Friday, May 19, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: May 19, 2017 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.

Well, we made it through another week. A lot of stories this week, so let's get started.

Next, let's have a look at how the uber rich are doing. They've their ups and downs this week:
  • The big story this week is avocado toast. Some Australian millionaire who while rich is fairly clueless decided to tell Millennials to stop buying fancy avocado toast so they could maybe save some money and buy a home eventually. Apparently, avocado toast in his view is for just the wealthy like him, so the peons need to stop it already. Story via The Guardian. Naturally, the story has drawn a few responses: 
    • This nice young Millennial lady responded in The Guardian. No, her generation did not invent or become oh so enamored of avocados. 
    • Here is another open letter responding from GQ Magazine
    • And since the economy  is bad, GQ has decided to be helpful by providing a recipe on how to make your own avocado toast. That way you can save some money, put some away for that house, AND still eat your avocado toast. 
  •  The US naval and military industrial complex should do well under the administration of the Pendejo In Chief. They would be looking at a $400 billion cost to expand over 30 years. Knowing the Party of Stupid, this likely means cuts in social safety nets, education, health care, domestic infrastructure, you name it. Hey, think positive. That means jobs for ship builders, weapons systems makers, etc. so Americans can have the best and latest to keep bombing other nations. Via Reuters.
  • On the other hand, the militaries in other parts of the world might not be so fortunate to have money for big expansions Heck, even Americans want to do their military on the cheap. Funding the biggest and latest in aircraft carriers is  good. Paying for ground troops in out of the way places like Iraq and Afghanistan is not so good. So Americans and some others outsource with private military contractors (a.k.a. mercenaries). Mercenaries, being a business, want to recruit and get employees (a.k.a. soldiers) on the cheap, and they are finding that former child soldiers make great recruits. Hey, they started learning the trade of war early on, and now as adults they have desirable skills, and the companies can pay them less. Via Al Jazeera. 
  • In fashion world news: 
    • You can pay $425 dollars to get some fake mud jeans. Any old poor schmuck can get a pair of jeans muddy while working hard.  But you gotta pay if you want to be rich and get that fake, fancy look of pseudo worker with dirty jeans. Story via Boing Boing
    • You can also buy a very fancy boomerang from Chanel so you can play while wearing your nice pseudo-muddy jeans. Also via Boing Boing
    • The Pendeja Princess's (Ivanka) clothing line has not been doing as well as some anticipated. In fact, to move it, the company that sells and distributes the brand has been relabeling it hoping to trick people into buying it in discount retailers. Via Crooks and Liars
  • The two major dialysis companies are raking in millions while barely providing decent conditions for the patients who use their services. John Oliver did an excellent expose on this. Story, with video, via TruthDig.  
  • Wedding planners and the wedding industry will continue to do well. Weddings have gotten more expensive and extravagant in the last decade, and people keep paying for them. Story via USA Today.
  • Like drinking cold coffee, but not want to brew it like a common plebeian? Need to do it on the go? Here is a $24 portable iced coffee maker. Via Kinja
  • And finally, millionaires are once again whining how hard they have it, and they got Wise Bread to explain why being a millionaire is overrated. Oh boo hoo, cry me a river. I will be happy to take some of their money so they do not feel so burdened.

Booknote: Things I Want To Punch In The Face

Jennifer Worick, Things I Want To Punch In The Face. Pasadena, CA: Prospect Park Media, 2012.  ISBN: 9781620644850 (as provided by Overdrive, different from print edition).

Subgenre: humor, blog-based books
Format: audiobook
Source: Overdrive from Madison County (KY) Public Library.

This is one of those books where the blogger turned their blog into a book. According to the book description, the blog was an Internet sensation, but I must have missed that one because I had no idea the blog existed until I got the book. I mostly checked out the book because I often enjoy humor books, and I also needed a book to add to the Audiobook Reading Challenge list. This one was a little underwhelming to say the least.

The author states she will provide 102 entries to her list. She also has a scale of how bad things are:

"One punch = Annoying, like a mild rash.
Two punches= Aggravating, like a black eye.
Three punches= Disgusting, like an open sore.
Four punches= Toxic, like acid reflux or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Five punches= permanently damaged, like her patience."

The entries, which are basically rants, vary in length, and the quality of the humor is very inconsistent as well. She often ends the small rants on what needs punching with "fact of the  matter" bits. These are small factoids or trivia related to the item she is ranting about, and at times can be interesting.

A lot of the humor is reliant on the usual stereotypes, like man caves, guy must be some kind of caveman troglodyte. Cute, but not amusing after a while, and that is about how the rest of the book goes. It had some amusing things, which I will comment on down below, but overall, not a very good book. The book is read by the author, and for a humor book, it is fairly deadpan. In the end, this is a book that is pretty disposable; you read it once, and then you move on to something better and more interesting. Better yet,  just go find the blog online and skip the book. As kids would say, this book was "meh."

2 out of 5 stars, barely.

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Additional reading  notes:

Some of the things that she wants to punch in  the face, with my comments:

  • Early birds, like those who get  to their desks at the crack of dawn and  are  first to turn off the security alarm. 
    • I can relate to this given we have a couple of these early birds at work.  Exactly, whoop dee doo, so you go to bed early, or as we say in Spanish, you go to sleep with the chickens.
  •  Hayden Christensen's whiny little bitch act in the SW prequels are definitely punch worthy, especially for those of us who lived long enough from the original films. That is a point I agree with her. We deserved better, and instead got that. To be honest, the big mistake Obi Wan made was not kicking Anakin into that magma and finishing him off. Wuss. (Yea, I know if he had, no movies and stories later, but let us be honest, we would have been better off keeping Darth Vader's mystery mystique instead of revealing he was a whiny teen emo brat).
  • Clothes are to be worn. Would you please explain the excess of shoes in your closet you do not wear? I'll wait.
    • Yea, I will wait too on that one.  
  •  Pajamas as outerwear do deserve five punches to the face.
  • And I am certainly sympathetic to punching  people who give offspring names starting with the same letter (or worse, the same names). Way to make life difficult down the road for your kids.
  • Parking hogs do deserve those five punches in the face (and their tires slashed if I had my way).
  • People who blab on red-eye flights. Yes, these people deserve their punches.
  • Some of the jokes were a bit dated. For example, Skymall catalogs pretty much ceased publication.
  • Staycation: euphemism for being too broke to go someplace interesting. Sounds about right. I would put that under signs the economy is bad.
  • Yes, books derived from blogs deserve the full five punches, though ironic since this book is one of them. Whatever little credibility she had she just tossed for shits and giggles, to use her term.
  • More on books from blogs: Exactly. Amazing how they monetize crappy writing and/or user generated content (i.e. stuff other people wrote or commented on that they in essence stole since they do not pay or reward the users) into a book. I have read one or two of those, and believe me, you really are better off reading the blog, which is free. Then again, only reason I read this one is because I borrowed it from the library, so I am not exactly paying for it. However, not as dumb as those who go and buy what you can get for free online anyhow.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Divinity III: Stalinverse

Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Divinity III: Stalinverse. New York, NY: Valiant Entertainment, 2017.  ISBN: 9781682151914.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: science fiction, alternative history, superhero comics
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

If I recall, this may be my first experience with Valiant Comics; it certainly is my first experience reading their Divinity series. While this particular issue may require a bit of prior knowledge, you still get enough information in the narrative to get what is happening and enjoy the story.

From the book's description:

"Earth has a new god. The world you know is gone. Welcome to the Stalinverse, comrade.

Welcome to the year 2017…where the Soviet Union has spent decades as the world’s reigning superpower and the Iron Curtain now encircles a planet riddled with war, strife, and oppression. Freedom is a thing of the past in the Stalinverse… So why can’t Russian intelligence officer Colin King shake the feeling that something has gone terribly wrong? He’ll put his freedom and life on the line to uncover the truth… Even if that means finding out whatever happened to the long-missing cosmonaut Abram Adams – the one man who just might hold the key to unraveling the dystopian world of today." 

The world is now ruled by a very strong and very much alive Soviet Union. Now that they rule the world, they are setting their eyes on the stars to spread the glory of Mother Russia. Colin King is a loyal intelligence officer with access to high places, but he knows something is not right about this timeline, and he works to gradually make others aware as well. You will have to read to find out how things got to this point and how things turn out.

I can say that this is a good story, entertaining and intriguing. If you enjoy alternative history, you will get a good dose of it here. If you enjoy plots and intrigue, you will get some of that here as well. And if you enjoy action and super powered beings fighting out for the fate of the world, you get that here too. The series offers a lot to readers. I found the pacing good, and once I started it, I just kept on going wanting to learn more. The art is pretty good overall too. As I mentioned, I was not very familiar with this series, but it was a pleasant discovery, and I look forward to reading more titles.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Book qualifies for these 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Booknote: The Marseille Tarot Revealed

Yoav Ben-Dov, The Marseille Tarot Revealed. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017.  ISBN: 978-0-7387-5228-0.

Worldcat Record.
Publisher website record.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination, cartomancy, reference
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

Yoav Ben-Dov has been involved with Tarot for over 30 years, and he even wrote the first Tarot book to be published in Hebrew. He also published his own Marseille deck: the CBD Tarot de Marseille. He passed away in 2016, making this as far as I know his last book.

When I searched for a good book on Marseille Tarot, Ben-Dov's name often came up. I admit to having mixed feelings about Marseille decks. On the one hand, the cards remind me of Spanish cards we used to play briscas when we were kids. That is a pleasant memory and connection to the Tarot de Marseille. On the other hand, I am not a fan of its old medieval art style, and the non-illustrated pips-only Minor Arcana is turn off for me. However, I started learning Tarot with a Marseille deck that I received as a gift. Since then, I have moved away from that deck to use Rider Waite Smith-style decks. I  will I do not use original Rider Waite Smith; Pamela Smith's place in Tarot history may be assured, but her art is just not my thing. I tend to prefer modern decks, including ones that draw on the RWS tradition. Yet folks keep giving me Marseille decks as gifts. I recently got  a very nice Spanish language edition of a Marseilles deck. At that  point, I figured the universe must be trying to tell me something, so I should at least give Marseille-style Tarot a fair chance. So I started looking for a good book I could use to learn, and I managed to get my hands on Ben-Dov's book for review. Things are falling into place.

I will say that for me a Marseille-style deck does not offer much. I tend to favor modern decks with  more colorful and lively imagery that gives my intuition and imagination some working material. Ten coins on  a card, for example, do not do much for me intuitively. What I have discovered is that users of Marseille decks do a few different things. Some only use and read from the Major Arcana cards, completely ignoring the Minor Arcana. Others rely on sources and materials like the study of specific symbols, positions of figures and elements in a card, and numerology among other things. It can be a lot to remember, but that is where a book like Ben-Dov's can help.

Ben-Dov's book combines a guide book and how-to manual with a scholarly treatise on Tarot and its history. The book can be quite dense at times, so it may not be the best choice for beginners. However, if you are willing to study Marseilles Tarot and learn it, this book is a good resource. It will take effort, but you will learn quite a bit from the book. I read through the book once to write this review, but it really is a book to read in parts, do some practice and reflection, and then move on to the next part.

According to the author, the book looks at the history of the Tarot de Marseille and gives insights and advice for reading with the deck. Some of the topics covered include:

  • classic and new Marseille decks
  • the French versus English schools of Tarot
  • card meanings
  • symbolic language
  • how to read the cards
 The book is arranged into 12 chapters covering the topics listed above and more. Book illustrations use images from the CBD (Conver Ben-Dov) Marseille Tarot.

Overall, this book is a very good resource for learning to use a Marseille deck. It is a dense book at times, so expect to spend a significant amount of time studying it and the cards in order to learn. It reads a bit more like an academic treatise than a popular book. Ben-Dov really goes in-depth. I'll add that Tarot enthusiasts who may or not be interested in learning the Marseille way may still find the history parts interesting. That history overview of Tarot and how the author developed  his deck are are actually pretty interesting reading if you like a bit of trivia and history. For me, learning the system is a glimpse into Tarot's past and roots. As historians often say, you need to know where you came from to know where you are going. In the end, I am a bit more confident about learning Marseilles thanks to this book.

For libraries that may collect books on Tarot and divination, this book would be a good choice.

4 out of 5 stars.

Update note (right after I wrote this review): According to a couple of other Tarot reviewer, including The Queen's Sword (apologies for using a Facebook link, but that was where it first came to my attention), it seems this book is a repackaging/slight remodel of Ben-Dov's Tarot: The Open Reading (link to a review on The problem is not with the book. The book is perfectly fine, and I would still recommend it. The problem is that the publisher is giving the impression this is a brand new book when that does not appear to be the case. Personally, I have not read the previous book, so I cannot fully comment. Still, finding this out makes me feel a little cheated or at least uncomfortable. I read the galley in good faith, and if it was the case this was simply a new edition or a modified edition, the publisher should have said so. As of this post, this is still ongoing. If I hear more, I will update again.

So, let me bottom line it. If you bought the previous book already, you can probably skip this one. If you do not have the previous one, this newer book may be better given better graphics, so on.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes. I took a lot of notes in my personal journal as I was reading the book, things that caught my attention, thought were interesting, so on. I am jotting down here a few of those things:

One of the lessons from the book is Ben-Dov's open reading method, which he claims is based on looking at the card illustrations rather than learning fixed interpretations. This may sound simple, but keep in mind he also advises seeing everything, and I mean everything, as a possible sign; he also advocates having knowledge of psychology, going so far as to suggest even having therapy experience (as in having been to therapy). However, I find he is being a bit modest in this; in reality, he can be a bit hardcore at times. The open reading is not just about looking at the card illustrations. You do need some additional knowledge of things like symbols and numerology, which is also why this book helps since it covers some of that.

In discussing the French School of Tarot, Ben-Dov mentions French scholar and mystic Antoine Court de Gébelin and his multivolume work The Primeval World, Analyzed and Compared to the Modern World. The eighth volume of this multivolume work was published in 1781. Ben-Dov states this work is mostly fictional, but it does feature the first written record of Tarot cards used for fortune-telling as well as gaming. It sounds like it could be an amusing book to read (on the good news, you can read it online via Internet Archive here. The not so good news for some of us is that it is in  French, and  I have not found a translation of the whole book, but there is a translation of the Tarot essay here done by Donald Tyson). Ben-Dov writes,

"In de Gébelin's view, Tarot cards were a sophisticated device created by the ancient Egyptian sages, experts in magic and the occult. In order to preserve their secret knowledge for later generations they  translated it into a language of symbolic illustrations. To hide the powerful knowledge from unworthy eyes in the most effective way they decided to put it in plain sight, but under the guise of a seemingly innocuous game of chance. This way people would propagate the illustrations from one generation to another, without being aware of their deep significance" (8). 

Naturally, those ideas are not considered serious today, but they were very popular at the time as use of the cards for telling fortunes got fashionable in France.

On  the significance of  the Convers deck:

"Over the years, a general consensus has emerged among followers of the French school: the most authentic version of the traditional Tarot is a deck printed in 1760 by a Marseille card-maker named Nicolas Conver. Not much is known  about Conver himself. But many influential Tarot books from the later part of the nineteenth century onwards declare his deck, time and again, to be the most faithful and accurate representation of the ancient Tarot symbols. No other traditional deck has been held in such high esteem" (17).

Reading Tarot for others can be like a librarian  doing a reference interview:

"But as I see it, even  if the querent comes to the reading with a clear and precise question, we should regard it only as a starting point. People are not always self-aware enough to know what exactly it is that troubles them. And even if they are, they don't always feel free to reveal it right away during the first few minutes of a meeting with a total stranger. In other words, the question  that the querent presents at the beginning of the reading is not always the real question which we are supposed to answer in order to help him" (38).

What makes for a successful and productive reading, according to Ben-Dov:

"Thus, the criterion for a successful and productive reading is not whether the querent comes out of it with an immediate feeling of satisfaction. Rather, it is whether in retrospect he considers it as having been a positive and helpful experience" (40).

I did not include this in the original review, but I figured it was worth sharing. This is how the author summarizes his Open Reading Method, which I did comment on in the review above:

"The following three points can summarize the open reading approach and the way in which it differs from more conventional methods. First, a Tarot card does not have fixed meaning, which can be learned in advance. Rather the meaning emerges from what we can see in the card during the reading. Second, the function of each position in a spread is also not fixed. Rather, it depends on the combination of cards that actually appear. Third, we don't start by  interpreting each card separately. Instead, we first try to see the whole picture that the cards form together" (41). 

Keep in mind the book also does provide card meanings; I suppose you can learn those, or at least study them and keep them handy. However, what I struggle with as a Tarot learner is the "what we can see" part of the author's process. As I've said before, four gold coins in a card with nothing else does not say much to me other than four coins unless you have some other knowledge to bring in. I am not against studying, but at least admit that it is needed. This is also why I prefer for now fully illustrated decks like RWS-based ones; you at least get an image to work from. Yet I do get an appreciate the idea of coming to a reading with an open mind and seeing the reading as you get it, without preconceptions.

On newer decks having the advantage of more reference books and other study materials:

"New decks from the twentieth century often based on symbolic language which can be learned from books or other written sources. For example, when Waite or Crowley designed their Tarot decks, they also published books explaining the significance of various symbols in the the cards. But the Tarot de Marseille evolved for many centuries in the hands of many people who left no written records about its meaning. Therefore, we don't have direct access to its original symbolic language. We have to figure it out for ourselves" (65).

The author does say there are sources we can use and consider to construct the TdM symbolic language. These include:

  • Art works from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
  • Meanings of symbols from various spiritual and cultural traditions (colors, numbers, animal figures, etc.).
  • Tarot interpretations of other authors. 
  • Reader's intuition and feelings. 
A small detail to tell the difference between French and English Tarot school decks:

"In the Tarot de Marseille and in other traditional decks Justice is number 8 and The Force is number 11. But in new decks from the English school, The Force is 8 and Justice is 11"  (94).

There is some history behind that, which the author goes over in  the book.

At the end, the book includes a quick reference section for interpretations that can be useful for quick look-ups.

On a final side note, if I ever acquire another TdM, the one I want, really want, is Ciro Marchetti's new Tarot Decoratif that he recently announced as of this post. This deck seriously updates and brings TdM back to life while combining it with some RWS elements. As he describes it, it  is a "contemporary homage to Tarot imagery of the past."

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Book qualifies for these 2017 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Booknote: Bringing the Tarot to Life

Scott Martin, Bringing the Tarot to Life: Embody the Cards Through Creative Exploration. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-7387-5262-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre; Tarot, divination, writing prompts, theater games
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is a book that can be a useful tool to learn about Tarot. The author, a theater teacher who has also studied Tarot, brings those two passions together in a book that makes studying Tarot accessible and fun. In a nutshell, Scott Martin applies acting and theater techniques to studying and learning Tarot. The result is a book full of exercises, prompts, and ideas that you can use individually or in small groups. Whether you use Tarot for divination, meditation, or for creativity, you can get a lot out of this book. The book features 56 exercises; Martin states the book works for both beginners and advanced Tarot readers. For beginners like me, it provides new ideas for exploring the cards. For advanced users, the book may also provide new ideas for additional perspectives. If you are looking for something to add a little variety or even playfulness to your Tarot practice, this may be the book for you.

The book is arranged as follows:
  • Section One: Journaling Exercises. This is pretty what you do on your own. If you keep a Tarot journal as part of your practice, you'll find some good prompts here. Stumped for ideas on what to journal about? Try one of these prompts. 
  • Section Two: Tarot Theater Games. These are mostly things to do with other people, though there may be a few you could adapt to individual writing or reflection. For the group exercises, he also explains the exercise, provides examples, and offers reflection prompts to do after the exercise. It is a good, practical set up.
  • Section Three: Tarot Card Meanings. This is Martin's section on meanings for readers to use as reference as needed.

I found this to be a good and useful book. Martin has an easy to read prose and a friendly tone. This  is a book to pick up and browse, pick out what you like, and go from there. I really liked it, and I think it makes a good addition for any Tarot bookshelf. For libraries that collect Tarot and divination materials, this is a good addition to supplement other Tarot and divination classics. I also think the book can be useful in creative writing.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 
Additional reading notes:

A suggestion for beginners from Rachel Pollack, who wrote a foreword for the book:

"As I read these ideas, it struck me that it might be a wonderful approach for beginners, or people working with a new deck, to do these sort of journal interrogations before they actually read whatever book has come with  the deck" (xiv). 

On a side note, I am not sure how well the idea would work for a deck featuring non-human or abstract elements, for example, The Wild Unknown Tarot (link to deck creator's website; recently, Harper Collins has acquired it and made a version for the masses).  Martin uses the Llewellyn Classic Tarot deck (link to review on Aeclectic) as his reference point in his book; he states any pictured deck can be used (I take this to mean something like a Marseilles style deck would probably not work well for this).

Martin wrote this book thinking  "about what I know and love, and combine it with tarot" (1). There seems to be a small but rising trend in Tarot books: combine Tarot with some other outside thing to make Tarot understandable or accessible to the masses. For instance, I have seen books on business and Tarot. I also recall Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot (link to my review), which combines creative writing with Tarot.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, May 05, 2017

Reading About the Reading Life: May 5, 2017 edition

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).

It  has been a while since I wrote one of these posts; turns out it was last December. These posts are one of my favorite blogging exercises, but I do not get to do them enough given everything else going on in life. Life happens. Still, I enjoy finding interesting things and sharing them with  my four readers. By the way, if you want to become reader number five, you can subscribe to the blog via e-mail or via RSS reader; details for this can be  found in the right side column of the blog. 

So, let's get on with it. I've had a few things sitting on my feed reader for a while, so allow me to share and hope you find something interesting. As always, comments are welcome.

Here are a couple of additional items. These come from Spanish language news sources: 


Booknote: Super Sikh, Issue 1.

Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 1: Takeoff and Landing. Chicago, IL: Rosarium Publishing, 2017. ISBN: 9781495627002. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: secret agents, ethnic groups, religious people, Sikh, adventure
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is a short review for a single issue comic. The comic book was offered in NetGalley, and it sounded interesting enough for me to request it. Deep Singh is devout Sikh. He is also a super secret agent for the United Nations who spends many of  his days fighting terrorists like the Taliban. Since he also has to keep a normal life, he has a "regular" job at a tech company. He also has parents that care for him and worry for him like any other normal young man. He also happens to be a big fan of Elvis Presley. So far, so good. He is a hard working man, and finally his family talks him into taking a vacation. He decides to travel to the U.S. to see the home of his idol: Graceland. On the flight, a terrorist attack occurs. Though he saves the day, he has the misfortune of having to deal with U.S. Homeland Security, which promptly sees his turban and arrests him as a terrorist, with all the degradation and condescension Americans typically show any foreigner they think is an "Arab terrorist."

The comic book is a great start to a series, and I do hope the series continues. We get a different kind of superhero, one who is not just another Western guy. He is basically a Sikh Bond kind of figure. He is skilled, smart, strong, but he is also very human. He has no superpowers other his wits and skills. I am also hoping that the comic explores more of the Sikh religion; we can certainly use some more diversity in comics, and this comic shows good potential. The story was fast paced, and very entertaining with a good blend of action and humor. We'll see where the authors take it, but so far, I definitely recommend this one.

Note: turns out the series has continued. As of this post, they are up to issue 3. Here is the comic's website for details.

5 out of 5 stars.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Why We March

Artisan Books, Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope: Voices from the Women's March. New York, NY: Artisan (division of Workman Publishing), 2017. ISBN: 9781579658281. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: politics, photography and art, women's studies
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is one of those books that are put together rather quickly in order to do fundraising for a cause. Quality on this type of book can often vary. I can assure readers that the quality on this book is pretty good. The book was compiled to coincide with the 2017 Women's March; proceeds of the book according to the publisher were to go to Planned Parenthood.

The book is a photography collection of posters from the Women's March. The march took place in  various locations around the world, and the book authors strived to reflect this in the wide selection of posters they present. The posters range from serious to amusing, from straightforward to witty, from funny to moving. In addition, the photos capture many of the women and allies who marched and their strong resolute spirit. Text is very minimal, just enough to identify locations. This allows readers to focus on the photographs.

I will say that libraries will likely want to acquire this. It makes for a good piece of documentation of a particular event in time. Also, it is an easy book to read through, and I am sure many patrons will appreciate it. It is one I would certainly order for my library.

4 out of 5 stars.

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Book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Deck Review: Enchanted Map Oracle Cards

Colette Baron-Reid, Enchanted Map Oracle Cards.  Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Publishing, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-4019-2749-3. 

WorldCat Record.
Publisher's product page.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: divination, spirituality, oracle cards
Format: oracle card deck with companion book in boxed set
Source: Personal collection

As of this post, I have been using this deck for a couple of months or so, and I have enjoyed them greatly. I often use oracle cards as  a supplement to my daily Tarot card draw, usually on Fridays as a bonus to whatever card I draw from my Tarot deck. For now, I am still using the Steampunk Tarot deck (Moore and Fell; link to my review), and I have found these oracle cards work nicely with that deck. I currently also use the Gilded Tarot (Marchetti; link here for my review) as a daily deck, and I feel this oracle deck would work well with it as well. In fact, I think you can use it pretty much with almost any Tarot deck. Naturally, you can also use the oracle cards by themselves.

The deck is based on Colette Baron-Reid's book The Map (link to WorldCat record). I have not read the book, and I feel that you can enjoy and use the deck just fine without reading the book. I am sure those who have read the book might have additional insights into the cards. If I get a hold of the book and read it, I'll write a review for it.

The deck package includes 54 cards and a small paperback book of 153 pages. The book includes the following:

  • A short introduction from the author. 
  • A section on "How to use the cards." This includes a statement on the cards' purpose, how to do a reading, and some sample readings with  three card spreads (one-card, three-cards, and six-cards spreads).
  • The cards' meanings. This is the core of the book. Each card gets about 2 1/2 pages of text. Text includes card number, card title, an epigraph verse, and upright and reversed meanings. There is also an illustration for every card in black and white. 
The cards measure approximately 5 inches tall by 3 1/2 inches wide. The card stock is flexible but with good thickness; it is certainly thicker than the notoriously thin card stock a certain other competitor tends to use on  their decks. This suggests good durability for the oracle cards. The cards have a glossy coat, which is light. In addition, the cards have a gold color gilded edge, which adds to the beauty of the cards. Each card is numbered and has a keyword in addition to the art. The art combines realism with fantasy. Images are mainly positive and uplifting, and some of the images can be playful and whimsical. If you are looking for a light and mostly positive deck, this can be a good choice. I find it a peaceful and calming deck.

The guidebook is pretty basic. As I mentioned above, the card meanings are the core of the book. Baron-Reid's writing is relatively peaceful and uplifting. Card meanings often include suggestions for reflection and ideas for further thinking. It is a pretty spiritual deck in the sense she brings in various spiritual ideas in a general way. What I am trying to say is that there are no direct divine references or specific deities; it's more things like the Universe and a great spirit kind of thing. Whether you are a believer or not, this book and deck can work for you.

For folks who read intuitively and ignore books, these cards should be good given their evocative art. If you do read the book, you get enough to get you thinking and reflecting. There are times I wish the book had a bit more depth, but overall it gives you enough to work with  the deck.

In the end, I like this deck very much, and I would recommend it. I really like the art, and I enjoy its light, positive, and overall uplifting tone. I am glad I added it to my collection.

4 out of 5 stars.

This set qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Biografía para encontrarme

Mario Benedetti, Biografía para encontrarme. Mexico, D.F.: Alfaguara, 2011. ISBN: 9786071111364.

Genre: poetry
Subgenre: Spanish language
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

Finished reading Mario Benedetti's Biografía para encontrarme recently. It felt good to read some poetry for a change, and this is a very good poetry collection. The book collects 72 poems that Benedetti revised, rewrote, and arranged into this book during the last two years of his life. The poetry is intimate, heartwarming, moving at times, and very often introspective. Themes include solitude, nostalgia, death, love, and beauty. Fans of the poet will certainly enjoy this one. For new readers, this is a good book to discover the author's verse. 

I enjoyed the book very much, and I really liked it. It was light reading at times, but it also had moments for deep thought. Libraries with  Spanish language collections would do well to add this book. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

Book qualifies for these 2017 Reading Challenges: 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Signs the Economy is Bad: April 21, 2017 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.

We have a bit of everything this week from pandas to toilet paper thieves to things happening in higher education, so let's get on with it.

  • Farmers are not always doing well, but it seems that voting for the Pendejo in Chief did them no favors. Story via TeleSur. 
  • And speaking of rural areas, there are some small rural towns like this one in North Carolina where the economy is so bad they cannot afford their local government, so they are disbanding the town. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • Now one way bigger cities are keeping the lights on and government working is by using traffic fines to build revenue. They do not always do it honestly or fairly as this report attests of cities basically fiddling with traffic light timers to make sure they can issue more tickets. Public safety? Eff that, they just want money. Story via AlterNet.
  • There has been a drop of international tourism to the U.S. at a cost of at least $7 billion dollars. Why? The Pendejo in Chief, that's why. Now I know most members of the Party of Stupid could not care less about foreigners, but $7 billion dollars could at least buy you a nice Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. I am not using metrics like how many Meals on Wheels that could provide or such since I am trying to use terms those people will understand. Story via AlterNet.
  • Heck, even Mexican vacationers are opting for Canada rather than the United States, costing the U.S. at least $1.6 billion dollars in tourism. For that amount, you can probably buy a few military aircraft to put on your awesome aircraft carrier. Story via Counter Current News
  • Newspaper jobs are in decline. That is not really news, but it was in the news recently again. Story via Mashable.
  • Another recent statement of the obvious in the news: malls are dying. This time via The Week
  • This story caught my eye in part because I recently finished reading Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. In the book, he makes the claim that many if not most of the line cooks in NYC restaurants, who happen to be Ecuadorian, are actually pretty well paid for the hard work they do. However, it seems those guys may be the exception rather than the rule given the slave conditions that exist in most of the U.S. and bar industry overall, especially in exploiting immigrants. Story via NPR. I am not necessarily questioning Bourdain's claim, but odds are good that aside from those specialists (the cooks), the rest of the peons do get exploited even in the fancy restaurants. 
  • Apparently more people are defaulting on the auto version of subprime loans. Story via The Washington Post
  • In some cities, the rental market is so bad that websites are springing up to get potential tenants to basically bid on rent price for apartments. I guess the best I can say here is may the odds be ever in your favor. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Let's take a look next at how the bad economy is hitting higher education: 
    • VICE has a look at why it is so hard to discharge student loans in  bankruptcy. Worth a read, but the nutshell is that lobbyists and banks made sure that was the case so they would not suffer losses, thus creating a permanent indentured/slave class in the United States. 
    • You can tell colleges and universities have hierarchies between the faculty and the rest of the peons the faculty feel contempt for but need to provide support operations. In a recent survey, faculty worry about their retirement (if they can afford it, if they will outlive the funds, so on) while staff worry more about paying the daily bills and living day to day on the meager pay they probably get in comparison to faculty. No one apparently asked adjuncts. Story via Inside Higher Ed
    • For some college students, mainly the attractive ones let's be honest here and more likely females than males, getting a sugar daddy is the option to avoid getting student loans and other debt while in college. Get a really good sugar daddy (or sugar mama if you are a handsome guy), and you may get your tuition and more paid if done right. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
    • For at least one college, the way to cope with  the bad economy is to eliminate their natural history museum so they can expand their running track. They got their priorities straight. Story via The Washington Post
  • The bad economy may get worse for some men: they may end up working in female-dominated profession. Personally, I am secure enough I could not care less (I work in librarianship), but not every guy is as secure. What kind of jobs? Well, health care has a lot of those jobs ranging from health assistants and nursing home assistants to nursing. Notice that you likely get the better paying jobs with more education in many instances. Story via USA Today
  • Need some medical care and American health care is too expensive? We have talked about medical tourism here on the blog before. The latest possible destination? China is setting up a special area for medical tourists. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Speaking of China, apparently some people are so desperate that they are stealing toilet paper rolls from public places, and their government is taking measures to thwart the thieves. Story via Mental Floss.
Now let's go see who may be doing well in the bad economy and also let's take a look at the world of the uber rich:

Booknote: BiblioTech

John G. Palfrey (narrated by Tom Zingarelli), BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Audio, 2015. ISBN: 9781494584726. (Published in print by Basic Books).

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: audiobook, LIS, technology.
Format: audiobook
Source: Overdrive collection of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

For a brief time, this book got some hype among librarians. I read it, and to be honest it was seriously underwhelming. Written by what some in the library profession call a "feral librarian" (i.e. someone who is not a librarian nor has the degree who ends  up working  in  a library as "librarian" or often a library administrator), the author's main thrust is about the digital future when all sorts of things will be in the cloud, and we can't get there fast enough. Libraries need to change to embrace that future, but they face obstacles such as the will of their communities to support libraries (because people love to say  how much they love libraries until you ask them to help pay for them). These ideas and more are not really new. To be honest, a lot of what he writes in the book is stuff that has been talked about, written about, argued about, debated, so on for years now. I even double checked the book's release date to make sure I was not reading something from ten years ago or so. The book's copyright date is 2015, but it sounds like something written way back. If you are a librarian who has  kept up, then you pretty know everything in this book. If you are an informed public citizen with  some interest in libraries and the digital world, you probably know a lot of this too. However, if you are not aware of any of the issues the book presents, the book does serve as a basic primer. Thus I have mixed feelings in reviewing it. On the one hand, it  tells me nothing new or that I did not know already. On the other hand, for the less informed who need a crash course, this is a decent start if you can get over a bit of the condescending tone the author adopts at times. By the way, I read this as an audiobook, and the narrator they chose manages to embrace that condescending tone quite well, and no, that is not praise.

Book starts with the often usual "sad note" of libraries with old buildings, and how people now have more choices (i.e. the Internet) but nothing so far on  how many people, for various reasons, often cannot access the  Internet, unless they do so in their public library of all places. This will come later in the book. Book is arranged into ten chapters that cover various topics ranging from how libraries are changing in light  of digitization and Google to issues privacy and copyright. Book eventually ends with  the note I mentioned of hoping we move to that cloud future as soon as possible. It was a note I found  ironic since that was the week that some Amazon techie did a typo and pretty much knocked down their virtual cloud and a huge chunk of the Internet. That note and that event made me feel very reassured. Now do not think I am opposed to progress or technology, far from it. Libraries are still going to be about books, including books in print as well as e-books and other resources, and they will also be about services like teaching children how to read, information literacy, providing access to the Internet to those who need it, job search assistance, and I can go on  and on. Not everything is online, and no matter how many wet dreams technotopians have, not everything will be online, or if it is it is not going to be free and easy to access, and it certainly will not be for everyone given issues of privilege and digital divide. While the author does discuss some of those issues, in the end it's the overly enthusiastic pitch for the cloud and everything online that wins the day.

In the end, for all the hype this book got at one  point, I was not impressed. If you do not know about these issues, then the book is a pretty good primer. It is a probably a book that should be given to a few not so informed voters before they go vote on a library levy for instance. The author does admit the book is more for non-librarians, but it is mostly for people who do not have a clue. Librarians definitely have talked about this, and are often in the forefront of changes even if they do not always get the credit.

I am rating it 2 out of 5 stars, but barely, and mostly because of its value as a  basic primer. Having listened to it  in audio, I think it may work better than having to read the text. It is pretty dry as a text, but  at least the narrator keeps it moving, even if he comes across as a bit smug, which  I  think reflects more the book's author than the narrator.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes. This particular set of notes may seem a bit informal; I was jotting down responses and comments I had about the text as I was reading it. I may have added a small comment here or there, but this is mostly what I jotted down as I was reading. You can either read on, or stop reading since I already gave you my assessment of the book:

From the book's introduction:

Nice line. Libraries are being forgotten/in danger because society  has forgotten how essential they are. And here we go with the option of "easier" access online. We will see  if  he goes into other things libraries and librarians do, especially in educating patrons who need help in navigating that "easier" access. (He does go into some of it later in the book).

Still, the thing about the easy access on your mobile, as we often say, not everything is on the Internet. Question then of how much does the easy access encourage just good enough mentality of information, even when better information may mean a bit more work searching for it, or lo and  behold, going to a library because they pay for the expensive information sources that are not on Google. As I listen, these and other questions arise. At this point, I am not sure if the author will address them or not, but as librarian, I do hope he does for a more complete picture. I hope this book is more than  just some eulogy or jeremiad about libraries and their "imminent passing" (which keeps failing to materialize).

Another good line: "Democracies can work only if all citizens have equal access to information and culture that can help them make good choices whether at the voting booth or other aspects of public life." Libraries are the ones who do this.

So far, just the usual libraries have more tech, and more people use computers than they look for reading materials. I have heard this line of argument before, nothing new here. I even made a note to myself check when this book came out because it is appearing to be a bit dated.

Author was a "feral" librarian (i.e. a non-librarian who ends up in libraries. In his case, library director at time he wrote the book. He was a law professor before). Claims he got his knowledge, well, like many  of us do: read the library literature and talked to stakeholders and people concerned with libraries, and of course, his job as a library director.  Take that with whatever grain of salt you feel is needed.

Librarians DO chafe with good reason. Very often they DO lead change, and others take the credit or the glory after the less glamorous work was done.

He does sound a  bit hysterical at times. Yet I wonder how much  the appeal to democracy and nobility  of citizenry really work to appeal to the  audience which, as he claims, is outside libraries. The book is not really for us. It is for those outside libraries who need to be supporting libraries with  more than warm fuzzy feelings and goodwill. Then again, he is just starting the book. BTW, that intro took him almost a half an hour of reading time. Quite depressing at times.

From Chapter 1:

Libraries are screwed,  and  they are because they depend on the codex, which  he sees as dead or obsolete. I think a few other  authors may have an issue with  that notion, not to mention all the books in print that are still sold and circulate.

Nostalgia can be dangerous the author states. To an extent, I have to agree.

Yes dude, we get it already. Shift to digital, blah blah, preferences in format changing, blah blah, libraries in difficult spot of making choices. This honestly reads like the most basic of primers for someone who just has no idea of what is going on in the world today overall. I remember when this book got a bit of hype when it came out, but even then, much of this would be known to us. I just wonder how many non-library people actually read this and understood it.

Actually we STILL have to make decisions of purchasing  proprietary  data, often cannibalizing other funds and accounts to do so. He runs a library. Does he not know this?

From Chapter 2:

Again, not  much new here, and some of it pretty depressing. While surveys  show that students who get librarian assistance will use better resources more often (databases versus just googling), fact is most students ask the librarian  as the last option. Thus their research may not be as good. It is the reality we face.

Digital divide. Discussion of problems being able to afford fast speed Internet despite it being so necessary. So, guess where a few of those people go to get  it? Their local public library. On  a side note, ultimate irony in a library  I worked at is a few distance students had to drive  to campus anyhow because they could not run their CMS on their computers at home  to do the class assignments.

Actually, the McDonald's or Starbucks thing of not having to buy to use the wifi varies by place. Yes, he actually went there and used the line of kids just going to the fast food place because they can get better wifi and better hours the building is open. He almost made it sound like it was some panacea.  Many  of these places now do have signs against loitering (our local McDonald's here certainly do), often meant to deter those teens the author refers to trying to get on the free wifi be it for homework or just for fun.

From Chapter 3:

The author honestly has a combination of doomsday hysteria with condescension that does get a little grating after a while. The reader, who is not the author, seems to reinforce this. Narrator has a somewhat authoritarian voice, almost like some school principal, that is not exactly comforting.

Second Life, which he notes libraries there mostly shut down, was nothing more than a brief novelty  for what  was known then as Twopointopian Librarians. As for Virtual Reference, same, a very rarely used service overall, so not surprised places have given it up. I was at a workplace that had it, and it was rarely used. If  nothing else, this book just reminds of a lot of the big deals big shot, and some not so big, librarians made over things that proved to be ephemeral and often without much substance. Libraries, for all that fussing, have often been pretty resilient in maintaining their core values of service to their communities and doing so in basic ways.

A not so good line: I don't think a library as an information gas station is the best image. Yes, he actually used that line. Today, gas stations are highly impersonal, and outside of the convenience stores they have (where they make their real money), you cannot expect any type of motorist assistance if you were to need it. Some of the analogies this author presents are not exactly accurate. 

I honestly wonder what kind of illiterate person living under a rock needs to hear about gaming in libraries or makerspaces by now. As he mentioned at the start, this book is not for librarians. But it does seem to be setting the bar pretty low in terms of who should be reading the book. Then again, given things like the results of the 2016 election, you probably DO have to set the bar pretty low. However, for me, this is getting a bit tedious.

From Chapter 8:

Nice line: digital savvy should not be limited to only those who can pay for it. He does get a  nice line or quote here or there, but  overall, the book becomes quite boring after a while. And  I am a librarian. I am honestly not sure how that general reader he is aiming at is going to handle this.

Holy shit. Young people learn in new ways. They learn in new flashy techie ways. Librarians need to adapt. Blah blah. Heard it before. More I hear, less I see the hype of this book.

From Chapter 10:

Book was released in 2015, but it sounds like it is talking about a decade ago. So much of what it has is either already dated, or at least (most) librarians should know it by now. Aside from low information people, most of what is here has been known for a good while. But this may well be a decent primer for those low information people who, for whatever reason, do not know of these issues, and they should know, especially when they need to vote on things like their local library funding. At the most basic level, this book could be considered a primer, so for those who need it the book may be good. But for the rest of us, this is just terrain we have been over and over.

So basically, in his vision we all go digital, just keep print as back up or for those "weirdos" who may still prefer print, which by the way, most surveys, like this one, still show majority preference for print. And in the process, of course, libraries yield ownership in favor of licensing things they may or not lose at a publisher's whim. To be honest, this is not exactly revolutionary but rather a statement of the obvious status quo we have now and wishful thinking from a technotopian.

The idea that the business world will somehow innovate for the good of the public is laughable at best since experience has proven again and again they mostly do not. But that is the libertarian wet dream. As for the cloud based future, again, questions of access and privilege come to mind, not to mention when the Internet goes down, as it often does in rural areas like where I live or when some Amazon coder does a typo (see link to that story above), no access to your precious cloud. The issue that I find no one mentions is that reliance on all that tech for the sake of convenience, cool factor, so on, does leave us seriously vulnerable. Formats change, and suddenly some materials can be inaccessible. As I mentioned, net goes down, access is gone as well. Not everyone can afford the broadband while new techs require increases in speed of the net. Yes, it is the future, but it is not all as optimistic as this author or others make it sound. The book in the end is a bit of a jeremiad 

At least he concedes for things like preservation and fair distribution of information and knowledge that the public sector should lead.

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: