Friday, October 20, 2017

Reading about the reading life: October 20, 2017 edition

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



Let's see what has been going on in reading, books, and literacy recently: 

  • According to NPD Bookscan, comics and graphic novels are experiencing growth in the book market. It also indicates there is growth in  women buying comics and graphic novels. 
  • Open Culture has a story on Napoleon's traveling library
  • Gustavo Arellano resigns from OC Weekly. Why is this significant? "Arellano was the rare Latino editor-in-chief among American alt weeklies. In fact, he was the rare Latino leader at any English-language news organization — period." The owners of OC Weekly seem to be claiming bad economy kind of stuff, but this may be questionable. Story via The Los Angeles Times
  • Via The Paris Review, a piece on finding books "by accident." Piece starts out a little stuffy when the author goes over some old literary serious book she found and stakes her claim that "I never go all the way and read real mass-market crap" (which is the kind of somewhat snobbish attitude The Paris Review often offers), but it then warms up when it talks about the experience in general of finding those books by accident in places like used bookstores  or thrift shops. So, literary or "mass-market crap" or anything else, any readers here have any happy book finds, books found by accident? The comments are open.
  • At Cooking With Ideas, the question of whether to use a cookbook or use Google to find your recipes  is the way to go. And what about cooking magazines?
  • Via Signature, a small list of 5 charming southern bookstores
  • I knew it: book clubs are just excuses for schmoozing and boozing it up, even in the 1700s. Via Atlas Obscura
  • This came out a while ago, but I thought it  was of interest. It is an article out of The New York Times on college summer reading books. You know, those books some of us hate that colleges make their incoming students read every year for a "bonding experience" and are more than likely soon forgotten by said students. Here is another similar article on the same topic, this time via Inside Higher Ed.
  • Dangerous Minds featured piece looking at old PAN paperbacks.



Booknote: Grocery

Michael Ruhlman, Grocery: the Buying and Selling of Food in America. New York, NY: Abrams Press, 2017.  ISBN: 978-1-4197-2386-5.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: memoir, food, business, history
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


This book features some history of grocery stores in the United States, but that is not the main focus. The book looks more at American food buying and how those habits have changed over time, especially since the time of Ruhlman's father, who enjoyed grocery shopping. In addition, in order to look more closely at grocery operations, the author focuses on Heinen's, an Ohio-based Midwestern midsize grocery  chain.

For the most part, it is an interesting book. I found the historical passages interesting, and I wished there were some more of those. The book is more a bit of memoir, social study, and a look at Heinen's. In fact, the author may have spent a bit too much time at Heinen's. After a while, the book feels more like an extended infomercial for the grocery chain, and that takes away from the book's overall narrative and content.

Another interesting element is discussion of some of the "tricks" grocers may do. For instance, having the milk all the way in the back. Folks, including grocery experts, claim it is to make you go through the grocery store, hoping you buy other things you may not need. Grocers like Heinen's claim that the refrigerators and freezers are along the back wall where they can be plugged in and stocked easier. OK, but do note how some stores recently do put some milk in smaller units in the front for customer convenience. Given that grocers like Heinen's claim they are highly responsive to customer desire (that can be debated some other time), it seems enough annoyed people got other stores to stock some milk where you can get it, pay and leave.

Staying with the theme, when grocers like Heinen's and others are asked about why they sell food that may or not be as good for you, they say it is because the customer wants it. It may be their honest answer, but I find it a bit flippant and easy. If customers started asking for arsenic-laced cookies, I am sure they would refuse to sell them (although that is more likely due to a fear of lawsuits than any morals). The point is when an author asks why food retailers get so much more scrutiny than other retailers, the answer is clear: they sell food, something essential that is not really optional. So yes, scrutinizing our food supply is crucial. In fact, we do not do enough of that.

Overall, I liked the book, but I felt it could have been more than what it was. If you are looking for a straight up history of groceries and grocery stores, this is not it. It does work well as a memoir and a look at groceries in the later part of the 20th century into today.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 
Additional reading notes:

Why grocery stores and supermarkets are significant:

"Because they are a reflection, even symbol, of our culture, and thus a gauge of who we are, supermarkets illuminate what we care about, what we fear, what we desire. They offer a view of our demographic makeup, including how  much money we have and how big the country is, not to mention how much it is changing" (2). 

A big event from 1988 mentioned in the book and that I recall: Walmart gets into the food business, and it opens its first Walmart Supercenter.

The book does feature footnotes throughout and a selected bibliography at the end of the book. From that bibliography, the following books are ones I may consider reading down the road. Book links go to WorldCat:


* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:







Friday, October 13, 2017

Booknote: Blitzed

Norman Ohler, Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.  ISBN: 9781328663795. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

The full title of the book made it sound more interesting than it actually is. The book is arranged broadly in three parts:a period before the Second World War, a close look at German armed forces and also a close look at Adolf Hitler, and the end of the war when it all falls apart. This was a time when pharmaceutical industries  were rising. The book provides a look at the role and influence of drugs, mainly prescribed meth in  the form of  drugs like Pervitin, had on the German armed forces and on Hitler.

In the early half of the 20th century, many drugs like opiates we consider or rate as illegal were commonly available, easily found in drug stores, and casually prescribed if they needed prescription. Companies like Merck were rising on the way to become the big pharma players of today. The book does provide a nice picture of the pharma industry in the early half of the 20th century. There was an  interest then in performance enhancing drugs for workers and the military. That is where drugs like Pervitin came in. Soon military leaders made sure the German armed forces were well supplied with these drugs. Such drugs enabled the soldiers to work longer, fight longer, and be more aggressive and eager about it. Just one detail: not everyone was sure about possible side effects.

The book then spends a significant amount of space with Hitler and Dr. Morrell, his personal physician. Though the Nazis preached ideals of health and clean living, reality was way different. Drug use was rampant; often it was the one thing that kept the soldiers fighting. As for Hitler, his drug use worsened as he needed drugs to keep carrying out his evil agenda.

Overall, it is an interesting book in parts, but it can get repetitive at times. For me, the best parts were the broad looks at society and the pharmaceutical industry. Other parts were a bit of a drag to read. In the end, the book provides a look at the Third Reich from a perspective seldom explored, so there is the value. It was OK for me in the end.

2 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Friday, October 06, 2017

Booknote: Mincemeat

Leonardo Lucarelli, Mincemeat: the Education of an Italian Chef. New York: Other Press, 2016.  ISBN: 978-1590517918.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: memoir, chefs, cooking
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


I recently finished reading this. . . barely. The author has been compared to Anthony Bourdain, which is part of why I picked up this book. Let me warn you not to be fooled. Apparently, being a drug addict, a womanizer, a thief at times, and often an asshole can all be forgiven if you can cook decently enough.

Bourdain and Lucarelli can both be dicks, but I do not recall Bourdain actively stealing from places he worked at. Also, Bourdain after a while learns some humility, albeit the hard way, and he displays a degree of  humanity that you will not see in Lucarelli's book. Lucarelli makes bad choice after bad choice, barely redeeming himself because he has the ability to cook. Other than that, there just isn't much substance to this book, at least until he settles down a bit to teach and consult, but by then the book is over, and you could not care less about the guy.

This seems to be a trend in chef memoirs: it does not matter how big of an asshole or poor human being you are, as long as you can cook fancy food, you can get away with it if there are people willing to pay for it. Very few can do it well, and Lucarelli is not one of them. You get tired of his antics, and the asshole schtick wears out pretty fast. The book is jut not really compelling. This is a book to skip.

1 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Friday, September 29, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: September 29, 2017

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



 I was going to take a short break from doing this feature, mostly because I am trying to keep my mental sanity. But much like Michael Corleone, "just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." A lot fuckery and many signs that the economy is bad have emerged this week, so here we are for at least one more installment.

  • That racist troll asshole Milo Whatshisname was going to be part of some bigots' hate fest free speech rally at Berkeley recently. The organizers cancelled the event, but he decided to show up anyhow. Being the firebrand (sorry for the euphemism) he is, the campus had to have additional security, and for the 15 minutes he was there, he left a cost of $800,000. $800K for a campus experiencing budget cuts overall in the bad economy. The cost of "free speech." Story via Al Jazeera
  • A new study is out confirming what many of us already know: yes, corporate money does influence politics. Learn more from this story via In These Times. A link to the actual study is included. Once more I am reminded of George Carlin speaking on the "real owners." 
  • While some people are whining over football players protesting racial inequality, game fans in New England had another issue to complain about: the stadium ran out of bottled water and began charging $5 bucks for tap water (yes, for the stuff that should be free). Story via The Lexington Herald Leader
  • In news of the stupid, Rapper B.o.B. believes the Earth is flat. Now, that is not the stupidest thing. That would be the fund raiser he has going to fund a satellite to launch into space in an attempt to prove his laughable ignorant stupidity. Want even more stupid? He has a few other "celebrities" who support his belief. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader
  • In new opportunities, you can now get a degree in Marijuana Studies (it is actually in medicinal plant chemistry, but you get the idea). Story via Big Think.  
  • The plight of exploited adjunct professors is in the spotlight again as new revelations show many are so poor and vulnerable they sleep in their cars and even turn to sex work to make ends meet. Story via Alternet.
  • Meanwhile, in Stony Brook, New York it seems they are balancing the university budget by cutting back tenure lines and laying off tenure line professors in humanities. Meanwhile, they are adding tenure track folks in STEM. You know, that whole do what the market tells you to do thing. Story via Inside Higher Ed. I bet these people would get along with Kentucky governor Matt Bevin just fine. 
  • Meanwhile, rural students are the least likely in the United States to go to college. Story via The Rural Blog
  • Meanwhile, textbook prices often mean poor grades for those who cannot afford them. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
  • I have often said in half jest that librarianship, especially reference work, is a lot like being a confessor. However, I did not mean I wanted to take poverty vows, as the Annoyed Librarian suggests that our profession seems to advocate. 
  • Here is more proof that women often get the short end of the stick in the bad economy. Turns out even parents are sexist as they tend to save more for college for a son versus for a daughter. Story via Inside Higher Ed
  • And what can we blame Millennials for this week? Actually, this week it is more how badly screwed Millennials are. The next hot trend for them is seasonal work in exploitative warehouses like those owned by Amazon. Story via VICE
  • Plus, as if things were not bad enough, finding decent coffee may get more difficult over time. Story via VICE
Meanwhile, let's see how the uber rich have been doing:

  • American seniors are getting healthier and richer while they leave the poor behind. Story via The Conversation
  • Ever wonder how Walmart makes money by pricing things like milk and eggs at very cheap prices? This small video explains it. Via Wimp.com.
  • The asshole CEO of Equifax recently resigned after it was revealed his company was hacked and made a ton of people suddenly vulnerable in terms of credit and finances. Naturally, because this is the United States, he not only was allowed to resign instead of going to prison like any other racketeer would, but he also left with a $90 million dollars golden parachute. Story via Boing Boing
  • Apple is releasing the new iPhone X, and it is apparently a bit steep in price at close to $1,000. Apple's Tim Cook has an answer to people concerned about the price. Shut up and stop whining. Story via  Mashable.


Reading about the reading life: September 29, 2017 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).




It has been a while since I have posted in this series, but the bad economy has kept me a bit busy in terms of blogging. The big news this week was the devastation Hurricane Maria caused in the Caribbean, especially in Puerto Rico where the damage is catastrophic. So far, what little I have heard is that family is safe, but it is hard being up in the U.S. and only getting silence from the island. Meanwhile, the show must go on, and I will my best to distract a bit from the news of the week and look at some lighter fare.

  • Via Working Knowledge, a profile of pencil maker Faber-Castell. There is a podcast you can listen to, or you can read the transcript. Learn a bit how they keep innovating on something that seems so plain and basic as pencils. 
  • So do you think you could stop Hitler from rising to power? Or if you are a fascist, do you think you can get him into power without liberals realizing it until it is too late? Secret Hitler is a new board game that simulates such questions. The game is part of a tradition of games where players try to identify a "traitor" in their midst. Story via The New York Times. "
  • B.D. McClay at The Week reflects on authors that get labeled as "forgotten." They may or not really be forgotten, but apparently if you have a so-so author, label them "forgotten to get them some attention. Personally, I think there is a reason some authors do get forgotten, and they should probably stay that way. 
  • Find out what happens when someone opens a bookstore that only features people of color authors. Story via Good.Is.
  • Meanwhile, in Kingston, New York they are opening a bookstore that also sells craft brews. So you can buy a book and get a beer. Story via Daily Freeman.
  • In some entertainment news, Maury Povich recently stated that he sees his paternity test shows as Shakespearean dramas. He says, "there is love. There is lust. There is betrayal. There is conflict." On that basis, I do not think he is far from the truth. Story via VICE. Let me tell you what he should do next, in my humble opinion. You know those white supremacists bigots who take DNA tests in hopes of proving how white and pure they are (only to find out they are not). Do those DNA tests on the show. "Cletus, you claim to be 100% white. The DNA test revealed that is a lie!" That's good drama that would make The Bard proud. 
  • The bad economy is a problem for you? You want to read, but your book budget is tight or nonexistent? Book Riot offers you some ideas on how to be a book lover on a budget.
  • In some encouraging news, 8 out of 10 adults still see libraries as credible sources of information. Story via Signature.
  • Also via Signature, John Hennessey discusses writing graphic novels and teaching history with  them. 
  • Meanwhile, it is getting harder for writers of political thriller fiction to ply their trade because the Pendejo In Chief keeps upstaging them in real life. Story via Vox
  • Here is a little book humor for my Spanish language friends, 5 habits that show you are a book addict. Via Lecturalia.
  • And finally for this week, Hillary Clinton's book had a great debut in terms of sales. Story also via Vox.




Booknote: Two cute board books

Jennifer Adams, et.al., Emma: an Emotions Primer. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2015.  ISBN: 978-1-4236-4023-3.

Jennifer Adams, et.al., Treasure Island: a Shapes Primer. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4236-4020-2.


Genre: children's books
Subgenre: board books, educational, classic literature
Format: board books
Source: Won contest giveaway offered by publisher

I recently took a look and read these two board books from the publisher. It is a cute pair of children's board books that I won in a contest a while back.

The Emma book is "an emotions primer." It uses characters from the classic novel to illustrate basic emotions like excited, surprised, angry, and amused. The art is cute, simple, and very colorful using solid colors.

The Treasure Island book is a "shapes primer." It uses characters and locations from the classic novel to teach children about shapes like squares, stars, ovals, and
diamonds. Like the other book, it has nice art.

Both books are nice, simple, and bright. They are cute items to start your kids reading early and give them a bit of classic literature in the process.

4 out of 5 stars.

These books qualify for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



Friday, September 22, 2017

Booknote: The Fountain Tarot (Guidebook)

Jason Gruhl, The Fountain Tarot (guidebook). Boulder, CO: Roost Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781611805482. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley


This is going to be a short review since the publisher did not provide much. While I was not expecting a copy of the deck or such, I was hoping for a bit more than what is in essence a "little white book." So this review will be short.

This is pretty much the guidebook that the publisher includes with the deck. Upon reading it, I was not terribly impressed. The book looks like any other Tarot guidebook I have read, and the meanings are fairly basic and conventional. In other words, I fail to see from the book how this deck and/or its guidebook would distinguish itself from other decks out there or their guidebook. Since they only provided the book via NetGalley without any art or illustrations to go by, I cannot judge anything other than the text provided, and on that basis, I simply cannot recommend this book.

I will note that I have seen images of the deck, and they look pretty good. But as I noted, the only artifact provided was an electronic copy of the guidebook's text, and to be honest, it is pretty lackluster.

1 out of 5 stars.

Booknote: Television Series of the 1960s

Vincent Terrace, Television Series of the 1960s: Essential Facts and Quirky Details. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4422-6834-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: reference, television, trivia, pop culture
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


This is a reference book about trivia of 1960s television shows. If you watched TV during this decade, or like me caught the reruns in syndication later, you'll remember these were some of the most loved and popular shows of American television. They were so popular that they keep providing fodder for remakes and movie adaptations, often with  bad results. There is something to be said for not messing with classics.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Short introduction where the author describes how the book was put together. 
  • 82 individual entries arranged alphabetically. 
  • An index that is basically actor's names. There is also an additional thematic index, which may be more valuable. 
As the author states, this book does not have essays or opinions. It is just a collection of facts and trivia about the shows. The book covers programs that premiered from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969. The author notes that shows that premiered in the 1950s and were still running in first run in the 1960s are not included. Some examples of shows not included are Bonanza, The Donna Reed Show, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, and Zorro. The author focuses on really trivial facts, not so much things you could find in places like imdb.com. You get things like street addresses, names of pets, and other details that other sources often miss. A fascinating thing for me is show producers, intentionally or not, could be very inconsistent. Street addresses and car license plates often change without reason, sometimes even in midseason.

So how did the author compile all this? He acquired and watched every available episode of each show. And not every show is featured in the book; it depends on what information is available. A show like Dr. Kildare, very popular in its time, is not included in the book because there  is not enough available material to make an entry. In the end, the book is a selective compilation that often documents details not found elsewhere.

This is a book to browse at your leisure. For shows I knew, it was nice to go down memory lane and recall details. I also learned about some shows I did not know before. Entries are pretty basic, just the facts. There are a few black and white photos, but overall the book is minimally illustrated. For television buffs, this may be a good option. I'd say public libraries may wish to consider it. Academic libraries with strong pop culture programs may see it as an optional selection.

In the end, I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars

This  book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Booknote: Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon

David Liss, et.al., The Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781524103385.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: adventure, super heroes, detective
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley


This volume collects issues 1-4 of this series. Britt Reid has changed careers. He sold the newspaper to go into the new business of radio. Meanwhile, as the Green Hornet, he has mostly dismantled the Chicago mob. However, a  new villain, Demone, who is very well prepared for Green Hornet, rises to fill the void. As if things were not bad enough, a new vigilante, The Swashbuckler, appears, and The Sentinel newspaper has a new eager beaver reporter pestering Britt. There is a lot going on.

The story picks up right away. If you have not read this comic before, you get enough exposition to get you caught up, making the comic accessible to new readers. The comic's story combines intrigue and mystery with plenty of action. The story builds up the tension well as questions arise: who really is Demone? is the new police commissioner corrupt or not? and other questions. Some questions get answered by the end, but are also left with a cliffhanger that sets up the next part of the story arc.

We also get good, colorful art that brings the story to life. The characters look very good in this one.

Overall, I really liked this volume. Fans of the Green Hornet will be pleased. It's a good choice for libraries with graphic novel collections, especially if they want something other than the usual DC and Marvel comics fare.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Booknote: X-O Manowar, Volume 1:Soldier

Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 1: Soldier. New York: Valiant Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781682152058.

Genre: comics and graphic  novels
Subgenre: adventure, science fiction
Format: e-galley
Source; NetGalley


This was a cool discovery for me from the folks at Valiant Comics. Aric of Dacia lived during the times of the Roman Empire on Earth. He was a warrior, so great a warrior than an alien race noticed his skill in war. The aliens kidnap him and made him into a slave. He escapes and then bonds with the X-O Manowar armor, a powerful weapon. He returns to Earth, but by now, it is our present time. That's the background. Our story opens years later. Aric has a new quiet life in a farm in some far off world, a new mate, and is trying to forget his past. However, war is not done with him. An alien army conscripts him, and he becomes a soldier once more, a fearsome one.

This comic grabs you from the start. There is a text prologue to give you the basics, and then we jump right into Aric's new life. Peace does not last long for him. Once he gets drafted, the fast pace and action do not stop. It is a fast and entertaining read with a good story. The strong art brings the story to life with good detail and color.

This is one to pick up. It is a comics title that is easy to get into, a rarity these days. It also recalls the spirit of adventure tales like Conan the Barbarian. If you enjoy that, you will likely enjoy this too. A pity this volume only had the first three issues. I wanted to keep on reading, so I will be seeking the rest of the series out.

This is a good selection for libraries with graphic novel collections.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:





Friday, September 15, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: September 15, 2017 edition

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



I leave you alone for a couple of weeks, and serious mayhem breaks out from eclipses to hurricanes. So let's see what has been happening in the bad economy for this week.

Let's start with the hurricanes. Sure, places like Houston and Florida had been hit hard, not to mention the devastation in the Caribbean. However, the hurricanes themselves are not a sign of the bad economy. Here are your bad economy hurricane signs:

  • Houston was hit seriously hard. I have a soft spot for the city because I lived and worked there for a few years. I still have some friends there. They are fortunate. Many Houstonians lost their homes and all they owned. This included renters. So, what did the landlords do? They decided to demand rent anyhow on properties that were under water (literally) or completely gone from people who lost everything, even the shirts off their backs. In a nutshell, greedy fuckery. This reminded me of this ("fuck you, pay me." Link to video clip) Story  via Countercurrent News
  • Here is more fuckery out of Houston. This is the Christian edition. Joel Osteen, paster of the notorious megachurch in Houston, decided he wanted to keep his church clean and pristine, so he kept it close despite, well, being a church that one would think serve as sanctuary. His initial excuse was that it flooded. He was called out on that lie when people actually verified it was not. Eventually the social media shaming was so bad  he finally allowed his tax shelter to be an actual shelter for the needy. You would think the story ends there. Oh, you would be wrong. He had to make up somehow, so when those needy people were in  the church, people who lost everything, he decided to pass around the collection plate to them. Story via Countercurrent News
  • Naturally the Pendejo In Chief put an appearance in Houston, and he was peddling hats. Hey, this is America: you got to find ways to make a buck even at the expense of others' misery. Story via Crooks and Liars.
  • Speaking of exploiting vulnerable people, Delta Airlines decided to jack up their flight rates out of Houston. You know, a little price gouging. Story via Alternet.
  • In another case of "fuck you, pay me," the IMF pretty much  told Barbados that even though  the island is devastated. Story via Courthouse News.
In other signs the economy is bad:


In higher education news:



And how are the uber rich doing?
  • In shitty rich hipster ideas, two guys who used to work for Google want to put New York City bodegas out of business. How? With vending machines they are calling "Bodega." Because not only are they being dicks at targeting the businesses, they do so shamelessly by appropriating their name. Story via Daily Intelligencer.
  • If cheap toothpaste is not your thing, maybe you want to consider $17 toothpaste. Story via Boing Boing.
  • And if you are uber rich, you want to sleep in comfort. Nice bed sheets are a good for a comfy bed, and recently, you could save $20 on a nice set of organic cotton bed sheets. Story via Boing Boing
  • Speaking of organic and other fancy labels, you can now also find gluten free water. Story via The Conversation
  • The Pendejo In Chief's golf clubs are doing very well as lobbyists have paid millions to join them. They would not be seeking any special access or anything, would they? Nah. Story via VICE.
  • And speaking of  politicians, keeping the appearance of being uber rich is often a concern. The struggle is real, so some of them resort to a little theft. Now, how do you avoid getting caught pilfering your government's own funds? Pro tip: Maybe try not to buy a tuxedo for your dog. Story via Esquire.
  • Finally for this week: If you are into BDSM and fetish, and you got some money to burn, maybe you want some custom made wooden furniture for spankings and floggings. Some models start at $5,000. Story via VICE.



Booknote: Book of All-Time Stupidest Top 10 Lists

Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras,  The Stupidest Things Ever Said: Book of All-Time Stupidest Top Ten Lists. New York: Workman Publishing, 2011.  ISBN: 978-0-7611-6591-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: humor, pop culture, lists, stupidity
Format: trade paperback
Source: I own this one. One of the last books I bought at Hastings before the company closed. 

This is basically a compilation of lists from the authors who put together the Stupidest Things Ever Said series. They've taken many of the statements they have compiled and put them into these lists. Some of the featured list topics include:

  • Actual book titles
  • Moments in live broadcasting
  • Lost in translation moments
  • Typically bureaucratic definitions
The result is a book that is amusing overall, but it does vary in quality. I did smile and even laugh at certain moments. I also found a few lists that seemed more forced. Quality and humor varied a bit as I read the book.

Overall, this is one of those books to read when you need something light to read. It is not a bad book for bathroom reading. In the end, I liked it. I did buy it used, but it may be more one to borrow.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:








Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Booknote: Homies

David Gonzales and Elliot Serrano, Homies. Runnemede, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781524103804. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, Latino, Chicanos
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley

This comic volume is a compilation of stories about the Chicano homies living in Barrio Quien Sabe of East L.A. This comic was popular in the 1990s, and this is a new set of stories written by the comic's creator. This work certainly makes me want to seek the previous comics. This volume was a great read.

The four stories in the volume are:

  • Hollywood, the ever bachelor, decides finally to tie the knot with Gata. Mayhem ensues. 
  • The local community center is getting a seriously bad budget cut, so the homies put together a lucha libre match for charity. 
  • La Llorona has appeared. Who has summoned her?
  • Finally, read the story  of the barrio's best car mechanic, who is quite the illegal alien. 
The stories combine oddball humor, heartwarming moments, mucho corazón, and even a bit of wonder. There are moving moments and plenty of laughter inducing situations. I really enjoyed reading this one, and I read it in one sitting as it just drew me in. 

The art is another great reason to pick up this volume. It captures the culture and characters of the barrio quite well. The art makes the comic feel authentic. It is also very colorful. For instance, I loved the art on the lucha poster. 

Another interesting detail is the narration. The narrator talks to the reader as if you are an old friend not seen for a while returning to el barrio. It makes you feel warm and welcome. 

Overall, it is a great read I recommend. 

5 out of 5 stars. 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: 




 

Friday, September 08, 2017

Booknote: Tears We Cannot Stop


Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2017.  ISBN: 978-1-250-13599-5.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: African American studies, Black politics, social studies, social justice, racism, race relations
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

Up front, I have to say this is probably a book the campus faculty reading group needs to read and discuss instead of yet another academic treatise. The sad thing about that is that it would be preaching to the choir, and this book needs to be read widely, especially  by White Americans who seriously need to get a clue about the Black experience in the United States. Given the racial tensions rising and the emboldening of bigots due to the Pendejo In Chief regime, this book is definitely timely.

Dyson combines deeply and often moving personal experiences with solid arguments and a call for major change in the United States. The book is arranged in the form of a church service (Protestant church; keep in mind that Dyson is an ordained minister). This structure allows him to do exposition, a call, and then the sermon where he lays it all out. In essence, Dyson is telling White people the things they need to hear and ought to know. The time for ignorance, innocent or more likely willful, is over once one reads this book.

The book can be a pretty heavy read at times, and at times things can look seriously bleak. Yet like a good sermon, you can find a small ray of hope at the end, but readers do have to do some work after the service. Among his solutions, he offers a different idea on the old concept of "reparations." It is worth a look.

As reader, I  found myself nodding in agreement at times. I was also moved, and there were moments of despair at the bleak picture the book presents at times. Yet I came out having learned more. I am trying to keep a bit optimistic in these hard times, but I admit books like these, necessary as they are, do not make it easy. In the end, I really liked it. I recommend it, and I hope more people read it.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes: 

Why the book is unlike his other social analysis books and why he uses the form of a sermon:

"What I need to say can only be said as a sermon. I have no shame in that confession, because confession and repentance, and redemption play a huge role in how we can make it through the long night of despair to the bright day of hope" (6). 

Dyson points out that whiteness is not a solo act. It has a supporting cast, and one of the biggest supporters is the field of American history, which is not as objective as we are led to believe:

"But the truth is that what so often passes for American history is really a record of white priorities or conquests set down as white achievement. That version of American history is a sprawling, bewildering chronicle, relentlessly revised. It ignores or downplays a variety of peoples, cultures, religions, and regions, all to show that history is as objective and as curious and as expansive as the white imagination allows" (52). 

The above quote is also a great case for why you should read widely and diversely.

Next we get the answer to whiny poor whites who exclaim their whiteness offers them no privilege:

"It has been striking, too, to observe whites for whom their whiteness isn't a passport to riches, whites for whom whiteness offers no material reward. But there is a psychological and social advantage in not being thought of as black; poor whites seem to say, 'At least there's a nigger beneath me.' And it's a way for poor whites to be of value to richer whites, especially when poor whites agree that black folk are the source of their trouble-- not the corporate behavior of wealthier elites who hurt black and white folk alike. It's a way to bond beyond class. It's a way for working class whites to experience momentary prestige in the eyes of richer whites. And there are a lot of privileges that white folk get that don't depend on cash. The greatest one may be getting stopped by a cop and living to talk about it" (66).

The above quote reminds me of three things:

  • LBJ's quote: "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." (confirmed by Snopes he did say it). 
  • Lawrence Fishburne's character's speech on gentrification in Boyz in the Hood (reminded for a different reason; link to YouTube clip). 
  • Twitter accounts like @trump_regrets

Defining white fragility, something we are seeing a lot more of lately:

"White fragility is the belief that even the slightest pressure is seen by white folk as battering, as intolerable, and can provoke anger, fear, and yes, even guilt. White fragility, as conceived by antiracist activist and educational theorist  Robin DiAngelo, at times leads folks to argue, to retreat into silence, or simply to exit a stressful situation" (98). 

To help folks get better educated, Dyson does offer a very extensive reading list in the "Benediction" chapter. 


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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: 




Monday, September 04, 2017

Booknote: Live Through This

Clay Cane, Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race. Jersey City, NJ: Cleis  Press, 2017.  ISBN: 978-1-62778-218-0.

Find it in your nearest library via WorldCat.
You can also buy a copy from the publisher.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: essays, LGBT, pop culture, race, religion, politics, identity, memoir
Format: e-book
Source: review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I recently finished reading this moving book, and I have to say it left me with much to think about. This is Clay Cane's memoir of growing up and becoming a man as a gay and African American male. The book looks at sexuality, love, race, religion, and how those areas intersect. The book is arranged in five major parts. Each part contains a series of essay chapters. Right away, I found it an easy book to read, and once I started I could not put it down.

The author starts life with his White mother in the Pacific Northwest, and then she sends him to live with his Black father in Philadelphia, in part so he can learn what he needs to know as a Black man. His father is a typical strong macho male who needless to say is not pleased with his son's orientation, but the author survives that and more to go on and become a writer, documentarian, and journalist. His writing gives us a view beyond our comfort zone combining personal memoir with very insightful analysis. His writing ranges from humorous to sad to campy to heartbreaking and inspirational. He covers a lot of ground, and he goes from one range to the next with ease. Personally, I found the writing very accessible and moving; he has a tone of writing that makes you feel like you are right there with him. There is a powerful sense of humanity in this book that folks need to read and experience.

This is a very timely book given current events. It is the kind of non-academic book that I think we should be reading here in the college in classes as well as for faculty reading groups. Cane battles with religion, identity, race, so many issues of our time. He is the odd one that we want to root for, and he is minority fighting for his voice and his place. Additionally, his commentary and insights are very relevant to our time. He tells it like it is in a candid and open way. By the way, I highlighted a lot of sentences in the book and took small notes, which for me is always a good sign for an engaging book.

This is one that is a must-read and a must have. I recommend it for public libraries. Academic libraries, especially ones with good LGBTQ and gender studies programs, need to add this to their collections if they have not done so already.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

An early thought and an important one on mothers:

"When your mother loves you, when your mother affirms you, no one else matters" (11). 

Why is Clay Cane gay? You can blame it on Prince, according to him:

"He triggered my sexuality. Yes, Prince officially made me gay. Blame it on Prince" (15).

That line made me smile. I loved Prince back then, and perhaps I love him more even now. I have a feeling he triggered a lot of sexualities back in his prime.

Cane writes more on why music is important, especially for the poor and marginalized:

"Poverty shames, and when you have no agency to express your rage, music is often your only outlet" (16). 

A detail that caught my eye is Cane's relationship with Nikki, who takes the time to explain to him concepts like femme queens and transgender. She would explain things to him with generosity and patience, not making a big deal out of it. There are not many people like that out there.

On the connection between poverty, race, class, and sexual orientation:

"Clearly, homophobic attacks occur in every racial demographic of the LGBT community, but the connections between poverty, race, class, and sexual orientation are often overlooked, especially by heterosexuals who think of a gay black man as weak. Gay black men are deal the blow of unachievable standards of manhood. Therefore, the double consciousness of blackness and gayness often manifest into rage, especially when pushed by antagonizers who believe you are a sissy, punk, or faggot" (24).

I am reminded a bit of Martin Luther King's quote, "a riot is the language of the unheard." As I read, I also see that Cane writes in the tradition of writers like Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright.

A not-so-small reminder, and one that I wish were not true but in the end, the fight goes on:

"The fight never really ends, it just takes on new opponents" (45). 

Here is something to think about, the melting pot is not all that:

"As LGBT people sink into the melting pot of heterosexual America, vital areas of our community that represented non-conformity dissolve in the political, anti-sexual, and anti-expression mix" (50). 

Hip hop is often known for being anti-LGBT, and yet, for Cane, it was music he loved and found that it shamed him:

"However, LGBT identity and hip-hop are not mutually exclusive. I am still a black man grappling with police brutality, a crumbling education system, lack of jobs, and the struggle of day-to-day survival. The music of the streets simultaneously loved and shamed me" (56). 

A lesson we need to be teaching our boys. I certainly did not get that lesson back in my day and had to learn it along the way: 

"It takes years of work to remember, believe, and own that your sexuality does not make you less or more of a man. Existing as who you truly are makes you the greatest man you can be, regardless of sexual orientation. If only men were taught this as little boys" (63). 

All forms of oppression are linked, and this is another lesson that various oppressed groups who fight for their freedom need to understand. It is not right to advocate for just yours while you put others down on account of your prejudices. A few years ago I attended a church service in a church where a certain famous black civil rights leader preached.  Today, their current minister is more than happy to preach homophobia in the name of his deity, and his black congregation is fine with that. To me, at least, that is not right. Cane writes:

"The truth is, all forms of oppression--sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism-- have a link. You cannot advocate for an end to racism but still be a proponent of homophobia" (73).
In fact, Cane goes on to point out that the black church may been a beacon for African Americans back in the day, so to speak, but it may be losing its relevance:

"The black church provided safe spaces for black Americans to gather without the presence of whites. That said, today, I believe that many-- not all-- sectors of the black church are losing relevance and compassion and are steeped in oppression" (154).

And he goes further on the black churches, and again, I am reminded of that sermon I heard a few years back on that one famous black church:

"It is one of the most poisonous aspects of our community. One would be shocked how much the agendas of some black churches have in common with conservative, racist groups-- on issues of sexuality, gender, identity, and interracial relationships. Some black churches have uncomfortable bedfellows rooted in oppression. Don't be appalled if your homophobic church marches at an anti-gay marriage rally and a good old boy from Alabama is walking right next to the reverend and his wife. Yes, anti-gay beliefs are funded by whites, but there is a common denominator that links racist whites and homophobic blacks--religion. These were not the ideas of African religions, but a direct result of Eurocentric Christianity" (156).

Here is another life lesson:

"You discover the most about a person after you learn what they've survived" (88). 

The book brings in all sorts of epiphanies, lessons, stories overall.

Cane even speaks of the undocumented immigrant worker experience. He worked some of those fields with his mother too. It was not because he was undocumented; they needed the work:

"Whenever I hear the term undocumented workers, I think of the hardworking, complaint-free, and dedicated people on those berry plantations. They did the work other Washingtonians would never agree to in their worst nightmares and suffered terrible treatment from the plantation owners" (109).

And don't discount white poor people. Granted many of them fall in line with right wing bigoted politics, but not all:

"In reality, I've had more in common, felt more sincerity, and engaged in more nuanced discussions about race with poor whites than with rich, privileged, and sheltered black Americans" (116). 


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This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:




Friday, September 01, 2017

Reading about the reading life: September 1, 2017 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).




 It has been a while since I've done one of these posts. I think we got some interesting things this week, so let's have a look: 

  • There is a bookstore in Moscow, Russia where you can learn more about Chinese culture. Story via Sputnik News.  
  • Here is a look at Kuala Lampur's second largest second hand bookstore. The kind of place I could get lost in. Story via The Malay Mail.
  • A piece on the prolific Timothy Lea, writer of "dirty books." Ah, the good old times of the 1970s. He was well known for his "Confessions of. . . " series. Story via Dangerous Minds
  • Do you keep a notebook or work journal? I am referring to a notebook you carry around for daily notes, so on. What do you do when you fill it up? What do you transfer over to a new notebook? If you struggle with  that question, here are some suggestions of what to transfer to your new notebook. Via Quo Vadis blog. 
  • The New Republic has a piece asking if the Pendejo In Chief is ruining book sales. Go read it to find out. I thought this was an interesting piece overall. 
  • The Washington Post has yet another lament about the "death of reading." Big whoop.
  • However, rest reassured that reading is not dying. Robert Klose tells of how he became a reader in this piece from The Christian Science Monitor
  • This is not so much literacy or books or such, but I found it interesting. National Public Radio (NPR) looks at the world of Pyrex collectibles. Yes old Pyrex, as in made in the U.S. before it sold out to China, is highly durable. Your parents had it. My mom had a few (no idea what happened to them though). Now they are highly collectible, and not just to gather dust. Some people are still cooking with them. 
  • The Atlantic has a piece on men who pretend to be women, or rather take female pseudonyms, to write books. It is often to write thrillers and crime fiction that appeal to the women's market. This is not per se, but it is an interesting piece. 
  • The New York Times recently featured an interview with Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress.
  • Via The Millions, a look at the trend of "sexy backs and headless women" in female literature books. 
  • On some good news for library users, at least in New York and Los Angeles, if you are a library card holder for those places, and you like good films, you can now stream films from the Criterion Collection with your library card. Story via FactMag.
  • Atlas Obscura has a look at the history of those vanity books I have no idea who the hell buys, the Who's Who books.
  • The New York Times reports that Spanish is thriving in the United States.
  • On another historical note, The New York Times reports on the closing of The Buenos Aires Herald. During the years of dictatorship in Argentina, that newspaper stood up to the regime and reported on disappearances and other crimes. The bad economy did what the dictatorship could not: get it to close down.