Friday, July 28, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: July 28, 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.

Here we go with  another week in the bad economy. A bit of everything this week, so let's have a look.

  •  In big business merger news, even the world of sex shops can't escape the mergers as Good Vibes acquires Babeland. Story via the Good Vibes blog. 
  • The economy is bad, even for college graduates who were hoping to not have to do manual labor or other menial tasks. Well, now that some forms of manual labor all of a sudden have cachet, jobs like barber, book binder, and jeweler are becoming hot career choices, at least for a few hipsters. Story via The Christian Science Monitor
  • Public school teachers have it rough. It is bad enough that they get lousy pay, but then more often than not, due mainly to whiny tax payers who refuse to fund schools properly, teachers often have to buy their own school supplies for their own classrooms. One teacher decided to try something different to address the issue: she went out panhandling. Story via The Washington Post.
  • Baby Boomers are getting old. Their legacy is often one of messing up a lot of things for the generations that followed after they got all sorts of good breaks. They are also leaving behind a legacy of a lot of stuff. Many are hoping they can leave the stuff to their kids, but it turns out their kids could not care less. This may be related to the fact that many of their kids just do not have the space nor the desire for a lot of things they deem as junk or unnecessary. Story via The Christian Science Monitor. Having said that, if Nana is about to croak, and she wants you to have her vintage made in the USA Pyrex dishes, and you cook regularly, take them. Those suckers are not only valuable and collectible, but they also cook better than a lot of modern dishes, and in a pinch, you can sell them for a decent price. Pyrex story via NPR. 
  • Amazon needs employees, and they are going on a hiring spree. A concern is the labor market may be a bit tight. Story via USA Today.
    • Anyhow, Amazon will be just fine as more Americans keep using it to shop. In fact, when it comes to seeking out products to buy, Amazon has overtaken Google as the place to start. Story via Business Insider.
  • Mom and Pop markets are facing extinction, especially in rural and isolated areas where they are not only the main source of groceries but also serve other community functions. The problem is as owners retire or die, no one wants to take over the business. Story via The Washington Post
  • A few countries around the world are looking for a few good American researchers and scholars, so they are launching various recruitment campaigns. I will remind them that such scholars often need research support, so they may want to consider hiring a few librarians too. If they do, I am ready to go. Story via Inside Higher Ed
  • Apparently McDonald's needs to diversify. Selling fast food is not enough, so they also have an apparel line. Yes, not only do you pay for their food, now you can also pay to wear clothes plastered with their advertising. Story via Foodiggity
  • Apparently there are concerns Starbucks sales of overpriced burnt coffee may slow down. They had a tumble in their stock shares. Story via Reuters.
  • And in news from the world of science, turns out you are more likely to be happier if you DO order out more or eat out more and pay for a maid to clean your house once in a while. Story via The New York Times.
Sadly, we have some news from the world of the Pendejo In Chief. Oh well. . .

  •  The military is renting space in Trump Tower for about $130K for the space. Why? So just in case the Pendejo In Chief happens to spend the night, they can keep the "nuclear football" nearby. Because apparently the "football" needs to be comfortable too, and it needs a 3,475-square-foot space to do so. Story via New York Magazine.
  • That is peanuts compared to the expense of protecting the Pendejo In Chief when he takes some time off at Mar-A-Lago. So far guarding him there has cost $6.6 million dollars. May be a good time to work for the Secret Service or other protective services. Story via The Hill
  • The Pendejo In Chief is all about "Made in America." However, he outsources his e-commerce platform that sells his red MAGA hats and other products to a Canadian company. Story via Good.Is.
  • And finally for this week, as I often say, when the economy is bad, you have to get creative to make a buck or two. So, someone has taken those words to heart and created a new product. They are selling Donald Trump condoms. Yes, that is real. Story via Dangerous Minds.


Booknote: Ghostland

Colin  Dickey, Ghostland: an American History in Haunted Places. New York: Viking, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-101-98019-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: travel, ghosts, hauntings, history, paranormal
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

The book does have history, but it also offers a bit of pop culture and trivia. I think some fans of the ghost hunter shows may find it of interest, but keep in mind this is not about ghost hunters. What the book really presents is a  look at various haunted places in the United States and what those places say about us as people and society. Dickey's claim is that hauntings and stories about hauntings are really about people, about a need to cope with an event, or fill gaps of information.

The book is organized in four parts, and each part contains three to five chapters. Each chapter looks at a specific place, but it also continues the overall discussion of hauntings and how they work. Keep in mind, as Dickey states in his author's note, "this book is not about truth or falsity of any claims of ghosts" (xiii). His book does discuss the stories, but he looks at them more in terms of the living. He looks at how people deal with stories and places and the dead and their ghosts. He tells the stories and then discusses what the stories do for people today. Some stories become popular, and their locations make money from tourist and ghost tours. Others are barely remembered.

Overall, the book is a very interesting read. Anyone interested in a ghosts, hauntings, and how such stories are generated will find it interesting. The chapters are not too long, making the book an easy read. It is much like reading a good travel book with the author as your guide. This is one I really liked.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

Additional reading notes:

As I mentioned, the book does not seek to make claims on truth or falsehood of ghosts. On this, the author writes,

"There is no amount of proof that will convince a skeptic of spirits, just as no amount of skeptical debunking will disabuse a believer. As [Samuel] Johnson remarked regarding the paranormal, 'All argument is against it; but all belief is for it'" (xiii).

What the book is truly about:

"This book instead focuses on question of the living: how do we deal with stories about the dead and their ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted?" (xiii).

On the persistence of believing in ghosts:

"Spend enough time debunking the legends associated with haunted places, trying to see past it all-- the marketing, the dubious electronic devices, and all the other trappings-- and you sometimes forget how real, and how persistent, the belief in ghosts is for many of us. A belief that in various ways, and for various people, gives an explanation and meaning to experiences that can't be explained away easily. A belief that can help us mourn and give us hope" (92).

How ghost stories are born:

"This is how ghost stories are born, after all: not from a complete story so much as from bits and pieces that don't quite add up, a kaleidoscope of menace and unease that coalesce in unpredictable ways" (139).

On ghost stories and cities:

"Ghost stories, for good or ill, are how cities make sense of themselves: how they narrate the tragedies of their past, weave cautionary tales for the future" (248). 

* * * * *

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: July 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.

It has been a couple of weeks since the previous edition, and the economy continues to be bad. Features this week include: cigars, dollar stores, Venezuela, and I give you an update on avocado toast news. Let's get on with it:

  •  The big news this week is that the Pendejo In Chief declared this past week to be "Made in America" week. He even got states to highlight some of the crappy, barely known few remaining fine products made in the U.S. Chick-Fil-A? Georgia? Really, that was the best you could come up with? In the end, there was a note of irony as Carrier, the big factory he bragged about making a deal to keep jobs in the US is eliminating jobs anyhow. Stories via NPR, USA Today.
  • Apparently, the Pendejo In Chief's administration is also considering banning oil imports from Venezuela. Keep in mind  Venezuela is the U.S.'s third largest supplier. If you use Citgo gas stations, they use gasoline from Venezuelan oil (in fact, Venezuela's PDVSA owns it). That is just one example. What I am trying to say is do not be surprised down the road if gas prices here go up. Story via Telesur.
  • Not that "made in America" matters much to a lot of Americans. For all the bitching and  moaning they do about it, most Americans are not willing to pay more (a.k.a. the actual cost) to buy products made in the U.S. Story via Reuters. 
    • Not only that, but they are not even willing to work at picking or harvesting produce grown in the U.S. In North Carolina, they can't find local Americans (or any American) willing to do farm work and pick produce. Same situation in American vineyards. Americans may like to brag about drinking American wine; they just do not want to make the hard effort to pick the grapes to make that wine. Overall, they prefer foreigners, often undocumented, to do those jobs and exploit their labor as cheap as possible. The problem with that is the Pendejo In Chief along with the Party of Stupid have sworn to crack down on illegal immigration, thus shutting down, or at least dramatically threatening the dirt cheap exploited labor supply American farm owners (and other industries like restaurants, hotels, etc.) depend on. So, it's made in America as long as someone else, preferably not an actual "American" does the work for cheap. Stories via The Rural Blog and The Daily Yonder
    • And further proof most Americans are all talk when it comes to "made in America," turns out Dollar General stores are crowding out mom and pop retail in small town  America. In fact, Dollar General has almost as many stores as McDonald's by now. Don't get me wrong, I get the economy is bad and all, but going for just the cheapest stuff made in China or abroad  is not going to fix it. Just saying. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • Teachers in the US already have it tough given low salaries, bad working conditions, and to make it worse, they often have to pay for their own school supplies for their classrooms and themselves because heaven forbid local whiny taxpayers actually pay to have the classrooms their communities' children attend fully funded. So, to add insult to injury, it gets even worse if they have college loan debt. In the end, hey, you can always just shut down schools and let your kids run around illiterate. What could go wrong? Story via NPR. 
  • Meanwhile, in rural parts of Arizona they have a shortage of physicians. Story via NPR.
In the bad economy, you have to make a buck however you can. People often need to get creative if they want to work and get some income. Often you need a bit of ingenuity and looking outside the box to make it, like the folks in these stories:

  • Higher education could be an option. However, higher education is often like the rest of America: it does not want to pay what it actually costs to hire someone to do a job. So they try to weasel around and  pay whatever exploitative wage they think they can get away with, like the University of Illinois-Chicago where they need a language program director and professor but they do not want to pay what that is actually worth. So they are spinning it as creating an opportunity for some desperate, out on their luck, will take any job to stay off the streets fine entrepreneurial academic who eats little and is willing to incur the wrath  of the IRS in not paying taxes (because the job does not pay enough  for even that) to take that job. What that fine institution of higher learning did is what many of their peers do: call the job "a visiting scholar" which makes it cheap and temporary even though it is full time substantial work that should be hired and paid accordingly. Story via Inside Higher Ed
  • When you are in a relationship, breaking up can be hard. Getting over the other person can be tough, and you may need a little tough love and emotional support. If you are someone willing and able to provide said tough love, tell someone to get the fuck over it already, go work out, and learn to move on, and get paid for doing what women often do for other women for free (or over a few cosmos at the local bar), then a career as a "break up expert" may be for you. Story via Alternet.
  • In Yellowstone, they are finding that it may be more lucrative to promote people taking pictures of bobcats than shooting them with bullets. Turns out a bobcat is worth more alive than dead according to research. Plus you get to promote ecotourism. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • In Lexington, KY, an alcohol delivery service is expanding. That is right. You can already order pizza delivery, so why not get some beer to go with  that pizza delivered too? I look at this as a plus. If alcohol being delivered means one less drunken driver who instead stays home, that is a good thing. Story via LEX 18.
  • I have highlighted before how legalized marijuana has been an economic boon for states that implemented it. Most anyone can get some pot now in those locations, but what about the wealthier folks who may want a more upscale experience? Well, fear not. Entrepreneurs are already on it, and they now offer a cannabis cigar. It's the "420 for the 1%." retailing for about $110. Story via Alternet.
And finally for this week, an update from the world of Avocado Toast news. It turns out you can stop being an idiot and blaming Millennials money woes on their craving of avocado toast. The topic has been investigated, with actual empirical research  and everything, and avocado toast is not to blame. You can read the story here at The Intercept, and you can read the actual research paper here (this one is a PDF) from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Another one of those "must-read" lists of classics, let's have a look

Once in a while I get amused when I see yet another list of stuff someone thinks you ought to read in order to (insert a reason here: be more cultured, be better read, be more of a hipster, be more of a book snob, attract chicks, be more manly, whatever). Also, once in a while, I want to see how I do in relation to the list. Here is one of those lists, which I saw at Book Riot a while back. This is their "100 Must-Read Lesser-Known Classics." I think that, aside from some exceptions, that list is a polite way of saying "some obscure shit that most likely you have not read unless you are a hardcore literature major, a recluse with no other media, or just do not have enough to do with your life." On a serious note, a few things here do sound interesting, and I may add them to my TBR list down the road.

Anyhow, I am transcribing the list below. I removed the big bookstore behemoth links to keep things tidy. I will highlight in bold books I have actually read. In some cases, I will highlight in bold an author to indicate I may have read something else by that author instead. I will make any comments on titles in parenthesis after the title.

The List:

  • The Recognition of Sakuntala, by Kalidasa (India, c. 4th century) 
  • The Poems of T’ao Ch’ien, by T’ao Ch’ien (China, early 400s) 
  • The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (Japan, early 1000s) 
  • The Song of Roland, author unknown (France, c. 1040-1115) (If I recall, I read this somewhere in high school. It would have been around the time I had to read El Cid).  
  • The Essential Rumi, Jalal al-Din Rumi (Iran, 1200s) (I have read some of his verses.)
  • The Bustan of Saadi, by Saadi (Persia, 1257) 
  • The Táin, author unknown (Ireland, 12th-14th century) 
  • Essays in Idleness, by Yoshida Kenkō (Japan, 1330-1332) 
  • The Cloud of Unknowing, author unknown (England, later 1300s) 
  • The Book of Margery Kempe, by Margery Kempe (England, 1420s) (Read in  graduate school as an English  major) 
  • Lazarillo de Tormes, author unknown (Spain, 1554) (I read this, in Spanish, in high school. To American gringos, this may be obscure. In Latin America, this is pretty well known in school syllabi. It is a classic of Spanish Peninsular literature ) 
  • The Heptameron, by Marguerite of Navarre (France, 1558) 
  • The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish (England, 1666) 
  • The Princess of Cleves, by Madame de Lafayette (France, 1678)
  • Oroonoko, by Aphra Behn (England, 1688) 
  • Brief Lives, by John Aubrey (England, Late 1600s) 
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho (Japan, 1694) 
  • Love in Excess, by Eliza Haywood (England, 1720) 
  • A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe (England, 1722) (I read Robinson Crusoe instead) 
  • Letters of a Peruvian Woman, by Françoise de Graffigny (France, 1747) 
  • Fanny Hill, by John Cleland (England, 1748) 
  • Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin (China, mid 1700s) 
  • The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox (Scotland, 1752) (never heard of this. However, I  have read Cervantes' Don Quixote, in Spanish, in full version) 
  • Letters of Mistress Henley, by Isabelle de Charrière (Netherlands, 1784) 
  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, by Olaudah Equiano (Nigeria, 1789) (read this in graduate school. Most people read Douglass, which is fine, but this one may be more interesting) 
  • A Simple Story, by Elizabeth Inchbald (England, 1792) 
  • Caleb Williams, by William Godwin (England, 1794) 
  • A Voyage Around My Room, by Xavier de Maistre (France, 1794) 
  • Jacques the Fatalist, by Denis Diderot (France, 1796) 
  • Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, by Mary Wollstonecraft (England, 1796) 
  • The Coquette, by Hannah Webster Foster (U.S., 1797) 
  • Wieland, by Charles Brockden Brown (U.S. 1798) (Not this, but I have read other works by him in graduate school) 
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg (Scotland, 1824) 
  • Hope Leslie, by Catharine Maria Sedgwick (U.S. 1827) 
  • The Wide, Wide World, by Susan Warner (U.S., 1850) 
  • Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (England, 1851-1853) 
  • Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern (U.S., 1854) 
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs (U.S., 1861) (Again, in graduate school) 
  • Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (England, 1862) 
  • The Story of Avis, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (U.S. 1877) 
  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, by Isabella Bird (England, 1879) 
  • Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scotland, 1879) (I read what most kids read, namely Treasure Island.)
  • The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (Brazil, 1881) 
  • Hester, by Margaret Oliphant (Scotland, 1883) 
  • The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner (South Africa, 1883) 
  • Hunger, by Knut Hamsun (Norway, 1890) 
  • Effi Briest, by Theodor Fontane (Germany, 1894) 
  • Trilby, by George Du Maurier (France and England, 1894) 
  • Elizabeth and Her German Garden, by Elizabeth von Arnim (Australia, 1898) 
  • The Conjure Woman, by Charles Chestnutt (U.S., 1899) 
  • I Await the Devil’s Coming, by Mary MacLane (Canada/U.S., 1901) 
  • The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton (England, 1908) 
  • Jakob von Gunten, by Robert Walser (Switzerland, 1909) 
  • Kokoro, by Natsume Sōseki (Japan, 1914) 
  • Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (U.S. 1915) 
  • Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein (U.S., 1915) 
  • The Home and the World, by Rabindranath Tagore (India, 1916) 
  • Diary of a Madman, by Lu Xun (China, 1918) 
  • Return of the Soldier, by Rebecca West (England, 1918) 
  • Demian, by Hermann Hesse (Germany, 1919) 
  • The Sheik, by Edith Maude Hull (England, 1919) 
  • Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Unset (Norway, 1920) 
  • Cane, by Jean Toomer (U.S., 1923) (Again, in graduate school) 
  • Zeno’s Conscience, by Italo Svevo (Italy, 1923) 
  • The Home-Maker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (U.S., 1924) 
  • There is Confusion, by Jessie Redmon Fauset (U.S., 1924) 
  • Bread Givers, by Anzia Yezierska (U.S. 1925) 
  • Chaka, by Thomas Mofolo (Lesotho, 1925) 
  • Lolly Willowes, by Silvia Townsend Warner (England, 1926) 
  • Home to Harlem, by Claude McKay (Jamaica/U.S., 1928) 
  • Quicksand, by Nella Larsen (U.S., 1928) 
  • Doña Bárbara, by Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuela, 1929) (Again, read this in high school. Not obscure at all in Latin America. Many of us down there already know about "the devourer of men.") 
  • A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes (Wales, 1929) 
  • Dance Night, by Dawn Powell (U.S., 1930) 
  • A Note in Music, by Rosamond Lehmann (England, 1930) 
  • Devil’s Cub, by Georgette Heyer (England, 1932)* 
  • Frost in May, by Antonia White (England, 1933) 
  • Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (England, 1933) 
  • Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schulz (Poland, 1934) 
  • Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1935-7) 
  • Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (England, 1936) 
  • Nightwood, by Djuna Barnes (U.S., 1936) 
  • Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb (Hungary, 1937) 
  • The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen (Ireland, 1938) 
  • Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig (Austria, 1939) 
  • The Invention of Morel, by Adolpho Bioy Cesares (Argentina, 1940) (I have not read this author, but again, in Spanish language he is not obscure.) 
  • Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (U.S., 1942) 
  • Iceland’s Bell, by Halldór Laxness (Iceland, 1943) 
  • Love in a Fallen City, by Eileen Chang (China, 1943) 
  • Near to the Wild Heart, by Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1943) 
  • The Makioka Sisters, by Junichirō Tanizaki (Japan, 1943-1948) 
  • Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1944) (How the hell anyone other than someone clueless thinks Borges is obscure or lesser known is beyond me. Seems some people need to read outside the usual stuff more.)  
  • Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey (Scotland, 1946) 
  • Trilogy, by H.D. (U.S. 1946) 
  • In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes (U.S. 1947) 
  • The Mountain Lion, by Jean Stafford (U.S., 1947) 
  • The Slaves of Solitude, by Patrick Hamilton (England, 1947) 
  • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (England, 1948)

I have read 10 books from the list, either from high school for the Spanish language ones or in graduate school as an English major.

I have read 12 additional authors.

I will comment a few others I have heard of, and I honestly wonder how a few others rate as "lesser known." Borges lesser known? You'd be laughed out of polite company anywhere south of the U.S. border. Having said that, there are some here I personally had not heard of and may be adding to my TBR list.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Booknote: James Bond: Hammerhead

Andy Diggle, James Bond: Hammerhead. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781524103224. 

Genre: comics and  graphic novels
Subgenre: action, adventure, spies, secret agents
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

Dynamite has a new run of James Bond comics, and I finally got to look at one of them. Warren Ellis started writing them. This one is done by Andy Diggle, continuing that work. I will say that it captures the feel and spirit of James Bond quite nicely.

In this adventure, James Bond has to stop an anti-capitalist radical that is targeting Britain's nuclear arsenal. As he investigates, he crosses paths with an industrialist who also happens to have the contract for a lot of British military work, including work with that nuclear arsenal. There may be a little comment there on just how much a military should be getting cozy with  a private contractor, but I digress. What Bond finds is a plot to make Great Britain be a great empire like used to be once more.

The story has a good pace, and it is entertaining blending action and intrigue. As I said, it captures the feel of the James Bond world and characters. If you enjoyed the older James Bond movies with Sean Connery, and even the ones with Roger Moore, you will probably enjoy this comic. It captures a bit of that old time feel with a nice contemporary touch. You get the gadgets, the action, the glamour, the sexy ladies, a femme fatale, so on. For me, it almost felt like watching a movie. The story moves along pretty quickly, so it left me wanting more, and I will certainly seek out more of this series. The art is very good as well, and brings the story to life.

Overall, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book  qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Booknote: Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love

Sara Vaughn, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2017. ISBN: 9781401268411.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: ghosts, superheroes, horror, gothic, romance
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman, has a mission to help others. He is a ghost, and the others he often helps are ghosts as well. In this story, he comes to an old mansion, only to find himself trapped in the house. He is unable to leave it. The mansion has new residents: a writer and his fiancee who can see ghosts and interact with them. Deadman and the lady must join forces to solve the mystery of the mansion and the lady ghost that haunts it. However, that ghost may be the least of their concerns as there is another evil lurking.

This comic was a pleasant discovery for  me. Deadman was not a character I was familiar with, so I went in as a new reader. This was a good tale. The story combines a bit of superhero narrative, supernatural and paranormal tale, gothic horror, and some romance. The author builds up the story and the suspense, and you stay with the story to find out what exactly is going on. What is the real threat? You will have to read to find out. The story, as I mentioned, is built up well. It has a good, strong pace, and it draws you in. As an added bonus, I found the binary character interesting, and it is a character I would like to see more down the road.

The art is very good, and it captures the suspense, horror, and gothic feel of the tale very well. In some ways, this comic feels like old classic gothic horror, and I say that as a compliment. Fans of the gothic horror genre can enjoy this one.

This is a title I would recommend for libraries with graphic novel collections. It is definitely a  good one to add to your Halloween book displays too.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Booknote: Doom Patrol, Volume 1

Gerard Way,, Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2017.  ISBN: 9781401269791.

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

This pretty much falls under "what the heck did I just read?" While I am not an obsessive geek about Doom Patrol, I am familiar with the concept enough to appreciate it. This volume was pretty much a mess in terms of plot and story. Also, from what I have gathered from other reviewers, you probably will not appreciate it much unless you are seriously hardcore about these characters, and it likely helps if you are also a fan of the previous run by Grant Morrison. I have observed fans of the Morrison run either like this one (because it reminds them of that) or hate it (because it is nothing like that). I have not read the Morrison work, so I come to the comic mainly as a new reader, and I can tell you that based on this I would not pick up the next part of the series.

Let me give a bit of the book's description as reference:

"Flex Mentallo, Robotman, Rebis, Crazy Jane, and more are back to twist minds and take control. This new take on a classic embraces and reimagines the Morrison run's signature surrealism and irreverence. Incorporating bold, experimental art and a brash tone to match a new generation of readers, Gerard Way's DOOM PATROL establishes radical new beginnings, breaks new ground, and honors the warped team dynamic of the world's strangest heroes"

The above sounds a lot better than what you actually get. The premise is that of heroes in our world who for whatever reason have forgotten they are heroes and have powers. They need to be reminded fast since there is a new threat. Our protagonist, Casey Brinke, is a young female EMT ambulance driver, but it turns out she is more than that, and so is her ambulance which is actually a vehicle as well as the embodiment of a higher being. It goes downhill from there as you struggle to figure out what  is going on. You don't really get the hang of it until about the third issue (this volume collects the first six issues of this run, so that means you have to read at least halfway into the series to get your bearings).

So, are there any redeeming qualities? To a small extent, some elements of the story are reminiscent of the film They Live (yes, the Roddy Piper film) of a secret alien world just under ours. The other redeeming element is the art. If you like surreal and "trippy" art, this may be a volume for you. But it  is not really a volume to read for the story, which is basically a convoluted mess I would not recommend to anyone. Only readers I see picking this up are hard fans, and I get the impression even some of those will pass.

This  is a title I  would not order for my library, and  I do not recommend it to other libraries. If a patron asks for it, get it via Interlibrary Loan for them. This is just not worth purchasing for a collection.

1 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Speaking American

Josh Katz, Speaking American*: how y'all, youse, and you guys talk: a visual guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.  ISBN: 9780544703391.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: maps, geography, language studies, Americana, trivia.
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

The book is mainly a collection of maps and charts showing different American language and word usage customs. You learn about things like where in the United States people say "soda" versus "pop" or how do you pronounce the word "pecan." According to the author, with a few select questions on how people pronounce certain words and/or use a specific word, say "hoagie" versus "hero" versus "sub," you can pretty much tell where someone is from in the U.S.

The book starts with an introduction, then it has five parts, a conclusion, and indexes for terms and places. Each part has a variety of maps and graphics, and it ends with small sections on "how to pretend you're from. . . " that expand on a specific city or region. The visual guide is also colorful and eye catching.

Overall, I find the book to be interesting and entertaining. Fans of trivia, Americana, language, and geography will find it of interest. This is a good selection for public libraries, and I'd say some academic libraries may consider getting it. In the end, it is one I really liked.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, July 07, 2017

Reading about the reading life: July 7, 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).

This week, in addition to things about reading, I have a couple of items dealing with trivia that I felt were interesting enough to share as well. It's Friday, so let's have a look.

  • The Daily Beast recently had a profile of Michael Thevis. You may not know the name off the top of your head, but in the 1970s, he made a fortune in the world of pornography way back in the good old days  before the Internet. And then all was lost in corruption, greed, and even murder. 
  • Via Telesur, a report on a big find in Argentina. They found a big cache of Nazi artifacts, likely brought over by Nazi fugitives after World War II. They plan on donating the items to a museum. Part of the idea of making a donation is to  prevent resale of the items. 
  • Someone observed that in bookstores diet books get primacy over books about eating disorders. Take it for what it's worth. Story via Refinery 29
  • In Houston, they recently had a drag queen story hour. This story did make the rounds of librarian online forums for a while. Story via Houstonia Magazine
  • A bookstore is opening up in the location that used to house a brothel, and they even have a coffee shop. Story via The Chronicle (Lewis County, WA). 
  • Both as reader and librarian (and as a guy who enjoys porn now and then), I find porn statistics and trivia interesting. Porn Hub, it turns out, puts out a lot of information on their stats and analytics. This time around, it seems there is a disconnect between what gay porn studios make and what their customers actually want to watch. Story via VICE
  • Speaking of research  and statistics, it seems Millennials are more likely to use public libraries. I could take this as another sign the economy is bad since that generation tends to be broke, so hey, public services including entertainment and education would be good. But I will take the good news about people using the library wherever I can get them. Another bit of trivia? Women are still ahead of men in terms of library usage. Story via Signature.
  • Learn about "The Ghost Club" where famous figures including writers like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle tackled a big issue of the 1800s: ghost and spirits. Story via Open Culture
  • And finally for this week, John Hubbard offers a compilation of Top 20 Recent Library Scandals. Yes, libraries can be quite lurid places. Story via Medium.

Signs the economy is bad: July 7, 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 made it to another Friday, and my four readers know it is time to check on the bad economy. So let's get on with it.

  •  The United States has a serious problem with plastic forks. This may be a time to consider bringing your own silverware to those fast food places where you may need silverware. Story via Grist
  • In New Mexico, farmers are worried the price of pecans may get too high. Why is that a problem? Pecans are used for a lot of things, besides just eating them and making pecan pie. It turns out pecans can be ground up and used in a lot of other products, and if the price gets too high, companies who use pecans may switch to a cheaper nut. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • As some of you may have heard, Puerto Rico is having a massive economic crisis. It is so bad that  Puerto Ricans are migrating to mainland US in droves. These days they favor Florida as a destination given the warmer climate. However, turns out many of them struggle when they get there to get a job. Reasons include language barriers, lack of academic preparation, or if they have academic preparation and/or credentials, the expense of getting a license, say if you are nurse, to get licensed in Florida. One of the interesting results, well to me, is a cottage industrry rising of consultants, trainers, so on to help those Puerto Ricans navigate the Florida job markets. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader
    • In fact, things are so bad in Puerto Rico, even the kidneys are leaving. It turns out that the agency that runs transplant lists and gives priority to who gets  an organ changed rules so certain ratings that used to be regional are now nationwide. The result is that they are taking a very large amount of kidneys from Puerto Rico that could be going to Puerto Ricans on  the waiting list. Because the colonials may not be good enough to be full Americans, but their kidneys are certainly good enough for some bigot in Louisiana or wherever. Just a bit more colonial fuckery. Story is in Spanish language, via Primera Hora
  • If you need more reason to hate Amazon, turns out they have cost brick and mortar stores at least 295,000 jobs. Find that piece of trivia and more at Yes! Magazine.
  •  Even rich people are having it tough. Getting a private jet can get expensive. Well, one company is taking that problem head on, and they are building a little jet that "comes in with a $2 million pricetag that is billed as substantially less than that of its closest jet- powered competitor, though it's still more expensive than most piston planes." Story via USA Today.
  • QVC is buying Home Shopping Network (HSN). Why? They are hoping that with consolidation they can stand up to Amazon. Personally, I do not shop via television channels, but once in awhile I do find it entertaining to watch some of their sales segments. At times, it amazes me some of the things they sell that people are willing to buy. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • The Washington Post asks why churches value cash so much when it comes to donations. There are some reasons given in the article, which is also looking at the anniversary of the ATM machine. However, I have a more basic and straight theory. It's so it is easier to skim the top without anyone being the wiser, kind of like a casino (YouTube link). When you think about it, both businesses, and yes, churches are businesses, are not that much different in separating money from suckers. 
  • Meanwhile things have gotten so bad for the 1% that in some affluent town in Massachusetts the high school students want to drop their school's mascot. What is that  horrible mascot? The Millionaire. Kiddos, just because  you drop the mascot, your parents and you will still remain 1% assholes in all likelihood. Story via The Washington Post.
  • For the remaining 99% in the US, things have gotten so bad that car buying has slowed down. Now, in a nation that loves its cars and the mark of independence they give, slow car buying is definitely a sign of the bad economy. Story via The Week
  • Some of you may recall that the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City went bankrupt. Well, Hard Rock Cafe recently acquired the building, but before they can convert it to one of their properties, they need to clean it out. They are holding a massive auction. Here is your big chance to get a gaudy lamp or  some other souvenir. Story via VICE
  • And finally for this week, if you want to be hip about your chocolate addition, you can now snort it thanks to new chocolate snuff. Story via Boing Boing.

Booknote: Yankee Magazine's Living Well on a Shoestring

The Editors of Yankee Magazine, Yankee Magazine's Living Well on Shoestring: 1,501 tried-and-true hints, tips, and secrets to help you reduce your spending and live well every day. Dublin, NH: Yankee Books, 2000.  ISBN: 978-0-965-18894-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: home economics, frugality, finance, tips and advice, self-help, Americana
Format: trade paperback
Source: Better Half bought it at Half Price Books on clearance

The Better Half enjoys reading self-help books, and she bought this one cheap. She kept it in the bathroom, so it became bathroom reading for me too. On a side note, I am seriously considering starting a book review feature for old and "vintage" type books, books that may be forgotten, or that "may be a bit past the expiration date." Stay tuned for deity of choice knows I come across plenty of those.

The book is organized  into 30 chapters. It provides tips and advice for frugal folks on topics from budgeting to decorating the house to vacations. If there is a penny to be pinched and saved, the book editors probably found it. The book does deserve credit for being, or attempting to be, very comprehensive. It does include advice and tips even for things you might not think of right away like dealing with some larger expenses and dealing with financial emergencies; it even provides some suggestions on how to hire a lawyer should you need one. There are many things here that no one teaches in home economics (or whatever they call it these days), or just plain do not teach at all. So in that regard, it is a useful book.

A disadvantage of the book is that it is falling out of date at a pretty quick pace on many topics. It was published in 2000, and it shows. For example, there are mentions of the Internet as if it is this new thing; we are way past that stage by now. So if you read this book, do keep an attentive eye. Some tips are still applicable and relevant today. Others, as I said, are out of date. Pick and choose wisely. In addition, some of the tips and ideas they suggest are not always as realistic as they make them sound. They often assume you already have certain supplies in your home, which to be honest is not as likely as they would like to think.

The book overall has its pluses and minuses. It does have a certain folksy charm to it that makes it easy to read. In addition to the tips and strategies, they include some short personal stories from Yankee Magazine readers, some of which are amusing. I liked the book; I think people can still get a some things out of it, but it could use a serious update. These days read it more for the "folksy charm" than for its practicality.

3 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes:

Just some things that caught my eye enough to want to share: 

The wonders of a cordless phone (and by the way, slightly sexist since this seems to be geared a bit more to women. Overall, a lot of the book seems more for housewives. As if men do not cook). So, buy a cordless phone so you can cook hands-free in the kitchen. And you even,

". . .can take the same phone with you while you wash windows, ride your exercise bike, or wind yarn" (163).

Or you can take your cellphone with you to go walking or jogging and leave the house once in a while.

A nice piece of advice, which is making a  comeback, is their suggestion for family game nights. Bring out your board games, some simple snacks, and have a nice time.

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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: