When I became a mail-order minister several years ago and started officiating weddings, I knew the day would come I’d be asked to do a funeral. That day is here. A friend is setting up a memorial for C____, a mutual acquaintance who recently took her life, and she’s asked me to officiate.
Suicide may or may not be a taboo subject at the memorial. C____’s Tucson friends still aren’t openly talking about it, and no one yet knows if C____’s family, who will be here for the memorial, will want it mentioned.
I told my friend I’d do it. Now it’s up to the family. If they want me to officiate at their daughter’s memorial, I’ll have to broach the subject with them. I’ll comply with their wishes, of course.
At first I considered saying no. C____ was a member of the local Hash House Harriers club. That’s how I knew her, but I didn’t know her well, and I haven’t been out with that group in at least two years. Also, I’m not a believer. When people ask me to perform weddings I’m always up front about that: I tell them if they’re looking for religious sanction I’m not the guy they want.
No problem, my friend explained, C____ wasn’t religious. Okay, then. That, plus the fact I’m not one of her close friends and am a little distant from the club through which we knew each other, might make me the right guy, in some hard-to-explain way, to say the formal words at her memorial service. I think C____ would be cool with it … I couldn’t do it otherwise.
Suicide? It’s a profound shock when someone you know chooses that option. I’m deeply sorry C____ chose that way out of her troubles, but it was her decision and I have to respect and accept it.
Don’t any of you do it, though. Please?
You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.
From the Underground New York Public Library Tumblr (photo by Ourit Ben-Haim)
YCRT! News Roundup
With Harper Lee’s re-emergence on the literary scene, people are once again talking about her famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Predictably, some of those people think the book, and at least one high school production of a play based on the book, should be suppressed.
Here’s some news about a failed effort to ban disturbing posters of clowns. While I’m totally opposed to banning books, I fully endorse the banning of clowns.
Administrators force a public school library to pull copies of a graphic novel from its shelves after a single verbal complaint from a parent, short-circuiting their own formal review process.
Public library in Texas stands up to conservative parents who wanted two LGBT-themed books removed from its children’s collection.
I didn’t know that Ray Bradbury’s publisher, Ballentine Books, for years only sold a bowdlerized version of Fahrenheit 451. Apparantly Bradbury didn’t know either, and was furious when he found out.
Disturbing if true: “In just four years, the percentage of Americans who believe there are any books that should be banned has increased by more than half: 28% believe this to be the case today, vs. 18% in 2011.”
The mayor of Venice, Italy, has officially banned school books addressing homosexuality and disability.
The Fivethirtyeight blog questions the statistical validity of the American Library Association’s list of most-banned books, complaining that the ALA won’t share its data. Here is ALA’s response.
Trigger warnings: Judy Blume laments that many on the left are now pushing censorship with the same zeal as the 1980s religious right.
Columbia University agrees with Ms Blume: it will combat censorship by not requiring professors to issue trigger warnings about class materials. It did, however, remove Ovid’s Metamorphoses from one class reading list, a book that triggered sensitive fee-fees in some students.
YCRT Banned Book Review
Cecily von Ziegesar
I read Gossip Girl because it appeared on the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books in 2006, 2008, and 2011. These are books that are challenged by parents and religious groups who want them removed from school libraries and reading lists, often for brief mentions of sex or masturbation.
Generally, when I read such books, I find them to be honest, well written, and moral. Many are written with young adult audiences in mind and are meant to teach critical thinking. They abound with valuable life lessons and are just the sort of books I wish I’d have read back in junior high. I usually come away scratching my head, wondering if these parents and religious groups ever read past the offending passage.
Alas, this is not the case with Gossip Girl. I read this slim volume, the first in a series of Gossip Girl books aimed at young adult readers, in six hours. Finishing it, I felt as if I’d emerged from a long wait in a dentist’s office with nothing to read but back issues of People and Teen Beat. Shallow? If you take out celebrity and designer label name-dropping, along with mentions of glamorous vacation destinations and tony Manhattan addresses, you’ll be left with a pamphlet.
And what would be in that pamphlet? Bitchy WASP prep school girls and their date-rapey WASP preppie boyfriends, gossiping, cutting each other down to size, plotting vengeance over minor slights, drinking, taking drugs, cutting school, lying, fucking, and having their anuses photographed. No damn wonder this book gets parents and religious groups riled up … it’s nihilistic, bereft of a moral compass, dedicated to greed and vindictiveness.
I kept asking myself if there was some joke I wasn’t getting. Was I supposed to hate these characters? Were my lips meant to curl in disgust? Is Gossip Girl a subversive tract to be studied by proletarian youth so they’ll know who to drag to the guillotine, come the revolution?
Who reads this stuff? If J.K. Rowling’s heroes had been Draco Malfoy and his band of bullying shits, she’d still be languishing in obscurity. Yet the Gossip Girl books are quite popular, I understand, mainly with young girls. Are girls really this shallow? Well, obviously someone buys all those celeb lifestyle magazines!
I suspect parents and religious groups go after the Gossip Girl books because they depict teenaged kids having sex and taking drugs. Personally, I’m far more upset by the characters’ lack of values and the absence of moral direction from the author. Would I want copies removed from the local junior high school’s library? No, of course not. But if I had a teenager at home, this is the last book I’d recommend.
Most times, we on the left can safely laugh off the manufactured controversies of our brothers and sisters on the right. We know they don’t really believe Barack and Hillary killed four Americans in Benghazi. We know they know allowing Medicare to cover end-of-live counseling isn’t “death panels.” We know and they know it’s just about scoring points.
But we don’t seem to get it when it comes to genuine moral outrage on the right. The push to test food stamp and welfare recipients for drug use, along with legislation limiting what can be purchased with EBT cards, comes from a deep moralistic well of resentment toward those who are perceived to be getting a free ride. We all share that resentment. It’s basic to human nature, and scoffing at it isn’t going to make it go away. We need to understand that a lot of voters are totally energized over the outrage they feel toward welfare and disability cheats. We need to take their outrage seriously.
I think the emerging conservative and religious outrage over the latest Planned Parenthood video is also something we should take seriously. I don’t think this video, already widely debunked, is going to go away. I don’t think the dismissive tone of this Wonkette article is going to lessen the video’s impact; in fact, I think the left’s smug dismissal of it makes us appear insensitive, elitist, and out of touch.
Sure, the video’s bullshit. It’s a direct descendent of James O’Keefe’s hit video on ACORN, and just as phony. It’s misleadingly edited and the people flogging it are liars. But behind the misleading edits and lies, there is this: Planned Parenthood harvests legally donated tissue and organs from aborted fetuses. Aborted late term fetuses.
Did you know that? I didn’t. Probably most of us didn’t. Well, now we do. Now we have to think about it. I guarantee you conservatives and religious people are thinking about it (and spreading the story far and wide).
Yes, everything Planned Parenthood does with regard to “donated tissue” is legal and aboveboard, done with the permission of donor parents, done without any attempt to make money off it, done in accordance with standard practices across the medical industry. But god damn it, we’re talking about harvesting tissue and organs from aborted fetuses, and if you don’t see why people might be outraged over that you need new glasses.
You can say sure, but there’s also outrage on the right over same-sex marriage, and we need to be dismissive of it because it’s clearly wrong. And you’re right. Not that many years ago there was widespread outrage over racial integration. We gave that outrage the scorn it deserved. Today (albeit with far too many exceptions) that outrage has become acceptance. Outrage over same-sex marriage will eventually fade as well.
I don’t know that people will ever stop resenting those they see as freeloaders. I don’t know that people will ever not be morally horrified at the thought of harvesting organs from aborted fetuses, legally or otherwise.
We need to understand genuine outrage and address it forthrightly, without belittling half the people in this country.
No, I don’t have anything to say about Greece. I don’t like what’s going on in the Eurozone, but I’m not the person to turn to for answers. Actually, “greeking” is a term associated with those fake license plates you see in car commercials.
Fake plates in car ads have always bugged me. Why make them generic and anonymous? Why paint them to match the color of the car in the ad? Why not use real plates, or none at all?
Greeking, in this context, is the process of making car commercial license plates anonymous, inoffensive, and litigation-proof.
Advertisers don’t want state-issued plates in their commercials. If a potential customer has a hard-on against California, for instance, you’ll lose him if you show your car wearing California plates. This also explains painting plates the same color as the car in the ad. No state’s plates look like that, so it’s another layer of greeking out information that might piss someone off.
Nor will they use combinations of letters and numbers on fake plates that might match those used on real plates, because some asshole will get a lawyer and try to sue the car companies for using “his” plate without permission. And you know someone would.
So why use plates at all? According to insiders, it’s because the cars in the ads wouldn’t look right without them.
Well, now I know. Maybe fake plates won’t bug me as much from now on.
Last night a local TV News at Five reporter did a breathless piece about a “premium outlet mall” set to open alongside the freeway on the outskirts of town. The station ran it as a news story, but it really was an informercial. The best part was when the reporter excitedly read the list of tenants: Gucci! Adidas! Oakley!
Gee, that sounds like any outlet mall anywhere. Don’t know about you, but I’ve always seen outlet malls as bottom-of-the-barrel operations. Using the word “premium” to describe an outlet mall is like using “classy” to describe a Trump casino full of cigarette-smoking rubes in stained t-shirts and pajama jeans bottoms.
Speaking of infomercials, NBC Nightly News did a report on Harper Lee’s 60-year-old but just-published novel Go Tell a Watchman.
When I watched this last night all I heard was “Harper Lee’s new novel,” not once but several times, which I thought intentionally misleading. On a second viewing, I have to admit I missed the part where the correspondent mentions that Harper Lee actually wrote the novel before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird
. Still, other than that one mention, the correspondent persisted in describing Harper Lee’s old, rejected manuscript as “new,” and I suspect a lot of people think it really is new, that the elderly, stroke-afflicted Harper Lee is writing again after 60 years of silence.
Here’s the real low down on how Go Tell a Watchman, Harper Lee’s rough draft of what became, after a top to bottom revision, To Kill a Mockingbird, came to be published. It’s not a pretty story, and I for one will not help enrich Harper Lee’s sleazy lawyer by buying the book.
This week marked a personal transition at the air museum. I led walking tours Wednesday and tram tours Friday … but as you know I’ve been doing both for the past month. What’s different now is that from this week on, I’m all tram, all the time (if you’re a friend, though, and you come visit, I’ll be happy to give you a personal walking tour).
Well, that’s a crappy photo. I clearly wasn’t thinking about sunlight and shadows. Anyway, that’s me under the tram driver hat, about to drive a group of visitors around the outdoor exhibits. There are several trams, and one that we often use has an exceptionally low driver’s seat. It can’t be adjusted up or down, or back and forth for that matter. I finally broke down and ordered a booster seat pad from Amazon, the kind of thing a very short driver might use in order to see over the steering wheel. I’ll carry it with me to the museum, and if I have to drive that particular vehicle I’ll be ready.
We’re shopping for an RV gate. Shopping for the right contractor, that is. We want something like this:
This one belongs to a neighbor. Just a simple metal gate to screen trailers and garbage cans, so as not to offend the neighbors. The first fence contractor to give us an estimate came in well north of $2,000.00. We didn’t think it would be nearly that much, so we’re still shopping. Not much point in paying for a gate if there’s no money left for a trailer, am I right?
We’re down to the last days of our grandson Quentin’s annual summer visit. He’s been at a robotics camp at the university all week, so we’re trying to make the most of the weekend before he flies home Monday. Today’s movie day, and naturally he wants to see Minions. We came to a compromise on that: while he and Polly watch the movie in the mall cineplex, Donna and I will go shopping at Dillards. I need a new swimsuit anyway … my ten-year-old trunks are falling apart.
We have had a nice visit with Quentin. Last night he and Polly cooked dinner together, and we’re not talking chili mac but serious food: wiener schnitzel and boiled new potatoes, plus a green salad. Kid’s got talent, but we expected no less … it runs in the family.
By now you’ve figured out that Polly’s here too, so we won’t be alone after Quentin leaves. Polly got in on Thursday for what looks to be a long stay. She’s hunting for work in Tucson, and who knows how long it’ll take her to become independent again? Which is why I need new swimming trunks … if Donna and I were home alone, I’d never need trunks at all.