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Posts Tagged ‘Strong Recommendation’

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”  —   book review
This book review is for the historical / philosophical science book: “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962©), written by Thomas S. Kuhn.  Kuhn was a PhD in physics, but, I gather, considered himself more of a science historian than a “working” physicist.  Kuhn is most famous for this book and it is considered one of the most significant science books of the 20th century.
As I understand it, Kuhn believes there are two types of “science”: the “normal” science and the “revolutionary” science.  Normal science is what 99% of all scientist do: gathering data, analyzing data, creating and refining instruments and tests to gather data.  Revolutionary science is what a small group of scientists do.  Unsatisfied with the anomalous data which doesn’t fit the current understanding (“paradigm”) of a science topic, this group thinks about and generates new ways of looking at the data which just doesn’t fit the “old science” standard.  The ideas which come out of this small group become the “paradigm-shifts” of science.
The historical view of the development of science is analogous to a river: you start somewhere in the past and over time, you pick up more and more water (data, theories, tests, rules, formulas) until you have a full blown river (science classification system, like Chemistry, Biology, Physics or whatever).
Upon review of the history of significant scientific break-throughs, Kuhn found that instead a river, the flow of science was more like a rapids which develops into a water fall.  The rapids are the problems which the current state of science cannot explain or explain away the data supporting.  At a certain point, the problems become too obvious and then “someone” comes along and proposes an alternative explanation for nature which explains the problems.  Like a waterfall, this fully disrupts the rivers steady stream and there is turbulence (“revolution”) until the water can re-stabilize.  Kuhn proposes this is when most, if not all, of the old guard from the prior paradigm have died off.  Then the cycle starts again…
Is this a “great” book?  Did it change my world view (paradigm) of science?  Is it a “good” read?  My answers would be:  Yes!  Not really.  And, no!
I have seen multiple sites and reviewers hail this book as a GREAT book and one which everyone should read in their lifetime.  Who am I to disagree with others more learned than I?  I did find it to be a powerful argument for its case / proposition.
Did it change my view of science?  Not really.  Why not?  Because the ideas in this book are now (after 50+ years) considered to be fairly standard in many fields, not just in science.  The proposition is considered almost human nature: most folks just work to work and every once in a while someone comes along who shakes every thing up.
The issue I have with the book is that it is not a very good read.  I found it EXTREMELY academic AND pedantic.  I am not a historian, a trained scientist, nor a philosopher. I found myself forced to stop at least every few pages to look up a word to make sure I understood what was being said.  Worse, on substituting the definitions I found the sentences made more sense (to me).  I normally don’t mind a specific academic word being used if there is a very specific thing being said which doesn’t lend itself to a simpler word (or phrase).  But, when there is an easier word (or phrase), you (the writer) are not impressing me when you cloud your message with academic erudition.  (See, I can do it, too!)
Also, while the book is reasonably short at just over 200 pages, it is about 150 pages longer than it needs to be – because it is so specific and repetitive.  I felt as if I were reading a dissertation and the author was trying to overwhelm me with proof he’d done his research.  I wasn’t overwhelmed, just bored through most of it.
Final recommendation: strong.  It is easy to see why this is considered a “classic” for its day, but that day was fifty-years ago.  The book (and proposal) has won the day and I believe is fairly widely accepted in both science and in many other fields.  While I recommend this as a classic, it is not an easy or quick read if you want to gain any appreciation of the concept of revolutionary paradigm shifts and how they differ from normal progress in any field (not just science).  Therefore, I doubt the average person will bother to work their way through what is already societal background knowledge. In any case, the concepts of the book are more simply explained in Wikipedia and with far fewer words.
I am better for having read this book, but I would have preferred a gentle tooth cleaning to a root canal.
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On This Day In:
2019 Better To Do
News: Drunken Party Girl Saves Seoul
2018 Keep Moving
2017 Fighting Good
2016 Size Matters
2015 Maybe The Best Thing
2014 Ready To Be Fried?
2013 A Real Lover
2012 Winning Wars
2011 A Different Lesson

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Today’s “binge” review is for the series “Lie to me*“, which aired between 2009 and 2010.  I purchased two of the seasons (I haven’t seen Season 3 – from 2011) on VUDU while on sale for $5 each.  Season one has 13 episodes and season two has 22, so I watched about 26 hours of the show over the last week (ish).  Season three (13 episodes) is not currently available to purchase on VUDU, and even if it becomes available, I’ll still wait until it’s on sale for $5.  (Cause I’m just cheap / thrifty that way.)  Which means I may be waiting some time before I see / review the final season.  I believe the series was cancelled for lack of audience.  My brother referred this series over a year ago (he said it was terrific / must see), but when I told him I was watching it, he claimed to not remember it at all.  Go figure…
The series is basically a crime drama / investigation / police procedural starring Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, Kelli Williams as Lightman’s partner, Dr. Gillian Foster, Brendan Hines as Eli Loker, a graduate student / employee of the Lightman Group (Lightman and Foster’s company), Monica Raymund as Ria Torres, another employee, Hayley McFarland, as Emily Lightman (the Dr.’s daughter) and Mekhi Phifer as FBI Agent Ben Reynolds, muscle assigned to work with the Group.
The company specializes in “reading” body language and micro-expressions to act as human lie detectors.  The premise is Dr. Lightman is a “genius” at this and can tell if anyone is trying to lie.  Hence, he gets lots of work from the government and various police forces.
The show is based on the actual scientific studies and work of Dr. Paul Ekman who serves as a consultant for the show and who actually performed these duties for real agencies, in the real world.  I was completely unfamiliar with “micro-expressions” or the work of Dr. Ekman.  I read “Body Language” by Julius Fast, way back in the early 1970’s when it was a best seller, so I have been “kind-of” familiar with the general concept of “reading” people for most of my adult life.  Fast’s book was published in paperback in 1970, which is the version I read.  Dr. Ekman has loads of books and has been publishing for over fifty years.  You can find some of his videos on YouTube if you are interested in the topic.
Is the show any good?  Does the “science” work?  Yes and who knows for sure…  I thoroughly enjoyed the series after I got over my initial doubts that ANY of the premise is actual science.  If the show works (as entertainment), who really cares if the science is real or not (see StarTrek, StarWars or any of a million other series).  It IS entertaining.  Mostly because Roth owns this role.  I’m not familiar with much of his other work, so I don’t know if he’s acting or doing a John Wayne (playing himself in every role, over and over again).  I remember Roth from one of the Hulk movies and kind of remember him from “Reservoir Dogs“, but I haven’t seen that in ages, so, like I said, I’m not sure.  The other actors are mostly ok to good in their roles, but to be honest, it’s all mostly attractive yuppie stuff, so I wouldn’t say I’d go out of my way to look for any of them in other roles.
Final recommendation: Strong, but with reservations. I did enjoy the series and found the premise interesting enough that I will look into the scientific basis if I happen to stumble on a used book on the topic of micro-expressions / lie detection / body language, but I doubt if I would ever really try to use any of the info I might glean from the book.  Generally, I think I’m a bit too narcissistic to care about other people’s body language now that I’m retired.  I’m not sure their “truth” is worth all that much effort on my part and I certainly would not devote enough time on it to become expert level.  Like I said: interesting premise and entertaining series.  I’m looking forward to viewing season three.
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On This Day In:
2017 Give And Keep
2016 No Change Here
2015 Campbell’s Law
2014 Dignified Values
2013 Unappreciated Skill
2012 Living Courage
2011 What’s Happening To Us?
2010 Toothbrush, Carbon and Monoxide
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

 

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Risen” – movie review
Risen” (2016) is the story of the Christian tale of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is told from the perspective of a Roman military tribune Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes).  He is tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to the body of Jesus (played by Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion.  Accompanied by a rookie (but for some reason, trusted) aide Lucius (Tom Felton – Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series), Clavius must find the body before the Emperor arrives on a visit.
The movie generally follows the four gospels, but has some interesting twists because it’s from the Roman side.  There are (to my mind) changes, but they won’t mean a great deal to the average person – Christian or not.  One of the most interesting (to me) was the twisting of the story of “Doubting Thomas”.  The actions happen per the gospel, but the line about faith is directed to Clavius instead of to Thomas.
Another (to me) significant change is Mary Magdalene (played by Maria Botto) is put back in the role of a prostitute.  This is a currently discredited interpretation of Mary Magdalene’s role among the followers of Christ.  The role came about by means of a claim / assertion by Pope Gregory I, which generally combined multiple Mary’s cited in the testaments into a single Mary.
Other than these (and other minor) errors, I found the movie to be an excellent story of faith and conversion.  On the basis of this alone, I give the movie a strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2016 Dignity And Grace
2015 Is It Warm Enough For You
2014 What The Right STILL Wants
2013 Embrace Serendipity
2012 Your Order, Please
2011 Well Enough Anyway

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Tripwire  (1999©) —  Book Review
Tripwire” is book three in the Jack Reacher novel series which I began reading earlier this year after seeing the movie starring Tom Cruise.  I enjoyed the flic, so I wanted to see what the books were about.  You can never be sure just from watching a movie if the character is “really” the same or simply an interpretation by the director or star actor.  Although this is the third book in the series, it’s actually the fourth book I’ve read.  I was looking at summaries and found one of the books was a throw-back to before the “series” began, so I wanted to “start” the series at the chronological beginning even if it wasn’t the first book in the series.  Since I haven’t read all of them, I’m not sure I have started in the right place, but I feel as if I made the effort anyway.
So, the book (and series) is written by Lee Child.  At this point, the series is beginning to follow a formula: Reacher is out minding his business, something happens, he goes to be a hero – because he’s the only one who can work outside the law and get “it” done, whatever “it” happens to be.  This book finds Reacher in Florida, but quickly moves to New York.  He meets a past acquaintance who becomes a lover.  She gets in danger.  Hero time!
The book is solidly entertaining.  It’s well paced and (of course) has a twist ending.  The author accomplishes this with two tricks, misdirected first person narration and then failing to tell the reader what the main character knows until the author is ready for the “twist” ending.  The problem is, this trick is blatantly obvious when the author does it and as a reader you just stop and say (to yourself) “just tell me what Reacher knows!”  Does it spoil the book?  No.  Does it make it less enjoyable…?  Yeah, for me, it did.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I will continue to read the series and see what happens.  I don’t remember the earlier books having the problem discussed above and hopefully, it’s just a one off in this particular book.  Anyway, as I stated, I still enjoyed it.  Action.  Mystery / detective / procedural.  Heroics.  What’s not to like?
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On This Day In:
2015 I’d Settle For Interesting
2014 Old Math
2013 Adequate Explanation
2012 Superior Discovery
2011 Welcome Home And Thank You!!
Two Heritages

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Batman v Superman (2016) –  movie review
Last Saturday I took my daughter Sarah to see the latest comic book movie: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“.  The movie stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is really only in a small role (screen time wise), but it is significant to the movie as the start of the Justice League.  Affleck is new to the role of Wayne/Batman, but was surprisingly much better than I anticipated given all of the negative reviews.  Cavill is reprising his role as Kent/Superman, and is still great in the role.
Is this a “good” movie?  Yes.  It is.  It’s not going to win anyone a best actor trophy and there are large parts of the movie which don’t make any sense, but it’s a movie about comic-book superheroes, so give me a break!  I enjoyed it.  It’s not a great “film”, but most (almost all) comic-book adaptations are not great films.  Who cares?  We don’t go to them for great acting or great dialog or great plot.  We buy our tickets for action, adventure, fantasy and special effects to match our imagination.  By this standard, BvS is entertaining and that is enough.
So, what is the movie about?  Basically, the movie is a marketing attempt to throw three super-heroes together to create a “team” so the industry can have a competing franchise to the Marvel Comic Universe.  The “team”, in this case, the Justice League, will then be able to spin out both League and individual heroes sequels.  If the medium proves as artistically deep as the comic book medium, movie studios will have created a money making machine which can span decades without ever having to come up with a “new” idea.  They just follow the bread crumb trail of the comics.
There is only one problem: actors age and comic book characters don’t.  Well, they do, but on a factor of about one year for every 8 to 10 years (“real” years) of the reader’s life.  In the movies, this is handled by substituting a new (younger) actor in the next sequel or re-booting the movie series (again with a new – younger – actor) usually about ten years after the latest origin story.
The other way to deal with the age issue is to age the hero along with the actor.  This can work (see the “Die Hard“, “Rambo” and “Rocky” films), but more often, not really (see Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises“).  The point I’m getting at is that Affleck’s older Batman, and more specifically Bruce Wayne, is better portrayed than Bale’s.  And, one step farther, I think this will bode well for future League sequels.
Now, some of you might ask: what does any of this “really” have to do with this movie.  Probably nothing.  Just the meandering thoughts of an old comic-book reader…
So, final recommendation: strong.  Standing on its own, it is entertaining.  And, if you don’t go see it, you won’t know what’s going on in the sequel.
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On This Day In:
2015 Remarkable Creations
2014 Measured Faith
2013 April Fool, n.
2012 Faith, Ego And Patriotism
As It Happens
2011 What Counts

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Deadpool  —  movie review
Today I took my son James to see the new movie from Marvel Studios, “Deadpool” (2016).  This movie is rated “R” and for very good reasons: violence, nudity and language.  Of the three, the most egregious is the language, followed by the violence and then a distant third is nudity.  Obviously, it’s a comic-book movie and “kind of” a rom-com, but I would more accurately describe it as an action (violence) based dark comedy.  Most of the “comedy” is from the scripted lines spoken by the main character Wade Wilson / Deadpool – played by Green Lantern, I mean Ryan Reynolds.
This is clearly the first in a series, so of course, this is the origin story told in a series of flashbacks.  Blah, blah, “hero” does small “job”, meets girlfriend, love ensues, “hero” is diagnosed with terminal / inoperable cancer and advised to get his things in order.   Blah, blah, “bad-guy” is introduced, torture of hero follows.  Hero escapes and tries to track down the bad guy.  Hero kills a lot of people and blows stuff up.  Bad-guy gets away and kidnaps hero’s love interest.  Blah, blah, big fight, hero wins and saves girlfriend.
So, is the movie any good and what about the “R” rating?  This is a surprisingly good movie and Reynolds, I mean Green Lantern, seems to be perfect for the role.  Because so much of the humor is oral / spoken, you really have to pay attention to the movie.  How strange is that?  You’re paying attention to the movie so you can catch the jokes, not because the movie is all that interesting!   It is (interesting).  But that is not why you’re paying attention.  Either way, it works.  I enjoyed the movie a lot.
What about the big three?  Well, in (severity) reverse order, the nudity isn’t that big a deal.  I only really remember one bar scene with nude dancers.  Oh, yeah, they show Reynolds’ tush a couple of times.  Bad language, yeah, there is quite a bit of that.  Is it “really” bad?  I’ve heard worse.  Did it spoil the movie for me?  Not at all.  What about the violence?  There is quite a bit of that, too.  But, and this is the BIG qualifier, I didn’t find it to be as gratuitous as I’ve seen in some movies – actually, many movies.  I would say it’s easily on a par with “Watchmen“, the two “300” movies or “Sin City“, but not as bad as the “Kill Bill” movies.  None of this is to excuse the reasons for the “R” rating, merely to put them in context with other similar movies.
Final recommendation – strong but with the qualifications that this movie is definitely not for children just because it is a comic book hero movie.  As the “hero” says in some of the promos: “this is not that kind of hero movie.”  Not as good a movie as “Guardians of the Galaxy” for non-mainstream tier comics,  but a very good addition to the “adult” comic hero movie genre.
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On This Day In:
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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Spanglish – movie review
I recently watched the rom-com Spanglish (2004).  The movie is about a moderately wealthy “Anglo” (white American) family which hires a young Mexican female housekeeper and the issues the family faces as their maid is becoming acclimated to wealthy but dysfunctional America.  Although marketed as a “romantic-comedy”, the movie is actually not very funny – and certainly not “ha-ha” funny.  The movie stars Adam Sandler as the husband – who happens to be a world class chef, Téa Leoni as the unemployed and neurotic wife, and Paz Vega as the maid – who initially speaks no English.  The “framework” of the movie is provided by the voice narration of the maid’s daughter describing the most important person in her life (her mother) on a college application essay.
The movie is over a decade old, so it’s probably pretty safe to give away most of the plot, but I won’t (too much).  Suffice it to say, the wife is bored and begins having an affair (off camera).  The husband finds he has little in common with his wife and, although he continues to adore her, he finds he is slowly but surely being attracted to the maid.  When he finds out about his wife’s affair, he decides to pursue his affection for the maid.  The couple share a meal at the husband’s restaurant and almost, but not quite, consummate their budding romantic relationship.  They decide they cannot – for the families – and the young maid quits her job with the family and (presumably) returns to living in the Los Angeles barrio (with her daughter).
Despite my earlier statement that this is not a “very” funny movie, it is surprisingly satisfying.  I enjoyed it tremendously!  I am not a fan of Adam Sandler.  I have only seen him in a few roles and, by and large, have not found him funny.  I don’t know if this is his first “serious” role or not, but I now feel as if I must go back and re-watch some of his other works, because he is just THAT good in this role.  Téa Leoni and Paz Vega are also both excellent in their roles.  I must admit I only remember Téa Leoni in one other movie role – the newsperson in “Deep Impact” – and it was very nice to see her in another solid performance.  Given the movie is over ten years old, I am surprised I have not seen more of Paz Vega because the camera absolutely loves her.  She reminds me of a much younger Penélope Cruz.  Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen Ms. Vega in anything else.
So, final recommendation – strong recommendation.  The movie captures the “immigrant” story quite well – the arc if not the normally terrifying detail.  The adult (and child) acting is good to very good.  The story is well developed and I don’t mind admitting I’ll be re-watching this movie again, in about a year, after I’ve had a chance to see a few of Adam Sandler’s other roles.
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On This Day In:
2015 All Omissions Are Mine
2014 Precise Order
2013 Uh, No. Not Really…
Deep Regions
2012 A Pre-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Easy Like Sunday Morning
May I Have A Little More, Please…
2010 Valleys and Peaks

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Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens  —  movie review
During its first week of release (last week), my daughter (Sarah) and I went to see the latest edition to the Star Wars saga.  This is episode seven (VII) and sub-titled: “The Force Awakens“.  The movie has the three main characters from the original movie (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill) with Ford getting the most screen time.  It also has most of the other secondary characters (Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO) and a handful of new actors to serve as future replacements for the aging work force.
So, is it any good?  If you are a Star Wars fan, you will probably LOVE this “reboot” (and that’s what it is).  The basic story line is the same as the original and the new characters parallel their predecessors.   If you are a casual Star Wars viewer or completely new to the series (young or just out from under a rock), you will probably enjoy the movie or maybe even like it a lot.  Unfortunately, if you are old enough to have lived through the original, you will probably leave your seat feeling like deja vu all over again…
The actors (the new ones) are better than the old ones were at a similar point in their careers so the acting is better.  The special effects are better, but they had a lot more money to spend on them and almost 50 years of better technology.  The “problem” is this story has already been told.  As bad as the three prequels were, at least they had a story to tell: “how did we get here”.  Unfortunately, instead of saying how we moved on, the writers simply say: “we’ve moved on, now were going to tell the same story as the original, but with different (younger actors) heroes.”
Now, before the Star Wars “fans” start with the comments, I would like to go “full disclosure”:  I am a Trekkie first and foremost, even though I’ve viewed the Star Wars movies FAR more times than I have almost all of the StarTrek movies.  In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, the best StarTrek movies are not as good as the best Star Wars movies and the worst Trek movies are far worse than the worst of the prequels.  Be that as it may, it is the spirit of StarTrek which drives its fan base and we’ll accept bad movies if it keeps the spirit alive.  I believe “The Force Awakens” retains the spirit (okay, I’ll say say it: “the force“) of the series even if it doesn’t bring much in the way of originality to the franchise.
Having offered my opinion… my daughter loved it.  Final recommendation: good clean fun and entertainment – strong recommendation.  But here’s to hoping the next two movies advance the franchise (fingers crossed).  Now, off to buy some Star Wars merchandise…  (Just kidding.)
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On This Day In:
2014 We Are Not A Fearful Nation!
2013 Risking Truth
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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Casca #6: The Persian – book review
This volume is number six in the “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary” book series.  “Casca #6: The Persian” (1982©) was written by Barry Sadler.  For those of you who haven’t read my other reviews, Casca is Casca Rufio Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus of Nazareth while he was being crucified.  Just before dying, Jesus tells Casca that he is happy in his role and that he will remain the same until they meet again.  Each volume tells some of Casca’s life over the last two thousand years as he awaits the second coming of Jesus.
Because Casca doesn’t age, every 20 or 30 years he must travel to avoid questions about why he doesn’t seem to get older.  In a prior volume (number 3), Casca was in China.  In this, he is returning to the West and pauses to deliver a message from the emperor of China to the King of the Persians warning of impending attacks from the Huns.  Casca falls into service for the King (Shapur II) and this covers the few years of that service.
This episode has two interesting sub-stories (for me).  The first involves a re-enactment of a battle tactic Casca first saw in China.  As the enemy advances, you have a line of “volunteers” step forward and cut their throats in front of the enemy.  This is said to surprise and then terrify the Hun warriors.  They turn to flee and are then defeated in detail as they try to retreat / run away.  Casca relates this tactic to Shapur who decides he wants to try it and see if it works.  He sends Casca out with an under-manned force, but with several times the number of “volunteers” as the Chinese used.  The tactic works again and Casca is able to defeat the Huns even though out-numbered by several times his own force.
The second sub-story is about Casca’s “curse”.  Because he cannot be killed, each volume has a point where the miracle / curse must be demonstrated.  In prior stories, Casca has been drowned, buried alive, poisoned, fed to crabs and had his heart cut out and one hand completely cut off.  In this episode, the king judges Casca to have become too popular with the army so he decides to trump up some charges of treason and then have Casca burned alive.  Of course Casca survives, but the execution and recovery are explained in graphic detail.  As a reader, you almost feel you are sharing Casca’s pain.
There is a third story-line which also ties back to the earlier Chinese episode, but I’ve already given too much of the story away.  Final recommendation: another strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Hey, I Resemble That Remark… (4!)
2013 Sit, Put, Until…
2012 Lessons For My Son
2011 Reaching The Right Audience
2010 Christmas Trees and Profession of Faith

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Casca #5: The Barbarian   —  book review
Today’s review is for the fifth book in the “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary” series titled: Casca: The Barbarian (1981©), written by Barry Sadler.  In this episode, Casca meets up with a Germanic / Norse tribesman named Glam and the story revolves are their adventures together over the next 30 to 40 years.  Basically, Glam leads Casca around northern Europe and Casca takes over a “hold”.  Casca over-throws the vicious lord of the hold and subsequently marries his daughter.  Thus, Casca gains and ultimately loses the second great love of his life.  Glam gives Casca one of his nicknames: “The Walker”.
All of these volumes have now fallen into their standard formula: character intro, travel around a bit, a few minor fights, a little bit of history, a major battle, and then some resolution before Casca has to wander off.  Today’s title refers to a scene in the book where the original lord of the hold has a wall at the tides edge staked.  When he wishes to execute someone (but not be “responsible” for the death), he has them staked with just their head above the high tide.  The crabs do their work during the night and only the head (and skeleton) is left the following morning.  Of course, the “curse” saves Casca (again).
If you are into adult / male historical fiction – with lots of geography, historical background and battles, this continues to be a very satisfying series.  Final recommendation: strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Beyond Proof
2013 Poor Students Of History
2012 Between Two Worlds
2011 Common Humanity
2010 The Last Two Olympians

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Bride & Prejudice – movie review
I recently watched the Indian / Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice“, slightly retitled as “Bride & Prejudice” (2004).  To demonstrate my lack of culture, I first became aware of Austen and “Prejudice” when I saw the 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in the lead roles of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  I don’t remember when I first saw the movie, but I believe it was somewhere around 2010.  I have since watched it at least a half dozen times.  I’m not sure what it is, but I find the whole story and setting fascinating.  I have also watched the 1995 version made for BBC TV starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Elizabeth.  I must admit Ehle doesn’t hold a candle to Knightley, but Firth is every bit as good as MacFadyen, even though he doesn’t have the physical presence of MacFadyen.  In any case, because this is a series instead of a movie, I must say I prefer the series because there is more time to develop the characters.
Okay, enough background.  Back to the actual movie review…
In this version of the Jane Austen novel, Mr. William (aka Fitzwilliam) Darcy is an American played by Martin Henderson and Lizzie Bennett becomes Lalita Bakshi who is played by Aishwarya Rai.  The unmarried sisters (Lalita is the second oldest) and their family are plugged into a modern plot that spans London, Los Angeles, Bombay/Mumbai and Goa.  The family and four daughters live in Amritsar, India  (a country town) — which is trying to be true to original Austen story, but which has its own airport, so I’m not real sure how “true” that is.
The movie has the most problems because it can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a romantic drama or a musical-romantic-comedy.  It tries to be both and therefore doesn’t really succeed at either.  To be honest, most of the numbers made no sense and I would have preferred they went for more drama.  Having said this, I have seen a few other Bollywood movies and I think they were just trying to sell to their home market.  Other than that, the big problem was how to bring the story up to modern day times.  The plot device here was to make the characters international and hence the side trips (LA and London) being used to demonstrate the wealth of the Americans and the Londoners.
How is the acting? Sadly, just so-so.  Henderson fails to strike the right notes (for me) as Darcy.  Darcy is the character which most draws me to the story (and I’m not sure why), but Henderson lacks the physicality of MacFadyen or British style of Firth.  Aishwarya is obviously the most beautiful of the Lizzie’s, but she seems wooden in this role.  I have not seen her in anything else so I don’t know if beauty is all there is or not, but from this role I’d judge it is.  Strangely enough, I didn’t even find Aishwarya to be the most camera “friendly”.  I thought that honor went to the actress Sonali Kulkarni as Chandra Lamba (Charlotte Lucas – Lizzie’s best friend in the British versions).
Does the movie work,  though?  Is it entertaining?  Yes and yes.  I liked the dancing and most of the songs.  The colors and the energy of India are very attractive.  Even though the acting wasn’t quite what I thought it could be, the movie is another Austen happy ending.  Final recommendation: strong recommendation as the Indian version of P&P, particularly if you are a “Prejudice” fan – as I am turning out to be.
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On This Day In:
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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Today I completed the second book in the “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary” series “Casca #2: God Of Death” (1979©) written by Barry Sadler.  In this volume, Casca leads some Norse men in battle and then takes them out in long ships to adventure in new lands.  Ultimately, they land in Central America (probably Mexico) and run into the Teotecs and the Olmecs.  Casca is sacrificed to the Teotecs gods and has his heart cut out.  Now before anyone gets too worried about the rest of the series, please recall Casca cannot be killed because he was cursed (by Jesus) in book #1 to live forever.  (Well, at least until the second coming.)  Surviving death, Casca “becomes” the Teotecs “god”.
The story supposedly happens in the 3rd century AD.  The author conveniently overlooks the academic / scholarly belief the Olmecs disappeared (or were destroyed) as a civilization around 500 BC.  It also pre-dates the (probable) first voyages of the Vikings to the “New World” by about 700 years.  Be that as it may, the story is another well written, fast paced action story which is as entertaining as any re-watching of “Gladiator“, “The Long Ships” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” all rolled into one.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  Like all the books in this series, this is another fine example of historically based action / adventure / warfare genre which many (including myself) enjoy.  Again, the descriptions of warfare and violence in this book (and series) are quite graphic and this book is not suitable for pre-teens.
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On This Day In:
2014 Bull’s-Eye Next
2013 Change ÷ Time
2012 High Anxiety
2011 To Be, Do
2010 In the Arena…
Not An Island, Today…

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Last night I was in the mood to watch some martial arts so I logged into Netflix to view “Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior” starring Japanom Yeerum, better known internationally as Tony Jaa, in the lead role of Ting.  Ting is a villager studying to be a monk – which I guess means learning to be a martial artist.  When the village idol is stolen, Ting goes to recover the religious artifact from a big-city gang.  Blah, blah, blah…  lots of fights and chase sequences, bad acting and little plot.  I believe I have seen the movie before, several years ago, but I didn’t remember it until very late in, so it’s possible I’ve only seen the fight sequences on YouTube.
This movie is a showcase for the martial art of Muey Thai.  As near as I can tell without a great deal of background in the art – it is very similar to the stronger forms of Gung Fu and Karate with a lot of close contact elbow and knee strikes.  The movie doesn’t have very much of a plot – like I said, just enough to string the action sequences together.  The key, of course, is whether or not the action is worth the price of admittance.  It is.  Jaa has tremendous screen presence and is an incredible athlete.  It is difficult to believe the sequences are done without wire (like most Chinese gung-fu movies), but they are not.  It’s just a shame Jaa isn’t given more of a chance to actually “act”.
As for the fighting itself, a purist will complain the human body can’t survive the pounding meted out in the movie and, of course, they are correct.  But let’s not forget, this is just a movie…  And that doesn’t make it any less entertaining to watch.
Final recommendation: see this for the action (martial and acrobatic) only – it’s terrific.  The acting is terrible and the plot is predictably poor, but you’re not viewing this for Oscar performances.  There are a few “bad / swear” words in the movie and there is obviously a lot of fight violence so this is not appropriate for young viewers (under 13).  Strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Actually
2013 Unfortunate Evolutionary Accidents
2012 Tense (Past, Present And Future)
2011 What Is Your Preference?

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Today’s movie review is for the recently released: “Avengers: Age of Ultron“.   This movie is an advance case of super-heroes extremis: wow, there are a lot of them.  In fact, there is such an overload of them (characters) the movie has to create humanizing back stories to make the central characters (the original Avengers) overall movie believable.  It also – I guess – is creating future movie leads, by throwing a lot of characters at us, but only giving them cameo roles.  So, is the sequel as good as the original?  So, so…  In some ways better.  In some, worse.
I would argue the action scenes and special effects are much better.  The humanizing also adds a great deal to the movie.  I particularly enjoyed the “pick up the hammer” scene.  This scene is exactly the type of scene which adds humanity to the movie, but reinforces the “super” part of super-hero.  There are probably seven to ten such moments in the movie and they work.  Supporting this (the back stories) are the numerous one-liners thrown in throughout the movie.
What doesn’t work?  Well, most of the movie doesn’t make much sense.  Why are things happening and / or why did they happen to lead up to the current point?  A lot wasn’t terribly clear (to me at least).  The bottom line was that I simply decided early on the movie wasn’t going to make a lot of sense and just tried to enjoy it as a comic-book, action movie.  From then on (well, reminding myself frequently) the movie was very enjoyable.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  Good early summer entertainment!  Not the greatest movie, but a reasonable progression of action scenes based around a story with a great villain.  I can’t wait for the DVD!  How ’bout that?  I got through the entire “review” without mentioning the name of a single character or actor and with no spoilers.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or not??  If you like comic-book movies (I do), you’ll thoroughly enjoy this movie.  I did!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Turning Pages
2013 We Are All Accountable
2012 American Sign Language
2011 Happy Disproof
2010 Book Review – Managing Your Government Career

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Countless choices define our fate: each choice, each moment, a moment in the ripple of time.  Enough ripple, and you change the tide…  for the future is never truly set.
   —  Professor Charles Xavier
From the closing lines of the movie: “X-Men: Days of Future Past
[Last night I re-watched a movie from last year, “X-Men: Days of Future Past“.  I had planned to see it in the theater, but never got around to it.  Later, when I was viewing a number of movies on bootleg sites, I managed to see it, but the quality was so bad (as it typically is on these sites) that I didn’t even bother to review the movie because I didn’t think I could give it a “fair” review.  And, all in all, I think that was a very good decision.  My opinion of the movie was vastly improved over my prior viewing.
The “X-Men” comic book series was one of the many comic titles I followed when I was growing up.  Much like the “Spider-Man” series, the X-men were geared to a youth audience and sought to express the “angst” of growing up, feeling different, and coming to terms with a growing sense of uniqueness in the adult world much bigger than the imagined (and imaginary) world of our early childhoods.  Combine this feeling of difference with a mild (or not so mild) persecution complex (“they hate us because they fear us; they fear us because we’re different”) and you have a very deep story-line vein to mine for many years of comics (and movies).
The problem with any persecution story arc’s is, of course, the natural tendency of the writer(s) to follow the escalation sub-arc to it’s natural conclusion – the death(s) of all the heroes (the mutants and X-Men) or the death / termination of the antagonist (in this case, the Sentinels).  And, of course, if you kill off all of the heroes – wait for it – no more comic books (or movies).  If you kill all of the bad-guys, same problem (or you have to “invent” new baddies).
The somewhat classic response to this problem is to re-boot the series (either in the comic book or the movie format) or to go back and change time so “it” (the current present) never “really” happened and we can make up new stories.  Sometimes, you do both.  (See the latest two “Star Trek” movies…)
So the questions are: which does this movie do; and does it do it well?  This movie chooses “both”, but with a heavy emphasis on time-travel to get to the re-boot.  The movie goes very dark in the escalation sub-arc and does, in effect, kill all the heroes.  The time-travel also does its job of re-booting (some of) the actors / characters and getting the movie series back to a place where they can now logically create “new” sequels.
That’s the “do”.  How about the “well”?
Like all comic-book movies in general, and X-Men movies in particular, this is very much an action and special effects movie.  The action scenes are too few (for my tastes), but well done.  The special effects are visually well done, but mostly don’t make any sense.  And I mean “suspend belief” cause there’s no way this is possible kind of stuff.  There are far too many to list, but most of the problems have to do with trying to use actors across a 40 year span and technology that could not exist today, let alone back in the 1970’s.
Somehow, though, the “dark”, “not enough action scenes”, “unbelievable” movie still works for me.  The core message is that the future is never “really” set as long as you have hope and that hope is what drives the individual to a commitment to change.  The message / theme is touched upon frequently during the movie, but even I have to admit it (the message) is somewhat hidden in the viewing experience.  All in all, I give the movie a “B+” rating.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  Well worth viewing by any action / adventure / comic-book fan.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 You, Too!
2013 Bitter Stand
2012 Lost For Words
2011 On Market Reactions…

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