Friday, October 28, 2016

Booknote: Tarot for Beginners

Barbara Moore, Tarot for Beginners: a Practical Guide for Reading the Cards. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010. ISBN: 9780738729671 (e-book); 9780738719559 (print)

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination
Format: e-book
Source: Overdrive collection of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I got this one as an e-book via my public library's Overdrive collection. This book is one I would consider an optional acquisition for my personal collection. A positive trait of the book  is Barbara Moore's warm and nurturing tone, which is well suited for learners. The book is also an easy read.

The book is arranged into the following parts:

  • Introduction
  • Seven chapters on these topics: 
    • Basics
    • The Card Meanings
    • Finding More Meaning
    • Adding Something Extra
    • Developing Your Skills
    • Spreads
    • Sample Readings
  • Conclusion
  • Four appendices
    • Suggested Reading
    • Suggested Decks
    • Significators
    • Correspondences

The book strives to include a lot of good information without being overwhelming.  Moore gives you the basics to learn how to read Tarot cards. She then gives you a few extra techniques and options to help enhance your readings. You are free to take and choose what you think works best for you. Unlike other Tarot books I've read, this one is not overly prescriptive. Moore presents the concepts, explains them clearly, and then leaves it up to the reader.

In terms of reading experience, reading it in print may be a better option. Overdrive does not render the book very well. The layout at times is uneven. The text is cluttered too. If you are getting this book, I would say get the print version.

Overall, the book is really good. For learners wanting to learn more, the appendices on suggested readings and on suggested decks will prove useful. For beginners, this  book is a good option. Libraries that want to have at least one book on Tarot basics will find that this book can fill that  need well.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes:

Goal of the book:

". . .to help you become a confident reader in the easiest, most efficient way possible--while having some fun too!" (12).

I would say she was successful with  that. The book is fairly efficient, and she does show that learning Tarot can be fun. She presents it as a learning experience that builds up:

"Doing a tarot reading is a lot like reading a book. Before you can read a novel, you have to master your ABCs, and so it is with tarot; the cards are like your new alphabet" (13). 

As a reader, I could relate to that simile. Moore uses the simile of the cards as your alphabet through much of the book. It is a simple but effective image. It also works as a good example of the scaffolding learning technique. It's like learning a language. Once you learn it, you can do all sorts of things with language. Same with Tarot cards she argues:

"Reading the cards follows much  the same path. You learn basics. Your cards become your alphabet. Your readings become your essays. Your reading style becomes  your novel, poem, or song" (15). 

On rituals around Tarot, Moore leaves it to the reader pretty much. She states they are not necessary but they can be good to support a reading if you choose to use them. On rituals, she writes:

"They can also be fun and add a theatrical or mysterious touch that many enjoy. Rituals help us calm down, center, and focus on  the task at hand. Performing a ritual or rituals before a reading lets the mind know it is time to get into reading mode" (31-32).

Keep in mind that the book  is keyed to Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot system. Marseilles-style decks, i.e. ones with  only the Major Arcana illustrated, will not be as good to use with this book. As a learner, what has worked for me is to use an RWS-based deck. I did start with a Marseilles deck, but I found the unillustrated Minor Arcana difficult to learn due to the lack of visual prompts. Once I switched over to a fully illustrated deck, I feel my learning has made much better progress. This is what is working for me. If you must start with a Marseilles deck or a Marseilles-style deck, have at it but I would advise the going may be a bit harder. Plus, the majority of learning books and tools for Tarot are keyed to RWS and RWS-based decks. I have done some searching for resources on Marseilles style, and there aren't many. I think I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for the ones I found that may be good. As for Thoth deck, that is a different and complex system. It is one I would like to study down the road. Anyhow, as I say in the Rivera Tarot Corollary to Ranganathan:

"Every reader/collector his/her deck, and every deck its reader/collector."

The point is to find the deck that speaks to you, that inspires you, and for learning, one you feel you can spend time with. If you need suggestions for decks, Moore provides some suggested RWS decks in Appendix B. She also suggests the website as a tool for in-depth Tarot deck reviews. It is a great resource I have used, though it takes them a while at times to get a review on very new decks.

Back to rituals. Moore emphasizes that you can make them as simple or complex as you wish:

"In simplest terms, a ritual is a consistent way of doing things--something as simple and unobtrusive as taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly" (32). 

Moore offers a good discussion on forming questions to ask when reading Tarot. For some learners, like me, formulating a specific question can be difficult, so this part of the book was helpful. She reminds us of the old saying that to get the right answer you need to ask the right question. She further adds:

"Asking the question is  probably one of the most important aspects of a tarot reading. Right off the bat, the question takes control over the reading by providing the focus of the answer" (37). 

Another simile. On the future and predicting it, it's like weather forecasting. You take into account as many variables as possible, but you can't get them all, thus a weather forecast is not going to be 100% accurate ever. Plus, further out you try to forecast, less accurate the forecast will be, less certain. Best use then of a forecast is to be prepared for what may  or not come. This applies to Tarot:

"For me, a tarot reading is very  much like a weather forecast. Knowing what is likely to happen helps us be prepared, so that when or if the event occurs, we'll be able to respond in a thoughtful manner" (38). 

Moore does make use of various simple metaphors and similes to aid in learning. It certainly helps in understanding basic concepts.

Moore strongly encourages journaling as do many other Tarot teachers and books. She offers a section on ways to keep a journal. Personally, I have a journal notebook as my Tarot journal, and I write down a variety of things in it related to Tarot. Again, find what works for you. For me, Tarot journaling made sense given I already keep a personal journal. Writing for me has always been a good learning and reflection tool, and so far, it serves me well in studying Tarot.

Moore uses three Tarot decks to illustrate the section with the card meanings and other parts of the book. She uses the Universal Waite Tarot, which is based on the original RWS; this version is illustrated by Mary Hanson Roberts. The second deck she uses is the Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti; this is a deck the artist made after the Gilded Tarot (link to my review of the Gilded Tarot). The third deck used in the book is the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The latter two decks are particularly beautiful decks. Sadly, they do not look good in the book where the images are small and in black and white. The result is that you often just cannot make out what is depicted in a given card because the reproduction quality in the book is bad. In the case of the Shadowscapes deck, where the art is very detailed and intricate, the cards themselves are a bit small given the art; the publisher's decision to minimize the cards more in the book does no favors to the book nor the deck. If the publisher was hoping to spark a deck sale or two with the book illustrations, that may be a bit dim in terms of hope.

Having said that, Moore does well with what she has. On the meanings chapter, she gives a general comment on the meaning of each card. She then comments on each individual card, comparing and contrasting the decks, showing how each card illuminates a core meaning and/or differs from the core meaning somehow. This is an important detail because within core meanings, Tarot readings can and do vary. Readers may look at, for example, the Two of Wands. They may interpret it based on the traditional meaning. However, those interpretations may be more nuanced, may vary, or even subtly (or not so subtly) deviate from a traditional meaning based on which  card from which deck a reader uses. Tarot readers are after all a diverse community, and that can be reflected in the many ways different readers can interpret a card or spread. So, why is looking at variations important in learning to read Tarot? Moore writes,

"By looking at three variations in the same tradition, you'll learn how to really look at and read any card  images. Once you see how easy it is to do this-- how the core meanings are simply another way to say what the image conveys-- you can then combine the core meaning and the image of any deck to create your own divinatory meanings that make sense  to you" (54-55).

That may be a useful exercise for folks who have and/or use more than one deck, comparing cards from one deck to another to see where your interpretations may vary.

In addition, Moore offers in the book what she labels as experiments. These are exercises to help learners get to know the cards better and to refine card reading skills. She also has a chapter of sample readings. Moore says these can help a learner see how a reading is done. However, you can decide whether to read through that chapter or not. A strength of the chapter is that she considers various reading styles. She will take one question, one spread, and show how it can be interpreted in different ways.

In  the end, Moore ends on a humble note with a hope Tarot learners will continue their journey and explorations:

"As you move forward on your own journey, take  from this book only what you think you'll need or what pleases you. There is a whole tarot world out there waiting for you to explore it" (306).

Some books from the appendix I found of interest, so I am jotting them down to find later:

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This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Booknote: Cable on Academe

Carole Cable, Cable on Academe. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1994. ISBN: 0-292-71170-0.

Genre: humor
Subgenre: comics, higher education
Format: paperback
Source: I own this one.

I've had this small book for a while, and I've read it multiple times. I've even featured  in on my reading lists for 2008 and 2012. I checked to see if I  had written a review of this before, and apparently I did a small note on GoodReads, but not a full review, so I am going to write a few lines on it now for the blog.

This is a small collection of comics by Carole Cable. These are basically comics that appeared mainly in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The comics deal with the misadventures, the realities, and absurdities of higher education. Odds are good some old timer professors may have cut out or printed out a strip or two to tape on their office doors. The humor in the comic varies. It does catch how ridiculous and pretentious academia can get at times, which is why I find the book comforting at times. As much as  I love working in academia, its stuffy snobbishness can be irritating to put it mildly. Still, it's gentle humor; we are not talking Scott Adams level of humor. I am still waiting for that kind of humorous look at academia in comics, which would be deserved and welcomed. In the meantime, Cable does OK, although I wonder for how long since  much like an old professor's yellow pad lecture notes, the book and some of its jokes are woefully dated. Still, the book is amusing to look at now and then.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Reading About the Reading Life: October 14, 2016 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 have a few items for this week, so let's take a look at a few things I have been reading recently: 

Booknote: 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings

Sarah Cooper, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings.  Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2016. ISBN: 9781449476052.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: humor, office politics, business
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

On the one hand the book can be amusing for some of its at times ridiculous suggestions. On the other hand, the book can be quite depressing when you notice it captures the reality of meetings pretty well. It is a case of "it's funny because it is true" though the book is not really funny. It is amusing at times, very accurate at other times, but it does not rise to funny. It's just enough to give you a smile here or there.

Like many of these light books, this one started out on the Internet as one of those listicles you see often. The book came from the author's listicle of "10 Tricks to Appear Smart at Meetings," which is supposedly a viral sensation with millions of views and shares, though apparently no one saw fit to share it with me before. I suppose I could goggle the list, but I already read the book. It's a book that I get the feeling draws from other listicles and humor out there as I get a it of deja vu reading it. I am not saying the author outright plagiarized, but she is likely drawing from a communal well at least For instance, I'd say Scott Adams' Dilbert has presented some of these "tricks" over the years. By the way, this book is in fact published by Dilbert's publisher.

The book is arranged in three parts. setting the stage, core conversation, and next steps. The tricks are then presented under each part. The book is illustrated to provide some visual elements.

In the end the book was OK; I did not think it was a big deal. As an academic librarian, a lot of my workdays are devoted to meetings that could have been e-mails. So there are some things in the book I could relate to now and then. I still would not go so far as calling it funny.

2 out of 5 stars. 

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

What you could get out of this book according to the author:

"By learning, internalizing, and actionizing all of the strategies here, you'll be on your way to becoming a major player at your company without ever knowing what that means" (vii). 

The thing is I have already seen some of those "major" players, including a few in my profession who are "major" players (or pretend to be "major" players), and it can be scary often due to their incompetence, stupidity, arrogance, or all of the above.

This next point is sad but oh so true:

"No one pays attention at meetings. So, to get ahead, you need to not pay attention better than everyone else. The fact is meetings are one of the few opportunities you have to show leadership potential, soft skills, and analytical creative thinking abilities" (viii, emphasis in the original). 

Trick #26 is "Take the call using some 'cutting-edge' technology." This trick is dedicated to all those bushy eyed technolust freaks who just feel a need to show off their Apple watch or whatever gizmo they overpaid for in a pathetic attempt to show status. You know the types, and yes, librarianship has its good share of those.  

Library directors are often particularly fond of regularly scheduled time suckers with various names.. If you are a librarian, you may recognize these, especially in academia:

"Whether it's called a stand-up, status meeting, or all-hands, these time suckers are those inescapable daily, biweekly, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly requirements that never, ever go away, long after everyone's started wondering why it's still on the calendars" (58). 

Trick #74 is "Don't wear your nametag." This applies to events; it's  usually some self-important dick who thinks his belief of people should just talk makes him a maverick. Actually, it just makes him a rude, obnoxious prick others ignore. Come on. Everyone by now knows you assess ranking, social standing, and pedigree by nametag.

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This book qualifies for these 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, October 07, 2016

Booknote: Gaysia

Benjamin Law, Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East. Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-62778-036-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Asian studies, LGBTQIA, travel writing, queer studies, sexuality
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a book that I've wanted to read for a while now, so I was glad to see my public library got it. This is definitely a great travelogue and observation of the LGBTQIA experience in Southeast Asia. If you were to travel that part of the world, then Benjamin Law would make a great guide. He has a great ability to observe, which he combines with great writing plus a very descriptive and evocative style. He makes you feel that you are right there in the moment. He can be skeptical but also shows great empathy and acceptance. He writes with a strong sense of humanity and wonder.

The book covers seven Asian nations: Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, and India. We get a range of the queer experience from Bangkok ladyboys to Melaka preachers claiming they can cure homosexuals. Through it all, Law observes, reflects, offers knowledgeable insight, and moves along with grace. This is definitely one of the best travel books I've read recently.

The book makes a good selection for public and academic libraries. I'll be ordering a copy for my library. Whether you read LGBTQIA books or not, if you want to learn a bit about this part of the world, this is a book for you. You are not going to find this kind of good travel narrative in sanitized sources like The Travel Channel. This is great travel writing and great queer writing. I am glad I got to read it and learn a few things along the way about the world.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Some additional reading notes:

As is often the case in life, truth is often more complex. You can't just judge or condemn something, be it sex work or something you may disapprove of due to morals by glance. For example:

"Often the dynamics of male sex work in Bali were more complicated than basic exploitation. For some moneyboys, it was a quick and creative way out of poverty, if you played your cards right" (35). 

Furthermore on the above, the Catch-22 of Bali's tourism:

"I was a little conflicted. Bali's tourism had lifted the island out of poverty, but there were other costs. The island's entire tourism model was a Catch-22: the pace of tourism steadily eroded Bali's native culture, environment, language, and religion, but economically Bali couldn't live without foreigners. Tourism was the island's lifeblood" (38). 

On the ladyboys' beauty pageants, this was a nice observation:

"I couldn't help but stare. Some of the girls caught my eye and smiled. I felt myself blush. It didn't matter whether you were attracted to men or women. Sometimes there were people in the world so gorgeous, so remarkably beautiful, that they made you feel as though you didn't belong in the same dimension as them" (48). 

And to wrap up this review, we have Japan, the land that gives us things like hentai and tentacle porn treats queer topics as taboo. When you ponder it, you do have to agree with the author, there is a certain sinister element:

"Sure, homosexuality was legal in Japan, Western-style homophobia wasn't rampant and TV programming was relentlessly faggy, but coming out as gay or lesbian in real life was still very difficult. Talking about sexuality-- actual queer sexuality, what being gay actually meant-- was generally taboo. Seen in a bigger context, the situation struck me as slightly sinister: queer celebrities going on-screen to have millions of viewers laugh at them, but knowing viewers couldn't care less once the TVs were off" (134). 

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This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, September 30, 2016

Reading about the reading life: September 30, 2016 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).  

It has been a while since I have done one of these compilations from the world of books and reading. I got plenty of interesting things to share, so let's get right to it.

  • In some small towns in Japan, bookstores are scarce. I can certainly relate as bookstores are very scarce where I live it (small town  in the United States). Story via The Asahi Shimbun.
  • In New York City, a Spanish language bookstore still survives even as others have closed down. Story via The New York Times.
  • Speaking of bookstores, The World Bank is closing down their bookstore in New York City. Story via The Washington  Post.
  • Here is a profile of independent L.A. bookstore The Last Bookstore. Story and video via Boing Boing. 
  • There is a  new study out from Yale University that claims book readers live longer. Do note it is book readers; magazines and newspapers not so much. You can read about it at Open Culture. Looks like the odds in that regard are in my favor. 
  • In Argentina, and in a  few other cities around the world, bars with literary themes are growing  in popularity. Story via Que Leer (this one is in Spanish).
  • The horror. In London, a few bookstores figured that what should matter is the experience of browsing and enjoying the bookstore, not constantly surfing the web. So they have turned off their public wifi. And they are doing quite well. Sounds like I need to take a trip to London to check out their bookstores sometime. Story via The New York Times.
  • One of those things I find to be a small annoyance is forcing incoming freshmen to read a book for the sake of diversity, cohesion, or some other so-called lofty goal. This usually means you get a fairly predictable list of books on various social justice topics. At any rate, if you are curious, here is  a small sampling of what some incoming freshmen this fall were reading. Via USA Today.
  • Like drinking? Do you like books? Do you maybe drink a bit much  and need to hide your flask? Well, this woman does some great book art hollowing out books so you can hide your flask. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Here is an interview with a gentleman who helps run an Arabic book club in Chicago. Story via Arabic Literature (in English)
  • In some good news, Max Macias, the Lowrider Librarian, has announced that HINCHAS Press will publish his anthology on radical librarianship. This is a big deal. If I manage to get a copy, you can count on a review featured on this blog. This is just the kind of project our profession needs. So head on over, check it out. 
  • Via the BBC, an article on the history of secret libraries
  • The comics news blog The Beat highlights a report on  the status of graphic novels in schools. The news are good. The full report is  from Publishers Weekly.
  • In Chile, La Biblioteca Libre (that translates to The Free Library) is a traveling library striving to get more people to read. You can  read the story about it here from Bustle. I was a bit surprised that the land of Isabel Allende and Pablo Neruda suffers from low readership, which according to the article is "a sad reality bookstore owners blame on the Internet and the 19% value-added tax that increases the price of most products, including books."
  • This past week was Banned Books Week, so of course we need to have at least one story on it. Texas rises once more to the occasion with some censorship fuckery, this time in its prison system. In fact, their prison system book censorship is so bad it is a national disgrace. Story via Slate.   
  • Via Catapult, a story of a common issue for writers, do you start writing on that beautiful blank journal notebook you bought or not? For the record, I do not have that issue much. I do collect nice notebooks, but believe me, they will get used. In fact, now that I also do Tarot journaling, they are getting used a bit faster. 
  • Via BlogTo, a profile of Toronto's bookstore The Monkey's Paw. 
  • In Peshawar, their last bookstore just closed due to islamic extremism but also just general lack of interest thanks to things like iPhones. Story via The Washington Post.