Tag Archives: censorship

Yes, people are still trying to ban books. And they should be opposed.

You can shield yourself from ideas that make you uncomfortable or that you disagree with. You may be able, to some extent, to limit the exposure that the young people in your care have to those ideas.

But you cannot shield your community from the things you disagree with. That’s called censorship, and in any practical sense, it doesn’t work.

Yet people continue to try.

That’s why we have Banned Books Week (in 2018, Sept. 23-29) — because despite its obvious and practical futility, people continue to try. And librarians, bookseller, academics, and many people from across society continue to oppose the people who try.

Bannedbooks.org keeps up with the censorship efforts that occur throughout the year and on the website is a list of the books that came under the most fire in 2017. Here’s the list, but you’ll need to go to the website (About | Banned Books Weekto find out why:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
George y Alex Gino
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Efforts of censors almost inevitably fail — ideas don’t die just because you keep them out of public places — but that doesn’t mean we should stand idly by and let the censors run amok among us.

Opposing censorship is everyone’s job.

A new source for Shakespeare; etymology for everyone; nutritious foods; more crimes against English

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,270) on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.


Life is not all sitting around reading and writing blog posts and painting watercolors. Sometimes there is real, hard physical labor involved. That’s what it has taken over the past few weeks to clean out our 50+-year-old barn and re-floor it so that I can put some of my woodworking equipment there. I’m also contacting All Service Plumbing so they can take care of the plumbing. I’m happy to report I have finished re-flooring much of the center of the barn, which gives me an extra 500 square feet of working space. I have begun to move some equipment (table saw, drill press, belt sander, etc.) in there and am now considering what my first projects will be. I’ll keep you posted.

Last week’s newsletter included some inside info about this newsletter. There’s some more this week below the signature.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Shakespeare’s source: peering into the mind of a genius

Last week we talked a little about the thousands of pages of journals that Leonardo da Vinci kept and how much they tell us about how his mind worked. William Shakespeare, who lived a century after Leonardo and whose business was writing, left us no such record of his life. Much of what we know about The Bard is what scholars and literary detectives have gleaned through implication and circumstantial evidence. That’s too bad because Shakespeare was a great writer who appeared just when we needed him the most — the time when English was developing as the beautiful language we have today.

Where did Shakespeare get his ideas? How did he formulate the depths of the poetry of his plays? Who and what influenced his thinking and writing?

We have so few answers to these questions that when clue about them appears, we get pretty excited. That’s what happened last week when a new book (Rebellion and Rebels) appeared. The authors indicated that an obscure contemporary of Shakespeare was probably a source for few of his more famous soliloquies. Using computer software designed to detect plagiarism, a computer nerd and a Shakespearean scholar have tracked the ideas and some of the words found in one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches — the opening lines of Richard III (Now is the winter of our discontent . . .) — to a fellow named George North.

Read a bit more about this and why it’s important in this short article on JPROF.com.

Etymology just for the fun of it

Friend and fellow newsletter reader Brett M. sent me a couple of books this week, and they could not have pleased me more. They are Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase and The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language.

Forsyth writes with an energy and wit that speeds the reader through the maze of his brain and his knowledge as he makes connections with words and phrases that are surprising, extraordinary, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Forsyth’s blog is InkyFool.com. That’s a good place to start. He has just published a book titled A Short History of Drunkenness, which he describes thusly:

A Short History of Drunkenness traces humankind’s love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition, answering every possible question along the way: What did people drink? How much? Who did the drinking? Of the many possible reasons, why? On the way, learn about the Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world (no pun intended), marvel at how Greeks got giddy and Sumerians got sauced, and find out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like in the movies.

This is a history of the world at its inebriated best.

The purpose of great literature

On the not-so-funny side of the language this week is the news that the school system in Duluth, Minnesota, has dropped The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from its ninth-grade required reading list. School officials did this because some of the words used in these books — actually, one word in particular — might make the students “uncomfortable.”

There you have it, friends: The purpose of great literature: to make people comfortable.

It’s hard not be sarcastic in the face of such thinking, and I have tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum in a short post about this that I have written for JPROF.com.

The most nutritious foods

I don’t usually venture into the realms of food and its preparation (above my pay grade, I am told), but I thought this was interesting. On the British Broadcasting Corporation site a couple of weeks ago was a listing of the 100 most nutritious foods based on research done by scientists and compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The listing begins with Number 100 and goes down to Number 1. I didn’t have the patience to go through the entire list to begin with so I scrolled down to find out the top 10 or so. (SEMI-SPOILER ALERT) Here the top dozen, but they are listed in alphabetical order, so if you want to know the winner, you’ll have to go to the site: almonds, beet greens, celery flakes, cherimoya, chia seeds, dried parsley, flatfish, ocean perch, pork fat, pumpkin seeds, snapper, Swiss chard.

And the others on the list? Relax, you’re probably already eating some of them.

Here is the link to the scientific article on which the story is based. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.137…

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English

Jean T.: Tautology – near us is a river called the Ravensbourne River. Legend says it was so named because Julius Caesar saw ravens at its source (there’s no evidence that he made it as far as south London). However, Raven is derived from an old word for river, bourne is an old word for river as well so it is actually the river, river river. Redundancy or what?

Well, readers, what do you think?

Tod: In southern California there is an archeological site called La Brea, where thick oil (tar) has bubbled to the surface. Even the locals call it The La Brea Tar Pits, which, when translated into English, reads The The Tar Tar Pits (la brea = the tar).

What crime against English have you discovered?


A name for this newsletter?

Last week I asked: Does this newsletter need a name?

I got a couple of responses and would like to have more.

I think that maybe it does. I have been turning over a couple of possibilities — The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. One reader suggested Jim’s Jottings. Do you have a suggestion?

Let me know what you think.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Eleanor Roosevelt (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall 

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter

Jim’s newsletter: Under the hood (part 2)

Number of subscribers and open rates

Here’s where we get a bit technical.

There are currently more than 4,000 names on my subscriber list, but that number doesn’t mean much. What really means something is something called the “open rate.” That is, how many of those subscribers actually open the email and engage with it.

You can open an email but still not engage with it. To engage, you must display the images (that’s why I have the note at the top of the email asking you to click on “display the images”) or click on one of the links contained in the newsletter.

I am told that with a newsletter such as many (one by an independent author, that is), an open rate of 25 percent is considered to be good. If you are getting more than that, you are doing very well.

My open rate, I am happy to report, is between 30 and 40 percent and occasionally goes to 42 or 44 percent. I am modestly proud (oxymoron ALERT!) of that. It means that at present each week, I am engaging with 1,400 to 1,800 friends.

As Teddy Roosevelt would say, “I am DEE-lighted!”

More on JPROF.com

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Censorship pure and simple in Oak Ridge

Sometimes people who are supposed to be smart aren’t.

That’s the case of the principal and school superintendent in Oak Ridge, Tenn., who have collaborated to execute a classic case of censorship – and make themselves look ridiculous in the process. They have stopped the distribution of the latest issue of the Oak Leaf, the student newspaper of Oak Ridge High School, because it contains a front-page article about contraception.

According to an article about the censorship in the local newspaper, The Oak Ridger:

The article primarily covers birth control methods, quotes Dr. Charles Darling, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Oak Ridge, and tells students where they may obtain contraceptives – including a quote from Darling that says parental consent is not needed to obtain birth control.

Another article just below the one in question advises sexual abstinence before marriage.

And on the inside is a two-page spread, with pictures, about tattoes and body piercing.

The superintendent Tom Bailey failed, in the Oak Ridger article, to identify any errors in either article. In fact, he failed to give any real reason why he and the principal, Becky Ervin, should have pulled the paper.

But that didn’t stop the two from confiscating the papers on Wednesday to prevent their distribution. A Saturday story in the Knoxville-News Sentinel said they went from room to room looking for the newspapers. They even went through the teachers’ desks.

The newspaper’s faculty advisor Wanda Grooms understandably did not want to defy her principal, but she was quoted as saying, “I think The Oak Leaf has had a long tradition of 50 years of operating as a public forum for students to express themselves. Kids need to talk about hard subjects in a fair and honest way.”

But not, apparently, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., a city noted for its excellent schools, its above-average educational level, and its history as a key city in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. The spirit of inquiry and openness that marked that achievement has not filtered down to this generation of educators.

According to a Friday article in the nearby Knoxville News-Sentinel, the Student Press Law Center has been contacted and has offered its assistance to the students, who are planning a protest the Monday after Thanksgiving. Mike Hiestand, a lawyer with the SPLC said:

“Hopefully, we will be able to persuade the school board to rethink this. If we don’t, we help students find lawyers and go to court.”

This is about as pure a case of censorship as you are likely to find. There is nothing wrong with the information — nothing, at least, that the censors, aka school principal and superintendent, have cited. They just do not want the information in the hands of their students.

As if their actions have a chance of preventing that. These people are not very smart.

Jim Stovall (Posted Nov. 27, 2005)