Banned Books Week 2013

It’s that magical time of the year when us freedom loving people get together and celebrate the fact that we get to read what we want, when we want, the end. That’s right, it’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982.

My favorite part of Banned Books Week is reviewing the updated banned and challenged book list. The list includes books that have banned or challenged from May 2012 to May 2013. The list includes 44 titles, and like every year you see some familiar faces and some stand out titles.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie – this book ends up on the list every year. I mean at this point people complaining about it is a snooze-fest to me. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood – I haven’t read this but I’m guessing a lot of you guys have. This was challenged as required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class and as optional reading for Advanced Placement reading courses at Grimsley High School because the book is “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt”. We’re talking about high school students, some of them can see R rated movies by themselves, I suspect they can handle Margaret Atwood, am I right? “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card – they don’t actually say what the problem is, but it has to be with the book, and not that the author is bat shit crazy. “Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies” by Laura Esquivel – this was removed from a reading list at Nampa, Idaho high school because it was considered too racy for sophomores. I can’t remember when it was that I read this book, but first, it was a pretty good book and kind of racy, and second, it was when I was in high school. I think we can say that I turned out all right. Not a word out of any of you! “Different Seasons” by Stephen King – this book was challenge but retained at Roklin California High School. What’s kind of funny about this is that some charities have you buy books for children and I always buy “Different Seasons” for high school aged children. According to some Roklin California parents I suck. FYI, if I can’t buy “Different Seasons” I pick up a copy of “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. Rebecca Elson, corrupting young minds via charity. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell – marked for removal in the Davis, Utah School District because parents might find it objectionable. Every year someone has to pick on poor old Tango. Why does everyone have to hate on same sex penguin couples just trying to raise their baby penguin the best they can in this crazy world. Did you know there are some sickos out there who buy “Different Seasons” for high school kids? See what they’re up against?

If you’d like to view the whole list, which I encourage you to check out because we didn’t even get into the schools banning whole subjects or the graphic novels that popped up, click here.

If you want to learn more visit the Banned Books Week website, or the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week site, or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

10 Questions with Pierce Word

1. What made you decide to do a book of presidential quotations?

Well, since an early age I loved history, and I loved writing. So I always had it in the back of my mind that I would eventually write something history-related. And then one day in college I was writing a term paper on American History, and I was trying to conclude the paper with a profound quote, and thought who would be better to quote than a U.S. president for a U.S. History paper. But to my amazement, this country has tons and tons of books on American History, Culture, and yes, Presidents, but a comprehensive book exclusively on U.S. Presidential quotations was actually non-existent. And it was at this moment that I decided to put “Wisdom from the Oval Office” to pen and paper.

2. How did you go about compiling all the quotes?

I utilized local libraries in Chicago, in addition to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and several presidential libraries. My sources ranged from personal diaries, to letters, to newspaper articles, to autobiographies of the Presidents.

3. There are 40 different categories of quotations ranging from Democracy to Government to War. How did you decide to categorize all the quotes you found?

Well, I was looking for themes that were hot-button issues to Americans. Issues that interest people, and which people want to read and know more about. So I visited surveys, polls, and library catalogs, and pooled categories that people showed interest in, like the economy, love, war, politics, God, and so on. And I eventually made these categories into the chapter headings for “Wisdom from the Oval Office.”

4. Did you ever find yourself feeling a partisan inclination when compiling quotations? Where you maybe wanted to include more of one party’s or president’s quotes than another?

No. The purpose of this book was to give readers a glimpse into the lives of the Presidents, both in their public and private spheres…with no sugar-coating!

5. Who is your favorite president?

Abraham Lincoln.

6. What is your favorite presidential quote?

It really depends on what you’re looking for. You have serious ones, to comedic ones, to meaningful ones. That being said, one of my all-time favorites: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” –Ronald Reagan, during a news conference on August 12, 1986. Also, being a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I can definitely relate to James Garfield’s saying, “Man cannot live by bread alone; for he must have peanut butter!”

7. Did the President’s with the shorter terms have fewer quotes represented in the text?

Not necessarily. Some Presidents just talked more than others :).

8. Did you discover any unusual bits of trivia about any of the Presidents while researching quotes for the book?

Yes. Did you know, originally, Vice Presidents were the presidential candidates receiving the second-largest number of votes? Could you imagine George W. Bush and John Kerry as President and Vice President of the United States?!

9. Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?

Thanks for asking Rebecca. Yes I am. It’s on the successful businessmen and women in America, their lives, their struggles, and their stories, in their own words, and how they reached the pinnacles of financial success in this country. It’s meant to be more of an inspirational business handbook…I’m not set on a particular title yet, but if any readers have any suggestions, please let me know!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Why do they call it an escalator if it takes you down?

But they can also carry you up! (Although if you want to geek out, you can read about the origins of the name here.)

Wisdom from the Oval Office
Compiled by Pierce Word
List $18.95
Paperback: 303 pages Also available as an e-Book
History Publishing Company, July 23, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1933909448 ISBN-10: 1933909447

Available from Amazon.com (Softcover & Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.com (Nook)

PR Contact: James or Lynda O’Connor, 847-615-5462, jimo@oconnorpr.com

About Pierce Word:
Pierce Word studied at the College of DuPage in Illinois and later earned a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies with honors from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and an M.S. in Project Management from Boston University. He spent two years touring Europe and the Middle East. While in Cairo, he taught U.S. History and English as a second language. Over a 3 year period, he researched and cross-referenced speeches, letters and diaries of the American presidents, and compiled a collection of presidential quotations, the largest published collection to date. He lives with his wife in his native Chicago.

Does American Dad Reflect America?

“But you told me we hate the gays,” Steve questions.

“That was, A, before I knew they came in Republican form, and, B, before they cut and styled my hair,” replies Stan.

Since the Supreme Court decided to do a big ol’ cannonball right into the gay marriage issue it does seem that everywhere I turn I see “gay”. My email is hitting borderline abuse proportions from the Human Right Campaign, NYCLU, and the ACLU. The online news sites that I read have obviously been keeping the coverage front and center, and of course the pundit shows I watch are following it closely and so in turn I am too. However when I flopped down on the sofa to veg out and told Netflix to go ahead and play the next episode of “American Dad” I couldn’t help but laugh to the universe when the episode “Lincoln Lover” started playing.

For those unfamiliar with the series or this episode, Stan (who is the “American Dad”) is not selected by his local chapter of the Conservative Republicans, to speak at the Republican National Convention. After watching a pretentious surrealist play about Abraham Lincoln, he decides to write and perform his own play about the first Republican president, to return to the original values of the Republican party. Stan’s play, a one-man show entitled “Lincoln Lover”, depicts a very close relationship between Lincoln and his most trusted guard, Captain David Derickson. The play becomes successful as many gay men come to watch, though Stan (who wrote the play based on Derickson’s notes) apparently does not notice the homosexual overtones of his play. The Log Cabin Republicans invite him to speak at the convention; however, it is not until during a Log Cabin Republican party that Stan realizes its members are gay. He is won over by an elaborate musical number and begins acting more like a stereotypical homosexual male. Further hijinks ensue. (A slightly modified and partial summary from Wikipedia. I don’t want to give the whole episode away if you haven’t seen it!)

What’s I find interesting about “Lincoln Lover” is that the character Stan, an egocentric idiot, learns something about homosexuality in this episode. (Don’t worry folks, it’s a good thing he learns!) The thing he learns has him accept homosexuality, and that carries throughout the series. Upon reflection I remembered that Stan doesn’t “learn” things. There is no evolution for the character, Stan even has said he doesn’t learn lessons. Apparently he does about homosexuality. There has been only one other episode I can think of where Stan has learned something and his character evolved, and that was “Surro-gate”. That episode deals with homosexual couples being allowed to raise children. Again, it’s a lesson learned that seems to stick. (Again, don’t worry, it’s good!)

I think it’s telling that a show that very much reflects ongoing culture has its most socially conservative character learn to accept homosexuals and eventually their right to exist as a family. Legalize marijuana? No. Wife get a job outside of the home? No. Go to church every Sunday? Yes. Homosexuals are people like anyone else? Yes.

If Stan Smith can learn that lesson, maybe there is still hope for our country to come together.

Oh shit. I temporarily forgot the Stan Smith was an animated character in a cartoon. We’re probably doomed.

FYI – “American Dad” is available for streaming on Netflix and you can view the older season on Hulu Plus. The episodes I talked about today were “Surro-Gate” Season 3, Episode 7 and “Lincoln Lover” Season 2, Episode 4.

Think Before You Pink 2012

I’ll be damned. I just got done soliciting 5th anniversary gifts for discussing Banned Books Week and here I find out that this is the 5th year that we’ve featured the Think Before You Pink campaign here on The Magical Buffet! I haven’t actually received any gifts yet, but I’m sure they’re just lost in the mail.

Although if you’re looking to do something, I’d suggest supporting Breast Cancer Action and their Think Before You Pink campaign. At it’s heart it is an informational campaign designed to draw attention to what’s going on behind all those pink products that flood the market place in October.

From my local craft store.

However each year they focus on a particular campaign of “pinkwashing”. A “pinkwasher”, according to their site is, “A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.” A favorite campaign of mine was definitely “Raise a Stink”, a brief sum up from the website, ” Pinkwashing has reached a new low this year with “Promise Me,” a perfume commissioned by the giant of the breast cancer movement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Promise Me contains chemicals not listed in the ingredients that: (a) are regulated as toxic and hazardous, (b) have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and (c) have demonstrated negative health effects.” That’s right, Breast Cancer Action was hating on Susan G Komen before it was cool.

That said, this year may end up being my new favorite, “It’s an Epidemic, Stupid!” During this year’s election season Breast Cancer Action has decided it’s time to go after “political pinkwashers”. These would be politicians who will be wearing their pink ribbon lapel pins this month and sharing heart felt stories about how breast cancer has affected them or those they care about while not supporting or initiating any meaningful policies that will help women living or at risk of breast cancer.

To that end they created The 2012 Breast Cancer Action Mandate for Government Action. After reading it they ask you to email it to your representatives in the government urging them to publicly support it. They make it super easy, you just provide them with your zip code and they find the representatives for you!


See? I did it!

Consider doing it a great 5th anniversary gift for The Magical Buffet and Breast Cancer Action! And remember, Think Before You Pink!

Tonight a Comedian Died

“On Friday night a comedian died in New York. Nobody cares. Nobody cares but me.” – Rorschach “Watchmen”

On August 1, 2012 news sources began reporting the death of Abdi Jeylani Marshale, one of Somalia’s best known and loved comedians. While scrolling through Google News I saw the headline “Somali comedian who mocked Islamists is shot dead”. Long time readers know I’m a bit of an arm chair expert on Zimbabwean politics, but before you think I’m also some sort of Somali comedy aficionado, relax, I’m not that well rounded. Not too long ago the BBC News website ran a profile on Abdi Jeylani Marshale and how interesting/great it was that he was so successful when much of his comedy involved parodies of Islamic militants. (Sadly when I went back to the site while writing this I could no longer find that feature to link to here.) Having read that article recently, that headline felt like a punch in the gut.

At press time it was not known who was responsible for the shooting, just that he was shot in the chest and head several times by two men armed with pistols. Last year Marshale was threatened by the extremist group al-Shabaab which had forced him to go into hiding for several days.

For those of you who don’t know, Somalia hasn’t had a functional national government in 21 years. It’s why we’ve got those not so Captain Morgan-esque Somali pirates, and such. That’s probably why by the time I was done reading The Guardian article and went back to Google News the news about Abdi Jeylani Marshale had disappeared entirely from the World News section and was replaced with “Somali leaders back new constitution”. This is a HUGE deal, it means a new government can be elected later this month. However after that news broke it seemed like Marshale vanished.

I found it hard to get excited about Somalia’s constitution when a comedian had just died. Comedians should be off limits anywhere and everywhere; be it Andrew Dice Clay saying, “Hickory, dickory, dock,” in NY or Abdi Jeylani Marshale impersonating Islamic militants in Mogadishu. I don’t understand protesting comedians, sending complaint letters/emails to them, and obviously I don’t understand resorting to violence against them. There are loads of comedians that don’t float my boat, or that rub me the wrong way. Goodness knows there are a bunch of them that make fun of my “type” (or more accurately, “types”)! Guess what I do? I ignore them. Actually, I can’t think of any comedians I go out of my way to avoid. Am I just that damn easy?

25 Years of Graceland

What can I say about Paul Simon? First and most importantly, don’t come to my website and bad mouth the man’s music because I will cut you. I. Will. Cut. You. I used to entertain the whimsical notion that somehow we were related because I’m a Simon and he’s a Simon and we both have roots in the Eastern region of the U.S. There’s absolutely no way we are, but I’d still joke about “Uncle Paul”. One of my friends in school called me, and in fact still does, Pauley to reference that my last name at the time was Simon and that I was such a big fan of Paul Simon’s music. I can’t remember when I first heard Paul Simon, that’s how long his music has been a part of my life. Musically speaking, just about the only thing my father and I can agree on is Paul Simon. In fact, at my wedding the father daughter dance was to the song “Still Crazy After All These Years”. (That’s right brides, read this and despair for my father daughter song was SO much cooler than yours.)

It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite Paul Simon, but like so many people, his album “Graceland” is damn close to perfection. That is why I was pretty excited for the release of the 25th anniversary edition. It’s amusing. I had put it on my Amazon wish list with the intention of buying a copy for myself and another one for my father for Father’s Day. However, instead my aunt bought a copy for me from my wish list for my birthday leaving us to just purchase one copy for my father. Zany Amazon.com shenanigans. Here’s the deal though, for a really reasonable price, like under $20, you can get the 25th anniversary “Graceland” album which includes 6 bonus tracks and Simon telling the story of “Graceland” AND you’ll get the DVD documentary “Under African Skies” which isn’t some shoddy piece o’ crap thing, it’s done by Joe Berlinger, the guy who did the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and a handful of music videos. That’s a hell of a lot of “Graceland” going on, so what’s the big deal?

Paul Simon’s “Graceland” is generally credited with introducing African music and musicians to the West. The biggest being Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Many point out that during a time when most American’s experience with Africans was seeing starving children in television ads, “Graceland” introduced America to a jubilant, celebratory people. It’s true that much of the music on “Graceland” is mid or up tempo, although to be honest with you all, I always found the songs on “Graceland” haunting. Lyrically I found they lingered in my mind and the songs still do. Unlike much of the other music I listened to in 1986, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” still speaks as relevantly today as it did the day it was released. A pretty impressive hat trick. Of course, he is Paul Simon. Oh, and if you watch the documentary and hear Simon talk about the level of work he put into writing the lyrics your mind will be blown. I once heard comedian Louis CK talk on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about when he develops a real strong closing 5 minutes to his routine, the kind that drives the audience wild, he’ll cut it so he’ll be forced to make the rest of the act stronger. Paul Simon kind of worked like that writing the lyrics for “Graceland”. The stuff that survived, whoa.

So obviously I love the album, and was tickled to have the few extra demos and alternative versions that the 25th anniversary version of “Graceland” offered. Here’s the thing though, the documentary “Under African Skies” was a really big deal for me. First, it was incredibly exciting as a fan to see so much footage of the actual recording sessions of Simon in South Africa with all the artists. And the documentary is loaded with interviews, some with unexpected people such as; David Byrne, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney, and Vampire Weekend. The biggest thing with “Under African Skies” was it opening my eyes to the before now unknown to me controversy that surrounded Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. I was 10 years old when “Graceland” released. I didn’t know about apartheid in South Africa, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was or that he was in prison, and I didn’t know there was a cultural boycott that Simon essentially broke when he made “Graceland”. I didn’t know there was a situation. As if that wasn’t enough drama, certain segments of the African American community looked at “Graceland” as Simon basically using Africans. There was a particularly brutal exchange when Simon was doing a Q&A at Howard University and a student was accusing Simon of simply stealing music from African artists. Simon asked the student something like, don’t you think we can share ideas? And the student’s answer was in effect, if it’s with you, no. You think I will cut you? No one talks to my Uncle Paul like that! Forget I will cut you, I will take a sledgehammer straight to the crotch of those parachute pants! There were bomb threats called in to venues Paul Simon was scheduled to perform at while touring with “Graceland”. Bomb threats to Paul Simon shows.

Watching “Under African Skies” gave me a new appreciation of “Graceland” and its role in music, and cultural, history. It’s easy now that we’re on the other side of apartheid to say, well, it worked out so how Simon went about making “Graceland” was okey dokey. I don’t know how 10 year-old Rebecca would have reacted at the time. I suspect in extremes. Either “Everyone leave Uncle Paul alone, he’s the greatest and he knows what he’s doing” or “Oh no! Uncle Paul condones apartheid!’ Adult Rebecca knows that apartheid was absolutely bad, bad, bad, but who am I tell artists in America or Africa how to react in the face of injustice and cruelty. If Simon and his band of truly merry, wonderful South African artists hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, the world may never have known “Graceland”, and in my opinion, that would be a terrible world to live in.

Here’s Paul Simon performing the title track “Graceland” live in Zimbabwe. Back in ’87 Zimbabwe was a more stable location to perform than South Africa. How times have changed, right gang?

And here’s another favorite of mine, “The Boy in the Bubble”. It’s amazing how the lyrics could very well be about today. Even the sound is modern. Uncle Paul is pretty cool.

Technological Brushes with Humanity

Excuse me while I step on JB Sanders toes and talk a little tech talk today. I assure you that my stuff is awesome, more awesome than the “Geek Month in Review”. (I didn’t mean it JB, please keep doing the “Geek Month in Review! Please?) Anyway…..

Google, with the help of Vizzuality, has put its technology to work to help experts in the field of language preservation like the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and The Institute for Language Information and Technology (The Linguist List) at Eastern Michigan University start the Endangered Languages Project.

Why does such a website need to exist? According to the site, “Experts estimate that only 50% of the languages that are alive today will be spoken by the year 2100. The disappearance of a language means the loss of valuable scientific and cultural information, comparable to the loss of a species. Tools for collaboration between the world communities, scholars, organizations and concerned individuals can make a difference.”

Not to get all website quote crazy but, “The Endangered Languages Project, is an online resource to record, access, and share samples of and research on endangered languages, as well as to share advice and best practices for those working to document or strengthen languages under threat.”

The website is mind blowing, I can’t wait to see what it’s like when it really gets going! The members of the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity that helped the site launch is already an exciting collective. When you explore the site you’re given a map of the world with dots on locations; green means the language there is at risk, yellow, endangered, red, severely endangered, and gray, vitality unknown. I went to Hawaii and had my mind blown to learn that the Endangered Languages Project estimates that there are only 1000 native speakers worldwide of Hawaiian.

Genuine screen shot! Shiny!

The page has video and audio samples of people speaking the language, and although no documentation has been added to the resources section yet, they helpfully show you relevant Google Books search results. Come on, Google did help put this thing together!

To learn more, and I encourage you to do so, visit the website at www.EndangeredLanguages.com.

Next up, and last up, June 20th was World Refugee Day and apparently the UNHCR (Also called the UN Refugee Agency, but most accurately should be called The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.) put together some real out of the box thinking for the occasion. They have launched the app game “My Life as a Refugee”. This app game recreates the fleeing refugee experience and according to the game’s website is based on the real life experiences reported to the UNHCR by refugees.

From the website, ” Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. If conflict threatened your family, what would you do? Stay and risk your lives? Or try to flee, and risk kidnap, rape or torture? For many refugees the choice is between the horrific or something worse. See if you’ve got what it takes to survive. Download ‘My Life as a Refugee’.”

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m going to give them credit for some original thinking, and something to recreate the refugee experience is a powerful tool indeed. However, I can’t see myself downloading it. I mean, holy freakin’ downer Batman! I suspect that I’m not its intended audience though. From some of the press I’ve read, I’m getting a classroom vibe intention. And yet again I find myself going, holy schools full of terrified children Batman! (Seriously, you want to know the “holy Batman” thing I say the most in real life? Holy bed hopping hair hoes Batman! I said it once in junior high and apparently it has decided to never leave my brain. Never.)

If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee experience, making a donation to help the UNHCR, or downloading “My Life as a Refugee”, visit their website.

On the Subject of Tourism

Long time readers know that somehow I have developed a thing that has now been firmly stuck in my craw since 2008 regarding the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. At this point the documentation on the site is kind of out of control! We’ve got the very beginning here in 2008, then President Obama’s inauguration, the disappointing form post card, me pestering the United Nations, my attempt to make sense of it all, talking to Britain, and actually hearing back! It hadn’t really hit me until now that I have been endeavoring to follow Zimbabwean politics for close to/around 4 years now. Not the easiest thing to do considering how their President, Robert Mugabe, hates the press.

Anyway, there was a little bit of Zimbabwe news recently. It rubbed me the wrong way. In the grand scheme of things that get my knickers in a twist when thinking about Zimbabwe, this is nothing. I wasn’t sure I was going to bother sharing it on the site because honestly I couldn’t figure out exactly how to articulate my thoughts on it.

Then came Stephen Colbert to the rescue……

This isn’t the first time Colbert used his show to bring attention to Zimbabwe. In May 2009 I wrote a public thank you to him for the several previous times he mentioned Zimbabwe. If you go to that article you can watch those video clips too!

Just as an extra bit of Zimbabwe weirdness, the South African chicken fast food franchise Nando’s put together a short lived commercial featuring a look-a-like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Seeing the company his character keeps should give you an idea of how much of the world views Mugabe.

“No one should ever have to eat alone.”

I’m Calling it a Win

As most Magical Buffet readers know, I have a bit of an axe to grind about Zimbabwe. I won’t bog you down with links here. If you don’t know the history, just go to The Buffet’s home page and click on politics in the column on the right hand side of your screen. But consider yourself warned, I started all of this way back in July 2008! Goodness I’ve been talking about Zimbabwe for a damned long time!

I’m here to discuss one of my more recent posts on the subject. In November 2010 I sent a letter “across the pond” to Matthew Coats and Damian Green about Britain resuming enforced returns of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. I thought I made some pretty eloquent points, if I do say so myself.

As an aside, that post is particularly special to me because if you look in the comments section you’ll see someone from Britain left a comment that ends with “Keep your nose out of British politics and decisions – you do not pay for the assorted wandering nomad immigrants who decide to dump themselves in Britain – I am forced to finance them.” A few years I ago I may have panicked, thinking, oh no, I upset someone. However my immediate response to seeing this comment instead was, oh my God! Someone in Britain is reading my blog? Sweet. For a while I was getting pretty regular visits from the U.K. I just assumed it was that guy looking to see if I responded to his comment. Sorry fella’, this is as close to a response as you’re going to see. And that day was when I realized I must truly be a blogger.

Where the heck was I? Oh yes, me writing to Britain about enforced returns of failed asylum seeker to Zimbabwe. A country that has the sad fate of possessing no oil, and having no A List celebrities adopting children from there, so the United States will continue to do nothing besides remind the country that we have targeted sanctions on President Mugabe and others. Oh, was that out loud? Good. I’m pretty bitter about it. (By the way, The Daily Show also wonders about America’s “Freedom Packages”.) Anyway, here’s where I’m trying to go with this. In that letter to Coats and Green I mention X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu who was facing deportation.

Well, on May 11, 2011 BBC News published this. Yep, “X Factor’s Gamu Nhengu wins right to stay in the UK”. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t much of anything. My letters definitely had nothing to do with it. But you know what? I’m going to just sit back, smile, and call it a win anyway. Some days, you just have to take what you can get.