Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘writing

I saw this bookish writing prompt at Kaizen Journaling a bit of a while back. I had to think about this one for a little bit. I have read so many books over time, and tastes have changed somewhat over time. A challenge for me is that I did not track what I read when I was a kid, so I had to rely on memory to try to remember what I was reading  way back when that I enjoyed enough to remember. Another challenge for more recent years is that I like a lot of different books, so picking favorites is not easy for me. This post will not have a photo since I wrote out my reply here on the spot rather than doing it in my personal journal. As you will when you compare to the original prompt, I adjusted the categories slightly to adjust for my age. So, for the sake of the prompt, here are some choices as of this post. If you ask me next week, or next month, the choices could be very different:

  • Childhood: The Encyclopedia Brown series. If we go a bit further back, I also enjoyed the tales of Frog and Toad.
  • Teens. I think this was the time I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish by the way). This book is my number one all time favorite,  and it will likely remain so for the rest of my life. It is one I reread every few years.
  • Early 20s: I would have been in college as an undergrad. The Robotech series was one I enjoyed to escape the doldrums of college required reading. I still have the set of novels, and I am hoping to reread them soon.
  • Early 30s: Batman: the Long Halloween is one that emerged from those days. I have a tradition now that I reread it every October, near or on Halloween.
  • Today (as of this post): I would say a few volumes in the Warhammer 40,000 series that feature characters I have come to like and admire: Blood Ravens: the Dawn of War omnibus featuring Space Marines Captain Gabriel Angelos, the Ciaphas Cain series, and the Ultramarines novels featuring Space Marines Captain Uriel Ventris. These days, life is pretty much shit. Not my life per se as I am surviving OK, but current events, the world, society, the stupidest election  ever in the United States, shitty media, all that and more make you want just want to get away from it all and as far away as possible. The 41st Millennium seems quite a good distance to leave it all behind.

I saw this prompt over at Based on a True Story, and I decided to try it out. Picking out five books was not easy for me, and though I picked out five for this post, if you ask me again a few months or years from now, the choices might change.

  • Cien años de soledad (title in English: One Hundred Years of Solitude).  You can find various editions in WorldCat in Spanish and other languages. This is the Argos Vergara Libros DB edition that I have that my mother passed on to me telling me that I had to read it, and so I did. This novel is my all time favorite book, and it is one I tell everyone they need to read if they wish to understand a bit of the Latin American experience, especially as it relates to the United States. But the novel itself is so much more. My copy is now tattered, falling apart, and while I could replace it with a nicer edition, say the Real Academia’s academic edition, well, it was my mother’s copy, and it is one of the very few things I have of hers, and in time I may pass it on to my daughter.
  • James Alan Gardner’s novel Expendable. From the book description, “On any given planetdown mission, there’s always someone whose job it is to walk into danger and get killed. What must it be like to be him, knowing your lifespan is as short as a fruitfly’s?” The main character, Festina Ramos, an expendable member of the Explorer Corps is quite admirable and tenacious, which inspires me. In many ways, I feel like a member of an explorer corps. Plus, unlike certain so-called “rock star” librarians, I have no illusions about being expendable.
  • El Alquimista (title in English: The Alchemist). You can also find various editions of this in English and other languages in WorldCat. Paulo Coelho is Brazilian and writes in Portuguese. Personally, I prefer to read his works in Spanish translation, as that feels much closer to his original language than English. I first read this book when I was about to embark on a new adventure. I had just finished library school, on the basis of a little faith (faith in my myself and the faith of others who believed I could do it), and I was seeking my first professional librarian position. Much like the boy in the story, I was in search of my dream, and I had faith the world would come together to make it happen. I have been a librarian for over a decade now, and it has been a great joy to be a librarian.
  • Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina (English title: The Open Veins of Latin America). You can find various editions in WorldCat. One of the few books I read in college early on that was actually worth a damn. For me, one I would recommend people to who wish to understand the Latin American experience, thus help understand me a bit as well since I was shaped by a big part of that experience. In college, for me, reading and discussing this in a class on Hispanic Culture, Language, and Identity was truly eye opening, and I wish I could tell that teacher thank you for the experience, an experience that shapes me even today.
    • Tied with Galeano’s book is a recent reading, War Against All Puerto Ricans (link to my review). This is a must read to understand the Puerto Rican experience, especially as it relates to the exploitative colonial relation it has to the United States. This is the history my parents and their parents lived, and that I still lived and was influenced by.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels (Warhammer 40,000. The first three have been collected in an omnibus edition, which I own). From the book’s description, “In the 41st Millennium, Commissar Ciaphas Cain is looking for an easy life, but fate has a habit of throwing him into the deadliest situations and luck always manages to pull him through.” I have a bit of Ciaphas Cain, looking for the easy life, but that is not always an option. Sometimes fate just has other plans for you, and you have to move onward and make things work out. Now, Cain is no coward. He is actually a very skilled fighter and swordsman; he just prefers the easy life. I’d rather have things easy at times, but hey, I’ve got to work for a living.
    • Tied with the Ciaphas Cain novels are the novels of Captain Uriel Ventris and the Ultramarines (Warhammer 40,000. The first six novels of the series are collected in an omnibus and a second omnibus, which I own). Captain Ventris of the 6th Company, like his Ultramarines brothers in arms, lives by the rules. Of the Emperor’s Space Marines, the Ultramarines take the idea of “by the book” to the extreme. So when Ventris bends the rules and succeeds in battle, what do his brethren do? Why they send him to exile to some hell hole to “redeem” himself in their eyes. Because apparently he did not kick enough ass and do it by the rules. Ventris is a guy with integrity who is also practical, honorable, and perseverant, which is why I like him so.

 

Update note: I wrote this post back in 2007, and it ended up in the “private” section of the blog. I think the series of posts I have labeled as private got imported from someplace else (can’t quite remember where, which tells you how long ago that happened). Since they are private, I do not always remember they are there, so I recently went back to look over the cue. Some will likely remain private, as they have topics not necessarily for public consumption. But others like this can be public. It is a good reminder for bloggers and writers to keep on reading. So, via the old Wayback Machine, here is this bit from May 8, 2007.

* * * * *

Karen Andrews, guest blogging at Problogger, has a post reminding bloggers to read. Yes, it is perfectly ok to unplug from the online world once in a while to actually read a book or a magazine. I know I try to do that now and then. In fact, as a reader, I face the conflict of having too much stuff to read and not enough time to read it in. Maybe I should take that advice and stay away from the feed reader a bit more often. Besides, if nothing else, reading can always provide you with something to talk about in social settings, but that is a different story. Ms. Andrews writes:

” Get off the chair and turn off the computer. It will be there in the morning. Pick up a magazine. Go to bed early with a novel you’ve had on your ‘must read’ list for a while. ‘De-plugging’ is a good option for those of us on the point of burnout. Standing back from your own words may give you a better perspective than if you are crouched over a desk.”

Maybe I should try the one about going to bed early with the book I have been meaning to read. I was not sure about this idea Ms. Andrews wrote:

” The skill of critically evaluating a text is commonly taught today. It is not enough to simply say you like (or don’t like) something anymore. You need to back up your claims and once properly done so you can debate a subject at a greater depth than you otherwise would have.”

I agree with the idea of being able to back up what you say. What struck me was the idea that such a skill was commonly taught. I am not sure I agree with it given my teaching experience. I am of the theory that standardized testing is ruining a generation. One way to the ruin is that students are not taught about critical reading or critical thinking as much these days. After all, the tests are mostly multiple choice, so not much critical thinking going on there. I had to learn how to argue and back up my points when I was in school, and it is a skill that serves me well today. It is also something I strive to teach my students. Reading broadly and diversely can help people learn how to think and evaluate texts critically. Anyhow, a good reminder of why reading is so important, especially for bloggers.

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian.)

 

Santa Claus on sleigh pulled by Amazon drones

Deng Coy Miel, Cagle Cartoons, Singapore

 

We’ve almost made it to the end of 2013. At The Itinerant Librarian, that means it is time for our series of holiday posts where I scour the web to find all sorts of amusing things (well, a lot amusing just to me) and share them with my four readers. I am starting with the shopping post because it seems we have been on holiday shopping season pretty much since the summer. We can certainly say the merchants were already riling up people for Christmas season shopping before Halloween. That is definitely a sign that the economy is bad when the retailers keep pushing the Christmas season back hoping to get a few more suckers to spend a bit more money on a lot of stuff that they probably do not need. I have said it before, and I will say it again, Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving, not before Halloween. Anyhow, I am just one librarian.

For many folks, I am sure they are done with the shopping, but if you are still doing last minute stuff, I suppose if you pay more, you can get quick delivery if you shop online, or you can brave the stores filled with other procrastinators by now. Hey! It does not have to be procrastinators. Given the state of the economy, some of us do have to wait until a paycheck arrives so some shopping can be done, or the shopping is done in s staggered way (you get some things now, wait for the next check, get some more, you get the idea). Anyhow, if you need some ideas, maybe some of these links might help. That, or we can just laugh together and gaze in wonder at the things some people choose to spend money on.

So, without further ado, let’s see what kind of interesting and crazy stuff folks out there are suggesting for Christmas presents. As usual, the snark is mine.

But before we get to the gifts. . . .

Some advice and useful information

These links are for some tips, pieces of advice, and other information that I hope gift shoppers will find useful and informative. After all, I would not be a good librarian if I did not provide something constructive in addition to the entertainment.

  • Make sure you do your best to keep your personal information safe as you shop whether you shop in person or online. The linked post from USA.gov also includes a link to a Homeland Security page with more tips for cybersecurity. In light of the recent Target fuck up where they basically let hackers waltz in and steal a lot of personal data from customers, we consumers need to be alert, informed and vigilant. In other words, we have to do the stuff that companies like Target should be doing on a routine basis. By the way, I am not saying we totally trust companies neither, but notice when one of these messes happens, their first advice is to check your bank statements, so on and be alert. Yea, the stuff they neglected to do themselves. Can we say irony?
  • Shopping online? In addition to the above, here are some things you want to know before you hit your favorite online retailer. This post from USA.gov also features a link to the Consumer Action Handbook, which can be downloaded for free, and can give you information on how to “get help with consumer purchases, problems and complaints.”
  • And one more from USA.gov: A reminder that there is helpful information available if you are buying toys for children. This post features a link to a document of toy safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The U.S. government overall puts a lot of good information out. For me as a librarian, it is always a good source to use and share. Besides, it’s your tax dollars at work, so be informed.
  • Are you one of those people who just loves to use their smartphone for shopping? Via Dumb Little Man, here is a list of “12 Great Holiday Shopping Apps That Can Save You Time and Money.” A small issue is there are no links. You get the names of the apps, and it is up to you to look them up on your device whether it is Android or Apple. You may find something of interest here. If you do, feel free to come back, comment, and let us know.
  • Now, not everyone is able to afford the fine lavish gifts and presents we are about to highlight. Does that mean they are left out of the season of giving? Far from it. There are other ways in which you can give a little something to your fellow human beings as well as our furry friends. Also via Dumb Little Man, here are “10 Great Ways to Share Others Over the Holidays.” Because it should not be all about the size of your wallet or how much loot you get or give this holiday. The only tip I might have an issue with is the one about adopting a pet from a shelter. No, I am not say to not adopt from a shelter. Our two cats were adopted from a shelter. But I do have concerns with people who may bring a pet home over the holidays as a gift, only for the pet to be neglected or forgotten once the holiday has passed. Go adopt when you feel ready and able to make the commitment. Sure, it could be during this season, but if you are doing it just to put a cute puppy or other animal under a Christmas tree with a bow, you are probably doing it wrong. Overall, this article has some great suggestions to help you make this holiday season a bit brighter for others, especially others who might not be able to have a good season otherwise.

 

Gifts, presents, and things

Part of the reason I enjoy making this post is to see some of the crazy stuff people offer up for gifts. Some of them are just funny. Others are just ridiculous, and then  you have some where you need the budget of a couple of small nations to buy them.

Gifts for the manly man in your life

We always get the lists of gifts for men. Thing about these lists is that they can go either way at times. I am sure there are some outdoor enthusiast women out there, but apparently, unless you are so manly that women get pregnant from you just walking by, ladies can forget about some of these gifts. So, let’s have a peek at what is suggested for guys.

  • Esquire magazine naturally has something for the man who “spends a lot of time outside. With knives.”Actually, the list does feature one of those knife tools that claims to do almost everything. It’s so good that it is described as “the nuclear submarine of survival equipment, up to and including the stealth. . . . ” But does it make your chest hairs grow? From this list, you can also do things like adopt a sled dog.
  • Naturally, The Art of Manliness has their holiday guide up.

 

Do women get any gifts? 

I did scour for lists for women’s gifts, but I did not come across as many this year as last year. I am willing to grant I did not look in the right places, or maybe there weren’t as many.

  • I thought this was an interesting list. These are some “Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Feminist,” via The (Seattle) Stranger. According to the author, it “includes lots of good, reasonably-priced gifts for the progressive women in your life.”There are some practical things here, which I do not think a woman has to label herself as feminist to appreciate, but if she does, odds are good some of these would be welcomed. The list features books, some local interest items, and even suggestions if you prefer to give to charity.
  • Esquire of all places has a gift list for girls, and it is a list of stuff that is NOT pink. Leave it to a thoughtful father to come up with a list of stuff for a girl that “loves science, tech, movies, art, plants, robots, bikes, and Katniss Everdeen (who would never be caught in pink). . . . ” Let’s be honest, as the author writes, “her mom and her grandparents and aunts and uncles will buy her even more of that shit. And that’s fine.” You the father can be the thoughtful man in the life of your daughter and buy her something cool. I know. My daughter does not go for pink neither. When it came to Happy Meals, for instance, it was the boys’ option because it came with Hot Wheels in it; she could not care less about the pink mini Barbie or whatever other pink thing they forced girls to take. I am sure she too would love a high end bad ass compound bow.
  • Have a real bad ass, gun loving mama in your life? Maybe you could get her some bullet bracelets. Yea, they are made from real ammunition. She will be the talk of the town at the shooting range.  Via Boing Boing.
  • Ms. Magazine offers a nice article on empowering toys and dolls for girls, and it includes links to some places where to find them.
Geeky and/or gifts for writers and other literary types

This is where I put gifts for geeks, writers, and maybe even librarians. Not books. We will have a post for books later on this week. Some of the things here are the things I would definitely not mind getting.

  • Via The Advocate, some gift ideas for travelers. I was cool with some of the ideas until they suggested the hovercraft. It is not just any old hovercraft. This puppy “meets United States Coast Guard standards for reliable hovering over water. Comes with a hefty price tag and its own trailer. $58,000.” If you buy one of these for one of your friends, please contact us at this blog and let us know how do we get on your Christmas list. We’d like to be your friend.
  • Incredible Things has a list of gifts that are not for noobs. I thought the Star Trek TNG uniform hoodie was very neat.
  • Got a Doctor Who fan to shop for? Well, here are the “Top 10 Doctor Who Holiday Gifts.” Game of Thrones fan? Got you covered too. Both links via Buzzy Mag.
  • Need more ideas for the science fiction or fantasy fan? Kirkus Reviews has some ideas.
  • Need some ideas for a bookish teen or tween? We all know it can be hard to shop for young people, but Book Riot offers some nice suggestions to keep them reading.
  • If you have a writer, especially a fountain pen enthusiast, in your life, Ink Noveau has “4 Great Gift Ideas for Anyone New to the Fountain Pen Hobby.”
  • BuzzFeed has a list of gifts for the book and literature lovers in your life who already have plenty of books. Sure, another book is the easy option. Maybe one of these will do the trick instead this year.
  • Viva Snail Mail has a small list of suggestions for those who like stationery and/or sending and receiving correspondence. One suggestion is to get them a nice set of stamps. In the U.S., the USPS puts out stamps for just about any topic and interest. These days, they even make Harry Potter stamps.
  • I like journal books, and they certainly make a good gift if you ever want to get me anything. Now, whether for someone else or me, if you feel a bit more brave, you can attempt to make a handmade journal notebook. Via BuzzFeed.
  • The Millions has a list of gifts that they claim writers will actually use. One of the suggestions is a nice bathrobe. Read on to learn why. Item 7 on this list is certainly one I can agree upon: coffee, booze, and other stimulants. As they write, “find out what your friend likes to drink and buy a really nice version of that thing.” I’ll say it does not have to be alcohol. A nice coffee or tea, especially if you know they themselves might not spring for more than Folgers, would likely be welcomed.
  • Let’s not forget the film buffs. BuzzFeed has some ideas for film buffs. One thing is true: “about your averaged film buff: if they want a movie they will buy it for themselves.” I am not a big film buff, but I do like some films. I certainly prefer if you give me the cash or gift card and let me go pick out a movie or tv serial I like. So, get them some other nice things instead.
  • And finally for this segment, don’t think I forgot librarians. Hack Lib School has a librarian gift guide. Whether for a librarian or a library school students, odds are good you might find something for them here. Personally, I prefer to go with stuff that is not so obvious (for librarians), but many other librarians do like gifts that somehow reflect the profession.

 

Gifts for the pets

There is always going to be at least one list of suggestions for your pets. Hey, pets are family too, so give them some love too.

Food and Drink

 

  • The Advocate has a list of gifts for those who indulge that features food and drink items. Among things on the list you can make the Game of Thrones fan in your life happy with some beers inspired by the show (assuming they do drink). Your friend or family member a fan of Sons of Anarchy instead? Someone has made cigars inspired by the show. You are too lazy to bake cookies, or you just don’t have the time? As long as you got your credit card handy, you can find a company to send you a tin of cookies.
  • If you have a beer enthusiast or maybe a home brewer, then this list of “10 Crafty Gifts for the Beerologist on Your List” may have something for them. Via Wired.
  • Maybe you would prefer to make food and treats for your family and friends. BuzzFeed has a list, with links to recipes, of food gifts you can make and put in jars.
  • Now if you if you want to lay down some serious moolah and get someone some high end booze, Liquor.com has a “High-Roller Gift Guide 2013.” You won’t find any two-buck chuck here. These bottles are “for that truly special person in your life.” I have special people in my life, but they are not getting a $1600 bottle of Japanese whiskey from me.
The stuff I was not sure where to list it

 

  • Now, there are all sorts of wonderful gifts out there. Then there are those gifts. You know which ones I am talking about. The hideous or totally useless things some people insist on giving that you have to grit your teeth, smile, then hide it in a closet for it to never be seen again. So, with a little humor, here is a list of “25 Things No One Wants for Christmas,” via Holy Taco. Consider this a little PSA.  Actually, the bathrobe suggestion on the list could work if you happen to know the person does need one (that may require a bit of intimate knowledge though, so probably not the gift for your boss). Also, apparently writers use bathrobes (see link above).
  • Calendars. I do like nice calendars, and I try to put something nice in my office in the library every year. Need some calendar suggestions? Mental Floss has a list of “9 Odd and Awesome 2014 Calendars.” For the inked librarians and people who love them, there is a calendar of tattooed librarians. The post includes links to other calendars too.
  • As I said at the beginning of this post, some gift lists out there assume that you are so rich that you can light cigars with $100 bills. Via New York Magazine, they ask “How Rich Do These Magazine Editors Think We Are?” Some of these lists actually include items that are “price upon request.” As J.P. Morgan is attributed to have said, if you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it. Now, if you want to go all out, you can give someone a Virgin Galactic Suborbital Spaceflight priced at a measly $250,000; this was suggested in Vogue magazine.
  • Subscription boxes seem to be gaining popularity. Those are the services where, for a subscription fee, they send you a box of stuff once a month. You can often pick for how long the service goes from a couple of months to a year. These days you can find a box for just about any interest out there. Prices do vary from about 20 bucks or so a month to at least a couple of hundred bucks depending on what you get. Via BuzzFeed, here is a list of 13 subscription boxes. For the article, people in the comments are suggesting other box services not listed, so a peek may be worth a look. For instance, for the geek in your life, a suggestion was Nerdblock. If this topic interests you, there is a whole website devoted to helping you find the right subscription box (www.findsubscriptionboxes.com).
  • If you are just totally out of ideas, some canned air from around the world may be an option. Seriously, people do this? Looks to me like you are paying for a cute can. Via Incredible Things.
  • And if you got someone real specific or narrowly focused, Mental Floss has suggestions that are very specific.
  • Getting back to serious for a moment, GradHacker blog has a nice series of post on gifts for graduate students. If anyone needs good, solid, useful gifts, it is grad students. You can start with the post on personal gifts, then look over gifts in technology and gifts to help your grad be a bit more professional.  What I like about this series is that these are simple, practical gift ideas that not many people think of, yet graduate students can really use. Trust me. I was a graduate student once. I wish someone would have been thoughtful enough to give me some of the things mentioned when I was in grad school.
  • Finally for this segment, maybe you prefer to shop on the basis of values like products being fairly traded or maybe some profits going to help others. If that is the case, here is a list of “29 Online Gift Stores That Benefit Nonprofits.” Consider this a little help if you want to shop a bit more ethically. However, if you prefer to make a donation or maybe do something like donate a heifer (via Heifer International), here is a list to “19 Holiday Gift Programs.” Both links via Nonprofit Tech for Good blog.

 

The Adult Section

As usual, if this is not your thing, if you offend easily, you are religious, have issues, etc., then you can stop reading now. Otherwise, go right along.

  • Good Vibrations has put together their staff’s picks of best sex toys of 2013. The only issue I tend to have with sex toys (and I say this in general, not specific to any one retailer) is that if they are cheap, they are pretty much crap, and the really good ones tend to require the GNP of a small country. I understand the idea of “you get what you pay for” and making small investments, but often unless you are well heeled, good stuff is out of range for those of us of modest means who like to get freaky now and then. Yea, I know, first world problem I am sure some of you are saying. However, once in a while you do find something in a modest range. That aside, from this list, the magic wand would be the item I think the Better Half would appreciate adding to our small but well selected collection.
  • Nerve.com has a list of sex toys for couples. I always find it nice when you find things that can be shared. From this list, I admit I was amused by the Clone-A-Willy. This is. . . well, just click the link and read the post. On serious note, there are some nice items here, but let’s be honest, part of the fun of sex toys is finding the one that makes you giggle, maybe go, “really? people do that?” You’ve got to keep life interesting.
  • Need some advice on how to buy a sex toy for your loved one? Epiphora comes to the rescue with a sex toy gift-giving guide.

Thank you for reading. As always, comments (as long as they are well-behaved and civil) are welcome. Stay tuned this week as we continue our series of holiday posts. Plus, remember, if you choose to indulge, especially alcohol, please do so in moderation. Also, if you chose to drink, and you had a bit much, please do not drive. Get a ride. Call a cab (if you plan ahead, program one or two phone numbers of cab companies into your phone so you have them handy for later). Ask to crash on someone’s couch. Just do not become part of the holiday tragedy statistics. Let’s keep it all fun and safe.

Have a Merry Christmas and/or a Happy Holidays.

We continue with this semi-regular (as in when I get around to putting a post together) series of things I would like to read someday. As the old saying goes, so many books and so little time. But I will strive on to read as much as I can. I also find that looking over these reviews often allows me to comment a bit on some of the issues the reviews bring up, so these posts serve me as a small reflective exercise as well. Anyhow, here we go for this week.

Items about books I want to read:

  • IDW has started compiling the Popeye comic strip from the 1940s and 1950s (story via Boing Boing). I will admit that I am not really a Popeye fan. In fact, my mother hated the comic, seeing it as too profane and violent, and I never saw that much appeal in it when compared to other comics of its time. But I would not mind taking a look at this compilation. For me, this would likely be a book to borrow rather than buy. The book is Popeye Classics, Vol. 1. It does look like a good library item, so I may order it to add it to our comics and graphic novels collection after I’ve had a chance to look it over.
  • Also via Boing Boing, a mention of a new science fiction anthology edited by David Hartwell. I’ve always found his anthologies to be good products overall, so I will probably take a look at this one. The Better Half loves science fiction short story collections, so I know she would definitely be interested in this. The book is Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, and it is supposed to deal with writers and works “who came to prominence since the turn of the century.”
  • Via the Chronicle Books blog, they are promoting a book of theirs on the art of making books out of books. You know, taking old books no longer useful and recycling them to make art. The book is Art Made from Books.
  • Via AlterNet, excerpts of a new book on American poverty and inequality. I honestly wonder about books like these given that the people who probably should be reading them never will, but in my case, I have to keep up as well as I care about the issue. The book is The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives. I think the title is very appropriate. The U.S. does have a uniquely cruel and vicious way of poverty, and those better off sneering at the poor has pretty much become a national pastime.
  • Diane Ravitch has yet another book out on American education. Common Dreams has an excerpt of it. An educator myself, I try to keep up with the field, but Ravitch just does not strike me as all that, as they say. She was basically a pretty passionate supporter and architect of No Child Left Behind who apparently has “seen the light” and the “error of her ways” and now preaches against it and related ills. I don’t usually trust converts very much, and given how much damage NCLB has done and continues to do, as a former teacher and now librarian, I am skeptical. Plus, I did not particularly like her previous door stopper, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which I did read (here is my review of that book). Odds are good I may order the new book for our library’s education collection, which means I may at least glance at it, but I am keeping my expectations low.  Anyhow, the book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, and a reign of error and terror it has been. I do find it a big amazing, though not surprising, she is all of a sudden hailed as some heroic “whistleblower” (a label used by The Wall Street Journal) given her role in causing the mess in the first place. It’s kind of like the Republicans protesting the government shutdown they caused. In the end, I don’t know how much penance the woman should do for the damage things like NCLB have done. On a side note, this article from The Atlantic discussing the two sides of Professor Ravitch explains some of how I feel about her.
  • Now on to a woman who certainly deserves accolades and a label of hero. Peter Bagge has written a graphic novel biography of Margaret Sanger. The book is Woman Rebel: the Margaret Sanger Story. You can find it reviewed in The Stranger blog.
  • And speaking of sexual education, there is a graphic novel for that. Via Bitch Magazine, a review of a new sex ed comic book. The book Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf.
  • Via The Advocate, excerpt of Julia Serrano’s book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. This may be one I have to order for the library, but I may give it a look myself. One of the arguments of the book is that gender is more than performance, going against what is often conventional wisdom, not to mention argument hammered in gender studies courses (of which I have taken one or two, but I will try not to be snooty about it as Ms. Serrano says some folks do).
  • Also via The Advocate, they highlight Crawford Barton’s 1976 book Beautiful Men, which looks at the gay men in San Francisco in what is considered a gay golden age. Why is this book of interest. According to the article, among other things, “Barton documented some of the first Pride parades, photographed Harvey Milk campaigning, and he captured gay city life as no other photographer had done before.” I do like reading photography books, and when they are historical photos even more so, thus I will have to look this up.
  • Via AlterNet, excerpt of the book Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us. C’mon folks, admit it: we all have a little pervert lurking inside. I know I do, and I am perfectly fine with that. OK, you got me; it may be more than just a little in my case.
  • On a different track, via The Well-Appointed Desk, a highlight of the book A Collection a Day. This sounds like a nice, adorable little book.
  • Via Bookgasm, a short review of Guy Delisle’s book Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City. I enjoyed the opening sentence of the review because it does convey so much truth: “Because of his wife’s work with Doctors Without Borders, illustrator Guy Delisle has been essentially leading readers on a tour of Countries Where People Are Dicks to Each Other.” Yes, there are a lot of countries where people are dicks to each other. On that basis, Delisle should do a graphic novel about the United States where being dicks to each other is a national pastime. For the record, I did read Delisle’s book on North Korea, Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea (here is my brief review of it).
  • I am not a huge romance reader (I read one here or there to keep the readers’ advisory cred), but the premise of this one, a reporter and a genetically modified soldier who turn out to be genetic matches, sounded intriguing enough to get my attention. The book is Heated Match by Lynne Silver, and it was briefly highlighted and excerpted at Bending the Bookshelf.

Lists and bibliographies:

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)

 

Here is this week’s collection of stories about reading and the reading life for this week. 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.

  • I am not sure that tossing in a few books a nice looking room can really be called a library. These seem to be more reading rooms. However, at least in one case, there is a lending program arranged with a publisher (Penguin) for some kind of book lending. Does that make it a library? Maybe. I will let readers decide on this story: “Hotels Add Libraries as Amenity to Keep Guests Inside.” In the end, like much anything else, it is about making a little (or a lot more) extra money. Via The New York Times.
  • This article, “Ebooks v. Cigarettes,” asks us an interesting question: how much do we spend on our books and reading? I will admit I have never really sat down to calculate how much I spend on books, though I can say I borrow a lot from libraries (my academic library where I work as well as my local public library). However, I also buy books, especially things I know libraries might not have, like certain graphic novels, erotica, and other more rare things. I think I may have to try to keep track for a while of what I spend on reading to see how I come out. On an additional note, this is the year I have gotten to use my iPad to read, although I pretty much read free items on it; I don’t buy e-books. The e-books I do read I either get as review copies from NetGalley or Edelweiss, or I borrow from my local public library on Overdrive. I will probably write more on that later. I found the story on Salon.
  • Via Kaizen Reading, an article on “9 Reasons to Keep a Reading Journal.” For folks who would like to keep better track of their reading, this may be a good idea. I think it may work for students and researchers as well. I have kept track of most of what I’ve read in my personal journal, and now I supplement that tracking online. But I have done it as part of my personal journal; I don’t have separate reading notebooks, which is something I have considered. I am not sure I am ready to have more than one notebook. I like having my journal where I can write anything in it from notes to quotes to reading notes. For now, that works for me.
  • Via Kaizen Journaling, here is “How to Keep an Effective Travel Journal.” This is certainly something I would like to do better. I do often write in my personal journal when I travel, though I am not always consistent. I also usually include postcards, ticket stubs, and other small mementos of my journeys, which I attach to pages in the journal to go along with my writing; this is something the blogger suggests.
  • This item is a bit older. Via Fine Books and Collections blog, highlights of the 2012 report on most coveted out-of-print books. I did try to see if BookFinder.com (link to their report), who does the list, had an update for this year, but apparently not (at least not as of this writing). What can I say? I always find trivia like that interesting, specially given that Madonna’s Sex book has remained at the top of this list for a decade or so, not bad for a book many derided then and try to forget now. I guess sex always sells.

A little bit of everything this time around. There are some newer items and some things I am now catching up.

Items about books:

  • The Good Vibes blog features a review of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2012. The review mentions that “a wide variety of bondage styles are showcased, from heavy chains to characters who can be silenced with only a stern gaze. All genders and sexualities are represented, leaving the collection feeling diverse but still focused on erotic bondage.” By the way, the 2013 edition of the book is also out.
  • Another erotica anthology. This one is Say Please, which is a collection of lesbian BDSM erotica. It is edited by Sinclair Smith, and it is reviewed in Kissin Blue Kraken (warning: this blog is an adult content blog, so may be NSFW).
  • Via Yes! Magazine, a review of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power.
  • Lambda Literary reviews a new history of the gay press. The book is Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Papers in America edited by Tracy Baim. It is one of those books someone publishes on Amazon, so it may be a while before I see it, or the book makes it out into mainstream so to speak. But it does sound interesting.
  • This is a manga series I was not sure whether to pick up or not. To be honest, the whole librarian suddenly becomes some hero or heroine genre seems cheesy (and I don’t mean that in a good way). In fact, I find that stupid The Librarian series of television movies annoying and dumb, like a very poor librarian’s Indiana Jones wannabe,  in spite of the fact a lot of my professional brethren somehow like it. Go figure. Anyhow, this manga seems like it might be entertaining to read. The Manga Critic is reviewing volume 9 of Library Wars  (link to volume 1). Sounds like I need to catch up. It’s a series with “slight goofy premise of librarians becoming a paramilitary force to fight censorship.” Now that sounds better.
  • A Case for Suitable Treatment has a review of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1.
  • A discussion of the novel Magic Words and the topic of Jews in the American Wild West at The Prosen People. Here is a bit more on the novel’s author’s work.
  • A different idea: taking Medusa the gorgon and making a sympathetic love story out of her tale. That is what Sasha Summers did in her book Medusa: A Love Story. The book is reviewed at Bending the Bookshelf.
  • A YA steampunk fantasy novel reviewed at Ninja Librarian. The book is Innocent Darkness. I have mentioned before that I am not a big YA reader, but once in a while I am willing to take a chance.
  • Via Bending the Book Shelf, a review of Adventures in Fetishland, which is a BDSM retelling of the Wonderland tale. I do find some retellings or expansions on Wonderland of interest, so we shall see on this one. It is an e-book, so again, not something I may get to right away. The book’s author describes the book’s inspiration sources here.
  • And speaking of Alice in Wonderland retellings, here is Alice in the Country of Hearts  (Link to first volume in the series). The third omnibus edition is reviewed at A Case for Suitable Treatment.
  • The Liquor Snob reviews The Brewmaster’s Table, a book about pairing beer and food. When it comes to liquor and food pairings, most people think wine, so this book may be a way to expand horizons.

Bibliographies and lists:


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