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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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The First Day on the Somme: 1 July 1916 (Penguin History) by Middlebrook, Martin (2006) Paperback
The First Day on the Somme: 1 July 1916 (Penguin History) by Middlebrook, Martin (2006) Paperback
by Martin Middlebrook
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from CDN$ 23.21

5.0 out of 5 stars A Vicious Killing Field That Achieved Little, Oct. 13 2014
There are some books that capture the tensity and passion of their subject in such a way as to grant them magisterial status for being both authentic and dynamic. Martin Middlebrook’s comprehensive book on the first day of the 1916 bloody Battle of the Somme meets and exceeds that gold standard for all historical writing: to tell it as it was. As a renowned amateur historian and gentleman farmer whose side interest is making sense of the chaos and squalor of the Western Front, Middlebrook sets out to present the real story of this tragic battleground. He uses the diaried accounts and oral reminiscences of soldiers who participated and survived by either luck or ingenuity. The battles that raged over the following year started out with a very ambitious goal: push the enemy back into either northern Germany or the English Channel thus achieving the very elusive breakthrough resulting in an end to the war. What the generals and their fanciful notions did not consider was that both sides had such firepower - machine guns, howitzers, mortars, and long-range cannons - that it was virtually impossible to achieve any meaningful penetration of the Front. The Somme would be no different. As I read this account, I encountered the lives of very brave men on both sides determined to make these ill-planned frontal attacks work. In that first day, the British Expeditionary Force under Haig and Rawlinson achieved, with incredible losses, about a third of its field objectives with the capture of a few villages and a salient. The other two-thirds amounted to, in many cases, total obliteration - the total loss of the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont-Hamel and the Ulster Regiment at Thiepval. This is a must read for anyone who wants to grasp the magnitude of this crazy battle at ground level.

Neighboring Sounds [Import]
Neighboring Sounds [Import]
Price: CDN$ 29.29
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.38

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Tentative Existence at the Top, Oct. 13 2014
This review is from: Neighboring Sounds [Import] (DVD)
Brazil is a nation on the edge of a promising economic future. Overshadowing this prospect are some troubling issues covered in this very dynamic film on life in the fast lane of one of the country's fastest growing cities. First off, all is not safe in this world of growing prosperity. A local 'patriarch', primarily in the interests of protecting his extended family and properties, has hired a security company to do all-night watches in his neighborhood. The irony here is that we are not talking about gated communities. This massive villa, while in the better part of the city, is still vulnerable to all kinds of criminal activities. Furthermore, the men he hires are anything but reliable: falling asleep on the job, overweight, and poorly equipped for warding off an attack. Secondly, safe inside does not mean protected from the myriad of inside and outside noises piercing the late night air. The accumulative effect is definitely unnerving and creepy. Then there is the week-end flight to that villa out in the country far away from the rising apprehension of constantly living in an imaginary siege. Instead of fear now comes the tedium of living in a world that is isolated from the mainstream where ambitions and energy fade into an existential routine of eating, sleeping and small talk. If what the filmmaker shows us here might be the uncertain future awaiting the wealthy of a modern Brazil, what does it say about the world outside their posh existence? It is definitely moving in with all kinds of noises heralding its advance and nothing will stop it, even the cover of dark. When daylight breaks the view from high up on the hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it has to remind the patriarch and his loved ones that there is another world out there encroaching on theirs.

Reality
Reality
DVD ~ Aniello Arena
Price: CDN$ 23.62
10 used & new from CDN$ 9.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Being a Legend in One's Own Mind, Oct. 12 2014
This review is from: Reality (DVD)
I found this tragicomedy about life in the backstreets of Naples both a cautionary tale and an occasion to enjoy a few chuckles. On the one hand, the director weaves a complex story of a Neapolitan fish monger who, with his wife, runs a scam involving selling bogus kitchen aids. With the latter venture supplementing Luciano's meager income at the market, the viewer may find it incredulous that so many customers are taken in by his flim-flam, but that is what life is all about: offer someone the chance to better their lives for the unbelievable low price and they'll take it. Yes, I couldn't help but laugh at how gullible people are, including myself, when faced with the chance to have something new for pennies. But then, the director redirects our humour so that it now focuses on a little poetic justice served on the fraudster. The tables are now suddenly turned on Luciano, and his wife, as he attempts to win a role in a local reality show as a way of moving up in the world. He will be entering the deadly world of being dangerously conned himself into assuming that he has finally become a celebrity where those he has conned in the past will now recognize him as being very important. The only reality here is that to become a celebrity on an Italian Reality TV show, he must start to believe his own fantasies: people are spying on him; the poor need him; he is a local hero; and that it is all part of a sinister plan that the show hasn't yet signed him up after a lengthy interview with its organizers. As Luciano becomes mentally unhinged, my chuckles from an early time have now turned to dumb amazement as this once jovial conman has turned into a raging fool who is seen kicking his wife and children out of the family home while giving away the family furniture to the local poor.

Finding Vivian Maier [Import]
Finding Vivian Maier [Import]
Price: CDN$ 23.76
17 used & new from CDN$ 16.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Who Loved to Take Pictures.., Oct. 12 2014
The true measure of any artist is often found in his or her ability to become totally obsessed with their medium without any thought of public recognition or sense of personal achievement. Vivian Maier, the solitary street photographer of the last century in Chicago, just loved taking pictures of anything that exuded life across a wide gamut of emotions and experiences. People like myself who are hearing about Maier for the first time are shocked to learn that she rarely developed any of the hundreds of thousands of pictures she took because that was not her strength. This lonely individual, a Jewish nanny by trade and a photo buff took her rolliflex everywhere she went in life, quite often with charges in tow, looking to secretly capture those striking images of people in their strongest or weakest moments. The story for this documentary is one of intrigue and bemusement. A young photo enthusiast cum collector came across some of her undeveloped work posthumously available in a garage sale. Impressed with it, he then made it his life calling to discover her true genius. It was his digging and probing that eventually uncovered the full nature of what this woman did in virtual obscurity. This DVD covers both the poignancy of her photography in the US and abroad and the story behind this fascinating journey into the lives of strangers. The exhibits he has put together in honor of this eccentric, hoarder of an artist have been effective in reuniting many of their subjects with moments in the past. The many boxes of letters and journals that he has recovered from long forgotten storage depots, and subsequently analyzed, speak to a deeply troubled and socially inept soul unable to relate to people except through the lens of her camera, a gift from her long-deceased mother. This very private woman has gone out in her own inimitable way and broken through the veil of privacy in other people's lives, making the sum total of her work both arresting and extraordinary.

The Travels of Marco Polo: Edited by Peter Harris
The Travels of Marco Polo: Edited by Peter Harris
by Marco Polo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.90
17 used & new from CDN$ 18.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Take a Journey Back in Time Along the Silk Road, Oct. 5 2014
I took up this book as background reading for a course I took recently on the history of ancient civilizations. What I learned from this famous work of Marco Polo about his travels in the 13th century across Eurasia via the Silk Road is that the study of history is much more than an examination and exultation of great people. What Polo described about his extensive journey, in the company of his uncle and father, illustrates how culture, economics and politics come together over time and distance to form civilizations whose reach goes well beyond human imagination, the accuracy of which has long since been verified. The reader gets to see how the many tribes along this great trade route succeeded in adopting the Tartar-Turkic system of empire building to protect their territorial interests, become part of an interterritorial trade base, and thus bring the wonders of the east to the west. Everywhere Polo went along this seven thousand mile trail, whether it was through the Zagros Mountains, or the Hindu Kush, or along the Grand Canal of the Soong Dynasty, he and his expedition became witnesses to one of the first integrated economic trading corridors where gold, jewels, saffron, silk, paper, pepper, salt, spices, horses, cattle, tea, coffee, incense, and numerous other precosities became interchangeable commodities that flowed amongst a network of political tributaries all connected to Genghis Khan. The rule of the Grand Khan, from his palace in Xuanhua, was truly magnificent, given the fact that it originated only a century or so earlier in the steppelands of Outer Mongolia. Those people who tried to resist the Mongol expansion paid dearly with death and destruction, as seen in the siege of Baghdad. Local customs and interesting practices and innovations get plenty of attention in this book as the Polo family served both as trade envoys and diplomats for the Khan dynasts in their oversight of their vast lands. To complete the circle, the latter part of this complex story details the trip back to Venice via the Indian Ocean. This time the Polos went replete with incredible wealth and a dispensation to bring about a meeting of the Pope and Kublai Khan himself. If there is anything seemingly farfetched in this account, remember it is being told by someone who is being exposed for the first time to phenomena unknown to western eyes and minds at the time.

Shame and the Captives
Shame and the Captives
by Thomas Keneally
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.39
15 used & new from CDN$ 19.27

5.0 out of 5 stars A very captivating treatment of history, Oct. 4 2014
This review is from: Shame and the Captives (Hardcover)
Having watched the ABC mini-series on the Cowra Breakout years ago in Australia, I was interested in reading Keneally's take on this tragic moment in World War II. True to form, this renowned Australian novelist has done an excellent job in presenting a very believable and heart-rending story about what happens when different cultures come together in what most of us would assume were safe places in war: the home-front. Who initially could have anticipated a major catastrophe like Cowra in the bucolic backwoods of New South Wales where the locals were living out their ordinary lives in anticipation of the end of war and the homecoming of their loved ones? Nobody, because everyone was caught up in their own private existence, unaware that the war had already ominously come to their community in the form of a very large POW camp that housed prisoners from right across the Axis world. Keneally composes a very engaging narrative that looks at the lives of both locals and prisoners as they come to grips with this new reality and its potential to shape their lives. Soon, no-one will remain unscathed by this fascinating rapprochement that war has visited on them. Friendships will be made, attitudes will harden, and fears grow as this story plays out in seemingly lackadaisical fashion. It is war after all, and everyone has a role to play even it means befriending the POWs out on work release. What they don't know is that something unthinkably terrible is going on under their very noses in the Japanese compound that they have no control over. Something as innocuous as ordering a group picture of the prisoners will quickly mushroom into a full-scale escape that will turn Cowra into a war zone. The strength of this novel lies in the author's ability to bring together a composite of personal stories from different parts of the community that contribute to the incredible build-up in suspense. The reader, once again, is reminded that war, by its code of false honor and fear, comes to divide and destroy even those places that may appear to be sleepy hollows.

On Revolution
On Revolution
by Hannah Arendt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
39 used & new from CDN$ 6.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Political Minds of the 20th Century, Oct. 1 2014
This review is from: On Revolution (Paperback)
This is my second read through a masterful study on the nature of modern revolutions, using two very diametrically different models - the American vs. the French - to make the point that this political phenomenon is not a one-size fits all. By showing how these two political upheavals worked from the inside out, Arendt shows us how the call for radical change, depending on the circumstances, can lead to very different outcomes. In the French case, the proclamation of freedom from the tyranny of Bourbon king quickly became the violent cause of radicals dead set on answering to the suffering of the oppressed, and we all know how they ended with a counter-revolution in Thermidor of 1794. Arendt does a very capable job of analyzing the leadership of Robespierre and the Jacobin movement as they tried to figure out how to liberate the Paris Commune by making the enemies of France - the nobility - pay for creating serious class inequality. When they ran out of aristocrats, the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety turned on its own in its desire to satisfy a growing desire for revenge. That model has played out over and over again in the 19th and 20th century because it puts ideas and principles before people. On the other hand, the American Revolution proceeded on a more peaceful route with an uprising against political tyranny based on a natural right not to be taxed without effective representation. From there, a declaration of independence emerged, followed by an ultimate victory over tyranny and a creation of a constitution that would protect through political checks and balances the rights of the people to a fair and responsible government. In the decades that followed, the United States has parlayed that revolutionary concept into a political system that, for the most part, is stable though boring. Any change to its legal functioning as a country must go through the courts. There is the suggestion here that America prospered as a rising world power in succeeding centuries because it proceeded by way of a focused plan by which to fine-tune and control the long-term objectives of its revolutionary agenda by recognizing the need for a workable framework of government that could improve over time. I recommend this book to anyone interested in coming to grips with why some revolutions succeed while others fail.

Algerian Chronicles
Algerian Chronicles
by Albert Camus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.97
34 used & new from CDN$ 14.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Jouneys of a Vagabond, Sept. 29 2014
This review is from: Algerian Chronicles (Hardcover)
I have always enjoyed Camus’ ability to capture, in his writings, the human condition of individual despair that comes from not belonging. We are vagabonds, he would argue, who are, like young Comery in "The First Man", forever looking for an illusory place we call home. Since it doesn’t exist except in our minds, our lot is one of continually striving existentially for a perfect world that should not compromise our sense of justice and compassion. Such was the heroic calling of Camus, a famous French writer, who brought a great sense of humanity to his novels and essays. As a journalist for both French and Algerian papers, Camus reported on a number of key issues that affected his homeland and the Fourth French Republic. Focussing on what appears to be the underlying causes of growing dissension within both countries, leading to civil war, Camus pulls no punches. A xenophobia had crept into a society where French, ex-pats (pied-noir), and indigenous people were literally at each others throats in a fight to the death for political control. At the heart of the matter was the horrible plight of the Kabyles - a large group of Algerian Bedouins - caused by the harsh policies of a ruling French colonial administration bent on using terror, starvation and duplicity to subdue them. Many of the articles in this collection address first-hand the daily life of the Kabyles as they struggle to survive and the solutions needed to improve their lot. This is a people with no health care, schooling or a reliable food supply, all issues that the French government played a large role in perpetuating. It is this lack of social conscience that is symptomatic of a larger state: the moral and political declension of the nation as it desperately clung to the vestiges of its colonial past. Living in harmony, the desired state of all humanity, would only happen if the French government of the day started to make some serious compromises that exuded compassion and true Republican egalitarianism.

Aukey 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub Portable Multi-Port USB 3.0 Desktop Hub Powered for Mac, Windows, or any PC, Aluminum Case, with 2ft USB 3.0 Cable
Aukey 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub Portable Multi-Port USB 3.0 Desktop Hub Powered for Mac, Windows, or any PC, Aluminum Case, with 2ft USB 3.0 Cable
Offered by A-TEK
Price: CDN$ 69.99

5.0 out of 5 stars More Ports to Enter, Sept. 22 2014
I like the convenience and functionality this little desktop and laptop hub or plugin device offers me. I now have more than enough ports to listen to my MP3, follow my online courses, rapidly transfer files like pictures and books, and tie in my turntable, all at desk level. This is a good purchase if for no other reason than that it allows me to multitask in an easy fashion.

The Necessary War Volume One
The Necessary War Volume One
by Tim Cook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.04
2 used & new from CDN$ 25.04

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Brilliant Rendition of History, Sept. 22 2014
Once again, Canadian historian Tim Cook has outdone himself in his literary efforts to make Canadians better informed about the other world war that occupied five long and painful years in their national history in the twentieth century. Compared to WWI, World War Two, according to Cook’s analysis, was an international conflict that actually made sense in its attempt to rid the world of fascism. Hitler and Nazism were intent on wrecking global peace by engaging every nation that opposed it in outright war leading to human destruction. This very in-depth study of the Canadian war effort looks at all facets of total war that embraced the nation during these fitful times: Army, navy, airforce and the home-front are described here in vivid detail that includes recent military archives, oral histories, and very unique pictures all wrapped up in very penetrating analysis as to why this war was worth fighting. I have no problems defending this work as one of the best in putting the reader right there in the moment. Like Sir Max Hastings, Cook makes the events all so real and personal in an effort to remove some major misunderstandings. Since this world conflagration presents differently than WWI in scope, cost and consequences, Cook takes a different approach to discussing battle readiness and strategy. In the place of the wholesale slaughter of the Western Front comes attention to other theaters of war: the convoys, the raids, the bombings, and methodical campaigns. This is a war where civilians will suffer more than soldiers, sailors and airmen combined. Two particular accounts that made this book worth reading were Cook’s incredible description of bombing raids over Germany and the failed Allied attack on Dieppe. They were so vividly described that the reader could be excused for thinking he or she was there live in person.

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