Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Booknote: Quackery

Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, Quackery: a Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. New York: Workman Publishing, 2017.  ISBN: 978-0-7611-8981-7.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, medical, health, humor
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This book is an entertaining and interesting history of quack cures and outlandish medical procedures. The book may not be the most comprehensive history, but it presents a great sampling of the many crazy and outrageous things people did and believed about medicine and health.

The book is organized into five major sections:

  • Elements. Using things like mercury and arsenic for cures. 
  • Plants and soil. This includes opiates (which to an extent are still used today), tobacco, and even eating dirt. 
  • Tools. Procedures like bloodletting, lobotomies, and cold water cures. 
  • Animals. Using leeches, fasting, and cannibalism among other things. 
  • Mysterious powers. Using things like electricity, magnetism, and radionics. 
In addition, the book includes Hall of Shame sections on topics such as women's health, men's health, and weight loss.

The book is very accessible and easy to read. The authors describe the cures and procedures in detail, and they balance the narrative with a good dose of humor. The light jokes throughout the book make the subject interesting and amusing. Additionally, the book features a variety of illustrations, diagrams, and photos that enhance the book. The stories range from disturbing to ridiculous; it just draws you in and makes you want to read more.

As the authors states, the book is not comprehensive. It focuses mainly on past treatments, and the authors add that some topics not covered deserve books of their own. Overall, what this book does cover it covers very well in an amusing and informative way. Readers who enjoy history, medical trivia, and a bit of humor will enjoy this book.

The book is definitely a great choice for libraries. Overall, I really liked this one and recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: July 13, 2018 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 made it to another week. It may be Friday the 13th today, but the bad economy is terrifying no matter what day it is.

In "reasons to avoid flying" news:
In higher education news:
  • Since salaries in college are fairly fixed, especially for faculty who may be lucky enough to be on a tenure line, one way to try to increase it is  by bluffing and saying you got a better job offer elsewhere. Idea is your employer then at least matches the offer so you stay. This is one of those little ugly truths in higher ed that people know about, talk maybe in hushed voices, but is not spoken about otherwise. Until someone has their bluff called and gets caught. Story via Inside Higher Ed.  
  • Meanwhile, in First World Problems, some people got their knickers in a bunch of the University of Wyoming's slogan of "the world needs more cowboys." Story via Inside Higher Ed
  • And we get closer to Thunderdome when the only hope for a college graduate to ever pay off college loans is to win a game show. Story via VICE
In assorted corporate fuckery:
And finally for this week, in miscellaneous signs the economy is bad:

Reading about the reading life: July 13, 2018 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 the last time I made one of these posts. Let's see what interesting things we have for this week.

A couple of items in Spanish, via Lecturalia:

Media Notes: Roundup for June 2018

 These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during June 2018.

Movies and films (links to for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via The DVDs come from the public library (unless noted otherwise):

  • Samurai Cop (1991. Action. Police. Martial Arts). Joe Marshall is the Samurai Cop, trained in martial arts in Japan. He is brought over to Los Angeles from San Diego to help bring down Fujiyama and his Katana gang that are dealing drugs in the city. Frank Washington is his cop detective buddy and partner in Los Angeles. The dialogue is seriously painful, stiff at times, and there is a good amount of swearing that seems gratuitous. The overall acting is not that much better. Joe is the tough guy who ogles any cute woman he sees (never mind he has a female cop as an apparent girlfriend, who by the way gives sexual banter as much as he does when working). Washington is the black cop who can smooth talk but also is a man of action. Their captain is a cranky commander. All very formulaic. The movie is also not always politically correct. Alfonso, the Costa Rican waiter who is gay is played very flamboyant, more for comic relief than anything else. Today, the stereotype would seem quaint to put it mildly, but back then it was mainly for giggles. And some Joe's moves with the ladies could be borderline sexual harassment today. By the way, the martial arts sequences are pretty minimal and not that good neither. The movie was made in the 90s, but at times feels more like a 70s flick without the disco. Plot does not always seem to make sense, as in there is a scene or two, such as an ambush in some small movie studio (looks like an old time porn studio) that happens just out of nowhere. All leading to the obligatory showdown between Joe and the bad guy. Stiff and a bit ridiculous at times. Via TubiTv.

Television and other series (basic show information links via Wikipedia unless noted otherwise). Some of these come in DVD from the public library. Others may be via YouTube, which I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes. 

  • Hannibal (television series. 2013-2015. Horror. Drama. Crime. Thriller. Season One, 2013). The series based on the characters created by Thomas Harris in his novels. Will Graham is a special FBI investigator, on the autistic spectrum it is revealed, with a gift of seeing what happens in crime scenes and feel it. He is paired up with a brilliant forensic psychiatrist to aid in his work. The doctor is Hannibal Lecter. This is the early days, so to speak, of Will Graham working for the FBI. I love how they characters were made different from the books or the films yet remain familiar. I also like the casting of Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. The series begins right away in the middle of a crime, and just draws you right in. Very suspenseful, atmospheric, and yes, it can be horrifying at times. Series is continuous, i.e. episodes follow one after the other, and while some elements are standalone, overall, it is a serial. DVD via the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library. 
    • Season 1, Episode 4, "Oeuf" was never shown on American TV. It was shown overseas. It deals with manipulated children killing their families. At the time it was to air, one of the usual school shootings had happened (Sandy Hook that time), so you know, Americans being "sensitive" and all (because school shootings are fine, killer children on television, "disturbing"), episode not shown. However, it is a very well made episode that does raise some questions about the nature of family as well as move the main plot at all. Glad it was included in the DVD.  
  • Hannibal (Season Two, 2014).  A new season starts as Will Graham is imprisoned accused of murder. Dr. Lecter moves in to be Crawford's new consultant. The suspense, atmosphere, and horror continue to be done well. The series overall also has some surreal moments that make it more interesting. This second season also introduces the Vergers, who are also present in Harris' novel Hannibal. Some of the episodes do not seem as strong, in part because they are packing a lot into the story.There is less emphasis on cases, and much more on the psychological mind games everyone is playing against each other. Result is this season feels a lot slower. The ending is shocking, but the impact is reduced by the narrative technique in the first episode I mention below.
    • Season 2 Episode 1, "Kaiseki" starts in a way I tend to dislike in narratives: it showed us an ending, then did the "X amount of time before" device. In this case, it showed us a reckoning of Crawford and Lecter, and then did "twelve weeks earlier." While if you are familiar with the overall story of Hannibal Lecter and can anticipate where things go, I would have much preferred not been told beforehand where things are going. It is a technique I tend to dislike in fiction overall. That aside, the episode does draw the viewer in right away with a new case even as we wonder Will Graham's fate. 
  • Hannibal (Season 3, 2015). As season starts, Hannibal is on the run in Europe. They are weaving elements from the novel Hannibal as well as Red Dragon. The FBI, Graham, Verger, they are all looking for Hannibal. The story in the first four episodes is fairly slow as they spend a lot of time in flashbacks, and at times you find out someone who seemed alive was not, that it was a delusion or dream. Overall, the story initially does more slow. However, it the show is very atmospheric and it keeps the suspense as well as surreal elements pretty well. After the first four episodes or so, the pace does pick up, in part because they do the Red Dragon plotline, and bring the show to what seems a very certain end (I would have preferred something different, but it is what we got). In the end, as a whole, the series is excellent despite some minor flaws here or there. I may even go back and reread the books.
  • Supermarket Sweep (Game show. 1965-2003). Though this show started back in 1965, most people likely know the 1990s run hosted by David Ruprecht on Lifetime Channel, which is the run I have been watching on YouTube this month.  This was a show the Better Half and I enjoyed watching together when it was on the air back then, as it was an easy form of entertainment that required minimal concentration, and it was just silly good fun. You can find many of these 1990s episodes on YouTube. (Watched 3 this month)
  • Mobsters ( documentary. true crime. biography. 2007-2012). Found this via YouTube. It caught my interest initially because some of the first episodes I saw featured people from books and films I had read and seen. Series overall is presented in a very noir, dark style, but it is interesting. Most of the episodes have a narrator with a seriously raspy voice, the kind of voice you might get if you smoke half a carton of cigarettes a day. I have to admit it adds to the noir mood of the series. I watched these in no particular order. (Episodes list via
    • "Jimmy 'The Gent' Burke" (Season 4, Episode 8, 2012). The story of the assassin and mobster who was portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the film GoodFellas
    • Henry Hill (Season 1, Episode 15, 2007). The story of Henry Hill, the guy at the center of the story in the film GoodFellas. In the film, he is portrayed by Ray Liotta. Overall, of all the guys in the GoodFellas story, he managed to outlive them and tell the story.
    • "Mob Cops" (Season 3, Episode 1, 2010). Story of Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, two NYPD detectives who were hired guns for the mob.  I had previously read their story in the book Friends of the Family (link to my review). 
    • "Anthony 'Gaspipe' Casso" (Season 3, Episode 5, 2011). The mobster who had the mob cops on his payroll. However, in addition to that, Casso was a Lucchese family underboss.
    • "Tony Spilotro" (Season 1, Episode 26, 2008). The enforcer for the mob in Las Vegas. He was one of the inspirations for the film Casino. In the film, he was portrayed by Joe Pesci. Physically, Spilotro was very different than Pesci; Spilotro was a big, tall, strong guy (at about 6'2" tall) in contrast to Pesci, but Pesci still got the portrayal very well. 
    • "Paul Castellano" (Season 1, Episode 20, 2008). Boss of the Gambino Crime Family until John Gotti had him killed.  
    • "Greatest Hits" (Season 2, Episode 7, 2009). A compilation of great murders and hits from the 1920s starting with Masseria and Maranzanno to Paul Castellano.  
    • "The Iceman: Richard Kuklinski" (Season 4, Episode 5, 2012). Now this was a seriously scary and monstrous killer. Amazing how he managed to keep a double life from the home to his "workplace" as a killer for hire. 
    • "Genovese: Portrait of a Crime Family" (Season 1, Episode 7, 2007). The rise and fall of the crime family Charles "Lucky Luciano started along with Frank Costello and Vito Genovese. From the rise of the crime family to its decay with its last major don Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. The family still exists, but like the other major New York City mob families, it is now a shadow of what it was, and the fall started with Vito Genovese's excessively violent ways.
    • "James 'Whitey' Bulger (Season 1, Episode 17, 2008). In the 1970s to the 1980s, Bulger ran the Irish mafia in South Boston. A big reason he could do that was his deal with an FBI agent, a scandal that rocked the agency to this day. Bulger's life is the basis of the book and film Black Mass (link to my book review, where I also comment a bit on the film).
  • Mafia's Greatest Hits (documentary. true crime. biography. 2012-).  Another series I found online in YouTube by serendipity. Unlike Mobsters above, this one relies more on recreations with actors, and it also uses dramatic music to greater effect. In fact the music can range from seriously dramatic instrumental music to some music of the time (say '70s music) to just a bit ridiculous in some instances (like more heroic when the cops do something good for instance). The use of music has its amusing moments in this series.
    • "Tony Spilotro: The Las Vegas Enforcer." (Season One, Episode 5). Another look at Spilotro, with the touch of this series. As I mentioned, the series relies more on recreations, so you get an actor portraying Spilotro at times. Many of the experts that give commentary have appeared in other documentaries. Still interesting. 
  • Iron Chef  (Japan, 1993-1999, plus some specials up to 2012). I continued watching this via YouTube here and there during June. (See May's round up for additional comments on this show).
    • Umeboshi battle. Iron Chef Michiba had been ill and out of the show for two months at the time. This battle was his comeback battle. 
    • Udon Battle 2. Iron Chef Japanese Michiba has retired, and the search is on for the second Iron Chef Japanese to replace him. Hattori, the show's color commentator and head of the Hattori Nutrition College, recommends his right hand man, chief instructor at the college Kenji Motai to go battle in hopes of replacing Michiba. That part of the plan did not quite work out for Hattori as Komei Nakamura had been appointed to be the second Iron Chef Japanese, but the battle went on and was still good. 
    • Tuna Battle. A sommelier challenges the Iron Chef Italia Kobe. 
    • Turkey Battle. The manager of the Swallows Baseball Team, a noted finicky eater, brings in his favorite chef to challenge. It is the holiday (Christmas) season, so turkey is the theme. The challenger is a Cajun cuisine specialist. Naturally the show will use every baseball pun and phrase they can during the commentary.
    • Turkey Battle 2. As the show states,  this was the last battle for 1998. It is still holiday season, so naturally turkey is the theme. The challenger, Jiro Ogue, is considered one of the successors of the great French chef Alain Chapel. Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto is appointed to answer the challenge, in part because 1998 is also the year he debuted in the show. 
    • Turnip Battle. The challenger is a "college dropout." He did take the entrance exam to Tokyo University (notoriously difficult), passed it on his first try as a science major (a rare achievement. I guess people often have to retake it or else), then decided to pursue his culinary career dream. Trained by Honorary (retired) Iron Chef French Ishinabe, then studied in France, and now a strong chef.  Needless to say, college puns and references will abound like this battle being the guy's "final exam." 
    • Udon Battle. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: July 6, 2018 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, it is Friday once more, and here we go again. I will say that having the Fourth of July holiday (or any holiday) in the middle of the week feels weird. I would suggest we make July 4th like any other holiday, having it first Monday of July or such, but someone wiser than me than said, "but then it would not be '4th of July.'" I am still not convinced. At any rate, let's see what has  been going on in the bad economy.

  • Let's start with a little 4th of July trivia in honor of the holiday we just had. According to this story out of VICE, here are 11 companies that pretty much have a stranglehold on the holiday. Odds are good if you are having a picnic, cookout, tailgating party, outing to the lake, etc., you probably bought at least one if  not all of these products. 
  • In news from the front in  the War of Tariffs: 
    • Last week or so, Harley Davidson was whining they were taking jobs overseas due to tariffs. This week we get General Motors saying  they are cutting more jobs due to the tariffs. Story via The New York Times, with a hat tip to Juanita Jean's. At this point, I have no sympathy for those workers since this is exactly what they voted for. The Pendejo In Chief said exactly what he would do, which is in fact a big reason they voted for him, the "he says what he means and means what he says." So, you reap what you sow. 
    • Then again, fuck those people. They may be getting screwed, but they are STILL happy to support the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of  Stupid, like these nail factory  workers in Missouri. Story via The Rural Blog. Some people are just beyond salvation. I say when they go claim unemployment, they should get rejected. I mean, they are so proud and all to deny government assistance to the  needy, I say they should suffer the fate they wish  on others. 
  • In other Pendejo In Chief and Party of Stupid bad economy news: 
  • In education news: 
    • There is a trucker shortage. There are also shortages of jobs in higher education. What the real issue boils down to is simple: neither trucking companies nor higher education wants to properly compensate those workers they need. Story via Inside Higher Ed. Higher education is particularly notorious for things like adjunctifying faculty so they do not have to pay for a full tenure line and hiring part timers to one full time job, again, so as not to have to pay  a decent wage and benefits. 
    • For some unknown reason (stupidity likely), more states are adopting robo-grading for academic papers in college. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
    • It is a well known fact that Americans are notoriously stingy when it comes to funding public education. They want their brats educated,  they just want someone else to pay the taxes for it. This  gets so bad that teachers, already underpaid, have to use their own money to buy school supplies. So, how bad is it? Well, the most recent story I found has one teacher who died asking for backpacks and school supplies for her kids in lieu of flowers at her funeral. Story via Good.Is. Now THAT is a serious commentary on American fuckery. 
  • In assorted corporate fuckery: 
    • Here is a situation update on the fuckery of debt collection technology. Even if you do not owe anything, odds are good some of this harassment may come your way at least once. Because they are getting seriously more devious, and they have  no shame in lying and cheating. In the end, know your  rights and if need be sue them so they stop harassing you. Story via Dumb Little Man. As I often say, if the revolution comes, and by some miracle I am in charge, these vultures are among the first I am putting against the wall. 
    • Yet another story reinforcing why you need to avoid flying. Here we have an angry American Airlines gate agent engages in poor customer service AND even takes the customer's phone away, tossing it on the ground, because. . . fuckery. Story via Inc.
  • And finally for this week, some assorted signs the economy is bad: 
    • Is there such a thing as eating too much at an all you can eat restaurant? Turns out there is, and this Chinese restaurant found out when they went broke after only two weeks of being open. Story via Boing Boing.  
    • In another illustration of the selfish nation the U.S. is, a woman who got trapped and injured  by an NYC subway car begged for folks nearby NOT TO call the ambulance. Why? Because she said she could not afford the ride. Story via AlterNet. So while the rest of the civilized world has universal care, and this would not be an issue, this is the good old U.S. of A. 
    • In "what can we blame Millennials for this week?" segment: Kenyan farmers are exchanging cultivation of coffee for avocado trees. It's all that avocado toast Millennials seem to enjoy. Well, not totally that. The reality, joke aside, is a bit more complex. Coffee prices have been seriously fluctuating, more recently downwards, meaning farmers get less for the coffee. Avocados have good demand, prices have  been more stable, and so they can make better money. Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
    • In Japan, time is of the essence. Taking time out to pay your respects at a funeral is hard. As a result, drive-thru funerals are becoming more popular. Story via VICE

Booknote: The Mammoth Book of Dracula

Stephen Jones, ed., The Mammoth Book of Dracula: Vampire Tales for the New Millennium. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1997. ISBN: 0786704284.

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: horror, short story collections, Dracula
Format: paperback
Source: Berea  branch  of the Madison  County (KY) Public Library

Overall this is a nice anthology with  a bit of everything. If you like the character of Dracula or vampires in general (and I mean real vampires, not the ones that sparkle), you will likely enjoy this collection.

The book contains 33 stories that look at Dracula in various ways from his beginnings to life in our modern times. This anthology was published in time to coincide with the turn of the millennium, a look at Dracula over time, and I'd say the Old One has held his own rather well and keeps on going today and into the future.

As with most anthologies, the story quality does vary. Some tales are better than others. A highlight for me is often finding various pop culture and cultural references throughout the stories. In the end, I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: June 29, 2018 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 two weeks or so since the last time I posted for this blog series, and hell may be breaking lose. From Harley Davidson moving some operations overseas to an upcoming shake up of the U.S. Supreme Court, it would not surprise me if I suddenly see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse coming around the corner. Armageddon or not, the Bad Economy keeps on rolling and surviving, so let's see what has been going on.

In corporate and business news:
  • The president of American Airlines in no uncertain terms basically told their passengers (a.k.a. the cattle they transport) that the airline does not really care much for them.  Their president "believes his airline should give passengers nothing from which it can't profit." So yea, providing decent service and amenities is not profitable, so fuck y'all. Story via Inc.
  • Harley-Davidson, the iconic U.S. motorcycle company, was not too appreciative of the tariff plans announced by the Pendejo In Chief, so they are working to move a large part of their production overseas. Story via TruthDig
  • On the positive, some of the Pendejo In Chief's policies please corporate America. Private prison companies stand to make more profits as a result of his policies that separate immigrant children from their parents. Story via In These Times.
    • In fact, this kind of business, warehousing children, is so good that a Texan nonprofit is leasing a warehouse in Houston to hold some of those immigrant children in the hopes of reaping some money too. Story via The Houston Chronicle.
  •  Again, due to the Pendejo In Chief tariffs, newspapers find themselves cutting back on print because of tariffs on newsprint paper. Story via The Rural Blog. If your local newspaper seems to be getting thinner, this may be why.
  • Do you live in a town with a dying or already dead shopping mall? Do you ever wonder how come that barely living mall manages to stay open despite any lack of maintenance or new investment? There is a reason for that. Basically slum landlords hold on to that mall and land as an asset, and they could not care less about the mall itself. Story via Reuters.
  • In San Francisco, it is becoming more unaffordable to live unless you are rich. It is so bad that they have a shortage of waiters, who can't afford to live in the city. So restaurants are now just doing without, and they are making their customers do some of the table service work. Story via The New York Times. I say fuck that. If I want to get my own drinks, bus my own table, and get food from the counter, I can just go to a fast food restaurant and get my food quicker and with less pretense. 
  • Meanwhile, Amazon, known for skimping on things like treating their warehouse employees properly, is hoping to get a few suckers "entrepreneurs" to do delivery for them so they can skip paying the USPS or some other delivery company. In other words, you will be lucky if you get your package from them within this century. Story via Inc.
  • A recent study revealed that Black passengers have a more difficult time securing a ride on Uber, Lyft, or even other taxi services. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader. I can't imagine why (*cough* racism *cough*).
So, how bad have been the Pendejo In Chief's tariff policies? Let's count some ways:

  • See above for Harley-Davidson.
  • The Canadians are "livid" about the tariffs, so they are boycotting U.S. goods. Story via NPR.
  • U.S. pork and fruit producers are likely to suffer, Story via Reuters.
  • U.S. steel and aluminum markets could suffer. However, this author argues that if the U.S. recycled more, some of that damage could be less. Story via The Conversation. However, given that Americans are not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed (I mean, look who they put in government), don't count on recycling suddenly picking up.
In education news:

  •  Schools in Mississippi are not doing well, and adding to their woes, they have 2,100+ openings for workers in their public schools. According to the article, "administrators across the state report trouble finding enough teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other employees." Story via The Lexington-Herald Leader.
    • However, so you guys do not say I am all negative, there is a positive news piece of out Mississippi: their casino revenues are going up. Woo! Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Meanwhile, back in the U.S. colony, public schools in Puerto Rico keep closing. Story via In These Times.
In rural news:

In jobs:
  •  The median U.S. musician still makes under $25,000, and they often have more than job. Via Rolling Stone.
  • Apparently the Pendejo In Chief is notorious for not keeping documents he  needs to keep. He often shreds papers, tosses them in  the waste basket, so on. So, someone has to be hired to pick up those pieces of paper and  tape them back together again. Story via Politico.

In other bad economy trivia and miscellaneous:
And last for this week, let us have a moment of  silence as the Jerry Spring Show has announced they will not be making any new episodes (at least unless a  new syndicator orders more). Story via Boing Boing. Talk about end of an era.

Booknote: Transformers: Spotlight Omnibus, Volume 1

Various authors, Transformers: Spotlight Omnibus, Volume 1. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402463.

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

This trade paperback contains the first 13 issues of the Transformers: Spotlight series. Each issue focuses on a single character, and the stories alternate between Autobots and Decepticons. This volume is basically an anthology of short stories that serve to give insight into a specific character.

The comics have different writers and artists, so they look different from issue to issue. You get a good sampling of stories and characters. Note that the stories are left a bit open-ended. Overall, it is a good and entertaining volume. Since they are individual stories, it is an easy read. I really liked this one.

4 out of 5 stars.

The bots featured in this volume are:

  • Shockwave (Decepticon)
  • Nightbeat (Autobot)
  • Hot Rod (Autobot)
  • Sixshot (Decepticon)
  • Ultra Magnus (Autobot)
  • Soundwave (Decepticon)
  • Kup (Autobot)
  • Galvatron (Decepticon)
  • Optimus Prime (Autobot)
  • Ramjet (Decepticon)
  • Blaster (Autobot)
  • Arcee (Autobot)
  • Grimlock (Autobot)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Booknote: Clean Up on Aisle Stupid!

Darby Conley, Clean Up on Aisle Stupid! A Get Fuzzy Collection. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2015.  ISBN: 9781449462949.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, pets
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I do not often post negative reviews, but I am jotting this down to make sure I remember this. This book is a collection of Get Fuzzy comic strips, and I honestly do not see the appeal. I picked this up because I have seen  the strip in newspapers here or there. Rob is an ad executive who lives with Bucky Katt, a not so humble genius feline, and Satchel, a loyal but very clueless dog. It sounds like a good premise, but the humor is just not there. I have no idea if the comic was trying to be serious because it sure was not making an effort to be funny. If this collection exemplifies the author's work, I could not care less and recommend readers skip it.

1 out of 5 stars (barely).

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Booknote: The Rise of the Fourth Reich

Jim Marrs, The Rise of the Fourth Reich: the Secret Societies That Threaten To Take Over America. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Media, 2008. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, politics, conspiracies, United States, national socialism (Nazis), globalism
Format: e-audiobook
Source: Overdrive via the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I picked this book up mainly out of curiosity. The title caught my eye initially, and then the description made me decide to take a chance on it. Though the book goes through many topics and digresses at times, the premise is this: you remember those guys the U.S. imported from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II? The Nazi scientists, engineers, so on the U.S. conveniently kept and put to work building the U.S. rockets and bombs among other things? Well, those guys did not stop being Nazis the moment they landed on U.S. soil. They not only brought their technical and scientific knowledge to the United States, but they also brought along their Nazi ideology and views, and their Nazi influence not only survived in the United States, but it has rooted in and made its way through U.S. society and culture to this day. Sure, we might not call it "Nazism" anymore but Nazi ideas like white supremacy, might makes right, the ends justify the means, racism, so on are very much alive and well. Not only that, but such ideas find support in the high elements of American society and politics. That much does make sense, and there are even books that show that Americans, a large segment of their population, have been supportive of Nazi ideas and even helped inspire Nazi idea. One example is the American eugenics movement of the early 20th century. So the basic premise the author presents makes sense, and you can even argue it with some evidence. However, the author then goes on to explore a variety of issues and events in the U.S. that, according to the book,  you can blame on the Nazis. Some of these make sense, and a few, well, let's say they are quite a bit out there.

In brief, here is a partial list of things in  the United States you can blame on the Nazis:

  • The way businesses control more of society and government (OK, this is hard not to agree with the author given current events and the occupant of the White House as of this review). 
  • Social Security and Medicare.
  • The Department of Homeland Security.
  • Flying saucers (well, some may be actual aliens from space, but others were likely Nazi technology the Americans were trying out with said Nazi scientists). 
  • Fluoride in the water. Water fluoridation eventually goes back to the globalists and the Nazis. In addition, note that for drugs like Prozac, a key ingredient is a form of fluoride. Water fluoridation is not to help children; it is meant to be a long term mind control tool. And yes, this goes back to the Nazis.
  • Osama Bin Laden. The Nazis helped out the Muslim Brotherhood, thus paving the way for Bin Laden (go figure).

That is just a partial list. For the rest of this review, I am going to look at some of the claims and observations the author makes and comment.

The book opens discussing some theories that Hitler may have survived World War II. Part of the argument goes back to the idea that Hitler often used body doubles. This theory has pretty much been debunked, but the point the author makes is that his legacy lived on. That idea that the legacy lived on is hard to argue against if we take a look at the modern United States with its white supremacy ideals and current events. People often complain that one should not make comparisons of the current federal government to Nazis, but when the U.S. government advocates fascist and Nazi ideas such as building walls and more recently separating children from parents in families seeking asylum well the comparisons just write themselves. The author argues that the United States today is basically an American Empire, one formed from Nazi ideas that got imported with Nazi scientists, engineers, so on at the end of World War II. The U.S. did not just  import the German war machine to come work for America, but the ideas of those men as well. The author then says he will offer evidence of this without partisan agenda or bias, so he urges the reader to read on and learn more.

Before he gets too far, the author does take the time to define some terms:

  • The First Reich = The Holy Roman  Empire. 
  • The Second Reich = Germany and Austria at World War I.
  • The Third Reich = Nazi Germany as proclaimed by Adolf Hitler.
  • "Reich" in German means "empire," but "reich" (lowercase letters) means "rich." This can then mean a rule of the rich. I think readers can guess then where the Fourth Reich will be coming from. 
  • The author also reminds us that fascism as the right wing ideology means a merging of government and business. This was modeled historically by Italian Fascism. This definition emphasizes the combination of government and business. In Italy and Germany, the government took control of business. In the modern United States, businesses are making their way into controlling the government. This actually is due in part because, in some corporate cases, these companies had some form of Nazi influence that still permeates said corporations. On a side note, as I often point out as an example, we are not too far off from scenarios like OCP foreclosing on cities to take them private. In the film Robocop 2, OCP fails, but it is mainly due to rogue elements in the company that were less than competent and bad PR, not due to lack of fascist ideals and motivation. Still, as the Old Man asks in the film, "Anyone can buy OCP's stock and own a piece of our city. What could be more democratic than that?" They got close. And it could happen. Closer to reality? The unelected oversight board now running Puerto Rico. By the way, the author notes it is interesting that fascism was seen as acceptable in the 1920s and 1930s. Sure, individual despots were condemned but not the idea of government controlling corporations.

The book does have flaws, and at times a lot of what it presents is tenuous. For instance, at one point  it jumps from National Socialism (nazism) to Socialism (even though they are not the same thing) to argue that things like Social Security and Medicare are part of the National Socialist agenda for controlling the population and centralizing government. Add to this the creation of agencies like Homeland Security after 9/11, and you get more into the argument of the government tightening control. This part can be tenuous, but it provides just enough to make the conspiracy theorists wonder. On the other hand, his later point about how patriotism in the U.S. has been used to stir a strong nationalism where questioning things like foreign policy, overseas wars, so on can open you to be seen as not patriotic is spot on and not to be missed.

The author also looks at how prominent American men and families had connections to the Nazis and/or supported them or their ideals. J.P. Morgan made money helping to rearm the Germans prior to World War II. Families like the Kennedy family (by way of  Joseph Kennedy Sr.) and the Bush family (through their patriarch Prescott Bush) also had connections to the Nazis. In Chapter 5, the author discussed the financial dealings of American families like the Bush family, which are quite intricate. Add to this that many Americans of the time saw FDR as a secret communist, and they often saw fascism as a counter to communism (the big boogeyman to Americans even today), and also note that after FDR limits on presidential terms were put in place. As young folks may say today, just saying.

The business angle also considers how German businesses and companies moved out of Germany at end of war, under various guises and renamings/rebrandings so they could remain in business and operation. Different names, but led by the same Nazis, even if from afar. The author does spend a good amount of time mapping these business ventures. Furthermore, the Marshall Plan? It was business interests that wanted the German economy rebuilt despite other government opposition. And speaking of business, both Hitler and Rockefeller at different times had the sentiment that a thinking populace was not desired; they just wanted a nation of workers. And this by the way is not too different from today.

Chapter 3 is where we go over German "wonder weapons." These were weapons the Germans hoped would win them the war at the last minute, and they ranged from the V rockets to flying saucers. UFOs? Many of them probably go back to the Nazis according to the book, but a few could be real aliens.

Oh, and that Indiana Jones stuff about Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant? Don't worry. The author does not argue that Indiana Jones was real. However, the Nazi Germans did have quite an obsession with the occult, and they even had  special science and military units dedicated to seek out and find occult artifacts such as the Ark of the Covenant. Furthermore, the author provides a look at the role of the occult in Nazism. He gets to an eventual connection to psychics and "remote viewing." This may have inspired the United States Army to later create its own units of psychic spies.  This is what is referred to in the book The Men Who Stare at Goats. On another side note, the author often cites other books to support his claims as well as various articles and other sources. I am sure the text version has a list of references. I read this as an audiobook so I only got references when the author actually mentions them in them in the text. Another example of using other books as evidence comes in Chapter 8 where he cites Robert Jay Lifton's The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. I had this book in my TBR list at one point. This author weaves a lot of ideas back and forth, cites scholarly and relatively well known sources, like Lifton's book, as well as other sources that may or not be as well known or reputable perhaps.

Chapter 7 looks at Operation Paperclip and bringing Nazi scientists over, including Von Braun, designer of the Saturn V rocket that eventually put a man on the Moon. The operation was justified as "the Russians are doing it, so have we" and in the process, those Nazis mostly got away with their crimes. On an interesting note, those Nazis also proved cheap labor, as they were paid less than American scientists, keeping up the fine American tradition of paying foreigners less rather than hiring Americans (even as they proclaim U.S. pride and such). Conspiracies aside, some things in American history never change, including the lack of overall morality and the justification of the ends justifying the means, which was also a Nazi and fascist mantra.

Going back to Rockefeller, Chapter 14 looks at the U.S. educational system, which is more often than not guided by globalists. In the 1960s, Rockefeller established a foundation/board to funnel money into education ventures (and does that remind you of any rich folks who establish foundations and boards to funnel money to promote their educational ideas? Bill Gates might come to mind for example. Some things really never change). The chapter also presents a comparison of education prior to 1900s in U.S. to today. Technology aside, the education back then was rigorous, and as the author points out, a student back then was an educated person fluent in the language, in culture, math and science. This is unlike high school graduates today who in many cases are barely literate.

In the end, the Nazis had their myth of the superior race. Americans have their myth of American exceptionalism where their values are superior to anyone else's (and they are happy to invade anywhere needed to impose said values). America, the author argues, is a national socialist dream come true. The surveillance state is strong and well, and think tanks, corporations, and organizations study our every habit as well as find ways to justify said surveillance state. Meanwhile, American conservatism is basically just now infused with fascist ideas and authoritarianism while worshiping the military/industrial complex. The change then spread to the media, corporations, and even the (two major) political parties. The bottom line is, as the author says, the New World Order is just the Old World Order packaged with  advertising slickness.

I want to close the review with this very good quote from the book that is definitely relevant today:

"The biggest weapon in American politics is money because you can use money to influence people, to influence the media, to influence campaigns, to influence individuals, to bribe people. . . "

-R. Spencer Oliver

Overall, the book has some good points, but it mostly veers into serious conspiracy theory that may seem outlandish or even a serious stretch (and I am trying to be polite here). The author can get seriously verbose at some times, so the book is not necessarily an easy read. Some chapters are more interesting than others. As for the narrator, given I read this as an audiobook, he has an even sounding voice. The tone is serious but calm, but as I said, the text is verbose at times, so some things can sort of blur as you listen. You may have to back up the text a few times to make sure you got something. I ended up liking the book despite the flaws. If nothing else, it was also entertaining at times, and it did encourage me to go seek out some additional books to learn more about some of the ideas presented. For me, a book that gets me to want to read more cannot be all bad.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Booknote: Odie Unleashed

Jim Davis, Odie Unleashed! Garfield Let's the Dog Out. New York: Ballantine, 2005. ISBN: 9780345464644.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, pets, canines, felines, Garfield
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a collection of Garfield comic strips focusing on Odie the dog. It is mainly materials previously published, so you may have seen some or all of the stories before. Like a compilation DVD, this volume includes some small extras from the author such as additional illustrations and a section of "outtakes." Still, the humor in these is inconsistent. There are a few funny strips, a few duds, and the majority are just pretty bland. I liked it, but it is no big deal. I'd consider it an optional reading for fans.

3 out of 5 stars.

Media Notes: Roundup for May 2018

These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during April 2018.

Movies and films (links to unless noted otherwise). Some of these films I watched via new (to me) site The site offers free viewing of films and some television series. It is not comprehensive, but it has an interesting selection at times:

  • Soldiers of the Damned (2015. Horror). It is the Eastern Front in World War II, and a Nazi unit discovers in the forest that there is something in the forest worse than the Russians. The Nazi unit, led by Major Kurt Fleischer is tasked with escorting a scientist out of the war zone after retrieving a relic.The movie is billed as horror, but it is more suspense combined with an artifact hunt film. It was better than I expected. If you need something to watch on a slow night, this is an interesting one. Via TubiTv.
  • Robocop 2 (1990. Science Fiction). This is certainly a movie of the late 80s to early 90s. While not a great film, it is interesting for its look at the American corporate world. OCP is as evil a corporation as they come; however, not as bright where it counts, but they have enough money to make things go away and survive.  Robocop has been successful, but crime is still rampant in the broke Detroit, which OCP intends to foreclose on. Meanwhile, a new drug that is more addictive than anything known hits the streets. OCP wants to "upgrade" Robocop, and they create Robocop 2. However, the 2.0 version is not exactly a good cop. In a way, the commentary the film made is very relevant to the U.S. today when you look closely. Things like Detroit going broke, climate warming, and rogue corporations for instance. By the way, screenplay is by Frank Miller, who wrote the story. To contrast, you may want to seek out Miller's comic book (link to a short review I did of the comic back in 2008. May be time to reread it). Via TubiTv.
  • The Magnificent Dead (2010. Western. Horror).  The title is a play on the classic film The Magnificent Seven. In this film, it is 1870, and a rancher keeps the small town of Rosewood under his grip, preventing the railroad from coming to the town and his grazing lands. The townspeople want the railroad to come and bring prosperity. After the rancher and his men kill the railroad scouts and their gunmen, the townspeople, under the guidance of Father Julian, decide to hire a group of six gunmen. These men are lepers, and so they fight ruthlessly. Did the town make a good deal, or did they make things worse in letting these mysterious gunmen "clean up" the town? It is a bit slow initially, but soon the pace picks up into a western film with some horror in it as the gunmen are revealed to be more than just lepers. It was alright; it was an interesting concept. Via TubiTv.
  • Dead Space: Downfall (2008. Animated. Science Fiction. Horror). In planet Aegis 7, a mining colony finds an alien artifact. Earth wants it, and they send a ship to retrieve it. However, in taking the artifact, they unleash a horrifying alien species. Based on the video game, this animated film is an alien invasion story. Like other stories, such as the Alien franchise, there is an institution that wants to preserve the horrible creatures or artifact, in this case the captain commanding the ship, under orders to bring the artifact back. There is a vague religious/theocratic subplot (the unitologists) who may or not be behind the desire for the artifact. For a horror film, it is quite gruesome, but pretty much in line with other space horror films. Movie is a prequel to the video game. It was pretty good.Via TubiTv.
  • Suicide Squad (2016. Action. Adventure. Comics). The DC movie of Suicide Squad, the group of criminals and villains Amanda Waller puts together to work on behalf of the government to do the missions not even heroes will do. At least that is the premise of the comics. In this film, the squad comes together when they need to stop the Enchantress, an old interdimensional entity, from taking over the world. This movie got panned by reviewers, and I have to say the plot does have its holes, and it does miss opportunities. But it was better than I was expecting. They got a decent cast, especially folks like Will Smith (as Deadshot, and he does what he often does well, the man with some deadly skill who has children he cares for. Seriously, look at a few of his other films), Jay Hernandez (who portrays Diablo, the fire man. Quite a complex character), and Viola Davis as Waller, who is ruthless. Jared Leto steals it at times portraying The Joker. So, not great, but it was still entertaining. For a slow night, sure. This was definitely a movie I was glad to wait for the DVD. As I said, for a night at home, sure. Paying for it in the theater, nah. Still, I'd say go read the comics for the full, better experience. Supposedly, there may be a sequel in 2019. We'll have to wait and see. Via DVD from Berea Branch of the Madison County Public Library. On a side note, if you are interested, I read and reviewed the first two trades of the series New Suicide Squad (links to volume 1 and volume two).
  • Spawn (1997. Action. Fantasy. Comics).  The adaptation of Todd McFarlane's comic. We are not talking great movie here, but it is a nice slice of government cheese (not quite Velveeta). Al Simmons, special ops soldier, gets betrayed, sent to hell. He makes a deal with the Devil for revenge on his employer, sent then to Earth as a Hell Spawn. However, that is just the beginning. The Devil wants Spawn to lead his army into Armageddon. Spawn must now choose between good and evil. The special effects still look pretty good, but they do show some age. Martin Sheen as the villain does OK, but it is John Leguizamo in the role of Clown, the demonic nemesis of Spawn, that steals much of the movie. Still, even Leguizamo can't totally save this. Still, I find the movie entertaining as a light superhero kind of movie. It could have been so much more though. If you are interested in the character, there are various comic books out there, and there is also an animated series which I may look for down the road. Watched via

Television and other series:

  • Iron Chef (Japan, 1993-1999, plus some specials up to 2012). I have been watching episodes of this via YouTube, where you can find full episodes in various forms.  Despite the age, the show with its English language dub remains interesting. I have been watching this in and out for a few months now. I love the look at the culture, the food, and the variety based on the theme ingredient and the challengers. Makes for a great distraction from the hard times these days. This month I am going to try to list what I watch every month as I remember. Without commercials, regular episodes are about 40 to 45 minutes each. Among the episodes I watched this month, in no particular order, are:
    • Bamboo Shoot Battle 2.
    • Asparagus Battles 1 and 2. 
    • Apple and chocolate battle.
    • Abalone battles 1 and 2.
    • Shark Fin battle.
    • Shanghai Cabbage battle. 
    • Sea urchin battles 1 and 2.
    • Sea cucumber battle.
    • Sea bass battle. 
    • Yogurt battle. 
    • Yellowtail Battle. This was one of the Tadamichi Ohta Faction's battles (the "guardians of traditional Japanese cuisine"). Their chef this time was a salt specialist. This battle was the third time they battled against Morimoto the Japanese Iron Chef.  
    • Yam Battle. This episode is also an autumn equinox special episode. It featured a Zen Buddhist monk cooking in a specific vegetarian style. 
    • Unisex Salmon Battle. This is the episode where Kandagawa joins forces with Ohta and the Ohta Faction, which seeks to preserve traditional Japanese cuisine, is formed. This is the first battle of the faction against Morimoto. On a note, unisex salmon, according to the show, is a rare type of salmon, you get one of those out of every 5000 salmon or so. It is a very rare salmon with an immature reproductive system. Apparently, they have a unique taste as a result, and at the time, a single fish could cost about $300 each. What I love about this show: I often learn new things.
    • 21st Century Battles. A special of two battles to celebrate the arrival of the 21st century. First battle featured the Iron Chef's long time nemesis Toshiro Kandagawa. Watching the Kandagawa and later his alliance with the Ohta Faction was like watching wrestling grudge matches, but with cooking, great fun overall. Second battle was the rematch between Morimoto and Bobby Flay. Personally I like the Kandagawa battle, which was very moving and a great cooking performance overall, and I am fine skipping the second battle. I never cared much for Bobby Flay, and his presence in Iron Chef did little in his favor. (On a side note: I have little interest in the current American version, which I think is dreadful). 

Friday, June 08, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: June 8, 2018 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.

A lot of stuff happened between last week and this week. So let's get on with it, and see how many signs we can identify this week.

  • Let's start off with some news from the U.S. colonies: 
    • From one of the other U.S. colonies, did you know that Hurricane Maria drove more than 1,000 medical refugees from the U.S. Virgin Islands? Story via Grist. Many of their hospital facilities have not recuperated, and did we mention the 2018 hurricane season just started?
    • In fact, the U.S. Virgin Islands are still struggling to recuperate from the 2017 hurricane season just as we start the 2018 season. Story via NPR.
    • Meanwhile, other Hurricane Maria survivors, mainly from Puerto Rico, are still struggling with issues like lack of resources and homesickness in Miami. Story via Grist.
    • In Puerto Rico, the hurricane has  reignited a movement for food independence. Story via NPR. Historically, the island was fairly self-sufficient in terms of food and agriculture until the Americans arrived and basically decimated the native agricultural industry, to the point that ". . .before the hurricane struck in September 2017, Puerto Rico imported about 85 percent of its food." The island went from an island that could easily feed itself to dependent on the colonial imperialist power. 
    • Overall, the conclusion is out: the way the U.S. has dealt with its colony, Puerto Rico, is a contemptible failure. Story via The Week.
    • At least the rich people might make something out of  it in an insidious way. A colleague of mine, shortly after Hurricane Maria hit, predicted that Puerto Rico would be gentrified, forcing the natives to leave so white rich "investors" (a.k.a.vultures) could move in and take over. Well, lo and behold, his prediction is proving right. Story via Democracy Now!
  • And now, some news from the front in the "War on Coal":
    • The coal industry may be dying, but they are determined to take anyone with  them as well. Their lobbyists are hard at work to make sure that victims of black lung (you know, from coal mining) get less or no payments to treat the disease. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • For conservatives, the  "free market" is the cure-all for any problem, until the free market works and drives an industry down. The free market is one of the big reasons the coal industry, along with nuclear energy, is dying as other forms of energy are just doing better such as natural gas. So, naturally, the Pendejo In Chief and the  Party of Stupid, shameless champions of the free market are doing their best to use government power and regulation to keep dying coal and nuclear plants open. Because the free market is all fine and dandy until it works too well and they don't like it. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • In other rural news: 
    • Americans love to bitch and moan about immigrants, especially immigrants from "south of the border."  But did you know that for many small towns, the only thing keeping them alive are Mexican immigrants? Well, that trend may be decreasing as Mexicans leave, whether by deportation or choice, sending small towns that were reviving into death spirals. Story via The New York Times.
    • Many rural hospitals are closing down, and of the few that remain open, they often get bought out by some big out of town corporation or some billionaire hoping to squeeze gain out of the rural hospital by imposing some very shady practices of questionable value and ethics. Story via The Atlantic.
  • In news of corporate fuckery: 
    • The CEO of Delta Airlines recently told people that if they are bargain flyers, they can go fuck themselves. OK, he did not quite use the F-word, but he may as well have since he basically told them he could not care less about them as his customers. I hope more people simply tell Delta that it is not their kind of airline. Story via Inc.
    • And speaking of flying, news continue of people just fed up with  flying. Sure, plenty of people still choose (or are forced) to fly in the sky cattle cars, but more and more people choose to drive or other ways of transport to avoid flying. Story via USA Today. Personally, you cannot pay me enough money to get in a flying cattle car. Fuck, I'd rather be transported  in an actual cattle car than get in an airline aircraft.
    • Because people overall are stupid, big companies like Microsoft and GM are able to raise prices and get people to actually thank them for it. How do they do it? Well, turning a purchase into a "subscription" and thus making you pay more is one  example. Read the rest of the article from Inc. to see what other tricks they  use on  the gullible.
    • Recently, Starbucks announced that anyone should be able to use their restrooms, regardless of where they are customers or not. As I mentioned last week, this had some people clutching pearls, such as Megyn Kelly. However, the reality is that good public restrooms are practically non-existent in the U.S., so basically, if you are not a paying customer then you need to go shit elsewhere. Story via TruthDig.
    • You probably do not  need to wonder why people do not answer phones anymore. I certainly do not answer the phone if I do not know who the caller is. I check Caller ID, I look up numbers, and if they are spammers, scammers, or other nuisance assholes, they get blocked on my cell phone. Same goes at home where we screen calls too. Let us be honest, the phone  has become nothing more than a tool of corporate and shady spammers and scammers to annoy people. It is also a bane at work where annoying library vendors love to cold call me to try to sell me stuff  I either do not want or just cannot afford (because apparently they did not get the memo that library budgets are shrinking, or in some cases, non-existent for things like buying fancy databases and electronic resources). Annoying cold calls just go to voice mail and get deleted. Personally, if I know you, you can text or email me. Only people I call are close family. Period. In the end, the  overall result is phone culture may be dying, and I am perfectly fine with  that. Read about it in this article from The Atlantic.
    • By the way, something to think about while you sip your fancy coffee-flavored milkshake from Starbucks or other coffeehouse. Learn about the history of oppression and exploitation. Learn more in this article from Yes! Magazine.
  • In Pendejo In Chief and Party of Stupid news, because when it comes to the Bad Economy, they are the gift that keeps on giving: 
    • U.S. Presidents do not always manage to fill all the jobs in government they are supposed to in a timely fashion. However, the Pendejo In Chief is notoriously bad about it, to the point it is doing serious damage. Story via VICE
    • He is also fucking up treaties with  U.S. allies, such as NAFTA. The Pendejo In Chief is announcing  the U.S. will impose tariffs on things like steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico. Those two countries, being smart, not only are announcing retaliatory tariffs, but they are doing targeted retaliatory tariffs. What are they targeting? Products from Party of Stupid strongholds such as bourbon whiskey the majority of which comes from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell's state. I am sure he will love to explain to bourbon makers, who were just having a big renaissance, why suddenly their product is becoming prohibitively expensive abroad and thus eventually undesirable over there. And  I am sure farmers in places like  Iowa want to hear similar explanations given tariffs for U.S. pork are also announced. Story via Food Politics blog, which  even offers links to the lists of products Canada and Mexico intend to put tariffs on. 
    • And because the Pendejo In Chief always needs yet one more country to piss  off, he is aiming at German automakers, which I find ironic because many millionaires and billionaires, you know, the base of the Party of Stupid and the Pendejo In Chief, drive and enjoy vehicles such as BMW and Mercedes Benz. This is not just about tariffs. He right out wants to ban German automobiles out of the U.S. Story via Business Insider, Fortune
  • In other news from around the U.S. 
    • "Are you not entertained?" Because boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) are not entertaining nor barbaric enough, it's time to bring back bare knuckle boxing. In fact, Wyoming is leading the way. Story via USA Today.  
    • A new United Nations report reveals that the poor in the United States are becoming even more destitute under the Pendejo In Chief. Story via Reuters. Given that Americans in general do not give a fuck about the poor (no matter how Christian said Americans claim to be), and they give even less of a fuck about anything the UN may or not say, it's pretty much  up shit's creek for the poor in the U.S. 
    • If you are a minority lawyer (read person of color), odds are good you have a very heavy debt load from your education. Because idealism and activism do not really pay the bills, especially  in these Hard  Times. Story via AlterNet.
    • If you are caregiver to someone elderly and/or infirm, having to work extra jobs is becoming the norm. However, the real issue is  often asshole employers who do not give a shit about your caregiver situation and make things like taking some leave time next to impossible. Then again, just like the U.S. in  general does not give a shit about the poor, they do not give a shit about things like family neither. Story via Lexington Herald Leader.
    • In Florida, they are spending $1 billion to poorly educate and misinform their children as well as using crappy textbooks to promote crackpot ideas like creationism. If you wonder how the U.S. will get to Idiocracy, it starts here. Story via Pharyngula.
    • Psst. Do you need a skull for your next satanic or dark ritual? If you are in Miami, and you know the right grave robber, skulls are going for $1,000, but I am sure there may be room to haggle. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
    • And speaking of funerals and funerary practices, things are so bad in the economy that people often have to turn to crowdfunding to pay for a funeral. Story via The New York  Times.
  • In a couple of news items from the world of adult entertainment, erotica, and porn: 
    • The parent company of has won the bid for the assets of Penthouse. According to the story via XBiz News, "’s bid for all of Penthouse’s assets — intellectual property, videos, publications, broadcasting and digital rights — amounted to $11.2 million and is subject to a bankruptcy trustee’s approval, as well as the court’s consent." 
    • The passage of FOSTA/SESTA legislation is  making life hard for sex workers and other workers in the adult industry. One way they are adapting is by rebranding, and people like Lydia Dupra are doing just that: helping women who work in the adult industry rebrand. Because in the  bad economy, being adaptable is crucial. Story via VICE.
  • And let's take a look to see how the uber rich are doing this week: 
    • Scott Pruitt, the Pendejo In Chief's choice for leading the EPA, likes to live large and lavishly. Let's see what  he has been up to: 
      • He recently spent $1560 on 12 pens. Story via The Week. Because apparently he likes seriously elegant and opulent writing instruments. Now as a writer myself, I appreciate a good writing instrument as much as the next writer. Having said that, if you are going to spend that much money of pens, even if  it is shamelessly just using tax payer money to do it (because, fuck the taxpayers), you should at least spend the money on pens that are actually good. This "helpful" article from VICE suggests the nice pens, still expensive mind you, that are actually good writing instruments that Pruitt could have spent money on instead
      • For Scott Pruitt, a simple hand lotion will not do. While most of us may settle for Jergens, or whatever generic brand you can find, he only wants the finest lotion, and he happens to like the lotion from the Ritz-Carlton hotels. So much so he sent his security detail to go find him some. Story via VICE
      • He also wants to buy mattresses on the cheap, so he sent an aide to buy a used mattress from a Trump hotel. Eww, not new mind you. A used mattress. Story via NPR. So, expensive pens (that are not that good) but cheap mattresses. Hmm. 
      • And he also tried to get an aide to help him get his wife a Chick-Fil-A franchise. So, bad enough he uses his aides to do dubious things on his behalf, but really, Chick-Fil-A. Not even like a seriously good chicken franchise. Talk about #fail. Story via The Washington Post.
    • Lately news are full of those magnificent billionaires wanting to spend money to go to space and do who knows what. However, do not be fooled by their false nobility. Story via Literary Hub
      • Nobility aside, maybe one of these billionaires wants to buy the International Space Station. NASA is willing to sell it. Story via NPR.
    • Meanwhile, in Texas, where everything is bigger including the stupidity and arrogance, the University of Texas System is making it easier for their university heads to fly fancy. Because nothing but the best for them. Economy class is for the cattle. Story via The Texas Tribune.
    • In news of horror, the British Empire may be coming to doom as The Guardian dares to suggest that tea is a disgrace.