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Jeffrey Swystun (Toronto & Mont Tremblant)

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Why Mexicans Don Drink Molson
Why Mexicans Don Drink Molson
by Campbell A Mandel
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.04

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Reviewed with a Caveat, April 26 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
I have to state upfront that I was interviewed for this book and am quoted within it. I had written a series of papers on Branding in Canada, as well as, authored the Best Canadian Brands while Global Director of Interbrand. Mandel-Campbell reached out to me and we had a terrific conversation. I would give the book five stars regardless of my participation or point-of-view.

Canada needs to migrate its brand aggresively from a position of abundent natural resources, low-cost manufacturing, and marketing mediocrity. Far too often our innovations are snapped up by foreign companies and their origins or connection to Canada are soon lost. We need to be known for our intellectual capital and business innovation alongside our resources and manufacturing capabilities.

The book remains relevant years after its initial publishing and should be required reading in Canadian business schools, for business leaders and managers, and for our politicians. We cannot afford to be an economy that stands for nothing.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
by Robert A. Caro
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 19.44
36 used & new from CDN$ 15.51

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Debate Continues, April 26 2015
Recently Salon magazine reported that, "After 40 years, this magisterial biography of Robert Moses remains an essential primer on American power." That supports my contention that this is so much more than a biography. This was a man who, through intimidation, charm, graft, game-playing, manoeuvring, hospitality, punishment and other means, put a stamp on the city and state of New York that had greater impact than the host of Governors and Mayors he rivalled. What made this especially amazing is Moses was never elected yet served nearly half a century in the city and state governments.

During his reign he built 627 miles of highway, enough public housing for 555,000 people along with hundreds of playgrounds, ballfields and tennis courts in the city, and a handful of enormous state parks beyond its borders. If that seems overwhelming enough then you should be aware that he also built the Triborough, Throgs Neck and Whitestone, Marine Parkway, Cross-Bay, Henry Hudson and Verrazano Bridges.

The book's original publishing date in 1974 marked a time when NYC began a serious decline in almost every important measure. The subtitle of the book is, Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, but one could argue that Caro was referring to the people and system abdicating so much power to one man and not the ugly period NYC went through (the two are intertwined). Moses fought for his beliefs but many considered them dangerous and certainly unsustainable such as his love of cars over mass transit.

The book was seven years in the making and runs a daunting (but awesome) 1,344 pages. It caused a stir when published, ushered in some changes, and provoked debate for decades. One interesting argument that has surfaced in recent years comes slightly in Moses' favour. Since strangled budgets, corruption and political gridlock has caused very few capital projects to advance, some pundits speak of admiration that the man got as much done as he did. This does not excuse how he did or the benefits of the projects themselves and this is why the book remains important and utterly fascinating.

The Road (Oprah's Book Club)
The Road (Oprah's Book Club)
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 13.68
154 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Breadcrumbs of Hope, April 26 2015
Welcome to the darkest, bleakest father-son story written since biblical times. The Road is a compelling combination of McCarthy's Blood Meridian with its terse observations on how quickly society can devolve with the keep-you-guessing, thriller story found in, No Country for Old Men (thankfully less dense and wordy than Suttree). The plot and atmosphere provide a rich and haunting backdrop for a post-apocalyptic odyssey that redefines the genre. I have read it three times and the first go was done in a day. It grabbed and would not let go. As horrific as parts are, one cannot disengage.

The beauty of the writing is how it times together a number of discrete powerful vignettes that are tied together seamlessly. From the happened-upon shelter to the stolen shopping cart to the cannibal raiders, the story will keep you guessing and hoping. Hope is the operative word in a world that has torn itself apart and is close to winking out entirely. If there is another message it is persistence given the length and challenges of their trek. Hope and persistence have always gone hand in hand.

Here is a taste of the prose which is both stark and revealing. On the Interstate “long lines of charred and rusting cars” are “sitting in a stiff gray sludge of melted rubber. ... The incinerate corpses shrunk to the size of a child and propped on the bare springs of the seats. Ten thousand dreams ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts.”

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”

“From daydreams on the road there was no waking. He plodded on. He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside him leaning forward listening to the music. Gold scrollwork and sconces and the tall columnar folds of the drapes at either side of the stage. She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.”

As dark and dire as the words, images and circumstances are, McCarthy litters The Road with breadcrumbs of hope. All one has to do is follow them. The book ends in a mystical manner and the author leaves us wondering if the son is a divine entity, a representation of hope for those who fight to survive, or simply a survivor himself. I read it all three ways and that is part of the story's magic.

Wastelands 2 - More Stories of the Apocalypse
Wastelands 2 - More Stories of the Apocalypse
Prix : CDN$ 7.99

5.0 étoiles sur 5 More and Better than Volume One, April 24 2015
The first edition of Wastelands was a collection of 22 tales premised thinly on hope. The second instalment is arguably about new beginnings because let's face it, the apocalypse changes everything. This one holds 30 tales and, as before, they explore every manner of plague, natural disaster, military mess, terrorist threat and more. I found the Introduction a good read because it explores why so many of us are near-obsessed with such monumental catastrophe. One only has to look at the sub genre of zombies to admit that there is something bizarre going on here. In the book this is equated to "our taste for adventure, the thrill of discovery, the desire for a new frontier." I am not sure I buy that theory. I believe we all wonder how we would do if events and our lives so dramatically changed.

The front half of the collection shone brighter than the back. It kicked off with Bacigalupi's "The Tamarisk Hunter". This well written tale captured the atmosphere and setting beautifully. The premise will hook you too. "Animal Husbandry" was a creepy tale from McGuire that could have been a Stephen King entry. R.R. Martin's "...For a Single Yesterday" was a standout in plot and character development. How is this for a line, "You'd be surprised how much the smell of spleen will permeate a room." It comes from Beukes' "Chislehurst Messiah" that to me was an awesome satire. McDevitt's "Ellie" is a haunting tale that had a gothic tone that stuck with me long after completion.

Doctorow's "Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar)" was another favourite especially the idea of planes circling overhead pilotless for years. Hope and survival are explored in bizarre and intriguing ways by Ramsey Shehadeh, Orson Scott Card and Maureen F. McHugh. This is a stronger collection than the first volume partly because there are eight more tales but also because of the range of ideas explored.

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
Prix : CDN$ 9.02

4.0 étoiles sur 5 What if?, April 24 2015
As with any anthology there are bound to be a couple of tales that do not resonate. However, the 22 provided here are mostly strong given the assemblage of writing talent. They explore every manner of potential apocalypse the world could face and the human response. It is the latter which makes the storytelling engrossing. The good tales have us asking how we would perform in such circumstance. Hope and a challenged nobility are major themes as people attempt to hold onto their humanity either in desperation or as a goal. The stories were written as early as 1973 when mutually assured destruction hung over our heads. More recent ones explore terror and terrorism that now threatens us in fresh ways.

Dale Bailey's "The End Of The World As We Know It" seeks out our fascination with doomsday plagues. "And The Deep Blue Sea" by Elizabeth Bear reminded my of Roger Zelazny's "Damnation Alley". Stephen King’s quiet story, “The End of the Whole Mess”, is told through a quickly-written memoir of a last survivor. Jonathan Lethem explores bread and circuses in “How We Got In Town and Out Again”. It involves a virtual reality contest that provides people a diversion from the scarcity of food. James Van Pelt sets up a unique setting in “The Last of the O-Forms”. In this future, the a plague has made genetic mutations the order of the day, in animals and humans. The range of premise and quality of writing make this worth the read.

The Snowden Operation: Inside the West's Greatest Intelligence Disaster (Kindle Single)
The Snowden Operation: Inside the West's Greatest Intelligence Disaster (Kindle Single)
Prix : CDN$ 3.28

3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Primer, April 24 2015
The debate on this will, of course, rage for decades. At its heart is the issue of privacy versus security. Any facts or theories are influenced by fear, rhetoric, and distrust so it is incredibly messy and confusing. This short work on the subject acts as a primer but does little to clarify or arrive at any conclusion. We are all too close at present and need time and context to sort it out. What troubles me amongst the many issues is the lack of efficacy. Governments can point to few successes when it comes to fending off attacks even when they sit on so much data (private or not).

The side story is Snowden himself. My opinion here is highly subjective but I do not see him as any hero. He appears more geeky pawn than champion of the people but I could be wrong. I suppose my view comes from his decision to nest in some dacha in Russian like a modern Kim Philby. I look forward to better understanding this situation as more works and analysis come out.

Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
by Linda Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 14.43
52 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 étoiles sur 5 You do not win a war by fighting it the same way as the last one, April 23 2015
At the time Robinson wrote this book in 2005 there were only 9,500 in US special operations forces. The change in enemy and how they fight have grown this number significantly. Asymmetrical warfare is here to stay and has demanded non-traditional military response. So special forces numbers have grown with the unintended irony of building a force that with each operation grows predictable. This is the story to be explored now because 'you do not win a war by fighting it the same way as the last one'.

The book is celebration of the prowess and fortitude of SF operators. It starts with the vaunted Green Berets and takes into account each zone these warriors have been deployed to from the 1960's through to publication. The strategy at the time and the commitment of these operators makes sense and is beyond admirable. However, in the light of time and the benefit of hindsight it is clear that so much of US operations and communications was meant to 'shock and awe'.

Branding does not work in warfare. Overwhelming and diversified forces, inside-track intelligence and resolve on the battlefield and home front must co-exist for victory. America will be hard-pressed to possess all of those factors simultaneously. So the US and any nation must always work on ensuring their domestic, foreign and military policy are in synch. Still that is no guarantee of avoiding conflicts and protecting interests but it is something within every nation's control.

The Shadow Volume 1 TP
The Shadow Volume 1 TP
by Garth Ennis
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 18.01
32 used & new from CDN$ 13.67

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Influence for so Many Heroes, April 15 2015
Ce commentaire est de: The Shadow Volume 1 TP (Paperback)
So much of the superhero universe we enjoy today is due to The Shadow. This enigmatic crime-fighting vigilante with psychic powers who by day is a wealthy, young man about town definitely influenced Batman who, in turn, influenced countless others. The Shadow has been mismanaged through the years and been both campy and bad but in this reboot is truly reborn. The actions begins in New York and quickly surprised me by heading over to Japanese-occupied China in the early 1930's.

I was expecting a noir-ish mystery amongst skyscrapers but was treated to the earliest origins of World War II when Japan invaded Manchuria. The story cleverly draws on the origin of The Shadow. Early versions have him enter a mysterious Tibetan cult in the 1920s as soldier of fortune Kent Allard and come out as something else (Batman borrowed from this heavily). The plot involves Uranium 235 and kicks up a ton of action. You have to root for The Shadow when he challenges the honour of the Emperor's troops who are committing atrocities.

I look forward to the other volumes so as to see if The Shadow takes on his classic enemies who are largely named after colours like The Red Envoy, The Death Giver, Gray Fist, The Black Dragon, Silver Skull, The Red Blot, The Black Falcon, The Cobra, The Black Master, Five-Face, The Gray Ghost, and Dr. Z. He also battles crime collectives that, once again, influenced other superhero efforts, such as The Silent Seven, The Hand, The Salamanders, and The Hydra. Fun to see what the writers and artists have to come.

Fearful Symmetry: A Thriller
Fearful Symmetry: A Thriller
Prix : CDN$ 4.28

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Mysterious Beastie, April 11 2015
Fearful Symmetry is a phrase from William Blake's poem "The Tyger" (Tyger, tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?). In this case the author is referencing an anthropological anamoly that has remained hidden until Nazi era scientists find it. Fast forward to present day and a new expedition is commissioned to satisfy the mystery. This sets up a decent thriller hampered only by length and too many unnecessary Crichton-like explanations. Still, it makes for an enjoyable airplane or beach read.

Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World
Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World
Prix : CDN$ 4.10

4.0 étoiles sur 5 An Empty Secret, April 10 2015
May I make a confession as it holds some significance? I owned a print of the famous soup can that I bought along with other Warhol and Lichtenstein pop classics. This was my attempt at being both cool and refined as I decorated my first few homes early in my career. Most of these works followed me from city to city and home to home. That soup can now hangs in my stepson's first townhome.

Gary Indiana's book on Warhol and this ubiquitous can attempts to make sense of its allure and place in history. It comes across as balanced but is largely in awe of its impact. Of course, to understand the can one must understand the man. The book begins with Warhol's challenging home life and what seems like a conscious manipulation using illnesses, shyness and talent to get his way. Over the years he deliberately confused his history with an "enigmatic quality, which made Warhol a celebrity, infused all of his work with a kind of an empty secret."

Indiana appears to suggest that timing was also on Warhol's side, "The ideologically gridlocked 1950s fairly begged for a thoroughgoing high colonic." Pop Art was long in the making but was missing the label and a colourful leader. Then came the can which "were produced by hand, using stencils and projected slides, and their handmade quality can be seen..." I love this line, "Warhol's technique invested the cheap manufactured object with the solemn dignity of portraiture."

It made such a thunderous impact in art circles that it scrambled the generally accepted categories that defined art. To paraphrase the author, the can drew the art gallery and supermarket closer together. For me the next part is the most interesting. I attribute this to my career as a brander and marketer. Warhol has been quoted as saying, "Business is the most fascinating kind of art." He took the awareness of the can and began mass producing it through a silk screening process multiplying output.

No two were exactly the same which satisfied those wanting the unique while, at the same, Warhol was able to create an assembly line. This was a time when mass production combined with mass advertising to turn people into consumers and products into brands and we have never been the same since. Warhol did not invent this but he undeniably saw it, leveraged it, and rode it. All of this fits with "Warhol's notion of democracy, which he defined as access to consumer goods of identical quality."

We will always wonder if Warhol was a good artist or a superior marketer or both. I view him as the Henry Ford and Ray Kroc of art. He spun out works of similar quality and people gobbled them up while media and hangers-on waited on his every word. In moments of lucidity I picture him laughing at this herd mentality, head scratching commercialism and benefits of personal branding.

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