Friday, June 27, 2014

Booknote: A Curious Man

Neal Thompson, A Curious Man: the Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley. New York: Crown Archetype, 2013. ISBN: 9780770436209.

This is a book that I definitely enjoyed. It reads like a good yarn. However, this is the true and amazing life of Robert Ripley, the man who created the "Believe It or Not!" cartoon and made a fortune in the process. Almost like a Horatio Alger story, Ripley started from pretty much nothing, and he went on to be a successful cartoonist and entertainer whose legacy lives on today. Ripley lived through great events in his life from the San Francisco Earthquake to World War I to the Great Depression and Prohibition. He had a great sense of adventure and curiosity, and in many ways, he was as odd as the many oddities he documented.

Once he started working as a newspaper cartoonist, he began to grow. He moved from sports to oddities as he sought his niche. He also grew into a world traveler who explored the corners of the Earth. He would write and make cartoons documenting the oddities and wonders he saw. As Thompson writes,

"he started to weave history lessons with cultural analysis, travelogue and random cogitations, weird facts and personal opinion, the type of wide-ranging commentary that would decades later be called blogging" (92, emphasis in original).

I have to say I found that passage, as a blogger myself, a bit inspiring. Ripley, the awkward buck-toothed kid would grow up to be an entertainment innovator and a man who kept his sense of wonder.

Now, let's not just idealize Ripley. As an artist, he could be temperamental. He was a bit of a womanizer and quite a drinker, but he was also a man who brought entertainment to many during the dark days of the Great Depression. As a traveler, he could be a sharp observer, but he could also be prejudiced. Yet he was also a very generous man.

Thompson does a great job in showing Ripley the artist, entertainer, and human being passionate about the strange, the odd, and curious things of the world. Ripley also had a good way with people, especially the disfigured or handicapped and those from foreign lands. Thompson goes on to write on this,

"as one who had suffered humiliation and loss in his own life, he seems to understand the discomfort of others. As one who had mingled with all classes, he seems to possess some reserve of compassion, coming across gentle and nonjudgmental" (258).

The book shows that Thompson has done great research to bring Robert Ripley to life. Ripley's legacy lives on today in his books and Odditoriums around the world. If you have ever visited a Ripley museum (which I have, the one for Dallas/Fort Worth, which is actually in Grand Prairie; it's  still in the Metroplex), or if you enjoyed his cartoons, you will certainly enjoy reading about Ripley's life. In the end, Max Schuster said of Ripley, ". . . I am more convinced than ever that the greatest Believe It or Not of them all is the story of Bob Ripley" (308). Thompson gives us this interesting story and certainly confirms Schuster's words. As an added feature, the book does include a very good set of photos and illustrations inside. This is a book that I definitely recommend. An excellent biography.

If you ask me, 5 out of 5 stars.

Reading about the reading life: June 27, 2014.

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


  • Let's open this week with some quotes about books and reading. I am sure you can find some inspiration with these "33 Reasons Why You're Addicted to Books."Link from BuzzFeed. The list features that favorite Groucho Marx quote: "I find television very educating. Every time someone turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." It is something  I have been doing more lately, turning off the television in favor of reading a book.
  • Those of who live with books know that they can take up space. Organizing your books is always a bit of a challenge. Via Web Urbanist, here are some creative ideas for organizing your reading spaces. See their list of "Reading Room (Dividers): 13 Creative Bookshelf Designs.
  • This is a bit old by now, but interesting nonetheless if you like book trade trivia. From ABE Books, a list of "the top 100 most searched for out-of-print books in 2013." As in previous years, Madonna's Sex is still number one.  Richard Bachman's Rage is second on the list. Bachman is Stephen King's pseudonym; he allowed the book to go out of print after some school shooting events. Curiously enough, I still have a copy of Rage, which is part of the anthology The Bachman Books, which I own. I have not reread The Bachman Books in a while, which also contain The Running Man, basis for the film, which to me was more memorable than Rage. At any rate, there are a few other interesting titles on the list.
  • Those who know me know that I probably read a bit more nonfiction than fiction. When it comes to literary fiction, for the most part (there are notable exceptions), I could not care less. And if a piece of fiction is one of those that preaches something, I am gone. However, I still manage to read some fiction, and this includes some of the old crime fiction, writers like Hammett, Chandler, and even Spillane. They just have something that modern writers more focused on thrillers, conspiracies, and shady governmental agents just do not have. So, I found this piece on AlterNet interesting. It gives you "5 Reasons People Wanting to Change the World Should Read Crime Fiction." I think the article makes an interesting case, especially about good crime fiction often depicting the plight of the small guy, corruption by the wealthy, and the hero trying to make things right. I think for me those are appeal factors as well.
  • 2014 saw the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. There are many reasons that we do need to never forget the Holocaust. Stephen Marche, writing for Esquire magazine, argues for one way to remember: everyone should read Hitler's book Mein Kampf. Here is one reason, the book "also points out something that we should recognize in the new hate groups rising in Europe, such as the Golden Dawn in Greece, and Jobbik in Hungary. It's not just pantomime. They mean what they say. We should take them at their word." I would say it also points out something we need to be recognizing in hate groups that emerge and exist in the United States. I will admit that I have not read the book yet, but it is on my TBR list. 
  • Personally, I am not a big fan of book clubs. Shocker, I know. I just do not like being told what to read and then having to listen to people with various degrees of "informed" or "not so informed" opinion try to tell me why they liked the book. I am too much of a free spirit for that kind of structure, but if it gets people to read, then hey, have at it. Well, apparently, book clubs have gotten serious, and they are also a serious business, one that authors cannot really afford to ignore.  From the article, "What is new, however, is that book clubs’ appetite for reading — and the power of their consumption — is becoming a publishing influencer. Clubs are in fact spawning a business niche that is driving marketing decisions of authors and publishers." Story via The Millions.
  • And finally for this week, a look at politicians' books. It seems these days that any politician wanting to move up, get elected, or stay in office needs to write a book. Calling these books "bestsellers" is being charitable if not outright lying. Politico recently had a piece asking "Why are Politicians' Books So Terrible?" Now, this is a genre I usually do not read, although I have read one or two books in the genre (just enough to maintain some cred on this topic for readers' advisory). From what I have seen, most of the stuff is indeed terrible, and a lot of it deserves to be forgotten pretty much right after it comes out. Why publishers give politician book deals to pen (or most likely hire a ghost writer to do it for them) crappy books that will end up in recycling bins and landfills is beyond me.

Booknote: Coffin Hill, Volume 1

Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, Coffin Hill, Volume 1: Forest of the Night.  New York: Vertigo, 2014. ISBN: 9781401248871.

This series is the story of Eve Coffin. Eve is a daughter of the Coffin family in a small New England town. The Coffin women are witches who fled Salem and the witch hunts, eventually settling in their current town. Eve goes to Boston, seeking to leave her past behind. She becomes a city cop but gets wounded on duty, so she gets a medical retirement. She then returns to the town she left behind where years ago one of her friends went missing and another ended up in a mental ward. Some folks, including the local police chief, seek to blame here, but there is a darker power involved. Will Eve be able to solve the mystery? 

Right away I will say that this is a volume with some good art. For some readers, this may be a good reason to pick it up. This is a horror/mystery story, more mystery than full horror. Fans of witches' stories will probably enjoy this one. The Coffin witches are traditional witches; you can forget the ideas of modern pop urban fantasy here. This work is the story of witches confronting a dark power in a small town while concerned about staying below the radar so to speak. The narrative jumps back and forth a bit between the modern time and flashbacks. Eve is not always a sympathetic character; as a teen, she was working to steal her best friend's boyfriend for instance.

In the end, if you like some suspense, a little drama, and some supernatural tales with witches, this may be for you. This is more in line with works like Lovecraft and Poe. I did not score it higher because some of the family and soap opera elements are just not appealing to me, but the supernatural suspense was pretty good. In terms of appeal, readers of works like the Locke and Key series may enjoy this one. I liked it, but that is about as far as I go. Volume collects issues 1-7 of the Coffin Hill comics.

Giving it 3.5 out 5 stars.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Booknote: Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples

Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala, Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-84334-592-3.

I finished reading this, and I was not impressed. The core of the book is the list of activities for active learning. Let's start by looking at what the book claims to do:

"It is a practical resource to be dipped in and out when needed and aims to appeal to a wide readership within the profession, particularly where teaching is a key part of the role. This includes graduate trainees and also students of librarianship and/or information students" (3).

The book is organized into three chapters:

  • One: Outline of theory and practice of active learning. This is a basic overview for people who do not know what active learning is or folks who need a refresher. 
  • Two: The practical activities are here. The activities vary from low to high tech and from practical to not so practical. The activities under the section "mobile phones and other gadgets" may fall under not so practical. Just because more students carry cellphones, it does not follow they can do whatever active learning activity you think you can do with the latest "cool" mobile gizmo. Now one nice element of this chapter is that each activity lists potential pitfalls; it is a rarity in LIS literature to admit something may not end as planned. 
  • Three: Sample lesson plans, including a couple of templates for lesson plans. New folks may find this useful. 
There are some good practical things, including one or two items I jotted down to try out. There is also a good number of activities I have seen before, so experienced practitioners may not find much new here. Additionally, the book has a few activities reliant on clickers or other technology that may or not be available in all libraries. However, for beginner librarians and librarians with minimal to no teaching experience who are suddenly told they have to teach, this may be a useful book. I don't see this book as one every librarian needs to have. If you instruction unit has a small reference/consult shelf of books about teaching, I can see adding it for the new folks. It is mostly a book for beginners.

In addition, instructions for some of the activities were pretty minimal; at times, I had questions about how exactly to implement something. I also wished the author had added more examples of how to use something or in what type of lesson something would be applicable. That would have made this book much more practical.

Again, as with other LIS books, we see authors running the risk of appearing less than relevant when citing Web 2.0 in learning contexts. That is because of how fast it can change, how often companies go out of style or out of business, and how things can quickly go out of date. Examples from the book:
  • Bebo and MySpace as social networking examples are pretty much a joke at this point. Bebo now is some kind of app company, and MySpace is pretty much, to be honest, dead in the water. 
  • iGoogle is gone by now. It was taken down in 2013. 
  • Jaiku was bought out by Google and then promptly shut down by Google. 
I am not saying don't use Web 2.0 online tools and resources. My philosophy on that is to experiment, find what works for you, and dump what does not. But when it comes to this topic, you are often better off asking around, talking to practitioners in the field who are likely more up to date than checking an LIS book. 

In the end, it is a book that I would recommend for beginners with some reservations. Seasoned instruction librarians have probably seen much of this, so they are better off seeking for new ideas elsewhere.

It was an OK book, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

# # #

A quote from the book I wanted to remember:

"A lot of library instruction can be very tasked, but when we are teaching we should not only be interested in gaining an end result, we need to focus on the experience the learner will have. If this journey is one where interactivity and stimulation takes place, in an environment that encourages thinking, doing, discussing and reflecting then there is more likelihood that the information will be retained and there will be some sense of understanding of the process, and therefore the learner will be enabled to independently replicate what has been learnt" (11).

Our job is to empower our students to use that knowledge, help nurture it, so they can be self-reliant, active lifelong learners.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Booknote: Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell

Paul Dini, Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell. New York: DC Comics, 2014. ISBN 9781401210540.

This was a nice team-up tale. Black Canary was undercover to capture some thieves. In that time, she gets caught in a bloodspell that one of the gang puts on the other gang members. Canary thinks it is just a simple loyalty oath. Now as gang members begin to die, she seeks Zatanna's help. Can the mistress of magic overcome the supernatural foe who can possess anyone? In addition, the book gives us a glimpse of how Black Canary and Zatanna became friends. Overall, this was a nice and entertaining read. It was a light and quick story with colorful art and some light humor that blends in action. Basically, this is a popcorn quick read, and it is a stand alone story.

Public libraries may want to get it for their graphic novel collections. It's a title that can be read by teens and up. For academic libraries with recreational reading and/or graphic novel collections, this would be an optional title.

I liked it, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Booknote: It's Even Worse Than It Looks

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. New York: Basic Books, 2012.

ISBN: 9780465031337

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: U.S. Politics, U.S. Government

The book tries to call out things as they are, yet at times it does fall back into moments of false equivalency that both sides are to blame, i.e. falls into the thing they are denouncing at times. For me, a big failure of the book is their easy dismissal of third parties as an alternative to the current political mess, and it is a mess. I think their argument just adds to the self-fulfilling prophecy. The monopoly of the two main parties needs to be broken much as Teddy Roosevelt busted trusts and monopolies back in his day. To the authors,

". . .those advocating a third-party or independent presidential presidential candidate fail to offer any plausible scenario of how such a successful candidate should govern effectively, given the state of the parties in Congress and the supermajority hurdles in the Senate" (115). 

That sounds more like a lack of will, something seriously lacking in the United States at the moment. It is a fall back on the old canard of "since no one would choose such a candidate, why even bother?" The two major parties count on such thinking to preserve the status quo. At the end of the day, people may whine about poor choices, but they do fall in line like sheep to vote for the same two choices.  Comedian George Carlin nailed it well when he spoke of who the real owners (YouTube link) of the nation are.

At least the authors do give a set of solutions, some of which may seem pretty radical given the current mess to change things hopefully for the better. Again, implementing any of the solutions they argue for requires will and an educated electorate, two crucial elements that are not only lacking, but that the two major parties and their wealthy donors actively fight against. That is what we really need to counter. Otherwise, the authors' suggestions remain nothing more than a quixotic dream. Another strength in the book is that the authors overall do a good job to back up their claims. The book is pretty well documented throughout.

Overall, I think the book is worth a look, and I do think working for some of the reforms they present is a good start. But will people actually elect representatives who will do what it takes? I think it is an uphill battle, but if the future of the nation is to remain a democracy instead of a plutocracy, then the nation has to fight for it.

* * * * * 

Some additional notes I took as I was reading:

On people acting like sheep:

"The reality, alas, suggests otherwise. While sizeable majorities of survey respondents typically voice antiparty sentiments in response to pollsters' questions, roughly 90% of voters identify with or lean to one of the major parties. Most self-identified independents are closet partisans. Moreover, these voters view the political and policy worlds through their partisan lenses and loyally support their party's candidates at the polls" (113). 

The above also accounts for the sudden influx of Republicans who declared themselves as independents after G.W. Bush proved to be a failure as president and leader. Those folks were never really independent; they were just disgruntled Republicans who mostly stood by as their party was hijacked by very specific special interests. If they were actually independent, they could have sought an independent path. Enough independents, true independents, could add up to elect a third party or independent candidates to office, if they actually had the conviction. As they stand, the word independent does not apply to those people.

By the way, the current mess in Congress is not recent. It goes back to Newt Gingrich. You do have to give him some credit. He still has plenty of followers in spite of the damage he has done, and that is something that should scare any reasonable and compassionate person:

"He [Gingrich] crystallized the approach of crafting a cohesive, parliamentary-style minority party and using it as a battering ram to stymie and damage a president of the other party. By moving to pain with a broad brush his own institution as elitist, corrupt, and arrogant, he undermined basic public trust in Congress and government, reducing the institution's credibility over a long period" (42-43). 

Gingrich deserves a lot of blame, but those who enabled him have to be called out and held accountable as well. 

On the idea of mandatory voting (one of the solutions they suggest in addition to other measures). This would assume that the currently rampant wave of stupidity in this country were to pass:

"Mandatory voting comes with a price: a modest loss of freedom. But the revitalization of the rapidly vanishing center in American politics and the diminishment of the ideological base would more than balance the loss" (142). 

I say stupidity is rampant because you know every other libertarian and right winger will whine about their "government making them do" something, and "OMG, they are taking my freedom away." Heaven forbid there is a small requirement to actually participate in the governance of the nation they claim to be so patriotic about. And there is more. As I said in my review above, the book deserves a look.

Note: This one I borrowed from my library, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Booknote: Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World

Greg Pak,, Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World. New York: DC Comics, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-4012-4509-2.

The book's description bills it as how Batman and Superman became friends. This is sort of correct. In reality, the heroes from our world find themselves meeting their Earth 2 counterparts, who are younger, less experienced, and not quite friends. The heroes from our world are already good friends and allies. In the story then, they all need to work together to prevent a threat to both their worlds.

For me, I know Greg Pak from his work with Planet Hulk (link to my review), a volume that I enjoyed very much. So I was interested to see how he did writing for DC Comics. Pak provides a pretty fast paced tale as the heroes learn how to work together in order to figure out what really needs to get done. This is the first volume of the series, and it appears as having the potential to get better.

I did have a bit of an issue with some of the art. Though you can distinguish the heroes and counterparts, it is not always consistent. There were a couple of times I was not able to tell which character I was looking at. While I admired the overall craft in the art, some of the shadowy style did not fully work for me. As for the story, it moved at a good pace, but it seemed to wrap up a bit too neatly at the end. However, it did leave opening for more in the series.

Overall, it was a quick and entertaining story but not too deep. I liked it, but not really liked it, so I am willing to give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

With the upcoming Batman/Superman film coming out soon, this title may be of interest for public libraries with graphic novel collections. For academic libraries that may have graphic novel collections or recreational reading collections, I would consider this an optional acquisition: get it if patrons request it, but skip it otherwise.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Booknote: Drink More Whiskey!

Daniel Yaffe, Drink More Whiskey! Everything You Need to Know About Your New Favorite Drink. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4521-0974-9.

I enjoyed this book very much, and I learned a thing or two. For instance, though I knew about Japanese whiskey, Yaffe gives us a bit more to ponder as he discusses the fine traditions and attention to detail of the Japanese. He also mentions a brand or two to find and try out.

For someone wanting to learn more about whiskey in a casual and accessible style, this is a book for you. There are many books written about alcoholic spirits, but they are often written for hardcore aficionados and alcoholistas (yes, I am coining the term). I am nowhere near being a hardcore enthusiast. I do have some knowledge of wine passed down from my godfather. When it comes to whiskey, my learning journey is a recent one first sparked by a visit many years ago to a bourbon distillery while traveling back from an academic conference. Since then, I have visited a few more distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee, including the pilgrimage to Jack Daniel's. This book definitely came at a good time to help me learn more about whiskey.

Yaffe writes in a very nice conversational style. He is an expert who is not a snob about being an expert. You know the snob I am talking about: the one who rolls his eyes and feels it beneath him to explain the basics to a mere peon. Yaffe is definitely not that guy. He takes us around the world of whiskey, explaining what makes each whiskey unique, discussing terms, and he does it all with a bit of light humor here and there. He also maintains a friendly tone throughout the book. One definitely feels that one can go get a nice bottle and share it with friends without worrying about picky details.

The book is designed to give you a good start. If you've never had whiskey before, this book may inspire you to try a good brand or two out. If you've sampled it, it may inspire  you to go deeper. It may even inspire you to travel the world some day. But if you are like me, and travel overseas is not in the budget, this book brings a little bit of places like Ireland, Scotland, and Japan back home.

The book is organized into nine chapters that go over basics, regions of the world, and further terms (this is the "Geeking Out" chapter for folks who really want to know more). In addition, the book includes a cheat sheet of terms and a bibliography for further reading. There are also some drinking suggestions and cocktail recipes so you can try out whiskey on your own or with family and friends. For Yaffe, his travels and experience with whiskey "has been a ton of fun- just the way drinking whiskey should be" (8). This book is a good step to promoting the idea of fun (but also responsible) whiskey drinking and exploration. I borrowed the book from my local public library, but it is one I would love to add to my personal collection. By the way, I also enjoyed the illustrations by Mary Kate McDevitt that add a nice playfulness to the book.

Giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Booknote: Archer Coe

Dan Christensen, Archer Coe. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2014. ISBN:  9781620101216.

Archer Coe is a hypnotist, also known as The Mind's Arrow in a lounge act. He gets hired by a wealthy client to help hypnotize his wife and cure her of frigidity. However, that becomes the less of his concerns as people he knows start dying, and the cops see him as the prime suspect. Did he do it? What about those apparently buried memories of his coming back? And how the millionaire's wife claims to know him personally when he does not recall ever meeting her before? Is he losing his mind? And did I mention cats talk to him?

This is a pretty good noir mystery. The story reveals layers and layers of depth; it may seem a bit convoluted as it can be a bit difficult to keep track of some of the events and flashbacks. Did such and such really happen? However, I think that is all part of the mystery, a way to leave the reader wondering a bit, maybe unsettle the reader a bit as Archer is unsettled in the story. The volume offers some nice and simple art in black and white.

Overall, I am giving it four out of five stars.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Signs the Economy is Bad: June 13, 2014 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it. 

A bit of a lean week this week. Part of the reason is I was not as able to pin stories due to some mofo hackers messing with my preferred feed reader Feedly.  In the list of people who will be getting a very special room in hell are hacker assholes who make a living messing up everyone else's online lives. At any rate, the big theme this week was the resurgence of debtors' prisons in the United States. This is certainly not a new story; it is a topic I have covered here before. It is an issue that is bound to get worse before it gets better, and an illustration of things the government does that probably should not be privatized.

  • So, the pundits say things are getting better? Ha! As if. The catch about poverty and the bad economy is that many of us are one small disaster away from the poor house (or the poor streets if we go homeless). Here are "12 Devastating Testimonials From Americans Who Did Everything Right and Still Fell Into Economic Ruin." Because therein lies the rub: in the United States, you can do everything perfectly right.  You can follow all the rules, including the rules the uber rich skip or simply do not apply to them, and you can still be ruined. The game is very much rigged against the Average Joe and Jane. Story via AlterNet.
  • And as I mentioned, here is the story of the week. American private prisons are an industry that is definitely doing well in the bad economy.  You could say they are making out like thieves in the night. How do they do it? Well, one way is by jailing millions of immigrants and then exploiting them. Story via AlterNet. Another way? By jailing people due to fees the private criminal justice system creates. This is basically predatory exploitation. The people have paid their "debt to society," but then the courts create all sorts of fees, including charging people "room and board" for being imprisoned and in some cases even charging for the public defender. I don't know about you, but I thought "the right to an attorney" and having one appointed for you if you can't pay for one were a big deal. They are not supposed to send you that bill, that is part of the justice system (supposedly). Stephen Colbert, of all people, had one of his best commentaries exploring this topic in a recent segment (from The Colbert Report, video clip).
And we do have something for the uber rich this week. It seems that the terrible disease of affluenza is still running rampant, and it took a billionaire this time:

  • A judge pretty much gave a slap of the wrist to some billionaire child molester. According to the story (via Addicting Info), "SC Johnson, the “family” company’s billionaire heir, Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who confessed to repeatedly sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter has received an outrageous prison sentence of only four months because the judge, Circuit Justice Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, feels that Johnson’s importance to the community is valued much higher than the dignity of his abused step-daughter." Yes, they gave that asshole four months because he is "productive." There is indeed a different "justice" system if you are wealthy in the U.S. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Booknote: Wonton Soup

James Stokoe, Wonton Soup. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2007. ISBN:  9781932664607.

If you like Iron Chef (the original Japanese show, not the new American clone) and tales of truckers in space, this is the comic for you.  Johnny Boyo is a chef prodigy who could have had it all, but he walks away to become a space trucker with his pal Deacon. Together, Deacon and Boyo run cargo and deliveries all over space. Along the way, they try to stay safe from obstacles such as space ninjas. Trucking means seeing the galaxy, so Boyo gets to sample and learn a wide variety of new, strange, and exotic recipes. He thought his life was good, but then he gets called out for one final cooking duel.

The art on this comic is totally surreal. It has an intricate gonzo quality that draws you in, getting you to just look over every small detail. The stories are fun, and then there's the food. Boyo discovers and discusses all kinds of recipes and cooking techniques that are out of this world. Stokoe has quite the imagination with the many creative cuisines he depicts. That is a great reason to pick this volume up. The wonderful recipes make the book worth reading. All in all, the book is a really fun space trucker opera a cooking competition element blended in.

This volume collects two major stories: the story leading to the cooking competition, and a story that takes place afterwards where our truckers meet a civilization made out of clones. Personally, I found the first story to be better, more developed, and satisfying in terms of drama, humor, and tension. Still, this new volume is a good compilation overall.

I am giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Works with similar appeal that I have read:

 Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher. 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Booknote: Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources

Bemis, Michael F., Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources. Chicago: ALA, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1185-3. 

This is basically a very big annotated bibliography of sources in library science. Though there are some web sources and databases listed, the focus appears to be on books, followed by periodicals. If you have kept up in your area(s) of librarianship, then you have seen much of what is listed here. The value of the book then is in seeing lists in other areas. The book is valuable, for instance, to see what are the basics of cataloging if cataloging is not your area. Also, the book can serve as a double-checking collection development tool for LIS school libraries. I would anticipate that LIS schools and their libraries would be the primary places wanting this book. It's the kind of book they would want their students accessing.

From the author's introduction:

"I wrote this book for a simple reason: I needed a current annotated bibliography of library science but couldn't find one. My goals were twofold: to collect as much of the available information sources regarding various aspects of the profession as reasonably possible and to then organize them in a logical fashion" (xi). 

The book is organized by chapters; it has 39 topics from administration and management to writing and publishing. Some of the topics have more sources than others, but most of the chapters provide a basic core list to give you a sense of what you have to read, or at least be aware of, on a given topic. If you need to read more deeply on a topic, some of the selections should help with that. 

An issue I found comes in the listing of information technology materials. For books in this area, a common issue surfaces: information tech books tend to get dated pretty quickly. Some items in that chapter are already out-of-date. If you still mention MySpace as something part of "all the rage," you are woefully behind at this point.

I did take a closer look at Chapter 15: Information Literacy and Bibliographic Instruction, which represents my main specialty. It did have items I expected to see. A new librarian wanting to go into this area will find enough to get started.

As a research starter on a topic in librarianship, I'd say this will be useful for many, especially beginners and librarian in the field who may not have extensive access to LIS sources. For me, I'd keep it on my shelf to check on things now and then as part of keeping up or for my areas of interest. This is one I am suggesting for librarians to at least look over.

I really liked this one, in spite of some small issues, some I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

I did jot down some titles from the book's listings for later reading (the number included is the entry number in the book. Links, as usual unless otherwise noted, go to WorldCat.):

Friday, June 06, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: June 6, 2014

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it. 

Soldiers move onto Omaha Beach during the Allied Invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Welcome to the D-Day edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian While we celebrate the heroics and efforts of the great World War II generation (and they certainly deserve it), the war on poverty has pretty much ground to a halt with the bad economy and the robber baron exploitation of today. It's so bad even the Mafia is having a hard time of it, as we will see this week.

  • So, are you listening to pundits that tell you the economy is just fine? that the economy is getting better? So on, and yadda yadda? Well, it seems Americans are not quite buying into it given polls that reveal they are still worried about the economy. According to Gallup at the end of May 2014, "Americans' overall economic confidence is not showing signs of significant upward movement." A hat tip to TruthDig.
  • And there are reasons to worry, especially for the poor. Among other issues, they often have to pay more just to keep a roof over their heads. Story via Poor as Folk, highlighting article from The Wall Street Journal. How bad it is it? Actually, this hits almost everyone. According to the fine folks of the WSJ, "Housing and food expenses absorb more than half of low-income Americans’ annual spending. Even the wealthiest Americans devote a sizable share of their spending to keeping a roof over their heads and food in their refrigerators." 
  • OK, so you figure things are so bad, you may try to supplement your meager food and small items budget with a little dumpster diving. Well, for poor people, it turns out dumpster diving is not as easy as that. Not everyone can afford to dumpster dive. Don't believe me? Check this out, via Poor as Folk.
  • So, got caught by the cops dumpster diving? Maybe the judge was having a mellow day, and he just slaps you with some probation. You think are cool. Well, for some poor folk, think again. Modern debtor's prisons are a topic I have highlighted on the blog before (for example, here. And if you follow that link, you get some more examples). How is this possible? Well, it's the usual privatization drive by right wingers of things that really should not be privatized. In this case, courts are outsourcing probation supervision to for profit vulture companies that tack on all sorts of morally questionable fees to "supervise" someone on probation. That someone is then liable for those fees, and if for some reason they fail to pay, often unaware of the fees until it is too late, well, that someone ends up in prison. The practice seems specially popular in southern states. Story via Yes! magazine.
  • In other news, maybe you are single and interested in dating.  You have heard this newfangled Internet thing is awesome to help you find that special someone. Well, the catch is going the online route is not exactly affordable for many. Learn more about what you really fork out money on when it comes to online dating. Story via The Week.
  • As I write this, the big event this past week or so had been the shooting at UCSB. At the end of this week, we have yet another shooting, this time at Seattle Pacific University (story from USA Today). At the end of the day, something that these events reveal as well as the without fail whining the ammosexuals will do that "guns be fine," blame the problem on made up "issues" (like some assholes do), and "your dead kid don't trump ma' rights," (link from Right Wing Watch, but there are various links to that), is that someone is making money on this. Yes. Someone is making money on these shootings. Who might you ask? Why, the gun industry of course. Via AlterNet, read how they prey on the insecure and the paranoid to keep on selling guns at a time when most people are not buying guns. At least one industry is doing well in the bad economy. 
  • In other news out of Seattle, that city raised the minimum wage this past week to $15 an hour (link to Seattle Times). That sounds like a good start.  However, the fast food industry, in its quest to keep wages low and depressed because heaven forbid they charge a few pennies more for that burger or taco in order to pay a decent living wage, may be looking for options. One possibility? Robots. Via the humor site, Holy Taco (of all places), you can find link to the CNN story as well as additional links and humorous look at what other jobs may be replaced by robots soon. Heck, I may have to worry. If we leave things to certain twopointopian "cool" technolusty librarians, they'd be happy to give our jobs to robots if it meant they could just sit in their offices messing with Facebook and Instagram (on behalf of their libraries, of course) and leave it all to Google and whatever the trendy "discovery engine" du jour is. However, not happening if I have anything to say about it.
  • So, let's go overseas, where there are signs as well the economy is bad. In Italy, things are so bad even the Mafia is encouraging young people to seek a job other than being a mafioso. Yes, collections of protection money are low. You see, when the economy is bad, the businesses that get pinched for protection money can't pay, or can't pay as much, or they just completely go out of business Thus, protection money starts drying up. Being a protection money collector is a starting step often for young mafiosi. But if there is nothing to collect, then there are no jobs. So, how bad is it for the Mafia? According to this article from Bizmology, "Support for families of those in jail is now guaranteed only for senior mobsters. Junior gangsters are being exhorted to 'get a real job' instead of trying to eke out a dishonest living." Tough times indeed.

Booknote: Jet Set

William Stadiem, Jet Set: the People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years. New York: Random House, 2014. ISBN: 9780345536952.

I finished reading this, and I have to say I was disappointed. The subtitle gave so much promise: "the people, the planes, the glamour, and the romance in aviation's glory years." It even brought back to me memories of childhood flying in big spacious jets like L-1011's from Puerto Rico to the U.S. back when commercial flying was a pleasure. Back in the good days, Eastern Air Lines had a big hub in PR, so it was a popular way to take a trip to the States. The airline is gone, and so are those glory days of commercial aviation. Also, given recent shows like Pan-Am (the book does deal with the rise of Pan American Air Lines along with the rise of jet aviation for commercial flight) and to an extent Mad Men I figured this was a good book riding that wave of period pieces. It was not to be.

I wanted to like this book given the topic. What I found was a pretty boring and dry book. It pretty much reads like the society pages for the first few chapters. I am not sure if it is reflective of the fact that the author writes for Vanity Fair, but a lot of the book felt like reading celebrity gossip columns for much of the text: who married who, who was schlepping around with who, which woman married which European noble, so on. Aside from that, you do get some facts, but you also get a lot of name dropping. If you care about the high society and their early ventures as they fell in and out of love with each other, if you like social gossip, this may be the book for you. If you want something more than that, this is not the book to read.

This is one that I am giving 1 out of 5 stars as I did not find interesting nor engaging overall, which is a pity given that the topic itself does sound interesting. I am not recommending it for libraries neither unless a patron requests it. I am certainly not ordering it for my library.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Booknote: Canned!

Russ Phillips, Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2014. ISBN:  9780764345630.

This is definitely a book for folks who collect beer cans. It is a book to browse, and for me, it was a book that I really liked. Beer aficionados, especially folks who like microbrews and locally-crafted brands will enjoy this catalog of beer cans. History buffs will probably enjoy it as well.

The book features a foreword, written by Dale Katechis, owner and founder of Oskar Blues Brewery. Next, we get a short essay on the modern American beer can. Modern American in this context means the United States. We are also looking at microbrews and local state breweries. You are not going to see big megabrands like Budweiser or Miller in this book. After the foreword and opening essay, the book features a chapter with a brief history of American beer cans. Next, we get eleven chapters of beer cans and their art, organized by geographical regions. The book includes very nice photos of the cans; many of the cans are multiple views, say front and back views of cans or art layouts. Each can is highlighted with information boxes that include the following information:

  • brand name
  • company/brewery name
  • location
  • the artist's name who designed the label
  • the beer style (ale, pilsner, so on)
  • a paragraph with history and trivia
The book includes existing brands as well as brands that are no longer with us. If you enjoy trivia, this is certainly a book for you. It reveals not just the beer cans, but a very diverse presentation of classic Americana. The art in the cans reflects the diversity of the United States and its regions. It is art that puts the many styles and unique local elements of the nation on display. I had no idea beer can art could be so neat and diverse. Beer lovers will like this book.

Public libraries, especially ones in towns with one or more of the breweries featured in the book, may want to add this to their collections. If they also collect Americana, this would be a very good addition. I would also say that some academic libraries that collect American or have strong programs in art and advertising may consider adding this to their collections.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

 Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher.

Booknote: Red Sonja: Unchained

Peter V. Brett, Red Sonja: Unchained. Mount Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60690-453-4. 

This is another volume from the good folks at Dynamite Comics; it is a different author than the previous volume of Red Sonja I read recently. Peter V. Brett takes over writing duties here with art by Jack Jadson. While the story here is good, I liked Gail Simone's run better. I felt that Simone added a bit more depth to Sonja. However, Brett's run is a good fantasy epic with great elements: sword fights, demons, treasure, mages, and more.

This time Sonja is hired to rescue an innkeeper's son. The son was taken by a wizard who plans to use him as a sacrifice to a demon. Sonja kills the demon, or rather kills its earthly avatar banishing it from the world and rescues the boy. It sounds easy enough, but nothing is ever easy for Red Sonja. Soon, she faces a murder charge, a curse, and she has to face an ancient warrior  queen's spirit.

The volume features great action and adventure that fans of sword and sorcery will enjoy. It was a fast paced read with very good colorful art. It was certainly fun to read. This volume features the "Blue One-Shot" and issues 1-4 of the Red Sonja: Unchained series. It also features a cover gallery with art by Walter Geovani and Mel Rubi.

This was one I really liked, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Public libraries will want to acquire this one, especially if they already have other fantasy titles. I'd say academic libraries with recreational reading collections that include graphic novels may want to consider it as well. It is a title I would order for our library. For those of you who track ratings, this one is rated "T" for teens and up.

Disclosure: The mandatory stuff I have to type to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. You know, so The Man is satisfied everything is kosher.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Booknote: Green Arrow, Volume 4: The Kill Machine

Jeff Lemire. Green Arrow, Volume 4: The Kill Machine. New York: DC Comics, 2014. ISBN: 9781401246907.

This is part of DC's The New 52 series, and for those who keep track, it contains Green Arrow 17-24 and 23.1. You do get quite a bit of story in this compilation. It is written by Jeff Lemire with Andrea Sorrentino doing the art.

In this series, Oliver Queen, a.k.a. as Green Arrow, is cast as a young man. As our series opens, he has lost his fortune and inheritance. As if that was not bad enough, a mysterious and formidable archer wants to kill Oliver, and Oliver has no idea why. It gets deeper from there. It turns that this mysterious archer, known as Komodo, knows Oliver's secrets, which he uses to rob Oliver of his company and wealth. But this is just the start as Oliver discovers that his deceased father kept a lot of secrets, secrets that Oliver now needs to unravel to make things right.

Lemire weaves a fast paced and complex story that takes us back to the beginning of Green Arrow. It begins right in the middle of things, and then it keeps going. This story packs a lot, which can be a plus or a minus. For me, at times, it felt like the author was trying to pack it all. Komodo, the Outsiders, Magus, and Count Vertigo are a lot of villain for one volume. The Count Vertigo arc of this story seemed a bit tacked on. The overall story could have moved along without that just fine. It felt a bit like some filler to make the story and volume go further.

In terms of appeal, if you like the television show Arrow, you will probably like this. If you have read the Batman and the Court of Owls series, and you want something with a bit of a similar feel, this might do the trick, though the Batman story is much better (here is my review of those if interested).

In the end, I did like it, but I did not really like it, so it gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note is where I tell you that I read this as an electronic e-book review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I got in exchange for an honest review, and there has been no compensation. There, we have kept The Man appeased once more.