Monday, December 31, 2018

Books I Read in 2018

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari *****
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari *****
The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass ***
The Edge of Ruin by Melinda Snodgrass ***
The Edge of Dawn by Melinda Snodgrass **
Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by Daivd Frum ***
Star Trek: New Visions Volume 6 by John Byrne ***
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff ***1/2
Artemis by Andy Weir ****
The Great Derangement by Matt Taibbi **
DC Universe Secret Origins by A Whole Bunch of Legends *****
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe ***1/2
Dunkirk by Joshua Levine **
Darkest Hour by Anthony McCarten ***
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline *****
Sleeping Giant by Sylvain Neuvel ***
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel ***
Willful Child by Steven Erickson ***
Welcome Home: Travels in Small-Town Canada by Stuart McLean ***
Vinyl Cafe Diaries by Stuart McLean ****
Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson *****
Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger ***
The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip by Michael Barclay ****
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean ***
The Outsider by Stephen King ***1/2
Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work) by Gwynne Dyer ****
The People's Police by Norman Spinrad ***
The Race Underground by Doug Most **
Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson **
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán ***1/2
The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán ***1/2
The Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milán ***
Advancing Your Photography by Marc Silber ***
The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt ***
A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison by Nat Segaloff *****
The Crash Detectives by Christine Negroni ***
Star Trek: New Visions Volume 7 by John Byrne ***
Star Trek: Lost Scenes by David Tilotta and Curt McAloney *****
The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford ***
Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault Newman ***
So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Battlestar Galactica by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross ****
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman ***
Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward ***
Irontown Blues by John Varley *****
Batman: The Dark Knight: The Master Race by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair ****
Let the Good Times Roll by Kenney Jones ***
Hockey Fight in Canada by David Shoalts ***
A Matter of Confidence: The Inside Story of the Political Battle for BC by Rob Shaw and Richard Zussman ***1/2
Thanks a Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey ****
Elevation by Stephen King ***1/2
The Great Quake by Henry Fountain ***
Star Trek Cats by Jenny Parks ***
The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein ***
Fury from the Tomb by S.A. Sidor **

TV I Watchd in 2018

The Crown: Season Two ***1/2
Robocop (2014) **1/2
Hugo *****
Stranger Things ***1/2
Titanic (1953) **1/2
Go West ***
The Big Store ***
At the Circus ***
Room Service ***
A Night at the Opera ***
A Day at the Races ****
Four Days in November **1/2
Victor Frankenstein ***
My Favorite Year *****
Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo *
Star Trek: Discovery -- Season One ****
After Trek -- Season One ***
Thor: Ragnarok ***1/2
Imagine: John Lennon ****
Concert For George *****
Idiocracy **
The X-Files: Season 11 ***
Queen Rock the World ***
The Magnetic Monster *
Die, Monster, Die! *
The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues! *
The H Man! *
Schitt's Creek: Season Four ****
Hans Zimmer Live in Prague ***
Trouble Man ***
The Gumball Rally ***
Shadow of the Vampire ***
San Andreas *
Deadpool ***
Grace and Frankie Season 4 ***
The Toys That Made Us Season 1 *****
The Toys That Made Us Season 2 *****
Attack of the 50-Foot Woman ***
The Wild, Wild Planet *
Facing Ali *****
Coco *****
Lady Bird ***
The Walk ***1/2
Prehistoric Women *
Loving Vincent ****
Spotlight *****
Zero Hour! ***
Vanishing Point (1971) ***
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) ***1/2
Paths of Glory *****
Sleuth ****
The Shape of Water *****
Black Panther ****
Avengers: Infinity Wars ****
Sully ***
Winchester ** 1/2
A Night at the Opera ****
The Danish Girl ****
Independence Day: Resurgence **
Superman: Extended Edition ****
Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson *****
Zoolander 2 ***
Operation Eichmann ***
A Day at the Races *****
The Mummy's Hand **
The Mummy's Ghost **1/2
The Mummy's Curse **
A Brief History of Time ****
For All Mankind *****
Nosferatu ***
The Devil's Bride **1/2
Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy ***
The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy *
The Black Hole **
Horror of Dracula ***
Dracula, Prince of Darkness ***
Horror Hotel ***
Die, Monster, Die! **
The Mummy (1959) ***
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb **
The Old Dark House **
Dracula A.D. 1972 ***
Rasputin The Mad Monk **1/2
Pharaoh's Curse *1/2
Son of Frankenstein ***
The Curse of Frankenstein ***
Frankenstein Created Woman ***
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed ***
White Zombie ***
Mark of the Vampire **
Night Monster **
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave ***
The Mummy's Shroud *1/2
The Fly (1958) ***1/2
The Frozen Dead *1/2
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth *
House of Haunted Hill **1/2
2001: A Space Odyssey *****
The Last Man on Earth ***
The Tigers of Scotland ****
Mercury 13 ****
Theatre of Blood **
Fantastic Mr. Fox *****
The Pit and The Pendulum **
The Man From UNCLE (2015) ****
The Ice Pirates *
Christmas Chronicles ***
Dumplin' ***
78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene ***
Frenzy ***
High Anxiety **
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs ****
Cannibal Girls **
Airport ****
Canada's Worst Driver: Season 14 *****
Springsteen on Broadway ***
The Fog of War *****

Movies I Watched in 2018

Solo ***
Juliet, Naked ***
Bohemian Rhapsody ****
Mary Poppins Returns ***

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books I Read 2017

The 37th Parallel by Ben Mezrich **
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah ****
Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics -- The Complete Series Volume Two 1970-1972 edited by Dean Mullaney ***1/2
Testimony by Robbie Robertson *****
Cutter's Wars: The Ramal Extraction by Steve Perry ***
Cutter's Wars: The Vastalimi Gambit by Steve Perry **1/2
Cutter's Wars: The Tejano Conflict by Steve Perry **
So, Anyway by John Cleese *****
The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán ***1/2
Company Town by Madeline Ashby ****
I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman ****
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer ***
The West End Horror by Nicholas Meyer ***
Stories from the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean ***
Home from the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean ****
Vinyl Cafe Unplugged by Stuart McLean ****
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly **
Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole **
Beatles vs. Stones by John McMillian ****
Wonder Woman: Earth One: Volume One by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn ***
Drake by Peter McLean ***1/2
Dominion by Peter McLean ***1/2
Damnation by Peter McLean ***1/2
The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward **1/2
Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen ***1/2
Starslayer by Mike Grell ****
Einstein by Walter Isaacson ****
Staking Claims to a Continent by James Laxer ***
Teen Titans: Earth One: Volume Two by Jeff Lemire, Andy Macdonald, Brad Anderson and Allen Passalaqua ***
Fighting God by David Silverman ***
The Death of Caesar by Barr Strauss ***
Star Trek: New Visions Volume 5 by John Byrne ****
Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma ***
Crossing the Line by Derek Sanderson with Kevin Shea ***
Bolt and Keel: The Wild Adventures of Two Rescued Cats by Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley ****
Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics -- The Complete Series Volume Three 1972-1979 edited by Dean Mullaney ***1/2
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King ***1/2
Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar ***1/2
Impulse by Dave Bara ***
Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film by Alexandra Zapruder ***1/2
Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean *****

TV I Wached 2017

The Trouble With Harry ***1/2
Shadow of a Doubt ***
Marnie ***
Rollerball (1975) ****
The Man Who Knew Too Much ***
Comic Book Confidential ***
Torn Curtain ***
Rope ***
Vertigo ****
Strangers on a Train ****
Hail, Caesar! ***1/2
Suicide Squad **1/2
Sherlock: Season 4 ****
David Brent: Life on the Road ***
Hector's Search For Happiness ***
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution ***
Shaft ***
Shaft's Big Score! **
Shaft in Africa **
her ****
Bobby Fischer Against the World ***
Edge of Tomorrow ***1/2
Finding Dory *****
Westworld (1973) **1/2
The Gorgon **1/2
The X From Outer Space *
20 Million Miles to Earth **
The Theory of Everything ****
Grace and Frankie Season 3 ****
Julius Caesar (1953) ***
Panic in Year Zero! **
Night of the Lepus * (or *****)
The Sugarland Express ***1/2
The Giant Claw *
Empire of the Ants *
The Deadly Mantis **
The Killer Shrews *
Corvette Summer ***
It's Alive *
Our Man in Marrakesh **
What We Do In The Shadows ***
Jackie ***1/2
The Wrong Man ***
In the Heat of the Night ****
Woman in Gold ***
12 Years a Slave ****
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo ****
Hidden Figures ****
Fantastic Four (2015) ***
Destination Moon **1/2
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze *
Long Time Running ****
Alias Grace ***
Dracula AD 1972 **
The Peanuts Movie ****
Eight Days a Week: The Beatles - The Touring Years ****
The Rutles: All You Need is Cash ***
The Orville: Season One ***
Game of Thrones: Season Seven ****

Movies I Watched 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 ****
Wonder Woman ****
Dunkirk ****
Blade Runner 2049 ***1/2
Justice League ***
Star Wars: The Last Jedi ***1/2

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books I Read in 2016

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins ***1/2
Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins ***1/2
Radiant State by Peter Higgins ***1/2
The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons ****
The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer ***
Tambora by Gillen D'Arcy Wood **
Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey ****
Don't Tell the Newfoundlanders by Greg Malone ***1/2
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu ***1/2
Star Trek: New Visions: Volume 3 by John Byrne ***
Sidekick Volume 2 by J. Michael Straczynski, Tom Mandrake and HiFi ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Courageous by Jack Campbell ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Valiant by Jack Campbell ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Relentless by Jack Campbell ***1/2
The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell ***1/2
Island on Fire by Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe ***
To Boldly Go: Rare Photos From the TOS Soundstage by Gerald Gurian ***
Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley ***
Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson ***1/2
Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics -- The Complete Series Volume One 1969-1970 edited by Dean Mullaney ***1/2
Losing the Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff ***1/2
Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson *1/2
Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams ***1/2
Ghost Country by Patrick Lee ***1/2
Deep Sky by Patrick Lee ***
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty ***
Windswept by Adam Rakunas ****
Like a Boss by Adam Rakunas ***
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man by William Shatner ***1/2
The End of All Things by John Scalzi ***1/2
Defenders by Wil McIntosh *1/2
Batman: Earth One: Volume Two by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson ****
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie ***1/2
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie ***1/2
The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman ****
The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman ****
Into the Black by Rowland White ***1/2
The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman ****
Joyland by Stephen King **1/2
A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Kraus ***
Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey ***1/2
Hunter's Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham **
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King ***1/2
Finders Keepers by Stephen King ***1/2
End of Watch by Stephen King ***1/2
Highest Duty by Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III with Jeffrey Zaslow ***
Unaccountable: Truth and Lies on Parliament Hill by Kevin Page **1/2
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson ***1/2
Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins ***1/2
Dread Empire's Fall: The Praxis by Walter John Williams ***
The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin ****
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall ***
Star Trek: New Visions: Volume 4 by John Byrne ***
Revival by Stephen King ****

Movies I Watched in 2016

Captain America: Civil War ***
Love and Friendship ***
Star Trek Beyond ***1/2
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie ***
Miss Peregine's Home for Peculilar Children ***
Arrival ****
Doctor Strange ***
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ***
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ***1/2

TV I Watched in 2016

Sherlock: Season One ****
Sherlock: Season Two *****
Sherlock: Season Three *****
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride *****
Captain Phillips ***1/2
Skyfall ****
Touching the Void ***
Black Sunday ***1/2
Colours of Edziza ***
Jurassic World ***
Ant-Man ***
Terminator: Genisys *
Detectorists: Season One ****
The X-Files: Season Ten ***
River: Season One ****
Bridge of Spies ***1/2
Game of Thrones: Season 5 ****
The Wrecking Crew ***1/2
Finding Vivian Maier *****
Star Wars: The Force Awakens ****
The Car *
Bill Cunningham New York ****
*batteries not included ***
Grace and Frankie: Season 2 ***1/2
The Last Man on the Moon ***1/2
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ***
Trumbo ****
Maleficent ***
Ghostbusters (2016) ***
Life in Pieces: Season One ****
The Crown: Season One ***
Game of Thrones: Season 6 ****
The Right Stuff *****
Krull **
The Revenant ***
Star Trek: The Roddenberry Vault *****
All That Jazz *****
I Am Your Father **1/2
For the Love of Spock ****

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books I Read in 2015

The Twilight Zone - Volume Two: The Way In by J.Michael Straczynski ***
The Twilight Zone - Volume Three: The Way Back by J.Michael Straczynski ***
Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle Volume One by J.Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods **
Batman: Earth One by Geoff Jones and Gary Frank ****
The Abominable by Dan Simmons ****
Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle Volume Two by J.Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods **;
The Quantuum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi ***1/2
The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass *** 1/2
Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison, Juan Ortiz, Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K.Woodward ****
Cat Sense by John Bradshaw ***1/2
Ten Grand Volume 2 by J.Michael Straczynski, C.P. Smith and Mathew Dow Smith ***
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson ***
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips: The Complete Comics 1979-1981 by Thomas Wartenkin, Sharman DiVono and Ron Harris ***
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips: The Complete Comics 1981-1983 by Sharman DiVono, Ron Harris, Thomas Wartenkin, Larry Niven, Padaric Shigetani, Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Bob Myers, Ernie Colon and Dick Kulpa **1/2
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey ***
Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812 by James Laxer ***1/2
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King ***
Dead Wake by Erik Larson ****
Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford **
Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise by Paul Olsen **
The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It by John W. Dean ***
Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Preston Neal Jones ****
Puget Sound Whales For Sale: The Fight to End Orca Hunting by Sandra Pollard ***1/2
Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2 by John Byrne ***1/2
Dark Lightning by John Varley ***1/2
We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines ***
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson ****
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson ****
Lock In by John Scalzi ***1/2
The Longer I'm Prime Minister by Paul Wells ***1/2
The Martian by Andy Weir ***1/2
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu ***1/2
Party of One by Michael Harris ***1/2
V-S Day by Allen Steele ***1/2
Teen Titans: Earth One: Volume One by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Cam Smith and Brad Anderson ***
Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson **
Destroyermen: Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Crusade by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Maelstrom by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Distant Thunders by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Firestorm by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson ***
Destroyermen: Deadly Shores by Taylor Anderson ***
Superman - Earth One: Volume Three by J. Michael Stracynski, Ardian Syhf, Sandra Hope and Barbara Ciardo ***
Trumbo by Bruce Cook ***1/2
Don't Panic: ISIS, Terror and Today's Middle East by Gwynne Dyer ***
Hockey Night Fever by Stephen Cole ***
The Humbug Murders by L. J. Oliver **
Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest **1/2

Movies I Watched in 2015

Birdman ****1/2
Jupiter Ascending *1/2
Kingsman **1/2
Avengers: Age of Ultron ***
Mad Max: Fury Road ***
Inside Out *****
Mr. Holmes ****
The Martian ****
Crimson Peak ****
Star Wars: The Force Awakens ****

DVDs I Watched in 2015

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire **1/2
Senna ***
Twenty Feet From Stardom ****
Forks Over Knives ***
The Book Thief ***
Being There ***1/2
Game of Thrones Season 4 ****
Kayaking the Aleutians ****
The Boys From Brazil ***
The History of The Eagles ***
Grace and Frankie Season One ****
Gone Girl ***
The Who Live at Shea Stadium 1982 ***1/2
I am Evel Knievel ***1/2
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Season One ***
Searching for Sugarman ****
The Candidate ****
Queen: A Night at the Odeon ***
The Who Live at Hyde Park ***
For Your Consideration ***
Gorillas in the Mist ****

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Kayaking the Aleutians

Last year, Sarah Outen was rowing across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to British Columbia as part of her London2London human-powered global circumnavigation adventure. She had already kayaked from London across the English Channel, rode a bike across Europe and Russia, and had kayaked from Russia to Japan. Now, she was making her second attempt to row across the Pacific; her first attempt failed when her specially-designed row boat started leaking and she had to be rescued. Her second attempt was faring better, but the weather gods were not cooperating. After weeks on the water, she realized that the winds and currents were making eastward progress almost impossible. In fact, they were pushing her north towards Alaska. And that's when she improvised Plan B. Enlisting the aid of adventure kayaker and filmmaker Justine Curgenven, Sarah decided to put her rowboat ashore at the western tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, and kayak the length of the archipelago, up the Alaska panhandle to the nearest road so she could continue her human-powered adventure by bicycle. She and Justine spent 101 days kayaking 2500 kilometers in one of the most remote places on earth. Fortunately for the rest of us, Justine took along her cameras. Highlighted by the incredible and magnificent scenery of the Aleutian Island chain, Justine's new DVD, Kayaking the Aleutians, simply proves again what the kayaking community already knows: she is a marvelous filmmaker. Not only does she deftly capture the astounding natural environment such as the wild storms, the bear encounters, and the sea lions encroaching on their camp, she is equally adept and bringing out the human side of the story: her friendship with Sarah, the charming encounters with the locals, the joy at the end of a day of successful paddling, and the anxiety when the paddling day is on the brink of going seriously sideways. There were many such days, as Justine and Sarah had to deal with uncooperative currents, raging winds, and equipment failures, but, buoyed along by Sarah's seemingly unfailing optimism, the two friends completed a journey that the rest of us can only dream about. The DVD also contains four short bonus films; a windy paddle in Wales, kayaking in the Bay of Fundy with whales, and two films about kayaking in the waves at Tofino with The Hurricane Riders. Don't hesitate to check it out if you have a chance.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I Read 2014

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson***1/2
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson ****
Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay **
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis ***
Ten Grand Volume 1 by J.Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmtih and C.P. Smith ***1/2
Sidekick Volume 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Tom Mandrake and HiFi ***1/2
Superman: Earth One Volume Two by J.Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis *** 1/2
The Adventures of Apocalypse Al by J. Michael Straczynski, Sid Kotian and Bill Farmer ***
Protectors Inc by J. Michael Straczynski, Gordon Purcell, Andrew Pepoy and Michael Atiyeh ***
Between Man and Beast by Monte Reel ***
The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer ***
The Lost Whale by Michael Parfitt and Suzanne Chisholm *****
The Human Division by John Scalzi ****
Existence by David Brin ***
These Are The Voyages Volume 2 by Marc Cushman *****
Moonfire by Norman Mailer *****
Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith ***
The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History by William K. Klingman and Nicholas P. Klingman ***
The Point Man by Steve Englehart ***
The Further Adventures of an Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington ***1/2
Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour by David Bianculli ***1/2
The Twilight Zone Volume One: The Way Out by J.Michael Straczynski ***
Before Watchmen: The Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan by J.Michael Straczynski, Adam Hughes, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz and Eduardo Risso ***1/2
Nation Maker: Sir John A. MacDonald: His Life, Our Times by Richard Gwyn ****
Canada in the Great Power Game 1914-2014 by Gwynne Dyer *****
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser ****
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie ****
Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever by Bruce Dowbiggin ***
The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was by Chantel Hébert with Jean Lapierre ***
God, No! by Penn Jillette *1/2
Star Trek: New Visions by John Byrne ***
The Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, Michael Heisler, Nick Runge and George Lucas ****
Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story by Robyn Doolittle *** 1/2
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Cambell ***1/2
Supervolcano: Eruption by Harry Turtledove ***
These Are The Voyages Volume 3 by Marc Cushman *****

Movies I Watched 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ***1/2
The Grand Budapest Hotel ****
X-Men: Days of Future Past ***1/2
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ****
Guardians of the Galaxy *****
Lucy ***
St. Vincent ***1/2
The Imitation Game ****
The Hobbit: The Battles of the Five Armies ***1/2

DVDs I Watched 2014

The World's End ****
Blackfish *****
Game of Thrones: Season Three ****
Iron Man Three ***
Thor: The Dark World ***
The Tooth Fairy *
Philomena ****
X-Men: First Class ****
The Who: Quadrophenia Live in London 2013 *****
Jodorowsky's Dune ****
Queen Live at the Rainbow '74 ****
Iron Sky ***
Rush ***1/2
Sensation: The Story of The Who's Tommy ***1/2
Godzilla (1954) ****
Frozen ***

Sunday, April 13, 2014


It's difficult to watch Blackfish, the recent film concerning the continued captvity of orcas, and of one orca in particular, Tilikum, whose life in captivity, and the tragedies that have occured since, began here in Victoria. As noted in my review of the book Death at SeaWorld, Tilikum was involved in the first death of an orca trainer, which occured at the local Sealand of the Pacific attraction in 1991. When Sealand closed the next year, Tilikum and the other orcas were sold to SeaWorld. In 1999, a dead man was found sprawled across Tilikum's back -- apparently the man snuck into SeaWorld after hours and climbed into Tilikum's pool -- and in 2010 Tilikum dragged a trainer into water and killed her. Using interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, orca experts and others, as well as footage of SeaWorld performances -- some that went well, others not -- the film traces the history of capturing orcas for display and performance with particular attention to Tilikum, and explores whether it is even possible to safely keep orcas in captivity and whether we should even try. Blackfish is a sad and mesmerizing film with no easy answers, but is well worth your time and attention.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown Volume 3

Film-maker and podcaster Simon Willis and kayaking coach Gordon Brown round out their trilogy of kayaking coaching films with their latest offering, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3. This third chapter differs from the previous two which consisted of an expedition film intertwined with coaching segments. This third volume does away with the expedition segment, and instead presents three films and and a rolling coaching segment. The first film is on Emergency Situations, and presents two scenarios where emergency personnel have to be called to perform a rescue. Much of this film is presented from the point of view of rescue personnel and I've never seen anything quite like this in a kayaking video. This is a terrific segment, with lots of important tips and information presented. This segment alone is worth the price of admission. For those of us who have been lucky enough to not have needed rescue, it was certainly eye-opening to hear the thoughts of rescue personnel, many of them also kayakers, of what kayakers can do to assist rescuers in emergency situations. Equally informative was a short scene near the end when the rescue personnel displayed their own emergency kayaking kits. A shorter but related film has a member of the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute display the first aid gear he carries, as well as a couple of demonstrations of first aid situations. Some of the gear displayed is intended only for trained personnel, and a DVD is not going to replace actual first aid certification, but it is interesting to see what gear other people carry and the techniques they use. I'm certainly going to add some electrical tape to our first aid kit after watching this. In the third film Gordon is joined by Franco Ferrero for a segment on navigation. A DVD is not going to replace a proper sea kayak navigation course, but the information regarding navigation concepts and tides are well-presented here. Finally, the rolling segment is structured very differently. After a few exercises and roll demonstrations, the premise behind this segment is that the viewer will practice rolling with a spotter, as well as someone with a video-camera who will record the practice session. The viewer will then compare his own videos to the videos on the the DVD, using the troubleshooting section to identify mistakes, and then try to incorporate the fixes suggested. For instance, your roll might be failing, but why? Comparing your video to the common mistakes illustrated on the DVD, you may discover that your paddle is not at the correct angle and is diving down into the water instead of the staying at the service. You move to the fixes section and some tips are provided for you to try on keeping your paddle at surface level. At the risk of repeating myself, no DVD will ever replace having a certified instructor coaching you live and in the flesh, but the approach taken here is unique. Is it effective? We have yet to try it as designed by filming ourselves, but it seems like it should be a benefit to troubleshooting your roll (or lack of it). This is another winning DVD from Gordon and Simon and, taken as a set, the three Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVDs are as comprehensive a set of kayaking video tutorials as you are ever likely to find.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Death at SeaWorld

Is there a benefit to keeping orcas in captivity? From a very narrow point of view, there probably is, as thousands of people can see these magnificent creatures who probably would never get the chance to. But what they are seeing is not typical orca behaviour in the wild; there are seeing glorified circus animals doing tricks and stunts far removed from their normal behaviours. And though the risk to trainers is now abundantly obvious, what of the risk to the physical, and perhaps more important, the mental health of the whales? Can intelligent, social and vocal animals with huge natural ranges be housed in what are essentially giant bathtubs, either in isolation or with unfamilliar orcas from different lineages with whom they can't communicate, without going a little nuts? As a child growing up here in Victoria, one of the most popular tourist attractions in city was Sealand of the Pacific. And perhaps the Sealand experience is a microcosm of the story of orcas in capitivity. Nowhere is that question of captivity more relevant than in the history of Sealand, and in the deaths of Miracle, and Keltie Byrne. Miracle was a young juvenile orca found alone, shot, and starving on the east coast of Vancouver Island in 1977. She was captured and moved to Sealand, a six hour drive on the back of a flat bed truck. She survived the trip, but when she was released into a tank at Sealand, she sank to the bottom of the pool. Rescuers pulled her to the surface, and she began a long and difficult road to return to health, but she beats the odds. A Miracle. She eventually became a star attraction at Sealand, but in January, 1982, she somehow became entangled in the nets of her sea pen and drowned. Keltie Byrne was a trainer at Sealand. In late 1991, she slipped and fell into a tank with Tilikum and two other orcas. Sealand, unlike SeaWorld, did not do any water training -- the trainers never went in the water with the whales -- so having a trainer in the water was a new situation for the whales. Tilikum took her under the water and held her there, blocking her escape from the tank. Eventually all three whales began playing with their visitor. It took hours to retrieve Keltie's body from the pool. She was the first trainer ever killed by a captice orca. Sealand closed within a year. Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld. This is a heck of a lot of back story to get into for a book review, but David Kirby's Death at SeaWorld opens with Keltie's death, and Tilikum would go to even greater infamy, causing two more deaths at SeaWorld, including the title incident of the book. These are astonishingly intelligent creatures, as evidenced by a chapter when the author relates the story of a scientist running visual and aural training on two recently captured orcas and it quickly became apparent that in actuality the orcas were running tests on the scientist. Equally astonishing is the utter ignorance with which orca trappers went about their work in the 1960s and 1970s. Working under the mistaken assumption that the local waters contained hundreds if not thousands of orcas, on one memorable day trappers netted almost all of the local resident orcas in one net. Some they let go, some they took away to transport to interested aquariums, some they killed, tying concrete blocks to their bodies so they would sink. They conceivably could have sold or killed all of them, not realizing that it indeed would have been all of them, all of the local residents. It wasn't until a few years later in the the mid-1970s that scientists actually counted the local orcas, and were surprised to discover how few of them there really are. For anyone interested in the history of humanity's relationship with a fellow mammal, this should be required reading. The book tends to get bogged down with the legal ramifications of Tilikum's behaviour in its last third, but is utterly fascinating with its twin tales of modern orca research and the history of orcas in captivity. Here's some bonus content. These are pictures my father took at a show at Victoria's Sealand of the Pacific in the fall of 1971. I'm not positive which whale is pictured. It's not Tilikum, and my guess is it's probably Haida.

1971 Sealand Oak Bay 1971 Sealand Oak Bay (3) 1971 Sealand Oak Bay (2)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kayak Across the Atlantic

In June of 2000, Pete Bray launched from St. John's. Newfoundland in an attempt to be the first person to kayak solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean. Within a few hours, his kayak cabin was flooding, the cockpit was leaking, all his electronics including his communications gear was wrecked, and he was forced to take to his life raft, whose bottom was ripped and also leaking. And that's just the first eight pages of his book. Fortunately, [SPOILER ALERT] Pete was quickly rescued and tried a second and [SPOILER ALERT] more successful attempt in 2001. His memoir of his crossing is a short but enjoyable read, describing the preparations for both attempts, as well as the lessons learned from the aborted first attempt. He tells the tale of his 76-day crossing in a breezy and relaxed fashion, from the solar-powered gear that had trouble recharging because the sun never shined, to the publicist who had a strange aversion to seeking publicity. His tome is light and slim, but if you enjoy expedition stories, this is worth checking out.