Category Archives: Reviews

21st Century Slavery

Who here has heard of the slave trade? Alright, I’m assuming at least some of you have raised your hand. Of those who have heard of the slave trade will you please comment if you are in favour of it… Um, still waiting, somebody, anybody?

Nobody wanting to be taken seriously would openly praise the practices of slavery, and yet in all likelihood MOST OF US SUPPORT SLAVERY.

I hope I don’t have to justify getting this specific information from the Al-Jazeera News Network. In a world of “wedge issues” I sometimes worry about the growing rift between the W4   powers and the rest of the world. Even if Al-Jazeera is as biased towards issues of the Arab world as CNN is biased towards Conservative American values, is still necessary to see the other side of the coin. IMHO Al-Jazeera is not as biased as CNN, although, albeit maybe with good reason, they are noticeably anti-American.

That whole clash of civilization debate aside, if you’ve eaten food today chances are you’ve participated in slavery. Ever shop at Walmart? Yes = supported slavery (and I’m talking about REAL slavery, ie. locked up, beaten, starved, paid nothing, not just the economic enslavement of Walmart employees).

All in all there are seven episodes and a panel debate about modern slavery.

Prison slaves : Much of the cheap trinketry that is sold in Western big box stores is made certain Chinese prisons by slaves.

Bonded slaves : A form of slavery that is passed down from one generation to the next.

Sex slaves : There are an estimated 1.4 million sex slaves in the world today.

Food chain slaves : Approximately 40,000 slaves exist in the agricultural and food-chain supply systems of the US.

Bridal slaves : India has an increasing number of women and girls sold into marriage.

Charcoal slaves : Poverty-stricken men from the north of Brazil are often lured to remote camps where they are used as slave labour.

Child slaves : There are at least 8.4 million child slaves in the world today, many of them held as forced labour.
And the panel discussion: The Al Jazeera slavery debate  moderated by Rageh Omaar.

I feel these documentaries are great resource for getting younger generations to behave in a different manner than the generations that precede them. Although it good to have more than a couple “Buy Nothing Days” it necessary to buy things on a regular basis. Just as it is necessary to buy things it is also necessary to think about what you are buying. Of course we need produce and aren’t given much choice in supermarkets for local food, but farmer’s markets do exist. Yes, we do need clothes, but there are second hand stores, clothing swaps and even discounters like Winners where clothes provide less of a profit but don’t necessarily decrease demand.

Are we a society that is so pampered that we are willing to support slavery to continue our standard of living? As always I encourage you to check these facts yourself and form your own opinions.

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Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend (Musical group). (2010). Contra. London, England: XL Recordings.
So, I was at Sappyfest last weekend and seriously, this was the music I most enjoyed from a four day excursion. The fact that a CD beat out live music is a powerfully indication as to the groups talents (or a an indication that Sappyfest organizers need to scrounge a little harder to find better artists… Although, everyone else seemed to like the tunes so maybe I was just at the wrong festival. Moving forward).

This album is a nice mix between the electro-Indie pop beats I’ve been becoming more and more fond of (artists such as Muse, The Knife, Austra, and I’m sure a million more) and realistic yet artful lyrics. I doubt if many teens will fully appreciate the goose-bump producing defeatism that trembles beneath the lyrics of “Giving Up the Gun” a sentimental reflection on watching someone else give up on their dreams while refusing to give up on their own. I was really reminded of Pink Floyd’s “Time” in that both songs “rage against the dying of the light” so to speak.

This leads me to the second point I would like to mention about this band, something that markedly separates them from Pink Floyd and many current like-sounding bands: Vampire Weekend produce HAPPY, POSITIVE music. Seriously! I am a grump and I gravitate towards depressive, soul-tattering tunes… but VW is a welcome departure from this trend!

Playful energy that underlies almost every track. This is a muthatruckin’ FUN album to listen to. Apparently their first,album, self-titled, is also the shit (according to allmusic.com).

The proof’s in the pudding so as always I encourage you to judge for yourself and form your own opinions about this music:

Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire

Collins, T., & Pinder, A. (2010). Notes from a totally lame vampire: Because the undead have feelings too!. New York: Aladdin.

  • Emo Vampires
  • Killer squirrels
  • Mortal love

… this book’s got it all!

Nigel wants his vampire nickname to be “Nightwalker” it instead becomes cutesy ol’ “Fangy.” This is typical luck for Nigel. He was turned into a vampire, but never received a vampire’s superhuman speed & strength nor their mesmerizing good looks. Worst of all he is about to turn 100 yrs old and he still hasn’t ever had a girlfriend! FML, indeed!

Tim Collins does well to capture the usually obstacles and insecurities that teenagers face in this diary. When I find myself both laughing and relating to a fictional vampire teen/centenarian I feel I’ve found a good book.

Andrew Pinders drawings go perfectly with the diary medium and the lanky awkwardness that is Nigel’s life.

PS- Apparently there’s a sequel diary out called Prince of Dorkness : more notes from a totally lame vampire

Not as absorbing as expected

Maharaj, R. (2010). The amazing absorbing boy. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

I had high expectations for this book drawn mostly from hearing it recently received the Trillium Book Award ($20 000). Unfortunately, I must confess I did not find this book as captivating as I had anticipated.

I did appreciate the viewpoints in this book and how Maharaj helps to highlight the Canada that many Canadians thinks no longer exists. As the Harper majority slowly starts to revert Canadian immigration policy back to the antiquated, racist, and xenophobic “None is too many” rhetoric of the 1930’s it is of crucial importance to recognize this fact: When it comes to the integration of immigrants and refugees into our society we have never seen complete success. It should be noted that the main character of this book, 17 year old Sam, like most refugees didn’t actually want to come to Canada in the first place! Once here what we see through Sam’s eyes are glimpses of uncomfortable, but very real truths:

  1. Immigrants who come to Canada do NOT always/automatically fare better than their peers from their place of origin.
  2. Canadians are mostly passive in their acceptance of foreigners. We (native born citizens who work outside of immigrant aid organizations) generally accept, but we do little to actively welcome, aid, and acclimatize new comers.
  3. It is primarily other immigrants & refugees who help new immigrants & refugees.

In addition to these aspects of the book I also liked how Maharaj made Sam a fan of comic books (funny scene in a Toronto Public Library where some snotty kid gets mad at Sam for calling his “graphic novel” a “comic”… they’re the same thing, Bud!). Sam often makes sense of his world by relating it to comic book scenarios and characters. This is definitely an element of Sam’s character that teens can relate to.

However, what might put teens of this book is that… well, frankly this book is kind of boring. As Donna Bailey Nurse wrote in her review for the Globe & Mail, “Most of the novel’s conversation about race and immigration unfolds through thought and dialogue rather than dramatic action.” A book of over 300 pages needs dramatic action!!!

This book is almost a great recommendation for reluctant readers as it centers on a male in his late teens who like comics, but the length and the plodding plot are big turn offs… sorry Maharaj 😦 However, if you read this book and liked aspects of it (or would rather skip this book and look for something of more particular interest) let me make some recommendations:

If you like hearing about the struggle of immigrants to Canada and how they help to build our society you may like Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of the Lion.

If you like reading about a boy coming of age trying to find who he is and what he can do you may like Andre Alexis’ Childhood.

This could be the “New You”!

The blog Awful Library Books is a constant source of hilarity for me. Today’s post is one I’d like to share with y’all. Do you want ot be a more “likeable” teen? Well don’t try “being yourself” or being like the teens you see on TV (who are often played by 20-30yr old actors)… simply go out to your nearest Time Machine and travel back to the 1960’s, an era when you will be able to obtain a copy of Your Home and You by Greer and Gibbs. For a prime example of the benefits this book can bestow upon your forming person please note the list of grooming tips. As always the standard that boys are held to pales compared to what girls have to go through to look “presentable”… barf.

Can you feel the oozing, palpable sarcasm? If not please insert your own. I haven’t read the book, so I the morsels of legitimate information that may exist within are lost to me, however because the book is outdated by 1/2 a century I am guessing that it will lead you farther astray than it will guide you to your true self. That being said I still stand behind a sizable portion of The Little Red School Book which is circa 1969 (see my post on My Little Red Book for some context).

Ultimately, if you want a “new you” you’ll have to do more than just read a book (strangely, reading 100 books would probably help you become a “new you”). Study your desires, decisions, actions, and emotions and FORCE YOURSELF TO BE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE/ REALIZE THAT YOU ARE PROBABLY AWESOME ALREADY! Also, don’t listen to jerks. Remember that every second of every day you ARE a new you, so act accordingly.

DFTBA

Classic X-Men X-Men: First Class

A group of librarians and I (and a Chemistry master’s student who has been adopted into our stack of librarians) decided to hit the town last week and went to go see X-men: First Class on cheap night! (yes, it WAS a wild night for sure. We parked two downtown city blocks from the theatre and didn’t get home until 9:45pm!!! True story.

Aaaaanyway, we had varying expectations, but were all happy with our experiences at the end of the show. The sets were well done with a nice mix of realistic detail and cartoonish grandeur. The office of Dr. Shaw’s nazi labratory is the prime example where a dimly lit stone room with finely carved wooden funiture is placed beside a glass walled, neonlit lab with 100’s of gleaming metal instruments adorning the far wall beyond the surgery tables. Also the period costumes and equipment of the Soviet and American navies versus the swanky style of Shaw’s submarine.

We all liked different parts and different aspects of it, so I’m happy to recommend it as “a good movie” a good movie for the action-lovin’ crowd, a good movie when you’re lazing around and feel like killing a couple of hours. I have a couple boeufs though, pardon my french. They are as follows:

Boeuf #1: The movie is borderline to failing The Bechdel Test, the criteria of which are:

Does this film…
1. Have at least two women in it?
2. Who talk to each other?
3. About something besides a man?

Approximately half the leading characters are female, but the amount they talk to each other is sparse and barely of any quality. Female characters are also dwarfed by the male characters authority, specifically thinking of the “pet” roles Emma Frost and Raven played. If you disagree, tell me why, or join the discussion online @ http://bechdeltest.com/view/2370/x-men:_first_class

Figure 1.0

Boeuf#2: Nicholas Hoult does a great job playing Hank McCoy/Beast, Nichalos Hoult looks great… but beast looked like a CG combination of the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch, see Figure 1.0 for my visual argument.
This beef isn’t as important to me as under-representing female power, so I can see why the animators wouldn’t have made beast look as fearsome as he does in comic book form. This movie is a prequel and the standard for how Beast’s face should look is based off the 2006 movie X-Men: The Last Stand… which is based off of Kelsey Grammer’s face. The eyes and chin of First Class Beast offer glimpses of

Figure 2.0

Nichalos Hoult’s face, but still as Figure 2.0 shows you both versions of Beast look strikingly like Kelsey Grammar regular face… unless he actually IS Beast and his beige skin is the mask! Stranger things have happened (probably).

Of course nothing counts like your own opinion don’t take what I say verbatim! Go out and see this flick for ya’self… if you like action movies about comics and/or have some time to kill and/or it’s cheap night and your friends are going.

Lady Gaga – Oh lala


I bet that anyone who has heard at least five Lady Gaga songs will be a fan of at least one (probably two) of them. Whether they are open with this or stubbornly feign superiority, only to return home and submit to a personal Youtube dance party, the bond will be there. Her debut The Fame is a party waiting to be played. Despite the (over)exposure of songs like Pokerface and Lovegame I will never tire of those opening bars. Her new album, Born this Way still won’t be released for a few days yet, but thanks to the magic of the internet I’ve already been able to hear a quarter of it. Nothing’s jumped out at me yet, but it has got my foot tappin’ and I must admit that kind of makes me even more eager to hear the album.
In addition to being a brave artist Stefani Germanotta/Lady Gaga/Mother Monster is also a really nice person. This personal address by Lady Gaga is a perfect example of why lady gaga deserves to get respect and at the same time will also provide you with the live performance of two of her new tracks Judas and Born this way.

Another weird sign of Lady Gaga’s popular appeal is this ad for Gagaville bthat has been appearing in the sidebar of my Facebook page recently: Gagaville!?! WTF!!!
Finally, Grannies and Gaga together at last!

Whether you like or not (but secretly do like her anyway) you’ve gotta let a person grow! She’s come along way from writing lyrics for Britney Spears and that’s a good thing (maybe not so much for Britney, but that’s not the fish I’m frying right now).