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Profile for Ian Gordon Malcomson > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)

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Vintage Canvas Backpack For School Traveling Hiking Daypack With Leather Strap
Vintage Canvas Backpack For School Traveling Hiking Daypack With Leather Strap
Offered by Dealkiller
Price: CDN$ 62.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Product, Oct. 6 2015
As a former teacher who witnessed a wide range of backpacks in my career, this product appears to be durable, with lots of pockets for holding a packed lunch, cellphone, books, and sundries. It felt comfortable when I carried two large books along with cushions on my daily outing to the park for an afternoon read. Straps easily adjust and the outside material and inside lining appears water-resistant. Zippers are well made. Ideally suited for a student attending high school. I have seen too many students in my days walk the halls of school with oversize backpacks that are bad for posture. This isn't one of them.

The Ends of the Earth: (The Wide World - James Maxted 3)
The Ends of the Earth: (The Wide World - James Maxted 3)
Price: CDN$ 19.11

3.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like Your Average Contrived Thriller, Oct. 6 2015
I am one of those diehard Goddard fans who looks forward to being regaled with one more rollicking good tale of cunningly arranged intrigue and sense of the moment. Things seem to effortlessly come together in a typical Goddard murder mystery plot. Unfortunately, not in this third book of a trilogy. Too many characters to develop and round off; one too many twists and turns worked into an already overburdened plot; and, and most importantly, a lack of even pacing throughout the plot. Yes, I get the story all right but, in doing so, have to admit, for the fist time in living memory, that Goddard may have tried to manipulate me into thinking that I was being entertained by a literary genius when all he was doing was closing the book, formula style, on an overdone trilogy. If this novel has a strength it is its ability to hold so many subplots together until the end. Unfortunately, that skill might simply be more a literary sleight of hand in arranging coincidences than a profound command of events as to their ultimate meaning. While we get answers as to the real why and who behind Sir Henry' s death, we don't get to see how they really help our hero come to grips with both his own sense of insecurity and the future of world peace. Too much time spent here learning who the bad guys are, where they live and, finally, taking them down to allow for moments of self-reflection on other related issues.

Camp X-Ray
Camp X-Ray
DVD ~ Kristen Stewart
Price: CDN$ 22.99
8 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Conflicted Friendship, Oct. 6 2015
This review is from: Camp X-Ray (DVD)
What is it like to be stuck in a world where the freedom to be oneself and explore new things is basically denied you? Sattler, as director of this movie, has created such a space with striking results. The place is the toughest prison known to humanity; the performers are a standard lot of mindless guards keeping watch over half-crazy jihadi inmates; and the atmosphere is one of endless tension, intrigue and manipulation. So where is the original storyline in a cinematic composition that we have seen so many times before portraying the typical inside of a maximum prison? It comes out in the very stellar performance of Private Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) in her first assignment as a grunt assigned to make sure prisoners don't commit suicide. We follow her around the compound as she seeks to make sense of a very static and existential world full of meaningless routines born out of angst, animus, and anomie. On all three of these points, she is vulnerable to big time manipulation and coercion by the system. If it isn't her superiors making unethical demands of her, then it is the continual lack of empathy from her fellow guards that grates on her. She now lives and works in an environment that attempts to control her life to the point of maintaining only the minimum contact with the other side. Amy will not take these expectations lying down. She may be young and inexperienced in handling tough islamic detainees but that won't stop her from trying to learn the role with one difference: she is, deep down, a people person who has compassion for others in need. Enter a somewhat coherent detainee named Ali Amir who is forever uttering provocative comments from within his cell to attract attention. This way he hopes to draw someone from outside into his private life to establish a relationship. Amy can't help being drawn in by this seemingly innocent and lucid show of bravura. As the film will show, this forbidden contact will form a platonic relationship that she will not be able to shake for the next eight years on the Rock. It is fascinating to watch Amy struggle as she tries to maintain her discipline as a soldier while maintaining an uneasy friendship with someone who is the enemy. I enjoyed this movie for its ability to bring these two cultures together in an uneasy way that shows how far apart they really are. This prison is not only a nasty place for its wanton cruelty, but it is also a metaphor for what plagues the human race - a growing inability to form meaningful and unconditional friendships.

DVD ~ Jay Reinke
Price: CDN$ 24.98
15 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Limits of Compassion, Oct. 3 2015
This review is from: Overnighters (DVD)
Any documentary worth watching is one that takes the viewers into the heart and soul of the event by connecting them to and helping them resolve outstanding issues. This production does this in such a thorough and creative way that the result is an objective treatment that looks at all perspectives when determining ultimate validity of argument. Based on a pastor and his church's efforts to house transients looking for work during a recent gas boom in Williston, North Dakota, "The Overnighters" very gently pries into the conscience of a community that is not quite ready or prepared to honor the biblical commandment to help your neighbour or stranger in need. The fact that a local Lutheran parish, under the leadership of one very brave pastor, opens their church as a shelter does anything but resolve the growing housing crisis in this boom town. Personal and family security will suddenly emerge as would-be roustabouts with dubious backgrounds roll into town. The church, rather than growing from the experience, will start to pull apart as the civic leasers weigh in with new regulations to stem the influx of transient job seekers. A good portion of this production is spent getting inside the desperate and hopeless lives of young and old who leave families behind to try their luck one more time. Like the people he attempts to give succor to, our hero will also become vulnerable to the forces of evil conspiring to wreck a honorable work of grace. Like everyone else, Pastor Reinke, in his dreams for the future, has no way of controlling the past. Trust me when I say there are no winners in this piece. Just the abiding thought that we all have opportunities to show compassion with no guarantee of success. Great filming that captures a wide variety of facial expression that tell it all.

Glaciers: The Politics of Ice
Glaciers: The Politics of Ice
by Jorge Daniel Taillant
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.95
22 used & new from CDN$ 8.67

5.0 out of 5 stars The Sobering Implications of Glacial Recession, Oct. 1 2015
I found the author's perspective on the state of glaciers in Argentina to be informed and candid. By investigating the current health of these massive, and ancient icefields, Taillant draws our attention to a number of alarming conditions that impact both the global environment and human rights. I liken this book to a major case study of all that has gone wrong in our attempts to adjust to climate change and global warming. Glaciers, for the most part, are in serious retreat. The southern Andes are no better example of this phenomenon. While we know that as an incontrovertable fact, what Taillant does in this book is go to the next level and produce a devasting trifacto of an argument that underscores how serious the problem has become. One, he shares some critical information on the internal workings and structure of continental and alpine glaciers. Here, the reader gets to see that all glaciers are not the same in their composition. Periglaciation is an area below and around retreating glaciers that exhibits important functions such as water storage and drainage. Two, the effort to preserve glaciers in South America has focused politically on forming legislation that protects these extensive periglacial regions. Three, big mining interests such as Barrick Gold continue to get in the way of enacting laws that restrict their ability to alter the landscape and pollute its surfaces. Where such actions potentially impact humans goes well beyond the quality of water to include the safety of villages from mudslides to the quality and quantity of crop production. Overall, a well written and researched study on a subject that should concern us all.

On the Move: A Life
On the Move: A Life
by Oliver Sacks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 23.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It is Okay to be Different, Sept. 29 2015
This review is from: On the Move: A Life (Hardcover)
Talk about a doctor with a real compassionate bedside manner. The late Dr. Sacks is it: a man who lived to offer hope for those who suffered from neurological ailments that nobody else wanted to handle. His unorthodox methods were always based on the medical principle of striving to restore to the patient some semblance of normal life, free from pain and discomfort and able to enjoy the warm embrace of community. If the reader is coming to Sacks for the first time, it would be good to know his rich background as an eminent neurologist, acclaimed writer, struggling student, gay male, humanist, and devoted son. His autobiography, completed just before his death, imparts a very complex tale of misses, near-misses, and aha moments when he discovered, through the process of launching out on his own, his calling in life. From an early age, Sacks was meant to be a doctor, but not quite in the way his parents - physicians themselves - ever imagined. Along the journey there were moments of serious testing of character, hilarious misadventure, and profound discovery, all because Sacks had an innate passion to know what made him a unique being within what many might call, on first blush, a very normal middle-class Jewish family. He quickly discovered his sexuality, intellectual interests, recreational pursuits, and his feelings for those who endure great mental anguish. Based on this account, Sacks is my idea of a man who pushed all boundaries to realize this calling: weight-lifting, body-building, music, drugs, poetry, love, writing, motorcycles, travel, and medical cures, all in search of finding a peace in his soul. While some might say his boundless pursuit of all that is creative and noble in life is what ultimately made him, I would counter by saying it was more his ability to bounce back each time from failure that makes him such an extraordinary character. If you want to read any of his stuff, start with "Awakenings", his story of how he tuned into the world of neuropsychology and began to offer credible hope to those who had been institutionalized because of 'incurable' psychoses. A warning in advance: be prepared for some truly funny moments where we get to see Sacks learn to handle himself in an adult world. His enormous wit, native intelligence and resilience, I figure, are the main factors that carried him through life as he crisscrossed North America in search of a new life, always willing to act outside the box.

The Accountant's Story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellín Cartel
The Accountant's Story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellín Cartel
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, Nasty, Wicked, and a Tad Boastful, Sept. 22 2015
I recently watched the TV series, "Narcos", covering the exploits and escapades of druglord Pablo Escobar and his Medellin cartel in the 1980s. Needless to say, this dramatization did a good job on hitting the extraordinary moments of conflict and violence resulting from Escobar's efforts to turn Colombia into a narco state but I needed to learn more about how this crime operation worked from the inside out. What better place to turn to than the personal story of Pablo's brother Roberto, the head accountant for the cartel. While he may be given to overstating the achievements of his late brother, Roberto is certainly not guilty of coming up short on defining his role in overseeing an enterprise that gave no quarter to anyone standing in its way. Pablo was ruthless in eliminating anyone who betrayed him, opposed him, or tried to compete with him over the sale of cocaine. To that end, his empire was based on corrupting government officials, establishing a team of loyal henchmen including accountants, building an infallible global supply network, and becoming a populist hero to the locals. Like the carnage the cartel wreaked, the rewards were staggering. Billions of dollars flowing in from sales to Americans and Europeans. There was so much cash on hand that nobody seemed to know how to get rid of it without drawing attention to it: laundering, buying properties by the thousands, stashing it away, and supporting local causes were never completely satisfactory. Roberto talks about a loss of at least ten percent to humidity resulting from ineffective storage. He also goes into exquisite detail as to how the Colombian and US governments tried to have him and his associates extradited and how this strategy resulted in a spate of bloody drug wars around the country. As the author points out, it was probably a combination of factors that resulted in his brother's downfall, not least of all his growing inability to evade capture, even when holed up in a prison of his own making. The noose was tightening on this family of modern day bandits. Too many enemies and a government resolved to restore peace and order to the streets at any cost signalled his demise. But Pablo, being the true villain that he was, would not go down without a fight. As to the aftermath, Roberto dedicates part of the story to explaining his so-called, less-than-front-line role in this whole scene. He never saw himself as a violent person like his brother; rather, like Adolf Eichmann of old, he was only performing the relative passive role of controlling the books and doing what he was told. That hollow explanation was apparently enough to get him a pardon. What he has basically done here is try to convince the reader that he was simply along for the ride and that, while he never condoned Pablo's dastardly ways, he wasn't above admiring them for their dash and power.

Banuce Cowhide Leather Slim Credit Card Holder Wallet(Royal Blue)
Banuce Cowhide Leather Slim Credit Card Holder Wallet(Royal Blue)
Offered by Banuce
Price: CDN$ 19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Some definite possibilities here!, Sept. 18 2015
This appears to be a well-made product that is ideally suited for enlarging an already large-sized, inside pocket wallet or bill fold. Keep in mind that this product has limited storage. In fact, it might even be used as a stand-alone wallet for the person looking to reduce their cards to just a couple with space to tuck away a bill or two, an option I am presently considering. It feels comfortable when it contains up to six small items like cards,bills, and ID. Anything more and you might want to look at a larger size wallet or billfold.

DouGuYan Fashion Print Rucksack Girl's Casual Cotton Canvas Backpack School College Travel Bag Fit in 14 Inches Computer and Ipad Air, Campus Cute Satchel 9 Colors (UK Flag Pattern)
DouGuYan Fashion Print Rucksack Girl's Casual Cotton Canvas Backpack School College Travel Bag Fit in 14 Inches Computer and Ipad Air, Campus Cute Satchel 9 Colors (UK Flag Pattern)
Offered by Civic Sister
Price: CDN$ 54.00

5.0 out of 5 stars This product seems to be just right for a student to comfortably carry two small textbooks, Sept. 18 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As an old high school teacher I have seen many back packs in my time. Some too big or too small for the task at hand. This product seems to be just right for a student to comfortably carry two small textbooks, a couple of notebooks, a bag lunch and a pair of sneakers and gym shorts, all weighing around 12 pounds, which shouldn't negatively affect posture. The stitching appears strong, the lining washable, and the canvass material able to stand up to scuffs and moisture. Since I was asked to do this review, I would be remiss in not mentioning that it does not come with a waist strap to secure it from shifting. We will be putting this bag through its tests later this year when we travel abroad and do some serious hiking.

A Student of Weather
A Student of Weather
by Elizabeth Hay
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.59
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars "Lead on, Macduff", Sept. 18 2015
This review is from: A Student of Weather (Paperback)
Hay, in all her novels I have read, has the wonderful capacity to take her readers across a variegated landscape that combines time and distance in a very transforming and seductive way. Before we know it, the young and inquisitive become the old and wise with a ton of experiences to draw on as they reflect on the enormity of life in a world buffeted by change. We get to travel with two sisters and their father as they move from the wide open, desolate prairies of the Great Depression to the verdant splendor of the Ottawa Valley during World War II to the cosmopolitan bustle of NYC during the fifties. Over this span of time, the Hardy girls are going to be drawn into a world where they will have to fight each other and a domineering parent for the right to be themselves. Central to this ongoing sibling rivalry will be a sophisticated young man from the outside who drops in to investigate the natural wonders of the Hardy farm. Like the incredible unleashing of a Prairie storm, Maurice's appearance will trigger events that will make for an intriguing tale of bitter-sweet consequences. Like in the Old Testament story of Esau and Jacob, Lucinda and Norma Joy will contend for the affections of this mysterious visitor, one from the position of strength, the other from weakness. One from indifference, the other from passion. We must never be lulled into thinking that this story of enduring love will eventually end in a conventional manner. No, the dynamics of a changing landscape and a maturing and, sometimes, desperate point of view lifts this story to new heights. In this semi-heroic struggle, the impressionable and excitable Norma Joy will eventually eclipse the older snob of a sister because of her secret desire to explore and learn the power behind the forbidden mysteries of love, a subject normally withheld from the very young. As the younger sister becomes firmer in her resolve to unlock the secrets of life by creating for herself a special friendship with Maurice, we see her life wonderfully changed. She learns to read, understand the forces of nature, and develop her artistic talents, all of which will lead her into an extraordinary adventure of womanhood in the world beyond. In the end, her amazing life narrative will have one remaining crowning accomplishment: the opportunity to return to where it all began and view herself as a complete person who has not only survived but flourished beyond her borders.

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