Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Review of "Everything Men Know About Women," by Dr. Alan Francis

Review of

Everything Men Know About Women, by Dr. Alan Francis ISBN 0939515008

One out of five stars

 I don’t know whether the “author” of this “book” actually has a college degree in psychology. However, it is clear that no such credential is needed to “write” this book. For every page is blank, as it is a gag book, meant to make the joke that men are totally clueless when it comes to women. Which is nonsense, at a minimum a man will know where all the parts are.

  While I am often at odds with the politically correct police, in this case if there was an objection, I would stand beside them. This book is useless, as a joke it is one of the worst ones.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review of "Oliver & Hope’s Superhero Saturday," by Meg Cadts

Review of

Oliver & Hope’s Superhero Saturday, by Meg Cadts ISBN 9780692607893

Five out of five stars

 This is a book about what the child can imagine, provided they have the appropriate prop. Which is of course a cape, providing all the necessary energy for Oliver the bear, Hope the butterfly and Charlotte the fox to engage in scenarios where they come to the rescue of a pirate ship about to be swallowed by a whale and then disengage a balloon on an around the world journey that gets stuck in a tree. Real heroism becomes necessary when their friend Chewie the dog gets hopelessly stuck in the mud. Once their teamwork frees Chewie, they all team up to fight the mighty mud monster.

 It is quite a Saturday in the lives of the heroes of this story, of course the point is that every day can be a superhero Saturday if you have the imagination for it. This is a story that children will love, for the heroes are all stuffed animals, traditionally the favorite toy of nearly all children. It is easy for them to imagine their soft and fluffy friends engaged in exciting adventures involving great “danger.”

Review of "Casey Back At Bat," by Dan Gutman

Review of

Casey Back At Bat, by Dan Gutman ISBN 9780060560256

Four out of five stars

 This is of course a poetic sequel to the classic baseball poem “Casey At the Bat.” The timeframe is still the early years of the twentieth century and the game is being played between Mudville and Rutland. The winner finishes first and the loser in second, so a great deal is at stake. Once again, it comes down to a single batter that will win or lose the game and that batter is of course Casey. As was the case the first time, he takes two strikes before he swings at the pitch of decision. As is typical of Casey, it is decides the outcome.

 The poetic style is two lines of rhyming verse per page, with many of the images taking up both pages. The best image is the one showing Casey taking his mighty swing. His facial grimace indicates how much effort he put into it. It is a fun book to read, with a conclusion that is not quite what you expect.

Review of "Calculator Riddles," by David A. Adler

Review of

Calculator Riddles, by David A. Adler ISBN 0823411869

Five out of five stars

 These riddles are based on the appearance of the characters on the readout of a digital calculator. When they are turned upside down, eight of the digits look like letters in the Latin alphabet. A zero is an O, a one is an I, a three becomes an E, a four becomes an h, a five is an S, a seven is an L, an eight is a B and a nine is a G. There are many words that can be made from these eight letters and those words are formed by the execution of a linear sequence of arithmetic operations on the calculator followed by turning it over.

 A series of numbers and operations are to be entered on the calculator and they are to be executed in the sequence from left to right, independent of the usual order of operations. The riddle is to determine what the word is before carrying out the calculator operations. They are all simple riddles and the only calculator operations used are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Many of the exercises would make fun problems in math tests given to elementary school students. Nothing mathematically complex, just simple fun.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review of "The Astronaut Farmer," DVD version starring Billy Bob Thornton

Review of

The Astronaut Farmer, DVD version starring Billy Bob Thornton

Four out of five stars

 While there are several logical holes in the plot that you could fly a Saturn V through, the movie is surprisingly moving. The premise is that Charles Farmer (played by Billy Bob Thornton) left the American astronaut program when his father killed himself and he has regretted that decision ever since. In order to compensate, he has acquired rocket parts from junk yards and literally built a rocket capable of manned flight in his barn. His goal is to fly it into orbit and then safely return to Earth.

 It is a struggle against very long odds, yet it is probably the ultimate in personal dream hobbies. The government agencies are all against him, what triggers their interest is his attempt to purchase a massive amount of rocket fuel. The Department of Homeland Security correctly realizes that such a substance would make an incredibly powerful destructive device.

 His dream continues, even when he faces foreclosure on his ranch, social services believes that that he is putting his children in danger and government representatives refuse to give him permission to fly. When things are at the lowest and it appears that his wife will leave him with their three children, something happens to give Farmer a second chance. He takes it and makes the most of it. There is some peril injected into the flight that was thoroughly predictable, but it can be excused.

 The concept of a man building a serviceable rocket capable of human flight in his backyard is a steep logical climb. “Rocket science” is used to describe complex technical tasks and for good reason. What is absurd is the fact that there is a failed launch from inside his barn and the barn is not burned to cinders. With rocket exhaust temperatures in the area of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, a wooden barn would ignite and burn very quickly. Finally, if the government refused to allow him to attempt a flight, then they would confiscate his rocket.

 Yet with all of these logical holes, the act of a man being propelled into space sent a buzz up my spine. The best reaction is when the launch is detected at NASA and Farmer’s astronaut friend gives a knowing smile when he realizes what has happened. Townspeople see the rocket going up and there is pride in their faces. These are without question the best scenes in the movie, overwhelming the absurdity. For this movie is fundamentally about pursuing the supposedly impossible dream.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review of "Mother Teresa, A Life of Devotion," A & E Biography

Review of

Mother Teresa, A Life of Devotion, A & E Biography

Five out of five stars

 No one more exemplified a life of selfless devotion than the woman known to history as Mother Teresa. Born in 1910 in a section of the Ottoman Empire that is now Northern Macedonia, she found her calling in a religious order early in life. Arriving in India in 1929 while it was still an integral part of the British Empire, she learned Bengali so that she could interact with the people in their own language.

 However, it was not until the famine of 1943 and the growing unrest that was to lead to independence that she found her true calling, which was ministering to the very poor. At the time, even though it was part of the British Empire, Indian society operated under a rigid caste structure with masses of people that were extremely poor. Her ministering to the poor began in 1948, a year after India was granted independence and in the aftermath of the sectarian violence during the partition of the British colony into India and Pakistan.

 Her life of poverty and service was exemplary, although that did not stop many from criticizing her for either not speaking out against repressive political forces or performing acts considered inappropriate. For example, she famously laid a wreath on the grave of Enver Hoxha, the longtime communist dictator of Albania. Proving that no matter how much good you do, there will always be people that will find fault with your actions.

 It is clear from this tape that Mother Teresa deserved her elevation to sainthood. The difference she made in the lives of the poor in India was very significant and she managed to rise above politics as well as the sectarian hatreds that were so much a part of life in India. The video is very well done and shows the conditions on the streets and the people that she worked so hard to assist and keep alive.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Review of "A Sherlock Holmes Adventure: The Secret Weapon," video starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Review of

A Sherlock Holmes Adventure: The Secret Weapon, video starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Five out of five stars

 My opinion that Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are the two best actors to ever play Holmes and Watson will never change. The setting for this movie is of course London, England, only the timeframe is in the height of World War II. Released in 1942 when England was still subject to significant bombing raids and no one could foresee the ultimate Allied victory, it is easy to understand the propaganda-like aspects of the film.

 The adversary is of course the powerful and dangerous Professor Moriarty in alliance with the Nazis, despite the fact that Moriarty is also British. The plot features a Swiss scientist that has invented a technologically advanced bombsight that will dramatically increase the accuracy of the bombs dropped from planes. The German agents of course want to acquire the sight or at minimum, keep the British from using it.

 Being Moriarty and Nazis, the villains will stop at nothing, including the killing of people working for the Swiss scientist. One interesting feature is when Holmes allows himself to be captured by the Moriarty gang and the two foes sit and discuss the situation. It was similar to scenes in the James Bond films where Bond dines and converses with an enemy that he needs to kill to save the world and wants to kill him.

 Although there is a lack of the modern special effects that sometimes overwhelm the stories, this is a movie that can be enjoyed, with the pleasure enhanced if you understand the historical context of an England fighting for its very life. There is a very telling scene of Holmes walking through the rubble left by aerial bombing.