Friday, September 30, 2011

Signs that the economy is bad, September 30, 2011 edition

Just one story this week. It has been a bit of a rough week, so the Itinerant Librarian has not had much time to scour the web in search of the subtle hints that the economy is bad. However, this is quite a sign we are highlighting this week.
  • You know things are bad when Hallmark makes a card for it. Yes, the greeting card company is now making sympathy cards for the unemployed. Your husband or other relative lose their job? Cheer them up a little with a store-bought greeting card. You are a ruthless employer and want to lay off some workers so you can outsource their jobs to some Third World country? Send them a Hallmark greeting to show you are not a completely heartless bastard. Hey, for those robber baron wannabes, this may be better than suggesting that people go dumpster diving to cut costs (I don't think it went that well for Northwest Airlines). Via CBS. By the way, if you want to see some "samples" of these new cards, you can have a sneak peek here (via Holy Taco).  You can also see a card selection here (via WorkFails).

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    75 Books every man should read, according to Esquire. I don't think so.

    Here we go with one of those pretentious lists that tell you what you have to read. This is another one of those telling men what they should read in order to be more manly or sophisticated or whatever. As I quoted when I blogged about another list, which I labeled "The 'Muy Macho' Reading List" back in 2008, "Real Men read whatever they want to and don't give a fat crap about some list or what other people think." I still agree with that. I read whatever I want, and I care little for what others think. I especially care little for lists that emphasize dead white males and/or "classics" that in some cases are better off forgotten. Anyhow, here is Esquire's list "The 75 Books Every Man Should Read." They claim it is "an unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published." Since they ask how many people have read, and I am a sucker for replying to that kind of question, here is the list. Any items in bold are items I have read. I will add an asterisk (*) next to ones I would consider reading in some not so near future. For most, odds are good I probably do not give a hoot. As I have said in other posts, for a lot of classics I may not have read, I already know the basic plot points, so I see no point in bothering to spend the time to read a book I already know what it's about and know the major references. I've usually learned this information from helping students researching such works, or from my time spent studying tools like Masterplots. As usual for me, my snarky comments are included.

    The list:

    • Raymond Carver, What we talk about when we talk about love.
    • John Cheever, Collected Stories of John Cheever
    • James Dickey, Deliverance. (Seen the movie. Often, I feel curious about reading a book that a movie was based on, but this I think I will skip. Humans turning into animals--as in behavior, not transformation-- just is not appealing to me. Same reason I pretty much do not care for Lord of the Flies).
    • John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath. (I know I read some Steinbeck when I was in graduate school, but goes to show what little impression he left since I can't quite recall. I feel no major urgency to read this, but who knows. Maybe some day).
    • Cormac McCarthy. Blood Meridian.* (I feel I should read at least one book by this guy. May be this one, or something else). 
    • Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.* (My mother always said I should read this at one point. I may have to take her up on the suggestion sometime).
    • Edward P. Jones, The Known World
    • Studs Terkel, The Good War
    • Philip Roth, American Pastoral. (I honestly do not give a rodent's derriere about Roth).
    • Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. (I have not read this particular anthology, but I have read her work. What I have read is enough to make me hate her).
    • Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried. (I did enjoy this one).
    • James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime. 
    • Jack London, The Call of the Wild. (Read it sometime in middle school).
    • Martin Amis, Time's Arrow. (Him and Kingsley are two more writers I do not give a hoot about. I had to read Martin Amis' Money in graduate school. Another book I hated).
    • John McPhee, A Sense of Where You Are
    • Hunter S. Thompson, Hell's Angels.* (I may pick this one up or a different Hunter S. Thompson up. We'll see).
    • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
    • James Joyce, Dubliners. (This bloated, overrated tripe, and his other works, can go in the bin of forgetfulness as far as I am concerned. Why so-called snobs and scholars swoon over this unreadable guy is beyond me).
    • John Updike, Rabbit, Run.(Another white American I could not care less about).
    • James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
    • Robert Stone, Dog Soldiers
    • Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone
    • Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall. (Did see the movie they made of this, and even though the genre not my usual cup of tea, I did like. I may or not give the book a chance someday).
    • Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
    • Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
    • W.C. Heinz, The Professional
    • Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bells Toll.*
    • Michael Herr, Dispatches
    • Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer. (I am told I have to read Henry Miller at least once. We'll see. Seems a bit too literary for what I tend to like. Don't get me wrong, I do like some literary fiction, but it is rare and far between).
    • Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
    • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. (The fact that I had this inflicted on me in graduate school assured that I will never, ever read Faulkner again).
    • Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. (This is actually one book on this list I have enjoyed enough to count as one of my favorites).
    • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
    • Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
    • Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    • William Styron, Sophie's Choice
    • Frederick Exley, A Fan's Notes.
    • Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim. (See my note above for Martin Amis).
    • Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
    • Patrick O'Brien, Master and Commander.* (This maritime adventure genre is one I have to try out sometime).
    • Kent Haruf, Plainsong
    • John Kennedy Tool, A Confederacy of Dunces
    • Russell Banks, Affliction
    • Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life
    • Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale
    • Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
    • Charles Bukowski, Women
    • Stephen Wright, Going Native
    • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
    • John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-up. (Having read The Great Gatsby pretty much assures I won't be reading Fitzgerald ever again).
    • George Saunders, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
    • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.* (Hey, it's a big classic. I may or not get to it in this lifetime, but I at least want it as a life goal to read it someday).
    • Stephen King, The Shining. (Have not read this one, but I have read a few other King novels).
    • Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
    • Herman Melville, Moby Dick
    • Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths. (As far as I am concerned, Borges can do no wrong. One should read in Spanish).
    • Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff
    • Richard Ford, The Sportswriter.
    • James Ellroy, American Tabloid
    • Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.*
    • Richard Ben Cramer, What It Takes
    • Dashiell Hammett, The Continental Op. (I have read some Hammett, but I have not read this yet. I've got to get to it).
    • Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory. (I read some Greene in grad school. Same as other graduate school inflictions, reading one of his works assures I am not touching another).
    • William Maxwell, So Long, See You Tomorrow
    • Richard Wright, Native Son
    • James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
    • Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
    • David McCullough, The Great Bridge. (I do want to read some McCullough sometime).
    • Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums. (What the appeal of On the Road is clearly is lost on me. I hated that book, so I am certainly skipping this one).
    • Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove. (Well, that was one depressing mini-series, even with the relatively good cast it had. It did have some good pathos, but not enough to make me pick up the book).
    • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
    • Don DeLillo, Underworld
    • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Read it in 6th grade. Who thought inflicting this on a sixth-grader was a good idea?). 
     I've only read 8 out of the whole sorry bunch. Not surprisingly, I don't feel like I have missed much. There are one or two books I would not mind reading, but nothing I feel urgency about. Anyhow, there they are. If you've read any of these and want to try to convince me they deserve a chance, feel free to comment. If you want to tell me to stay away from any of these, that is fine too.

    Now I am getting back to some actually fun reading. So, what I am currently reading? As of this post, I am reading the following:

    • C.S. Goto, Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000). 
    • Will Eisner, The Best of The Spirit.
    • Hardy Green, The Company Town
    • Don Vorhees, The Perfectly Useless Book of Useless Information.
    Be honest. Doesn't the stuff I am reading sound a lot more fun than the stuffy books on the list? And I have a nice balance of fiction (science fiction), nonfiction, graphic novel, and trivia. Anyhow, as the old saying goes, "every reader his/her book, and every book its reader." Finally, if you want to see what I am reading at any given time, there is a GoodReads widget on the right hand column of this blog.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Signs that the economy is bad, September 19, 2011 edition

      Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. I ran a bit late this week, but better late than never. Overall, as of late, I am seeing that it is not a good time to be a college student (last time we had some posts related to college students as well). To be honest, I do find a bit hard to advise young people to go to college with a straight face given the cost and the very high possibility they could end up unemployed anyhow. At any rate, here are this week's signs:
      • Libraries turn to advertising to make up for tax payer funding. Via Snellville Patch
      • Via The Washington Post,  the bad news continues for the college crowd. It turns out that college graduates are the fastest growing group in bankruptcy filings. That would not have anything to do with society's overall commitment to keep cutting down college funding, would it? Or the fact that college students are pretty much forced to get more oppressive loans if they want an education? 
      • As the middle class continues to vanish (and we could do a whole big commentary on that), advertising and marketing folks find they have to adjust in order to entice the increasing numbers of poor people with less income. That, or try to catch the dollars of the few remaining rich. Via The Wall Street Journal.  
      • Even religious bigots are having a hard time keeping workers. Focus on the Family is laying off more workers. Donations seem to be down. Maybe people are finally figuring out their behavior and actions spouting hate, bigotry, and ignorance are not acceptable in civilized society.  Via The Advocate.

        Friday, September 02, 2011

        Signs that the economy is bad, September 2, 2011 edition

        Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. Not a whole lot going on this holiday weekend. Well, holiday for some people. Some of us actually have to work this weekend. I will be working this Sunday (deity of choice knows why, but so have the powers that be decided). Anyhow, here are your cues that the economy is bad for this week.

        • You know things are bad when the owner of a building wants to demolish it before even opening it. That is the situation with this Las Vegas hotel (via Yahoo! Real Estate). For some reason, this story reminds me of one of the last scenes in the film Casino, the one where all the casinos are demolished. Here is part of the quote from the scene: "The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots." (read the rest of the quote here). 
        • Freshmen are opting to live at home rather than on campus (via The Daily Camera), even when the campus requires dorm living.Tuition can take a big chunk of money already, so if you can avoid living on campus and not paying for the dorm, I am all for it. The alleged benefits of campus living (social dynamics, so on) are probably not enough justification for those who can live at home just fine and just commute. In fact, we have told our daughter that, assuming I am still employed here in Tyler, that she is more than welcome to stay at home while she goes to school in town (if she chooses to go school in town), and save that money for something else. I think over time, if the economy stays bad, campuses will find requiring freshmen to live in dorms to be an unsustainable requirement, at least for their locals.
        • Librarians have to moonlight. According to this story, this librarian and taxi driver was caught with £129K in his bank account (via Cambridge News). According to the story, he was selling cannabis. Now, we can certainly insert all sorts of jokes here, but it is a known fact that librarians overall are not exactly well-paid (for the most part. Try not to go by the ALA's salary survey, which can be a bit rosy-eyed at times, to put it mildly). On a serious note, given the atrocious employment market for librarians, the only surprising thing is that more of them, given the many skills they have, do not decide on a life of crime.