Pixel Scroll 1/27/22 All Ringworlds Great And Small

(1) MAUS OUT OF SCHOOL LIBRARY. In response to the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by the McMinn County Tennessee School Board Neil Gaiman has tweeted: “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.” “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust comic ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman” at CNBC.

A Tennessee school board has voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

The Jan. 10 vote by the McMinn County School Board, which only began attracting attention Wednesday, comes amid a number of battles in school systems around the country as conservatives target curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America.

“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” told CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn board to bar the book, which is about his parents, from continuing to be used in the curriculum.

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” said Spiegelman, 73, who only learned of the ban after it was the subject of a tweet Wednesday – a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action….

In “Maus,” different groups of people are drawn as different kinds of animals: Jews are the mice, Poles are pigs and Nazi Germans — who had a notorious history of banning and burning books — are cats. It has won a slew of awards, including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

(2) CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE MEDICAL UPDATE. Author Catherynne M. Valente has contracted Covid and has been tweeting about how she feels, and is handling quarantining away from the rest of the family. She also will be unable to appear in person at Capricon the first weekend in February.

(3) THE GAME’S AFOOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives a con report on the Baker Street Irregulars annual convention. “Sherlock Holmes gets the gala treatment in New York”.

…This year, socializing got underway on Thursday afternoon at the Grolier Club, the country’s leading society for bibliophiles. Opening that week, and running till April 16, was “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibition drawn from the fabled collection of Glen S. Miranker. Fabled? As I once wrote, “If the Great Agra Treasure — from ‘The Sign of Four’ — contained rare Sherlockian books and manuscripts instead of priceless gems, it would resemble Glen Miranker’s library.”

In display cases below a huge banner depicting Holmes in his signature dressing gown, one could see the only known copy in its dust jacket of the first edition of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” with original artwork by Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, handwritten drafts of four major stories, and even Conan Doyle’s work ledger containing the December 1893 memorandum, “Killed Holmes.” This refers to “The Final Problem,” which ends with the great detective and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, both falling to their deaths, or so it seemed, at the Reichenbach Falls….

(4) PHILOSOPHICAL FAVES. University of California (Riverside) philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel picks five sf novels of interest to philosophers. “Science Fiction and Philosophy – Five Books Expert Recommendations”.

It’s an interesting conundrum, because some science fiction seems to extrapolate from existing science to a future that’s possible and consistent with what we know about science today. That is, a hypothetical situation that is a plausible, possible future world—or maybe not so plausible, but still could happen. But there’s another kind of science fiction which doesn’t seem to be bound by anything we know about science now—it just allows what you might call magical things to happen. I wonder how the two of them relate to philosophy.

Fantasy just allows magical things to happen. And that can be very useful in thinking through philosophical issues because you might be interested in considering things that aren’t scientifically plausible at all, exploring them as conceptual possibilities. Now, within the constraints of scientific plausibility we can find a second big philosophical value in science fiction: thinking about the future. For example, I think it’s likely that in the next several decades, or maybe the next 100 or 200 years, if humanity continues to exist and continues along its current trajectory, we will eventually create artificial beings who are conscious. Maybe they’ll be robots or maybe they’ll artificial biological organisms. Or they might be a bio-machine hybrid or the result of technology we can’t yet foresee. We might create artificial entities who are people—entities with conscious experiences, self-knowledge, values, who think of themselves as individuals. They might be very much unlike us in other ways—physiologically, physically, maybe in their values, maybe in their styles of thinking.

If that happens, that’s hugely significant. We’d have created a new species of person—people radically different from us, sharing the world with us. Humanity’s children, so to speak. Few things could be more historically momentous than that! But these matters are hard to think about well. Maybe that future is coming. But what might it even look like? What would it do to ethics? To philosophy of mind? To our sense of the purpose and value of humanity itself? Science fiction is a tool for imagining the possible shape of such a future. So that’s just one example of the way in which science fiction can help us think about future possibilities.

(5) WTF. In the Washington Post, Jonathan Edwards says that Peter Dinklage, a guest on”WTF With Marc Maron,” slammed the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as “a backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave.” “Actor Peter Dinklage calls out ‘Snow White’ remake for its depiction of dwarves”.

…Dinklage, 52, told Maron he was surprised by what he saw as a contradiction.

“They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ ” Dinklage said, adding, “You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?”

On Tuesday, Disney responded, saying it will aim to present the characters in a sensitive manner….

(6) POUL AND GORDY. Fanac.org has posted a 1977 video recording from ConFusion 14 with Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson holding forth about a chapter in sf history: “The Way It Was (Pt  1): Minneapolis Fantasy Society”.

This short video features a conversation between authors Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson on the history of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS). Gordy, the older of the two, begins with a description of the prewar (World War II) MFS, a serious writers’ group with members such as Clifford Simak and Donald Wandrei. Poul and Gordy then bring the calendar forward with anecdotes of traveling to Torcon (1948), MFS parties, and how the writing community worked in the middle of the century. 

These much loved members of the science fiction community are by turns very earnest, very funny and always very engaging in telling us “The Way It Was”…

Note that this is part 1 of a longer program. As of January 2022, we are working to digitize the next part.

Also note that there are about 5 seconds of disrupted video towards the end of the recording.

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) SEE VIDEO OF MANCHESS ADAPTATION. On Muddy Colors, Gregory Manchess posted a link to a video of the stage production of Above the Timberline, based on his story and art. “Watch the Stage Play of Above the Timberline!” (The video has to be watched at the link.)

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive – somewhere above the timberline. Adapted from the exquisitely painted novel, the world premiere stage adaptation is sure to delight.

(8) FARLAND MEMORIES. The Writers & Illustrators of the Future have produced a visual tribute to their coordinating judge who recently died: “David Farland Memorial (1957 – 2022)”.

One only needs to look at Dave Farland’s vast roster of names discovered and nurtured. It is no wonder his keen eye for talent was dubbed “Writer Whisperer.” Dave was an extraordinary individual, a kind soul, and a cherished personal friend and friend to everyone in the writing community. He was always there to lend a helping hand. Dave will be greatly missed. But it is good to know that due to his excellent work and dedication to creating the future, science fiction and fantasy will continue to be in good hands.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Captain Janeway: Coffee, black. 

Neelix: I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators – 

Kathryn Janeway: Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.

Twenty three years ago this evening on the UPN network, Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!” first aired. It was the twelfth episode of the fifth season of the series. The episode is loving homage to the 1936 Flash Gordon film serial and 1939 Buck Rogers film serial that followed film. Much of the episode was shot in black and white to emulate the look of those shows. 

The story was Bryan Fuller who was the writer and executive producer on Voyager and Deep Space Nine; he is also the co-creator of Discovery. The script was by Fuller and Michael Taylor who was best known as a writer on Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Critics really liked it. SyFy Wire said it was “campy, hilarious, hysterical, brilliant, and an absolute joy.” And CBR noted that Voyager was “having fun with its goofier side.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also produced his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem about the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1938 Ron Ellik. A well-known sf fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine Fanac in the late Fifties. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that ‘He also had some fiction published professionally and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.’ (ISFDB says it was The Cross of Gold Affair.) Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 82. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact, which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, Robot, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1953 Joe Bob Briggs, 69. Writer, actor, and comic performer. Host of the TNT MonsterVision series, and the ongoing The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder from 2018–present. The author of a number of non- fiction review books including Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History!  And he’s written one genre novel, Iron Joe Bob. My favorite quote by him is that after contracting Covid and keeping private that he had, he said later that “Many people have had COVID-19 and most of them were much worse off than me.  I wish everybody thought it was a death sentence, because then everyone would wear the f*cking mask and then we would get rid of it.”
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 65. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3Sin City300Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 59. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler in X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?)
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 52. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. Interestingly, she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] A Texas primary candidate for the state House got in an uproar regarding a tall tale about Furries. She decided that it was an outrage that some schools would be lowering their cafeteria tables to make it easier for these anthropomorphs to eat out of their bowls—sans utensils or hands. 

This despite the fact that Furrys don’t do that. Or that the schools in question had no intention of lowering their tables. Or that, in fact, it was impossible to do so given the tables’ design.

This is hardly the only tall tale about Furries and schools. I’ll leave it to your imagination (or to your clicking though to read the article) as to what alternative restroom arrangements were supposedly on the table for one school system in Michigan. Or, rather, on the floor.  “A Texas GOP Candidate’s New Claim: School Cafeteria Tables Are Being Lowered for ‘Furries’”

On Sunday night, a candidate in the GOP primary for Texas House District 136, which includes a large portion of the suburbs north of Austin, tweeted a curious allegation. That candidate, Michelle Evans—an activist who works with the local chapter of conservative parents’ group Moms for Liberty and who cofounded the anti-vaccine political action committee Texans for Vaccine Choice, back in 2015—tweeted that “Cafeteria tables are being lowered in certain @RoundRockISD middle and high schools to allow ‘furries’ to more easily eat without utensils or their hands (ie, like a dog eats from a bowl).”

She was responding to a tweet from right-wing Texas provocateur Michael Quinn Sullivan, who had shared a video of a woman speaking at a December school board meeting in Midland, Michigan, claiming that schools there have added “litter boxes” in the halls to allow students who identify as “furries” to relieve themselves. Sullivan retweeted the video, adding, “This is public education.” (It isn’t; the claims made by the speaker in the video have been shown to be untrue.) 

… Similar reports have popped up elsewhere. In Iowa, an unsourced, anonymous report claimed that school boards were considering placing litter boxes in the bathrooms, while a Canadian public school director took to the media to connect similar rumors in his community to a backlash around accommodations that his schools had created for transgender students. Evans’s claim that Round Rock lowered its tables appears to simply be a new variation on the myth…. 

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! and saw a contestant struggling with this:

Category: Books and authors

Answer: This feral character raised by jungle animals originally appeared in Rudyard Kipling’s short story “In The Rukh”

Wrong question: Who is Tarzan?

Correct question: Who is Mowgli?

(13) DRY FUTURE FOR SOME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With a global population explosion and climate change, both factors will combine to create water shortages in some places (which would not happen otherwise if one or other factor did not exist).  Now, writing in Nature Communications, N. American researchers based in Canada and the US have mapped the global situation.  (Not looking good for SW of the USA.) “Hotspots for social and ecological impacts from freshwater stress and storage loss”.

The most-vulnerable basins encompass over 1.5 billion people, 17% of global food crop production, 13% of global gross domestic product, and hundreds of significant wetlands. There are substantial social and ecological benefits to reducing vulnerability in hotspot basins, which can be achieved through hydro- diplomacy, social adaptive capacity building, and integrated water resources management practices, the researchers conclude.

(14) A LITTLE CHILD SHALL MISLEAD THEM. In “Misunderstandings”, David Bratman says, “A comment elsewhere prompted me to drag out recollections of words whose meaning I misunderstood as a child,” and gives several engaging examples.

*blind spot
I thought this meant you were literally struck blind if you looked in that direction – whether permanently or momentarily I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to find out the hard way. I specifically remember our coming across a road sign with this warning when we were out driving around house-hunting in the hill country, which would put my age at 7. It is characteristic of me that, well over a half century later, I still remember exactly where this was, even though I’ve never gone back to check if the sign is still there. (I might be struck blind!) But from Google street view, apparently not.

(15) A PARAGON. I felt much better about File 770’s copyediting when I read artist James Artimus Owen tell Facebook readers

I have accidentally replaced all the spaces in my current manuscript with the words, “Chuck Norris”. But I’m leaving it in, in hopes that the change will be accepted as one of those necessary, semi-invisible words like “and”, “the”, and “defenestrate.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-packed episode, says the concluding Final Fantasy game has many “beautiful and poignant moments” because “you spent 5,000 hours with these characters in the previous 13 episodes,” but there are exciting sidebars, such as “waiting for a really rare monster to appear while someone writes the entire plot of Shrek in chat.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Joel Zakem, Bruce D. Arthurs, BravoLimaPoppa, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

50 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/27/22 All Ringworlds Great And Small

  1. (3) Did everyone see Dirda’s DisconIII report a week or two ago?

    “All Things Grimm and Clobberful”, “All Antmen, Great or Small,” and “All Kzin Wise and Weaponful” was a great trilogy about a veterinarian turned doctor to the heroic and/or nonhuman.

  2. 1) I know someone who lives in that county. Their reaction was to buy a copy of the book and give it to their child.

  3. Rochrist: The Riverworld movie was offered on a service I subscribe to a couple years ago — like a lot of other old shows packaged there. Didn’t know about it before, it was new to me, so I tried to watch it because of the fame of the books. Couldn’t stick with it more than 10 minutes.

  4. (1) Gaiman is right.

    One of the geniuses on the school board complained that Maus “normalizes sexuality”. So what method of reproduction will now be used in McMinn County?

  5. FFXIV’s new expansion is “Endwalker” not “Skywalker. Also the stories & characters in FFXIV have no connection to FF 1-13 except for some Easter eggs. It’s a brand not a series.

  6. Corrected to Endwalker. As for the rest — those are quotes from the makers of the video which have to stand on their own.

  7. Sorry to be nitpicky, Mike, but I didn’t hear the bit about “playing 1 through 13” in the video?

    The “5000 hours” comment was probably just referring to FFXIV by itself since it’s been 10 years since the rework was launched.

  8. 1) The comic Persepolis was one of the top censored books in US one year, same year as Saga was. The year before it was Hunger Games. Another year it was Handmaid’s Tale and Harry Potter.

    To Kill A Mocking Bird and Of Mice And Men are still on the list of censored books, which I find kind of weird as it was the school that forced me to read them.

  9. We don’t really care that much about swear words nor nudity in Sweden, both having had a place in Children’s literature together with abuse, sex and violence. Swedish youth literature can be surprisingly dark, as there’s still a bildungsideal where children should learn about how what happens to other children and how to cope with it if they themselves are in a bad situation.

  10. 10) Alan Cumming was quite good a Saturninus, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Titus Andronicus, in Julie Taymor’s Titus. (Is Titus considered a genre film?)

    How ironic that The Hunger Games is banned in a country where we prefer active shooter drills over even the merest hint of an attempt at sensible gun control. I guess we only like our blood sports if they are in real life.

  11. 12: And in related news, the National Catholic Educational Association announced that beginning with the 2023 school term, all student uniforms will consist of a white, buttoned down shirt, tartan tie or scarf (school tartan) and tartan skorts.
    This change to the national dress code was taken by the national board in support of transgender diversity. A press release from the organization explained that skorts were identified as the most gender-neutral garment available to students at a reasonable cost.
    As one school Principal said upon learning of the change to the dress code “Now everyone will know that boys have knobby knees, just like the girls.”

  12. @Steve Davidson: I don’t believe you. That doesn’t look related to Jeopardy at all.
    (The hazard is that this news item will enter the rest of the blogosphere, and then enter twitterspace, shorn of its original satiric context.)

    12) On the actual Jeopardy item, this would have been a plausible answer question if the contestant had buzzed in early and had to provide this question before hearing the entire answer. “Kipling” instead of “Burroughs” should have been decisive.

  13. Paul Weimer says Hunh, I remember the SYfy Riverworld movies but not Ringworld

    Hardly surprising as it’s never ever happened despite at least, I think, three attempts. Five years, Amazon announced it was developing it as a series but it’s disappeared into the bottom circles of development Hell.

  14. Steve Davidson making it clear what 11) is really about, there. I guess “we’ll have to accommodate furries” is the new “people will be marrying their dogs”.

  15. @Steve Davidson

    And while I’m here – perhaps you can explain this joke to me, a trans woman? I’m not sure I’ve picked up all the nuance

  16. A paperback volume of The History Of Middle Earth that I have somewhere has a picture of a Balrog in the foreground on a mountain top looking down on Gondolin.
    I’m often reminded of this when I see our black cat Crowley sit on the arm of the sofa and survey the room. I think Gothmog would have been a terrific name for her. (Moggy being British slang for cat.) If you’re looking for a cool cat name, you’re welcome :).

  17. (1) I don’t agree with the word “ban” here. The McMinn County School Board removed the book from the 8th grade curriculum; it did not, for example, remove it from school libraries. Eighth graders who are so inclined still have access; it just isn’t part of the formal lesson plan. Is any book not included in a curriculum “banned”?

    Spiegelman himself once said “When parents give “Maus,” my book about Auschwitz, to their little kids, I think it’s child abuse.” (New Yorker, 9/27/1997)

  18. An 8th grader does not qualify as a “little kid”. Seriously, dude , it’s like you aren’t even trying anymore.

  19. Have you never been around middle schoolers? Some are plenty mature enough to handle Maus. Some aren’t.

    But regardless, good for you for being able to know where his cut-off age was, 25 years later.

  20. @bill-In addition to agreeing with what Nancy Sauer said, I would also point out that the official statement of the school board, which is quoted and linked to the CNBC article, states that “The McMinn County Board of Education voted to REMOVE THE GRAPHIC NOVEL MAUS FROM MCMINN COUNTY SCHOOLS (emphasis added)…” To me, removing it from the school does not equate moving it from a single curriculum and thus I think ban was appropriate.

    https://www.mcminn.k12.tn.us/o/mcsd/article/639918

  21. @bill
    Strangely, it’s fairly easy to verify that Spiegelman had a specific age in mind when he said ‘little kids’ if you actually LOOK at the exact source you are referring to (without a link). Here it is (and a wonderfully drawn comic spread by Spiegelman it is, too):

    link

    Sooo, Spiegelman specifically says that SIX years old is too young – AND he specifies that he’s thinking about his own six year old daughter (his OLDER child at the time) when he says it. Did you hear about what Spiegelman said secondhand, or are you deliberately and disingenuously trying to make him seem more vague than he’s actually being?

    Six years old is not thirteen – the age of eight graders, who are literally not ‘little’ children anymore. And, as you may have forgotten, thirteen is traditionally when children are considered to be mature enough to start learning adult knowledge and responsibility in Judaism. IMO, this definitely counts.

  22. ISTR that in 8th grade, we had to read “Brave New World”. That was also the year that President Kennedy was assassinated.

  23. @JoelZakem

    the official statement of the school board, which is quoted and linked to the CNBC article, states that “The McMinn County Board of Education voted to REMOVE THE GRAPHIC NOVEL MAUS FROM MCMINN COUNTY SCHOOLS (emphasis added)…”

    @Joel — that statement is sloppily written and is inaccurate. If you read the minutes of the school board meeting in question, it is clear that what they did was to remove Maus from the eighth grade curriculum. That is all.

    I would also add that it is clear that the board struggled and was conflicted with the issue, and that they recognize that Maus has great value. They were in the position of having to balance the pedagogical value of using Maus as a text, and whether doing so conflicted with the values of the community that elected they and that they serve.

    @jayn — I saw that same comic, in the same tweet, and I don’t draw the same conclusion about “little kids” as you do. Spiegleman’s daughter was six, yes, but the “child abuse” comment specifically refers to the children of other parents. We don’t know what age is his upper limit, and he doesn’t tell us.
    I brought up the quote because it shows that even Spiegleman sees that it is not appropriate for some kids.

    That being the case, the question becomes “who decides”? Why would anyone expect that an immigrant liberal New Yorker would have the same opinions about the matter as conservative rural Tennesseans?

    @Paul Weimer

    If you think Middle schoolers are too young to read MAUS, then at what age do you think the book is appropriate?

    The short answer is, it depends on the kid. I remember being in eighth grade, I’ve seen my own son’s eighth grade classmates, and I used to be a Boy Scout leader for eighth graders. Some 13-14 year olds could easily handle Maus, and for some, I’d suggest they wait a grade or two before dealing with it.

    The long answer is, my opinion on whether or not the McMinn school board is doing the right thing is meaningless. I’m responsible for my own son, and to a lesser extent, my community’s kids (via voting for our own local school board). The McMinn school board was elected by the local community, and no one — not Art Spiegleman, Neil Gaiman, or anyone on this board — is in a better place to make the right judgment for the students of McMinn County. And if they make the wrong judgment here, the solution is for the citizens of McMinn County to vote them out and replace them with someone else.

  24. Have you never been around middle schoolers?

    In the course of my 12+ year adventure of being a Girl Scout leader I helped take two different troops through the middle school grades. The first time we called them junior high students, because I’m old.

    The first troop, after 2 years of dedicated fundraising, planned a trip to Washington DC. When my co-leader and I asked them what museums they wanted to go to, the #1 unanimous choice was the Holocaust Museum. We leaders were surprised, because none of them had ever shown an interest in history before, but it turned out that they had read the Diary of Anne Frank in school that year and they were determined to know more about the circumstances of her life and death.

    There was a lot of childish behavior on the trip—the girl who tried to order dessert for her meal, and nothing else, at every single restaurant comes to mind. But at the Holocaust Museum they were absolutely serious. They took their time looking at the exhibits and read all the little placards that went with them. We spent more time there than any two other museums combined.

    So no, I don’t think that 8th grade is an unreasonable time to read Maus.

    But regardless, good for you for being able to know where his cut-off age was, 25 years later.

    I do not, in fact, know what his cut-off age is. But as a fluent speaker of English I know that no one refers to 8th graders as “little kids”. (Especially not in their hearing.)

  25. @bill

    The short answer is, it depends on the kid. I remember being in eighth grade, I’ve seen my own son’s eighth grade classmates, and I used to be a Boy Scout leader for eighth graders. Some 13-14 year olds could easily handle Maus, and for some, I’d suggest they wait a grade or two before dealing with it.

    I must admit to admiring your complete lack of shame in making duplicitous arguments. With an absolutely straight face you are arguing that there are 13-14 year olds who cannot deal with reading the word “__d_mn” or seeing naked cartoon mice. Because, we all recall, the school board removed Maus not for the grim realities of Nazi Germany, but because of profanity and nudity.

    Either the school board of McMinn County is made up of liars or they have a seriously deficient knowledge of children. In either case, I am very comfortable with saying they made a bad call.

  26. @bill

    The long answer is, my opinion on whether or not the McMinn school board is doing the right thing is meaningless.

    I strongly disagree with that sort of qualification. Since you seem to think they did the right thing, you should OWN that, Bill. You support this decision. “Child abuse”, remember?

    I seem to remember in Heinlein’s JOB early on where Alexander Hergensheimer gleefully pointed out that removing ‘questionable’ books from schools, and his efforts in leading that was doing God’s work because “The Bible had plenty of stories enough for virtuous boys and girls.” He then said that he wasn’t banning them from society, just for kids. Your arguments sound familiar. .

  27. So, I’ve mentioned before that I was a home ed kid (emphasis on the “education” and no “school”, please), and not the “how dare you expose my children to knowledge” kind, the “radical children’s rights expose kids to knowledge extra hard” kind. It seems pretty redundant to then even make a comment saying that, obviously, this is an appalling decision, deeply condescending to thirteen year olds, and outright harmful to any of them who might not receive the education and full knowledge of the Holocaust they need and deserve as a result.

    Bill’s appeal to authority is noted and dismissed.

  28. I brought up the quote because it shows that even Spiegleman sees that it is not appropriate for some kids.

    @bill
    He speaks of ‘little kids’ in the comic. Six years old is the only age he mentions, and he talks about his own kids (who were 6 and 2 at the time of that writing) who he feels should not be exposed to Maus then. To say “he MIGHT say the same of 13 year old kids” is a ridiculous stretch not supported by the text you cite.

    Spiegelman does not exist solely in that one quote, if you seriously maintain that he might agree that 13 is STILL too young to read Maus. He said about the McMinn decision that it was Orwellian and stupid, though he allowed that the board members were POSSIBLY not Nazis. Therefore it seems he does not agree with your stretch that MAYBE he thinks that 13 is too young for Maus.

  29. @David Shalcross: On (the current version of) “Jeopardy!”, a contestant isn’t allowed to ring in to give a response until after the host has finished reading the clue out loud (which is also displayed on a screen so the contestants can see it).

  30. @Nancy Sauer

    With an absolutely straight face you are arguing that there are 13-14 year olds who cannot deal with reading the word “__d_mn” or seeing naked cartoon mice.

    I made no such argument.
    What I’ve argued is that:
    A school board removing material from a curriculum is not “banning”; it is exercising the sort of judgment that school boards are supposed to be making. (Note: I haven’t even said that I approve of the decision.)

    Further, “cannot deal with reading the word “__d_mn” ” is not the argument that the McMinn School Board is making, either. It’s clear (if you will read the minutes) that they are concerned that their mission of teaching kids that certain language is not appropriate in a school environment is undercut by a curriculum that includes that same language. A much more nuanced argument than you are giving them credit for.

    @Paul Weimer

    You support this decision.

    I don’t know why you say this — I’ve neither supported nor condemned the decision. What I support is the right of the McMinn School Board to make this decision, and any other decisions about curriculum, and what I condemn is the arrogance of people far removed from the community who think they know better for that community.

    @Meredith

    Bill’s appeal to authority

    I have no idea what you are talking about here — what authority am I appealing to?

    And it’s pretty disengenuous to suggest that by dropping Maus, the students will miss out on being educated on the holocaust. The board members clearly are seeking to replace the book with another text that will address it, and Tennesee Common Core standards address the holocaust in several other places in the curriculum (5th grade Social Studies, high school US and World history).

    @jayn
    I don’t think that Spiegelman considers 13 year olds to be “little kids”. Like I said, I quoted him to make the point that even he believes the book is not age-appropriate for some kids; so any argument that it is okay for 13 year olds means that the cutoff is below 13. I don’t know why Art Spiegelman, whose background (liberal cartoonist from New York) is about as far removed from that of the citizens of McMinn county as one can get, is better positioned to say where that cutoff is than the people who were elected to do that job, and have the legal responsibility to do so.

  31. 11
    This one strikes me as being both on fleek and disturbing. We seem to be developing a cultural penchant for conspiracy, the more outrè the better. Either through untreated mental illness or heedlessness. People seem to prefer pols who have a narrative, the more titillating the better. This doesn’t end well for us.

    I won’t worry unless this candidate wins, of course. We survived Lyndon larouche.

  32. @JoshuaK

    On (the current version of) “Jeopardy!”, a contestant isn’t allowed to ring in to give a response until after the host has finished reading the clue out loud (which is also displayed on a screen so the contestants can see it).

    When I was on the show, a while back now, the actual trigger for when you could buzz in was a descending light timer on either side of the board. You weren’t allowed to buzz in until the light timer was completely out. If you buzzed early, your buzzer was locked out for a few seconds, which was generally more than enough time for one of the other players to get the chance to answer.

  33. @bill–They’re taking it out of the curriculum on the stated grounds of profanity–a few swear words?-and nudity–one nude mouse. You’ve devoted a great deal of effort to defending this decision, while also intermittently claiming you’re not defending it.

    And we’ve seen this type of nonsense from you before, where you simultaneously argue for an offensive or ridiculous position, and object to people saying you’re arguing for that position.

    In this case, you include the attempt to claim that Spiegelman, in a statement in a comic where he explicitly references six-year-olds, in an attempt to claim that at that time he might have meant giving Maus to 13yos was “child abuse.” When called on that nonsense, you switch seamlessly to the argument of differences in viewpoints between “liberal” New Yorkers and “citizens of McMinn County” (no political orientation mentioned, as if we can’t see the orientation in their words and actions.) We’ve coddled the diehard Confederates’ efforts to restrict the education of their offspring for far too long, with disastrous consequences. We have people who seriously believe Holocaust denial crap.

    And yes, 13yos are old enough that to learn about hard things like the Holocaust and its aftermath in some detail, and this excellent graphic novel is a very accessible way of doing that. If some parents in the willfully backward parts of the country want to argue that their particular precious darlings are sufficiently behind their age peers that they can’t handle, let them make that argument on behalf of their own specific children, and not mangle the curriculum for the entire student body.

    Only one kind of person wants to ban Maus, whatever they’re calling themselves today, and yes, in the context of a school setting, this a banning of it.

    (11) Another example of our raving right making up nonsense in an attempt to create a moral panic and shut down tolerance for anyone not exactly like them.

  34. I grew up in Berlin, Germany, in the 1970s. We learned about the Holocaust in 5th and 6th grade, ages 11 and 12. This included visits to memorials, watching documentary films, and even a visit from a holocaust survivor.

    This was important stuff to learn. To see and hear. And not just in some watered-down, “inoffensive” version – because the actual things that happened are offensive as hell to begin with anyway. When the topic is the mass dehumanization and murder of millions of people, the propaganda that hid some aspects but also persuaded millions of others that what “less bad” things were known (the buildup through banning groups of people from holding jobs, from owning property, from participating in society in so many ways) were somehow acceptable … you bet that being made to feel “uncomfortable” is necessary.

    Are American – and in particular, Southern – children really so much more fragile and must be coddled and kept from seeing the occasional bad word or a shred of nudity – a nudity that was forced on the victims! – because they might as teenagers feel in some way upset?

    Or to phrase it differently: Which is more important – making sure that some kids don’t encounter a bit of nudity or swear words when they learn about history, or ensuring that all kids learn about history so that some future kids don’t have their human rights stripped and get murdered?

    @bill, your phrasing

    I’ve neither supported nor condemned the decision. What I support is the right of supposed authority to make this decision, and any other decisions about area of supposed authority, and what I condemn is the arrogance of people far removed from the community who think they know better for that community.

    can be used to excuse pretty much any bad decision by any person or group in a position of authority, simply because they hold that position of authority. In other words, you’re completely kowtowing to some authority who makes a decision – and rejecting any and all criticism of the decision, or indeed of the purported authority. That’s pretty much authoritarianism through and through: someone in a position of authority has said something, and that must not be criticised.

    You’re also presuming not only that the McMinn County Tennessee School Board does actually represent their community in this – which is rather questionable – but also, that a smaller community necessarily knows better than a larger community, and that thus others’ voices do not, or should not, matter.

    Neither of those things are in any way a given.

    In particular, a larger community is more likely to be more diverse, and have a wider variety of viewpoints and experiences from which to draw ideas and knowledge.

    And this is especially important when it comes to decisions on topics that may indeed may make some people uncomfortable, but where the discomfort of some, while unfortunate, does not outweigh the necessity of learning about those topics; where indeed some of that discomfort itself may be necessary to properly learn.

    And while you proclaim that you ‘neither support nor condemn’ the decision, you are in fact standing by and making excuses for the decision – in other words, you are tacitly supporting it while pretending to some vague smokescreen of impartiality and thus attempting to reject any of your own responsibility.

    But on a more positive note, Bay Area comic book shop sends free copies of banned Holocaust graphic novel ‘Maus’ to Tennessee:

    […]

    Ryan Higgins, owner of Sunnyvale’s Comics Conspiracy, heard the news and thought it was a bizarre decision.

    “You can’t teach the Holocaust without showing the most graphic imagery that humanity has ever seen. [“Maus”] is nothing compared to the actual thing. It’s just mind-boggling that they’d remove it,” says Higgins. “It’s one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, it’s just a seminal work. It’s been taught in schools and libraries and colleges for decades at this point.”

    In response, Higgins tweeted an offer to donate up to 100 copies of “Maus” to families in the McMinn county area. It’s not the first time he’s made such a pledge — last year, he made a similar offer when Texas removed the political graphic novels “Why the Last Man” and “V for Vendetta” from some libraries.

    This time around, the tweet went viral, with over 11,700 likes and 3,442 retweets. He said Comics Conspiracy sold out of the few copies they have on hand, and a couple dozen people have replied requesting copies, including messages from both students and parents.

    “What was fascinating was the replies from the students. Their embarrassment, that they hate to be lumped in with the potentially racist problems with removing books like this,” says Higgins. “They said the teachers have been blindsided, the teachers are trying to fight back against it. It does not seem like the will of the people in the area.”

    One phrase pops out: “It does not seem like the will of the people in the area.” – in other words, the arrogance here is that of the McMinn County Tennessee School Board in presuming that they represent the will of their community in this … and also your arrogance in blindly believing a flawed authority, and indeed, in blindly following any authority in the first place.

  35. @bill

    (Note: I haven’t even said that I approve of the decision.)

    Dante Alighieri devotes Canto III of the Divine Comedy to the Opportunists, those who refused to take a stand.

    “The High Creator
    scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,
    and Hell will not receive them since the wicked
    might feel some glory over them.”

    Anything else I could say has already been said better by Lis Carey and Christian Brunschen.

  36. Brown Robin wrote

    People seem to prefer pols who have a narrative, the more titillating the better. This doesn’t end well for us.

    Given the choice between thinking critically or accepting a story that makes one feel good about oneself, the natural human reaction is to go for the story. This tendency can be mitigated with education and training–there’s a reason the Former Guy is less popular among the college educated–but it seems to be an inescapable part of how our brains work. And shopping for one’s own facts (doing your own “research”) is a natural extension of consumer culture; this used to be work, but the internet has made it almost effortless. Alas.

    We are also, incidentally, visual thinkers. A picture is worth a thousand words, whereas dogs might say that a sniff is worth many-many barks, if dogs bothered to talk. If we ever build sentient robots, perhaps they will have their own spooky stories and urban legends.

  37. Reading the transcript from the school board, it’s pretty clear that “But nudity! Swearing! Think of the children! Gasp!” is NOT the whole story behind the ban on teaching Maus.
    One board member said: “

    It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.”

    So he’s objecting to the whole notion of accurate depiction of the Holocaust, independent of whether that depiction includes nudity or cursing. Such an objection would easily apply to an accurate depiction of lynching as well.
    Another board member darkly remarked:

    “If I was trying to indoctrinate somebody’s kids, this is how I would do it. You put this stuff just enough on the edges so the parents don’t catch it, but the kids, they soak it in…”

    …thus expressing his strong suspicion that this accurate depiction of a Holocaust experience is a deliberate attempt to corrupt youth by some unnamed group for a dire hidden agenda. Just a small objection to nudity/cusswords, my ass.

  38. … and that is why I have severe doubts over whether these kids will get the education they need and deserve while it’s subject to such censorship, because I’d already read the quotes jayn just pulled out.

    Also, really appreciate Christian Brunschen explaining the appeal to authority so I don’t have to, along with an overall excellent comment.

    I’m-not-defending-it-but-here’s-another-few-hundred-words-defending-it is not a good look, for the record.

  39. (1) Eric Schwitzgebel’s books, Perplexities of Consciousness and A Theory of Jerks, and Other Philosophical Misadventures, are both very good and possibly interesting to those who like sci-fi. Perplexities is about how introspection isn’t as reliable as one might think, covering topics from human echolocation to whether we dream in color.

    A Theory of Jerks is largely drawn from his blog, The Splintered Mind, and covers a wide range of stuff. One on his father, who invented the ankle monitor, and how technology can be used in ways the inventor disagrees with was especially interesting (I think he frames it partly in terms of technological optimism vs. technological pessimism but I can’t find my copy to check).

    He’s a very interesting, accessible philosopher!

  40. 10) Birthdays: Can I hope that “[Frank Miller’s] Batman work all of which is a must read” refers only to The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, and that Cat is unaware of the existence of The Dark Knight Strikes Again and DK III: The Master Race? Because having read these latter two, I feel strongly that far from “must-read”, they fall into the category of “flee, screaming”.

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