Profil de A. Volk > Commentaires

Fiche d'identité

Contenu rédigé par A. Volk
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1
Helpful Votes: 2103

Chez vous : découvrez nos services personnalisés en pages d'aide !

Commentaires écrits par
A. Volk (Canada)
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, and Monsters
Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, and Monsters
by David S Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 33.36
26 used & new from CDN$ 33.36

2 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Amazing guide and supplement to the movie, Aug. 7 2013
This book goes well beyond that standard "Art of the Movie..." book. It's a combination artwork, production guide, and cast interview book. The book has four parts to it. The first, Monster in the Mist, deals with the general storyline and script. It introduces the major characters with notes from actors and the rest of the crew on how they were to be played and filmed. It's pretty interesting stuff with some fun cast anecdotes thrown in.

The second part, The Crazy Kids in the Submarine, deals with the artwork and design of the movie. There is some detail on the storyboarding of the action sequences that was fun to read about. It's reminiscent of the old cartoons (e.g., G-force, Voltron) that influenced this movie. The book then goes into details about the various Jaegers who are, in many ways, the stars of the movie. Of course there's discussion of why the various choices look and act the way they do. They include closeups of their heads, battle damaged versions, 3D wireframe and models, blue-print style flaps, some stickers, and even some discarded concepts. This is a really strong point of the book.

In the third part, Doing It For Real, we are introduced to the sets where the movie is shot. From Alaska to Tokyo, we get behind the scenes looks at conceptual art, ideas, and discussions of where and what the scenery was going to be. There are some comments from the cast about the challenges of designing and filming in the various locations (CGI or not). This rounds out the section nicely and really adds some depth towards enjoying the film.

Finally in the fourth part, Simulating the Apocalypse, we get to read about the fiersome Kaiju. The section starts a little slowly with a discussion of post-production editing, music, and other features, but it ends strong with a list of the Kaiju. Each Kaiju gets a section on origins, powers, and design. Along with the second section, this was one of the most enjoyable to read.

All in all then, this is an excellent guide and supplement to the movie. It really adds a lot of depth and extra material that goes well beyond just the artwork of the movie. Make no mistake though, the artwork is superb. From line drawings, to colored drawings, to actual movie and CGI images, it's all top-notch. I feel very confident in saying that if you were a fan of the movie, and especially if you were a fan of the movie's visuals, this book will definitely not disappoint.

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
by David Epstein
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 17.87
43 used & new from CDN$ 16.58

1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Solid look at what it takes to succeed in sports, Aug. 6 2013
Nature versus nurture is one of the oldest debates about human behavior, including sports. David Epstein tackles this debate full-on in his book Sports Gene. Based on modern sports science and genetics, it examines what it takes to succeed at very high levels of sports. The answer? It's 100% nature. And 100% nurture. In a way it's common sense, but as a believer in science, I require evidence. Which this book is full of. To be a successful high-level athlete (pro or Olympic) one needs great genes and a lot of training. Just what kind of genes? Well, that depends on the sport.

There's evidence that fast-twitching muscle fiber genes (that allow you to contract muscles quickly, and hence move quickly) are genetic. That doesn't mean you can't learn to run faster or run fast longer. It does mean, in the words of one interviewed coach, that you don't ever see slow kids become fast adults. This is a theme found throughout the book. The best athletes are endowed with great biological gifts. From the Finnish cross-country skier who has an over-active blood making gene that essentially simulates blood doping (more blood, more oxygen, more endurance) to individuals who are born with a genetic variation that allows for more muscle to grow to individuals who are born tall (very important for sports like basketball) to individuals who are born with very driven personalities. In all of these cases, biology is essential for providing the opportunity to succeed at the highest levels. However, estimates from the book is that being a biologically perfect all-round athlete is about one in a few quadrillion, which means that genes matter, but they're virtually never the whole story.

It takes practice to make something of that potential. The often cited figure is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world-level at a competitive talent. Epstein revises this to 4-6000 hours for most sports. Less than we thought, but still an enormous investment of time. It also helps explains many apparent racial differences in performance. Why are so many Kenyans great long-distance athletes? Yes, genes matter, but what's more important is an economic system where jobs are really rare and winning a marathon can be the equivalent of winning the lottery. While many American long-distance athletes give up jobs to run, many Kenyan athletes run because they don't have a job (and would quit running if they could find one). It's a different incentive structure that results in different group-levels of performance. It's why so many Canadians are good hockey players or so many Jamaicans are fast sprinters or why most NFL players come from the US. Genetics matter, but so do nation-wide programs that emphasize, encourage, and develop performance in a particular sport.

Again, this is perhaps not too surprising to anyone serious about studying sports. What makes this book excellent isn't these revelations, it's the mountains of fascinating and interesting data that turn these observations from anecdotes to strong, scientifically-verified hypotheses. Which is important because many people still believe that it's one or the other. Steve Jobs for example thought nurture was all-important until he had kids and decided that nature matters more. Tiger Woods emphasizes that his father, to this day, never has to call Tiger to play golf. Tiger's the one who always wants to play, so is it Tiger's natural love of the game or all the practice he got because of that drive that matters? Or the Finnish Olympic super-star who believed that it was his willpower, rather than his super-charged blood, that made him so dominant as a cross-country skier. Would he have had that willpower if he didn't have super-blood that let him ski without becoming as tired as his competitors? All of these explanations have an element of truth, yet Epstein does a fantastic job of weaving together the evidence to tell a coherent, if complex, story. Far from making discussions of who's the best athlete in a given sport (or in general) irrelevant, this book allows for an informed discussion of who's good and why they became that good, making this an easy recommendation for athletes, coaches, parents, and sports fans.

Wild Blue: A Natural History of the World's Largest Animal
Wild Blue: A Natural History of the World's Largest Animal
by Dan Bortolotti
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 21.56
12 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Finally shedding light on the largest animal to ever live on Earth, Aug. 5 2013
I've been reading a lot about dinosaurs recently, so when I saw this book I thought I'd check it out. Because as big as the dinosaurs got, no animal, living or extinct, is believed to have been bigger than the blue whale. I was somewhat surprised then to read that we actually know very little about the largest animal that has ever lived? How big do they get? We don't know. On average, 90 feet for big females (females are bigger than males). But the antarctic variety can grow to 100 feet or more. That's simply enormous. But just their length doesn't give a picture of quite how big they are. Take every player in the NHL and put them on a scale. Then add every MLB baseball player. Average 205 pounds, with roughly one thousand, five hundred men (!!!!) and you've balanced the scale with ONE grown female blue whale!!! That's a size that just defies common understanding.

Yet as the first half of this book discusses, that very size is what almost doomed the species thanks to human greed. For centuries blue whales were too big to kill and/or too big to haul on boats as they tend to sink when dead (rather than float like some whale species). But at the turn of the twentieth century these problems were solved and soon thousands or tens of thousands of these magnificent giants were being slaughtered. It's estimated that 90% of them, 99% of the huge antarctic variety, were killed by whalers. It's a necessary component to understanding blue whales, in part historic, in part informative (because some of the dead whales were studied), but this history of glutinous slaughter was hard to read about.

Fortunately, the second half of the book dwells almost exclusively on what we know about them. From watching them at the surface, to listening to their vocalizations, to tracking them with satellite or diving tags, to DNA analyses, we are finally starting to learn about the amazing lives of the largest animals to ever live on our planet. This is really fascinating science and I loved to learn about it. Not surprisingly, almost everything about blue whales is huge. Their speed, their home ranges, their life spans, their diet, their feeding, are all on a massive scale. This part of the book filled me with great hope.

And it may be that they are finally starting to recover. A fact that has been kept quiet, in part because we don't have great survey/population data, in part because (I can't swear here but I wish I could) some nations (e.g., Japan, Iceland) are still chomping at the bit to resume hunting these magnificent creatures. Well, I hope that public opinion keeps moving in the direction of protecting wildlife. Losing the largest animal that ever lived to satisfy our greed would be a damning mark against our own species. In that light, I think this book does a great job outlining the tragic history of these creatures, without demonizing the men who killed them (that's reserved for the people running the industry), while at the same time building up a portrait of these animals that should impress all but the most jaded of people. So by all means, if you like whales, nature, or just a good story of man meeting the wild, this is an excellent book. If it helps to educate and protect whales, all the better as I sure as heck don't want them to disappear on my watch. An easy five stars for this book by Dan Bortolotti, a Canadian journalist/science writer who made this Canadian proud by writing a book where he really did his homework on an amazing, yet rarely discussed, animal.

Dying to Live
Dying to Live
by Kim Paffenroth
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.27
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Zombies meet philosophy, Aug. 3 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Dying to Live (Paperback)
Dying to live is a pretty standard zombie apocalypse-themed book. The dead have risen, they like eating people, they need to be hit in the brain to die (again), they're slow, and there's lots and lots of them. What Dying to Live does differently is that it injects philosophical questions into the mix. Things like the nature of a God who could allow this, right and wrong, justice and community needs. In fact, I found the first two thirds of the book to generally be very well done.

But there are some drawbacks. The author makes cliched caricatures of many of the characters. The tough military guy, the mother turned hard after seeing her kids die, the kid growing up tough in this new environment, the evil human gang preying on fellow human survivors- they're all here and they're all in most other zombie books. The main character, Jonah Caine is a little different and a little more interesting, as is one of the other main characters, Milton. Milton is easily the most unique aspect of this book's plot and was perhaps my favorite plot element. So at the same time as some characters where cliched and hard to get behind, other characters made the plot interesting and worth following.

The pacing is generally good with plenty of zombie action and a fair bit of human versus human fighting too. It's fairly gruesome in parts, but the gore is (for the most part) not the primary element to this book. The human characters, and how they survive, are the staple elements of the zombie genre and this book meets those requirements. Overall then, it's a fun book that's generally well written. When compared to the character development of, say Stephen King (see Joyland), the author's inexperience becomes apparent. But when it's taken in the context of a fun zombie thriller meant to soak up a few hours with some decent entertainment, then this book really shines. The added bits of philosophy thrown in make it fresh and different enough from most of the genre to make it worth recommending and worth my considering buying another book in this series.

Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
by Sally Satel
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 18.81
35 used & new from CDN$ 14.43

2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Dose of reality for those unaware of actual neuroscience research, Aug. 2 2013
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
The premise of Brainwashed is quite simple- the results of neuroscientific studies are often exaggerated, misunderstood, or misapplied. For anyone who is familiar with the research literature, that's not a shock. The book looks at several areas of "neurohype" in particular: causal claims of brain imaging (fMRI mostly, some EEG and other techniques are rightfully included), neuroscience advertising, addiction, lie-detecting, legal culpability, and morality. These areas reflect the authors' forensic inclinations as there are certainly other areas where neuroscience is overly hyped-up. The authors are clear that they are not against the majority of neuroscientific research that is conducted and reported responsibly. Instead, they are against those who overinflate the applied implications of neuroscience in general and fMRIs in particular. For these reasons, it's a very worthwhile book as it reminds us that brain science, while tremendously important, is still very much in its infancy.

The negative side to this book is that it wanders a fair bit into territories of general philosophy, cognitive (mind, not brain) science, general psychology, and even anecdotal evidence. In some ways then, I find the book is lacking in breadth. In other ways, it's lacking in depth. At only 150 pages, that's not surprising (although there are quite a few references). So for anyone looking for a detailed and broad critical examination of neuroscience as a field, this isn't it. As I mentioned, most of the criticisms are aimed solely at neuroimaging studies. That doesn't make this book useless, it simply means that one must take the author's advice and be cautious about over-extending any conclusions from the book.

Overall then, I think this is a good book for the general public as well as for researchers. Particularly for researchers, it may not radically alter your view of neuroscience, but it is a healthy reminder of the need to both better understand as well as to be generally skeptical of all research. Neuroscience does not get a free pass in this regard simply because it studies the brain. With that advice in mind, I think this is a solid 4-star book.

Dorling Kindersley Guide to Dinosaurs
Dorling Kindersley Guide to Dinosaurs
by David Lambert
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 16.11

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Dated, but OK, Aug. 1 2013
This book is aimed at younger readers. Probably the 8-12 year range. Published in 2000, it's now a little dated. But in terms of its information as well as its illustrations. There are some amusing pictures, but barosaurus and giganotosaurus, the two most impressive and most featured dinosaurs appear to be based on passable plastic models rather than advanced CG or even hand-drawn art. That contributes to the book being dated, but as mentioned, a lot has happened in the last 13 years to advance dinosaur science. So this book isn't completed wrong about a whole lot, but it lacks the recent advances of say, My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, which I just finished reading. It also jumps from topic to topic, including jaws, defense, fossils, extinction, legs, the Triassic, etc., making it hard to build up any kind of coherent theme as you go through it. Overall then, I think this is an OK book to show to young dinosaur fans, but there are definitely better ones out there in terms of both artwork and information.

My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs
My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs
by Brian Switek
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 18.81
47 used & new from CDN$ 5.62

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 If you love dinosaurs, this is your kind of book, July 30 2013
I have to admit that I've always been fascinated by dinosaurs. Like most people, that started as a kid. The same thing can be said about the author Brian Switek. Only he was really fascinated by dinosaurs. So much so that it's his number one hobby and the major focus of his freelance science writing career. The essence of this book is that passion combined with the changing field of dinosaur paleontology. Because so much has changed in the last few decades of dinosaur research, much of what the author read as a child is now, 30 some years later, out of date. Which isn't a bad thing at all, but it does offer points of reflection.

First and foremost, this is a book about dinosaurs. How they lived, what they did, what they looked like, etc. I recently had the chance to take a tour of the Royal Ontario Museum dinosaur exhibit prior to opening hours and speak with some of the staff their. They were impressed by my amateur knowledge of dinosaurs. So I think I sort of know my stuff. I'm happy to report that this book had a lot to teach me. Some of the most fascinating details revolve around boring things like classification that are actually quite interesting. Just like the title Brontosaurus being renamed Apatosaurus, I was almost shocked to hear that the very familiar triceratops could indeed be only a middle-aged version of the species with another ceratopsian actually being the final, mature form of the species. The book covers a range of dinosaur topics, including their early origins, to sauropod details, to coloration, predation, socialization, and feather-ization (I know that's not a word, just keeping the theme going). So it's chock full of great dinosaur facts that are almost sure to be at least partly new to anyone who isn't a current expert in the field. And I bet the author would be thrilled about discoveries since this book's publication, such as firm evidence that T-Rex was indeed a predator (based on healed wounds to an escaped victim's tail).

Secondly, the book offers a view into the life of dinosaur research. I've read better books detailing the ins and outs of fossil hunting (the Bone Museum comes to mind), but it's fair picture nonetheless. The author's writing style is friendly, easy, and fast-paced enough that his biographical details enhance rather than distract from, or bog down, the story. It's clear that he really is passionate about dinosaurs and that passion transmits easily to an interested reader.

Finally, the book does make some leaps about what dinosaurs can teach us. It ends with some lessons for humanity based on what we've learned from dinosaurs. This isn't it's biggest strength, but it's the smallest part of the book so it doesn't really impact its overall quality.

In summary then, this is a really interesting book that's enjoyable to read and full of interesting dinosaur facts. Propelled by a dynamic author, it goes by quickly yet teaches as it goes. It's probably aimed at audiences who already know something about dinosaurs, but it would also be helpful to middle-older children who want to learn more about them (adults too!). There are lots of interesting illustrations, but unfortunately most are quite small. At least several have links to larger online versions. So my final verdict is that if you like dinosaurs, science, scientists, or just nature in general, this is probably a book worth picking up. At roughly 225 pages, it goes by quickly enough to be a fast read yet it's good enough to have a lasting impact.

Medieval II Gold Pack
Medieval II Gold Pack
Offered by GameSeek UK
Prix : CDN$ 12.24
15 used & new from CDN$ 7.40

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fun, but similar to other entries in this series, July 29 2013
Amusant:4.0 étoiles sur 5 
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ce commentaire est de: Medieval II Gold Pack (DVD-ROM)
For those new to the Total War series, the basic premise of these games is two-fold: a) conquer a strategic map with countries, castles, and armies and b) fight real-time battles with those armies (and castles/town sieges). MTW2 takes place, not surprisingly, during medieval times. The focus is on Europe and nearby countries. There's a lot of great info out there on the MTW2 and TW in general, so I won't spend a lot of time on that.

Instead, I'll say that as a veteran of other Total War games, I found this version offered relatively little that was new. Especially if you've played Rome TW. The first time I played this game it was on Hard/Hard. After that it was Very Hard/Very Hard no reloading and I never lost. So the challenge level isn't there if you are good at the games. It's really a race to expand to roughly 8-10 countries, and then after that the AI is never smart enough to launch a big enough attack that will threaten your kingdom unless you leave it open to attack. The different factions within the game are interesting, as they all have some unique strengths and units. The expansion packs follow that theme. The Americas was my favorite expansion pack. Crusades was fairly boring, Britannia was very similar, and Teutonic was much of the same. You do get good value in terms of single-player game time, but it's at the expense of deeper challenges as the AI is quite predictable and not nearly strategically ruthless enough. Diplomacy is slightly improved, but not enough to make it a strong solution in the game (it's Total War after all).

All in all then this is either a very fun introduction to the TW series, or it's an amusing, but not amazing, continuation of the series.

Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue
Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue
by Clifford Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 22.02
13 used & new from CDN$ 15.52

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Brief but powerful introduction to free will, July 29 2013
This book is a brief, but powerful, introduction to the philosophical debate of free will versus determinism. It was written prior to modern neuroscience, so there isn't much evidence from that front (Free Will is a better book in that regard), but there is evidence from quantum mechanics about overall uncertainty in measurement. The book's format is a discussion between two friends. Daniel is a determinist while Frederick is a supporter of free will. They are shortly joined by Carolyn, who is a compatibilist. I found myself most sympathizing with Carolyn, who states that from an absolute point of view behavior is deterministic, but from a practical view we are talking about factors within ourselves so that relative to the outside world, we can behave freely. Certainly, the belief in pure determinism is very challenging to a number of believes and ideas we hold dear (e.g., justice, morality). Still, when I read modern psychology about the power of the unconscious and the fragility of the conscious mind, it makes it harder and harder to hold any belief other than determinism. Whether free will is just a handy mental device that helps us navigate our world, or whether we actually have it, is an important issue worth exploring. If you're new to the topic and want a book that explains it in a friendly and easy-to-understand way, then I think you'll be happy with this introductory book. If you're already well-versed in the debate, you probably won't learn too much that's new from this book other than perhaps how to explain some of the concepts to people who aren't familiar with the debate.

West of Eden
West of Eden
by Harry Harrison
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 3.67

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Very creative look at an alternate Earth, July 27 2013
Ce commentaire est de: West of Eden (Hardcover)
West of Eden (and the subsequent books in this trilogy) are an attempt to look at what Earth might have been like had the big asteroid not hit the planet 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. It is a world in which mammals evolved alongside dinosaurs. That's not very plausible, taking some points off this attempt at alternate history, but the rest is quite interesting. The dinosaur line eventually produces a highly intelligent species that is female-dominated (not uncommon amongst dinosaurs) and features an emphasis on breeding and biological science rather than technology.

These dinosaurs are pitted against the human species that seems to have evolved, or at least gained a strong footing, in North America. When the dinosaurs (actually lizard descendents called the Yilane) build a new settlement in Florida, they run up against early humans. Armed with relatively advanced biotechnology, the Yilane dominate the humans (ustouzou). Add in tension from ice age climates and you have a pretty compelling setting, enriched by Harry Harrison's consultation with a linguistic expert who helped flesh out the Yilane language.

The story revolves around a young human, Kerrick, who is captured when he accompanies his father and other men on a hunting raid that is attacked and killed by the Yilane. Kerrick becomes the protege (and disturbingly more) of the Yilane Vainte, who is shocked by this talking ape and uses him to her advantage. When Kerrick finally matures, he manages to turn the tables and that's when the action really begins. Will Kerrick lead the humans against Vainte? Will she ever relent in her efforts to avenge his betrayal? Who will win when early man meets late reptile?

The story actually works quite well, in large part thanks to Harrison's depth of detail. The plot and characters are a little forced in places, making this seem a little clumsy at times. But the fresh approach generally pays off, again in large part thanks to the reality that Harrison is able to weave with his words. Overall then, this isn't the most fantastic piece of fantasy or sci-fi written. But it is compelling, the plot does move briskly and interestingly enough, and most important, it's fresh and detailed enough to keep someone interested if you think you'd like to know what things could have been like in an interesting, if not completely plausible, alternate reality.

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