Day: 2014.11.18

An Update: Fun With Censorship

Ah, Arizona!

Just a piece of follow-up; heaven knows we’re bad enough about that around here.

This was supposed to be the day when the superintendent of public schools in Gilbert, Arizona, would present a plan (pdf) for redacting the kids’ honors biology textbooks. The Tea Party majority on the school board voted last month to remove references to abortion from the books, which have been in use for several years now in the district. The board ordered the superintendent to figure out how to do it ....Reece et al. 'Campell Biology' (7th ed.)

.... Board president Staci Burk told the Arizona Republic that parents had already volunteered to help with the redacting, whether by tearing out the pages or cutting out the paragraphs with scissors or blacking them out with a Sharpie. Even after voters undid the Tea Party majority in the elections this month, Burk told us that she expected the superintendent to report back today with a plan for carrying out the board’s order. “I don’t believe there will be any more discussion on the textbooks,” she said.

The board may have failed to account for the opinion of the superintendent herself.

A district spokesperson tells us that Dr. Christina Kishimoto, who is new to the district, believes that the honors biology textbooks already comply with Arizona law about mentions of abortion and that there’s no need to change the books. Kishimoto talked to the board about this yesterday, and now the superintendent does not intend to offer a plan tonight for pulling back information from students. Instead, the board and the superintendent will hold a public discussion about what, exactly, the board wants taken out of the honors biology textbooks.

“Now the board has come back and said, ‘Hey, wait, we want further clarification,’ ” said spokesperson Irene Mahone-Paige. “We’re back to where we started.”

(Conaway)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you start running around like village idiots in a panic, it is entirely possible—and, in truth, somewhat likely—to end up looking like, well, village idiots.

Back to where they started? The schools in Gilbert, Arizona, have a simple choice: They can either educate their children, or not. It would seem that in coming back to where they started, they have simply returned to the point of looking for any reason to decide the choice should be to not educate their students.

And, of course, a raising of the wrist to those educators who understand that the students need to pass tests after high school, too. Maybe next Arizona can pass a law prohibiting the use of college degrees in employee candidate assessment.

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Conaway, Laura. “Glimmer of hope for those Arizona honors biology textbooks”. msnbc. 18 November 2014.

The Little Children … Suffering

Suffer the little children ...

Right ....

ChurchSnaps allows users to “create private albums away from social media” where invite-only users “can add their own photos and make comments.” Hm. I can’t think of a single good reason why youth pastors might need a private network for sharing photos. But investigators might want to start checking rapey youth pastors’ phones to see if they’ve downloaded ChurchSnaps, what kind of pictures they’ve been sharing, with whom they were sharing them.

(Savage)

Yeah. The Youth Pastor Watch is one of those things that can get a little scary if you let it. Still, though, parents should be aware of this evil spectre haunting their children.

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Savage, Dan. “Youth Pastor Watch: ChurchSnaps—What Could Go Wrong?” Slog. 17 November 2014.

Life (and Death) in These United States

'Scuse me while I responsibly point this at you.

Today is …

Authorities say a 10-year-old boy has been hospitalized after accidentally shooting himself in the face with a gun he found while sitting in a car in southeastern Pennsylvania.

(Associated Press)

… just another day in America.

Okay, then, let us be accurate: That was Sunday. Fret not, friends, there will be a gun accident today, too.

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Associated Press. “10-Year-Old Shoots Self In Face In Pennsylvania”. The Huffington Post. 16 November 2014.

An Occasion When You Don’t Want the Punch Line

Appetite for destruction.

Stop reading now.

The owner of a nursing home in Washington State was arrested last week after police say a hidden camera caught him sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman who has dementia.

(Hanson)

Signs, signs. To wit, you know it’s a sign that you need new friends when you see a lede like that and think, “Hey, G needs to read this!”

No, really. Do you even want to know why he needs to read it?

That’s what I thought.

A woman who was sexually assaulted and set on fire was in critical condition Monday, and police turn to the public for help in finding her assailant.

(Associated Press)

Again, you don’t really want to know.

A correctional officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is accused of raping a pregnant woman who was in his custody.

(Murdock)

I promise, you really, really don’t want to know; suffice to say, we might doubt my associate’s answer will ever be known.

But there is a common theme that goes beyond the (ahem!) mere observation that these are all sex crimes.

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Hanson, Hilary. "Nursing Home Owner Caught On Tape Sexually Assaulting Resident: Cops". The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Associated Press. “Kansas Woman In Critical Condition After Being Sexually Assaulted, Set On Fire”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Murdock, Sebastian. “Ferguson Correctional Officer Jaris Hayden Raped Pregnant Woman, Lawsuit Alleges”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Excessive Pedantry (Either Way)

Detail: Engraving of a sperm whale

There is this joke, see, and it’s not exactly a good one. Rather, it is a barb intended to poke and cut, and comes when one is just being a bit too pedantic: Do you read novels? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … come on, Charlie, it can’t be both!” Don’t laugh. Er, I mean … right. Go ahead and laugh. But take a moment to consider the chuckle and what it is for; you might be amazed how often this point comes up.

Then again, when it is not politics but, merely, a job to keep the roof raised and the cable television connected … oh, wait. We’ve picked on Todd Van Luling before, but then, the pointα still holds.

Scrutinizing the science of Moby-Dick is definitely beside the point, especially because there’s evidence in Herman Melville’s notes that he purposely skewed facts to bolster his story. Melville even wrote a friend saying he embellished things writing, “To cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy.”

But the rambling scientific musings of the character you’re supposed to call Ishmael are often so maligned by high school and academic readers alike that noting a few places where the facts are all wrong seems a worthwhile exercise. Today, November 14, is the anniversary of the United States release of Moby-Dick, so it’s as good a time as any to knock it down a peg leg.

Here are five scientific inaccuracies in Melville’s masterpiece ....

Yes, really.

It’s a living.

Perhaps it should suffice to say that Moby Dick is a difficult novel to read for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be its length, general verbosity, or glacial pace; and, further, we might remind that not everything is a drinking game. Spotting inaccurate science in a nineteenth century adventure novel is a bit like looking for inaccurate science in science fiction. Where The Odyssey becomes Star Trek, reality warps.

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α That is to say:

Articles like these always recall a curious episode from over a decade ago, before CNN Headline News became the HLN monstrosity you find playing on the flatscreens in a bourgeois McDonald’s. Late autumn, 2003 or so. There’s a war on. The phrase, “I died a little inside”, had not yet risen to fashionable heights. Or maybe it had. A new young reporter gets his first big shot on the air, and he’s stuck doing a report on which sweaters will look best on your small dog during the Christmas season. Which, in turn, is enough to inspire a recollection of the old Wayne Cotter joke about masturbating a fish.

Van Luling, Todd. “5 Scientific Inaccuracies You Didn’t Know Were In ‘Moby-Dick'”. The Huffington Post. 15 November 2014,

The End of a Story

Detail of illustration by Paul Granger for 'Space and Beyond', a Choose Your Own Adventure book (#4) by R. A. Montgomery.

It is easy enough to draw R. A. Montgomery’s obituary as a cartoon, only slightly harder than Monte Hall’s. Yeah. Somebody should draw that one.

R.A. Montgomery, the author and publisher who founded the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, died Nov. 9 while at his home in Vermont. He was 78.

Montgomery’s popular Choose Your Own Adventure series allowed readers to select different actions at different points in the plot, leading to different outcomes and, ultimately, a variety of conclusions. His passion for the series was rooted in his value for finding innovative ways of reaching young learners, as he believed the role-playing element of the series allowed students to learn to fully engage in a book.

(Fallon)

Who, me? Damn it, I’ll have to learn to draw.

Meanwhile, I would note that we have yet to discover Venusian Swamp Fever … but we’ve got ebola. If we traded out, well, that would mean we could at least fly to Venus to catch the “Ebola of Maxwell Montes”.

For some reason, Sif Mons Lys just doesn’t work. And no, a Scwarzeneggar joke doesn’t work here, either; didn’t you know it’s not cool to make fun of the way people talk?

Oh, right: Thank you, Mr. Montgomery. A billion points of light, a billion childhood dreams.

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Fallon, Claire. “R.A. Montgomery, Author And Publisher Of Choose Your Own Adventure Books, Dead At 78”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.