Friday, December 31, 2010

Sending 2010 Off: What the heck happened last year?

Welcome to The Itinerant Librarian where we are sending away 2010. Now news summaries and highlights are mandatory this time of the year. Therefore, going with the tradition, this is my version of the end-of-year summary, or in plain English: "what the heck happened last year?"

Let's start with a little challenge. How much do you remember of 2010? Take this small quiz from Mental Floss to see what you recall.

Before we go on to the list, let me cater to those people who just need to have a news summary. Molly, of Rocketboom, gives us "The Top Ten Worst Moments of 2010."  She can be a bit of a ditz at times (I liked their previous hostess better), but this is a pretty good summary of all that happened in 2010.

 Now let's get to the links:
  • Well, for openers, people died. Now I could go out and find one of those "who the hell died last year?" compilations, but I am sure my three readers know how to find them on CNN or any other of the usual news sources. Here, we try to find things that are a bit more unique, such as a list of people who died that you may not have heard of. From Mental Floss blog, where they are "remembering 10 people we lost in 2010."  For example, did you know that the last of Ziegfeld Follies girls died in 2010?
  • Apparently, there were a bunch of movies premiering in 2010. If you did not have the time or the inclination to watch all of them, here is a 6-minute video that edits all 270 of those movies in one clip. Watch it and see how many you recognize. A hat tip to BuzzFeed
  • John Scalzi gives us a look at "The Most Notable Science-Fiction Films of 2010."  
  • Another way to summarize 2010 is by protest signs. From asshats to the bizarre, here is a collection of "The 75 Best Protest Signs of 2010." Also via BuzzFeed.
  • 2010 was a year where the recession pretty much continued (yes, I know, those economists said it ended sometime around 2009, but you just have to see the average person out there and take a look around to see things are still bad). A lot of the economic problems have to do with greedy people, pure and simple. And boy did we have some greedy asshats in 2010. Via AlterNet, here is a list of "The 10 Greediest People of 2010." 
  • AlterNet also provides a list of their 10 Most Popular Economic Stories of 2010
  • Bankers and CEOs are not the only asshats out there. Politicians certainly misbehaved in 2010. All this misbehavior added new words to our language, and you may need a little help keeping track. Here, provided by The Daily Beast, then is a 2010 Political Dictionary. No, Aqua-Buddha is not a new superhero. 
  • Want more vocabulary? Mental Floss lists "Merriam-Webster's Top Ten Words of 2010." 
  • Sometimes the most entertaining stuff comes from advertisements. AdFreak has put together its list of "30 Freakiest Ads of 2010." Links and clips are included. There may be some risque content (as in say, lingerie or humor that may be a bit dark.. This is my way of telling the squeamish, repressed, easily offended, or just more conservative to use their discretion). 
  • News also happened in terms of sex and love. Via SUNfiltered, here we have "The Best Sex and Love News of 2010" and "The Worst Sex and Love News of 2010."  A hat tip to Em & Lo.(If you visit Em & Lo, do keep in mind some content may be risque. It is a sex advice site after all, along with other interesting things). 
  • Overall, 2010 may have been a pretty bad and hard year, but I do not want to leave it all in the negative. So, from Common Dreams, here are the "10 Most Hopeful Stories of 2010." Put together, there may be a kernel of hope in here. 
  • I have to include at least something about librarians. It seems some librarians apparently found some news that interested them as well. As a librarian myself, I see some of these as things of interest and importance, and I see some as things I could not care less about. I will let my three readers guess which stories are which. Anyhow, from LISNews, here are "Ten Stories That Shaped 2010.
  • Via, we get the Top 20 Internet Lists.  From lesbians who look like Justin Bieber to cats in sweaters, you will find something amusing here.
  • 2010 was full of asshats who said stupid things. Bigots and religious hypocrites had a field day saying stupid stuff as well as politicians. The folks at the Texas Freedom Network have compiled lists of quotes for 2010 from the Texas SBOE (who are pretty much an embarrassment to the state), science, religious freedom (no, not defending religious freedom, but conveniently forgetting there is such a thing as religious freedom, or thinking it only applies to their Christian deity. For instance, did you know there is a danger that there will not be any Protestants in government? The horror. Find out which dumbass politico said just that), Muslim bashing (again, religion is OK as long as it is not Islam or anything other than Protestatism),  and some miscellaneous stupidity (for example, did you know yoga is demonic? Find out which asshat said just that).
  • Have a look at some neat, freaky, or just weird ads when AdFreak puts together their "25 Most Popular AdFreak Posts of 2010." My personal favorite is the exploding crocodile.  They also have a list of "10 Uncool Ads and Products featuring Jesus." This last one is not for the faint of heart or the uptight religious people with no sense of humor. You have been warned.
This will likely be my last post for 2010. I would like to take this moment to thank my three readers, and to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year. Here's to hoping 2011 is much better. If you celebrate, and you drink, please do so in moderation. And if need be, get a designated driver or call a cab (if you plan ahead, program a cab company's phone number into your cellphone so you have it if you need it). Don't be one of those tragedies we seem to get every end of year from drinking and driving. Also, if you use fireworks, be careful. Have fun, be safe, and see you next year.

And do come back next year. Over at The Gypsy Librarian, I will be posting my end of year reading list and commentary. I read some interesting books last year, so if you are a reader, you want to come back for that.

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Holiday Post 2010: Stuff and things

    Another popular thing to see this time of year are shopping guides and gift suggestions. Now, anyone can point to some big corporate site to get the usual. I am thinking a few more interesting things. By the way, if you have not done all your shopping, what are you waiting for? You should be done by now. You should definitely be done by now if you bought stuff online. However, if you need some real last minute ideas, or you just want some holiday amusement, stay a while and check some of these out.

    Spirits: Mostly alcoholic
    Stuff for the geek in your life
    A few naughty things (some may be a bit NSFW).
    Now if none of the above catch your fancy, you can always go with something a bit more basic like a calendar. You can't really go wrong with a new calendar. However, if you do not want to go with the same old cute kittens, or hot babes, or hot guys, or some other cuddly calendar, here are "Ten Odd and Awesome 2011 Calendars" and "Ten More Odd 2011 Calendars." Hey, you can't go wrong with outhouses, roadkill, or coffins, can you? Via Mental Floss blog.

    Now next, we have a series of lists for gifts or about gifts. These are not so much things to buy, but more things to help you remember times past or just wonder what were some people thinking when they gave this or that gift.

    • Now we all know that every year has a "must have gift," the one thing people are willing to be trampled for at the crack of dawn if need be. Esquire has a "A Timeline of Top Christmas Gifts. . . Ever." It starts with this year's iPad and then goes back in memory lane to things like the Furby and Cabbage Patch Kids. How many do you remember? 
    • Food Network Humor has a list of "10 Awful Gifts for Food Lovers and Food Network Fans." Food Network has pretty much fallen in quality over the years, and FNH does its best to document the decay in a fun way. Honestly, I do NOT want Paula Deen's Butt Massage; I do not know anyone who does either. 
    • Reader's Digest has "21 of the Worst Holiday Presents You've Ever Gotten." A toilet seat? But some of these are just thoughtless, like getting a fifth of whiskey to an alcoholic. 
    • And does anyone remember the good old days, you know when you could give a child a firearm, and no one made a fuss? Well, let us remember with "5 Old Christmas ads in which guns are great." Via AdFreak. Because nothing said Merry Christmas sonny like a fully loaded shotgun or rifle.
    • But maybe guns are not your thing. Ok, that is cool. Maybe instead you want a cute puppy. I mean, how can you not like a puppy, especially a toy puppy? How about a toy puppy that poops? Via AdFreak
    • Then again, there is always the gift of music. Christmas music is a very important tradition, so it could make a good gift to give a holiday album as a present. Unless it was one of these "10 Totally WTF Christmas Albums." Because nothing expresses the musical spirit of the holidays quite like A Rubber Band Christmas.Via Topless Robot.
    • And for kids of all ages, here we have "The 12 Greatest Holiday Action Figures." Some of these look pretty cool actually. Also via Topless Robot.
    • Now, in the interest of generosity and for our atheist friends, some may be interested not in gifts but in giving a little to charity. Here is a list of atheist/secular charities. After I heard about what the Salvation Army was doing with certain toy donations they did not like (and apparently since the media exposure they backpedaled a bit), I do feel my money could go someplace else. Via Effort Sisyphus
    • And finally, you can't have Christmas without a nativity set. The Rude Pundit shares his favorite sets and some additional comments on the season. 

        Holiday Post 2010: The Reader's Edition

        We continue our series of posts for the holiday season here at The Itinerant Librarian. As a librarian and avid reader, I feel it is essential to make an end-of-year post about reading and books. I will be posting my end-of-year reading list and commentary right after the end of 2010. I am trying to squeeze in one or two books more to the tally before the year ends. So, here we go:

        Book lists: The Usual Suspects

        More Book Lists: Things not as easy to find but just as cool


          Thursday, December 23, 2010

          Holiday Post 2010: The Basics

          We have almost made it to the end of 2010, and we have made it to the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, Festivus, or some other holiday (or you just enjoy having time off at this time of year), may you have a peaceful and safe time. As I have done in previous years (here is the one from last year if interested), here is my small gift to my three readers where I go around and collect interesting, amusing, or just miscellaneous things that may be of interest this holiday season.

          Once again, I have enough for a series of posts. So, we will start today with The Basics. I will also make a post for readers and another one for humor and lists. So, stay tuned this week. 

          The Basics
          • One of my favorite links this season is NORAD's Santa Tracker. For years now, we enjoy keeping track of Santa as he makes his way around the world. This never fails to make me smile. Apparently, they now even offer options to track Santa on your mobile phone (please, just don't do it while you are driving).
          • I can always count on the U.S. Census Bureau to put together a set of facts and figures about the holiday season. Here is their 2010 Holiday Season fact sheet.
          • And wow, PNC Financial Services is still doing their annual calculation of the Christmas Price Index. This year marks their 27th year doing it, and I always find it very entertaining. Here is the 2010 edition. Small note: the site does have an auto-play this year, so you may want to adjust volume accordingly. It does have a very interactive element I think kids will enjoy (as well as kids at heart).
          • You want to be safe this holiday season. From GovGab, here are some fire safety tips for your home.
          • GovGab also offers some tips and advice on "Drinking and Driving During the Holidays." The idea here is to be safe and responsible when you drink during the holidays. A drink here and there is a very traditional thing to do (if you choose to consume alcohol. If you do not, that is cool too, and you should not feel pressured to do so), but please, as the ads say, "enjoy responsibly." Do simple things like planning ahead before you go out and having a designated driver. If a designated driver is not an option, programming the number of a taxi cab company or two into your cellphone before you go party may be a good idea as well.
          • Did you send out Christmas greeting cards? Do you need or would like some last minute e-cards to send to friends? Of all places, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a set of winter holiday cards you can send that feature small health tips and some light humor. It never ceases to amaze me the little things that the federal government comes up with to educate people. 
          • Now some folks may want more traditional or classic Christmas cards. From Forgotten Bookmarks, a small online display of antique Christmas cards
          • The National Park Service has a page where you can learn more about the National Christmas Tree, the big one they put up every year in Washington, D.C. 
          • I hope you got your Christmas lights up. If not, odds are good  you may take a drive around your neighborhood and see what your neighbors did. Or you can just sit back, relax, and watch these clips of  "World's Most Outrageous Christmas-Light Displays" according to The Daily Beast.
          • The Daily Beast also has a list of "Holiday Songs You Haven't Heard." A part of me is thinking, after listening to a few of these, that there may be a reason they haven't been heard.
          • Now the holidays can be stressful. One of the stress factors can be money. You want to buy gifts, or you splurge a bit more than you should have, and then stress follows. Here are some ways to "have less holiday financial stress." Maybe you can also consider doing other things like giving the gift of time, or be creative with something homemade. Via AlterNet.
          • Now, do you know your holiday traditions? From Reader's Digest, here are "13 Things You Didn't Know about Christmas Traditions." The list is not comprehensive (I mean, where are things like Winter Solstice? Or even Hanukkah?), but it is nice. 
          • Now, when you go out, or stay home, for the holiday dinner, you need to mind your manners. Also from Reader's Digest, her are "5 Holiday Dining Etiquette Tips." The most important tip? Put the smartphone/Blackberry/iPhone away. 

            If you are traveling, may you have a safe and peaceful trip. If you are staying home, and people are coming over, I hope you have a peaceful time with little stress. However, if you have cats in the house, this may happen (Click to see video on YouTube).

            Online Gallery: Art of the American Soldier

            This looks really neat. This is a collection of paintings and drawings created by American soldiers, many of them unseen until now. You can view an online gallery now, and visit D.C. to see the exhibit, which will later go on tour. From the site:

            More than 15,000 paintings and sketches created by over 1,300 American soldiers in the line of duty have been in curatorial storage in  Washington, D.C. for decades, seldom made available for public viewing.  Art of the American Soldier will bring these powerful works of art into the spotlight at the National Constitution Center from September 24, 2010 through March 31, 2011.  The exhibition, featuring a never-before-seen collection, was created by the Center in partnership with the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the National Museum of the United States Army.  Following its world debut at the Center, the exhibition will begin a national tour.

            Video trailer below:

            Friday, December 17, 2010

            My final thoughts on Saul Alinsky's book

            This is the third installment of notes and small comments on my reading of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (see my previous notes here and here). Most of this stuff are selections from my notes in my personal journal that I felt could be shared with my three readers.

            I found the next passage a bit depressing when thinking about it. However, it is an important concept in organizing and getting allies to your cause. Alinsky writes:

            "With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason-- this is a fight with a windmill" (76). 

            Nice allusion to Don Quijote, but when you read the passage, it is clearly very Machiavellian. The basic message is who cares why your allies join you, just as long as they do join your cause and you make progress to a better world.

            A bit more on the organizer:

            "He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world" (76). 

            Basically, you make deals with people who have different values and agendas, but we all share a common goal, this in order to get said program or goal going.

            On leadership versus organizing, though I wonder if leadership here means more management (and I don't mean that as a positive). Alinsky writes,

            "This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer. The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield the power for purposes both social and personal. He wants power himself. The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use" (80). 

            By that definition, a lot of librarians should strive to be organizers. It certainly is something I aspire to, not to mention that, by that definition, I care not for leadership (or management rather, which I think is really what we are looking at here, and yes, this would include most if not all politicians).

            On getting your "credentials" as an organizer:

            "The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a 'dangerous enemy'" (100). 

            This may be something to aspire for, but it may be more difficult in librarianship where image is everything. A new or less experienced librarian (or we can add one on the tenure line but not tenured yet if in academia) trying this would be pretty much shunned and beaten down by the establishment. However a librarian with nothing to lose and a strong sense of what is right could certainly go for it. I know I do, or try to but there is still work to do. Librarians like the Connecticut Four or the Radical Reference volunteers make a good model for being a dangerous enemy to the establishment. Maybe there is some hope; after all, way I see it, a good librarian is a dangerous librarian.

            Monday, December 13, 2010

            Booknote: The Five-Year Party

            My review as I posted it on my GoodReads page.

            The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About ItThe Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It by Craig Brandon

            My rating: 2 of 5 stars

            Initially, this book started interesting, but after a while Brandon's strong biases, including his desire for more in loco parentis and treating 18-year-olds like minors, basically overwhelmed the book. That there is a slight hysterical and/or alarmist tone to the book probably does not help. And the thing is that a lot of what he writes about is true, and that something needs to be done about it. However, after a while, the messages seem to get lost in the alarmist writing.

            So, what are the basic messages of the book? Allow me to summarize, and for many, this may save you from reading the whole thing:

            *Kids are coming to college less prepared than ever. OK, this is not really new, and we could go on a new rant just discussing how public schools have basically become holding pens rather than actual educational institutions. Thus, they are less ready for college.

            *However, that they are unprepared for college does not seem to matter given that colleges are pretty much giving kids a not-quite-free pass. The big deal is that colleges have gone from educational institutions to business ventures. In the spirit of being business ventures, keeping the customers (i.e. the college students) who pay the tuition (and thus the revenue the college needs) happy at all costs becomes the main concern. Course too hard? Dumb it down? Professor grades too hard and makes you work? Get him or her to make class more fun, grade less, give less homework, and curve the grades. And if he does not comply, well, the customer (student) can get even at the end of year evaluation. You can rest assured that guy won't be getting tenure when review time comes around. This is another thing I could go on another rant about because working in higher education I have seen and lived it. As an adjunct many moons ago, I had students throw tantrums because they thought the classwork was too hard and interfered with their partying. And that is just one example.

            *College is not safe. We are dealing with kids who just became adults; legal adulthood in most places is 18 years of age whether Mr. Brandon and other paternalistic people like it or not. Sadly, for many of these new adults, it means extreme freedom, and they will do stupid and even deadly things. The problems really surface when the administration just wants to hide it using things like FERPA and just cooking the books in relation to the Clery Act. This is where the author and I disagree. Author advocates basically treating the college students like children again. I say, if they are adults, treat them as such. Let the local police handle them (after all, they are adults living in the college town) and let the students take their consequences. Expel them if need be too. This would make sense, but see the previous point about school being a business; you can't expel your source of revenue.

            *The college loans racket that basically turns students into oppressed indentured servants. And this is just going to keep getting worse as states and society give up on their social contract of investing in the future generations and the families have to turn more to loans to pay for their students' educations. Loan money that the colleges are glad to take (again, see school as a business pattern. Do you get the idea now?) without regard to whether the kids succeed or not. However, the longer the kids stay in school, the more money they get.

            The book makes some very important points. I do think a lot of parents should be reading it, especially the section at the end with the key questions and red flags about what makes a party school. By the way, I don't think a lot of what he says applies to only "party" schools. However, as I said, much of the good message gets lost in the demonizing of colleges; see the chapters on college safety. While there are dangers, Brandon makes it sound like most colleges in America are teeming with rapists, murderers, and drug dealers waiting for your kids to come out from their nightly Greek house drunken bacchanalias. Yes, there are dangers. Yes, in many instances, a lot of kids party way too much. No, not all campuses are like that, but the ones that are need to be exposed. And students certainly need to have better work ethic, but society needs to demand it too.

            So, overall, there is some food for thought here, but as a reading, it is not too great. Once you get the basic points, the rest seems a bit redundant.

            View all my reviews

            Friday, December 10, 2010

            Some more notes and thoughts prompted by Alinsky's book

            I continue writing down some notes I took from Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, which I recently read.Again, as I stated before, I am selecting segments from my notes in my personal journal.

            Alinsky provides a list of ideal elements for an organizer. He does admit it is idealized. He writes, "I doubt that such qualities, in such intensity, ever come together in one man or woman; yet the best organizers should have them all, to a strong extent, and any organizer needs at least a degree of each" (72). Alinsky does expand on each list item, and I jotted down some additional things as I was reading, but now I want to just jot down the list itself. I do think the list has traits that any librarian, especially one that does outreach and/or instruction should possess as well.

            The list of elements for an organizer, according to Alinsky:

            • Curiosity
            • Irreverence
            • Imagination
            • A sense of humor
            • A bit of blurred vision of a better world
            • An organized personality
            • A well-integrated political schizoid
            • Ego
            • A free and open mind, and political relativity
            I will admit now that there were a couple of list items that did not seem clear right away. As I read, I hoped that Alinsky would clarify (he did).

            Alinsky on the irreverence of organizers. This was a part of the book that really resonated with me, in large measure because it is stuff I believe in. He writes:

            "To the questioner nothing is sacred. He detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead.He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest. As with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life, and an incessant search for its meaning" (73). 

            This pretty much embodies what a good librarian should be, and what seems to be missing so often in our profession. Sure, a lot of librarians give lip service to the idea, but in reality they get very upset if anyone dares to question the world as they see it. The rest of the paragraph from Alinsky's writing is where I think he tempers things, offers some balance. He writes some more on irreverence:

            "It could be argued that reverence for others, for their freedom from injustice, poverty, ignorance, exploitation, discrimination, disease, war, hate, and fear, is not a necessary quality in a successful organizer. All I can say is that such irreverence is a quality I would have to see in anyone I would undertake to teach" (73). 

            And we'll wrap this up next time.

            Friday, December 03, 2010

            Booknote: Rules for Radicals

            I am starting this post by posting the review as I wrote it on my GoodReads profile. After that, I am going to add some additional thoughts and notes from the book that I want to expand upon here on the blog.

            The review:

            Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic RadicalsRules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky

            My rating: 3 of 5 stars

            I did not rate this higher because there were moments when I found myself struggling with some of Alinsky's ideas. A part of me wondered what Alinsky would have made of the current political climate. Would he still recommend some of the ideas and rules he promoted? Would he have become more radical? Lost hope given that it is extremely difficult to keep hope in this current political environment in the U.S.? I guess as a reader I struggled because sometimes I thought he was too optimistic.

            And yet, if you read this book, you will find that Alinsky can be very Machiavellian. You will also find that a lot of what he writes about is very relevant today. To be honest, I found the last chapter to be very prophetic. So you see why I struggled a bit with it; there seem to be two sides.

            I picked the book up out of curiosity. I read somewhere that Barrack Obama had read it, and the book was an influence for his community organizing work. I can see why. This book is a primer for community organizing. If you want to learn what it takes to be an effective community organizer, this is a book you should be reading. Now, do keep in mind this book was written in 1971, so there are a lot of references to events prior to that year, a lot of things related to the struggle for civil rights, so on. Having some small grasp of American history at the time will probably be helpful because he uses a lot of examples to illustrate his principles and rules. However, the principles and rules are basically universal; they can be applicable today just as they were at the time the book was written. In addition, this is a book that will make you think. You may agree with some things, disagree with others, but overall, this is a useful book if you want to learn how to be a radical and a community organizer, and I don't mean radical in the negative sense certain people use it today. I think it is a book more people should be reading to educate themselves and others. Overall, I did like it.

            View all my reviews

            * * * *

            Additional notes and thoughts: If you just needed or wanted a quick review to convince you whether to read it or not, you can stop reading here. If you want to read more about what I got out of the book, notes I made from the book, and some further thoughts, read on. 

            As I mentioned in my brief review, I struggled with some of Alinsky's ideas at times, even as I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he wrote. I will mention too now that I was reading this at the time that I was also writing out my statements for my application to ACRL's Immersion Program Track, and some of his ideas were on my mind (I may blog on that later over in the professional blog). In addition to my curiosity about the book after reading somewhere that President Obama read it and the book had influence on his community organizing work, I picked up the book because I wondered if there was anything the book might say to me as an outreach librarian. Now that I have a bit of time to think about it, a good amount of work that an outreach librarian does is community and group organizing.  I found that the book does say a lot to librarians; well, it said a lot to this librarian, and it made me once more think about the issue about our neutrality illusion, whether as librarians we should remain perfectly neutral or engage in some degree of education and advocacy. The only reason I am posting about the book in my personal blog rather than on the professional blog is that the book, ostensibly, is political, and politics is something I try to limit to the unruly cousin here (we don't discuss politics in polite company, and The Gypsy Librarian is my polite company blog. Here, almost anything goes, which I suppose could prompt another discussion of where we draw our lines as librarians). This may well be a book that we may want librarians to read.

            Some notes I jotted down from the book, basically some things I wanted to remember. I am making a selection from what I jotted down in my personal journal. Since this could get long, I am will make another post with more notes:

            • A fundamental idea: ". . .one communicates within the experience of his audience--and gives full respect to the other's values. . . " (Prologue, xviii). 
            • "On another level of communication, humor is essential, for through humor much is accepted that would have been rejected if presented seriously" (xviii). 
            • On freedom: "People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people" (xxv, emphasis in original). 
            On organizers:

            "The organizer, in his constant hunt for patterns, universalities, and meaning is always building up a body of experience.

            Through his imagination he is constantly moving in on the happenings of others, identifying with them and extracting their happenings into his own mental digestive system and thereby accumulating more experience. It is essential for communication that we know of their experiences. Since one can communicate only through the experiences of the other, it becomes clear that the organizer begins to develop an abnormally large body of experience.

            He learns the local legends, anecdotes, values, idioms. He listens to small talk. He refrains from rhetoric foreign to the local culture. . . .

            And yet the organizer must not try to fake it. He must be himself" (70). 

            Good lessons for outreach here.

            And we'll continue next time.

            Signs that the economy is bad, December 2, 2010 edition

            Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I go find those oh so subtle signs that the economy bad. Because big shot pundits can tell you about the usual unemployment rates, mortgage issues, people losing their houses, so on. I use my impressive and powerful research skills (ok, just surf the web and have some well selected RSS feeds) to find those oh so subtle hints. I usually try to keep this semi-regular feature (as in I do it when I feel like or have time) fairly light, but given the current climate, it is getting harder to keep the light tone. So this week I may be a bit more serious. Anyhow, here are the highlights for the week.

            • Well, it seems like less people are using credit cards these days (story from CNBC). I know that I am not using them, and this may be a very small silver lining in the gray cloud of the bad economy. Considering the predatory practices of the credit card companies and banks, in many cases exploitative, I am not too sympathetic to the card issuers. And contrary to the article spin, I don't think it is all non-voluntary (i.e. someone who got bad credit rating over some missed payment or two and the bank just wrote off the debt, namely sold it to some vulture collector and shut down the account). This may also be that "a significant portion of the decrease in card usage reflects decisions by cardholders to stop using credit." Don't get too excited though: credit cards are not going away yet. A hat tip to Americablog.
            • And you know things can't be that much better when students in the U.S. are looking for U.K. schools as a bargain in terms of tuition (story from The Wall Street Journal). According to the article, "as tuition at U.S. colleges increasingly becomes less affordable for many—and as spots at the most competitive institutions more and more resemble gold dust—some American high schoolers are looking to the United Kingdom to meet their educational needs." I get the impression we are still looking at kids from fairly wealthy homes; I just don't think kids that are mostly headed to the local community college or maybe their state's 4-year college are looking across the pond as an option to save on the tuition. 
            • For Spain, gum being too sticky is a problem. So to lower the costs of cleaning up after people who spit their gum on the ground, they want to make gum less sticky (story from The Guardian). According to the article, "Barcelona's city hall estimates it scrapes up 1,800 bits of gum a day from its streets - at a cost of more than €100,000 (£85,000) a year." By the way, most gum in the world is made by two companies, according to the article, Cadbury and Wrigley, which are American (or American-owned now. Cadbury is owned by Kraft, and Wrigley by Mars). Take that for what it's worth. 
            • Food banks are bracing themselves for more people with need for food as unemployment benefits may lapse.  I used the link from Crooks and Liars because I want people to also see the Dickensian image they use about the poor and workhouses given that, at the rate things are going and given the lack of compassion and common decency in this nation overall, going back to things like debtor's prisons and workhouses may be the next option. Oh wait, in some parts of the U.S., it seems prison for debtors are making a comeback

              Friday, November 19, 2010

              Signs that the economy is bad, November 19, 2010 edition

              Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular feature (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) where I scour the web for those oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Any pundit can tell you the usual news, but it takes a bit more effort and a keen eye to find the real signs that things are bad. Someone has to do it, and I am happy to do it for my three readers. I do try to keep this series nice and light, but once in a while a bit of seriousness creeps in. Things are going from bad to worse in this nation (and around various parts of the world), in large measure due to selfish mofos who have no concept of the common good. But let us put the ranting aside and have a look at the signs for this week:

              • Top bankers just can't make bonuses like they used to anymore. In a case of "I wish I had his problem," the big honcho of Goldman Sachs actually complained that he was only getting a measly $9 million dollar bonus.According to this article presented in AlterNet, "Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' boss, was paid a mere $9 million last year, so now he wants that 'sacrifice' made up to him." Yes, the poor crybaby's greed knows no bounds. Everyone has to tighten their belts, but gosh darned it, he wants his money. If you feel a need to shed a tear for the greedy man, he will do ok: "Lest you worry that poor Lloyd's family had to resort to food stamps to make ends meet with that tough $9 million year, note that he had a bit of a cushion, having pocketed a record Wall Street payday of $68 million in 2007 -- even as his the financial condition of his bank was crumbling." Must be nice.
              • For a long time, the ALA (that's the American Library Association to my non-librarian reader) has been trumpeting on and on the myth that there is, or will be coming soon, a shortage of librarians. That malarkey has pretty much been discredited, and librarians in the know like me do find it annoying when ALA tries to push it yet again. However, there are other fields facing a shortage. It turns out that if you are willing to become a Catholic priest, you may have a career as an exorcist. According to this report from Reuters, apparently there has been an increase in demand for exorcisms.  
              • And once again, we have another story on the trend of schools to turn to advertising as a way to make ends meet. According to this story in Time, kids are getting exposed to ads on school grounds more often, and as a captive audience, they can't do much about it.  This is not new. I have pointed to stories about advertising by the teachers (a college professor advertising in his classes for a burrito or the high school teacher for a pizza restaurant for instance).And here is another one story where a beauty school partners with a beauty products maker. What do these stories have in common? Communities that refuse to pay up for the education of their children, then often gripe because the schools have to find ways to make ends meet. I will put this in simple terms: either put your money where your mouth is, pay your taxes, and support your schools so the kids get the best they need, or the schools may have to employ some entrepreneurial spirit, and you may not like how they do it. But guess what? If you choose not to support your local schools, you should get no say when they have to turn to advertising to make ends meet. You anti-tax whiner abdicated that option of complaining when you chose to cut back funding, not vote for that particular school district proposition, or opposed a (probably) modest raise in your property taxes to fund the schools. And let's be honest, do you really want to send your kids to Coca-Cola High School or the Clairol Beauty College? Because that is where things are headed. (Mention of Coke and Clairol in no way implies endorsement. I just picked two brands in the spur of the moment).And in case you are saying, "but hey, that is just getting businesses to partner with schools and help out," here is an example of the real agenda businesspeople have when it comes to placing ads in your schools. From the article, "a Los Angeles—based firm at one point distributed marketing materials touting a 'unique form of advertising' in elementary schools, one that 'caters to a captive audience where the viewer can't 'change the channel' or 'turn the page.'" In other words, your kids are being exploited as a captive audience; they really don't give a crap about your kids or their education.
              • Now you can't even share getting laid. It turns out that swingers parties and clubs are feeling the economic pinch as well. According to this article from the New York Daily News, "a couple lingering near the bar explained that the sluggish economy has thinned out local swinging parties, saying, 'If you want to save money, you can stay home and get laid for free.'" Well, you can if you have someone to share the moment. Then again, as Alvy Singer said in Annie Hall, "Hey, don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love"  

                Friday, November 12, 2010

                Signs that the economy is bad, November 12 edition

                Just a few small items this week. Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I do extensive research (ok, I look at a lot of news sources) to find those oh-so-subtle hints that the economy is bad. Any major pundit can tell you that the housing market stinks, that the unemployment rates are horrible, etc. These days the one sign I worry about is libraries being closed left and right because people think they are unessential. I try to avoid posting those stories because I can only handle so many depressing news stories, and writing reasonable arguments about why a library needs to stay open takes more effort than I want to put in (ok, let me be honest, for every decent argument you get 20 or so asshat anti-tax teabaggers whining about how the library is some socialist institution and/or tool of the devil, and after a while, I just refuse trying to reason with the unreasonable, but I digress). So, here are some small signs that the economy is bad for this week. I found the Madoff piece particularly amusing:

                • Thanksgiving celebration is toned down. Sorry, no freeloading second and third cousins anymore. Via our local CSB station. 
                • Rich people who give to higher education are giving less (ok, this is kind of "duh"). Via Inside Higher Ed, which links to a study by BOA/Merrill Lynch.  
                • When you have sold everything, and all you have left to sell to settle your debts are your underpants. That is exactly what is happening to Bernie Madoff, and it could not happen to a nicer guy.Via UPI.

                Friday, November 05, 2010

                Previous life: I was a librarian too.

                We made it to another Friday, and here at The Itinerant Librarian, that often means time to go light. In other words, silly internet quiz time. Though this is more of a generator than anything else (you just input your birth date, and it does the rest), it was still amusing. It seems that, even in past lives, I was still a librarian, or at least some keeper of the lore, relics, etc. Hey, I happen to think witchdoctor is a pretty cool job if you can get it. And yes, I say that as someone who self-identifies, for the most part, as heathen. Then again, heathens often did have witchdoctors, shamans, etc., and what are those, in some way, other than the local librarian (yes, combined with doctor, but still). Anyhow, here are the results then.

                Your past life diagnosis:

                I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Borneo around the year 575. Your profession was that of a librarian, priest or keeper of tribal relics.

                Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
                Seeker of truth and wisdom. You could have seen your future lives. Others perceived you as an idealist illuminating path to future.

                The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
                Your lesson is to develop a kind attitude towards people, and to acquire the gift of understanding and compassion.

                Do you remember now?

                Here is the Past Life Analysis.

                Friday, October 29, 2010

                Sure, vote for the Teabbagers, and take the country back to the Stone Age

                If you have not seen Keith Olbermann's recent special comment on the Tea Party, it is a must-watch. He goes over the lunacies and retrograde ideas that teabagging party members are pushing to basically drive this nation back instead of forward. I don't particularly like the current administration either, but electing these asshats would be a step backwards. Then again, it seems most people in this nation have left their critical thinking and reason at the door (assuming they had any to start). And don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of many teabaggers who rail against government and try to make it the enemy even as they themselves feed off the government via benefits, subsidies, etc. We are basically looking at madness, pure and simple. Anyhow, watch and discuss.

                Thursday, October 28, 2010

                Making my stand

                (This is cross-posted from The Gypsy Librarian)

                "We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!" --Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, from the film Star Trek: First Contact.

                I have been attentive to what has been going on with the recent suicides of gay youths due to bullying up to and including the incident of the bigoted school board member in Arkansas. I have written some things in response, but so far, I kept them in my personal journal. The more I listen and watch and ponder, the more difficult I find it to stay silent, to not stand up, to not say anything. So my three readers can consider this post the one where I draw the line because bullies and bigots come and think they can get away with their crimes and uncivilized behavior. Well, no more. Not if this librarian has anything to say about it, and I do have a thing or two to say. What follows are two small items I wrote earlier that I am ready to share.

                * * * * 

                From my personal journal, October 6, 2010:

                I've been wanting to blog about the recent bullying and suicide stories, but I am not sure what approach to take. Jeff Jarvis, in discussing the tragedy at Rutgers University, summarized it well: "It is a story of human tragedy." What we have here is not just an individual failure. We have a community failure from the parents of those bullies who very likely failed to instill good values like common decency to a society that pretty much is willing to accept bullying. That we had more than one suicide due to bullies in less than a month was probably enough for the media to cover it. But if it had been just one suicide in some small town, no one else would have heard about it, and people in that small town, with the exception of the victim's relatives, would have likely chalked it up to "boys will be boys" or some similar line. A line such as "kids in school will always be kids" should never be an acceptable cover or excuse for bullying, hazing, harassment, or other kind of anti-social behavior. That adults consistently use that excuse reflects a serious lack of character and compassion.

                But there is another reason I find it difficult to blog about it. It means making my views more public in a fairly hostile environment. But if I don't stand up and speak, then who will? For me, this is the right thing to do, and yet I have my fears. As a librarian, I struggle with the illusion many in the profession hold of neutrality against the belief that we should help educate, that we should not only provide information but use our best professional judgment in providing good, accurate, and reliable information. Taking a stand breaks that illusion. It raises a flag stating that this is what I stand for and what I will defend or oppose. Yet, if I remain silent, it would not be right. I don't think anyone said this profession would be without some risk. Then again, every time I blog, or even post a shared link online, there is the risk of offending somebody, somewhere, maybe even a future potential employer. A lot of librarianship is about image, and it is a pretty small profession where the wrong blog post can get you shunned. I try not to let it bother me. I try not to self-censor more than is necessary. But I am finding it harder and harder to stay silent. The truth needs to be spoken. We have to take a stand for what is right. In my case, writing and blogging are my ways to do so.

                * * * * 

                From my personal journal, October 11, 2010 (National Coming Out Day)

                Today is National Coming Out Day. I think it has a special significance this year given the series of LGBT youth suicides due to bullying. As Jeff Jarvis said in a post I read a few days back, those deaths are a human tragedy. 

                What I am thinking about today is the bravery of those LGBT folks who do choose to come out, whether today or any other day. Maybe that is just what moves me to be an ally. Maybe it's that I think everybody should be able to love whomever they like and not be discriminated against on that basis. That civil rights should be rights for all, not just for some. That if you choose to live in a committed relationship of marriage, the gender of those involved should not be an issue for receiving the rights and responsibilities of marriage. 

                But what does it have to do with me? I am a straight male (at least I was last time I looked, haha!), so one would think I have nothing to gain or lose. In fact, I may have more to lose--from folks suddenly thinking I may be gay to workplace concerns; East Texas is not a particularly friendly place if you do not fall within its norms and parameters. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I do it because I look forward to the day where coming out won't matter because it will not be an issue. Just like I hope for a day when no one is judged by race, handicap, so on, I look to the day no one is judged by their sexual orientation. I don't think I will live to see that day given how much work and education this nation needs before it truly embraces diversity. But I hope that some day, maybe in the days of my daughter's grandchildren, they will look back at our society and say things like "what the fuck were they thinking?" or "discriminating because someone is gay? How quaint." Maybe some day, and I hope that day arrives sooner rather than later. 

                In the meantime, coming out (as an ally) is the small part I can do to bring about better days. It is my small way of saying to those in the LGBT community and the rest of the allies that they are not alone. It is my way of saying that as a librarian my skills and knowledge are at the community's disposal, and if I can't find a resource, I know someone who does know. I am here for those who may need a supportive person. 

                Do I want to be "that" librarian? I sure do. It's the decent thing to do, and I cannot do anything less. And if certain coworkers don't like it, then let them stew in their bigotry. They will either see the error of their ways and do the right thing, or history will simply pass them over. 

                I thought I could remain silent, but I can't. Not anymore. I am coming out, and I am letting others know.

                * * * *

                Other readings I had in mind at the time I was writing: 

                Update Note: (11/1/10): Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Academic Librarian, picked up on this post, and he wrote a very detailed, thoughtful, and reasoned response on librarians and our neutral (or not) stances. It is worth reading it in its entirety.  

                  Monday, October 18, 2010

                  Wired comes up with 7 skills you should have

                  I started this post merely as a small note about the article for my commonplace blog, Alchemical Thoughts. What started as a small note turned into a short post, so I decided to crosspost it here to share it with my three readers.

                  * * * * 
                  I thought this was a pretty neat list. I don’t agree with all of it, but there are some very good items. The two items I would emphasize right away are:
                  The first one on statistical literacy. This is a must. We need as a society to do a much better job in teaching people about statistics, how to figure basic ones out, and how they are used and misused. I liked the suggested assignment of comparing a liberal blog versus a conservative blog. This assignment is very good, and it should be something an average, well-informed citizen, “well-informed” being the key concept, should be able to do:
                  Daily Kos Versus
                  Find three examples of the same set of numbers presented in entirely different ways on the liberal blog Daily Kos and Andrew Breitbart’s conservative Big Government site. In each case, show which source is using the more aggressive spin and determine which side—if either—is being more honest in its presentation of the facts.
                  How often are you watching the news, and you get pundits debating back and forth about the latest numbers of such and such from the CBO (that’s the Congressional Budget Office). You think to yourself, “well, the CBO is nonpartisan, so the numbers must be good.” Sure, the numbers are probably fine, but you have to pay attention to how they are actually being used. And then you have figures and polls from all sorts of agencies, think tanks, nonprofit organizations, so on, which often have a bias or a particular agenda. I am not saying that some of those agendas are bad (personally, I think working towards things like social justice are important), but you still have to keep those things in mind. Expanding on that, this is where I would add a good course on information literacy, where you learn to evaluate information, more than just the statistics. So, if it was me, I would do more than just statistical literacy. We need broad ranging information literacy.
                  Second, I definitely like the Post-state Diplomacy course. Folks in the U.S. need some serious education on international affairs and how the world works right now. The folks at Wired write:
                  “Power has always depended on who can provide justice, commerce, and stability. Successful insurgents aren’t just thugs; they offer their members tangible benefits—community, money, education, and a sense of order (even if the rebels are the ones creating disorder in the first place). We must learn how they gain loyalty, even if our goal is to undercut it.”
                  Again, I don’t think the folks at Wired go far enough. It is not only about diplomacy, although that is extremely important. The statement above is not really a new idea; it is an idea that not many people understand or may be aware of. But we also need coursework on global awareness and citizenship, and I would also add geography.

                  The rest of the article is worth reading as well. Each skill description does include a “reading list” (I put it in quotes because some of the suggestions may be links to videos or other non-print material) and some questions you may want to consider. Whether you do some of the assignments or not, thinking about them may help you expand your horizons a bit more.

                  Friday, October 15, 2010

                  Signs that economy is bad, October 15, 2010 edition

                  Welcome to yet another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. Just a couple of items this week from my never-ending quest to find those oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is in the crapper. Sure, any pundit can tell you that unemployment is high, that business and employers are pocketing the bailout and stimulus money rather than using it to hire people (so, still believe giving them tax breaks gives incentives to hire?), foreclosures are still going on, so on. It takes a bit more effort to find the little hints. This week we seem to have a focus on higher education, where the pinch is also being felt. It seems society overall is not too keen on the notion of investing in students now to get some fruits later. The cost cuts are often short term measures, and college keeps getting more unaffordable. But hey, we can always import workers from Asia to work for Microsoft and let our young people join the service economy; they don't need degrees for that, do they?

                  The signs for this week:

                  • Colleges begin to outsource their operations to private companies. Arizona State U. has decided to outsource a lot of their distance education to some for-profit education company. Sure, the administrators say it is cheaper to do so, but one always has to ask at what price for the quality. And the question I would really have to ask: how long before a corporation, this one or some other, just takes over a whole university? 
                  • This university in New York is just flat out giving up on foreign language programs. According to the Washington Post article, "the State University of New York at Albany has generated a stir in the higher education industry with its announcement this month that nearly all of its foreign language offerings will be discontinued, along with the theater department, because of budget cuts." You read that right: no more foreign language education in that school. Oh wait, Chinese instruction got spared. However, there is a reason for that: the Chinese government gives the school a subsidy for instruction in Chinese. I am thinking this may be a line of fundraising for schools wanting to keep their foreign language programs: just get governments of nations to fund teaching of their languages in American schools. Why the hell should Americans have to pay for teachers and resources to learn something other than English? Those governments want Americans to travel there for tourism, business, etc., let them pony up for the language teaching. (And  yes, I am saying that with a sarcastic tone, in case someone wanders in and thinks I am pulling a "poe.") 

                      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

                      If I had to get a literary tattoo

                      This story out of WBUR's On Point program about people who have tattoos with literary themes caught my attention. I have a sort of love-hate relationship to tattoos. I think that a well-made tattoo by a good artist on the right person can be a beautiful work of art. The problem, and here is where the hate comes, is that a lot of people get cheap ink jobs that look horrible; instead of enhancing their body image, it makes things a lot worse. But since I am a live and let live sort of guy, I say to each their own. But I wondered for a moment what would I get if I had the option to get a tattoo with a literary theme. I am declaring what I would get inked on me if I ever got the guts to actually do it (let alone the money to pay for it).

                      • First, I want a tattoo of the old World War II-era propaganda about "books are weapons in the war of ideas." See the two illustrations below. I think I would prefer the one with the eagle diving and the motto on the ribbon, but the other one is cool too. You see, any librarian can just go and get a favorite book passage inked on their body. Me? I am not just a librarian, but I am an information warrior, an agent who fights disinformation and ignorance, and books are indeed my weapons. You try to come at me with your ignorance, you better come armed. I know I will. 
                      • Two, I want a simple scroll or ribbon with the phrase "Sapere aude." This is latin for "Dare to know," although some translate it as "dare to discern" or "dare to be wise." Again, what is more appropriate for a librarian, especially one who believes in our educational mission, in our mission to help others find good, reliable, accurate information and thus help dispel ignorance and misinformation? In order to do so, the librarian has to become knowledgeable and wise. He or she has to dare to know whatever is necessary in order to wage war against ignorance, misinformation, fear mongering, so on. I probably would want the phrase written out in a nice cursive script. 

                      Anyhow, not that I am likely to get inked. For one, I am not sure I could stay still long enough for an artist to put the ink on  me. Two, well, there is the matter that I am a bit on the hairy side; if I was a bit shorter, I could have played Gimli in that Lord of the Rings flick.  That probably was a bit more information than my two readers wanted to know. Anyhow, just some idle thoughts.

                      A hat tip to LISNews.

                      Friday, October 01, 2010

                      Tea Party is pretty much a GOP instrument

                      This is another one of those posts where I say that to find good journalism you have to go outside the usual news sources. I ask, as I asked before, why am I reading this in the music magazine of all places? Rolling Stone has a very good article by Matt Taibbi on the tea party. The author is certainly more brave than I am. He actually went out and spent a good chunk of time with tea partiers to learn what makes them tick. It turns out that there is not a whole lot of substance making them angry. It's mostly angry with some resentment over the fact that the country is changing. One of those changes is the fact that other ethnic groups, like African-Americans and Latinos, are becoming majorities. So the White folks are suddenly feeling persecuted. That, and a few other things that Mr. Taibbi explains a lot better. The article is worth a look, but sadly it is the type of good, solid writing that a lot of people will miss. Why is this kind of stuff not being covered in the main news channels? Why is it those channels pretty much give a free pass to whatever the tea baggers preach even when it is utter nonsense?

                      There are some passages from the article I want to note and comment on.

                      This takes place at a rally in Kentucky.

                      "A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it." 

                      The irony of this practically writes itself. Of course, these hypocrites fail to see the irony for, as Mr. Taibbi points out, it's ok to cut programs as long as it is not their programs. These tea baggers are the only ones deserving of government largesse. Everyone else is a free loading slacker.

                      Taibbi goes on to say,

                      "But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them." 

                      The hypocrisy is pretty much appaling, especially if you have half a brain. I ask not only why does the "regular" press not pick up on this, but why does anyone actually listen to these people? A lot of them are rejects from the past administration who pretty much fell asleep at the wheel when said administration was basically spending the nation into bankruptcy, and now suddenly they feel outraged. And they do it while collecting on the dole. These are people who, sure they may have a right to expression, but they should be laughed right out of the public square with other crackpots.

                      Taibbi then goes on to suggest that the rest of us who know how the American system of government actually works may end up getting the last laugh. Sadly, this is not good news. It is pretty tragic when you think about it, but it is something that people in this country have allowed to happen, again by falling asleep at the wheel. What the tea baggers fail to see is:

                      "But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP."

                      George Carlin said it so well (link to YouTube for the routine):

                      "I'm talking about the real owners now... the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. . . . "

                      Exactly. The two party system in this country, combined with a mostly selfish population that would rather vote on the results of American Idol or worry about Snooki's latest skank stunt, pretty much assures that nothing will really change in this nation no matter who you vote for. The tea party, when you really think about it, is pretty much the latest iteration of people being easily manipulated and then co-opted by the big interests, by the real owners.  It's kind of depressing when you think about it. Certainly does make you wonder if voting is even worth it at this point given that both parties are pretty much bought and paid for. I cannot help but wonder if the United States will ever get to the point where it is basically one big corporation, and the only way to "vote" is by owning stock in the corporation. This is certainly not a new idea. See the novel Snow Crash for instance, where the U.S. government pretty much has given the nation away to businesses and corporations. Or you can see the concept taking root in the film Robocop 2, where the OCP CEO says that every citizen, once OCP took over Detroit, would have a a "living unit" clean, quiet and safe, and as for voting, well, citizens could buy OCP stock. We are not that far from such a future, and it is inane, selfish fools like the tea baggers who will enable it all the while cheering the big interests on.

                      And back to the article, talk about a con job:

                      "So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street?"

                      It turns out it is pretty easy to do. It is easy when  you have those high interests making sure that the common folks (even though in some cases, if we look at the tea baggers, they are not that "common," but the label will work for our purposes) stay misinformed and pretty much mostly illiterate. We are talking about people who are pretty much incapable of critical thinking. Heck, the real tragedy is that they are not even aware of their own incompetence. By the way, here is a bit I wrote a while back that includes something on competence theory.

                      By the way, the article is worth reading just to get the list of five things you will hear from every tea bagger ever interviewed. Go on and read the article. Taibbi goes on to say that the tea baggers are not so much racist as they are narcissists. I think he is being charitable. These people are racists, and just because they are mostly clueless, does not make them any less racist. Remember these are the folks that, though they rail against bailouts, are happy to vote for rich people getting tax breaks while they blame poor Black homeowners for the economic crisis. Funny how that works.

                      I am going to jump to the end of the article, not because the rest of it is not interesting. Far from that. This is a must read. I am jumping because Taibbi's conclusion is something that definitely pisses me off as well. In large measure, it ticks me off because I make an effort to stay well informed. Sure, part of it is because I am a librarian, but it is also because I think that being well informed, thinking critically, and then speaking out are elements of the democracy, a democracy that is pretty much on its last legs unless some serious stuff happens (some serious education reforms may be a good start). I hate being a pessimist; I really do, but I am getting to the point where I just have to say certain things. Taibbi writes:

                      "Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms." 

                      That is what really gets me. That people's attention spans are so short that they are willing to throw it all away just because change does not come in fast enough. And I am not defending the current administration. Deity of choice knows they have not delivered on a lot of what they promised, they  have been wusses pretty much when they should have been aggressive and enacted true reform, and they pretty much turned out to be the same corporate whores as the other guys. But that people are even willing to consider going back to the politicians and party that wrecked this nation for eight years is the epitome of stupidity. It's more than just masochism. It is plain selfishness and misdirected anger born of misinformation and willful ignorance. The evidence is there for anyone who wants to see it. Of course, for those like the tea baggers, it is easier to go to rallies on a Medicare paid scooter (paid by my taxes by the way) and rail against "big government and big government spending," than it is to think about the common good. And that I really find disgusting, disturbing, and offensive. And so should you.

                      A hat tip to Pharyngula.

                      The (in)famous First Line Shuffle Meme

                      It's Friday, and the two readers who stop by know that it is often quiz/meme day here. Anyhow, I have not done one of these things in a while, so here it goes. Happy Friday to everybody out there.

                      As seen in Liz's Tavern, the instructions:Step 1: Put your MP3 or other music player on random. Step 2: Post the first line (or two) from the first 25 songs that play. Step 3: Let everyone guess what artist and song the lines come from. Step 4: Bold when someone gets them right. Of course, you're not supposed to search anything but your memory to find the songs based on the lyrics I post.

                      The songs then:

                        • Song 1: Never win first place, I don't support the team.
                        • Song 2: Broken,/Yeah, you've been living on the edge of a broken dream.
                        • Song 3: Step right up and don't be shy.
                        • Song 4: I don't look good in no Armani Suits.
                        • Song 5: Well you can just believe.
                        • Song 6: Haven't we met?
                        • Song 7: It's funny how I find myself in love with you.
                        • Song 8: Lights go out, and I can't be saved.
                        • Song 9: Rat-tailed Jimmy is a second hand hood.
                        • Song 10: Summer. . .it turns me upside down.
                        • Song 11: When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone.
                        • Song 12: I was born an original sinner.
                        • Song 13: How can you see into my eyes like open doors.
                        • Song 14: I had to escape.
                        • Song 15: If you need a little lovin'.
                        • Song 16: I hold on so nervously.
                        • Song 17: Tell me doctor, where are we going this time.
                        • Song 18: My baby don't mess around.
                        • Song 19: Call you up in the middle of the night.
                        • Song 20: I am the Candyman - Coming from Bountyland.
                        • Song 21: On the first part of the journey.
                        • Song 22: Please allow me to introduce myself.
                        • Song 23: You could never know what it's like.
                        • Song 24: Hey driver/where're we going? I swear my nerves are showing.
                        • Song 25: A nice breeze blows in.

                        Friday, September 24, 2010

                        Signs that the economy is bad, September 24, 2010 edition

                        Welcome once more to another edition of the semi-popular (to my three readers), semi-regular (when I feel like doing it or have the time to do it) series "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I scour the world in search for those oh so subtle signs that the economy is bad. Sure, the government and economists can tell you the big signs. But what do they know? A bunch of economists just recently decided that the recession ended. Apparently someone forgot to tell the rest of us who are still broke and trying to make ends meet. And they certainly did not tell the people in our stories for this week:

                        • In Mexico, senior citizens who had professional careers have to drive taxis to make ends meet. According to the article from The Christian Science Monitor, " in Mexico City, taxis can be a last grasp at economic life for experienced professionals who have fallen victim to rampant age discrimination and recent economic crises." By the way, this is not just seniors however. The article further states that "workers as young as 35 are shut out of interviews by employers seeking younger, cheaper labor, says Ricardo Bucio, president of Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred)." Ageism is alive and well in Mexico. Actually, it is alive and well here in the U.S, but it tends to be more subtle, along the lines of "we found a candidate whose experience matches the job description better" or some other generic line.
                        • Children's allowances are just not the same anymore. According to Reuters, "British children's weekly pocket money has fallen to a seven-year low, in a sign parents are still cutting back on non-essential spending. . . ." That's right, giving little Susie some pocket money is not considered essential. I wonder if there is a similar situation here in the U.S. for children's allowances. Stay tuned, I will keep an eye out for any reports.
                        • Community college partners with a beauty products company to open a cosmetology program. See story details at Inside Higher Ed. here.  I have made jokes before and pointed to other, more commercial ways for colleges and educators to raise revenue such as advertising for burrito joints, selling advertising space in classes, and other ways. So, is opening a beauty school and getting a beauty products company to pony up for supplies and equipment really that far fetched? I am thinking that the future of higher education may well get more commercialized. Whether that is good or not is a matter of debate. 
                        • And if you want to work for the government, whether in government or as a contractor, things may get tougher. It turns out that if you have a foreclosure or debt in your personal history, you may be denied a security clearance. ProPublica cites a study, which says, "Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, debt resulting from job losses and home foreclosures have had a devastating effect on people holding national security clearances. That, more than any other factor today, is causing the revocation or denial of security clearances, resulting in the loss of good paying jobs, and putting skilled workers further and further behind in their effort to dig out of debt." So it is a classic Catch-22: you may lose a good job because you are in debt, but without that good job you can't get out of debt or make your mortgage.  
                        • Many places have in place assistance for low income people who may need help paying their utilities. Here is the link for information in Texas.  These programs are usually designed to help people maintain things like heat in winter or A/C in the summer (especially crucial here in Texas). You know that things are going down shit's creek when the Queen of England not only asks for assistance with her utilities, but she wants the money to come from the same fund used for the poor. Apparently a 15 million pounds stipend to upkeep the palaces is not enough. (Via AFP). 
                        That's it for this week's edition of "Signs that the economy is bad." Tune in soon for our next installment, because it does matter what some fancy economists say. The economy is still bad and getting worse. The problem is people can't always tell, and that is where I come in. To help educate and show my three readers the real clues that the economy is bad.