Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review of "My Ups and Downs in Baseball," by Orlando Cepeda

Review of

My Ups and Downs in Baseball, by Orlando Cepeda

Three out of five stars

 Published in 1968, this is a book that was written before the game-changing “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. Breaking the unwritten norms of not airing dirty laundry in print, Bouton made a permanent impact in that it was thereafter acceptable to criticize everyone in print. There is some criticism of managers, coaches and teammates in this book, but it is tepid at best.

 Cepeda was born and raised in Puerto Rico and so English was not his primary language. From this book it appears that he never really mastered it and his editor struggled to understand how to put Cepeda’s thoughts into a logical and coherent order. There are many times when the text has the appearance of something written by a non-native speaker of English.

 It is written in a style that matches what one would write in a personal journal. There is little in the way of tensions rising as a big game is on the line. This book lacks real excitement, even though the author played in several dramatic World Series games.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Review of "An Old-Fashioned Christmas in Illustration & Decoration," edited by Clarence P. Hornung

Review of

An Old-Fashioned Christmas in Illustration & Decoration, edited by Clarence P. Hornung

Five out of five stars

 This book simultaneously illustrates how the extensive celebration of Christmas is a recent phenomenon and how the depiction of Santa Claus has changed over time. The first known instance of a Christmas card is dated 1843, so this extensive custom of celebration is less than two centuries old. Father Christmas and St. Nicholas are the two names that were given to the giver of gifts and he is generally depicted as a man with a very long beard, dressed in what looks like a raggedy, thick and long coat. Most of the time he has a smoking pipe in his mouth.

 The images are from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and depict Christmas scenes from those eras. While the drawings are from several magazines, the depictions of Santa are very consistent, pointing out that conformity is what the readers expect when thinking about Santa Claus.

 This is a look back to a time when Christmas was much less commercialized than it is now. It was a family event that was often weeks in preparation, yet there was little of the pressure to buy and sell the latest and hottest toys on the market. It was also far more secular than many modern people want you to believe.

Review of "Jovial Bob’s Computer Joke Book," by R. L. Stine

Review of

Jovial Bob’s Computer Joke Book, by R. L. Stine ISBN 059033204x

Four out of five stars

 The jokes in this book are generally what you would expect in a book written for the early adolescent. They are corny and based on simple wordplay, life situations and puns. While most are based on a computer, for some, the computer is a prop and could be replaced by other objects.

 The first one in the collection is typical, “What do computers eat? A bit here, a bit there!” Humorous for the adolescent, these jokes will cause some giggles, but nothing side-splitting.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Review of "Sword of the Atom Special"

Review of

Sword of the Atom Special

Five out of five stars

 The temporal position of this story in the saga of the Atom superhero is after his adventures in the four-part series with the little people in the South American jungle. While there, Ray Palmer (the Atom) was bombarded with white dwarf radiation so that his body has changed to the point where engaging in either a shrinking or growing event is extremely painful to the point that he is rendered unconscious. 

 The story is presented as a book called “The Atom’s Farewell,” by Ray Palmer and his wife Jean Loring as told to Norman Brawler. It describes Ray Palmer’s courtship of Jean Loring and how their marriage collapsed, leading to his trip to the city of Morlaidh, where the people were all six inches high and he was trapped at that height. He is restored to normal height by the blast of radiation and after difficulties in his old life decides to go back to look for his new love, Queen Laethwen. Norman Brawler is his sidekick in this quest.

 It is an adventure the likes of which is rarely seen in the comics, where the superhero loses his powers and must somehow live the life of a normal person. In this case, it works very well and does have a happy ending. While Ray Palmer is trapped at the height of six inches, he is among his own kind and can live the fairy tale ending. This makes it a very good story, emphasizing the human syllable of the superhuman.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review of "Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound," by Miyoko Chu

Review of
Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound, by Miyoko Chu ISBN 9780811864282

Five out of five stars
 This book is amazing, the pop-up images of the various habitats are incredibly detailed, giving the reader many different features to examine and explore. A different sound track plays when each scene is opened, so the reader can hear what it would sound like if they were to be in that specific ecosystem.
 This is a book that will educate and entertain readers of all ages. I strongly recommend it for all people that want to learn or teach the basics of birds in specific habitats.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review of "Sword of the Atom," a four-part comic miniseries

Review of
Sword of the Atom, a four-part comic miniseries

Four out of five stars
 The story opens with Ray Palmer (the superhero Atom) at home late at night during a storm, wondering where his wife Jean Loring is. She is a top-notch attorney, hired by the most demanding and well-paying clients. The power is off, so when Ray thinks he sees headlights that go off he walks down the driveway to a parked car where he sees Jean kissing another man.
 Stunned, Ray decides to go to South America on a research project, where he will be scanning the jungle looking for pieces of a white dwarf. When the plane is damaged and goes down, he turns into the Atom and survives the crash. His size control units are damaged, so he is forced to remain the size of the Atom and he encounters a race of people that are his size.
 There are many political and social problems in their society and the Atom is forced to battle many different dangers in order to survive in his new environment. From this point, the story follows a fairly predictable plotline that has been used many times before (think John Carter of Mars). A modern man suddenly thrust into a primitive society doing battle with swords, spears and bows and arrows.
 What I like about this story is the opening premise, it is hardly surprising that a superhero would suffer from marital problems. Fighting evil and risking your life is challenging enough for police officers, much less those that battle the super villains. Problems like this make them appear much more human and hence relatable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review of "Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet," by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman

Review of
Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet,  by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman ISBN 9781401252281

Five out of five stars
 This modern graphic novel follows the two sixties television shows very well. The campiness of the Batman and Robin show remains, with many “Holy *** Batman!” exclamations by Robin. The depictions of the faces and bodies of Batman and Robin also fit well with their appearance on the show. The same thing can be said about the Green Hornet and Kato. There are also classic “wall walking” scenes, one where Batman and the Green Hornet are the walkers. Another has all four going up the wall with a famous politician making a window-opening cameo.
 The villains in the case are the Joker and Colonel (General) Gumm, a man that invented and uses a very fast-acting and strong adhesive that can be fired from guns. Since the Green Hornet and Kato are perceived as villains, there are some scenes where the two duos of crime fighters square off against each other.
 The dialog will be familiar to watchers of the Batman show, if you do not have this experience, you may be turned off, for it could come across as a bit absurd. For fans, this is an enjoyable book.