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STEPHEN PLETKO "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada)

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Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism
Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism
by Jerry DeWitt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.75
37 used & new from CDN$ 3.58

4.0 out of 5 stars "By freeing myself from the shackles of religion and my relationship to supernaturalism, I embraced TRUE HOPE", May 24 2014

"After decades of studying religion, I was awakened to the idea that because skepticism was my nature, I had more questions than answers about religion [or religious faith]. [Faith is complete, unquestioning acceptance of something even in the absence of proof and especially, of something not supported by reason.]

I realized that free thought had been the methodology with which I explored my theological questions and that agnosticism [the doctrine that that the human mind cannot know if there is a God] was the conclusion to an investigation into the question of religion that spanned twenty-five years.

But what really brought me to atheism--and I believe that atheism is an opinion because the existence of something outside of our reality is neither provable [nor] unprovable--was humanism [any system of thought based on the nature, interests, and ideals of humans]. In all my endeavours, from ministry to city hall [the author had a job at city hall until he was fired], humanism has been my motivation."

The above comes from this memoir or autobiography by Jerry DeWitt {with Ethan Brown}. His ministry began when he was seventeen. After twenty-five years as a preacher, including being the pastor of two fundamentalist congregations (he preached for the last time in April 2011), DeWitt became an atheist, writer, and public speaker. {Brown is an author.}

This book does exactly what it says on the front cover. It traces DeWitt's agonizing journey from belief (or faith) to atheism (the doctrine that there is no God or gods; godlessness).

I think the best way to convey the essence of this book is to list its chapter titles:

(1) God loves everyone
(2) God saves everyone
(3) God is in everyone
(4) God is everyone's internal dialogue

I have to give DeWitt a lot of credit. It must of took tremendous courage to come out as an atheist after being a preacher for quarter of a century. (There were consequences to this action: public ostracism, family break-up, and financial ruin.)

I want to emphasize that this book, in no way, attempts to convert readers to atheism. For those readers that are already atheists, this book will probably be quite an interesting read.

Finally, I had a couple of problems:

First, I mentioned above that this book was a memoir or autobiography. Unfortunately, this information is tucked away at the very back of the book. I think it would have been beneficial to have this information at the very front so as to prepare the reader for what is to come.

Second, the first chapter is VERY long (150 pages). I think some of the excessive detail in this chapter could have been removed without affecting the overall story.

In conclusion, this book effectively traces a pastor's tortuous journey from faith to atheism!! I leave you with the author's explanation of the book's title:

"By embracing humanism as fully as I once embraced God, [I now know] there is HOPE AFTER FAITH."

(First published 2013; prologue; 5 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 265 pages; acknowledgements)

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


Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Bilingual Widescreen Edition)
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Bilingual Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Harrison Ford
Price: CDN$ 9.88
10 used & new from CDN$ 3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars "An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible", May 17 2014

"Tanis development proceeding. Acquire headpiece, Staff of Ra. Abner Ravenwood, U.S."

The above secret German cable is the motivation for this fantasy adventure film (from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, directed by Steven Spielberg). For if the Germans acquire the headpiece, they will be able to locate the lost Ark of the Covenant with its mysterious powers. (The Ark of the Covenant is a chest that contains the stone tablets in which the Ten Commandments are inscribed.)

It's up to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to locate the Ark before the Germans do. Dr. Jones is Professor of Archaeology, expert on the occult, and obtainer of rare antiquities. Jones' trademark when he's in the field is his bullwhip and Fedora (a type of hat).

This movie could very well be the greatest adventure film of all time. The viewer is treated to one cliff hanger after another. As well, the acting and special effects are good. (This is Alfred Molina's acting debut.)

What I especially liked was the blend of humor, adventure, and drama. Also, the music by the great John Williams is unforgettable.

Photography was in France, Tunisia, Hawaii, and studios in England.

The title of this movie was originally "Raiders of the Lost Ark" but was later changed for marketing purposes.

This film originated from George Lucas' desire to create a modern version of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s.

The budget for this movie was eighteen million dollars. It has grossed almost three-hundred and ninety million worldwide!

Finally, the DVD itself (released in 2008) has six extras. I found most of them interesting.

In conclusion, I would recommend that you have your seat belts on when you view this film. Why? Because you're going to be taken on a non-stop action-adventure!!

(1981; 1 hr, 51 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 31 scenes)

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


The Dead Pool (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
The Dead Pool (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 39.53
13 used & new from CDN$ 3.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Do you recognize the last name on the list below? Well, do you punk?, May 10 2014

"Nolan Kennard
George Cameron
Thomas Stern
Johnny Squares
Molly Fisher
Tony Engedal
Michael Cipriano
Harry Callahan"

The above list of names is a DEAD POOL--a macabre betting pool where the bet is who will die. And the last name on this list is SFPD Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood).

This list is the motivation behind this final film in the "Dirty Harry" franchise. Harry has to find the serial killer who made up this list, not only to save others on it, but to save--himself!!

Harry's new partner (his old partners have a habit of getting killed) is a karate wiz. I personally enjoyed the performance of the actor who portrayed Harry's partner (Evan Kim).

And yes, there is a famous car-chase scene in this movie. But instead of being between two cars, it's between a remote-controlled bomb (disguised as a remote-controlled toy car) and a conventional car driven by our hero.

I thought this chase scene was ingenious. This scene has many similarities with the famous chase in the Steve McQueen film "Bullitt" (1968) which also took place in San Francisco.

For some reason, this movie is underappreciated. The acting is good with top-notch performances from not only Clint Eastwood but from Liam Neeson, Patricia Clarkson, and Jim Carrey (his first non-comedy film).

Perhaps it's because of Eastwood's age (he was 58) that this movie is not appreciated. However, he appeared to me to be quite fit. Then, perhaps, people were just getting tired of this character. There are probably many opinions as to why this film is so underappreciated. (As Dirty Harry says in this movie, "Opinions are like a-holes. Everybody has one").

There are five movies in the "Dirty Harry" movie series. In my opinion, the best one was "Dirty Harry" (1971) and the most mediocre was "The Enforcer" (1976). Between these two extremes lies this film, "Magnum Force" (1973), and "Sudden Impact" (1983).

Finally, the DVD itself (released in 2001 and part of the Clint Eastwood collection) has five extras.

In conclusion, this is a worthy addition to the "Dirty Harry" movie series!!

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

(1988; 1 hr, 28 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 31 scenes; rated `R')


Sudden Impact (Widescreen) [Import]
Sudden Impact (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 29.97
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars After a seven year hiatus, Dirty Harry is back in full form...finally!!, May 3 2014

"This is the .44 Magnum Automag...and if properly used, it can remove the fingerprints."

The above is a memorable line from this fourth movie in the "Dirty Harry" series. This movie breathed new life into the series after the mediocre "The Enforcer" (1976). (The first two movies in the series were the excellent "Dirty Harry," 1971 and the good "Magnum Force," 1973.)

This time Clint Eastwood (as SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan) took over the reins by producing & directing this movie and it shows. As well, Eastwood seems to have renewed interest in the character, giving it the energy and intensity it deserves. (He seemed to have lost this interest in "The Enforcer.")

Sondra Locke plays a "revenge" killer in this movie. She does a good job in her role.

This is the only "Dirty Harry" movie to be primarily set and filmed outside of San Francisco.

This movie is especially known for the catchphrase "Go ahead, make my day" (uttered by Harry). In fact, it became so famous that then-President Ronald Reagan used it in a speech to Congress to challenge them on an issue.

This movie was a box-office success. It was the highest-grossing movie of the five films in the "Dirty Harry" franchise.

Finally, the DVD itself (released in 2001 and part of the Clint Eastwood Collection) has five extras.

In conclusion, this is a must-see movie that breathed new life into the "Dirty Harry" movie series. And remember:

"Nobody, but nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog anymore!"

(1983; 1 hr, 54 min. excluding end credits; wide screen; 37 scenes; rated `R')

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


The Enforcer (Widescreen)
The Enforcer (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by polski_film
Price: CDN$ 5.34
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars For a "Dirty Harry" movie, this movie falls below expectations, April 26 2014
This review is from: The Enforcer (Widescreen) (DVD)

"We want one million dollars or we start blowing things up. The People's Revolutionary Strike Force. Remember Fessenheim."

The above is the motivation for this third installment in the "Dirty Harry" movie series.

This movie tries to follow the same formula as the first movie ("Dirty Harry," 1971) but this time instead of pursuing a single thug, "Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is going after a group of thugs.

The first movie also presents Dirty Harry to the world and does a memorable job in doing this. This movie can't do this so, to make it more interesting, Harry is teamed up with a newly-minted female inspector (Tyne Daly).

Unfortunately, this does make for a very interesting film. Clint Eastwood seems to walk through his performance and does not seem to deliver the same energy or intensity as he did in the first two installments of the series. (The second installment was "Magnum Force," 1973.)

The only bright spot is Tyne Daly. She gives an admirable performance.

This movie has a high level of violence but even with this, this film seems "routine."

As well, the background music was lack-lustre.

I was surprised when I read that this movie was a major commercial success. (Its budget was nine million dollars and its box office draw was about forty-six million.) I think this was due to Clint Eastwood's star power which was firmly established by then.

Finally, the DVD itself (released in 2001, part of "The Clint Eastwood Collection") has six extras.

In conclusion, after two excellent installments in the "Dirty Harry" movie series, this movie falls below expectations.

(1976; 1 hr, 35 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 30 scenes; rated `R')

<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Magnum Force (Widescreen)
Magnum Force (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by Videophile549
Price: CDN$ 5.21
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Vigilante traffic cops who use Magnums to kill, April 19 2014
This review is from: Magnum Force (Widescreen) (DVD)

This is the second movie in the "Dirty Harry" series and it does not disappoint.

This time major thugs are being killed and it seems like "somebody is trying to put the courts out of business." It's up to Harry to solve the mystery of who is responsible.

I found that this movie was more action-orientated and did not have the emotional impact of the first movie ("Dirty Harry," 1971).

The acting is terrific. Clint Eastwood gives his usual excellent performance as Harry Callahan (even though Harry is not as gritty as he was in the first movie). However, Hal Holbrook gives an equally good performance as his boss, Lieutenant Briggs.

This movie also features early appearances by David Soul ("Starsky and Hutch") Robert Urich ("S.W.A.T.," "Vegas," "Spencer for Hire") and Tim Matheson ("Animal House"). Also, look for Suzanne Sommers ("Three's Company") in a bit part.

There is also social commentary blended into the action of this movie.

The background music is good but not as good as in the first film.

This is also the longest movie in the series.

Finally, the DVD (part of the Clint Eastwood Collection, released in 2001) has six extras.

In conclusion, this is a decent sequel in the "Dirty Harry" series! And don't forget: "A man's got to know his limitations."

(1973; 2 hr; wide screen; 36 scenes; rated 'R')

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


Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life
Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life
by J. Craig Venter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.37
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revealing the birth of a new era of science, one at the "nexus of biology and technology", April 12 2014

"[This book] intended to describe the incredible progress that we have made. In the span of a single lifetime, we have an understanding...that DNA is the software of life.

This [book] builds on tremendous advances over the last half-century, made by a range of extraordinarily gifted individuals throughout the world. I will provide an overview of these developments in molecular and synthetic biology...

My aim is not to offer a comprehensive history of synthetic biology but to shed a little light on the power of that extraordinarily cooperative venture we call science."

The above comes from this very interesting book by J. Craig Venter. He is a biologist and entrepreneur. Venter is one of the first to sequence the human genome (all of the genetic information in humans). He is founder of Celera Genomics, the Institute for Genomic Research, and the J. Craig Venter Institute. Venter is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the 2008 U.S. National Medal of Science.

Venter opens his book with the question "What is life?" He asserts that life is reducible to the "DNA machines" and "protein robots" that operates within cells and hopes to prove it by constructing synthetic organisms from scratch.

On May 20, 2010, headlines around the world announced one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in modern science: the creation of the world's first synthetic life form. In other words, Venter had achieved his goal.

("Synthetic life [is] self-replicating biology based on a synthetic genome, a synthetic code-script.")

In this book, Venter shares the dramatic account of how he led a team of scientists to this pioneering effort in synthetic genomics--and details how that work will have a profound impact of humanity in the future.

Venter does a good job in tracing the history of key discoveries in genetics along the way. The science described in this book is impeccable.

A major strength of this book is the portrayal of the scientific process, of the false starts, unexpected problems, and improvised solutions. Venter does not shy away from discussing the setbacks his team faced before his synthetic cell came to life.

Finally, there are a few problems with this book. There is too much technical detail that may scare off the casual reader. Thus, a good glossary would have been helpful. (The good news here is you don't have to understand all the scientific technicalities to appreciate this book.) As well, illustrations would have been beneficial, thereby reducing this book's wordiness.

Bottom-line: this book offers an insider's view of one of science's hottest new fields!!!

(First published 2013; 12 chapters; main narrative 185 pages; acknowledgements; notes; index)

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


Dirty Harry (Deluxe Edition) [Import]
Dirty Harry (Deluxe Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: CDN$ 15.95
36 used & new from CDN$ 2.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know why they call Inspector Harry Callahan "Dirty Harry?" Well do you, punk? (**ANSWER BELOW), April 5 2014

"To the city of San Francisco: I will enjoy killing one person every day until you pay me 100,000 dollars. If you agree, say so tomorrow morning in personal column, "San Francisco Chronicle" and I will set up meeting. If I do not hear from you, it will be my next pleasure to kill a Catholic priest or a [black person]. Scorpio"

The above comes from this absorbing crime thriller This film, which introduced "Dirty Harry" to the world, was one of the major movies that shot Clint Eastwood into super-stardom.

The first scenes of this movie are especially good, what I call "signature Eastwood."

Andy Robinson gives a mesmerizing performance as serial killer, Scorpio.

The finale of this movie is unforgettable.

The background music adds to each scene.

There was considerable controversy when this movie was first released. This was over issues such as police brutality to victim's rights and the nature of law enforcement. Feminists did not like this movie.

However, this controversy hasn't hurt this film's bottom line. Its budget was four million dollars. Its box office take too date is almost thirty-six million dollars.

Eastwood's iconic portrayal of the blunt, cynical, unorthodox detective in perpetual trouble with his incompetent bosses, set the style for a genre of "loose-cannon" cop films.

Finally, the DVD itself (the deluxe edition released in 2008) has four extras. I found all of them interesting.

In conclusion, in my opinion, this was one of the the best of the five "Dirty Harry" movies that was made.

(1971; 1 hr., 40 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 31 scenes)

**because he'll take any dirty job that comes along.

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


My Brief History
My Brief History
by Stephen Hawking
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.75
35 used & new from CDN$ 9.65

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Someone once said that scientists and prostitutes get paid for doing what they enjoy", March 29 2014
This review is from: My Brief History (Hardcover)

"When I was twenty-one and contracted ALS, I felt it was very unfair. Why should this happen to me? At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would not realize my potential I felt I had. But now, fifty years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life. I have been married twice and have three beautiful and accomplished children. I have been successful in my scientific career."

The above comes from this slim book by Stephen Hawking. Hawking is a disabled theoretical physicist and cosmologist who was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton) at the University of Cambridge for thirty years. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours. Hawking has written many books for the general reader including the classic "A Brief History of Time."

This is Hawking's autobiography. He recounts his improbable journey from his postwar London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity.

This book is aptly titled. This is a very brief book and in my opinion, far to brief. For somebody who "has been married twice" with "beautiful and accomplished children," and who has "been successful in [his] scientific career," it's hard to believe he hasn't more--much more--to mention.

For those who have followed Hawking throughout the years, you won't find much new here although I did find a bit of stuff that was new to me. Some of the almost forty-five black & white pictures that are peppered throughout this book were also new to me.

One of the chapters is entitled "A Brief History of Time." It tells us of the book that catapulted Hawking to fame. I was disappointed that Hawking did not even mention the late Dr. Carl Sagan who wrote an excellent introduction to this book.

Finally, there are two chapters tacked on to the end of this book that deal with time travel and imaginary time respectively. They detail the science behind these topics. Although interesting, I can't understand why they were added to this autobiography.

In conclusion, this is a brief--very brief--autobiography of Stephen Hawking that in my opinion should have been much more detailed.

(first published 2013; 13 chapters; main narrative 125 pages; illustration credits; about the author)

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


I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.71
55 used & new from CDN$ 7.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I came from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died, it was just after midday", March 23 2014

"My goal in writing this book was to raise my voice on behalf of the millions of girls around the world who are being denied the right to go to school and realize their potential. I hope my story will inspire girls to raise their voices and embrace the power within themselves."

The above comes from this tell-all book by Malala Yousafzai (with Christina Lamb). Malala came to public attention at the age of eleven by writing for the BBC about life under the Taliban. She often spoke about her family's fight for girl's education in her community.

In Oct 2012 (at age 15), she was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She survived and continues her campaign for education.

In recognition of her courage and advocacy, Malala has received numerous awards. She is the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

(Cristina Lamb is one of the world's leading foreign correspondents who has reported on Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1987. She has authored five books and has won many awards for her work.)

This book is an autobiography of Malala's life up to the point that she was shot and slightly after. The epilogue gives us an indication of her and her family's new life in Birmingham, England as of Aug 2013.

In the first half of this book, she writes about what she knows, her family and her country, Pakistan--its culture, religion, politics, customs, etc. She goes into detail about the history and recent history of her country.

Some sections of this first half are gruesome. We're told about murders, suicide bombings, floggings, beheadings, etc. Some readers may be put off by this. I know I was initially. But I realized that this was an account of what was going on here as seen through a teenager's eyes. Thus, I came to appeciate what was written. My only complaint is that there was, perhaps, too much detail given and this made the book difficult for me to read.

Malala also talks extensively about her family, especially her father. This is only natural. But again, I felt too much information was given and the book seemed to drag during these sections.

This book seemed to be easier to read in its second half (or perhaps, I had just become desensitized).

Malala gives an excellent account of what happened to her during and after the shooting. The only thing I couldn't understand is how she could recall all of this if her memory was not intact and she was close to unconciousness.

Throughout both halves, she mentions the right to education.

Two sets of colour, glossy photos are included. The first set is composed of almost twenty photos while the second set consists of almost fifteen photos. I found all of them interesting.

There is also a glossary in this book. It consists of mainly translations of foreign words and foreign terms found in the main narrative. I found this tremendously helpful but I became frustrated when I could not find a foreign word or foreign term that was not listed.

There is also a map of Pakistan and surrounding areas (Afganistan, Iran, etc) at the very beginning of this book. I found this invaluable for following the action of the main narrative.

Finally, I think this book is of sufficient length that it warranted, at least, a brief index.

In conclusion, for a sixteen-year-old teenager, this is an exceptional autobiography with an important message. I leave you with Malala's final words:

"Peace in every home, every street, every village, every county--this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish.

I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not."

(first published 2013; prologue; 5 parts or 24 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 315 pages; glossary; important events in Pakistan and Swat [an area of Pakistan where Malala grew up]; acknowledgements; a note on the Malala Fund)

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


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