On the Road

I’m packed for my first motorcycle trip of the year. Rain gear, spare boots, essential tools. Socks and underwear, a change of clothes. Cold weather gear because you never know. Camera, GoPro, GPS.

Tomorrow morning I’ll strap the bag to the bike and ride north to Flagstaff. I may or may not take the back roads around the Mogollon Rim … I’m putting that decision off until tomorrow morning, after a look at traffic and the weather. Our son Gregory will ride his BMW from Las Vegas and meet me in Flag. We’ll overnight there and on Friday make our way north through the Navaho Nation to Torrey, Utah. Saturday we’ll ride mountain roads from Torrey to Las Vegas. I’ll crash at Gregory’s house from Saturday night through Monday morning. Sunday we’ll hook up with some Vegas riders and ride to Mount Charleston or Spring Mountain. Might even get to see my grandson Quentin perform in a high school play. Monday I’ll solo home down US 93 through Kingman and Wickenburg to Phoenix, then brave I-10 the rest of the way to Tucson.

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Our last father/son ride in southern Utah, May 2017 (somewhere near Bryce)

It won’t be my most ambitious cross-country ride, but I’ve been on a long recovery with my second knee replacement and this’ll be a good test of my ability to put serious mileage on it.

I’ve been worried about an incipient sore tooth, a molar way in the back, but luckily had a periodontal appointment yesterday and the dentist didn’t see anything obviously wrong. She gave me a prescription for an antibiotic, which I’ll take while I’m on the trip, and didn’t laugh at me when I told her I was bringing along a small bottle of oil of cloves. When I made a feeble joke about Marathon Man she got it, which surprised me because she’s in her 30s. Kids watching classics? Who knew?

Later next week I’ll schedule a visit with the endodontist and start psyching up for a root canal. I endured one two years ago and know what I’m in for. I’m lucky to have good teeth and to have had good dental care over the years. But like many my age, I’m starting to outlive my teeth, and can only hope serious problems will space themselves out to one a year, because that’s all the insurance will bear.

Donna’s making a favorite recipe tonight, Portuguese chicken. It’ll be road food the next couple of days, but then I’ll be with with my son and his family in Vegas … Beth is a great cook (and so is our son, who takes after us).

So anyway, in a few hours I’ll be off. I’ll check in frequently with OTR (on the road) updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And photos! Wish me luck, please. I promise I’ll be careful.

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Sunday Bag o’ Just Deserts

Mister B doesn’t like having his photo taken. If he sees a camera he immediately turns away. I have to trick him into looking at me if I want a good photo.

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These were taken at a nearby shopping plaza. I had my iPhone on a selfie stick in order to get it down on his level, but would he cooperate? No. In the second photo, though, he’s a captive subject, trapped on the seat of our pickup truck, too high to jump, waiting for me to help him down.

I spend too much time thinking about the quality of my dog photos. There’s a Norwegian guy on Instagram who posts daily photos of his dachshund, a red short-hair named Reinert, and they’re all brilliant. Reinert’s a camera hound, and his human takes him everywhere, snapping away. Mister B is camera shy, and our Instagram photos can’t come close to theirs. I know, I know … it’s not a competition.

I’m supposed to head out on a week-long motorcycle trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada (with a possible side trip into southern California) this Thursday, but I suddenly have a toothache and think it may be serious. It’s coming from the last molar on my left lower jaw, next to a molar that required a root canal two years ago. I have a dental cleaning appointment Tuesday morning and will ask them what they think about the tooth. If they recommend immediate work, I’ll have to postpone the trip and cancel my motel reservations, all at the last minute. It’s always something, isn’t it?

Went to see Ad Astra with a friend who’s into science fiction. I had questions about the film’s depiction of gravity, but they’re the same questions I have about virtually every space opera. Two scenes on the Moon grated on me. In the first a group of people stride along normally, as if at one G, down an underground corridor at a lunar base; in the second a lunar rover sails over a crater’s edge, as it might in the Moon’s light gravity, then falls a couple of thousand feet before crashing into the crater’s floor without injuring its occupants.

What bothered me more, though, are the dress blue uniforms worn by members of Space Command. They’re modeled on contemporary military uniforms, but the astronauts don’t wear wings. That, my friends, would never happen, and anyone could have told the producers that. Brad Pitt, wearing major’s rank, sits at a table with two major generals. One two-star, an older man, is clearly in charge. The second two-star plays some sort of admin second lieutenant role, not only subservient to the other general but even to the major. That she’s female (and black) is a shocking anachronism in this day and age.

Then there’s the death ray Tommy Lee Jones aims at Earth from from an antenna on a space station orbiting Uranus, an antenna no bigger than the dishes one sees in trailer parks. I would have thought a death ray powerful enough to reach across the solar system and cause electrical blackouts on Earth would require a somewhat more robust antenna, not to mention a power source the size of a small star.

But if the whole idea was to create a star vehicle for Brad Pitt (with Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones reprising their earlier roles in another astronaut movie), then who gives a shit about the science? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you want good science fiction, you have to read it. It’s too hard to do in movies or on TV.

May I express skepticism about the impeachment inquiry? Does anyone else think they’re going to slow roll it all the way to the election, never deciding whether to impeach or not? Because I do. Everything I’ve seen from the Democrats in Congress tells me that’s what they’re up to. Why is another story, one I will probably never understand. More and more, I feel as if we’re getting what we deserve for our lazy, can’t-be-bothered tolerance of the racism and selfishness all around us.

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Distinguished Knuckledraggers

Flying Booger and Wankers Aweigh represented the Baja Arizona Knuckledraggers Hash House Harriers Riding Club at the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Tucson last Sunday. The DGR is an international charity event established to raise money for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health, with organized rides in hundreds of cities around the world (678 rides this year alone, with over $5.5 million raised). The Tucson event, as it has been for the past three years, was exceptionally well organized and attended, with over 100 riders, many on classic and vintage motorcycles, almost all decked out in their dapper best. Yours truly and Wankers included!

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Flying Booger, KDH3 Baja Arizona GM

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Just Kirk & Wankers Aweigh

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Pulling in to on-afters oops, the end

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Wankers at the regroup oops, rest stop.


Wankers and I don’t have classic rides, but we did our best in the dapper duds department, as you can see from the above photos. We were joined by a mutual non-Knuckledragger friend, Just Kirk, whom you can see in the photo with Wankers. And before I go any further, let me remind you that you can see full-size photos on Flickr by clicking on the small images in this post.

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Southwest Rangers, our for-hire uniformed motorcycle escorts

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The end at Tucson’s Barrio Brewery, like on-afters but without the singing


The organizers of the Tucson DGR, as they have in the past, arranged for a local motorcycle escort service, the Southwest Rangers, to ride with us and clear the route, which amounted to blocking cross traffic at all the intersections we had to cross in and around Tucson. They did it by stationing escorts to block intersections until all 100+ motorcycles had gone through, with other escorts leapfrogging ahead to block the next intersection, sirens wailing and lights flashing. On a 70-mile ride through and around Tucson, we only had to put our feet down twice, once when we pulled into the beer check mid-point refreshment stop at Brandi Fenton Park, and again when we got to the on-in end, the Barrio Brewery in the historic 17th Street warehouse district.

This short video shows a portion of the ride through downtown, not far from the start. You can see some famous Tucson landmarks if you look closely, and also see our escort riders leapfrogging ahead to clear intersections.

The bad part about not having to stop for red lights is that when you ride home by yourself after the event you’re still in the mindframe. Luckily, some cager honked and I came to my senses after almost running the first red light I came to, and made it home safely.

Every year I try to talk other Knuckledraggers and non-affiliated hashers who ride into joining me for this worthy event, so it was a red-letter occasion having another Baja Arizona Knuckledragger turn out this time. Way to go, Wankers Aweigh! Maybe next year we’ll coax a few more out for a fun ride. I was happy to see several Facebook posts from Knuckledraggers in other cities and countries who participated in DGRs in their locations. It’s a great cause, after all … like our own Red Dress Runs (without the sweating).

I’ll leave you with some photos I took at the start. I’m pretty sure the Norton is one of the new ones (they’re making them once again in England … and they ain’t cheap). The BSA thumper’s a classic for sure, as is the 1970s Goldwing. I think the Royal Enfield, like the Norton, is new (they build them in India), but its classic heritage is undeniable, and I bet it’d be fun to own one.

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Of course by now my 2001 Goldwing is 18+ years old, well on its way to becoming a classic in its own right, so I didn’t feel shown up by any of the older rides. Love that legacy Goldwing, though … I wish there was a way to strip mine down so it looked like that, but every time I’ve had the plastic bodywork off for maintenance, what’s underneath looked more like the exoskeleton Ripley wore in Alien II. Not dapper at all!

But wait, there’s more. By popular demand, here I am wearing full distinguished gentleman kit (Pick’n’Flick sewed leather patches on my elbows to go with the pipe!):

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Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog XVII

It’s been four months since I last posted a Pima Air and Space Museum photoblog. I volunteer every Monday and always bring my camera. What I’m saying is that I’ve taken a ton of photos since my last update. Not all the ones in this post are mine, but most are.

First, an update on PASM’s Boeing 777 and 747: they moved the chain link fence and visitors can now walk around the jumbo jets. I’m told the museum plans to open them up for guided interior tours, but only on certain days and so far I haven’t seen a schedule. The aircraft are parked in a back lot not visible from the main outdoor exhibit area, and visitors have to take a short trek to get to them. That’s a shame, but I’m not sure where else the museum could put them. One of these days we’ll be getting a C-5 Galaxy from the Boneyard, and unless restoration’s prepared to shuffle the 150 outdoor aircraft already parked in the main exhibit area, it’ll have to go in the back lot as well.

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Boeing 777-200

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Boeing 747-121

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Closest I’ll ever get to a Rolls

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Spreading the weight around: Boeing 777-200


Things are happening in restoration, now off-limits to volunteer docents, so sadly these photos were taken from outside the fence. But exciting nonetheless!

There’s a mix of new and old museum aircraft in these photos, including Eisenhower’s VH-34 Army One; a Gulfstream G1 formerly flown by NASA; a KC-135 fuselage we’re prepping for the USAF, which plans to use it as a trainer; a Martin B-26 Marauder (one of only seven left in the world); the NB-52A, now breaking records for the longest paint touch-up ever; and one I didn’t even know we had, a Gloster Meteor.

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Gulfstream G1, CH-37 Mojave, VH-34 Choctaw

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KC-135

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Dassault Guardian, Martin B-26, F/A-18 Hornet

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NB-52A

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Gloster Meteor

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Gloster Meteor


Here are a few favorites that pique my interest. Hey, it’s my photoblog and I get to choose ’em, right?

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McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee

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Cessna 172

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Repubic F-84C Thunderjet

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Sun protection!


Just as an aside, they say early Republic jets incorporated a sensor that prevented rotation and liftoff until the departure end, regardless of runway length. Well, I didn’t believe it. Until I took a closer look at PASM’s F-84 Thunderjet, that is.

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Bendix dirt & grass sniffer (circular dot at top of nose gear strut)

One of PASM’s T-33s (there are four in all) used to be painted to represent one used in the John Wayne/Janet Leigh movie, Jet Pilot (1957), where it played the role of a MiG. It has now been redone in USAF colors and looks spectacular.

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T-33 (before)

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T-33 (after)


I’ll leave you with these four:

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Ryan AQM-34L Firebee

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Lockheed F-94 Starfire

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Douglas F4D Skyray

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PASM is dog-friendly!


I have several PASM photo albums on Flickr. Most of the photos in this post come from two albums, which you’re welcome to browse:

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Long Live the Blog

I started blogging in 2004. I’m still at it, even though it’s gone out of fashion. But when I look at what passes today for free online and electronically-delivered written content … long posts that nobody reads on Facebook, threaded posts on Twitter, Tumblr and Storify accounts, visual stories on Instagram, email newsletters … it’s hard to figure out why these forms are better than traditional weblogs. IMO they’re worse. Twitter threads are so frustrating to read, developers have come up with apps to combine individual tweets in a series into single, long documents. Newsletters are hit and miss … how, for example, do you even find out about them? It’s not like they’re out there on the web for anyone to discover via Google. When you do learn of one you may be interested in, via word of mouth or Twitter, you have to subscribe to it. And when it comes to telling stories or commenting on the world around us, most of us are writers, not visual artists.

Any way you cut it, blogging is still the best way to write for an online audience, and owning your own blog gives you more freedom than you’ll get on a platform like Tumblr. Your blog will live at a fixed, known web address and readers can drop by any time they want. What could be more effective than that? What could be more writer-friendly? What could be more user-friendly? What could be simpler?

Slave to fashion that I am, I did start a newsletter a few years ago. It was a struggle to come with things to write about that weren’t already on my blog. I tried to use the newsletter to share some of the more intimate details of my life, but after a while realized I was just as comfortable sharing that stuff on my blog. My last newsletter went out in February 2018. Since then, everything I’ve felt like sharing publicly has been on my blog.

I’ve never tried to make money off this. There are no ads on my blog. A lot of blogs have them, and I find them off-putting and distracting. Over the years marketers have offered me money to add sponsored posts to my blog, but I always delete their pitches. Why would anyone want to read a blog post pushing Ray-Bans? Now, apparently, people who write electronic newsletters are starting to ask for subscription fees. I never did that with my newsletter. If I ever write and self-publish a book, sure, I’ll try to sell it through Amazon, but that’s different.

One of the bloggers I most admire calls herself Mimi Smartypants. She started in 1999, when blogs were called diaries and diarists used pen names. She still calls her blog a diary, and has never, to my knowledge, shared her real name with readers. True, she got a book deal based on her early diary entries, but she never monetized the diary itself. It’s still there, still free, unsullied by banner ads, sponsored posts, or tailored marketing.

She’s a terrific writer; along with one or two other long-time bloggers, an inspiration and model to me. I check in to her blog at least once a month. I dropped by today, in fact, and was happy to find her addressing these same subjects in her latest entry. I’m going to quote some of it, because she confirms many of the things I believe in, and strengthens my resolve to keep doing what she and other long-time bloggers do: writing for readers, free of advertising and subscription fees.

I am subscribed to so many of your newsletters. The free versions, that is. I suppose I understand where you are coming from, you produce amazing content that I love and if anyone out there wants to pay for it, they should certainly be welcome to do so. Pro: It is nice to get mail, and to have a nice blog post to read right there in the old in-box. Con: There are an awful lot of these nice blog posts, and while lots of them might be worth $50/year for special subscriber-only content, one can not reasonably subscribe to a whole bunch of $50/year newsletters. Why do you want to make me choose? Hey I have an idea: you put this amazing content in an INTERNET LOCATION, where I can go read it. I just invented blogs! What a great idea, damn.

Deja vu, incoming: there will be a ton of anger about my very mild criticism of newsletters, just as there was when, long ago in the “blogosphere,” I dared to opine that sponsored posts dilute a writer’s voice and make me uninterested in and suspicious of the other things they have to say, and that sidebar ads on a personal blog are ugly and lame and do you really want to talk about your personal precious life right next to a Duncan Hines cake mix video. I still have emails saved in a folder called SELLOUTS GET SENSITIVE: people who got really mad at that and wrote me full of righteous indignation and I HAVE A RIGHT TO MAKE A LIVING. Of course you do! Never said otherwise!

As for the newsletter thing, I don’t necessarily hate it. It is just strange, that’s all—when I have always conceived of my online diary as a sort of letter to whoever reads it—that the “new” model of writing online is literally writing a letter to subscribers. With (presumably?) slightly better letters going to those who choose to pay.

Whatever. It has officially, as I pompously announced on Twitter, been 20 years since I started putting my diary (this one right here!) online, and it is not moving to newsletter format. There won’t be ads, there won’t be sponsored posts, you don’t have to pay to read it. That is not because I am so fucking punk rock by any means (remember, I was an early sellout to the blog-into-(terrible)-book gold rush!) It is just because I don’t know any other way, and I like to type about what I am doing, and I don’t need your money because I do other stuff for money. Keep your money! Use it to pay your bills and buy candy and drugs.

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Don’t Answer, It’s the Phone

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Look at that dapper gent!

I’ll be up & at ’em early tomorrow, dressing for this year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, an international event to raise money for prostate cancer research. In addition to the half-helmet and old-time goggles I normally sport, I’ll be wearing a blazer and tie. Donna’s sewing leather elbow patches on the blazer to give it that college prof look, and I have a briar pipe to put in the breast pocket. That should cover the dapper dress part of the DGR; the classic or vintage motorcycle I can’t do much about, but at least my ride’s clean and hella sparkle.

This year, for the first time since I started participating in DGRs, a motorcyclist friend is joining me. I’ve been telling everyone how much fun these rides are, and someone finally listened. Dave and I are meeting at an agreed point at 8 AM tomorrow and riding to the start together. There will be, barring a disaster, photos … maybe even some video.

I’m reading a book on how technology has affected the way we speak and write: “Because Internet” by Gretchen McCullough. I joined AOL in 1990, wrote my first website in raw HTML in 1995, and started blogging in 2004; between that and my later embrace of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram I feel comfortably up-to-date on internet writing conventions. I quit double-spacing between sentences long ago, and am on the record as a pioneer in the movement to lowercase “internet.” So a lot of what Gretchen McCullough has to say in her book is old hat to me, but she says what she has to say in elegant and engaging prose, and I’m having fun reading it. She has me thinking about things I’ve been taking for granted, like how I answer the phone.

You see, before she writes about how people answer calls on mobile devices, she backs up to the earliest days of landline telephones, when people were taught to say “hello” or “ahoy.” Ahoy (the salutation Alexander Graham Bell tried to popularize) didn’t catch on, but hello did, and people continue to answer by saying hello in the mobile phone age.

I’m sure it wasn’t just my family, but we were raised by parents who thought answering the phone with an anonymous hello was rude. We were taught to answer by saying “Woodford residence,” similar to the way receptionists answer with a cheery “Doctor Smith’s office,” or “Acme Plumbing.” It became an ingrained habit, and to this day I answer our landline with “Woodford Residence.” I’m glad mom and dad raised us kids right. The way most people mumble “hello” when they answer your call, it sounds like “duh” or “huh.” Might as well just grunt. But it’s better than “ahoy,” I guess.

A benefit of answering the phone with a crisp business-style salutation is that it’s an effective filtering tool in this age of spam and robo-calls. “Woodford residence” confuses telemarketers and automated recordings that key off “hello” and its variations.

[phone rings]

Woodford residence!

[silence]

[sound of me hanging up]

You might think from all this that technology hasn’t changed my telephone behavior, but you’d be wrong: I don’t say “Woodford residence” when I answer my iPhone. When someone calls that number, they’re not calling the house, they’re calling me. I answer by saying “This is Paul.” Although I haven’t finished Ms McCullough’s mobile phone chapter, I’ll be surprised if she writes about people who answer their cell phones the way I do. (Update: reading further, I see that she does. After discussing the debate over the rudeness of “hello” and “hi,” she mentions that many answer cell phones with their own name. I appear to be not so special, after all).

Friends on Facebook and Twitter complain about getting spam calls and robocalls on their cell phones. I get them too, though not nearly as many as on the landline (now that all but one or two of our older relatives have passed on, all our landline calls are spam calls, and the only reason we keep the damn thing is because Verizon gives us a better monthly rate with it than without it). Are mobile spam calls really a problem, though? I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize. If the caller’s legit, they’ll leave voicemail and I can call back. And with the latest iOS update to the iPhone, you can set it to not ring at all if the caller’s number isn’t on your contact list.

Our old landline doesn’t show caller numbers, but it does record messages, so there’s really no reason to answer it either. But it sits on my office desk and if it rings while I’m at the desk I answer, just in case it’s one of those older relatives. But really, it’s mostly because I love saying “Woodford residence” and listening to the bewildered silence that follows.

I suppose, since I’m babbling about tech, I should finish the saga of our insane data-use rates. In June, July, and August we went over our monthly data use limit. Our monthly allowance from Xfinity, our internet provider, was a terabyte of data. When we used more we got charged for it. I visited the Xfinity office to see if they could help identify the problem. They gave me a new wi-fi modem, with which I created a new home wi-fi network with a new password, ruling out piggybacking neighbors as a potential problem. On another visit, they turned me on to a free company app that lets me track and turn off wi-fi connected devices in the house. We hit the data limit again in the middle of September, so I made another trip to the Xfinity office.

This time they scheduled an installation technician to the house to check our connections and cabling. He came two days ago. Everything is fine. There is no “data leak,” any more than there’s a “secret server” with Hillary Clinton’s erased emails. The leak, as I had come to suspect, is us. Or, rather, it’s probably Polly … but I’m a pretty heavy user too, so maybe it’s the two of us. In addition to physically checking things at our end, they gave me a very good deal on a plan that includes for-real unlimited data, backdating it to the beginning of September. I could probably get an even better deal if I agreed to switch our phone service from Verizon to Xfinity (which would also let me ditch the landline with no penalty), but I’ll hold off on that for now. Or, rather, Donna told me to hold off for now. Aunt J_____ might still have the landline number on speed dial.

It’s all about meeting everyone’s needs, isn’t it?

Anyway, said needs are now met and we can use all the data we want … but since one of the things I learned along the way is how Netflix’s streaming TV service uses data whether we’re watching or not, I’m still going to turn the Firestick doohickey off every night. Just to spite ’em.

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YCRT Banned Book Review: Diary of a Young Girl

Although I no longer write regular You Can’t Read That! posts, Banned Books Week has rolled around again and it seems a good time to repost my February 2016 YCRT review of a frequently-banned book, “Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank.

I don’t know if young people still read it today, but Anne Frank’s Diary was a profoundly moving and unforgettable experience for members of my generation, children born just after the end of World War II. You know my opinion of those who try to ban books or otherwise prevent the rest of us from reading them. Those who continue to suppress Anne Frank’s Diary are not merely book banners but anti-Semites as well, Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis, and there’s a special place in hell reserved for them.

If you have never read Anne Frank’s Diary, or have only dim memories of reading it as a child, you owe it to yourself and future generations to read it, read it again, and spread the word.


diary of a young girlThe Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank, edited by Otto Frank & Mirjam Pressler
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This review is for the definitive edition of “The Diary of a Young Girl,” published in 2010. The definitive edition contains passages and entries originally withheld by Anne’s father, the only resident of the secret annex to survive the camps.

Anne Frank was 14 when she wrote this diary entry, on Thursday, May 11, 1944:

“And now something else. You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer. We’ll have to wait and see if these grand illusions (or delusions!) will ever come true, but up to now I’ve had no lack of topics. In any case, after the war I’d like to publish a book called The Secret Annex. It remains to be seen whether I’ll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis.”

I first read Anne Frank’s diary in the mid-1950s when I was 11 or 12. My father was in the military and we lived on a USAF base near Kaiserslautern, Germany. I had been told about the extermination of the Jews, but even though we lived in a city where reminders of the recent war were everywhere you looked, the Holocaust was an abstraction, too big to comprehend … until I read the diary. I was outraged. I was moved. I’ve never forgotten the impact it had on me.

My experience was typical, at least of my generation. We read Anne Frank’s diary as children; we were horrified and moved; we have never forgotten it.

I decided to re-read”The Diary of a Young Girl” as an adult, partly because more of Anne’s journals have come to light since the death of her father, who prevented certain entries from being published during his lifetime; partly because I’m interested in book banning and Anne’s diary has been a frequent target of those who want to suppress books.

The experience of reading Anne Frank’s diary is still powerful, though as an adult I’m much more aware of her youth: she was very much a teenager, full of herself, impatient with the other seven people crowded cheek to jowl in the hidden rooms above the spice warehouse on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht; in short, she could be downright annoying.

At some point in 1944, a spokesman for the exiled government spoke on the BBC, asking Dutch people to preserve their memories of the German occupation and the war in general; Anne decided to rewrite and edit parts of the diary for future publication. Certainly not all parts, though … you can tell which parts she had in mind for her notional post-war book; the day-to-day entries about fights with her mother and other residents of the secret annex were clearly meant to remain private, as were her very personal reflections on puberty and her growing interest in sex.

Most of Anne’s diary focuses on personal concerns, but her awareness of why she and her family were living in hiding was never far from the surface. When she occasionally wrote about the Nazis and what they had done, and were doing, to the Jews of Holland … to Jewish boys and girls she went to school with, who had by then been taken away to camps in Germany and Poland … my hair stood on end.

“The Diary of a Young Girl” has been an international best-seller since it was first published in 1947. Millions have read it (33 million copies sold, translated into 75 languages). Millions have visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Still, there have always been those who want to suppress or ban Anne’s diary.

In the immediate aftermath of WWII, anti-Semites in Europe and elsewhere labeled the diary a fraud, claiming it was written by an adult as Jewish propaganda. Today, you can easily find anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial web sites making the same claim, despite the fact that several investigations over the years conclusively established the diary’s authenticity.

In parts of the Middle East, the diary is banned outright, and many Arabic people have never heard of Anne Frank. The motivation here is similar: anti-Semitism and opposition to the state of Israel.

Although the diary has never been banned in the United States, it has always been controversial to some. In recent years, especially since the publication of the complete diary containing entries Otto Frank kept hidden while he was alive, a few parents have demanded”The Diary of a Young Girl” be pulled from school library shelves and not studied in class. The most recent attempt was in Northville, Michigan, in 2013. Sometimes challengers say they oppose the diary because it’s depressing and dark, sometimes because parts of it are sexually explicit. I suspect there’s an element of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial behind these challenges, but it is never acknowledged.

Depressing and dark? For those who’d prefer their children not be taught about the Holocaust, I guess Anne Frank’s diary is indeed that. Sexually explicit? Hardly. One of the passages Otto Frank omitted when he edited Anne’s diary in 1947, but which has now been reintroduced into the diary, is a one-paragraph description of her vulva. It’s honest but non-erotic, really just a reminder that Anne was a growing young woman interested in how her body was developing and beginning to think about sex. One wonders what these parents imagine their own kids think about.

At any age, reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” is a profound and moving experience. You are immediately transported to a different time and place, yet one that is never far away from our collective consciousness; you cannot help thinking of Anne as a childhood friend, which makes her fate particularly stark. She personifies, in the most exalted sense of the word, all victims of the Holocaust. As Primo Levi (himself a survivor of the camps) said:

“One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

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Tuesday Bag o’ Small News

Less than a month from now contractors will start ripping out our old kitchen and putting in a new one. If everything stays exactly on schedule, the work will be done two days before Thanksgiving. Our son, daughter in law, and grandson are driving down from Las Vegas to share the holiday with us, so there’s a degree of (self-imposed) pressure. In our partnership, Donna’s the one who keeps the faith while I am the skeptic. Will we have to go to the chow hall for Thanksgiving dinner? We’ll see.

Here’s the before photo. I’ll post the after when it’s done.

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We’ve done a lot to the kitchen over the years, but Donna’s never been happy with it. When we moved in, the flooring was vinyl, the island was rectangular, and there was a single oven. The new kitchen will have a raised ceiling with new lighting and an exhaust fan, a new window over the sink, white cabinets with pull-out drawers, granite counter- and island-tops, and a new range built into the island. We’re modifying the wall on the left where the microwave and desk-style cabinet are. It’ll be waist-high, allowing us to see into the living room. Where the double ovens are now it’ll revert to a full wall with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. We’re pretty sure the five boxes of left-over tiles in the garage will be enough to replace the ones that’ll have to be chipped out when they put in the new cabinets and island. We hope so, because they don’t make that style any more. Oh, and the walls will be white. At one time yellow seemed like a good idea, but we instantly regretted the choice.

We have a gas grill with a side burner on the patio. I imagine we’ll have to cook meals on it, at least when we’re not bringing home takeout. Although I’m not sure how we’ll be able to wash dishes afterward. Our lives will be massively disrupted for a few weeks, but I know we’ll be happy when it’s all done.

October’s my birth month, so I pre-ordered three new books with October release dates. I figure Donna won’t give me too much grief over that. Speaking of charges, I discovered last night we’re still paying for a Norton Antivirus account we haven’t used since Donna retired her Windows PC and started using a Mac laptop, over two years ago. Makes me wonder what other auto-renewables are flying under the radar. Donna has an eagle eye for stuff like that, and I’m surprised we both missed it.

Took a break to run some errands. It’s a rainy day, thanks to what’s left of Tropical Storm Lorena, which has pushed north into southern Arizona from Mexico. The rain kept a lot of people at home and I had the roads almost to myself, a rare treat.

One of those errands was another stop at the Xfinity store. We’re still going over our monthly data limit and there’s obviously something wrong. It may be our daughter Polly streaming Netflix 24/7, but it may be a data leak somewhere in the wiring or one of the old unused devices still plugged into our wifi network. One of their techs is coming over Thursday to troubleshoot. In the meantime I signed up for a truly unlimited data plan. We’ll bill Polly for the difference, now that she’s drawing unemployment.

Well, this has been a thoroughly domestic post, hasn’t it? I find I have nothing worth saying about outside news and events. People in the news are being awful as usual, but down at this lowly un-newsworthy level I’m trying to be better.

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