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Tag Archive: National Geographic Magazine


Just shy of her 47th birthday, Koko the gorilla passed away Tuesday in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in Woodside, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Koko represents a giant leap in the future of humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom–she could sign more than a thousand of words of American Sign Language and understood 2,000 words of spoken English, she liked to rhyme words, she could read and paint (painting not only real objects but expressions of her thoughts and emotions, even naming her paintings), and could play a musical instrument–the recorder.  She proved years of human scientists wrong, conveying clearly to the world that she had complex thoughts and feelings, sharing compassion, laughter, love, and care for others.  And she became famous for all she showed the world, and had well-known friendships with the likes of Mr. Rogers and Robin Williams.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, the western lowland gorilla was named Hanabi-ko, which is Japanese for “fireworks child.”  Koko’s ability to communicate with humans via American Sign Language put her twice on the cover of National Geographic, one photo featuring her own selfie (long before selfie was a term).  That was thanks to her long-time friend and researcher Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson, who began teaching Koko in 1974 when she was three years old.  Over the course of her incredible life she proved that gorillas could communicate about objects that weren’t present, had the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, and further, they could convey personal memories.  Koko invented new sign-language words for things she didn’t know the word for, she knew the meaning of what she was communicating, and she was even a teacher–another primate learned sign language by watching videos of Koko signing.

Her relationship with her first cat was covered by the mainstream press.  For her twelfth Christmas she wanted a pet cat, and for her following birthday she was allowed to select one from a litter of abandoned kittens, which she named All Ball, reflecting the roundness of the cat and her own fondness for alliteration.  All Ball died when she sneaked out of her room and was hit by a car that year, and Koko reacted like any human would, with profound grief, which she conveyed in words via signing.  Koko adopted several more cats over the next 30 years, adopting two most recently in 2015 that she named Miss Black and Miss Grey.  Koko was preceded in death by her friend Michael, her gorilla friend who also could sign, who passed away in 2000.  She was living with her friend Ndume, a male gorilla, when she passed away.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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DeptH cover 1

In so many ways, Dark Horse Comics’ Dept.H is everything we look for at borg.com.  Science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it’s all in one comic book series.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and you can feel all of that come through in its first nine issues this year.  From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evokes the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team patch to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the series lead to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is at the top of this year’s comic book series.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by wife Sharlene.  The series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it somehow, someone topside?

dept-h-issue-8-kindt

Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ right edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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