Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review of "Inside Amazon: My Story," by Gisela Hausmann

 Review of

Inside Amazon: My Story, by Gisela Hausmann, ISBN 9781732421189

Five out of five stars

The inside story by an expert

 Few people can match the breadth and depth of experience of Gisela Hausmann in the area of book publishing as well as dealing with Amazon. She has extensive business and managerial experience outside of Amazon and her experience with Amazon began before the year 2000, when Amazon was still a fledgling company where many people questioned its survivability. The capstone of her experience with Amazon was her working in an Amazon warehouse. It was here that she was exposed to many of the ways that Amazon actually functions at the worker bee level.

 My experience with Amazon also dates back to before the year 2000. At the time, I was the book reviews editor for “Journal of Recreational”  and my first interaction with Amazon was when an author asked me to post my review on the Amazon site. I was hooked and at one point was briefly ranked number 48 in their top reviewer list before it became popular. I have also sold books on their site since the early 2000’s. For these reasons, I also have a lot of experience in dealing with Amazon.

 Therefore, there were some things mentioned in this book that I already knew. For example, as a follower of employment issues, I knew that Amazon treats their warehouse workers as automatons. Their work can be described by the phrase, “Grab next object, move it from here to there, repeat as quickly as possible.” Amazon does not offer their workers even the smallest of perks if they do not have to.

 Yet, I was surprised at how much I learned from reading this book. Hausmann is an excellent expository writer, and she gives enough of her history, so the reader understands her perspective when she walks into her job at Amazon. I have had both positive and negative experiences with Amazon and now I understand many of the reasons for that.

 In the final analysis, there is one thing that Amazon is an expert at, avoiding a federal tax bill and getting massive state and local subsidies. Hausmann provides some explanations as to the mechanisms employed by the Amazon executives to achieve this goal. Especially striking is how Amazon hired more workers  during the pandemic so that they could achieve tax savings. The executives at Amazon even manipulated this into their advantage.

 Whatever you think of Amazon now, that will change when you read this book.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review of "The Mighty Thor 006," by Marvel Comics

 Review of

The Mighty Thor 006, by Marvel Comics

Five out of five stars

The gods behaving as the ancients thought

 What I really like about this comic is that it portrays the Norse gods as the ancient Norse and Greek peoples thought of them. Superhuman and immortal to be sure, but also with an emphasis on the human. These people considered their gods to possess the human emotions of needing to be loved, hence the requirement that they be prayed and sacrificed to.

 The plot of this comic is essentially a rivalry between Thor and Loki. The main human is Bodolf, a king that prayed to Thor before every battle and in repayment, Thor fought with him. Consequently, Bodolf never lost a battle and grew rich and powerful. Yet, he reached the point where he no longer thought he needed Thor’s help, which proved his undoing. The Viking equivalent of destitute, Bodolf is then approached by Loki and with his help, grows powerful again.

 The constant tension between Thor and Loki is nothing more than human sibling rivalry. This, along with many other human emotions is how the ancient Norse people viewed their gods. Therefore, this comic is entertaining and a lesson in mythology.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Review of "War of the Worlds," DVD version starring Tom Cruise

 Review of

War of the Worlds, DVD version starring Tom Cruise

Five out of five stars

End of humanity? Not so with some help from our natural enemies

 I have read the original novel by H. G. Wells at least four times, considering it the seminal story of interplanetary warfare. Wells demonstrated that he was a science fiction writer of the first magnitude, portraying a human victory at great cost.

 I have also watched the movie starring Gene Barry several times, it was an incredible special effects marvel for the time. The Martian warships looked menacing, and their action of their weaponry was believable.

 This version of the classic tale is a worthy addition to the saga of the original Wells story. The acting is superb and of course the special effects are dazzling. The human interest of a man that was not much of a father transporting his children through dangers both Martian and human made this a great human tale.

 Some of the scenes, such as the burning train and Humvee are classic war scenes adapted to the fight with the Martians. However, nothing can top the clothes falling from the sky. This is a great movie, a worthy extension of one of the best science fiction stories of all time.

Review of "Home Games," by Bobbie Bouton and Nancy Marshall

 Review of

Home Games, by Bobbie Bouton and Nancy Marshall, ISBN 0312388462

Five out of five stars

Another tell-all by a Bouton

The book “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, former major league pitcher, was a game changer in the area of books written about professional sports by people that played them. Before that revelation, when athletes and sportswriters wrote books about sports, they kept the sordid details out of the ink. Bouton destroyed that unwritten wall and from that point on, writers about sports were free to tell all, no matter how personal and unbecoming. Therefore, it is fitting that a book about the lives of the wives of professional athletes should be authored by the wife of Bouton.

 The format is a series of letters between Bobbie Bouton, the wife of Jim Bouton and Nancy Marshall, the wife of major league pitcher Mike Marshall. It spares nothing in the way of language and little in the way of detail regarding what big leaguers do when out of the sight of their wives. One very significant point is how low the pay was for players in the minor leagues and how their families struggled to make ends meet.

 There was also the stress of travel and moving. While a move up in the farm system was a positive career event, it generally meant a move, sometimes across the country, for the family. These women at first were the supportive wives that did whatever was necessary to make the best possible home life for their husbands. However, once their husbands were successful, they discovered that their efforts were not rewarded. Furthermore, when both men suffered their inevitable falls from their peak performance, they tended to blame their wives for their professional demise.

 This is a depressing book, pulling away the magic curtain of what it is like to be the spouse of a celebrity. Mostly they toiled in the shadows while their men experienced their fleeting fame and took them for granted in all respects. Both women eventually divorced their husbands and made an independent life. The seedy details of those divorces are also included.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Review of "Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave," by Jay Williams & Raymond Abrashkin

 Review of

Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave, by Jay Williams & Raymond Abrashkin

Five out of five stars

An adventure in cave exploration

 The Danny Dunn adventure series for young adults is a good one for all ages, not just the target one. In this case, Danny has discovered a cave and having no light, decided to come back and explore it. Fortunately, geologist Dr. Tresselt is visiting Professor Euclid Bullfinch, Danny’s guardian. With Danny’s friends Irene Miller and Joe Pearson, the two professors and Danny set out to investigate the cave.

 Their actions are a lesson in some of the features of caves, including what is normally found in one. There is some danger, but as is the case with young heroes, they manage to overcome all the difficulties and when they are lost, Danny comes up with the clue that allows them to find an alternate exit.

 What is a bit different about this book is that Irene is portrayed as an effective member of the investigatory team.  She is smart, capable and willing to follow the others into danger. That was not always the case in books published in the sixties. It is a fun read for people of all ages that enjoy basic adventure books and has aged well.

Review of "Kung Fu: The Master, the Book of Kitabu," by Vernon Kitabu Turner

 Review of

Kung Fu: The Master, the Book of Kitabu, by Vernon Kitabu Turner, ISBN 9781937907655

Five out of five stars

Poems that express the martial arts mentality

 Poetry can be used to express the complete spectrum of human activity, from emotional strain to observing the natural world. In the hands of a master, even the standard daily actions of a human can be made profound, interesting and entertaining.

 The author is a martial arts master, and this collection of poems expresses the mentality associated with a master. All are short, few extend beyond a single page. There is a wide spectrum of topics, my favorite is on page 95 and the title is “Black Lives Matter.” The first few lines are:

Surely all lives matter,

That is a given truth

But when black lives are routinely

Taken under suspicious circumstances

And there is no justice despite overwhelming

Evidence to the guilt of

white police perpetrators,

The cry black lives matter

Means black lives matter too.

 The last line is the most important point. When the phrase “Black lives matter” is stated, there are some that interpret it as diminishing the lives of others. That is not the case, the word “too” is implied.

 These poems have the form and cadence of what one would expect a person in martial arts to create. They grip you in the way a martial arts master would barely touch you but put you on the ground.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review of "Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics & History Since 1917," by Stephen F. Cohen

 Review of

Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics & History Since 1917, by Stephen F. Cohen ISBN 0195040163

Five out of five stars

Makes you rethink the Stalin effect

 It is nearly an article of fact in the Western countries that Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin was a monster. His policies led to the transformation of Soviet society from essentially an agrarian one into an industrial power. That transformation took place in only a few years. In the early 1920’s, the Soviet Union was an incredibly weak country, struggling to stay together after having several countries spin off at the end of the First World War. The Russian Civil War did not end until 1922-23.

 Yet, less than 20 years later, the Soviet Red Army was engaged in a battle to the death with the forces of Germany. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was the Soviet Union that defeated Germany and the collection of Axis powers. When you compare the casualty levels of all the Allied nations, the number in the Soviet Union dwarfs all other belligerents in the European theater.

 While there were many allies of Stalin, there is no question that he was the driving force of the transformation of the Soviet Union into a superpower. It is realistic to say that the postwar Soviet Union was the last true empire on Earth. Through its’ ideology exported on the backs of the Red Army, it retook control of the Baltic States and Ukraine as well as the countries of Eastern Europe, including approximately half of Germany.

 Therefore, in the Soviet Union, he is widely thought of as a person that saved the country from ruin, despite having made some major mistakes, rather than as a murderous monster. Those two competing threads of thought are the main topics of this book and it was refreshing to read of the position inside the Soviet Union that Stalin was a success in the Machiavellian sense.

 It was also informative to read that the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev was a reaction to his pace of reformation and criticism of Stalin. There was a strong conservative backlash to this, the consequence was the elevation of Leonid Brezhnev to power. Something similar happened again after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there was a strong movement of glasnost or openness. One major theme of this was to open archives and air out what happened during the years when Stalin had absolute power. Once again, there was a conservative backlash, leading to the rise of Vladimir Putin, who is now the de facto President for Life.

 One cannot understand history in general and that of Russia in particular, without looking at leaders in their totality. If Western leaders do not accept that the Russian people do that, then it will be difficult for the United States to make inroads in their dealings with the current Tsar-equivalent now occupying the Kremlin. This book is a good place to begin that process.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review of "Web Of Mystery: Volume One February 1951-December 1951, Issues 1-6," originally published by Ace Magazines

 Review of

Web Of Mystery: Volume One February 1951-December 1951, Issues 1-6, originally published by Ace Magazines ISBN 9781786361387

Five out of five stars

Pre-code classic horror stories in comic form

 To the modern reader, these classic stories seem simplistic in both textual and visual expression. They deal with ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other forms of the occult. In other words, pretty much the entire gamut of the modern horror genre.

 Not all of the “monsters” are evil, some are simply trying to pass along information regarding their demise to the people that miss them or did them harm. The stories are a look back at what was considered cutting edge and after the rise of Wertham, a form of literature that was damaging the youth of America.

 To the modern reader experienced in the content of many of the comics labeled for “Mature audiences,” these stories are extremely tame. Little, if any, blood is visible, even when fangs are being used on humans. An amusing characteristic is that there are few instances of scantily clad women and their chests are universally of normal size.

 This is an interesting book to read if you are interested in the history of comics as literature. As is the case in almost all forms of art and literature, what was once considered extremely inappropriate is now quaint.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review of "Gon Color Spectacular," by Masashi Tanaka

 Review of

Gon Color Spectacular, by Masashi Tanaka ISBN 1563893819

Five out of five stars

An adorable, obnoxious creature

 While Gon is technically a dinosaur, he is only slightly larger than a rabbit. Yet, he has the fearlessness of the mightiest of the predators. There are six short stories featuring Gon, and he gets himself into some humorous situations. There is no dialog or text beyond the titles, the stories are told using only the visual. Even there are some many places where a “Splat” or “Zap!” could have been used, the author chose not to.

 The stories are entertaining show several aspects of Gon. In some he is fierce and unyielding, and in others he is does what he can to aid a baby bear that is in distress over a treat. The artwork is impressive, for it is hard to tell a story with images only. In this case, Tanaka succeeds.

Review of "Rasputin #2," by Alex Grecian et. al.

 Review of

Rasputin #2, by Alex Grecian et. al.

Five out of five stars

A comic rendition of an enigmatic figure

 If there is a historical personality that is well suited for a story involving mystical powers, it is Grigori Rasputin. Born is Siberia, he became a celebrated and reviled religious figure. There is no question that he was believed to have a positive healing influence on Alexei,  the only son of Tsar Nicholas II, a hemophiliac. The Empress Alexandra held him in high regard and there seems little question that he did have a positive influence on Alexei’s health. Even one of the doctors that cared for Alexei expressed surprise at some of his recoveries from hemophilic episodes when Rasputin was present.

 What is likely the most amazing aspect of Rasputin’s life is his death. When a group of Russian nobles determined that Rasputin was growing too powerful and must be killed, they decided to do so. They first fed him tea and cakes laced with cyanide, but that had no effect. They then gave him Madeira wine laced with poison and he still showed no signs of distress. Finally, one of them shot him once in the chest. Thinking him dead, one of them donned his clothing and left the building so that onlookers would believe that Rasputin had lived long enough to return home. However, when they returned, Rasputin rose up and attacked one of them and tried to escape before he was shot again.

 This comic opens with Rasputin entering a Siberian drinking establishment and meeting a French officer. A fight breaks out between most of the patrons and the French officer and seeing the mismatch, Rasputin enters the battle on the side of the Frenchman. It is a wild fight, and the two men are the only ones standing and they celebrate by drinking to each other. When the Frenchman is shot, he is healed by the touch of Rasputin.

 It is a great start to a “true-ish” story about one of the most enigmatic historical figures. It is unknown what the true extent of his powers were, but there is no question that they were significant, at least in the minds of people in the royal court.

Review of "Castle Waiting: Volume II," by Linda Medley

 Review of

Castle Waiting: Volume II, by Linda Medley ISBN 9781606994054

Five out of five stars

Diversity is the background in a medieval setting

 This is one of the most engaging graphic novels that I have ever read. It is set in a mammoth castle with all the cliché accoutrements. There are hidden and secret passages to be found, privies that are holes in the floor with no bottom but the ground. Massive rooms, long hallways and walls made of large, carved stones.

 One of the main characters has the body of a man, yet the head of a bird with a very long beak. He wears spectacles and is considered to be wise. Another has the body of an extremely muscular man, but the head of a horse. He is also sentient. A couple of giants and a couple of dwarfs are also present, with the bulk of the others rather normal humans, at least for the medieval times.

 While there is a bit of magic, specifically a small trunk that can somehow produce finished clothing, it does not overwhelm. All from the fanciest of women’s attire to solid work clothing are produced. Other than that, the people lead rather ordinary lives. For reasons that are not explained until some time into the book, the doctor wears a mask.

 I very much enjoyed this book, there is a great deal of originality injected into what is in many ways a standard medieval castle community.

Review of "BBC: All About Polar Bears," DVD

 Review of

BBC: All About Polar Bears, DVD

Five out of five stars

Excellent primer on the amazing polar bear

 While this video is only 22 minutes long, it is an excellent primer on one of the most fascinating and unfortunately, increasingly endangered species. It is the polar bear, a creature very uniquely designed to survive in the frozen arctic.

 It follows the life of a female polar bear and her single cub as they emerge from an ice cave and venture out into the frozen land that is their home. They are solitary creatures, the only other bear they encounter is a large male and they flee from him, for he is apt to make a meal of the cub. The mother is on the hunt for seals, their primary source of food, while the cub learns to mimic her.

 One of the most impressive acts of the mother bear is when she slams her paws into the ice in order to break through it in an attempt to attack a seal. The sheer power that she exerts as the ice crumbles is amazing. The polar bear’s sense of smell is amazing, capable of smelling a seal on the surface of the ice from 20 miles away and a seal breathing hole from over a half-mile away. Polar bears do not hibernate, but the mother bears live in their den with their young in the months of January through March. A newborn bear is hairless and weighs only a pound.

 A fascinating creature, the polar bear is one of the most completely adapted large animals in the world. From this video, you can learn just how efficient their bodies are so that they can survive in what is a hostile environment to most other creatures. The surface of the arctic during the winter months.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Review of "The Lost World: Collected Works From the Pages of Planet Comics, November 1942 to Spring 1950"

 Review of

The Lost World: Collected Works From the Pages of Planet Comics, November 1942 to Spring 1950, ISBN 9781786360755

Five out of five stars

How comics were before the Comics Code Authority

 Reading this book is a look back at how much of the comic book form of science fiction was in the 1940’s. The basic premise is that Earth has been invaded and devastated by a space alien race called the Volta and most of the advances of science and technology have been lost. Few humans remain, yet they are determined to defeat the Volta and regain control of Earth. Led by Hunt Bowman, an extraordinary archer, and his female sidekick Lyssa, the humans face a very uphill fight.

 It is a battle against an enemy that has the technology to travel through space, command great stores of energy, fire various ray guns, fly through the skies and utilize remote sensing equipment. Hunt has his dog Lobo, trained to sniff out the Voltamen. It is a classic exercise in guerilla warfare where there is an extreme difference in the technological capabilities of the two sides.

 The scenarios that play out over the nearly eight year span of issues grows repetitive rather quickly and the dialog is not of the highest quality. It is also strange that some of the devices such as trains still work, even more that the people know how to run them. Generally, it is the case that when the humans need an ancient device to work, it just does.

 The comic adventures in this book are a history lesson in the type of story development that was ever present in the science fiction pulp publications. Absurd premises, weak character development, scantily clad women and bizarre aliens of various types. One positive note is that Lyssa is a fighter alongside Hunt, she is no fainting wimp. Which was not all that common in that time frame. I enjoyed it because it is a demonstration of how it was in the comic medium back then.

Review of "Real Grass, Real Heroes," by Dom DiMagio and Bill Gilbert

 Review of

Real Grass, Real Heroes, by Dom DiMagio and Bill Gilbert

Five out of five stars

A magical season written by one who knows

 The major league baseball season was memorable for two primary reasons. The first is that there were two outstanding performances that may never be equaled. They are the 56 game hitting streak by Joe DiMaggio and the 0.406 batting average by Ted Williams. The second is that it was the last season before the United States entered World War II. Major league baseball was changed after the war, much of which reflected changes in the country.

Dom DiMaggio is uniquely qualified to tell this story, he is the brother of Joe DiMaggio and played in the Boston Red Sox outfield alongside Ted Williams. Joe played for the New York Yankees, so they often played against each other during the course of the season.

 Dom provides a brief background on the DiMaggio family, including his brother Vince that also played in the major leagues. His portrayal of the often volatile Ted Williams is very soft, he defends Williams in pointing out that he was such a natural athlete and his stride was so smooth that it did not seem that he was running at full speed. Dom also defends Williams’ skill as a fielder, noting that his bad rap was often slanted because he was such a natural hitter.

 Dom also is honest about how the owners treated players back then, specifically in the area of pay. It was incredibly low and sometimes players faced a pay cut even after a very good year. From that, one can see how there was a pent-up bitterness among the players about the extent of their exploitation.

 This is a look back at what was a golden time for baseball and the country. In 1941, America understood the stakes of the war in Europe, yet the population simply didn’t want to be bothered. Baseball was a national obsession and in 1941, there was a lot to be obsessed about.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review of "Junior Classics Illustrated: The Wishing Well," comic number 563

 Review of

Junior Classics Illustrated: The Wishing Well, comic number 563

Five out of five stars

Delightful tale of the least talented child winning

 A poor old man has three sons, Peter, Paul and Boots. A bit slower mentally that his brothers, Boots is often looked down on when there is a challenge. Yet, Boots has one thing that his brothers lack, curiosity about the world.

The family lives in a kingdom where the King and his daughter are frustrated with the presence of a very large tree. They want it removed and are offering a large reward for the person that can chop it down. The princess also want a well dug so they will have water for a wishing well. Many men try, but both the tree and the dirt where they want the well dug are magic and replenish themselves as fast as they are chopped and dug. Extremely frustrated, the king offers a fortune to the person that can accomplish both tasks.  The penalty for failure is banishment from the kingdom.

 Peter, Paul and Boots set out to try to accomplish the tasks. When they hear chopping, only Boots has the innate curiosity to investigate, and he discovers a magic axe. Later they hear digging and when Boots investigates, he discovers a magic shovel. They encounter a small stream and Peter and Paul dismiss Boots when he expresses an interest in where the water comes from. When he follows the stream, he discovers that the water emanates from a magic walnut. When they arrive at the palace, armed with the three magic objects, Boots has no trouble accomplishing the tasks and winning the fortune and the hand of the Princess in marriage.

The moral of this story is about the magic of curiosity and the value it has in assisting a person in achieving their goals. That is a valuable lesson, too often people suppress their curiosity in order to avoid the potential for ridicule.

Review of "Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: The Golden Treasure," DVD

 Review of

Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: The Golden Treasure, DVD

Five out of five stars

A fairy tale with many aspects of a moral

 This is one of my favorite fairy tales because it does not involve magic in any way, just the inherent talent of a boy and his desire to use it. Peter is a young boy with flame red hair, yet his mother calls him the Golden Treasure. Almost from birth, he demonstrates incredible skills as a child prodigy in music and is capable of playing almost any instrument. However, his father is determined that Peter stick to the drum so that he can be a drummer in the military.

 When war comes as always seems inevitable, Peter dons his drum and does his duty, marching off with the other men. During that war, he continues to beat his drum and leads a charge that captures a major artillery position of the enemy. Labelled as a hero, he returns to his village to become a musician.

 When he is given the opportunity to tutor the burgomaster’s daughter Charlotte in music, Peter and Charlotte fall in love. However, she is betrothed to another and overcome with sadness, Peter leaves the town to seek his fortune as a musician. Extremely successful, Peter returns to his town wealthy and famous. Eventually, he discovers that Charlotte has not married so there is a very happy reunion. At the end, Peter’s mother tells everyone that she did not call him the Golden Treasure because of his hair but because of the golden treasure of music within him.

 With only human talent and feelings to sustain it, this fairy tale is a joy to watch. I strongly recommend this video to all people that need to entertain and educate children. For it is a plausibly true story.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review of "The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West," starring Bob Denver and Forrest Tucker, DVD version

 Review of

The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West, starring Bob Denver and Forrest Tucker, DVD version

One out of five stars

An attempt to out Gilligan Gilligan

This is a really bad movie. Bob Denver plays Dusty, a bumbling incompetent that is based on the Gilligan character of the sixties sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” Unfortunately, the mishaps are even worse than what took place at the hands of Gilligan. Furthermore, they simply don’t have the spark to generate a laugh as they are generally predictable.

 Forrest Tucker plays Wagonmaster Callahan that is a combination of the skipper in “Gilligan’s Island” as well as his role as Sergeant O'Rourke of “F-troop.” He even wears his hat in the same manner as the Sergeant. Again, the role is old and tired.

 Other characters are the very rich man and his elegant wife, (Thurston Howell and lovey from “Gilligan’s Island,”) the beautiful dance hall girl (Ginger), the plain girl, Mary Ann, and the smart man, (the professor.) Using recycled characters can work, but they clearly do not in this case.

 The movie is boring, often plodding and predictable, it is hard to watch in one sitting.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Review of "Candid Cowboys," by Neil Summers

Review of

Candid Cowboys, by Neil Summers

Four out of five stars

Not as candid as the title and introduction indicates

 There was a time when the western was the principal form of action entertainment, both on the big screen and on television. The people that starred in them were all household names and their faces were easily recognized. Summers was often on the sets of western productions and he took many photos of the stars as they either prepped for a scene or relaxed on the set.

 Nearly all of the photos were clearly posed and staged, few of them would fit the ordinary definition of being candid. Yet, they are fun to look at, for while the action is staged, it is not at the level of publicity stills. The players, including the appearance of stagehands, directors and makeup people all seem quite relaxed.

 If you are a fan of western entertainment and the people who played the characters, this is a book you will enjoy looking through. Each image has an explanatory caption, so you will know the location and the people in the picture.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Review of "More Than Winning," by Tom Osborne

 Review of

More Than Winning, by Tom Osborne, ISBN 9780803226630

Five out of five stars

Winning the right way

 The most impressive statement in this book is when Osborne states that Nebraska led the nation in Academic All-Americans, and by a two-to-one margin. This was during a period when Nebraska was a football powerhouse, in contention every year for the national championship and winning three in the nineties. Osborne instituted several major changes, including year-round weight training, nutrition and other conditioning.

 While Osborne openly states his religion, he does not flaunt it, stating that all he prayed for was safety, health and a game that was cleanly played and properly officiated. He also points out some of the absurd aspects of the NCAA rules, when Nebraska was cited for violating an obscure rule, he took the blame. Openly admitting that he didn’t know the rule existed, he accepted it saying that he should have known.

 Osborne was also a master at growing players into starring roles. Allowing men to walk on and letting them take as much as years before they developed into a quality player was a trait of the program. He also showed courage and his winning resolve when he went for two points and the win against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

 A coach that did things right and was rewarded for it, Osborne demonstrated that you could follow the rules, avoid being the ruthless taskmaster, be gracious towards others and still be one of the most successful coaches of all time.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Review of "Animaniacs Number 10, Special Gratuitous Pinup Cover"

 Review of

Animaniacs Number 10, Special Gratuitous Pinup Cover

Five out of five stars

An explanation of how comics are made with a surprise ending

 This is a comic within a comic. It opens with a doctor telling his nurse to hold all calls while he sneaks into his private room in order to read a comic book. Suddenly, Yakko, Wakko and Dot appear and disturb his train of thought. After a bit of nonsensical dialog, the doctor pulls down a screen that shows an unshaven male writer in a minimalist room trying to generate an idea for a story for a comic book. Since they are all comic characters themselves, the four of them jump into the caption and become part of that story.

 Once the writer has experienced the necessary inspiration and the story is written, he takes it to a very skeptical editor. After significant pleading, the editor agrees to turn it into a script. From there it goes to the penciler, followed by the letterer, then the inker and finally the colorist. The result of each step in the process is shown, so the reader knows what each has done. After reading this comic, the reader will know precisely what is meant by the credits that appear in the first pages of the comic book.

 There is a lot of silly dialog, but there is a wonderful last dialog balloon. The doctor is depicted as wearing glasses with large lenses, has a long face and talks with a German accent. I was at a loss to understand why this was done until that last balloon, where the text is, “I guess Wertham was right.” Of course, once I saw that I understood the reference to German-American psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham, whose book, “The Seduction of the Innocent” triggered the suppressive Comics Code Authority. That was a great touch to an oddball comic book.

Review of "The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress," edited by Leo Goldberger

 Review of

The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress, edited  by Leo Goldberger ISBN 0814730116

Five out of five stars

Chronicle of a national expression of moral courage

 Of all the nations under military occupation by Germany in the Second World War, Denmark was arguably the best off. The oppressive thumb of the Germans was rather light, the legal Danish government independently functioned for approximately three years before the members resigned as a body. This helped the Danes when they carried out their great rescue.

 There were less than ten thousand Jews in Denmark at that time, most of which were otherwise undistinguished from their fellow Danes. When the Germans got around to rounding up the Jews in an attempt to add them to the killing list, the Danish people almost universally rose up to hide them and then spirit them off to neutral Sweden. It was an incredible act of national will, unlike in other countries there were few instances of betrayal.

 As is pointed out in this book, it was a German that tipped off the Danes regarding the planned roundup, giving them time to alert everyone to the danger and take the Jews into hiding before they could be transported to Sweden. There were also almost no instances of the vacated Jewish property being looted. Their neighbors performed the upkeep tasks, so when the Jews returned, all of their possessions were as when they left.

 This book describes one of the most incredible examples of an entire nation rallying to protect the smallest of minorities. Most of the participants risked their lives when doing so, nearly always helping people that they did not know. In an age when most people acquiesced to the massive event now called the Holocaust, this book chronicles the actions of a nation that stood up against the monstrous evil.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Review of "Fossils," by Claire Llewellyn

 Review of

Fossils, by Claire Llewellyn ISBN 0763567523

Five out of five stars

Excellent primer on the creation and value of fossils

At 20.5 inches by 14.5 inches, this book would be difficult for the youngest of readers to manipulate well enough to read it by themselves. However, it would be an excellent choice for a large reading circle where one person is reading it to a large group of children. The text is large enough so that it could easily be read by children several feet away.

 Dinosaurs have always been a subject that fascinates children. The idea that creatures that large and ferocious once walked the Earth seems hard to believe and was once dismissed. Yet, they were very real, although the fossil record is still incomplete. There is nothing more impressive than going to a museum and standing next to an intact skeleton of one of the larger dinosaurs.

 This book is an excellent primer on how fossils are created, some of the living creatures that were forever preserved and how scientists put the pieces together in an attempt to understand how the creature moved, what they ate and how they reproduced. Written at the level of the second grade child, this is a science lesson of the first magnitude.

Review of "Beware Volume One," Pre-code classic comics

 Review of

Beware Volume One, Pre-code classic comics, ISBN 9781786361349

Five out of five stars

Pre-code classics with all the gore

 In the history of comic books, the year 1954 was a fundamental turning point. That was when German-born American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham published his infamous book “Seduction of the Innocent.” In it, he claimed that comic books were a serious cause of juvenile delinquency. Congressional hearings took place and in response, the comics industry instituted a program of self-regulation called the Comics Code Authority. Gone were all depictions of anything not considered bland vanilla fare, where the good guys always won, crime did not pay, and violence was minimized.

  This book is a compilation of the issues of “Beware” from January 1953 through January 1954, right to the point where the code was activated. As such, it depicts gore, violence against people, horrific killing monsters, ghosts and hauntings, human dismemberment and even cannibalism. While the extreme censorship was unwarranted, it is easy to see where the simple-minded would be a little disturbed by the stories.

 Yet, when compared to the modern world of the killer/slasher, stupid and ultimately dead teenager movies, this stuff is quite tame. This book is an excellent look back to what was in many ways a golden age of comics. Mindless entertainment that spurred the imagination of young people but did nothing to twist them into the deviants that Wertham claimed they would become.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Review of "Justice League Quarterly #2," DC comics

 Review of

Justice League Quarterly #2, DC comics

Five out of five stars

A parody of Marvel characters

 Even though this was published by rival DC Comics, the main theme of this publication is a parody of characters appearing in Marvel Comics. The primary character is called Mr. Nebula and he is a satirical representation of Galactus, the destroyer of worlds. In this case, his powers and aims are in extreme redecorating, with wild and colorful designs and rearrangements his mode of operation. His herald in this case is the Scarlet Skier, which is based on the Silver Surfer of Marvel.

 Tired of working for Mr. Nebula, the Scarlet Skier flees from Galactus and is in hiding on Earth. His former employer is determined to find him, so Earth is in grave danger from being subjected to an extreme and unwanted makeover.

 To succeed, Mr. Nebula must overcome the Justice League, led in this case by the Martian Manhunter. The dialog is generally snarky and at times over the top to the point of absurdity. For example, there is the caption, “Kirtan-Rodd has been transported to a dimension of unconnectedness, of enformed madness, of swirling colors and unbelievable outrageous forms!” Note also the name of the character, another that appears is Dr. Doolotz.

 One of the least serious comic stories you will ever read, at times the captions must be read slowly, or you will likely miss out on some of the rapid fire satirical and at times nonsensical jokes.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Review of "Yeh Shen: A Play," by Brenda Parkes

 Review of

Yeh Shen: A Play, by Brenda Parkes ISBN 0763567485

Five out of five stars

Cinderella story from China that dates from the ninth century

At 20.5 inches by 14.5 inches, this book would be difficult for the youngest of readers to manipulate well enough to read it by themselves. However, it would be an excellent choice for a large reading circle where one person is reading it to a large group of children. The text is large enough so that it could easily be read by children several feet away.

 This story will be recognized by all that read it or have it read to them as a variation of the Cinderella story of Western literature. The main character (Yeh Shen) is a poor girl that is forced by her stepmother and stepsister to do all the work in their house. Her only friend is a fish that she brings rice to and communicates with.

  The stepmother tries to sever the bond between Yeh Shen and the fish, but there is magic involved. When the local king has a spring festival, Yeh Shen attends in very elaborate garments provided to her. When she encounters her step relatives she is forced to flee, and she leaves one of her slippers behind. The young king saw her at the festival and has his servants scour the kingdom in search of her. They eventually find her in the most unlikely of places and Yeh Shen is identified as the woman at the festival. The king and Yeh Shen are married and are happy for the rest of their lives.

 The story known as Cinderella is one of the oldest and independently cross cultural of all the fairy tales. The basic story is identified as appearing in Greece in the first century BC and identifiable variants are present in the folk tales of many cultures. Therefore, this is a great book for multicultural studies, for it demonstrates that some ideas are of general human origin and independent of a specific culture.

Review of "U. S. Cavalry," by John Selby

 Review of

U. S. Cavalry, by John Selby ISBN 0850450829

Five out of five stars

Synopsis of the history of the U. S. Cavalry forces

 As odd as it may sound, there is still a role for a limited number of cavalry in the U. S. military. Who can forget the image of mounted U. S. special forces troops riding into combat in Afghanistan in the first years of the twenty-first century? Those men were the latest iteration of a long tradition of mounted troops in the U. S. military. This book is a short history of their role in the nations wars.

 For obvious reasons, major history of the cavalry in U. S. wars took place in the Revolutionary, Mexican and Civil Wars. Yet, in popular culture, the image that most comes to mind is the cavalry riding to the rescue in the western movies. That has a historical basis, the long distances involved in the lengthy war between the U. S. and Native Americans required both sides to be mounted and capable of rapid and sustained movement.

 This book is an excellent primer on a branch of the military that was once key to winning battles yet has now largely been relegated to an occasional action.