1983, we got our first pickup truck, a 1967 Chevrolet C10. I gave an old hermit a few hundred dollars for it, and expect he spent it on weed. I taught our son Gregory to drive in that truck. It was pretty beat up, not nearly as nice as the one in the photo. We sold it in 1985 when we left Alaska for our next assignment. Gregory stayed behind; I helped him buy a used VW Rabbit just before we left, but since it was never our car I’m not including it here.

1967 chevy pickup

1967 Chevrolet C10

Moving ahead to 1989 and our assignment to Okinawa: our status of forces agreement with the government there prohibits servicemen from shipping cars to Japan. We still had the Z, but since we couldn’t bring it with us we put it in storage at my father’s place in Missouri, reclaiming it a couple of years later. While in Okinawa we drove used Japanese cars. The first was a Nissan Skyline, the second a Toyota Corona, but not the Corona you see in the States. The domestic Japanese Corona was a large car, somewhere between a Cressida and a Crown. I was able to find a photo of a Skyline (ours was white), but regrettably cannot show you what that Japanese Corona looked like.

1984 nissan skyline

1984 Nissan Skyline

In 1992 we left Japan for Honolulu. We had the Z taken out of mothballs and shipped to Honolulu, but when it arrived we found that rust—which had probably been breeding ever since Europe—had begun to eat through the bodywork. The Z became my on-base beater, and we bought a used Lincoln Town Car as our primary ride. Ours was the same color as the one in this photo:

1990 lincoln

1990 Lincoln Town Car

Shortly after arriving in Honolulu in 1982, we bought a red 1987 Nissan pickup truck. It was registered in our names but we rarely drove it: it was really for our daughter Polly. She drove it during her senior year of high school, and for the rest of her time in Hawaii.

1987 nissan pickup

1987 Nissan

In 1994 I sold the Z to an airman at Hickam AFB. We ordered a new Ford F150 from a dealer in Portland, Oregon. We flew there, picked up the truck, drove it south to visit friends in California, and shipped it from Long Beach to Honolulu on a Matson cargo ship for just $600, saving thousands compared to what the truck would have cost at a Hawaiian dealership. The truck in the photo is an XL; ours was an XLT and a bit fancier … plus, ours never had rust. Same color, though. It was a wonderful truck, and we drove it for 14 years.

1994 ford f150

1994 Ford F-150

In 1995 the F150 and the Town Car went with us to our final USAF assignment in Las Vegas. After a few months in Vegas we traded the Town Car in on a new Thunderbird, which, after the newness wore off, turned out to be rather a blah car.

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Polly washing the 1995 Thunderbird

I can’t remember exactly when, but at some point in our two years in Las Vegas we leased a new Nissan pickup truck for Polly, who had left a bad marriage in Hawaii and was living with us again. She totaled it a few months later and we were able to buy our way out of the lease.

1996 nissan pickup

1996 Nissan

Since leaving the USAF in 1997 and moving to Tucson, we’ve purchased three more cars, all nearly new when we bought them, all still in the family.

When we gave the T-bird to our daughter in 2003 (she was living on her own in Las Vegas at the time) we bought another Town Car, a one-year-old former rental from Budget. This became Donna’s car, and she drove the snot out of it, running the mileage up to 140,000 … but it’s still going strong, now in the hands of our daughter Polly, who is living with us in Tucson once again. I probably have some photos of it but can’t put my hands on them now, so here’s a photo of someone else’s 2002: ours is more of a pearl white.

2002 lincoln town car

2002 Lincoln Town Car

In 2008, when we decided to replace the Ford F150 with something more economical, we opted for a Chevy Trailblazer. It was my car for several years, but once the Lincoln passed from Donna’s hands to Polly’s, Donna took the Trailblazer: it’s perfect for grocery shopping and her sewing workshops, with tons of room in the back. We plan to keep it for many years.

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Our 2007 Chevy Trailblazer with our old utility trailer

The Trailblazer is truck-like and pulls a trailer without too much effort, but last fall I talked Donna into letting me buy another real truck, this time a 2014 GMC Sierra. The one thing we didn’t like about our Ford F150 was that it had a small cab and the only place to put luggage was in the bed, exposed to the weather. This time around we looked for a truck with an extended cab, and with the exception of heated seats, this one has all the bells & whistles. We also bought a new trailer to go with the truck, and it’s a great combination.

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Our 2014 GMC, hitched to its new trailer

Until I started this automotive catalog, I hadn’t realized what a couple of consummate consumers Donna and I have been. My God, all those cars … and we keep ours far longer than most people! That’s one thing I noticed. Another thing is all the automotive support we’ve given our daughter Polly, who to my knowledge has yet to buy a car of her own … and she’s 42 now. Grrr.

Tell you what, if the automotive industry ever dries up, it surely won’t be our fault!

Update (6/29/16): Well, that didn’t take long. I finished this post just three weeks ago and here we are with one less Chevy Trailblazer and an almost-new Ford Escape.

Last weekend Donna ran off the road near the Sonora Desert Museum, hitting a boulder. There wasn’t any visible damage to speak of, but the front suspension, steering mechanism, and (it later turned out) the entire frame of the car was damaged beyond repair. Our insurance company totaled the Trailblazer and Donna bought a 2016 Ford Escape to replace it. It’s smaller than the Trailblazer, but it has a level floor in the back and room for the sewing machines Donna hauls to classes and workshops … and it’ll get far better mileage.

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Donna’s 2016 Ford Escape

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21st Century Hardships, Cont.

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Yesterday, two guys from Off the Wall disassembled and removed the wall unit & Murphy bed we had in the office. That’s it, along with other office stuff, sitting in our living room. Another guy is here now, repairing water-damaged parts of the office wall. Later today they’re taking out the carpet and pad. The only thing still in the office is a desk. With luck they can work around it … that desk is bigger than the door opening, and for the life of me I can’t remember how we got it in the office in the first place.

Tomorrow, when the room is empty and no contractors are on the schedule, Donna and I are going to paint it. Except for the desk, which we’ll cover with a tarp, it’ll be bare walls and a concrete floor. Next Monday they’ll put in the wood laminate flooring; a day or two after that the wall unit & Murphy bed go back in, and the office will be done. Of course it’ll take us another day or two to put all the other stuff back.

This all started a month and a half ago, when I walked into the office in stocking feet and felt them squishing on the carpet: the pipe that drains condensate from the air conditioner was plugged with sludge, and it was draining through the wall onto the office floor. We were lucky we caught it right away; friends didn’t and now they have to live in a hotel for a couple of weeks while contractors take out the sheet rock walls in order to strip black mold from the frame of their house. I think I’m going to set up a yearly visit from the air conditioner guy, mainly so he can flush out that drain pipe.

IMG_4076Here’s one of the selfies I took at Pima Air & Space Museum this Monday. I’m standing in front of a McCullough MC-4 helicopter, designed in the late 1940s. If this odd-looking machine jogs your memory, you might just be a fan of 1950s science fiction movies: one appeared in the 1954 film Gog. Yes, the same McCullough company famous for its small two-stroke chainsaw and lawn mower engines.

Most every aircraft type we have at the museum has appeared in one movie or another, but one almost every visitor remembers seeing is our C-82 Packet, the cargo plane from 1965’s Flight of the Phoenix, the original one starring Jimmy Stewart (who was also in 1955’s Strategic Air Command, a movie featuring two other planes at our museum, the B-36 Peacemaker and the B-47 Stratojet.

It’s time I got out of the contractor’s hair. More soon from this beleaguered 21st Century homeowner.

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21st Century Hardships

IMG_3671We’re clearing out the home office prior to repainting and reflooring it. Besides my desk, there’s an L-shaped wall unit consisting of desk, shelves, file drawers, and the Murphy bed we use for overflow guests. It needs to come out, but we don’t have to do it … our insurance is paying a contractor to disassemble and remove it, then put it back when the walls and floor are done. The contractor comes Monday. Our router, wi-fi, and desktop computers are connected to the internet by a cable routed through floor-level holes in the wall unit, which means I’ll have to disconnect everything tomorrow. Ugh. I’m not looking forward to that.

We’ve been in this house 19 years, and there’s 19 years’ worth of stuff on the wall unit shelves. I’m packing what needs to be saved, but pitching a lot of stuff too. That’s always a problem with Donna, who has a hard time letting go of things (she may not be a hoarder, but she’s on the spectrum).

When we put the office back together, I plan to hang diplomas, flying squadron plaques, and other career mementos on the wall by my desk. Never had an I-Love-Me wall before … all that stuff has been gathering dust in a closet, and it’s time I put at least some of it out where I can admire it. It may inspire me to work harder on my memoir. At minimum, it’ll help spice up my home selfies. You’ve seen the office bookcase behind me in many a selfie; soon you’ll see a different backdrop.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the deplorables who sometimes show up on my tram tours at the air museum. One of the planes I tell visitors about hauled cargo for a Mexican company in the 1950s and 60s. Sadly, the mere mention of a country named Mexico is enough to trigger anger in some of our American visitors, the ones in red MAGA hats (if you know who I mean and I know you do). Then again, we get visitors from Mexico, and they like hearing about the plane’s Mexican history. My solution? Ignore the bitter old racists and their AM talk radio/Fox News attitudes toward our neighbors, and keep right on talking about the plane’s proud history.

So it was fun to see this comment, posted last Tuesday:

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I’m not at the museum on Fridays so Luis and I didn’t get to meet. I would have enjoyed that very much. Last year two American readers came to meet me and take my tram tour, and last week another reader looked me up at the museum, a man who has posted comments to some of my aviation posts in the past. That’s not all: as you know from my previous blog post, the publisher of an online aviation magazine recently discovered my blog and interviewed me via email.

People are reading Paul’s Thing and the diaries I cross-post to Daily Kos, and that’s another reason to dread disconnecting the home office iMac: I do all my writing on it. Sure, I can stay in touch for a few days via iPhone and iPad, but blogging will have to wait for the home office to be up and running again. The thought of pecking out blog posts one letter at a time on a cell phone or tablet keypad is too much to contemplate. If that’s not a 21st Century complaint, I don’t know what is.

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Air-Minded: F-15 Pilot Reveals All

Here’s a project I’ve been working on the past few days, an interview with aviation blogger Joe Coles, publisher of Hush Kit, “the alternative aviation magazine.”

Joe ran across one of my Air-Minded blog posts and contacted me. I agreed to answer interview questions via email. Happily, his questions were well-informed and provocative, not the sort of gee-whiz fan-boy twaddle you see on other aviation sites. Joe gave me a workout, forcing me to check sources and do additional research on my own, if only to make sure I was giving him the straight dope.

I’m working on a memoir, parts of which will cover my USAF career and experiences in the Eagle, so this was no creative giveaway on my part. It was good practice for the memoir: it helped me organize my thoughts, identify good stories I might otherwise have forgotten to include, and get half-forgotten details straight. When I publish my memoir (and if, kind reader, you buy it), you’ll see some of this again!

Some of the photos in the interview are ones I sent him, some are of Mr. Cole’s choosing. The title makes me squirm and the layout is splashy and journalistic, but you know what? I can learn from that … I’m sure I’d have a larger following if my own blog was more eye-catching.

Overall I’m very happy with our collaboration, and I think you’ll enjoy reading what this Cold War Eagle Pilot has to say about flying the F-15 during its heyday. Click here to read the interview on the Hush Kit site, or click on the graphic below:

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Click to link to the Hush Kit interview

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You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

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Banned Books Week, September 24-30, 2017

YCTR! News

From a “love letter” to librarians:

I imagine librarians are also working on their Banned Books displays now. Banned Books Week is set for Sept. 24-30, celebrating our freedom to read and to seek and express ideas. My 15-year-old and I try and read one book from the Top Ten challenged books because we know it will help us think, probably make us feel uncomfortable, and generally be good for our brains.

Read this very short story about pirate librarians. Yes, do.

They wanted to promote reading and storytelling and art and truth and for three months that was considered safely theatrical because mostly it was, and in the fourth month a border patrol boat shot at them when they tried to pull in to the national harbor. So, no more storytimes.

Patrons demand a Chicago public library remove an LGBT-themed children’s book. The library stands firm, and “This Day in June” will stay.

Hmm … YouTube sees “putting videos into a ‘limited state’ if they are deemed controversial enough to be considered objectionable, but not hateful, pornographic or violent” as a way of maintaining freedom of speech and allowing discussion of controversial issues without resorting to the wholesale banning of videos. Isn’t that what censors always say?

“Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure,” the first erotic novel written in English, has been dropped from the University of London curriculum for fear of offending students.

Let us celebrate a small victory in the unending racist campaign to ban “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” from American public education.

I don’t know. If I’m reading this right, a kindergarden teacher in Northern California read two children’s books about transgenderism (one of which was the frequently-challenged “I Am Jazz”) to her class, then had the one actual transgender kid in the class change clothes and reveal her true gender. Parents are upset, and I can understand why.

Since 2012, when I first started writing about it, the shutting down of Mexican American studies classes in Tucson Unified School District, along with the banning of textbooks, novels, and plays used in those classes, has never been far from my mind. The latest news is that a U.S. District Court judge has ruled the Republican-controlled state legislature violated the 1st and 14th Amendments in its 2010 legislation outlawing Mexican American and Native American studies, finding that the intent of the law was discriminatory. A hearing is currently underway to determine how the judge’s ruling will be enforced.

This is just one of the reader questions sent in to this advice column on censorship at the School Library Journal (bonus: you’ll like the answers):

A fourth grade teacher in my school loves Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” and wants to read it aloud to her students. She asked my advice about using it because she has heard that it has been banned in some school districts. Are you aware of challenges to this novel?

YCTR! Banned Book Review

james and the giant peachJames and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl

Speaking of which, this 1961 children’s book literally has been banned in different locations around the U.S. While it’s still occasionally challenged by parents today, the last recorded bannings date from 1999, when it was removed from an elementary school in Lufkin, Texas for containing the word “ass”; banned in Indian River County, Florida for “mystical elements”; banned in Wisconsin because the spider licking her lips could be interpreted as sexual; and banned by a book store owner in Toledo, Ohio because it advocates communism.

Here’s my original review of “James and the Giant Peach,” written for YCRT! in October, 2009:

I can already hear you asking why anyone would try to ban an innocent book for children. My god, have you read the thing? A subversive little boy, seeking to escape well-deserved punishment, meets a rain-coated pervert and accepts from him a bag of body parts harvested from endangered species, then drops the illicit gift and creates hideous genetic mutations. Then he kills his legal guardians and runs away. And not one mention of Christ, never mind any hint of punishment or damnation. I weep for the poor children corrupted by this evil, evil work of witchcraft.

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Civilizational War

Home-grown hostility toward immigrants goes back a long way. That hostility has been directed toward Southern and Eastern Europeans, Jews in general, Asians and Africans in particular, and most lately Mexicans and Central Americans. I’m going to focus on the latter in light of yesterday’s announcement about ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and its impact on the young immigrants called “Dreamers.”

In 1883, English scientist Francis Galton first introduced the term “eugenics” in his study of the biological inheritance of leadership qualities of Britain’s ruling class. Galton later defined eugenics as “the study of the agencies under social control that improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.” Drawing from the new science of genetics, eugenicists understood various human and social problems as rooted in the defective germ-plasm of individuals or certain racial/ethnic groups. Claiming to base their theories on scientific evidence and methods, eugenics supporters rationalized “scientific racism” in the late-19th and early-20th centuries and helped shape state policies of sterilization, miscegenation prohibition, and immigration restriction. For example, in the United States, eugenicists were influential in passing the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 to halt the influx of Southeast European immigrants, who eugenicists viewed as immigrants “of the lower grades of intelligence” and immigrants “who are making excessive contribution to our feeble-minded, insane, criminal and other socially inadequate classes.” —Immigration History Research Center

The Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted to from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States as of the 1890 census. The law restricted immigration of Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans, especially Italians and Eastern European Jews. In addition, it banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians, while severely restricting the immigration of Africans. Surprisingly, there was no cap on immigrants from Mexico, large numbers of whom had come north to work in war production during WWI.

The Immigration Restriction Act remained the law of the land until 1965, when it was superseded by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act. Resistance from conservative congressmen and senators was strong, and President Johnson and other leaders had to reassure Congress that Hart-Celler would not alter the U.S. demographic mix. Promises aside, the ethnic composition of immigrants did change following passage of the law. The change has been most pronounced in immigration from Asia, Mexico, and Central America, accounting for over half of the population change from 2000-2010, according to the Census Bureau. Even so, it was this 1965 law that first put caps on immigration from Mexico and Central America, making it harder for Latino immigrants to come here legally, contributing to the large numbers of undocumented Latino immigrants living in the U.S. today.

The 1924 immigration law was enacted during an openly racist period of American history; the 1965 law was part of the reaction to racism ushered in during the Civil Rights era. With the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013 and today’s renewed emphasis on deporting “illegal aliens” and the recent banning of immigration from some Muslim nations, we’ve cycled back to the more openly racist version of America.

People opposed to repealing DACA keep saying “This isn’t America.” Au contraire, this is America. It’s the way America’s been since the Naturalization Law of 1790, which limited citizenship to free white immigrants of good character.

I don’t mean to go over the entire history of U.S. immigration law, just to point out that it’s based on racism and the pseudo-science of eugenics, and that the purveyors of racism and the pseudo-science of eugenics are not only still around but are back in power. Watch Jeff Sessions announcing the end of DACA yesterday and you could be looking through a time portal to 1924, when white Americans believed non-Northern European peoples were congenitally feeble-minded, with a racial propensity toward dependency and crime (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” —Donald Trump, 2016).

In 2010, Tom Horne, then the state schools superintendent of Arizona, drafted AZ HB 2281, the law that banned Mexican American and Native American Studies classes in public schools. When the state forced Tucson Unified School District to stop teaching these classes, he described what he saw as “a 500-year civilizational war,” going on to state that the histories of Mexican-Americans and Native Americans are not based on “Greco-Roman” knowledge and are thus incompatible with Western civilization. Oh, yes, he really did say that.

What civilizational war, you might ask? Well, the deplorables believe there is one, and they’re horrified by the increasing numbers of ethnic Latinos in the U.S. A number of cities in Southwestern states are now majority-Hispanic, including my own, Tucson. Never mind that most of these cities are located in parts of the US that were once actually Mexico, the demographic balance of the Southwest has clearly changed. And it’s not just the Southwest: Hispanic-Americans (90+% of whom are American citizens, by the way) are far more visible in other parts of the US than they were in the past.

I didn’t grow up thinking about immigration law, but I was always aware of what I saw around me. People like Jeff Sessions, hiding under cover of organized religion, are what drove me from the Southern Baptist church I was raised in. People like Jeff Sessions are about to drive me into renouncing my species entirely and applying to become a dog, a species unbothered by differences in size, coloration, or hair. Here are a few of the reactions to DACA repeal protests I’ve seen on Twitter this morning:

  • DACA Protestors: “No Justice! No Peace!”
  • Translation: “You must allow people to break the law without any consequences or we’ll stage violent riots.”
  • They get free Hcare, food, fones, housing, ed, lawyers. All things a U.S. citizen doesn’t.
  • We need to stop all free stuff for anyone but qualified citizens.
  • Go Dream somewhere else! Wave that Mexican flag in Mexico and demand your free stuff there!! GOOD LUCK GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Where does this shit come from? Anyone with eyes can see how hard Mexican and Central American immigrants work to support their families, often in low-paying jobs, and anyone with a brain knows people who aren’t here legally aren’t getting “free stuff.”

I’ll admit it: there was a time when I’d picture a black woman in a Cadillac when someone said “welfare queen.” No more. Today, this is what I see:

Wouldn’t you rather be a dog too?


p.s. I’m enough of a Type A that when something’s broken I can’t rest until it’s fixed. The cause of my current distress is Flickr, which seems to have eaten my account.

I’m trying to work it. Flickr’s owned by Yahoo now, and their customer care service is anything but easy. In the meantime, years’ worth of photos and graphics are missing from Paul’s Thing, Crouton’s Kitchen, and the Half-Mind Weblog. If I seem distracted, that’s why.

Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, something is missing and must be found.

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