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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts
The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts
by Milan Kundera
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.26
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The True Power of the Novel, Dec 26 2013
In this clever set of essays, the Czech writer Kundera strives to show that our understanding of life is best found in the context of the literary form of the novel. This genre, when critically examined, exposes a part of society that convention has largely ignored: the role of the contrarian in the affairs of men. Culturally, we are often imprisoned by the narrow bands of the country we call our homeland. In the tradition of a Cervantes, Swift, Fielding, Hasek, Rabelais or Sterne, a creative novelist has the unrestricted freedom to tear apart the proverbial curtain that comes between the soul and the story. Performing that function often takes the writer into areas that make him or her vulnerable to being misunderstood, alienated, and even scorned as being out of touch with reality, whatever that is. One of those great artistic values that can only be understood in the larger picture is the need of the individual to seek and find his or her own path in life even if the tyranny of the many dictate otherwise. We the readers remember those characters who laugh when most are tight-lipped, face the enemy when most flee, tilt at windmills when others go to war, or live riotously when most are appearing to be straight-laced. Life, as captured in a novel, has the capacity to be rich, dense, complex, enigmatic, and random because of the power of the novelist’s ‘weather’ eye to pick out those less traveled routes. The true story-teller is one who will do anything to protect the eternality of his narrative, even to the point of accepting obscurity, shunning friendship, abandoning the comforts of culture, refusing compromise, and being dangerously hyperbolic. The novel, in Kundera’s estimation, has the ability to both bridge generations of readers and lay bare the underlying anxieties, tensions and tragedies that come with being part of a culture as an artistic expression of who we are.

Gallow's Bird
Gallow's Bird
by Camilla Lackberg
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.73

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Intricate Swedish Mystery, Dec 21 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Gallow's Bird (Paperback)
This is the first Lackberg murder mystery I’ve read, but true to the tradition of Swedish writers in this genre “The Gallows Bird” comes with a fast-moving plot, a complex web of circumstances, great police work, and some credible characters to sustain the action. This tale starts with a deadly vehicular mishap resulting in the death of an out-of-town woman. What investigators find doesn’t add up: an autopsy that shows high levels of alcohol in the blood with no known history of alcohol consumption. As the plot thickens, criminal investigation expands to take on the strangulation death of a young woman who was part of a reality show that had come to town. The author does a capable job in coordinating these two very divergent worlds: a serious homicide inquiry and a flippant casting of a new reality show. Fear and suspicion grow among the locals as to the possibility of a murderer, perhaps even a serial killer, in their midst. As Patrik and his team of detectives delve into this case, they begin to see some interesting similarities between it and a slew of unsolved murders in the area. Each new clue will take them further afield in their search for the killer. When they find that common denominator, then it becomes a simple matter of establishing how each connects specifically to the next, leading ultimately to the killer(s). I enjoyed this novel for the fact that it creates a truly entangled skein of events that needs to be worked through and untangled in order to get at the truth. In the midst of this hunt for a serial killer is a bubbling cauldron of raw emotions: fear, sadness, hatred, compassion and instinct.

Game Change
Game Change
DVD ~ Julianne Moore
Price: CDN$ 14.97
19 used & new from CDN$ 4.98

5.0 out of 5 stars High Stakes, High Risk Politics, Dec 15 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Game Change (DVD)
Talk about pinning your political future on one roll of the dice and that dice is the virtually unknown Sarah Palin, newly-elected governor of Alaska, as your partner on the GOP ticket in 2008 US presidential election. This docudrama is one of the best portrayals of the world of big-time politics where decisions are often made more on gut instincts rather cool-headed calculation and cunning. The campaign was maverick John McCain's one big opportunity to take the White House on behalf of moderate right-wing interests. The problem here, however, is that times have changed. The GOP base has moved further to the right and a new Democratic star in the person of Obama has arrived on the scene. Lurking in the weeds, ready to ambush the campaign, is a whopper of an economic recession. McCain's strategists told him that victory was only possible if he was prepared to do the unthinkable and find a VP who was both a woman and appealed to the conservative base: a decision that would tie his hands and prove a huge miscalculation. The film focuses on how Palin became that improbable candidate that was expected to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and why she proved to be such an abysmal failure. Everything covered here is a well-documented reconstruction of the story: Palin is seen as an air-head, intellectually lazy, full of herself, dishonest, and indifferent to issues. How could the powers that be get it so wrong? While I am not convinced that Palin's nomination was the main cause of the GOP losing the election, it does point to what happens when those in charge don't do their due diligence and ask the right questions in vetting a candidate whose geopolitical knowledge amounted to knowing that Russia was on the other side of the Bering Strait.

Saints of the Shadow Bible
Saints of the Shadow Bible
by Ian Rankin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.17
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Rebus Tour de Force, Dec 13 2013
Detective Inspector Rebus has returned from retirement and, once again, is busy hunting down criminals under the oddest of circumstances. As usual, Rankin presents his star character with a moral dilemma to resolve. While on the surface he appears to be an upright minion of the law intent on putting criminals behind bars, there is something sinister in his distant past that threatens to undo his otherwise sterling reputation. A new law has been passed that allows the authorities to retry old criminal cases, one of which may indirectly involve Rebus. How he handles this emerging crisis depends on how able he is to assert his presence in an investigation into the questionable tactics of an old fraternity of cops called the Saints of the Shadow Bible, a group that didn’t always play by the book and to which Rebus had close ties. This inquiry has been triggered by Scotland’s minister of justice who is in the thick of a national referendum on Scotland’s future. Admittedly, a hard task for a controversial figure like Rebus who has returned to a police force as a lowly detective sergeant with few friends. Complicating matters is the fact that he has been called upon to solve a mysterious accident that has its own, potentially, damaging implications. Essentially, he is answerable to two bosses who either want his hide or have his back. In this crazy world, Rebus is that old-fashioned cop who doesn’t always go by the rules. Here he has to think fast and play smart as he works his way through a number of Saints to find the one who has killed one of their own in order to frustrate the investigation. His only clue is an old Browning revolver found at the scene while his obstacles appear to be many, not least a conspiratorial wall of silence within the brotherhood. Read this book to find out this old cop can still stand for justice and defend his good name.

Hemingway And Gellhorn
Hemingway And Gellhorn
Price: CDN$ 21.98
19 used & new from CDN$ 11.28

4.0 out of 5 stars An All-Consuming Need for Action, Dec 11 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Hemingway And Gellhorn (Audio CD)
Here is the cinematic version of the exciting and stormy lives of famous journalistic maven Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway as they traveled the globe in the thirties and forties in search of big events to report on. This film takes a close look at how she got into the business of becoming a celebrity reporter who was attracted to capturing human suffering on paper. While she comes across in this film as a bit of a free-spirited adventurer in search of fame, hers was an honest quest. She quickly made her mark in the Spanish Civil War and the Chino-Japanese conflict as a writer who had an unique angle on world affairs: civilians in war. Complicating her life was her six-year fling with Ernest Hemingway, that famous boisterous, womanizing buccaneer of war columnist cum popular novelist. They met in the Florida Keys, again in Madrid and married in Cuba in 1940. The one feature in their lives that gets stressed repeatedly is their shared passion for action, danger, and intrigue. This docudrama stresses both the irrepressible macho in Papa and the seductive charm in Gellhorn. What a torrid fling was theirs; what a savage parting of the ways. Hemingway betrays his new wife by unceremoniously stealing her job. Forever afterwards, Gellhorn worked her career to erase any memory of her relationship with Ernest. While this film doesn’t reveal anything new about Hemingway - still ever the uproariously lusty old drunk - it does provide some interesting insights into modern warfare and the use of propaganda to win the hearts and minds of the people. As the action runs out and there are no more battles to report on, we see the old man’s gusto turn to despair and angst.

Leaving Alexandria
Leaving Alexandria
by Richard Holloway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.16
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Wrestling With the Imponderable, Dec 7 2013
Ce commentaire est de: Leaving Alexandria (Hardcover)
Here is an intriguing tale of a man’s journey away from faith. What is astounding about this saga is that Holloway took a lifetime of service in the clerical ranks of the conservative Anglo-Catholic movement to become disillusioned with the traditional view of God. As a long-serving son of the church, Holloway started his life in a small Scottish town as an altar-boy in the local parish church. This part of the story is very descriptive as to what it was like for a raw teen like Richard struggling to make sense of life without much help from hapless parents. Living in an environment where role models were in short supply, Holloway fell into the arms of the church at a young age. Going away to monastic school at fourteen and, subsequently, training to be a priest before returning to serve as the vicar at St. Paul's in Glasgow's slums, Richard's commitment to serving God came with a strong sense of earthly justice and compassion. Over the years, he could see the Catholic and Anglican churches becoming increasingly irrelevant because of their rigid stand on morality, i.e, celibacy, homosexuality, and the role of the woman. While Holloway is to be praised for his steadfast service to the poor of inner city Glasgow, I somewhat question why he ever took up this very tough vocation in the first place. The most rewarding part of the book for me came in reading his thoughts on a wide range of deep philosophical issues that invoke plenty of discussion but really have no big startling answers. It is obvious that Holloway is one very intelligent, well-read individual who has lots to say on what is wrong with the organized church. Unfortunately, his critique of its many time-honored practices doesn't include much that is good. However, in his newly-found agnosticism, he got one thing right: the authority vested in organized religion often gets in the way of allowing its followers showing love and doing good in Christ's name.

42 (Bilingual)
42 (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Chadwick Boseman^Harrison Ford^Nicole Beharie^Christopher Meloni^Andre Holland^Lucas Black^Hamish Linklater
Price: CDN$ 8.88
10 used & new from CDN$ 5.34

5.0 out of 5 stars The Remaking of Baseball, Dec 4 2013
Ce commentaire est de: 42 (Bilingual) (DVD)
For those of us who like to ponder the many nuances of the game of baseball, on and off the field, this movie is meant for us. It was post-WW II America, and the game of baseball was just beginning to recover from the war years when many of its stars enlisted for long stints of service overseas. America was getting back to enjoying one of its favorite pastimes: baseball in the dog days of summer, but something was missing. The game was definitely in serious need of a make-over, what with empty seats and the same old vanilla look of past decades. Along came a man with a heroic vision for revitalizing the game; Branch Rickey was his name, his title majority owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and his pitch the introduction of black players. This movie traces the story of how he chose Jackie Robinson, a highly-talented amateur from the Kansas City Monarchs - Satchel Paige’s old team - to be the player that would break color barriers in America’s oldest sport. There would be moments when his efforts to shake up the sport almost failed. But for the determination of Rickey and Robinson to fight off prejudice and outright racism, the game would not be what it is today. With patience and wisdom these two men and the Dodger organization blazed a trail that allowed the game to become fully integrated by the sixties.

Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go to War
Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go to War
Price: CDN$ 16.44
21 used & new from CDN$ 12.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, How Close!, Nov. 29 2013
There is a plethora of information out there on the unfolding drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis during October 1962, most helping to complete the timeline of those thirteen days in modern history that took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Along with David Coleman's "The Fourteenth Day", this documentary attempts, narrated by the late Ted Sorenson, to explore, with the use of declassified White House tapes, what actually happened in those closing days of high-stakes negotiations between the Soviets and the Americans over the deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. This PBS production captures not only the very palpable tension of the moment but makes a very strong case for showing how close to the edge the world came to no return. JFK deserves praise for being that 'minority of one' that effectively steered a nation through a treacherous minefield of hotheaded military options that if acted on would have meant war. There are a couple of decisive moments in the piece that may, in years to come, be regarded as pivotal to its successful resolution as an international crisis: check out the behind-the-scenes deal over the nukes in Turkey and the handling of the shooting-down of the U-2 pilot. What is truly amazing is that these two key developments have remained secret for so long, suggesting maybe that both sides were more interested in being conciliatory than confrontational.

Karl Marx by Wheen, Francis New Edition (2010)
Karl Marx by Wheen, Francis New Edition (2010)
by Francis Wheen
Edition: Paperback
5 used & new from CDN$ 91.02

4.0 out of 5 stars The Many Sides to a Prophet, Nov. 26 2013
To say that Karl Marx was l'enfant terrible when growing up in early 19th century Prussia in a well-to-do Jewish merchant family might be putting it mildly. While it might have been in his best interests to conform to the social norms of the day by following the wishes of his parents in choosing a safe career, he opted for a life of "aimlessly shuffling between cities" at home and abroad in search of fame, fortune and a political following based on an embryonic expectation that the world was ripe for a proletariat revolution, if Hegel was to be believed. In the end, he would have to leave Germany and seek his livelihood as a writer, philosopher and political prophet in England - a country leading the way in industrialization - all the time being supported by the avails of others like Engels. This work presents a very balanced and thorough examination of the man's philosophy, the revolutionary tenor of the times, his relations with family and friends, and his key writings on the evolution of communism. Over all, the reader might get the impression that Marx was forever pump-priming his concept of the revolution so that it would happen in his lifetime. This fanatical sell-out to an idea created a double-edged reality: he intensely disliked people who disagreed with him and he subjected his family to abject poverty in order to devote himself to defining the proletariat cause. Marx is one of those big-brain bohemian characters who used the power of the pen to draw public attention to the tyranny of the age and its growing unrest. For this behemoth of a thinker - masterful in analysis and debate - he was definitely a prophet without a country and before his time who laid the ideological foundation for the 1918 Bolshevik uprising in Russia.

Nothing Is Impossible: 7 Steps to Realize Your True Power and Maximize Your Results
Nothing Is Impossible: 7 Steps to Realize Your True Power and Maximize Your Results
by Tom Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.16
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Some pearls of wisdom here!, Nov. 22 2013
I usually read these kinds of motivational business books in search of wisdom to make me a better person. This book is no different. There are numerous issues in our daily lives that prevent us from being truly effective in society. Oliver addresses many of them in this book from a perspective of someone who has learned to entertain big possibilities, focused on making them happen, and overcome many challenges along the way. While Oliver's personal testimony to achieving success is informative and inspiring, it is his underlying message of how to prepare oneself for the task of reaching for personal greatness - the ability to make a difference in life - that makes this book a real keeper. First, we need to conceive an end in mind to our search for what we want to become. For Oliver, it amounts to falling in love with an ideal that can inspire others, whether it be a portrayal of life through the pursuit of writing poetry, painting, or doing acts of charity. Reaching this state of understanding requires learning to overcome limiting beliefs that stand in our way. Oliver identifies them and shows us how to overcome them by recognizing them for what they are: game-stoppers. Next, we have to build ourselves up by utilizing resources that are at our disposal. That might mean finding mentors to guide us, reading books that will enlighten us, and researching ideas that fire our imagination. As these attitudes are being fostered, Oliver recommends that we indulge in activities that encourage the active practice of what interests us. An interest in poetry or public affairs should get us writing verse or blogging. To that end, he shows how we can draw information to us that will equip us with the tools - even a simple notebook at our bedside - to get going with our lives. He also advises us to establish reliable sources from which we can formulate new ideas. These respected authorities in our lives help us to be more confident in embracing change and seeking out success in others. It is incumbent on us to be able to recognize success and move towards it with the goal of becoming a better person. Defeatism becomes less of an option when one begins to see oneself as being successful. Seven years ago, I started out blogging with forty hits a day. Today, I have a website that has been fine-tuned over the years to the point of attracting thousands of hits. Where I want to take this project is defined by how I continue to grow as an individual in relation to the bigger world out there.

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