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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Otto
Otto
by Lisa St.Aubin De Teran
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 8.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A Whirlwind Tour of the World of International Communism in the 20th century, Dec 4 2015
This review is from: Otto (Hardcover)
There are many things about this story that the reader should find very attractive about this big theme historical novel. The main character, Oswaldo, is everything one would want in a modern romantic adventurer intent on leaving his mark on the greater world. Like the troubadours of old, Oswaldo, a young Venezuelan peasant boy from an obscure village in the hinterland, knows his destiny. He is a rogue, derring-do, knave, rascal and libertine back in his hometown but that all pales once he gets his opportunity to break out as a young restless fortune seeker in a very fluid postwar society. He is about to discover the modern Marxist doctrine of political liberation in a post-colonial era, and his new home of Paris will be his launching pad. The author is to be credited with making this fictional journey through time a very conceivable one with plenty of historical detail to deepen the plot. Oswaldo, aka Otto, is not only a militant communist with a mercenary passion for war but, also, a lover, a philosopher and a strategist. He will find his wily way into the hearts and minds of Castro, Ben Bella, and Che as they wage their separate wars of liberation against world capitalism. These are both exciting and troubling times because nobody can be absolutely sure of success.That magic moment of jubilation never really happens here. As Teran points out, it is the struggle to make sense of the journey that becomes the essence of who this complex man really is. He may be consumed by a desire to conquer all that stands in the way of his sense of justice, by turning adversity into victory, but he still retains a very compelling humanity when connecting with the little guy in the field. He has no time for tyrants and dictators who use the cause to exploit the common man. In the end, like the prodigal of old, he will come to a very chastened and existential view of what it all means once the glamour and excitement have been removed.

Magictodoor Deluxe Travel Kit Organizer Hook Bathroom Storage Hanging Cosmetic and Grooming Bag Toiletry Bag Travel Organizer Yf8800cami
Magictodoor Deluxe Travel Kit Organizer Hook Bathroom Storage Hanging Cosmetic and Grooming Bag Toiletry Bag Travel Organizer Yf8800cami
Offered by MagicToDoor
Price: CDN$ 22.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Average Dobby Kit, Nov. 30 2015
We tested out this product on a number of features and found it to be reasonable: zippers are strong; material very durable and moisture resistant; its capacity to open up and hang on a hook is very convenient; and its ample size and handle make this a quality purchase.

Sand Timer - Foxnovo Colorful Sandglass Hourglass Sand Clock Timer 30sec / 1min / 2mins / 3mins / 5mins / 10mins (6pcs)
Sand Timer - Foxnovo Colorful Sandglass Hourglass Sand Clock Timer 30sec / 1min / 2mins / 3mins / 5mins / 10mins (6pcs)
Offered by Foxnovo Store
Price: CDN$ 39.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Handy Little Gadget, Nov. 30 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Great device for timing games like scrabble and chess. Very visible to all participants. We are already using it when it comes to timing multiple critical onsite prep times like drying, boiling, or setting when no digital timing mechanism is available. The assorted colors have already piqued the curiosity of guests.

Mona Lisa Is Missing
Mona Lisa Is Missing
DVD ~ Vincenzo Peruggia
Price: CDN$ 19.98
18 used & new from CDN$ 16.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Now We Know, Nov. 25 2015
This review is from: Mona Lisa Is Missing (DVD)
A very clever and compelling piece of modern sleuthing that gets to the heart of history's most famous art theft. All theories as to why the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 by an obscure Italian stonemason are thoroughly examined here by the filmmaker and his team. The film looks at a vast array of clues from archives and testimonials from members of the Peruggia family, and arrives at one inescapable conclusion. This production is a lively and entertaining production that still manages to retain a sense of the serious as it looks for truth.

Kissinger: A Biography
Kissinger: A Biography
by Walter Isaacson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.29
36 used & new from CDN$ 13.78

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Better Accounts on the World of Realpolitik, Nov. 25 2015
This review is from: Kissinger: A Biography (Paperback)
Anything by biographer Isaacson is going to be exhaustive and great in its understanding the subsurface forces at work in his subject's life. With Kissinger, as later with Einstein and Jobs, Isaacson very carefully builds a character profile or matrix by which to test out some very popular assumptions as to his role in history. While I knew that Kissinger was a secretive, conspiratorial type who always wanted to be managing circumstances to his ultimate advantage, this book reveals where this self-serving, megalomaniac attitude likely originated. Using some highly respected sources, the author pieces together a fascinating narrative that traces the life of every complex Machiavellian character who was determined to leave his mark on modem times by influencing the shape and direction of American foreign policy. Kissinger is portrayed as a person greatly affected by his past, his ethnic roots, and a compelling need to make the world a safer place for all. The reader should pay particular attention to Kissinger's journey to the top, as he continually sought opportunities to demonstrate his command of challenging situations. Moving to America in the Dirty Thirties, in advance of World War II, posed all kinds of social and economic challenges that only a young and intent immigrant like Kissinger could surmount. His success became a combination of developing a view of a new world emerging from the ashes of war based on a Metternichan concept of maintaining a balance of power among the superpowers. The Cold War became a time when Kissinger succeeded in inserting himself into high-level think tanks, the White House, and Harvard University faculty in very influential positions where he could determine the best course for a world locked in a serious nuclear arms race and ideological conflict. The highlight of this work may very well be the chapters dealing with Kissinger's often-underhanded efforts to achieve a conclusion to the Vietnam War while handling a dangerously erratic Nixon. While this unauthorized account is not flattering when it comes to dealing with Kissinger's often brusque and conspiratorial manner, it does make a good case for seeing him as a credible champion of pragmatic diplomacy in a time when it seemed the world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Having now read this book, I am not confident that the Kissinger Doctrine would still command the same respect in the post-Cold War era of globalization and radical Islamic terrorism.

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
by Peter Hopkirk
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.95
28 used & new from CDN$ 6.92

5.0 out of 5 stars To Those Who Would Seek to Play the Great Game, Nov. 24 2015
Every so often somebody writes a history that brings geography, culture, and people together over time, and the results are nothing short of profound. Hopkirk has produced such a work in "The Great Game". It covers the high-stakes, geopolitically unofficial war between the Russians and Great Britain in the nineteenth century for control of Central Asia. For nearly a century, both empires conducted a lengthy campaign of low-level covert activities to gain the upper hand. When the conflict became overt, the results became very nasty.The book looks at this whole concept of international brinkmanship from several important angles: the changing nature of the Russian-Anglo conflict; the confounding tribal presence in the Parmirs; and the numerous diplomatic efforts to achieve a breakthrough in the region. The backstories that make up this epic narrative are ones of gallantry, stealth, tragedy, and recklessness, and speak to the overwhelming wildness of the area. It became an impossible struggle because the two superpowers could never quite achieve an ultimate victory that granted them territorial control. For the Russians, it would be establishing a launching point for taking over India; for the Brits, it would be absolute control of extensive trade routes into China as it related to the sale of opium. That last fifty miles were never effectively closed in the nineteenth century because the international scene shifted to other more pressing imperialistic concerns. This is a historical study that is written in a very informative, high intelligent, and passionate style by someone who has obviously committed a good part of his life to understanding the nuances of a strange and wild land that occupies the top of the world and still to this day defies any true comprehension of its enigmatic tribal ways. If only George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld had read this book before 2002 they may not have been so quick to treat Afghanistan as a game worth winning.

Rupert Annual 2016
Rupert Annual 2016
by Alfred Bestall
Edition: Hardcover
4 used & new from CDN$ 29.54

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection of Old Stories, Nov. 22 2015
This review is from: Rupert Annual 2016 (Hardcover)
From someone who looks forward every Christmas to the new Rupert Annual, here is my list of ten reasons why it is a great purchase:
A. It offers incredible insights into the culture of times past;
B. Makes for a great opportunity to read to young children, especially grandkids;
C. The illustrations are absolutely priceless;
D. The narrative allows for variations: verse, prose, or ad lib;
E. The book is loaded with games;
F. Solving mysteries and living 'dangerously' are recurring themes here;
G. Loaded with some very interesting futuristic technology that "Wired" needs to hear about;
H. Does homage to traditional values;
I. Well-constructed product that is meant to take abuse. All our many copies of earlier annuals are still in great shape;
J. Every character in this annual is eternal in its creation. They are still who they were forty years ago, with one major difference: they are forever assuming slightly different roles and looks in the landscape of our ever fertile imaginations.

Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Yet Heroic Time in History, Nov. 21 2015
There is no other way to describe the late summer and autumn of 1944 in Polish history as the time when the fate of its capital, Warsaw, hung in the balance. So grim were the prospects of its survival against Nazi savagery that it still remains a miracle today that anything was left standing. The historian Richie, with the help of some very reliable sources, has put together a very rivetting and compelling story about how the Warsaw Uprising took place and why it ended the way it did. One cautionary note here is that to properly commemorate the heroism behind the uprising while still exposing the awful truth behind its eventual failure, Richie wades through piles of disgusting detail on the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi occupiers, much of which was never answered for. What you will read here will condemn that evil regime to the fires of hell forever for its attempts to destroy a city and all its occupants. While that part of the book needed to be told in all its fury, the background or lead up to August 1, 1944, is even more revealing as to motive. The Russians, in Operation Bagration, were pushing the German armies back towards the Vistula when they decided to pause and collect themselves in readiness for the final assault on the Reich. While there was never any illusion that the Polish government-in-exile expected Stalin to immediately intervene to oust the Germans and restore Warsaw to the Polish people, what happened instead is a bit of a mystery loaded with cynicism. The Russian military drew back - some might argue for practical reasons - while Hitler ordered the SS in to squash the rebellion and utterly destroy the city. Though it is obvious that Stalin probably allowed the Germans to destroy the Polish AK forces so that he would not meet with any resistance himself when he ultimately captured Warsaw in early 1945, there is another factor worth considering. The Polish resistance force, a highly energized group, misread the signs and prematurely jumped the gun by calling for the uprising against incredible odds. Poor intelligence and bad timing were the immediate factors that made this event go in the direction that it did. It became a massacre that the Russians could have mitigated if they only had Poland's best interests at heart. Having said that, Hitler's maniacal plans to wipe out Warsaw still remain front and center when considering the impact of this incredible event in modern times. I came away feeling that the patriotic and heroic Warsawans of this tragedy were hopelessly doomed from the outset because they were caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: two evil empires set on destroying it one way or another.

Secrets of Westminster
Secrets of Westminster
Price: CDN$ 26.99
16 used & new from CDN$ 20.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inside a great city, Nov. 19 2015
This review is from: Secrets of Westminster (DVD)
The heart of any great city is a point that people seem to be drawn to on a daily basis, whether it be a historical spot, some impressive old building, or an architectural wonder. Westminster, the heart of Greater London, offers all three for us to enjoy in person. If that is not possible, pick up this DVD and it will take you on an amazing trip around this historical hub that will beat any holiday bus tour. By watching it, I was left with the unmistakable impression that Westminster City can truly lay claim to being a very important world capital, based on a thousand years of earth-shaking history, starting with the Abbey itself. The viewer is taken on a very colorful and informative tour of those out-of-the-way places like behind the altar piece, up in the towers, and across some ancient designed mosaic floors. Along the way, you will get to see where the original parliament of the 13th century was held, where the greats like Edward the Confessor were buried, and the ancient coronation throne. The view from above by looking down on the nave is stunning. Definitely one of the best Gothic perspectives I have ever seen.Then there is the Mother of Parliaments and its intricate layout of buildings along the Thames.There are many intriguing and recurring tales of tradition that go with this grand complex and its earlier edifices, some of which have long ago disappeared. Fortunately, the Great Hall of London - the site of Charles I trial - is still there in all its restored splendor as a reminder of a moment in time when the monarchy finally yielded to the will of parliament. I recommend this resource to anyone looking to be informed, entertained and challenged to look further on the subject.This is a city that knows how to keep its past alive by preserving its history in a big way.

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
by Anne-Marie O'Connor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.60
44 used & new from CDN$ 15.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Triumphing over fhe horrors and indignities of a century, Nov. 17 2015
Saw the docudrama first and decided that it was too compelling a story not to read the book that inspired it. O'Connor's intricate account of the tale behind the famous painting, "The Lady in Gold", is fascinating beyond belief. Imagine the power of a masterpiece to affect so many different lives over a century and you have the makings of one whirlwind epic that serves to remind us of the power and charm of great artwork. Everywhere this painting went it seemed to evoke controversy, gossip, greed, scandal but, more importantly, a nagging need for justice. Follow the trail from early 20th century Vienna when a very rich Austrian lady commissioned the consummate painter of the day to do her portrait. Commissioned in a time when Austrian art was turning modern, the work shows a unique brilliance that has made it a favorite conversation piece for all and sundry, even the Nazis who supposedly despised degenerate art. While this portrait did not bring its subject lasting joy - she died in her early forties - it took on a life of its own in the years beyond. As World War II unfolded, her extended family would suffer enormous losses at the hands of the Gestapo, including many of its members sent to concentration camps. While the painting will be stolen and disappear into the secret world of nazidom, something infinitely more precious will survive: a niece and her husband will escape to the USA with the promise of a new life. With them will go the indelible memories of that masterpiece that demand its recovery. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to probe deeper into the great moments in history in search of backstories that clarify the situation. Justice will happen here eventually, but to truly appreciate the magnitude of the tale in its fullness, go back to where it all started: those intimate salons of a by-gone era where vanity and culture became immortalized in fine art.

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