Friday, June 16, 2017

Reading about the reading life: June 16, 2017 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).

I was going to do one of these last week, but life happened. This week then we have a few extra stories I saved up for last week plus the new ones for this week, so let's get on with it.

  • This is not so much about books, but apparently typewriters are making a comeback, at least for hipsters and people who do retro. Story via I can certainly remember typewriters. I went to college as an undergraduate with  a Smith Corona typewriter. It was a big deal it had correcting tape. We've come a long way.
  • One more not quite about books, but I think a bit more about literacy and evaluating sources. That whole image we often see in places like the "History Channel" (the place for Nazis, aliens, and ice truckers) of Nazis as hardcore occultists? It is not quite true nor accurate. It does, however, make for great fiction and films. One example is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Story via Aeon. Actually, story is written by author of a book on the topic, so I guess there is your book angle.
  • Glad Day, the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in the world, has a new exhibit inspired by glory holes. Worth taking a look. Story via OUT Magazine
  • In Croatia, the government is providing grants for bookstores to help with things like starting up the business, renting a location, so on. They are trying to address the closure of a major bookstore chain that left many parts of the country without a bookstore and to increase access to books. Just the type of cool thing you'd never see in the U.S. Story via Total Croatia News.
  • File under libraries I would like to visit some day: the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York City. It was highlighted in Atlas Obscura.
  • I admit that I often complain when bookstores seem to become more of a gift and toy shop than an actual bookstore (I am looking at you Barnes and Noble). Having said that, I get the notion of doing what you must to survive another day. This bookstore in Kansas has been doing it for a while selling things over the years such as: "Fountain pens, carbon copying paper, specialty envelopes, small lots of resume paper, letter jacket patches, train puzzles, sports clothing, vintage textbooks, Melissa and Doug toys, Kansas flags and books."  They are celebrating 125 years in business, and the family's fifth generation now runs it. How cool is that? Another place to add to my road trip list. Story via The Wichita Eagle.
  • In France, they are building tiny houses to serve as small traveling bookstores. Story via New Atlas.
  • You may have heard Amazon, the online book retailer who has also become a seller of just about anything, has opened retail physical locations. They are not getting good reviews, especially from readers. The New Yorker argues they are just not built for readers, which then begs the question: who the hell are they built for? Besides Bezos and corporate vanity. 
  • A story now about a bookstore in India with a history that goes back to the country's independence.  Politicians, diplomats, and writers have all visited at one point or another. Story via Gulf News.
  • Meanwhile, in China, their largest bookstore chain turned 80 recently. It is a nice little tale. Story via 
  • In some cute and good news, Mafalda comics are now being translated into Guarani language. Guarani, a native language, is one of the official languages of  Paraguay. Story via Telesur.
  • Dangerous Minds has a recent piece on the Tijuana Bibles. (Illustrations in this story are NSFW).
  • Via Literary Hub, a look at why One Hundred Years of Solitude remains so popular
  • In Argentina, Alberto Manguel has become the head of their national library, a post previously  held by Jorge Luis Borges. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Manguel is Canadian. Story via The Globe and Mail (Canada). Manguel is author of The Library at Night, which I have read and reviewed.

Booknote: Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods

Cullen Bunn, Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods. Mount Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781524103149.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: science fiction, adaptations
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

If you enjoyed the original film, or the original television series, you will probably enjoy this series as well. It captures the feel of those works quite well.

In this story, the fleet is caught in a black hole that sends them to another part of the galaxy. To make matters more difficult, the Cylons pursuing them get caught in the same black hole and end up in the same place right behind the fleet. Then, because things cannot get worse, except they do, there is a different group of Cylons, and the humans and the original Cylons need to get into an uneasy alliance in order to survive. What caused them to travel this unexpected path? Without spoiling much, I will say it was an enemy from the  Galactica's past.

As I mentioned, if you enjoyed the original 1970s series, you will probably enjoy this. The story moves along at a good, steady pace, and the intrigue slowly builds up. The art captures the feel and imagery of the series to an extent. It is not perfect. Some of the characters look better than others, but overall the art works. In the end, it was a light and quick read. It is entertaining, but there is not much more to it. It is a title to borrow rather than buy I'd say. I liked it; I like it enough that I would read others in the series.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. New York: Random House Audio, 2007. ISBN: 9780307933386.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: cookery, food, biography, celebrity chefs
Format: audiobook
Source: Overdrive via my local public library, Madison County (KY) Public Library.

I have read some of Anthony Bourdain's later writings, such as  The Nasty Bits (link to my review). I kept hearing that I needed to read Kitchen Confidential, so when I saw my library's Overdrive system had it on audio, I took the chance. Anthony Bourdain reads the book. Note also that this is an unabridged edition. For me, I tend to prefer when an author reads their own book, assuming they have a good reading voice and their personality comes across in the reading. If you have watched Bourdain on television, then you are familiar with his narrative style, and you find that in this book.

I am going to note that this was written before he became the TV traveler personality he is now that does not really cook anymore. Heck, in a later episode of "No Reservations" when he cooked in some other celebrity chef's kitchen, he admitted how out of shape he was in terms of pulling a full shift. So in a way this is him before he really hit it big. Interesting that he says he hopes to be cooking and working after the book. He is working now well after the book, but I am betting he is not cooking as much these days.

He starts by saying he will tell you of the life as he has seen it, and while he has no intention to skewer the more famous, he will if he gets the chance. And yes, horror stories will be included too. Just remember not to order the fish on a Monday and learn not to order well done steak.

His first job was as dishwasher, because, like many young people, he needed some spending money. Plus, like many young men, he needed money for the girlfriend; yes, women can be expensive at times. On a side note, his childhood description of privation of good food as the moment of epiphany is well written and very evocative. He gets to work, acts like a jerk, gets humbled, then strives to do better and makes right, and in the process learns all the secrets, some of which he tells us in this book.

Bourdain does have a good evocative voice, and his story of youth does  have some very moving moments. That is a strength of the book. In addition, there are some horror stories and revelations, such that for some readers they may seriously reconsider if they want to eat out or not again. However, Bourdain would argue that you need some common sense, and in some cases, especially when you travel, taking the risk on some hole in the wall place that does not look "too sanitary" may be well worth a little food sickness the next day. Your mileage may vary.

Overall, I really liked the book, and I did enjoy having him read it to me.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Additional reading notes:

  • CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in the 70s was very different than the elite institution it is  now.  
  • Who actually cooks the food?  Not the chef. Most likely young, ambitious, mercenary, and very likely not American (migrants). The cooks may still be foreign, but not as exploited (or as illegal). It is a competitive field, and now (at least in the quality places), they do get paid well for their work. Many are still Ecuadorian. 
  • As many misfits and outlaws and prima donnas cooking can attract, character still counts. You can teach someone to cook; you cannot teach them character. This is applicable to many other career paths. 
  • Here is why you don't order fish on Mondays. It is likely to be at least four days old. They got it the previous week, and if they still have fish on Monday, it means that fish has sat around all weekend. 
  • Not only is Monday fish bad, mussels can be worse unless you know exactly where and when they got them, their freshness. Otherwise, food poisoning is likely.
  • Cooks also hate brunch. Often, the food is made by whoever is available; the best cooks were on Friday and Saturday night; they are not getting up on Sunday, so it is the second string, or where they let the dishwasher start to learn his cooking chops. Not reassuring if you add the leftovers they use to make the brunch.
  • I just thought this was a really good line from the book: Vegetarians and their Hezbollah branch the Vegans. (Bourdain's disdain of vegetarians and vegans is well known).
  • Rotation of food is key. If the place is busy, and a particular food item flies out constantly, it is probably OK to eat since they sell a lot, they rotate a lot. If it is a slow place with a big overdone menu, forget ordering that fancy item; it has sat there for ages before you order it. Also, keep an eye on the waiter, he knows. More reason to be polite to the waiter. A waiter that likes you may be helpful and warn you of a bad fish. However, if he is under orders, well, his body language can still be a tell. 
  • Best times to eat then: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, when the cooks have had fresh delivery and time to be creative versus weekends when they rush, know it is just tourists they will never see again, and to be honest, could not care less about more than to turn those tables. This is why on rare times the Better Half and I go out to a nice place, we often do it in the middle of the week. Besides, the place is often glad to see you (since it is slow), so the service also tends to be attentive and more relaxed.
  • As for germs, a bit of germs won't kill you, but still avoid places of absolute filth. Much of his point is have some common sense, and be attentive. 
  • An interesting lesson. Sometimes it is  good to have enemies, even if you do not know who they are. It is  a sign you are important.  
* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading  Challenges:

Friday, June 09, 2017

Booknote: Live Girls

Ray Garton, Live Girls. New York: Dorchester, 2006. ISBN: 9780843956740.

Genre: horror fiction
Subgenre: vampires
Format: paperback
Source: Interlibrary Loan via Hutchins Library, Berea College. This loan came from the St. Joseph Public Library in Missouri.

I picked this up for a couple of reasons. One, a couple of reader's advisory resources on horror had it as a suggestion for vampire fiction readers. Two, I did it to have something for the Pick Your Poison challenge I am doing this year, which includes horror fiction. The premise looked great: a vampire stripper club set up in 1980s New York City before the city decided to "clean itself up" and get all Disney-fied. By the way, you may find some spoilers here, so tread accordingly.

This novel is your classic 1980s horror novel with graphic elements and full of explicit sex. If you like your vampires adult, mean and terrifying, and more mature theme and story, this may be for you. In the end, it has its good things and not so good things.

On the positive side, as I mentioned, this  is a vampire story where the vampires are mature adults, and they are terrifying creatures. Davey Owens gets pulled into their world when a stripper at Live Girls lures him and then eventually turns him into a vampire. Being vampires, sex is given, and there is a lot of it, and it is graphic. Personally, this did not bother me as much. I think it may be in part because I read erotica regularly, so a few graphic scenes do not bother me (and I have read much more graphic to be honest). Yet for other reviewers I read, the explicit sex tended to bother them, which honestly made me wonder what were they expecting. Personally, I also found the Midnight Club dance performance fascinating, but then again, performance art is fine by me in all its forms; this seemed to bother a few reviewers too, again, maybe they should go read something a bit more tame. Anyhow, there is that. In addition, the novel does capture the ambience of the city rather well, a time when the city was much  more gritty and sleazy than it is now (the good old times for some folks). Furthermore, the vampire world building and dynamic are actually pretty good. These are old vampires, like Anya who  keeps a scrapbook of  reviews of her dance performances going back to the 1920s. It  was small details like that which I found fascinating.

On the negative side, the pacing of the story is extremely slow. It picks up in bits and pieces, and gets a bit quicker in the latter part of the book once Davey is turned. However, it is slow reading for a bit more than half of the book. In addition, there are some irritating characters, such as Chad, Davey's nemesis at the third rate publishing house they work in, and their boss, an obnoxious woman who is not above sexually harassing her male subordinates. Then we have Benedek the reporter, who has the potential to be interesting, but it only goes so far. He is seeking revenge from the vampire that killed members of his family. In addition, the book can be scary, but for all the fuss, I honestly did not find it that scary. What I found was a vampires tale that works OK, and that is a good refreshment from all the tween vampires and emo vampires we find today. My main problem is that it dragged, and after you take the good elements, it really is not that great of a book. I had a hard staying with it because it was not that exciting. It is pretty much one of those you read once, and then you go looking for something better.

The edition I read is a 2006 reprint; the book first came out in 1987, so it does remain popular for some folks. I understand there is a sequel to this book, but based on this book I will be skipping it.

In the end, it was just OK, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Book qualifies  for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: 

Friday, June 02, 2017

Booknote: People I Want To Punch In The Throat

Jen Mann, People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Audio, 2014. ISBN: 9781494557430.

Genre: humor (though that is questionable)
Subgenre: memoirs, suburbanites (I would add first world problems, white whines)
Format: Audiobook
Source: Overdrive system via the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This was another book I picked up from my public library's Overdrive system to meet the audiobooks reading challenge I am working on this year. Don't bother with  it; it was pretty much a waste of time. This was worse than Worick's Things I Want To Punch in the Face (link to my review of that). This book is basically the author whining and griping about her travails in married life in a suburb where  her husband goes from being the greatest guy to being the greatest asshole depending on her mood. How they remain together is truly puzzling. The book is not amusing at all.

The book description offers the following: "From noted blogger Jen Mann comes a collection of hilarious essays about suburban life and motherhood." That is probably one of the most highly inaccurate descriptions for a book I have read as a reviewer, and I have read some bad stuff in my time. I have no idea how or where she is a noted blogger, and this book is definitely not hilarious at all. It is more like cringeworthy and embarrassing. I had her other book, the holiday edition checked out too on Overdrive, and I returned it without bothering to read it because one dose of this is more than enough.

I am giving the book one of out of five stars, and I am doing it under protest. 

* * * * *

A few reading notes, which are mostly me responding some of the things I read as I was listening to the book:

Book written by Jen Mann. Renee Chambliss is narrator. Chambliss must have either  been paid very well or was desperate given the material she was stuck with reading. Still, for those audiobook readers out there who pay attention, she did a decent job narrating.

Author starts out with the amusing nature and yet boring and mundane traits of chat in the AOL days. There are not many pseudonymous chat places left online, which in a way is a pity really, but I digress. This AOL segment started amusing, but it pretty much gets annoying fast. She is describing a man she met via AOL chat in those early days. They both make all sorts of assumptions based on little to no real evidence, get mad at each other, and it amazes me they still kept on chatting. This is a segment that the author is stretching way too long, and she should have just moved on after a while.

She actually ended up marrying the guy?? Good grief, the woman must have been desperate or a masochist. This whole exchange is insane in an annoying hipster yuppie way.

She is right. I wonder how that man puts up with her brand of crazy. She either got lucky, or he has really low standards, was desperate too. He seems dorky, but not nuts to the scale she is. Sheesh, can we move on already?

This is related to the story of the pillow for the ring bearer at her wedding. Her mom does have a point:  you should have grabbed the damn pillow before you left. But yea, the guy is an asshole too. Again, how the hell they got married is beyond me, and hearing this is just getting painful at this point. I will be  blunt: the Better Half did not make that mistake. She made sure all the bases were covered, and no one lost their cool. What can I say? Some of us manage things better, but we do not need to write books about it.

I did not think this would be some crappy first world problems memoir. The subtitle of the book is seriously misleading as I have not heard anything about crafters, despots, or other suburban scourges. This is just the  author pretty much whining about every other little white whine first world problem imaginable. How anyone thinks this  is humor is beyond me. The more I read, the less I give a shit.

Her whole uptight thing about the swinger friend is even more ridiculous. Lady, can't handle it? Just leave. And "best part" is  everyone else knew but her. Not very attentive I guess. So the neighbor swings. It is not the end of the world nor a scandal.

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Reading about the reading life: May 26, 2017 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).

I am happy that I have found a few things to do one of these posts. I always enjoy stuff about books, reading, literacy, writing, so on. So without any more fuss, let's get on with it. 

  • I understand  that the Pendeja Princess has a new book out, something or other about (rich white) women who (pretend to) work. You might be curious, but you don't want to read it lest you kill some brain cells in the process. Lucky for us, Samantha Bee has read and review the book so you don't have to. Story via AlterNet. Video from YouTube.
  • In news from the  world of comics, Marvel's Black Panther and the Crew title authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates was recently cancelled. I missed it, but I hope maybe Marvel considers compiling it into a trade.As of this post, he is still working on the individual Black Panther title. Story via Colorlines
  • NPR has an interesting piece on a time when cookbooks also served as medical food advice sources.
  • In San Francisco, a bookstore had to sue because of some poorly written legislation. The law  is meant to curb fake celebrity autographs. However, in the usual fashion of lawmakers who apparently can barely write coherent laws, let alone read what the laws they pass or not, the law may have the side effect of shutting down book signings in bookstores. Via ABC News. 
  • On a bit of a tangent, but also out of California (what is it with those people out there this month?), the city of Fresno tried to ban a Hustler Hollywood store from their city. Noted First Amendment defender and owner of the company, Larry Flint, sued for violation of civil rights (that whole First Amendment thing for one); the city has settled. Story via The Fresno Bee.  
  • The New York Times has something a bit more uplifting from California: a look at some vintage bookstores in Los Angeles.
  • Meanwhile, in Texas, prisoners find that books by poets like Langston Hughes are banned, but access to stuff like Mein Kampf is just fine. Story via Signature.  
  • Via Atlas Obscura, an interesting piece on marginalia in medieval books. Some of those doodles are kind of strange.
  • Via The Guardian, some highlights on the crappy shitty books used bookstores and other second hand shops would appreciate if you would stop donating. In Britain, Oxfam finally put a statement out to say what many of us think: we do not want them. Here in the US, I am sure public libraries cringe when they get yet  another copy of tripe like Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight saga, or The Da Vinci Code that will end up at the Library Friends' Sale. If you get tempted, just toss it in the recycling bin, then ask your local friendly librarian to show you something better to read. 
  • Also via The Guardian, the racket of some less than reputable publishers to get academics to write books that are then hawked at exorbitant prices to libraries.  
  • And finally, I just found this article on Tarot from Aeon interesting, which is why I am including it. 


Signs the economy is bad: May 26, 2017 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.

Another hard week in the bad economy. A lot has been going on, so let's get started.

Before we go on, I am going to quote Tony Soprano to give you a heads up:

"I'm gonna say a few things. I'm gonna say some bad words. You're just gonna have to deal with it."

  • The big news in the bad economy this week was the Pendejo In Chief's budget proposal. Basically, if you are not male, white, and obscenely rich, you are screwed. So. how bad is it? Here are a few examples:
    • Mother Jones lays it all out: "Here's How Trump's New Budget Screws Everyone But The Filthy Rich." If there is a program that low class and middle class people and families depend on, it is on the chopping block. 
    • You have too many kids and you are poor? No food for you or your spawn. You are screwed too according to The Washington Post.
    • You are a lower income child, and you need health care? Sucks to be you since his budget cuts your health benefits. Story via The Washington Post.
    • Rely on food stamps? The SNAP program? Well tough shit. The budget cuts that too. Story via Vox. Those 45 million or so who rely on food stamps for some food on the table, fuck 'em. The irony is how many of those likely voted for the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid. You think I am just saying that to be mean? Well, a "CNN analysis found that of the top 10 places with the largest percentage of residents who use SNAP, seven voted for Trump in the 2016 elections." No further comment needed. 
    • Are you a school student in  a rural area? You guessed it, fuck you too. Via The Rural Blog
    • Are you a rural voter who voted for the Pendejo In Chief? You really thought he and the Party of  Stupid were going to protect you in exchange for you vote despite evidence to the contrary? Sucker. Via The Rural Blog.
      • And speaking of those rural voters, odds are good many of them may start depending on food pantries more. Well, they may be up shit's creek because hunger may be on the rise in the US, but donations to food pantries are not. It's like the powers that be want them to starve or something. Story via NPR. 
    • Hell, not even wild horses are going to come out alive if this budget goes through. I guess this will be Trump Steaks 2.0. Story via PBS Newshour. 
  • The other big fuss this week was HUD Secretary Ben Carson saying poverty is a state of mind. I will make sure to tell my creditors and landlord that their payments this month will be in happy thoughts. Yea, it's all in your head according to the good doctor. Story via The New York Times, but if you go on Twitter, they had a field day mocking him as he rightfully deserves.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and Carson definitely is wasting his. 
  • In more normal bad economy news, a bunch of retailers are closing stores...again. Story via USA Today. How the hell Sears is still alive is beyond me, and to think they were once a mighty and respectable company. Talk about how the mighty have fallen.
  • If you are a woman with  a college degree, and you have student loans, things are not too bright for you. According to the article, the "burden of student debt is having an outsize impact on women who now hold nearly two thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding education loans, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Association of University Women." Story via The Washington Post.
  • Meanwhile, in the UK, reports of teachers becoming homeless because their salaries are not enough to pay for housing where they work. Via The Guardian
  • Let us look at something positive. In Ohio, a local coroner is expanding business opportunities for funeral homes and refrigeration trailers. What a guy! What is causing this boom in business? There is a massive opoids addiction epidemic in his county, and he has so many corpses he cannot fit them in the morgue and has to rent out storage space. Story via Vox
  • Meanwhile, a new study finds that there are more sweatshops than Starbucks  in Chicago. So much for the joke that there is a Starbucks in every corner. Not in Chicago. Story via Truthout.
  •  And in New York City, Uber has been stiffing its drivers of owed money. Story via Vox.
  • In "oops" news, the "US failed to keep proper track of more than $1 billion in weapons and equipment to Iraq." By the way, we do need add the qualifier "again." This is not the first time the US does this kind of thing. Story via The Washington Post.
  • The Week has something or other about Millennials, who are all about "the experience," saying no to "traditional wedding gifts." Let me bottom line it for you: just give them the damn cash already. Deity of choice knows they will need it in the bad economy.
  • The New York Yankees baseball team is not doing well in terms of ticket sales, even with a winning record overall. Naturally, they mostly blame it on those damn Millennial kids who could not care less about attending baseball games. Hell, I am not a Millennial, and  I could not care less about attending sporting event at a stadium. That is what ESPN and other channels are for, if I must (plus that helps me avoid the overpriced concessions). Story via The New York Times
  • Meanwhile, the maker of Bud Light is spending money to polish up the company image to make the brand seem more sophisticated. . . lol (yea, excuse me a moment while I laugh here). . . (OK, I am set). The reality is that the serious money for them these days is in the craft beer brands they have been buying up left and right (they don't make them themselves, so they just used money to muscle in on that market), and that is really where all that marketing money is going to. Story via The Washington Post.
  • And finally, a follow up. In the previous installment of "Signs the economy is bad," one  of the big news items was the kerfuffle over avocado toast. Well,  you may need to have something to drink to wash down that avocado toast. Now you are set with the new avocado latte. Just what every hipster Millennial needs. Story via USA Today.

Booknote: Tarot Court Cards for Beginners

Leeza Robertson, Tarot Court Cards for Beginners: Bring Clarity to your Readings. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017. ISBN: 9780738750163.

Worldcat record here.
Publisher information here.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination, spirituality, reference
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

I recently read this as a bit of a mistake. I requested a book from the publisher via NetGalley, and in place of the book they advertised, it had the file for this one. On a happy note, the publisher eventually fixed the issue. I got to read the other book too, but in the meantime I gave this one a try. I found it to be pretty good for what it does: give you some help in understanding the Tarot court cards. 

Before, I go on, let me provided a bit from the book's description:

"Tarot expert Leeza Robertson has discovered that for a majority of tarot readers, the court cards are the most challenging cards to work with. But once you become familiar with  these enigmatic figures, you can turn them into friends and allies that provide powerful insights and advice. With stories, explanations, simple exercises, and meditations, this book explores the many facets of pages, knights, kings, and queens to help beginning and novice readers deepen their journey through the tarot."

I can agree with that. I often struggle with the court cards because I can't quite decide if they refer to a person (someone else or me) or if they refer to some other issue or trait. A nice thing I like when I use Lyle's book to check on meanings is that Lyle gives an additional meaning option for looking at court cards in abstract terms. Personally, I tend to find that a bit more helpful in my daily Tarot meditations. Robertson's book provides a new way to look at these cards.

The book is arranged into 6 major parts. Here is a basic outline of the organization:

  • Brief history of Tarot, includes terminology, and a bit on the Emperor and Empress and their role.
  • The Pages, Princesses, and Children. There is then a chapter for Knights and  Princes, The Queens, and the Kings. Each of these chapters includes: 
    • History, myth, and legend.
    • Material on the court cards as a person, archetypal influence, and as messenger. 
    • Each chapter then ends with exercises and spreads you can try out. 
    • On the court card chapters, Robertson writes, "each of these chapters end with two connection exercises. One is a journal or meditation exercises and the other is a spread specific to the cards in general" (3).
  • Sixth chapter is "bringing the kingdoms together." This has four exercises to try out to help you bring it all together. 
  • The book then ends with  a section on recommended reading. 
Robertson explains that this is a book for beginners:

"Before that, let's get something clear: this book is designed with a beginner in mind, and even though I do offer some beyond beginner tips and exercises, this is really for those of you struggling to make sense of these sixteen cards. That said, this book is meant  to work with Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired tarot decks as I will be looking at them as the primary source of understanding. There are also sections in this book dedicated to members of the royal court from Thoth-influenced decks. So no matter what sort of deck you hold in your hands, your members of court will be mentioned" (2).

The author uses these decks used for illustration: Llewellyn's Classic Tarot, the Gaian Tarot, and the Tarot of the Hidden Realm. This is so you can see the same card as expressed in different ways by different authors and artists. In addition, the inclusion of various exercises and writing prompts helps to make the book more practical.

Overall, the book is easy to read and very accessible. Robertson's framing of the court cards as part  of larger stories can be helpful if you are trying to grasp the meanings of the court cards. The book provides plenty of opportunities to study and reflect on what you learn to help reinforce the learning process. This was one I really liked, and I think Tarot learners who are beginners will find it helpful.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes:

On that whole Emperor and Empress thing. Robertson proposes we see the court as part of a story and Tarot as a land with a ruler and local governors/kings:

"The best way to go from here is to understand that the tarot itself is a vast and wondrous land. It  is so vast that the Emperor who controls all of it cannot rule it on his own. He just can not rule it on his own. He just cannot be in all places at once so he keeps the regional aristocracy in power to maintain the kingdoms. The kingdom of wands in the east, the kingdom of cups in the south, the kingdom of pentacles in the west and the kingdom of swords in the north. But it is the emperor and he alone who gets the final say on things within the land of tarot, for his power is absolute" (11)

Another way to look at it:

"Another way to think of this tarot empire is to view the emperor and empress as the whole package, a complete and total ruling couple, and the kings and queens of the suits as parts of their personality. The cups, emotional; the wands, active; the swords, intellectual processing; and pentacles, physical resources. In this scenario, the royal families of the minor arcana become inner archetypes of the emperor and empress" (12).

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: May 19, 2017 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.

Well, we made it through another week. A lot of stories this week, so let's get started.

Next, let's have a look at how the uber rich are doing. They've their ups and downs this week:
  • The big story this week is avocado toast. Some Australian millionaire who while rich is fairly clueless decided to tell Millennials to stop buying fancy avocado toast so they could maybe save some money and buy a home eventually. Apparently, avocado toast in his view is for just the wealthy like him, so the peons need to stop it already. Story via The Guardian. Naturally, the story has drawn a few responses: 
    • This nice young Millennial lady responded in The Guardian. No, her generation did not invent or become oh so enamored of avocados. 
    • Here is another open letter responding from GQ Magazine
    • And since the economy  is bad, GQ has decided to be helpful by providing a recipe on how to make your own avocado toast. That way you can save some money, put some away for that house, AND still eat your avocado toast. 
  •  The US naval and military industrial complex should do well under the administration of the Pendejo In Chief. They would be looking at a $400 billion cost to expand over 30 years. Knowing the Party of Stupid, this likely means cuts in social safety nets, education, health care, domestic infrastructure, you name it. Hey, think positive. That means jobs for ship builders, weapons systems makers, etc. so Americans can have the best and latest to keep bombing other nations. Via Reuters.
  • On the other hand, the militaries in other parts of the world might not be so fortunate to have money for big expansions Heck, even Americans want to do their military on the cheap. Funding the biggest and latest in aircraft carriers is  good. Paying for ground troops in out of the way places like Iraq and Afghanistan is not so good. So Americans and some others outsource with private military contractors (a.k.a. mercenaries). Mercenaries, being a business, want to recruit and get employees (a.k.a. soldiers) on the cheap, and they are finding that former child soldiers make great recruits. Hey, they started learning the trade of war early on, and now as adults they have desirable skills, and the companies can pay them less. Via Al Jazeera. 
  • In fashion world news: 
    • You can pay $425 dollars to get some fake mud jeans. Any old poor schmuck can get a pair of jeans muddy while working hard.  But you gotta pay if you want to be rich and get that fake, fancy look of pseudo worker with dirty jeans. Story via Boing Boing
    • You can also buy a very fancy boomerang from Chanel so you can play while wearing your nice pseudo-muddy jeans. Also via Boing Boing
    • The Pendeja Princess's (Ivanka) clothing line has not been doing as well as some anticipated. In fact, to move it, the company that sells and distributes the brand has been relabeling it hoping to trick people into buying it in discount retailers. Via Crooks and Liars
  • The two major dialysis companies are raking in millions while barely providing decent conditions for the patients who use their services. John Oliver did an excellent expose on this. Story, with video, via TruthDig.  
  • Wedding planners and the wedding industry will continue to do well. Weddings have gotten more expensive and extravagant in the last decade, and people keep paying for them. Story via USA Today.
  • Like drinking cold coffee, but not want to brew it like a common plebeian? Need to do it on the go? Here is a $24 portable iced coffee maker. Via Kinja
  • And finally, millionaires are once again whining how hard they have it, and they got Wise Bread to explain why being a millionaire is overrated. Oh boo hoo, cry me a river. I will be happy to take some of their money so they do not feel so burdened.

Booknote: Things I Want To Punch In The Face

Jennifer Worick, Things I Want To Punch In The Face. Pasadena, CA: Prospect Park Media, 2012.  ISBN: 9781620644850 (as provided by Overdrive, different from print edition).

Subgenre: humor, blog-based books
Format: audiobook
Source: Overdrive from Madison County (KY) Public Library.

This is one of those books where the blogger turned their blog into a book. According to the book description, the blog was an Internet sensation, but I must have missed that one because I had no idea the blog existed until I got the book. I mostly checked out the book because I often enjoy humor books, and I also needed a book to add to the Audiobook Reading Challenge list. This one was a little underwhelming to say the least.

The author states she will provide 102 entries to her list. She also has a scale of how bad things are:

"One punch = Annoying, like a mild rash.
Two punches= Aggravating, like a black eye.
Three punches= Disgusting, like an open sore.
Four punches= Toxic, like acid reflux or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Five punches= permanently damaged, like her patience."

The entries, which are basically rants, vary in length, and the quality of the humor is very inconsistent as well. She often ends the small rants on what needs punching with "fact of the  matter" bits. These are small factoids or trivia related to the item she is ranting about, and at times can be interesting.

A lot of the humor is reliant on the usual stereotypes, like man caves, guy must be some kind of caveman troglodyte. Cute, but not amusing after a while, and that is about how the rest of the book goes. It had some amusing things, which I will comment on down below, but overall, not a very good book. The book is read by the author, and for a humor book, it is fairly deadpan. In the end, this is a book that is pretty disposable; you read it once, and then you move on to something better and more interesting. Better yet,  just go find the blog online and skip the book. As kids would say, this book was "meh."

2 out of 5 stars, barely.

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Additional reading  notes:

Some of the things that she wants to punch in  the face, with my comments:

  • Early birds, like those who get  to their desks at the crack of dawn and  are  first to turn off the security alarm. 
    • I can relate to this given we have a couple of these early birds at work.  Exactly, whoop dee doo, so you go to bed early, or as we say in Spanish, you go to sleep with the chickens.
  •  Hayden Christensen's whiny little bitch act in the SW prequels are definitely punch worthy, especially for those of us who lived long enough from the original films. That is a point I agree with her. We deserved better, and instead got that. To be honest, the big mistake Obi Wan made was not kicking Anakin into that magma and finishing him off. Wuss. (Yea, I know if he had, no movies and stories later, but let us be honest, we would have been better off keeping Darth Vader's mystery mystique instead of revealing he was a whiny teen emo brat).
  • Clothes are to be worn. Would you please explain the excess of shoes in your closet you do not wear? I'll wait.
    • Yea, I will wait too on that one.  
  •  Pajamas as outerwear do deserve five punches to the face.
  • And I am certainly sympathetic to punching  people who give offspring names starting with the same letter (or worse, the same names). Way to make life difficult down the road for your kids.
  • Parking hogs do deserve those five punches in the face (and their tires slashed if I had my way).
  • People who blab on red-eye flights. Yes, these people deserve their punches.
  • Some of the jokes were a bit dated. For example, Skymall catalogs pretty much ceased publication.
  • Staycation: euphemism for being too broke to go someplace interesting. Sounds about right. I would put that under signs the economy is bad.
  • Yes, books derived from blogs deserve the full five punches, though ironic since this book is one of them. Whatever little credibility she had she just tossed for shits and giggles, to use her term.
  • More on books from blogs: Exactly. Amazing how they monetize crappy writing and/or user generated content (i.e. stuff other people wrote or commented on that they in essence stole since they do not pay or reward the users) into a book. I have read one or two of those, and believe me, you really are better off reading the blog, which is free. Then again, only reason I read this one is because I borrowed it from the library, so I am not exactly paying for it. However, not as dumb as those who go and buy what you can get for free online anyhow.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Divinity III: Stalinverse

Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Divinity III: Stalinverse. New York, NY: Valiant Entertainment, 2017.  ISBN: 9781682151914.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: science fiction, alternative history, superhero comics
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

If I recall, this may be my first experience with Valiant Comics; it certainly is my first experience reading their Divinity series. While this particular issue may require a bit of prior knowledge, you still get enough information in the narrative to get what is happening and enjoy the story.

From the book's description:

"Earth has a new god. The world you know is gone. Welcome to the Stalinverse, comrade.

Welcome to the year 2017…where the Soviet Union has spent decades as the world’s reigning superpower and the Iron Curtain now encircles a planet riddled with war, strife, and oppression. Freedom is a thing of the past in the Stalinverse… So why can’t Russian intelligence officer Colin King shake the feeling that something has gone terribly wrong? He’ll put his freedom and life on the line to uncover the truth… Even if that means finding out whatever happened to the long-missing cosmonaut Abram Adams – the one man who just might hold the key to unraveling the dystopian world of today." 

The world is now ruled by a very strong and very much alive Soviet Union. Now that they rule the world, they are setting their eyes on the stars to spread the glory of Mother Russia. Colin King is a loyal intelligence officer with access to high places, but he knows something is not right about this timeline, and he works to gradually make others aware as well. You will have to read to find out how things got to this point and how things turn out.

I can say that this is a good story, entertaining and intriguing. If you enjoy alternative history, you will get a good dose of it here. If you enjoy plots and intrigue, you will get some of that here as well. And if you enjoy action and super powered beings fighting out for the fate of the world, you get that here too. The series offers a lot to readers. I found the pacing good, and once I started it, I just kept on going wanting to learn more. The art is pretty good overall too. As I mentioned, I was not very familiar with this series, but it was a pleasant discovery, and I look forward to reading more titles.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Book qualifies for these 2017 Reading Challenges: