Banning Books

31 03 2012

When I started to research this, I had no idea there was actually a Banned Books Week. It appears to occur in September, although there is a bit of confusion between the US Banned Books Week and an International Banned Books Week, promoted by Amnesty.

Anyway, in the spirit absurdity, here are some of the more surprising banned books.

John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Now I have never recovered from reading this at school (hence it is one of my least-liked books) but it is a classic. It has been banned at various times and places in the US for obscenity and the portrayal of the US as seen by migrant workers and those living in extreme poverty. Sometimes the truth hurts.

The Dictionary. Various versions of the Dictionary have been banned for various reasons, often by local schools. For instance, Webster’s 10th Edition was pulled from classroom shelves in Menifee Union School District, California, in Jan 2010, because it include a definition of “oral sex”. Since looking up “dirty” words in the dictionary is a favourite of primary school children, I can only say, what spoil-sports! At least they are reading.

Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and The Witches. Beloved favourite of children the world-over, these books were banned in the US for obscenity and violence (J&TGP), and sexism and devaluing the life of a child (TW). Maybe they just didn’t get the British sense of humour?

Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. This classic and heart-rending exposition of the life of a young Jewish girl living under Nazi occupation has apparently attracted the wrath of book-banners several times, most recently January 2010 in a Culpeper County, Virginia school for “sexually explicit” and “homosexual” themes. I think they are missing the point.

The Lorax (Dr Seuss). The Lorax is one of many Dr Seuss Books banned at various times for their secret messages corrupting the minds of innocent children. In the case of The Lorax, it is its environmental “save the trees” message that was seen to be anti-big-business. The latest dispute happened in 2012 during the filming of a movie based on the book, but it had previously been banned (the most recent example I could find was in Laytonville, California in 1989 from a local public school).
Mind you, Dr Seuss was asking for it – The Sneetches discusses racism, The Butter Battle Beetle is about the cold war, isolationism took a blast in Horton hears a Who, Christmas in How the Grinch stole Christmas, and the effects of fear-based thinking in Green Eggs and Ham (banned in China between 1965 and 1991 because of its alleged portrayal of Marxism). How he wasn’t blackballed by the McCarthy Commission, I don’t know.

Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland was also banned in a province in China in 1931 for its portrayal of animals speaking, thinking and otherwise behaving like humans.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is probably a less surprising banned book, giving its explicit political overtones. It was banned in the US in 1945 for being overly-critical of Russia (obviously pre-Cold War). It was also banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 because of the talking pig.

Picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jnr was banned in 1967 in the US when its author was confused with an obscure Marxist theorist…… Bill Martin being such an unusual name… (yes, that was sarcasm you detect). Quite what it was about the book that was considered worth banning is not clear. Perhaps they were just being safe in case there was a hidden message.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was banned in America under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act in 1873. Puritans! It was of course for all the tales of sex and debauchery – if you read through the olde Englishe to understand them.

For a map of recent book bans (upheld and overturned) in the US, have a look at this very interesting map. Click on the blue pointers for details. Again, it often seems schools, those places for learning, are the ones doing the banning, often at the instigation of individual parents.

For a selection of books banned in Australia, click here Notable inclusions: The Kama Sutra, a selection by William S Burroughs, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, and Ian Fleming’s The Spy who Loved Me.

And if this sort of thing amuses you, google it – this list is really only the tip of the iceberg!





The “It must be Friday” Social Media round-up

24 02 2012

A few interesting articles crossing my desk this morning. It must not be a full moon because the loony stories aren’t out there, but here are a few interesting tidbits to whet your appetite….

1. Following on from recent postings about tracking down fugitives via social media, and the impact of social media on the jury-system, comes a new one: the serving of legal papers via social media. Normally papers are served in person, in hard copy or faxed (thereby setting a precedent for electronic forms of transmittal, I presume). The story is that when lawyers had difficulty tracking and confirming a residential address and email address for someone they wanted to serve with a subpoena, UK High Court judge Nigel Teare authorised serving via the individual’s active social media page on Facebook. Apparently while this is a first for Facebook in the UK, it is not a total-first. Previous papers have been served via Twitter in 2009 (UK) and Facebook (Australia and Canada), and via text message to the Occupy London protesters in December 2011. Another reason to keep your social media account privacy settings high? And of course, if you name is John Smith or Jane Smith, there may be issues regarding identification.

2. So moving from one profession to another: do you want your surgeon tweeting during your open heart surgery? Personally I’d prefer s/he concentrate on one thing at a time – this is not the time for multi-tasking! On February 21, 2012, Cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael P. Macris, performed the first live twittercast of a double-bypass open heart surgery in the United States.

Now I admit, reading the Twitter feed, it does appear that it was not the surgeon who actually did the tweeting, since he is referred to in the third person, and the information, although necessarily brief, is interesting, and is accompanied by a fairly graphic slideshow with embedded video.

So – novelty value or a new effective form of education?

3. Anyone who has any exposure to social media knows that *some* people post pretty inappropriate things. But what if you got sued – and got fined and home detention for it? A Spanish woman has been fined 1000 Euros and had 8 days house arrest for posting a photograph of a novelty t-shirt on her Facebook site. The offending caption? “Mi exmarido es Gilipollas” which roughly translates as “My ex-husband is an asshole”. The ex-husband in question sued for the damage to his reputation, and the Provincial Court found in his favour.

And now the case has had international attention, and we all know what sort of person he is (the sort of person who sues over a t-shirt). And his ex-wife has hopefully learned to keep her privacy settings high, be careful who she “friends” on Facebook, and be careful what she posts. I doubt it has changed her opinion of him! And everyone else who bought this sort of commercially-available t-shirt as a joke…….be careful!

4. OK, this may not really be social media, but its bizarre, so I include it here to entertain and encourage you to keep reading. It would seem that Fox Business News has awoken to the evil cultural cancer that is Dr Suess. With Hollywood set to film the Lorax, Fox News is alerting the “right-thinking” world (wording deliberate) to the evil plot being perpetrated by Dr Suess and the left-wing Hollywood types to destroy your children’s brains! (For those of you who can’t remember the story of the Lorax, he is pro-trees and anti-logging). And while we’re at it, how coincidental is it that The Muppets resurface during the US pre-pre-election campaign, featuring an evil oil baron? Those naughty Hollywood commies.

So for those of you who need a decoding manual to understand the true “horror” of the Dr Suess conspiracy, the following image is presented for your education:

image from George Takei's Facebook page

(As an interesting aside, I have been told that The Lorax was in fact banned in some states of the US at one stage. I’d be keen to heard more information on this, if you have any.)

5. This one is in the category of “public information warning”. Scam artists and other criminals are increasingly using social media as ways of targeting victims – and dating sites are apparently rich pickings because of the personal information people are willing to share and because, by definition, people on the dating sites are open to making relationships with people they have not previously met. The full article is here, but basically it suggests that the owners / proprietors of sites need to be vigilant against scam, spam and other misuse, install security measures, and harness your members to continually monitor and feed back suspicious activity. And remember, the criminals are constantly working at ways to get around any security measure, so security has to be a constant work-in-progress.

6. World of Warcraft may have a new target market. It seems this game can increase your cognitive abilities in a fairly short period of time. A study by Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University used World of Warcraft required participants aged between 60 and 77 to play WoW 14 hours over two weeks. Compared with baseline data and a control group, participants demonstrated improved cognitive abilities in the areas of spatial ability and focus, but not in memory. WoW was chosen as the representative game because it was considered to be “a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations.” The paper will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. No news on whether playing 24/7 has an effect on your cognitive processing – although it certainly can have an effect on your social life, sleep, and potentially hygiene and nutrition.

7. A new study shows that parents rarely know the extent of cyber-bullying because it often happens in private chat rooms, on messaging and via mobile phone. Even if you are your child’s Facebook friend, you won’t necessarily see any of it. And children don’t tell their parents, and parents often don’t know to ask. Unless you have your child’s passwords and can log in and check the messaging, you are unlikely to know what is really going on. Scary.

8. Continuing the phishing pun (and I do love a pun), there is now another more targeted and dangerous threat to be concerned about – spear phishing. This is similar to the phishing emails that try to get you to click on links or provide confidential information such as banking details or computer passwords, but these are targeted at companies. And they are tailored to be more likely to hook someone – any employee – in. Large companies such as Google and RSA have reportedly lost intellectual property in the last year due to effective spear phishing campaigns that started with one employee falling for it. And it only takes one.

9. Tumblr has changed its content policies to address the growing issue of “thinspiration”, self-harm and mutilation blogs on its site. The company has put out the following guidelines in its policy:

Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counseling or treatment for depression or other disorders. Online dialogue about these acts and conditions is incredibly important; this prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification. For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not.

Of course,the devil is in the detail, and it is not clear how they will be able to police this, but this does at least give them a framework for removal of any offending content, should they come to its attention. Tumblr states that it will give the blog owner a grace period to remove offending content, then shut down the blog if it is not removed. It will also display public health announcements next to any search terms referring to these types of activities.

Hurrah for Tumblr!

Like more bizarre Social Media tidbits?
And today’s bizarre social media news……
and more from the bizarre worlds of marketing and espionage…
And live, from the sequestered jury…..





Food for thought: Mindfire

27 11 2011

I recently bought a Kindle and rapidly realised I needed to have a WiFi modem in order to be able to download books onto it. OOPPPSSS!!!! I don’t have one. I have a plug-in modem so I can keep tight control over who is accessing the internet when and why. Welcome to Stalag 13. (If you don’t understand that reference…..well you missed a great TV program!)

Since the Kindle has a cord that plugs into the computer, I am not sure why this is – possibly user-error. If anyone knows the answer, please leave instructions in the comments section of this blog. Thanks. Meanwhile if you see me sitting on the neighbour’s front porch with my Ipad, I am hijacking their Wifi connection.

Meanwhile, I happen to have Kindle-reader on my Ipad so I have been indulging my love of reading by purchasing some cheap Kindle books. I think it has made me more adventurous in my book-purchasing because if I buy a book that turns out to be a dud – well it was only a few dollars instead of $30, and I can always download another so I am not without reading material. (For those without Ipads, I believe you can get Kindle-reader for computer as well. Not quite the same as curling up in bed with your Ipad…sorry, good book, but an option to consider.)

I happened across one which was recommended by WordPress (the blog host).

Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds

This book, based on a blog by Scott Berkun, is really interesting. Set out in short chapters, it retains the joy of the blog – a complete thought or idea contained in a short amount of words. A thing of beauty really. (He justifies the brevity of the chapters in Chapter 6: There are two kinds of people: Complexifiers and Simplifiers. The chapter is short because he is a simplifier.)

As well as appealing to my short attention span and brief amount of reading time available, it also contains a lot of really interesting ideas.
– How to be a free thinker.
– How to detect bullshit.
– Dr Suess and Wicked Constraints.
– Why Smart people defend bad ideas.
– The cult of Busy
– Why the world is a mess.
– How to make a difference.
and loads more.

The great thing about this book is it builds on little kernels of ideas that might occurred to you but builds them into proper fully-formed logical thoughts. And it makes you think more. Chewing gum for the mind.

So if you are looking for something that is well written, easy to read, and thought provoking, maybe this is your book. It may make you thik about your assumptions.

And in my dreams, I write a blog like this. Please stay with me while I get there!

If you liked this post you might also like Read-a-holic.





Please change back, Facebook!

22 09 2011

I can’t claim credit for this one, but it is kinda cute, for we Dr Suess fans!

I do not like this Sam I Am …..
I do not like this Facebook scam …
I do not like the new news feed …
I do not like it, no indeed ….
I do not like your top news trends,
instead of recent news from friends ….
It was just fine, but now it’s weird,
so let me make myself quite clear ….
I don’t like this new page attack ….
So Facebook admin …

CHANGE IT BACK !!!….

UPDATE

Perhaps Facebook Admins did hear me…but instead of listening, they decided to respond in kind. This was sent to me….





Thanks goodness I never studied Gatsby

3 09 2011

I love reading. I go through phases of what I love to read – sometimes it is biographies (usually of writers or 1920s artists), sometimes it is Classics, sometimes science and statistics books, sometimes pop culture, sometimes fiction, sometimes short stories. I have a bookshelf bulging with favourites that I reread when the mood takes me, and a pile of books next to my bed that have I haven’t yet read. I find it very difficult to walk past a bookshop, and almost never walk out of one without a new book or two. I am a book-a-holic.

My favourite writers are (in no order)
F Scott Fitzgerald (a sense of place and an economy with words)
Dr Suess (a way with words)
Douglas Adams (a sense of the bizarre)

Every time I reread these authors I find new things I hadn’t noticed before. Several decades and many rereadings on, it is a tribute to the quality of their writing that this is still the case.

I was lucky – oh so lucky – that I didn’t have to study Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby for English classes at school. Without fail, every book we studied at school I have developed an abhorrence for.

This came to mind when a librarian friend was commenting on his favourite book – Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. (Side note – we both agreed we pronounce it “roth” not “rath” as seems to be the fashion now). I have never been able to even pick this book up since we dissected, sliced, diced, analysed it to pieces in Year 11. It ceased to be a story and instead became a series of themes and mechanisms, literary devices and conceits. The beauty of the story was lost.

I had always thought it was just me that felt like that, but my librarian friend agreed that English classes destroyed some books for him as well.

He had had the luck not to study Steinbeck’s book and hence he still loved it. I am grateful not to have studied Gatsby.

Fast Fact: The latest 60 Minutes / Vanity Fair Poll found that 65% of people surveyed could not identify who Harper lee was. This despite being given four options (including the correct one) to choose from. She is of course the Pulitzer-prize winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird. So I did learn something in English class!

If you like this post you might also like Old Dogs and New Tricks.