Tuesday Bag o’ Links

How’s that Nook e-reader I got for my birthday last year working out?  Glad you asked.  Over the past year my reading has been about 25% Nook, 75% book (I keep a record of the books I’ve read, and I actually counted).  That strikes me as about right: e-books cost money and library books are free.  Cost doesn’t account for it all, though … I still buy hardcovers from B&N or Amazon, usually new books that aren’t yet available as e-books.

For most of August and September my Nook gathered dust while I caught up with several back-ordered library books that came in all at once … nearly all of them big and thick and heavy.  It hit me as I neared the end of the last library book, a 500-pager on WWII, that reading physical books is kind of a pain.  They’re heavy.  You need two hands to hold them open and flip pages.  If you have a dog in your lap, it’s a juggling act.  E-readers weigh almost nothing.  You need only one hand … you flip pages with the thumb of the hand you’re holding it with.  If you want to sip a cup of coffee or scratch your dog’s ears, you’ve got a hand left over.

More and more, I appreciate the physical ease of reading e-books, and I expect over the next year my e-book to book ratio will even out.  As long as the money holds out, that is.

One big problem with e-books is the sorry state of e-book editing.  E-books are cheaper than physical books, but they’re not that much cheaper (I just paid $16.99 for a best-selling e-book from Barnes & Noble), and the damn things are often full of typos and misplaced page breaks.  Two or three days ago I downloaded the latest Neal Stephenson science fiction novel, Reamde.  This morning, I saw this: Neal Stephenson E-Book Yanked from Amazon.  Apparently so many customers complained about typos and poor editing that they’ve withdrawn the e-version from sale.  Now I ordered mine from B&N, but it comes from the same publisher as the one Amazon was selling, and mine’s going to be full of typos too.

In the past I’ve asked B&N for my money back on messed-up e-books.  They haven’t been cooperative.  If more of us raise hell, e-book merchants and publishers will start to listen.  At the very least, I hope B&N is paying attention to what Amazon just did with this flawed e-book.  Perhaps they’ll pay attention to me if I tell them I’m going to starting ordering my e-books from a company that does listen.

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Speaking of raising hell and paying attention, how about those Occupy Wall Street protesters?  What, you haven’t heard about them?  You must get your news from the mainstream corporate media, who have so far refused to pay attention.  Several hundred people close down three blocks on Wall Street for ten days running now, and there’s been nothing about it on NBC, CBS, ABC, or NPR.  Well, that’s starting to change.  Celebrities are beginning to show up.  Of course the corporate media would have been all over it from the get-go if the protestors had been teabaggers.  Liberal media my ass.

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You know who else gets speeding tickets?

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Alabama Town to Offenders: Go to Church or Go to Jail.  Something tells me this won’t pass constitutional muster, even with the Roberts/Scalia Supreme Court.

You want to pray to Jesus?  Fine with me.  Go to your house of worship and knock yourself out.  Roll on the floor, speak in tongues, sing hallelujah.  Just keep it off the street and out of my face.  Which means: out of the public square, out of the schools, out of civil law.  To paraphrase one of your favorite arguments, what is it about the separation of church and state you don’t understand?

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Which brings me back to books.  As you know, it’s Banned Books Week.  The mere fact that the American Library Association opposes banning books sends some on the theocratic right into a frenzy, as witness this editorial from a popular conspiracy theory site: Is library association’s ‘Banned Book Week’ really ‘gay’ promotion?

I reviewed one of the ALA’s top ten banned books of 2010 recently, Lush by Natasha Friend.  The book was challenged (and subsequently taken off the shelves in several schools) because it ” … deals with drugs, contains offensive language, is sexually explicit, and is unsuited to the age group for which it is intended.”  But unlike the protesting parents, I read the book.  None of those objections hold water.  It’s an anti-drug (alcohol) book, the strongest word is “boobs,” no one in it has sex, and the overall tone is moral: Lush is just the sort of book you’d want your own teenager to read.

I speculated that the real reason people object to the book is that one of the characters (a sympathetic character at that) is gay.  Reading the linked article equating Banned Books Week with the promotion of homosexuality, I’m more convinced than ever I have it right.  Homosexuality, like race, is at the center of the theocratic culture war going on in our society.

And get this anti-ALA diatribe, from the linked article:

Where would they draw the line at the subject matter children read? Is incest okay? Adult-child sex? Parents who abuse kids? Cutting? Sadomasochism? Sorcery practiced by children? How about bomb-making and sedition against America?

I think we can safely ignore the red herrings about incest and adult-child sex.  There is none of that in young adult fiction; they’re just saying that stuff to fire up the base.  But buried in there is more of the theocratic right’s agenda: not just opposition to homosexuality, but opposition to young adult fiction in general.  Holden Caulfield cut school!  Harry Potter is a sorcerer!  And you can bet your life the American Taliban has a much narrower and focused definition of “sedition” than you do.

The courts are what stand between us and those who would force religion and a Christian version of sharia law down our throats.  But the courts don’t act until the American Civil Liberties Union files suit, so in my book, it’s really the ACLU that stands up for the rest of us.  Bet you didn’t see a pitch for ACLU membership coming, did you?  But I mean it … if you’re not a member you should be.

© 2011, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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