Friday, October 26, 2018

Booknote: Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch in the Throat

Jen Mann, Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Yuletide Yahoos, Ho-Ho Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges. New York: Random House, 2015. ISBN: 9781101922903

Genre: humor
Subgenre: memoir, holidays
Format: electronic audiobook
Source: Overdrive system via the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I am not sure why I picked up this book since I did not really like her other book. At the time, I was just looking for an easy audiobook read on Overdrive, so I took a chance. This was not a good idea. The humor is not really that good, and at times it is cringe inducing. Let me jot down some highlights to help readers decide if they want to read this or not.

At the beginning, the author emphasizes these are her stories and this is how she remembered things. If you remember things differently, well, go write your own book. She usually uses that line in her books (you can also find in her other book which I have reviewed. See link above). As for the holidays, she states that she may find something she likes about the holidays. However, that  is not this book. It may be her next book. However, I probably will not find out if that is the case since I have no intention to pick up any other of her books if she writes any new ones. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I am not giving her another chance.

Part of the book presents a list of things she hates about the holidays:

  • One thing I do wonder about: when the fuck did the Easter Bunny start bringing presents? It must be a recent shit because I sure as hell never saw it growing up nor anyone I knew did it.
  • Pumpkin flavored anything. To be honest, this gripe feels like a pretty easy thing to hate, low hanging fruit. Just about every grumpy holiday list has this.
  • Drunken dads taking the kids out for Trick or Treat pulling a wagon of beer behind them. This is a thing? I must have lived in a less drunken neighborhood. 
  • She hates hopping for the gifts. She falls in the buy them a gift card and  get it over with, preferably Amazon or Target gift card. Her family may not like it or think it fun, but hey, give  her a gift card anytime. Me? I am happy to take the gift card, or better yet, the cash. 
  •  The events. This may be a case of overbooking, or I am just not social enough. She says she is booked right at Halloween and all through the season, but by Valentine's Day, no one wants to see her again til next Halloween. As I said, I do not have this problem, and this seems more like a First World Problem to me, but then again, I am not the most social person. Additionally, I  have learned to value quiet, peace, and privacy over spending holidays with people I can barely stand.
  •  The food. This I mainly have a love/hate relationship. Small things like pumpkin pie I like, but for the  most part, I do not give a shit about the Thanksgiving menu. In fact, in our house we go out of our way to make anything not "traditional." One year we made lasagna and Italian fare, next it was Puerto Rican food, year after that tacos and Mexican. Honestly, why Americans insist in their bland, tasteless fare is beyond me.
Moving  along, the Neon Virgin Chapter just devolved into a teen angst drama performance. It is cringe-worthy, and you probably are better off skipping it. By the way, do not steal your parents' credit card no matter how cool you think it will be to spend money you do not have without the "parental units" knowing. Obviously these kids were not raised right. But this was before electronics for credit cards, so took a good while for parents to get a bill on a credit card via snail mail.

Overall, much  of the book boils down to old, crappy stories of the author's teen years worrying more about being cool and fussing, often ungrateful like many teens tend to do. The fact she often reads this with a whiny teen-like voice does not exactly help the narrative, and it turns out to be more annoying than amusing. Like her other book, how the hell a publisher approved this is beyond me. Funny is not an adjective I would use to describe this author nor her material.

Bottom line: 1 out of 5 stars, barely. It is as bad if not worse than her other books. Why I picked this up beyond me.

Signs the economy is bad; October 26, 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 look at the bad economy. Let's see what's been going on.

News from the government

  • The Pendejo In Chief launched a trade war with the world, particularly with China. It has been a costly war for U.S. farmers, but wait, the Party of Stupid and the Pendejo In Chief offered a big bailout to U.S. farmers who are affected. But as always, there is a catch. The catch? That money could also end up in Chinese hands. Read this story from Alternet and find out how. All that winning, man. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth is faltering in rural areas. Story via The Daily Yonder. So when the Party of Stupid wants to brag about all the job creation during their regime (which at this point is mainly riding the coattails of the previous regime), they are conveniently forgetting rural areas, many of which did vote for the current regime.

Education News

  •  Another feature on the pains of college loan debt, and basically how it is, as I have often said, a time bomb waiting to go off. In this article, they look at differences over time between folks with college loan debt and those without in terms of things like retirement savings. Story via VICE.
  • In Middlebury College, faculty are not happy about the new textbook online ordering system, and they want textbooks back in their campus bookstore.Story via Inside Higher Ed. Reason this story caught my eye is because my college recently went to an online system for student textbooks. In our case, for the first semester of the freshman year, the college does order the books for the students once their schedules are set, so the decision to buy textbooks is made for them. After the first semester, then they become responsible for getting their textbooks. For them, an advantage is the expense gets charged to their student account. 
  • Colleges are making more efforts to bring back students who may have dropped out of college without finishing their degrees. Story via  Inside Higher Ed. It may sound altruistic, but in reality a lot of it is an effort to make their retention and completion rates look better. Accrediting bodies like that sort of thing. This is mostly for undergrads. So far, you do not see too many graduate programs making a similar effort. I guess they could not care less and probably see it as just culling their herds.

In other news of the bad economy

How are the uber rich doing this week?

  • Some guy with serious money to burn build a $500K or so house. Now, you may say that is no big deal, but keep in mind he build the house not for himself. It is a mansion for his dog. Find the video here. Via
  • Saudi Arabia also has money to burn. They are now the world's largest importer of weapons and arms. Story via Quartz. That certainly makes their vendors happy, especially their top two vendors: the United States and the United Kingdom. Yuri Orlov may have it right: arms dealers will inherit the Earth. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: October 19, 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, another look at the Bad Economy. Let's see what has been going on this week.

Big News This Week

The big news this week is Sears finally declaring bankruptcy. I say finally because this once noble company is nothing more than a former shell of itself. It is basically a zombie corpse barely kept alive by its asshole CEO (or former CEO but still big stakeholder) who basically keeps it in debt to scavenge that corpse for any blood left. Let's check out some of the coverage:

  • Via Inc., Sears is the latest addition to the list of brick and mortar retailers going bankrupt, and it is something that should be of concern. The author observes that Sears was the Amazon of its time, and that is about right. You could get just about anything there, and in its prime, Sears also had a solid reputation for products like Kenmore and Craftsman tools. Our first washer and dryer long ago were Kenmore, and they lasted a very long time. They just do not make them like that anymore. In the end, the message is that no brand is safe. 
  • Via the Los Angeles Times, Lampert swears the company will reorganize and survive. What that really means is he plans to keep it afloat lending it more money so he can keep milking that debt until the bones are really dry. If you paid any attention, you probably find the idea it will survive laughable. 
  • And speaking of Lampert, Dealbreaker gives an overview why he will be OK after Sears is long gone. 
  • Over at VICE, they point out why the death of Sears, along with the rise of the behemoth Amazon, should scare everyone. I hate Amazon and their disgusting exploitative practices, but then you live in Bumfuck, USA and there is no substantial retail to speak of outside of Walmart, buying certain things online becomes a necessity. In the old days, that would have been a role easily filled by the Sears catalogs. Anyone out there still remember those? I remember fondly their Wish Book around Christmas time. Like many children, it helped me compile my list to Santa in  younger days. I think if Sears had done a better job adapting to the online world they might have fared better. Then again, that was not something that Lampert and his cronies would have been interested in. They just needed to leave the body in a barely living coma to strip it. 

News from the government

Let's see what the government and the stupid politicians in it have been doing to keep up the Bad Economy:

  • Not all is bad for the government apparently. The Department of Defense just gave Jeff Bezos and Amazon a big fat $10 billion contract. Story via Telesur. What is the contract for? It is basically for cloud computing because when I think high quality cloud services for the security of the nation, I think Amazon. I feel safer now. I mean, it's not like their service does not go out and take out a bunch of important stuff with it or anything now and then. That other story via CBS News. As the news report points out, "Major cloud-computing outages happen periodically." However, in the 2017 case, it seems that at the time "there’s no fallback." You heard that? No backup. I would like to think they have remedied at least that much, but hey, one never knows. As I said, I am sure we can feel safer. 
  • The Party of Stupid went ahead and pushed through a massive tax break for their rich donors and cronies. Despite swearing by McConnell that such a cut would not raise the deficit, that is just what happened. The federal deficit exploded. So now, the stubborn selfish dumbasses decide that they need to cut and take away social security net things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Story via VICE. Because you know, fuck the poor.  I'd be a little more sympathetic except in live in a very red state where the local yokels, despite all the evidence they are about to get royally fucked, go on and vote Party of Stupid anyhow because there is a "War on Coal" going on, and they need to "own those libtards." Well, way I see it, when granny loses her diabetic meds (which she likely gets via Medicaid), a few other fuckbagels lose things like their disability checks (because, you know, maybe they lost their job in a coal mine, which left them in bad shape, and that check from public assistance is all they got), food stamps, so on, oh well. It's what they proudly, willingly, and gladly voted for, and will likely continue to vote for. From the article, "So, to recap: Republicans, who claim to care about how much money the government is spending, effectively spent a bunch of money by giving tax breaks to the wealthy. Now they're demanding that to solve the problem partly created by that giveaway, the government should cut benefit programs aimed at alleviating suffering among the most vulnerable people in society." 
  • And the Party of Stupid War on the Poor continues as the party keeps working to get Americans in need off food stamps. Story via Vox. The insidious way they are doing is "work rules" because they think those vulnerable Americans are just mooching bums who need to get a job. The reality is far different, but no one ever said the Party of Stupid cared about reality. The reality, according to research: "Yet the new Brookings report shows what other research has also shown: Very few Americans enrolled in these programs don’t work because they don’t want to (an estimated 1.1 percent of Medicaid users and 0.3 percent of SNAP recipients). Instead, they don’t work because they are elderly, disabled, caring for relatives, or recently lost their job." So, to the Party of Stupid, granny can get off her couch and get to work, the disabled can drag their asses and get a job, those old relatives needing care need to fucking die off already, and if you lost your job and need help, well, fuck you, go get a new one already, you bum. It's the nation we live in folks.
  • However, the Party of Stupid does not care about the poor and less fortunate, but they certainly worry if it looks like they will not be able to buy a second home. Case in point. Heidi Cruz, wife to Ted Cruz, was whining that her husband's $174, 000  senatorial salary just does not go far enough and that "we’re not buying a second home anytime soon.” Story via Alternet. Now, don't go thinking that the Cruz family is up the creek. The fact is that Mrs. Cruz is the real breadwinner of the household, and she is whining basically that she has to carry him. How does she make her bread? She is an investment manager at Goldman Sachs. Talk about First World Problems.
  • Now, what other things does the government spend money for? Guarding confederate graves. Story via Quartz. That's right, the Veteran's Administration spends, or rather wastes, millions of dollars to protect the graves of loser traitors who rebelled against the duly elected government of the U.S.A. in order to keep their slavery and bigotry. I am sure there are better uses for that money than guarding graves of treasonous men who lost their war against the U.S. 
  • Speaking of veterans, U.S. veteran service members often wish or need to continue working in order to make a living or just make a little extra money. Uncle Sam is more than happy to help out in some somewhat questionable and clandestine ways like mercenary work and working as assassins for despots around the world. Found the story via Boing Boing. They got the talent, may as well put it to use. According to the story, "The mercenary squads who carry out targeted assassinations in Yemen on behalf of the autocratic rulers of the UAE are composed of US veterans from elite units like the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA "ground branch" and the special forces of the Maryland Army National Guard, working for the US-based mercenary company Spear Operations Group. Some of the mercenaries are reportedly still US military reservists, others have US top secret clearance." Just another form of American imperialism at work. 

Education News

  • Did you know that one in ten public school students in New York City's public schools is homeless? Story via Boing Boing. According to the article, "It's the largest number and proportion of homeless students in the history of homelessness statistics for the New York school system." 
  • It does not help public schools that good, experienced teachers are leaving for other more lucrative options. Hey, you gotta eat. One option can be teaching abroad, like this former Oklahoma public school teacher who left to go teach in Abu Dhabi. Story via VICE.
  • Meanwhile, in higher education, more evidence that students loans are basically one big generational scam. Story via VICE
    • And if you thought you could go into public service, like teaching, nursing, or being a cop to get some forgiveness on your college loans, yes, turns out that was another bullshit scam. NPR has an explanation why. Overall, if you ever got student loans, odds are good you are screwed unless you are one of the very lucky few who somehow manage to pay them off, or better yet, never had to take a loan out. 
  • As for colleges and universities, well, if things are not going too well, the state does not want to fund you, or you are just not making enough money to operate, you can always sell your campus to the Chinese. The Chinese are very interested in buying U.S. based college campuses. Story via Inside Higher Ed. They have bought or invested in just about anything else, so colleges is not a stretch. 

In other news of the bad economy

We end this week with a roundup of other miscellaneous signs the economy is bad:

  • The sordid tale of vulture company Credit Acceptance Corporation, a subprime lender for auto sales that effed up vulnerable people with "alleged deceptive practices, while exposing some of its customers to ceaseless debt" which have led to countless lawsuits and government investigations. Yet they managed to survive and even turned Detroit's courthouse into their own collection agency. Story via Jalopnik
  • The other big news this week, though not as big, is the assassination of some journalist that criticized the Saudi regime or other. You'd think that would be a big deal, but since Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are bosom buddies, not so much (thus I did not place this under "Big News This Week"). Besides, as Pat Robertson points out, "just because a journalist was tortured and murdered in a Saudi consulate doesn't mean the US should stop treating the country's leaders like beloved royalty. 'We’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of,' he told his adoring television audience. Any action against the Saudi royal family would mean losing '$100 billion worth of arms sales.'"Story via Boing Boing. So if you thought that the meek shall inherit the Earth, you are a sucker. In the wise words of Yuri Orlov, "You know who's going to inherit the Earth? Arms dealers. Because everyone else is too busy killing each other."
  • In other news, newspapers continue to close down. Story via Salon. Recent news report one in five local newspapers have closed down since 2004 in the United States. "According to the report, almost 200 counties in the U.S. have no local paper now, and nearly half have only one, which is more likely than not a weekly, not a daily paper." I happen to live in a town that has a weekly, and a fairly weak one (and fairly biased) at that, but that is about consistent with the findings. 
  • Meanwhile, in Latin America, another report reveals that at least 39 million suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Story via Telesur.
  • And things could get interesting as the incoming president and administration in Mexico vows to rebuild Mexico's corn agriculture to counter the United States' subsidized grain invasion that decimated Mexican farmers (and drove many to migrate to the U.S.). Story via The Progressive. This looks like a story to keep an eye on. 
  • In things to worry about, there is that climate change stuff. Now, many choose not to worry over it, but here is something that may make some folks pay attention: it can threaten your beer supply. Story via Quartz. Yes, climate change could mean less beer, or even no beer. So if trying to save the environment and the planet for the sake of humanity is not your thing, maybe heeding the rally cry of "Save the Beer!" will work.

Booknote: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections

Jason Fry and Kemp Remillard (artist), Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections. New York: DK Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4654-3815-7.

Genre: art and photography
Subgenre: films, movies, Star Wars, science fiction, diagrams
Format: oversized hardback
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County Public Library

This is another great volume in DK Publishing's series of oversized cross-section book. While I was only lukewarm about the movie The Force Awakens, this book is great. Folks who liked the film as well as Star Wars fans in general will probably enjoy this book.

The book features twelve ships and vehicles from the film including Poe Dameron's X-Wing Fighter, Rey's Speeder, Han's Freighter, and the Millennium Falcon. The book also features a short introduction and in addition to the art by Kemp Remillard we also get  some nice photos from the film. The art  is great with excellent attention to detail. The text is informative and interesting. As in previous volumes, some cross-sections do pull out into larger panels.

Overall, I really liked this one and recommend it. As with other volumes  in this series, it may be geared for younger readers, but fans of all ages can enjoy it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Booknote: The Artificial Kingdom

Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom: a Treasury of the Kitsch Experience. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. ISBN: 0-679-43393-7.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: pop culture, history, critical theory
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

I thought this book would be more interesting than what it turned out to be. The book is billed as "the first book to provide a cultural history of kitsch. . . " (from the book jacket). The author presents some of that cultural history. However, the author drowns the cultural history, and anything else interesting in dense and somewhat overdone critical theory. If you lack background in critical theory, some of the material may go over your head. If you do have that background (which I do from my previous life as an English major), you may or not appreciate it. Personally, I felt I got enough theory in graduate school, so it bored me in this book.

The parts I found interesting were the various historical examples such as the Crystal Palace, aquariums, Chinese rooms, salons, and other decorations. Those stories, many from Victorian times, were interesting, especially since some of those images and objects survive today. Unfortunately those interesting parts get lost in critical theory and her thesis.

In the end, the book was barely OK for me. It does feature some nice illustrations and photography, but not even that is enough to save this pretty forgettable book.

2 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading  notes:

The increase of image making in the 19th century. Also, image making became more accessible outside of the Church and the wealthy:

"The nineteenth century witnessed a multiplication in image-making techniques that transformed Western culture's optical unconscious. Mechanical reproduction not only altered the proliferation and affordability of images, but also enabled a particular, modern sensibility based on the preeminence of looking and collecting. Although this sensibility may be  traced back several centuries, what emerges at this moment is the unprecedent democratization of the practices of looking and collecting" (13).

On a side note, the footnotes in the book are often more interesting than the main text. The footnotes often go deep into specific small details and provide sources, in case you want to learn more.

A definition of kitsch:

"Kitsch is the attempt to repossess the experience of intensity and immediacy through an object. Since this recovery can only be partial and transitory, as the fleetingness of memories well testifies, kitsch objects may be considered failed commodities" (291). 

And here I thought kitsch was about collecting, making memories, perhaps keeping a bit of happier times. And given things like souvenirs and collectibles of various forms can sell very well, I would not rush to call them a failure. Certainly not to those who enjoy and collect kitschy things. It basically takes a high fallutin' academic to rain on our common people parade. So if kitsch is your thing, enjoy it in peace and skip much if not all of this book.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: October 5, 2018 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.

We've gotten quite a bit of fuckery this week, and that is not counting the spectacle that is the confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, who I still think will make it to SCOTUS as of this post. Anyhow, the bad economy continues despite other things, so let's have a look at what has been happening.

Big news this week

The big news this week was Amazon "gracefully" giving a raise to $15 an hour to its warehouse workers. Story via Daily Intelligencer. According to the Daily Intelligencer report, "it came down to "Bezos likely concluded that his company stood to benefit from exploiting its workers a little less than the American labor market would let him get away with." Let's be honest. If Bezos and other companies could get away with slavery, they would be happy to employ slaves. So while everyone has been gushing over what amounts to a public relations move, the reality is the move is not really that generous, and Amazon still continues with all other sorts of fuckery:
  •  Amazon consistently gets cities and states (and their dumbass residents) to rob the local citizens via excessive breaks on taxes, land, and other practices that anyone else would call a bribe. Story via TruthDig
  • Amazon's couriers are often forced to drive shoddy vehicles. Story via Salon. When you think about it, it may be a miracle your packages got to your door safely. In this case, Amazon naturally passes the buck to the couriers to claim they have nothing to do with it. But keep in mind those couriers DO work out of Amazon warehouses. The article also links to stories of how Amazon also exploits the drivers of those shoddy trucks. 
  • Because there is no shady practice Amazon will not try, turns out the company is using "private labels" it owns to sneak in their own products into the website. This also has an effect to undermine third party sellers, which they also host and make money from even as they do not police them adequately. It is basically a matter of Amazon doing all kinds of shady things to see which one makes them the most money. But hey, as long as people keep double clicking and buying from them, it is all fair, right? Story via Boing Boing

In assorted corporate fuckery

  • Starbucks is not much better when it comes to corporate fuckery. In fact, the labor conditions at so-called "Starbucks certified" plantations are so bad they are basically slavery. As you can see, corporations are happy to have slaves if it helps the bottom line. Story via Truthout

Education news

  • Turns out that the so-called work a public service job and get your student loans forgiven is mostly a scam. So no matter how many years you put in, you are pretty much screwed. In a nutshell, it is a clusterfuck. Story via Boing Boing
  • Speaking of scams, this college cafe has a new one for college students. Free coffee. Except it is not really free. You pay for it with your personal data, and since most young people these days are stupid enough to give their private information out without thinking about consequences when you dangle a freebie in front of them, the scam is working like a charm. Story via NPR. 
  • Another scam? Students in public colleges are paying more and getting less in return. Story via Truthout. Naturally, part of it is the decision of whiny voters refusing to invest in higher education, voting in politicians, mainly Party of Stupid politicians, who promise lower taxes and austerity. Where the fuck did you think universities would then get funding from to keep operating and teaching your bratty kids?  As usual with stuff like this, as long as it was the low income and people of color kids, no one really cared. Now that it is affecting middle class and up kids, suddenly it is an issue. Imagine that. Why is this a problem? Here is a reason: "Fewer graduates means more workers saddled with debt and without a useful degree. This leaves communities with fewer skilled workers who can attract higher paid employers — and exacerbates inequality" 
  • College students who are parents have more difficulty completing a degree, assuming they manage to complete the degree at all. Story via Inside Higher Ed. This story caught my eye in part because the college where I work at has a significant population of "non-traditional" students who are also parents.

News from the government 

  • Some economists predict that the Pendejo In Chief's trade policies could drive the United States into a recession by 2020. Story via The Week. Oh well, I am sure fine Americans will just whine it is "fake news." I mean, what do a bunch of academic eggheads know, right?  
  • TSA, the kabuki theater airport security people, are notorious for their bad service and just being an overall pain the ass for travelers. Well, turns out that working in the agency is a nightmare as well. According to this note from Boing Boing, "A new report summarizing three years of investigations from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the TSA calls out the agency for its 'toxic leadership culture, misconduct, mismanagement, whistleblower retaliation and obstruction,' citing these as the reason for the agency's 20% annual attrition rates." Sounds like a charming place to work. 
  • Is FEMA racist when it comes to providing post-disaster aid? Turns out yes, it is. Story via Truthout.
  • Meanwhile, in Alabama, the state government and the Department of Health and Human Services are facing a lawsuit from a Black community, "a lawsuit last week alleging the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department both failed to protect black residents from inadequate sewage systems, which has led to water contamination and an outbreak of an infectious disease prevalent in areas without indoor plumbing." Story via Mother Jones.
    • Speaking of places with poor water service, a county in Eastern Kentucky was so bad that it got a mention on NPR. When people laud the "wonders" of privatizing public services, this is a fine example of what happens: shoddy infrastructure, shitty service, and no accountability whatsoever while people suffer. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment has fallen. Story via Truthout. That is good, right? Well, not quite. A lot of the new jobs can be labeled McJobs, and let's be honest, salaries and wages are still very poor. So yea, the economy is still bad. You just have to pay attention to the details.

In Other News of the Bad Economy

Finally, for this week, let's do a roundup of a miscellany of signs the economy is bad:

  • Pickup truck prices are pretty much getting unaffordable for the average Joe. Story via USA Today. Why is that? Well, in part because dude bros love their trucks, and they love to put every possible bell and whistle on their douchemobiles. Naturally, dealers are happy to oblige, making the trucks that much more expensive. How expensive you ask? According the article, "Edmunds' data shows, through September, the average transaction price for a full-size pickup is $48,377, a 48-percent boost from 10 years ago and a 19-percent hike from 2013 for the same period. For that price, a person could buy a Mercedes-Benz or BMW luxury sedan." However, a Mercedes or BMW just does not have that uber macho cachet that a pimped up polished pickup truck that is not used for work but rather for show has. 
  • Also via USA Today, Barnes and Noble is looking at selling itself in the hopes of saving itself long term. Folks, I was here to see when big box bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and the now defunct Borders, drove independent bookstores to the brink of extinction only to watch big box bookstores suffer now because Amazon is driving them to the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, independents have been making a modest comeback by offering things Amazon just cannot offer such as better personal service. So I am not feeling a huge amount of love for Barnes and Noble, which these days seems more like a fancy toy store with some books tossed in. 
  • In news you may have missed, Brazil is expected to buy a lot more soybeans from the U.S. As you may know, with the Pendejo In Chief's trade war with Chinese, the Chinese decided to no longer buy soybeans from the U.S., even though it is a high demand product for the Chinese. This drove the price down on soybeans dramatically. The Chinese then decided to get their soybeans from other growers. Brazil is one of those alternate soybean producers, so they started selling as much as possible of their crop to the Chinese. Well, Brazil needs soybeans at home, and since U.S. soybeans are now dirt cheap, they are buying them up for their domestic market, and the U.S. now gets a pittance on the price in comparison. So much winning. Story via Reuters at Successful Farming. Hat tip to The Rural Blog.
  • Did you know that these days $100 dollars bills are outnumbering $1 dollar bills? Story via Quartz, which links to a new report from the Federal Reserve. I admit that this surprised me a bit. The Better Half is one of those folks who often gets a cash advance from her debit card when she shops. She hates when they try to give her a large bill because aside from a few places like Walmart, spending a $100 dollars bill is next to impossible? Go ahead, try to pay with a $100 in places like a gas station, a convenience store, or many other places that flat out refuse to take them. So she always gets that advance in $20s. However, and here is the interesting part in the story, the reason that $100s are getting popular is that people are hoarding them. Why? Well, from the article, "according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the $100 bill is on the rise as a form of savings. With low inflation and a financial crisis still relatively fresh in people’s memories, more savers than ever are choosing to keep some of their wealth in large-denomination banknotes. And it’s not just Americans. The Fed researchers suggest that people across the world are stashing hundreds under their beds as an alternative in case their local currency takes a dive." Add to this that most savings accounts and other savings instruments offer interest that is basically laughable to the point you are better off storing money under your mattress. Yep, the Benjamins are now the poor people's savings system. 
  • Finally for this week, a story that caught my eye. We would not have much of the Internet as we know it if it were not for sex workers. And in typical Internet fashion, the Internet is now telling those who helped build it to basically fuck off. Story via VICE

Media Notes: Roundup for September 2018

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

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

  • Saw II (2005. Horror. Thriller). TubiTv added some of the Saw movies this month, so I figured sure, why not. This is the second installment in the series where Detective Eric Matthews, portrayed by Donnie Wahlberg, needs to try to rescue eight new victims trapped in a factory. To complicate things, one of the victims is the detective's son. This second installment is still a good entry in the series before the series became more about the traps and gore and a bit less about the puzzles. In this one, if rules were followed, victims still stood a chance. Good twist at the end.

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, with some 2000s, 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. One thing I find amusing are small details, specially for the shows in the 1990s; it seems like a more innocent time. Plus some of the products featured are no longer on the shelves or as popular as they were back then. Watched 12 episodes. 
  • Iron Chef (Japan). (1993-2001). I keep watching these via YouTube. 
    • Rice Battle. Masayoshi Kimura, a disciple of Chen Kenmin, Chen Kenichi's father, challenges.  
    • Rice Battle 2. This episode marks the 2-years anniversary of the show. It also is the time when the format of judging went from 3 judges tasting to four, and they added the overtime battles for ties. 
    • Pumpkin Battle. Kensuki Sakai, a chef who cooks fine Italian food out of a food cart, challenges Iron Chef Italian Kobe. 
    • Potato Battle 4. Kentaro the food critic challenges Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi. He happens to also be the son of Katsuyo Kobayashi, a female chef and cooking show hostess who challenged previously. She also challenged Chen in her battle. 
  • Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994. Granada Television Series). The main branch of my local public library had the run of the "Return of Sherlock Holmes" part of this series starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, a favorite of mine. The "Return of Sherlock Holmes" set features four volumes, and they start when Holmes returns after the fall at Reichenbach Falls. (On a side note, I have found other episodes online as well, and I will note when I watch those). 
    • "The Empty House." It has been three years since Sherlock Holmes fell in Reichenbach Falls. Watson has moved on back to his medical practice, and he works part time as a police surgeon. When Lord Adair is murdered, Watson and Inspector Lestrade attempt to solve the case. Suddenly, Holmes reveals himself to Watson, and the hunt is on. 
    • "The Abbey Grange." Lord Eustace Brackenstall, a wealthy man and last of his line, is found murdered out in Kent. The local inspector calls in Sherlock Holmes, but by the time Holmes arrives, Lady Brackenstall has given account of the event, describing the men that murdered her husband. It seems an open and shut case, but Holmes is not quite ready to let it go. He perseveres, finding a trail of violence, a burnt dog, and evidence pointing to a culprit other than the local gang that the lady blamed for her husband's murder. 
    • "The Second Stain." When a very secret letter is stolen from a British government official, the official and the Prime Minister enlist Holmes and Watson to find it before war breaks out if the letter becomes public. A suspect is murdered, and now Holmes has to dig deep to find it. However his powers of observation and deduction save the day. A very nice puzzle for the detective to solve.  
    • "The Six Napoleons." Holmes and Watson are asked to investigate a case of murder and the breaking of six busts of Napoleon throughout London. Holmes needs to figure out what the connection is. A classic story well dramatized. On a trivia note, Marina Sirtis, known for her role as Counselor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, makes an appearance in this episode.