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Just peeking in, between running all over.

My Witchy blog (This is still my personal but I've had a little less time for it.) I promise to head back here to fill you guys in soon!

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Originally posted by kylecassidy at The Wall Street Journal Nonsense about YA Literature
It's kind of like robbing a bank that keeps its cash in an unguarded shoebox in a public park to say "I'm going to take on the Wall Street Journal's commentary on YA Literature, "Darkness Too Visible" penned by Meghan Cox Gurdon" whose inbox, no doubt, like the illustrious Journal's is probably filling up with incredulous and angry comments from people more eloquent and informed than I. But Gurdon provides extremely low hanging fruit that it's really hard not to swat at, beginning with the proposion that Young Adult Literature is: "all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation ... dark, dark stuff"

Which is sort of like standing in a mall parking lot and shouting "ALL CARS ARE RED!" One hardly need point out that Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, the Phantom Tollbooth, The House With the Clock in its Walls, the Chronicles of Narnia, and hundreds of other classics of yesterday are still YA literature, and are still on shelves. It also ignores modern classics like Ysabeau Wilce's Flora Segunda which has neither vampires nor suicides, but a daring young heroine who would be excellent role model material for any daughter I had. On top of that, it ignores the fact that some of the greatest works of YA literature, like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird are ... well, dark at times.

Gurdon goes on to make the bizarre claim that "...40 years ago, no one had to contend with young-adult literature because there was no such thing", contending that it began in 1967 with the publication of The Outsiders, bafflingly, this of course discounts not just Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, perhaps the two most widely known books written for a young adult audience in the English Language, but also books like Kidnapped and Treasure Island. On my shelf right now I have a book called Six Girls by Fanny Belle Irving published in 1882 -- I haven't read it, but I can assure you it's audience is teenage girls who might also be reading Little Women or Jane Austen. (In fact, the article's own sidebar recommends the 1943 novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn for kids.) All this serves to suggest that Gurdon doesn't have a clue what she's talking about -- that she hasn't even taken the time to read the Wikipedia page about the topic she's writing on, and that carelessness suggests that we should take everything else she has to say with a grain of salt.

Gurdon then goes on to criticize a series of books individually, she takes time to specifically complain about Jackie Morse Kessler's book "Rage" which involves a girl who turns to self injury after being the victim of "a sadistic sexual prank". When we live in a world where teenage girls cut themselves at prodigious rates (and this is nothing new, it's been happening for hundreds of years) The Wall Street Journal thinks that we shouldn't have books for teens that discuss it. Gurdon takes to task an editor who laments having to cut language from a book in order to get it in schools as though it was a conversation never held between Mark Twain and his editor.

But this is simply the history of books and literature, it is the way things progress and regress and progress again. In the late 1800's Arthur Winfield began an extremely popular series of books for young readers called The Rover Boys. [info]trillian_stars and I scored a complete collection of these a couple of years ago and found them so offensive, so sexist, so racist, so classist, as to be nearly unreadable -- the best-selling morality tales of the late 1800's and early 1900's were all about making fun of the poor & underprivileged, those with accents, or dark skin, or those not able to get into the same prep school. The Rover Boys play vicious pranks on their school mates who are fat or who speak with a lisp, and they succeed and persevere because they're rich and they're entitled to and, hey, it's all in good fun.

I realized while trying to read these that YA literature reflects the times as they are and that they will also, occasionally, attempt to grasp the times that Aren't Yet and pull them closer. If there's a glut of vampire books on the market now there may not be in fifteen years. Of these, many will fade into obscurity and some, the ones that strive, will remain -- Darwin will police the stacks -- and in the meantime, the literature will evolve. Things people look at as taboo in one era (women wearing pants) don't warrant a second glance in another. YA literature is one of the mechanisms by which children learn what types of adults they will become. They likely won't learn to become vampires, but they may learn that they're not the only teenage girls who have a compulsion to cut themselves, or that they're not the only boys who are attracted to other boys, or they may learn how to build a house in a tree if they ever get stranded on an island.

There are many YA books out there -- some of them good, and some of them bad. Some of them I'd be happy to let my (theoretical) children read, and some that I think would be a waste of their time.

I feel compelled to quote Heavy Metal Rocker Dee Snider who, when called before the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Comission) in 1985 by a very clueless Al Gore to testify about the harm rock music caused teens, schooled the Senator in parenting in one of the most one sided smackdowns since Lloyd Benson told Dan Quayle that he was, in fact, "No Jack Kennedy".

Senatore GORE: [Should a parent have] To sit down and listen to every song on the album?

Mr. SNIDER. Well, if they are really concerned about it I think that they have to.

Senator GORE. Do you think it is reasonable to expect parents to do that?

Mr. SNIDER. Being a parent is not a reasonable thing. It is a very hard thing. I am a parent and I know.

I don't know what's more embarrassing, that Congress would waste tax dollars on such a farce, or that the senior Senator from Tennessee got his ass handed to him in a debate by a guy who appeared on his album cover wearing shoulder pads, spandex pants, and pink lace-up boots waving a bloody soup bone.

I'm not sure why the Wall Street Journal would bother to print such nonsense, I can only hope it is a result of laying off so much of the editorial staff over the past few years rather than policy.

In summary:

  • Being a parent is not supposed to be easy.

  • It's not the publishing industry's job to decide what to print based on what you like to read.

  • Not all books are good books.

  • Every single book that you liked as a child you can still get for your own kids, if not from your local bookstore, then from ebay.

  • Good literature stays around, the bad stuff is transient.

  • At some point your child will probably read a book that you don't think is good that will change their lives in a good way.

  • Ranting to the Wall Street Journal that YA literature sucks when you apparently know nothing about YA literature is a sad attempt at making a shortcut to responsible parenting.

  • Ask a librarian, they're there to help.

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How would you describe your perfect evening in six words (e.g., I stayed home and ate pasta)?

Spend it at the shooting range.
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I'm often asked how I find time for the things I do and skills I learn. How I find the time, and energy is also a popular theme.

My life's goal To live by this: It's your responsibility to live an interesting life, because it's "all too easy" not to do so.

A dear friend once told me: "If you are bored, you are boring." I made it a goal to never be bored again.

What do you do that makes you interesting?

Current Location:
US, Delaware
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Told Male Coworker I saw his SO in Sephora, made conversation. New Girl made busy cleaning up for the night.

I go into the stock room to grab a Cupcake face mask since I seem to be having a stress / poor diet breakout.

NG comes into the back and asks if she can talk to me, and closes the door behind her.

She begins to act nervous and says that since the Monday we worked together I have "been acting weird" towards her.

(Uh, that's what happens when you insult someone THAT many times in one evening.)

Keep in mind that the A. Manager told the manager what happened without my saying anything. The next day when I walked in the manager said (without my bringing it up)

She starts telling me that she really likes me and thinks I'm 'cool'. She goes on to say that she tends to be really blunt, and that most people don't know how to "take her".

Current Location:
US, Delaware
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I'm sitting behind the sound board listening to SJ Tucker.

Current Location:
US, Maryland, Carney
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i didnt think so but im still convinceable
will you persist even after i bet you
a billion dollars that i'll never love you
will you persist even after i kiss you
goodbye for the last time
will you keep on trying to prove it?
i'm dying to lose it...
i want it
i want you

Current Location:
US, Delaware
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Anything Once: You had me at boom! How I was seduced by a .357 Magnum

When I woke up last Wednesday, I was your stereotypical liberal lightweight.

Foreign car parked out front, no television inside, and an instinctive fear of guns. If someone invited me to a tea party, I'd probably show up with fresh-baked scones and wonder why the heck everyone else was carrying megaphones.

But by the time I went to bed that night, I had visions of .357 Magnums dancing in my head and a frayed target proudly stuck to the fridge.

What the heck happened to this card-carrying member of the liberal media? I got a taste of the power of a pistol, and "power," as English historian John Dalberg-Acton said, "tends to corrupt."

It started with my grandfather's baby Browning, a .25-caliber semiautomatic that wouldn't look out of place in a garter belt. Even this little pea-shooting family heirloom, one out of an estimated 230 million firearms in the United States, made me uneasy.

But I was determined to get the hang of it, so I turned to Ted Pfirrmann of Omega Firearms Training in New Castle. Ted, a 35-year-old Delaware native, is an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

What really appealed to me was that he does house calls. I could take Omega's four-hour pistol orientation course from my couch.

"Forty to 45 percent of all homes contain a firearm," Ted began. "If you look down your typical neighborhood street, every other home could have a firearm. Yet less than 1 percent of gun owners receive any kind of training."

Yup, that's why I'm scared.

"I want to increase that 1 percent. I'd like it closer to 100 percent. I would love it if everybody could just not have to worry about accidental shootings."

We started with -- and throughout the day returned to -- the three fundamental rules for gun handling. In short: safety, safety, safety.

•"Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction." This comes first, because if all others fail and a misfire occurs, no one is in the line of fire.

•"Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot." My finger always seemed to find its way to the trigger.

"Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use."

There's not much wiggle room on these, and like airport screeners, firearms instructors quickly lose their sense of humor when you forget their cardinal rules. With all the guns and ammo in the house, though, my concentration was shot.

But Ted's well-timed reminders -- "Finger off the trigger, Justin" -- replaced my fear with curiosity and even a touch of confidence as the day went on. By the time we got to Elk Neck State Forest range, I was feeling a little eager.

"Have a seat, feet flat on the ground," Ted said after he set up a small target 20 feet away. My grandfather's Browning is small and tough to control, so Ted started me off with a .357 Magnum.

"Go ahead and load one." I moved slowly, partly out of deliberation and partly because live ammo was rekindling my fear. "Finger off the trigger," Ted calmly reminded me.

"Extend your arms out in front of you and rest your wrists right there on the sandbag. We're going to go down that mental checklist we talked about."

Aim, breathe slowly, hold the arms steady.

"You want to concentrate on all the fundamentals. Then it's going to be just a slow, steady squeeze. It should come as a complete ..."


It was a surprise, all right. The noise, the recoil, the power of a controlled explosion in my hands, it was a rush and a relief all at once. After a few seconds of stunned silence, I started to chuckle.

"Whoa. Wow. Nice. OK. Cool."

Ted got a kick out of my childlike glee. "You've got that look where you're like, 'OK, I'm kind of getting into this a little bit,' " he said. "What do you think so far?"

"It's powerful."

I loaded and reloaded, and soon, I was well into a tray of 50 cartridges. I was shooting with confidence, and even a little accuracy.

What had changed? The course had quashed the mystery. Although the power still felt bigger than me, I understood where it was coming from and had a certain amount of control over it. As another Englishman, Francis Bacon, wrote: "Knowledge is power."

"The main thing I would tell people is get the training," Ted said. "What you don't know can hurt you."
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