Friday, January 25, 2019

Booknote: Star Trek: Countdown

Roberto Orci,, Star Trek: Countdown. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781600104206.

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Star Trek, graphic novels
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This trade paperback collects the four prequel comics to the 2009 reboot movie. If it reminds you of Star Trek: Nemesis, it's because these comics take place 8 years after the end of that movie. I am not too keen on how Abrams and company just shoehorn previous material into the new movie to add "authenticity," but it is what it is. The comic itself is pretty good, and you can read it on its own.

In this story, Spock continues his work trying to reconcile Romulus and Vulcan. He is an ambassador and now legal resident on Romulus. Picard is the Federation ambassador. Data, who successfully integrated his personality into the B4 android, now commands the Enterprise- E. Data and his crew look great in this story. I would not mind a few more Captain Data stories. Meanwhile, this comic presents the rise of the villain Nero.

Overall, it  has good art. The story is pretty good and entertaining. It's not great though at times it feels better than the new movie offerings. Fans of the new movies will likely appreciate the new details. As I mentioned, it stands on its own. In the end, I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reading about the reading life: January 18, 2019 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).  

I've been finding a few interesting things recently, so let's have a look.

  • Via The Register-Guard, indie bookstores persevere despite Amazon.
  • Resilience suggests that a local bookstore can enrich your community.The author argues that "if we want our places to be strong, third places like independent bookstores are exactly the kind of investment that our towns should be making. And we should be making them way more often." To that I say it can depend. A good bookstore will probably do well in enriching a community. A not so good one, such as a certain independent used store in a town I used to live that was nothing more than a dumping ground of old Harlequins and such, will probably be detrimental. 
  • The Portland Mercury reports that a Japanese bookstore chain is opening up a branch in downtown Portland. According to the article, "The 5,140-square-foot space "will carry carefully selected books, unique merchandise and Japanese stationery, with a focus on art and comics from Japan which have been strengths in our existing stores," says Kinokuniya's press release. "We will also collaborate with a beloved local Japanese cafe to provide a space for both Portland locals and tourists to relax and drink authentic Japanese tea." It does sound neat.
  • Meanwhile, via Hornet, in what some consider the end of an era, the adult bookstore Circus of Books in West Hollywood, CA is closing down.
  • Sounds the trumpets! A bookstore finally sold a book that sat on its shelves for over 27 years. Story via My Modern Met.
  • A Scottish bookseller chronicles a year of his life as a bookseller. The Chicago Tribune's Biblioracle reviews The Diary of a Bookseller. Sounds like a book for me to add to my ever growing TBR list. On a side note, the Biblioracle (John Warner) does a form of reader's advisory where he gives you a list  of what to read based on the last five books you have read. I have not tried it, but if you have, feel free to let me know how that works out. 
  • Apparently there is a "Blurbing Industrial Complex," and this article from The Millions argues that it needs to be destroyed. How bad is it? "Further, a nuclear arms race in blurbing is building." Maybe a blurb worked for someone like Walt Whitman, as suggested in the article, but I have to ask just how many people today pick up a new book today and make their decision to read it or not based on a blurb? I do not recall in recent memory having a blurb spur a decision to read and/or acquire a book. If any out there care to comment, let me know, do blurbs in books encourage you or not to read and/or buy a book? Do you even care?
  • This is not the first place I've seen this story but it has been picking traction recently: the idea that romance novels can save straight sex, as if they are somehow a panacea that people have failed to notice. By the way, I will note that yes, I have read romance novels, including the one I had to read in one of my reader's advisory courses in library school. I also read and review some erotica (which I prefer way better than romance fiction, but I will not digress here). Via Electric Lit
  • Via the BBC, a history of the library of forbidden books. "From 1976 until his death in 2013, Georg P Salzmann collected about 12,000 books that had been banned – and burnt – by the Nazis for being ‘un-German’." This collection is now recently made open to the public. A video story is included. 
  • Puerto Rican newspaper Claridad does a profile of local independent book publisher Editorial Aguadulce (Spanish language story) and looks at book publishing in the island.

Finally for this week, a bookish edition of

Great Debates of Our Time

This week: is it better to read a book in print or listen to it as an audiobook. Question posed at Boing Boing. Feel free to comment.

Booknote: El Amor, Las Mujeres, y La Vida

Mario Benedetti, El Amor, Las Mujeres, y La Vida. Madrid: Alfaguara, 2004. ISBN: 84-204-8213-7.

Genre: poetry
Subgenre: love poetry, Spanish language
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a poetry collection where Benedetti's poems emphasize women, love, and life. These are poems with a love theme mostly. The book's title is inspired by Arthur Schopenhauer's El amor, las mujeres, y la muerte. In his prologue. Benedetti says he first read the German philosopher as a teenager. He once more reread the philosopher's work recently in his 60s. Benedetti concludes that women and love are closer to life than death, thus Benedetti's title. Benedetti also writes that this anthology has been building up over 50 years and draws poems from his two Inventarios collections. The book contains a prologue and 100 poems.

The poems vary in length and structure. They are mostly free verse poems. The poems can be light, amusing, serious, profound, deep, passionate, so on. Some poems you can read quickly, and  others you need to take your time and savor. The quality of the poems can vary; I felt some were better than others.

Some of my favorite poems include:
  • "Es tan poco."
  • "La secretaria ideal."
Overall, I liked this poetry collection. If you enjoy Benedetti's work, you'll want to read this though keep in mind you may have read some poems before. If you have not read the author before, this book provides a good sampling.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 11, 2019

My Reading List for 2018

Welcome to my 2018 Reading List. I have moved this post to this blog from the professional blog since I got that one on hiatus. To be honest, I am in no rush to re-open A Simple Scholarly Librarian any time soon. The library world drama is still there and will be there no matter when I go back to that blog or not, and work continues to keep me busy doing more practical things that pondering some critical theory, abstract mind exercises, or the latest fuckery some patron or librarian did. On the positive, I am hoping to increase my professional reading a bit more, though I am not sure I will blog about it or not. We'll see how that goes. As I said last year, I have just found other things to be more interesting and that make me happy overall.

Over here at The Itinerant Librarian I continue doing book reviews. It is something I enjoy. It is a good way to keep track and recall what I read, and it is my small measure of reader's advisory and a way to give back to my four blog readers. As I said at the end of 2017, I wanted to add more bookish content to this blog. I managed to do a bit of that last year, and I hope to continue into 2019. For this year, I would like to try doing an editorial calendar for this blog to see if I can keep the content more consistent. At least use it to plan some semi-regular features in addition to reviews.

Speaking of book reviews, if you are an author, editor, or publisher, and you think you have a book I may want to read and review, check out my book review statement, then let me know. I'd be happy to consider it if fits with my review statement and reading interests. I am also a Tarot and oracle card reader and collector, so if you are an author, editor, and publisher of a deck and/or book on this subject, feel free to pitch it my way. If you want to see a sampling of what I have reviewed in that area, you can check the "Tarot" tag on this blog (right side column).

On another positive note, I reached six years working at Hutchins Library, Berea College. This is the longest now I have remained in a professional librarian position. As I mentioned, they do keep me busy, and I am often learning new things. Sure, not everything is roses and rainbows; administrivia is one of the things I dislike, but way I see it I have to do some things I like less to get to do the things I do like. Such is life. Once in a while I learn something new or experience a small epiphany, though not big enough or urgent enough I feel a need to blog about it. At any rate, here is to hoping for another six years at least.

The big highlight in blogging, if we can call it that, was the whole Tumblr debacle at the end of 2018. First Yahoo! bought them out, and you could see the first indications things would go downhill. Once Verizon bought Yahoo!, the writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of time until they fucked it up, and sure enough, they did. I had a Tumblr blog I opened back in the days when Library 2.0 was still a thing, as yet another experiment on what was then a new site to me. I did use it somewhat, had some fun with it. However, the censorship is just not right. It got so ridiculous that they started flagging some of my posts which were not even explicit at all. I did not feel like wasting my time trying to appeal, so I did what many others have done: I backed up the content, then also exported it someplace else, and shut down the Tumblr account. I guess it was nice while it lasted. If nothing else, a small positive, is that having to close down my Tumblr gave me an incentive to see what other options are out there, so I will be experimenting a bit more in the near future. Meanwhile, if interested, you can find Alchemical Annex in its new home over at Wordpress. The export laid out the content in the template you see. I have not really reviewed it in full, nor added anything new. As soon as I have time to explore more, I will probably get back to adding new things in it.

Let's move on to the reading part. Like last year, without even counting, I can already tell I read less books in 2018. 2018 was no better in terms of the "Hard Times," and that can wreak havoc with your mood to read. My moratorium on reading anything related to politics, social issues, activist topics, and/or most current events went pretty well. I only briefly broke it in November to read that one book by the folks at The Daily Show. I will continue the moratorium into 2019. I find it helps my mental health to just avoid those topics. There are plenty of people reading those books already and adding to the noise, so I can do without it. I am keeping my reading as escapist and recreational as possible.

So, to sum up where we are as we start 2019:
Related image

Another reason I have been reading less is that I continue to enjoy my study and learning of Tarot and oracle cards. In fact, I have been hoping to turn my commonplace blog, Alchemical Thoughts, into a bit more of a Tarot/oracle blog, or at least use that blog to create more content in that area. The small responses I've gotten to that content have been positive, so it is something I will keep exploring in 2019. I am also still posting my daily card draw and the daily underneath/shadow card on Twitter. Last year, I mentioned I would consider trying out Instagram. However, I did try it out, and I just do not like that it is an app only site where you have to use you mobile device to post anything or make content. My mobile phone, nice as it is, is just not robust enough to post and edit content. I honestly do not see how people do it, but to each their own. Speaking of Tarot, Ethony Dawn has once again put down the gauntlet for the "31 Days of Tarot" (social media hashtag: #31daysoftarot19). It is mainly a YouTube challenge, but since I do not use YouTube to make videos I do the prompts over at Alchemical Thoughts, which I used to crosspost on Tumblr, but that is not an option for 2019. I will crosspost to Alchemical Annex instead. I am already running a couple of days behind, so I will catch up when I can. In terms of reading books, a bit more Tarot and oracle means a bit less reading other books, and I am at peace with that.

One last reason for me reading less is a bit more simple: I am watching more movies and other videos more. I have been checking out DVDs from my local public library, and I have been watching things I can stream online, mainly for free. has been a nice discovery. It is a bit of random fun since you can find either a rare gem or some serious dreck, but overall has been good. There are some other free streaming options I have tried out, but they just do not work as well. Anyhow, if you want to check out what I've been watching, I do a monthly roundup at the beginning of a month for the previous month. You can find these under the "film and television" tag in this blog (right side column).

Let's get on with it and look at what and how I read in 2018. After the list, you will find my comments and remarks. Note that books with an asterisk (*) are rereads.

  • Hannah Dolan, The LEGO Movie: The Essential Guide
  • Library of Congress, The Card Catalog.
  • John Barber, Transformers: IDW Collection, Phase Two, Volume 6


  • Jim Davis, Odie Unleashed! Garfield Let's the Dog Out.
  • Darby Conley, Clean Up on Aisle Stupid
  • Simon Furman,, Transformers: Spotlight Omnibus, Volume 1
  • Stephen Jones, ed., The Mammoth Book of Dracula
  • Joshua Kendall, The Man Who Made Lists
  • Joe Strike, Furry Nation
  • Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 3: Emperor
  • Mario Puzo, The Godfather (audio edition).*
  • Lincoln Peirce, Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs
  • Colin D. Campbell, Thelema: an Introduction to the Life, Work, and Philosophy of Aleister Crowley
  • Hillary Thompson,, The Infographic Guide to the Bible: the Old Testament.
  • Roger Clarke, Ghosts: a Natural History.
  • Lincoln Peirce, Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends?
  • Scott Snyder, Batman/The Shadow: the Murder Geniuses
  • Ciro Marchetti, Legacy of the Divine Tarot (Tarot books and deck kit).
  • Curtis Saxton, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Incredible Cross Sections
  • Christoph Ribbat, In the Restaurant.


  • Max Bemis, Centipede, Volume 1
  • Rachel Pollack, The New Tarot Handbook
  • Stephan Talty, The Black Hand
  • Howie Abrams, The Merciless Book of Metal Lists.
  • Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom: a Treasury of the Kitsch Experience.
  • Bill Samuels, Jr., Maker's Mark: My Autobiography.
  • Kris Wilson, Cyanide Happiness: Stab Factory.
  • Lincoln Peirce, Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike.


  • Terry Donaldson, The Tarot Spellcaster
  • Benjamin Radford, Bad Clowns.
  • Jason Fry, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections.


  • Jim Davis, Garfield Souped Up: his 57th Book.*
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Goes to his Happy Place: his 58th Book.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Cleans his Plate: his 60th Book.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Cooks Up Trouble: his 63rd Book
  • Loren Rhoads, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die.
  • Jim Marrs, The Rise of the Fourth Reich: The Secret Societies that Threaten to Take Over America (audiobook edition). 
  • Philip Carlo, Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss (audiobook edition). 
  • Mario Puzo, The Making of The Godfather (audiobook edition).
  • Landry Q. Walker, Star Wars: Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Way, Volume 1: Aliens.
  • Mark Jacobson, American Gangster and Other Tales of New York (audiobook edition).
  • Nancy C. Antenucci, Psychic Tarot.
  • Daniel Lipkowitz, LEGO Star Wars: The Dark Side.


  • Greg Farshtey, LEGO Ninjago 9: Night of the Nindroids
  • Bathroom Readers Institute, Uncle John's Old Faithful: 30th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.
  • Lydia Kang, Quackery: a Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.
  • Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella, Pizza Bomber
  • Jen Altman, The Circadian Tarot: a Daily Companion for Divination and Illumination.


  • Jacob Lambert, Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Batmobile
  • Jennifer B. Bodine, Trains: Photography of A. Aubrey Bodine.
  • William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (audiobook edition). 
  • Mario Benedetti, El amor, las mujeres, y la vida.
  • Joseph Bulgatz, Imagined Agencies
  • Roberto Orci, Star Trek: Countdown.  
  • Sam Giancana and Scott Burnstein, Family Affair: Greed, Treachery, and Betrayal in the Chicago Mafia.


  • 50 Cent and Robert Greene, The 50th Law
  • Mike Lee, Fallen Angels (Horus Heresy #11). 


  • William Lynwood Montell, Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes.
  • James Swallow, Sisters of Battle Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000).
  • Thomas Andrews,, Star Wars Omnibus: Boba Fett


  • Jonathan J. Moore, Secret Societies and Crazy Cults
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library.
  • Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Feeds His Face: his 64th Book
  • Frank Lowe, ed., Raised by Unicorns: Stories of Children with LGBTQ+ Parents.
  • Joel M. Hoffman, The Bible's Cutting Room.


  • Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. (audiobook edition)
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Eats and Runs: His 65th Book.
  • Anthony Bourdain,, Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts.
  •  Roseanne Montillo, The Wilderness of Ruin
  • Kieron Gillen,, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 1: Vader.
  • Kieron Gillen,, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 2: Shadows and Secrets.
  • Kieron Gillen,, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 3: The Shu-Torun War.
  • Kieron Gillen,, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 4: End of Games.

Here are the numbers:

Number of books read in 2018: 74, including 2 rereads.

  • Sure enough. I did read a bit less this year. However, 10 books less does not seem so bad. 
  • I continue to use GoodReads to track what I read. I strictly use it to mark a book as read, the dates, and the five star ratings. I do not add any additional content; I save my reviews for my blog. However, if someone requests I post a review on GoodReads, I would probably do so in a brief version, keeping the main review for the blog. 
  • I re-read two books this year. One of them was The Godfather, which I read as an audiobook this year. Puzo's novel is one of my all time favorite books, and one of those books I will pick up when I need a little comfort and escapist reading. I did miss re-reading Batman: The Long Halloween, which I usually try to read sometime in October, as close to Halloween as possible. Things were just too busy. Heck, I barely noticed when Halloween arrived. Then Thanksgiving was here before I knew it, and boom, Christmas and New Year's holidays. Time seriously flew this time. I'll just take another shot at it next October.
  • I did not do any reading challenges in 2018. I decided to take a break from those last year. I may do one or two this year. As of this post, I am still deciding which ones and if I will do any reading challenges in 2019. If I do decide to do any, I will post the sign up and opening posts in this blog during January 2019.
  • Best reading month: June, with 12 books read.
  • Worst reading month: September, with 2 books read. 
  • Books read in print: 58.
  • Books read as e-books, including NetGalley and/or Edelweiss: 9, all on NetGalley. None read via Edelweiss. I just find Edelweiss too cumbersome to use. NetGalley is just much more user friendly.
  • Audiobooks: 7. I am finding that I am enjoying e-books more, especially for nonfiction. Except for one, these audiobooks came via my public library's Overdrive system, so they were audio e-books.
  • Fiction (does not include graphic novels, comics, nor manga): 8. Not much fiction, though some of the fiction I read was in the form of omnibus books and such, which often contain more than one novel and/or short fiction. Those tend to take me a bit longer to read.
  • Nonfiction: 41
  • Graphic novels (includes comics and graphic novels, but not manga): 25
  • Manga: 0. I have bought a few for my collection in 2018, but I did not get around to reading them. 
  • Library books read: 
    • Madison County (KY) Public Library: 55, including audiobooks
    • Hutchins Library (where I work): 0
    • Interlibrary Loan (ILL):1 via Hutchins Library. Fallen Angels came from the King County Library System, Washington State.
  • Books read that I own (or that another member of the family owns, and I borrowed to read):  8
  • Other numbers of interest:

Booknote: The Circadian Tarot

Jenifer Attman, The Circadian Tarot: a Daily Companion for Divination and Illumination. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4521-4195-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: art, Tarot, divination
Format: small hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

The publisher describes this book as a "complete deck in book form." I can't help but wonder if making a deck and companion book would have worked better for some folks. Still, the book is nice to read and look over.

The book offers card meanings written by Jen Attman. The text for each card is mainly positive and affirming. Michelle Blade offers the art for the cards. The art style can be described as ethereal and surreal. Sometimes the art may be a bit too abstract; on some art pieces, I am not even sure how they relate to a particular card.

The book is designed to be a daily companion. Flip through the pages to find a message for the day. It makes a nice bedside book. Overall, I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Media Notes: Roundup for December 2018

These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during December 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). In addition, I will try to add other trivia notes, such as when a film is based on a book adding the information about the book (at least the WorldCat record if available):

  • Krampus: The Christmas Devil (2013. Horror. Thriller.) I figured I had to pick at least one movie with a holidays season theme, so here goes. As a kid, Jeremy Duffin was one of the bad kids, and Krampus abducted him to kill him. However, Jeremy managed to escape and survived. Years later, as an adult, he is a cop now trying to find the abductor and solve the case of many children going missing right before Christmas. The plot is complicated a bit by the fact that there is another criminal on the loose; however, Krampus soon takes care of the naughty criminal (this is a moment you end up rooting for Krampus). Krampus has to complete his task of punishing naughty kids before Christmas Eve midnight, and he has Santa Claus' approval to do whatever it takes. This movie is seriously slow, not too thrilling if at all. Some of the scenes just drag on way too long. As for the attempt to use a hard rock soundtrack to slow things down for dramatic or tense effect, it was poorly done. Overall, a cheaply done movie with sub par acting. A seriously lost opportunity here. This is one to skip. It is bad, and I do not mean in the "bad but funny" category. It is just bad, period. Via TubiTv.
  • Real Gangsters! (2013. Crime. Drama. Mobsters). This is the story of cousins Vincent and Jack LoGiacomo, who run their own mob family. They are like day and night. Vincent is the reasonable peacemaker, and Jack is the hotheaded guy who prefers to settle things the hard way than with diplomacy. Vincent does his best to be peaceful, discreet, but do not mistake that for weakness. Jack, on the other hand, is a walking stereotype of a wiseguy with a temper. We see most of the film through Jack as he goes about business. The movie is funny in an unintentional way. For example, the scene of Jack sort of debating films with his henchmen, bad but funny at times, at least until it takes quite a dark turn  but then we get a small tension breaker, and a small laugh again. And then I was not a fan of that ending, which was expected but seemed cut short. The movie is not great, but it has some amusing moments, and it does have a decent cast including Nick Mancuso as Vicent, Frank D'Angelo as Jack, and  an appearance by Margot Kidder. Via TubiTv.
  • Hobo With A Shotgun (2011. Action. Grindhouse. Exploitation). What started  as a faux film trailer included with the film Grindhouse became a real movie. Rutget Hauer goes all out playing the hobo, a man who arrives to Hope Town on the rails. All he wanted was to get a lawn mower cheap to start a lawn mowing business, make a few bucks. However, the town is exploited by Drake and his sons, a town where rape, crime, violence run rampant. The hobo decides to take justice in his hands, manages to buy a shotgun, and off he goes to clean the town. Film is a throwback to the exploitation and extreme grindhouse films of the 1970s with the spurts of fake blood, gruesome killings, and a lot of shotgun blasts. It does take a dark turn to the end, but overall, you pretty much get what the title promises. In a time when all we seem to get are remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, and pretty much same old, this is one of those films that took a chance to do something gruesomely different. Some folks may cheer, a few may not, but it was entertaining overall. Via TubiTv. 
  • A Christmas Carol (1984. Fantasy. Literary Adaption. Drama. Christmas). A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas stories, and I tend to like most movie adaptations. This 1984 film with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge is one of my top interpretations. Scott gives a great performance. He is the mean old miser we all know, but Scott humanizes Scrooge to show us how his early life helped shape his anger and hate of the world. Scott truly makes the role his own.  The film does a good effort in being faithful to the story. I also loved the Ghost of Christmas Present, portrayed here by Edward Woodward (you may know him from the television series The Equalizer) having great fun with the performance. This may be a made for television movie, but they really created one of the best versions available. Via YouTube. 
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992. Drama. Comedy. Family). Michael Cane takes the turn as Mr. Scrooge and Kermit takes the turn as Bob Cratchit.  Sure, they take some liberties with the story, but the essence of the story is kept quite well in a film for children of all ages. The humor can be light but also dark, and the drama is just serious enough. The film is entertaining and moving at times, and it will leave you with a smile, This is definitely a nice holiday classic to watch with family. Overall, a great Muppets film. Via DVD from public library.

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

  • Supermarket Sweep (Game show. 1965-2003). I continue watching the 1990s run, 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. Watched 4 episodes. 
  • L.A. Law (Legal drama. 1986 to 1994). I found this at the main branch of the public library. They had the first two seasons of it; the show ran for eight seasons. I did some research, turns out they have only released the first three seasons for the United States (lucky Europeans got the full release, including a complete series package). The DVDs for the US are sold by Shout! Factory, which is known for selling various old time television shows and films. Anyhow, saw it, and I decided to check it out and do a small trip down memory lane. This is a series I used to enjoy back in the day, and it was one of the few series I have watched from beginning to end when it was on the air.  
    • Season One covers the first 22 episodes, including the series pilot. It comes in 6 DVDs.
      • The pilot episode is an hour and 37 minutes. It sets up the series, and it shows the program's eventually well known trait of having various story lines running at once. A small detail, well, seems small now, is the episode featured a transsexual character. As I said, seems small now but back in the 1980s, this would have been a big deal. One of the lawyer's homophobic reaction seemed shocking to me now, but odds were good back then more people would have side with him. The show is certainly a product of its time, and it did dare to take chances. Overall, the pilot does provide a good start to the series. 
      • Episodes for the rest of the season are about 48 minutes long. As I mentioned, this is definitely an 80s show. It was interesting to see some of the issues of the time presented in the show such as the AIDS epidemic (this was way before treatments came along), date rape (their standards back then were clearly nowhere near things like the Me Too movement era we have now), and post partum depression, which today is recognized as a serious condition by the medical establishment but it was not back then. In addition, the seriousness is balanced with some humor. This season contains one of my favorite episodes: the case of the stolen bull semen. Overall, great entertainment and an interesting look now at the time the series was made. I can see why this series was so successful in its time.
    • Season Two includes 20 episodes. In this season, two new characters are introduced: lawyer associate Johnathan Rallins (portrayed by Blair Underwood) and Benny Stulwicz, the developmentally disabled clerk (portrayed by Larry Drake. The character made his first appearance in Season One, becomes a regular in this season). In this season you see a bit more how this series has aged. For instance, we get a trial of three lawyers accused of raping a young stripper. The guys' defense is the usual "they are prominent men, wholesome Christians, family men" blah blah, stuff that today would not fly, and while the men did get convicted, you get the feeling it was barely. There is an AIDS reference where one men is telling the other to use precaution, and the other replies he is not worried because he is heterosexual. It was a different time, and AIDS was still seen as "the gay disease." We've come a long way. However, despite some aging, the show still remains interesting and entertaining, and it still retains some relevant points to today here and there.

Booknote: Pizza Bomber

Jerry Clark and Ed Palattella, Pizza Bomber: the Untold Story of America's Most Shocking Bank Robbery. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.  ISBN: 978-0-425-25055-6.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: true crime, robberies, bank heists
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

Pizza Bomber is the story of a shocking bank robbery in Erie, Pennsylvania in 2003. Brian Well, a pizza delivery man entered a bank to rob it, a bomb collared to his neck. Was he a victim? The bomb went off, and Wells died. But that was not all; soon, it was revealed that Wells was part of a bank robbery scheme that led to a trail of deaths along the way.

Jerry Clark, the FBI agent in charge of the case, wrote the book with Ed Palattella, a local journalist who covered the story. The story is told mainly  through Clark's eyes. Soon, we learn of Marge Diehl-Armstrong, a mentally ill yet highly intelligent woman who already got away with killing a man, and Bill Rothstein, also highly intelligent. Along with other accomplices, and motivated by greed, they implement their plan. It take Clark almost a decade with help from a persistent ATF agent to unravel the story and bring the guilty to justice.

The writers tell the story in a well written way with some suspense. Readers unravel the case as Clark does. Initially, when Diehl-Armstrong was introduced, I wondered what it had to do with anything. We eventually learn Diehl-Armstrong was really running the scheme. However, between her high intelligence, her mental condition, and loud mouth, she is able to deceive and confound Clark for a while. Eventually, investigators' perseverance pays off, and the case is solved. The writing is engaging and draws you in. The only negative to this book is toward the end when Diehl-Armstrong testifies in her own defense at trial. We get a good sampling of her mad rantings that are painful to read. I pitied her defense attorneys having to put up with her.

Overall, the book was interesting and mostly well written. It does include a set of photos. Readers of true crime books will likely enjoy it. The story was picked up by Netflix and made into the documentary Evil Genius. Folks who saw the documentary may be interested in the book too. I really liked it and recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars.