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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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(Dis)Honesty - The Truth About Lies (Director's Edition)
(Dis)Honesty - The Truth About Lies (Director's Edition)
DVD ~ Dan Ariely
Offered by Paragon OS3
Price: CDN$ 77.02
2 used & new from CDN$ 74.02

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Social Critique, March 2 2016
What a very thought-provoking documentary that gets to the heart of who we are as members of the human race. Honesty plays a large role in our ability to transparently relate to each other. An absence thereof, as reflected in our penchant for lying, has led to all kinds of ethical problems that are more widespread than we think. Researcher and author Dan Ariely has produced a very funny but compelling DVD on the subject of lying and its many social manifestations. This media study, along with his earlier book on the truth of lying, addresses why we lie and how we justify it, whether it be cheating on a spouse, taxes, throwing a game, illegal trading, scamming someone, falsifying a resume, exaggerating a profile, or just plain fantasizing. On all counts, there isn't a person who hasn't tried to embroider the truth intentionally or otherwise. As Ariely delves into the key reasons for dishonesty, he conducts some very revealing experiments on his audience at MIT to show us the underlying psychology in lying. The rationalization goes like this: how can a little stretching of the truth really compromise my social standing, especially when it really only effects me and, at most, someone else? As illustrated in the tragic anecdotes that accompanied this lecture, such a defence has one fatal flaw: lying can be habit forming, and in many cases the start of criminal behaviour. I noticed in the last couple of years that many universities enclose a code of honesty that students have to sign off on with online courses. All that does is appeal to our consciences to tell the truth, especially when it comes to writing essays. If we lie in the short-term because of an inherent desire not to look stupid, disappoint a loved one, or lose out on a good deal, we pay in the long run with a loss of respect, relationship, money, reputation, and freedom.

Deadeye Dick: A Novel
Deadeye Dick: A Novel
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.81
41 used & new from CDN$ 2.10

5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Satire on a Society Gone Amok, Feb. 29 2016
This review is from: Deadeye Dick: A Novel (Paperback)
Anyone who reads Vonnegut regularly must know that black or gallows humor is his specialty. Nothing sacred or off-limits in this novel. As satires goes, Vonnegut can deliver some very wicked blows against the cultural bastions of society when it comes to exposing their moral shortcomings: wealth, romance, theater and justice. While America may appear to be one of those places that thrives on the certainty of hard work, trust, honesty, and vision, for Vonnegut nothing will stand the test of time. Historically, the power of guns, drugs and, ultimately, the neutron bomb to destroy civilization are the evil forces at work on dismantling the American Dream. By the end, fortunes, dreams and marriages will be laid waste by the big game changer: the increasing need to feel secure in a very insecure and hostile world. The Waltzes may try to jettison the baggage of their past like melting down their oversized gun collection but that won't help if their young son has already inadvertently killed a neighbor while playing with one of the guns. They may want to disavow their Nazi connections but there will always be that tawdry reminder - one of Hitler's better watercolors - popping up every so often to haunt them. The society Vonnegut depicts here - big city America - with its many opportunities to succeed, has no safeguards against failure. Violence will dog Rudy's life as he tries to make sense of the changing fortunes of his family and his newfound reputation as a young killer. An inherited painting, memories of a gun collection, former Nazi ties, in-laws becoming hopelessly addicted to drugs, and a plan for nuclear annihilation of an entire American town are all part of an ominous legacy that gets darker by the moment. Everything in this wild tale hangs around like a dirty shirt to remind us that we are all part of a killing society, especially as we try to eradicate our past and start over again. There is only one hope when it comes to charting one's future in a culture that offers little in the way of determining what comes next either from a violent past or a menacing future. Just hope there isn't anyone to pass it on to. A conscious decision in this book to bail on this present world, like fleeing to the mythical land of Shangri-la - in a musical based on someone else's experiences - will meet with personal disappointment and public indifference. In the end, reputations, normally the essence of any legitimate society, are largely imagined, easily discarded and, eventually, destroyed because humans, in Vonnegut's estimation, can't control the things that go into making them. If they don't shoot people, they blow them up, or discard them in favor of drugs to dull the pain of inadequacy.. The only reason why Rudy survives in all this mayhem is that Vonnegut creates an end-of-time, neutered individual who will not be contributing to perpetuating this farce into the next generation.

Every Man Dies Alone: A Novel
Every Man Dies Alone: A Novel
by Hans Fallada
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60
40 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental tribute to the courage of conviction, Feb. 28 2016
With perhaps the exception of Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Nazi regime in Germany has to be one of the most extreme examples of state terror in modern times. German writer Hans Fallada captures this period in his action-packed thriller of a novel about how a husband and wife waged a quiet but fearless four-year campaign against the evils of Nazidom, in its very own backyard: Bavaria. The plot in this lengthy tale would appear to parallel the real-life drama that was part of the legendary White Rose movement originating at the University of Munich. Like the heroes in everyday life, Otto, a disaffected German worker who has refused to join the party, has taken up a political cause that would seem to be both brave and foolhardy: subversively distributed handwritten postcards, at a rate of a couple a week, promoting the overthrow of the regime.This is his private war brought on by the loss of his son in the French campaign of 1940. He and his wife are people of conscience who are prepared to break the law and become traitors in pursuit of freedom from tyranny. There is no flinching here. This small effort will go on in spite of incredible odds against it ever making a difference. When eventually caught by the Gestapo, with the help of neighborhood spies, Otto and Anna will accept their fate as Good Germans. I like this novel for a number of reasons, not least Fallada's superb ability to create and manage suspense. This cat-and-mouse game is going to reach a climax where Otto will no longer be able to operate in secrecy. His arrest and eventual execution will become the overt outcomes of a covert mission to spread dissent. To mean anything, his actions have to have a face in order to become credible, something Fallada knew himself all too well was the price one paid for standing for what one believes in during times when it could cost you your life. All he knows, in his simple way, is that Hitler is bad and must be eliminated. Logically, if one is true to one's beliefs, one then lives life accordingly, regardless what others may think. While Otto and Anna are main characters in this novel, the reader gets to see other individuals struggling to stay alive in this terror-struck community, as the Gestapo and local police endeavor to insinuate themselves into its very lifeblood. Lots of compromised, fretful, and distrustful lives living mere blocks from Otto and Anna, all intent in doing their best to stay on the good side of a tyrannical state. It was this attitude that still prevailed in post-war East Germany when the Stasi virtually turned society into a police state where everyone spied on each other.

Seneo 3rd 100ml Essential Oil Diffusers Aroma Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifiers
Seneo 3rd 100ml Essential Oil Diffusers Aroma Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifiers
Offered by HaborDirect
Price: CDN$ 56.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Unqualified Great Product, Feb. 24 2016
I have been using this device for three weeks now in our condo and am totally convinced that it is what I am looking for to aromatize various rooms with a nice scent. It is easy to operate, has a handy shut-off feature, and improves the feel of a room in short order. The changing color effect offers a nice touch to a concept that makes other forms of air refresher simply ordinary. I like the fact that it can easily be moved from room to room. For a sixty-four-year-old male to get excited about a diffuser means that it is having a desired impact on his living space.

Hawking [Import]
Hawking [Import]
Price: CDN$ 31.66
16 used & new from CDN$ 18.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Light Years Ahead of the Game, Feb. 23 2016
This review is from: Hawking [Import] (DVD)
The much ballyhooed life of renowned Britiish physicist Stephen Hawking had always been a bit of a mystery to me; that is until I picked up this DVD and showed it to some friends one afternoon. Since then, I have been on a bit of a tear to learn about the wonders of the universe as seen through the ingenious mind of this highly intelligent scientist, which includes a read of his "A Brief History of Time". This well designed documentary covers both the highlights and lowlights of Hawking's life as he still struggles to unlock the secrets of time while racing against time in a fight with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). While I am not a student of theoretical physics, listening to Hawking's synthesized voice recount the journey was nothing short of enlightening. For him, science is definitely on the march, whether we agree or not, to find the origin of the universe, as determined by the presence of black holes where the force of gravity on anti-matter is so strong that light is not visible. While Hawking takes us through the fascinating process by which he has come to this realization that there is a provable Big Bang moment, there is the compelling other story that covers his private life. Hawking is very open about the disease that has ravaged much of his body, the terrible strain it has brought to bear on his family, and his compulsion for being in the limelight. His ex-wife Jane was one of those rare individuals who pour years of devotion into helping Hawking become an international celeb, only to realize that she had virtually destroyed herself in the process. Hawking's peculiar life has never been one of half-measure or strategic retreat. Adversities only exist in his mind as obstacles to work around in pursuit of that one legendary goal where big ideas like quantum physics, gravity, black holes, relativity, string theory, and singularity come together to define the universe. Those who hang out with him must recognize his overarching commitment to making it happen even if time seems to be running out. I recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to learn how great minds grapple with and obsess over the profundities of life, all in pursuit of a legacy of greatness tempered by a need to enlighten the rest of us.

The Cost of Hope: A Memoir
The Cost of Hope: A Memoir
by Amanda Bennett
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 2.81

5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Uncertainties and Perils of Being in Love., Feb. 21 2016
There is everything about this book that is helpful, good and enjoyable. I first heard Amanda's story on Vermont Public Radio and immediately felt compelled to read "The Cost of Hope" in order to get a fresh grip on the grieving process. Hers is a journey that encompasses both a wonderful and fulfilling life with a man who only brought the best out in her - giving love a chance - and the terrible challenge of having to eventually let it all go. I found her account of fourteen years of marriage to Terrance as one that evokes a whole range of emotions: passion, transparency, sadness, adventure, love, and compassion. This biography is worth a read because its story is multi-dimensional, exploring a number of avenues entailed in maintaining and nurturing the hope that exists within most of us: that we can truly live out our lives loving as we are loved. Having said that, the author reminds us that such a lofty expectation comes with a hefty cost to the human soul. Like Amanda, we will have to learn to adjust to changing fortunes, accept disappointments, and be prepared to fight and advocate on behalf of our partners when they are ailing. At the end of the unsuccessful struggle to save her husband's life, Amanda is still haunted by the enormous monetary costs involved in keeping Terrance alive as she desperately searched for a wonder drug to cure his rare form of kidney cancer. There are no straightforward answers here; just a conflicting sense of pain and satisfaction that comes from knowing what one is doing for a loved one who is suffering, in spite of the incredible odds.

Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama
Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama
by Dennis Ross
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.71
39 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Highly Intelligent and Engrossing Study, Feb. 19 2016
The more I get into this book, the more I appreciate how complex the Middle East has become as a geopolitical expression and how important American diplomatic efforts have been in keeping the region relative'y stable. From the Truman to Obama administrations, each succeeding president has been cognizant of his responsibility to make sure that American Middle-East interests are diligently protected. Ross, the consummate envoy of several presidents, expertly takes us through years of delicate, high-wire diplomacy where Washington struggled to keep the lid on this witches cauldron. The more successful strategy, in short, has been to back states like Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia with state-of-the-art military hardware to offset the growing Soviet influence in Egypt, Iran and Syria. In the case of Israel, the US has learned, over time, that backing this nation is one very delicate balancing act. To much strategic aid has been known to limit its geopolitical influence elsewhere in the area. On the whole, Ross believes that US presidents, over the length of their respective administrations, have actually succeeded in keeping a lid on tensions between traditional enemies such as Israel and the PLO. The challenge, as always, is to determine how far to go with military support without pushing the area into large-scale war. Any efforts to succeed in effecting a permanent peace among the major players, especially now that radical Islam has become a major player, is unrealistic if it does not include respecting Israel's borders and maintaining the current balance of power. There are so many contingencies at work here that the best we can expect for the Middle East in the future is an uneasy, diplomatic peace where gradualism, rather than triumphalism, dictates progress. There is just too much distrust to expect anything else than an uneasy balance of competing interests between nations that cross borders such as the future of the Palestinians. In this whacky world of divided loyalties and deep hostilities, diplomacy still holds center stage when it comes to making peace, albeit tentative and uneasy.

Parachase A1 Men's Auto Open/close Windproof Portable Compact Umbrella Black
Parachase A1 Men's Auto Open/close Windproof Portable Compact Umbrella Black
Offered by Parachase
Price: CDN$ 28.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a compact brolly that works, Feb. 18 2016
I am totally satisfied with this compact umbrella. During what has proven to be a very wet and stormy January in Victoria, I needed something that would stand up to the gusting winds and slanting rain, while easy to grip, open and close and be made of durable material. Without question, this product passes the El Nino test with flying colors. It comes with a strong post, reinforced ribbing, springloaded closing action, and water-repellent fabric that allows it to dry quickly.

The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic
The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Being One's Brother's Keeper, Feb. 14 2016
In this stranger-than-fiction tale of modern science keeping company with the forces of modern literature and national security, Ginger Strand introduces her readers to two brothers who form the most unlikely of relationships built on the ability of one to alter the views of the other through the power of the pen rather than the sword. Bernie and Kurt may have grown up as typical siblings back in the thirties, members of a well-educated German-American family, with plenty of prospects for success. But along came World War Ii and changed anything they shared in common.Bernie, the boy genius and favorite son, was off to MIT, hankering to become an eminent environmental scientist.Unlike younger brothrr Kurt who flunked out of Cornell in the sciences and was eventual conscripted, Bernie was hired for a top-level research job with General Electric in Upper State New York. While Kurt suffered the horrors and savagery of war both as a soldier at the Battle of the Bulge and prisoner of war during The Dresden bombing, Bernie stayed home to work some mysterious but benign weather project called Operation Cirrhus. When Kurt returns home, his first job, as someone with a flair to write,is to promote the wonders of the new age of peace as found in the technological creations of GE.That would not last long because Kurt was growing uncomfortable in the knowledge that GE was potentially leading the world back into war, what with all its militaristic designs. Bernie may have been nicely ensconced in a well-paying job on a bizarre project to create rsin and snow, his younger brother was no longer wanting to be part of these Brave New World experiments. As a journalist for the New York Times and an accomplished novelist, Kurt wrote about his war experiences in an attempt to expose the sinister connection between big government and professional scientists who may unwittingly doing their bidding in the pursuit of war. I will allow the reader the right to discover the ultimate truth that distills from this brotherly relationship that, though never close because of diametrically opposing views, did attempt to reconnect later in the fifties. Vonnegut would always claim that his warnings were those who were too trusting of science and technology to save the world from tyranny, ignorance, and greed. To that end, Strand might have explored a little deeper Kurt's deep loathing for war, and how it is only made worst by its incessant desire to exploit humanity. Thank goodness there was enough public pressure brought to bear to stop large-scale cloud-seeding.

The Emperor of Paris
The Emperor of Paris
by CS Richardson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.28
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Feel for the City of Light in a Different Age, Feb. 11 2016
This review is from: The Emperor of Paris (Hardcover)
This is a love story that has to be felt as well as read to be enjoyed. Like the smooth-flowing Seine that occupies the heart of this impressionistic tale of subtle and improbable romance, life unfolds at its own tantalizing pace. As this novel unwinds, the pedestrian pursuits, tastes, and expectations of the old world will gradually segue magically into a new world of feeling, desire and passion for the new and enchanting. People like Octavio and Isabeau will come out of their subterranean existences to learn that there is a whole new world of culture awaiting them at, of all places, the book stalls. Imagine falling in love with art because you have taken the time to discover what is taking place outside your narrow existence in, of all places, the heart of Old Paris. Hardly novel when one remembers that this process is how many of us learn over time, but it is the setting that makes the difference here. Richardson, by a series of clever artistic strokes, allows two lonely souls to be drawn together in the most innocent of ways: the return of a lost book they both have read and enjoyed The power of this novel comes in the fact that it grows on you. No big explosive moment; only the compelling feeling that it is going somewhere important in matters of the heart.

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