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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Belzec
Belzec
Price: CDN$ 24.45
13 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The Undeniable Truth of History, Sept. 2 2014
This review is from: Belzec (DVD)
I strongly recommend that any viewer checking out this very poignant documentary on the first Nazi death camp in southern Poland first do some serious background research on the operators and operations of Belzec. What they will likely find is that this film, largely a historical reconstruction of two terrible years in the otherwise tranquil community, is very accurate. One, there are enough witnesses that clearly witnessed the building of the camp's infrastructure and its daily operations from 1942-3 during the heart of WWII to know what was going on. Hundreds of thousands of Jews under the Wanese plan were being brought to the town from the Warsaw ghettos to be temporarily housed in In the sheds before being systemically gassed. Two, the horror only got worse as the Nazis attempted various ways to remove the evidence of their monstrous crimes. The stench, smoke, dust, and screams seem to be indelibly etched on the consciences of succeeding generations as the stories are retold many times over Three, the film looks into the special relationship that existed between the German overlords and the locals. Essentially, most of the Poles complied out of fear for their lives, in the hope that they would be allowed to go on living as normal life as possible under such hellish conditions. Four, the filmmaker mentions moments when acts of kindness happened, such as some of the locals stepping forward and giving water to the Jews about to be gassed. Five, because the Nazis were fanatics about detail, it shouldn't come as any surprise how much of this evil undertaking remains part of the historical record today. Finally, this film succeeds in proving once again that nobody can argue against the accuracy of history once people's uneasy memories come to light.

God Here and Now (Routledge Classics)
God Here and Now (Routledge Classics)
Price: CDN$ 12.37

5.0 out of 5 stars The Sovereignty of God Reigning Supreme in His Church, Aug. 31 2014
One of the great themes of this little study is that God is not hidden from those who actively seek Him. Rather, He is, as Barth so effectively shows, revealed to Christians who are actively committed in the here and now to living by faith within the body of His great universal church, while proclaiming His free gift of grace and favor to all humankind. Anything outside this sphere is man-made and the antithesis of Christianity. In all that we do, Barth argues, we should live out the essence of the risen Christ in our ministry to a fallen world. We die to self in order to be renewed by the authority of God's word that has the power to quicken the living and the dead. Everything in the Bible attests to that light of truth gloriously spreading throughout the world as the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with peace, understanding, and courage. Christians, on hearing His Word of truth, should be compelled to live it out in free obedience to His Lordship over us. In the end, as we yield to His Word (logos), we become free to serve Him. Humanism, thus, becomes the golden opportunity to see ourselves all under God's grace, celebrating His great love for us in community, with God's spirit living in our midst.

Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Laser Pointer and Fly Air Mouse
Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Laser Pointer and Fly Air Mouse
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars 'Handy' Little Device, Aug. 29 2014
I echo everything the other reviewers have described in their respected comments. This is a great little electronic device for presenters giving big screen talks while roaming around the room. The laser point is strong and the mouse cursor is very sensitive for bringing up Internet commands from a distance. I will be either using it myself if I decide to go the Ted Talk routine (LOL) or passing it on to someone like a high school teacher lecturing on the finer points of quadratic functions.

Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money
Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money
by Kevin O'Leary
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.57
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Start Young, Build on Success, Aug. 27 2014
Yes, I know some of you readers may have some serious reservations about the quality of advice one can possibly get from self-acclaimed financial guru Kevin O'Leary's achievements. As a major participant on "The Dragons' Den" and "Laing and O'Leary Report", O'Leary does come across as magisterial, thin skinned, and very brusque in his pronouncements, all the time trying to create the impression that he made his many millions by hard work and thrift. While that may be partly true, there is a fair dose of luck involved in his climb up the financial ladder. Another way of looking at O'Leary's prominence is to accept that he comes with some native smarts that allows him to take advantage of opportunities that often elude mere mortals like us. In this book, O'Leary provides some important advice to the younger generation that is starting out in life. Relationships, as to family and business, have always been a critical cornerstone in O'Leary's passion for money. Interspersed with O'Leary's words of wisdom is a lengthy list of fifty mistakes young people and families often make on the road to becoming a financial trainwreck. The stories about effective choices that made him into what he is today serve as a useful template for one starting out. Best to follow someone else's success than learn from the misery of one's own mistakes. Everything he says about being successful comes down to managing money, learning to live within one's means, living a simple lifestyle, marrying or partnering with people who have similar values, respecting the advice of one's elders, figuring out where the money is in the economy, protecting one's investments, and cutting losses. There is a lot of homespun truth in this book that we would, as parents, be strongly encouraged to pass on to our children as an ongoing effort to smooth the way to a happier life. O'Leary is right in saying that financial ignorance and neglect is at the heart of many marital breakups and eventual monetary ruin. Underscoring this reality are the facts that youth unemployment is up, many young people are undertrained in the job market, and the cost of living for aging baby boomers is skyrocketing.

Tabu
Tabu
DVD ~ Teresa Madruga
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 41.10
18 used & new from CDN$ 18.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Letting Others Into Your Past., Aug. 25 2014
This review is from: Tabu (DVD)
I like foreign movies because they have a wonderful way of jolting my cultural values and making me see outside of myself in time and space. "Tabu" is just another example of a movie being able to transport me to places where I have never been - Portuguese Africa - to understand the mindset of colonials who felt betrayed by circumstances outside their control and, finally, find peace in understanding that true love can outlive the unresolved tensions of the past. This film takes the viewer into the dark haunts of a historical time when a young Portuguese woman made the risky choice of having an extramarital affair. Now, years later on her death-bed, she wants her housekeeper and a friend to help her locate this lover - a close friend of her husband's - who fathered her daughter. Faithful to her dying request, these two individuals pursue a journey back in time to uncover the truth of this woman's haunted existence. What they discover in Aurora's years in Africa is a short-lived fling with a friend of her husband's that was born out of a desire for love, trust, and freedom from an oppressive way of life. While the relationship ends tragically, there is a desire to revisit it with the hope that it will bring peace to an uneasy life and close the circle of human relations. While Aurora will not get that satisfaction, she, at least, allows others into her fitful past so that they can convey the truth to others. I found this movie to be especially interesting in what it had to say about modern Portuguese society's efforts to come to grips with the guilt of its colonial past.

In The House / Dans La Maison (Version française)
In The House / Dans La Maison (Version française)
DVD ~ Fabrice Luchini
Price: CDN$ 17.97
15 used & new from CDN$ 11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Flaubert would have loved it!, Aug. 25 2014
I found this movie to be a very effective test of my moral boundaries, as only French cinema can do: go where angels fear to tread. Without divulging too much about this complex and somewhat ticklish plot, I will recommend it for what it has to say about the vulnerability of the modern family to forces committed to dismantling it. Director Ozon takes some artistic license in making a movie that shows how innocently easy it is for outsiders to breech the inviolability of one of society's oldest institutions by simply walking through the front door of the family house as a friend. Family mores are definitely under attack here, even though it is often done, at times, in a disarmingly humorous fashion. The two related family situations in the movie initially appear to be well secured against infidelity and divisiveness. However, that assumption will be sorely tested in the most subtle of ways: a teacher's desire to encourage his students to write with passion and creativity. That compelling urge to bring out the best in others becomes the trigger for releasing a Pandora's box of suppressed sexual passions that will end up invading, altering and, finally, destroying traditional affections forever. This cautionary tale serves to remind me how modern culture can, through the seeming innocence of youthful exuberance, unleash a whirlwind of emotions beyond human control. In the closing scene, we have the disgraced teacher and his apt pupil sitting out on a park bench in front of an apartment building sharing their fantasies about a domestic dispute taking place on one of its balconies.

The Mustard Seed
The Mustard Seed
by David Tracey
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.35
4 used & new from CDN$ 15.34

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Political Thriller That Gets It Right, Aug. 23 2014
This review is from: The Mustard Seed (Paperback)
The author sent me a copy of this novel to review over a year ago and, to my shame and disgrace, I took so long to get at it. When I finally got into it, I found it an incredibly exciting read that created a very believable picture of the terrible political repression that was going on in Sri Lanka over the last decade or so. It is a country headed up by a Sinhalese regime that ruthlessly suppresses its opponents: the Tamil Tigers and the JVP (Communists). The story starts off quite innocently with footloose Gordie Talison, an American sports reporter on assignment to cover the very unamerican sport of cricket. One thing will lead to another and, before the reader knows it, Gordie's attention has been drawn away from the staid confines of the cricket pitch to check out a terrorist war that is raging on the southern part of the island with a special focus on Colombo. These are dangerous times with bombs going off in the streets of the capital, hundreds of innocent people being killed, people picked up by security forces in the middle of the night for interrogation and torture, and informants turning their own in for big money. In the midst of all this chaos, Gordie has a choice to make: get that big freelance story that will tell the world what a corrupt and repressive regime this government is and put his life in jeopardy, or leave for home post-haste having completed his coverage of the big international test match. The author has created in Gordie a character who will not shy away from any challenge. Gordie will follow his investigative instincts, exercising a degree of Zen-like determination in his resolve to find the elusive JVP leader who will hopefully, in the end, give him the real scoop on the troubles. Unfortunately, all he'll get from his source is a lot of propaganda. However, the real moment truth in the plot comes when Gordie realizes that he is being used by a police informant to expose the whereabouts of the JVP leadership. To extricate himself from this precarious situation will require nerves of steel, a calm disposition and a quick mind born out of the island's Buddhist tradition. When you know right is on your side, very little can stand in your way to getting at the truth, regardless of how painful it might be.

Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History
Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
29 used & new from CDN$ 17.25

5.0 out of 5 stars History in the Unmaking and Remaking of an Empire, Aug. 19 2014
Historian Orlando Figes offers us one very candid and comprehensive view of the Russian Revolution from start to finish, covering what he reckons is the real context of the historical narrative: one hundred years of unrest, miscalculation, ineptitude, cruelty, propaganda, and continual failure for all parties to the piece. For Figes, this 'great' experiment in political and social restructuring of a nation cannot be understood by looking at one moment in time, i.e the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917. Instead, there is a litany of events that come together to weave an intricate pattern of cataclysmic change that even the victorious Bolsheviks had a hard time figuring out as they changed tack numerous times in succeeding years to make their revolution work. When stretched out over a century, the Russian Revolution looks like a shabby human comedy full of errors, distortions and fabrications derived from the actions of people who just didn't get it, all contained within the book-ends of two key moments in history: a tsarist decree denouncing reform and the breakup of the Soviet Empire. First, the reader gets to see the truth behind the fall of the Romanov dynasty. Nicholas II was an autocrat who was so sadly out of touch with his people that, as power slips way, he only alienates himself more by trying to force his will. Figes wants us to understand that this tsar, like Charles 1st of England, grew up with little understanding of what it meant to lead his people. Then there is the person of Lenin who was so consumed with having his people's revolution succeed that he was prepared to manipulate circumstances at any cost to make it happen, even to the point of using the local soviet system to the party's advantage and putting the country on a war footing. Figes then spends considerable time with analyzing how Stalin, the supposed 'Man of Steel', pursued his vision for wholesale collectivism to make the revolution work economically even if it meant destroying millions of Russians into the bargain. While credited with taking the Soviet through a destructive war, Stalin's ruthless statism, after his death, underwent serious but ineffectual reform as the Communist Party attempted to win yet another war against capitalism in the form of the Cold War. Through all these stages, Figes shows us a political leadership that was seriously out of touch with reality as it continually tried all kinds of experiments to make the revolution happen. In the end, the new Russia is much like the old one, with autocratic leadership at the top calling the shots, with that Marxist-Leninist experiment of the past hundred years still hanging around like a bad dream.

Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Love Overcoming Tyranny, Aug. 17 2014
Lev and Sveta were two modern Russian lovebirds who honed their affection for each other under the most trying and harrowing of circumstances: living apart for ten years while one was serving time for political crimes in the far reaches of the Soviet Gulag. Their story is one of undying love for each other as they found ways to kindle the flames of hope that they would eventually be reunited. Historian Orlando Figes, a very fine historian on eastern European history, does a good job reconstructing this very complex story that has as many twists as Longfellow's "Evangeline". First, the reader is introduced to two highly intelligent individuals studying to be engineers in the midst of the Stalinist era where terror, war, and great privation were the norms. Lev, ever the chivalrous romantic, is portrayed as a man who would not be denied when it came to wooing Sveta, a very mature and attractive young lady with a zest for adventure. Then we quickly learn how this blissful relationship suddenly becomes a terrible struggle to keep things together. The Patriot War of 1941 intervened to put that special relationship on hold as a young Lev went off to fight the invading Germans. Taken as a prisoner in the early part of the conflict, Lev ended up in a German POW camp and munitions factory, only to be repatriated back to Russia to be charged by his country for deserting to the enemy. This got him a ten-year sentence of hard labour in Pechoria, a wood combine nearly 2500 kms. to the east of Moscow in the taiga of the Siberian arctic. Similar challenges destroyed millions of young Russians of post-war Soviet Union but not Lev and Sveta. By committing themselves to writing around 1500 letters to each other and finding creative ways to outsmart the bureaucracy, this couple were able to strengthen the bonds of love. I found this book to be a tremendous read for how it described the life of the common folk of this troubling period, the overwhelming vastness of Russian geography and the passionate love that came from the forge of adversity. The parts of the correspondence we get to read are full of old-world wisdom, lyrical charm and profound hope. Reading this book reminds me of the love letters my wife and I wrote to each other over two years before we were married. They recount, like the ones in Figes' book, a story of two people attempting to overcome the separation of distance with the declaration of love. The power of language takes over as hearts yearn to be reunited in the flesh.

Crossing the Bay of Bengal
Crossing the Bay of Bengal
Price: CDN$ 17.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Analysis of a Very Complex Subject, Aug. 13 2014
The power of any good historical analysis is found in the historian's ability first to accurately recreate the past and, second, to subject it to rigorous but reasonable evaluation. On both counts, Amrith has succeeded in showing that the history of prominent regions like the Bay of Bengal is not only just a convenient cultural express that contains a host of different ethnic and geopolitical interests living in proximity to each other. Instead, the Bay of Bengal is more a diverse historical concept consisting of interacting forces that continue to this day to redefine it in ways never imagined back in the eighteenth century. Back then, this massive body of saltwater defining the shoreline of much of western south-east Asia, briefly became the imperial battleground for control of the lucrative trade that had sprung up with the arrival of the Dutch, English, Portuguese and French. As the English-backed East India Company gradually took over and the Industrial Revolution spread throughout the western world, something significant happened in this region. Its British territories became an area of intermigratory transformation. With the switch to rubber, coffee and tea cultivation in Ceylon, Malaysia (Penang), to meet increasing western demand, the Tamil populations of southern India started to move across the bay in search of work on the many new plantations. Amrith's well-written book takes a detailed look at how millions of these 'lower-caste' people moved back and forth across this region, propelled by the lure of economic fortunes, and a new-found freedom. Often what they got was a mixed bag of fortune and adversity but, nevertheless, an all-important chance to live an indelible imprint on the landscape. What I admire most about this study is the incredible amount of evidence Amrith brings to his argument that human geography plays in improving our understanding of history. For one, people like the Tamils moving across the land leave behind an enormously rich reminder of their culture in the form of artifacts, customs, language, and edifices which find their way into this book. Then there was the profound physical and personal impact of change that came with the arrival of new economies, followed by international wars and ethnic uprisings that seriously threatened to destabilize and disrupt everyday existence. Any attempt to see the Bay of Bengal as a megaregion has long been dispelled by the rise of various nationalistic movements - many Tamil inspired - that invariably break down along national boundaries. However, there is an interesting segue to this whole story: world powers like the US still see the area as being defined by this large body of water that still tends to lend its name to the future of all the countries bordering it.

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