Monday, September 29, 2008

WOTS was once again, NOT a successful trip

I had hoped that DH would babysit our son while I went to WOTS, (Word on the Street) but he made an excuse saying he just wasn't up to it. Of course I was angry. But since I had run out of money (so I knew I was not going to be able to buy any books) I agreed to take our son with me.

And just like last year it was not a good day. He got to run around, I got to browse a LITTLE, but not much. I also won a free magazine subscription. My son was upset that I hadn't won any toys. All my son wanted was food and toys. I refused to spend what little money I had on $3 hotdogs and a $3 cup of lemonade. My son refused to go home when he got tired. He doesnt recognize when he is tired - I do. Hey its a mothers job to know when her kid is tired, right?

The highlight of my day was to meet Patricia and Dorothy at WOTS.

Next year I am making VERY VERY sure that I go to WOTS on my OWN - WITH money. As long as Bush and Co do not do anything too drastic to affect the economy - I should hopefully be working by September next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Social Contract - 50 Greatest Books

50 Greatest Books

The Social Contract
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
September 27, 2008
Globe and Mail

The Social Contract (1762) is a masterpiece of one of the most fascinating of writers. The thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was world-breaking and world-making. His effect on his own age was seismic, and the tremors have never subsided.

To proclaim him the intellectual founder of the modern left is actually to understate his accomplishments. There was no other thinker in whom so many modern impulses converged, only to emerge transformed, still more modern, more radical, more dangerous and enticing. For all his vast influence on the 19th century, much in his thought was so farsighted that it came to be appreciated only in the late 20th.

Rousseau begins from a radical critique of the bourgeois. Indeed, it was he who coined this term in its modern pejorative sense. The bourgeois was the emergent 18th-century type, post-feudal and, one might say, post-Christian. Rational, industrious, this-worldly, homo economicus rather than homo politicus or religiosus, Rousseau was the practical ideal of such Enlightenment thinkers as Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith.

For Rousseau, by contrast, the bourgeois was a mere shadow of the human. Both his rationality and his individualism were spurious. Hopelessly divided against himself, he sought only his own good, but was wholly dependent on others to realize it. Compelled either to serve or to oppress his fellows in order to make them means to his ends, he exemplified what Rousseau called "unsocial sociability." Neither a whole unto himself nor fully a part of a greater whole, he could find no rest himself and could leave none to others.

The Social Contract offers Rousseau's positive alternative to the bourgeois, namely the citizen. Free of the divided consciousness that defines the bourgeois, the citizen is fully integrated into his society. He identifies his own good with its good, his will with the collective or general will.

His primary identity is that not of Lucius or Pierre, but of a citizen of Rome or Geneva. This is so far from natural to human beings that Rousseau himself describes successful civic education as "denaturing." For this, the Legislator is required, that Godlike manipulator of the souls of a people for its own good. Now this doesn't sound at all "liberal"; it may even sound "totalitarian."

It certainly sounds reactionary, given that, as Rousseau tells it, the only genuine examples of such citizens and societies are to be found in the distant past, above all in warlike Sparta and the Roman Republic. Yet Rousseau's argument against the modern liberal solution to the political problem rests on impeccably liberal premises. Human beings are by nature free and equal, and both their interests and their dignity demand that the terms of the social contract be such as to permit them to remain so.

There is, according to Rousseau, only one way to accomplish this: for each to alienate his rights to the community as a whole. If the wills of some are not to be subject to those of others, then all must be subject to the will of all, in which each equally participates. Only thus transformed into the sovereignty of the general will can natural human liberty be preserved in civil society. Anything short of this is a pipe dream, a mere illusion of liberty.

Political equality can be genuine, moreover, only in conditions of substantial social equality. In replacing the inequalities of feudalism with those of rich and poor, modern commercial society offers only a vain pretense of liberty and equality alike.

It was the fate of The Social Contract to serve as the (very partial) inspiration of the Jacobins, and thereafter as a political football between left and right. The latter loathed Rousseau. The former adored him (even if it came to regard him as having been superseded by Marx). For the New Left of the 1960s, however, Rousseau had in effect superseded Marx. Theirs was a cultural and political revolution more than an economic one, and they looked to Rousseau for inspiration on both counts.
He remains the patron saint of communitarianism and "participatory democracy."

In fact, however, The Social Contract transcends all these categories. Far from providing a dogmatic answer to the question of how to establish a just society, it offers a series of paradoxes. If Rousseau's realism teaches that the only legitimate basis for political authority is that offered by the general will, it also renders him acutely sensitive to all the obstacles to this outcome. He is thus is his own most trenchant critic, and The Social Contract is the testament of a first-rate mind grappling with the most intractable problems of human society.

Clifford Orwin is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He has written widely on Rousseau.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sandcastle Contest - Munsch Review

The Sandcastle Contest
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchecnko
Scholastic 2005

Matthew's family are packing up to go to the Beach. Matthew desperately wants a dog, but the family does not have a dog. So they drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove until they arrived at the beach.

When they finally got to the Beach, Matthew went to see what was happening. There was a sandcastle competition going on. Matthew asked a girl what the first prize was. A bathtub full of ice cream she said.

Matthew started building a house. The house was taller than Matthew, and it looked really real. It had several rooms - a kitchen with a sand refridgerator, a lounge with a sand TV and a bedroom with a sand bed.

A judge came by and asked WHO put this house on the beach. Houses are not allowed on the beach. Matthew said it's my sand house for the competition. HA HA HA laughed the judge. This is a real house and he went in and sat down in the lounge and watched the program on the sand TV.

Another judge came by and asked WHO put this house on the beach. Houses are not allowed on the beach. Matthew said its my sand house for the competition. HA HA HA laughed the judge. This is a real house and she went in and opened the refridgirator and pulled out some sand food.

Matthew was mad. He said, I'll show you this is a sand house and he went outside the house and kicked in one corner. Immediately the house collapsed, right on top of the two judges. Once they dug themselves out they immediately said that Matthew's sand house won the competition, because it was so real. They could not tell that it was a sand house. So Matthew won the bath tub of ice cream. The girl he had spoken to had made a sand dog. So Matthew asked her if she could make a sand dog for him. And so she did.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Attention Jane Austen fans

Some months ago I reviewed a book called Old Friends and New Fancies.

Old Friends and New Fancies
The first Jane Austen sequel ever written!

Originally published in 1914, this charming and original sequel to the novels of Jane Austen intertwines the lives of the most beloved characters from all six Austen novels with new characters of the author's devising. Inventive matchmaking leads numerous pairs of lovers through the inevitable (and entertaining) difficulties they must encounter before they are united in the end.

Old Friends and New Fancies is a gratifying read for any Jane Austen enthusiast.

"This is the ultimate Jane Austen sequel.…Virtually all the characters left standing at the end of the novels-most particularly the unmarried ones-must all meet up… Broken engagements will follow, a few false trails and threatened unacceptable matches must be endured before the Forces of Good prevail." -Charles Wenz, Life Member of the Jane Austen Society

The publisher currently has a sale on this book. If anyone wants to purchase the book, they can use the coupon code AUSTENSOURCE10 to get 40% off the purchase price. They can purchase it through this link. This coupon is valid from today through October 31, so if anyone wishes to purchase it, you are welcome to do so. Dont forget to quote AUSTENSOURCE10.

Sourcebooks the publisher contacted me to tell me about this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Everyone Worth Knowing - Book Review

Everyone Worth Knowing
by Lauren Weisberger
Pocket Books 2005

This is the authors second novel. The first was the hugely succesful The Devil Wears Prada. This book is also set in NYC but this time it is about Bette, a young lady who quits her job at the bank and looks around for something else. She eventually gets a job with Kelly PR at the behest of her uncle.

Some years ago I used to work for a media monitoring company and it was my job to read the newspapers and magazines and mark up the articles with key words in them that were required by our client. Frequently we had to read and clip every single press release for the PR companies. Apparently they wanted to know which papers and magazines picked up and printed their releases and which did not.

In reading this book, I finally gained some idea of what it is like to work for a PR company, and I have decided that I do not wish to work in a PR company if they really are like this book claims.

Anyway Bette's jobs start out with event planning. She meets a bouncer at a prestigious night club. His name is Sam and he looks vaguely familiar. It turns out that Sam attesnded Bette's old high school 12 years before. Sam is taking cooking classes part time to become a chef. He also cooks Sunday lunch at a tavern.

Kelly's PR company do not associate with bouncers. Bette is hooked up with Philip Weston, a rich English fellow, a socialite and a snob. Bette's job is to do anything Philip wants and keep him happy. If that means sleeping with him, then yes, do that too.

Kelly's employees thrive on name dropping. Even names of real celebrities are mentioned frequently. Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan etc. And then Bette's name starts turning up in a newspaper social gossip column.

Bette has to cope with her loathing for Philip, her growing love for Sam and her desire to "keep her job" and not upset the uncle.

So when Kelly sends the team to Istanbul to help advertise the Istanbul Night clubs, Bette discovers Philip in bed with a man, and learns the real reason why Philip has never had sex with her. However Philip thinks nothing of telling the gossip colums that he has slept with her. Bette spends the night with Sam instead, and is photographed leaving Sam's room in the morning. When that picture shows up in the gossip column, Bettes discovers who the writer of the gossip column is.

During all this Bette has been arranging the major event of the year - the Playboy party. On the night of the Playboy party, it all goes wrong (but not because of Bette). And when Bette discovers that one of her co-workers was passing the information to the gossip writer, Bette just says to Kelly, I quit, and walks out.

Two months later the gossip writer has also lost her job when it was discovered that she lied on her job application. And a few more months later Bette and Sam finally get together. Sam opens his own restaurant, and Bettes joins him in managing it. Sam creates the menus and Bette does the administration. She's a whiz with numbers. She used to work in a bank, you know.

I really enjoyed this book, although I was not too happy with all the name dropping. Thats why I have decided that if this is true then PR work is not the place for me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lucy Maud Montgomery committed suicide

Lucy Maud Montgomery suicide news helps public understanding

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
September 19, 2008
By Kate MacDonald Butler

For many years, my family has kept a troubling secret. What has made things even more difficult is the fact that the person it involves was not only my grandmother, but one of Canada's most beloved authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, is still a bestseller after 100 years. In addition to Anne, my grandmother wrote 19 other novels, personal journals and hundreds of short stories and poems. As well, she has been the subject of several biographical studies.

Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. But our family has never spoken publicly about the extent of her illness.

What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.

I wasn't told the details of what happened, and I never saw the note she left, but I do know that it asked for forgiveness.

After having read the poignant Breakdown series on mental health in The Globe and Mail during the summer, I was inspired to reflect upon my own family's history with depression.

Additionally, the recent focus on my grandmother's creativity – this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, with events around the world celebrating Anne and her creator – has encouraged me to end our silence.

I have come to feel very strongly that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us – and most certainly not to our heroes and icons.

Obviously it can happen to anyone. The public faces of such prominent Canadians as Roméo Dallaire, James Bartleman, Valerie Pringle and others who supported mental-health awareness during the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's recent publicity campaign have also had a powerful effect on me.

But, most important, the legacy of L.M. Montgomery, and my grandfather, Rev. Ewan Macdonald, and its related responsibilities and joys, are taken very seriously by my family. I spoke with them before writing this essay and we agreed that it was important for us to share our family's story.

I never knew my grandmother. She died in 1942, before I was born. My grandfather, who also suffered from serious mental illness, died the following year. I got to know them through my father.

After my two older brothers married and left home, I had my parents all to myself for a few short years before my father, a physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, died in 1982. I became closer to him while I studied at the dining-room table – a time when we had a lot of conversations together. We developed a deeper connection during his last years and I am grateful for those memories of our time together.

When the last volume of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2004, I sobbed through it and, in fact, I couldn't even finish it – there was such a profound sadness for me in imagining how my father must have coped with two such depressed parents.

For a young man in the prime of his life, it must have been an overwhelming responsibility. I remembered our late-night conversations and how he shared many memories, yet rarely talked about the burdens he must have felt during his young adult life.

My heart aches for my father, who was left behind to deal with the grief of losing his beloved mother. He carried the secret of the circumstances of her death and maintained the façade of a proper and well-adjusted family because of his desire to protect them and their reputation in the community.

Reading between the lines

L.M. Montgomery's most famous character, Anne Shirley, declared, “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” and readers find it one of Anne's more endearing sayings. That particular lament has always been especially significant to me as I imagine my grandmother must have felt the same sadness at times in her life. The fictional Anne went on to happiness and a life full of love and fulfilment. My grandmother's reality was not so positive, although she continues to inspire generations of readers with her books, which reveal her understanding of nature – both in matters of the heart and the world. Although she was a very successful author, her life was overshadowed by her depression, coping with her husband's mental illness and the restrictions of her life as a clergyman's wife and mother in an era when women's roles were highly defined.

Even though I never met them, I've always regarded my paternal grandparents with great affection because of their influence on my father and, therefore, on me. I grew up admiring their achievements, both professional and personal, through my father's stories and reminiscences.

My heart aches for them, as well, because I know they were part of a generation that simply did not acknowledge personal dysfunction, let alone seek help.

I have great admiration for my grandmother, for her contribution to Canadian literature and culture, her strength of character, and the love, pride and sense of responsibility she gave to my family.

I am proud of her courage, given how isolated and lonely she must have felt during certain periods of her life. I wish that her family or community had had some of the tools that are available today. I expect that most families continue to be bewildered about how to help loved ones who suffer from debilitating depression.

I hope that by writing about my grandmother now there might be less secrecy and more awareness that will ease the unnecessary suffering so many people experience as a result of such depressions.

An encouraging light

The recent Globe and Mail series certainly sheds an encouraging light on the notion of the “perfect” family, acknowledging that it may include the reality of depression and other mental illness, and suggests that the shame surrounding these subjects may be lifting.

I'll never know if my grandmother might have been inclined to seek help if she had lived in a less judgmental era or if she had had access to supportive therapy or the medications available today. I would like to think so.

I long to tell her how I wish her family could have known how to help her and how proud we all are of her accomplishments. I also wish that, while my father was still alive, my family could have helped one another more by talking more openly about our feelings around her death. We realize now that secrecy is not the way to deal with the reality of depression and other mental-health issues.

Kate MacDonald Butler is the daughter of Stuart Macdonald, who was the youngest son of L.M. Montgomery. (see photo above)

One of the comments on the Globe and Mail article has this to say.
(I mention it because next week this article will be gone).

Bob Gervitz from United States writes...But there is even more to her tale. Prince Edward Island has been associated with Lucy and Anne for many years, and rightly so, but there is another place that has been forgotten, but which also deserves mention.

That place is a small town just outside of Uxbridge, Ontario. The manse in the hamlet of Leaskdale is where LMM wrote 11 of her 22 books. She moved there in 1911 as the new wife of the local pastor, bore her chldren there, and she wrote Chronicles of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne's House of Dreams, The Blue Castle, etc. The manse is now a National Historic Site. In 1926 she moved to Norval and later Toronto where she took her life in 1942.

A great, great Canadian author whose glory won't be diminished by her tragic death.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book Festivals coming up

WOTS is on across Canada NEXT WEEKEND
What is WOTS you ask?

I plan to have my spouse babysit as I had a not so good time at WOTS last year. This year I want to be able to browse and maybe buy some books without my son constantly complaining about me being too slow.

Also there is a poster on the wall of my apartment building announcing a FRENCH Book Festival in October. It's called Salon du Livre de Toronto. If you can read french, this is the official french website. It will be happening October 2nd through 5th.

Alice in Wonderland - 50 Greatest Books

Alice in Wonderland

Globe and Mail
September 20, 2008

In 1862, two clergymen took three little girls for a trip along the river Thames in a rowing-boat. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church College and Robinson Duckworth was a fellow of Trinity College, both in Oxford. Lorina, Alice and Edith were the daughters of Henry Liddell, dean of Christ Church. To stop the children becoming bored, Dodgson invented a complicated and fanciful tale about a bored little girl called Alice who had a series of adventures.

The story was a hit, and Alice asked Dodgson to write it down. Two years later he did, and sent it to her. A year after that, a much-expanded version appeared in print under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. The book was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, still a firm favourite, and not just with children.

Alice has a timeless appeal, with its surreal characters, fantastic story and quirky events. Alice, sitting on a riverbank, notices a white rabbit. When it takes a watch out of its waistcoat — which she does find a little strange — she follows it down a large rabbit-hole, into Wonderland.

The book was illustrated by John Tenniel, based on Dodgson's sketches, and the illustrations have become an integral part of the book — so much so that even the Disney animated version felt obliged to follow Tenniel's model.

I first came across Alice when my parents took me to see the movie, about 55 years ago, and I have vivid recollections of the caterpillar puffing enormous clouds of smoke, and — it's amazing what sticks — a rocking-horse fly. Which comes from Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel. Alice seems even more surreal nowadays, because we moderns don't always spot the allusions.

The Dodo in the caucus race is Dodgson himself; the Duck is the Reverend Duckworth. The lory is Lorina, the eagle Edith — and Alice is Alice. The rabbit-hole was the back stairs of the main hall of Christ Church College. The verse consists almost entirely of parodies of poems that Victorian children had to learn by heart.

"Tis the voice of the lobster: I heard him declare: 'You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair'." This is a parody of The Sluggard by Isaac Watts, a prominent writer of hymns.

Acres of print have been devoted to the enigma of what makes Alice so special. It can hardly be the story, which rambles from incident to incident with very little clear plot. Alice has a remarkable dreamlike quality — a "stream of unconsciousness" in which events merge into each other, and while each on its own makes a strange sort of sense, there is no overall logic.

Is it the characters? Scarcely a page turns without a new and even more fantastic creature emerging, and the most fantastic of them all must be the Cheshire Cat, which disappears except for its grin. The March Hare and the Mad Hatter are charmingly crazy, the Mock Turtle tugs at your heartstrings, but in such a short book there isn't room to flesh out the characters in the way of, say, Mole in The Wind in the Willows. Carroll's characters play cameo roles. We don't get to know them.

Is it the humour? The book is laden with puns, the parodies make us smile and there is some marvellous slapstick, like the dormouse being stuffed into the teapot. But Alice is not a comedy. (Maybe it is) The pictures? The combination of text and images is powerful and effective, and in Tenniel's hands, Carroll's sketches transcend their origins.

I think it's all of these, and none of them.

For a timeless moment, everything came together to create a timeless book. Dodgson wrote other children's books, such as Sylvie and Bruno. None compares remotely to Alice — except Through the Looking-Glass, which captures the same dreamlike quality and fantastic imagination, and may even be better. The Alice books were an impossible act to follo.

Ian Stewart is professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, in England.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Paddle to the Arctic - Book Review

Paddle to the Arctic
by Don Starkell
McClelland and Stewart (M&S)

Interview with Don Starkell
Review of Paddle to the Arctic
Biography of Don Starkell

From 1980 through 1982 Don Starkell and his son Dana (from Manitoba) paddled to the Amazon. Don wrote a book about called Paddle to the Amazon. In 1986 Don paddled up the west coast of Canada from Vancouver Island to Ketchikan Alaska. and in 1990 he set out to paddle the Northwest passage - that elusive passage at the top of the world between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Don took 3 summers to complete the trip (1990-92) and he had to make 2 starts. The first start in 1990, Don tipped his canoe over into the Hudson Bay on his second day out of Churchill in Manitoba. He was able to get back to land, but was stranded for over a week (by a blizzard), before he could finally padddle back to Churchill. He decided to come back the following year and try again.

In 1991 Don came back to Churchill with 2 friends. Fred and Victoria. They left Churchill and paddled up the Hudson Bay coast all the way to Repulse Bay. Fred didnt last that long. He left the trip within the first month. The trouble with the Hudson Bay is that it has a very long continental shelf and very high tides. There are a LOT of shoals. If you were caught out in the shoals when the tide started dropping, then you could be stuck out there for 12 hours waiting for the next high tide to get moving again.

Don would not have been able to complete his trip without the help of the Northern Stores located in various Inuit communities along his route, and his GPS.

At Repulse Bay Don and Vicki called it a day and agreed to come back the following summer (1992) and carry along the northern coast of Canada all the way from repulse Bay to Tuktoyaktuk, north of Inuvik, in the North West Territory. At this time Nunavut had NOT yet split off into a separate territory. That would not happen until 1999.

Back in Manitoba, Don continued his training. Every day he pull large and heavy loads on his sleds going up and down snow covered hills, and walked around and around large carparks for hours to train for when the real trip started. Don was planning to pull the sled for 15 miles every day across what he thought would be nice flat ice.

It turns out he picked a bad year. The summer of 1992 started early so by the time Vicki and Don started pulling their sleds out of Repulse Bay. the ice was already turning slushy (starting to melt). They ended up have to be carried by snowmobile all the way fom Repulse Bay across to Committee Bay, Pelly Bay and on to Spence Bay. There they could finally start crossing the sea ice. By the time they arrived at Gjoa Haven (Joe Haven) on King william Island, Vicki had developed edema and was ordered by the doctor to go to bed and rest and that she would not continue.

So Don was left to continue on his own. He pulled 500 pounds of stuff on a sled for 500 miles from Gjoa Haven all the way to Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. There he was laid up buying food and waiting for the slush and ice to melt so he could paddle the kayak.

Eventually he headed out across the ice paddling along a lead (an open space in the ice). When the lead ended, and there was only ice, he had to drag his kayak some 6miles to shore, and avoid all the rotten ice while doing so.

Don's next major stop was Coppermine. Along the way he went climbing and grabbed a rock that turned out to be loose. It fell down onto Don's foot and broke 3 of the smaller toes. Don then spent the next month in agony as he courageously continued to paddle to Coppermine, and from there to Cape Parry, Cape Dalhousie and then on to Tuktoyaktuk. That was the plan. (see map)

Don describes the landscape, the cliffs, the ice, the weather, all the animals he sees along the way - Muskox, polar bears, grizzly bears, beluga whales, caribou, seals amd lots of arctic birds. But NO penguins.

In 1992 there was a string of DEWline stations along the Canadian arctic coast. DEW is Distant Early Warning Line, and these stations were sometimes manned by men from USA. Remember in 1992, the Soviet Union had broken up, and there was no longer any threat of nuclear missiles coming over the North Pole. The DEW system and stations were disbanded permanently in 1994.

When Don stopped at one DEWline station to ask for medical help (for his broken toes), the Americans inside flatly refused to help. It's against regulations, they kept saying. At the next DEWline station, which was manned by Canadians and Americans, they too were reluctant to help out due to US regulations. But the Canadian chefs at that post quietly filled a large box with fresh food for Don. They did this against regulations. Once again Americans were unwilling to be flexible and help a man in distress.

Don was due to arrive at Tuktoyaktuk on September 15th, 1992. At Cape Dalhousie Don was ahead of schedule when he rounded the cape and headed south to Tuk. He only had 100 miles to go. Three good days of paddling and he would be finished and safe. But the weather did not cooperate. The east side of Cape Dalhousie faces the full force of the Beaufort Sea, and Blizzards rapidly developed. (Beaufort Sea map)

Don was forced to stop in McKinley Bay (a DEWLine station that was abandoned just the week before) for 5 days. This meant he was stuck here on September 15th, when he was supposed to be arriving at Tuk. After 5 days the weather cleared enough for him to make a drastic decison and to continue paddling. But within 6 hours, another blizzard rose up and this time Don could not get to land. There was just too much ice. He sat in his kayak for 24 hours waiting for the ice to freeze solid enough so that he could get out and walk across it.

Finally it was solid, and Don dragged himself out of the kayak and onto the ice. He managed to pull the kayak out of the ice but it left a large kayak shaped hole in the ice. By now Don was one week overdue, and his sons were getting worried. Dana called the RCMP and got a search started. Shortly after Don crawled to land, he heard a plane fly overhead. He knew enough to wave a large orange bag (stolen from McKinley base) over his head. The pilot spotted the hole in the ice and investigated, and then saw the orange bag. He flew over the bay 3 times and then returned to Tuk.

Don was about to give up. He had no idea if the pilot has seen him. Don slowly began to sink into that dream state between sleep and death. Then came the thumping that sounded like a helicopter. Don vaguely remembers being lifted into a chopper and flown to Tuk. Don had been forced to give up his trip just 35 miles from his destination. His fingers were frostbitten and those broken toes were damaged beyond repair. Don was told that, just like the summer had started early, so the winter had also started early. At McKinley station, the blizzards had come early. They didnt usually start until October.

Don Starkell lost all his fingers and most of his toes to frostbite. They had to be amputated. But he is still paddling on the Red River in Winnipeg and he gives lectures on his Arctic adventure.

This book was excellent for learning all about survival in the Arctic, the Inuit people, the geography, the landscape and the animals. There are some nice photos on the book, but they are all black and white so one does not get the full effect of this cold and uncompromising land. I hope to visit some of these northern towns in my life time. But I will not be paddling there. I really enjoyed this book. I read it in 3 days.

I read this book for the 2nd Canadian challenge, and this was my 13th and last book for the free spirit(FS) Challange. so I have FINISHED. I hope to complete the single author(SA) Challenge next month.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Class Clown - Munsch Book Review

Shocking news on Robert Munsch's website. Dated August 28th, 2008, and it says this.
I have had a stroke. It affects my ability to construct sentences. It is a part of my brain called Broca's Area. It is going to take a long time to get well.
I emailed the website asking for more details and received this reply.
Bob suffered a minor stroke in late August. Although a full recovery is expected, he is taking some time off.

Class Clown
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Scholastic Books 2007
Official Website

As Leonardo grew up, everyone thought he was cute because he was so funny.
Leonardo, everyone kept saying, You are sooooo funny.

By the time he was in grade 1 he was called the class clown. Now the grade one teacher that year was Mrs Gomez. And Mrs Gomez said, Leonardo, You have to stop. The kids are laughing all the time and noone is learning anything. STOP BEING FUNNY.

Ok said Leonardo and for the first time in his life he stopped being funny.

Within 5 minutes Leonardo couldn't help it. He just had to be funny. So he made a funny face at the girl sitting next to him. She fell off her chair and on the floor laughing.

Mrs Gomez asked the girl what she was doing.
I was thinking of something very funny said the girl.
Well STOP thinking, said Mrs Gomez.
Ok, I'll stop thinking, the girl said as she kept on lauging.

A few minutes later Leonard had the urge to be funny again. So he leaned over to the boy sitting next to him on the other side, and told a very funny joke. The boy started laughing and fell out of his chair onto the floor. Mrs Gomez came over.

STOP yelled Mrs Gomez. What is going on?
I remembered something very funny. said the boy still laughing.
Well stop remembering said Mrs Gomez.
Ok said the boy, I will never remember anything again.

Leonardo was quiet until after lunch, and then while Mrs Gomez was writing on the backboard, Leonardo drew a very funny picture and held it up so that everyone in the class could see it. They all burst out laughing.

STOP yelled Mrs Gomez. What is going on?
It's Leonardo. He's the class clown. The children gasped as they laughed.
Leonardo said Mrs Gomez, I have told you to stop being a clown. now I am getting really really REALLY mad.
Ok said Leonardo. I will never be funny again.
HA said Mrs Gomez and she fell down and laughed so hard she kicked her desk over.
Leonardo she said. You are SOOOOOOOOOOO FUNNY.

That was when Leornardo decided that when he grew up, he was going to be a clown.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When We Were Young - Book Review

When We Were Young
Collected and Introduced by Stuart McLean
Viking Group (Penguin) 1996
Interview with Stuart Mclean 2005
(click the Listen to the Show button)
Stuart McLean website

How many of you listen to the radio?
How many of you listen to the CBC?
How many of you listen to the Vinyl Cafe program?

My answers are all NOT ME times 3.

Before I picked up this book, I have never heard of the Vinyl Cafe. I used to listen to the radio when I was a teenager - but only for the music and Rick Casey's Top 40 show. I no longer listen to the radio. In fact I would be hard pressed to actually find a radio in my apartment. I do not watch much TV either - except for some of my favourite TV programs, and the Olympics. I now get all my news and entertainment from the Internet.

Anyway this is a collection of short stories and chapters from various Canadian books about kids growing up. The first chapters starts with children at a young age - about 5. And the kids slowly grow up in each subsequent chapter.

Chapters come from a variety of books such as Anne of Green Gables (the chapter where Anne breaks her slate over Gilberts head in school), Cats Eye, A chapter from the Cornish trilogy books, The Hockey Sweater and Hockey Night in Canada.

I found this an excellent way to become familiar with Canadian authors. I think I will read Cats Eye and the Cornish trilogy books soon. And I think I will try and find some Vinyl Cafe books to read as well.

I read this book for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Mahabharata - 50 Greatest Books

The Mahabharata

Globe and Mail
September 12, 2008

To begin with, The Mahabharata is certainly one of the world's biggest books, a text of about 75,000 verses or three million words, some 15 times the combined length of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, or seven times the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, and a hundred times more interesting.

It is an epic poem composed in ancient India, some time between 300 BC and 300 AD (it takes a long time to produce three million words), in Sanskrit, the language of the sacred texts of Hinduism as well as of the secular literature of the court, related to Latin and ancient Greek and functioning, rather like medieval Latin, as a kind of lingua franca among the many vernacular languages of India.

It is attributed to a sage named Vyasa, who produces not only the text but the two grandfathers of the protagonists, impregnating two queens on behalf of their dead husband. The central story is about five princes, whose grandfather is Vyasa and whose fathers are gods.

They are forced into exile for 12 years, during which they have many adventures, listen to hundreds of wonderful stories, and return to fight a cataclysmic battle in which almost everyone on both sides is killed.

As the text was retold over the centuries, both in Sanskrit and in translation into more accessible spoken languages of India, hundreds of other stories, as well as philosophical arguments, were attracted to it as to a magnet, so that it became a great compendium of myth, folklore and social theory, a kind of walking encyclopedia of Hinduism.

It grows out of the oral tradition and then grows back into the oral tradition.

It flickers back and forth between Sanskrit manuscripts and village storytellers, each adding new gemstones to the old mosaic, constantly reinterpreting it.

The loose construction of the text gives it a quasi-novelistic quality, open to new forms as well as new ideas, inviting different ideas to contest one another, to come to blows, in the pages of the texts.

The text itself boasts, with justification, "What is here is also found elsewhere, but what is not here is found nowhere else."

The conversation between the incarnate god Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the eve of the great battle has become one of the central texts of Hinduism, called the Song of God (Bhagavad Gita).

Other parts of the text, too, have been lifted out and become a part of the cultural tradition, such as the story of King Nala and his wife Damayanti, who become separated when he becomes a compulsive gambler and loses his kingdom. Eventually they are reunited.

The five princes marry one woman, Draupadi, who is worshipped as a goddess in India to this day, particularly in the south.

It has been well said that no one in India ever hears The Mahabharata for the first time.

Its greatness lies also in its dark moral complexity. The real protagonist of the poem is neither any of the human heroes nor any of the many gods who take part in the story, but dharma, the moral and religious law of the Hindus.

Dharma is also a god, who fathers the eldest of the five princes and appears from time to time to test him, usually in disguise (once as a dog, an animal that Hindus regard as unclean, a stunning form for the religious law to take).

Time and again when a character finds that every available moral choice is the wrong choice, or when one of the good guys does something obviously very wrong, he will mutter, or be told, "Dharma is subtle," thin and slippery as a fine silk sari, elusive as a will o' the wisp, internally inconsistent as well as disguised, hidden, masked.

People try again and again to do the right thing, and fail and fail, until they no longer know what the right thing is. The heroes are tragically flawed, each of them undone by the shadow side of his particular virtue.

The Mahabharata deconstructs dharma, exposing the inevitable chaos of the moral life. In particular, it exposes the horror of war, even while it justifies it as part of the inevitable violence of human life. This, too, is its greatness.

Wendy Doniger is Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and author of many books about Indian literature, including "Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities" and a translation of the "Kamasutra."

Underfoot in Show Busines - Book Review

Underfoot in Show Business
By Helene Hanff
Originally published Harper Row NYC 1961
Re-published Andre Deutsch UK 1980

To the Reader
You may have noticed this book was not written by Noel Coward. It's a book about Show Business, where fame is the stock in trade, and its written by a name you've never heard of and probably can't pronounce. There is a simple explanation for this.
Each years hundreds of stagestruck kids arrive in NYC determined to crash the theatre, firmly convinced that they're destined to to be famous Broadway stars or playwrights. One in a thousand turns out to be Noel Coward. This book is about life among the other 999. By one of them.
Helene Hanff.

Cast of Characters
Helene Hanff
Maxine Stuart
Theresa Helburn

This is the story of Helene's life in New York trying to break into show business as a playwright. She was never successful. But she did write a funny book about her life in show business. This book was originally published in 1961. Her second book was published in 1971. That was the book that made her famous.

Helene was born and raised in Philadelphia by parents who loved the theatre. The family went to see theatre plays on a regular basis. Helene was inspired to write plays herself. After the end of the depression (I'm thinking around 1936 when she was 20), Helene submitted several plays to a playwriting competition run by the Theatre Guild in New York City. Then she received a letter from Theresa Helburn, the renowned Director of the Theatre Guild. Helene rushed up to NYC and was interviewed by Theresa Helburn. Helene underwent 4 days of playwriting tutoring. She travelled to NYC every Tuesday to be tutored by Theresa Helburn.

When the three winners of the scholarships were announced, Helene was one of the winners. By this time Helene had done one year of college and another year of working in various jobs as a secretary. So Helene packed up and moved to NYC permanently.

Helene writes about being involved with the Theatre Guild. Many of the Theatre Guild plays were flops but there was one musical that became a huge success. It was called Oklahoma, but that's not the name it started out with. It had another name, and Helene writes about what the PR team had to go through to change thousands of media releases, posters, programs etc.

As a theatre guild scholarship winner, Helen was required to attend a play during the entire scholastic process, from rehearsals to performance to reviews. In one of these plays, Helene met a young actress Maxine who was about the same age. They became fast friends and Maxine shows up a lot in this book. Because Helene was a poor writer, she would frequently have meals and sleep at Maxine's parents house.

Helene also writes about her roommates - or rather the others who lived in her floor. She writes about having to move from one building to a second to a third. She even mentions the orange crate book shelves. But not once does she mention writing letters to London, England. We know she was writing the letters during this time, because of her address changes. If you remember in 84 Charing Cross Road, she had her address at the top of all the letters. The two addresses in that book are the second and third apartment buildings she lived in. I believed she lived at the third apartment address until the year she died. (Helene died in 1997)

This is written in exactly the same humorous style as all the others. There is no change. No matter if you read this book first or last of all the 6 books that Helene wrote, the style is exactly the same. There are two reasons why I like helene so much. One reason is because of her humour. And the second reason is because just like me, she loved history and was not keen on fiction.

I loved this book. But knowing I love all the others as well, I am not surprised. I borrowed it from the library and I read it in 4 hours straight.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just One Goal - Munsch - Book Review

Just One Goal
by Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Scholastic 2008

This is the latest of the Munsch books.

Robert Munsch seems to have a fascination for the Canadian Territories because this is the second book I have read that is set in the North West Territories. This book is about a girl named Ciara (kee-ara) in Hay River, NWT.

Ciara lives with her parents and two older sisters on the River in the town of Hay River, North West Territories. Up until now the family has to drive all the way across town to play hockey at the local rink. Ciara decides that the river is the perfect place to make an ice rink, so that she doesnt have to go all the way across town just to play hockey.

Ciara pesters her father, her mother and her older sisters. Both the parents say that the river ice too jagged and bumpy to make a rink. Her sisters say it's not fair, Since they had to go acros town to play hockey, then so should she. They are not going to help her make a rink on the river.

So Ciara decides to make her own rink. She spends the whole of the next day going back and forth with jugs of warm water, until the northern lights came out, making a rink. At bed time she had made a small but very smooth rink, big enough for a small dog.

The next day her father rents a bulldozer and clears the river ice and makes a real people sized ice rink on the river. Ciara puts up a sign calling it the River Rats Rink, and lots of kids came to play. But Ciara for some reasion is never able to win a game.

One time the game stopped when a moose went to sleep in the goal net. Another time a large brown bear with a baby ran across the ice chasing all the kids away, and the third time a group of teenagers interrupted the game with their skidoo antics.

Finally it was the end of winter and the game is tied. The ice is getting wet. The teams are frantic to finish this last game of the season.


The sounds are getting louder as the ice on the river starts breaking up. The rink breaks loose and starts floating away. The players dont notice because they are intent on winning their game.

The parents are running along the river side telling the players to STOP, STOP, STOP. Noone hears them. Then Ciara's mother yells and points to the bridge.

Get to the bridge. we can stop them there. So all the parents drive to the bridge that croses the river. The parents hang off the bridge sides and they all grab their kids as the rink floats past under the bridge. All except Ciara. She is heading for the goal net and she is determined to win at least one game this season.

Ciara's father grabbs his fishing rod from the car and casts a hook way way way down the river. He catches Ciara just as she scored. "We win" yell Ciara's team and all the moms and dads faint.

Then they all go up to the restaurant and have some hot chocolate while Ciara designs the rink for next year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Steve and Me - Book Review

Steve and Me
by Terri Irwin
Published 2007
By Simon Spotlight Entertainment

Interview Part 1
Interview Part 2
Australia Zoo

In 1991 Terri Raines was 27 years old and a wildlife conservationist in Oregon, USA. That year she went to Australia on vacation. One of the zoos she visted was the Australia Zoo just outside of Brisbane. There she fell in love with the crocodiles and with the tall blond man who handled them. His name was Steve, and he was 29.

Because they had so much in common, they fell in love and Steve proposed within 4 months. They were married in 1992.

Terri spent part of the next year back in Oregon separated from Steve due to Australian immigration rules. Under Australian law, the Australian citizen has to apply for their foreign spouse while the spouse is still living outside of Australia. Most countries had and still have this rule - including Canada and USA. Fortunately the legalities were dealt with fairly quickly, and soon Terri was back home. Already home for Terri was Australia, not Oregon.

Over the next six years Terri and Steve built up Australia Zoo and made it bigger and better. Then in 1997 Terri finally became pregnant and their daughter Bindi was born in July 1998. Steve's mother died in a car crash in 2000 and Steve was devastated. They had been very close. Terri and Bindi were in Oregon at the time, and they had to change their plane tickets and rush back to Queensland. Steve's son Robert (Bob) was born in December 2003.

Terri loved going out into the desert with Steve, hunting crocodiles and saving other wildlife such as wallabies and kangaroos. They had a camera film team and began filming their trips. These documentaries became the basis for the TV series Crocodile Hunter.

Bindi and Bob were also introduced to the wildlife at an early age. In fact when Bob was barely a month old (January 2004 - in the middle of summer) Steve took his baby son with him into the pens while he was feeding the crocodiles. Someone in the crowd complained to the authorities and there was an almighty uproar about how dangerous that had been. Steve was compared to the singer Michael Jackson who had dangled his son over a hotel balcony in Belin the previous year and also received a lot of flack for doing that. Steve had to promise that he would never do it again. In fact the Queensland government changed their animal laws to be amended so that now it stated that no children or untrained adults were allowed into any wild animal pens at any zoo.

I enjoyed this book very much for the insight it gave into Steve's personality and nature. While the animals were interesting, I much preferred the people stories.

If you really want to know what Steve was like and how he lived, then you have to read this book.

As we all know, Steve died just on 2 years ago - September 4th, 2006.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Theban Trilogy - 50 Greatest Books

I cannot beleive I forgot about the 50 Greatest Books series. I havent posted about them for quite a while. This is bad. This is very bad. But I guess it's because I have gone back to school. I must try and remember to keep doing this series.

The Theban Trilogy By Sophocles
September 6, 2008

Almost 2,500 years ago, when there were few books to read and a fast-expanding population of the curious, an Athenian playwright dramatized three big questions in three great tragedies. Where do I come from? How do I prepare for my death? What should I obey?

Each play in Sophocles's Theban Trilogy, as we call it, was about the mythical family of Oedipus, rulers of Thebes in the dark times before the Trojan War. Their common theme was the violent birth of civilized values. This was not just entertainment for Athens' mass audience of citizen spectators. These works forced an aggressive engagement with what became great issues of all times, what it means for a man to understand himself, to have free will and at the same time to believe in the gods, to balance duties, to take responsibilities for past and future.

Oedipus the King, the most famous of the three, is the story of a man deliberately finding out who he is. To his own and others' horror, he is the killer of his father and the husband of his mother. He is the monarch honoured for curing the city's plague who discovers that he is its cause. He is the determined detective who finds that the criminal is himself.

In Oedipus at Colonus, the longest and least known, the king is outlawed, cursed and aged. He is preparing himself for death, for possible redemption, for something different from life or something the same. Antigone, the most popular of the plays today, takes up the narrative when Oedipus's sons are also dead, each killed by the other in civil war. Universal divine law demands burial for them both. Theban law offers respect for the defender of the city alone. Their surviving sister has to choose which law is right - and dies for her choice.

Sophocles did not himself intend these plays as a trilogy. Antigone was the first to be written, when Athens was at the height of its democratic power and pride, the years of restless skepticism, empire and the building of the Parthenon. Oedipus at Colonus was the last, composed 40 years later, when Athenian democracy was shamed and close to its end. Oedipus the King came between the two, timed when the Athenians at war knew directly the plagues of their own. The horrors of Thebes - Athens' authoritarian neighbour with its crude and brutal past - were like a primeval swamp into which Sophocles could dip for whatever need he saw.

Later producers, publishers and readers reordered the plays according to their place in the mythical history that they described. First comes King Oedipus in power and glory, before discovering his past and blinding himself. Second, Antigone leads him to a fragile security and serenity for death at Colonus, the place of Sophocles's own birth. Third, Antigone herself is walled up for death by starvation, punished by Thebes for obeying the gods, pardoned through force of argument, but not in time to save her.

That has been the most satisfying order. Like the history plays of Shakespeare, a chronological cycle imposed after their creation has enhanced their appeal for those who do not have Thebes as a neighbour and who have reading choices of which Sophocles could never have dreamed.

Oedipus the King was the central model for Freud, albeit denigrated by him as a dull tragedy of fate redeemed by his own sense of its universal particularities; there is no deeper exposition of the pain of self-examination. Antigone was the inspiration for Jean Anouilh in Nazi France; there is no plot more subtly resonant of the divided responsibilities of good men under bad government. Oedipus at Colonus may be the most due for revival, the eloquent play of the homeless in a land of plenty, the polluted in a land of high religion, the play in which a curse can finally become a blessing.

Individually, they have different powers today. Together, they form one of the milestones in the emerging of humanity, a lighthouse against the rocks, a permanent warning of places that are never far away.

Books to Movie Challenge 2008

This challenge started September 1st, (goes to November 30th) but I'm gonna do it anyway. I have not yet chosen my books, but I'll find something. Here are the rules.
2008 Books to Movie Challenge

List of Books made into movies

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street - Book Review

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
by Helene Hanff
Avon Books 1973

This is the story of Helene Hanff's first trip to England in 1972 after the first book she wrote, 84 Charing Cross Road was published. She was invited to England by the English publisher (Andre Deutsch) to publicize the book. She spent 5 weeks in England, and this is the diary of her trip.

Helene's favourite part of London is Regent Park and Marylebone area. She also visited Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford on Avon, Windsor and Eton. During Helene's stay in London, she was interviewed by many reporters, newspapers, TV and radio stations.

This diary is written in just the same style as her letters in 84 Charing Cross Road.

This is Helene's version of a martini, and how to train a british bartender to make one. Now I dont drink alcohol so I have no idea what is in martini. This is what goes in Helene's martini. (page 78 - Avon edition 1973)

So at 10pm I am having a martini, more or less.
The first night I came in here and said to the young bartender, a martini please. He reached for a bottle of Martini and Rossi vermouth and poured a glassful of it before I could scream - WAIT A MINUTE.
Would you put the gin in first please. I said.
Oh he said. You want a gin martini.
He got the gin bottle and a shaker, and I said
Would you put some ice in the shaker. I like it cold.
Right-o he said, and put an ice cube in the shaker, poured a jigger of gin on it, added half a cup of vermouth, stirred once poured it out and handed it to me with a flourish. [...] Nobody could drink it.

The next time I came in, it was dinner time. Noone was there and the bartender and I got chummey. He said Wasn't I the writer and told me his name was Bob. I said, Did he mind if we used my recipe instead of his, and he said, Right-o, just tell him exactly what I want.

First I said can we start with 4 icecubes in the shaker. He thought I was crazy but he put 3 ice cubes into the shaker. (he ran out of ice).

He poured a jigger of gin into the shaker, and then I said,
OK Now pour another jigger of gin.
He looked at me in disbelief, shook his head and poured a second jigger of gin.
Okay, now one more, I said.
MORE GIN? he asked, and I said,
Yes and lower your voice.
He poured the third jigger still shaking his head.
He reached for the vermouth botle and I said, I'll pour that.
I added a few drops of vermouth, stirred vigourously, let him pour it out and said it was perfect.

I used a French cover, because I could not find any American covers online, and I do not like the English cover.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor - Book Review

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor
by Sally Armstrong
Published Vintage 2008 (PB)
First Published 2007 (HC)
Charlotte Taylor Website

This is a novel based on the true story of Charlotte Howe Taylor and her life in New Brunswick. The author is one of the over 2000 descendents of Charlotte Taylor.

Charlotte Taylor was born in England in 1755 to an upper class family. Her father was General William Howe Taylor. One of the servants was a black man names Pad who was the family butler. At age 20 Charlotte fell in love with Pad and asked her father for permission to marry him. The General refused so Charlotte and Pad ran away. They took a ship to Jamaica. By the time they arrived there, Charlotte was pregnant and Pad was feverish. He died of yellow fever shortly after they arrived. Charlotte was able to get passage on a ship heading north to what is now New Brunswick (but was actually part of Nova Scotia at that time).

Charlotte's first daughter Elizabeth Willisams (NOT williams) was born in December 1775 in a Mi'kmaq camp in Baie de Chaleurs area - now Bathurst. Charlotte was being pressured to return to England because it was not good for an young widow to live in the wilds of North America on her own. Charlotte and Pad were never married, but she passed herself off as Pad's widow in order to survive.

Charlotte was a tough women, she fought for women to have equal rights - or as close to equal rights as the men would allow.

Charlotte was married and widowed three times and had a total of 10 children - 5 girls and 5 boys. Charlotte knew that the only way to stay safe was to purchase and own land. But she was denied the opportunity to own land by the various local town councils - all composed of men - and also the governors office in Fredericton.

Charlotte was told "It is one thing for the Widow to claim ownership of the land, but it is another thing to carry on as though she has the same rights as men"

She was also told that " a married women, you have no economic or legal power. Your husband is your representative and voice in public." (chapter 9)

Charlotte argues against this and is told flatly by the men that "Land belongs to men and proper women don't meddle in men's holdings."

This was the attitude in 1785. I am so glad I didnt live in those times. It would have made me mad....but then if it was the only thing I knew as I was growing up, I would not know any differently.

Anyway Charlotte first lives in Miramichi and then moves along the coast to Tabisintack in Northumberland country, in what is now New Brunswick. It was decreed a separate province apart from Nova Scotia in 1784.

Southern New Brunswick was full of English and Loyalists from America. Northern New Brunswick was mostly Acadian French. The Acadiens fled to the Baie des Chaleurs area after the British deported the Acadiens from Nova Scotia in 1755. The Mi'kmaq were scattered all over the region.

If you ever wanted to know what it was like to live in early Canada in the late 1700s. This is an excellent book to read. I finished it in one day. I could NOT put it down. My husbands family are of Acadian origin. They come from Gloucester county - Shippagan, Tracadie-Sheila and St Isidore. Gloucester county lies immediately north of Miramichi and Northumberland county.

I read this book for the second Canadian book challenge.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Before Dishonour - Book Review

Star Trek - Before Dishonor.
By Peter David
Pocket Books 2007

One of my favourite characters in the Star Trek world is Seven of Nine, the ex-Borg from the Voyager series. I love the way she is a non-nonsense person, shows no emotions and is extremely logical in her thinking, her actions and her speech.

This book is centred around Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Seven of Nine. And it takes place in the year 2380, some years after the Voyager destroyed the Borg transwarp conduits in the Delta Quadrant and cut 16 years off their homeward journey back to Federation space. Seven is now a civilian Professor at the Star Fleet Academy. She teaches the cadets about Borg technology, assimilation and how to avoid it. Her mentor on the trip home was Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Janeway is now an Admiral, and she intends to destroy the Borg once and for all. A few years earlier, the Enterprise (under Captian Picard) had destroyed a large Borg cube and left it for dead. Janeways intends to go back to the dead cube and study it further in the hope that the Federation can learn new techniques to defend itself from Borg attacks. Once on the cube, Janeway and her away team are assimilated. They return to the Einstein where they assimilate the entire crew. The new form of assimilation means that new Borg drones only have one attachment at the back if their heads. As long as they face a person speaking to them, noone can tell that they are no longer human.

When Janeway is assimilated, she screams and her psychic scream sends horror into Seven's sleeping brain and shocks her out of sleep. Seven would not normally agree with premonitions and instincts but this time she chooses to act on her hunch. She contacts Admiral Jellico and asks for permissin to travel to the borg cube and check to find out if Captain Janeway is ok. Jellicoe says no, but after Seven leaves, he puts a transmission through to the Einstein and asks if the crew are managing ok. He is assured that the crew are all fine. Janeway is still on the cube but she can be patched through. Jellicoe is reassured and terminates the call.

Seven in the meantime chooses to disobey orders and hires a small ship (called the Pride) to take her to sector 10 where the dead Borg Cube is located. Starfleet have vessels chasing Seven so the Pride is stopped and the captain talks his way out of the situation, by engaging a cloaking device he has installed in the ship.

They escape and head for sector 10. When the captain finds out that they headed to a old Borg cube, he balks and refuses to go any futher. So Seven asks him to take her to Vulcan. Captain Picard and the Enterprise are at Vulcan, honouring Ambassador Sarek.

When she arrives, Seven speaks to Picard and together the two of them decide to go and find the dead borg cube. However the crew of the Enterprise refuses to follow orders. Sarek's son, Ambassdor Spock is also on board the Enterprise. He mind melds with Seven and opens a flood gate. The Borg hear her voice and they immediately head for Earth to find Seven and Picard (who used to be the Borg Locutus).

Picard, Spock and Seven come up with a plan to use the old Planet killer that is now dormant on the Museum planet known as the Trophy world. Admiral Jellicoe through Starfleet Command sends word to Captian Picard that he must return to Earth immediately and help in the defence of Earth against the Borg.

Picard refuses, as do Worf, LaForge, Spock and Seven. The other bridge crew attempt to take over the ship, but Spock has programemd the computer to go to the Trophy World. The mutineers throw Picard and co into the brig. Several hours later when they cannot override Spock's lock on the computer, they take Picard out of the brig and beg him to remove the locks on the computer. Picard refuses.

When the Enterprise arrives at the trophy world - Seven, LaForge and Spock take a shuttle craft and go and visit the Planet killer. Their plan is to reactivate the planet killer so that it can destory the Borg cube. Seven is able to reactivate the plent killer and off they go to Earth to destroy the Borg.

You'll have to read the book to know if the Borg won the battle.

I loved this book. Picard finally has to deal with a mutiny from the junior bridge staff who do not follow him blindly, They prefer a captain who follows orders. Picard is just like Kirk and Janeway. Neither of them followed orders either.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Pies - Munsch - Book Review

More Pies
By Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Scholastic Books 2002

Samuel woke up hungry. For breakfast he ate one bowl of cereal and asked his mother for more. The second helping was another bowl of cereal, two milkshakes and a stack of pancakes. Samuel ate it all really fast.

Then Samuel said I am still hungry. Could I please have some more? His mother dished up a huge salad bowl of cereal, two milkshakes, three stacks of pancakes and a fried chicken. Samuel ate it all really fast.

Then Samuel said I am still really hungry. Could I please have seven fried chickens?
Seven fried chickens? yelled his mother. Enough is enough. Nothing more to eat until lunch. Go out and play.

So Samuel went outside and rolled around on the gress yelling that he was starving, staaaaarving, STAAAAAARVING.

His little brother told Samuel to go to the pie eating contest being held at the park, so off samuel went. At the park, he told the judges he wanted to enter the pie-eating contest. They laughed at him and said You're just a little kid, Go home.

The other three contestants (a lumberjack, a construction worker and a fireman - all big men) were waiting to start the pie-eating contest. They told the judges to let him enter. It won't hurt to let this little boy eat a pie. So Samuel was allowed to enter the contest.

The first round was one blueberry pie. The lumberjack turned purple and went under the table.

The second round consisted of two peach pies. The fireman turned green and went under the table.

The third round consisted of three cherry pies. The construction worker turned blue and went under the table.

Amazing said the judge. Samuel wins first prize. He wins the prize pie. Samuel took the large prize pie home.

When he walked into the kitchen, his mother said, Samuel I know you are hungry so I made you pies for lunch. Pies? said Samuel. He turned green and went under the table. So Samuels little brother ate all the pies instead.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Do you remember when....?

Now I dont usually post spam, but this one is personal. I was born in the 1960's and remember these days vividly. I get so angry at all the Political Correctness in todays society. It really bugs me that my son is not allowed to grow up like this.

1920's, 30's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks some of us took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a Ute [utility or pick up truck] on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Red Rooster.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Fruit Tingles and some fire crackers to blow up frogs and lizards with.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and cubby houses and played in creek beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape or DVD movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms.......... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross buns at Easter really!

We were given BB guns and sling shots for our 10th birthdays,

We drank milk laced with Strontium 90 from cows that had eaten grass covered in nuclear fallout from the atomic testing at Maralinga in 1956. [Australia]

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help Dad make ends meet!

Footy had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

Our teachers used to belt us with big sticks and leather straps and bully's always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Our parents got married before they had children and didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade'.....

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 70 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them!


I still remember borrowing my older sisters grown up bike when I was about 9 or 10, and riding it down the hill outside our home. My legs were not long enough to reach the pedals, and going down the hill I had no control at all. So at the bottom of the hill where the road turned the corner, I went straight ahead, the bike hit the curb and I flew over the fence. Fortunately it was a grassy field on the edge of town, so I wasnt hurt. But the bike was a write off. A very bent front wheel, the carrier on the back was damaged and I had to push this bike all the way back up the hill. I dont remember what happened after that.

One other thing. I was quite the loner when I was growing up and noone thought anything was odd about that. As long as I wasn't getting into trouble, I was a sweet little girl. Yes, I was socially awkward sometimes, but I sure did read a lot of books.