Feb 27

Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian, by Don Howard (Teaching Company Lecture Series) ?

I ordered this set from the Teaching Company, hoping to receive a non-biased, educated assessment of the life, thinking, and times of Albert Einstein. The series started as a modestly historical narrative of the early Einstein, and included discussion of his thinking in physics, but also in philosophy and politics. Einstein apparently felt modestly prejudiced against, owing to the fact that he was a Jew, surviving in a primarily non-Jewish culture. His success in physics came with shaky fits, having problems with the higher institutes of learning in Switzerland, but eventually ending in the pinnacle of his career while in Berlin, before moving to America in 1933 at the time of the rise of Hitler. Howard is willing to admit that the social life of Einstein left much to be desired, mistreating several wives, and essentially abandoning his children. Howard excuses Einstein, noting that he was a great socialist and humanitarian, thus making up for his otherwise despicable lifestyle. Though a number of the early lectures discusses the innovations of physics by Einstein, you are also left with the notion that Einstein burned out early, vacillating frequently when theories didn’t fit his personal philosophy. His greatest despair was his development of the science of quantum mechanics, only to later disown it as it didn’t fit his personal world view. He is like Napoleon-a brilliant youth followed by a not so brilliant middle and older age. By the 10th lecture, this series became quite worrisome, in that the lectures became a dummy pulpit for Howard to expound his own socialist belief system. Howard fails miserably to discuss the various ramifications of Einstein’s political and philosophic stances, arguing both the pro’s and con’s of the various social solutions Einstein offers. Thus, Howard betrays his own calling as an academician, forfeiting his claim as an intellectual, in order to push a social agenda that Einstein supposedly espoused. By the end of the lecture series, you are left wondering how accurate Howard remained to the true thinking of Einstein. You are left with multiple holes. I would have loved more discussion of Einstein at Princeton, yet you hear nothing save for his involvement with socialist issues, anti-war issues, and government interactions during the second world war. Oddly, Howard barely takes Einstein to task for his horrid inconsistency for advocating the development of the atom bomb, only since he presumed it would be used against the German state that mistreated him. Howard unnecessarily idolizes Einstein to the point of losing an objective focus for discussion of the man, making the entire series very wearisome to listen to. I simply could not recommend this series to anybody for a serious discussion of the thought and life of Albert E.

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Feb 25

Photoshop CS4 Digital Classroom, by Jennifer Smith and the AGI Creative Team ????

Having worked through the similar textbook on Dreamweaver and liking it, I decided to run through this text, hoping to improve my Photoshop skills. I certainly learned a few things from the book, in that no instruction book could be completely comprehensive, unless it was a meter thick. This text had a companion DVD which provided the images for the projects in the book, as well as videos by J Smith explaining portions of the text. The book was simply too simple for me, and my only benefit was to learn some functionality, like 3D rendering, which is usually not included in regular photographer’s texts on Photoshop, since they are interested in the image, and not in the fact that you can paste your beautiful scene from Yosemite on a pop can. All the same, the text is simple, easy to follow, so I could not downgrade the stars for the book’s simplicity. It is not as comprehensive as Photoshop Classroom in a Book, and the presentation is a little sloppier, but it has a very easy style to it, making it a reasonable first textbook for the total novice on Photoshop.

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Feb 24

Roger Ramjet ????

Roger Ramjet ran as a short series many years ago, and remembered well by me, as actually being an adult cartoon, with many insinuations that only could be understood by an adult. Unfortunately there are only 120 of the 156 episodes here in this collection, but, that’s better than nothing. It is a bit challenging, having to tolerate the lengthy initial theme song and ending song, which occupied nearly 1/2 of each 5-10 minute episode. Yet, it’s worth watching. Roger is the hero who saves America from the bad guys, like Noodles Romanoff. In the meantime, multiple jokes are made about American culture and ideology, making it a most enjoyable series to watch. If only somebody would edit out all the intro and ending pieces. This is a wonderful piece of nostalgia from the 1960’s, but still understood with jokes that would stand today.

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Feb 23

Photoshop CS4 Essential Skills, by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews ?????

This is probably one of the best skills textbooks that I’ve read so far on Photoshop, covering a broad range of topics from photo touch-up, montages, landscape photography, portrait photography, panoramas, and the works. There were some topics not covered, such as 3D work, but the text did not intend to be a comprehensive coverage of all that photoshop offers. The book is arranged to be read with an accompanying DVD, containing many movie files, as well and sample photographs that will be used in projects in the book. Typically, a set of movies would first be watched, and then the projects shown in the movies worked through in the accompanying textbook. The authors assume that the reader is learning, and thus make short cut descriptions of how to do things, as you get deeper into the text. The example projects provided are very sensible images that any amateur photographer would usually be working with. Through the use of repetition and ever expanding skills, you cover most of the standard functionality of photoshop. The text is very good at showing how something may be done in a number of ways, and also explaining the various choices that Photoshop offers. This is not a beginners book, but a very good transition for someone who has read a beginning book on Photoshop, or at least is familiar with the functionality and various uses of layers and channels, etc. I would compare this to the text Photoshop Classroom in a Book, which is produced by Adobe, and is excellent for taking a raw beginner through all the things that Photoshop can do. Unfortunately, it will not teach one how to use Photoshop, as you spend your time following detailed instructions, but rarely ever told why you are doing it. This book is highly recommended as a “next-step” text for the Photoshop photographer.

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Feb 21

Die Csardasfurstin – by Kalman, with Moffo & Kollo, Deutsche Grammophon ????

Emmerich Kalman wrote this light operetta in 1915, a precursor to the current day musical that we all know of. This is a filmed version, staged in Budapest, and well done, with first class acting and singing as well as filming. The plot was very trivial, but then, what do you expect out of an operetta? It is the story of class identification for the nobility in marriage, and how that was overcome with a prince desiring to marry a Vaudeville chorus girl. It is a light operetta, not one that would become one’s favorite, though certainly of more demanding singing than the current musical scene as we know it.  Two stars for the operetta and 4 for the performance gives a three star average.

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