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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)

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DVD ~ Daniel Day-Lewis
Price: CDN$ 10.00
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4.0 out of 5 stars Captures the Measure of the Man and Essence of the Moment, July 9 2013
This review is from: Lincoln (DVD)
While I have never been a fan of great people in history movies, Spielberg's "Lincoln" wins my respect for how it takes a larger-than-life person like America's 16th president and builds an accurate narrative around him during a very defining time in the country's history. Spielberg artfully combines the character of a national leader with a complex chain of interconnecting events whirling around him to produce an authentic sense of very special times. Back in the early 1860s, America was at war with itself and Lincoln, the Republican president, wanted to keep the concept of the union alive in the national consciousness. While supportive of the idea of emancipating slaves, his main task was to find a way to win the war while avoiding a compromise with the Confederacy. As the film illustrates, Lincoln, ever the cautious pragmatist and opportunist, looked for that key moment when the tide of war was turning in favour of the Union to deliver on emancipation but, since that was on a wartime proclamation, much more had to be done in Congress to make it a constitutional reality. It is early 1865 when this version of history really gets going. Both the North and South are war weary and some members of the Republican and Democrats are talking about negotiating a peace. If this move ever went through, Lincoln's presidency could likely have failed to achieve the saving of the nation and the six hundred thousand soldiers lost in the conflict would have died in vain. It is at this critical juncture that the Lincoln White House got the Republicans in Congress to sponsor an amendment to federally make it unlawful to keep slaves anywhere in the country. While I always knew that Lincoln was an inveterate teller of yarns, I never appreciated how effective it was as a tactic to getting people onside until I watched this movie. The enduring wisdom and patience of this iconic man, in the midst of great adversity, within and outside his family, is definitely a strong point in this production. While I have been used to appreciating the fullness of Lincoln over five decades of political maturation, this film emphasizes the importance of seeing him at an important moment when all could have been truly lost if he had given in to less resolute minds. The supporting cast does a credible job in bringing out those noble traits in the man as he humbly tried to make sense of his destiny without getting too far ahead of the events at hand.

Stolen Seas [Import]
Stolen Seas [Import]
Price: CDN$ 14.91
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5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to Live With the Aggravation, July 8 2013
This review is from: Stolen Seas [Import] (DVD)
This documentary examines the background and immediate causes of piracy of the Horn of Africa in the second decade of the 21st century. The format is a chronicling of the on-going and difficult negotiations involved in several notorious cases of brigandage in this part of the world. What the filmmaker Payne discovers in making this film is that this whole geopolitical drama really comes down to a matter of economics. For the past ten years or so, Somalian pirates have seized numerous oil tankers, cargo ships, and yachts in an effort to extort millions of dollars in ransoms. To achieve a balanced view of this very agravating situation that is apparently adding to the geopolitical tension in the region, the filmmaker connected with a number of the big players to hear their version of events. What he learned might surprise you as to the big picture? The ship owners back in Denmark, the Somalian pirates, the unfortunate tourists, the taxpayer and the warlords all have interesting tales to relate which, when pieced together, offer a somewhat different perspective than the one the western media is pushing: that the pirates are evil terrorists who should be brought to justice at any cost. One, shipowners have factored into their operating equation the cost-benefits of doing business with the 'pirates'. Most of their ships sail under a flag of convenience which allows them to hire cheap labour to man them, so no big loss here. Two, the Somalians have been forced into adopting this way of life because fishing is no longer a viable livelihood. Since money is so desperately short in these coastal communities, piracy looks like a viable economic alternative, reaping over sixty million over the last while. The Al Qaeda connection does not seem to play a dominant role so far in the operations. Arresting these pirates and putting them on trial doesn't seem to mitigate the problem. Three, the nations of the world have started to fight back by bringing in their navies to patrol the area and keep the pirates at bay. That strategy, according to Payne, is hardly cost effective, given the billions of dollars required to maintain a continuing presence there. In conclusion, perhaps the time has come for western nations to look at ways of going back into Somalia and helping the people get back to their traditional ways of life. To pull that off might, once again, not be economically smart because of the potentially enormous costs involved in a wholesale invasion of a very lawless country. So until the commerce of the world is truly threatened, maybe the status quo should be maintained. I noticed David Cameron, at the latest G-8 conference, calling for a ban on yielding to ransom and recovery demands.

Don't Tell the Newfoundlanders: The True Story of Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada
Don't Tell the Newfoundlanders: The True Story of Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada
by Greg Malone
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 32.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Proof of a Bitter Betrayal, July 5 2013
I taught Canadian history at the high school level for thirty-six years. During that time, I always suspected that Newfoundland/Labrador got the rawest of deals when it entered Confederation in 1949. Ottawa and Central Canada, which essentially includes Ontario and Quebec, proceeded to hatch deals with the corporate and power elite of the new province that robbed it of any long-term benefits from the sale of its valuable natural resources. It was federalist operatives like Smallwood, Crosbie, and Pickersgill who masterminded this constitutional transition from a colony to a province to complete the missing piece of the puzzle called Confederation started nearly a century before. Well, so much for the sanitized version of events surrounding this one great moment in Canadian history. Malone, a popular Newfoundland writer and public activist, has news for you. He has unimpeachable evidence, from the papers of a prominent Newfoundland politician, showing that Newfoundland's provincehood was nothing but a nasty political hatchet job. Britain and Canada colluded to fob Confederation on the good people of the colony, to the point of denying them the right to seek other more palatable options. Their sense of independence was ignored in the interests of exploiting their fish, minerals, trees and hydro power. First, Britain, as the mother country, refused to reinstate the legislature after the financial crisis of the Great Depression was over. As a result, the voice of the people was never heard in these negotiations for a hand over of power. Two, the Canadian government, in cahoots with Britain and the National Convention, opened exclusive negotiations with a committee already committed to Confederation at all costs. Three, the majority of money and oratorical support went to the pro-Confederation forces during the two referenda leading up to the fateful moment. Because the final count was so close between support for confederation and support for independence, one cannot help wonder if the outcome would have been different if there had been a level-playing field. One thing for sure, Canada ended up getting the territory for a song and without a real fight. The next three decades or so would testify as to who the real losers were in this infamous modern land grab done in a most undemocratic fashion.

Chronic Condition: Why Canada's Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century
Chronic Condition: Why Canada's Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century
by Jeffrey Simpson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Mediocre System at Best, July 4 2013
One of Canada's celebrated columnists and political thinkers out of the last century has written a book on the present state of the Canadian health-care system as it lurches from one financial shortfall to the next. Simpson, to make his argument that the systemic problems of underfunding and mismanagement will only get worse before they get better, examines the realities and myths of public medicine in Canada. It is a record that, if truth be known, shows national health care heading towards the inevitable collapse in the next decade or so if demographics continue the way they are: aging population and more workers per capita needed to pay for their needs. As a comprehensive study, this book is a clarion call for a critical but unpopular national debate over how to fix medicare - greater privatization, higher taxes or fewer entitlements, and better personal commitment to healthier living. Simpson identifies many of the areas not working effectively that are causing the Canadian taxpayer to support a 'Chevrolet system on Cadillac prices': overprescription of drugs; a very abused fee-for-service schedule; an unrealistic dependence on the state as the single payer; large salary costs for medical personnel. Using other healthcare delivery systems such as Sweden by which to compare performance levels, Simpson believes that Canada needs to include more privatized medicine in its model. It is a proven fact that those who get to hire a private doctor generally experience a better recovery. It is already working through various specialty clinics so why can't it be expanded to help reduce waiting times for critical and elective surgery? On the matter of managing hospitals more effectively, Simpson suggests that they should not be long-term care facilities for the elderly, nor should they be saddled with global budgets that force them to cut corners. Nowhere in the Canada Health Act are there any uniform expectations or standards as to quality of service, mainly because that national mandate is left to the individual provinces to figure out in a piecemeal fashion. While some hospitals across the country are rewarded with exra funding because of their ability to treat patients in a timely fashion, they are the exception to the rule. As for the role of the Canadian taxpayer and primary user of Medicare there is some cautionary advice: we can't, according to the author, keep 'punting' of costs for another day in terms of 6% annual increases. That means either less use and abuse through reform of the present system, or higher premiums to keep it going on the questionable concept of equal access. Either way, all stakeholders will have to accept less in order to sustain present usage. Throwing more tax dollars at the problem obviously isn't an option for Simpson or many other Canadians if it doesn't keep costs down while serving Canada's national health needs in a responsible fashion.

Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
by Raymond Tallis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.56
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5.0 out of 5 stars More to Evolution than Just the Brain, July 4 2013
Tallis, a prominent British philosopher and neuroscientist, takes issue with the advocates of evolution that believe that the natural succession of man is reduced to understanding mechanically how his brain and neurological system has changed over time. While not adverse to evolution as a theory, Tallis does take great exception to those theorists who promote the idea that this great transformation over millions of years can be proven by comparing it to similar functions in the brains of primates. Through the use of brain scans, some neuroscientists have advanced the belief that learning, such as required in the appreciation of the arts or the acquisition of language, can be reduced to a basic stimulus-response scenario. Any change in color as it applies to certain parts or centers of the brain can be interpreted as showing intellectual and rational development. The essays in this collection attack the notion that the brain is the seat of human personality (neuromania) and that there is a direct link between humans and lower forms of life through the improvement of cerebral functions. Rather, Tallis, ever the defender of humanity, suggests that the measure of its greatness is found in its indivudual capacity to think and respond creatively. While humans may exhibit certain common qualities or tendencies that might reflect a natural progression, they do not begin to explain why humans are sentient beings blessed with creative power by which to appreciate the bigger world around them. Besides, the research into the various new branches of neuroscience is just so sketchy that it resembles nothing more than some academic's wishful thinking on the subject. I am amazed that this fine set of philosophical musings comes from an intellectual who is willing to accept on one hand that evolution, in its origins, is possible, but then decry the efforts of those who would cheapen the process by settling for a shortcut. Evolution still does not have the answers as to who we are as soul-centered beings with a greater purpose in life than just to perform like monkeys. As a Christian, I am pleased to see the likes of Tallis offering me another take on the importance of acknowledging and celebrating our distinction as intelligent individuals who quite often don't get it right, not necessarily because of the way we're wired but because of who we are personality-wise.

The Great Weaver from Kashmir
The Great Weaver from Kashmir
by Halldor Laxness
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.80
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Everyman's Parable, July 1 2013
Even though this novel contains long-winded sections where the hero, a young idealistic Icelandic poet, named Steinn Elithi, sets out to find his true inner self, works his way through some transforming experiences, it is still worth a read. True to the style of other of Laxness' great works, everything of value in modern Icelandic society has to be seen through the prism of the larger global experience. I like the way Laxness takes Elithi out of a staid, hide-bound Iceland in the 1920s and puts him on a tortuous road to self-discovery where all his childhood values will be turned upside down and inside out. Like Elithi, Laxness, his creator, was never content at being Icelandic. Something in his restless Viking spirit dictated that he must take his heritage out on the highways and byways and test it in the crucible of life. Our hero will discover very quickly that there is always some philosophy or religion - Eastern mysticism or Catholicism - out there eager to make him into a better person, but it is the tug of the old heart strings that will finally bring him back to Iceland as unsettled as ever. Laxness presents this saga as a juxtaposition of experiences where the reader has a window on both Elithi's continually changing experiences and those of his lover left behind in Iceland, a land stultified by the Protestant work ethic, obsessed by fears of incest, and bored by a lack of things to do. The problem for our returning hero, brimming with personal stories of worldly grandeur and adventure, is how will the locals ever truly appreciate it unless they go out and experience it for themselves. That is the dilemma of living on an island that has such uniquely awesome scenery, such fabulous myths, and a haunted past. You get trapped in it unless you decide to break free of it. Unfortunately, if you accept Laxness' view of things, the island and the culture will always be there to contend with when the Icelander goes home to settle down. I got that feeling when I visited Iceland this spring. Many of its fine people love their country but want to get away for awhile to see what it looks like from the outside.

$10,000 Gold: Why Gold's Inevitable Rise Is the Investor's Safe Haven
$10,000 Gold: Why Gold's Inevitable Rise Is the Investor's Safe Haven
by Nick Barisheff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.04
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Case and Excellent Resource, June 28 2013
One of America's leading experts on the bullion trade weighs in with a very convincing and substantiated argument that gold will be there right to the end of civilization. According to his data, the world economic order is in the fifth stage where inflation, though intentionally suppressed by central banks, is starting to climb because of the incredible surfeit of fiat or printed money circulating through the global economy unable to find effective places to invest. What we have today is an economic system that deals with rising prices, less competition, increased deficit spending, and runaway debt that can only be addressed by tough austerity measures in the hope that it doesn't get out of control, if that hasn't already happened. Barisheff's book is worth a serious look because he goes to great pains to explain the advantages and disadvantages of owning bullion as opposed to paper in today's financial markets. Over time, actual gold has retained its value as real inflation - a figure that includes core price increases and costs overruns - is factored in to reflect a staggering increase in the money supply. In the present tense, backing up all transactions with gold might be awkward, but it at least guarantees some semblance of value while every other currency loses value. I especially found his description of hypothecation - the process by which collateral can be reused to refinance deals - to be a cautionary reminder of how vulnerable our present economy really is. If this isn't enough to cause concern, there is the matter of central banks leading the way in the leased gold market where they can violate labor regulations to buy and sell gold electronically, thus suppressing the price of gold bullion. The only way true gold investors can dodge that bullet is to continue to buy gold and secure its storage because it will, inevitabl,y rise to phenomenal heights as the global financial system weakens.

Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II
Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
20 used & new from CDN$ 8.66

4.0 out of 5 stars "A Riddle Wrapped Inside A Mystery, Inside An Enigma", June 27 2013
This is the first Zuckoff 'novel' I've read, and I am duly impressed with his narrative style that engages the reader's imagination in all parts of the story: plot, setting, climax, and tone. Though I am not a great fan of faction (a fictionalizing of a real story), Zuckoff, in using a form of it, appears not to have compromised the real story behind this book. Since Zuckoff, in solving the mystery of how three different high-Arctic missions came together in the thick of WW II over desolate and ice-bound Greenland, does not have a lot to go on, except for a loose assortment of personal effects, journals, affidavits, logs, pictures, and letters originating from various crew members, he needed a device to bring it all together. What better way than an entertainly good storyline that sticks close to the facts. First, the reader gets to understand why an American C-53 cargo plane was flying over Greenland in late 1942 before it crashed. Then, if that isn't enough to pique one's interests, a B-17 sent out to locate the downed plane and rescue or recover its crew crashes in the same territory. While the rescue team miraculously survived a harrowing five months exposed to total darkness and the worst weather conditions imaginable, the same could not be said for a subsequent Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent out to locate the second team. It took seventy years, the efforts and money of an American adventurer name Sapienza and the chronicling of Zuckoff to bring to light one of the most incredible war stories about human ingenuity, sacrifice and bravery. Everybody who had a critical role in rescuing the B-17 crew or finally locating the amphbious plane gets fair mention here. This is a tale about teamwork and personal initiative combining to save lives and set the record straight as to who the true heroes are. This book is worth reading if only to grasp the importance of how events often interconnect to create a bigger story than life itself, involving the truth, redemption, and personal honor for those who died on foreign soil.

Last Days [Import]
Last Days [Import]
DVD ~ Bill Basch
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 34.10
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Significant Recounting of the Holocaust, June 25 2013
This review is from: Last Days [Import] (DVD)
The world renowned filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, has created a brilliant documentary of the lives of five Hungarian suvivors from the Holocaust before, during, and after that dreadful period in modern history. What I found most meaningful about this production is the personal touch that Spielberg brings to each tortured and unhappy life represented in this cinematic chronicle of Jewish families going through the biggest test of their lives. The voice of each survivor is clearly sensed as to how this colossal attack on humanity unrelievedly impacted their lives forever, both good and bad. While there were warning signs all around Europe in the late 1930s that Jews were in trouble as to their future in the wartime Greater Germany, nobody, especially these five individuals, could have expected the genocidal fury about to be unleashed on their once secure existences. In the first part, we witness the shock that comes from suddenly realizing that the Nazis minions were coming for them. This startlement quickly turns to dismay and concern as the Jewish families were rounded up and enclosed in ghettos across occupied Europe. Revisiting that memory of trying to desperately keep a semblance of family order, purpose and pride was the most touching part of the film. This ruthless process of moving whole Jewish communities to resettlement sites basically destroyed the heart of this people and made then vulnerable for the next stage of transition towards the death camps. The shocking revelations of life in places like Dachau, Auschwitz and numerous smaller camps bring out some very fascinating stories of heroism amidst horror that really show what it takes to survive. Some of the interviewees saw their life in the camps as a simple matter of doing anything just to live to see the next hour or day. In the end, liberation from this hell came with its own set of challenges to overcome as they returned to life, bereft of friends, family, dignity, and essential resources. A recent interview between one the Jewish victims and a Nazi camp doctor, included in the film, was a real eye-opener for me. It showed typically how SS and prison officials dispassionately treated the Jews: objects to be investigated, controlled and, ultimately, eliminated when they were of no more use to the state.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly an Inspiring Story on Character Development, June 24 2013
Here is the amazing story of one of America's finest high school varsity basktball coaches in his own words. Written without the help of a ghostwriter, Bob Hurley tells how he first came to coach at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City nearly four decades ago, where he proceeded to fashion, in short order, one of the most stellar programs in the country. What strikes me as truly impressive about Hurley's efforts is the young men he helped mould into top-notch players, considering this parochial school was small to begin with and lacked the resources to compete with the big public schools and private academies when it came to recruiting. To overcome these obstacles Hurley set the performance standard high for both himself, his staff and players. Playing the game at the highest level demanded that everyone trained at an equivalent level in both conditioning and fundamentals. Constantly having to work with a humble budget forced Hurley to improvise in designing drills and exercises that would bring out the best in his players. It didn't hurt to have a core of stars, like Rivers and Rhodes, to act as leaders and mentors for the younger players as the season progressed and the playoffs started. Hurley saw himself as setting the example of a servant leader who was prepared to make any sacrifice - even pushing a broom to make the gym ready for practice - in order to bring out the best in his charges. Players are yanked from games because they are either not living up to their potential or wrecking the team chemistry with indifferent play. It is a properly groomed, well-balanced attitude for winning that separates Hurley from other coaches in his fraternity and gave him the distinction of being the first highschool coach to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. His book is loaded with anecdotes about how he has successfully established effective coach-player relations based on doing the right and proper thing like showing respect for one's teammates and opponents.

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