Friday, May 18, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: May 18, 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.

Here we go again, another week of "signs the economy is bad." This week I learned that pet leasing is a thing; yes, like you lease a car. Who knew? I did not until this week.  After last week, this week seems relatively quiet. Let's find out more, and also see what else has been going on.

  • For many, the big news this week is that Supreme Court of the United States made a decision that may open the way for legalized gambling across the United States (outside of places like Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey). So naturally speculation is that many states will legalize it in search of more revenue. However, as this article states, sports betting may not be as big a market as many think. Story via The Conversation.
  • In exploitation news, turns out that one of the "happiest places on Earth" regularly and consistently exploits their workers. Disney parks workers are basically treated like serfs when it comes to pay. So consider that the next time you buy tickets and spend the day there, think about those who make it possible. Story via In These Times
  • Yet another study to tell us what those  of us paying attention already know: that school teachers are paid so poorly and their school districts often so badly funded (thanks to whiny locals who refuse to pay taxes to educate their children and elect politicians to enforce that) that teachers have to pay for school supplies out of their own pocket. Story via The Christian Science Monitor
  • If having a medical disaster happen to you was not bad enough, if the often outrageous bills you get for the care are not terrible enough, not to mention the very real possibility of bankruptcy due to said medical crisis, it turns out this all can also fuck up your credit score. Story via Truthout.
  • Speaking of health care, with the Pendejo In Chief's administration wanting to make life harder for immigrants, it could add to the medical doctors' shortage in rural areas. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • Speaking of shortages, there is a severe shortage of commercial truck drivers. This means that prices for shipping and moving products goes up. Story via WKYT.
  • And because in the good old U.S. of A., people need to find new and better ways to fuck up the poor, the Party of Stupid is pushing for changes to SNAP and food assistance to make it even harder for the poor to get assistance. Hey, that surplus population ain't going to decrease itself. Story via In These Times.
  • For my lesson of the week, via USA Today, I learned that pet leasing is a thing. And like other items you lease, if you do not make the payments, said item can get repossessed. Yes, lease a pet, miss the payments, and Fido gets repossessed. In New York, they are looking to ban this leasing practice. Folks, this is how shit like Planet of the Apes gets started. Enslave animals (or "lease them"), teach them basic skills so they do the work of humans, keep them as "companions," and before you know it, they get smart and take over. Hot damn!
Let's have a peek at how the uber  rich may be doing this week:

Booknote: Icons of the Highway

Tony Worobiec and Eva Worobiec, Icons of the Highway: a Celebration of Small-Town America. London: Artists' and Photographers' Press Ltd. (AAPPL), 2008. ISBN: 9781904332787.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: photography, Americana, nostalgia
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

This is a very nice photography book that captures the landmarks like theaters as well as more common small town elements like diners in the United States. The book looks at various small towns that by now are bypassed by the interstates and at times barely remembered outside the towns themselves. The book mainly focuses in the Northwest, or rather the Plains from north to south to the Southwest. The book offers a short introduction and five chapters.

Each chapter has a couple of pages or so of text followed by the photographs. The authors capture both the magnificent and the quotidian. The movie theaters are some of the best shots in the book. Many of these theaters survive because of generous donations and a lot of volunteer work. They are not only community centers but also beautiful works of art from a bygone era. Some of these towns survive on nostalgia and tourism, such  as those towns along the remnants of U.S. Route 66.

The photography is great. Most photos take a single page, but you also get a few photos across two pages. The authors chose to take many of the photos in the dawn hours, in part to highlight places with neon lights well, and to add a bit of a quiet element. Very few photos have people in them. The photos overall are a pleasure to look at. Part of me wishes I had the time and funds to get in a good car and go see these places before they vanish. And that is the other thing about a book like this: it's about recording and preserving something that may or not survive in the long term.

Overall, I really liked this one. I note the authors do have a previous book, Ghosts in the Wilderness: Abandoned America, which I will try to locate.

4 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Booknote: Clive Barker's Hellraiser, Volume 1

Clive Barker,, Clive Barker's Hellraiser, Volume 1: Pursuit of the Flesh. Los Angeles, CA: Boom! Studios, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-60886-072-2.

Genre: comics  and graphic novels
Subgenre: horror, adaptations, film
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is the first volume of the Boom! Studios series, continuing from the movie and book. This one is written by Clive Barker. In this volume, Pinhead plots a plan to become human once more. In the process, we get some backstory. We also see Kirsty Cotton, who works with a team seeking to destroy the devices that bring the cenobites into our world.

This volume is mostly setting up the series. Still, it draws you in right away, and you keep reading to the  end. The art is very good, and it captures the characters and environment well. Two artists worked on this volume, so you get a little variety in style. Still, the art remains consistent overall.

I'd say fans of the series can enjoy it. For me, it does feel better than some of the later movies in the series which  are not that good. I will note the volume does end in a cliffhanger; I'll be looking for the next volume as I was enjoying the story and want to continue. Overall, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Media Notes: Roundup for April 2018

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

Movies and films:

No specific movies watched this month. Busy month overall as the spring academic semester wrapped up.

Television and other series:

  • Inspector Lewis (Pilot through Series 6, 2005-2009; Amazon link for reference). As I mentioned previously, this is the spin-off of the Inspector Morse series. This month I managed to watch the second half of this set from the middle of Series 3 to the end of Series 6 (discs 6-10). Some episode highlights: 
    • "Counter Culture Blues." Members of an old 60s band have pretty much moved on, living off the glory and royalties of the old days for the most part. When the lead singer, who committed suicide in the Caribbean, shows up alive years later, plans emerge to revive the band. Then band members and others connected to the band start dying.  
    • "Falling Darkness." A complex case on Halloween involving a medium, a stem cell research firm, the anti-stem cell research protesters, a rare sleeping disorder, and some Goth college kids. However when bodies start appearing, a link to Dr. Hobson the forensic pathologist emerges. This one was well done and kept you guessing.

Signs the economy is bad: May 11, 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.

I have been hoarding news stories in the feed reader for a while now, so this is going to be a big post. A lot has been going on since the previous edition. Let's get on with it.

  • Let's start with  some higher education news. You will notice a lot of this comes out of Texas, where higher education  is not always a priority, unless it involves college football: 
    • In a case of higher education fuckery, the University of Texas at Tyler promised in writing 50-plus full ride scholarship to a group of potential students. The students were ready to go there, when the university decided to revoke the offers because it had "over budgeted" (a.k.a. they can't do basic math apparently). The fact that most of those students were international students just adds to the injury. They made a promise, then they went back on it. The nice thing, on par for East Texas, are the whiny victim-mentality local yokels actually defending this fuckery. Story via Inside Higher Ed
    • Meanwhile, in other Texan priorities of higher education, the cost of recruiting athletes for their colleges, especially for things like football (which is basically a religion in Texas right after Jesus), is going up. Who gets stuck with the bill? More often than not the rest of the students, many of which likely could not care less about athletics. And we are talking costs like "private jets, chartered cars, visits to fancy restaurants" Because priorities, man. Story via The Texas Tribune.  
    • Meanwhile, in Texas community colleges, women struggle to find accessible and desirable birth control. Story via The Texas Tribune.
    • And because women cannot catch a break when it comes to educational opportunities in Texas, Texans also discriminate against women in prison by denying them the same educational and job training opportunities that men in prison get. Story via The Texas Observer.
  •  In grade school news: 
    • Whether unionized or not, teachers have a hard time making ends meet. Story via NPR. Although I would bet unionized ones are slightly better off. Overall, this is probably why they are walking out of classrooms and protesting. 
    • By the way, school support staff are often forgotten and also underpaid. Story via The Washington Post.
    • In a trend that refuses to go away, this time up in Wisconsin, a school district is yet again shaming students who may be short on funds to pay for their school lunch, including taking food away and tossing it rather than letting the student eat. Story via AlterNet.
  • In Millennials' news: 
  •  How about ways to screw over the poor and less fortunate? 
    • Thanks to Ben Carson, the Party of Stupid HUD Secretary the Pendejo In Chief put in place, a good number of families that rely on government assistance to pay for housing will find their rent tripling. Story via The Week
    • And in Louisiana, Medicaid cuts mean that a lot of nursing home residents are going to get kicked out of said nursing homes. Story via AlterNet.
  • And in rural news: 
    •  For all the bragging Texans love to do about being independent and self sufficient, a lot of them depend on public assistance, including many in rural areas. Because they are fine bragging, but they love to put their hand out when they need assistance. Not that I begrudge them said assistance, but you know, the bragging gets old. Despite that, they persist in voting of the Party of Stupid, which is now gearing up to make changes to the SNAP program. Result? A lot of rural Texans could end up going hungry. Oh well. Story via The Texas Observer.
    • In fact, SNAP cuts could hurt rural communities around the nation overall. Story via The Daily Yonder.
    • Furthermore, due to the bad economy, farmers are at greater risk for suicide. Story via The Daily Yonder.
    • And speaking of farmers, pecan farmers are having to rebrand pecans to sell in the U.S. You see, those farmers sold a lot of their product to places like China. Thanks to the Pendejo In Chief's tariff war, those farmers, a good number of which voted for the Pendejo In Chief because he'll stand up to China, now have to scramble to sell more pecans domestically to make up the losses new tariffs would cause. Pecan pie, anyone? Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
    • Rural mail carriers are having issues too. Story via The Rural Blog. A disadvantage of living in the middle of nowhere is a serious lack of shopping options. Naturally, many folks in those areas shop online, and that merchandise has  to be delivered. Catch often is that the major commercial carriers, like UPS and FedEx, do not go into rural areas. Nope. They just drop off your package at their local USPS to deliver to your  house in the sticks. Because unlike the USPS, which has a mandate to go everywhere they are needed, private companies can be choosy and do often refuse to deliver in places they perceive to not bring profit, like your residence in the middle of Bumfuck, USA. Since the Party of Stupid is hell bent on destroying the USPS (and just  about any public service), the rural postal carriers are suffering from less funding and less staff. So maybe try to be a bit more considerate of your local rural carriers if you want to keep getting your packages (and stop voting for those who want to cut public services). 
  • In commercial flight and other travel news: 
    • It seems Americans, a good amount of them, are getting sick and tired of the cattle car commercial flight bullshit, and as a result they are flying less. Story via USA Today. Works for me. I am certainly someone who actively avoids flying. In fact, I have not gotten on a plane in years, and I am happy with  that. Between deregulation and the 9/11 Kabuki circus, commercial flight is just unbearable. 
    • And if flying as it is now is not bad enough, airlines are now eyeing "standing seats" in order to cut costs even more and squeeze in even more people cattle. Story via Boing Boing.
    • Meanwhile, United continues their nickel and diming by taking away things and services from their better customers. Story via Inc.
    • And as if things were not bad enough, it turns out mere peons are now finding a way into those cozy airport lounges. The horror. Story via VICE.
    • So you decide you will drive to avoid flying. Well, you may have to put some extra money aside since gasoline is getting more expensive these days. Story via The Week.
  • Finally for this week, in miscellaneous signs the economy is bad: 
    • Will robots take over restaurant jobs? Some experts say robot cooks can be the future of fast food restaurants, but they might there just yet. Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
    • Sales of frozen food are going down. The reason? According to the story from NPR a lot of it is due to more people preferring fresh food.
    • Ford finally decided to just admit they are  nothing more than a big truck maker. They have decided to stop making sedans and other "traditional" cars. Story via NPR.
    • In fact, the big truck and SUV trend is so pervasive that even Rolls Royce, yes THAT Rolls Royce, will be making their first ever SUV. However, do not get too excited. It is after all a Rolls Royce, including the very hefty price tag. Small story via USA Today.
    • And what has Amazon been up to?  Recently they wanted access to your house to deliver packages inside your home when you are not there. Now, they want to access the trunk of your car. Story via The Week.
    • You ever wonder why you might not see a doctor when you try to go see one? You get stuck instead with a practical nurse or a physician's assistant? Turns out there is a big shortage of MD doctors. Story via The Washington Post. To give you an example, I recently got a cold. Apparently I caught the viral stuff a lot of the students were getting at the end of the semester, and in my case, it combined with some "good old Kentucky pollen" (i.e. allergies). Since it took a bit longer to heal up, I went to my doctor's office, without appointment, and I was told that while my own doc was booked all day, the practical nurse would be available. I said what the heck, sure. To be honest, the nurse was a lot nicer than the physician, got me what I needed in terms of a script and some treatment, and sent me on my way. Sure, very serious stuff, you likely still need a full doctor, but for simpler ailments, the nurse or assistant will do just fine. 
    • In a bit of humor, it seems you may be able to get cocaine delivered quicker than a pizza. Story via Global Drug Survey. I wanted to laugh more at this story, but after a recent bad experience with a certain pizza chain that fucked up a simple delivery and then were rude about it, I am starting to think ordering some cocaine may be a better idea. At least the coke dealer will likely be reliable in the delivery. 
    • Because I try to be helpful too, here is some friendly advice. Let me save you a click on this story about how to stop overspending with friends. My advice is much simpler than the one offered by Becoming Minimalist, and it is this: get a new set of friends if the ones you have are making spend too much. Simple. Seriously, don't go broke trying to keep up. Fuck those guys and gals. Dump them and get some new friends with some common sense and consideration. 
    • Finally for this week, it turns the best place to find some good country music is not in the United States. Where is the new mecca of country? Would you believe me if I told you it was in Sweden? Read the story here to learn more via Saving County Music.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Booknote: Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion

Dave Filoni,, Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion (cinestory comic). Toronto, ON: Joe Books, 2017.  ISBN: 978-1-77275-340-0.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: science fiction, space opera, Star Wars, adaptations
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This book is labeled as a "cinestory comic." It is basically a frame by frame adaptation of the first five episodes of the Disney show. I'll note that I watched the first episode on TV when the series came out, and I did not find it too interesting, so I went on and forgot about it. However, I recently saw this book at my local public library. I got curious and picked it up. I found myself liking it, and I may go back and look for the show on DVD later.

If you've watched the show, then there is nothing new here. You are just reading the first five episodes in pictures. If you've never seen the show, this can be a good introduction to it and help you decide if you want to watch it or not. The art is good overall though some frames are a bit darker, and one or two frames were not as clear in what they depict (I had to really look a bit closer. Not sure if those did not translate as well from the animation). Still, the comic was a good read overall. I liked it in the end, but it was no big deal. I'd probably read a next one if they publish one.

3 out of 5 stars.