Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review of "Sea Gold: A Rick Brant Electronic Adventure," by John Blaine

Review of
Sea Gold: A Rick Brant Electronic Adventure, by John Blaine

Four out of five stars
 There is a long history of adventure stories for boys that feature young adults/boys that the target readership can identify with. This book is another in the series about young scientist/inventor Rick Brant. In this story, a new manufacturing facility is starting up on the east coast of the United States and it is designed to extract mineral wealth, including gold, from seawater.
 The Brant’s have no part in the invention of the process, Rick and his friend Scotty hear about the venture and are interested in working there over the summer. However, there is a lot of local opposition, fueled by misinformation and fear that the ocean will be poisoned.
 There is some very dangerous sabotage at the plant, nearly costing Rick and Scotty their lives and severely damaging the facility, leading to the possibility that the plant will close due to lack of funds. The two heroes pursue the villains, reason through the difficulties and once again face an old and ruthless nemesis.
 While there is some science here, that is generally an insignificant backdrop to what is a classic adolescent adventure book. There are fisticuffs, bomb throwing, standard shadowing of the bad guys and the heroes being put in grave danger, only to emerge victorious at the end. In general, this is a well-written but standard adventure for adolescent readers.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Review of "Unlocking the Cage," a film by Chris Hegedus and Da Pennebaker DVD version

Review of
Unlocking the Cage, a film by Chris Hegedus and Da Pennebaker DVD version

Five out of five stars
 This film is a documentary on the quest by animal rights lawyer Steven Wise to have animals that demonstrate a high level of intelligence granted some basic rights. The emphasis is on chimpanzees, but there is a logical extension to other species of demonstrated intelligence such as elephants, whales and dolphins. Wise’s goal is not to have the other species legally declared as having human rights, his quest is to have them granted the right to have a life where they are not bound in a cage.
 As is clear in this video, chimps do demonstrate a great deal of complex thought patterns, being able to recognize literal as well as abstract concepts. The battle is a difficult one as no judge easily moves into such uncharted legal territory. Yet, it is a battle that is supported by a great deal of public opinion. As anyone that pays attention understands, many people treat their pets as a member of the family, with many seeming to need the pet as much as the pet needs the human. The growing movement for emotional support animals is strong evidence for that position.
 While there are still many that decry the animal rights movement as a crackpot scheme, it is a force that crosses the entire political spectrum. It is also a response to scientific research that is demonstrating the high level of intelligence that several species of animals possess.
 From this film, you will learn the complexities of novel legal arguments and the forces behind the growing movement to treat animals as the complex creatures they are. It is a great movie and one that will likely be quaint history in only a few years.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Review of "Voodoo Moon," by Ed Gorman

Review of
Voodoo Moon, by Ed Gorman ISBN 0312242719

Four out of five stars
 This iteration of the Robert Payne series of mysteries by Ed Gorman has all the characteristics of Gorman works, specifically quality dialog and the references to places in Eastern Iowa, where I live. The problem with this book is the reliance on an actual psychic, a young woman that had genuine visions that have successfully led police to the graves of murder victims.
 Over thirty years ago, a fire at the Sterling Psychiatric Hospital caused the deaths of many people and it was caused by patient Paul Renard. Renard supposedly died when he fell off a cliff in front of witnesses, but no body was ever recovered. There is a new set of gruesome murders and local boy Rick Hennessey claims that he was the perpetrator and that he is possessed by the spirit of Renard. Others claim that Renard is still alive.
 The story involves a sensational, unusual news channel, a psychic woman that is Payne’s lover, other local weirdos and some that appear normal, but are in fact not. The astute reader will suspect that this is true, but the revelations at the end will surprise nearly everyone.
 I always rank stories that involve psychic powers lower, due to the fact that when you grant the plot device of clairvoyance, then all things are possible. One event that I really enjoyed was when Payne was on the railroad trestle when a train was going over the bridge. Until you have experienced this situation, you have no idea how much the bridge vibrates. Doing such a thing was one of the biggest, most dangerous dares when I was growing up in eastern Iowa and the trains still ran.