Friday, February 28, 2014

Booknote: Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars, Vol. 1

Mark Rahner, Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars, Vol. 1. Mount Laurel: Dynamite Entertainment, 2014. ISBN: 9781606904732

Written by Mark Rahner and illustrated by Lui Antonio, this is a story based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. You may know Rice Burroughs from Tarzan or from his John Carter of Mars series. This book falls in the latter milieu. In this story, John Carter is together with princes Dejah Thoris of the kingdom of Helium. There is a fragile and uneasy peace in place between Helium and Thark. When the princess is kidnapped by the Tharks, will it be war all over again?

The story was OK to me. Dejah is kidnapped by an old nemesis, Voros, who is catering to some Tharks' old taste: the taste of Helium women's flesh. It is a nightmarish situation. It is also a story that is a bit rushed at times. It does maintain a bit of the pulp feeling that the works of Rice Burroughs had.

The best part of this comic, and probably the real reason to pick it up is the art. Antonio can sure draw some very hot females and bring to life the pulp adventure feel of the story. Visually, this comic is very good. In addition, the collection features a risqué cover gallery with works by Antonio and other artists. 

Overall, I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars. I did like it, but it was mainly due to the art. The story is entertaining, but after a steady start, it simply rushes on and seems a bit too easy. I will note this is part of a series, and I do like it enough that I would seek out the rest of the series. Fans of pulp fiction in the old school of Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and similar writers will probably like this. For libraries, I would consider this very optional. Get it if patrons ask for it, but otherwise, optional.

Disclosure note: This is where I get to tell you that I read this as an e-book review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated otherwise. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

Signs the Economy is Bad: February 28, 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.  

1936 Soup Kitchen, Great Depression

A theme this week is hidden stuff. Whether the government "hides" the poor or actions have unintended consequences and create poverty, the poor are still there and the economy is still bad. A lot of bad things can happen that lead to the poor house that many people do not think about or that even occur to them. Let's have a look.

  • According to a new study by economists at Ohio State University, "household wealth is still down 14 percent since [the] recession." Apparently things are not as peachy as the Fed would have us believe. If you are middle aged, and you are not wealthy, odds are good things are not good for you. According to the article, "those who suffered the most were people aged 35 to 54, Olsen [one of the study's authors] said. In 2012, they were 27 percent below their peak net worth recorded in 2006." Story via Chattah Box
  • You know what else can keep people poor and no one really thinks about it? Incarceration and the criminal justice system. It is not just that someone may have a prison record, and then they find it hard to get a job once they get out of prison because no one wants to hire them (though that is still a problem). There are other ways in which the criminal justice system in the U.S. helps keep people poor and thus keep the economy bad. Here is an example of an issue: "the widespread suspension of driver’s licenses for various offenses unrelated to driving." If you can't drive, very often you can't get to work. You can't get to work, you don't get paid, and you end up unemployed, and then the horror spirals down from there. In fact, as the article notes, " you don’t have to be jailed or even convicted to get pulled into poverty’s revolving door." Another example: in at least 43 states, you can get your license suspended for not paying child support. Now I understand that not paying child support should be punishable somehow. But denying the non-paying party of the resource they need to make an income in order to pay that child support makes no sense whatsoever. Just what the fuck do you expect the person to do to make money if they cannot work? And how do you expect the parent waiting on that child support payment to get anything if the person owing cannot work because you (the state) took their driver's license away to "make a point"? It's government stupidity and vindictiveness at its finest. Story via
  • Meanwhile, the federal government has not really updated their formulas that measure and define poverty in a while. The federal government still uses an old pretty much obsolete formula from the 1960s based on a trip to the grocery store. However, "cities, states, advocates and academics have known for years that this measure of who is poor undercounts millions of Americans. They know that the 1960s-based formula ignores modern living costs, such as today's cheaper food but higher housing and other expenses." The result of the slow failure of the government to update is that a lot of people get under-counted in poverty statistics. You have less people to count as poor, hey, the economy gets "better" and things look good, right? It's outdated bullshit, and it is time the government gets with the program. This is also why, as an instruction librarian, I teach my students to be thorough and look at various sources, evaluate them, and then come to conclusions. Story via AlterNet
  • In the meantime, according to Gallup polling, in the United States, 14% of those aged 24 to 34 are living with parents. I wonder why that is. Well, according to the report, "potential roadblocks on the path to independence that may force young adults to live with their parents longer, including a weak job market, the high cost of living, significant college debt, and helping care for an elderly or disabled parent." We have discussed on this blog before about the crucial role that the crushing college debt, today's form of indentured servitude, has on college graduates and their economic prospects. 

 But not all is bad. For some folk, the uber rich, well, let the good times roll:

  • Walmart is doing just fine. Sure, they don't pay their workers a decent, living wage, but the Waltons and their behemoth oppressive corporation is doing just fine. Why, recent revelations show that Walmart was the recipient of government largesse to the rhythm of $150 million in government subsidies. Here is a radical idea: instead of taxpayers, that would be us, paying Walmart employees, maybe Walmart should be paying its own employees and do so with a decent, living wage. The article includes a link to a study by the nonpartisan watchdog Good Jobs First that highlights not only Walmart, but other big corporations that love to get free money from the government. Now those corporations playing fair, providing good jobs, and paying their fair share for the goods and services they receive from the government and communities? Not so much. Story via TruthDig
  • Another industry that is doing well? The gun industry. It seems that hating President Obama is a stimulant for the gun industry. In fact, the gun manufacturers have had records in gun production as a result of the Right Wing gun fondlers demonizing the president.  But do not take my word for it. According to the article: "'Barack Obama is the stimulus package for the firearms industry,' said Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Mag, a print and online publication of the 2nd Amendment Foundation, a gun-ownership rights group."I guess on the positive, the factory workers at Smith & Wesson and other gun makers have a little more job security. Keep in mind this does not necessarily mean that more people are buying and owning more guns. Further from the article: “'We see the percentage of households owning guns declining,' he [Brian Malte, senior policy director of the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence] said, 'and that indicates that those who already own guns are buying more of them.'” So, not everyone in your neighborhood will have a gun. Now, that one guy, you know the one. He has been buying a few more to add to his stockpile, making up for those of us not buying. Story via Bloomberg News.
  • And yet another business doing well: beard implants. Yea, it seems hipsters, including some hipster librarians, like to have their beard patches and goatees, but some of them are just not man enough to grow a beard. Before, we would point and laugh at their pathetic attempts to grow some fuzz. We can still laugh and point, but they don't have to suffer for long anymore. Now these follicle-challenged fellows can just go get some beard implants.  According to the piece, "facial hair transplants are hot right now among young, stylish men, who pay up to $7,000 to enhance their visible manhood." Story via New York Magazine.
  • Some governments are also doing well. For instance, the state of Colorado is doing very well. They recently legalized marijuana in that state, you know, to get more tax revenue, bring some money in. Well, turns out they are bringing a lot more tax revenue than they expect. Let's all sing, "happy days are here again. . . . " Story via Business Insider.
And finally this week, let me give you something a bit uplifting in spite of the bad economy and the poverty:

  • Via the blog Poor as Folk, a great resource on poverty topics as well as tips for those who have to live with low means (hey, even applicable to those of us not on the street), a small piece of using the library to meet your entertainment needs. I like the idea of library loot; I may start doing it in this blog once in a while as well given I do use my public library regularly. What? You really thought I buy all that stuff I read? This one is worth reading.  And when you are done, why not take a stroll over to your local public library? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Booknote: Let Me Tell You About The Wine

Clarke, Oz, Let Me Tell You About the Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Wine. London: Pavilion, 2013. ISBN:  9781862058651. (Link to publisher page. Pavilion is part of Anova Group).

This book is an extensive and accessible guide that covers just about any detail you would want to know about wine. It is written in simple language; any specialized vocabulary is easily explained. A strength of the book lies in its conversational tone. It really does feel as if Mr. Clarke is just having a casual conversation with readers about wine, wine culture, and how to best enjoy it. Clarke takes you through the world of wine: flavors, grapes, varieties, terms, how to drink and choose wines, food and wine pairings, and more.

The book is organized as follows:

  • Part One: The Flavours of Wine. The author discusses grape varieties and how they make different wines distinctive. 
  • Part Two: Enjoying Wine. How to buy, store, taste, and drink wine at home or dining out. For me, this was a useful section, one to refer to again. There is also a small discussion on the health benefits of wine. 
  • Part Three: This section covers the World of Wine. The author goes over wine regions around the world. He strives to be a bit comprehensive, but some regions get better coverage than others. For instance, I felt the U.S. was a bit light outside of the usual California highlight. I say this because I have sample wines in various Midwestern States as well as Texas, and these areas are barely acknowledged. This may be reflective of a more European bias/focus in the work. However, you do also get some mentions of other wine-producing countries rarely mentioned anywhere else. 
Overall, this is a very good book. Wine enthusiasts will likely enjoy it and may want to add it to their wine book collections. Personally, as an amateur or casual wine drinker, I feel this is a good book for me. Clarke write, "just a little knowledge will double the pleasure you get from a glass of wine and will give you the key to choosing wines you like" (8). Clarke gives you lots of little pieces of knowledge to help readers learn and appreciate wine. I liked that even though there may be a lot of details, this book is never overwhelming. You can read bits and pieces and try the advice and suggestions at your pace. Pick what you like, skip what you don't because at the end of the day the wine experience is yours to taste.

I really liked this book, so I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars. Though I read it as an e-galley via NetGalley (there is your disclosure note to keep The Man happy), this is one that I would add to my shelf. And yes, I would prefer the book in print. By the way, the book also features some very nice photos throughout.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Booknote: The Walking Dead, Book 9 (Hardcover)

Kirkman, Robert, The Walking Dead, Book 9 (Hardcover). Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2013.  ISBN: 978-1-60706-798-6.

It has been a while since I read this series, but I was able to catch up easily from Book 8 (link to that review). This volume covers issues 97-108 of the comics series. Rick and his group are in the gated community we left them at last time. Negan's gang is still out there as a threat, and as the story cycle opens, it reminds us that the greatest threat is not so much the walkers as it is evil men let loose in a chaotic world. Now that I think about it, this is starting to become formulaic for Kirkman. We had the Governor, now we have Negan. It seems to be shaping into a pattern of one bad guy tinpot dictator after another. As I have noted before, the comic does contain a lot of soap opera drama, which I honestly do not care for, although there is a bit less of that in this arc in comparison to the previous volume. At this point, I am pretty much reading the series out of some obligation to keep up with it; I am not terribly enthusiastic about it. One thing does remain constant in Kirkman's world: no one is ever safe, and we get another death of someone who many will see as a key character.

Another small annoyance emerging in the work is in the boneheaded things the survivors do, like Rick heading out of the community towards Hilltop not quite knowing where is going. In typical macho fashion, he does not admit right away he is in essence lost, which leads to the group he is with getting caught by Negan. A pattern of making less than bright decisions seems to be emerging. You'd think by now seasoned survivors that they are supposed to exercise a bit more caution and common sense. I am not saying every decision has to be perfect, but one has to wonder at times. Rick does manage to get out of that jam (barely). Did Negan make the bigger mistake to let him go? You will have to read and find out. And there are other bad decisions, but again, I will leave you to read the series.

The pace does pick up in this arc, and there are some unexpected surprises to keep things moving and keep readers coming back. Definitely a bit better than the last installment. The volume starts slow, but it then picks up the pace. The art remains solid and gritty as always.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars as I ended up really liking it given some of the suspense that Kirkman builds up this time. Yet I do remain skeptical on how long the author can keep up this pace. I will probably pick up Book 10 when it becomes available, but I don't feel a big urgency about it. For me, this, as the series overall, is a book to borrow rather than buy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: February 21, 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.  

I did have to do quite a bit of scouring this week. It is kind of nice that it has been a bit quiet on this front. On the other hand, we do have some stuff about the uber rich, so let's have a look.

  • I did not find too many items this week, but it does not mean the poor just vanished for a week. If anything, the poor in this country basically keep getting a bad punch after another bad punch. As Jenn writes, "You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story – humans deserve compassion." Or as that wise preacher once told me, "There but for [insert your deity of choice], go I." Post via Crooks and Liars, and it is one worth reading.
  • Meanwhile, the problem of income inequality continues as revealed by a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The researchers state that “our study shows that this one percent economy is not just a national story but is evident in every state, and every region.” So when some talking head pundit in the news says that things are peachy, you feel free to check out this report. The evidence is there. The economy is bad, and people are suffering. You can get some highlights in this story from Common Dreams.
However, not everybody has it bad. The one-percenters are clearly doing just fine, even if it is at the expense of the rest of us.

  • In New Jersey, some Catholic schools have to close because things are bad; money is tight. Well, the money is tight for some people. For the Archbishop of Newark, happy days are here as the diocese let's the good times roll by building him a palatial home. It's not just Christian prosperity gospel preachers who are raking in big bucks and benefits. Roman Catholic higher ups can rake in the money and benefits just as well from the suckers worshipers willing to turn over their incomes give in the collection plate for them. Story via The New York Times. A hat tip to Boing Boing
  • Now, when you are rich, you certainly flaunt it. We get, for instance, "rich people willing to pay $60 for a pound of coffee , just to remind themselves how rich they are." You know those little "cute" K-cups? The cost is about $60 a pound so you can get the "convenience" of having a single serving of coffee. There is even one asshat consumer, according to the story, who owns two of them, one for each of his homes. Story via The Stranger. Actually, this reminds me of a certain other kitchen appliance pretentious snobs were known to buy (link to YouTube video).

Booknote: Andre the Giant

 Box Brown, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. New York: First Second, 2014. ISBN: 9781596438514. (link to publisher page. Book due out May 2014).

Box Brown's Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is a graphic novel biography that is sure to please wrestling fans. However, you do not have to be a wrestling fan in order to enjoy this book. It is a bittersweet biography that pulls no punches; we get to see a good man who did have his flaws. Box Brown truly humanizes the Giant in this interesting and moving work.

For readers who may not know a lot about the world of professional wrestling, the author provides a nice introduction that goes over the nature of professional wrestling. He also briefly discusses how he created the comic including explaining how he used some artistic license at times to bring us the life of Andre. As he writes, "creating this book was a scholarly pursuit" (7). He draws on various books, interviews, and other sources to weave the story. For readers interested in learning more, the book also includes a list of sources. I can that this biography is so interesting I may seek out some of the books listed and do some further reading.

The art in this graphic novel is simple black and white, minimal, that feels a bit playful yet also gives dignity to the story. Andre was a gentle and good hearted man who suffered much from the cruelty of the world as well as the pain of his condition, acromegaly. I felt his constant drinking off stage was tragic, but in the context of his constant pain, I can certainly sympathize as he was able to cope and function given a condition that would cripple him. In the end, despite his flaws and pain, he rose to be a great wrestler, entertainer, actor, and hero to many, many people around the world. He was a giant indeed.

Brown does an excellent job in showing us Andre's life in an easy to read way. Readers who enjoy wrestling biographies owe it to themselves to read this book. In addition, graphic novel readers and biography readers in general will enjoy this as well. It has a good narrative with a moving and at times heartwarming story plus some humor as well. This is a book I am happy to recommend to others. Though I read it via NetGalley as an e-book review copy (hey, this covers the disclosure that keeps The Man happy), this is one I would definitely add to my personal collection when it gets published.

This is the first substantial biography of Andre the Giant, so it is bound to be a popular book. Also, look for a small cameo by a famous literary figure. Public libraries will want to add this to their collections, either for biographies or graphic novels. This is one I would happily buy for my academic library, so I am recommending it for other academic libraries that have pop culture and/or recreational reading collections.

A definite 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Booknote: Not Your Ordinary Librarian

White, Ashanti, Not Your Ordinary Librarian: Debunking the Popular Perceptions of Librarians. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2012. ISBN: 9781843346708.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library science, popular culture. 

My review:

The book is organized as follows:
  • An introduction that sets up the context and tells you how the book is organized. 
  • Chapter 1 outlines origins of the library profession. Highlights Belle da Costa, J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, as a contrast of the "stereotypical" librarian. 
  • Chapter 2 looks at the librarian in popular culture with special attention to the films The Mummy and The Librarian (this one is a series, three movies so far). Argument made that these films challenge yet embrace the stereotypes. Personally I do not think they challenge that much, but that is the argument the author makes. 
  • Chapter 3 looks at librarians in children's and adult programming. 
  • Chapter 4 looks at images of librarians in juvenile and adult books. 
  • Chapter 5 argues why librarians need to be concerned with image. The author draws on personal experience to argue that some of the perceptions out there can cause harm to the profession. 
  • Chapter 6 looks at library anxiety and recruitment efforts in the profession with attention to how the perceptions affect those elements.
  • The author's conclusion. 
  • A set of appendixes listing films with librarians in some way (whether in main or minor roles, that they mention librarians, and in foreign films). There is also one appendix on "good" librarian websites chosen by the author. 
  • A bibliography. 

Overall, I was not impressed with this book. It was basically an OK book. There is nothing here terribly new or revolutionary. In fact, the book often felt like I was reading a series of blog posts, especially in the material other than the pop culture depictions; in other words, much of that I have already seen in either blogs or in some online forums where librarians gather to kvetch about the librarian image. However, the book is a nice, adequate summary of the status of the librarian image in popular culture blended with some personal experiences of the author and a few suggestions. The book is a nice one-volume stop for learning about librarian depictions in the media and in culture. In the end, we seem to be trading one stereotype for another. This leaves open the question whether that is a good thing or not. This is a book to borrow, not buy. Only folks I think may want to buy it are library schools with comprehensive LIS collections, and I make that suggestion with reservations, or maybe a library that collects material in popular culture.

It is getting 2 out of 5 stars for me.

(The review portion ends here. Below are notes I made as I read the book. Read on if interested)

Some of my reading notes from the book:

White points out that she gets the common "you don't look like a librarian" statements and questions. She goes on to state:

"Admittedly, I did have a unique look that is typically unexpected of one in the library profession. The brightly colored, frequently changing hair, the blatant tattoos, and eccentric clothing often confound people who expected more inhibited attire and less self-expression" (2). 

I might have been a bit more sympathetic a few years ago, maybe a decade ago. But given the amount of articles about hipster librarians, tattooed/inked/pierced librarians, librarians who may be seen/perceived as eccentric in some way, I think we are past seeing those things as unexpected. Even before I read further, I am willing to suggest that, in some areas of librarianship or some locations, her look and that of those like her may well be expected. I dare to ask if we (society, the profession, so on) are actually moving towards a new stereotype. It turns out the author will go on to argue just that, to an extent.

At one point, I had to simply ask as a reader if the author is really a freak of nature for doing her job and giving good customer service. She mentions this in the same context of being an "unexpected librarian." Really?

"Rarely was I sitting behind a desk; I was more than willing to cease my current task to locate items for which the patrons were searching. . .  I passed our customers with a 'hello;' I asked if they needed help finding anything" (2). 

So, is the author saying that sitting behind the desk being surly is the common expectation for librarians? I am sure a good number of librarians. quiet ones as well as those more vocal and expressive would beg to differ. I would beg to differ because a lot of my job is away from a desk working with patrons. I may not be some hot shot librarian or an author, but I do know the basics of common courtesy and human decency. So, the author distinguishes herself because she does her job as it should be done? I am two pages into the book, and I am not impressed, wondering who exactly this book is for. Really to dispel "stereotypes"? Preaching the choir, or rather a section of the choir? We shall see. Now, she may have a point on cultural minorities; valid, but that other stuff about doing the job sort of diminishes the good a bit. In the end, a vibe I am getting is she is a young, hip librarian versus the dowdy deadwood that hates teens. OK, got it.

Early librarianship did not really have stereotypes, argues White:

"Stereotypes, save for intelligence, were not assigned to early librarians. It was not until the establishment of libraries in the United States that current librarian stereotypes began to take shape" (12). 

Historically, librarian/archivists (often one and the same) were male, often priests, scribes, and government functionaries. So what happened when librarians started in the United States? Is the image obsession a "U.S. thing"? Well, in the U.S., women were not excluded fro librarianship as they were in other professions. Given this, women could be (and even today in general are) paid less than men. This is not right, but, as the author points out for instance, during the Great Depression that salary differential did mean many libraries could stay open. In addition, librarianship did capitalize on the image of women as nurturing, an image that pretty much is alive in many places today. Today, the job overall does not pay very well, regardless of your gender (though women likely still get paid less overall). As for librarian respectability today, when compared to the "old days," mileage varies greatly on that.

On the connection between librarians and cats: "cats were deemed to be the paranormal servants of witches. . . " (24). So, the parallel runs: librarian--spinster-- cat lady.

J.P. Morgan's personal librarian was one that did defy stereotypes. I made a note to look up the biography the author cites, which I am jotting down here as well:

Ardizzone, Heidi (2007), An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene's Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. New York: W.W. Norton.

Again, on the smiling. Do people really need to be told this in this profession?On the same page with the smiling reminder, was this quote:

"Librarians want to be recognized as engaging, helpful personalities, for the information they collect and share, and for the policies implemented to ensure that current and potential customers receive the best resources and services" (169). 

I can agree with that statement. Notice that there is not a word about image or looks in that statement. In other words, we should be known for our work that is well done. Pure and simple.

The author does come around to saying what I anticipated, that we have traded one stereotype (the old maid, the policeman librarian) for another (the hero and/or the parody librarian). Not sure that is much to celebrate.  In that same section, White writes about how librarians are embracing technology more:

"Librarians are posting YouTube videos and Twitter images;  they are creating Facebook pages and blogs that show their individual interests and talents. Most importantly, librarians are taking their service outside of the library. A number of websites allow 'customers' to connect with librarians who can assist them with locating the information that they need. These new-age librarians are defying the stereotype (or explaining it) so the public better understands who we are" (179). 

I definitely agree that technology has been revolutionary for our profession, and that many librarians are embracing it (even if some have to be dragged to do so). You are reading this on a blog, so you can tell I have created a blog. Now to say that librarians are taking their service outside as if it was now and new, not quite. I am sure librarians who before technology have had bookmobiles, outreach to their local schools and prisons, to the home bound, so on would probably have something taking the library service outside of the library, and doing long before new technologies came around. In other words, the "new-age" librarians did not just "invent" taking service outside of the library. They may have expanded on it, found new ways to do it, but they did not just out of the blue come up with it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Signs the Economy is Bad: February 14, 2014 (Valentine's Day) 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.  

Welcome to the 2014 Valentine's Day edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. What? You thought it would all be love and roses because of today? Bad shit does not stop just because some couples are getting all lovey-dovey today on this Hallmark holiday.

  • It turns the bad economy can be bad for your love life. For one, finding love is not as casual and random as it used to be. Less Americans are willing to marry outside their income bracket. So unless you are a hot gal doing a little gold digging, and the old rich man is willing to have his gold dug, odds are good you are not going to be able to marry up (and I am willing to bet you are not going to want to marry down, if at all). As for guys, you are toast (in terms of mate selection) dudes if you are not making good money. Cynical? Probably, but such is life more often than not. On a serious note, according to the article, the rich marry rich, the poor marry poor, and this means a widening of income inequality, which we already know is a big problem in the United States. There is more, but you will have to read the story. The article comes via AlterNet.
  • Part of the reason that the bad economy can ruin your love life is that there is a war on the poor and the middle class. It is a lot harder to make an honest living and remain middle class when the rich plutocrats and politicians they buy make it impossible for the working man and woman to get an even break. And if you are worried over money and scraping a living, maybe looking for a mate is not going to be a priority. And if you are married, and you are both harried trying to scrape out that living, odds are good the love life takes a back seat. You are not going to be thinking about getting laid when you both work like government mules. Robert Reich explains it here, and he does so in only two minutes and 15 seconds or so. Link to short article and video from TruthDig. The video is certainly worth watching as he tells it as it is. The video should be mandatory watching to everyone who votes.
  • Now, are the poor the only ones in a bind? Actually, many falling in a bind are those who used to have good jobs and positions, and they are not part of the "used to haves." These are people who pretty much have never been poor, and they get to learn the hard way to be poor (yes, being poor does entail certain knowledge and even skill sets). Piece via The Huffington Post
  • By the way, care to guess who is the largest group getting food stamps? The working poor. Story via Addicting Info.  By the way, the working poor does include people with college educations.
  • We have spoken before on this blog about the fact that debtor's prisons are alive and well in the United States (see here and here for example). The newer racket now is that if you get sentenced to probation, your probation is supervised by some for-profit vulture that the courts outsourced to that basically exploits people for money. Hundreds of thousands of people with minor misdemeanors put on probation are shuffled off onto private supervision companies that charge all sorts of fees for the probation to the people on probation. Of course, for the Right Wingers who support this, this kind of cruel vindictive penalty is fin; after all, their corporate buddies are making money. And when the people on probation cannot pay, these companies secure their arrests to get them back in jail. I wonder what the odds are that the jail is a private operation too? According to the piece linked, from Human Rights Watch, "in many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services." It's exploitation pure and simple. The HRW article highlights a full report; the link to the full report is included in the site.
  • College students and graduates keep facing poor prospects. According to a recent PEW study, "young people with college degrees have not been big winners in the economy over the last quarter century." Story via Center for Economic Research and Policy. 
  • Now before you graduate, you do have to get that education and go to college. College can be expensive as hell. One big cost? Textbooks, which have gotten so bad that "rising prices continue to hinder students who, in the worst scenarios, are turning down classes because the materials are too expensive." Story via Inside Higher Ed, which highlights (and links to) a report on the topic by the United States Public Interest Research Group. Now, the article does point out that the publishing industry disputes the findings (I can't imagine why), and it includes links to their view. However, as much as the publishers whine and try to spin their racket, you can't argue with something like the nonpartisan General Accountability Office (GAO). "According to a June 2013 Government Accountability Office report, textbook prices rose 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, at three times the rate of inflation." Publishers can make all the claims about more students who rent books, so on, but in the end, they have been jacking up prices pure and simple. 
  • And do we really need to talk yet again about how bad food service waiters are underpaid in the United States? Old story, but yes, we do need to keep talking about it because it is not right their employers can get away with the exploitation wages they do now, not to mention the ways managers often cheat their waiters of what little they make in tips. . As for you person that eats out, either tip well or stay home if you can't or won't tip. Better yet, raise your voices and be willing to pay a bit more if need be so your waiter can actually buy a gallon of milk for his or her family. Story via AlterNet
  • And speaking of taking the family out, want to go to the 9/11 Museum? Story via Esquire. It will cost you more as they quietly raised their fees. You are not paying for art or something like a zoo. You are paying for "to grieve and learn about the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Ground Zero is already a dark tourism site. Now someone's just making a buck off that fact." 
  • Now, come on, it can't be that bad, right? The problem in America is that too many of the 99% whine too much. This is according to the asshat CEO of Nicole Miller, some fancy pants luxury brand "that sells $800 sequined dresses and $250 clutches." He made his odious, clearly out of touch remarks on CNBC, the "wealthy people talking to each other channel," where they naturally were more than happy to defend his stupidity. Must be nice to be rich enough to get away with saying stupid shit that simply proves your lack of humanity.

Booknote: Helheim, Vol. 1

Cullen Bunn,, Helheim, Volume 1:  The Witch War. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2014. ISBN: 1-62010-014-2. (link to publisher website)

This is another volume published by Oni Press, and I really liked it. Vikings and dark magic combine in this story of a viking warrior, Rikard, who is seduced by a witch, Bera. Bera uses her powers to rise the dead, take their parts and use them to build giant warriors to serve her, known as Draugr's. Bera is in a feud with another witch; that other witch has the power to summon demons. Their feud has devastated the land. When Rikard dies in battle, Bera brings him back as a Draugr so he can go hunt and kill her rival. However, Rikard is angry, and he may have an idea or two of his own.

This quick read collects the first six issues of this series. The series is by Cullen Bunn, author of Oni Press' series The Sixth Gun; I recently reviewed the volume The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun (link to review). Fans of that series will probably enjoy this one as well.  I can say that this is an author that I will keep an eye out for now. The story draws you in right away into the feud. There is no need for a lot of exposition; once you start reading, you get into it. It is a gory horror tale of viking warriors and undead creatures and demonic beings. The art by Joëlle Jones is gritty and gruesome with good use of two-page panels on the battle scenes. I will add as a small side note that the layout may not look as good on an e-reader (can't fit them as well on the screen), but I am sure the two-page panels look great in print. And then, there is the ending. All I will say is that horror readers may find it rewarding. Keep in mind, this is volume 1, so I am looking forward to the next one. Overall, this was a good and entertaining tale.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars as it was a title that I really liked. It is a title that public libraries with graphic novel and comics collections will want to get. It is due out for publication in March 2014.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. The idea was for me to provide a fair and honest review. There has been no compensation. There, we keep The Man appeased once more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Booknote: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Sylvain Cordurie, Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2014. ISBN: 9781616552664

Genre: Graphic Novels
Subgenre: detective, vampires

Like vampires? Like Sherlock Holmes? Then this book may be just what the doctor ordered. It is widely known that Sherlock Holmes faced his nemesis Dr. Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. The world thought they both fell to their deaths. As we know, Holmes survived, and he had hoped to take some time now that the world thought him dead to do a few things. Unfortunately, when it is revealed that there is a major presence of vampires in London, the great detective must return to London once more. This adventure promises to be a challenge for the great detective because the vampires may hold influence all the way up to the throne of Queen Victoria. Will he be able to prevail?

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will likely enjoy this volume that collects two volumes of the series originally created by French publisher Soleil. The book offers intrigue, adventure, politics, and action. The art brings the Victorian era to life, although there were a few places where it was a little fuzzy. I am not sure if it was due to reading it as an e-book or because of the art itself, but I did have to look closely at times to make details out. A little more definition would be desirable. Holmes will have to use all of his wits and knowledge to succeed this time. Fans may also find this volume interesting as the adventure is told from Holmes' own point of view. After all, the world thinks Holmes is dead, and that includes Dr. Watson. Holmes is the one writing down the adventure this time and narrating it for us. For me, it was a quick and entertaining read that I do recommend.

Overall, I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars as it is one that I really liked, mostly for the story. The book is out for release in February 2014.

Disclosure note: This is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. The idea was for me to provide a fair and honest review. There has been no compensation. There, we keep The Man appeased once more.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Booknote: Signal to Noise

Neil Gaiman, Signal to Noise. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2013. ISBN: 978-1593077525.

This is a reissue, but for me, it is a new reading experience. This graphic novel tells the story of a film director who is dying of cancer. He decides to work on one more last film. The film is about an unnamed European village in the year 999 A.D. as midnight to a new millennium approaches, a time the villagers believe will lead to the end of the world. The director seeks to tell their story as he faces the end of his own life.

It is a moving story, and McKean's work gives it a well-deserved cinematic surreal quality that can be haunting at times. However, some of the art can be a bit overloaded at times. I also note that, for some readers, it may not look its best on an e-reader. This seems to be a book that is much better read in print. I don't hold that issue against it, but I think it deserves to be mentioned.

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

Disclosure note: this is where I tell you that I read this as an e-book via NetGalley provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. That way, we keep The Man happy.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Booknote: Mechanicum

Graham McNeill, Mechanicum. Nottingham: Black Library, 2008. ISBN:  9781844166060.

Series: Horus Heresy
Genre: Science Fiction
Subgenre: Military science fiction, gaming-based fiction. 

I continue reading the novels in the Horus Heresy series, and we are now up to Book 9. This is a book about how the civil war arrives to Mars. Mars is a key point in the war as it is the home of the Adeptus Mechanicum, the tech priests who manufacture the weapons and materiel that both sides need in the war. The fabricators of Mars start taking sides, and the dark forces of Horus launch a vicious attack, what we could call a hacker attack, that hits much of Mars. In the midst of that, Koriel Zeth, Mistress of the Magma City, strives to build the Akashic Reader with the help of a team of experts led by Dalia Cythera, a transcriber who also seems to have a special affinity with technology.

If you want a book that focuses on the Mechanicum, this is it. If you like novels with a lot of political intrigue, this is a good book for that as well. We get to see the rise of the Dark Mechanicum, and we see the Mechanicum be divided between those loyal the Emperor and those taking sides with Horus Lupercal. A strength of the book lies in the many descriptions and details of the forges and the lore of the Mechanicum. However, the book really picks up the pace in the last third of the novel. Prior to that, some of the descriptive passages can be a bit slow, but I think the reading is still rewarding. I found tragic the loss of so much knowledge. We get to see the roots of the theocratic regime that will be the reality in the 41st millennium forming now. Koriel and Dalia are among the last people embracing science and reason at a point when most of the Mechanicum is more interested in the past and rituals rather than making progress.

In the end, this was a pretty good entry in the series. I liked it, but that was about it, so I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.