Birthday Wishes

  
Today is my birthday.

It’s great to live in modern times because, among other things, it’s easier to wish people happy birthday, and in more communication methods and forms, than ever before.  I’ve received grossly inappropriate, unforgivably ageist cards from family and friends, Facebook congratulations from pals old and new and a post from UJ with a picture of us as toddlers, text message birthday greetings, and nice emails from clients and colleagues.  It’s been great to be the target of so many good wishes.

I’ve even received happy birthday emails from my optometrist, my periodontist, and the America Red Cross.  I suppose there’s a kind of message there, too.

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Is Porn A Public Health Crisis?

Utah’s state legislature has passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, and yesterday Utah’s governor signed it.

ip01091The resolution doesn’t ban pornography in Utah — with the volume of porn available on the internet and through various media outlets, it’s hard to see how that could be accomplished, anyway — but it does seek to highlight what it calls an epidemic.  The resolution says that porn “perpetuates a sexually toxic environment” and “is contributing to the hypersexualisation of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society,” and speakers at yesterday’s signing ceremony argued that porn also undermines marriages and contributes to sexual aggression.

Utah, which is a majority Mormon state, has always long been one of the most socially conservative states in America, and an “adult entertainment” trade group called The Free Speech Coalition said that Utah’s declaration is an “old-fashioned” morals bill that ignores that porn watchers tend to have more progressive views on sexuality and women’s rights and that ready access to porn correlates with a decline in sex crimes.

It’s hard to see how anyone could plausibly argue that pornography is a public health crisis in the same way that, say, the Zika virus or Ebola are.  Porn isn’t randomly striking people down or causing microcephaly or other serious health conditions through mosquito bites, and if there is such a thing as “porn addiction” it sure isn’t as widespread or destructive as alcoholism or drug addiction.  Clearly, there are more serious targets of our public health spending than porn.  And there obviously are free speech concerns at issue, too, that the law has wrestled with since one Justice of the Supreme Court famously declared that he might not be able to craft a legal definition of pornography, but he knew it when he saw it.

Still, I think anyone who pooh-poohs the fact or significance of the increasing prevalence of porn — soft, hard, and even violent — in our society might be missing the point.  “Dirty books” and “dirty movies” have always been around, but they sure are a lot more accessible these days, available with a few clicks of a mouse or TV remote control unit.  Anybody who watched HBO, as we do, can’t help but notice how graphic the depiction of sexual activity and sexual situations has become, and broadcast TV isn’t far behind.

There’s a reason pornography is euphemistically called “adult entertainment.”  Parents have a legitimate interest in protecting their children from exposure to porn until the kids have a chance to learn about sex in a more neutral, less charged, less graphic way.   No one wants their kids to think that the scenarios presented in porn are a normal representation of sexual activity in a loving relationship.  That’s not old-fashioned, it’s common sense.

2016 Ohioana Book Festival

This Saturday will be the 10th anniversary Ohioana Book Festival. It will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Columbus and, as always, it’s free and open to everyone.

I went to the first Ohioana Book Festival, and it’s amazing how the event has grown over the past ten years.  This year, more than 120 authors and illustrators will participate, Ohioana is expecting more than 4,000 attendees.  The scope of the book festival has grown, too, with outreach activities, library visits, live readings and media appearances that start today.  You can find the schedule of outreach events and the order of panel discussions and roundtables at the Ohioana Book Festival itself here.

John ScalziI think this year’s Festival lineup is one of the best yet.  I’ve always liked to listen to writers talk about writing, and this year I get a special treat:  one of the writers I’ve discovered and enjoyed during the past year, John Scalzi, is on the program.  I first became aware of him in December, when I felt the urge to read some science fiction, and I so enjoyed Old Man’s War that since then I’ve compulsively and greedily read through every book he’s written and even wrote a blog post about the hilarious Redshirts.  His stuff is just terrific, and it will be fun to get a sense of what he’s like in person.  (I’m also hoping, incidentally, that he’ll say a new installment in the Old Man’s War series is at the printer.)

The doors open at 10 a.m. on April 23, with the first break-out discussions beginning at 10:15.  It’s a fun event, and a great place to buy books, too.  I hope to see you there!