march boutiques-francophones Unlimited cloud storage snsflyout Furniture Introducing Kindle Oasis Music Deals Store sports Tools ca_ty_gno
Profile for STEPHEN PLETKO > Reviews

Personal Profile

Top Reviewer Ranking: 66
Helpful Votes: 1168

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
STEPHEN PLETKO "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
Glacial Balance [Import]
Glacial Balance [Import]
Price: CDN$ 33.71
9 used & new from CDN$ 18.22

5.0 out of 5 stars What's happening to the glaciers?? Why does it matter??, May 23 2015
This review is from: Glacial Balance [Import] (DVD)

"What makes our time so different than the past is that we've never had 7 billion people living on the planet. 50% of the surface of our planet is in the tropics and 70% [about 5 billion] of those people live in the tropics. And so the impacts on people will be felt most severely here in the tropical regions.

In the worst case [scenario], if we melt all [the glacial] ice on the planet, sea level will rise 70 meters [about 230 feet].

The world will not look like it looks like today. The impacts on people having to migrate to find places to live will be tremendous."

The above is said by one of the commenters in this beautifully-filmed documentary. It has no narration but is purely comment-driven.

A glacier is a body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. It forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its melting over many years (usually centuries). Glaciers are found in mountain ranges on every continent (except Australia). Glacial ice is the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth.

This documentary is a journey along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range in South America. We start in Columbia, then go to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and end in Argentina.

Along the way, we get to know the indigenous people and lives of those (especially farmers) who are affected by the dwindling tropical glacial reserve. (The dwindling glacial reserve is the "canary in the coal mine" for climate change and global warming.)

We are accompanied by scientists (geologists, climatologists, glaciologists, etc.) who give us a perspective on what is happening in the natural world and what we can expect.

And from that, the greatest thing we learn is of the chain reaction effect that these disappearing glaciers are having on us and the rest of the world.

This film has comments from over fifty environmentalists, activists, and scientists. It features Lonnie Thompson, "Time" magazine's "Hero of the Environment."

Finally, this documentary is the "official selection" of many film festivals.

In conclusion, this is a beautifully-filmed documentary that educates the viewer about an alarming ugly fact: the dwindling glacial reserve in the Andes Mountain Range of South America.

(2013; 93 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 9 chapters)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars
Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars
by Lee Billings
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 13.74

3.0 out of 5 stars Detailing the heroic quest for other Earth-like planets and life...beyond our solar system, May 16 2015

"[1] [Are] there other Earth-size, Earth-like exoplanets [extrasolar planets, a planet that orbits a star other than our Sun] in our Galaxy, and in the wider universe?
[2] Was our situation here on Earth average, or was it instead quite special, even unique?
[3] [Are] we cosmically alone?

I decided to write this book when I learned just how soon we might gain answers to some of these seemingly timeless questions."

The above is found in the introduction of this interesting book by Lee Billings. He is a science writer whose work has appeared in several respected science magazines. This is his first book.

The first two chapters begin with the history of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a discussion with SETI pioneer Frank Drake, and a detailed look at the Drake Equation, an equation that must be considered when dealing with "The search for life among the stars" (this book's subtitle). I felt that these first chapters were well-done and I must admit that Billings' writing and research are impressive.

One thing that Billings does in these chapters is provide the reader with the actual values that Drake and others came up with for the Drake Equation (a seven-variable equation formulated in 1961 which calculates "N," the number of communicating civilizations on exoplanets in our Galaxy). I think, instead of providing values that are over fifty years old, it would have been more instructive to provide the present-day values As well, the final value of N is not calculated (even though a value is given using Drake's "shortcut").

(I did do the calculation using the actual values of 1961 and got {N = 20 to 50,000,000}. For those who are interested, the present-day value is {N = 2 to 280,000,000}).

The next four chapters seem to go off-topic. Billings gets lost in historical asides as well as long, detailed profiles of scientists, and other musing (e.g. greenhouse gases, Marcellus formation) . There are chapters, for example, on the history of astronomy and the Earth's early epochs (Yawn). Thus, I found these four chapters somewhat tedious to read (even though the writing is still good). In fact, I was going to give up on the book at this point.

However, I decided not to give-up. To my surprise, I found that the last four chapters went back on-topic with respect to exoplanets and I found them to be quite interesting since I had not read some of this information before. Yes, the author does meander at times but generally he stays on-topic.

Billings traces the triumphs, tragedies, and even betrayals of the exceptional men (e.g. Jim Kasting, a former NASA scientist) and women (e.g. Sara Seager, a MIT professor and visionary, known as the "astronomical Indiana Jones") seeking life among the stars.

This book has no illustrations. These, I feel, would have helped cut down this book's wordiness.

Finally, I should explain my rating. Six of this book's ten chapters are good. Thus, it deserves three stars out of five stars. I was also impressed with the quality of writing and research. Therefore, this book deserves another half star

In conclusion, when he stays on-topic, science journalist Lee Billings does a good job of exploring the past and future of the "exoplanet boom" through research and interviews with the astronomers and planetary scientists at its forefront!!

*** 1/2 '

(First published 2013; introduction; 10 chapters; main narrative 265 pages; acknowledgements; references and notes; index)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate: Let Science Do the Talking the Next Time Someone Tries to Tell You...The Climate Isn't Changing; Global Warming is Actually a Good Thing; Climate Change is Natural, Not Man-Made...and Other Arguments It's Time to End for Good
How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate: Let Science Do the Talking the Next Time Someone Tries to Tell You...The Climate Isn't Changing; Global Warming is Actually a Good Thing; Climate Change is Natural, Not Man-Made...and Other Arguments It's Time to End for Good
by Seth B. Darling
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.76
19 used & new from CDN$ 2.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climate science versus climate change skeptics. And the winner is..., May 10 2015

"[In this book], we aim to provide a response to the plethora of skeptic misconceptions that inundate the media and blogosphere.

Using clear and accessible explanations of what we do and don't know about the science, we hope to equip readers with the tools to distinguish fact from fiction, to see through the smoke and mirrors, and to understand what needs to be done to address climate change and why.

You don't need a degree in science to understand the basic principles of climate change, but you do need to have some facts straight--facts that we're confident you'll have at hand after reading this book."

The above comes from the introduction of this book by Seth Darling and Douglas Sisterson. Darling is a scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in Illinois. Sisterson is a senior manager at the ANL for the US Department of Energy's Climate Research Facility. Both authors have received the University of Chicago's Pinnacle of Education Award.

What this easy-to-read book does is to scientifically examine fourteen claims common among climate change skeptics (also called "truthers").

Here are just five of the fourteen skeptic claims that are examined:

(1) There is no consensus.

(2) Who says climate change is such a bad thing?
(Climate change is any significant change in the measures of climate [such as temperature, precipitation, and humidity] lasting for an extended period of time [such as several decades or centuries]. Many people confuse this with "global warming" which is the phenomenon of rising average temperatures around the planet.)

(3) Climate is too complex to model or predict.
(Climate is not the same as weather. Weather is what you get day to day. Measures of weather include temperature, humidity, and precipitation. Climate is the average of weather measures over many decades, usually a thirty-year period.)

(4) There's no link between carbon dioxide and global temperature. (Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.)

(5) Renewable energy is too expensive or too variable. (Renewables include solar and wind.)

I said above that fourteen skeptic claims are examined in this book. Actually, what I meant to say is that there are fourteen major skeptic claims that require an in-depth scientific analysis.

A chapter in this book examines eleven minor skeptic claims that can be easily explained and thus can be lumped into one chapter. An example of a minor skeptic claim found in this book is as follows:

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), rather than carbon dioxide, are the primary cause of climate change.

Thus, in effect, this book examines a total of twenty-five skeptic claims.

Finally, excellent illustrations permeate this book. My favourite is entitled, "Greenhouse Effect." It has the following caption:

"The sun's rays heat up the Earth's surface, which then emits longwave radiation back toward space. Some of that radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases, and some of that radiation is then reemitted back down to the surface."

In conclusion, besides the science, this book has taught me that skeptics come up with quite an assortment of arguments in an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that climate change is occurring, that it's serious, and that human activity may be a major cause of it.

The sooner we can agree that climate change is a significant threat to our well-being, the sooner we can do something about it.

(First published 2014; introduction; prologue; 5 parts or 15 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 185 pages; acknowledgements; index; about the authors)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Price: CDN$ 19.71
18 used & new from CDN$ 15.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know the REAL story of Al Capone??, May 2 2015
This review is from: CAPONE;AL: ICON (DVD)

"Al Capone is an American icon because he still symbolizes today (eighty years later), the power of criminals to corrupt politicians and policemen."

The above comes from this outstanding documentary about American gangster and Chicago crime boss Al "Scarface" Capone (1899 to 1947).

It examines Capone's personal history, lasting legacy, and unveils his unexpected connection to modern-day organized crime, law enforcement, as well as to popular culture from movies to rap music, and even everyday life in Chicago.

The menu chapters for this documentary are entitled as follows:

(1) The beginnings
(2) The rise
(3) The influences
(4) The hunt
(5) The fall
(6) The legacy

This informative film is mainly comment-driven with comments from people such as journalists, professors, historians, detectives, and writers/directors. There are even comments from a former Chicago mob member (now a FBI informant), musicians, and Capone's grand-niece.

Finally, images in this documentary are in the form of black & white still pictures as well as black & white film footage.

In conclusion, for those who want to know the real story of Al Capone, this documentary is a must-see!! The one main thing you should learn from this film is the legend outlasted the man.

(2014; 55 min; wide screen; 6 chapters; PBS)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
DVD ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
Price: CDN$ 18.99
29 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Come with me...", April 25 2015
This review is from: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (DVD)

"This [scientific] adventure is made possible by generations of searchers [who] strictly adhered to a simple set of rules:

[1] Test ideas by experiment and observation.
[2] Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail.
[3] Follow the evidence wherever it leads.
[4] Question everything.

Accept these [rules] and the cosmos [meaning `universe'] is yours."

The above is said by the host of this outstanding science documentary series, an update and follow-up to the 1980 original television series (entitled "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage") that was co-written by and hosted by astrophysicist, astrobiologist, astronomer, cosmologist Carl Sagan (1934 to 1996) on PBS and considered a milestone for science documentaries. (The words that title this review were said by Sagan at the beginning of the original series and are again said by him at the beginning of this updated series.)

This updated series was written by Ann Druyan, Sagan's widow and astrophysicist Steven Soter. (These two also helped Sagan write the original series.)

It is hosted by astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson who, as a 17-year old student, met for a day and was inspired by Sagan. (What a role model for the young Tyson!!)

Among this new series' executive producers are the multi-talented Seth MacFarlane whose financial investment was instrumental in bringing this show to television.

This series loosely follows the same 13-episode format and storytelling approach that the original series used, including the "Ship of the Imagination" and the "Cosmic Calender," but features information updated since the 1980 original series along with extensive and mesmerizing computer generated graphics and animation footage as well as fantastic background music augmenting Tyson's excellent narration.

Some of the voice actors for the animated characters include Seth MacFarlane, Kirsten Dunst, Cary Elwes, Richard Gere, Marlee Matlin, and Star Trek's Patrick Stewart.

Each of the four discs of this series has an extra. My favourite: "Celebrating Carl Sagan."

I enjoyed this new series immensely. It was through the extras that I learned about Anne Druyan, Neil Tyson, and Seth MacFarlane. I think, if Carl Sagan were still alive, he would have been quite impressed by his wife and the once 17-year-old student that looked up to him. Personally, I was deeply impressed by Seth MacFarlane who was only 7-years old when the original series was televised. I think Carl Sagan would have regarded MacFarlane as a good friend and science visionary considering his immense contributions to the series.

Finally, potential viewers be forewarned! This science documentary contains no hocus pocus, abracadabra, or the supernatural. It contains only evidence-based and observational science--science at its best.

In conclusion, this is an updated series of the original "Cosmos" series that was presented by the great science communicator Carl Sagan. I leave you with five simple rules that are presented at the end of this updated series and what every critically-thinking person should remember:

(1) Question authority. No idea is true just because someone says so
(2) Think for yourself. Question yourself
(3) Don't believe anything just because you want too. Believing something doesn't make it so
(4) Test ideas by the evidence gained from observation and experiment. If a favourite idea fails a well-designed test, it's wrong.
(5) Follow the evidence wherever it leads. If you have no evidence, reserve judgement. Remember you could be wrong.

(2014; 580 min or 9hr 40 min; 13 episodes on 4 discs; wide screen)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
by Bill Nye
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.70
37 used & new from CDN$ 18.56

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution: an essential way to understand how nature works!!, April 18 2015

"Creationism strikes me as an astonishing waste of time and energy. I would love to be able to ignore it and focus on the real science, but creationists work very hard to disrupt science education and force their weird worldview on our students.

So let's make the best of an unfortunate situation, and use the creationist attacks as a learning opportunity...

[When it comes to attacks on evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin], please: think BIG, and think CRITICALLY."

The above comes from this well-written book by Bill Nye. It was inspired by a debate that Nye had with creationist Ken Ham in February 2014.

Nye is an engineer, science educator, comedian, and inventor. He obtained his science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University where he studied under the great Carl Sagan. He created and hosted the Emmy award-winning PBS/Discovery Channel show "Bill Nye, the Science Guy." Nye holds six Honorary Doctorate degrees.

For a book that explains evolution, this book is remarkably easy to read. As you would expect from Bill Nye, it is quite funny in spots. The science is well-explained. Even some essential history is included.

Creationism is mentioned only when it contradicts established evidence and facts.

This book explains such things as:

(1) Deep time
(2) Biodiversity
(3) Fossils
(4) Mass extinction
(5) Microevolution (change within a species) and macroevolution (new species formation)
(6) Altruism
(7) Genetically Modified Foods
(8) Human cloning (not cool)
(9) Race (why it really doesn't exist)
(10) The new search for alien life (including aliens right here on our planet)

Finally, the only problem I had with this book is that it has no notes and/or references. Nye does tell the reader in his acknowledgements section that he had a "fact checker" for parts of this book. However, I felt, for a book of this type, that notes and references are imperative.

In conclusion, Bill Nye empowers the reader to see the natural world as it is, not as some would wish it to be!!

(First published 2014; 37 "bite-size" chapters; main narrative 295 pages; acknowledgements; index)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


DVD ~ Paul Muni
Price: CDN$ 14.99
27 used & new from CDN$ 6.26

5.0 out of 5 stars The granddaddy of gangster movies, April 13 2015
This review is from: SCARFACE (DVD)

"This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and liberty.

Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government:

`What are you going to do about it?'"

The above is printed on the screen at the beginning of this realistic movie based on Armitage Trail's 1929 novel "Scarface."

This movie is loosely based on the life of Al Capone (1899 to 1947) whose nickname was "Scarface." It was filmed during the "pre-code" era before censorship (even though there was attempted censorship that delayed this movie's release by almost a year.)

It stars Paul Muni (1895 to 1967) who gives an electrifying performance as well as George Raft (1901 to 1980). (This movie launched Raft's career as a leading man.) Even horror icon Boris Karloff (1887 to 1969) has a small role.

It was produced by billionaire Howard Hughes Jr. and the legendary Howard Hawks (who also directed).

The first Howard Hughes movie I ever saw was "Hell's Angels." I was surprisingly impressed by this movie and equally impressed by `Scarface."

Note that a version of the "St. Valentine's day massacre" (1929) is also shown in this movie.

Note also that an "X" motif is used throughout this film. It appears many times (but not all) when a death is portrayed.

In 1994, this movie was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

There are no blemishes or other distracted artifacts onscreen. In fact, this movie probably appears better than when it was first filmed!

Finally, the DVD itself (the one released in 2007) has two extras: an introduction and an alternate ending.

In conclusion, this movie is truly a ground breaking masterpiece that influenced all gangster films to follow!!

(1932; 90 min; full screen; black and white)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


The Mystery of Agatha Christie with David Suchet
The Mystery of Agatha Christie with David Suchet
Price: CDN$ 31.66
14 used & new from CDN$ 17.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So you think you know all about the bestselling murder mystery writer in history?? Think again!!, April 6 2015

QUESTION: Who wrote this poem?

"There was once a little cowslip,
And a pretty flower, too,
But yet she cried and fretted,
All for a robe of blue,
Now a merry little fairy
Who loved a trick too play
Just changed into a nightshade
That flower without delay,
The silly little nightshade
Thought her life a dream of bliss
Yet she wondered why the butterfly
Came not to give his kiss."

ANSWER: Agatha Christie (nee Miller), age 10.

Yes, the subject of this extraordinary documentary is the "Queen of Crime" herself, Agatha Christie.

It is Hercule Poirot himself that guides us in unravelling Christie's life. Well, not quite. Actually, it is the actor who magnificently portrayed the Belgian detective, one of Christie's greatest literary creations, who guides us on our journey. And that actor is David Suchet (pronounced "Sue-shay").

In Suchet's own words:

"Hercule Poirot. I know this man. Agatha Christie's famous creation. I know him so well, I could take him shopping. But how well do I, David Suchet, know Poirot's creator?"

Suchet, just like his alter ego, does some great detective work. Some highlights of this documentary include seeing Christie's home movies, her early works (such as the poem reproduced above), talking with her biographer, hearing Christie's actual voice, seeing black and white photos, talking with historians, and viewing old newspaper articles concerning Christie.

Finally, there is one glaring error made. Suchet tells us that Christie was born in 1819. No. She was born in 1890.

In conclusion, this documentary is a treat for Agatha Christie fans. David Suchet explores the close links between Christie's fascinating life & her work and discovers just what it is about this woman that allowed her to become the bestselling murder mystery writer in history!!

(2013; 55 min, 30 sec excluding end credits; 7 chapters; wide screen; PBS)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.04
56 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know the REAL story of the Phantom of the Opera??, March 29 2015

(Note that this review is for the Harper-Perennial Library edition or mass market paperback)

"He is extraordinarily thin and his dress-coat hangs on a skeleton frame. His eyes are so deep that he can that you can hardly see his fixed pupils. You just see two big black holes, as in a dead man's skull.

His skin, which is stretched across his bones like a drumhead, is not white, but a nasty yellow. His nose is so little worth talking about that you can't see it side-face, and the absence of that nose is a horrible thing to look at.

All the hair he has is three or four long dark locks on his forehead and between his ears."

The above comes from the beginning of the first chapter of this mesmerizing novel by French writer Gaston Leroux (1868 to 1927). The above is an actual description of the "opera ghost," more commonly known as the "phantom of the opera."

This story was first published as a serialisation in a French daily newspaper in France from September 1909 to January 1910.

The genre of this novel is gothic. (That is, it combines fiction, horror, and Romanticism.) Its subjects are a unique combination of romance and mystery.

This story is a haunting and enduring tale that has fascinated readers for more than a century. Set in the Paris Opera House of 1881, it is a powerful story that pits the powers of:

(1) Evil and good
(2) Reality and illusion
(3) Sensuality and death.

Finally, the most notable performances based on this novel are the realistic 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney and the sanitized 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In conclusion, this novel presents the wildest and most fantastic of tales, a tale that has endured for over a hundred years!!

(First published in English 1911; this Perennial Library edition published 1987; prologue; 26 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 350 pages; the Paris Opera House)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Corner Gas: Season One
Corner Gas: Season One
DVD ~ Various
Offered by Rarewaves-US
Price: CDN$ 19.28
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Be sure to watch this comedy series, you jackass!!, March 21 2015
This review is from: Corner Gas: Season One (DVD)

This is a Canadian T.V. sitcom created by Canadian comedian Brent Butt (Yes! That's his real name). The series ran for six seasons from Jan 22, 2004 to April 13, 2009 for a total of 107 episodes.

Deriving its name from the roadside gas station in the fictional small (very small!) town of Dog River, Saskatchewan, Canada, "Corner Gas" is the only gas station within 37 miles (60 km) in any direction.

The characters of this small town are quirky:

Brent Leroy (Brent Butt) is the proprietor of the gas station. His parents, Oscar (Eric Peterson) whose favorite word is "jackass" and Emma (Janet Wright) are life-time residents of Dog River.

Wanda Dollard (Nancy Robertson) works at the station's convenience store as a retail assistant.

An adjoining cafe, "The Ruby", is owned by Lacey Burrows (Gabrielle Miller), who inherited it from her Aunt Ruby.

Dog River's Police Department (the "DRPD") consists entirely of veteran Davis Quinton (Lorne Cardinal) and rookie Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn).

Brent's best friend, the perpetually unemployed Hank Yarbo (Fred Ewanuick), spends his time hanging out with Dog River residents or drinking coffee at the Ruby.

A number of notable Canadian celebrities and politicians appear as guest stars or have cameo roles in many episodes.

Most of the episodes are stand-alone and can be viewed in any order.

This very funny show, which was filmed entirely in Saskatchewan, became an instant hit, averaging a million viewers per episode. In Saskatchewan, April 13 is known as "Corner Gas Day." This show is presently televised in 26 countries.

I found that season one of Corner Gas retained its quirky characters and that all episodes retained the humour I've come to expect. In fact, most episodes are hilarious. The infamous politician Pamela Wallin has a small role in one of the episodes. (She wasn't infamous when this episode was broadcast.)

Finally, there are four extras with this DVD set (released in 2004): (1) cast biographies (2) show promos (3) behind the scenes (4) bloopers. As well, three of the episodes have commentaries, if desired.

In conclusion, the first season of the hit comedy "Corner Gas" presents episodes in the life of a small town where there's "not a lot goin' on."

Warning!! Once you become addicted to this series, you officially become a "Butt head."

(2004; 13 episodes on 2 discs; 22 min per episode; total time: 286 min or 4 hrs, 45 min; full screen)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London. Ontario, Canada>>


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20