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Profile for Ian Gordon Malcomson > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   

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The Railway Man / Les voies du destin (Bilingual)
The Railway Man / Les voies du destin (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Colin Firth
Price: CDN$ 9.88
14 used & new from CDN$ 5.85

5.0 out of 5 stars The Essence of True Compassion, July 11 2015
This is an important follow-through on movies like "The Bridge Over The River Kwai" because of what it says about the need to put things right after the fact. We have all done or had great wrongs done in our lives and, if possible, need to confront them in order to make sense of them in order to move on with our lives. This story behind this masterful film is a poignant reminder that true peace can come to those who seek reconciliation with the evils of their past by confronting its perpetrators. As a piece of cinematic art, "The Railway Man" lays out the tale in all its compelling starkness: British officer brutally forced by his Japanese captors to work on the Thai-Burma Railway - in contravention of the Geneva Treaty - and then subsequently tortured by an interrogating team for being found in possession of a radio. The focus effectively moves between prison camp, home life, and an eventual return to where it all started. This blend of scenes describes a lifelong and ultimately successful journey that our hero takes in order to overcome this deep-seated trauma. The acting here is some of the best because the likes of Firth and Kidman bring a controlled intensity to their performance. There are no light moments in this movie; only sadness and an abiding desire to seek the truth regardless of how hurtful it might be. What Lomax learns about compassion and forgiveness in the end is truly amazing and makes this production worth watching.

Pete Rose: An American Dilemma
Pete Rose: An American Dilemma
by Kostya Kennedy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.45
31 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Artful Portrayal of a Tragically Flawed Person, July 10 2015
The best way to write a biography on the life of a controversial sports figure like Pete Rose is to act as an impartial narrator and observer who allows the actions of his subject to become the essence of the story, with the help of few timely, well-placed remarks to sustain its momentum. In this book, the reader gets to follow the illustrious though flawed career of 'Charlie Hustle', one of America's truly great modern sports figures who could be considered a master in self-promotion. Baseball was Rose's life simply because he dedicated everything possible to create the unforgettable persona that would make him the icon of the game. In exploring this strange and fascinating career, Kennedy opens his readers to the very real possibility that Rose never really understood the limitations on his character as he grew up in a very hard-scrabbled existence on the banks of the Ohio River. While he might have been able to overcome the many social obstacles that stood between him and his dream, he has never been able to truly acknowledge his personal shortcomings. Somewhere in the mind of Pete Rose is the belief that all his great accomplishments on the field as a manager and player more than compensate for the fact that he was an obsessive-compulsive personality given to lying, cheating, and gambling. We see these two sides of the man and many of us, including myself, are torn between a permanent banishing from the game and an eventual redemption. Everything about Rose, as covered in this meticulously researched study, deals with a man who still does not seem to get it that people see him as a deeply troubled individual with many tragic qualities that make it difficult to fully come down hard on him. For Rose, the problem is ours, not his. He continues to market himself as if his adoring fan base will ultimately force MLB to admit that they have overreacted in punishing him. By turning up at the Pearly Gates or Cooperstown often enough to steal the limelight from those who are legitimate inductees shows the extent Rose and his family will go to get even for all the perceived hurt visited on him. For this author, Rose, by his own publicly manipulative actions, exposes himself for what he truly is: a hypocrite, a snob and a phony in desperate search of a fan base.

Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
by Modris Eksteins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.50
14 used & new from CDN$ 1.35

3.0 out of 5 stars Unclear as to the Big Idea, July 5 2015
Though there are a number of fascinating stories going on this study of all things Van Gogh, I am not sure that Eksteins makes a strong enough case for interconnecting them in an effort to make a big point. In one part of Europe, you have the famous Dutch impressionist painter Van Gogh finishing out his last years in madness and futility. It seems like the creator of brilliantly bright countrysides, flowers, and azure skies has hit a rut. All he does is paint dozens of copies of copies, and not very good ones at that. That part has already been well taken care of in Irving Stone's "Lust for Life". Now comes the interesting twist: Van Gogh is dead and suddenly the German art community falls head over heels in love with his paintings which are suddenly now available by the hundreds. German nationalists and art critics, according to Eksteins, suddenly awake to the great opportunity to take Van Gogh's impressionistic works and turn them into a form of expressionism. Everyone, it seems, is getting on this bandwagon, including the crooks like the Wacker family who have seen a golden opportunity to mass produce forgeries and sell them to unsuspecting countrymen caught up in this mania. It is the twenties and the Wiemar Republic rules. Prices climb, catalogs are published, art shows are held in the big cities of Berlin and Hamburg, and nobody seems to be able to get enough of Van Gogh, even when the Wackers are eventually exposed as forgers. That part of the story is fine if that is where the author stopped, but he has to go and draw a big parallel between that period of German history and our current infatuation for and propensity to overprice modern art, especially the works of Van Gogh. I am not sure what the big idea here is: does great art inadvertently become the helpless servant of unscrupulous nationalistic interests as in the time of the Nazis, or is it strictly a commodity that people like to trade in because they see an opportunity to own a piece of history regardless of the price?

Comforday Rechargeable Mini Dehumidifier
Comforday Rechargeable Mini Dehumidifier
Offered by Deals Republic
Price: CDN$ 29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the trick in small spaces, July 4 2015
Found it very easy to set up, and it seems to be doing its job quite well in one of our bathrooms. Eventually, it will be doing its thing in our sunroom during the wintertime when moisture tends to get trapped in corners. Instructions on how to reset it are easy to follow and, what with the decent price, it could be a wonderful little addition to your home.

Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World
Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World
by Samantha Power
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.77
48 used & new from CDN$ 1.22

5.0 out of 5 stars "Democracy without Democrats", July 4 2015
I am going to give high marks to this book simply because it tells a story that needs to be heard by all those who preach the need for global peace. If the experiences of one of the United Nation's top envoys, the late Sergio Vieira de Meillo, are anything to go by,there are no hard-and-fast rules to guarantee the high principles and objectives of restoring peace to war-torn regions of the world. So many things can go wrong in the process of settling territorial conflicts, that at the end of the day the only thing left standing are the best efforts of a few good people, and even they are wrapped in controversy. Vieera de Mello, that flamboyant cowboy of modern diplomacy, took it upon himself to shape and lead the UN operations in six different theaters over two decades during a period when this organization's reputation lay in tatters because of its growing inability to get results. A born scholar and deep-thinker, this Brazilian saw the need for the UN to live up to its main mission statement of protecting the interests and safety of refugees anywhere in the world. For him that entailed taking unorthodox steps, often with delicate negotiations and little financial support, to make sure displaced people were able to return to their homelands.This book does a wonderful job in detailing his role in settling the crisis in East Timor, Kosovo, and Cambodia. Power's account is full of all kinds of relevant information about this man's values,personal life,and impact of the emerging situations at hand.One of those forces for good that doesn't stand up very well in this book is the agency that Sergio worked for: the United Nations High Commission for Refugees It would seem that this part of the greater UN mandate for humanitarian aid was continually bogged down in controversy, corruption, and ineptitude,due in large part to the lack of support and leadership coming from the major powers sitting on the Security Council, who have their own geopolitical agenda. Tragically, increasing incidence of genocide have resulted because nations like the USA, Britain and Russia see the UN as getting in their way when it comes to interfering with their global interests.The Americans especially, don't want to be bound by international laws that would limit their role as the globocop. This study is as much as testimony to the heroic and herculean efforts of this man as it is a wake-up call to the world powers to refocus their attention on the needs of the world's most vulnerable: refugees.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look at the Life of One Tough Dude, June 30 2015
I am glad I read this story, if only to gain a better ground-level understanding of how the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 unfolded. If Navy Seal Chris Kyle is anything to go by, the drive to take Baghdad was anything but a smooth operation. The fight to claim Fallujah and Basra from jihadists became the bloody job of special assault units like the Seals. Kyle takes us inside these intense battles as he played the role of a sniper assigned to protect his 'brothers' when under fire. Accompanying this main narrative of blood and guts are a lot of back stories intended to help the reader get a better picture of this brutal conflict. We learn what went into making Kyle the fighting machine he ultimately became; we also get to see the candid comments of his wife as she describes the stress her husband's war service has visited on her and the children. This is not a book dedicated to the valor of war per se. The goal of triumphing over one's enemies through mortal combat gives way very quickly to those more intangible values like the strength and courage of belonging to a band of brothers under fire. This willingness to be there when needed is what both potentially makes and breaks a Seal. It is a sad tale with its brief moments of glory. Whether you like Kyle or not, his personal life makes for a compelling read in terms of what factors shape his character under fire: weapons, training, stress, fear and pride.

Stainless-steel V-Slicer Mandoline 7 Piece Set by Flamen
Stainless-steel V-Slicer Mandoline 7 Piece Set by Flamen
Offered by Deals Republic
Price: CDN$ 49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A good acquisition for the modern kitchen, June 29 2015
So far it seems to be living up to our expectations: sturdy, sharp blades, multiple uses, great storage, smooth operating slider, and washes well. This technology has been around for several decades and, with the introduction of stainless steel cutting parts, appears to be more durable. A great tool for doing lots of raw fruit and veg. preparation for salads and appies.

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
by Gerard Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.99
27 used & new from CDN$ 11.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into the Middle-East, June 29 2015
Russell, by writing of this book, has done yeoman service in bringing to the attention of the West the plight of many obscure religious groups living within the very large pale of what is known as the modern Middle-East. To get at that critical information as to who these groups and tribes are culturally, historically, and politically, Russell, the ever-resourceful scholar, set off on a series of protracted journeys into the backwaters of war-torn nations like Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, and Syria to visit people that the world has long forgotten about. Many of these minority groups, such as the Kalasha, Druze, Samaritans and Zoroastrians, are struggling to survive as their numbers dwindle and economic prospects disappear. What I found remarkable about each of these historical enclaves is the way Russell accurately traces their journey through time over thousands of years. These are the people who have managed to combine a subtle blend of Christian, Muslim, and pagan values in pursuit of retaining the right to be themselves. Russell does an excellent job in showing how these kingdoms have maintained their internal discipline and governance to stay alive in a world changing before their very eyes. It helps that their location is often inaccessible and their numbers small enough to fall under the radar of warring factions in this region. I also found it interesting that on a local level all these groups, while impoverished, are usually well tolerated by the majority Muslims, which suggests that any persecution generally comes from the national governments in question.

The Rough Guide to England
The Rough Guide to England
by Rough Guides
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.37
36 used & new from CDN$ 16.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the beginner!, June 28 2015
On balance, this is a decent guide for travelling across the width and breath of the British Isles. It offers a very comprehensive view of all that is available to first-time tourists looking for places to visit, things to do, and people to see. With this guide, a typical traveler has options on how to travel, where to eat and sleep, and must-see historical and cultural sights. Lots of easy-to-read maps, colorful photos, and timely information packed into this publication. Where it probably comes up short is in the detail that a seasoned tourist like myself who is looking to plan a camping trip to the Peaks and the Lakes District. I know how to get to these places and the likely spots for pitching my tent but I need more information on what I can do in terms of the outdoors. Unfortunately, this book doesn't do it. While it introduces the reader to the big, small and unique features of this wonderful island, it doesn't take one inside them because that is not its objective.

Why Are Orangutans Orange?: Science Questions in Pictures - With Fascinating Answers
Why Are Orangutans Orange?: Science Questions in Pictures - With Fascinating Answers
by Mick O'Hare
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.16
18 used & new from CDN$ 4.47

5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Entry Point into the Natural World, June 28 2015
For anyone who wants to know what makes the natural world tick, it often takes considerable time and effort, with the help of science and the Internet, to unlock its many baffling secrets but, rest assured, there is a reasonable explanation as to why things are the way they are. The New Scientist group of Great Britain has published a handy little collection of some of the best natural enigmas that can be explained simply by turning it over to its readership for their intelligent take on things. Proof, once again, that popular science does not always require a PhD type answer in order to make sense. The phenomena that caught my attention were the ones dealing with cloud formations such as the layering effect, fogbows, and weird cloud shapes. But that is only a small part of the rich menu that awaits the avid inquirer: peculiar insectia, optical illusions, strange frost and icicle patterns, double eggs and no-yolk eggs, weird leaf formations, and twinned trees. An added attraction with this book is the great collection of pictures that accompany each puzzle. I recommend this inspiring little guide to anyone, especially children, who still possess an ability to wonder about the profundities of nature.

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