Monday, 19 February 2018

"52 More Things You Should Know About Palaeontology" by Alex Callum & Allard Martinius

Publisher:[Mahone Bay] Nova Scotia : Agile Libre, 2017.
ISBN: 9780987959478
Characteristics: 135 pages :,illustrations, map.
Additional Contributors: Cullum, Alex 1969-
Martinius, Allard W. 1963-

The book as the title suggests is the second volume of a series of scientific papers that explain the world of palaeontology. As I wrote in my review of the first volume I came across these books by shear chance when I was looking for books about palaeontology for young people - a quest I'm still on by the way.

Once again in this volume we have 52 papers, but in this case they explore the science by going on a journey through time and looking at the animal kingdom and how palaeogeography has given people insight on what the world was like, and how these facts were discovered. In addition they deal with topics such as conservation, curation, laboratory work, and much more. All of the contributors to this volume are outstanding authors with the ability to explain difficult concepts in easy to understand terms.

Here's hoping the editors consider doing another 52 reasons!

As I mentioned before I work in the field of palaeontology myself and give tours of our lab at the University of Alberta (in Edmonton) to school groups and other visitors. It is a shame that the educational curriculum in Alberta doesn't support the teaching palaeontology past about 5th grade. Why this is I've never found out, even though I've asked numerous people in the profession. You would think that considering that Alberta has the riches fossil collections in Canada that this would be something to consider.

Monday, 12 February 2018

"God, No!" by Penn Jillette

Publisher:New York : Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Edition:First Simon & Schuster hc edition.
Characteristics: xix, 231 pages ;,25 cm

I don't really remember my first introduction to the duo of Penn & Teller, but sometime after this I stumbled across their show "Penn & Teller: Bullshit" which is a good introduction for pretty much anybody to the skeptics view of the world as it is and how the worlds scam artists pull the wool over the eyes of the willing public by telling them what they want.

This book while it mentions their show and a other things that the duo has done over the years, is primarily focused on the opinions and life of Penn Jillette. I found the book itself to very interesting, not only has Mr. Jillette led an interesting life, but his outlook on that life is very concise and well thought out.

The book itself is based on a reworking of the christian ten commandments, and how they could be interpreted by an atheist. Mr. Teller's sense of humour is outstanding, and entertaining. Mr. Jillette is a confirmed family man, and as both this book and the show mentioned above demonstrate a defender of common sense. In the world as it is today the one thing that everybody needs is common sense, we have been living under an umbrella of superstition and pseudoscience for centuries, and it is time for all people in the world to give their collective heads a shake and open their eyes to what's really going on in this world.

Monday, 5 February 2018

"The Forgotten Flapper - A Novel of Olive Thomas" by Laini Giles

Publisher:[United States] : Sepia Stories Publishing, [2015]
Edition:First edition.
Copyright Date:©2015
ISBN: 9780994734907
Characteristics: 412 pages

This novel is a definite departure from the books I normally read and review, but I had been meaning to read it for quite some time as I thought I knew how much work Laini Giles put into writing it (she is a local author). I however sadly underestimated the scope of this work, as the research alone would likely be equivalent to what some students do for a Master's thesis. I'm not sure if she kept an account of the number of hours research she did, but I'm sure it is easily in the hundreds of hours. Laini wrote this novel in such a way that you can easily believe that this is Olive's actual auto-biography, and once you start it is an extremely difficult story to put down.

The novel itself examines and recounts the life of Olive Thomas one of the original silent movies stars from her childhood in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, her being chosen as the Most Beautiful Girl in New York City, her time in the Zeigfield Follies, her modelling career, her forays into directing and screen writing, through to her untimely death in 1920 in Neuilly-Our-Seine, France when she was 25. Woven throughout this is the life she lived being related by marriage to the Pickford clan which was tumultuous to say the least. We are also given glimpses of other famous actors and actresses such as W. C. Fields, Mary Pickford, Jack Pickford, to name but a few and how they interacted with Olive, and the rest of Hollywood.

Since 2015 Laini has released another book entitled "The IT Girl and Me" which tells of the life of Clara Bow, and is currently working on her third "Bathing Beauty" about Marie Prevost.

Monday, 29 January 2018

"Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson and "Black Sails" by Starz Entertainment Group

This book was written in 1883, and has been reviewed many times by many people because it such a great story. My reasons for reviewing it however are somewhat different. This is because I just finished watching the fourth and last season of the Starz series "Black Sails", which was written as a prequel to Treasure Island and introduces you to many of the story's main characters. So, I suppose I am actually reviewing both Black Sails and Treasure Island but I figure I can try and get away with it just this once.

Typically - in my humble opinion - it is very rare for Hollywood to come even close to what an author actually has written. Most times they seem to take pride in the fact that when they buy the rights to a book or story they can totally change it and keep nothing but maybe the character names or the title. But that is simply a pet peeve that I have and luckily for it won't be something I'll dwell upon, as you do not want me to start ranting about how Disney has ruined so many stories.

But because this show is a prequel (some 20 years previous) to the book the directors and writers had a great deal of latitude in what they could do. When actually comparing "Black Sails" to the book that inspired it there was very little that they actually did change. The few changes they made were in rather insignificant places. One of the few differences that I was able to note between the two was that in the book Long John Silver lost his leg from the hip down, during an accident at sea. In the series he loses it below the knee.

In other areas, the show did make a few changes to the way history actually played out, but once again these were relatively minor, such as the way Blackbeard died. These minor changes however, do not detract from the story in any way.

All in all, I found Black Sails to be an excellent series, and I sincerely hope that the Starz people will consider making a version of Treasure Island to conclude the storyline. Rumour has it that there are spin-offs being considered dealing with other characters as well.

I should note that the series is quite graphic, and there is a fair bit of what some consider vulgar language, but anybody who has ever been around any real sailors (or construction workers for that matter), will know this really is how they talk.

Monday, 22 January 2018

"Moranthology" by Caitlin Moran

Publisher:New York : Harper Perenial, [2012]
Edition:First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date:©2012
ISBN: 9780062258533
Characteristics: xi, 237 pages ;,23 cm

This is Caitlin Moran's second book and it is just as delightful as the first (How To Be A Woman - 2011). In this book she writes about a great many topics, and also reveals a fair bit about her personal life, all of which are interesting.

Ms. Moran is a columnist for the Times in London, and was named columnist of the year by the British Press Awards in 2010, and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011. What even more interesting is that she has been a journalist since she was 15.

Some of the topics she covers are her enjoyment of caffeine, Michael Jackson's memorial, her use of Skunk (a cross breed of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica - thanks for this Urban Dictionary, as I didn't know. Okay, so I lead a sheltered life!). Her introduction to World of Warcraft, Dr. Who, Downton Abby, the fact that the original Ghostbusters is the greatest movie of all time (can't argue with that - the newest one sure failed IMHO). She also touches on such topics as the Burqa controversy, chivalry, trolls, children's  birthday party etiquette, the Royal Wedding in 2011 (between Prince William & Kate Middleton).

She also relates interviews she did with Keith Richards, Lady Gaga, Sir Paul McCartney, a slight obsession she has with "Sherlock" starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and much more.

This is a great read, that gives a little bit of insight into what's it's like to live in Britain, hopefully something I'll be able to experience sometime in the near future.

Monday, 15 January 2018

"How To Be A Woman" by Caitlin Moran

Publisher:New York : Harper Perennial, [2011]
Edition:First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date:©2011
ISBN: 9780062124296

I decided to read this book as the cover states "Caitlin Moran is the feminist hero of our times" so I figured she would be a good resource to determine whether I was in fact a feminist. (I have been calling myself one many years even while still being not 100% sure I knew all the ramifications of the term.)

I am now happy to conclude that I am in fact a feminist and believe that women deserve exactly the same benefits as men have enjoyed for the last few thousand centuries.

Ms. Moran gives us a very insightful look into the world of feminism, and all the silliness that women have to put up with in a male dominated world. Her views on certain topics may to some be quite radical (primarily to men who hold the positions of power) but her views are well thought out, and presented with sufficient personal experience, evidence, and humour to easily convince an intelligent reader.

My next book will be her follow-up work "Moranthology" which I'm sure will be equally interesting.

Monday, 8 January 2018

"Feminism & Men" by Nikki van der Gaag

Publisher:London : Zed Books ; Halifax : Fernwood Publishing, 2014.
ISBN: 9781780329116
Characteristics: 246 pages :,illustrations ;,22 cm

This book was a very interesting read, that opened my eyes to a number of issues regarding feminism, ones that I hadn't considered in depth before. Ms. van der Gaag does extremely good job of outlining the various issues. A great deal of the book deals with why men act the way they do with regard to women, and the author gives excellent examples from all over the world to support her thesis.

I found it particularly disturbing to learn of the number of men in the world who believe that women are essentially just sex objects, second class citizens, or dare I say slaves. That this opinion seems to be directly relatable to the culture they are raised in, what is even more disturbing as nothing like this was ever mentioned to me when I studied different cultures during my anthropology degree. It all seems to be relatable to the macho image that men are indoctrinated into, and expected to exhibit throughout their lives.

Ms. van der Gaag notes a number of websites that give further information on this subject, and I would encourage people to check them out. Three of the main ones are:

Monday, 1 January 2018

"Of Dice and Men" by David M. Ewalt (Level Fifteen Cleric)

Publisher:New York : Scribner, 2013.
Edition:First Scribner hardcover edition --.
ISBN: 9781451640502
Characteristics: vii, 276 pages

This book intrigued me as I used to play Dungeon & Dragons many years ago, and after reading it I definitely want to get back into it (however this will likely have to wait for a short time until I relearn my way around). The history of the development of this game system, was very interesting, and the author must have done vast amounts of research to provide the reader with an end product this complete.

I thought I knew something about the history of this game when I first picked up the book, but this myth was soon put to rest as I didn't know a fraction of the history of this fascinating (in my humble opinion) game. It is rare to see people playing games of any sort now-a-days that don't involve a smart phone, pad, or other computer device. Dungeon & Dragons was a phenomena that reached out to people throughout the world and still does. It's true that some of the earlier editions were difficult to master, but from the introduction that the author gives to the newest (5th) edition a lot of these issues seem to have been solved.

The behind-the-scenes look at the world of D&D and other similar games was intriguing as I and likely most other people were not aware of all that went on, from its beginnings in the Gary Gygax's basement, the founding of TSR Hobbies, it's rise to be a multi-millions dollar company, and it's unfortunate demise.

I was first hooked on D&D way back in the late 70s. This was back when we didn't have personal computers, and all the fancy stuff people have today. I still have my copy of the "Blue Box" edition, and it's in relative decent shape too. After reading Mr. Ewalt's book I'm going to be looking to get my hands on a copy of the 5th edition, and then after suitable time to peruse the the material I will be searching for a campaign to join. Maybe someday, I'll try running one myself. Who knows?

"52 More Things You Should Know About Palaeontology" by Alex Callum & Allard Martinius

Publisher:[Mahone Bay] Nova Scotia : Agile Libre, 2017. ISBN: 9780987959478 0987959476 Characteristics: 135 pages :,illustrations, ma...