Video Review: Uncensored science : Bill Nye debates Ken Ham : is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era? [videorecording on DVD] call number 576.8 Un16s 2014, Answers in Genesis, 2014.

uncensored_scienceKen Ham, an Australian immigrant and leader of the Answers in Genesis creationism program, debates Bill Nye “The Science Guy” in a televised event in 2014 that includes several back-and-forth debate sessions and finishes with questions submitted by the audience.

The topic: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

This DVD contains the actual, uncut statements, arguments, and audience reactions to these two leading spokespersons.

There was no “winner” declared — this was simply an opportunity for these two men to put their views out for consideration.  Nye lays out examples and data in favor of a scientific, old-earth, evolutionary approach, while Ham redefines scientific terms and refuses to accept events and processes that were not recorded while they were happening, in favor of Biblical explanations.

One of the most telling moments was the question from an audience member to Ken Ham, asking what would convince him that creationism was incorrect, to which he replied, “Nothing.”

This is also available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9yQEG7mlTU 



Video Review: Cosmos, a spacetime odyssey, call number 530.11  C821so  2014, a videorecording on DVD, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2014.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by the original Cosmos as hosted by Carl Sagan, and teamed up with Ann Druyan (the late Sagan’s wife) and Seth MacFarlane to create this up-to-date exploration of science, astronomy, life, the universe, and everything.

From famous and sometimes less-famous scientists, to the future end of time, Tyson gives us a view into how science works, corrects itself, and projects the past, present and future of the universe.

This is done in a popular, easy-to-follow manner that helps make the complexities of everything understandable.  Tyson admits what science hasn’t yet learned, what it has revised with new information, and what can be extrapolated about the universe.  The series was written by Ann Druyan and Steven Soter.

Using such computer-generated visual concepts as a Ship of the Imagination, and a Cosmic Calendar, he is able to help viewers visualize the details of cells, the vastness of time, and the immensity of galaxies.  Even the simple animations of historical events and people are intended to guide the recounting of events, without a lot of distractions.

This 4 disc set contains the expanded version of the series as shown on the National Geographic Channel.  The discs contain all 13 episodes, plus an audio commentary on the first episode, and three featurettes: “Celebrating Carl Sagan: A Selection from the Library of Congress Dedication”, “Cosmos at Comic-Con 2013″ and “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – The Voyage Continues”.

This is a classic work of popular educational television, and this set is an opportunity to revisit, catch any episodes you missed, and hear the commentaries.


secrets_mental_mathVideo Review: The secrets of mental math [videorecording on DVD] by Arthur T. Benjamin, call number DVD 510.078  B4381sm  2010, Teaching Co., 2010. [Request and check this out at the Circulation Desk]

2 DVDs with twelve 30-minute lectures by Arthur T. Benjamin, Professor of Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College.  WAIT WAIT — you can check the contents and skip to the part you need, and then you’ve only got a half-hour program to deal with at a time.  Do one or several or all of them, as you choose.

The Teaching Company puts out these great courses by noted faculty, in this case one who’s won awards for his teaching methods.  This one covers techniques that simplify your math, whether you’re comparing prices in a store or figuring a tip in a restaurant.  Professor Benjamin also covers how to improve your memory for numbers (including phone and credit card numbers) by using a simple phonetic code; how to mentally determine the day of the week of any date in history; finding square roots; and how to do rapid pencil-and-paper mathematics in ways seldom taught in school.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 880 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 15 trips to carry that many people.  Viewers from 52 countries saw posts.

Click here to see the complete report.

Video Review: Hal Holbrook in the CBS Television network special Mark Twain tonight! [DVD] call number DVD 818.409 T911mtt 1999, Kultur, 1999, c1967. [request and check this out at the Circulation Desk]

marktwaintonightI openly proclaim it — this is an oldie but a goodie, and probably the role for which Hal Holbrook is — or should be — always remembered.  Based on Twain’s works, and considerable research, Holbrook began this as a Broadway show in the 1960s and it was filmed as a CBS television special in 1967, as one of the earliest and best examples of a one-person show on a noted personality.  (Regrettably, we don’t seem to have similar videos of James Whitmore doing his performances of Will Rogers and Harry Truman.)

Hal Holbrook won an Emmy award for his re-creation of a stage lecture and readings by the famous author, copying his voice from the few actual surviving recordings, and covering everything from readings from Huckleberry Finn to Twain’s cigar-smoking, with all the fascinating humor and insight you might have found in an actual Twain appearance on stage in the last decade of his life.  This is really funny, and still very relevant to our times now.

Television networks typically rerun certain shows every year, often seasonally.  We really need a season, in my opinion, when they rerun classic performances such as this one.

For more information on Twain’s lecture tours, you might also like to read The trouble begins at eight : Mark Twain’s lecture tours.


And the winner of our pumpkin is: Jackie Soukhaseum,  who belongs to Astral Fantasy Ink Productions and the Coalition of Studio Arts!


And here’s the result:2013-10-pumpkin_Manyseng_Soukhaseum

The Lost City of Z  by David Grann, call number 918.11046 G766Lc 2009, isbn 9780385513531, (2009 Doubleday)

lost city of z

What is it about the concept of a lost building or city or civilization that still captures our imaginations?  We still have the dreams of stumbling across some hidden place where no human has trod for centuries, or finding some sunken structure or vessel, or the secret knowledge of some ancient civilization, and innumerable books and movies have used that as a  basis for adventure, fame, and fortune.

New York Times staff writer David Grann, surely one of the unlikeliest people to catch this bug, discovered a long-standing mystery which he details in The Lost City of Z, taking us along with several adventurers and their would-be rescuers, as well as his own modern but nevertheless arduous trek into the Amazon jungle.  Leaving his beloved air-conditioning and other modern comforts behind, he found himself wading through the jungle, actually wondering if he would survive his own trip.

In 1925, British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, his son and his son’s friend, entered the Amazon in search of El Dorado, setting off a chain of speculation and repeated rescue attempts down the years, up to the authors trek in 2005, which may have found as much of the final answer as is ever likely to be found.  Explorers had to battle malaria, skin-rotting bacteria, burrowing maggots, piranha, and snakes.  They must also be wary, even today, of the many native tribes, whose long history of being exploited and enslaved by outsiders has left many of them suspicious and sometimes hostile to strangers.

Using Fawcett’s own journals and other rarely-seen resources, Grann details the obstacles, rigors, and human frailities encountered in 19th and early 20th century exploration.  Large and small expeditions into the Amazon jungle disappeared with little or no trace, or released only a few survivors with horrific tales of deprivation, mutiny and murder.  Fawcett was one of the few who preferred to keep his group small, and to try to make friends with the tribes, rather than dominate them with weapons and numbers.  Grann covers the traits and faults of the explorers fairly and completely, but notes how certain personalities could actually find a special place in exploration.  Fawcett’s indomitable nature, along with remarkable good health, allowed him to continue even as others of his expeditions often succumbed to illness and injury.  Even on his last expedition, with only his son and his son’s friend, the friend was eventually considered a weak link by the unforgiving Fawcetts.