Friday, September 14, 2018

Reading about the reading life: September 14, 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).  




Let's have a look what's been going on in books and reading.

  • The New Republic takes a look at Amazon and the growing business of audiobooks. While other areas of book publishing seem to be stagnant or even shrinking, audiobooks is one area seeing some small growth. Personally, I do read in audio when I can, mainly through my public library's Overdrive system. It's limited but I manage to find something interesting now and then. 
  • One place that still does OK is indie bookstores, and Publisher's Weekly has a look at some of them. 
  • However, big chain bookstores are not giving up yet. Story via The Millions.
  • The Observer Dispatch (Utica, NY) advocates for preserving real bookstores (as in the physical locations).  They write, "Whatever it takes for bookstores to survive, it’s worth the effort. That means those who appreciate what real bookstores have to offer need to support them."
  • Willamette Week offers a profile of Title Wave, the bookstore set up by Multnomah County Library to sell off books they retire from the library collection. People often ask libraries to add this or that book to the collections, but they rarely if ever wonders what happens when space runs out. Well, libraries do weed collections and remove books that are old, no longer in use, bad condition, or for a few other reasons. One way libraries dispose of books no longer needed is by selling them. Multnomah does it with their own store. In your local community, you may find your local public library has a "Friends of the Library" group, and they often have used book sales that include books the library is letting go. "Friends" groups are local library supporters, and their sales are often a way to raise funds for the library so the library can keep getting new and better things. In addition, when a big bestseller or overly hyped book comes out, say the latest Harry Potter back in its prime, you'd see the library had anywhere from 10 to 20 extra copies to accommodate demand. Once demand died out, the library kept one or two copies and would sell off the rest. (Although for certain really high demand items, libraries often lease those books, but that is a topic for another time.)
  • This is more of a general culture piece. Places Journal offers a piece on hardware stores as community places
  • Another general culture piece. Via Aeon magazine, a look at Tarot not so  much as divination tool but as a tool for self development and even therapy.  Given my growing interest and study of Tarot, this caught my eye.
  • The Atlantic takes a look at microfilm, which can last a very long time and has been used to preserve many things. It may seem outdated, and even many libraries are rushing to get rid of it (often without backing it up or other alternatives). Still, microfilm (and microfiche) remains an essential form of information preservation. 
  • Via Boing Boing, a small look at the ancient art of fore-edge paintings in books
  • Via The Outline, I had no idea but I learn that there are secret Marxist alien hunters. Hat tip to Boing Boing. From the article: "The Marxist Ufologists viewed UFO investigation as part of the scientific and intellectual tradition of humans attempting to overcome their alienation so that they might understand themselves and their place within in nature, with the aim of creating a truly free and equal society. In searching for aliens, they believed, we are forced to confront the alien logic of capital that controls the world. In this struggle, the Marxist Ufologists saw a potential ally in our interstellar neighbors. The prospect of such an encounter might be terrifying, but it’s hard to imagine our new alien overlords could be any more inhumane than the humans who currently dominate the planet."
  • Via The New Yorker, an article on the curious collection of authors' artifacts held by New York Public Library. Items include a lock of Walt Whitman's hair and Virginia Woolf's cane. 
  • Have a kid reluctant to read? The Los Angeles Times offers some tips to inspire your kid to read
  • And while we are handing out advice about how to read, Inc magazine offers what they call an unconventional way to read. I would not go as far as call it unconventional. Some of the advice here has been around for a long time. For example, you do not have to finish a book if you do not like it or are not connecting to it. And yes, unlike the author of the article, that does include tossing aside The Da Vinci Code halfway through when you realize it's a piece of tripe. (Yea, I said it.) Now, the message of reading actively and keeping track of what you read is good. That is part of why I keep notes in my journal of things I read; it is also a reason I do book reviews.  
  • Over at The Guardian, there is concern over the proliferation of skim reading. From the article: "Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential 'deep reading' processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading."
Some items on celebrity books. This week we are looking at books from politics and politicians:

  •  Sean Spicer, the disgraced former liar for the Pendejo In Chief press secretary, has a book out. Apparently it is consistent with what he used to do, namely lie for the president. A review from Salon notes it is full of inaccuracies and, because that is not bad enough, it is also dull. 
  • Former The Apprentice reality show "star" Omarosa, who worked in the White House in who knows what capacity, has her own tell all book as well. That book is not much better, and Salon points out in their review the book was losing sales bigly in its second week out. As I predicted, it's headed for the remainders bin.
  • Finally this week, for your amusement. I will warn you this can be NSFW. Someone has gone and created a Tijuana Bible comic about The Pendejo In Chief. Details, including link if you wish to purchase a copy, via Boing Boing.

Media Notes: Roundup for August 2018


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


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

  • Panzer Chocolate (2013. Horror, Mystery). Interesting detail is that the movie has an app element. At the beginning of the film, they encourage you to download an app to go along as you watch the movie, making for an interactive element. They do note you do not have to download the app to follow the movie. I chose not to attempt to find the app. Anyhow, couple of archeology students are attempting to find art stolen by the Nazis stashed somewhere in the Pyrenees. Their evidence is thin, and terms like hermetic cartography get tossed in (apparently the Nazis were big on that). One of the students goes to a library (one with not very good service) to find some rare book, where they send her to the basement to "see Joe" who apparently keeps the old books no one wants to deal with it. She finds it, but has pages missing, and things start getting silly from there as the student gets various signs to warn her off, but she perseveres (of course). Since they are in Barcelona, getting to the site is just a convenient drive up to the mountains on the Spanish side. Then nothing pretty much happens. They do find an old Nazi bunker in the woods. About only thing they find are cases of Nazi chocolate (the titular candy), which of course, some of the group proceed to eat because, you know, why the hell not? Otherwise, seriously, nothing much happens until barely the last 20 minutes when the evil in the bunker awakes, and by that point you are saying "about fucking time." The mystery unravels in the last fifteen minutes or so. The ending was not that great neither. Overall, the movie was as kids would say "meh." The idea had potential, but it is mostly wasted. You can probably skip this one. Via TubiTv. 
  • Harlock: Space Pirate (2013. Animation, Adventure, Science fiction). Movie description: "Mankind is dying. Only one man can do anything about it, Space Captain Harlock, but the Gaia Coalition will stop at nothing to end him." This is the latest take on the Captain Harlock legend. Basically, mankind heads to the stars, and as mankind tends to do, fucks it all up out in the colonies due to pollution, overexploitation of resources, so on. Suddenly, Earth is the last resource. The Gaia Coalition, the ruling body of Earth, emerged after a war where they managed to keep those wanting to return out. It manages to plant a mole in Harlock's ship hoping to stop him. However, as Earth and mankind are dying, turns out Harlock may be the hero they need. The movie does have quite a convoluted plot that at times is not easy to follow, and it does have some slow moments. But it does have a pretty good ending. 
  • Curse of the Puppet Master (1998. Horror. Fantasy). One of the many Puppet Master sequels. I have not seen these movies for a while, so when I saw this one on TubiTv decided to take a chance. Dr Magrew now has Toulon's puppets and runs a show with them. He hires Robert "Tank", who may be a bit "slow" but has great carving talent, to carve a new puppet. Magrew hopes to replicate Toulon's work. However, there is the mystery of what happened to his first assistant. Keeping his experiments a secret gets complicated for Magrew with his daughter back from college, and the local corrupt sheriff nosing around looking for that missing assistant. Meanwhile, the hot to trot daughter takes a liking to Tank; this whole part of the plot is just mostly filler. And that is a problem since most of this movie seems to be more about Tank than about the puppets. To make it worse, nothing pretty much happens until the last part. Overall, the human characters are fairly forgettable, and other than Tank, not terribly sympathetic. The movie stands on its own from the series it seems; it leaves questions unanswered for those following the series, and in the end, pretty forgettable. One thing this movie kept was the haunting puppet music. 
  • My Bloody Valentine (1981. Horror. Thriller). 20 years ago in Valentines Bluff, a mining accident took the lives of five miners. It is 20 years later, the town is having their first Valentines Day dance in that time. 20 years ago, the survivor killed two supervisors responsible for the accident and forbid the town to never have another Valentines Day dance again. However, now, a new dance is about to take place, and the miner returns to kill those who did not heed his warning. This was one of the many slasher films that came out of the 70s and 80s. For what it is, it is fairly decent, and it does have a twist at the end. Via TubiTv. On a side note, the movie was remade/rebooted in 2009.


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, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes.

  • Inspector Lewis, Series 7 (2014. Link to Amazon record). I picked up the next installment of this spinoff of Inspector Morse, which I am enjoying very much. By now, Lewis is retired, but the police can't quite let him go yet. Short on manpower, Chief Innocent brings him back on a flexible contract to work once more. Meanwhile, Hathaway is now an Inspector, and he has his own new sergeant, DS Maddox. Borrowed DVD from Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library. This DVD contains three episodes.
    • "Entry Wounds." Hathaway gets to work his first case as an inspector. A neurosurgeon is murdered, and there are also animal rights activists and a hunting estate to complicate things.
    • "The Lions of Nemea." A classics scholar is killed, and she may be the connection to another murder as well as a con man.
    • "Beyond Good And Evil." 13 years ago, Lewis caught Graham Lawrie, the "hammer killer" convicted of killing three police officers. However, the convict wins an appeal, and meanwhile murders resembling those of Lawrie start happening again. 
  • Supermarket Sweep (Game show. 1965-2003). I continue watching the 1990s run hosted by David Ruprecht, which ran on Lifetime Channel and later on Pax TV, on YouTube this month. See the June roundup post for more comment on this show. Watched 4 episodes.
  • Iron Chef (Japan). (1993-2001). I keep watching these via YouTube. 
    • "Strawberry Dessert Battle." This is one of the Christmas specials. Challenger, Ms. Masayo Waki, is the director of the international department at the Hattori Nutrition College.She also happens to have been trained in France at the famous Cordon Bleu, and worked in various three star restaurants in France before returning to Japan. She challenges Iron Chef French Sakai.
    • "Stingray Battle." Noburu Inoue, a pioneer of French cuisine in Japan says taste is more important than any performance, and that he's more important than the Iron Chefs. Them's fighting words (which he denied saying when he got to the show). The man counts Iron Chef French (honorary) Ishinabe as one of his disciples. However, Inoue instead of going himself is sending one of his top apprentices (that is a common theme in these grudge matches, some old "Mustache Pete" talks big, but usually sends his peon to do the work) to challenge (and more often than not, the Iron Chef proceeds to hand said apprentice and master their asses on a plate). So Yoshihide Koga gets to challenge Iron Chef French Sakai. This was a bit of an awkward episode as Inoue gets a glass of wine too many, and even punches one of the cooking assistants. So, I usually do not "spoil" in commenting, but here I will say I was glad Sakai did hand them their asses.\
    • "Squid Battle 2." Tetsutoshi Shimazu, a Japanese chef specializing in Italian cuisine, especially pizza, challenges Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi.  
    • "Squid Battle." Kyonori Miura, the "Conjurer of Garlic," a Japanese chef specializing in Italian cuisine, challenges Iron Chef French Sakai. 
    • "Spinach Battle." Katsuaki Mori, a Japanese chef specializing in Italian food and known for his use of cheeses and salads, challenges. He has earned a Cavalier medal from the French government for his expertise in cheese. He challenged Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi.
    • "Soy Bean Battle." Toshiro Kandagawa, often nemesis of the Iron Chefs and don of the chefs in Western Japan, wants to send a female chef who is his protege. Chairman Kaga accepts the challenge, and so chef Yoshie Urabe, head chef of her own top restaurant in Osaka challenges Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi.
    • "Shiitake Mushroom Battle." Takaya Nakazawa, a Japanese chef master of Chinese sauces, challenges Chen Kenichi. Nakazawa was mentored by Kenichi's father. On an interesting note, this battle was the one right before the one where Iron Chef Nakamura, who replaced Michiba, would be announced. 
    • "Scampi Battle." Masahiko Sagiwara, a top Italian pasta chef in Japan, challenges. He takes on Chen Kenichi, the Chinese Iron Chef.
    • "Scallop Battle." This was the time when vacuum cooking, a technique invented by the French, was emerging as a trend, and Chairman Kaga even installs the equipment to use it so they can try it out in this battle. Japanese chef Senji Osada, an expert in vacuum cooking, challenges Iron Chef French Sakai.
    • "Saury Battle." Kazumi Nagayama, head chef of a university restaurant, Shochiku, a very nice one with a lot of history part of Tokyo University in Hongo, Tokyo challenges. Iron Chef French Sakai accepts the challenge. 
    • "Sardine Rematch." The return of the Italian Sabatini restaurant clan. They previously fought a sardine battle against Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi and lost. That was three years previous to this episode. This time they send another master chef of theirs in Japan, Hideki Maruyama. Maruyama challenges Chen, making it a full rematch, even using the same theme ingredient. 
    • "Salmon Battle." Joel Bruant, a French chef disciple of Paul Bocuse and now working in Japan, challenges hoping to topple Iron Chef French Sakai and replace Sakai. 
  • Mobsters (Documentary. True crime. Biography. 2007-2012). I continue watching episodes of this series via YouTube here and there. See the June roundup for previous commentary on the series overall.  
    • "Tony 'Joe Batters' Accardo" (2009. Season 2, Episode 6). Accardo worked his way up to being Al Capone's bodyguard to eventually running the Chicago Outfit during prime years of the 1930s and 1940s, transitioning the mob out of Prohibition and bootlegging. He managed at one point to control territories outside of Chicago including Indiana and Wisconsin, and eventually parts of Las Vegas, including the Stardust (later fictionalized in the movie Casino as the Tangiers). He managed to be successful in large part because unlike so many mobsters he was business smart, savvy, and knew to keep a low profile, still running the family, albeit not so directly, into the 1980s. He died of heart failure in 1992, and he never served time in prison, a feat for a mob boss. He was the last of the Al Capone era mobsters. 
    •  "Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti" (2009. Season 2, Episode 2). Nitti was Al Capone's successor after Capone got put in jail for tax evasion.Nitti in real life was not like he is portrayed in the movies. Sure, he was ruthless, but he was also much more businesslike.


Booknote: The New Tarot Handbook

Rachel Pollack, The New Tarot Handbook: Master the Meaning of the Cards. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2012  ISBN: 978-0-7387-3190-2.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination
Format: paperback
Source: I own this one (found it at Half Price Books)

This book is an adequate guide for learning Tarot. If you are using a Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck, this will be a helpful book as it is keyed to RWS decks. It uses RWS images as reference points, and Pollack often cites Arthur Waite's work in this book. Still, the information in the book is applicable if you use a "clone" deck or any other deck that draws on the RWS system.

The book is arranged as follows:
  • Short introduction. This is where Pollack tells a bit of her story about Tarot, gives a bit of general Tarot history, and discusses the RWS system. 
  • The Major Arcana. This goes over every card for the Major Arcana. Before the card entries, Pollack provides some discussion on what are the Major Arcana cards. She also provides some ways to line up these cards for comparison and study. Then you get the card entries. For each  card, you get a black and white image, some keywords, a text description and discussion, a short list of divinatory meanings, a short list of reversed meanings, and a spread you can try for reading based on the card. I see the spreads as good tools for self reflection, and you could still use them to read for others. 
  • The Minor Arcana. This section includes the Minor Arcana numbered cards (1-10). This section starts with a description of what are the Minor Arcana, a look at the four suits (wands, cups, swords, and pentacles), and the themes for each number. Card entries are then organize by suit one (ace) through ten. Each card entry has a picture of the card, identifies its element, some theme keywords, text description, a short list of divinatory meanings, and a short list of reversed meanings. At the end of each suit, there is a spread for a suit reading. 
  • The Court Cards get their own chapter. Personally, I tend to prefer putting court cards with their suits, but that's how Pollack did it for this book. This section includes a general discussion of the court cards, a bit on their elemental correspondences, and ways to read them. Pollack also notes theme words and divinatory meanings for the court cards "are similar in places to those in my book Tarot Wisdom. They come from many years of both reading and studying the cards" (210). In other words, some content is recycled from other works. This is  not surprising; prolific authors and teachers who teach over and over recycle content and lesson plans. I have not read Tarot Wisdom, so I can't comment on how much or not is recycled from that book here. Moving along, in this section, each court card set is grouped by suit. Each court card entry includes a picture of the card, element, elemental combination, physical quality, theme, a description passage, divinatory meanings, and reversed meanings. At the end of the court cards section, you get a spread for a reading inspired by the court cards. 
  • Readings. You find here some advice on how to read the cards. She also discusses some Tarot "rules" and myths, and explains why she includes reversed meanings (one reason is Waite did it, but there are other reasons). In this section, she also discusses spreads and provides a few examples you can try out. 
  • Further study. Some small suggestions on what to read to keep learning. 
This is a basic and solid Tarot reference book. Pollack has over 40 years of Tarot reading, study, and teaching experience, and she does  her best to distill that in this book for beginners. It succeeds as the book is very accessible, and it gives you the basics to study and read the cards. While it is keyed to RWS decks, it can work for almost any RWS clone deck or deck that draws on RWS. However, those 40 years of experience also show in the sense that this just feels like another Tarot book. Many Tarotistas claim Pollack's Seventy Eight Degrees to be a Tarot bible, revolutionary, essential. I have that one on my TBR list. The New Tarot Handbook feels more like one Pollack could have written in her sleep, so to speak. In other words, the book is nice, but you likely could have picked up either of the other two books mentioned and done well, or if you already have Seventy Eight Degrees or Tarot Wisdom, then you can likely skip this one.

In the end, if you need a basic Tarot reference book, this book does the job. The card inspired spreads are very good for self reflection as well as reading for others. If you need a book to keep handy as you study and learn Tarot, this is an OK book. If you want some depth, there may be better books out there, including books by this author. Overall, it works for beginners. For more advanced readers, there are other options.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * *

Some additional reading notes:

Tarot grows and changes:

"The Tarot grows and changes as we grow and change. Let the Tarot discover you so that you may discover yourself in the cards" (7).

Tarot reading more as an art:

"Tarot card reading always remains an art more than a science, with any system a spur to meaning rather than a fixed rule of what something has to mean" (207). 

Tarot as gateway:

"Think of the Tarot as an endless series of doorways--seventy-eight cards with infinite combinations. Let them become the gates to your wisdom" (280). 








Friday, September 07, 2018

Booknote: The Black Hand

Stephan Talty, The Black Hand: the Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2017.  ISBN: 978-0-544-63338-4.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: history, biography, true crime
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


This book is a biography and history of Joseph Petrosino, the first Italian to ever join the NYPD. It  is also a look at the Black Hand, a criminal organization precursor to the Mafia that had clout and presence nationwide in the United States and back in Italy. Petrosino made it  his life mission to fight the Black Hand at a time in the U.S. when racism against Italians was high.

Petrosino was brilliant and talented. He also had a great memory and was a master of disguise. Yet he had to fight not only the Black Hand but also his own police department. His story illustrates the common thread of American racism where an immigrant group suffers racism and prejudice, eventually settle in, and then proceed to be racist assholes to the next immigrant group. This is the deal with the Irish and Italians. By this point in time, the Irish are settled in. They pretty much run New York City thanks to Tammany Hall and the fact they dominated the NYPD. The Irish now are being racist towards the Italians. Petrosino got into the NYPD because he had friends who helped, but otherwise he had to fight for every resource to fight the Black Hand. Often his only ally was the sensationalist press of his time willing to listen and publish his exploits and challenges. Add to this that, unlike the Irish who took pride in their own becoming cops, Italians viewed any cop, including Petrosino, with suspicion.

The book is an interesting story that traces Petrosino's rise and then his work leading the Italian Squad then his dedication going all the way back to Italy to fight the Black Hand. As I mentioned, the book is interesting, but the racism and frustrations Petrosino faced are hard to read at times.

A strength of the book is that it captures the history of New York City and the NYPD at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th century well. The author is skilled at bringing this time period to life. This is a real story, but  it often reads as a thriller. In the end, heavy as it was to read at times, I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Additional reading notes:

How bad was the Black Hand?

"Only the Ku Klux Klan would surpass the Black Hand for the production of mass terror in the early part of the century" (xiii). 

On Petrosino's fame:

"It's telling that the most famous Italian American in the country in the late 1800s was the one deputized by the powerful to track down and imprison his fellow countrymen. There were artists and intellectuals among the migrants from the Old World-- classics professors, opera singers, stonemasons, who created great civic works-- but the country largely ignored them. It was Petrosino, the 'hunter of men' who fascinated the old American stock of Knickerbockers and WASPs, and they embraced him like no other Italian American of his time. It was as if the nation's idea of the Italian was so narrow and constricted that it could take in only two figures among the thousands entering through the gates of Ellis Island: the killer, who terrified Americans, and his opposite. The lawman. The savior" (19).

When you think about it, much of that  narrow and  constricted kind of thinking still thrives in the United States.




Friday, August 31, 2018

Booknote: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections

Curtis Saxton, et.al., Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.  ISBN: 0-7894-8574-5.

Genre: picture books, art, diagrams
Subgenre: science fiction, Star Wars
Format: oversized hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is certainly the kind of neat oversized picture book kids who like knowing how things are made would love. If you are a fan of the movies, even if you did not like the prequels as much, you may still like this book. It is a good book for fans of the vehicles in the movies.

This oversized volume contains 13 large and very detailed illustrations including one that has pull out pages. Each illustration includes some text and additional trivia. Illustrations are in full color, and the artists clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. You get pretty much every possible detail you can get.

Though it is a book for young readers, I think readers of all ages will enjoy it. This is definitely a good series for public libraries, though keep in mind they can wear and tear with ease. The public library copy I borrowed is pretty beat up in parts.

Overall, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Signs the economy is bad: August 31, 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.





Another week, and another set of signs the economy is bad. Just when I think I can take a  week off, more stories appear, and here we go again.

So, what's going on with the government?

In corporate fuckery and the bad economy:

  • Flying United Airlines and you are running a bit late? Well, fuck you, they are not holding the plane for you. Well, they are not unless you are important somehow. Also, did  you pay  for a  good seat? Well fuck you too, if some big honcho, like a federal legislator needs  it, you are getting bumped. Story via Inc.
  • Meanwhile, Southwest is raising the price on their Early Bird Check-In fuckery. Story via Inc.
  • It is commonly known that women pay more for basics like their feminine hygiene products, which are essential, as well as other things like razor blades. That is often called a "pink tax." Well, seems women cannot catch a break, and companies, banks, so on also tack on a "pink tax" on other products and services like mortgages, cars, and other goods. Story via TruthDig.
  • Pork producers do more than make bacon and pork products. Their big farms often mess up their local communities with pollution, flies, stench, and more. Naturally, pork producers are mobilizing their lobbyists and lawyers so they can prevent people from suing them so they can keep effing up the environment and their neighbors' property. Story via Truthout.
  • A new report finds that guns are a significant factor in rural suicides. Story via The Rural Blog. However, the gun industry is more concerned that the Pendejo In Chief is bad for business. Story via The Week. Did the Pendejo In Chief suddenly declare he is confiscating guns or such? Did he say something stupid to scare people off buying guns? Nope. On the contrary, he loves guns and is happy supporting gun owners, gun rights, etc. And that is an actual problem; there is no boogeyman like Obama to scare gun fetishists into buying more guns.They are just not stockpiling AR-15s and other guns as before. From the article, "As a Maine gun manufacturer put it, there's just no 'fear-based market' pushing gun lovers to stock up anymore." 
  • This is more like corporate soap opera. A former CEO of Barnes and Noble has sued the company, and all sorts of sordid revelations are coming out as a result. Story via The New Republic.
In education news:

  • Turns out that no matter if you do everything right, you WILL STILL get fucked when it comes to student loans. Story via Mother Jones. The best advice I can give you is to not take out any student loans matter what. Those loan forgiveness programs  you may have heard? Mostly illusion or just not worth the effort or time to try to use it. 
  • And if things were not bad enough, it turns out the problem with student loan defaults is bigger than previously thought. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
  • Usually I have sympathy when some small college has to cut back and lay off faculty. However, this particular "university" I am more than happy they have to lay off people. Heck, if they go broke and close down, I would not shed a tear. Where is this place? It's Bob Jones University, and they are laying people off to close a budget gap. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
In some odd, curious, and miscellaneous items:

  • Funding conservation efforts is not easy. How do you find money to help save species and preserve the environment? Well, in the U.S.,  one way is allowing people to kill animals. The problem is people are just not hunting as much as they used to. Story via Truthout.
  • The whole probiotic movement is a cash cow if you play it right. People will pretty much swallow anything (literally or otherwise) if you toss in some goobledygook and make it sound all scientific. So, stay tuned as baby poop pills could become the next big thing. Story via Big Think. As often attributed to P.T. Barnum, "there is a sucker born every minute."
  • Via Marketplace, learn how exactly casinos decide where and when to put in slot machines as well as when to retire and replace them. It has to do with the urinals theory. 
  • And when LGBT are kept out of a place, they make their own space and excel. Via VICE, learn about the world of same sex ballroom dancing. This is just a cool story (gotta have one of those once in a while). 
And finally, for this week, let's see how the uber rich are doing:

  • Well, if you are rich and retired, odds are good you are living it large, like these folks in fancy retirement homes in Florida.We are talking about "residents who are willing to shell out $13,000 a month to live in a $100,000,000 palace with a pool, a theater, and 'yappy hour' for dogs." 2Chainz explains for VICE.




Friday, August 24, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: August 24, 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.

 


Another week, and a lot of stuff has been going on. Let's see how many bad signs are out there.

In news of the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid:
  • A new estimate for the Pendejo In Chief's toy soldier parade is at $92 million dollars. However, things are not looking good, so for now the parade is off and the powers that be are postponing it until 2019. So is the cost too high? Kind of depends on who you ask. Stories via the Los Angeles Times and NPR.
    • And speaking of the armed forces, things may be getting expensive, especially for the U.S. Army due to them getting less selective about who they let in. The article's subtitle puts it well: "Recruits who are fat, stupid and have criminal records is no way to run the military." Plus consider the implications when said fat, stupid, and criminal record recruits get out of the army and back into civilian society. Story via Salon.
  • Meanwhile, Pendejo In Chief fans, miffed that his Hollywood Walk of Fame star keeps getting vandalized (hey, not all heroes wear capes) are going about the Walk of Fame pasting fake fame stars with his name on it. Why is this part of the bad economy? Well, whoever is selling them those stickers is probably making bank. Story via VICE.
In the world of corporate fuckery:

  •  Payday loans are a pox and curse, especially for poor people. So basically what companies what Walmart and others are doing is sort of  modified pay day loan anyhow with what appears to be a less onerous system. That remains to be seen. Basically the problem in the end is people in the Bad Economy living paycheck to paycheck mainly because they are not paid enough by said big corporations who are fine paying slave peon wages (we should note slaves do not get paid). Story via NPR.
  • In Texas, where they are not always exactly friendly to employees, turns out the employers doing recovery work after Hurricane Harvey were basically stealing wages left and right from their workers. Because what better way to show gratitude to the people helping you rebuild than stiffing them on pay they earned working for you? Story via TruthDig.
  • In the fast food world, a bunch of companies agreed to stop their "anti-poaching" behavior, i.e. preventing workers from leaving one job in one fast food place for a higher wage at another, basically sort of blackballing them in an area. This was not out of the goodness of their hearts. It was because the lawsuits were out in force, and they figured it was that or getting sued into oblivion and bad publicity. Story via NPR.
  • Medical insurance companies like Anthem are running a sweet scam making patients pay outrageous co-pays on medicines that would be seriously cheap if paid in cash, if only the patient knew about it by the way. Why does the patient not know? Well, for one, asshole companies like Anthem have lobbied to put laws in place to keep pharmacists from telling patients of such cheaper options. For example, read about the Anthem patient stuck paying $285 as copay on a $40 medicine. Now THAT's corporate fuckery. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Google will track you, whether you allow it or not. They are probably tracking you right this moment, even if you turn off location tracking options. At least one lawsuit has been filed. Read the story with updates over at Infodocket.
  • Meanwhile the Twitter overlord Dorsey says his company is "experimenting with 'features that would promote alternative viewpoints in Twitter’s timeline to address misinformation. . . '".  Story via Nieman Lab. Let me put it clear to you and the others. I do not need nor desire  your help to get "alternative viewpoints." I am already well versed in information literacy, my Google-Fu is strong, and I can certainly detect bullshit when I see it. I also have my feeds on social media finely tuned to avoid the "alternative viewpoints" bullshit you tend to tolerate (yea, I heard you put Alex Jones in time out, but that was more because you got bad publicity not because it was the right thing to do). So fuck off. I am doing just fine online, and I always have the option to just delete Twitter and go elsewhere. 
  • I knew that news sources, especially local news, are getting lazier and lazier, putting in less effort. Some of it is economics, but also just the laziness of going to the Internet, finding some crappy YouTube video or such and linking to it, passing it as news. Don't believe me? According to a new study highlighted by Nieman Lab, an analysis of 16,000 stories across 100 U.S. communities found very little actual local news, if any at all. The findings are not encouraging. For example, "Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local — that is actually about or having taken place within — the municipality." And it can get worse, for a part of the sample, "There’s a lot of reporting on Jay-Z’s latest tweet, for example. One thing we found was that even at the local media outlet level, Twitter and YouTube are fairly easy go-to sources of news." Now that is seriously depressing. 
The Bad Economy in Education:

  •  So how are school teachers doing? Well, teachers continue to be underpaid, and naturally parents and community members whine and balk about properly funding schools because heaven forbid they pay taxes to sustain a common good and get a well educated citizenry. Then they think that, if they can afford it, they can send their kids to private school failing to see privatization is not a solution but rather a racket that often seeks to get the public to pay for something private with public money because otherwise they are not sustainable. But I digress. Let's have a look.
    • Overall, public schools are severely underfunded. According to this story out of Pacific Standard, 12 states cut general funding for education by 7% at least. 
    • They are turning more to free supply shops, basically like food pantries except for school supplies, to get the supplies they need. Story via NPR.
    • To make ends meet, teachers are also flocking the sharing economy, doing things like opening their homes to AirBnB. AirBnB surveyed its hosts and found "the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator." In some areas of the U.S. that number of educators is higher. Story via The Atlantic.
    • And as if things were not bad enough with underfunded public schools, you have to also worry that the kid you send to school may get shot in school. However, not to worry. Maria Bartiromo of Fox News has you covered as she praises the latest fashion trend for school kids: bulletproof backpacks. Found the story via The Week, which includes link to the Faux News segment.
    • And while students carry bulletproof backpacks, teachers may be packing guns. Because there is no money, according to the powers that be, to fund classrooms and teachers properly with materials, books, supplies, etc, but dang nab it, money can be found for guns as Betsy DeVoid pushes to allow schools to use federal funding to buy guns to arm teachers. Story via AlterNet. Because, priorities man. 
  • And higher education, things are not much better. 
    •  A report shows that enrollment for students in teacher education is dropping. Story via Inside Higher Ed. Gee, I wonder if being underpaid, underfunded, and possibly sent to some crumbling school has anything to do with that, not to mention the common disrespect teachers get from society and people with no clue and who would never dare step into a classroom.
    • Meanwhile, colleges are cutting back on programs, especially in the liberal arts. For example, University of Akron is cutting 80 degree tracks, and Goucher College is gutting liberal arts. Stories via Inside Higher Ed
    • At Purdue, they admitted too many students, so many that they had to make temporary dorms. Needless to say, students who are forking thousands of dollars for tuition and housing are not pleased, and have taken to social media to express their displeasure. Story via COED
 So how are the uber rich doing?

  •  It's payback time for Party of Stupid millionaires as they reward the party for all the bounty the Party of Stupid gave them in tax breaks, so on. Story via VICE.
  • However, for some Party of Stupid politicians, getting juicy tax breaks is not enough. They are greedy bastards who want it all, and when they say want it all, they literally want it all, even things meant for those in need. Like this Alaskan politician mofo busted for welfare fraud. Yes, she was cheating to get money she was not entitled to. According to the story, she stole "more than $10,000 in food stamps that they shouldn’t have qualified for." Story via The Midnight Sun. A hat tip to Juanita Jean's.
  • Meanwhile, in the world of wine, when it comes to rosé, there are all sorts of sordid things going in with bribery, pay to play, and outright bad wine displacing the good in the fancy restaurants. The result is "an outbreak of shitty rosé on wine lists everywhere." Story via Bon Appetit. Here is yet another reason why I prefer to buy my own wine and spirits and drink peacefully at home with close folks.
  • Meanwhile, those rich people may suffer more as more fancy hotels add more fees for things like using the spa. The horror. Story via The Los Angeles Times. I have no idea what that pain of spa and salon fees is like since my hotel budget is pretty much El Cheapo Motel. As long as it is clean and has a bed in it, I am good. 
  • And finally, if you got some money to burn, maybe you want to indulge in the most expensive ice cream sundae. For the measly amount of $60,000 you too can take a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro "where Three Twins Ice Cream's founder will hand-churn a batch of ice cream with glacial ice from the mountain's summit." I guess for some people Dairy Queen just does not cut it. 

Now let's see how people are Hustling in the Bad Economy:

  • A liquor store figures they need to do more than just sell liquor. So, they opened their own private gun range and club inside the liquor store. Story via KING 5.
  • What does Waffle House do to increase their business and get hustling? They get their own food truck to cater events. Story via USA Today.
  • Are you a farmer needing to make a few extra bucks? You got a spare barn you are not using in good condition? Well, turn that barn into a wedding venue for hipster and bougie couples who want "like every wedding you see on Pinterest with the burlap and the lace and the baby breath and Mason jars." Story via the Journal Sentinel.
  • Bigger organizations also have to hustle to find those extra bucks, even college football. So if you are one of those bowls they have every year post season, one way to rake in more money is with naming rights. For instance, the Cactus Bowl just became the Cheez-It Bowl. Story via USA Today. Hey, for the right amount, college bowls will pretty much slap your name on their bowl event. So for the right price, we could get the Kotex Bowl or the Massengill Bowl. Imagine how much money your bowl could bring in when big tough macho guys show up to cheer their teams at the Kotex Bowl. Imagine your college or university having the glorious distinction of having beat their rival at the Massengill Bowl. 
  • Dr. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula suggests he could supplement his income as a professor by peddling his own vitamin supplement. You may laugh, but he tells the tale of a guy who has made a fortune doing just that. 
  • Meanwhile, a teacher, who again, probably needs a few extra bucks, gets arrested for hosting an adult website with her husband after hours. Story via Click On Detroit. Mind you that doing so is not illegal, and she is doing it outside of school hours. What you need to ask is who was the busybody moralist who was trolling for porn, found her site, and then decided to rat her out (probably after jerking off to a video or two from the site)? Way I see what consenting adults do to earn a buck or two is their business. It's not like teachers are highly paid or anything. 
  • Now some may say some women have it easy to hustle in the Bad Economy. Just sell some sex online, and perverts customers will pay you. If possible, try to do the least amount of work as possible and still get paid (let's be honest, fucking on camera can be work, even if it is with your hubby). So, maybe you figure you can sell your dirty panties. Yes, there are freaks fetishists out there who do enjoy gathering and collecting women's soiled unmentionables. So hey, wear a few panties, don't wash them, put them in a plastic bag, and sell online. Voila, right? Watch the money roll in. Well, according to this article in VICE, turns out selling dirty panties online is harder than it looks. A lot of it has to do with how certain sites have monetized the process, and it is not in favor of the panty sellers.

And finally for this week, in "Great Debates of Our Time"




Today's great question: are 90 minutes enough time to eat a full meal at a fancy restaurant and still relax? According to this restaurant critic, he whines it is not enough time to relax. Feel free to chime in. Story via The Guardian. I would not know. Places I eat usually serve me food relatively quick.








Booknote: Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends

Lincoln Peirce, Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends? Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4494-6229-1.

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

This is another collection of the comic strip series, and it is still an entertaining read. In this volume, his soccer team manages to lose to a school with a 60-games losing streak, and a classmate Nate has a crush on is moving away. So, what's our hero to do? He keeps his chin up, and he does have his friends to cheer him up. Overall, a nice and amusing book with humor for all ages.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Booknote: Ghosts: a Natural History

Roger Clarke, Ghosts: a Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-250-05357-2.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: ghosts, paranormal, history
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

This book just did not keep my attention. I barely got through it. After reading Ghostland (link to my review), this book seemed like a good choice. The book promises a natural history of ghosts, but to be honest, it was more a collection of ghost and haunting stories than an actual history per se. The book contains 18 chapters plus a chronology and a list for further reading. It also includes some illustrations.

According to the author, this is what the book is about. Too bad it did not deliver:

"Discussion has drifted away-- thank goodness-- from efforts to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. That idea belongs to 1880s London. In a basic sense, ghosts exist because people constantly report that they see them. This is not a book about whether ghosts exists or not. This is a book about what we see when we see a ghost, and the stories that we tell each other about them" (17).

The author opens the book by telling  of his own experiences as a child with  ghosts and the paranormal. He was the youngest person to join the Society for Psychical Research (Wikipedia link; official website link) in 1980. So he sounds just like the right person to write this book, except he is not. He takes a most interesting topic and presents it in the most boring and soporific way possible. Ghost stories often keep you up at night. This book is an excellent cure for insomnia. The stories overall are not that interesting, and some of them just get bogged down in excessive and  mundane minutiae. In the end, the book had potential, but it is just not a good read at all. This is one I say you should skip.

1 out of 5 stars.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Signs the Economy Is Bad: August 10, 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 has been happening since the previous post in this series, so let's get on with it.

  • The Bad Economy in the big national news, including dispatches from the "War of Tariffs": 
    • Apparently the United States has been at war in Afghanistan for about 17 years or so now. Anyhow, read more about the real cost of that mostly taken for granted conflict. Story via Big Think
    • That big 12 billion bailout aid package the Pendejo In Chief is setting up for those suckers poor farmers that will suffer in the War of Tariffs (I covered that last week)? Well, turns out it might not be as helpful after all, and in fact, it could very well make some things worse. Story via The Rural Blog
    • A lot of pundits are saying the economy is fine, however, the consumer prices have been  inching up at "a rate of inflation that suggests Americans are earning less than a year ago. . . ". Story via Lexington Herald Leader
    • Here is a look at slaughterhouse employment across the U.S. It is hard work often for low pay in seriously bad working conditions. Also an industry that often loves to hire immigrant workers, including undocumented ones. Story via The Daily Yonder.
    • Bankruptcies are rising among senior citizens. I do find it hard to be sympathetic given that generation pretty much has done so much to fuck up the nation and the generations that came after them. The new study "places blame squarely at the feet of a hollowed-out safety net and policy changes that have left people without adequate retirement savings, paying huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, and seeing their funds dwindle due to the student loan crisis that many people mistakenly believe affects only younger generations." Story via TruthDig. This is pretty much another one of those time bombs that is about to explode. Again, who hollowed out the safety nets and changed policies? Pretty much them and the politicians they put in place. Basically a case of the past coming to haunt them. 
    • Tariffs on newsprint are hurting newspapers across the nation. Story via The Rural Blog. This I can attest to as the local news rag we receive at home (mainly because The Better Half insists on reading print) decided to reduce the size of the newspaper from three sections to two during most days of the week as well as the number of pages. However, they are still charging the same rate for less content. 
  • In health and the Bad Economy: 
    • Why are Americans in general so fat? Well, according to these 7 charts, it is very easy to see why. One reason? “In America, the unhealthiest foods are the tastiest foods, the cheapest foods, the largest-portion foods.” Story via Vox.
    • I am sure you have heard of or seen advertising for a variety of coupons and "savings programs" for prescriptions. On the surface, they sound great. In reality, they may not be as helpful, especially since the insurance companies are finding ways to basically counter them and stick it to you anyhow. Story via UPI.
    • Meanwhile, abroad, the U.S. is making a nice racket to profit from TB (tuberculosis) epidemics in poor countries. And if you think this is just a Party of Stupid thing, think again. A former Obama administration official is teaming up with the current administration to make it happen. There is a reason Democrats are pretty much Republican-Lite. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Education and the Bad Economy: 
    •  In a bit of news of the obvious, a writer at The Guardian opines that a PhD should be about improving the world, not chasing academic kudos. I laughed because yes, it should be, but that idea is like unilateral disarmament. No one is going to be first to say there will be less emphasis on things like chasing citations, impact factors, and publishing obscure articles no one outside their niche field gives a shit about in "prestigious" journals.
  • The Bad Economy  hitting rural areas: 
    •  In Appalachia, natural gas is basically decimating coal. The "War on Coal" that McConnell keeps whining about (and the local yokels keep believing in) is not so much that the coal industry is strangled by environmental rules or other boogeymen; a large part of the reason the industry is declining is other sources of energy are cheaper. There's the capitalism right there that the Party of Stupid loves to cite. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • A new report reveals that rural customers pay more for crappy Internet. In many areas, the only thing you can get is shitty DSL, if at all. I am "fortunate" I can get cable Internet, but it is still pretty crappy. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • Rural manufacturers are desperate to find workers. Among the results is towns are giving tax incentives to said manufacturers. However, keep in mind manufacturers are only as loyal as the next tax incentive, which means as soon as they get a break someplace else they will happily leave and decimate local economies, a lesson I wish more rural towns would freaking learn so they'd work on other ways to diversify and develop local economies instead of waiting for some factory to just save the town. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • The Bad Economy in some states: 
    • In Kentucky, where they are big fans of the Pendejo In Chief, employers are opposed to his tariffs. Despite that, the Pendejo In Chief remains seriously popular in the state. Again, I quote an old Puerto Rican saying, "sarna con gusto no pica" ("mange that you delight in does not itch."). In other words, this is what Kentuckians willingly, proudly, and gladly voted for. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
    • Also in Kentucky, that religious boondoggle known as the Ark Encounter is facing decreasing ticket sales. This is actually a piece of good news. Story via Fortune. Hat tip to Pharyngula.
    • In California, they are exploiting prison labor to fight the wildfires. Why pay professionals, or heck, even minimum wage when you can get prison labor to do it. Story via Vox
    • In Arkansas, they are basically running a good old fashioned debtors' prison. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
    • In Texas, rural libraries are important community centers, yet they struggle to stay open. Story via KERA. Hat tip to InfoDocket.
  • Meanwhile, back in the U.S. colony: 
    •  Puerto Rico tried to quietly raise the official death number due to Hurricane Maria from 64 to 1,427. Story via The Guardian. The whole thing with  the number has been one big combination of incompetence, corruption, and lawsuits as reporters and others sued to get accurate numbers and the local government did its best to keep the numbers low so as not to look bad. That FEMA and other federal agencies have botched so much did not help either.
    • And the island's government announced they are making the GWU report finally available to the public. Story via Latino Rebels
    • And as if things were not bad enough, the government is also gutting the safety net in order to appease the colonial overlords. Medicaid is getting cuts. Story via Salon.

How are the Uber Rich Doing?
  • Well, for the most part, the rich are the ones who use services like Uber  and Lyft. Not only that but they are also the assholes who prevent cities and localities from developing public transportation. Story via Grist.
  • If you are rich and have some money and time to burn, you can take a high end butchering class so you can learn how to "process" your hunting kills. They even teach you how to cook it. But as I said. this is not for just any Joe Six Pack. Story via Salon
  • According to the BBC, apparently rich people doing tourism are the only ones able to save the planet. So I guess I can say fuck it to the recycling. 
  • However, there may be some bad news for the uber rich as climate change is targeting things they care about. The latest victim? Champagne. The horror. Story via Grist.
This week we are opening up a new feature here in Signs the Economy is Bad:







Hustling Every Day

In this feature we will look at unique, inventive, original, or somewhat out of the way things people do in the Bad Economy to earn a buck or two. These can be full time jobs or gigs or side hustles. Things are bad out there, so you have to hustle every day to get a buck or two:


  • You try to sell some of your junk online with an app or two to make some extra money. Here are some hints that may or not be helpful via Wallet Hacks
  • Teachers, given how shitty they get paid and treated in the U.S., definitely need a few side hustles: 
    • Wallet Hack suggests 12 "perfect" hustles for teachers. I would question the definition of "perfect" in this list, but hey, desperate times and all that. 
    • Many teachers are turning to crowdfunding to get money to pay for school supplies for their classrooms, since as we all know, society chooses to not pay teachers decent salaries let alone fund schools properly. Hey, with enough funds, a teacher could even pay to give his or her students a field trip. Story via Vox
  • You could always get a job as a foreclosure boat tour operator. I had no idea this was a thing: taking potential buyers of distressed properties on boat tours to see said properties. The job does also include doing some evictions. Story via Daily Intelligencer
  • In Michigan, a man is offering an "Amish Uber." Basically he gives rides for five bucks or so in his horse and buggy. Story via Boing Boing.
  • You can always do like this man in Japan and rent yourself by the hour (as long as it does not involve physical contact). He can give you advice, be a friendly listening ear, and mentor younger people. Story vi CNN. On a side note, I am about that guy's age. I am wondering if I could do a similar side hustle here. 
  • If you are a nice, muscular lady, and you need a side hustle, maybe you could consider the wonderful world of Female Muscle Worship. Yes, men (and maybe a woman or two) will pay you to flex your muscles, look fierce, and be dominant. According to the article, this is also becoming an increasing option for bodybuilder women whose days in the competition circuit may be passing. Story via VICE.


Media Notes: Roundup for July 2018


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


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

  • John Wick (2014. Action. Thriller. Crime and mob). An entry in the genre of "fucking with the wrong guy who was just minding his business." A bunch of punks decide to steal John Wick's very nice muscle car. They also beat him up, and they kill his new puppy dog. Did we mention Wick is also recently widowed, and the dog was the last gift from her to him? Well, soon, the lead punk, son of a Russian mafioso who knows Wick very well, finds out who Wick really is, and the hell on earth that is now coming because Wick, an extremely skilled hitman, is coming for them all for killing his dog. Great action film. Very well done. Keanu Reeves performed a great character, and the cast is memorable too including appearances by Willem Dafoe and John Leguizamo. Overall, I enjoyed this one. I will be looking for the sequel. DVD borrowed from Madison County (KY) Public Library. 
  • Mr. Holmes (2015. Mystery. Drama). Sherlock Holmes is retired now; he is now 93 years old, and his last case made him decide to retire to the country to do beekeeping and live a quiet life decades ago. Around this time, he takes a trip to Japan seeking a medicinal plant. However, the memory of the case still haunts him, and he gets to work on solving it, remembering it in the right way, and not just as another story Watson wrote.  In this story, the great detective is portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen. The movie is bittersweet, very well made, and it captures the spirit of the great detective well. Overall, a great film. DVD borrowed from the Madison County (KY) Public Library.
  • Curandero (2005. Horror. Mystery. Spanish language film). Based on a script by Robert Rodriguez, the Curandero is the son of a small town healer (curandero) who struggles with accepting his gift and fate after his father passes away. Reluctantly, he gets involved in a case chasing a drug lord who is also a black magic master. The premise sounds pretty good, but it is a fairly slow film at times.  The gore is actually fairly minimal. However, I found the ending to be pretty satisfying. It was OK. Via TubiTv.com.
  • Class of 1999 (1990. Action. Horror. Science Fiction). By 1999, public schools in major cities are controlled by gangs, and some of those cities become free fire zones where not even cops go in. A Department of Educational Defense forms, and they intend to retake the schools with the help of Megatech. They send new teachers to one of the schools, cyborgs, programmed to teach and discipline. And then things get way out of hand as the students need to save themselves. A very 90s kind of film with a silly premise (though maybe not that silly up to a point). The movie had a decent cast including Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, and Pam Grier. It was entertaining enough, especially in the early parts. Via TubiTv.com. 
  • Carnivore (2000. Horror.) This is bad, and I do not mean "so bad it is good" bad. It is just plain bad. Here is the IMDB description: "A government experiment goes totally wrong as a creature confined in a hidden lab inside and abandoned house escapes. Afterwards, some teens show up to have a little fun in the house, not knowing that the beast is loose and watching them." The acting was bad. The plot was total nonsense, and overall the setting was as cheap as you can get. The creature is not particularly impressive neither. The end does leave an opening for a sequel, but it is not one I would look forward to. This is one to skip; whoever ordered this for the library should be shamed. By the way, the sound quality on the DVD leaves a lot to be desired too. Via DVD from Berea branch of Madison County (KY) Public Library.  
  • 7 Assassins (2013. Action. Adventure). The movie description: "When gold goes missing in ancient China, royal guards entrusted with its recovery realize they are not the only people in pursuit." Plot is a bit more complex. Gold gets stolen by Tie Yun, a rebel leader opposing the Qing dynasty. He gets ambushed by a bandit who may or not be working for the Qing Prince; her loyalties are not totally well placed. Tie Yun manages to escape capture, and with the help of some retired assassins and warriors, goes on the offensive to take down the prince, get back the gold, and rid the land of the prince's corruption. A very nice story, even if some parts take a bit to follow. Good action and martial arts sequences. Solid characters. Note movie is in Chinese, but you can get subtitles in English or Spanish. Overall, I liked this one. Via DVD from the public library. 


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, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes.

  • Supermarket Sweep (Game show. 1965-2003). I continue watching the 1990s run hosted by David Ruprecht, which ran on Lifetime Channel, on YouTube this month. You can see last month's roundup for my additional comments on this show. An interesting thing of watching this is some of the products and promotions they feature are very 90s kind of things, references some younger folks might miss now. It is still nice easy clean fun to watch. Watched 7 episodes.
  • Iron Chef (Japan). (1993-2001). I keep watching these via YouTube. This month I watched:
    • Tuna Battle 2. Featuring Takashi Mera as challenger, a chef that wields "the longest knife in Japan." 
    • Tomato Battle 2. Franco Canzoniere, a Roman cooking specialist, challenges Iron Chef Italian Kobe.  
    • "The Legend of Michiba." Special episode highlighting the career of Iron Chef Japanese Rokusaburo Michiba. Michiba was the first of three Japanese cooking Iron Chefs the show had. The other two were Nakamura and Morimoto.  
    • "Ayu (Sweetfish) Battle 3." With Michiba out on health leave, Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai cooks against Chef Omino, a young traditional Japanese cooking chef.  
    • "Ayu (Sweetfish) Battle." By now, Iron Chef Michiba as long retired. Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto is settling in, but this is early in his tenure, and he needs to focus more on Japanese elements versus just the neo-Japanese of New York. So to challenge, Michiba sends in his right hand man from his restaurant (who was also his assistant back in the days of Kitchen Stadium) Kenichi Miyanaga.  
    • "Swallow's Nest Battle." Li Jinlun, a Cantonese chef battles Chen Kenichi, the Chinese Iron Chef, whose specialty is Szechuan cooking. 
  • Mobsters (Documentary. true Crime. biography. 2007-2012). I continue watching episodes of this series via YouTube here and there. See the June roundup for previous commentary on the series overall. 
    • "Sam 'Mad Sam' DeStefano" (Season 4, Episode 3, 2012). A ruthless and very violent mobster with the Chicago Outfit. DeStefano was also a mentor to Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Las Vegas enforcer (portrayed by Joe Pesci in the film Casino). 
    • "Joseph 'Mad Dog' Sullivan" (Season 4, Episode 1, 2012). The Irish hitman who also lived a double life as a man walking the (mostly) straight and narrow with his wife and kids. He was a gun for hire, mainly for the Genovese crime family. Eventually put in prison for life, Sullivan is one of the few mobsters who lived to tell the tale, and he does speak from prison as part of the documentary. He passed away in 2017. 
    • "The Gambinos" (Season 1, Episode 14, 2007). An extra long episode (1 hour and almost 30 minutes) presenting the history of this Mafia family from Carlo Gambino, the man who made the family to Paul Castellano to John Gotti, who eventually brought it down with his attention seeking ways. 
    • "Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano" (Season 1, Episode 4, 2007). Profile of Gravano, who was the Gambino crime family underboss under John Gotti. Gravano went on to become government witness, helping the government to send at least 30 mafiosi to jail including John Gotti. 


Booknote: The Infographic Guide to the Bible: the Old Testament

Hillary Thompson, et.al., The Infographic Guide to the Bible: the Old Testament. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-5072-0487-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: religious studies, Bible, reference, infographics
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

As the title indicates, it is a guide to the Old Testament in infographics. If you find it difficult to get
through some of the slow parts of the Old Testament, or if you need a refresher on the important parts, this can be a good book for  you. It is visually appealing and easy to read.

The book contains 50 infographics covering people, places, events, and other bits of information. A sampling of topics include:

  • Noah's Ark: By the numbers
  • The 7 Sacred Feasts of Israel
  • The 12 Judges of Israel
  • 5 Enigmatic Old Testament Characters
  • 6 Little-Known Women of the Old Testament
As it states in the book's introduction:

"Whether you're looking to supplement your Bible study, find a quick and easy reference for a religious education course, or simply brush up on Old Testament facts, this handy guide covers a broad range of topics in comprehensive yet concise charts, lists, and graphs" (8).

The word "comprehensive" may be a bit generous; this book does not cover every single detail. It does cover major topics, and it covers those pretty well.

This is a good selection for public and academic libraries.Whether you are religious or not, it is a pretty good reference source. I did try to see if there was a volume for the New Testament, but I did not find one. That would be a good idea to publish. Meanwhile, I really liked this one. I have read the Bible cover to cover, though it has been a while. I feel this book gave me a nice basic review for the Old Testament highlights.

4 out of 5 stars.