Gird Your Loins and Fight

Latest in my series of book reviews

Never go to war against a mom

Before I started “weaning” myself off my smartphone – I couldn’t have handled a 651-page book – even one as entertaining as “Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.

The librarian of your nightmares wants you to stop questioning the Library Board

This book makes me so glad I did the work to get my concentration back. Authors Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan tell the tale of their multi-year fight with a public library which allowed adults to access porn on their computers – and did nothing to stop it, saying it was allowed by the First Amendment. (Spoiler alert: no, the Supreme Court ruled libraries do NOT have to allow access to porn.)

A pleasant day turned peep show

At the beginning of the saga, Megan was a homeschooling mama of two little girls, named “Seven” and “Four” to protect them in the book. One day she decided to take them to the Orland Park Public Library with friend Kevin along with the ride. A quick errand to print some homeschool activity sheets led to a three-year saga – complete with lawsuits and a cast of characters that could fill a long-running soap opera. Here’s how Megan described it:

“There’s the awkward sibling of a beloved TV icon; a national hero from the Reagan administration; a former Playboy model, jewel thief, ex-wife of a Chicago Bear, ex-girlfriend of an infamous mobster who turned state’s evidence against him (and those last four are all the same person!); Our Ladies of the Perpetually Furrowed Brows; the heiress to the Comiskey baseball diamonds; a former United States Senate candidate from Illinois (who is more famous for once being married toa Sci-Fi starlet who flew around the universe in a spaceship); the King of Journalism; a gargoyle; someone who sold his soul on eBay (like it was a good thing); hot cops; … some of the best lawyers in the whole damn world (pitted against clearly some of the worst) … SNL’s Weekend Update; … the Karate Kid; famous legal scholars; fearless watchdogs; sexually harassed whistleblowers; and the nation’s leading expert on the dangers to children in public libraries.”

-Megan Fox

Truly, this book had EVERYTHING, as Megan described it: “Sex, government corruption, child porn, a gold heist, libel, slander, defamation, lawsuits, death and rape threats, police harassment, a SLAPP, cloak and dagger intrigue, fruits, 7 pounds of Italian beef and 2 large jugs of peppers, and special interest groups out to sabotage a suburban mom and her whimsical gay friend.”

Kevin and Megan take turns, chapter by chapter, telling the story. Their styles of storytelling complement and contrast with each other. Both bring in themes from children’s stories to anchor the tale: if you’ve read Harry Potter you’ll love the way they work in references to that saga. Kevin’s style is more “whimsical” as Megan said, and Megan’s motherly concern doesn’t just shine through – she’s on the warpath to make the library safe for all kids. Thank God these two are people who NEVER back down. They fought a public governmental body for years and triumphed. The best stories are ones where good defeats evil – and that’s exactly what happens here.

Whew!

At the end, you, the reader are drawing in a long breath after just reading about it. By the time the final lawsuit was settled, Megan had added another baby to her family. Kevin was advising other libraries how to prevent these horrors from happening.

I wanted another book – a sequel. What new adventure did Kevin and Megan have? What crimes are they uncovering? Today, you can follow Megan’s investigative reporting on PJ Media and on her YouTube channel. I haven’t been successful finding Kevin’s public profile (but then, I don’t use Facebook anymore!) I’m sure wherever he is, he’s busy employing his talents of organization, letter-writing and campaigning to keep fighting for government accountability.

Adventuring with The Hobbit

Dear readers: as you know, my site now focuses on four things: gardening, baking, cooking, and books. Today it’s time to focus on my love of reading.

So many books have famous first lines. There’s “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Herman Melville started Moby Dick with “Call me Ishmael.” And “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” My favorite is from the book I just finished with my book club: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Of course, that’s from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

As much as I love the first line, the first paragraph of this adventure is what truly draws me in:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Tolkien’s verse

We gathered Tuesday night for the final session on The Hobbit, and we all were sad to leave it. Everyone was quoting favorite lines from the book to each other, just to hear Tolkien’s lyrical prose. One of my favorite parts of the book, aside from the sheer adventure of it all – the dramatic journey of our little hero, the modest hobbit, fighting with evil spiders and a DRAGON – was some of the poetry Tolkien crafted as the songs sung by the dwarves and the elves. The songs reflected the characters’ nature: light, cheerful verse for the elves, cruel consonant-heavy lines for the goblins. And of course, our hero Bilbo Baggins, invented silly verses on the fly when he distracted the spiders away from his friends.

Old fat spider sitting in a tree!

Old fat spider can’t see me!

Attercop! Attercop!

Won’t you stop

Stop your spinning and look for me!

-The Hobbit, chapter 8

A complete world

Beside the poetry, everyone who has read Tolkien knows about the care he takes with what the sci-fi community calls world building. I’ve always thought of it as scene setting. The maps on the inside covers of the book were created by the author. But you can get it all from the descriptions Tolkien gives of the Shire, of Bilbo’s very nice hobbit hole, of the paths the adventurers take through the deep forest of Mirkwood, the wastes near the Lonely Mountain and finally in the dragon’s cave. Everything is described so beautifully that I can picture every scene of the book. But of the first Hobbit movie – I remember nothing except the first dinner scene. That’s the magic of books – you, as reader, collaborate with the author in creating the story in your mind.

Finding the Lonely Mountain

A brief, final battle

I’m thankful that Tolkien resorted to the “Deus ex Machina” technique of the using the Eagles to shorten the final battle – because it nicely shortened a brutal war scene. I thought that at least 30 minutes of graphic fighting could have been cut from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies – which I DO remember – without sacrificing the story. And it was somehow so hobbit-like for Bilbo to be conked on the head with a rock, causing him to go unconscious and miss the last part of the battle.

A humble hero

Bilbo Baggins is described as a hobbit who “looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father” and indeed he lived a decorous life until he was 50 years old. But then, with the visit of Gandalf the wizard, the part of him from his mother’s people, the adventurous and less respectable Tooks, came out. The two halves of his personality warred within him starting with the unexpected tea party he hosted for the 14 dwarves. In shock the dwarves were expecting table service (and knew his larders better than he did) he muttered “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” Then after being thought a grocer instead of fierce, he marched forth to join the fray. On the journey Bilbo went back and forth from bemoaning the lack of a pocket handkerchief to devising ingenious plans to save his friends from danger. That was Bilbo’s charm: he was a hero who didn’t think highly of himself, who forgave those who did him wrong (witness his weeping over Thorin) and who was pleased to be “quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

Notes

I’m sure I don’t have to tell this erudite audience from whence the lines in the first paragraph came, but in case you don’t know:
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The cover of the copy I have – the 75th Anniversary edition.

Watching Life Instead of Living It

Now that the COVID-mania of 2020 and 2021 seems to have lifted, I want to live life instead of watching it happen. Doing, instead of being in the audience, is my thing. That’s why I joined the choir in my church – I didn’t want to just watch other people sing; I want to be in on it too! Why be a spectator?

I’ve made strides toward more living, less watching before. When I first moved into my house in December of 2016, I moved my circa-2000 television with me. That thing was an old bulky set – definitely not a flat screen. The remote control stopped working sometime in the late 2010s.

My TV looked a LOT like this one. Heck, it could have been this model.

I worked around it by actually getting up to change the channel, like in the 1970s. I started watching less and less television over the years, and I decided once I moved, I was going to put that old wreck on the curb and run an experiment: how long can I go without a TV in the house?

Continue reading “Watching Life Instead of Living It”

Weeding while I wait

It’s now time to weed, pray for lots of rain, and watch the garden grow. This morning while I was outside taking advantage of the cool morning air I thought of how Laura Ingalls Wilder described her husband growing up on the farm in New York State: a plucky little soldier in the battle of growing crops.

There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime.

-Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder

That feeling caused me to rush to get everything in the ground this year. Sadly, I wasted my herb seeds by sowing them directly into my pots. I didn’t start them indoors. No oregano, basil, chives, or parsley have poked their stems above the pricey garden soil I spooned into those five-gallon plant bags. I’m making a trip to the Home Depot in a few minutes to pick up little herb plants (if I can find them.) For goodness’ sake – it’s still May – surely there are a few left. There are so many lessons learned in my first attempt at serious gardening.

My neat bed with the jalapenos attracted an unwanted visitor this past week. Thursday during watering I made my way over to the bed with its pepper stakes and netting, strung to keep my dog from nosing about the freshly sown seeds. A four-foot-long BROWN SNAKE had trapped itself in the netting. I shrieked and jumped back. I wasn’t going anywhere near that varmint, so I certainly wasn’t going to pick it up. I called a nice young man to come dispose of it. It was HUGE.

Look again at the image at the top of the post: I re-purposed the pepper stakes to support the exploding potato plants.

Cooking with Cabbage

It’s too hot to use the stove, even this early in the season. I’m not “cooking” the cabbage, I’m merely shredding it. And making my favorite Alabam’ Slaw. The recipe is super easy – I provide it below.

An entire head of cabbage, shredded.

First, shred your cabbage.

Then, put a little in a bowl, and spoon two or three tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing over it.

Voila!

-Alabam’ Slaw
Yummy – Alabam’ Slaw

Sunday thoughts

One of my favorite blogs, Maggie’s Farm, publishes the gospel message from the lectionary each Sunday. I’ve always loved that. Maybe I should do that? At the very least, I can send you over to Maggie’s for the gospel lesson today. And stick around and read more from the group; for a bunch of Yankees they aren’t bad:

We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn’t pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does “try my best to be just like I am,” and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.

MaggiesFarm.anotherdotcom.com