Friday, November 30, 2018

Review of "Daffynitions," by Charles Keller

Review of
Daffynitions, by Charles Keller ISBN 013196540

Five out of five stars
 As the title suggests, this is a book where the definition of a word is modified for humorous purposes. A detailed image accompanies each word so that it is turned into a pun. For example, the word “information” is defined as “how Air Force planes fly,” and there is an image of planes flying in formation. Another example is “melancholy” defined as “a dog that likes watermelons.”
 There are no instances of roaring laughter in this book, just a series of soft smiles as you read the word, definition and image in tandem. While most are fairly routine and have been used before, some of the entries are quite clever.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review of "Pyramid," by David Macaulay

Review of
Pyramid, by David Macaulay ISBN 0590995189

Five out of five stars
 The pyramids in Egypt remain extremely impressive structures, there is still debate over how such “primitive” people could move millions of large stones in such a precise manner. A large part of the debate is based on an unwillingness to admit that people that lived four thousand years ago were actually smart and capable.
 This book, based on knowledge and logical deduction, demonstrates how the Egyptians were able to quarry, transport and place the massive number of large blocks of stone into their precise locations. It is based on having a large number of laborers willing to work long days, years with which to complete the task and high-quality engineering expertise. All of these were present in ancient Egypt, based on a strong central government centered around the Pharaoh.
 Written at the level of the late elementary school child and profusely illustrated, this book is a worthy addition to all elementary school libraries.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review of "Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped," narrated by Peter Jennings DVD version

Review of
Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped, narrated by Peter Jennings DVD version

Five out of five stars
 Fifty years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was still difficult for there to be an impartial description of the context and consequences of the American dropping of the two nuclear weapons on what were essentially defenseless Japanese cities. As Jennings reports, when the Smithsonian Museum was developing an exhibit describing the bombings, some groups so strongly objected to the images of injured Japanese civilians that the museum felt forced to drop that feature and scale the exhibit down so that all that remained was the plane that delivered the first bomb to Hiroshima.
 Given the momentous nature of the decision to use nuclear weapons, the viewer will be surprised at how little debate there was over their use and how detached President Harry Truman was from the discussions. It truly was as if only the scientists understood the tremendous power of the weapons and the extensive destruction and loss of life there would be. It was truly an Earth-shattering event.
 Much of the context of the times has been lost to history, so modern observers generally cannot place themselves in the public mood after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The American military and public were aware of the high casualty numbers in the battle for the Japanese island of Okinawa and there was no reason to believe that any battle over the main Japanese islands would not be worse. Therefore, it can be argued that the use of the atomic weapons did in fact save lives, although it will not be conclusive, for it was possible that Japan could have suddenly surrendered. There is no evidence to support the oft-cited figure of one million American casualties if they were to invade the Japanese main islands.
 Peter Jennings and ABC news does an excellent job in doing a deep dive into the historical context of Harry Truman and how short a time he had in office when he had to make the decision to drop the atomic bombs. There were strong personalities around him that advocated their use with few and rather tepid statements of opposition.