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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt
DVD ~ Barbara Sukowa
Price: CDN$ 34.99
24 used & new from CDN$ 20.18

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Docudrama on the Subject, July 13 2014
This review is from: Hannah Arendt (DVD)
The year was 1960 and the event was the upcoming trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the key architects of the Final Solution, and who better to offer an important statement to the world of its implications for modern Jewry than Arendt, the controversial author of "The Origins of Totalitarianism". She was considered the best mind of the day to analyze the most perplexing question of modern times: what led the Nazis to embark on a plan to systematically destroy the Jewish race? Attending this exhausting epic trial and writing a series of ten articles for the New Yorker could be considered a defining moment in her intellectual journey. Here was an occasion where she could test out her racial theories, based on years of research and association with the famous academics like Heidegger and Jaspers, by examining both the actions of the victimizer and victim side by side. This film allowed me to understand more clearly that the Jewish people, as they were openly and cruelly persecuted by the Nazis, were also poorly served by many of their tyrannical leaders. While being mercilessly hounded into death camps all over eastern Europe, the Jews, like other vulnerable minorities of the day, clung to religious values that promoted an undying loyalty to despotic leaders. In the long run, this attitude simply made the Nazis’ lurid plans easier to execute. The evil intentions, as seen in the actions of Eichmann, were greatly mirrored in those Jews who emerged as self-appointed leaders at the height of the crisis. While Eichmann arranged for the shipment of Jews to the camps, these prominent Jews were complicit in sending to their death millions of innocent men, women and children. Putting Eichmann on trial for his role in this atrocity also requires that others answer, too, for their shameful role. Like the infamous SS henchman on trial for his life, it is next to impossible to get these rogue Jews to admit to wrongdoing because that is the banal face of totalitarianism at its worst. Nobody wants to acknowledge what they did was monstrously evil because they were only doing what was expected of them: acting with legal authority.

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
by Ken Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.28
60 used & new from CDN$ 16.25

4.0 out of 5 stars The Mind is What Matters, July 13 2014
Ken Robinson, ever the consummate promoter of educational innovation and creativity in the modern times, challenges us to rethink our view of what it means to think outside the box. He describes a world where corporate, political and institutional agendas increasingly define the ability to use our natural abilities, intuitions, and skills as a commodity they control simply by imposing national and regional standards. Those who make the grade are those who exhibit the right amount of intelligence, the proper aptitude, and the capacity to complete the task as assigned. In a world of ever-changing technology, new advances in research and expanding markets, we have, as a civilization, locked ourselves into accepting academic achievement as the exclusive standard for measuring creative success. While that might be a convenient way for society to determine who its ablest and best are in the competitive worlds of business and science, it doesn't begin to address the incredible, untapped creative power that exists out there in the public square. Instead of continuing to concentrate on a classical definition of the mind, as reflected in metrics like intelligence-quotient and mastery, Robinson believes we should explore the many other forms of human intelligence that represent both the unorthodox and the interrelated aspects of our lives: emotional, social, artistic and athletic to name a few. We are who we are because we have the potential to bring to bear on any specific circumstance an incredible imagination and intelligence that offers a better way of doing things. History is full of stories of great and ordinary thinkers, artists, inventors, and designers who chose to see the world using a different mindset. We should not continue to see our lives as being limited to the old factory model of completing a specific task effectively within a specific amount of time to a preset standard of competency. A results-driven culture should give way to a reward-based ethic that encourages individuals to "create, to take risks, to fail or ask questions, to strive and to grow". His biggest challenge is directed at the public school system that seems to refuse to lead this kind of progressive initiative that puts the real needs of students first: the right to constructively develop their creative powers. Too often, a dangerous mental imbalance occurs when other human intelligences are left undeveloped such as our ability to socially interrelate with others. If there is weakness in this inspiring book it might be Robinson's lack of concrete examples as to how this holistic vision is taking hold globally. I would have liked to have seen his views on the Finnish model for innovative education that everyone seems to be raving about today.

Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry
Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry
by David Robertson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
41 used & new from CDN$ 5.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuilding LEGO, July 10 2014
As a child and then a parent and finally a grandparent, I am all too aware of the iconic presence of the ‘brick’ in my life over sixty-some years. The world’s largest and best-known toy company has made a very good living out of producing billions of interlocking plastic bricks that make up an ever-expanding family of toylines. Originating in the small Danish town of Billund back in the 1930s, LEGO, the brainchild of the Ole Kirk family, has since expanded throughout the world in an effort to promote toys made out of the simplest of components. Its commercial success, while impressive, has not been clear sailing down through the decades. You could say that LEGO has had to remake itself several times over in order to avoid going under. Its biggest challenge, in trying to stay relevant in the very competitive toy business, is to build cultural bridges between succeeding generations by building on concepts that keep changing and improving with time. Their secret to success is bound up in keeping control over the design of toys like Bionicle, Mindstorm, Minecraft, Star Wars, Theme Parks, Robotics, et cetera, while inviting the public as co-creators in an effort to fine tune them. Led by a team of top engineering designers, LEGO has learned the importance of rolling out product in an orderly fashion and incorporating improvements in subsequent updates. Its impeccable track record on delivering innovative toys that can be added to as an ongoing saga makes its unique because it is essentially the democratic right of all users and owners to form their idea of play narrative to go with it. Most households, I would hazard to guess, if we are anything to go by, keep their LEGO around for years.

The Invisible Woman (2013) (DVD) [Region code : 3]
The Invisible Woman (2013) (DVD) [Region code : 3]
DVD ~ Ralph Fiennes

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Statement About Victorian Society, July 7 2014
I have always been a fan of anything Ralph Fiennes has performed going back to "The English Patient". Maybe it is those deep, saddened eyes that seem to express a tortured soul passionately looking for solace in a hostile world. His latest performance as the novelist and journalist Charles Dickens in "The Invisible Woman" captures that identical feeling of an individual desperately seeking love that has been denied him in the traditional circles of Victorian society. The storyline is about Dickens who, in the midst of composing his seminal work "Great Expectations", decides to take a mistress in the person of a young society girl named Nell (Felicity Jones). For fear that their relationship could damage his career, Dickens and Nell are forced to keep it on the quiet. Though there are hints that people already know about the liaison - including his estranged wife - Victorian society punished such behaviour by forcing the lovers to carry on a very covert lifestyle. This film covers the several years in which Dickens attempted to discreetly, and somewhat hypocritically, live on both sides of the fence, all the time realizing that the love he sought in Nell was as ephemeral as the love he lost in his estranged wife. There are some very poignant moments in the film where Dickens recognizes that the real happiness that he yearns for, like the dreams of many of his characters such as Pip and Micawber, are hollow at best when prejudice and hubris get in the way. Everything in this old world is meant to be blighted by fear, angst, death, misgiving and disappointment.

In Sunlight and In Shadow
In Sunlight and In Shadow
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The True Test of Love at its Elegant Best, July 6 2014
American writer Mark Helprin has always had the gift to write big-theme novels that offer an intriguing story that parallels history, grapple with big challenges, describe majestic landscapes and bring together unforgettably heroic people in peculiar situations. In this particular work, Helprin, with the help of some very impressive prose and a strong plot, produces a quaint story of two total strangers, Catherine and Harry, suddenly meeting and falling in love on the New York City waterfront in the aftermath of World War II. The more they get to know each other, the more they realize how different they are in personalities, tastes, and sensibilities. Harry is a much decorated, highly-educated Jewish-American paratrooper who has just returned from helping defeat the Nazis in Operation Overlord. While a hero in war, Harry faces a society back home that still hasn’t warmed up to Jews of the blue-collar type. He will face all kinds of prejudice and persecution from groups such as the local Italian mafia that don’t want him to succeed in growing his father’s leatherworks. Catherine, on the other hand, has been born and raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her parents are wealthy members of the Hamptons of Long Island, and can easily afford to give her the best in upbringing: finishing school, Ivy league education, voice and theatrical training at the best music academy. As they discover how very different they are socially, their lives will come together in a bond of wonderful devotion in helping each other meet their critical needs whatever the crisis might be, and there will be plenty in this book to wade through. Harry, the modern gallant, is determined not to become dependent on Catherine’s wealth as a way of hiding from his persecutors as he shows his lady-love that he can both protect and provide for her. She will, in turn, pursue her singing career because she knows that it is one of the qualities Harry admires most in her. This novel may be a tad too romantic for some, with a lot of old fashioned moments from generations ago, but it is Helprin’s masterful control of the plot that keeps it pointed skyward, kept airborne by all that is decent in society while attempting to leave the dangerously sordid and shabby stuff behind. These are two very principled people who are not afraid to make the right decision when facing those who would want to wreck their dream of a life together.

FAVI FE01-Rii-BL Wireless Keyboard, Built-In TouchPad/Laser Pointer (Black)
FAVI FE01-Rii-BL Wireless Keyboard, Built-In TouchPad/Laser Pointer (Black)
Price: CDN$ 35.04

3.0 out of 5 stars Handy for Big Screen Presentations, June 30 2014
This handy little device is intended for those who are conducting or watching big-screen presentations through their laptop or desktop.This mini-keyboard allows you to type in search inquiries and maneuver the cursor while away from your computer. One of its drawbacks is that the very small keys tend to be sensitive to the touch so that you have letters or numerals that you don't want. It can also serve as a temporary mouse if your other one needs replacing.

Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland
Voices from the Grave: Two Men's War in Ireland
Price: CDN$ 14.41

5.0 out of 5 stars The Strange Defusing of Urban Terrorism, June 27 2014
Ed Moloney's book takes us inside the notorious Long Kesh or the Maze Prison of Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the back streets of East Belfast. Based on extensive interviews that Boston College conducted with two prominent urban terrorists, IRA Brendan Hughes and UVF David Ervine, the reader gets to see how these two killers played important roles in bringing peace to Ulster. Belfast and the Long Kesh prison (soon to become the infamous Maze) were places where these two assassins slaughtered Catholics and Protestants either out of revenge or suspicion of treachery. This was a time when hunger strikes were conducted behind prison walls with deadly consequences. These were the years when internal turf wars played out on a daily basis that would eventually alter the course of history. Hughes, as part of the West Belfast IRA scene, played a key role in organizing the first real hunger strike as a protest against prison clothing regulations. Several IRA inmates, including Hughes, embarked on this extreme course of action meant to tell the world about the inhumane conditions of their incarceration. The extent of their grandstanding was nothing short of appalling: human waste piling up in their cells, et cetera. When they finally got concessions from prison officials, they quickly learned that they had been double-crossed. Even with that setback, Hughes, as a supporter of Gerry Adam’s more moderate leadership, rejected subsequent strikes because, as a political strategy, that didn’t work. His hard stand, unfortunately, was unable to prevent other prisoners, like Bobby Sands, from eventually starving themselves to death as martyrs for the Republican cause. Hughes backing Adams’ leadership from inside prison likely paved the way for a change of tactics that would involve Sinn Fein launching a campaign to win legitimacy through the ballot box. The David Irvine story as an Ulster Voluntary Force paramilitary has an eerily similar ring to it. As one of the front-line bombers in the UVF, Ervine, too, found his way into the Long Kesh. Here, he fell under the spell of Gusty Spense, a former leader and lifer who had repented of his evil past. It was discipline that this man imposed on the UVF prisoners that made an indelible impression on Ervine and turned his life around. Like the IRA gunman, Brendan Hughes, in the same compound, Ervine turned his back on violence and took up conventional politics when he was released. Moloney looks at the singular decisions of these two men who, in fact, knew each other from their lengthy incarceration and have helped end the Troubles.

And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
29 used & new from CDN$ 1.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Stories Wrapped Up in an Uncertain Times, June 20 2014
While many readers choose to see this novel strictly as a complex set of interconnected short stories that form the amazingly rambling fortunes and misfortunes of an Afghan family over several generations, I tend to see so much more. For Hosseini, life is a comedy of on-the-spur of the moment decisions made in relation to evolving characters, changing circumstances, altered landscapes and conflicting views, none of which can be controlled. Not to be compared with the very contrived and sentimental storyline of "The Kite Runner", "And the Mountain Echoed" is a moving tale in its own right that goes in many uncertain directions to find that common thread called family. It is a multi-layered story that depicts the intergenerational adventures of an Afghan peasant family as they make their way through the maze called modern times. The precarious existence of each child in this family is traced as it transitions from the harsh and primitive environment of rural Afghanistan into the promise of the big cities of Kabul, Paris, London, and San Francisco and beyond. In order to survive, the older brother, Nabi, does the unthinkable and arranges for one of his twin sisters, Pari, to live with a rich, childless couple in Kabul, whom he works for. Such a move, while meant to improve their chances of survival, only adds more turmoil and suffering to the plot. Nabi will then become locked in a life of service to this man whose highly intelligent wife will leave for Europe, taking Pari with her. Their younger brother, Abdullah, who is very close to Pari, will be devastated by the loss. With these rising fortunes come tragic moments that must be overcome as the children become adults and start to think of their own chances in the outside world. Reading this free-wheeling novel reminds me of many changing fortunes of a modern state called Afghanistan as it struggles to make sense of a war-ravaged past in preparation for taking on a troubling future. Destiny lies in moving forward into the great unknown with only fading memories of old customs and practices. The echoes of life, originating in the mountains of bygone times remind us that even when long-separated family members become reunited, it will never be the same. Gone is the old familiar sights of home and the tender embraces of earlier times. Abdullah and Pari have truly become the unfortunate victims of life’s many fates that pull apart and uproot and, ultimately, prevent one from returning to the virtues and simplicities of the past.

Smart Weigh Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-lit LCD Display, Hold Feature and 2000 x 0.1g Capacity
Smart Weigh Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-lit LCD Display, Hold Feature and 2000 x 0.1g Capacity
Offered by MeasuPro
Price: CDN$ 29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Remove the Cover, June 16 2014
We are always looking for a convenient weighing device in the kitchen. Once you get over the fact that the weighing platform has an extra plastic cover that, if not removed, will not weigh properly, this small scale is a terrific tool for weighing those small items like 25 grams of ginger peach tea for making bread. Yes, I recommend this scale as easy to handle, when it comes to calibrating, moving around the kitchen, and leaving on the counter. Its one drawback is that it might require a more explicit set of instructions to get the user past that annoying plastic cover issue.

Double Down: Game Change 2012
Double Down: Game Change 2012
by Mark Halperin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.75
59 used & new from CDN$ 1.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Political Strategies at Their Best and Worst, June 13 2014
There were several times in the 2012 US presidential election campaign that President Obama might have lost it but for the fact that he had some highly intelligent boffos running his campaign behind the scenes. As opposed to the 2008 campaign when Obama virtually sauntered across the proverbial goal line, this campaign was vastly different. He was running on a platform that consisted of a lot of unfinished business, both in the economy and on the international front. Halperin and Heilemann, two very seasoned national journalists collaborated to write a book about the five month campaign leading up to Obama's eventual re-election. Every step of the way is covered with rapier-sharp analysis that examines, by way of comparison, the strategies of both the Romney and Obama camps. Though there were plenty of moments when a stronger, more aggressive GOP standard-bearer could have done some serious damage to the president's chances of re-election but for the fact that he had a very well organized team behind him who believed in him and set about to reshape his political persona for this occasion. It didn't hurt that he had the uncanny ability to think on his feet when it came to affirming what he believed in: fulfilling the promises of the previous four years. With the economy still sputtering and the war in Afghanistan not quite over, Obama's task was to show the American people that true national leadership came from the White House and not a gridlocked Congress. Meanwhile, his opponent, Mitt Romney went through a very grueling and divisive primary season just to get the nomination, during which time little preparation was made as to formulating a knock-out strategy for the big one. Romney, the well-heeled plutocrat who owned the investment firm of Bain & Co., fell into the trap of letting the Democrats frame him as a bungler, klutz, liar, and wealthy snob. Every time an issue arose on the campaign trail, it seemed that the Obama team had staked out a winning position that connected them to a key part of the electorate such as the critical independents. Even with the opportunity to administer a serious blow over the Benghazi incident involving a terrorist attack on the American embassy, Romney wasn't prepared to seize the initiative ahead of the debates. It was like Obama was ready well in advance for any challenges Romney might offer him because his team had done its homework. They knew where Romney was weak and attacked accordingly. Nothing was sacred when it came to negative ads in this campaign. The year 2012 would not be regarded as a very civil time on the election trail, but that merciless, unrelenting spirit of beating one's opponent each step of the way worked.

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