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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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The Wipers Times
The Wipers Times
Price: CDN$ 24.53
24 used & new from CDN$ 18.94

5.0 out of 5 stars War from a truly brilliant perspective, March 31 2015
This review is from: The Wipers Times (DVD)
This is the best dicudramas I have ever watched on the fitility of war. The story here is about a band of soldiers, led by one very creative captain,who hit on idea to entertain their comrades in arms along the Western Front. Ths is the Great War butunfortunately it is not living up to its presumptious billing: tens of thousands are needlessly dying because the respective sides in this imperial mother of conflicts have locked themselves into frontal warfare with no room to outmaneuver the enemy. The squalor of the trenches, the terrifying roar of the hourly shelling, and the momentary imminence of death are enoughto destroy the human spirit, that is until the irrepressible visionary Fred Stone and his soldiery pals find an old abandoned printing press in one of their sorties for timber to shore up the trenches. Out of that moment came a humorous rag that was to transform the lagging spirits of many of the regulars. Their persistancy in creating levity where none previously existed knew no bounds, especially when it came to poking fun at traditional, starchy icons of warfare: the 'venerable' high command, stirring jingoism, the heroic cavalry and the gallant warrior. Through poetry and prose Stone and his colleagues kept soldiers laughing at and through what had to be one of the most dreadfully managed wars of all time. Nice to see Michael Palin of Montey Python fame playing a key support role in this production as the understanding colonel who saw the need for this irreverant publication. Based on the less than favoua conclusion to tfavourable ending to the film, it is not hard to see why conventional journalism doesn't easily buy into this brand of satire: it gets in the way of the newspapers controlling the story at source.

Nora Webster
Nora Webster
by Colm Toibin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Woman with a Noble Cause, March 29 2015
This review is from: Nora Webster (Hardcover)
I can quite understand how some readers might have a problem identifying with the protagonist in this novel. Nora Fraser, the newly widowed mother of four children in 1960s Ireland, is virtually stranded in a paternalistic world that doesn't allow much opportunity for women to succeed on their on. In this chauvinistic, church-dominated, waspish society, the very talented, fiercely independent Nora has few options to get ahead other than to quietly follow her well-honed intuitions derived from being married to a wonderful man named Maurice. Toibin has fashioned a story that not only covers the many challenges facing this deceivingly unassuming but likable lady and her brood but offers incredible insights into how she actually succeeds in overcoming them her way. She wants what is best for herself and her children if it means standing up against the traditional authorities of the day, be it the parochial school system, patronizing bosses, and bigoted views. To start with, hers is a relatively quiet struggle that only gains momentum when she starts to connect with the lives of her children as they get caught up in the big social changes of the time, be it at university, or in the big city, or in political protests up north in Derry. Her native intelligence and sensibility will work to form a more complete and confident person who knows how to stand up for herself and when to back down while awaiting the right moment to advance her determined interests. The author, in my estimation, has created a formidable character that ideally reflects the contrarian forces of nation building at work in modernizing Ireland: the seemingly private individual doing her critical bit behind the scenes for social change. Even when life finally turns against her, this self-sacrificing woman of women continues to be heroically concerned about the future for her loved ones.

Una Noche [Import]
Una Noche [Import]
Price: CDN$ 31.44
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4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom at its Best and Worst, March 28 2015
This review is from: Una Noche [Import] (DVD)
I am surprised that such an action-packed, well-crafted movie hasn't received higher ratings. For starters, it is based on a true story which portrays its cast of main characters as excitable, very idealistic, highly energized and very confident about their chances, all traits usually associated with callow youth. The plot describes the life of three impoverished young Cubans who desperately want to escape to a new life in Florida. How serious is their plight and how valid is their plan for escape? The movie answers these two interconnected questions very well to the point of understanding that the quest for freedom from oppression is not as automatic as simply wanting it. There is the plan and the costs that go with it that often distinguishes the successful from the failures. The drama of this harrowing ordeal of crossing ninety miles of shark-infested water on a make-shift raft is so palpable that I was secretly hoping that these three friends would make it against incredible odds. If this kind of suspense is not your thing,
then Mulloy will take you on a no-holds barred tour of crumbly old Havana and introduce you to some of the less savoury sides of une noche (the night). This is truly a totalitarian society that has done little to lift many of its members out of poverty. This is a world that anyone in their right mind would want to leave but, in the absence of an emerging need, very few do because the risks generally outweigh the rewards. In this case, the police are closing in on a criminal matter and perhaps the time has come to cast off. Be prepared for a different kind of ending that may cause one to see freedom more as a desire than as an outcome.

Tell
Tell
by Frances Itani
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.68
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Story Rich in Hope, Passion, and Sadness, March 28 2015
This review is from: Tell (Hardcover)
This is my first Itani novel and it certainly won't be my last. This very accomplished Canadian novelist has written a very intricately creative and tender story that covers a wide range of characters whose lives, being bound up in each other, have become tragically ripped asunder by the power of war. Both the women and men of this little rural southern Ontario town will struggle greatly to recover from a conflict that alienates, destroys, and maims in one fell swoop. Itani picks up their lives as they attempt to return to normalcy in the 1920s. While the traditional community ties of love, compassion and loyalty are still available to build on, an element of restlessness and uncertainty has crept in to change the optics. The women are not only quietly assuming a larger role in the home as valuable breadwinners but are now aspiring to discover their own talents and interests. As they seek a new start in life, they will be haunted by the secrets of the past and the mistakes of the present as they conspire to wreck their future. Skating on the frozen waterways in the cold of winter becomes that symbolic stress reliever for the locals to deal with their many anxieties. Even those who have always been considered the social pillars in Deseronto will become victims of the unintended circumstances of wanting to be themselves for once in their lives, such is the telling of life. But being the caring and objective writer that Itani is, in that she doesn't back her characters into a corner, something good will ultimately come of this troubled existence.

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
by Thomas King
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.75
9 used & new from CDN$ 18.73

5.0 out of 5 stars The Tables are Turning, March 24 2015
Finally, some one has produced a readable and entertaining account of aboriginal history across North America. Native activist and author Thomas King does not mince words when he focuses on the repeated efforts of the Whiteman to keep the Indian in his place so that progress can continue unabated towards the ultimate goal of a truly civilized society. The record shows that both in Canada and the United States, that trend, over the last five centuries, has been largely aided by some of the dastardly tactics known to humankind: bad faith, exploitation, forced migration, genocide, abuse, assimilation, and murder. At the end of this protracted process of racial annihilation, where a once proud culture was virtually wiped out by the turn of the twentieth century, something amazing is happening. The Indians, as King teasingly refers to his people, have not gone away but, in fact, may have got a whole lot stronger in their resistance to the Whiteman's tyrannical ways. There is nothing white society can now do to change that picture where the Indian has better equipped himself to withstand repeated assaults on his culture. We are now looking at a scenario where aboriginal populations are on the rise, leaders are better educated, and everything that connects them to society as a whole is legally defined by treaty rights that can no longer be swept under the carpet. History has definitely turned the corner for this people. This book is full of interesting and entertaining facts about the other side of the story that has always been wanting us to see the Indian as a subhuman pushover who could be manipulated into giving up his birthright for a bag of beans. To perpetuate this notion into the twenty-first century, its authors continue to promote the myth that assimilation into society, either as sentimental icons from the past or stereotypical conformists in the present, is the only safe option left. King uses this book to share a vision for the aboriginal people that includes taking back the land and natural resources and using them in an effective and responsible manner for the good of all. Not an unreasonable take on things when one considers that white society hasn't done very well on its watch. But getting from here to there remains the biggest challenge in this saga of never-ending inconvenience and growing impatience.

Night Moves [Import]
Night Moves [Import]
Price: CDN$ 12.52
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Psychological Thriller that Missed the Boat, March 22 2015
This review is from: Night Moves [Import] (DVD)
I would have to agree with other critics that while this movie abounds in suspense, it fails to convey that real sense of realism and inner turmoil that comes with subject matter such as eco-terrorism. while these three wannabe environmental warriors bring method to their benighted madness, there seems little cunning in their plan to send a destructive warning to society as to its wanton destruction of nature. How these three 'terrorists' manage to avoid being caught when they left such a trail of clues is beyond me. Perhaps the director is only using this external plot of cascading events as a means to developing an internal one where the audience is allowed inside the minds of each of the conspirators as they painfully work their way through this torturous ordeal. If that is the case, we really don't get to appreciate why these characters fear each other more than the mission itself. Is it something personal, something ideological, or is it just the raw fear of being caught that fatally drives these three apart? They obviously live in a world that is so much beyond their comprehension or apparent skill set, but does that naivete make them objects of derision for being so easily led astray by a radical cause or much worse sinister pariahs hell-bent on doing their worst in defense of their consciences. Because the film decides to focus on the suspense element which, by the way, wasn't badly done, it lost a great opportunity to examine the bigger issue: what really drives eco-terrorists to destructive action?

The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals
The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought but not much else, March 18 2015
Bioethicist James McWilliams, in this book, attempts to take dead aim at the true culture of animal abuse in our society. According to him, we are quickly becoming a society of hobby farmers and consumers of meat, hell-bent on raising animals to slaughter them for the purpose of eating. How indefensibly barbaric! Our obsession with red meat has led us to consider it a sovereign right to exercise an unjustifiable dominance of another life form in the interests of selfishly securing a source of food. That control has led us to become highly insensate to the needs of chickens, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs as potentially sentient beings. We are only fooling ourselves into thinking that this practice is really part of our DNA, in other words, the hunter instinct in all of us. He points out that raising animals for slaughter in order to eat is nothing short of inexcusable savagery, as proven by the efforts we make to cover up the pain. The way the small farmer handles them, either by branding, castrating, constraining, or feeding, makes him no different than the big agribusinesses. Raising animals to kill is inhumane regardless of how you view it. It has made us into a society of heartless killers who delight in making it known who is in charge. If that isn't enough, there is also the threat to our living space with the transmission of bacteria and viruses that come from our coming in contact with domesticated animals that are either penned up or allowed free-range. Yes, McWilliams gives the reader lots of food for thought when describing the carnivore culture, but he doesn't talk much about the shortcomings of the vegan culture. When all is said and done, I still like animal protein in its various forms, even after reading this emotionally-charged book.

More Fool Me
More Fool Me
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.08
15 used & new from CDN$ 15.53

4.0 out of 5 stars Upon Further Consideration, March 14 2015
This review is from: More Fool Me (Hardcover)
To those who are easily offended, turn away. This might not be the gentle and tame account of a life-well-lived to pass a lazy summer's afternoon reading if you don't like the seamier and steamier side of life. In this tell-all autobiography, Fry, the brilliant comedian and actor offers up some very candid moments of who he was in his earlier dissolute days that might help explain who he eventually became. To begin with, Fry grew up in what he regarded as an ordinary English home, with parents who made every effort to understand his natural waywardness or inclination to naughtiness.There are especially humorous moments when he made every effort to buck the system like skipping classes to visit the local pub or betting shop, or getting expelled for ducking out on a field trip to London. As he headed off to university to take up acting, one could say he was already fully engaged in disreputable habits such as excessive partying, promiscuity, cocaine use, and gambling, all due in some part to what was later to be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Through this period of wild oats, Fry managed to develop his talents for playing stand-alone characters in major films like Jeeves and Blackadder. Included in this raucous period was the serious wake-up call he got in the nineties when he found himself a virtual survivor of the AIDs epidemic. All of a sudden, the glamor and silliness of his life up till then was replaced by the sobering reality that he needed to rein in some of his wildness. This book comes of as a well-meaning attempt to remind the reader that there is a very reflective Jeevian side to Fry that has come about because of a very thorough recounting of the sins of the past. I like this book for the simple fact that he, rather than chucking his past completely, decides to put it in perspective with the help of his very frank diaries. No apologies, just a few laments and regrets mixed with relief that things could have gone really bad if he hadn't come to grips with his mortality. Fry's life, like many of ours, is a classic example of having to live it before finally learning from its mistakes.

So Anyway
So Anyway
by John Cleese
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
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4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Things in Their Proper Context, March 11 2015
This review is from: So Anyway (Hardcover)
I am an unrepentant Python fan like the the rest of my generation, so I picked up Cleese's recent autobiography with the hope of receiving new insights into this group's seminal genius to entertain and provoke at a consistently high intellectual level. What I experienced instead were a lot of chuckles but very little of the magic that brought Montey Python into existence. Maybe Cleese is telling his readers and fans that this cultural phenomenon was nothing more than one generation taking a poke at the inane values and precious ideals of another. Cleese, as usual, tells his personal narrative with zest of growing up in boring old England in a middle-class home. He is a masterful story-teller, with plenty of funny moments to underscore the point that he was the product of a very protected upbringing. How he breaks out of it is hardly sensational given the fact that most baby boomers went through a similar accidental transformation of finding themselves much to the amazement of hypercritical parents. Silly parents and outdated views do not a story make because it is so old hat, so where is the real defining moment in this book? Hard to tell because Cleese tends to avoid putting too fine point on anything to avoid taking himself and his fellow Pythons too seriously. In the end, it is the power of the skit that does it. As Cleese explains, Montey Python was never about acting of any kind but rather the ability to portray the absurdities of life in unforgettably creative and humorous ways. To those looking to relive the moment and discover some new nugget that would explain the creation of so many outrageous characters and silly moments, this book should help in a small way, even though it tends to get bogged down in places with the actual recounting of the Python legend. It doesn't take much insight to know that if David Frost and the BBC hadn't come along when they did, we might never have been the wiser. Such are the accidents of life. I'm not even sure that the author has, by writing this book, succeeded in figuring out how all the individual pieces of this uniquely complex artistic expression called The Flying Circus ever came to be in the first place, but that's okay because we still have the indelible memories of gags by which to reference our past and await our future.

CDN Proaccurate Quick-Read Thermometer, Silver/Black
CDN Proaccurate Quick-Read Thermometer, Silver/Black
Offered by Canadian Shoppe
Price: CDN$ 23.29
22 used & new from CDN$ 14.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Handy, Speedy and Reliable, March 10 2015
Easy to read, convenient to handle, fast to respond and more accurate than our conventional meat thermometer. What I like about this device that I don't find in others is that it comes a nifty protective kit that saves it from dirt and moisture.

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