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Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
386 used & new from $0.01

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilirating page-turner, a scary reflection of what our world is becoming. Additional Material a bit disappointing, April 14, 2007
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury has created a world that chillingly seems to reflect our present and near future. In this upside down dystopia, firemen burn books, women congregate with their fake wall (television) families, youth engage in high speed car chases, killing themselves and others, and products are promoted on 200 ft billboards, and hawked by Jesus Christ. In this world where supposedly everyone has everything one wants, no one is truly happy, no one loves anyone, and unhappy people overdose on drugs. No one slows down to smell the flowers, taste the rain, sit by a fire, talk with friends, or just sit and think. No one cares that that the world seems to have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, with fighter jets streaking above their homes everyday. After all, no one has to sacrifice anything; its always someone else's spouse or child that dies.

Guy Montag was a faithful citizen of this world, satisfied with his job of burning books, until he has a chance encounter with his new neighbor, a strange, precocious 16 year old who is wise beyond her years. Clarisse McClellan changes his views of the world dramatically with her strange habits of tasting the rain, gazing at the moon, and asking pointed questions as to why he became a fireman, whether he loves anyone or whether he is happy. An awakened, transformed Montag, after failing to impress and change his shallow and depressed wife and others around him with his new-found wisdom, is discovered, hunted, and is forced to flee the city. He joins a vagabond group of outlaw-professors, who plan to restore the world by imparting the wisdom they have gained by memorizing books.

This is the best novel depicting our future world that I have read. Other books, like Brave New World present a frightening, realistic future, but have poor plot and characterization. On the other hand, books such as 1984 and Animal Farm are thrilling and well told, but really do not reflect our future very well. FAHRENHEIT 451 does both, and does so brilliantly. Apart from depicting a realistic and scary future, Bradbury writes a tight, exciting plot packed with suspense, including fires, chases, murder, suicides, and nuclear war. I could scarcely put the book down, wondering what Montag was going to do next. Although it is but a short story, the characters, including Montag, his shallow but deeply depressed wife Millie, the youthful but insightful Clarisse, the cowardly but wise Faber, and the disillusioned arrogant bully Beatty are engaging and fully realized.

If you have the BALLATINE 50th anniversary edition, the extra material (afterword, coda, and interview) is illuminating, but should be read with a grain of salt. One of the most powerful elements of a great book is that it reaches out to the individual reader, who is able to take it in according to his or her own experiences. The message the reader gets from such books ultimately may not be what the writer intended, but still be fully relevant. Reading the author's views and intentions for the novel can upset this great experience.

The afterward is quite charming, an account of how Bradbury first typed the novel using a paid typewriter (it charged him a dime for 30 minutes, he spent $9.80.) Bradbury also mentions how his characters still visit him, and gives additional insights/alternatives plots, especially a fascinating and rather sad look at how the Beatty, once a mad lover of books, became an arrogant, obnoxious book-burning fireman.

The coda is an amusing diatribe at those who want him to update his works to fit the modern times (include more women, blacks), or, more disturbingly, change his work (without him knowing it!). Such censorship is indeed frightening and should be avoided at all costs. However, one also gets the feeling while reading Bradbury's somewhat smug rant, especially while reading statements such as "the real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make and unmake laws (p.178)" that Bradbury has never been a part of a denigrated minority. One doubts that Bradbury has ever experienced the disadvantages that comes with such membership, which includes having to put up with disturbing elements in books from insults (the 'n' word, savage) to works attesting to prove minority inferiority in a myriad of ways ('proving' a lack of intelligence, propensity towards violence, lack of morals) and finally calls for eugenics to destroy them altogether. Certainly Bradbury does not seem to have reflected on the fact the real world might be a very unfair playing field- with some groups having much more power and ability to make and unmake laws than others.

The interview at the end was the most disturbing for me; Bradbury comes off as out of touch with both his book and the present world. He flatly denies that the US today with its unending and nebulous 'war on terror' reflects the unending war that his own book talked about, a war in which we sit comfortably while other people make sacrifices and other countries suffer. Even worse, Bradbury very naively states "there's no chance for censorship today." (p.184). Tell that to Don Imus, the Palestinians, anti-corporate activists, and those critical of homosexuality, evolution, official versions 9/11 and global warming, and a myriad of other topics.

Sadly, fifty years after his book, Bradbury does not seem to grasp the power of his own book; he does not really seem to appreciate how his vision of a mindless dystopia is rapidly becoming our reality.

Pilates Workout for Dummies
Pilates Workout for Dummies
DVD ~ Michelle Dozois
Offered by RareFlix-N-Classix
Price: $29.95
90 used & new from $0.01

16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, April 8, 2007
This review is from: Pilates Workout for Dummies (DVD)
Before you buy an exercise video, its good to know what you are looking for. As a totally uncoordinated, thin couch potato, I wanted a workout that slowly introduces me to the different positions, which builds my strength, increases my flexibility, and helps me relax. I decided to try out Pilates Workout for Dummies and Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies.

I tried Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies first as yoga was recommended by my sister. I couldn't have been happier - the moves are explained slowly, in great detail. I am gaining strength and flexibility, and am really learning to relax.

I then tried Pilates Workout for Dummies (I thought I would alternate it with the Yoga tape) and must say I was disappointed. I knew something was wrong as soon as I heard Michelle Dozois. She's very pleasant, quite chirpy in fact. But she speaks way too fast. I just did not get the calm, relaxed feeling as i did from the yoga tape.

She starts by rapidly explaining the basics of pilates, ie, how to align the 'box' (torso, abdomen, hips) properly, as this is key to pilates. As a person with poor coordination, I couldn't really follow what she was saying, and started getting discouraged. Great, I thought, I can't even align my body right, how am I going to do the exercises?

Not very well was the answer. Dozois speeds through the exercises (18 moves in less than 40 minutes!). While many reviewers here feel her explanations are just right, and others feel they are too much, I share the opinion of the few who feel there is too little, and what is presented is presented way too quickly. I couldn't really understand much of what she was talking about and demonstrating, and thus couldn't do the moves properly. I really am a dummy when it comes to workouts.

Also, as other reviewers mention, easier modifications are presented not at the beginning of each move, but in the middle or towards the end. By then, I either had sore muscles or stopped altogether because I was discouraged.

I quit trying in middle of the workout, watched the rest of the video, and then went back to my yoga workout. I haven't used this dvd since.

If you want rock hard abs and buns of steel, and have at least a little coordination (ie, you aren't a true dummy when it comes to workouts) you'll like this tape. However, if you are a true dummy, and therefore need to move quite slowly, and if you want to relax while gaining strength and flexibility, then this tape may not work for you.

Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies
Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies
DVD ~ Sara Ivanhoe
Offered by RareFlix-N-Classix
Price: $59.95
42 used & new from $0.50

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only exercise routine that has ever worked for this uncoordinated couch potato!, April 8, 2007
I admit it, I am a couch potato who spends most of her time on the computer, reading books, watching movies, or eating at restaurants with friends. I've hated exercising since childhood, since my nightmare days at gym class, where I simply could never keep up with what the other kids were doing.

In the back of my mind, I always knew I had to get in better shape, so I've tried a few things over the years: sports, running, working out at the gym, and other tapes (Taebo, Pilates, etc) but nothing ever worked. I would try them the a few times, and but quit soon because I could never do the moves properly, and/or I would just get tired but see no real benefit.

Over time, I realized that part of the problem is that I'm quite thin, so the real point of an exercise workout for me is not to loose weight (which many exercises today are geared towards) but gain strength. My sister suggested I try Yoga, as she says it had helped her tremendously with her strength.

I was quite skeptical, and put it her suggestion off for more than a year. Part of my fear was that yoga poses seemed very complicated, and I'd just never be able to do them. But after I started getting low back aches a few months ago (and I'm only in my 30s!) I knew I had to do something before my body started deteriorating! After careful research, I decided to go with Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies. After all, when it comes to workouts, I am definitely very much a dummy.

After working out with it for about a month, I must say, WOW! I can't be happier. Sara Ivanhoe presents in this video 12 beginner yoga poses designed to increase strength, flexibility, and improve relaxation, which was just what I wanted.

She starts with a detailed introduction on how to sit, and how to breathe, and then starts the routine. The poses are:

Cat Pose
Mountain Pose (basically a detailed explanation of standing!)
Standing Forward Bend
Tree Pose
Standing Side Stretch Pose
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Cobra Pose
Child Pose
Seated Spinal Twist
Seated Forward Bend
Final Relaxation Pose

The best part for me is the slow, calm detailed way Ivanhoe explains the poses, in a non-condescending manner. I really get the message that I'm really working out my own pace.

Those who have more experience with Yoga, (or those who are not dummies when it comes to workouts and can pick up moves quickly) may find her detailed explanations boring, and wished the workout moved more quickly. However, I'm still struggling with the moves, and I am constantly learning new things from her detailed explanations. For example, in Mountain Pose, I just found out yesterday what it really means to stand with my weight centered on my feet, with thighs tight and drawn-up, belly in and tail bone down All these years, I've beens standing with my weight centered way back on my heels, belly out- a very unstable way to stand.

Even though I know I am not doing each pose perfectly, I know I am still gaining a tremendous amount of benefit in terms of strength and flexibility. I love that my body is learning every day (shall we say its actually getting smarter?) and is now starting to tell me when I am doing the positions wrong! As an added bonus, I feel calm, relaxed, and clear after the workout, which often continues into the next day.

As the other reviewers mentioned, the 'dummy' icons popping up in the middle of the performance are a tad annoying- the video would be better if they were not there. But I find I can tune them out, and its a small price to pay for having an workout routine that actually works for me.

I knew this tape was a winner when actually I WANTED to work out with it. This was a new experience for me - actually wanting to exercise? Regularly?! Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies has made it happen.


April 30th 2009:

Its over two years later and I'm still using this video - I do the intermediate routine - its about 30 minutes, so very short, but still a nice work out! So, it really works :).

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency)
Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
944 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hooray Mma Makutsi!!, March 17, 2007
The adventures of Mma Ramotswe, the strong, feisty, proud but compassionate lady detective (the only in Botswana, maybe Africa) continue in MORALITY FOR BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, the third novel of the No.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series. Things are not going too well for Mma Ramotswe - the agency is facing money problems, and her fiance, the kind and up-till-now ever reliable Mr. JLB Matekoni starts behaving very strangely and looses all interest in everything, including his passion, being a mechanic at his business Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.

While Mma Ramotswe is juggling these personal problems, she is yanked into solving the complex case of an Arrogant Government Man who fears that his greedy sister-in-law wants to poison his brother for money. How much can one lady detective handle?

Helping save the day is Mma Ramotswe's former personal secretary, now promoted to Assistant Detective, Mma Makutsi. Mma Makutsi, who is 'too dark,' has glasses that are 'too big', and whose hair just is never 'quite right' really comes into her own in this novel - she becomes 'Assistant Manager' of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, whipping it into shape with the force of her personality so that its in a much better condition than even when Mr. JLB Matekoni ran it.

She also continues her duties as Assistant Detective, ably proving herself as she handily solves a case of determining which finalist in 'the Beauty and Integrity contest' actually has integrity- and thereby receives big bucks which keep the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency afloat.

Like its predecessors, this book is not your typical "who dun it" detective story. As Mma Ramotswe flatly tells the Government Man, "We help people with the problems in their lives. We are not here to solve crimes."

Along with helping people with the problems in their lives, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi continue in this book to have hilarious but often wise insights about gender, beauty, marriage, weight, criminology, treatment of elders and servants, cows, and a number of other topics, all highlighted by the ever-wise old Botswana Morality.

Lazy Lion (African Animal Tales)
Lazy Lion (African Animal Tales)
by Mwenye Hadithi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.04
81 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Story, Beautifully Illustrated, March 17, 2007
I wanted to get a book about African animals for my two year old neice- a simple story, with morals explained in a fun and engaging way. As soon as I saw LAZY LION by Mwenye Hadithi I knew I found my book!

The story is simple: The Lion, King of Animals, asks his subjects to find him a home. But he is very picky and lazy - this house is too big, that house is too small, this house is too wet...nothing pleases him.

When it rains, all the animals rush into their houses, leaving the LAZY LION wandering across the great African plains, which remains his home to this day.

The Moral? Don't be lazy and picky, either get what you need yourself or accept what is given to you with gratitude!

Accompanying this simple but great story are bright, colorful illustrations which really capture the essence, the beauty of the African Wilderness.

National Geographic
National Geographic
Price: $19.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, March 4, 2007
This review is from: National Geographic (Magazine)
I remember having NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC as a kid and being mostly impressed with the pictures. Now, ordering it myself years later, I know that my memory served me correctly - oh those pictures! Whether they are pictures of the human heart or unearthly undersea worms in Hawaii (February issue) or elephant herds or cosmic stars (March issue) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC's pictures are absolutely outstanding.

And the maps! I LOVED those maps as a kid! Note, I haven't received a fold out map yet, so I am eagerly awaiting my first one. (I am debating whether I should decorate my walls with them). But even those within the magazine itself are fantastic: They are clear, and give a wealth of information. The January issue had a clear map on the Amazon, which included areas of forest, areas of deforestation, areas of urbanization, forest fires, roads, protected areas and areas with indigenous communities.

Now as a adult, I actually read the articles, and not just flip through the pictures and gaze at the maps. Other reviewers are correct, the articles have a 'chatty tone' and are definitely for laypeople, but this isn't a bad thing. In fact, I find it refreshing after spending all my time at work now and at formerly at school reading jargon.

After all, who is an expert on the human heart, the Amazon, elephant herds, undersea worms, cosmic stars, Nigerian oil, and hummingbirds all at once? And these are simply some of the stories covered in the January, February and March 2007 issues! NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC introduces a whole host of subjects in an intelligent, thoughtful fashion: its not meant to be a Ph.D dissertation on these subjects. It enlightens us to the amazing things (both wonderful and horrible) going on in our world. If we want to delve further, we can always pick up a scholarly journal or a Ph.D thesis....


Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 2)
Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 2)
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.70
1078 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Adventures of Mma Ramotswe continue, March 3, 2007
In TEARS OF THE GIRAFFE the wonderful sequel to THE NO.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY, Mma Ramotswe, the strong, feisty, proud but compassionate lady detective (the only in Botswana, maybe Africa) faces new challenges both in her life and in her work. Upon her engagement to the kind, reliable mechanic, Mr. J.L.B Matekoni, she ponders a possible move, negotiates the purchase of her engagement ring (diamond, of course!) and suddenly finds herself a new mother of two children. She is also called upon by an American mother to resolve the mystery of her son, who disappeared in the desolate Kalahari Plains many years ago, and track the modern, 'wayward' wife of a honest butcher.

Like its predecessor, this book is not your typical "who dun it" detective story- in fact, the detective element figures in this story even less than in the first novel. Mma Ramotswe only solves two cases- actually, she solves only one, as the other is solved by her able, newly promoted Assistant, Mma Makutsi. Rather, the novel focuses on developing solid characters (apart from Mma Ramotswe, we get much more insight in this novel into the characters of Mr. J.L.B Matekoni and Mma Makutsi) and highlights life in Botswana and the views of its proud people.

Unlike its predecessor, this book has more of a focus on ex-pats and development workers, which I found interesting as an ex-pat development worker in Africa. Mma Ramotswe comments that Ex-pats often do not have good manners (ie, would shake with one hand, leaving the other hand free for 'mischievous activities') and do not understand simple, obvious issues such as the fact that the dead are always with us. Ex-pat development workers, although well-meaning, are always coming up with bizarre, idealistic theories and schemes. They are always giving advice, always trying 'to change the world.' But, as Mma Ramotswe says, vegetables just were not meant to be grown in the Kalahari desert! Furthermore, "Africa needs its own solutions."

This novel also focuses on moral issues: Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B Matekoni both lament the loss of 'the Old Botswana morality' which promotes hard work and a respect for elders. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi struggle with moral questions such as, does the end justify the means? Ie, is it okay to lie, manipulate and blackmail to get a desired, even just, result? The novel ends on a beautiful note, suggesting that in order to heal after loss, compassion, understanding and reconciliation maybe more important than strict justice.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
DVD ~ Robert Greenwald
Offered by bigeddie55
Price: $8.97
36 used & new from $0.45

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Critique of Walmart, but...., March 2, 2007
"Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price" by Robert Greenwald is a well-meaning film that makes some pointed criticisms about the giant retailer. By interviewing people who have been hurt by Walmart as well as former Walmart employees, Greenwald documents many evils committed by the corporate giant:

1. Walmart destroys small, family-owned businesses. Its not just the fact that Walmart's prices are lower. Family owned business say that they could compete with lower prices because they provide better service. However, Walmart gets huge tax subsidies, which small businesses just don't get.

2. Walmart is openly sexist and racist to its employees. Such attitudes seem to be coming from headquarters. Women and Blacks are flat-out told they are not management material. Women are disproportionately assigned demeaning tasks such as cleaning bathrooms.

3. Walmart cheats employees out of millions of dollars of overtime. Not only does Walmart 'guilt' employees into working those extra hours (by hinting if a particular employee won't do it, they can always get someone else), but managers are actually taught to change employee time cards!

4. Walmart doesn't care about the environment - for example it is willing to leave fertilizers out in the open in its parking lots next to streams providing drinking water. When it rains, the water is mixed with fertilizer run-off.

5. Walmart is the ultimate union buster - to the level of paranoia. It can spend more than a million dollars spying on and thwarting one single attempt at unionization - by among other things, flying union busters in on private jets.

6. Walmart uses sweat shops and exploits the labor of Chinese and Latin American workers. As a Chinese worker says, this is why their products are so cheap.

7. Walmart does not pay its workers properly, nor does it offer benefits. In fact, it encourages workers to go on Government Assistance (such as Medicaid and food stamps). Walmart actually provides contact numbers and even teaches employees how to fill out forms!

8. Walmart parking lots are full of crime, including robbery and rape. Walmart is well aware of this, and even did a study suggesting that putting a guard on patrol greatly reduced parking lot crime. Of course the study was not implemented.

Clearly Walmart is a monstrous corporation. However, the problem is that the film makes Walmart out to be unique- a particularly twisted entity which cares about profit above all else, no matter what the consequences are.

Unfortunately, this is clearly not the case. Walmart is hardly unique in its lust for profit and its psychopathic inability to care about its effects on others. All corporations, by definition, are legally mandated to maximize profit. As for corporate misdeeds past and present, Walmart does not compare all that unfavorably with its fellow corporate giants:

Enron - Among its many evils, workers caused blackouts in California and were literally cheering during massive fires in the state because the price of energy skyrocketed.

Monsanto - This agricultural corporation is buying up and destroying native (wildtype) seeds around the world, so everyone will have to buy seeds from Monsanto. It is also using GMO 'terminator' technology to produce seeds which will only produce one harvest (ie, the plants themselves produce sterile seeds) so you have to buy seeds from Monsanto every year!

Union Carbide - a massive chemical spill as a result of cost-cutting measures and poor maintenance caused the worst industrial disaster in modern history (1984), killing 3,000 people initially, and at least 15,000 more over the years from cancer, lung disease and birth defects; people are continuing to be affected by the spill.

IBM - made massive profits by supplying Nazis with machines to track prisoners of the holocaust.

Finally, the film does not also point the finger at us, the average American Walmart shopper. Why does no one question how Walmart gets its 'low low' prices? Does anyone really care that Walmart exploits its workers, and cuts on safety and other measures as long as the prices remain oh so low? Most telling - the movie relates that some exploited Walmart workers, as soon as they get their paychecks, would often use it all at Walmart.

Saying "NO" to Walmart, as this film advocates, will ultimately have little effect. As another reviewer says, another corporate giant will simply take its place, offering the same low low prices and committing the same evils. Real change consists of changing our legal and economic systems that currently enshrine profit above all else. It also means taking a serious look at our selves, to curb selfishness, by recognizing that indeed, there is a "high cost" not just to a "low price", but also to 'record' profits and 'soaring' markets.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2009 1:30 PM PDT

Icons Of Evolution
Icons Of Evolution
DVD ~ Steve Meyer
Offered by PA-PRIME
Price: $12.82
41 used & new from $3.03

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A formidable challenge to Neo-Darwinism, January 8, 2007
This review is from: Icons Of Evolution (DVD)
ICONS OF EVOLUTION is a fascinating film which presents hard questions and troublesome evidence against the popular theory of evolution. Before judging the merits of the film, it is important to accurately understand the film's topic of criticism, which is the Neo-Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism is the theory that natural forces 'select' for organisms possessing certain phenotypic variations over others. Phenotypic variations are those that are `apparent-' for example, the neck length of giraffes. Therefore, Giraffes with longer necks are selected over those with shorter necks in an area with tall trees. Phenotypic variations arise from genotypic variations (variations in genes) caused by random mutations in the genetic code. (In this case, some giraffes have longer necks than others due to differences in their genes coding for neck length). Increased survival of an organism (or a group of organisms) as a result of selection by natural forces ultimately results in increased numbers of alleles coding for the 'selected' phenotype. Using the giraffe example, genes producing giraffes with longer necks are selected for,and will increase in number, in areas with tall trees, over genes producing giraffes with shorter necks.

The process above, which basically can be simplified to state that natural selection selects for certain random mutations in the genetic code, is used to explain important biological phenomena such as the tight adaptation of organisms to their environment, and the diversity of organisms present in the earth.

So that's Neo-Darwinism, the widely accepted theory that every biology student is taught, in a nutshell. ICONS OF EVOLUTION, by examining persistent, recurrent themes of Neo-Darwinism, convincingly argues that Neo-Darwinism is based on poor scientific evidence, misleading claims, and flat-out fraud and lies. Furthermore, it is propagated by a culture of heavy censure and intimidation. Here are the film's arguments:

Neo-Darwinism is based on poor scientific evidence:

Neo-Darwinism by its very definition cannot account for the origin of life, for the theory assumes the existence of genetic material. However, one cannot avoid the question of how life originated, so Neo-Darwinists explain the origins of life by noting that certain chemical reactions are favored by certain natural environments, and claiming that the primeval earth presented perfect natural conditions for life to evolve. The paradigm case is the Miller-Urey experiments. Miller and colleagues set up in the laboratory conditions supposedly similar to primeval earth, and found these conditions created amino acids and other organic molecules, the building blocks of life. Unfortunately, Miller had assumed primeval earth was nearly oxygen free, a key contention that is rejected by many geologists today. The presence of oxygen destabilizes organic molecules, making their creation and sustainability, (and thus life) much less likely.

Perhaps the most prominent Neo-Darwinist icon is the elegant evolutionary tree. The tree lays out neatly how major species present today all evolved from common ancestors, often starting at the very beginning from a single cell, laying out multiple stages with transitional forms (such as the archaeopteryx) in between. Unfortunately, scientific evidence challenges such neat evolutionary pathways. For example, during the Cambrian Period an explosion of new life forms emerged which do not have ancestors in the fossil record. Other than upsetting the neat tree, such sudden appearance of life in short periods of time poses problems for Neo-Darwinist theory which claims the slow transformation of organisms due to the accumulation of adaptive genetic mutations.

Neo-Darwinism is based on misleading claims:

A key evidence for Neo-Darwinism is the evolution of Galapagos Finches. Supposedly different finch species evolved from a common ancestor when they were dispersed on different islands due to different food sources being present on different islands. The main difference among these finches is their beaks, which adapted to their different diets. Modern research, however, has found that Galapagos finch beaks change size and shape with the change of seasons! So, in the dry seasons, the beaks get larger and when it is rainy, they often revert back. The lack of permanence of these changes does not fit well with Neo-Darwinist theory.

Another misleading claim by Neo-Darwinists has to do with homologous structures. It is claimed that the since the bone structures of the arms of humans, wings of birds, and the fins of whales are similar, this suggest common ancestry. However, while the bone structures (phenotypes) are similar, the genes coding for them (genotypes) are completely different in different species. Thus, it's not possible to infer common evolutionary pathways using a Neo-Darwinist mechanism using forelimb homology.

Neo-Darwinism is based on fraud and lies:

A vast majority of biology textbooks present as evidence of evolution drawings of embryos from different species. The point is that since the uterine environment is supposedly similar among different species, there are few selective forces favoring differentiation. Unfortunately, these drawings, originating from one Ernst Haeckel in the 19th century, are admitted fakes. Real embryos of different species DO look quite different from each other. Darwinists admit this, but many texts continue to present Haeckel's embryos as evidence for evolution.

Another example commonly found in biology texts are the famous English light and dark peppered moths. The claim here is that before the industrial evolution, most peppered moths were light, and were able to blend well on trees with light trunks common in the British Isles. However, increased pollution resulted in trees being covered in soot. Mutant dark moths were now better camouflaged on sooty barks, escaped predation, and increased in number. Unfortunately, further investigations found that neither light nor dark peppered moths actually rest on tree trunks. Those famous pictures? They are a result of light and dark dead moths being pinned onto tree trunks to `illustrate this point!' Again, Neo-Darwinists admit the pictures were staged, but they continue to be found in texts as they do nicely illustrate Neo-Darwinist evolution.

Neo-Darwinism is promoted by censuring theories and ideas that contradict Neo-Darwinism, and by intimidating those who make trouble for the establishment:

This is perhaps the most serious and to the extent true, frightening criticism made by ICONS. The film presents the case of Roger DeHart, a high school biology teacher in Washington State who wanted to supplement biology classes by presenting recent evidence contradicting Neo-Darwinism. However, the school board, frightened by threats of lawsuits from organizations defending Neo-Darwinism (ACLU for example) repeatedly prevented him from doing so. It is understandable if they squashed the teaching of fringe theories such as Intelligent Design or Creationism- however, they prevented DeHart from teaching evidence troublesome to Neo-Darwinism appearing in mainstream science publications, and even papers such as the WALL-STREET JOURNAL! They even prevented him from presenting a paper by the famous Neo-Darwinist Stephen Gould, in which he admitted that Haeckel's embryos should not appear in biology texts. The given reason? High School students are supposedly not capable of evaluating claims from cutting-edge research and should be taught simplified science. Needless to say, a number of students were offended by such a conclusion.

The film understandably claims that case of DeHart is the famous Scopes trial turned upside down: In the 1925, biology teacher John Scopes was censured from teaching evolution in classrooms by hostile creationists. Today, biology teachers such as DeHart are censured from criticizing evolution by hostile Neo-Darwinist Evolutionists.

While watching the film, one must keep in mind that the film is not balanced (it clearly has an agenda, and majority of the experts are critical of Neo-Darwinism- a number of them are proponents of Intelligent Design). Despite its bias, one cannot deny that the film is very reasonable. It does not present, much less push, alternate theories, not even Intelligent Design. Rather, it presents solid evidence against Darwinism, evidence that is accepted by Neo-Darwinists. It also asks hard, troublesome questions. But isn't that what science all about- to ask those difficult questions, and follow the evidence wherever it leads?

It Takes a Nation: How Strangers Became Family in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
It Takes a Nation: How Strangers Became Family in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
by Laura Dawn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.95
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Inspiring and Thought Provoking!, December 19, 2006
IT TAKES A NATION is a great book how people in America came together after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. It presents thorough first person accounts the stories of both the courage and perseverance of the survivors as well as the generosity and bravery of those who opened their houses and hearts to them- the helpers. Americans (and some non-Americans!) became family despite being of different races, religions, genders, ages, and classes.

The stories of course, are much more than just narrations of friendships and happy encounters. Both survivors and the helpers candidly narrate the horrors of Katrina: being in houses watching water levels rise higher and higher, living for days on end in the Super Dome facing riots, rapes and murders, leaving behind family members and pets and wondering if they would survive, and the utter failure of action on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The survivors also give an in depth look at their city, New Orleans- a vibrant city of culture and music, but also a den of corruption and crime. A repeated element was the power of water in New Orleans: One survivor mentioned that she is able to differentiate the rain water, the water of the canal and the sea just by the smell and its feel in the air. Another theme was the unique and famous food bringing survivors and helpers together: red beans, ham, gumbo, jambalaya...

Interspersed among the stories are truly fantastic pictures. Some show the hurricane from an aerial/satellite view, others show pictures of houses and buildings flooded to roof tops, yet others show the great destruction wrought by the hurricane and the aftermath. Of course, there are charming pictures of the Survivors and helpers and their families.

All in all, this is a truly inspiring and thought provoking book. As many of the helpers mentioned, they felt that housing someone is a much more meaningful way to assist someone in need than just sending money. Furthermore, they felt that since their intentions were noble, they felt that they would have a good experience (and not end up housing a serial killer or violent criminal)- and this was more than borne out by their experiences. I thought, wow, hopefully one day I will have enough generosity of spirit to help in such a personal way.

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