Proof yet again that you can find ANYTHING with Google Images: not just any bag, but a 48th wedding anniversary bag!
And how nice of Facebook to remind me of the date! But I did remember. In fact, we’ve made big plans for the day. Donna’s going to work at the gun shop and as soon as I finish this I’m off to Anytime Fitness to work out for an hour, then run errands: donate a surplus TV to Goodwill, return the Comcast digital receiver thingie we used with it, call the motorcycle insurance company to take the Ducati off our policy (I signed the title over to Polly the day after Thanksgiving). Tonight we’re walking downtown with friends, then going to dinner at Donna’s favorite downtown restaurant, the only place in town that serves shrimp & grits with Sriracha sauce. Okay, the last part is vaguely anniversary-ish.
If my count is right, today marks our 48th year of wedded bliss. What is the traditional gift for a 48th anniversary? According to Ask.com, “the 48th wedding anniversary does not have any customary materials or symbols associated with it. A contemporary one though has a theme of optical goods.”
Well. Donna got new glasses two weeks ago. Mine are less than six months old. We’ve been thinking about getting a good DSLR camera for Christmas, so maybe this is a sign. Now that I think of it, we’ve also been debating whether to install a direct internet connection for the Roku streaming TV box in the family room … that’s optical, right? I’ll ask the Comcast folks about that when I return the digital receiver today.
Here are two photos of us in our early years. The first is Donna with our baby boy Gregory, taken some time in 1966. The second, I think, is a year later: me and Gregory enjoying a smoke and a beer (we didn’t know any better in those days).
God, we were just kids.
And here we are in the early 1990s, when we were stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. We had this photo taken at a Japanese wedding palace. We showed up four hours before the photo session … thats how long it takes to get dressed and made up. I was the tallest person they had ever fitted, and parts of my outfit had to be made to order. Pretty spiffy, eh?
All in all, though, I think Ask.com has it about right: forty-eight is just a beat on the countdown to the big five-oh. We’ll definitely do something big then.
Happy anniversary, Donna!
Thanksgiving was pretty good to us; we hope it was to you as well.
Our son Gregory, daughter-in-law Beth, and grandson Quentin drove down from Las Vegas; our daughter Polly and her boyfriend David drove in from Ajo. Donna and Beth prepared the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry dressing, and gravy; I smoked a pork butt. Costco supplied the pumpkin pie, which Donna supplemented with a lovely home-made cherry pie. There were relishes beforehand, more than enough to spoil appetites, though none of us found that to be a problem. There was football on TV, and a dog show. Since there was a strange dog in the house our cat Chewy moved into master bedroom closet, pulled the door shut behind her, and was unavailable for the group photo:
In short, our Thanksgiving was magnificent, everything a Thanksgiving is meant to be. And we are indeed thankful.
Here are some more photos. Click on the thumbnails to see ‘em bigger on Flickr.
Chewy in exile
Beth making snacks
Dad at the smoker
Polly peeling potatoes
Beth, Quentin, Gregory
The groaning board
Some of our friends got to celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving at the same time; I hope they had a doubly wonderful day. Facebook and Twitter were filled with happy entries … I didn’t see a single sad one … so apart from the poor families on the Eastern seaboard who had to travel yesterday, I’m betting it was one of the nation’s best Thanksgivings.
Cherry pie for breakfast? Thanks, Obama!
I’ve had a sore back for a month and it’s showing no signs of getting better. The pain is in the saddle of the lower back. I think it’s the bed. But it could be back cancer for all I know. The doctor says it’s because I’m fat. I bit my tongue and accepted my scolding, as all fat people must, but I wanted to remind him that I’ve been fat for a long time, and that this back problem is a new thing.
So, ibuprofen morning and night, trying not to sit for extended periods of time, plugging in the heating pad when I do, thinking about putting a sheet of plywood between the mattresses. Last week I did two workout sessions at the gym and two longish bicycle rides. The back doesn’t bother me when I’m exercising and I always feel terrific afterward, so whatever it is it’s not debilitating and for that I am thankful. Well, who doesn’t have aches and pains? I’ll shut up now.
Once again I’m buried under a stack of library books. I request them from time to time, and they always come in in twos and threes. Naturally, since they have due dates, they cut right to the head of the line and I have to put aside books I’ve been reading on the Nook and Kindle. Except when I go to the gym to ride the exercise bike — the e-readers are best for that, since they balance on the handlebars. This morning I took the Kindle to the gym and caught up with a few chapters of Hugh Howey’s Dust while pedaling away. Later today, it’ll be back to ink & paper reads in progress.
Nook and Kindle, you ask? Why yes. Why not? I started out with a Nook but at some point bought Donna a Kindle. I love them both. We also have an iPad with Nook and Kindle apps, but I much prefer reading on the actual Nook or Kindle — they’re easier on the eyes, and not nearly as heavy as the iPad.
It was my turn to host our book club last Saturday. Attendance varies between eight to twelve people, so I split the difference and set out snacks and beverages for ten. Three people showed up. I’ll be snacking on surplus salami, cheese, and pita crackers for the foreseeable future. As for the beverages, the kids are coming for Thanksgiving and they’ll drink them all up.
When I came home from my Sunday bicycle ride, this is what I found:
More precisely, she found me. I was standing just inside the back door, talking to Donna, and Schatzi homed in on the sound of my voice. I’m touched that she always comes to me when she gets in trouble and needs a hand. And look at that tail, would you? She wasn’t a bit abashed about being caught red-handed — or should I say red-headed? She’s all dog. And I love her, even when she gets into the garbage.
That’s enough sitting time for now. If my back doesn’t get better soon I’ll have to get one of those stand-up desks to do my blogging on.
You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.
Fascinating discussion about the key figures involved in comic book censorship in the 1950s.
“Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published … [s]aying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” The Los Angeles Times will no longer print letters to the editor from climate change deniers.
Parents complain Amazon’s Kindle Fire gives kids access to porn, accounts.
Racism in the classics.
The power of public shaming: the Louisiana parish school that banned To Kill a Mockingbird, mentioned in my last YCRT! post, has lifted the ban.
More than a year after Tucson schools banned them, seven Mexican-American studies books are back on school library shelves. Naturally, the Arizona Education Department is unhappy with the Tucson school district for reinstating the books. Stand by for round #2.
Texas town arrested and jailed a man for an overdue library book.
“Viewpoint censorship” on Facebook? I’m not buying it. Sounds like old religious-right “persecuted Christians” narrative to me. Very surprised the Washington Post fell for this crap.
#hashtag censorship! What will they think of next?
The intellectual underpinnings of the movement to defund libraries: “They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English. Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico. There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with. …Them junkies and hippies and food stamps [recipients] and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps [on the Internet]. I see them do it.”
Doth thy dictionary offend thee? Cast it from thee!
“Do not apologize for policies that are designed to uphold intellectual freedom, users’ privacy, and access to a diverse range of ideas.” From an American Library Association list of tips for libraries under fire.
“But Pullman opened this door for me, a decade before my university professors would address these very same concepts.” A rousing endorsement of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
“When I started to write, it was the ’70s, and throughout that decade, we didn’t have any problems with book challenges or censorship. It all started really in a big way in 1980 … it came with the election, the presidential election of 1980, and the next day, I’ve been told, the censors were crawling out of the woodwork and challenging, like, ‘It’s our turn now, and we’re going to say what we don’t want our children to read.’” Judy Blume talks about book banning.
YCRT! banned book review:
Let’s start with a brief history of prior Slaughterhouse-Five banning, compiled by the American Library Association:
Challenged in many communities, but burned in Drake, ND (1973). Banned in Rochester, MI because the novel “contains and makes references to religious matters” and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause. An appellate court upheld its usage in the school in Todd v Rochester Community Schools, 41 Mich. App. 320, 200 N. W 2d 90 (1972). Banned in Levittown, NY (1975), North Jackson, OH (1979), and Lakeland, FL (1982) because of the ”book’s explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language.” Barred from purchase at the Washington Park High School in Racine, WI (1984) by the district administrative assistant for instructional services. Challenged at the Owensboro, KY High School library (1985) because of “foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of bestiality, a reference to ‘Magic Fingers’ attached to the protagonist’s bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: ‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.”‘ Restricted to students who have parental permission at the four Racine, WI Unified District high school libraries (1986) because of “language used in the book, depictions of torture, ethnic slurs, and negative portrayals of women.” Challenged at the LaRue County, KY High School library (1987) because “the book contains foul language and promotes deviant sexual behavior.” Banned from the Fitzgerald, GA schools (1987) because it was filled with profanity and full of explicit sexual references:’ Challenged in the Baton Rouge, LA public high school libraries (1988) because the book is “vulgar and offensive:’ Challenged in the Monroe, MI public schools (1989) as required reading in a modem novel course for high school juniors and seniors because of the book’s language and the way women are portrayed. Retained on the Round Rock, TX Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged as an eleventh grade summer reading option in Prince William County, VA (1998) because the book “was rife with profanity and explicit sex:” Removed as required reading for sophomores at the Coventry, RI High School (2000) after a parent complained that it contains vulgar language, violent imagery, and sexual content. Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, IL (2006), along with eight other challenged titles. A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the internet. Challenged in the Howell, MI High School (2007) because of the book’s strong sexual content. In response to a request from the president of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education, or LOVE, the county’s top law enforcement official reviewed the books to see whether laws against distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors had been broken. ”After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors,” the county prosecutor wrote. ”Whether these materials are appropriate for minors is a decision to be made by the school board, but I find that they are not in violation of criminal laws.”
And now, my own review:
The simplest way to convey the essence of Slaughterhouse-Five is to quote Vonnegut’s long title:
Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a Fourth-Generation German-American Now Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Cod (and Smoking Too Much) Who, as an American Infantry Scout Hors de Combat, as a Prisoner of War, Witnessed the Fire-Bombing of Dresden, Germany, the Florence of the Elbe, a Long Time Ago, and Survived to Tell the Tale: This Is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where The Flying Saucers Come From
This is a war novel, like Catch-22, that everyone in my college generation read. Everyone. It remains widely read today. In addition to being widely read, it has also been widely challenged and banned, from its publication in 1969 right up to the present day. I hadn’t read it in a long time, but hearing that it had been banned again — this time from high school libraries and reading lists in Republic, Missouri, on the grounds that it isn’t “Christian” — prompted me to re-read it.
Vonnegut’s writing style is simple and sparse, even repetitive. Many readers are put off by Vonnegut’s repetition of the phrase “And so it goes” when characters die, but it is part and parcel of Vonnegut’s quietist philosophy. As for the science-fiction aspects of the novel, I personally think the best way to interpret the Tralfamadorians and their way of perceiving time and death is as a manifestation of Billy Pilgrim’s post-traumatic stress … Vonnegut strongly hints at that himself.
Many books on high school reading lists contain salty language and some address sexuality, two elements present in Vonnegut’s story, but few exude as strong an air of existential fatalism as Slaughterhouse-Five. Man will always make war. People will always die, horribly. You can’t fight it. It is what it is. Best to look at life in its entirety, all times visible and occurring at once and forever, and to focus on those times that make us (or made us, or will make us) happy.
Vonnegut’s good-natured fatalism is a direct challenge to Protestant Christianity as it is practiced in America, and though I deplore it, I fatalistically accept the fact that zealots will continue to attack this gentle, peaceful, wry book. It is what it is … and so it goes.
Would I want my high-schooler to read Slaughterhouse-Five? Absolutely. Everyone should read it.
Bikers of the sporting kind
I’m hardly a conformist, but I do identify with my tribes. I was a military officer: when I hear generals argue that the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault should be up to the rapists’ and victims’ bosses I understand where they’re coming from, even though I disagree. I’m a pilot: when I read about aviation disasters and crashes I mentally put myself in the cockpit, even when it’s clear the pilot screwed up. I’m an English major: when marble-eyed money-grubbers tell kids liberal arts degrees are worthless, I see red. I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1965: when I read a headline that says “Father with Family in SUV Chased, Beaten by Speed-Demon Bikers,” I ask myself what the fucker did to earn his beating.
I monitor comments on a Honda Goldwing riders’ forum. I quit participating in the forum years ago — a more dismal pack of ignorant racists you’ll not find this side of a Ku Klux Klan rally — but I still check in a couple of times a month to see what the rabble is saying. Since the confrontation between the bikers and the SUV driver in New York City back in September, several forum members have taken to their soapboxes to denounce the bikers and defend the SUV driver. Every time one does, the “me too” chorus chimes in. This thread is typical, if you have the intestinal fortitude to wallow through it.
Bikers of the Goldwing kind
In another forum thread on the incident, one member had the courage to ask whether the SUV driver might have started the fight. His post was buried under a heap of anti-biker comments from other members and the poor guy hasn’t been heard from since. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been asking the same question all along.
The media, and basically everyone else, instantly decided the bikers are wholly to blame: road-raging gang members who took violent mob action against a poor innocent motorist who was only trying to protect his family and get away. When the New York Times reported this week on the indictment of 11 motorcyclists, it repeated the party line. No one seems interested in finding out whether or not the SUV driver initiated the confrontation.
In the days after the attack, a couple of contrary reports slipped through the cracks. In one, a biker said the SUV driver started it by throwing a water bottle at another biker (if you’ve ever been hit by a June bug or bumblebee while riding a motorcycle, you should be able to imagine what it would be like to be hit with a full water bottle). In the other, riders stated the confrontation began with the SUV driver doing a hit-and-run, swerving from the right lane into bikers who were passing him in the left lane, colliding with one rider and causing him to crash, then speeding away from the scene. I have since seen another report supporting the hit-and-run scenario.
Despite these outlier reports, the media narrative is settled: the bikers are entirely to blame; the SUV driver is blameless; contrary evidence will henceforth be ignored.
Since there have been indictments, at some point in the future there will be trials and perhaps more information on what really happened that day will come out. If it turns out the SUV driver initiated the confrontation, will it generate any headlines? Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting.
Is this a tribal thing, siding with the bikers? I’m as quick to condemn bikers I disapprove of as anyone else: I hate loud-pipe poseurs, stunters who pop wheelies in traffic, lane-splitters who zap through 70 mph traffic like it’s standing still. I hate them because they frighten normal people and give bikers a bad name. But I am a biker too and they’re my brothers and sisters, as misguided as they may be.
I know first-hand the kinds of things hostile motorists pull on motorcyclists. Obviously I don’t know what happened that day in NYC, but my years of motorcycling experience tell me the SUV driver did something to provoke the riders who chased him down, probably something pretty damned serious. Even if that turns out to be the case, of course, it will never justify what the bikers did in retaliation, but it makes their actions more understandable.
I love my Goldwing and consider myself a biker and a Goldwinger. But these other Goldwingers, so fast to turn their backs on fellow bikers, give me a very bad feeling. They want no part of the tribe and I want no part of them.
Update (11/15/13): Reworded a couple of sentences to make it clear I’m not claiming to know what happened to spark the clash between the SUV driver and the bikers, and that I don’t approve of what the bikers did to the SUV driver.