You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.
Hitler’s Mein Kampf has an interesting history in Germany: a best-seller before WWII, it’s been banned in that country since 1945. Until last week, that is, when the copyright expired and it entered the public domain: Germans can now read it again.
By a strange coincidence, so too has Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl (a book with a history of challenges and bans in the USA). You can now freely read the full text online. In the original Dutch.
A public outcry (warning: autoplaying video at the link) over a high school teacher’s attempt to familiarize students with the artistry of Arabic calligraphy forced a Virginia school district to close its schools for a day. I wonder if the teacher might have gotten away with it had he or she chosen a non-religious sample of Arabic for the lesson … asking students to hand-copy the Shahada, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” seems like asking for trouble IMO, and inviting female students to wear Muslim head scarves to class really put the icing on the cake.
Right up there with the threat of catching Islamism from tracing Arabic calligraphy, of course, is becoming a witch through exposure to Harry Potter. This has long been a fear in the USA; now British parents are catching up.
Last month a Philadelphia high school removed Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum after 11th grade students complained about the N-word. After hosting a forum of students and faculty, the principal issued this brief statement: “We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits.”
Student journalists at the Steinmetz School in Chicago wrote an article about school bell changes. The principle directed them to pull the article, then followed up with this email to Steinmetz teachers and counselors: “Scratch Journaism [sic] for next year. We will not be offering it anymore. There will be no more Steinmetz Star. I’m still deciding what to do with it for the second semester.” The Steinmetz Star has been in print for 81 years. Hugh Hefner, who as a student wrote for it in 1944, still provides financial support to the paper. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this story.
Conservative state legislators in Florida have introduced bills that will, if enacted, grant taxpayers the right to formally challenge school materials, give challengers the right to take school boards to court over unsatisfactory decisions, and increase representation of parents on textbook selection committees. The bills also declare that “all instructional materials used in the classroom” must “[p]rovide a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues” and be “accurate and factual.” These bills seem similar to bills proposed in Kansas and other states, and I would not be surprised to learn they were drafted by conservative activists of the American Legislative Exchange Council, as I have suggested in earlier YCRT! posts.
History repeats itself, at least in Boise, Idaho, where conservative parents once again called the cops on teenagers handing out free copies of Sherman Alexie’s locally-banned young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Well, hey, at least we don’t live in Hong Kong, where booksellers who sell books banned in Mainland China are being “disappeared.” Other booksellers are taking the hint and pulling politically sensitive material from their shelves.
After all that, I could use some happier news, couldn’t you? How about this: Rosemount, Minnesota, has decided to keep Gayle Forman’s young adult novel Just One Day in school libraries, ruling against a formal challenge filed by parents of a middle school student.
Also amusing: Lake Superior State University’s 41st Annual List of Banished Words. If only!
If you know me, you know I obsess over North Korea and the Kim regime. Probably because I spent some time in neighboring South Korea, sitting air defense alert at Osan Air Base and running trail near the DMZ with the Seoul Hash House Harriers. The closer you get to the 38th Parallel, the spookier it gets, and once you’ve been there you can never forget it.
I decided to read what the DPRK is saying about its H-bomb, if indeed it really has one (experts so far say seismic data indicates a partially-successful A-bomb, similar to those they’ve detonated before).
I found the following article on the Korean Central News Agency site. The site is set up in a way that prevents anyone from linking directly to individual articles, so I had to cut & paste what you see below.
It’s not as bellicose as most KCNA articles, and it lays out, in relatively sane language, the Norks’ rationale for wanting an H-bomb. But there are still some amusing and uniquely North Korean turns of phrase, such as “world progressives are shouting hurrah while the hostile forces are making screams.”
The sad part is that even now, translators are busy rewriting this in Persian.
KCNA Commentary Lauds Successful H-bomb Test in DPRK
Pyongyang, January 8 (KCNA) — The DPRK succeeded in its first H-bomb test.
Having an access to H-bomb by its indigenous efforts and technology, the DPRK fully demonstrated to the world the development of its nuclear force on a higher level and proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear-weapons states.
Its access to the strongest nuclear deterrent marks a great event in the national history spanning thousands of years.
The world progressives are shouting hurrah while the hostile forces are making screams.
The H-bomb test conducted by the DPRK was a measure for self-defence to thoroughly protect the sovereignty of the country and vital rights of the nation from the daily-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the hostile forces and reliably guarantee peace on the Korean Peninsula and security of the region.
History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasured sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression moves and protecting peace and security of the country.
When the U.S. desperately pursued the policy of the Cold War against the former Soviet Union after having access to nuclear weapons through the world’s first test for explosion of A-bomb, the latter could stand up against the former because it had access to nuclear weapons without delay and conducted a H-bomb test in the year after the former carried out H-bomb test, thus putting an end to the era of the U.S. monopoly of nukes.
The then U.S. President Eisenhower in a press interview deplored that the Soviet Union’s access to H-bomb caused new problems in the security of the U.S., reluctantly sending a message representing the U.S. intention not to fight a war with the Soviet Union.
It was a bitter lesson drawn by the situation in the 21st century that a country should possess nuclear weapons without fail to protect its sovereignty and dignity under the present international political order in which a jungle law is in force.
The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations for nuclear development and giving up nuclear programs of their own accord, yielding to the pressure of the U.S. and the West keen on their regime changes.
The U.S. and other imperialist big powers are interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states and making weak countries their scapegoats through their high-handed military actions.
The U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail against the DPRK have steadily increased since the 1950s.
The U.S. has staged large-scale joint military drills every year. It has worked hard to ignite a nuclear war against the DPRK by amassing its nuclear strike means including nuclear carrier task force and nuclear strategic flying corps in south Korea and the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula.
It is due right of the DPRK to cope with the moves of the U.S., chieftain of aggression, to start a nuclear war against the Korean nation.
High-handed and arbitrary practices can never work on the DPRK.
It is as foolish an act as wishing to see the sky fall to demand the DPRK scrap its nuclear program and halt its development, unless the U.S. rolls back its outrageous hostile policy toward the DPRK and imperialist aggression forces give up their infringement upon sovereignty by use of force in the international arena.
The DPRK is proud of having access to H-bomb of justice.
Donna, bless her, gave me a GoPro camera for Christmas. Naturally, I checked it out that very day, so I’d know how to work it on New Year’s Eve, the day my son and I planned to ride to Globe, Arizona. Here’s a short clip from the New Year’s Eve ride: it shows Greg and I pulling out of a gas station in Winkleman and starting to ride up the Gila River Canyon (he’s on the Harley; I’m following on my Goldwing).
About the ride: I rented the Harley from a local motorcycle rental business, after first making sure the owner didn’t mind coming in early on New Year’s Day so we could turn the bike in. The price was right and the bike was cool, and we’ll probably rent from him again.
It was plenty cold the morning of the ride, just above freezing in fact, but by the time Greg and I stopped for breakfast north of Tucson we were ready to peel off our sweaters and switch to lighter gloves. Later, once we got up in the hills, the temperature dropped and we suited back up after lunch. From Globe, rather than retrace our route back, we looped through copper mining country and the little company towns of Miami, Superior, and Kearney. We were home with a little daylight remaining, and Greg took Beth and Quentin for rides on the Harley—but not before Schatzi got her turn!
It was great having our whole family together again—all of us, that is, except our granddaughter Taylor, who is 21 and had to stay in Las Vegas to work. Our last photo op was this morning, just before the Las Vegas Woodfords headed back home in their new Mercedes.
Polly, me, Donna, Quentin, Beth, and Gregory
Oh, did I mention the Mercedes? Talk about being one-upped by your own progeny!
Well, it’s just us and Polly again. We’re taking the tree and outdoor lights down tomorrow, and then we’ll be back to normal, ready to get on to 2016.
There are more video clips to come, and photos too, so do check back. I promised to start working on a book this year, so I may not blog as much as I have been, but by no means am I giving up on Paul’s Thing.
Happy New Year, everyone!
A friend asked me to list the best books I read in 2015. I record and review the books I read on Goodreads (43 of them in 2015). Looking over this year’s list, I realized some top-rated books meant more to me than others. They are the books that left lasting impressions and made me think. They are the books I raved about to friends, sometimes even to strangers.
So here they are, my nine favorite reads of 2015: two memoirs, a non-fiction adventure story, four science fiction novels, and two mainstream novels. Click on any book cover to read my Goodreads review.