- Apparently more women, especially mothers, are taking more phone sex operator jobs to make ends meet. We are not talking "MILFs" so to speak, but your average soccer mom that you would never imagine as working a phone sex line. Now personally, I have no problem with the line of work. If someone wants to pay a woman to have some sexy talk, and she agrees to provide it for a mutually agreed upon fee, that's a market. But the point is that more women who would rather work more "mainstream" work feel this is their only option to get a little extra money for their families. And that does make a comment on the bad economy. Via Jezebel.
- I have seen this story in a couple of places, including this one at Bizmology. Dollar Stores and Pawn Shops are doing very well in the bad economy. It makes perfect sense. Salaries have been stagnant, and in some cases, shrinking, which means less buying power for people. And that is assuming people still have a job to earn a paycheck. People may have had reservations about pawn shops, but it looks like they are overcoming them, plus the shops are working to improve their image and be more welcoming.
- And speaking of pawn shops, this is just a sad story. Personally, I do not think this kind of thing should be happening in the U.S., especially with how supposedly patriotic Americans are and all about "supporting the troops." More often than not, those Americans are a lot like pro-lifers. They are all about caring for the fetus or whatever it is before it is born. But once born, they are very happy to deny the actual baby any form of health care or safety and care. Same thing with soldiers. While enlisted and wearing the uniform, it is all "rah rah" and "support the troops" and "thank you for your service." When they become veterans, Americans mostly forget about their former soldiers, especially if they are wounded (physically, or more often, mentally, which is harder to see). Thus we get stories like this. In this story, a soldier in need has to pawn his Purple Heart medal to pay for Christmas. Story via The Huffington Post. Actually, this story is even worse since it was a soldier on leave. So, bad enough the nation barely takes care of its vets, they can't even pay them decently enough to meet their needs while enlisted. Of course, I would recommend not bothering with reading the comments. There are a lot of the usual judgmental, non-charitable asshats judging the poor guy. As if they knew. Hat tip to mikeroweWORKS.(On updates, it seems he did manage to pay off the pawn loan).
- Just in time for Christmas, there is a shortage of Frankincense. Apparently, it is made from the sap of a rare tree that growers are choosing to grow less because it may be more lucrative to use the land for something else. At least, that is one of the reasons. Via Jezebel.
- Movie studios are not doing well, according to this article from Bizmology. The article gives a lot of the usual excuses: competition from other technologies, glut in some film genres, star power not what it used to be, reliance on sequels. However, in the end, I don't think we need pundits and geniuses. Allow me to tell you what I think are reasons movie studios are not doing well: 1) Movies that people do not want to see because, let's be blunt, they suck. It does not matter how many strong or famous stars you put in your movie. Harrison Ford or anyone else can only do so much to save a crappy movie, even a movie with what may seem a good premise (Cowboys and Aliens does make a good premise, but hey if the movie sucks, no one will want to see it). 2) Simple economics. Going to a movie theater is an expensive proposition. Tickets ranging to ten bucks or so per person. Add the overpriced concessions, and this can rival going out for a five star meal at any swanky restaurant. I do feel pity for families who feel a need to take their whiny kids to see the latest crappy animated sequel in the theater. At the end of the day, money only goes so far, and as we have mentioned before, with stagnant salaries, job losses, a night at the movies is not a priority. This should be a no-brainer. 3) Going to a movie theater is often an unpleasant experience full of selfish assholes who have to talk during the movie, yak on their cellphones, or otherwise ruin it for everyone else. When you have that combined with the big sticker price, you pretty much skip the theater. 4) This I am guessing, but nowadays you can get any movie on DVD/Blue Ray fairly quick. Even with any restrictions studios put into getting the movies out, it is still relatively quick, and unless you are one of those freaks who just can't wait, you can get anything on Netflix/your preferred online service or rent it shortly after. So, why not stay home, rent the movie, make your own popcorn, and relax in that big screen TV and set-up you have at home? Just a thought.
- However, not all is bad in the economy. There is one sector in the economy that may be doing well if this story is any indication, and that is the weapons production sector. Hey, war is always going on someplace, and there's money to be made in it. And of course, if you happen to be a big superpower (or former superpower depending who you ask) with interests (*cough* oil *cough) in a very dry part of the world, you want to make sure your allies have the weapons they need. Thus, "US finalizes sale of $30 billion fighter jets to Saudi Arabia." As my father says, "not to take the beans out of anybody's mouth," but give that some thought: the U.S. does keep the Saudis (who are as repressive and regressive as they come when it comes to regimes) pretty well armed. Why? Well, besides those interests (*cough* oil *cough*), "Production of the aircrafts, which will be manufactured by Boeing, will support 50,000 jobs and have a $3.5bn annual economic impact in the US, the White House said." It's economics. The folks at Boeing do have to eat like the rest of us. So, on the one hand, would be nice if the U.S. was not such a big weapons seller, but hey, what are you going to do with all the weapon makers if they lose their jobs? Serious food for thought there. Story via Common Dreams.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Welcome to the last post in the semi-regular (as in I do it when I feel like it and/or find the time) feature "Signs the economy is bad" for 2011. Things have not gotten better, and from the looks of it, they may not get better anytime soon. This means that I may be doing this feature in 2012 as well keeping my three readers informed of the oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Any pundit can point at some chart and say the recession is over (as if), say unemployment numbers are better (but he probably does not count the underemployed or those who just gave up on looking or just ran out of unemployment benefits), but it takes someone with some time to kill once in a while to go out and find the not so obvious things that tell the real story. So, here we go.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Some thoughts on the so-called War on Christmas
This has become a theme in recent years, thanks in large part to loudmouthed right wing conservatives who like to wear their religion on their sleeves and play the victim card during the holidays. The fact that Fox News keeps enabling this nonsense does not help neither.
- John Scalzi offers some interesting and thought provoking commentary in his post "Reminder: Tis the Season Not to be an Ass." I do agree with most of what he says, but I still think he may be a bit too passive. Let's be honest, given how some of those religious conservatives behave to those who may choose a different tradition, or none at all, once in a while, saying “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass" may be in order. They sure as hell do it to us, so I say turnaround is only fair. Personally, I would wish everyone would be civilized, but there are few moments when one has to stand up and fight fire with fire. These fake War on Christmas Christians (TM) behave like bullies, and bullies only learn when you toss it right back at them. At any rate, the post is worth reading because at the end of the day the season is more than just both sides behaving, well, like asses. In the end, I live by a very simple philosophy, live and let live.
- Via the Texas Freedom Network, a look at "The Right's 'Plastic Indignation' over Christmas." The whole thing is worth reading, but here is a choice quote: "To say that Christians, particularly the conservative, evangelical, Republican kind, are oppressed is to insinuate that the Dallas Cowboys play in a cardboard shack."
- This year, unfortunately, we are headed into an election year, and the campaigning has started early. Not even Santa is safe. The War on Christmas means that new candidates are rising to replace the jolly incumbent of the North Pole. Found at AdWeek, the video pokes good fun at both the War on Christmas and those pesky election ads.
The Christmas Tree and the Ornaments
- Via Christmas Tree Market, here is a very nice infographic with a visual history of the Christmas tree.
- Christmas lights are an important part of the season. Not only do we decorate the tree with lights, a lot of people often put a lot of work to put up lights on their houses. You have to buy them someplace. Via Retail Hell Underground, here is a vintage ad for Gay Christmas Lights.
- You have to put ornaments on the Christmas tree. Most people go with those cute balls, or maybe they buy something fancy from Hallmark. But why do with the usual when you can put one of these "Monstrous Christmas Tree Ornaments"? Via Dangerous Minds.
- Want more offbeat ornaments? Topless Robot presents "10 More Nerdy, Shameless Christmas Ornaments."
- And even more tree ornaments. Now, these are "21 Upsetting Christmas Tree Ornaments." From really tacky to a little risque to just plain wrong, odds are good there is something here that will piss someone off. And what better way to have a holiday gathering than these conversation starters that have the potential to stir even more drama? Actually, there are one or two I would not mind putting on our tree. Via BuzzFeed.
- How about decorating your cubicle or office? The Shoplet blog has some ideas for "a Cubicle Christmas." All you need are some supplies and a little imagination.
- Duck tape (or duct tape) is pretty much something that works for just about anything. It is a versatile staple. You can even use it to make a tape wreath and a Christmas tree. Via Shoplet blog.
- You know that somebody will burn down a Christmas tree, by accident or ignorance or neglect. There will likely be at least one news story related to someone who overloaded the electrical outlets or put a flame near a tree, resulting in some home burning down. Don't be that dumbass. Make sure things are safe. It is why we get to see some of those PSA's (public service announcements) about Christmas tree safety. Here is a sampling of those ads. Yes, they can be funny, but there is a serious point to be made. Via The Daily Beast.
- More tree safety advice, this time from Reader's Digest.
The Big Man, a.k.a. Santa Claus
An item or two about the jolly fellow in the red suit.
- Via Smithsonian, they had a vote on which Santa depiction is most scary. This has a pretty interesting image collection worth a look.
- Kids always (if they celebrate Christmas) write letters to Santa. Have a look at a child's letter from 1911 versus a letter from 2011. Things have really changed. And here is a gallery with a few more sample children's letters to Santa. Both via BuzzFeed.
Yes, music is an important part of the holiday season.
- Dangerous Minds shares an alternative music mix suggestion. The actual music list, by dj, writer and Voodoo practitioner Stephen Grasso, can be found here: "A Voodoo Christmas in South Northwood." Hey, a list that features Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera can't be bad.
- Now if you prefer more traditional music, here are "the 19 Best Secular Christmas Songs." We are talking Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Eartha Kitt. Via BuzzFeed.
- Getting a little chilly? The Calgary Philharmonic Chorus offers some tips on staying warm. Via BuzzFeed.
- Via Nerve.com, here are "Five Christmas Songs That Don't Suck." They also include a nice Spotify song list. Besides, I am sure some folks out there have had the same thought the folks at Nerve.com have had: "Christmas music is absurd. What if every holiday was celebrated with music dedicated to it that began a month in advance, played in all major stores and public places?" Yes, we get the bombardment nice and early, and it keeps getting worse. So, listen to something different for a change.
I hope everyone got their holiday greeting cards out by now.
- Ad agencies, like many businesses, make holiday greetings that serve not just as a wish of goodwill for the holidays but as promotional tools. Some are good, others not so much. Here are the "Best and Worst Agency Holiday Cards of 2011." Via AdWeek.
- Via Mashable, here are "12 Fun Holiday Cards for Geeky Season's Greetings." I think the geek in your life will appreciate these.
The Parties and gatherings
- For many people, getting invited to Christmas parties is a big deal or at least a common occurrence. I would not know as I am not that popular, haha. Now, you may get invited to an event that you do not really share. By this I mean, you could get invited to a Christmas party with a lot of religious Christian elements, and you don't believe in nor celebrate Christmas (you celebrate something else, celebrate Christmas in a more secular way, or nothing at all). Yet, you feel the polite need to attend. I don't think this gets considered very often, so I found this advice on "How to Attend a Holiday Party When the Holiday's Not Yours" helpful. Via Jezebel.
- Are you going to an office or workplace party? Via Grub Street, "how drunk can you get at your office Christmas party?" This is applicable to place where the workplace may be cool enough to actually have some alcohol on premises. In other words, not applicable to my workplace.
- This is not really a Christmas piece, but I think it is worth a look. Whether you are eating out or at home, table manners are important. Here are some reminders on "How to Be Polite at the Table" from Reader's Digest.
Food and drinks
Whether you go to a party, host one yourself, or are just going to spend some quiet time at home, odds are good there will be some good food and drinks. Here are some ideas and things of interest related to eating and drinking. Remember that if you choose to drink alcohol, please do so in moderation.
- The Intoxicated Zodiac blog has some offerings of cocktail recipes for the 12 days of Christmas based on your zodiac sign. I have to admit this is an interesting and different take on the usual holiday cocktails. The Capricorn cocktail (my sign) does seem a bit heavy on the sweetness (it uses molasses), but hey, I am willing to try anything once. The Better Half is a Libra, and her cocktail does look perfect.
- Liquor.com offers some cocktail suggestions and some links for various cookie and treat recipes. Hey, you need to have something to go with those drinks. They also offer some helpful tips for making eggnog.
- Drinkhacker offers some rum recipes, including a recipe for Coquito, which they label as the "Puerto Rican eggnog." I suppose that is a close description. If you have never tried coquito, find a Puerto Rican friend to make you some, or try the recipe provided. You probably want to be a bit more generous with the rum than the recipe calls for, especially if you are serving it to Puerto Rican friends. We like our coquito very loaded.
- Here is a recipe if you wish to make prime rib for the holiday dinner. However, it does come from Holy Taco, so naturally, it also goes over how the dinner scene itself might go. You know this is not the usual recipe when one of the ingredients includes "an almost inhuman level of tolerance for your family’s inane bullshit." Sounds like Christmas gathering at some folks' homes I know.
Reflection and thought(fulness)
The holiday season is one that invites reflection. Whether you are religious or secular, this time of year is often one that invites people to take stock of the past year and reflect on what may come ahead. Also, this is a time of year to be thoughtful of others.
- Via the Anecdote blog, "May your Festive Season Be Filled With Stories." Here are some small questions and prompts to help you out a bit as your reflect. There is some stuff here for Christmas and some for the New Year's celebration.
- This I found interesting, and I hope it may be useful to some folks if they face this situation. From Salon, "How to talk to someone with cancer." I think much of the advice is very good when dealing with any terminal or grave disease or health condition situation.
- The holidays can be a time of stress, and there can be unique sitations. Reader's Digest has some "Commonsense Advice for the Holidays." Some very curious situations here with suggestions on how to be thoughtful and considerate.
Other Traditions and Items of Interest
Yes, Virginia, there are other celebrations going on during this time of year besides the predominant Christmas as envisioned by the Christians (who to be honest, stole it from the pagans anyhow). In addition, I am putting here anything else that does not fit in the categories above.
- As of this writing, our Jewish friends are in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, sometimes also spelled out as Chanukah. Here is a "Gentile's Guide to Chanukah" so you can get a basic idea of what that holiday means and its significance. It's a bit serious and a bit light in the tone, but it does get the basic information across. Via Addicting Info.
- A bit more on Hanukkah. Mental Floss blog answers the question "Why do Jews Eat Potato Pancakes During Hanukkah?" Recipe is also included.
- Even more on Hanukkah, some gentle reminders for everyone else, from Reader's Digest. For example, please do not call it "the Jewish Christmas."
- USA.gov has a feature with various holiday tips from flying and going through airport security to healthy eating to dealing with your holiday lights. A hat tip to Lori's blog.
- Most if not all college students are gone by now for the holiday break. Hopefully, they remembered to winterize their lives before they left. This article offers some reminders and tips of things to do before leaving campus. Very useful advice. Via Inside Higher Ed.
- And this is from last year, but it is still cute. What if Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men all had online social media? Video from YouTube.
- I thought this was interesting and worth a look. A radical homemaker reclaims Christmas. So, is her family and her a pain in the ass (using her own words) or is this kind of more aware observance something viable others may consider? I will let my three readers decide. Via Yes Magazine.
- Many of our African American friends will be celebrating Kwanzaa during this time. Learn a bit more with this primer. Via BeliefNet.
- Our Pagan friends may be celebrating Yule, a.k.a. the Winter Solstice. I have to admit that finding some information on this to share with my readers was not easy. Search engines, particularly Google, show a slight (ok, more than slight) prejudice and tend to present more negative pieces about Pagans (the "expose," why Paganism is bad, Christianity is good variety of nonsense). But I have a few things to help folks learn a bit more about what our Pagan friends are up to this time of year. In addition to looking in BeliefNet, learn a bit about Winter Solstice here at Circle Sanctuary. And here is another article from Wicca.com. By the way, please keep in mind Paganism does take various forms, Wicca practice being one of those forms (though depending who you ask, Wiccans may say they are different from pagans. Pagans overall are a very diverse group). Now, being a pagan at this time of year, especially in the U.S., where Christmas (the Christian version or the secular version) are so predominant can be hard on our Pagan friends. To help them out, here is a small guide from WikiHow on "How to Celebrate Holidays as a Pagan Around Non Pagans." The article has some useful, practical advice.
- Here we have "109 Cats Celebrating Christmas." Why? Hey, anything gets cuter if you put cats in it, regardless of where you stand on people dressing up their pets. Via BuzzFeed. The photo I used for this post comes from this gallery.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Commentary and advice on holiday shopping
People have all sorts of advice and suggestions on how to shop or how to make shopping easier. Some suggestions may be more helpful than others. Some even suggest maybe you should go easy on the shopping. After all, the season should be more than flashy presents.
- Via USA.gov blog, "How to Avoid Online Shopping Fraud." Online shopping is extremely popular this year. So it is important to be savvy, informed, and protect yourself.
- Sometimes you get a gift that is less than idea for you, but it may be perfect for somebody else. It may also be the case you are just on a tight budget, and you have some extra item laying about. Whatever the reason, you have decided to regift. Nothing wrong with regifting; many people do it. At least have the decency to put some thought into it. For the love of the deity of your choice, do not keep regifting that 20-year old fruitcake that was passed down from Nana. Barbara Pachter offers some very good advice and "7 Regifting Guidelines for the Holidays." As Ms. Pachter says, "you always want the receiver of the gift to feel valued."
- OK, so you have bought your gifts. Now you need to wrap them up. Unless you pay someone to do it, you have to do it yourself. Need some advice on how to wrap gifts? Via The Next Web, here is a small video on "how to wrap your holiday gifts, perfectly." Now, if they had a video as well for how to wrap oddly-shaped gifts, that would be perfect indeed.
- Perhaps you would like to give money to charity during this season. Boing Boing offers a pretty good "Charitable Giving Guide, 2011." It features some good, solid organizations that are deserving of your money, if you are so moved. You won't be seeing the "usual" suspects here. If you have a more progressive tendency, this is a very good list.
- Maybe you want to go a different route and avoid the consumerism of the holidays. Leo Babauta, at Zen Habits, proposes the "no new gifts holiday challenge." This may not work for everyone, but it will certainly provoke some thought. And if you must do gifts, there are some alternatives suggested.
- The Radical Vixen (warning: this is an adult content blog, but the post itself is not) writes about resisting the Christmas consumption, but if you must, consider a handmade gift, maybe made locally. I am finding interesting the wave of reaction against the consumerism, yet at the same time people do have the urge to shop. Personally, I lean to the middle. We do exchange some gifts, but we certainly do not go out of our budgets.
- Whether you exchange gifts or choose some other alternative, the fact is that the Christmas season can be a time where greed and consumerism are at their worst. Bill Maher has a nice message on on just that point (link to YouTube video). It is not new, but it is certainly relevant. A hat tip to Addicting Info.
- Odds are good you may meet one the "12 Shoppers of Christmas" when you are out and about. Maybe you are one yourself, or you recognize one of them in a gift giver. Via Work Fails.
Gifts for guys
This is mostly either gifts for men, which more often than not are usual fare for men (at least according to some folks. Really? Tools? No, I do not need nor desire a big set of Craftsman tools. However, a small, sturdy basic set of screwdrivers would be appreciated. See the difference?). Also can include gift lists focused on men (i.e. you are too dumb to figure out what to give your significant other? Let us help you)
- Maxim magazine has their 2011 Holiday Gift Guide out. Joking aside, this list does feature some interesting choices, a lot of which I probably could not afford on a librarian's salary. So they have some $1 and under gifts too? I would skip those if I were you. There is such a thing as going too cheap.
- And speaking of "guys needing help" (because you know your lady will be judging you on the basis of the gift you get), the Free4Him website has a small video on "Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Your Girlfriend." The only somewhat cute idea was the coupon idea, which is not terribly new. And I am guessing if you need an inexpensive idea for your boyfriend (because you are a guy who happens to like boys), you have to go someplace else. Overall, just another little video promoting the typical dating stereotypes. And by the way, I don't consider a Kindle to be particularly inexpensive.
- COED Magazine has a "Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2011." C'mon, you know there are going to be some guys who leave things to the very last minute. One of the items on the list are Star Trek Starfleet Robes. Though they are suggesting it for guys (at least a guy is pictured wearing one in the article), I can tell you that if the Better Half got one of these, she would be in heaven. (Light warning: it is COED Magazine, so some site content could be risque for some folks. The post itself is pretty safe).
- The Rifle (Paper Company) blog has a nice simple guide of gifts for men. The parking cards are an intriguing idea, but for me, I would want them with a bit more text than what they offer.
Gifts for gals
As the title says, these are gifts for women or list more focused on ladies.
- It is a sad reality that women often need protection when going out. It is a harsh world out there, so whether they choose to carry a firearm or some spray like Mace, it does not mean they have to look drab doing it. Give the lady in your life a thoughtful gift that says you care for her safety as well as you care that she looks elegant while being safe with a pepper spray Swarovski crystals. Because nothing says personal protection like pepper spray with bling. Find the story at Jezebel. You can purchase the actual item at Guardian Girls. On a serious note, the Guardian Girls company does donate a portion of their proceeds to the Guardian Girls Foundation which is dedicated to helping end the cycle of violence against women. So, help your lady look good, feel safe, and help stamp out violence against women.
- The Rifle (Paper Company) blog has a nice little post with "fail-proof gifts" for ladies.
Gifts for those who want to spice things up
This section is also known as the adult section. If you are prude, a bit more conservative, and/or offend easily, you can skip this section. If on the other hand, you enjoy sex and see it as a beautiful part of life, do read on.
- My Sex Professor gives some advice for buying sex toys as Christmas presents. From learning about what materials a toy is made of (yes, that makes a difference) to what to buy for a man or a woman to suggestions of reputable stores, this is a very informative post.
- Fleshbot offers their "Naughty and Non-Denominational Holiday Gift Guide." This is a selection of various adult items from books to toys to plates (yes plates. You will have to click on the link to find out more, if you are still reading this section).
Alcohol and Other Spirits
Want to imbibe this holiday season? Here are some ideas.
- Want to give booze as a gift? A nice bottle of an alcoholic spirit is a pretty common gift. For the person in your life who enjoys a drink now and then, a good, well chosen bottle is certainly a good gift. Here are some ideas of gifts for booze lovers. This list from Jezebel has some interesting suggestions; some are certainly things I am not likely to see at the local liquor store one county over (did I mention I live in the "wettest" dry county in East Texas?). The one thing that really caught my eye, besides the Hudson Manhattan Rye, are the whiskey stones. What a brilliant little idea. You can chill your whiskey, or another other spirit for that matter I suppose, and not dilute it.
- Liquor.com has a holiday gift guide for rum. Not perfect, since it makes no mention of any Puerto Rican rum, but it seems to have some interesting choices. At the risk of being heretical, I would be willing to try out one or two of their choices.They also have a holiday guide for scotch, and another one for tequila. I am not much of a scotch drinker, mostly due to lack of exposure and the fact I prefer wine as my drink of choice, but I would not turn a good bottle away of it if offered. As for tequila, which I do like, I tend to prefer mine at least reposado; añejo would be nicer. They also have a bourbon guide. From the bourbon list, I have tried and liked Woodford Reserve, but a little sip at a time. It is one to enjoy and take your time.
- Drinkhacker has their "2011 Holiday Gift Guide." I do have to say a couple of the items are a bit on the pricey side, but it is interesting to see what they suggest.
Stuff for writers
This is basically stationery and other cool things that writers might like.
- The Millions offers a list of "12 Holiday Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use." There are some nice ideas here besides the usual things like a nice blank journal book or a pen. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but once in a while, a little variety is nice. The only item I disagree with is the suggestion of getting the writer a pet. The 7th item on the list I think is very good--booze, coffee, and other stimulants. As they write, "find out what your friend likes to drink and buy a really nice version of that thing."
- The Pen Addict provides his list of 2011 holiday favorites.
- Stationery Review has its "Christmas Gift Guide 2011." From this list, the Star Wars limited edition moleskines would make me happy. They are definitely not something I would buy for myself. While I do buy nice journal books for my personal journaling, anything in the $20 dollar range is out of the question. But a guy can still dream. Now, some people would likely put these in some drawer and never open them. Not me. They would not be collector items; they would be put to work, even if for my banal meanderings that never make it to the blog.
- The Well-Appointed Desk also presents a holiday gift guide.
- Here is a gift guide from Pens, Paper, Ink...Whatever. Some very nice pens here.
- No Pen Intended also has a nice gift guide with some nice pens, conveniently sorted out by price so you can find something in your price range. That glass dip pen looks great, but I would be afraid to break it if I had one. I probably should settle for a more solid pen.
- Here is the guide from Pocket Blonde. From this list, I like the Lost Crates subscription idea.
The section of stuff I could not afford on a librarian's salary. Also for stuff that just makes you go, "holy shit, that costs how much?" You can also consider this section as a gift guide for the 1% folks.
- Stolichnaya Vodka is coming out with a $3,000 bottle of vodka. If you happen to have some extra money laying around, this may be a good idea. Via Drinkhacker.
- For the nerd or geek in your life, here are "10 Insanely Expensive Nerdy Holiday Gifts." Via Topless Robot.
- You do not want to displease the god of the lavatory with an inferior toilet. Apparently, in Japan, some people do believe there is a toilet deity. So what better way to go to the bathroom in comfort and luxury while appeasing the gods than with a $130,000 toilet? Via The Next Web.
- Some of these may be very pricey or not, but if you have one of those persnickety people on your list, maybe this selection of "Gifts for your 'Design Snob' Best Friend" might help. Via Jezebel.
- Like stationery and office supplies? Willing to pay top dollar for them, say $300 dollars for a stapler? Barney's is your store then. Clearly, these are not office supplies for the hoi polloi. They are very nice though. Hat tip to the Shoplet blog.
- This could go with the items on liquor, but I think it belongs here better. Liquor.com has a holiday gift guide for the high roller. It features a $3200 port. Wow!
Seriously weird and/or miscellaneous stuff
This is where I am putting stuff I just can't really put anywhere else.
- Gifts for Old Folks. Yep, you have an older relative or friend (older here seems to be defined as at least qualified to join AARP), and you need some gift ideas. This list has some interesting selections ranging from neat to predictable to just tongue-in-cheek. By the way, if you are going with their suggestion of a case of wine, please get them something better than Kendall-Jackson. Not saying the old K-J is bad, just that there are better options. Story via Jezebel.
- And here are some gifts for the kids. These are certainly not the usual things. Some neat things here actually. Via Jezebel.
- This I thought was a nice, thoughtful article that should be shared. Via The New York Times, Mark Bittman offers some ideas on "gifts for non-cooks." I think even folks who can do a little cooking can gain benefit from this.
- For the Star Wars geek in your life, these robes are brilliant. Via Failblog, who rates them a "win." Here is one place you can buy them. If somebody got me one of these, I'd be very happy.
- Maybe you wish to give a present to a coworker (or you go stuck having to get something for one of those semi-obligatory exchange rituals). Here are some gift ideas for coworkers. Via Office Supply Geek.
- For some people, the budget may be bad in terms of buying gifts. Your kid may have asked for a brand new X-Box or Playstation, but Santa can't afford it, and neither can you. So maybe you want to consider instead one of these "25 Knock Off Video Consoles for This Holiday Season." Via humor site Holy Taco. Small warning, the site does contain some links to some risque content (tame, but in other words, if a woman in a bikini or lingerie offends you, skip it).
- Take a trip down memory lane with this list of 90's kid's Christmas presents.Via BuzzFeed.
- A calendar is always a nice, stable, and safe gift. Just find out what themes, topics, art, etc. a person likes and get them a calendar that features that favorite thing they like. Now, if you want to go a bit off the beaten path, Mental Floss offers a list of "10 Strange and Wonderful 2012 Calendars." From the list, I favor the Ryanair calendar, but that's me.
- Are you a conspiracy theorist? Do you wish your children would begin learning "the truth" earlier? Or you just have a healthy (somewhat twisted) sense of humor. Then Truther Toys may be for you. A hat tip to Buzz Feed.
- Is your mom a modern woman who smokes? Give her a Zippo lighter. This is a look at a vintage ad for Zippos targeting mothers. An interesting artifact from the past. Via Boing Boing. Joking aside, Zippo does make some pretty good lighters. If you do want to buy one, you can go here to their official website. By the way, it seems they make more than just their famous lighters. This may also be good for those who collect the lighters (even if they themselves do not smoke).
- White Whine also has its own holiday gift guide.
- Here is a list of practical things for college students and recent graduates. Yes, there are some graduations in December. Via The Washington Post. There are some very good ideas here.
- That California cop who pepper sprayed the peaceful student protesters at UC Davis went on to become a meme. Inspired by that meme, here is a sweater of the cop pepper spraying the Baby Jesus. Buy it for that "ugly sweater" Christmas party, or get it just because. Via Jezebel.
- Now some folks may be aware that Mattel released a Barbie doll with tattoos. Well, the fine fellows at Donco have come up with some other famous toys updated for our times. Have a look at The Problem With Young People Today Is. . . .
- Want something creative? Here is a list of "14 Creative and Clever Soaps." These are practical (everyone needs soap at some point), and they are fun. Via Mental Floss.
- I am not quite sure what to make of this. I know getting children little cars they can ride in can be popular, but a fork lift? Anyhow, you can get a fork lift for your kid here. Story via Incredible Things.
- Maybe you are into firearms. Do you want to buy a gun as a gift, or maybe receive a firearm this Christmas season under your tree? C'mon, "Open Your Heart at Christmas and Help a Gun Find a Good Home." Via International Library blog.
- Not weird per se, but interesting. Your local comic book stores have some interesting gift ideas. Hey, when possible, do consider supporting your local comic book shop.
Photo credit: "Christmas Shopping--A Present for Everyone." From Flickr user johnmuk. Used by Creative Commons license terms.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
As I've said before, I could not call myself a librarian if I did not have at least one post related to books and reading as part of my holiday posting series. Whether you read in an e-reader or you prefer print books, it's all good in the end. Let's have a look at some good books and lists. Maybe you will find a last minute gift idea, or maybe you will find something to add to your reading lists.
These are mostly items by mainstream media, or the usual stuff. It may be something I am noticing this year, but the gag of "asking a bunch of folks what they read and put it on the list" seems to be the theme.Whether it is a publication's own writers or asking a bunch of famous (by varying degrees) people, they basically let others make the lists for them.
- The New York Times presents their 100 Notable Books of 2011.
- So does The Telegraph over here.
- Via The Wall Street Journal, "Twelve Months of Reading," where the newspaper asked a bunch of famous folks what they have been reading.
- Via The New Yorker, their list of their reviewers' favorite books.
- Amazon also gets in the list bandwagon with their list of 100 Best-selling books.
- Here is the list from the folks at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. It is not so much a books of the year; it's really a favorites they read during the past year or that they recommend.
- Here are the picks of authors that Salon gathered.
- Via The Economist, their books of the year. Some serious and deep stuff here, but that is consistent with a serious publication known for its depth in reporting.
- Here is The New York Times Book Review's list of best 10 books in 2011 without the extra NYT baggage. Via the blog 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I tend to like when people take some famous list, remove all the extra verbiage the oh so famous publication puts in and just copies out the actual list so I can get to the point.
- The Financial Times has another serious and grave list of nonfiction for the year. The list is divided into categories such as business and history. There is even a book on testicles; that may be the one I am adding to my reading list.
- Here is The Guardian's Books of the Year list for 2011.
- Via Brain Pickings, here are their 11 Best History Books. The site is also doing a best of series for books, so you may want to go back to the site and browse as well.
- NPR offers their list of "The Best Comics of 2011." There are some interesting items in here. I've read the Locke & Key series, which did start pretty good, but the last installment I read was dragging a bit. So I wonder if the series may be about to jump the shark. Missing from this list is something I definitely regard as one of the best this year: American Vampire. If you are sick and tired of those shitty sparkly vampires or other poor substitutes, you owe it to yourself to pick this series up.
- The Daily Beast has a list of Best Coffee-Table Books.
Some More Book Lists
These are not quite the usual stuff. These items are mostly quirky things I found that I wanted to share with readers. These include science fiction, graphic novels, and other things that I know a few people out there find of interest and enjoy, but the big mainstream folks pretty much fail to cover.
- Billie Bloebaum, writing for the Powell's blog, has a list of her favorite scifi and fantasy novels for the year. Personally, John Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation is the one that would interest me.
- Eileen Battersby, writing for The Irish Times, lists her books of the year.
- Joshua Kim, of Inside Higher Ed, gives his list of 15 best nonfiction books.
- Via the Shelf Talk blog, here are some book ideas for teens.These folks "know how it is: you want to give those teens on your list something to read this Holiday Season, but don’t want your gift to be tossed aside amongst the socks and sweaters." By the way, don't be that lazy, unoriginal asshat who gives their kids socks and sweaters for Christmas. You do that, and you will be remembered alright: as that lame relative who gives sweaters and socks. Give your teen a good book and encourage his reading habit.
- Shelf Talk blog also has a nice list of picture books ideas for children. You may want to check it out to start encouraging the reading habit early on.
- Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic, offers her 2011 Gift Guide. Hey, get your kids of all ages some good manga to read. We will all thank you for it.
- Strategy+Business presents a retrospective list of significant business books for the 2001-2010 decade. A hat tip to Bob Sutton, who comments on the list.
- IO9 offers a list of "Awesome Graphic Novels That Even Non-comics Readers Will Love." They even do a bit of reader's advisory by telling you who may like what. There are one or two here I would not mind getting myself.
- Adding a bit of LGBT reading to our post. Via Lambda Literary, here is a list of books for gay men, or just readers who enjoy gay romances. Here is "Book Lovers: The 12 Days of Christmas." (Warning: some content on the may be risque for some people, though the post itself is not too risque)
- Nice to read, if you can get your hands on some of these. Definitely worth a look. Via Holy Taco, a gallery of "25 Awkward Holiday-Themed Comic Books."
Stuff to avoid
Anybody can do a "best of" list. When I see a "worst of," I pay attention. So maybe these will be a warning to you of what to avoid so you can focus on the good stuff. Folks may agree or disagree with some of the choices. After all, someone's overrated piece of tripe may well be someone else's treasure. As that wise man said, "every book its reader, and every reader its book." Anyhow, here is the worst stuff others picked out.
- Steve Donoghue, of Stevereads,offers his lists for the worst nonfiction and the worst fiction for 2011.
- The New York Daily News picks out "The Most Overrated Books of 2011." My favorite review in the bunch is the one about John Hodgman's writing. The faux pretension does get thin. It's the same reason Stephen Colbert can wear thin on me at times. I can only take so much faux pretension, but at least Colbert tends to do it better.
- Via Media Shift blog, "Getting a Table is Easy; Getting Digital Magazines is a Pain." If you are planning on buying any kind of e-reader or tablet, whether for yourself or for someone else, you need to read this.
- For the romance reader. By the way, did you know that romance novels are gaining more popularity as e-books? Turns out readers do not have to worry as much about being judged by the covers of their books. So, that lady on the commuter bus sitting next to you may well be reading a nice bodice ripper. Thought the NYT story I linked does not say, I bet that erotica may be gaining ground as well under the same idea for e-books.
- For the paranormal and/or urban fantasy readers.
- For the erotica reader. I will give the usual warning that some of the content may be a bit risque.
- For the mystery readers.
- For the science fiction and fantasy readers.
Update note (12/21/11): Another neat addition I just had to share. Via Flavorwire, "Stereotyping you by your favorite book of 2011." Yes, now you can be judgmental (in a lighthearted way) of people based on these books choices. Then again, don't we always do that anyhow with anyone who has pretty much any book on hand? It may well be another reason why e-readers are becoming popular; you can't judge someone's reading tests if you can't tell what they are reading. And sorry to disappoint some folks, but I have not read (and possibly do not intend to read) any books on the linked list. However, if you just feel a need to see and try to figure out what kind of whacked out reader I am , my GoodReads link is on the right hand column of this blog.
Picture credit: Page from the book "A Christmas Carol."By Flickr user Diamond Meadows, used by terms of Creative Commons License.
Friday, December 09, 2011
For this week, the theme seems to be writing "the old fashioned way." Whether it be with a typewriter or just pen and paper, articles on those topics caught my eye for this week. For me, writing by hand is a very personal thing as it allows me to reflect and think in a way that a keyboard and a computer do not allow. There are less distractions when writing by hand. And who knew there were still typewriter repairmen out there? Read about that and more this week.
- An article from Wired with some neat photos on what may be the last generation of typewriter repairmen.One place where typewriters are still used? Prisons, where they use clear plastic models for the inmates, and one company still remains that makes them. And then there are some nostalgia enthusiasts, but are they enough to keep typewriters alive? A hat tip to The Well-Appointed Desk.
- A guy in India collects pens as a hobby. Sounds pretty nice, right? Well, the guy has over 18,000 pens in his collection. And he gently reminds people who want to see them that "his is my personal collection, in my house, and not for public display!"Via The Hindu (India).
- Here is an article about some people who still keep journals and the reasons why they do so. The article comes from the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN). As for myself, I have been keeping a journal somewhat consistently since 1992 or so, the year I went to do my student teaching. I like blogging, but as I believe I have stated before elsewhere, there are things that are private, so I keep them in my journals. Articles about writing and journaling always catch my eye. Back in the day when I did the National Writing Project, use of journals in teaching writing, both for the teacher and the student, was an important element. These days much of that has given way to things like blogging. And yet, there are certain things you can only really express when you put pen or pencil to paper. There is more of a reflective process going on. A hat tip to Notebook Stories.
- Lee Rourke at The Guardian argues "why creative writing is better with a pen." Like some of the famous writers mentioned in the article, I usually compose stuff on paper first, often in my journals, before I polish it to put it on the blog. I think that is applicable to things I wish to reflect upon. For quick things, I do go directly to the blog. A neat line from the article: "For me, writing longhand is an utterly personal task where the outer world is closed off, just my thoughts and the movement of my hand across the page to keep me company. The whole process keeps me in touch with the craft of writing." A hat tip to Notebook Stories.
Friday, December 02, 2011
As seen in Ruminations, who saw it someplace else, and so on. I am doing this because I always fall for memes when they are related to reading and books. Any snark or comments are mine. You can find details for most of these books in my GoodReads profile, which is linked on the right side column of the blog.
- The book I am currently reading. My three readers likely know that I usually have more than one book going. I am currently reading the following: Pat Willard, America Eats! On the Road With the WPA; Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith's Green Hornet, Vol. 2; Sandy Mitchell, Cain's Last Stand (Warhammer 40,000, Ciaphas Cain series #6); José Martí, La Edad de Oro.
- The last book I finished. Kozue Kaiko and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger.
- The next book I want to read. Gosh, there are all sorts of books I want to read next. I have various lists, in print and online (in my GoodReads and on the scratch pad blog, where I have a series of posts on "Items about books I want to read") of books I want to read next or in the near future. So, I am going to pick one. Penn Jillette's God No!Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. I tried getting it via ILL, but apparently it is too new, and the libraries out there either had it checked out or were not willing to lend it outside just yet. Yes, I will be putting another request for it in the future. I also have on deck Lisa Abend's The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli. The ILL request on this came through, so I should be starting it soon after I finish Willard's WPA book.
- The last book I bought. Actually, I had a recent pleasant trip out of town to visit Half Price Books, so I did buy a few things including Mark Millar's Wolverine: Enemy of the State and Frank Tieri's Punisher Noir. I already read Tieri's book.
- The last book I was given. Simon Beecroft and Jeremy Becket, Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. My daughter gave it to me. I have to get around to reading it (I have been looking through it here and there) and putting it in my GoodReads lists.
- The last book I borrowed from the library. I currently have two books on loan from the local public library. One is Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip. . .With Recipes. The other is Paul Collins' Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. In addition, I have two books out via my library's ILL, which are the Willard and the Abend already mentioned.
- The first book I read this year. I had to look back a bit for this one. According to the records, that would be Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Book One (Hardcover Compilation).
- The last translated book you read. If mangas count (since I can't read them in Japanese), then the Lone Wolf and Cub volume previously mentioned. If you want an "actual" book, then Caligula: A Biography by Aloys Winterling, which is translated from German. By the way, finding out that little tidbit after the fact (I borrowed the book from the public library, so not in my hands as I write this) is not as easy as it looks. WorldCat finally told me that. I did add the translator information into GoodReads so others will have it.
- The book at the top of my Christmas list. Hmm, tricky here. I rarely if ever have a specific book I have to have. When it comes to this, just give me a good loaded gift card to a bookstore, and I will pick something out. But if I have to pin something down, I would say the second Ciaphas Cain omnibus, Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium, or the newest (as of this writing) Ciaphas Cain novel, Emperor's Finest.
- The so-far unpublished book I am most looking forward to reading. This I am going to leave blank. As I mentioned above, I rarely if ever have a specific book I have to have. I am not susceptible to hype books or bestsellers or hot/popular authors. I read what I like when I feel like it. I have no problem waiting for a book to go on paperback or to make its way to the used books market. So, I will leave this category open.
Just a few bad signs this week. I would say the one story that really caught my eye this time is the one about the mall Santas. It's always hard when dealing with children and having to break things gently to them. And on a side note, while some pundits out there are saying that Black Friday may mean the economy may be getting back on track, in reality it may just be another sign that the economy is bad (story via The Washington Post), and people are just desperate for any deal they can get. Desperation is certainly a sign the economy is bad. Anyhow, the stories for this week.
- Former college student grows and sells pot in order to pay off student loans. I have a feeling we may come to see more stories like this as the burden of paying for a college education becomes more unbearable and continues to be like entering indentured servitude or slavery to a lender. Via The Oregonian.
- It's the end of the free gravy train for the children of LSU alumni. Apparently, those kids used to get a a scholarship just for being born to the "right" parents. It seems that has gotten too pricey for LSU, so they are discontinuing the program. Via Inside Higher Ed.
- Early Christmas item. It seems mall Santas now have to be a bit more tactful with the kids that visit them. It is a tough job even if it does have its rewards. According to the article, "prospective St. Nicks are now being taught how to quickly assess a family’s financial situation before responding to children’s requests in such a manner that leaves them feeling cheerful, but not overly expectant." Via Time.