Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘pop culture



You  know the drill folks. These lists keep growing, but I still hold on to hope. I just keep finding interesting books I would like to read some day. These are also books I think some of my readers may find of interest. If any of you out there do read any of these, please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I remember reading a while back the book Freakonomics (link to my review of the book) where it discusses how local drug dealers often lived with their moms and were not doing as well as many people think. However, like in many other major businesses, the guys on top usually do pretty well. NPR now highlights a new book that suggests that drug cartels are run a lot like Walmart and McDonald’s. The book is Narconomics.
  • Also via NPR, a cookbook on Korean food. The book is Koreatown.
  • I often remember seeing the ads for various tricks and pranks on the backs of comic books. Wink Books reviews a book looking at one of the companies that made such products: the S.S. Adams Company. The book is Life of the Party.
  • Another art book reviewed by the guys at Wink Books. This time it’s one of my favorite artists: Frank Frazetta. The book is Testament: A Celebration of the Life and Art of Frank Frazetta .
  • OK, one more from Wink Books because I really like the subject of this one: vintage postcards. The book is Postcard America: Curt Teich and the Imaging of a Nation, 1931-1950.
  • Joshua Kim wonders why people are not reading Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. It is an important topic in the United States, and you likely will not hear about it from any single mainstream politician in the 2016 election (Democrat or Republican).
  • Let’s put in a little something related to work. Via The Decolonized Librarian, a review of The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship.
  • Via Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, a note that the book Forked is out. The book is about low wage restaurant workers. As the book summary states, this book deals with “what we don’t talk about when we talk about restaurants: Is the line cook working through a case of stomach flu because he doesn’t get paid sick days? Is the busser not being promoted because he speaks with an accent? Is the server tolerating sexual harassment because tips are her only income?” and other questions that not only we should be asking but addressing.
  • Via Arabic Literature (in English) blog, a novel about Lybian dictator Muammar Ghaddafi. The novel is The Dictator’s Last Night. I have not read it, but it reminds me of Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat), which is about Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo.
  • This could be interesting. It alleges to be a history of the reference shelf; this is something that appeals to the librarian in me. The book is You Could Look It Up, and it was reviewed on NPR.
  • Why are people fleeing Central America? The violence is a big reason according to a new book discussed at In These Times.  The book is A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America.
  • Via Manga Report, a review of the first volume of Bloody Mary.
  • A Case of Suitable Treatment looks at Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler. This made me think of the five-volume series Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which I read a while back. (Link to to my review of the first volume).
  • Apparently Tim Burton draws even in napkins, and someone put some of that art in a book. The book is Things You Think About in a Bar (link to Amazon, since as of this post, WorldCat does not have it) and it was reviewed at Blogcritics.
  • Via Based on a True Story, a review of a new book on the rise of coffee behemoth Starbucks. The book is Starbucked.
  • On the one hand, this sounds like one of those hipster mixology books where the cocktails are made with all sorts of ingredients the average person will never find in a lifetime. On the other hand, the story of the bar that inspired the book sounds interesting, so there is just enough to catch my attention. The book is The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, and it was reviewed at Drinkhacker.


Lists and bibligraphies:



Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

I fell a little behind on this, so here they are. Feel free to check out the reviews. As I have said before, just because I reviewed them this month, it does not mean I read them in the same month. In terms of review writing, this was a pretty productive month for me. If you read any of these, or you have other comments, feel free to comment below.


Look, we made it to 60 of these lists of books I would like to read someday. So, let’s get on with it.

Items about books I want to read:

  • The Graphic Canon volumes of graphic novels on classical works is a set I have been wanting to read for a while now. And now, to add to the list, there is a volume for children’s classic literature. The book is The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature, and it was mentioned at Wink Books.
  • A new manga to me. The book is Assassination Classroom, Volume 2. I will have to seek out the first volume as well to catch up. The premise, as described for the first volume: “The students in Class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Junior High have a new teacher: an alien octopus with bizarre powers and unlimited strength, who’s just destroyed the moon and is threatening to destroy the earth–unless they can kill him first!” From looking at WorldCat, it is up to six volumes as of this post. The second volume that caught my eye was reviewed at A Case for Suitable Treatment.
  • This is not so much to read as to color. Adult coloring books seem to be a fad these days, and here is one for kinksters. The book is The BDSM Coloring Book: An Activity Book For Kinksters With Crayons (Amazon link on this one). It was reviewed at BDSM Book Reviews.
  • Apparently, Mickey Spillane, author of the Mike Hammer novels, left a novel or two unfinished. Max Allan Collins is working as literary executor and helping finish those works. One of them is out, and that is Kill Me, Darling. The book was reviewed in Bookgasm. I have enjoyed some older Mike Hammer novels, so I am curious enough to check this new one out.
  • I am a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so of course this book has to make my list. The book is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History. It was reviewed at Wink Books.
  • Also, I find tattoo art fascinating when it is well crafted. I may have mentioned this before. Anyhow, also via Wink Books, here is Bodies of Subversion: a Secret History of Women and Tattoo. Because yes, before these days when inked women seem to be all over, there was a time that for a woman to get any ink on her body was a very subversive thing.
  • Here is a different look at the world of porn, a book that “aimed to explore the dynamic of how porn performers and sex workers reveal their occupation to family, friends and outsiders.” The book is Coming Out Like a Porn Star, and it was reviewed in Ms. Naughty’s Porn for Women.
  • And speaking of things that do not come out (on the media, in news, etc. Yea, I know, it was a bad segue but you try going from porn to geopolitics of American bases abroad), we rarely if ever hear of the extended U.S. Empire and how it is kept by a very hefty network of U.S. bases around the world. You can learn more about that in this article from Common Dreams. The article also mentions the book Base Nation on U.S. military bases abroad, which sounded interesting enough to add to my list of books to read down the road.
  • Osamu Tezuka is in the pantheon of top manga artists, and here is a book devoted to his art. The book is The Art of Osamu Tezuka, and it was reviewed at Wink Books.
  • Another interesting art book is Aurora Monster Scenes. If you are old enough, you may remember those toys. The book was also reviewed at Wink Books.
  • Here is a book with some humor on drinking, which, if nothing else, “It’s perfect bathroom reading.” Hey, I am always looking for bathroom reading material. Anyhow, the book is You Suck at Drinking, and it was reviewed at Drinkhacker.
  • Like movies? Want to learn about those “overlooked masterpieces” you may have somehow missed? Well, then Trash Cinema may be the book for you. (Amazon link this time as it seems WorldCat does not have it). The book was reviewed at Bookgasm.
  • Robert Reich recently finished a book tour and talks about what he learned traveling in “red state” America. The book he was touring for is Saving Capitalism.
  • Marion Nestle mentions in her blog that she was recently reading Falafel Nation about Israeli cuisine recently.
  • I recently read Theda Skocpol’s book on the Tea Party, which I will be reviewing soon. One of the things I became very aware of is how conservatives in the U.S. use a lot of code language to hide their bigotry and racism in polite company. That book goes into that. Now, I recently came across this other book which would make a nice follow up. The book is Dog Whistle Politics, and it was discussed at Addicting Info.
  • A little something in librarianship. Rory Litwin interviews Stephen Bale, author of the book The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship.



Lists and bibliographies:

  • I did not know that July 25 is the National Day of the American Cowboy. So whether July 25 or any other time, if you would like to read a western or two, here is a small list from The Booklist Reader.
  • Here are a couple of manga reviews on “Prison School and Twin Star Exorcists” from The Manga Critic. Post has a few other titles to look over.
  • By now, mass shootings and overall gun fetishism are business as usual in the United States. There is a lot going on these days, and a lot of it is not good. Perhaps to help out a bit, I am sharing this list of books to read on the topic of “Guns, Politics, and Fear” that I found at Book Riot.
  • Tame the Web blog features a list for “Teaching Students About Information.” This is for library school students mostly.
  • Whether you read this list from The Booklist Reader on summer or not, here are some books on the theme of “I am what I eat.


The list keeps growing, but I still hold on to the hope I will get to a few of these at some point in the future. In the meantime, here are few more books I would like to read some day.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I am not a huge fan of syrup, as in the stuff you put on pancakes. I may bit a little itty bit on my pancakes, or if they are really good, just butter. Still, this book sounded interesting enough, so I am adding it. The book is The Sugar Season,  and it is about a family that makes maple syrup. I am always interested in how things are made.  It was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • I do keep up with a lot of the library literature, as I say on my professional blog, “so you don’t have to.” I also often see and read about what other librarians may be reading. A recent kerfuffle in the news was the article from The New York Times about how badly Amazon treats its workers, which to be honest, knowing how Amazon just exploits anyone and anything, should not have been surprising. The article elicited various replies, and I even noticed a librarian or two bringing it  up, for various reasons. Anyhow, for me now, I see that makes this book more timely. The book is Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans, and it was also featured at San Francisco Book Review. To be honest, I am a bit surprised one of those computer obsessed librarians did not read and review this one. Maybe down the road I will get to it.
  • Fantagraphics has that excellent EC Library series going. I’ve been fortunate to read some of their volumes, and here is another one now: Bomb Run and Other Stories, which are 1950s war comics. The book was featured at Wink Books.
  • And also via Wink Books, one more collection of old vintage comics. The book is The Blighted Eye. These come from the private collection of Glenn Bray, and it is also published by Fantagraphics.
  • Recently, Black Cultural Center at the campus I work at had a success retreat for some students. We went down to the Haley Farm, home of the Children’s Defense Fund. I may blog about that experience at another time. The lodge had a small bookstore, and I saw this book there, which I have been meaning to read. It also reminded me I had an item in my feed reader about it, so it may be time to move it ahead in my cue and read it sooner rather than later. I am not sure if I will get to it in what is left of 2015, but I can tell you that I have read quite a few books about the U.S. Civil Rights Era this year. The book is This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed, and it was featured also in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Next, we have a look at the history of corruption in the United States. Given how things are going these days, this one also seems like a timely book. The book is Corruption in America, and it was reviewed at Inside Higher Ed.
  • Marion Nestle has a new book coming out soon, and she is starting to promote it. The book is Soda Politics. This may be one I order for our library.
  • I do not know how the heck I missed seeing this sooner, since Ultraman was a huge part of my childhood, and I do read quite a bit of manga. Anyhow, there is a manga of Ultraman out; I definitely have to get my hands on that. It was reviewed at Manga Blog.
  • As of this post, this book is fairly new, so no information in WorldCat yet. As a librarian and educator, books on sexual health and education interest me, and I am always on the lookout for good ones I can pass on to others. The book is The Sex and Pleasure Book. The authors were interviewed here.
  • The author of the book Thieves of State discusses in this piece why Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban again. Worth a look, and the book sounds like worth a read in these times.

Lists and bibliographies:


Here is another round of books I would like to read eventually:

Items about books I want to read:

  • Hurricanes and natural disasters often make the news. The part of those news that we rarely see is that there is a big profiteering element to natural and other disasters. Something like Hurricane Katrina is not just a natural disaster; it is also a disaster of social and economic inequality. You can read about that in The Disaster Profiteers. The book was featured in Scientific American.
  • Naturally, the librarian in me has an interest in books about libraries, so here is The Meaning of the Library: a Cultural History. It was reviewed in Macleans.
  • What do you know? There is a book out there about lists. Yea, lists, like to-do lists, inventories, etc. The book is Lists by Liza Kirwin, and it was reviewed at The Well-Appointed Desk.
  • Voter disenfranchisement is a big issue in the United States as political parties, especially the GOP, seek to keep minorities from voting. Learn more about this issue in Give Us the Ballot. The book was featured in Mother Jones magazine.
  • And speaking of the GOP, maybe it should stop alienating women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, and young people, in other words, anyone other than rich white cis males. This book may be of interest to them, although at this point that party needs more than just rebranding as the article from In These Times suggests. The book is The Selfie Vote.
  • Enjoy paper folding? Like origami, but you think it’s just for kids? If you are an adult, maybe you want to try out Pornogami: a Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults. It was featured at Incredible Things.
  • I may have mentioned this before, but since I moved to Kentucky, my interest in bourbon has increased a bit. I am always interested in how alcoholic spirits are made, so it is kind of nice to live here where bourbon is made. Anyhow, there is a new book out by a guy who “tasted between 50 and 60 bourbons” and has written about it. The book is Bourbon Curious, and it was briefly mentioned in the Lexington Herald Leader.
  • NPR reports that Twitter has put out a guide book on how to use Twitter for politicians, and apparently it is quite amusing. You can download the handbook here. Yes, I did download a copy for myself, so you bet it will get reviewed when I read it.
  • Something “shop-related.” Saving this one more for future reference. The book is the Library Publishing Toolkit, which you can download for free here.
  • Oil/petroleum makes the world go round. But it does so at a high price. Learn about the corruption and scandals of The Secret World of Oil. The book was reviewed in San Francisco Book Review.
  • Also, the San Francisco Book Review says that “picking up where Goodfellas and The Godfather left off, The Mob and the City is a terrific, informative read.” Sounds like a good reason to pick the book up.
  • Wink Books highlights the book The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. The guy did a lot of pulp covers, many of which some of you might remember.
  • Wink Books also highlights the book American Grotesque: the Life and Art of William Mortensen.
  • My friend, Mark at Habitually Probing Generalist, has been reading quite a few graphic novels. Since we cannot resist graphic novels and comics in this joint, and some of these sound cool, here we go:
    • Here he reviews Sumo by Pham. Like Mark, I have enjoyed other books published by First Second, so this an added motivation.
    • Over here, he reviews the book De Tales. It is a collection of four tales set in urban Brazil.
    • He really liked this one, which by the way, would have fit into the LGBT Reading Challenge I am doing this year as well as the graphic novel challenges. Maybe if I get to it before the end of the year I can fit it in. The book is Stuck Rubber Baby.
    • He also really liked this one, from Image Comics, which is a publisher that has put out some other works I have enjoyed. As Mark describes it is a “twisted take on the Lewis and Clark expedition.” The book is Manifest Destiny, Volume 1. From the sound of it, I may have to order it for our library’s graphic novels collection.
  • Adding some manga to the list with Rose Gun Days, Season 1, Volume 1. It was reviewed at A Case for Suitable Treatment.
  • And speaking of manga, The Manga Critic reviews the pocket book  A Brief History of Manga.
  • When it comes to hipsters, there is no lost love. So some hipster humor is something I can appreciate. Bitches n Prose review the book Hipster Animals: a Field Guide.



Lists and bibliographies:

  • Donald Trump’s presidential run in 2015 has been seen as either a joke or an embarrassment of the American nation. One element he has is quite the authoritarian streak, and though many Americans say it could never happen here, well, look at who they have been supporting lately. This article in Alternet discusses Trump, authoritarianism, and offers a couple of books to read up on the topic.
  • Interested in what the faculty of the Harvard Business School have on their summer 2015 reading list? Here are some of the books that made their shortlist, via HBS Working Knowledge.
  • Recent research reveals that doodling can be good for your cognitive abilities. This article out of The Atlantic mentions a couple of books on the topic.
  • Wink Books has a post on a couple of volumes from the Dark Horse collections of Creepy and Eerie magazines.

I decided to try my hand at this after reading this post, “20 Questions I Have for People Who Were in Their 20s Before Cell Phones & Internet” found at forever twenty somethings.I was a bit younger than my 20s in those days, but I certainly faced these questions too. It was not a big deal then. To be honest, I wonder how easily spoiled today’s youth are by cellphones and the Internet. My cohort and I had to make do without, and we did just fine. In fact, in many ways, the pace of things was not as rushed. Now, to date myself a little bit, I grew up as a teen in the 1980s. I barely recall my early days of getting on the Internet. My first personal e-mail was on Hotmail, and I do still have and use that account though it is no longer my primary e-mail. My first real e-mail was in college, back when it was using a VAX system of all things. I do remember AOL and those pesky disks they used to send to try to get you to subscribe to their Internet service. Boy, have we come a long way in a short amount of time. Before that, I survived without all this technology just fine.

To be honest, a lot of this seems like a big first world problem, but I am doing it for amusement now. I copied the questions from the post. I will then type out my answers (some snark may be included):

1. How did you make plans?  You agreed with people beforehand on things like where you would be and at what time. You either talked in person or over the phone. Yes, we did have telephones back then. We had already moved past the telegraph.

2. How did you CANCEL plans?  Usually you tried to call as soon as you knew.

3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone?  Until the advent of caller ID, you did not know. However, once answering machines came around, you let the answering machine pick up so you could screen the call. If you were real snarky, you could even put funny messages on your answering machine to greet callers. Heck, if you did not feel like taping your own, you could buy those messages recorded for use. One thing you may keep in mind is that back then spam calls were not really the problem they were now. Back then, you knew most of your callers were family or friends, i.e. people you wanted to talk to. Nowadays, it’s not really safe to answer a phone, and since it is easy to spoof called ID, I still let the answering machine pick up so I can screen.

4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?  I would not label it a fear, but I do dislike talking on the phone. E-mail was a welcome arrival. I much rather e-mail people than call them.

5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them?  You really did not have much options here. If you knew a common friend, you pumped them for information maybe.

6. How did you find people to date in the first place???  Well, school, church (back when I was a church goer, I did have an older girl hit on me after church. True story. That did not get far, but that is another story), other gatherings.

7. How did you keep tabs on exes?  Why the hell would I want to do that for? Anyhow, back then I did not have an ex yet.

8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing?  Given I did not (and still do not) give much of a shit what the folks in my high school class do, this was not nor is now much of a concern.

9. How did you look for jobs?  The newspaper and word of mouth.

10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? Back then, you told your parents where you would be, and you better be there or else. Growing up back in Puerto Rico, this was common. You went to a friend’s house to hang out, you told your parents who it was and where. Odds are good our parents knew their parents, so they could call and check. Also, we had fairly firm curfews. I had to be home usually by 6pm or so, which was dinner time. One way to know was if in the house you were visiting the TV was on. When the news went on (this was before the days of CNN), you knew you had to head home. If the theme song of the soap opera that came after the news came on, you knew you had to run home because you just overstayed. Back then, the soap opera theme song was the one for the soap opera Cristina Bazan. The song was “Atrévete” by José Luis Rodríguez, aka El Puma. (Link to YouTube).

11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? If I had to and I could, I carried a book or some other reading material.

12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? You talked to people. You called on the phone. The work pace was likely a bit slower, but that was a good thing. We survived just fine.

13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? They had to wait, and that was the end of it. You explained what happened when you got there, or if you could, you stopped at a pay phone and called in. Again, the world did not end.

14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? You went to the gym and signed up. Or you called over the phone I guess. This was never a concern for me though. Why, how do people sign up now? Even if you sign up online, you still have to go to the gym in person, so I do not see any advantage from signing up online or doing it when you get there.

15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? See #10, apply it to other people. Again, people were more understanding and patient, so this was not an issue.

17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? You learned to carry some change in your pocket, no big deal. To this day, I carry at least two quarters in my pocket for pay phones. It is more a ritual than anything else given I have a cell phone, but the habit remains. For long distance back then, you often had a phone card.

18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? What? You think research did not happen before the oh so precious Wikipedia? Yes. We had encyclopedias, and we learned how to use them. We also had libraries and librarians to help us with our research if need be. The tone of this question makes it sound like we lived in the Dark Ages. We had books then, and we still have them know. We also had journals and indexes to find articles just fine. You learned to use things like Reader’s Guide and got on with it.

19. How did you find out about the weather? I looked outside. I watched the news and got the weather forecast. Listened to the radio news for any alerts. Again, the world did not end.

20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Talking in person. Phone calls. A bit more distance, letters and cards via mail.

In the end, we got along just fine. The world did not end. People knew to be patient, and they knew to wait as need be. Sometimes I think cell phones and Internet have made people impatient because they have to know now right this second or else. Also, since people were a lot more patient and less tech, people were a little less rude. I mean, there were no cell phones, so you could not whip it out in restaurants and movie theaters, but you actually had to pay attention. You needed to let people know, you called ahead or told them early enough without so much rush. And that is how we survived just fine.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.


Welcome to another post here at Alchemical Thoughts. I read quite a bit during the month of July. I also got quite a few reviews done. This was in part because a few requests I put in at NetGalley came due pretty close to each other (that whole expiration thing they got on their galleys), so I had to read a bit more than I usually do. However, it was worth it overall. Plus, there are a couple of items that made it into the reviews this month I had read a while back.

As always, comments are welcome. If you read any of these, let me know what you think. If you have a book you think I should read, let me know too. I might consider it. So, without further fuss, let’s see what got reviewed last month.


January 2020
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