Friday, May 26, 2017

Reading about the reading life: May 26, 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).

I am happy that I have found a few things to do one of these posts. I always enjoy stuff about books, reading, literacy, writing, so on. So without any more fuss, let's get on with it. 

  • I understand  that the Pendeja Princess has a new book out, something or other about (rich white) women who (pretend to) work. You might be curious, but you don't want to read it lest you kill some brain cells in the process. Lucky for us, Samantha Bee has read and review the book so you don't have to. Story via AlterNet. Video from YouTube.
  • In news from the  world of comics, Marvel's Black Panther and the Crew title authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates was recently cancelled. I missed it, but I hope maybe Marvel considers compiling it into a trade.As of this post, he is still working on the individual Black Panther title. Story via Colorlines
  • NPR has an interesting piece on a time when cookbooks also served as medical food advice sources.
  • In San Francisco, a bookstore had to sue because of some poorly written legislation. The law  is meant to curb fake celebrity autographs. However, in the usual fashion of lawmakers who apparently can barely write coherent laws, let alone read what the laws they pass or not, the law may have the side effect of shutting down book signings in bookstores. Via ABC News. 
  • On a bit of a tangent, but also out of California (what is it with those people out there this month?), the city of Fresno tried to ban a Hustler Hollywood store from their city. Noted First Amendment defender and owner of the company, Larry Flint, sued for violation of civil rights (that whole First Amendment thing for one); the city has settled. Story via The Fresno Bee.  
  • The New York Times has something a bit more uplifting from California: a look at some vintage bookstores in Los Angeles.
  • Meanwhile, in Texas, prisoners find that books by poets like Langston Hughes are banned, but access to stuff like Mein Kampf is just fine. Story via Signature.  
  • Via Atlas Obscura, an interesting piece on marginalia in medieval books. Some of those doodles are kind of strange.
  • Via The Guardian, some highlights on the crappy shitty books used bookstores and other second hand shops would appreciate if you would stop donating. In Britain, Oxfam finally put a statement out to say what many of us think: we do not want them. Here in the US, I am sure public libraries cringe when they get yet  another copy of tripe like Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight saga, or The Da Vinci Code that will end up at the Library Friends' Sale. If you get tempted, just toss it in the recycling bin, then ask your local friendly librarian to show you something better to read. 
  • Also via The Guardian, the racket of some less than reputable publishers to get academics to write books that are then hawked at exorbitant prices to libraries.  
  • And finally, I just found this article on Tarot from Aeon interesting, which is why I am including it. 


Signs the economy is bad: May 26, 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.

Another hard week in the bad economy. A lot has been going on, so let's get started.

Before we go on, I am going to quote Tony Soprano to give you a heads up:

"I'm gonna say a few things. I'm gonna say some bad words. You're just gonna have to deal with it."

  • The big news in the bad economy this week was the Pendejo In Chief's budget proposal. Basically, if you are not male, white, and obscenely rich, you are screwed. So. how bad is it? Here are a few examples:
    • Mother Jones lays it all out: "Here's How Trump's New Budget Screws Everyone But The Filthy Rich." If there is a program that low class and middle class people and families depend on, it is on the chopping block. 
    • You have too many kids and you are poor? No food for you or your spawn. You are screwed too according to The Washington Post.
    • You are a lower income child, and you need health care? Sucks to be you since his budget cuts your health benefits. Story via The Washington Post.
    • Rely on food stamps? The SNAP program? Well tough shit. The budget cuts that too. Story via Vox. Those 45 million or so who rely on food stamps for some food on the table, fuck 'em. The irony is how many of those likely voted for the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid. You think I am just saying that to be mean? Well, a "CNN analysis found that of the top 10 places with the largest percentage of residents who use SNAP, seven voted for Trump in the 2016 elections." No further comment needed. 
    • Are you a school student in  a rural area? You guessed it, fuck you too. Via The Rural Blog
    • Are you a rural voter who voted for the Pendejo In Chief? You really thought he and the Party of  Stupid were going to protect you in exchange for you vote despite evidence to the contrary? Sucker. Via The Rural Blog.
      • And speaking of those rural voters, odds are good many of them may start depending on food pantries more. Well, they may be up shit's creek because hunger may be on the rise in the US, but donations to food pantries are not. It's like the powers that be want them to starve or something. Story via NPR. 
    • Hell, not even wild horses are going to come out alive if this budget goes through. I guess this will be Trump Steaks 2.0. Story via PBS Newshour. 
  • The other big fuss this week was HUD Secretary Ben Carson saying poverty is a state of mind. I will make sure to tell my creditors and landlord that their payments this month will be in happy thoughts. Yea, it's all in your head according to the good doctor. Story via The New York Times, but if you go on Twitter, they had a field day mocking him as he rightfully deserves.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and Carson definitely is wasting his. 
  • In more normal bad economy news, a bunch of retailers are closing stores...again. Story via USA Today. How the hell Sears is still alive is beyond me, and to think they were once a mighty and respectable company. Talk about how the mighty have fallen.
  • If you are a woman with  a college degree, and you have student loans, things are not too bright for you. According to the article, the "burden of student debt is having an outsize impact on women who now hold nearly two thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding education loans, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Association of University Women." Story via The Washington Post.
  • Meanwhile, in the UK, reports of teachers becoming homeless because their salaries are not enough to pay for housing where they work. Via The Guardian
  • Let us look at something positive. In Ohio, a local coroner is expanding business opportunities for funeral homes and refrigeration trailers. What a guy! What is causing this boom in business? There is a massive opoids addiction epidemic in his county, and he has so many corpses he cannot fit them in the morgue and has to rent out storage space. Story via Vox
  • Meanwhile, a new study finds that there are more sweatshops than Starbucks  in Chicago. So much for the joke that there is a Starbucks in every corner. Not in Chicago. Story via Truthout.
  •  And in New York City, Uber has been stiffing its drivers of owed money. Story via Vox.
  • In "oops" news, the "US failed to keep proper track of more than $1 billion in weapons and equipment to Iraq." By the way, we do need add the qualifier "again." This is not the first time the US does this kind of thing. Story via The Washington Post.
  • The Week has something or other about Millennials, who are all about "the experience," saying no to "traditional wedding gifts." Let me bottom line it for you: just give them the damn cash already. Deity of choice knows they will need it in the bad economy.
  • The New York Yankees baseball team is not doing well in terms of ticket sales, even with a winning record overall. Naturally, they mostly blame it on those damn Millennial kids who could not care less about attending baseball games. Hell, I am not a Millennial, and  I could not care less about attending sporting event at a stadium. That is what ESPN and other channels are for, if I must (plus that helps me avoid the overpriced concessions). Story via The New York Times
  • Meanwhile, the maker of Bud Light is spending money to polish up the company image to make the brand seem more sophisticated. . . lol (yea, excuse me a moment while I laugh here). . . (OK, I am set). The reality is that the serious money for them these days is in the craft beer brands they have been buying up left and right (they don't make them themselves, so they just used money to muscle in on that market), and that is really where all that marketing money is going to. Story via The Washington Post.
  • And finally, a follow up. In the previous installment of "Signs the economy is bad," one  of the big news items was the kerfuffle over avocado toast. Well,  you may need to have something to drink to wash down that avocado toast. Now you are set with the new avocado latte. Just what every hipster Millennial needs. Story via USA Today.

Booknote: Tarot Court Cards for Beginners

Leeza Robertson, Tarot Court Cards for Beginners: Bring Clarity to your Readings. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017. ISBN: 9780738750163.

Worldcat record here.
Publisher information here.

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

I recently read this as a bit of a mistake. I requested a book from the publisher via NetGalley, and in place of the book they advertised, it had the file for this one. On a happy note, the publisher eventually fixed the issue. I got to read the other book too, but in the meantime I gave this one a try. I found it to be pretty good for what it does: give you some help in understanding the Tarot court cards. 

Before, I go on, let me provided a bit from the book's description:

"Tarot expert Leeza Robertson has discovered that for a majority of tarot readers, the court cards are the most challenging cards to work with. But once you become familiar with  these enigmatic figures, you can turn them into friends and allies that provide powerful insights and advice. With stories, explanations, simple exercises, and meditations, this book explores the many facets of pages, knights, kings, and queens to help beginning and novice readers deepen their journey through the tarot."

I can agree with that. I often struggle with the court cards because I can't quite decide if they refer to a person (someone else or me) or if they refer to some other issue or trait. A nice thing I like when I use Lyle's book to check on meanings is that Lyle gives an additional meaning option for looking at court cards in abstract terms. Personally, I tend to find that a bit more helpful in my daily Tarot meditations. Robertson's book provides a new way to look at these cards.

The book is arranged into 6 major parts. Here is a basic outline of the organization:

  • Brief history of Tarot, includes terminology, and a bit on the Emperor and Empress and their role.
  • The Pages, Princesses, and Children. There is then a chapter for Knights and  Princes, The Queens, and the Kings. Each of these chapters includes: 
    • History, myth, and legend.
    • Material on the court cards as a person, archetypal influence, and as messenger. 
    • Each chapter then ends with exercises and spreads you can try out. 
    • On the court card chapters, Robertson writes, "each of these chapters end with two connection exercises. One is a journal or meditation exercises and the other is a spread specific to the cards in general" (3).
  • Sixth chapter is "bringing the kingdoms together." This has four exercises to try out to help you bring it all together. 
  • The book then ends with  a section on recommended reading. 
Robertson explains that this is a book for beginners:

"Before that, let's get something clear: this book is designed with a beginner in mind, and even though I do offer some beyond beginner tips and exercises, this is really for those of you struggling to make sense of these sixteen cards. That said, this book is meant  to work with Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired tarot decks as I will be looking at them as the primary source of understanding. There are also sections in this book dedicated to members of the royal court from Thoth-influenced decks. So no matter what sort of deck you hold in your hands, your members of court will be mentioned" (2).

The author uses these decks used for illustration: Llewellyn's Classic Tarot, the Gaian Tarot, and the Tarot of the Hidden Realm. This is so you can see the same card as expressed in different ways by different authors and artists. In addition, the inclusion of various exercises and writing prompts helps to make the book more practical.

Overall, the book is easy to read and very accessible. Robertson's framing of the court cards as part  of larger stories can be helpful if you are trying to grasp the meanings of the court cards. The book provides plenty of opportunities to study and reflect on what you learn to help reinforce the learning process. This was one I really liked, and I think Tarot learners who are beginners will find it helpful.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

On that whole Emperor and Empress thing. Robertson proposes we see the court as part of a story and Tarot as a land with a ruler and local governors/kings:

"The best way to go from here is to understand that the tarot itself is a vast and wondrous land. It  is so vast that the Emperor who controls all of it cannot rule it on his own. He just can not rule it on his own. He just cannot be in all places at once so he keeps the regional aristocracy in power to maintain the kingdoms. The kingdom of wands in the east, the kingdom of cups in the south, the kingdom of pentacles in the west and the kingdom of swords in the north. But it is the emperor and he alone who gets the final say on things within the land of tarot, for his power is absolute" (11)

Another way to look at it:

"Another way to think of this tarot empire is to view the emperor and empress as the whole package, a complete and total ruling couple, and the kings and queens of the suits as parts of their personality. The cups, emotional; the wands, active; the swords, intellectual processing; and pentacles, physical resources. In this scenario, the royal families of the minor arcana become inner archetypes of the emperor and empress" (12).

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

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.

* * * * * 

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.

* * * * * 

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.

* * * * * 

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 G├ębelin 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 G├ębelin'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.

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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: