So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye

Some famous farewells:

The title, of course, is from a song in The Sound of Music (1965). It is performed twice. First, the children are saying good night to a party of adults at their villa. The countess who is to be their stepmother seems quite elegant; the look on her face as she reacts to their charms is priceless. Read: boarding schools! Second, the reprise takes on a different character. The entire family is ready to flee the newly-annexed Austria, leaving behind Captain von Trapp’s commission. He and Maria have married, leaving the countess still elegant but spurned. This article from the National Archives traces the true story. For just under $400, you can book a night at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

A memorable resignation: The story of the rise and fall of Richard Nixon exceeds the scope of a blog. Here is a list of books, in fact. Regardless of what anyone really knows about his fall, Watergate was no longer just a hotel/apartment/office space but forever famous as a scandal; the -gate has a long list of uses. Apparently, after 50 years, nothing has suited the genre better. The farewell wave as Nixon boards a helicopter shows his almost triumphant smile and the hugest wave ever. Oddly enough, I was in Washington D.C. around that time and (somewhere?) have a copy of the day’s Washington Post. Further oddly, while in DC, we were on an elevator with then-Senator Joe Biden. Although I can’t confirm it via Google, I thought I knew he’d had hair implants just before that. Memories…Well, I did know who he was and perhaps we said hello.

More recently, Tom Brady said goodbye to the NFL. Here is his letter and a wave. I wouldn’t know him on the street, but people seemed to care. A real estate developer paid $518 million for his last football, inexplicably enough considering several other million things he might have thought of doing. Luckily, the sale was voided.

A single insight:

Although it’s not part of the “Yes, but have you thought of it like this?” tagline, the blog site does say it’s about “polite politics.” What was I thinking? People can’t agree on much these days, even the obvious truth that beans don’t belong in chili (I’m Right, You’re Wrong, and Other Lies. But I hadn’t noticed until recently how closely related the two words look, at least. They aren’t. “Polite” is from the Latin politus, “refined, elegant.” “Politics” comes from the Greek polis, “city.” So, nothing in common except, obviously, most of the letters.


Currently, I’m listening to Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. The “Dr” is by virtue of his chiropractor degree. My current assessment is that his approach is much like many others: use science, sort of, and rewire yourself. Hey, it was just an Audible credit, so it didn’t feel real. A more practical approach, and much older, is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937), summarized here. We must not be thinking hard enough.

The suspect book about habit breaking has the operative title. I just need to get to work on another project (see last week’s list) and spend as much time on it as I have on the blog. It’s not that I’ll never blog again. I want to finish something else. “Try” is not an option. Years ago, in training for CPS, I learned that we weren’t to use it. “Because I said I would” will carry me out. I’m also avoiding the word “hopefully.”

Admonition (lack of):

Here is where I’d usually put an appeal to do something. Most posts have had one. But if this is the last official post, an admonition feels too much like a dying wish, so I’ll pass. The people I know on Facebook are wonderful, with little need of my suggestions. So, I’m glad to know you. I’m glad to have shared some thoughts with you, and sometimes heard yours…

Thanks for reading, which seems like listening…adieu (great for Wordle, by the way).

Pursuits in the Penultimate Post

This post is the next-to-last regularly scheduled segment. I’ve been saying it’s every Monday for four years. Oops. The first one, “Tom Sawyer Lives,” appeared 5 years ago on April 24. That I’m a year off is only vaguely troubling, the weekly reminder of 266 posts and the accompanying math a bit more so.

Why? Someone remarked a few weeks ago that blogs are just opinion anyway. That I did find troubling, though I can’t argue. On one hand, everyone has opinions, all the time. On the other, I wanted to contribute to the wealth of human knowledge, at least a little. Or to beauty and truth. Or maybe fun for some.

It’s not that I have nothing else to say. Sadly, never. Currently, I am concerned that there are oceans of information that one political side knows little about. A quiz might be “fun” in this pursuit. I have no idea even where to begin. But if you’re concerned, perhaps we can talk.

Friends still suggest excellent ideas. Last week one wrote to suggest the blatant unfairness in the coverage of the Masters Tournament centered on Tiger Woods’ return rather than the incredible accomplishments of the winner and runner-up. The gap between the top two finishers (-10 and -7) and Tiger (+1) is huge. Not unlike the $15 million purse. This snarky opinion says she’s wrong but without a single good reason. This notes that it’s been a thing for years; in 2017, the spotlight was not on Jordan Spieth due to the “Tiger effect” although his spectacular meltdown in 2016 (quadruple bogey on the 12th) made history the year before. So yes, my friend is correct.

I’ve come to believe that I need to move on to other things. My list of incomplete projects is extensive. I shall list a few below:

  • The podcast I’ve been talking about for years, For the Girls of Laredo. The link is not to a sample broadcast but to, of course, the blog post. “Telling is not teaching” was a guiding teaching principle. Telling is also not doing. The learning curve here is steep. All I have is the domain name and a good mic. Otherwise, except for one last episode, I’ll be starting from scratch. Which—and this is my life—is an interesting word. It can mean many things, including a name for the devil and the pool shot that lands the cue ball in a pocket. Back from the rabbit hole—also an interesting…
  • A novel called If Only to which I have no link. A few chapters are done, and I’ve read the first one at least three times to audiences. People laugh. They say “finish it.” Write the last chapter now, one person suggested. Done. Another—plan it out and the WRITE! It has occurred to me that getting encouragement has the opposite effect: I feel guilty, tell people about it, they encourage me, and I quit. Must stop. Must start. Hey. There might be money in it.
  • A book of Greek and Latin roots and stories for kids. My grandmother made me take Latin in high school. She was one of those people who told you what you were going to do and you did it. Yes, the effort, minimal as it was, paid off immediately, and often since. I remember taking the SAT (we just took it once back then) and seeing the word “” Ah, said I: necare, to kill; inter- between. Yep—victory! The only real failure has been “copacetic”; no one knows where it came from anyway. I went back to school and got a master’s degree so I could finish this one. There might be money in it.
  • Upfront I’ll say probably no money in this one: Poetry. One illustrated book is pending, but so far I haven’t done a single thing. My Name Is Mom might become an income stream if I can get out of the way. Others include stories about the family ranch, a large grouping inspired by or as gifts to other people, unvarnished descriptions of my late husband’s brain injury, the “Mormon” ones that need some explanation from the faith to be understood, and probably some others I can’t remember. I do remember reading some of the ranch ones at a conference. They were well received, but the winner that time had to do with office equipment. I was defeated by a big printer. Figures. But I do have a new poem in this gorgeous journal, just out!
  • Other writing projects too numerous to detail. A Jane Austen screen play and two non-fictions. Another couple of plays. The musical revue If Mama Ain’t Happy…Yes, I can write melodies. And worse—several things I can’t even remember just this minute.
  • Speaking a different language. One son is fluent in Portuguese. A sister-in-law is fluent is French. So far, it’s just out of reach. I applied for a Fulbright at my German teacher’s suggestion. I didn’t even know what it was, and obviously I didn’t get it, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this, the multiverse being what it is and all. Still, it’s a goal with lots of history and regular but shallow study. And maybe I don’t need to speak. Just understanding without subtitles might be enough.

To continue the theme, there are probably other things I can’t think of right now. My ability to avoid completion is legendary, though. I’ll sweep and mop, cut down small trees and spread mulch, play Wordle-Quordle-Nerdle and Woody just to avoid what I know I’m supposed to be doing. Someone said I could keep doing the blog AND add in something else. I disagree. Perhaps the occasional reaction post. I don’t like the new description of “enough bandwidth,” but I don’t think I have it.

Enough for now. This is just next to last. Next week? I have a little amusement planned.

5 Books That MUST Be Banned!

Today’s title is actually clickbait, designed to draw you in—but not for bad purposes or money (“Only $19.99. There’s MORE! Order now and get a SECOND one FREE! Pay shipping only!) There are not 5 books that MUST be banned. Rather, there are five points to make on the subject of banning books.

  1. There is no such thing as banning books. (That’s what we call a switcheroo.) Recently at a local lumber store, I said that I needed new wood for a bench but was aware that it couldn’t be treated wood because of the arsenic—“Don’t want to be sitting on that…” The clerk rolled his eyes and said, “I hate that misnomer. They don’t use arsenic anymore. Treated wood is safe to sit on.” Since 2004. He used “misnomer” incorrectly, but the phrase “book ban” is just as inaccurate.

Although there is a Banned Book Week (September 18-24, 2022-you haven’t missed it!), the correct term is “challenged.” To be banned, a book must be prohibited, per Merriam-Webster. Removing a book from a library shelf has to do with access; sometimes that means putting it behind the counter, as used to happen with Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

The key here may have more to do with determining appropriateness. A set of predictors includes one called Interest Level, organized by grade. This book is given UG (9-12), or, in other words, high school readers. When the novel has been restricted, as Carnegie Mellon University site explains: “There have been different reasons for the book being banned, including religious objections, homosexuality, violence, African history, rape, incest, drug abuse, explicit language, and sexual scenes. These challenges were all eventually overruled. In 2017, “The Color Purple” was successfully banned from all Texas State Prisons for explicit language and graphic depictions of violence.” No comment.

  1. “But what about…?” is not a good place to begin an argument. I will, however, draw your attention to Amazon’s criteria for not selling certain books:

“We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.”

So a search on Amazon for “Bomb making” reveals only “bath bombs.” But you can buy Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s autobiography. You can buy Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, the classic case of a pedophiliac. The Amazon blurb: “But Vladimir Nabokov’s wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the 20th century’s novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author’s use of that material to tell a love story that is shocking in its beauty and tenderness.” The “material” is the sexual exploitation of a girl beginning when she is 12. He does write well though. You can buy The God Makers: A Shocking Expose of What the Mormon Church Really Believes, a blatantly anti-Mormon book also available as a film. (Not to be confused with The Godmakers by Frank Herbert of Dune fame.) Catholic? No problem. For you Amazon has Hitler’s Pope, American Freedom and Catholic Power (not to be confused with Catholic Power vs. American Democracy), and, of course, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The list actually begins in 1581 with William of Orange and his Apologie.

Amazon does not sell The Poisonous Mushroom, an anti-Semitic children’s book from 1938, but Books-a-Million does. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, easily the most famous, they also don’t sell, but Thrift Books does. Muslim? There is always Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, if you want to be inclusive of anti-Semitic texts.

Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is on Amazon though this site from India acknowledges it as a source of blasphemy for some in the Islamic world. If you’re a witch, not to worry unless your PTA wants to pull all the Harry Potter books. The series has been banned since the beginning for portraying magic at all. I’ve known parents who won’t allow their children to read these books.

  1. Which brings me to the idea of “sanitizing” libraries at all. Obviously, Amazon does it. The controversy over removing Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally after selling it for three years is summarized here. You can buy a summary of it by Fireside Reads now if you don’t want to buy the actual book at other retailers. This article contains a link to another article about books you also “shouldn’t” read because of a variety of reasons from sexism to boring-ism. Both are actually amusing, one rebutting the other, both sounding a bit self-satisfied. This brief pro-con article does what seems to be a theme among those who favor removing some books but not others but don’t see the irony. For example, the first Con quotes Justice William Brennan: “Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” Unless it is ideas that are “dangerous.” So the series 13 Reasons Why received critical success though professionals from mental health groups saw it as romanticizing suicide. The conclusion of this thought is that the “sanitizing” of anything is impossible. The works are available, and the inclusion or removal remains completely subjective.
  1. A personal anecdote to support my next point: When one child was in the 3rd grade, I noticed some religious materials coming home. I asked his teacher about them. She was new and perhaps not versed in the ways of the PTA mom. Her response was that she asked kids if they’d like to do coloring about the Bible. Many did. I told her that this is illegal (Engel v. Vitale 1962) and used Justice Black’s reasoning, writing for the majority (6-1, by the way) ”Since Americans adhere to a wide variety of beliefs, it is not appropriate for the government to endorse any particular belief system. Student-led prayer at football games became another issue which the Court ruled on in 2000 when it was challenged by two students (one Catholic, one a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and—of course—their mothers) who noted that the prayers were sectarian but not their sects. In the little Texas town of Santa Fe, there may not have been representatives of religions other than Christian, but that is also part of the issue. If there is to be respect for all religions, then the use of a single source for prayer becomes a problem. And avoiding it is difficult, as the State of California learned when parents objected to the inclusion of Aztec and Yoruba chants or prayers or affirmations in the multicultural studies curriculum. The two sides agreed on a settlement in January 2022: no more chanting per the First Amendment.
  1. What not to read? I wasn’t serious about that. I’ve read most books on the “banned” lists from years past, the classic ones anyway. I acknowledge that the Bible has startling passages. I see both sides getting in a “moral panic” about censorship, for wildly differing reasons. But I’m not going to hand your child a Book of Mormon. I’d rather you didn’t hand mine The God Makers. Some argue that schools need to stick to reading, writing, and arithmetic. I don’t disagree with that. American scores are “middling” at best, per this Pew Research study for math and science proficiencies. I don’t know anything about Slovenia, but since I don’t, I assume we ought to be ahead of them. We’re not. But rankings are an oversimplification.

It’s a complicated topic. It shouldn’t be a political one. If both sides would read books, I think that would be great. If one side wants to reject the others’ choices, fine. There is a difference between access and promotion, which I think is the final question. If your choices are “correct” and mine are not? An impossible impasse.

TILT!! Pinball Festival 2022

Whatever your hobby/collection/gaming world/theory, others in the same sphere of interest meet for a convention. A runner? Your industry leaders met in Orlando last February. Barbie Dolls? This year in Chicago, as is Star Trek.  Board games? Here’s a site for the entire year, including the famous one in Essen, Germany, that I wrote about, and here for our local BGG group with a convention in May. Flat Earth theorist? No problem. This conference was in Frisco, and Jimmy Kimmel introduces the video.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the latest Pinball Festival happened March, also in Frisco. And while it’s easy to mock the Flat Earthers, it seems a shame that the typical response to hearing you’re attending a pinball convention is, in fact, laughter. Same venue, saner folks. The art of arcade is not gone, though. Cidercade in Dallas offers unlimited free play for $10. Talk about a cheap date.

I’m assuming everyone has played pinball. This is a good summary if not. I was surprised to learn that pinball was banned in New York City and Los Angeles for decades beginning in 1939. Flashback!

The thing about conferences, conventions, or festivals is that, regardless of what they’re called, they have much in common: a community, presenters, merch or vendors or both, keynotes, and drama. Pinball Festival 2022 was no different but if rankings are to be given, it would get Exceeds Expectations.

COVID seems like a bad memory. It still finds victims, and there is no saying “It’s Over,” but life seems to be getting back to normal. That’s another big topic, of course, but airline masking ends April 18, supposedly, so far, maybe, according to the “latest science.” The Pinball Festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021, so getting a few thousand people together in one large space for the first time include a hint of anxiety on some level, for some people. Still, the community was there, and it was joyous.

The importance of community applies to PB as well. This newsletter has great summaries and pictures of the event. You will get to know the personalities and the winners of competitions, the vendors, and the displays. You can also tell there is a community because the passing of members is news, found at the bottom of the newsletter. Demographically speaking, it is a heavily male community. One observer said 90%, with 8% being women tagging along, and 2% playing. That’s a sociological discussion for other places.

Communities have their celebs, of course. Two here were Steven Ritchie, a premier pinball designer, and Sylvester McCoy, an actor (Doctor Who 1987-1989 and the wizard Radagast in The Hobbit movies 2012-2014). Ritchie was approachable and privately answered questions about the possibility of a Harry Potter-themed game. No, Rowling hasn’t forbidden it but images are an issue. Yes, one might be possible in the future. McCoy signed merch.

The drama involved Mirco, a German vendor of playfields. This site warns potential buyers about poor quality, shoddy or non-existent refunds, and customer service. The Mirco website itself doesn’t offer much information about the company For example, the Mission statement is a single sentence (“We love great design”) and then that placeholder language that begins with Lorem ipsum. Technically, it isn’t real Latin just words that look Latinesque although dolorem ipsum does mean “pain itself.” Poor reputation aside, a representative was present, but attendees aired their significant and specific grievances, with no apologies forthcoming. In fact, the company rep denied the problems. He was summarily called a liar, to his face.

Pinball machines can be purchased at widely different prices, in good shape or for rebuilding. The good ones sell for thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands. A recreation, a hobby, an investment, a community—what more could anyone ask for? Maybe talent and patience. Oh, and there might be some good ones at the bottom of the Hudson River. Probably rusty and might need work…