Every time I think things can’t get any more ridiculous or absurd, someone or something proves me wrong. I never thought I’d watch my country move backwards so fast as I have since Donald Trump was unleashed to wreak havoc on our democracy. It’s bad enough that judges and politicians with no medical training whatsoever see fit to try to eliminate abortion access, as they also refuse to expand social safety nets and access to affordable healthcare and childcare. Now, we have people contemplating shutting down libraries!
A couple of days ago, I read a horrifying story about a rural county in Texas where people were contemplating shutting down the local library. Why? Because in April 2022, seven residents of Llano County, Texas dared to sue county officials, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when 17 books were taken off the shelves because they were deemed “inappropriate”.
Some people in the community and local officials didn’t like the subject matter of the books, so access to them was either restricted, or they were removed from the library altogether. These folks no doubt felt they were “protecting the community” from books about race, gender, or sexuality. Obviously, being exposed to that information would only give people “ideas”, causing them to fall into “sin”. In case you missed my sarcasm, obviously, I believe that’s ludicrous. If that’s really how they feel, they probably ought to consider banning the Bible, too.
Some “thinking people” realized that it wasn’t right for certain conservative groups to decide for everyone else what subject matter was appropriate for their public library system. So they sued, and the judge saw things their way. On March 30, 2023, US District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the Llano County Library System to return the books to the shelves within 24 hours. According to CNN:
Books ordered to return to shelves include “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.
The judge also ordered that the books be listed as available in the library’s catalog. The books are not allowed to be removed for any reason while the case is ongoing. Pitman said, “Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination.”
Fair enough, right? The case went to court, and the judge decided. You’d think that would settle things for now, but no…
Rather than just complying with the judge’s orders, the defendants, who had argued that the books were removed as part of a regular “weeding process”, decided it would be better to just shut down the libraries for everyone.
They were pretty sneaky about it, too. They didn’t come out and say they were shutting the library down out of spite. They raised the idea on a recent agenda without naming a specific reason for closing the library. Instead, they described it as a discussion “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”
The Llano County commissioners and members of the Library Board have appealed the judge’s ruling. They don’t trust people in their community to decide for themselves what they should read, or what books their children should have access to reading. Interestingly enough, I’m certain the people who are for book banning and censorship would identify themselves as “freedom loving Americans.” And yet, they want to dictate to everyone else what should be available to be read in a taxpayer supported community library.
Fortunately, good sense has prevailed in Llano County, and for now, the library will stay open. Yesterday, the Commissioner’s Court unanimously voted to “shelve” discussion of defunding the library, at least for the time being. According to CNN:
“The library will remain open. We will try this in the courts, not through social media or the news media,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said Thursday.
That is a sensible comment, indeed, although the commissioners vowed to continue to fight the lawsuit demanding the permanent return of the books. They are obviously terrified that by reading about race issues, LGBTQ topics, or other “controversial” subject matter, the innocent youth of Llano County will veer from the straight and narrow path of respectability. What a bunch of embarrassingly ignorant bullshit that is! As if people willingly choose to be completely different from their peers, so they’ll be mocked, persecuted, or even physically assaulted or killed for simply living their lives!
According to CNN:
In the public comment section of the meeting prior to the vote, 15 residents were allowed to give their opinions about closing the library. Eleven of them were in favor of keeping the library open. Another four said they wanted to temporarily close the library until a wide variety of books were removed from the system – substantially more than the 17 books at question in the lawsuit.
Still, Cunningham insists that the books were removed due to a regular “weeding” process, not because of their controversial subject matter. And to that, I say again… BULLSHIT. 😉 I don’t believe that those books– every one of which had controversial subject matter– all just happened to come up for “weeding” at that specific point in time.
Cunningham also stated in the CNN article that the idea of closing the library came up because of the cost of litigation.
“A public library simply cannot function if its librarians, county judge, commissioners and even the volunteers who serve out of the goodness of their heart, can be sued every time a library patron disagrees with a librarian’s weeding decisions,” he said.
Cunningham said the lawsuit has cost the county more than $100,000 and the total library budget is $450,000.
Well then… if county officials want to avoid litigation, they shouldn’t try to weed out books that all have to do with certain “taboo” topics. People sue when they feel like they’ve been treated unfairly. Treat everyone fairly, and with consideration for their rights, and most of the time, you won’t be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. It costs money to sue people, and it takes time. Most people don’t sue others just because it’s “fun”.
Personally, I’m grateful to Americans who aren’t taking the insane extremist actions of political conservatives lying down. Republicans have gone way too far in the era of Trump. Their ideas are not what the majority of Americans want for the country. I see and hear them bandying about the importance of the Constitution (especially the Second Amendment), but they don’t seem to realize that the Constitution is for every American. It’s not just for straight, White, conservative leaning males who have money.
I don’t use libraries much myself these days. I prefer to just buy whatever I want to read. However, there were many times in my life when having access to a library was a Godsend. Libraries should be safe, sacred places for people to expand their minds and access the information they want and need.
No group on either side of the political spectrum should have ANY right to dictate what is, or what is not, appropriate reading material for everyone else. And yes, that goes for the extreme leftists, too, who feel like they need to edit and censor classic books to suit our more “modern thinking”. That’s not cool, either.
Welcome to Sunday, y’all. I’m going to try to keep today’s post short, simple, and non-controversial. Yesterday’s post was a rant, because I was really angry and emotional for a lot of reasons. I’m less so today, because when it comes down to it, some people just aren’t worth the energy. Or, at least to me they aren’t. Maybe they are worth the energy to others. I’m sure plenty of people wish I’d drop dead. Other people think I’m incredible. It’s kind of like art, right? What one person likes, another person hates. There’s no accounting for taste.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about so-called constitutional “auditors”. These are people who get involved in police interactions as a means of testing their knowledge of the laws and finding out if they respect rights outlined in the Constitution. I see there are Brits who also do these videos.
Personally, I don’t think I’d want to do that kind of stuff, even for YouTube, because I don’t enjoy unnecessary or unpleasant confrontations with people. However, I do think the videos are interesting and informative. They’re also very popular, as I’ve noticed a lot of people are making them. I’m sure the auditing videos make it harder to be a cop, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Some police officers do get off on power trips and need to be brought back down to Earth.
Today’s post isn’t about those videos. Rather, I would like to address an attitude that I saw promoted by an officer in Richmond, Virginia. An auditor confronted him and said he was an “independent journalist”. And the cop basically made some snarky, dismissive comment about how the journalist was just going to put something up on YouTube.
As a blogger and occasional music creator, I’ve often run into the dismissive attitude demonstrated by the cop. A lot of people don’t think what I do is “legitimate”.
Former tenant, who was stalking my blogs for four plus years before she departed this life on her own terms, once made a very disrespectful private comment to me about what I do. In retrospect, it was not surprising to me that she had secretly harbored a disdainful opinion of me, as she was monitoring my activities and, apparently, reporting my activities to our former landlady, as she also insisted on her privacy being respected. I found her discounting attitude disappointing, hypocritical, short-sighted, and depressingly typical.
Former tenant claimed that she didn’t see any value in what I do, yet she was apparently watching me obsessively. Obviously, there was some value in my activities, if only that she and ex landlady and ex landlady’s daughter could sit around, gossip, and laugh about it, right? At the very least, they got intel from it… or insight… or maybe even something to talk or laugh about that might have even made them feel better about themselves.
Former tenant had once claimed that she liked reading about our adventures and seeing photos, especially of the old neighborhood she and her husband had lived in before they abruptly moved mid tour. If that’s the truth, then there was value in my blog posts about my activities. If it wasn’t the truth, I guess she was lying to me, as she was sanctimoniously lecturing me about my occasionally “problematic” content. Or… she wasn’t lying, but just wanted to be mean to me because she thought it was her place to define what constitutes creative pursuits. She didn’t see the value in what I was doing, and didn’t have the integrity to just go away and leave me alone. It didn’t occur to her that maybe other people valued my “work”, and they get a vote, too.
This morning, I noticed that Janis Ian was on a tear about the author, Flannery O’Connor. She had recently used one of O’Connor’s quotes as her “quote of the day”. People in the comment section were up in arms about it, because Flannery O’Connor had some objectionable personal beliefs that many modern audiences would find distasteful or just plain wrong.
Janis Ian claims that she doesn’t support censorship, and she writes that we should separate artists’ personal lives with their works. This is what she posted on her Facebook page:
Re the discussion about Flannery O’Connor’s work, a note of clarification – I wouldn’t have intervened if the discussion had centered around her work. However, it quickly became involved in personalities (mostly hers), her letters, her journals. Those were not her work. Her work lies in the short stories and novels she left us.
As an artist, I will always stress that there is a marked difference between the life of an artist, and an artist’s work. Discounting or banning an artist, or refusing to engage with that artist’s work, because you disagree with their personal life, politics, or behavior, is something I find absurd.
Like every artist I know, I hope to live up to the best of my work – and know I never will. What do I want my art, and that of artists I admire, to do when someone experiences it? I want them to feel elevated. I want them to have cause to think, and reflect, and be moved, for good and for bad. Mostly, I want to make them FEEL something.
I believe most artists think this way, though it might not be conscious.
I won’t change the words of another artist to suit the times, or peoples’ perception of what is hurtful to them. I am resolutely against changing a single word or image or movement in any piece of art; instead, I expect people to take it in context, look at it historically, be educated by parents, teachers, and themselves (indeed, educating yourself is an obligation, IMHO, because most people don’t have the luxury of parents, teachers, society teaching them all they need to know).
If you are on this page, keep in mind that civility is expected. Snarky comments are removed and, after a certain point, that profile is blocked. Rudeness is not tolerated and yes, I define what is rude. And co-opting a quote to discuss an author’s personal beliefs because you disagree with them is not okay.
The QOTD (Quote of the Day) is for discussion. Not whether the author or their views are likeable.
A good and absorbing (though long) read for anyone interested in O’Connor and her work.
Additionally, as someone pointed out, there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. For what it’s worth.
I have written about Janis Ian a few times on this blog. I want to make it clear that I highly respect her as an artist. She’s written and sung some beautiful songs. I think she’s smart and funny, and she deserves all of the accolades she gets. However, I also think that sometimes, she’s quite hypocritical. She writes in the above post that she doesn’t support changing artistic works to suit the tastes of modern audiences. But then, she also lays down very strict rules about what people can post as a response.
Janis Ian writes that she doesn’t see Flannery O’Connor’s letters or journals as artistic works. However, there are many artists and academics who would beg to disagree with her. Personally, I disagree, because I know there’s an element of creativity in blogging. There’s also creativity involved in writing letters. Maybe it’s not the same significance as writing a novel or composing music, but it’s still a work of art, in a sense.
I’m very proud of some of my blog posts. I wrote one a couple of years ago that I reread this morning. It was titled “The Red Scare”. It started off being about how, back in 1981, people were terrified of a Soviet invasion. By the end, I had segued into a discussion of puberty, with a dash of musical theater. It sounds like the parts wouldn’t connect, and yet they did. I thought it was a really creative and interesting post, although it’s definitely not one of my most popular. My most popular posts tend to be about true crime, which I find a lot less creatively challenging.
I’m sure someone like Janis Ian wouldn’t find what I do very significant, artistic, or creative. Hell, the troll on RfM yesterday took a big dump on my post about Arran. And yet, that incident inspired yesterday’s blog post. At this point, it has just one “like” and five hits, and yet I’m rather proud of it. I like the title, and letting my feelings out in a rant can be very liberating, and even fun.
I was legitimately angry and upset when I wrote that post, and yet I don’t regret writing it. Maybe someone out there in Internetland can relate to it. Maybe it would even change someone’s life. I will never know. A few people did tell me that my video tribute for Arran made them cry. That accounts for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of putting stuff out there to make someone think, or feel something, or maybe even change in some way? Isn’t that what art on all levels is about?
A person named Laurel left a comment for Janis that I found very interesting:
The Tennessee Williams Estate agrees with you. When we staged 2 of his one act plays, we asked about updating the word he used to refer to black people, and were told no, and that if any actor chose to replace that term with a more modern one, the production would be fined for any instance of a changed word. They felt the term was appropriate in the time the play was written, and carefully chosen for the overall “lyrical” flow of the various passages. And I personally did not disagree with their choice or their reasoning.
Art is not necessarily meant to comfort; it is more often meant to disrupt thought patterns, open minds, and sometimes even disturb for effect. Creators often edit numerous times to find the perfect word to fit THEIR visions. If it disturbs you, well maybe that was the intent.
And yes, an artist and that artist’s art are 2 very different things. Most artists are imperfect. Their art may reflect that.
Apparently, Laurel then left a couple of follow up comments that Janis didn’t like. She wrote this:
“tone it down. I’m hiding both your responses.”
So… Janis Ian doesn’t see all writing as “artistic” or creative. But then another commenter wrote this, and Janis heartily approved:
“there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. 50+ years ago in Dallas a friend of Mexican descent taught me the difference between: bigotry (racism), prejudice and discrimination. He spoke from experience. I’ve shared his wisdom many times since then. It has helped me put a lot of things in perspective. Mainly: we all have prejudices (in favor and against many things); we can legislate against discrimination (an action) but unfortunately not bigotry (a belief).
Janis wrote: “so stealing…”
The commenter misunderstood Janis and wrote, “sorry I missed the mark there. Your last comment in your post took me off on a nostalgia tour. Thanks for the memory – I’ll try to do better in the future.”
Janis clarified, “I’m not sure what you’re referring to? I’m stealing what you posted, to use later!”
And the commenter wrote, “lol. I get confused so easily any more. Feel free to “steal”.
From that exchange, I take that sometimes Facebook comments can be “works of art”. Or, at least they can be so good that Janis Ian wants to “steal” them to use later. But someone else writes something that she doesn’t like, or uses a “tone” that she alone finds objectionable, and then it has no value and “censorship” is okay.
The troll who left me the mean spirited comment on RfM yesterday really hurt my feelings and, I’m sure, meant to make me feel terrible. Or, at the very least, they didn’t care about my feelings, even though it was clear that I was mourning a huge loss and expressing myself on a “recovery site”. Make no mistake about it. I still think that person is a massive fuckwad and I’d happily fantasize about rendering them sterile with a well placed drop kick to the gonads.
But, at the same time, that person’s mean comments provided fuel for yesterday’s post… which some people may value on some level, even if it’s just to laugh at me for making the effort to write it. Also, it’s not lost on me that some people might have agreed with that person’s very mean comments. So maybe I shouldn’t have reported them. In fact, I could have probably turned that person’s post into a plea for sympathy and gotten even more views on Arran’s video… if that was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t my goal, by the way. I don’t share things just to get likes or views.
When it comes to published works, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s wrong to “edit”. In fact, I don’t like cancel culture at all. I think people should have the right to decide for themselves what is, or what is not objectionable to them and vote with their wallets. I also think that people should have the right to make their own rules in their own houses, so to speak. At the same time, there does seem to be a level of hypocrisy in the idea that some “offensive” writing is okay, and some isn’t. And some things are “art”, and some things aren’t.
So far as some people’s ideas of what is, and what is not “offensive”, is somehow better than other people’s ideas are… well I think that’s how we end up with extremist loudmouth assholes like Donald Trump in the White House. People don’t like to be told what they can or can’t say, think, or believe. They will vote for those whom they think will protect their right to be an asshole.
I do kind of like how Janis handled this person, though…
Meh… well, I guess I’m glad that most people don’t value what I do. I don’t think I’d want people to “expect more from me”, just because I made a living creating things. Everybody’s human, and everybody’s shit stinks. Whether it’s former tenant being rude and dismissive about my creative pursuits, while also obsessively stalking me… or Janis Ian telling people not to judge artists by their personal lives or support censoring them, as she censors and steals people’s posts… or commenters feeling that their decision not to buy things made in China as they also pay taxes to governments that have policies that harm people… Or a cop thinking an “independent journalist” isn’t a “real” journalist, and there’s no value in what they do… Some people would beg to disagree, right?
And some people think that in order to be “legitimate” as an artist, one must be formally employed by someone else. Some of those independent journalists on YouTube are actually making enough money to live on, though.
People are always going to be offensive and inappropriate on some level. Sometimes, I’ll admit I get upset about stuff, but then it leads to a good rant that might make people think or feel… or even just laugh. I think as long as people learn and grow from their experiences, that should be our focus. I think we should all keep creating, whether or not someone else thinks it’s a valid pursuit, or the creator is a “decent person” whose views should be promoted.
But isn’t it nice that we can still disagree? For now, anyway. And isn’t it nice when people are doing something constructive with their time? It reminds me of the trash scavengers/dumpster divers in Texas who raided people’s trash for metal they could turn in for money. To them, that was a job that actually helped them keep the lights on, even if some of us didn’t appreciate them rifling through trash we were throwing out, just so they could make a living off our discards. Some people think certain art is “trash”. Other people think that same art is “brilliant”.
And no matter what you might think of what I do, I still think of myself as a writer and a singer. You gotta start somewhere, right? Lots of people like me didn’t become “legitimate” until they were already dead. Think about it. 😉
ETA: So much for keeping this post short and non-controversial. Oh well.
I believe the featured photo is of my mom’s father’s family tartan…
Bless Ancestry. com and 23andMe. I was having some trouble coming up with a topic to write about today, mainly because I don’t feel like complaining about Trump, and he’s making up a lot of the news lately. But since both Ancestry and 23andMe just updated their DNA results, and my results changed a bit, I can now write about that! And it will be soooo interesting, too. To me, anyway.
According to Ancestry.com, I’m now even more Scottish than I thought. The updated results now have me at 58 percent Scot. That would probably make Ex green with envy, since she fancies herself a Scot. The rest of the results were also interesting, as according to Ancestry, now I’m only 28 percent English and otherwise northwestern European. They also report that I have 3 percent Welsh ancestry, which I can certainly believe, given how many of my ancestors were from the British isles and Ireland. Ancestry.com also reports that I still have Scandinavian ancestry– Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Again, that’s totally believable. I am as white as they come.
Now, my 23andMe results are a bit more surprising. I did the 23andMe test before I did Ancestry’s, so it’s changed a few times since I first got results in 2017. Overall, 23andMe agrees with Ancestry that I’m mostly from the British Isles and Ireland. But they added some spice to my heritage, which is also believable. Behold…
Some might be surprised to see the Spanish and Portuguese results, but to me, they make perfect sense. I probably picked up that DNA thanks to the Spanish Armada. Some people from that dramatic event in the 1500s inevitably got together with Irish and Scottish people, forever changing their DNA. I was glad to see French and German again, since I know for a fact that I have some German heritage, and likely have French, too, somewhere deep in my genes. I also know that there were a few Native Americans from Virginia who got with my family, since they appear in my family tree. I was surprised to see the Levantine result, which has origins in Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. But, I guess if we go back far enough, that makes some sense, too. Most people probably have some genes from the Middle East. I got a kick out of the photo 23andMe uses for the French and German section. It’s actually a photo of Hallstatt, Austria.
What’s funny is, I just talked to my mom about our ancestry. She really doesn’t know much about her family of origin– especially on her mother’s side. I’ve told her a lot that she didn’t know, mainly because of these DNA tests and interacting with distant relatives. She never knew her maternal grandparents, since they died within three months of each other, before her second birthday. She was surprised when I told her I went on FindAGrave.com and found photos of her grandparents’ graves, as well as an entry for my dad, which was not put up by a family member. My Uncle Ed, who died just over a month ago, has an entry already, although no one but family is allowed to develop it until a year has passed. I think FindAGrave is kind of freaky, but it does provide interesting information about my long lost relatives.
Like my mom, I never got to know my maternal grandparents. My grandmother died when I was five, and we were living in England at the time. My grandfather died when I was six, and he was extremely senile and didn’t know who any of us were. I do remember living in his house briefly, back in the summer of 1978, because we had just come back from England, and my parents were purchasing a home in Northern Virginia, where we lived for just two years. He died months later, after having been court ordered to move into a facility, because he could no longer take care of himself.
The only grandparent I really knew was my father’s mother, who was affectionately known as “Granny” to just about everyone, even those who weren’t in the family. She lived to be almost 101 years old. My father died only seven years after she died. He was 81 years old, and had only lived without a parent for seven years. That is astonishing to me. Granny was mostly a wonderful lady, although she wasn’t as perfect as some people made her out to be. She had a mean streak. But mostly, she was full of stories, and made wonderful bread. I am glad Bill got to meet her and knew her for five years before she finally passed.
I find genealogy fascinating, especially since I grew up not really knowing my mom’s family too well. I knew my Uncle Glenn, who died in 2015, and I knew his daughter, although I haven’t seen her since my wedding day in 2002. She and I have the same blue eyes, inherited from our grandmother. Well… she got hers from Glenn, too. He had beautiful blue eyes. My eyes are probably my best feature.
Anyway… I’m glad to see the update from both DNA registries, even if Bill’s results are more interesting than mine are. He has African heritage.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about an irate private message I got from someone who was angry about an eight year old blog entry I reposted regarding an extremely violent murder in their family. This person was threatening, and complained that I had mentioned the name of one of the victim’s children, who is still a minor. They acted as if I had invaded their privacy to find out the child’s name, and threatened legal action against me. It was not a nice thing to wake up to on a Saturday morning. In my post, I was pretty sure I had only included information that was already openly reported in the news, circa 2014.
I did some sleuthing yesterday, mainly because I wanted to block this person from ever contacting me again on Facebook (or anywhere else). I managed to find the person’s profile(s) and block them. However, in the course of doing so, I found out some new things.
I discovered that my memory was correct. The child’s name was included in several newspaper articles, most of which are online today. Furthermore, I found a wide open Web site, where what looked like some of the child’s schoolwork was openly posted for all to see. There was an essay there, revealing the names of the child’s parents, birth date, birth place, and the names of many family members, to include other minors. I even learned what kinds of food the child likes to eat, what the child’s career goals were at the time the essay was written, and where the child lives. So much for maintaining the online privacy of a minor.
I would suggest, to the person who contacted me, that before they issue legal threats regarding privacy of a minor, they might want to do some more Googling of the child’s unusual name. I learned a lot more about this child than I ever wanted or needed to know, simply by typing the name into a basic search engine. I suspect that their claims that I invaded their privacy would go nowhere, mostly due to this fact, but also because of the First Amendment, and the right to freedom of expression, which all Americans still enjoy, at least for now. If you want to come at me because I posted your minor relative’s name, you might also want to have a go at the reporters who originally covered the case. Because that is where the child’s name was originally shared, and that content is still freely available eight years later. And I had nothing to do with that.
In spite of being quite pissed off about that hostile PM, to the point at which I am deleting the blog’s Facebook page, I have removed the offending content as a courtesy to the person who contacted me. I did so because, frankly, no one else was reading that post anyway. Also, I removed it because, in spite of their false accusations toward me, I’m not a terrible person who is just out to make money by blogging. Likewise, I don’t want to cause people unnecessary distress. But even if I were just trying to make a buck, what would be wrong with that? There’s no crime against earning a living, right? Writing is a perfectly respectable career choice, even if some people don’t like the things that get written.
This blog isn’t a source of significant income for me. It’s more something I do because I enjoy writing. Moreover, I didn’t do anything wrong, and the claims that I violated anyone’s privacy are baseless and false. There is no law against writing or opining about things that are in the mainstream news. I do understand that people get upset when people talk or write about true crimes that affect them personally, but I don’t think that threatening to trying to censor people is the answer.
Finally… something a little ridiculous…
Apparently, the above photo is circulating in certain parts of social media. It’s pretty disgusting. I would also say that it’s not very accurate. I’m not sure fundie women keep their figures when they’re eating things like tater tot casserole and barbecued tuna fish. I’ve also seen quite a few fundie women sporting heavy makeup, colored hair, and ridiculous perms. Moreover, I don’t think Jesus Christ would approve of the judgmental and negative attitude displayed regarding “The Godly Tradwife”. Jesus supposedly loved everyone, and helped those in need. It makes me sick that genuine Christian values have been co-opted and bastardized by hypocritical Republicans, who just want to quash anyone who isn’t like them, and doesn’t want to keep white, conservative men in power.
I might write more about this later… or maybe not. Hope y’all have a good Wednesday. Time to pick up my guitar.
Here’s another repost from May 23, 2018. I’m reposting it, because I think it’s funny. Keep in mind, this happened four years ago, before the world went to pandemic hell.
Last night, while quaffing too much wine and getting overly emotional about musical selections on iTunes, I ran across an article about a woman from Charleston, South Carolina who purchased a $70 cake from a Publix supermarket. Cara Koscinski’s son, Jacob, had just graduated from homeschool “Summa Cum Laude”. Just as an aside, I didn’t realize Latin superlatives were a thing for people finishing high school. But apparently, this young man graduated with highest honors, finishing with a GPA of 4.79.
Koscinski had used Publix’s online ordering system to acquire the cake. When she typed in “Summa Cum Laude”, the system automatically censored the word “cum”. So Ms. Koscinski, thinking that a human being would be looking at the comments section on the order form, explained that the word “cum” in this instance was referring to the Latin phrase, not the disgusting slang term for semen.
Unfortunately, the person who decorated the cake was lacking both critical thinking skills and the powers of observation. The person decorated the cake and wrote “Summa — Laude”, omitting the word “cum”. Koscinski’s husband, who picked up the cake at the store, did not look at it before it was presented to Koscinski’s son, who was reportedly “humiliated” when he saw it.
Few things here… First off, it was a very stupid mistake. I don’t blame Ms. Koscinski for publicizing this or even speaking to the manager about this oversight. The online ordering system obviously needs to be updated in some way and the bakery employees need training. Clearly, the person who decorated the cake was either working on autopilot or needs to be educated about Latin phrases that might be requested for decorated desserts. At the very least, the rest of the world deserves to have a good laugh at the stupidity of this error.
Secondly, I kind of think Ms. Koscinski’s anger is a little bit out of proportion. I mean, as sad as it is that apparently no one else at that particular Publix has ever ordered a cake with “Summa Cum Laude” on it, the error is kind of funny. And if Jacob was really “humiliated” by a mistake that wasn’t his fault, he’s probably going to have a tough time of it in the real world. When it comes down to it, it’s just a few dashes of icing that will be eaten, anyway. Evidently, the young man felt he had to explain the term “cum” to his grandmother and why it would be censored on the cake. Kind of makes me think he must come from a very sheltered family who doesn’t eat a lot of cum.
And finally… if there’s one thing to be learned about this story, it’s that whenever you purchase a decorated cake, it pays to look at the finished product before you leave the store. It might also be a good idea to order the cake in person or skip the grocery store bakeries and patronize a small business instead. Actually, just reading about this reminds me of our wedding reception and how I wish I’d used a small catering service in town instead of the one offered at Virginia Military Institute. I think I would have been much happier with the results.
Ms. Koscinski did get an apology, a gift card, and a refund from Publix. They also offered to remake the cake for her. She declined, stating “You only graduate once.” That may be true, but Koscinski’s son will probably be cumming for the rest of his life. At least he’ll have a funny story to share about it.
Have you ever heard of the “Streisand effect”? It’s a phenomenon named after the famous singer, Barbra Streisand, whose last name, I notice, is not counted as misspelled as I type it in the editor. I guess she’s arrived, since the dictionary recognizes her name as an actual word!
Anyway, the story goes that back in 2003, Barbra Streisand got good and pissed at the California Coastal Records Project’s decision to photograph her residence in Malibu, California as they were documenting the effects of coastal erosion The photos were intended to influence government policy makers. Streisand was apparently more concerned about her privacy, than the environment. She attempted to suppress the photograph of her estate via legal means, suing photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia for violation of privacy. Before she filed her $50 million lawsuit, meant to get the aerial photo removed from the collection of 12,000 photos of the California coastline, the photo of her mansion had only been downloaded six times. Two of six downloads were by Streisand’s own lawyers.
Word got out about Streisand’s attempts to quash the photo, and over the course of the month following news of the lawsuit, over 420,000 people visited the site where it was posted, and downloaded the picture of Streisand’s coastline property. Instead of managing to suppress the image, the public became much more interested in the photo than they would have if Streisand would have just STFU about it.
That amusing end result of Striesand’s privacy case caused a writer named Mike Malsnick to coin the term, “Streisand effect”, back in 2005, when another notorious photo made the news and became much more popular than it otherwise would have. In that case, the owners of a holiday resort objected to a picture taken of a urinal at their resort, which was uploaded to a site called urinal.net. They sued, and the urinal pic became a lot more noticeable. Malsnick wrote:
“How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.”
The phenomenon of controversial or “objectionable” things growing in popularity or notoriety after someone has tried to repress or quash them, is now known as the “Streisand effect”. And now, we’re seeing the Streisand effect at work again, thanks to some extremely conservative and misguided school board members in McMinn County, Tennessee, who are in the news because they banned a Pulitzer prize winning comic novel from their school’s 8th grade curriculum. I don’t think their school board vote actually went the way they intended it to go. Now, the Streisand effect is in full force, once again.
Put it this way. Much to my shame, twenty four hours ago, I had never heard of author, Art Spiegelman, nor did I know anything about his much acclaimed 1996 comic novel Maus. As of this morning, not only have I heard of the book, but I have just purchased a copy of it, and it’s now on the way to my house. I will have to wait a short while, because probably thanks to the recent controversy surrounding the McMinn County school board’s decision to ban Maus, there’s been a run on copies of Maus, even in Germany. This means that I am not the only one who felt moved– disgusted– downright pissed off enough about this news to buy the book. I have a feeling Mr. Spiegelman and his publisher will be enjoying the Streisand effect, as people rebel against censorship by purchasing, borrowing, and reading Maus.
I feel really good about buying this book. I am always interested in learning more about the Holocaust, especially since it was not an event that was extensively covered when I went to public school in Virginia, back in the 80s. I have learned a lot about the Holocaust on my own, having read a lot of true stories about it and watched many videos made by survivors and their descendants about that very dark period in world history. I don’t usually read a lot of novels anymore, mainly because I prefer non-fiction. However, as a former English major, I know that novels can and do have their place in teaching people about the human condition. This is a graphic novel, so that means there are comic illustrations, which I know Bill will appreciate. I probably will, too, although I am not as much into art as he is. Spiegelman has used cats to depict Germans and mice to depict Jews during the Holocaust, which I think is a very intriguing concept.
But even if it turns out I don’t learn from or enjoy reading Maus, I still feel fine about buying it, because seriously, fuck that school board in McMinn County. Below is the passage from the news article I linked that made me say to Bill, “That does it. I’m buying a copy of the book!”
As reported by The Tennessee Holler and The Guardian, the McMinn County School board voted 10-0 to ban Maus from all of its schools, citing the book’s inclusion of words like “God damn” and “naked pictures” of women. Apparently, the school board discussed the possibility of simply redacting words and images it found inappropriate, though ultimately opted to ban the book outright. When reached for comment by The Tennessee Holler, the board claimed that the book being about the Holocaust had nothing to do with why it was banned.
“Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy… I am not denying it was horrible, brutal and cruel,” one board member said. “It’s like when you’re watching TV and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it… If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.”
I am so sick of these types of small-town, power-wielding, world-perspective limited people, who feel like they need to censor or ban things for everyone, because they are personally “offended” by language or nudity or things they consider “gross”, “inappropriate”, or “pornographic”. Especially when it turns out that the things they wish to ban aren’t actually any of those things, but instead offer real opportunities for education and enlightenment. Instead of trying to understand the “objectionable” viewpoint or perspective, they opt to just ban it and label it indecent or offensive.
Regular readers of my blog may recall that last month, I got good and fired up when popular YouTuber Mama Doctor Jones got mentioned in an Alaska school board meeting because a progressive educator linked to some of her videos as a means of teaching youngsters about sex. People in that meeting were equating Mama Doctor Jones’ very informative and scientifically based videos to porn! It was outrageous and offensive to me, and if I were a parent in that school district, I would be raising all kinds of hell about it locally, instead of just on my blog.
What really puzzles me is that these folks in Tennessee and Alaska, so outraged by books like Maus, which is a comic representation of Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in the Holocaust, or videos by actual board certified OB-GYN Mama Doctor Jones, are NOT AT ALL OFFENDED by Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women, minorities, employees, or anyone else who can’t do anything for him. Seriously, y’all… their hero, Donald Trump, had no trouble whatsoever offending the world with his narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, lying bullshit. Where was their outrage when they heard about Donald Trump grabbing women by the pussy?
The conservatives in Alaska and Tennessee who are clutching their pearls over words like “God damn”, nude illustrations, and frank and fact based discussion about sex, pregnancy, birth control, and abortion, don’t care at all that their orange, tiny-handed, hero would happily grab the younger and prettier women in their midst “by the pussy” if he felt like it, because he’s a “star”. Below is an actual transcript of what former President Donald Trump said in 2005 about a beautiful married woman he once pursued:
Donald J. Trump: You know and …
Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.
Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.
Trump: Whoa! Whoa!
Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!
Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.
Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.
Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.
Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Am I really to believe that Maus is more offensive and inappropriate than Trump is? Am I to believe that thirteen year olds, who have already heard all of the bad words from their own former president, no less, and are now at an age at which they can reproduce, should be “protected” from Mama Doctor Jones’ content because some claim it’s akin to “porn”, or Art Spiegelman’s brilliant book about one of the worst tragedies in human history, because of nudity and words like “God damn”? Um… I’ve got a news flash for these people. Censorship does not prevent people from being exposed to objectionable content.
Look at Josh Duggar. He grew up in a famously conservative family that was chronicled on reality TV. His parents were held up as paragons. They claimed to be very strict about keeping their children from objectionable content in television, books, music, and yes, the Internet. Need I remind everyone where Josh Duggar is right now and why he’s there?
I’m not trying to imply that Josh Duggar wouldn’t be a sex offender if his parents hadn’t been so controlling. He might just be wired that way. What I am saying is that banning “objectionable content” tends to make it forbidden fruit– more attractive to the masses. Perverts are gonna perv. I think it’s better for parents and educators to be open-minded and provide constructive and supportive guidance to their children when they are presented with challenging or potentially offensive material, rather than just quashing it. And that goes for both sides of the spectrum. I don’t like the “cancel culture” so often embraced by left wingers, either.
Censorship doesn’t work. Throughout history, people who have championed book banning are not remembered as the “good guys” who truly have everyone’s best interests at heart. The timing of this decision is especially offensive, as yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I expect to have Maus in my hot little hands next month. I look forward to reading it for myself and sharing my thoughts about it. I’m glad that, at least for the time being, I still have the right to make that decision for myself. And I am heartened by people like Wil Wheaton, who have pledged to make this book available to people in McMinn County by buying a couple of copies and asking the book store owners to give them freely to people who ask for them. It was Wil Wheaton’s thoughtful post on this situation that got me to learn more about it this morning.
So cheers to the Streisand effect. I hope Art Spiegelman enjoys the unintended consequences of small-minded people serving on the school board in Tennessee. Like Wil Wheaton, I get pissed off by “authoritarian bullshit”. I try to fight the power whenever I can. I hope many other people will join me. I’ll help by providing an Amazon link to Spiegelman’s masterpiece, Maus. If you purchase through the link on my page, I will get a small commission from Amazon. That would be nice for me, but even if you just want to check it out of the library, I would highly recommend doing that. Fuck the powers that be!
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