Friday, December 06, 2019

Media Notes: Roundup for November 2019

 This is a somewhat random selection of the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during November 2019.

Movies and films (links to for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via or other online source. The DVDs come from the public library (unless noted otherwise). In addition, I will try to add other trivia notes, such as when a film is based on a book adding the information about the book (at least the WorldCat record if available):

  • A Vampire's Tale (2009. Horror. Western. Vampires, a.k.a. Umbrage). The only highlight this movie has is it has Douglas Bradley (the actor that portrays Pinhead in Hellraiser), and that is not saying much since his role is not a big deal.  Movie description: "When a dysfunctional family moves into a remote farm terror emerges from the darkness in the form of a vampire cowboy hell bent on revenge." Actually that sounds better than what we get. The vampire cowboy wants revenge on the woman who turned him, who stopped him from killing some other guy (who later is revealed to be quite dark as well). Years later in modern times, Jacob brings his family to an isolated English farm while trying to sell a valuable stolen relic, only the relic attracts the seductress, and the vampire seeking to kill her. Movie is seriously tame, barely a "western" (box art is misleading) where we only see that western setting in a couple of flashbacks. The horror is seriously tame, and the acting to be honest is pretty bad. You may end up feeling bad for Bradley choosing to do this dud. Thing is, the idea of the story is not bad, but the plotting and execution are. The ending is somewhat satisfying but very predictable. This is one not worth bothering really. Via TubiTv. 
  • The Frozen Front (2017. War. Drama. Foreign Film- French). January 1945 the first French paratroopers join their American allies in Alsace to to take the border town of Jebsheim. The fighting in the woods is intense in what became known to history as the "Alsace Stalingrad." A bit slow at times, but dramatic and moving in some moments as well.  The dubbing in English does leave a bit to be desired at times. It is similar to 1944, the film about Estonians fighting each other in World War II as we also get some French who get forcibly conscripted into the German Army as the Germans had conquered the area. It took many years after the war for the French to forgive those soldiers and see them as victims of the Nazis instead of traitors. Via TubiTv.
  • John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons (2018. Documentary. Comedy). John Leguizamo's recent one man show where he basically does his best to teach gringos, and the rest of Latinos who may need it, a lesson on Latin History, a well needed lesson. Combining humor and what you may not have been taught in school, you learn and laugh, and even find a moving moment or two. Definitely worth looking for (unless you offend easily or have no clue, in which case you need to find it even sooner). Via online streaming.
  • The Fall of the Krays (2016. Crime.Drama. UK film). The sequel to The Rise of the Krays (link to the roundup containing my comments on it). The brothers are at the top, but there are threats from within and without against their power. This film seems a bit more moody, yet remains interesting to look. As before, pretty good soundtrack reflective of the 1960s when most of the story takes place. In the end, it was OK. Via TubiTv.
  • Cyborg Cop (1993. Crime. Action. Science Fiction). In a nutshell, two DEA agents get in trouble with the agency after a hostage situation goes bad. One gets involved in some secret mission to some Caribbean island and goes missing. The other brother, portrayed by David Bradley (of American Ninja movies fame in a serious downfall in roles), out of the agency, gets a message from the missing brother, and goes out to rescue him. The catch is the island is really run by Kessel (portrayed by John Rhys-Davies way before he got a good break in Lord of the Rings), a wealthy man and scientist who is creating assassin cyborgs, and the missing brother just got turned into one.  The future of law enforcement this ain't. The acting is pretty bad; seriously, no common sense whatsoever. Cliches all over from the cocky protagonist to the obnoxious female reporter that though he claims not to want her around, well, they end up together. This is bad, and it is not the oh so bad it is good bad. It is just plain bad. One of those crappy late night movies of the 1990s. You can probably skip it.  Via TubiTv. 
  • Venom (2018. Science Fiction. Action. Superheroes). I can see why this movie did poorly for critics and others; it is seriously boring for almost an hour before anything of substance happens. By the time the action happens, it feels like too little too late. Overall, given the source material, this film was a missed opportunity for Marvel. This could have been so much more, and heck, I was even intrigued by the idea of a female symbiote, but even that potential is not enough to save this. As for the villain, an obnoxious version of Elon Musk and his ilk did the film no favors. Tom Hardy as Brock interacting with Venom is the only saving grace in this, but there is just too little of it to make the movie worth it. This is definitely one you can probably skip. Via DVD from public library. Go find the comic books instead, for example, I reviewed one of them recently. 
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013. Drama. Biography. Crime). I had heard of this film but knew little of the story other than Leonardo DiCaprio starred in it. Turns out it is based on the life of real life former stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who after his conviction and time in prison wrote his memoirs.  Movie is based on Belfort's The Wolf of Wall Street book. It is a Martin Scorsese film, so when I saw that, I expected something good, and it was. The film is well made. DiCaprio and Jonah Hill put in great performances, and it does capture the essence of the high flying late 1980s and 1990s when Wall Street was flying high while its greed destroyed lives and men like Belfort mostly got away with it.Not the kind of film that will endear Wall Street to the average Joes and Janes of the nation, but it is a pretty good film. It does have similarities a bit to other Scorsese films where the main character rises then falls in large part due to hubris and some addiction (see, for example Henry Hill in Goodfellas). It is a story this director can do very well in film. I will warn that at almost three hours of running time, it can feel a bit long. I'd say it is worth a look, and I may try to read the book down the road. Via DVD from public library.

Television and other series (basic show information links via Wikipedia unless noted otherwise). Some of these come in DVD from the public library. Others may be via YouTube, which, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes:

  • George Carlin: Life is Worth Losing (2005. Stand up comedy. Humor). Carlin's 13th HBO special. Highlights include that rapid fire sequence in the first four minutes, what would happen if electricity would be eliminated completely, the All Suicide Channel, and his American Dream speech, which is likely one of the most brilliant routines of his career. To me, this man was a genius and truly a stand up philosopher as well as comedian.  The man was truly a prophet who always told it like it is while making us laugh. His honesty and insights comfort me greatly, especially in the Hard Times we live in. He continues to be one of the best. Via TubiTv.
  • Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994. Granada Television Series). I watched some later parts of this back in September and October of 2018. I continue watching some more of this favorite series. Via YouTube. Highlights this time: 
    • "The Bruce Partington Plans." When top secret plans for a British submarine go missing, Mycroft Holmes himself, top government official and brother of Sherlock Holmes, enlists the great detective to solve the case, which includes murder. I always enjoy when Mycroft makes an appearance in the series. 

Booknote: Star Wars: The Stark Hyperspace War

John Ostrander,, Star Wars: the Stark HyperspaceWar. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1569719853.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: Star Wars, science fiction
Format: paperback
Source: I got this at Half Price Books

The description says this was "another major battle" before the Clone Wars. It was not quite. In a nutshell, Iaco Stark, pirate, smuggler, and shady trader, schemes to limit the supply and create a monopoly on bacta, a crucial healing agent. He gets together a bunch of other pirates and smugglers into a "commercial combine" to carry out his plan. The Trade Federation hopes to use Stark's aggressions to their own ends. Naturally it falls to the Jedi to stop it.

Overall, the main issue is that the story is not that good, and the plots can get messy at times. The story is told as a flashback of older Jedi telling the story to younger ones. This frame device makes no difference; the author could have done the story without it. Aside from seeing some favorite Jedi in younger days, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Quinlon Vos, the story is not much. For me, this was just OK. This is definitely a book to borrow and move on.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Booknote: Jane Austen: Cover to Cover

Margaret C. Sullivan, Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781594747250.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: books, publishing, book trade, art, Jane Austen
Format: coffee table art book
Source: Contest win at BookLikes.

This art/coffee table book is a collection of book covers of Jane Austen novels plus some of the minor works which get collected here and there, often attached to a novel or omnibus edition.

In terms of aesthetics, this is a very nice book from the cover to the inside the cover to the overall layout. It really looks nice, and Austen fans will likely enjoy it.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Introduction.
  • Six chapters. Each chapter has a short introduction to the time period it covers. Then you get the covers and text with history and information on the cover, the publishers, and even information on book making and the book trade.
  • An appendix. This includes some material on collecting Austen novels. 
  • A bibliography. 
  • Acknowledgments and a note from the author. 
On the positive, for Austen fans this book will be a delight. The author put in serious work to find every book cover and edition out there of Austen works from the 1800s to today. The editions even include film edition/tie-ins and foreign language editions. In addition, this is a good look at the book trade business over time, specially as it concerns the publishers who've have and sold Austen's works over time. You get a lot of material in 200 pages or so.

On the not so positive,  this is basically all Jane Austen, all the time. She only wrote a few works, so you are basically seeing the same books all the time, just different covers. For serious Austen fans, this is great. For casual readers, it can get tiring halfway through the book. It can feel like you are seeing the same thing over and over, and while the history can be interesting, again, for non-Austen fans this can be a bit of overload.

Bottom line. Highly recommended for Jane Austen fans. This may be a must for them. For public libraries, this may be a good option, specially if their Austens are popular. For casual readers, this is definitely optional. It may appeal to readers who like books about books a bit. It is optional for academic libraries; it may be good for academic libraries with strong book history, publishing interests, and if there are strong Jane Austen courses, this book may be of interest too.

In the end, I liked it, but it is not something I would add to my personal collection. I'd say unless you are a hardcore Jane Austen fan, borrow it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Booknote: The Hellbound Heart

Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart. New York: Harper, 2007 (reissue edition). ISBN: 978-0-06-145288-8.

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: horror
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

A while ago I watched the film Hellraiser, and while I liked some elements of it, I was underwhelmed with the film overall. So I decided that some day down the road I would read the novella it is based on: The Hellbound Heart. Lucky for me, my local public library recently got a reissue edition of the book, so I checked it out. This edition is nothing special in the sense that it does not have any introductions, new notes, or any other supplements that get added to classics years later. In other words, it had just the text so I could read and judge on that basis. Also, the text on this edition is a bit larger, so the total pages is 164. You can read this in one sitting if you wish and have time.

My initial impression on seeing the movie was Barker is a better writer than movie maker (he did direct the film that adapted his novella). Sure enough, that was true. The story offers a lot that the film leaves out, and it has more details and richness to it. Plus, it does it in 164 pages making this a nice, tight narrative that is a good horror tale without a lot of fluff. The book originally came out in 1986, a time when a lot of schlock horror and slasher stories were popular. So yes, Hellbound Heart broke that mold with something innovative. What interest me is that the story is very good and it still works well today.

Barker draw you into the story, and once it starts, he sustains the suspense until the end. The basic plot is well known: Frank Cotton's opening of the puzzle box, opening the way for the Cenobites to take him, and Julia, his lover, who is married to Frank's brother, working to bring Frank back to life. Even if you know the basics, you should read the novella where it all starts. For one, it is well written and literary. Two, there are many rich details in the tale not seen in the film. Three, while Barker develops the Cenobite myth, there is a lot of room for growth. A lot of what we get are hints, indications, ideas, just enough to keep readers intrigued. We should note a lot of the Cenobite mythos, including details like naming the apparent leader "Pinhead," were spun with or after the film. None of them were part of the novella, so a challenge for modern readers already exposed to other media is to read the novella with fresh eyes. That is what I tried to do, and for me, I got a better appreciation of what came later from reading the novella. As I said, it is well written, concise, and has enough detail to draw the reader into its world and make one want more.

The book is a classes of the horror genre, and it is well earned. I'll add that I've read a bit of Barker's other works, and expansive as they can be, they just do not have the same sense of simple yet deep wonder Hellbound Heart has. I like that despite all the spins over time, this original tale holds up well.

Overall, I really liked it. This is definitely a good selection for libraries, specially for horror collections. Whether they select this edition or a different one, this is a must have in a horror collection. I like this particular edition because it is just the text with no fillers, but your mileage may vary.

4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A list of ten (plus one) books I have read with numbers in the book title

 I saw this prompt over at That Artsy Girl. For me, making this list turned out a bit harder than I thought I would be. Whether by coincidence or design, I do not recall reading too many books that have a number in the title. I had to look a bit deep in this blog's archive to make the list. So here it is with links to the reviews.

A Thousand Sons (Horus Heresy, Book 12)


Friday, November 15, 2019

Booknote: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. New York: Hachette Audio, 2015. ISBN: 9781478966142. 

Genre: humor, nonfiction
Subgenre: parody, Marie Kondo, stuff about life, self help
Format: electronic audiobook
Source: Overdrive system of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

This is going to be a "quickie" booknote. I read this a while back, so I am giving readers now some quick impressions then highlights of my reading notes. This is one of those books I read, then kept on reading other books, and I sort of forgot to write out the full review. So I am doing it now before I forget again so I can record it.

This is a parody of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have not read Kondo's book nor seen her show or whatever on whichever streaming service it is in. So I am coming to this book as is, i.e. with no prior knowledge since I did not learn the book was a parody until later (or rather I knew it was parody; I just did not what the exact subject of the parody was). I read this as an audiobook, and that experience was just OK. To be honest, the narrator reminded me a bit of Jen Mann narrating her book People I Want to Punch in the Throat (link to my review of that), and not in a good way. Still, this book offered enough to keep me amused, and in the end I did like it. Thing about the book is that, though it is parody and comedy, it says just enough, specially as it applies to workplaces, that it comes across as more reasonable and realistic than many actual self-help and/or business books. I do not know if the author intended it that way, but it does work that way. Still, I am not sure if I would read any others by this author. I may decide on an individual book basis.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Additional reading notes:

  •  From opening disclaimer: if you get offended by anything in this book, you really need this book.
  •  A key question asked in the book: Does something annoy you? If  it does, stop giving a fuck about it (from the disclaimer). To be honest, this is not bad advice, specially for someone like me who really is at the "All Out Of Fucks To Give" stage. 
  • Not giving a fuck defined: ""Not giving a fuck means not spending time, energy, and/or money on things that don't make you happy or improve your life, annoy, so that you have more time, energy and/or money to devote to the things that do." Sounds pretty reasonable to me. 
  • The author adds that you need to keep in mind that there are some moments you should give a fuck about. If something does not annoy you, and it gives you joy. Simple.
  •  From the book: Stop spending time with people you do not like doing things you do not want to do. 
    • Seriously, this should be a given. 
  •  Not giving a fuck is also about managing time better too, not being an asshole.
  • Interesting point from the book: it is hard to get fired from a job you do really well. Thus, figure out what parts/details of said job you can afford to not give a fuck about, thus likely improving your quality of life, for example dress codes (dress comfortably but still professional of course) and certain meetings (get that time back). The meetings time is something I can relate to and that I think I should work on more. Let us be honest, in academia and academic libraries, there are a lot of meetings that could just be an e-mail. 
  • Important to set your boundaries for what you will and will not give a fuck about, then stick to them. Again, be honest and polite.
  •  Great idea: having a personal policy as part of your boundaries. So you can say, I have a personal policy of not doing blank because if I do one I have to do them all (so I do not do any). That way, you do not express preferences either, i.e. I would not want to choose one over the other which could make someone feel bad or such, and I can't afford it.
  •  Unlike expressing an opinion, of not liking something for instance, a personal policy is usually not something people are willing to debate. They may try to debate your opinion, but once you lay down  the law with a personal policy, that is the end of the story for everyone else.
  •  Note: there may be times you DO need to hurt people's feelings, where it  is OK.
    • To be honest again, this is something people need to learn and also learn how to deal with it when it happens to them. No one said life is fair, and if someone does not lay off when they should, then it should be fair to let them have it. 
  •  The Irish Good bye: leaving a party without telling anyone. I had no idea this was a term; it is the kind of thing I have done now and then as an introvert. I definitely concur it is highly recommended. 
  • For a mission statement, imagine a bunch of cigar smoking monkeys clacking away. More useful. Sounds about right, applicable too in library world and higher education when you think about it.To be honest, a lot of those monkeys could likely write a better mission statement than most folks in places like academia. 
  • A lot of the third part in the book is specific examples of how not to give a fuck. This one is a bit on the lengthy side compared to the rest of the book.
  •  The book apparently comes with some charts and diagrams that she refers too throughout the book. Naturally, with the audio edition,  you miss that.

Signs the economy is bad: November 15, 2019 edition.

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.

Here we go again. . .

We start this week with

Education News

  •  Higher education costs keep going up, and the University of Chicago is making sure to stay right on top of that. They are poised to become the first university to charge $100,000 a year. Via Hechinger Report. Holy shit! People, seriously, a small pro tip: fancy university does not mean better, so if you can afford to go to some state school (assuming you do want to go to college) instead, preferably in-state, do that. 
  • As if cost was not bad enough, getting into college or university may get harder for some given poor skills. The most recent NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) shows a decline in U.S. educational achievement. Via Hechinger Report
  • On a positive, college athletes may be getting a break as the NCAA finally voted to let players get paid for sponsorship deals. Via Inside Higher Ed. Granted, the NCAA and the colleges and universities will keep exploiting those student athletes, but at least now the students may get some compensation. 
  • However, not all colleges have big football and/or basketball programs to bring in big money to the campuses. In fact, some smaller colleges struggle financially and have to find ingenious ways to make ends meet. In other words, they need to hustle in the Bad Economy (this story could have gone under "Hustlin' in the Bad Economy). One way is to serve as wedding venues and charge for such service. Via The Atlantic. I will tell you this much. When the Better Half and I got married (some years ago now), we did get married on campus at our university, and it was a bit more affordable than some private venue. However, do keep in mind cost can vary based on things like, for example, if the campus you are looking at is a serious tourist attraction (this can drive up costs) versus a lesser known place or a big state university.

Next, we go over to the farmlands in

Rural News

  • For starters, farm bankruptcies are up. Via The Rural Blog. Sure, the weather has been bad in recent months, and the Pendejo In Chief's trade wars with places like China have not been good for them (even though so many of them enthusiastically voted for him and keep supporting him. You really can't fix stupid). However, the bankruptcy story has more: "Growers are also becoming increasingly dependent on trade aid and other federal programs for income, figures showed in a report by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest general farm organization." Farmers taking a "handout" or help from the government? Really? Say it ain't so. . .

  •  Some farmers are trying to put up the good fight, but finding financing is not easy, and it is getting more difficult. As a result of traditional banks not being so generous in providing farmers with loans, some farmers are turning to some "nontraditional" loan options to make ends meet. Story via The Rural Blog. Among the reasons this is an issue: "While such high-interest loan providers can be a lifesaver for farmers in the short term, their interest rates are double those of traditional farm lenders." It's been described as "shadow financing." 
  • On a different issue, via Forward Kentucky, a report where "Appalachian communities say prison jobs are a 'phantom promise.'" In a nutshell, rural communities with little options either attract the attention of some big prison project, or they hope to attract one in hopes of generating a lot of local jobs. However, that hope rarely happens, and the reality is a lot more complicated than these communities think. This article is worth reading. 

Meanwhile back in the US colony 

U.S. troops invading Puerto Rico during Spanish American War, 1898.

The Bad Economy  Around the World

  • In Latin American news, the coup that ousted Evo Morales in Bolivia is a big deal. However, once you look closely, you see the often common pattern of outside interference and the Real Owners safeguarding their interests (i.e. Morales was not too friendly to big corporations seeking to exploit his country, imagine that). It boils down to one very valuable mineral. Read this story out of Truthdig to learn more. 

In Other News of the Bad Economy

  •  We recently celebrated Halloween here in the United States. It is all fun, costumes, candy, so on. However, there are signs things may be going a bit too far. How far? How about half a billion dollars. . . for pet costumes? Seriously. Story via Salon.
  • In another sign things are going too far, here is the latest fuckery out of Google: they now plan to offer checking accounts. As if them invading your privacy and selling it off was not bad enough, now they want your banking too. And if that was not bad enough, they are partnering up with Citibank, notorious for their shadiness to put it mildly.  Story via Inc.
  •  In First World Problems, Disney+ streaming service debuted this month, albeit with glitches. So now suddenly people are realizing the irony of leaving cable, because it has way too many channels, in favor of a la carte service, and now, we got, lo and behold, too many separate streaming services. Story via VICE.

Once more, we look at ingenuity in making a buck or two with folks. . .

Hustlin' in the Bad Economy

  •  I am sure some folks have heard that there are fetishists out there who will buy used women's underwear. So an enterprising woman could make some bucks selling a few soiled undies. Now, with a renewed interest in any and all things retro, grandma is raiding her closet for her old lingerie as folks want to buy vintage lingerie. It is becoming quite a business to seek the stuff out in second hand stores and then resell it online for profit. Story via The Daily Beast
  •  Meanwhile, people making a living for no other reason than having some fame are raking it in as "influencers." Story via BBC. I will be honest: I find the whole idea of social media influencers vapid and shallow, but hey, more power to ya if you can make money at it. 
  • Via Remezcla, this was my favorite story of "Hustlin' in the Bad Economy" this week. This Latino Twitter user will post "yikes" under your ex's selfies on social media, and he does it for $5 each. This is one of those stories where I go, "why did I not think of that?" 
  • Now this one I admire. A luxury hotel offers Tarot card readings as part of the amenities at their restaurant. Story via Departures. That is the kind of gig I'd love to do, so hey, any high end restaurants or hotels out there, or even hey, medium tier, want a Tarot/oracle card reader, let me know.

And finally this week, the wealthy have been suffering a little but still mostly living it up. . .

Uber Rich

  • Aww, poor Bill Gates is a little worried he may not have enough money to live on if the rich are taxed a bit more to help out with things like public services and schools (things he does benefit from too by the way). How worried is he? The man, who is worth about $107 billion (yep, you read that right) worries that he could be forced to live on $7 billion instead. Story via VICE. One that is seriously exaggerated in the sense any tax plan would not just do that. And two, let's be honest, no one is crying over a guy who would STILL have $7 billion in that scenario. As the kids say, hey Bill, "OK Boomer!"
  • The real estate market for the uber rich continues to suffer from the challenge of trying to get those tightwads to buy a property. So sellers keep tossing perks into the deal. The latest deal this week is offering travel services with your purchase, such as private jet amenities. Story via Departures.