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 IMDB.com unless noted otherwise). Some of these films I watched via new (to me) site TubiTv.com. 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 Vudu.com.



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 XVideos.com has won the bid for the assets of Penthouse. According to the story via XBiz News, "XVideos.com’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.




Booknote: Transformers: The IDW Collection. Phase 2, Volume 6

Various authors, Transformers: The IDW Collection. Phase 2, Volume 6. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2017.  ISBN: 9781684050857.

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


I had read the first part of this volume back in 2014, but I get to read the complete story arc now. In the end, the art is good but not consistent; it  is done in different styles by different artists for different scenes. The result is inconsistent art quality. Also at times they try to pack so much into frames that you can barely make details out. The same goes for the characters; they threw in every Transformer they could find. It really can be hard keeping track of who is who other than some major players.

The story is basically one  of those save the world from some major doomsday event, in this case, Shockwave's scheme to end time itself. It  is a decent action story, but it has a lot of twists, and at times it does feel a bit stretched out. Having read the whole series now, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars overall because I liked it, but it has some issues. It is a bit of heavy reading. Plus to be honest, I did not find Megatron's new  behavior believable.

In addition to the main story arc, the volume contains a Windblade four issues series, which takes place after the Dark Cybertron tale. I enjoyed this short series a lot better. Windblade is Metroplex's "city speaker," his advocate. When someone is mining out ore from Metroplex, the signs point to Starscream, but is Cybertron's despot really behind this plot?

Overall, the volume has some good art, and it uses different artists for different parts of the story which was interesting. The main story is not that good, but if you are a hardcore Transformers fan, you'll likely want to read it. I will add that the IDW hardcover volume is solid and well made; for libraries, this format can be a good durable choice.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: June 1, 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.
 



This week we have some alleged good news as news sources report the job numbers, a.k.a. the unemployment rate is better (NPR article). However, do not be fooled. You need to look at the broader picture:
  1. The unemployment rate is based on a government survey where they sample the population, about 60,000 households to get a measurement (you can get the full explanation of how the government measures it here). It is better than the common assumption that they just measure unemployment claims (I had to look this up to verify it, and thus learned about the sampling survey). 
  2. The news accounts are also mentioning job numbers are up. However, if you look closely, a lot of those jobs are gig economy jobs or  McJobs, i.e. precarious, variable, and not stable, not to mention the pay is not that good.
  3. A lot of this was trending since before 2016, but the Pendejo In Chief will happily take the credit for it. 
  4. To learn more, FiveThirtyEight also takes a look at the May jobs report and puts it in context
So overall, some stuff sounds nice, but it is far from the rosy picture a lot of the media is pushing. Meanwhile, the rest of the economy is still bad. Let's have a look:

  • If the Pendejo In Chief's plans to launch a tariffs war on aluminum and steel with Mexico, Canada, and the European Union happens, the economy is probably going to go from bad to even more bad. Story via NPR.
  • A lot of rural areas that had coal mines still live under the delusion that somehow coal will come back with all those wonderful jobs and suddenly destitution will end. Kentucky, fueled by their U.S. senators rhetoric of "War on Coal" is a prime example. But the reality is that the coal industry is dying; it is not coming back, and it is leaving devastated communities scrambling to find ways  to cope and move forward. Story via Mother Jones.
  • One option for a few places could be allowing the cultivation of hemp (not to be confused with  the marijuana plant you can smoke, though legalizing that too may be good, but I digress).  Story via Pacific Standard
  • Recycling is the kind of thing that often makes people feel good. However, people often have  no idea where their recycled products end up. Well, a lot of it went to China, who was very happy to buy up a lot of the  things Americans toss in the recycling bin. Now China is on an anti-pollution campaign, and they are a lot more selective about the recyclable trash they buy, often just opting for not buying anything. This is creating problems domestically as suddenly all the feel good, beautiful recycling trash is headed to dumpsters. Story via The New York Times.
  • That line about use education to end poverty? Not quite true given poverty can be extremely persistent. However, one small community college in Texas is trying to help out. Story via The Atlantic.
  • And speaking of poverty, did you know it is rising faster  in the suburbs? Story via The Conversation
  • Meanwhile, in health insurance fuckery. You often see ads on TV for various drugs, and they often advertise "if you can't afford your medication, our company may help." Well, turns out if the pharma company does  help you, your insurance may jack up your co-pays. It is just plain fuckery. Story via NPR.
  • In Millennials' news, this article argues that Millennials are worse off than Gen-X'ers. No, the avocado toast nor the recession are the main reasons why that is so. For one, things are a heck of a lot more expensive now, and wages have been and remain stagnant. Story via Inc. That is not to say GenX is doing better. I can attest we are not.
  • Meanwhile, back in the U.S. colony, Puerto Rico's public schools are still in crisis. 167 schools closed a year ago before Hurricane Maria, due to the bad economy and austerity. This year, 265 more schools are slated for closure. Story via The New York Times
  • The Rural Blog laments that many rural places are losing their community newspapers. This may be an issue in many places, but I can tell you, if those local community papers are anything like the weekly rag we get where I live, if that paper closes down, it would not be much of a loss at all. It's not like they cover much of anything here; they have a pretty clear political bias (conservative mostly, especially the owner), and the rest of the rag is mainly local advertising. If it closed down tomorrow, no one would miss it. 
So, how are the uber rich doing this week? Plus some other odd fuckery news:

  • And while that little college in Texas is working to tackle poverty among its students and community, in Vanderbilt, their chancellor is definitely part of the uber rich as the school lavishes him with a $4.3 million dollars compensation package. Story via Inside Higher Ed. Must be nice. My father was asking me the other day if  I ever had any interest in moving up and working in college administration, where pay would be more. I said I liked my  job fine, and I  did not want to do that kind of move as it would take me away from what I love. Then again, after seeing the example of that Vanderbilt guy and some other higher ups, I am wondering if I am in the wrong line of work. Just saying.
  • Keurig Coffee Company, the maker of those single cup coffee makers for lazy rich people that  use environmentally unfriendly pods, is laying off people in Vermont. Story via Lexington Herald Leader. Don't worry, they are still operating, so you can still get your pods for your fancy single coffee cup. 
  • I have mentioned before that, as both a reviewer and a librarian, I do not trust most online reviews, especially when it comes to books. More often than not, reviews posted on sites ranging from Amazon to Yelp can easily be gamed, and those site owners mostly let it slide. Well, turns out that fake reviews may be here to stay, and they are becoming the cost of doing business. So much for integrity. This is why you often see rinky dink authors reviewing their own works, or getting their friends and family to post positive reviews to inflate their product as well as other fake review forms. Story via Boing Boing.
  • And speaking of cheating, turns out that according to Hasbro, at least 50% of Monopoly players cheat. So, they just figured they would make the best of it, and they created a Cheater's Edition of Monopoly. Again, so much  for integrity. Story via Kottke.org.
  • Finally for this week, Starbucks is trying to  do  some damage control on their image of being racist and elitist establishments. One way they are doing that is by declaring that their bathrooms are open to everyone and anyone, whether they buy something or  not. You need to pee? Go right in and use their bathroom. However, this new measure is upsetting the uber rich who are now terrified that homeless people, you know, dirty unwashed masses, might use the restroom in their Starbucks. The horror. Just ask Megyn Kelly, who is scared and clutching her pearls at the idea the hoi polloi might enter Starbucks while she is there sipping her overpriced latte. Story via The Week


Additional reading notes for Thelema

I took a lot of additional notes on Colin D. Campbell's book Thelema, so I am making a separate post here for those notes. I do not have page numbers as the galley did not have them. You can find my review of the book here.

The "problem" with Crowley? You've got to read his works, and then read more:

"One of the principal problems with Crowley is that you must read a lot of him often to even begin to understand what he is trying to convey. He can be exceptionally difficult for the beginner, writing as he did in veiled analogy and with reference to contemporary events that stymie even those well-acquainted with the man and his work. At times it can feel like having half an equation, with the other half scattered across a dozen or so other unreferenced texts, if even there. Include the fact that he quite literally could not put certain ideas in print without trouble from the authorities, especially ideas related to sex, putting the pieces together can be difficult. All I can say is keep reading."

And as if understanding Crowley was not already hard enough:

"It is in fact exceedingly difficult to understand Crowley without understanding the Qabalah, as much of his thought process was built on its manifold connections and analogies." 

What does Thelema have to offer:

"Crowley shows us a method for spiritual  attainment that focuses on the uniqueness of the individual rather than conformance to a creed, and one that ultimately leads you to the understanding of  your own innate divinity. Casting aside aeons of adherence to a social order dominated by the impossible gods of sacrifice and restriction, Thelema represents a new age of spiritual development that empowers us all to discover our True Self through manifestation of our True Will" 

On the central tenet of Thelema:

"An inversion of the prior age, where suffering and deprivation were the key to spiritual attainment, this law was markedly individualist. Its central tenet was 'Do what thou wilt,' which was not a call to hedonism, but rather a call to personal accountability in the establishment of-- and adherence to-- one's own moral code." 

In Thelema, individual responsibility emphasized:

"As we will see, in Thelema, every individual is responsible for determining-- and reevaluating-- their own set of beliefs through their own experience, and should your beliefs at some point come to disagree with what is presented here, then that's just perfectly fine. In fact, I would encourage it!" 

More on personal responsibility and freedom:

"With this freedom (and responsibility) must also come the acceptance of another's capacity to do likewise. It does us no good to walk around asserting our right to do something and ignore that effective right in every other person. That's just being a bully; it's not likely to end well, and it's certainly not going to bring you any closer to an understanding of your will since that sort of negative behavior is solely about what you want. So, consider that the phrase 'Do what thou wilt' might speak not to yourself but to the person you are speaking to, thereby recognizing their autonomy as well as that of your own. I think that idea is important to keep in mind, because as Thelemites the idea of asserting another's right is as important as asserting our own."

Defining the philosophy of Thelema:

"The spiritual and social philosophy that Crowley spent his life defining and manifesting is known as Thelema. Thelema means 'will' in Greek, spelled Qelhma, and adherents to the philosophy are generally known as Thelemites. Based on his acceptance and understanding of The Book of the Law, Crowley holds Thelema apart from many religious movements in that it is highly individualistic and focuses on every individual doing their will. There is no universal moral that every adherent must be held accountable to save for that one injunction, whose exercise and practice is left to every individual." 

Defining "Do What Thou Wilt":

"However, doing your will is quite different than doing what you want, and considerably more difficult. After all, the hedonistic acquiescence to every fleeting whim is likely a distraction from what you feel you should be doing with your life. Though momentarily fulfilling, staying true to your will requires a great deal more discipline than most people think. What you will to do is truly your life's calling, discovered over time as the natural course of an introspective life steers you toward an understanding of who you are." 

A bit on "Love is the Law":

"Thelema posits that each and every person should develop their own moral code, and through love can come to understand the need and virtue of all things that are part of the universe." 

On the idea of "being part of the herd" and your search:

"What we are really saying when we echo this sentiment is that we have found a better herd, one that speaks more directly to our own innate understanding of who we are and what we want to be-- or at least one that opposes what we don't. In Thelema, you are urged to define your own ideals and moral code, which may lead you away from the confines of the social circles that you have identified with to that point-- but isn't that what prompted  you to being searching in the first place?"

Crowley in The Book of the Law notes: "Every man and every woman a star." He expounds on that:

"Crowley expounds on this idea by stating that every individual must have their own path through the cosmos. This path is our True Will, in harmony with the Universal Will of the cosmos, and if we simply let that course direct us, then we will be happier for it. The trouble comes when we are distracted from that course: we feel the strain of gravitation on our true path, and worse yet we start bumping  into things that may or may not be in the groove of their own respective orbits. This is an allegory for interpersonal conflict, and by its resolution demonstrates the idea that if we are all doing our True Will, then there will not be conflict."

Furthermore, stick to your business and affairs:

"These, again, are allegories that point the way: if you are sticking to your own path, then the wanderings of other stars are less of a concern to you-- even should they bump into you! The strength of your course will overcome and you will move on." 

Thelema's definition of the Great Work:

"As previously indicated, and in a marked departure from the structures of older religions, Thelema asserts the capacity to develop and define your own moral code rather than adhering to a set of universal principles that are ultimately arbitrary and overly simplistic. Its ethos hinges on  personal freedom, accountability, and no small amount of introspection. The difficulty in attaining this ideal is twofold: firstly to determine through careful consideration and experience what that code is, and secondly to hold yourself accountable to that code. The process of determining the first, and doing the latter, is known as the Great Work." 

The Great Work in a nutshell:

"In short, the Great Work is the process of finding out precisely who you are and what you want to do with your life-- then doing it."


Keep on seeking:

"Few things worth finding are to be found at face value!"


A bit on Crowley's Thoth Tarot deck:

"The Thoth Tarot is imbued with peculiarities not just in its imagery, however. Reverting a change made by Mathers and the Golden Dawn, Crowley returned the Strength card to its original position at number eleven and Justice to its position at eight. Not content to stop there, then renamed the Justice card 'Adjustment' to remove the worldly and subjective concept of justice, which he did not believe to be a natural law. He equally renamed Strength as 'Lust' to engender the idea of '. . .the joy of strength exercised.'"

Meanwhile, the 60s in the United States brought us things Crowley advocated during his life:

"Emerging from the repressive social climate of the United States and elsewhere in the 1950s, the 1960s introduced mainstream society to many of the same things Crowley was advocating throughout his life: the use of drugs in the pursuit of spiritual awakening,  sexual freedom, and (yes) magick, to name but a few." 
Some closing advice from Crowley:

"In Magick Without Tears, Crowley notes, 'I don't think it good manners to force my idiosyncrasies down people's throats, and I don't want to appear more eccentric than I need. It might detract from my personal influence, and so actually harm the Work that I am trying to perform."


Some Crowley biographies Campbell mentions favorably:






Booknote: Thelema

Colin D. Campbell, Thelema: an Introduction to the Life, Work & Philosophy of Aleister Crowley. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018. ISBN: 978-0-7387-5104-7.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: biography, magic, spirituality, divination, Thelema, religion
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This book is an introduction to the life and works of Aleister Crowley. The book is a pretty basic overview. It is organized into three major parts, plus a small additional part:

  • "Man, myth, and legend." This is a biography  of Aleister Crowley. It provides just enough to give readers an overview of his life. Campbell's intention for this biography section was: "My intentions are instead to present a brief sketch of Crowley's life, highlighting the events that will better explain the man and ultimately the philosophy behind Thelema, his spiritual legacy." If you want to know more, you may wish to find a more substantial biography. Also, as Campbell urges throughout this book, go read Crowley's works. For all of Crowley's reputation as a "wicked man," the man did have his accomplishments. I'd say today he'd also be labeled "a troll" given that often he said and did things just to challenge the Establishment and get a reaction from people. Overall, I found this biography section interesting, but it left me wanting more. 
  • "Philosophy." This is where Campbell goes over Crowley's philosophy and religion of Thelema. Campbell here takes major ideas of Thelema and strives to make them accessible. Some concepts are explained better than others, though I think much of the difficulty goes back to Crowley. 
  • "Practices and observations." This part of the book looks more at technical aspects of Thelema. If the previous part had the theory, this part has the practical. Campbell here discusses concepts, rituals, feast, ceremonies, and other elements of Thelema as a religion and practice.
  • "Modern Thelema." This is a quick wrap up section where we see how Thelema survives in our present time. 
A strength of the book is that Campbell constantly cites and draws upon Crowley's works. It's like Campbell telling readers to not just take his word for it; go read the primary sources too. Book also includes a lot of footnotes, and Campbell also often comments on what to read depending on context. Additionally, Campbell recognizes that  his book is an introduction, narrow in scope. He writes, "not only did I recognize that any manageable introduction to Crowley would be inadequate, I have counted on it" (emphasis in the original). The book also includes a list of references.

Lon Milo Duquette provides a foreword for the book. Duquette may be known to readers for his works on Crowley, especially his book on the Thoth Tarot deck which is often recommended by Tarotistas for Tarot students wanting to study and use Crowley's Tarot deck.

Still, despite the fact this book is meant to be introductory, there are some parts that can be pretty complex. However, if you are curious about the man and Thelema, this book provides a good starting point. I came to the book as a curious reader, and I feel I learned a bit. It gave me ideas of what to look for next to keep on learning. Overall, I really liked this book.

4 out of 5 stars. 

On a side note, I took some notes of quotes and concepts from the book I wanted to remember. I will be posting those notes in another post coming soon.



Booknote: The Card Catalog

Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781452145402.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: photography, libraries, history, card catalogs
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison  County (KY) Public Library 


On the surface, this book may sound boring, but it is not. The book is a history of the card catalog, its rise, and fall. We see much of this history through the view of the Library of Congress, which grew to supply catalog cards to libraries nationwide among the many things the Library of Congress does. Along the way, we also get some great photos of books and artifacts from the Library of Congress, many with their matching catalog card.

The book is arranged simply into five chapters plus a short foreword and an introduction. The foreword is written by Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress (as of this post). The text for each chapter is fairly short. The text is then followed by some nice photos of books and other artifacts from the Library of Congress' collections. For those who may wish to read more about libraries and library cataloging, the book includes a select bibliography of ten works.

The photos and illustrations are the strength of the book. The narrative text is good and interesting, but at the end of the day, you really come for the illustrations and photos. It is fascinating to see a catalog card next to the item it describes. In the early days, catalog cards were handwritten. In fact, one of the skills you learned in library school was "library hand" so you could write catalog cards. Yet librarians, being individuals, could vary, so if you look closely you may see small variations in the otherwise uniform library hand.

Overall, the book is a pleasure to read and look over. I recommend this book for all libraries. Readers who enjoy books about libraries and books will enjoy this one.

5 out of 5 stars.