September 2014
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Shit hot header photos by Paul, w/assistance from "The Thing?"

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Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

Last Pre-Gypsy Run Update

A drizzly day, with heavy rain forecast tomorrow, the day I head north to Las Vegas to meet my son for a motorcycle adventure. I decided to trailer the Goldwing to Vegas, so today I wheeled the trailer around to the garage to pump up the tires. While I was at it I decided to hook up the electrics and test the lights, even though they’ve always worked correctly before.

Good thing I checked, because the lights were tits up. Both turn signals going off alternately when I signal left or right, going dark when I hit the brakes, as confused and crossed up as they could possibly be. The wires coming from the electrical connector looked frayed, so I went to the auto parts store and bought another. When I got home I spliced the new connector to the trailer’s wiring harness, but that didn’t fix anything, and I began to feel as if the fates were ganging up on me.

Thank goodness for my friend and maintenance guru Ed. I called him and by great good luck he was home, so I towed the trailer over via back roads and he found the problem … a wire splice somewhere else that had become disconnected … in seconds. Now I really am ready to go. The trailer is attached to the hitch and most of my luggage is loaded. In the morning Polly will help me put the motorcycle on the trailer and strap it down, and I’ll be off.

If it really does rain four to seven inches in southern Arizona tomorrow morning, as they say it might, I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix could be washed out. That’s what happened to parts of I-15 east of Las Vegas during the last hurricane, two weeks ago. When torrential rain hits hard-packed desert it has nowhere to go but sideways, and it washes out roads, railroad tracks, you name it. If that happens, I’ll know for sure the fates are ganging up on me, and will turn back and try again Thursday.

It’s always something. But that’s what makes it an adventure.

If my son and I do pull this road trip off, I won’t be blogging much for the next few days. I’ll be posting short OTR (on the road) reports and a few photos on Facebook and Twitter, and you can follow me there. If I find the time (and can stand typing more than a sentence or two on my phone or tablet) I’ll post something here. No promises, though. It’s time to go live life for a change.

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Rock You Like a Hurricane

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.25.01 AMWe wanted more rain, and for once our prayers are being answered: Hurricane Odile is moving up Baja California. Heavy rain in Arizona is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of my motorcycle trip.

Not that I’m a pussy (I am a total pussy), but putting the Goldwing on the trailer and towing it to Las Vegas is suddenly back on the table. This is in no way a show-stopper: the main part of the motorcycle trip, the five-day ride with my son Greg to Colorado and back, begins in Las Vegas, and we don’t leave until Friday.

At least I-15 east of Las Vegas is open again, even if it’s only two lanes. Come to think of it, though, it was Hurricane Norbert that washed out part of I-15 just two weeks ago, and Odile’s following the same track. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an adventure.

Our daughter Polly is here to house-sit for us while we’re away. This morning she and I are taking the doggies to the feed store. I’ll probably take them to the dog park this afternoon.

Our older girl Schatzi, who turned nine in August, is beginning to lose her eyesight. She’s doing okay generally, but seems not to be able to see things close up. She’ll chase a ball down the hall, for example, but when the ball comes to rest and she gets within a couple of feet of it, she can’t find it. We don’t see cataracts in her eyes, and I doubt there’s anything we can do for her anyway. She knows the house and back yard well, and at least for now has her distance vision, but I just want to hold her all the time.

I replaced the side burner on our Weber gas grill, a simpler operation than I thought it would be. Weber thoughtfully uses quick-release connections, so it was just a matter of removing four screws, lifting up the old burner and unsnapping the gas line, then snapping it to the new burner and screwing in the cover plate. Here it is, flaming away:

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My handyman projects rarely come off without a hitch, so I hope you’ll forgive me for crowing about this one.

Now to get serious about packing for the trip. I’m washing a couple of riding shirts and my favorite pair of riding pants, and I need to find room in the saddlebags for an extra pair of boots in case Odile pushes rain up into Nevada and Utah, which it might.

I love this feeling of anticipatory excitement. I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. It’s great we can still feel that way when we’re all grown up, isn’t it?

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Mini-Gypsy Run the Next

ba-HOLLISTER_8_B_421942468I’m getting ready for another mini-gypsy run, a week-long ride through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, and the fever is upon me. Even though I don’t leave until Wednesday the 17th, I got up early today to wash the motorcycle and paw through my collection of riding gear, picking out cold weather stuff. I found some things to bring for my son Gregory, who’s riding with me: an extra full-face helmet, a rain suit and booties, winter gloves. The forecast for Nevada and Utah, apart from the possibility of rain, is for warm weather, but once we get into southwestern Colorado we’ll need to layer up, at least during the morning hours.

So: Tucson to Vegas this coming Wednesday. An off day in Las Vegas Thursday; Greg and I’ll use the time to get ourselves and the bikes ready for the trip, which starts Friday. He’s renting a new BMW 6-cylinder touring bike. We’ll be evenly matched, with plenty of saddlebag storage between us.

The proximate problem is Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and the Utah border, part of which was washed out by last week’s heavy rains and is now closed. From just east of Las Vegas, traffic is being diverted over a massively out-of-the-way two-lane loop through eastern Nevada and part of western Utah before rejoining I-15 at Cedar City.

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Considering the heavy long-distance truck traffic that normally clogs I-15, I can only imagine what a miserable detour this must be, never mind the extra hours it’ll take to negotiate it. They’re saying they’ll have one side of the freeway open for two-directional traffic by the time we leave Las Vegas next Friday morning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but working on a backup plan just in case.

Once Greg and I leave Las Vegas Friday, our planned route takes us about 450 miles to Moab, Utah, where we’ll overnight before leaving Saturday for Ouray, Colorado, which is 150 to 200 miles from Moab depending on the route we take, all of which will be over narrow twisty mountain roads. A gentleman’s ride, with plenty of time to sightsee along the way.

If I-15 is still closed, we’ll ride down to Kingman, Arizona and take I-40 to Flagstaff and spend the night there instead, then ride through the Navaho Nation into southwestern Colorado on Saturday. If we have to go that way, it’ll be a short ride on day one but a fairly long ride on day two … nothing we can’t handle, but I hope we can go via Moab as we planned.

We’re spending what’s left of Saturday and all day Sunday with my friends Bruce and Tamara in Ouray. Greg and I plan a day ride Sunday to take in Telluride, Durango, and Silverton. Bruce has a local riding buddy who wants to go with us and show us the sights. Greg and I start home Monday, overnighting in Cedar City, Utah and getting back to Las Vegas on Tuesday. I’ll ride home to Tucson Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how sore my butt is.

Donna and her friend Dee head for Las Vegas next Wednesday as well. If we can get our stuff together and leave at the same time we’ll caravan north, me on the bike and them in the car. They leave Las Vegas Thursday morning for St. George, Utah, where they’ll spend the weekend at an American Sewing Guild retreat. I don’t think they’re going to wait in Las Vegas afterward for Greg and me to get home from Colorado; they’ll probably drive back to Tucson on Monday or Tuesday.

Our daughter Polly is coming to stay at the house and keep the pets company while we’re away. The pups will be devastated when they realize they’re not coming along, but we’re driving up again in November for Thanksgiving with the kids, and we’ll bring them then.

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Strategery

w1-s1-iraqwrap-a-20140625-870x579Over the span of my life, Islam has been a consistently destructive force. Sure, religious fanatics in other parts of the world have started wars, but for pure hate-driven evil nothing tops the Muslims. Islam turns much of its destructive force inward against fellow Muslims; still, it has plenty left over to direct against Israel, and with the 9/11 terror attacks in the USA and subsequent attacks in Spain and the UK, Islam declared war on the West as well.

The President spoke to the nation last night, outlining a strategy for dealing with the latest outbreak of Muslim fanaticism as embodied by the group called Islamic State. The speech was an obvious (and somewhat craven, it seemed to me) apology for earlier saying he didn’t have a strategy. But what he said last night was no more than a restatement of the strategy he’s had all along: we go after terrorist leaders and kill them, and that’s what we’re going to do to the leadership of Islamic State. There’s nothing new in Obama saying we won’t respect borders in this effort, witness us going into nominally-friendly Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. There’s nothing new in saying we’re going to employ drones and piloted aircraft to conduct surveillance and air strikes; it’s what Obama’s done all along.

One of the last things Obama wants is to go back into Iraq. Probably the very last thing he wants is to invade and occupy yet another Middle Eastern country, namely Syria. But here, I think, his strategy doesn’t match reality. Not going back into Iraq depends on Iraqis being willing to fight Islamic State inside their own country. Not sending ground forces into Syria in pursuit of Islamic State fighters depends on other Middle Eastern nations being willing to do so.

Do the Iraqis have the will to fight and defeat Islamic State? Are other Middle Eastern nations willing to go into Syria to root out Islamic State? The answer to both questions, as far as I can tell, is “Are you kidding?”

Obama wants to restrict our own military actions against Islamic State to air strikes. He says we’re not putting boots on the ground, but American airmen are flying combat and it’s inevitable some of them are going to have to eject over Iraq or Syria, the countries we’ll have to fly over in order to conduct air strikes against Islamic State. When that happens, our airmen will be captured and paraded before the media before being beheaded. How does Obama’s strategy address that?

Like many, I’m sick to death of Islamic fanaticism. I don’t see any viable resolution to the current unacceptable situation in Iraq and Syria. Talk of arming Syrian “moderates” is simply insane. We armed Osama bin Laden as part of our proxy war against the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 90s. We armed Saddam Hussein before that. We armed the Saudis, who, it is finally beginning to be revealed, were deeply involved in the 9/11 terror attacks on America. The “moderate” Syrian rebel groups we wanted to arm a year ago are the very rebels who sold kidnapped American journalist James Foley to Islamic State, which turned around and beheaded him. Working with Muslim moderates is bullshit. We’ve been bitten over and over again; when will we learn?

As for non-viable strategies, there are plenty of those, and plenty of politicians like John McCain who’d like nothing better than to go for broke … and break the world in the process.

We could, for example, invade Iraq all over again, along with Syria. Yeah. Does anyone think we have the national will to do something like that? Does anyone think such an invasion and occupation would require less than a decades-long commitment and a WWII level of mobilization, up to and including a military draft? Does anyone think neighboring states in the Middle East would remain stable in the face of a massive American incursion and permanent military presence? Does anyone think Iran or Russia will stand by and twiddle their thumbs while we march into Damascus?

I must admit, the thought of dropping neutron bombs on Iraq and Syria has occurred to me. Kill the people without destroying the infrastructure, wait for the radiation to die down, then move in and start pumping oil … that’s what neutron bombs are for, am I right?

But now that we’ve indulged our vengeful fantasies, we have to return to reality. What can we do about Islamic State? Obama’s strategy for dealing with terrorist groups has been effective. We haven’t had any repeats of 9/11; Al Qaeda has been emasculated. But is Islamic State just another terrorist group like Al Qaeda, or is it an actual state, like Iraq or Syria? Will the tactics that work against Al Qaeda work against Islamic State?

I wish I could tell President Obama what he should do. Maybe the time has come to form an alliance with the Iranians … but they’re Muslim fanatics too, and not to be trusted ever. How can you work with Islam, period? Damn it, I keep coming back to kill ‘em all.

Obama’s doing the right thing in exercising restraint, in refusing to be buffaloed into renewed combat in Iraq, or, god forbid, a new ground war in Syria. I’m glad he’s our President, and not some warmonger like John McCain. But Obama has to know he’s temporizing; he has to know he’ll be forced to do something stronger when Islamic State gets it murderous hands on American aircrews or some of our “non-combatant” advisors in Iraq.

I’m certain Obama and the military have thought this through and developed strategies to deal with a worsening situation; I’m equally certain he shouldn’t share these strategies beforehand with the American people, no matter how loudly craven politicians and the media howl, because if you reveal your strategy to us, you reveal it to the enemy as well. I think we’ll be there soon enough, and Obama knows this.

Did Obama really need to address the nation last night? If it weren’t the anniversary of 9/11, I’d say no. He has a strategy; he’s had one all along; he doesn’t need to apologize for a verbal gaffe. He’s done a good job of sticking to his strategy; he’s kept us out of the kind of stupid military disasters his predecessor specialized in getting us into. As for tipping his hand to the enemy, he didn’t give them any usable intel: he let them know we’re coming for them, not necessarily how or when, and that is all to the good.

It is, however, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Even if it weren’t for the recent beheadings of American journalists, even if it weren’t for the growing chorus of voices demanding action against Islamic State, Americans would still be thinking about Muslim terrorism, as we do every year at this time. Because of that, I believe it was necessary for President Obama to address the nation and reassure us he’s on the job.

This, then, is my 9/11 memorial post. Go git ‘em, Mr. President.

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Monday Bag o’ Randomness

bag of randomFollowing on from Friday’s barbecue grill post: I went to Lowe’s to see if they had replacement side burner parts for my Weber gas grill, but really to look at that combo gas & charcoal grill I’d fallen in lust with. Would you be shocked to learn the combo grill is a flimsy piece of crap, made with third-rate components, something that will morph into a rusted-out piece of patio junk inside of two years? I was, but only briefly. What did I expect for $299?

You’re not going to get a good durable gas grill for much less than the cost of a new Weber Genesis, which is to say about $800, $900 with a side burner. Save for the side burner, we have a perfectly good one. I got on the phone with Weber and ordered a replacement side burner, so all is well. Or will be, as soon as it arrives and I bolt it on.

I’d rather save up for a new motorcycle, anyway. Not that there’s anything wrong with my current ride. Even though it’s a 2001 model, it runs like new and has only 85,000 miles on the clock, barely broken in by Goldwing standards. With new tires and brake pads, all fluids freshly changed, it’s ready for next week’s run to Colorado. I took it up the twisty road to the top of Mount Lemmon yesterday to finish scuffing in the new tires. Here we are, with the mountain village of Summerhaven in the background.

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Mt Lemmon selfie, 9/7/14

In two years or three, though, I’d like to buy a new ride, assuming Honda introduces a new Goldwing. They’re still making the same model I ride, albeit with slightly different trim. Goldwing riders were hoping for a new model in 2015, but alas it is not to be. Maybe 2016? Honda, if you’re listening, we want a six-speed gearbox and an electrically adjustable windscreen. Screw everything else, just give us those two things.

Thanks to Tropical Storm Nestor, moving up from Baja California and the Sea of Cortez, we have rain this morning. The water on some streets in Tucson is up to hood level, friends tell me, but not on the east side where we live. I shouldn’t speak too soon … although I made a quick bagel-replenishment run to Safeway earlier this morning I didn’t cross any of the washes that run through our neighborhood, and for all I know they’re flooded. Some subdivisions in this area are completely cut off from the rest of Tucson when the washes flood, but not ours.

The rain has let up momentarily, and the bird feeders outside my office window are mobbed again. During the rain, the birds hunker down in the branches of trees, the prime spots being branches just below higher branches. I tried to take a photo of a little goldfinch sheltering from the downpour, but she saw me raise the blinds and flew away in spite of the rain. I was able to get this photo a moment ago:

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Windowscape with birds & dog

You can see smaller birds, mostly lesser goldfinches but also a few house sparrows, on the cylindrical feeder to the left, and if you look at the full sized image on Flickr you can see larger birds inside the round feeder hanging from the tree. The dog, of course, is Schatzi, my desk companion, who came in all wet from a potty run during the height of the downpour and asked if she could dry off under the desk lamp. How could I refuse? If it’d been me, I’d have said fuck it and pissed on the floor. Schatzi is a good citizen.

C’mon, Nestor … we need more rain!

Update (bedtime, same day): My friends tell me it’s Tropical Storm Norbert, not Nestor. Sorry, Norbert!

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Friday Bag o’ Whatever

whatever_tote_bagI don’t know how long outdoor grills are supposed to last, but we’ve retired one charcoal kettle grill and one gas grill since moving into this house in 1998, and are some years into our second set. The charcoal grill, a Weber, is holding up well, but the gas grill, also a Weber, is giving up the ghost: I went out yesterday morning to fry some bacon on the side burner only to find the burner control stuck in the off position, and no amount of jiggling will free it up.

I looked online for a replacement burner control but couldn’t find one, even at the Weber parts site. There’s a store in town that stocks parts for charcoal and gas grills and I’ll swing by later today.

We use the side burner for things like bacon and fish, mostly to keep from stinking up the house. Our first gas grill didn’t have a side burner; now we have one we can’t imagine being without it.

Donna knows how I think, and she’s justifiably worried I’m not going to be happy until I buy a new gas grill. Right she is to worry, because I’ve already picked one out. Ain’t she a beaut?

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Propane and charcoal, side burner and smoker box. They stock ‘em at Lowe’s—if the parts store doesn’t have what I need, I’ll stop by to look at one of these.

If we wind up adopting a combo grill (doesn’t it look like it needs a forever home?), I’ll have to store the current charcoal and gas grills on the far side of the house along with the first gas grill, which we still have—we repaired it years ago and have been hanging onto it for our daughter. I also have my old Fortress of Smoke™, a Weber bullet smoker, and that would join the other retired units. Next time there’s a neighborhood garage sale, we can wheel all three units out to the driveway. Someone’ll take them off our hands, I’m certain.

It’s a quiet Friday for me. Donna’s at work, so I suppose I’d better come up with a dinner plan. Earlier this week we came up short at dinnertime: Donna thought I was cooking and I thought she was, so there was no plan. I popped two big potatoes in the oven, chopped up some scallions and fried a little bacon, and we had stuffed baked potatoes for dinner. They were actually pretty great. Note to self: always keep a couple of potatoes and some sour cream on hand.

Last night while we were watching TV, Donna and the two dogs on the couch, me next to them in my chair, a huge crack of lightning hit just out back. All four of us jerked upright, then looked at one another to make sure we were all okay. We are all one, aren’t we? I bet if the cat had been there with us she’d have done the same thing … well, maybe not the checking to see if everyone else was okay part.

Speaking of TV, Rachel Maddow was on a tear last night, describing former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s contemptible behavior in court. I swear, these Christian “family values” politicians are charlatans through and through … if they thought it’d save their skins they’d throw Jesus himself under the bus. Never trust anyone who claims to be morally superior to you.

Speaking of morally superior Christian family values: earlier this month the USAF discharged an airman who refused to say “so help me God” when he took the reenlistment oath. This is shocking to me, a real step backwards, totally unconstitutional, and I’m astounded the evangelical wing of US Air Force leadership thinks it can get away with shit like this.

“So help me God” was not part of the oath until 1960, when it was added by Congress. USAF regulations, from 1960 until some time last year, exempted non-believers or adherents of non-Christian religions from having to say or sign that part of the oath, but in 2013 the exemption mysteriously disappeared from the books, and now the USAF claims it is mandatory. I don’t see how this could possibly hold up in court, but challenging it is going to take some time and meanwhile non-believing service members are out of luck. What are they supposed to do, cross their fingers behind their backs when they take the oath? Bullshit.

Time to go shopping for grill parts, before this post goes completely off the rails. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Tuesday Bag o’ Clouds (Updated)

cloud bagI guess I’m going to have to learn about the cloud. I know, in general, about cloud computing, which is related to the cloud but not exactly the same thing. With cloud computing, instead of paying for and installing software on your own PC you can access similar software online, often for free, and prepare documents and spreadsheets in virtual space.

As for the cloud, up to now I’d thought of it as virtual storage space, presumably in an account with your name on it, retrievable only by you. When I first heard of the cloud, I thought it might be a dandy place to store backup files.

Caution prevailed, though. I bought my own software and installed it on my PC. I prepare documents on the PC and back them up to an external hard drive. I never took advantage of cloud computing, never tried to access the cloud. I’m a caveman, alright?

I’m starting to think my concept of the cloud is oversimplified and naive. In any case, I’m feeling the need to learn more. What’s prompting me is the recent leak of nude celebrity photos from private cloud accounts. Someone was able to hack into the iCloud accounts of Hollywood actresses and upload copies of intimate iPhone photos to websites like 4chan and Reddit. Surely you’ve heard about this; it’s pretty much taken over the internet.

I’m going to bet the actresses probably didn’t know copies of their iPhone photos are stored in iCloud accounts. I use an iMac, an iPad, and an iPhone. I know there’s something about the cloud in the setup menu of all three devices, but I didn’t look at it until today. It turns out I have a iCloud account. Apple created it for me the moment I bought my first Apple product and registered a user name and password. No doubt there’s something about it in all those terms of service contracts I agreed to without reading.

I looked at the iCloud menu on my iMac just now. These must be default settings, because I don’t remember ever using this menu before: my contacts, calendars, reminders, Safari bookmarks, keychain (whatever the hell that is), photos, documents & data, and a thing called “find my Mac” are stored in my iCloud account, presumably updated whenever I change anything. There are similar iCloud settings menus on my other Apple devices.

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I don’t know how to access the iCloud to see what’s actually there; I’m fairly certain a lot of my important stuff isn’t, and I’m glad I have everything backed up on that external hard drive. Without getting too nuts & boltsy, I’ve noticed that documents I prepare on Apple software just kind of appear when I go looking for them; they’re not in the traditional PC-style hard drive file folders I’m used to. Same thing with photos I’ve taken with the iPad and iPhone. These documents and photos, I believe, are the ones automatically backed up to the iCloud account.

When I use MS Office for Mac software, I save documents and spreadsheets I create the way I did in the MS-DOS days: to labeled file folders on the hard drive. Ditto photos I take with digital cameras and later copy to the iMac: in file folders labeled by year and date. I could be wrong, but I do not think these documents and photos are in the cloud.

Not that I have any intimate photos, but I do want to find out whether or not I’m right about what’s stored in the cloud and what isn’t. Now I just have to figure out how to access my own iCloud account. That’s what I’ll be doing, most likely for the rest of the day. Whee!

Update (30 minutes later): Well, that was surprisingly easy. I signed into my iCloud account using my Apple ID and password. My contacts and calendars are there, but no documents or data. Looking closer, I see that only documents I prepare with Apple’s Textedit program go into the cloud; the few times I’ve used Textedit I never saved anything with it. My MS Office for Windows documents are not in the cloud, as I suspected. Oddly, I couldn’t find any photos at all in my iCloud account, even though the setup menus on my iMac and iPhone say I’m sharing photos with the cloud. Which I guess is good, even though I don’t have any nude selfies (I accept your profuse thanks for that).

Update II (several hours later): Photos remain a mystery. When I call up my iCloud account there are no photos, not even a folder for them. I changed my iPhotos preferences to automatically upload to the iCloud account, but it ain’t happening. Here I am actively trying to upload personal photos to my iCloud account and I’m not getting anywhere. If it’s this hard to do (which seems very un-Apple-like), how did those actresses do it? If they had to negotiate all these wickets in order to do it, then it could hardly have been an accident their intimate photos were in the cloud. That’s how it looks to me at this point.

See, I was right when I said I’d be at this all day!

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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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YCRT! Banned Book Links

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YCRT! Banned Book Review

the sandman vol IThe Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Neil Gaiman (with Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Karen Berger)
1_5

My book club selected this under the graphic novel category. We’ll be discussing it during Banned Books Week in September. It’s not coincidental that our selection dovetails with the graphic novel theme of this year’s Banned Books Week.

I’m not anti-graphic novel (see my review of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home); I’m just not interested in fantasy, especially self-consciously dark fantasy. This collection of fantasy and horror conceits reminded me of the proto-Goth phase I went through as a teenager. The grotesque faces gracing every third or fourth page were almost identical to the grotesque faces I drew in my school notebooks when I should have been doing homework.

This collection hit me as much more of a comic book than a graphic novel. There are even a couple of dream characters wearing what look like skin-tight superhero outfits, posed in Spiderman-style crouches. It put me off. The Sandman is for kids, not grownups—such was my reaction, at any rate (call me a snob all you want, I can take it).

The Sandman is listed by the ALA as one of the top banned and challenged graphic novels. I’m interested in the reasons people try suppress books, and I read this graphic novel with an eye to that. The ALA says the most frequent complaints about The Sandman refer to anti-family themes and offensive language. Others complain that it’s unsuited for its intended age group.

Unsuited for its intended age group? The theme of dream and nightmare is a dark one, and the preponderance of illustrations are likewise dark (the printer probably goes through a year’s supply of black and purple ink with every issue). Since The Sandman presents itself as a comic book, and indeed was originally marketed as a series of individual comic books that were later assembled into this collection, its intended audience certainly included children, probably well down into the pre-teen years. But apart from outright children’s fare like Caspar the Friendly Ghost, aren’t most comic books dark these days? I suspect if kids find The Sandman too dark, they simply won’t read it.

Is it anti-family? It’s more that it’s not about family, and the only answer to that is “So?” Usually (in my experience), accusations of being anti-family are leveled at books that don’t feature happy, well adjusted Christian protagonists. That’s a definite strike against The Sandman, if that’s where you’re coming from.

Offensive language? Here I draw a blank. Although I admit to skimming some of the final pages, I don’t remember any such thing.

I saw two things that might energize bluenoses. One, a full-page drawing of a naked woman. She’s a junkie in the final stages of addiction, withered and skeletal, not erotic in any way. Two, a character who appears to be transexual (or at least a cross-dresser). These illustrations, I believe, are the peccant issues. Gay, lesbian, or transexual characters bring out the book-burners every time.

Apart from looking for reasons why people might want to suppress this book, I couldn’t whip up any enthusiasm for it. It’s just not my thing, so I can’t speak to its merits. Obviously, many adult readers love it. I personally think Neil Gaiman has been milking the same two or three fantasy themes for years now, but that’s just my opinion. YMMV, as they say.

- Paul Woodford

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