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D. Roberts "Hadrian12" RSS Feed (Battle Creek, Michigan United States)

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Sihpromatum - Backpacks and Bra Straps: Backpacks and Bra Straps (Volume 2)
Sihpromatum - Backpacks and Bra Straps: Backpacks and Bra Straps (Volume 2)
by Savannah Grace
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.94
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The journey continues, December 13, 2014
The present book is the sequel to Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China (Volume 1) which detailed the journey of a Canadian family to Hong Kong, into China and then into Mongolia. Volume 2 picks up with the family in Russia and follows them back into western China, Tibet and finally Nepal. While it is helpful to have read Volume 1, it is not absolutely necessary as Volume 2 could be read as a stand-alone book.

Our travelers consist of the mother, her son Ammon and her two teenage daughters, Breanne and Savannah (the author of the work). Both volumes share the anguish of being so very far away from Vancouver and at the same time the truly wonderful opportunity the family has to travel the world. In the present book the family visits somber Russian WWII memorials, long forgotten Chinese cities that were wiped out by Kublai Khan, the sacred Buddhist oasis of Tibet and they finish up by viewing a sunrise over Mount Everest.

The above is an outline of the book, but the best thing about the book is the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [illustrated] feel to the book as a naive young Canadian lass discovers that the world is a much bigger place and is a great deal more grandiose than she ever imagined.

Some reviewers have complained that too much time is spent in the book focusing on the travails that hikers face. For myself, these topics "bring home" the many sacrifices the family has made to embark on this epic journey. As Clint Eastwood would say, Savannah tells it like it is: the good, the bad & the ugly. This Canadian band is made up of humans, just like you & I; Savannah does not shy away from pointing out both the positive traits as well as the shortcomings of all the members of the group ~ including herself. I find this honesty to be refreshing.

There is another angle that is worth bringing up as well: this is not a wealthy family. They travel on a shoestring budget and can rarely afford the 'luxury' of a real-live hotel room that has a shower. They endure through some rather squalid living conditions, and tensions within the family can flare up from time to time. Again, this goes back to what I said: it's an honest account of their trip and it's not sugarcoated.

In that respect, it is much more interesting than an account would be of, say, Paris Hilton traveling across the globe while being cocooned inside a bubble of servants and bodyguards. This is a tale of normal people making a worldwide trek. As such, they cherish their experiences much more than a Paris Hilton type ever would.

So, if you're looking for an enjoyable read that is both raw & visceral as well as being beautiful and enlightening, then I would urge you to take Savannah's hand and let her lead you across the wonders of what Carl Sagan called the pale blue dot. Someday we, too, will pass into history; it would be prudent to see what our beloved planet has to offer before we reach that juncture.

A Million Ways to Die in the West
A Million Ways to Die in the West
DVD ~ Seth MacFarlane
Price: $12.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest western parody since BLAZING SADDLES!, December 10, 2014
Not too many comedies are able to make me burst out laughing. This one did. It pokes fun at everything that had to do with living in the old west and it does so in what many would call a distasteful manner (so what?). It's truly the funniest film I've seen @ least since Wolf Of Wall Street [HD]

Liam Neeson does a caricature of his usual "tough guy" personas as he plays a gunfighter who wears a black hat (literally & figuratively!). Charlize Theron is the sexiest cowgirl since Madeline Stowe & Andi McDowell starred in Bad Girls. Seth Mcfarline injects a heavy dose of goofiness into the flick, and Neal Patrick Harris is terrific as the pompous "sophisticated" cowboy.

One of the most surprising things about the film is that the cinematography of the southwest United States is downright stunning. One would not expect to see great cinematography in a film such as this, but Mcfarline wanted it to have the "feel" of a real live western ~ with the slapstick comedic portions thrown in just for fun.

If you liked Blazing Saddles then you're bound to enjoy this flick as it's cut from the same cloth. It's obvious that the thespians had a good time filming the movie & that's always a plus. And, of course, you can never go wrong with ANY movie that stars Charlize!!

1001 A.D.
1001 A.D.
by Wes Wetzel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.12
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Viking before the Spaniard, November 23, 2014
This review is from: 1001 A.D. (Paperback)
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That's the story all of us as schoolchildren were taught as the discovery of America insofar as Europe was concerned. This is not entirely accurate on a couple of different points. First, Columbus 1st landed somewhere in the Bahamas; a short time later the continent was discovered by an Italian named Amerigo Vespucci (for whom the continent was named).

Secondly, nearly 500 yrs < Columbus there was a Viking by the name of Leif Ericson who is said to have landed in what is modern day Newfoundland, Canada. Our knowledge of who he was and the routes he took are fragmentary at best. It is widely believed that he stopped over in Greenland on his way across the north Atlantic. Some people have even questioned as to whether a person named Leif Ericson ever existed @ all. However, in the last 30yrs or so, archeologists have disinterred relics in Newfoundland that scholars have called "undeniably Nordic in origin."

Such is the backdrop of the current novel. It is a specious attempt to piece together the travels of Leif and his men (and women!) who made the voyage west > 1,000 yrs ago. When most of us think of Vikings, we think of a brutal lot with a lust for battle. Conversely, the breed of Vikings depicted in this story are much more interested in exploring than they are in raping & pillaging villages.

The center of the story are (fictional) scrolls that were found that belonged to a fellow by the name of Eric Thorson. Eric, in turn, was Leif Ericson's right-hand-man. It offers a plausible account of how things COULD have happened, especially with the interactions the Vikings had with the natives of what is modern day Canada.

The author was a helicopter pilot in the Navy for many yrs and he creatively integrates his familiarity with helicopter detachments into the fabric of the storyline. It is true that the military is called upon from time-to-time to help out with scientific research projects.

People who are interested in reading another book about how scientific expeditions are conducted would do well to check out Shadow World. Also, readers who would like to read another historical fiction novel that invokes the Vikings (and also takes place right around the same time period as the present book) would be admonished to peruse Hawk Quest.

This is a compelling novel that does a fine job of taking the reader back to the age of the Vikings & the time of global exploration. In addition to Leif, there are other characters in the book who actually lived and the author is able to breathe life into their story.

by Carl Sagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.90
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sagan's magnum opus, November 18, 2014
This review is from: Cosmos (Paperback)
As I was raised in a conservative environment, the name Carl Sagan was demonized in my younger years. Just as his pupil, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is eschewed by religious groups today, so too was Sagan despised back in the 1980s. So, what was Sagan's crime? What is Tyson's crime? Both are one-in-the-same: a yearning to bring science out of its esoteric domain and make it more accessible to the general public. In short, they wanted to make science (gasp!) mainstream.

Sagan wrote his book for all people to gain a sense of awe of the universe that surrounds us. This review, on the other hand, is geared towards people who have a genuine interest in science. Sagan has had a profound influence on my life and he coerced me to "grow up" from the simple minded religious paradigm I was told to adhere to as a child and instead look at the world through the rational paradigm of science and logic. For that, I am indebted to the late Cornell professor of astronomy.

One of the pressing questions that many might have is this: if they have seen or if they even own (as I do) the 1980s PBS series COSMOS on DVD, is it still worthwhile to read the book? The answer is.....YES!! To be sure, there is much overlap between the PBS series & the paperback, but there is also stuff in the book that is not in the series (and vice versa).

Since the 1980s, there are some updates that Sagan would make were he to write the book today. First off, exoplanets were a scientific hypothetical 30yrs ago; nobody knew for sure if they existed. Starting in the mid 1990s, exoplanets were realized as being a scientific fact. First, astronomers could only locate very large exoplanets (some of which are several times the size of Jupiter). Over time, they have refined their techniques and have found much smaller exoplanets ~ some of which could possibly even harbor life. The discovery of exoplanets has led to the fastest growing field in the realm of astronomy today.

Clearly, even to we laymen, exoplanets should not be a surprise. It is only religious types who have wanted to think of our solar system as "unique." For people who are alive right now, just think about this: future generations will look back @ this time in which we located exoplanets in the same manner that we look back upon Galileo and his jubilation at finding the moons of Jupiter. Sagan muses about the possibility of exoplanets in the book; oh, if only he could be around today to share in the process of their discovery!

Sagan also expresses how he would like to send a probe to the moon of Saturn known as Titan as well as sending a rover to Mars. Both of these dreams have been realized since his death in the early 90s. Recently, the Cassini spacecraft released a probe named after one of Sagan's heroes: Van Huygens. It safely touched down on Titan and we have pictures & data from one of only 4 rocky worlds in our solar system which have an atmosphere (Venus, Earth & Mars are the other 3). We have also sent the CURIOSITY rover to Mars & it has taught us much.

When it comes to the notion of extra terrestrial intelligence, we don't know anything more about the topic than we did back in the 1980s. That is, with the exception of the fact that we have located expolanets that are the correct size that reside in the so-called "Goldilox Zone" of their respective yellow suns. One correction that does need to be taken is with the Drake equation which Sagan summoned with the efficacy of figuring how how much life there could statistically be in the Milky Way. The Drake equation did not factor in plate tectonics, which is critical for the evolution of life on Earth.

None of this is meant as a criticism of Sagan. To the contrary, Sagan relished advancements in science and embraced refinements to the scientific paradigm. Unlike the religious types who have always loathed him (and always will), Sagan prided himself on being an open-minded scientist. If only the rest of us could attempt to be more like the late Carl Sagan, the world would be a much, much better place.

The very fact that there are myriad more people who are scientifically literate today than back in the 1970s is a testament to the pioneering efforts of Carl Sagan. His colleagues such as Stephen Weinberg, Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking, Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Harold Morowitz and others have all followed his lead in writing books on science that are written for the layman. That fact alone makes Carl Sagan one of the most notable scientists of the past few hundred years.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best women-behind-bars movies ever!, November 18, 2014
This review is from: Jailbait (DVD)
Sara Malakul Lane has the leading role in this film as a coy young musician named Anna. Sara has an exotic & yet innocent beauty, which makes her PERFECT for this part. She is incessantly molested by her stepfather and one day accidentally kills him in self defense (this is hardly spoiler material as it happens in the opening moments of the story). As a result she is sent to prison; a grave injustice.

Like Pepper in Orange Is the New Black: Season 1, Anna wants to keep a low profile, be left alone, do her time quietly and get out. Unfortunately, also like Pepper, her stunning beauty makes her the "center of attention" in a prison where none of the other women can really compete with her lovely visage.

Such is the backdrop of the story. Sara has an exquisite body and is not shy about showing it off. It has a higher ratio of nudity than a lot of WBB movies, and in my book that's a very good thing! This is what also gears it towards being a more "mainstream" softcore women's prison flick than what ORANGE is.

If you're a fan of the WBB genre, then this 1 should be @ the top of your list. It is erotic, sexy, disturbing and alluring all in one. If you're not in love with Anna by the end of the film, then you must not be anything like me!!

The Oresteian Trilogy: Agamemnon; The Choephori; The Eumenides (Penguin Classics)
The Oresteian Trilogy: Agamemnon; The Choephori; The Eumenides (Penguin Classics)
by Aeschylus
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.30
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5.0 out of 5 stars Matricide in Mycenae? Uh oh!, October 15, 2014
The story of Orestes is known less to the general public than is the stories of the Trojan War that appear in Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer (Bantam Classics). Recent film features such as Troy and Helen of Troy have omitted the character of Orestes altogether for the sake of simplicity.

Aeschylus' trilogy is about the culmination of the curse of the house of Atreus, which is the the most dysfunctional family in Greek mythology. The founder of the house was a fellow by the name of Tantalus. One day, Tantalus invited over Zeus, Apollo and Demeter for dinner. Before they arrived, he murdered his son, Pelops, and offered his entrails as the repast. Basically, he wanted to "get one over" on the gods.

Demeter was the only one who was fooled as this happened around the time that Persephone was abducted to the underworld & the goddess was thus distracted. She immediately knew something was kahooey when she bit into the meat. She felt so bad that she brought Pelops back to life. As she had bitten into his shoulder, she gave him a prosthetic one as recompense.

Zeus was not amused. The earth opened up underneath Tantalus and he fell down into Tartarus. There, he was up to his neck in water and had gorgeous branches of fruit all around him. However, each time he reached for the fruit, it receded JUST out of his reach. And, each time he tried to take a drink, the water would always be just beyond his dry & vapid lips. Such was his punishment: to forever suffer the pangs of hunger & thirst whilst having fruits & water just out of his grasp. If you're scoring @ home, you know that this is from whence we get the term "tantalize."

Such was the beginning of the curse of the house of Atreus. Through the generations, the family encountered infantcide, matricide, cannibalism, incest, adultery and just about everything you'd like to jettison from a "normal" household. Of course, it's not as though the family always "set out" to commit despicable acts.

Before leaving for Troy, Agamemnon is faced with a dillema: he can either abandon the expedition and send the Greeks home, OR he must sacrifice his young daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods. Doing the latter will cause Artemis to unlock the winds. Doing nothing will equate to the 1st option as the fleet is restless and about to give up on the idea of sailing to Troy. Agamemnon, with a heavy heart, chooses to make the sacrifice.

Ultimately, this is one of the many facets of the story that compel his wife, Clytemnestra, to take vengeance upon her husband. This much is covered in Helen of Troy. However, the story does not end there. Agamemnon & Clytemnestra also have a son: Orestes.

Orestes, then, is faced with a conundrum of his own: if he murders his mother to avenge his father, then he will be haunted by the furies. If he does not avenge his father, then his mother will never face punishment for her crime. What would YOU do? That's a tough one!!

Such is the backdrop of The Oresteian Trilogy: Agamemnon; The Choephori; The Eumenides (Penguin Classics). The 1st play recounts Agamemon's return to Troy & his subsequent murder. The 2nd play is about Orestes & his sister, Electra, plotting revenge against their mother and uncle (Aegisthus). The 3rd and final play is the tale of poor Orestes being chased by the furies and Apollo acting as his "defense counsel" at what the Greeks believed to be the first trial by judge & jury. This is a rather important feature, given that the current judicial structure of the United States is loosely based upon the blueprint of the Greeks, which they in turn traced back to Orestes!

So, for people who want to know the more complete story of the Trojan war, this book is a must. People who are curious about the end of "clan justice" and the beginning of a "civilized" judicial system will also be inclined to read their Aeschylus.

The Little Suicides
The Little Suicides
by Mike Guest
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Canadian's quest, October 13, 2014
This review is from: The Little Suicides (Paperback)
Mitch & Mark are 2 Canadians who were childhood chums who became lifelong friends. While Mark eventually ended up in Japan & Mitch stayed in Canada, the buddies kept in touch over the yrs. Unfortunately, Mark's e-mails & phone calls have ceased and nobody knows where he is. Mitch decides to take it upon himself to go on a 1 man search & rescue mission (the former is obligatory, the latter if necessary).

This book reminded me of Heart of Darkness (Dover Thrift Editions). Instead of following the Congo, Mitch retraces Mark's steps via browsing the history of Mark's computer and finding clues such as the GPS on Mark's IPAD. Instead of descending into the depths of the African jungle, Mitch follows the trail from Canada to Japan to the Phillipines. It is there he finds a "human jungle" filled with shady characters and an environment where human trafficking is the norm.

Unlike Conrad's novel, this is a book that is as much about an existential mid-life crisis as anything else, and it's something that both Mitch & Mark are enduring separately. Being a middle aged male myself, there are times in which I want to have an "escape hatch" out of my life, one that would jettison me to an alternative life that has more glitz & glamour than my own. Thus, I read this book @ the perfect time as I'm fully able to relate to what both of the characters are experiencing.

When I was in the Navy, I visited both Japan & the Phillipines. The novel brings back unpleasant memories of Filipino children who are always in the clutches of an everpresent state of poverty.

I was also reminded me of how readily available prostitutes are in PI, and how they're always seeking out westerners. People who have seen Dangerous Beauty will recognize the sad state of affairs when women's career opportunties are severely restricted: the "oldest profession" becomes the lesser of 2 or 3 evils. There are salacious elements in the story, but they remind me more of Leaving Las Vegas than they do stories of erotica. More than anything, the book has a tone of a sort of languid sadness in it.

This is a book that will be most relatable to men who are between 40-55. If a guy reads it in his 20s, he will be apt to re-read it later in life when he "gets it." One of the antidotes of having a mid-life crisis is surrounding oneself with 20-something women, and this is not something men will relate to until they're past their prime. So, if you're a middle aged man up for the challenge of a search for an old buddy stuck somewhere up the in the Phillipines, then this is just the novel for you!!

Orange Is the New Black: Season 1
Orange Is the New Black: Season 1
DVD ~ Taylor Schilling
Price: $14.99
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fade to ORANGE, August 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Piper Chapman (portrayed by the lovely Taylor Schilling) is your typical girl next door. She's built like a cheerleder, she's engaging, she's relatable, she's friendly, she's intelligent and (most of all) she's normal. All of these attributes serve in her favor in the regular world. Unfortunately, all of the above traits count against her in her new environment: a federal prison.

Piper is (rightfully) convicted of being a drug mule and is given a light, 15 month sentence. (While 15 months would seem an eternity for most of us in the "real" world, it's pretty modest compared to most prison sentences in state & federal prisons). This is the story of how she adapts (or tries to?) to her new domain. It's a place where the Corrections Officers frequently tend to be far more corrupt than the inmates. And, of course, when it comes to the inmates, there's no shortage of colorful characters!

People who are expecting this to resemble one of those cheesy softcore porn women-behind-bars movies will likely be disappointed. There is sporadic nudity, but not nearly as much as I was expecting. Of course, given the unconventional women who are in this series, it's best that there is not an overwhelming amount of skin. Let's just say that the lot of them are not to be confused with HOOTERS girls. For those who are curious, Taylor Schilling is topless briefly in the pilot episode as well as the final episode of Season 1.

One would think that a series about women-behind-bars would get dull. After all, every day is Groundhog Day, right? Well, not so much. Each episode offers the "backstory" on one of the female inmates. Some of the storylines are so far fetched & unrealistic that I can't help but believe that they were inspired by true events. You just can't make this stuff up! What I do know is that the author of the book (on which the series is based) did serve time in a federal pen.

If you're considering buying this series, I would encourage you to do so. However, just be aware that it's a very raw & gritty series that is occasionally disturbing. It's totally uncensored & they take full advantage of that. So, with that in mind, if you're in the mood to fade to orange, put on your jumpsuit to join Piper & the girls!

Houses of Common
Houses of Common
by Derick William Dalton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.34

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling all aliens!, July 13, 2014
This review is from: Houses of Common (Paperback)
Within our beloved "home sweet home" solar system, there are 4 rocky planets / planetoids which have an atmosphere: Venus, Earth, Mars & the moon of Saturn known as Titan. Venus is far too hellish to terraform. Earth doesn't need to be terraformed (at least not yet; this could change if we continue to slowly ruin our biosphere). That leaves Mars & Titan in play for terraforming.

Recently, the Cassini probe touched down on Titan; it's the furthest object away from the Earth that any artificial object has ever physically encountered. With a methane atmosphere, Titan does not presently support any forms of life (that we know of?). However, that could change if we tinkered with the chemistry of the planet. The present tale skips ahead a couple centuries and gives us a glimpse at efforts to do precisely that.

Given its methane atmosphere, Titan is highly combustible. As such, in the storyline, all fuel centered / electricity centered means of propulsion are outlawed on the moon. A solution to transportation is found via Titan's low gravity: people can actually fly around with bird suits. This is quite an innovative vision, and it's even plausible!

Most science fiction stories offer us alien technology, alien physiology and alien politics. While the present book delivers on all 3, it also adds something that is far more important. Yup, that's right: in the proud tradition of Douglas Adams, the novel gives us a totally alien sense of humor with one particularly colorful alien named Ranyk.

For people who are curious about the future of human exploration of space, this book is a "must have." People who enjoy this book may also want to check out Mariner Valley, which is a sci-fi book that focuses on the colonization of Mars. Both books are worthwhile for those who have an interest in expanding the human dominion over our small corner of the Milky Way galaxy.

DVD ~ Hugh Grant
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sultry Elle!!, July 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sirens (DVD)
While Sam Niel and Hugh Grant are accomplished thespians, the main "draw" of the present film is Elle MacPherson taking a crack @ acting. I will admit, this was the primary reason I picked up this DVD. In short, I certainly was not disappointed!! First off, Elle looks absolutely magnificent in the nude, and that's a good thing as she's naked through much of the film. This, of course, is not surprising given her background as a world famous Supermodel. What IS surprising is that she has a natural screen presence that I was not anticipating. Way to go, Elle!!!

The story takes place in Australia around 1911 and centers around a woman named Estella (played by Tara Fitzgerald). Going to Australia is somewhat like Alice going down the rabbit hole. In this case, Estella is exposed to a wonderland of erotica. In mythological stories about sirens, it is men (usually sailors) who are seduced by sirens. {And, of course, this usually leads to their doom.} In this case, it is a woman who falls into a trance under their gaze. Estella experiences a sexual awakening and partakes in every sort of debauchery; voyeurism, exhibitioninism, group sex, lesbian sex, BDSM ~ she is introduced to all of it!!

In spite of how "wild" the film souns, it maintains its surreal tone, like a pleasant dream. That, of course, seems to be the whole point. A very enjoyable piece of filmmaking.

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