Books

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.

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.

The Quidditch Revolution?

It’s one of those things I knew about, sort of. At least, you know, that it was happening. I didn’t really pay attention because, well, right.

Sean Pagoda, however, has given me reason to reconsider.

What sets quidditch apart from other sports is its two-minimum gender rule, established by the International Quidditch Association. The rule states that “each team must have at least two players in play who identify with a different gender than at least two other players. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender.”

FireboltLook, to the one, it’s great to consider that an international athletic association is LGBTQ-aware.

To the other, though? Well, right. There’s an International Quiddich Association.

Yes, I was aware that there were adults running around on broomsticks, playing “Harry Potter”. And, yes, I really, really tried to not care. You know, whatever. But when quidditch is raised as a sociopolitical example, well, yes, at some point the inevitable question arises: “Wh-wha-what? Seriously? Quidditch?”

Sigh.

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Pagoda, Sean. “Brooms Up”. The Huffington Post. 7 July 2014.

Stupid and Just a Little Creepy

Todd Starnes of FOX News

Such as it is, Brian Tashman gets the obvious comment:

During the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights issues, Fox News pundit Todd Starnes said that people boycotting the restaurant chain are “un-American” and warned that “the days of persecution are upon us.”

But apparently boycotts aren’t “un-American” as long as Starnes supports them, as today he endorsed the Religious Right boycott of the Girl Scouts over bogus accusations that Girl Scout cookies fund Planned Parenthood ….

(more…)

Gandalf in a Diaper

Adam Huber, 2014

Further comment would only ruin the fun.

No, really, you have to love the posts where you write paragraphs in order to justify a nifty—e.g., stupid—tryptich made from somebody else’s work. In this case: Huber, Bug Martini, Gandalf in a diaper.

Nerdlings everywhere howl in outrage; their cries echo across Middle Earth forever.

Get used to it, nerdlings.

I mean, come on. It’s Gandalf in a diaper. In bug form.

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Huber, Adam. “Gandalf the Whiner”. Bug Martini. January 14, 2014. BugMartini.com. January 15, 2014.