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:





Friday, April 14, 2017

Booknote: Halo Graphic Novel

Various authors, Halo Graphic Novel. New York: Marvel, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7851-2378-1.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: science fiction, video games
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

Fans of the video game will probably like this. For casual graphic novel readers who may not be as familiar with the game, their mileage may vary. The book pretty much assumes that you are familiar with the game. There is very little to no background provided to help those who may need a little briefing. Though I have not played the game, I've read enough about it to have a passing familiarity. In the end, this is mostly for fans.

The book features four short stories set in the Halo universe. If you were expecting to see Master Chief do his thing,  you may be disappointed. Aside from a reference here or there, he does not appear in these stories. The stories are mostly filler and background stories taking place in the periphery of the main action.

The stories are so-so in terms of quality and interest. A strength in the book is really the art. Each  story has a different writer and artist, so you get to see different art styles. However, even in the art, the quality can vary. For instance, I usually like Simon Bisley's art, but for this comic it seems his art was a lot more cluttered and busy than usual for him.

Overall, the comic is a mixed bag. It is more a work of hardcore fan service than anything else. I liked it, but I would consider it optional reading. For public libraries, this is an optional selection; buy it if you get demand, but skip it otherwise.

I am barely giving it 3 out of 5 stars as there were some parts I did  like, mostly the art.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Booknote: Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Die Laughing (Rebirth)

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Die Laughing (DC Rebirth). Burbank, CA; DC Comics, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4012-6831-2.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: superheroes and villains
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley


I admit that when I picked this up I was a little skeptical. Rebirth, great, another comics renumbering and reboot. It was  not that long ago DC did "The New 52," or so it felt. However, this was a Harley Quinn title, with Palmiotti and Conner still at the helm, so I figured this would a good volume to pick up, and I was right. Even though there is a new label, the stories in this volume pick up where the previous volume left off. This time Harley faces a zombie breakout, and then tries to avenge the death of her favorite postman.

Initially, I thought zombie apocalypse, blah, been there, done that, but then again, zombie breakout done with Harley Quinn and humor, it worked a bit better than I thought. The alien parents story within the zombie story was silly and amusing. It added to the B-movie sort of feel to the story, and I mean that in a good way.

The call centers story, the second story in the set, was a bit weird, and it felt a bit like filler. I don't think I got all the details in the first reading, as it did seem a bit busy at times. Compared to the other stories in this volume, this one just was not as good, and if it was left out, I would not have missed it.

The third story is the revenge story. Harley's favorite mailman gets killed during a robbery, and Harley swears revenge. She find out the killers are part of the punk scene, so naturally, she goes undercover to find them. It was a good story, and more interesting when The Penguin makes an appearance. In addition, the art in this story was very good; they made punk Harley look great. In fact, overall, the art continues to be a good reason to pick up this series too in  addition to the humor and entertainment. The cover arts were excellent, and the volume also features a small gallery of alternative covers worth a look.

Overall, despite some small missteps with that one story, this volume was quite fun overall, and I will
still keep looking out for this series. Truly this is one of the nicer series DC has going now.

I'd say 4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading  Challenges:







Friday, April 07, 2017

Booknote: Marked (House of Night Book One)

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Marked (House of Night Book One). New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-312-36026-9.

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: vampires, YA, teens, paranormal
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I picked up this book in part because I saw the Wisdom of the House of  Night oracle cards, which is based on the House of Night series. I figured since the cards seem interesting enough for me to consider adding them to my growing collection of Tarot and oracle cards that I should give one of the books a try. The book has pluses and minuses. For me, it has enough minuses that I won't be reading the rest of the series (unless someone really convinces me to try one more).

On the plus side, I loved the world of the vampires existing in society and the idea that many celebrities today are vampires. I also liked that  not all vampires are the usual gorgeous stereotypes we often see in modern vampire fiction. In addition, I found the marking idea to be pretty cool, and I was fascinated by the setting and layout of the House of Night school. I found myself wishing someone had marked me back in my school days so I got to go to a cool school with decent teachers teaching interesting and actually engaging subjects. To be honest, if the author had made a House of Night guidebook/faux yearbook/or some other more reference-style source, it would have been great, and I would have been hooked fully.

However, the book has its minuses. On the minus side, it is a high school teen drama. House of Night is still like any other school with drama queens, bullies, obnoxious boyfriends, popular girls, cliques, and the other nonsense many of us are glad we left behind. The book starts at a  nice, fast pace that draws you in. Yet once  you get to the school, it becomes much like another CW teen drama. That basically brought the book  down for me; it took a lot of the magic out of it.

For teens, this is probably a decent selection given much of it features things they might relate to. Drama aside, the book does have some pretty good world building. If you must, I'd say borrow the book. It was just OK for me.

As for the deck of cards, I do like the art I  have seen of it so far, so I may consider getting it down  the  road, but there are other decks more worthy of a space in my collection at the moment.

2  out 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:


Friday, March 31, 2017

Deck Review: The Steampunk Tarot (Moore and Fell edition)

Barbara Moore (author) and Aly Fell (illustrator), The Steampunk Tarot. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7387-2638-0.

WorldCat record for the book here.
Photos of the cards and more information via Aeclectic.

Genre: card deck and book set
Subgenre: Tarot, steampunk, divination, spirituality
Format: 78-cards set with softcover book
Source: I bought this one. 

I will start by reviewing the book. The Steampunk Tarot Manual is the 294-pages book that is part of the kit that includes the Steampunk Tarot deck featuring art by Aly Fell. Barbara Moore wrote the manual. For fans of the steampunk aesthetic, this is an excellent deck to add to their collections and even give a bit of a divination touch to their aesthetic, costumes, cosplay, so on. For Tarot readers, this is a solid, reliable deck in the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) style with more than a few twists of its own. The book is a substantial text that provides a good guide to the deck. Though the book is geared to the deck, I found that much of it can be applicable if you use another RWS style deck.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • A brief  introduction that includes some information on  steampunk for those who may be new to it. It also tells how the deck came to be, and how the rest of the book is organized.
  • A chapter on Tarot basics. This is the mandatory section in these deck manuals that gives you the basics on how to read Tarot. It goes over the structure of a Tarot deck, how it can be used, how to do a reading, and various tips and advice. For Tarot beginners, this is a good section to read and use.  As a beginner myself, I found the information interesting and useful, and I know I will be consulting the book often as I use the deck. Advanced readers may likely skip this chapter, or most of the book, but I would say for them this section could be a nice refresher. 
  • A chapter on the Major Arcana. 
  • A chapter on the Minor Arcana. 
  • A chapter on the Court Cards. I am not a huge fan of arranging these cards in the chapter by type (i.e. all the pages, all the knights, etc.). I would have preferred them by suit (all the Wands, all the Swords, so on). It is a minor thing that I can live with, but as a book reader, it was noticeable. 
  • A chapter on spreads. It includes how to do a basic one-card and a three-cards spread. It also features three steampunk themed spreads, including one with moveable parts. The chapter also includes a sample reading using one of the spreads. 
  • A final farewell note. 
The set truly integrates steampunk and Tarot. This is not just overlaying steampunk over Tarot. Between the writing and the gorgeous illustrations, we get a new Tarot experience within steampunk. Much like a tinkerer takes various parts to create a new machine, the author and the illustrator took the parts of Tarot and created a tool for creativity, reflection, divination, or any other use you can imagine.

As in other books of hers, Moore maintains an easy to read and accessible narrative style. I've found certain warmth when I read one of her books.

In terms of card meanings, each  card gets a page or two of text. The text includes a small poem or quote to set the card's theme, a core meaning, and then the text exploring the card's images, symbols, and meaning. The core meanings serve as a quick memory aid to help you interpret the cards. If you have  used RWS Tarot, then most meanings may be familiar. In fact, according to the manual, most of the core meanings come from Moore's book Tarot for Beginners (link to my review of that book). However there are some slight tweaks and even some small changes from traditional meanings to better fit the steampunk theme. Note that some of the card pages include additional reading tips; not all cards have this feature in the book. She often includes these to add information for when you get a particular card along with other specific cards in a reading. According to Moore, the reading tips do this:

"They are helpful hints to help enhance your readings, expand your understanding, see relationships between the cards, or provide more traditional 'fortuntelling' meanings for the cards" (11).


As always, feel free to interpret the cards as your intuition guides you. If you choose to use the book, I think you'll get a lot out of it. As I mentioned, the book is geared to the deck, but it is well written and in a general way that you could apply it to almost any other RWS style deck. Overall, as companion books go, this is a solid and useful book. The book, which is fully illustrated, gets 5 out of 5 stars from me.

The cards measure about 5 and 1/2 inches by 2 and 3/4 inches. They are a bit smaller than the Gilded Tarot deck I usually use daily. The card stock is a bit on the thin side, kind of like your average playing cards. The cards do bend pretty easily, so if you do riffle shuffling, it should be easy to do, but keep in mind the cards will likely get a bit bent if you riffle shuffle them consistently. I tend to use gentler ways of shuffling, so I hope they will last me a good while with some care. In terms of card materials, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

The best part of the cards, and the big reason to acquire this deck, is Aly Fell's art. The artist truly captures steampunk and Tarot: the Victoriana, the gears and machines, the fashions, characters, so on. This is a deck that is truly a pleasure to look over. The art is definitely excellent, a 5 out of 5 stars on that. The card back features a steampunk gears theme with Tarot suit elements; it is nice, but it is not reversible. That may be an issue for some folks who do reversals. It is not for me since I do not do reversals at this point  in my Tarot journey, and to be honest, I do not think it is a big deal even if I did.

As of this post, I have been using for a couple of months now, and I can read with it fairly  well. As a deck should it offers plenty visually to stimulate intuition and memory. It does fall within RWS, so if you already use that, this will work for you. If you are a steampunk enthusiast who also happens to do Tarot, then this deck is for you. My only issue is the size of the cards, which is a bit small. The cards have great art, and they deserve bigger cards to  appreciate it better. On the other hand, this is a good size for easy shuffling and handling of the cards. I will leave  it to readers to decide.

Overall, this is a good package. Best I know, the cards are not available separately, which I know can be an issue for folks who just want the cards without having to buy yet another starter book or perhaps for those folks who may want a second copy of the deck. However, you do get a very good book in the set. For beginners, this is certainly a  good set to start studying Tarot. The package retails for $28.95,  but  I am sure you can find a deal in the big online retailer everyone loves to hate but uses anyhow; you might even get it cheaper if you buy it used.

In the end, I am glad to have it, and I am happy using it.

So, when I look at the whole deal, I am giving it a 5 out of 5 stars.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: March 24, 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.



 There are a lot of signs the economy is bad this week, so let's just get on with it.

  • Fixing potholes is hard, and it can be expensive. It is probably why so many roads in  the United States are falling apart. Omaha, Nebraska has a solution. Instead of fixing roads, they are just letting them go back to being gravel roads. Story via The New York Times.
  •  We have a some signs the economy is bad from the world of guns and those who love them:
    • Yes, there are liberal gun owners, and they would prefer not to buy their guns and ammo from "shops run by trigger-happy, extreme right-wing folks who sell target sheets shaped like Hillary Clinton and stickers that read 'Muslim Free Zone.'” Perfectly understandable, and it sounds like a new business opportunity for some enterprising gun seller who is not an extremist and happy to sell to liberals who are gun enthusiasts. Story via Boing Boing.
    • Still, many gun sellers and retailers are having the blues. Their industry along with  them spent all that time stirring fear that Obama was going to take their guns away. That never happened, and they even got their wish when the Pendejo In Chief won. So, why are they sad? Well, turns out the hysteria over guns going away is no longer there, and sales are down. Because fear and paranoia always  make for good gun sales. Oh well. Story via Mother Jones
    • How good was the business of fear and guns when Obama was in office? Well, it is estimated that Americans happily bought $17 billion dollars worth of ammunition during the Obama presidency. But with the Pendejo In Chief reassuring Americans their guns are safe, those happy days for the gun industry may be gone for a while. Story via The Washington Post.

As I often point out, not everyone does poorly in the bad economy. Let's have a look at how the uber rich are doing, and who may be doing well in the bad economy:

Booknote: Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys

Jimmy Palmiotti, et.al., Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2017. ISBN: 9781401267858.

With folks like Conner, Palmiotti, and Tieri at the helm, this series continues to be great and amusing. This volume gives the spotlight to Harley's gang, who are all happy to battle villains and save the innocent. . . for a price. Harley decides to test the gang's skills by faking her own kidnapping. However, when a rival from Harley's past makes the kidnapping all too real, the gang must rise to rescue her.

This is a fun comic from start to finish. The action starts pretty much from the first page, and it does not let go. Though the pace slows down a bit late in the comic when they give details of the villain's origins, the story overall is good entertainment.  You get a nice blend of adventure, humor, and some silly hijinks. The art continues to be great. It is a pleasure to read this book with gorgeous art. As I have mentioned before, in a time when most of DC Comics titles have taken a turn for dark, oppressive, emo, and depressing themes, this series is a breath of fresh air. It is light; it is fun to read, and I actually look forward to reading it. I really enjoyed this series, and I do recommend it highly.

5 out of 5 stars.

This title qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Booknote: March: Book Three

John Lewis, et.al., March: Book Three. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-60309-402-3.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: history, biography, United States
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is the last volume of John Lewis' autobiographical trilogy of the Civil Rights Era. This trilogy indeed shows that you can use graphic novels to tell great and important stories. Naturally, you should read these books at any time; for me, this was a perfect way to wrap up Black History Month.

The volume's story takes us from the 1963 church bombing in Alabama to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Many people worked hard in those years, and many were beaten and killed by White American racists, but in the end those seeking progress prevailed, at least for the moment. Because if the 2016 elections in the United States remind us of anything it is how easily Americans forget their history and how easily their inherent racism and bigotry can rise back to the surface. That makes John Lewis' trilogy very needed reading for our times.

This is a powerful and very moving graphic novel. It does not back away from presenting violence from racists upon activists, so it can make for a painful read at times. Not as painful as the pains Lewis and others suffered to make sure this nation lived up to its promises.

It is a volume that may also anger you at times because of the many political games. Lyndon B. Johnson was not exactly a civil rights crusader. He often resisted, made life difficult for the movement, and often only acted when shamed, pressured, or put against a corner so to speak:

"Johnson was backed into a corner, but he wasn't afraid of using hardball politics to fight his way out" (119).

And then there is also this:

"We later learned that President Johnson's men were using FBI wiretaps on the MFPD office, as well as Dr. King's and Bayard Rustin's hotel rooms-- to do anything in their power to influence the outcome" (119).

People got beaten and killed while he and his party worried over precious southern votes, which would lose anyhow when racists saw how the tides were turning. You not only get a riveting and very moving story; you also get a solid history lesson as well.

The story grabs you, and you just have to keep on reading. The art is great and very evocative of the times. I cannot heap enough praise on  this volume and the series. I definitely recommend this, and it is one that will definitely go in my personal collection.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Friday, March 17, 2017

Signs the Economy is Bad: March 17, 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.  



The big news this week is that El Pendejo In Chief just presented his budged proposal, and  it is pretty much a slash-and-burn on pretty much anything that is not the military and homeland security. So naturally, we need to take a look at that part of the bad economy. Let us take a look at a small sampling of who does poorly in this scheme and who does well because at the end of the day, it is a matter of following the money.

Doing poorly from the Pendejo In Chief's and Party of Stupid's budget: 
  • Rural areas. Rural areas voted overwhelmingly for El Pendejo in Chief and the Party of Stupid. In Kentucky, the state went for the GOP, especially in the eastern coal regions that stood to lose the most. Things like clean water, air, assistance with Internet access and broadband, small business loans, and so on are getting the ax. And that is in addition to cuts to health services and the Affordable Care Act. In the end, they voted, and they got what they asked for. Story via The Daily Yonder.  
  • Programs that assist the poor and needy, like Meals on Wheels. The WH budget director said this week that Meals on Wheels is just not achieving results, and the compassionate thing is to cut off funding for the program. I guess those starving seniors should get off their couches, get a damn job, and buy their own damn food instead of waiting for free food delivery. If they want food delivered, they can pay for Domino's like everyone else. If you want to get technical, what he is cutting are the sources of funding for things like Meals on Wheels. So, while some hardcore Republican may pipe up to whine "hey, he is not cutting that because it is a state program, not federal", guess where the state or states get the money to run things like Meals on Wheels. Grants from the federal government (for example, Meals on Wheels often gets money from the federal Community Development Block Grant), i.e. federal money. So yea, he is cutting the funding, but nice try at deflection. Story via Democracy Now!
  • The Appalachian Region, which ironically voted overwhelmingly for El Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid. Among the losers is the Appalachian Regional Commission.  Story via The Rural Blog
  • The homeless, and there will likely be more homeless too. Read more about it from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

 Doing well from the Pendejo In Chief's and Party of Stupid's budget: 

  • Anything related to military spending and "defending the homeland." However, this can vary. Spending for actual military stuff is mostly good. Some of that homeland stuff, depends on what it is. Things like disaster planning are getting cut. Story via AlterNet.
  • Nuclear weapons and those involved in their production, etc. The budget draft proposes an extra billion dollars for production of nuclear weapons in the United States. Story via The Center for Public Integrity. 

 Other signs the economy is bad this week: 


Now, let's have a look at how good the uber rich have it and  who is doing well in the bad economy: 

  • American banks did really well in 2016. In fact, they made even more than they were making  before the financial recession hit. Story via The Week.  
  • The new CEO of Yahoo! stands to make more money than the outgoing CEO Marissa Mayer. Now some feminists are already arguing about inequity because the new guy is a man who is getting paid more for what may be an easier job; I mean, Mayer already fucked up the company and left it in ruins.  Ms. Mayer basically oversaw the downfall of Yahoo! including being there when their massive hacks happened and the company was being bought and cannibalized by Verizon, so I have no sympathy for the lady who is getting her golden parachute anyhow. According to the article, "After nearly five years of leading Yahoo, Mayer is stepping down with a $23 million severance package, according to a proxy statement the company filed on Monday. With $69 million worth of unexercised stock options awarded to her and $97 million of Yahoo stock she already owns, Mayer is expected to have a net worth increase of about $189 million, according to Fortune." Sounds more like a First World Problem. I would love a job where I get fired for fucking up a company and still walk away a multimillionaire. Story via The Christian Science Monitor.  
  • A bit of a mixed situation for higher education administrators. Their salaries are going up, but they are losing some of their other perks. Story via Inside Higher Education.  
  • Apparently if you vape, the devices can explode, and if you want to sue, there are plenty of lawyers who will be happy to take your case. Story via VICE

And finally, in the economic overkill story of the week: using a multi-million dollars PATRIOT missile to shoot down a 200 dollars drone. Genius. Story via Popular Mechanics

 

Booknote: Contraband Cocktails

Paul Dickson, Contraband Cocktails: how America drank when it wasn't supposed to. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-61219-458-5.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: pop culture, history, recipes, cocktails and bar culture
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Library Public Library

The book is a combination of history and trivia with cocktail recipes. The books looks at the drinking culture that flourished during the American Prohibition. Let's be honest, Prohibition is up in the top of the list of stupid things Americans have voted for (but at least they eventually had the sense to repeal it). All that Prohibition did was driving drinking culture underground, and it helped organized crime rise and be profitable. Heck, as the book documents, even the law enforcers and legislators promoting Prohibition kept on drinking; so much for those Christian temperance morals. A fascinating part of the book is documenting the hypocrisy and corruption of government officials, agents, cops, so on because in the end everybody just wanted a drink (even if they were either stupid enough or cynical enough to fall for the temperance lines).

The book is an easy read loaded with many interesting facts and stories. The book is organized into ten chapters; the last chapter is a collection of recipes from the Prohibition era. The author does indicate that not all recipes are for replication; he may have included them for historical value, but you probably should not drink them. Do not worry; he provides plenty of recipes too that you can drink today and even a non-alcoholic drink or two. In addition, the book includes a "Glossary of Volstead English." Another effect of Prohibition was the addition of a lot of new words and slang into American English; many of these words are still in use today.

I really enjoyed this book. If you enjoy U.S. history, this is a good book for you. Trivia fans will enjoy it as well. For example, I learned about other businesses related to booze that also flourished during Prohibition. Not many histories of Prohibition discuss that. Plus, if you are a cocktail enthusiast, there are many recipes here to try out. The book makes a good selection for public libraries. Academic libraries with  an interest in popular culture may want to consider it.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Additional reading notes:

21st century revival speakeasies are glamorized versions of Prohibition reality where cocktail makers had to really be ingenious to take seriously raw alcohol and polish it to make into a drink that was actually drinkable. Yet Prohibition also did give rise to a cocktail culture and its trappings. And that interest in the trappings lives on today:

"Meanwhile, the same urge that has given the twenty-first century speakeasy has also given us a revival of interest in shakers, hip flasks, and the hardware trappings of Prohibition" (x). 

More on that:

"Along with what some have termed the Cocktail Age came a certain style complete with sleek chrome cocktail shakers snazzy portable bars, Art Deco-styled bar tools, and streamlined cocktail carts" (27). 





Friday, March 10, 2017

Booknote: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

M.R. James, et.al., Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Volume 1. London: SelfMadeHero, 2016.  ISBN: 9781910593189.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: horror, suspense, literary classics
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County Public Library.

This edition is a graphic novel adaptation of four ghost stories by M.R. James. If you like your horror with  more suspense and atmosphere and less to no gore, this may be a collection for you. I will add that if you have not read M.R. James' works before that then this book could be a good entry point.

The volume contains the following tales:

  • "Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book."
  • "Lost Hearts." 
  • "The Mezzotint."
  • "The Ash-Tree." 
The book also includes an introduction by horror master and author Ramsey Campbell.

These are easy to read story that right away  draw you in. The works are good at creating an unsettling feeling and are strong on the suspense. The horror lies in that unease and tension. The art serves to bring the author's vision to life, and it works well. Each story has a different artist.

I really liked this one. It's a book that makes me want to seek other stories by M.R. James.

4 out of 5 stars.

Booknote: Where are all the librarians of color?

(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian)

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: LIS, minority studies, academia
Format: trade paperback
Source: My library (Hutchins Library, Berea College)

This may be one of those books that more librarians should read, especially non-POC librarians. For me, I had some mixed feelings as I read it. In part, much of what I read is stuff that I have experienced; some of it is part of my life experience. Also, after a while, the book can get a bit repetitive on things like arguing for recruiting more minorities and why that is good for the profession. Now, I agree with those ideas, although I am very skeptical of encouraging people to apply for work in a field with  an over-saturated job market. Just run an online search or two to find plenty of tales of woe from unemployed and underemployed librarians. And no, telling people to just "look for alternative career paths" is not exactly a great solution or comfort. So with those concerns, I kept reading the book.

If anything, the best parts are the individual stories of those who made it and are gainfully working in the profession. Also, the parts on mentoring and networking at small, local levels were good. There was not enough of that. However, there were many mentions of ALA programs which,  while they may be good, often boil down to "pay to play" (you have to be a member to gain access, and there is no mention of the significant expenses nor the fact many people of color, or just plain many people, might  not have good enough finances to afford said access) and being the right age. As I discovered from personal experience, being too old even if  you are a newly minted MLS can limit some of your options.

The book is organized as follows:

  • A short preface by Loriene Roy.
  • An introduction by the editors. 
  • Three sections on  the following topics: 
    • "Setting the stage for diversity in the profession." 
    • "How diversity benefits the profession." 
    • "Personal diversity stories." 
  • The book has a total of 13 essays.
 The book does provide a good start on an important topic: the experiences of librarians of color in academia. It can be lonely for us in academia, so at least through this book we get reassurance that we are not alone. For librarians of color who keep up, much of the material is likely familiar ground. For everyone else, especially academic administrators, the book may be an important read. It is not a book to read cover to cover as it can be pretty dry as much LIS literature can be. If you read a bit here and a bit there, and maybe talk about it with others, you may get more out of it.

I liked it, but I think I liked the idea more than the execution. LIS school libraries may want to acquire this one. I would also say that colleges and universities with strong interests in minorities and their condition, such as HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions among others, need to have this. It was part of why I ordered it for our library, the history of our college. Other campuses interested in diversity may want to consider it.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Some additional reading notes:

On  the "pay to play:"

"Such involvement is voluntary and both membership and association work are usually dependent upon the individual paying personal due and creating a plan of involvement-- from attending meetings and conferences to serving on committees and/or election to various offices" (viii). 

No mention of the  often prohibitive cost of membership (and let's not even go into meetings and conference costs, and woe unto you if your employer lacks the funds and/or willingness to send you anywhere). Two, also not mentioned, is that for many on a tenure track line, being involved is often required, so it is not always "voluntary."

The isolation, which is something I can relate to:

"As libraries remain predominantly staffed and structured by the majority White culture, the few librarians of color often find themselves feeling marginalized and without access to a supportive group of similarly diverse-minded colleagues to whom they can relate and confide. This in turn can also affect their own advancement in the profession, as professionals are generally better equipped to grow and succeed when they have such collegial group environments and networks at their disposal" (32).

A quote I liked that I think more libraries should mind:

"Running an effective library goes beyond just doing a 'good thing' for a particular minority group; in other words, doing the best work with all of the staff involved is, at a fundamental level, an ethical, inclusive organizational practice to which libraries should aspire" (34).


* * * * * 

Book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:


Friday, March 03, 2017

The Best Books I Read in 2016: An Appendix to my Reading List for 2016

This little post, which is an appendix to my 2016 Reading List, has generated some interested before. I started this small tradition in 2014 and did it again in 2015, so I figure it is worth continuing in 2016. The idea is for me to look back and see what great things I read in 2016. I read a  lot, and I rate what I read on a 1 to 5 stars rating with 5 stars being the best. A 5-stars book to me is the best of the best, one that I want as many people as possible to read, and  it is a book that I would personally own. I  read a lot of great books, but I rarely want to add them to my personal collection. So this list includes the 5-stars books I read for 2016. So feel free to check them out, and if you read any of them, feel free to comment and let me know what you think. If I managed to get the review done in 2016, I will include the link in the book title.

Graphic novels and comics

This is a format that I favor when it comes to reading. A lot of good stuff is published these days as graphic novels proving you can do a lot of cool things with  this format. As I have noted before, I  get a good number of graphic novels and comics via NetGalley, and a few via Edelweiss.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 3. This collection is the TMNT before Nickelodeon turned them into cutesy kid cartoons. As I wrote in my review, this is an excellent compilation of the authors early work. 
  • Drowned City. A tale of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. If you want to understand what really happened, this book is certainly a good start. 
  • I  continue to enjoy the Palmiotti et.al., run on Harley Quinn. This year I read volume 3, volume 4, and volume 5. Volume 5 is the last one before DC did yet another retcon on their comics (the Rebirth thing they got going as of this writing). This means there is a new "volume 1" of Harley Quinn. Though they kept the same author, I am skeptical as I tend to be every time comics publishers feel the need to hit that reset button yet one more time for the sake of trying to increase sales. We shall see. Meanwhile, I did enjoy the offerings so far. Harley Quinn series is one of the few series that DC had running that was not some dark, oppressive, and often overdone tale. This series is always light, fun, and humorous. 
  • Ted Rall had a couple of very good graphic novel biographies of politicians who ran for office in 2016. I managed to the read Bernie and Trump graphic biographies, which are very good if you wish to learn more about those men in an accessible way. I wish  he had one for Hillary Clinton too. 
  • Another excellent biography graphic novel was John Lequizamo's Ghetto Klown
  • I learned a bit more about Buddhism and a 13th century Japanese Buddhist master in Nichiren
  • You can read this one year round, but I think Valentine's Day would be a good time to read this. The book is The Complete Love Hurts. This is certainly one I would love to add to my collection down the road. 
  • Deadpool had a movie last year, and naturally there was renewed interest in the comics. Since I do not rush to watch movies in theaters, I had to wait, so while I waited I read Deadpool: The Complete Collection, Volume 1
  • Another excellent graphic novel biography I read in 2016 was 21: the Story of Roberto Clemente. Not only was it a great book, but so much of it evoked memories of me growing up in Puerto Rico. 
  • And finally for graphic novels, a little dharma with Cold Mountain.

Nonfiction

After graphic novels, nonfiction is the category I tend to favor the most. 2016 was good, but not as good as previous years for me in terms of solid 5-stars books (a lot of 4-stars, which are still good, but not for this post).

  • 2016 was the year I got serious about studying Tarot (and oracle cards), so naturally I read a few books on the topic last year. A good one I can recommend that I also own is Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot
  • Via NetGalley I  discovered what I think is a very good general reference book on Tarot. The book is Llewellyn's Complete Book of Tarot.
  • I took a trip to Asia and met some interesting people in Benjamin Law's Gaysia.
  • Finally, I got in a bit of Gabriel García Márquez this year, and I read a collection of his speeches. The book, which is in Spanish, is Yo No Vengo a Decir un Discurso. You have to love the title, which in English means "I am not here to give a speech." Ironically, by his own admission, the author was terrified of public speaking.