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SnowPharoah "SnowPharoah"
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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
DVD ~ Ben Stein
Offered by AscendingVending
Price: CDN$ 39.98
11 used & new from CDN$ 2.04

3.0 out of 5 stars Of mice and straw men: How being biased takes away from science and makes documentaries less credible, Aug. 31 2015
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As a research scientist, I often have to reflect on the epistemological foundations of my work. For example, the current narrative regarding the foundations of life and of civilization is that they are a product of haphazard forces that work according to basic principles that are essentially "there": random mutations, natural selection and survival of the fittest, random environmental circumstances that contribute to the former. A very important part of this theory is that it cannot be falsified: you cannot come up with a set of observations that will oblige you to set it aside - because the theory can always be modified (as it has) to accommodate new data (other than supernatural observation, which is not really considered). In sum, there is no intention or creativity anywhere. I have to admit to struggling with the idea that our world came from nothing and has no meaning, which is where this line of thought, when it is not accompanied by other ideas, inevitably takes us.

Enter intelligent design. I do not like the "explain everything" attitude of people from this perspective. But their attempt to integrate the idea that a creator exists with scientific observation is a step in a new direction. In effect, they ask a fundamental question: If it is more reasonable to conclude that a creator might be present, because of the complexity of the observations that are made, why not do that? An honest scientist, one who is not intent on discrediting the possibility of "God" at any cost, might do that. Many in history, after examining the heavens or the seas, or other aspects of nature, have come to these kinds of conclusions.

This film is mainly concerned with these ideas and with illustrating how certain individuals may (or may not) have been discriminated against because of their adherence to the possibility of a creator being involved in nature and being somewhat involved in the different observations that scientific investigation brings.

It is clearly biased and should not be viewed as a scientific documentary.

However, it brings to the fore some of the bias that is also present in science and in the politics of science, namely that you must keep any idea of God out. In many ways, this perspective is reminiscent of philosophers who do not recognize the possibility of the divine in their accounts of life. It is not that the divine is not possible, it is simply that it is not considered. What this humoristic documentary brings out is that the possibility of God is not part of the scientific narrative.

This statement alone is quite packed and really would need a paper in itself. The foray into NAZI Germany in this film is awkward, but it reflects an attempt at asking the question which emanates from the premise behind the scientific endeavour: If there is no God, who determines what is right and wrong and what if different peoples come to different conclusions (as they inevitably will)?

After the fact, I realize this film has some problems, the least of which concerns the accuracy of the different kinds of discrimination that certain researchers are exposed to. But I must say, being in the academy, it is clear that there is discrimination, sometimes against people, clearly against ideas and in some ways, against the scientific process itself. This documentary offers a concentrated version of this basic observation, in the realm of the biological sciences.

Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine
Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine
Price: CDN$ 509.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 429.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Great espresso machine, Aug. 31 2015
Three reasons why (our family) think this Breville is simply great:
1. After having tried a few machines, it makes wonderful coffee and is available at a reasonable price. It is easy to kind of lose yourself in the technology ($) of espresso machines. This product lets you try different settings and has a few neat little gadgets that make your barista job easier (e.g., pivoting milk foamer; pressure gauge), but it lacks those elements that drive up the cost of a machine (e.g., auto-grinder; clock).
2. We make a lot of coffee, everyday, and this machine is still going strong after several years. It really works well. The pump seems to always be primed and ready.
3. The chrome, retro look is a throwback to older professional machines. Looks very sharp on a kitchen counter!

The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Price: CDN$ 0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - maybe it's me., Aug. 28 2015
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I enjoy reading Chesterton very much and have read or am often reading something he has read. Most of his books ask questions that we forget to ask and his work, which was written at a time that really was the beginning of scientific triumphalism and the denigration of anything that might be called "Christian", really addresses issues that seem to have been conveniently forgotten, both at the time of his writing and now. In a real sense, Chesterton applied a reason and a logic that we really need so much more of to ask and address some of the most important questions in life. In this, his work is truly inspiring.

I cannot say that I have enjoyed this collection of quasi-detective stories. I find they lack the razor-sharp logic that I am accustomed to and often take on a satirical or even sarcastic tone that is difficult to integrate. There are a number of difficulties in story-line, detail and observation that preempt the conclusions that Chesterton hopes to draw at the end of his stories. I was disappointed because, as mentioned, Chesterton is a favourite. I will have to come back to this set of stories to ensure that I haven't simply read too quickly or missed important points.

However, on to another. Have started to re-read The Everlasting Man. Thoroughly reconciled.

East of Eden (Oprah's Book Club)
East of Eden (Oprah's Book Club)
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.60
86 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Will, must or may, Aug. 28 2015
My son recommended my reading of EOE. He had read it and had been thoroughly taken up by the story and the issues that were raised. I have read it, and now my wife is on the verge of finishing. We are always talking about the story, trying to see which of the characters remind us of people we know, trying to understand the different points Steinbeck was making throughout this epic, multigenerational story. Steinbeck was a marvellous storyteller, the likes of which we rarely meet in our present generation, mostly preoccupied with creating, rather than generating, emotion. Steinbeck lulls you with descriptions of places and people and kindly places you in the everyday dilemmas and challenges they meet, in a way that truly engulfs you in their lives and leaves you asking many questions about your own.

Something is broken. Sometimes the break manifests itself in the land and the environment, sometimes as something missing in people, sometimes in the very soul of individuals. The brokenness comes forth, it accompanies individuals in their thoughts and in their actions. It is a complex thing to even become aware that it is there and when one becomes aware, one is almost helpless in working against it. But perhaps one can...

At the heart of the story, in a major discussion between the novel's protagonists, comes the story of Cain and Abel and the issue of scriptural interpretation. What was the meaning of that particular passage, that spoken by God, just prior to Cain's murder of Abel? Timshel... its meaning and sense occupies and dominates this story, across individuals and generations.

A story that leaves one in awe of this author, his storytelling ability and the questions he has left us that define who we become.

Whiplash (Bilingual)
Whiplash (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Miles Teller
Price: CDN$ 10.00
3 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The Narrative of Natural Selection, Aug. 1 2015
This review is from: Whiplash (Bilingual) (DVD)
Whiplash is the story of a young, up and coming but deeply insecure drummer who meets a teacher and band leader who is something of a cross between Genghis Khan and and Leviathan. The film takes us through the different dilemmas that the search for musical excellence brings, and it shows us many ways in which life course can be laced with deeply seated and honorable ambitions, but that somehow miss the essence of life. Is life really about being excellent at something? What if you are not, do you still have value as a human being? Is the only valued narrative in this world that of natural selection and survival of the fittest?

Although music is profoundly human and through it, humans strive for beauty, what happens when the striving for excellence takes takes place in a context that takes away both the humanity and the beauty? The film asks other questions: what do you make of a world that hurts and smears dozens so that we can praise one? How do you interpret the success of the olympian whose victory in a race is measured in hundredths of a second? Why do we seek to determine winners in this way and why do we create such insecurities that people are willing to give up their humanity to look for the praise that comes from this kind of excellence? The film ends on a fabulous, existential note. Did I mention the music is incredible? I hate to say it though...

On the down side: The representatives of what I would call "grace" in this film are weak. Of course, when we encounter weak and cheap grace, we are not drawn to it. We may even denigrate it. Throughout the film, we wish there was just one person, a mentor, a pastor, a rabbi, someone, who is able to articulate that there is something else in life that is worth the fuss. No such person shows up, leaving us with the impression that the film makers may well believe that no such persons, or perhaps not enough, exist.

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life
by Eric Metaxas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.71
38 used & new from CDN$ 18.37

3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, but not quite., April 27 2015
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I came to this book after reading Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer biography, which was simply enthralling and cannot be recommended enough. I leave "Miracles" in somewhat of a quandary: How do the positives and negatives from this latest offering balance out? Because, to be sure, both are part of Miracles. On the good side, there is a review of recent cosmology, biology and other science related to the beginnings of the universe and of life. This "layman's" walk through the scientific garden is important because it underlines in red ink that the universe and life itself are highly unlikely events and that in this sense, they can be considered to be miracles. Indeed, anything that appears organized would, it seem, argue in favour of the presence of "an organizer" and, as such, as evidence for miracles. This section alone is interesting and worth the read.

After this section, however, the book becomes a bit troubling to me and I am a bit ambivalent as to how to think about it. The section on Biblical miracles is not well written and frankly, Metaxas, while a sound writer, takes too many shortcuts in describing the New Testament stories. He does most readers a disservice unless this is the first time one encounters these stories. Furthermore, the different testimonies that follow involving "miracles", again while interesting, raise too many questions that cannot be asked, addressed or answered. There is the potential here for the author to simply be using his position to support a position for which there can be no questioning or counter-interpretation.

To be sure, the issues raised here are important and as a Christian, I found myself be more sensitive to the question of God's direct work in day to day life. However, the book is remarkably one-sided. There is no discussion of how the basic claim for God's involvement may also lead to different abuses and distortions of potential miracle events. This is a problem.

Can there really be miracles? Well, if one believes in God, especially the Biblical God as described by the major Jewish and Christian perspectives, there can be no doubt as to His involvement in human history and everyday life. However, on an individual level, when attempting to describe events, there is always a competing explanation, one that is conveniently labelled "chance" or "coincidence". Metaxas should have addressed this possibility directly in a distinct chapter, especially when dealing with some of the sections on miracle stories.

So, it is not that miracles cannot exist. Rather, apart from the first sections, it is difficult to be convinced from personal stories that they do. The inside cover of the book refers to CS Lewis' book of the same title and states that this one is a more contemporary account on the question of miracles. The reader is advised to read Lewis' book first, to gain perspective, before reading something like this Metaxas take on this topic.

The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory
The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory
by D'Arcy Jenish
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.51
27 used & new from CDN$ 9.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Hockey Matters, April 1 2015
As a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, there is a place in your heart where you remember that it was ok to belong to a team. You remember the players well, because most of them were part of the team for longer than one or two years. You remember the games because they determined your place in the playoffs and how difficult it would be to have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup, not simply whether you would make the playoffs and get past the first round or not. Your remember the tradition of having your friends around to watch games and how, through the years, much like a team, the friends changed somewhat, some remained, some were added, others added girl friends or wives. But in the end, you remember a time where the business of hockey was about fun as much as anything else, and that it "mattered", as Bob Gainey states in the preface to this book.

This is a fine scholarly intrusion into the history of the Montreal Canadiens, written for the centennial celebrations of the team in 2009. It bristles with interviews, with stories and with some of the not so accessible information that only an academic historian might be interested in hunting down. Stories of epochs, players, games and coaches abound and the reader quickly understands that there is more than sports and entertainment at stake here. Jenish portrays what has become a piece of Canadiana, something of a cultural and social institution that one treats with respect, even when addressing the less than glorious business aspects of the game.

In the last part of the book, Jenish recounts the rather discouraging seasons of the early 2000s, where the team made the playoffs, sometimes, by the skin of its teeth and where rapid elimination was the norm. Then, there is this season in 2008, where the team finishes first in the Eastern division and hope rises again. As these notes go to the Amazon.ca quadrant of cyberspace (2015), only 3 (4?) players are left from that team. There is hope as the Habs are contending for first place in their division and among the top teams in the league. There is hope that something of this institution that represents so much for the people of Québec (and Canada) will again become "Les Glorieux" and something of hockey and sport will be right with the universe once again.

Magic in the Moonlight (Bilingual)
Magic in the Moonlight (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Eileen Atkins
Price: CDN$ 13.99
8 used & new from CDN$ 9.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cynicism and magic: A nice, heartbreaking story., Feb. 17 2015
Coming to this latest instalment of Allen films is not helpful if you are not already familiar somewhat with Woody Allen. The film is clearly a continuation of statements that Allen has made in other films. The photography is beautiful and the soundtrack, as usual with Allen, fits wonderfully with the époque and the themes that are addressed. In this particular film, Allen continues to kill an idea that he had entertained in earlier films but that was decidedly abandoned at about the time of "Crimes and Misdemeanours". This idea is hope in something more than materialism. "There is no meaning. There is nothing out there apart from whatever you can touch and feel and if you try to look hard enough, you will clearly see that anyone who tells you otherwise is really only taking you for a ride. So, make the best of your life. This is really the only ride you get."

The level of cynicism is really quite high for Allen in this film and sometimes, this gets away from him a bit because overly cynical films are rarely taken seriously. But it is warmly wrapped by the music, a cozy little love story and the south of France. You come away from the film almost wondering how such a nice story could be so heartbreaking. In sum, an Allen film as he likes to make them.

Childhood's End
Childhood's End
by Arthur C. Clarke
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Changing the questions we ask, Feb. 3 2015
I came to Childhood's end in a rather strange way. I am running through the last volume of CS Lewis' letters and in it, he describes to a few correspondants his appreciation for the book. Lewis also had an ongoing correspondance with Clarke and had expressed to Clarke how he felt that CE made perfect use of the science fiction literary genre. For me, CE was one of only a few incursions into this genre and frankly, it was interesting.

CE is about the dramatic events that take place when humanity is suddenly invaded by "benevolent" aliens who, rather than torture humans, require that they bring peace to their world, feed the hungry, and solve other issues. What results is a civilisation unlike that which we currently know, but also one that has trouble dealing with the absence of individuality and creativity. The question that casts a shadow throughout the novel is: Why invade humans to create this utopia? What is the purpose?

Clarke plays with this question and the response comes in different forms actually, throughout the book. Two issues are particularly well illustrated. The first concerns the purpose of humanity. Is it possible that, although this can never be admitted by any 21st century human, we are present and created for someone or something else, for purposes that go beyond those that we can pursue or even imagine? What if there is a logic to evolution, to the order of things that goes beyond random mutation and natural selection? How could we know?

The second is that utopia, which in an important way is part of most, if not all except nihilist philosophies, does not seem to be ultimately satisfying to humanity. Of course, this is Clarke's reflexion, but it raises the very real point: Can our imagination of a utopia, a heaven, a world of peace, ever be interesting, ever be a place where humanity can emerge into a better kind human, or is it just something that we imagine and if ever achieve, will leave us cold? Is it possible that our imagination, even our imagination about what is best for us, be taking us in a misguided direction?

A good read that will leave you asking a different kind of question.

Rumours of Glory [8CD + DVD]
Rumours of Glory [8CD + DVD]
Price: CDN$ 141.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 115.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music to listen to the book by., Dec 30 2014
A very nice collection of songs that closely follow the recent autobiography of the same title. Some are standard versions, others more difficult to find, and a cd of "rarities", very well collated to remain coherent from beginning to end. A great DVD from some shows from the Northeastern US in 2008 as well. Autographed, numbered :-) Fans, such as yours truly, will be pleased. A musical trip through one of Canada's premier lyricists and guitar players, as well as an interesting tour of the work of a musician truly committed to making music matter in ways that it so rarely does now.
CD cases are well put together, but the actual box is a bit flimsy.

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