Friday, September 29, 2006

Cool Jewelry

If you've been wondering what jewelry to wear while celebrating Banned Books Week, click here

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More recommended reading

Still celebrating Banned Books Week. Here are a few more that are always on the American
Library Association's list of most-frequently challenged books.

"James and the Giant Peach" makes book burners madder than the much gorier and disturbing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Why?
Well, it uses the unforgivable and traumatizing word "ass." An obviously-racist grasshopper says, "I'd rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican!", and there are references to snuff, tobacco and whiskey. Some censors object to the fact that it encourages children to disobey adults -- and I say if we're talking about adults like Spiker and Sponge then I say they should be disobeyed.

Shel Silverstein was a genius, no question about it. He was equally skilled at cartooning, music and writing. In the poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony," the title character tells her parents that if they don't buy her a pony, she'll die. Her parents refuse, and she does, in fact, die. Book burners, who were born without a sense of humor, think this encourages suicide. Thank goodness for the judges at the Bedford Central School District in New York. Their verdict: "Silverstein… was apparently intending to be funny." And can't you just see the censors scratching their heads and wondering what that means.

I'm not going to try to pass "Where's Waldo?" off as great literature, but for the Barney the Dinosaur demographic it is a pleasant way to pass the time and sharpen one's visual skills. But the book has been challenged because in one beach scene, a little boy is about to throw water on a sunbathing woman's back -- and (gasp!) her bathing suit top is apparently untied. This seems to me to be a perfect example of someone looking real hard for something to be upset about.
If you've ever dealt with the eyestrain involved in trying to locate that rascally Waldo, you'll know what I mean.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More suggested reading for Banned Book Week

You might think that a book published 55 years ago would have lost its power to shock you, make you laugh or break your heart -- not to mention royally piss off the censors, but J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is still on the most-challenged list year after year -- ostensibly because of profanity (protagonist Holden Caulfield does like the word "goddamn") prostitution, underage-drinking, premarital sex, and tons of "morons" and "phonies."
Much has been made of the fact that this book is the favorite of nutjob assassins like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley, and psychologists say it's because misunderstood social outcasts relate to Holden Caulfield -- and he probably is the patron saint of outcasts -- but Holden never shot any of those goddamn phonies. He really in his own clumsy way only wanted to make the world a better place -- that's why he was out there catching all those kids before they fell out of the rye.
And that's why he'll still be out there in that rye a hundred years from now, no matter how hard the book burners try to shut him up.

Here's some trivia about the book from Wikepedia:
  • Holden Caulfield's middle name is Morrisey. Although it does not appear in this book, Salinger used it in a 1946 short story featuring Caulfield called "A Slight Rebellion off Madison," that ran in the New Yorker.
  • The name "Holden Caulfield" first came to Salinger when he saw a movie theater's marquee advertising the 1947 film Dear Ruth, which starred William Holden and Joan Caulfield.
  • The word "fuck" appears in the book only six times and was sometimes given as reason for it being banned. However, in context Holden is trying to remove the word from the walls of a school and the Museum of Natural History to preserve the children's "innocence."
  • The word "goddamn" appears in the book 245 times. However and contrary to popular belief, it is not at least on every other page. (This is a little misleading, it might not be on every single page, but with 245 occurrences in 224 pages it averages out to more than once a page.)
  • Approximately 250,000 copies of The Catcher in the Rye are sold each year, with total sales at about 10 million copies. [1]
  • Is the favorite novel of Terrence Malick, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Billie Joe Armstrong, David Tennant, Paul Bettany, Sarah Michelle Gellar and the late John Ritter.
  • Simon & Garfunkel originally wanted to name themselves "Catchers in the Rye."

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron." Holden Caulfield

Monday, September 25, 2006

Suggested reading for banned books week

Although he gets a lot of competition these days from J.D. Salinger, Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain is probably the author that pisses off the book burners the most. His masterpiece "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" has been censored since it was first published in 1885 (originally people objected to the fact that pipe-smoking elementary-school dropout Huck was not a good role model, which goes to show that political correctness is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle) and still tops lists of most-challenged books year after year. Nowadays the main objection is its frequent use of the word "nigger" -- one of the two main characters is even named Nigger Jim. This is the perfect book to read during banned books week (or any time, of course) because it perfectly encapsulates how twisted and misguided the book burners are.
They say it's racist because it uses the "n word" even though they acknowledge that it is a historically-accurate depiction og the way people in Missouri talked at that time. I say there's no way in hell these people have ever read this book. No way. If anybody reads Huckleberry Finn and finds it to be racist, that person is an idiot and should be sterilized so as not to pass on idiotic genes. The truth is this book is a beautiful, eloquent plea for racial harmony and judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The part of the book where Huck decides he's going to go against everything he's ever been taught and save his black friend Jim even though he's sure it means he'll be sent to hell is one of the most powerful moments in all of literature. Nobody , not Martin Luther King, not Frederick Douglas, not Sojourner Truth, ever expressed the truth of our racial oneness half so well as Mark Twain in that passage.
And the book burners absolutely DO NOT GET IT!!!! They don't get it, and then they want to tell me I should be as narrow-minded, as clueless and oblivious and thin-skinned as they are, and they should be allowed to pick what MY children read -- and it makes me so mad I want to renounce my lifelong commitment to nonviolence and put my foot far enough up their ass to knock some sense into their foolish little minds.
But I digress.
Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." That was true when he said it in 1935 and it's still true now. If you've never read it, you need to read it -- and I know you will love it, it's hilarious, it's exciting, it's unforgettable. Please don't let the poisonous screeds of the book burners color your perception of this magnificent work of art.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trashing Alabama

I've been a professional music critic for 12 years now. It's a lot of fun, especially when you get to review a bad record -- after all there's only so many ways you can say "This is good," but there's no limit to the ways you tear crappy artists a new one.
Here's one of my favorite reviews of one of my least favorite records by one of my least favorite bands:

Twentieth Century

Even though this is Alabama’s 500th album, it has a youthful air about it. And it’s not just the presence of bubble gummers In the Sink. . .er, ‘N Sync. . .on “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You” (which should probably be called “Alabama Should Spend a Little More Time Picking Their Singing Partners.”) Listen to this line from the title tune: “Oh, the Twentieth Century wasn’t all that bad / It was a time like no one has ever had . . ./ We sent a man into the sky / When he walked on the moon we were so glad.” Now you can’t get much more youthful that that; sounds like a first-grader wrote it.
Maybe Alabama is in their second childhood. Like many an Alzheimer’s victim, they tend to repeat themselves a lot. (“Life’s Too Short to Love This Fast” finds the Bama boys still in a hurry but not knowing why; 9 of the 12 songs here are about romantic love, 7 of them could easily be retitled “Gosh, I Love You.”) They tend to ramble semi-coherently about the past (“Twentieth Century”) and they sometimes think old things are new (on “I’m in That Kind of Mood” a connection between dancing and sex is discovered!). In advanced stages of senile dementia people often develop unreasonable sentimental attachments to inanimate objects, like Alabama for azure ink on “Write it Down in Blue”.
We probably should have seen this coming years ago. (Can anybody really tell any difference between “High Cotton”, “Song of the South”, “Down Home” and “Born Country”?) But research goes on, and someday we will have a cure for Alabama if not for Alzheimer’s. Call it the 21st century.

Family Tradition

Friday on my way home from work, I stopped and bought (among other things) a Star magazine for my son Dylan.
Kim asked me why and I told her it was a family tradition. My mom told me how when she was a girl she got hooked on romance and true confession magazines. When people would ask her father how come they let her read such trash, he said “Hey, at least she’s reading. And it’s none of your business”

Then when I was a lad living in Richmond I tried to check Arthur Hailey’s schlock bestseller Airport out at the library. The librarian wouldn’t let me because she said I had a juvenile card and that was an adult book. Now, I never saw my mother raise hell with too many people, but she sure got on that lady. She told her I could check out any book I liked and if I couldn’t do it with the card I had then she would make sure I got an adult card.
My parents never really got on me much about all the hours I spent reading comic books and Carter Brown books either.

Now Dylan enjoys celebrity gossip magazines and I think that’s great and I buy him one whenever I get a chance.
It’s a family tradition – encouraging reading.
And loving lowbrow literature.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Open Letter to Goodwill Industries

Robert Loy
114 Gatewood Street
North Charleston, SC 29418

Goodwill Industries International
15810 Indianola Drive
Rockville, MD 20855

Dear Goodwill;

I spend a lot of time and money in thrift stores -- but not much in Goodwill stores anymore. It's not that I don't like your stores; I do. They're clean, well-lit, and always have a good selection of merchandise. But one of the things I like to shop for in thrift stores is T-shirts, and for some reason every Goodwill store I've ever been in separates shirts not by size but by color. I have never understood your reasoning behind this. Do you think that people go to the store desirous of purchasing a green shirt -- any green shirt, whether it be too large or too small or just right. I do not think I am alone in saying that I shop by size not color and having to dig through a bunch of shirts not in my size to get to one that is has become so frustrating that I now do most of my shopping at the thrift store up the street which is not as clean or well-lit and doesn't have Goodwill's selection but separates their shirts by sizes.
If you can explain your reasoning on this issue I would appreciate it very much.
Thank you.

Sincerely Yours,

Robert Loy

To Hell with Censorship!

More than a book a day faces expulsion from free and open public access in U.S. schools and libraries every year. There have been more than 8,700 attempts since the American Library Association began electronically compiling and publishing information on book challenges in 1990.

From September 23 to September 30 it is Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

So tell the book banners to go shit in their hat.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More censorship nonsense

I have no tolerance for censorship of any kind -- whether it's Rumsfeld and Cheney and other members of this evil regime trying to convince people that speaking out against that jug-eared moron in the white house is unpatriotic, or people cutting up old Tom and Jerry cartoons to get rid of the nicotine therein.
And the self-appointed arbiters of what we should see and think never rest, do they? They're at it again at Marvel Comics. Marvel has been reprinting a lot of its older comics and they're doing it with the 1970's Tomb of Dracula -- only they're not doing it right.
But here, read about it for yourself, then come back and we'll discuss.
In the meantime, remember the immortal (albeit paraphrased) words of Billy in "Easy Rider"
"This used to be a helluva country, man, till everybody turned chicken."

Oh, you're back from the Tomb of Dracula page? Is your mind reeling? How in the hell in 2006, at the pinnacle of human evolution, can we be so terrified of a breast, a baby bottle, mother's milk? But to show somebody slashing a woman's jugular vein, blood spurting everywhere, no problem, very entertaining in fact -- but before you die, cover up that booby! Have you no shame?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Greatest Archie Comic Ever

Here's a story about the sexiest Archie comic ever. That's not saying much, you say? Well, Archie and Betty register as man and wife at a motel and spend the evening playing footsie while wearing nothing but towels. That's pretty hot for Riverdale -- or anywhere. And the Archie people have never reprinted this story and vowed that they never will. (Maybe Veronica Lodge has threatened to sue them if they do.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My favorite Rogers Hornsby quote

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

You and me both, Rogers, you and me both.

More things that make you feel old

A couple of months ago I was trying to remember the name of an old-time baseball player. All I knew about him was that his first name sounded like it was plural instead of singular, and the only name I could come up with that fit the bill was Johns Hopkins, and I knew he was an abolitionist philanthropist not a baseball player.
Believe it or not, I racked my brain for a couple weeks trying to dredge it up out of my subconscious, but kept coming up empty-handed. Of course I tried to look it up on the internet, but "baseball player whose first name sounds plural" elicited only irrelevant babble from Google.
And then one day it hit me out of the blue -- Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals slugger who holds the modern record for highest batting average in a season with .424 in 1924.
End of story? No, because a few days after that I was thinking about how long it had taken me to come up with the name of that baseball player whose first name sounds plural -- and I realized that I had forgotten it again. Now I was irked and I vowed that if I ever remembered that cursed ballplayer and his stupid name again I would write it down so I wouldn't have to keep driving myself crazy about it.
And one day as I was sorting out the mail, the name came to me again, and I dropped what I was doing and ran to my desk and wrote "Rogers Hornsby" on the back of a business card.
All that made me feel old, but the fact that I've already had to refer to the card -- after forgetting his name AGAIN -- makes me feel not only ancient but senile.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things that make you feel old

I'm talking to a DHL guy and he sees the Mary Marvel wallpaper on my computer. "So, are you into comic books?" he asks, and I say "Yeah."
He says "Me too. I've got a ton of old comic books."
"Oh yeah? Like what?"
"Well, lots of old stuff, but I guess my prize is a Spawn #1."
That was when I decided to switch to FedEx.
For those of you who don't know, Spawn debuted in 1992. And an "old comic book" (at least in my dictionary) is one from before 1970.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Burning Issue

This is my new column for Country Standard Time magazine. As you'll see it has a lot to do with my post of 8-22-06. That's the great thing about being a music columnist, I can talk about whatever I want as long as I tie it in some way to music.


At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I think we should all be a lot more upset about the news that Turner Broadcasting in England is going through every single Tom and Jerry cartoon (as well as the Flintstones and Scooby Doo) and cutting out any scenes that appear to "condone, accept or glamorize cigarette smoking."

Why? is it because toddlers in the U.K. are lighting up and having to deal with black lung as well as diaper rash?

No, but they’ve decided that such conduct is inappropriate in shows geared for children.
(So, apparently dropping anvils on your playmates heads is all right. Eating them alive, that's no problem. And you can smack them square in the face with a cast iron frying pan. Tying a piece of lit dynamite to an appendage, that’s okay too, as long as you don’t light the fuse with a cigarette.)

But, I can hear you say, that’s just cartoons – cartoons in England. Why should we care about that?

I’ll tell you why. Because if you give the priggish, self-righteous killjoys of political correctness an inch, they’ll take our entire culture. If you let them go back in time and bowdlerize our art (and don’t tell me “Tom and Jerry” isn’t art; those cartoons have stood the test of time, still popular after 50 years) they’ll be after TV and movies next. No more Hunphrey Bogart movies. No more Edward R. Murrow.

And then they’ll come after music.

First they’ll censor Kenny Rogers. From now on, the Gambler will “bum” not a cigarette but a stick of gum (sugar-free, of course.) Then they’ll go after Don Williams and tell him that he can start the day with black coffee (for now anyway) and missing his ex (in “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend”) but he’ll have to deal with his loneliness without the help of nicotine. Presumably the Statler Brothers will still allowed to watch Captain Kangaroo and play solitaire without a full deck, but they will no longer be allowed to smoke cigarettes while they count flowers on the wall.

God knows what they’ll do with “King of the Road”? My goodness, that will never do. Roger Miller not only smokes, he smokes “old stogies” that he finds on the street. How unsanitary.
And some songs just cannot be “rehabilitated.” Every copy of Patsy Cline’s “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” will just have to be destroyed. Likewise for Merle Travis’s “Smoke Smoke Smoke that Cigarette” and better go ahead and wipe out “Smoke Get in Your Eyes” even though it’s not about cigarettes. We just can’t take a chance with our impressionable youth.

Crazy, you say?

You’re absolutely right.

And so is being afraid of a cartoon cat and mouse.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I've been robbed.

I didn't notice it until I was organizing my comic books to go to the Baltimore convention next weekend, but somebody has stolen about 80 bronze and silver-age comics from me. I knew something was wrong when I opened the boxes and a couple of comics were sticking and crushed down as though someone had brought the lid down fast -- something I never do. Then I saw that the following comics were gone from my DC collection:
Action 356,358,362,367,369,,372,379,413, 415, 416, 417, 443,446, 454,457
Adventure 312,324,343,349
and these from my Marvel collection:
Avengers 29,46,80 Annual 2
Captain America 104,107,108,,114,115,118
Captain Marvel (V1) 5-13
Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders 3,17
Conan 38,43
(13) Daredevil (V1)-19,20,31,33,34,43, 46,47,49,114,208
Defenders 21,23,36,37,39, Annual 1
Fantastic Four (v1) 58
Fantasy Masterpieces – 2,4,9,11
Fear 13,18,19
Howard the Duck – 3-12,14, 16-21

I am heartsick and not so much for the loss of the comic books -- I'm more of a reader than a hard-core collector and none of them are in good enough shape to be worth a lot of money -- but because it had to be done by someone who knew where to look for these things, someone I trusted and had as a guest in my home.