Archive for the ‘movie & book reviews’ Category

I have the opportunity to record the books I’ve read, and since I read much more than I record, this could be a long list.  While the house is being cleaned by a couple sent fromMango Maids, I’ll record what I can remember.  So many books … so little time.  However, I’ll start with the most recent, which I finished earlier today.

Amy Tan: The Bonesetter’s Daughter … a superb read!

Hilary Clinton: Hard Choices

Elizabeth Kohlbert: The Sixth Extinction

Dan Brown: Inferno

Kim Echlin: Under the Visible Life

Catherine Coulter: Eleventh Hour

Ruth Scalplock: My Name is Medicine Woman

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Justice Murray Sinclair: the Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Carolyn Pogue & others: Sorry (Why the United Church Apologized)

This is what I recall so far, but there are more non-fiction books that I have forgotten the authors & titles.  My mind has grown immensely from reading these books.  I’ll add the others later.  ‘Gaia & God’ is one, but I can’t recall the author as I’ve already returned that book to Bill Phipps.

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I watched Theo Fleury being interviewed on Global’s Morning Show today, and he talked abut his new life purpose.  I read his earlier book describing his life as a hockey player and disclosing sexual abuse.  It was called Playing with Fire and was a huge wake-up call for readers – and the whole country.  Now he has written another one, which I didn’t get the name of, but one can find it easily by googling him.  However, in the interview he said that now he has a new life purpose: to tell his story.  He believes by telling his story that others will learn and be encouraged to share theirs.  I think he is right.  That is a purpose for each of us.  I think about my book Your Invisible Bodies: a reference for children and adults about human energy fields.  I am frustrated that the website for that book has a virus and I haven’t yet been able to remove it.  However, this website still works, so here are my thoughts about telling my story.

I wrote that book to explain to children how Healing Touch, and energy healing generally, works.  In it I incorporated everything I’ve learned in my 70 years, including child & adult development, school guidance theory, energy healing, feminism, and Christian theology.  It is a wide-eyed book, and after it was published, I felt that I had fulfilled my purpose.  I told my story.  Funnily enough, even though I attend Knox United Church in Calgary, AB, I don’t call myself a Christian.  Too loaded a term, I think.  However, it is a child-centered book, and I’m happy for that.  I tell children to trust themselves, and to learn from their experience, and to be open to learning new discoveries.  Learning goes on all our lifetimes!

I am grateful to Theo Fleury for telling his story, and encouraging other people to speak up about their own experiences. I think he speaks for all of us when he says his purpose now is to tell his story.  He has been a professional hockey player, an advocate for children, and now is a healer and author.  Thanks be to Theo.  Thanks be to truth.  Thanks be to the wondrous spirit of newness that comes with sharing with another our personal truths.



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It’s springtime and I have been gardening and reading.  However, my friend Jen stopped in with a bunch of books she was taking to donate to WINS, and I chose several of her books for me to read before she donated them.  Jen has similar taste in reading to me, so I knew they would be good reads.  As well, I found a used book at WINS and read it.  It was called Sins of the Wolf by Ann Perry, and was a mystry novel about Inspector Monk and his accused side-kick Hester Latterly. I liked her social commentary on morals and cultural standards of a century ago.  Fun to read!  I figured out who was responsible for the false charge, about 1/3 through the book, and kept reading to learn in the last 2 pages that I was right.   I also read The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult.  This is the third Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, and I found it hard to read.  Again, I figured out the true culprit one-third through the book, but I liked its use of graphic novels as well as the Alaskan landscape.  An interesting read!  Then before that I read The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner.  It was very amusing, and reminded me of how much TV I watch, and what goes into creating a successful TV show.  Too much pap!  Before that I read The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry.  This is my favourite of the four books.   It was much more literary, spell-binding, and evocative.  Parts bothered me, as I saw similarities to my own life, and I was confronted by my daughter’s reality within the protagonist’s viewpoint.  However, I got past that, and had an interesting conversation with my partner Deb about taking on the viewpoint of the protagonist.  She reminded me that it’s totally unnecessary, and it’s a choice.  Not all books are meant to be life-changing!  Some are pure entertainment.  So four fiction books are enough.  Now I am reading a non-fiction feminist treatise by Susan Brownmiller, Femininity.  It is making my knowledge sharper and clearer.  A good read.  I like non-fiction books.  They are life-changing, after all.


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I have recently finished reading A Geography of Blood, by Candace Savage. My friend Mary told me it made her think again on being a Canadian, as it is historical and tells about native people in Canada.  The book  focuses on the native tribes that lived here before white settlers arrived, but dwells on recent past, only 150 years ago.  Given that native tribes have lived and flourished in our land for thousands of years, only 150 years is nothing.  However,  the way the tribes were treated is shameful.  I learned more of our country’s story, particularly the area around Cypress Hills, where the prairie has told its story.  Savage writes about her ancestors and those like them, in the small town of Eastend, Saskatchewan. From there she and her husband explore the prairie and Cypress Hills to the west.  It is a sobering book.

We are not innocent, we descendants of white settlers.  Our country’s forefathers are generally considered to be ‘white men’, and the native tribes that lived here (and helped the white settlers initially) were considered inferior beings who needed to be  subdued, oppressed, and assimilated as a last resort.  The book describes the treatment of the tribes from records in Hudson Bay Company, the NWMP, and the museum at Fort Macleod.   No white man who dealt with them on behalf of the Canadian government considered the tribes worthy of respect, so  they were lied to and starved.  The lands they asked for as reserves were denied them, and the government rations did not arrive.  Both the American states and Canada acted to do away with ‘the Indian problem’ through deception and greed.  I knew this before, but the book brought it home stronger than I had felt before.   Perhaps because it follows me reading ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King the book has hit me harder.  Or perhaps I am older now, and questioning more.   In either case, reading the story that the prairie has left, and that Savage has recovered, has changed me.  Thanks be to good books!

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This book by Chris Turner talks about the present Canadian government and how its policies have affected science in Canada.  The subtitle is : Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.  I was interested to read a glowing review of it in Alberta Views (my second favorite magazine!) last month.  I was likely one of the first to buy his book from Amazon, for it arrived before Christmas.  It also reminded me of the Scientist’s Lament, sung by the Calgary Raging Grannies on Youtube.  The Grannies are sure hip to what is current!

This book is well-researched, hard-hitting and certainly inflammatory to a member of the Conservative party.  However, to any informed Canadian, the book simply confirms what we have witnessed during Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister.  This is the greatest reason for the opposition parties to unite to defeat him in the  next election.  Not that we needed another reason, but this book explains Harper’s rationale very clearly.  Here is an excerpt (p. 124):

“Even scientists working at Canadian universities have seen some of their most critical funding shift away from basic long-term research.  NSERC, for example, has long been a critical funding pipeline for academic scientists.  Its budget shrank by 5% in the 2012 budget, which included a moratorium on the Major Research Support program.  As a result, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre,  a 43-year-old research station on Vancouver Island, lost the funding that shared its critical data on ocean conditions with researchers around the world.  The observation post survives, but its role in the larger scientific project of understanding the world’s oceans has vanished at a time of climate crisis. As NSERC funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research, Bamfield’s formerly stellar international reputation – and its ability to attract world-class scientists – has ben radically diminished. ”

The most worrisome phrase in the above paragraph, to my mind, is “funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research”.  No wonder Bamfield isn’t to continue its former stellar reputation!  Harper wants no more research into oceans that may be polluted from future  oil tanker spills!

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This book, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, was published in 1996.  I have had it for a few years, but didn’t get around to reading it until recently.  A few of her chapters are dated, but overall, what Hillary says is still relevant to Americans and to all readers.  Her voice rings loud and clear about what children teach us, and how the global village is responsible for them.  The children are not responsible for bringing themselves up.  It is the village of parents, grandparents, siblings, and the extended family that form the core.  However, it is the system of governance that allows all children to grow and prosper.  In her work as governor’s wife, First Lady, then as a US Senator, then as the Secretry of State for the U.S., Hillary shows her commitment and her vision. Some chapters may be dated, but I am really happy I read her book.  I am also really happy that she is being touted as the next leader of the Democratic party in the US, after Barack Obama leaves the Presidency.  I like this woman a LOT!

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I promised I would include a few excerpts from ‘Oil Man and the Sea’ which I read last month.  The writer and a photographer took a sailboat up the channel of the B.C. coast where the oil tankers would go, should the Northern Gateway pipeline go through to Kitimat.  On page 84, Arno Kopecky writes about similar projects he has experienced internationally:

Everywhere you looked, foreign interests were at work.  It was hard not to be reminded of this three years later back in Canada.  Just as the conflicts in Peru or Burma transcended any one group of people or industrial project, whatever we were witnessing at home was much bigger than Enbridge or the Northern Gateway or the Hieltsuk. It was the local chapter of a story playing out in every country on earth. People were arguing, often violently, over hyper-local issues of land, jobs, and governance, but each of these conflicts had deep tap-roots that drew on global issues.  Can the world’s biggest corporations be trusted with the power they’ve amassed?  Is climate change an existential threat to human civilization?  Up to what point is it safe to pursue exponential growth on a finite planet?  But it was hard for people with opposing views to discuss these kinds of questions without slipping into hyperbole.  Better, maybe, to focus on concrete issues like the Northern Gateway proposal, or even, briefly, on something a little bigger, like Canada’s own version of Garcia’s 101 decrees, Bill C-38.

So, get the book and read it.  It says a lot, shifting from global views like the above, to first-person narrative from a host of characters who live on BC’s coast.

It reminds me of people’s concerns with hyperbole, and how friends in the oil patch discount protesters who they think are using hyperbole, instead of understanding that they are  reacting with their hearts as well as their head.

It reminds me of the Calgary Raging Grannies, who sing about Omnibus bills, and challenge Harper’s government through satirical songs to stop what parliament is doing by ramming through massive changes through complex bills.  See Youtube.com  for their performance, and search for Calgary Raging Grannies, to find that and several related songs about Canada’s governments.  I am so proud that I was a member of Calgary Raging Grannies for 8 years!  I am not now, but I support what they do!

Arno Kopecky has helped me understand much in his book “Oil Man and the Sea: navigating the Northern Gateway”  Definitely worth a read!

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The Oil Man and the Sea

I have just finished reading The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky.  It was a Christmas gift from my friend Mary Nokleby, who recommended it after reading it herself.  Mary and I are part of a discussion group called Eye of the Storm and we’ve been debating the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and sustainability, and …. everything!… for over a year.  Now, this book shines a scintillating light on the land and waters of B.C.’s coast.  The people that Kopecky interviewed along the 4-month trip he and his photographer friend made on the sailboat Foxy are presented with compassion, humour, and great respect.  I am so happy that I’ve read this wonderful book.  It’s a new book, recently reviewed in AlbertaViews book review section.  Kopecky takes a very complex subject and makes it understandable.  He listens to the people of the coast, visits their villages, drinks coffee and beer with many, watches the sea, and is helpless before Foxy‘s mechanical breakdowns.   As a former BC-er, who lived on the coast for most of my life, I have allowed his comments and Ilja’s photographs to slip into my sub-consciousness.  I feel more whole than before.  I shall record parts of his words in future posts, but for now, I like one succinct thought in particular. The  Northern Gateway Pipeline is at least two things at the same time: economic piston & planet destroyer.  The people that Kopecky spoke to are >95% opposed to the pipeline and to oil tankers going along their coastline.  So am I.  It doesn’t matter if you are opposed to us activists and environmentalists, read the book anyway.  It’s a great read!

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I have just finished reading Speaking Out Louder: ideas that work for Canadians by Jack Layton.  This book is a revision of his first book Speaking Out Loud, so includes updates to 2006.  I learned a lot that I didn’t know about Jack previously.  His untimely death made him a hero to many who didn’t know him well before he passed, including me.  After reading his book I realize how much we have lost. Canada has been blessed by his presence and activism.  Indeed, our country has been shaped as a kinder gentler society primarily because of the New Democrats.  It has been their contributions under minority governments that brought in universal health-care, affordable housing initiatives, a national attack on poverty, improved child-care, rights of marriage extended to gays and lesbians, improved funding for advanced education, improved safety and protection for workers, and international peace-keeping initiatives.  That most of these programs have been cut or threatened by majority governments, both Liberal and Conservative, is tragic. .

Throughout the book Jack describes the roadblocks to progress that were placed by Liberal and Conservative governments, how they happened and who did what. His chapter “Two Seats Short” describes the house shenanigans around the Liberal budget a few short years ago.  I wonder what Jack would write about the last five years in parliament… sure wish he was still with us.

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The Forest Laird

I am almost at the end of reading The Forest Laird, by Jack Whyte.  Once again, Whyte creates a vibrant world where history comes to life.  This time it’s the story of William Wallace, whose life inspired the movie Dragonheart.  He was the first Guardian in this new series by Whyte, and I am not disappointed.  Along with the details and accurate history he weaves a compelling tale of strong characters, and lets them talk about the changing times in which they live.  The times are 1280-1300 in southern Scotland.  The conversations between William Wallance, his cousin Jamie Wallace (who chose the priesthood), Bishop Wishart and his chancellor taught me much about tensions between France and England, the clans of Scotland, and the threat of the burgesse to the feudal system.  The burgesse, the business owners and crafts people, were independent of the feudal lords, and they contributed to the destabilization of a system that had existed for 700 years.  Fascinating parallels to current destabilized countries, as ‘people’ now have the means to destabilize the capitalist system.  Perhaps that is too big a stretch to imagine. No matter; the book is enthralling.  I should finish it within two days.  Then I’ll be off to the library to get the next book in the series.

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