Alchemical Thoughts

Archive for June 2016

I have to say that I do not really watch much live television these days. Now I do not want to sound like one of those hipsters who brag about not owning a television set. I like watching television. The problem is that there are not many shows I find appealing or engaging, and the few that I do I just record on the DVR to watch later. That leads me to the other reason I am watching less television: the fucking, seemingly never ending commercials. It’s bad enough you have to pay for cable, and you still get a ton of advertising. That is the nice thing about the DVR; you can zip right through the ads. These days television is more advertising than content. Now some may say I should cut the cord and stream stuff. But honestly, “watching TV” on my computer is not terribly appealing. Heck, I can barely stand watching YouTube for any long stretch of time, which by the way is starting to get irritating since they started also shoving advertising at the beginning of videos. That’s what your other advertising on the side is for, you twits. We keep the cable mostly for the few channels we do record stuff on the DVR from, and around here, because the cable provider is the only one with the high speed internet, so even if I “cut the cord,” I still have to pay those pirates for my internet so I could do the streaming those cable cutters all go gaga about. Not really cutting the cord that much, huh?

So these days, I find myself turning off the television when I can in favor of a few other options. One option is surfing the web and reading stuff online. I have a big and diverse list of sources I follow. I keep track of them on my RSS reader, which though many have given up on, I still use as it helps me keep track of the stuff I am interested in. Also the feed reader holds on to the stuff until I actually read it. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, something will not disappear into the ether if I miss logging in one day. And if too much stuff piles up on the RSS reader, I can always mark as read, and let it build up again. The other thing I do once in a while is watch YouTube. These days, given I am learning how to read Tarot cards, I use it to find tutorials on that as well as videos from other Tarot users and collectors.

Another option for viewing is getting DVDs from my public library. They do not have a terribly big selection given it is a small rural town library, but I usually manage to find something interesting to watch. I often look for older things I may have enjoyed in the past. For instance, they have the complete run of Hill Street Blues, and it was a real pleasure to watch all of it once more. Television networks and channels just do not write shows like that anymore. I have also discovered other things such as Foyle’s War, which they also have the complete series, and I enjoyed it immensely. So go ahead, explore your local public library for things to watch. You never know what you may find, and it will be commercial free (for the most part. Often you do get trailers for other things from the company that put out the DVD).

Finally, the best option for me is reading books. I get my books from various places. I get some from my local public library. Though I work in an academic library, and I do get a book from my workplace once in a while, when it comes to popular types of reading the public library serves my needs better. As I mentioned, I also get some books from the academic library I work in, mostly heavier nonfiction and academic titles. However, I also use the Interlibrary Loan service (ILL) from my academic library to get titles I may want that neither of my libraries have. I do use Interlibrary Loan for both serious books and more escapist fluff. For instance, I am reading through the Horus Heresy, and I usually get that series via ILL. In addition, I do buy some books as well, especially things that I enjoy and that I know my libraries do not carry as a general rule. I buy my books mostly used, but I do get a new one here or there if I feel a need to have it sooner. Finally, since I am a book reviewer, I also get some galleys from various sources, especially via NetGalley. In the end, I have plenty of reading options, and they are all better than most anything television offers these days. Even the recent trend of shows based on comics books (but without the actual heroes) is just not that appealing when I can go read the source material, which is better anyhow.

Bottom line is reading is just a lot more interesting. I get a lot more out of it in terms of learning and entertainment, and I can find more diversity in terms of content that I would on television. That’s my two cents.

For any of my three readers who may be curious, here is what I am reading these days. I am one of those readers who reads more than one book at a time:

  • Nicholas Pileggi, Casino. For some reason, this is a year I have been a bit more interested in books that gave the basis for films. I will also try to read his Wiseguy, which is the basis of the film Goodfellas.
  • Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire. This is one of those that I was lukewarm about reading. I have seen and enjoyed the film. The book does start kind of slow, so I hope it picks up the pace. I am reading it not so much because I want to see how the film messed it up or not but to add a book to my horror challenge reading list for 2016.
  • Benjamin Law, Gaysia. This is one I am enjoying. Benjamin Law takes us on a tour of Asia to see all its queer fabulousness. So far, the travels reveal moving, sometimes funny, sometimes very serious experiences. I will be reviewing this soon.
  • Aaron McConnell,, The Comic Book Story of Beer. Yes, this is a history of beer in graphic novel format.
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, Dirty Dates. This is my current erotica reading selection. I have been a bit stuck on this one. It has been slow reading not because it is bad. Far from it, it is very good. The problem is I have had a few setbacks happen in real life. When shit happens in real life, my mood to read erotica just fizzles out, and a book in this area gets put aside in the hopes when things get better I pick it up again. Thing is even when things get back to normal, it takes me a bit to get back on track. However, I do hope to finish it this month, and I will review it then.


I have seen this prompt in at least two places. The most recent was P.Z. Myers’ blog, where he says he got it from The Bloggess. Prior to that, I saw it over at the Stacked blog.  The Bloggess puts it as follows:

“What are your comfort books?  The ones you’ve read over and over…more times than you’ve read your very favorite books.  The ones you’d take on a desert island as a medicine, or would need to pull out on a turbulent plane ride?  Do those books even exist for you?”

These can be also favorite books, but they do not have to be. These are more the books that pull off the shelf when you need to go to one of your special places and get away from the world. Notice I say special places because those places do not have to be happy places.  They are places, whether bright or dark, that you just feel right at home.

My comfort books vary from fiction to nonfiction. Usually these are the book I read when I need something familiar, something that gives me some warmth, and that I can fairly easily immerse myself in. I have read them before and every so often I need to read them again. It may also be that I need some quick escape from reality, so a known element is desired. So, which are my comfort reads? Here are some:

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish language edition). Every so often, I am not sure how, I just know it’s time to head back to Macondo. For me, this book is an example of perfection when it comes to universal fiction. When I need to lose myself, a trip to Macondo to see the ice and the wonders of Melquiades and remember the rain and so much more feels like a home away from home for me. I am not providing a specific book link as there are many editions out there, and the book has been translated in various languages, so odds may be good you can find an edition in your language. My personal copy, which is tattered and held together by a rubber band when I am not reading it, was my mother’s personal paperback copy. It is one of the very few items of hers I managed to get after she passed on. So it is not just a comfort read, but it also just a reminder of her as well and the fact that she help shape me as a reader.
  • A Passion for Books, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan. I am not sure how many times I have read this, but it is one of my comfort reads. What I like about this book is that is a collection of short pieces, essays, quotes, trivia, etc. This means I can skip around the book and read a bit here and a bit there for some comfort.
  • 3 x Carlin: an Orgy of George. This big volume collects three of George Carlin’s books, and it does include some of his classic routines. When I get sick and tired of the bullshit and nonsense in the world, I turn to George Carlin’s book and his humor. He tells it like it is in a time when not too many people do that. I certainly miss him and his wit and great mind. He definitely deserves to be known as the thinking man’s comedian.
  • The Godfather. I have not visited with the Corleones for a while, but this is another comfort read for me. When I need to go a bit darker, this is one of my options. Plus say what you might, there are lessons to be found in this book. Again, pick your favorite edition.
  • Oh, and for Halloween season, it does not feel right until I have re-read Batman: The Long Halloween. This has been tradition for me for a few years now. It is a favorite book. As other people read things like The Night Before Christmas during the Christmas season, I read this book during October.

So now readers, your turn. I invite you to share in the comments, or maybe you write a post of your own and share the link to your blog, what are your comfort reads? Why are those choices your comfort reads?

Once more, we are adding to the ever growing TBR book list. So many books, so little time. By the way, if you read any of these, feel free to make a comment and let me know what you think. It may convince me to move the book up the queue and read it sooner.



Items about books I want to read:

  • Some of you may know that I write a semi-regular feature at The Itinerant Librarian entitled “Signs the Economy is Bad.” Well, here is a definite sign the economy is bad. Affordable housing is scarce, and evictions are becoming a serious problem. You can learn more about this issue in the new book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. The author was profiled and talked about his work for The Christian Science Monitor.
  • Here is another book about poverty in the U.S. and why the poor in the U.S. just keep getting poorer. The book is $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, and it was discussed at The New York Review of Books.
  • Not that I need anyone to tell me that the US government, especially the US Congress, sucks royally. The evidence of how fucked up it is and the fact they do nothing more than represent moneyed interests is widely available for those willing to see. But hey, if you need more convincing, apparently an anonymous congressman decided to write a tell-all of just how bad it is. Via The Week, the book is The Confessions of Congressman X. (Link to Amazon record as WorldCat does not have it yet as of this post). I am betting this is in similar vein to Primary Colors, which when it came out was also published by an anonymous, except Primary Colors was fiction.
  • Let’s take a look at food. Here is a new book about ethnic cuisines highlighted at Food Politics. The book is The Ethnic Restaurateur.
  • I enjoy a good cocktail now and then, and I do find cocktail recipe books as well as books about the drinking culture of interest. Thus I am adding The Bar Book to this list. The book was featured at Wink Books. The book is labeled as not a recipe book but a techniques book, so maybe I can learn a new trick or two.
  • As I continue my journey learning about Tarot and how to read the cards, I am also starting to collect Tarot card decks. I collect playing card decks, so one, collecting Tarot decks seemed natural, and two, I do like the art in a few other decks, and I would like to learn to read from them too down the road. A deck I find fascinating and intriguing is the Thoth Tarot created by Crowley and Harris. It is a complex deck, so I will probably need a book or two to help me work with it. One of those might be The Ultimate Guide to the Thoth Tarot. The book was reviewed at @TABITarot’s blog.
  • I am familiar with Oneida silverware, and I vaguely knew there had been a utopian community named Oneida, but I never made the connection until now. So now I can pick up this new book and learn more about the topic. The book is Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table. It was reviewed at Blogcritics.
  • As we all know, performance reviews are the bane and annual ritual of banality and inanity a lot of workers, including those of us in academia, have to put up with. Personally, I believe whoever came up with the idea and his or her descendants and supporters should be lined up against the wall when the revolution comes. Since it may take a while for the revolution to happen, we have to live with performance management. The author of this new book argues that there is a fix. I am skeptical, but I am willing to read it and take a chance. The book is How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It. It was reviewed also at Blogcritics.
  • I can’t quite recall where I saw this book first, but I know it was before it became the latest book for librarians to drool over. I  tend to avoid the librarian drool books, which from the few I have read and reviewed I find they are often just pandering to librarians seeking some assurance their jobs are valid kind of thing.  However,  this one sounds interesting and deals with a timely topic in the news (international terrorism and saving rare works), so I will likely give it a shot down the road. The book is The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, and it was reviewed at Based on a True Story.
  • This is just one of those curiosity things I find in my RSS feeds. Magic and Mayhem blog author has found a free link to a book called The Black Toad. Apparently, this is of interest to witches and other similar practitioners. If this interests you, you can go get it as well. I did download a copy. I may not get to it right away, but I hope to down the road.
  • Next, “if you want it edgy, rough and no holds bar, this is the book for you.” So say the authors at BDSM Book Reviews about the book  Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica by Xan West.
  • Guys Lit Wire reviews the graphic novel, or as they call it, a “graphic narrative,” The Beats. They say it is “a very readable look at a bunch of mid- to late- twentieth century American writers.”
  • Let’s add a little horror to the reading list. This book is described as a “truly spectacular novel. It combines history, animals, horror, intrigue and superb writing. It is a very well written and intricate story so be alert and pay attention” by Horror Novel Reviews. Sounds good enough to me. The book is Dark Neighborhoods; it is an e-book out of Amazon. While I usually do not care for those, this does sound intriguing.
  • Also via Horror Novel Reviews, they featured the book Black Creek. The reviewer says that the book author “does something very unique with this story: he creates two antagonists for a group of unlikely heroes overcome.”
  • Let’s add a little professional reading. Actually, this is one that I think not only I need to read it, but it may also be one to order for my library as I think it may be of interest locally. Library Juice Press has published the book Progressive Community Action: Critical Theory and Social Justice in Library and Information Science.


Lists and bibliographies:

  • Here is a list of LGBTQ webcomics. I have not seen some of these, so I will be adding them to my feed reader as much as possible. The article also includes links if you wish to buy a print version for your own. Via Bisexual Books blog.
  • Book Riot has an article on “Exploring BDSM through Erotica.” This is a very small sampling. It did pick up on a couple of Alison Tyler’s works, which are very good (I have read other things by her), but I think the article misses a few other good works such as some of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthologies like her Best Bondage Erotica (my review of her 2014 edition). Still, it will give you a start, and it certainly is better than thinking 50 Shades of Grey is a way to explore safe, sane, and consensual BDSM.
  • Another list from Book Riot. This one on “100 Must-read Books about Books.” I do not think all 100 of them are really “must-reads” but there are a few good gems in this listicle, especially under nonfiction. I have a read a few from the list, which I may highlight in a future post.
  • This I think is useful not just for anyone who may want to get into reading the long running manga Naruto but also for folks who have been reading it and need to keep track of things. Via Panels, here is a “Reader’s Guide Naruto.

June 2016
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