Wednesday, June 30, 2010



Karrnnel Sawitsky – fiddle
Ray Bell – guitar
Daniel Koulack – double bass, banjo
Troy MacGillivray – piano
Matt Atkins – drums, percussion
Matt Gruza – accordian
Carman Rabuka – cello

My Rating: 5 Stars


July 18
Sizzle Girl
C-Town/Johnnie MacGillvery's (Karrnnel Sawitsky, Shane Cook, Mark Sullivan, Taylor Buckley)
New Found Melody
Blue Fiddlesticks/5 Months
Safe Driving/Song
The Nameless Scotsman/Jazzy Bluestep
Kanndece & Victor's/Kim & Ken's
That Girl
The Jewish Ukrainian
::bonus track::
The Oatcake Breakdown (Karrnnel Sawitsky and Troy MacGillivray)/
Rivermoth Jig (Karrnnel Sawitsky and JJ Guy)

I've personally known Karrnnel Sawitsky since 2007, where my family and I first met him at Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party's music camp. Since then, he has continued to delight us and all of his other audiences with his music. When Karrnnel made his first recording, I knew it was going to be very good because he is not only an excellent musician, he is a perfectionist. Everything about him, including his appearance, has the look of profession.

I was not disappointed. His recording is one of the best I own and the best I've heard. It's Fiddle with a flair. It's not just one genre; it is many genres. How does one artist present such variety? Well, first, you practice, play, perform and study for over 20 years. Then, you compose a selection of tunes that wow every audience gets to hear them. After that, you have your very talented and remarkable group of musician friends and acquaintances get together for a recording session. :-)

Another reason I am so pleased to write this review is because many of the musicians playing on this CD (including Karrnnel) are friends of mine. Listening to them all play together on this recording is like jamming at camp and looking around the circle of faces of those very dear.

What I Liked:
1: The sound of this recording is professional.
2: Many different genres of music, including celtic, fiddle, rock, bluegrass, classical and jazz.
3: The unique sound of Karrnnel's compositions.
4: The challenge of accompanying this CD (for my practice :-)).
5: Sound of the Fiddle.

Monday, June 28, 2010

John Q. -- 2002

John Q.

Rated 14A for violence and language
My Rating: 5 Stars

Denzel Washington
Robert Duvall
James Woods
Anne Heche
Kimberly Elise
Ray Liotta
Daniel E. Smith

“I think John Q. was using one of those faith based health care plans. That's where you just pray and the government does nothing.”

The Archibald family are a typical black family down south: daddy (John), mama (Denise) and boy Mike). They don't have a lot of money but they have each other and love and they're getting by.

Then, one day while playing a rousing game of baseball, Mikey collapses and has to be rushed to the Emergency Room. He is diagnosed with a rare disease that has enlarged his heart to three times it's normal size. Unless he gets a new one within days, he'll die.

Two choices... another heart or death. Of course, his parents opt for the heart transplant. But there is a problem: without their knowledge, their insurance has been cut down from total coverage to only $20,000. A heart transplant costs upwards of $250,000.

The Archibalds sell anything of their possessions that aren't nailed down (and maybe a couple things that were), do horrific amounts of paperwork trying to get any kind of coverage, offerings at church are taken up, people give them money on the street...

But it isn't enough. It's never enough.

The doctors are discharging Mike. There is nothing they are willing to do without funds, so the boy will be sent home to die.

John Q. Archibald is the gentlest man God ever created. He wouldn't hurt a flea. But you don't crowd a loving Daddy and his family back into a corner with no place to go. He's liable to do the unthinkable. In this case, the unthinkable was taking the doctor responsible, the ER and everyone in it hostage until the case is won and his son has a new heart.

What I Liked:
1: How family oriented this film was. It's all about family and the roles each member takes. “I'm with my husband. Whatever he does it fine with me.”
2: John Q. didn't do the right thing by taking people hostage but even when he was doing wrong, you felt in his spirit that he only wanted to do what was right and best for his family. He was truly a generous and unselfish man. Just when you think the man had nothing left to give, he'd give a whole lot more.
3: For most of the language, they substituted words. Lol.
4: How the 'bad' woman has a change of heart.
5: When the girlfriend beats up her boyfriend. I'm still chuckling.
6: The doctor. He was a phenomenal actor.
7: Actually, all the actors were very good.
8: The twists in the story... very surprising.
9: John Q.'s actions had both good and bad consequences.
10: The obvious affection John and Denise had for each other.
11: There was a mixture of characters. Some were truly concerned only about themselves, others had merely become caught up in their life and had forgotten there is always room for compassion and trust.
12: No bedroom scenes or sexual innuendo.
13: The excellent directing/filming. Bravo!!
14: The humor. It was very effective.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The occasional bad language.
2: The conclusion was that the US should provide free health care for everyone. I don't think that's the answer.

This film was like a breath of fresh air. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- 1989

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Rated PG-13 for violence, language, horror and sexuality
My Rating: 4 Stars

Harrison Ford
Denholm Elliot
Alison Doody
John Rhys-Davies
Julian Glover
Sean Connery

My favorite Indiana Jones movie. I have always loved stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, so this film really hit the spot. But not only for that aspect of it. The movie is very well acted, with lots of history and laughs thrown in. Makes for an enjoyable evening of watching.

Hitler had to abandon the Ark of the Covenant after it disappeared without a trace (thanks to Dr. Jones) but he hasn't given up hope for an easy victory. There is another “mystically-empowered” legend from the antiquity that he intends for himself and his followers: The Holy Grail.

One fine afternoon, Dr. Jones is followed and intercepted on his way home from the university. They bring him to a man who has in his possession part of a stone tablet and a request that Dr. Jones find it's twin. On the tablet is depicted a riddle of the location of the Holy Grail. But there is a problem and it lies with the fact the tablet is broken, therefore part of the riddle is missing. This man needed to find the other tablet, which is in the tomb of one of the Knights of King Arthur's assembly.

 Dr. Jones is impressed with the tablet but not by the request. His father had studied anything and everything related to the Holy Grail for over 30 years. In fact, the Grail was an obsession that took him away from his family and allowed room for few friends. Indy said that if they wanted someone to find the Holy Grail, his father would be a better pick. It was unfortunate, the man replied, but they had chosen Professor Jones first and he had gone missing. That was why they needed Indy.

As you well may guess, Indy and his father had never been close. The very fact that Indy hadn't realized that his father has been out of town for awhile says a lot for the amount of contact between the two. Immediately after the meeting, he rushed to his father's home, only to find it had been ransacked. He stood in his father's trashed living room and wondered who and why? What are they looking for? Where had his father disappeared to?

That was when he realized the package he received in the mail that day was his father's Grail diary. The one Professor Jones wrote all of his notes in... all the clues, the maps... everything he had discovered in his 30 years of study. Indy knows his father would never part with his diary unless he thought it would be in danger. And if it were in danger, it meant that Professor Jones was also in danger. The two may not have been close, but Indy is a good son. His only reason for excepting the job to find the missing tablet is to search for any clues that might lead him to his father.

The next day found Indiana Jones and Mr. Brody, a close friend of both the Jones', on a plane to Venice. Straight into the heart of danger and adventure... and face to face with Adolf Hitler.

“Germany just declared war on the Jones' boys!”

What I Liked:
1: The acting... phenomenal.
2: 99% of the special effects were so well done that you didn't realize they were.
3: Alison Doody was a beautiful woman and wonderful actor. She is my favorite of all Indy's love interests. But she also had an appropriate end.
4: The humor. My family and I nearly laughed ourselves silly. :-)
5: When there was sexual references, it was discreetly done.
6: All of the history, legends, story, etc.
7: The actor who played Hitler actually looked very much like him.
8: Sean Connery is wonderful. He was the perfect pick for Harrison Ford's father.
9: In spite of their differences, father and son learned to appreciate and respect each other.
10: The punch through the paper. That was clever...
11: How well Indiana Jones and his father are depicted. It's just about perfect.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Some of the adventure/script was pretty unbelievable. Some of the pickles could have been avoided with a little common sense.
2: The sexual references. It didn't help the story.
3: language.

“No ticket!”
“You were named after the dog?! Hehehehehe!”

If you want to watch Indiana Jones, this is the film. :-)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- 1984

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

PG for violence, horror, voodoo, sexual references
My Rating 2 Stars

Harrison Ford
Kate Capshaw
Amrish Puri
Roshan Seth
Philip Stone
Ke Huy Quan

My least favorite Indiana Jones movie... but there were some aspects of it that I really enjoyed. For instance, his child side-kick. He's so funny and cute... a wonderful actor.

Indiana Jones has just delivered a diamond to a customer and the customer just happens be a villain. Indy escapes with his life but just barely. But he also grabbed his customer's show girl (Kate Capshaw), a true blonde. She becomes his curse from that day forward, until they kiss in the end.

Of course.

Due to foul circumstances, the escape plane is going down and Indiana Jones and crew have to bale out with a rubber raft since the parachutes walked out with the same guys that emptied the gas tanks. After a wild adventure of landing, using said raft as a sled, going over a cliff, down a waterfall and life comes to a relative standstill, they find they have landed somewhere in India.

They are found and led to a village who have been robbed of their magic, the Ankara Stone, which is the protection the people have from evil. Along with the stone, their children were all taken from them. They all point to the palace on a high hill as the place of great evil. They ask Indiana Jones if he will help them. He says yes, to his lady-friend's dismay.

When they reach the palace, they find an adventure beyond their wildest imaginations.  But the trio are made welcome, fed a meal and given a place to sleep. Indiana Jones wonders if he is looking for trouble in the wrong place. But his suspicions are tripled with the meeting of the child emperor that rules the kingdom. The young boy seems strangely aloof... disoriented; not a child at all. But it is when an assassin enters his quarters and tries to strangle him that Indy realizes he is really onto something. He begins to investigate in earnest and discovers that an ancient and evil religious sect has revived under the guidance of an evil priest. The missing children are slaves in the mines below the castle but one by one, they are drugged and used for human sacrifices and helpers to the priests.

In the middle of his investigations, Indy failed to realize the only time bad guys aren't around is when you're walking straight into a trap. This time, Indiana Jones needs help and only his sidekick knows what to do.

What I Liked:
1: The theology was not quite as bad this time. :-)
2: How when a religious sect works, children (the innocents) are among the first to be hurt or put in bondage.
3: The kid. Good actor. :-)
4: Of all the special effects, the ceremony of the temple is the best done. I must say that I enjoyed watching it, in spite of how evil and horrible it was. What helped with that aspect was the fact that they were not promoting idol worship or the religious cult. It is evil and they were showing it for how evil it was.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Indy's lady-friend. She was so coarse and so stupid. Lol. Poor Indy. He ends up with the worst of women. Always. Also note how poorly dressed she is most of the time.
2: A lot of the special features were very obvious. I wasn't impressed with the quality of this movie.
3: The sexual references. It didn't help the story at all.
4: A lot of the action is very unrealistic. I never forgot I was watching a movie with this one!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Indiana Jones -- 1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Rated PG for violence, language and innuendo
My Rating 3 Stars

Harrison Ford
Karen Allen
Paul Freeman
Ronald Lacey
John Rhys-Davies
Denholm Elliott

The Time: early 1940's; World War 2.
Dr. Jones is a dedicated professor of archaeologist. His classroom is filled with bored and somewhat starstruck students who don't take him very seriously, except to write “love”  “me” on their eyelids. But take off the scholarly glasses and the suit, replace them with clothes of the Aussie outback and a whip and Dr. Jones becomes a man of steel and action that his students would have never recognized.

To the rest of the world, the studious Dr. Jones doesn't exist. Only the whip cracking Indiana Jones who comes sweeping in to help if you're in trouble or happen to possess an archaic object that he thinks should be in a museum. Regardless, wherever he goes, the bad guys are never far behind!

The government comes to Dr. Jones and his associates with a riddle to solve. They have cracked a German code but they don't understand what the Nazis are talking about. However, they did know where to go for information on all things buried or ancient, and sure enough, Indiana Jones knew exactly what the German information was about and where to find it:

The Ark of the Covenant.

For many years, scientists and archaeologists alike had assumed the Ark was a myth. But Adolf Hitler was a man who thought all myths had some fact. If he could get his hands on the Ark and it's power, the war would no longer be an issue. And now, it seemed that his people had found evidence that the Ark existed and they were close to discovering it.

The United States representatives were grim after hearing the news. They looked at each other and back at Dr. Jones. They were not unfamiliar with his escapades since he always worked for the good guys (in most cases, the US government had claimed that particular title). Dr. Jones took off his glasses slowly and looked back at them.

Within hours, Indiana Jones was on a plane, headed straight into into the middle of the fray. First stop? A hard-bitten Marian and a blizzard.

What I Liked:
1: Indiana Jones. I love the fact that he loves books and teaching and wears owlish glasses. And I love it when he discards his tame occupation for a whip and dusty fedora and real archaeology. Harrison Ford is an excellent actor.
2: John Rhys-Davies. He adds such a nice flavor to the film: happy family man... but quite willing to take risks for Indy's sake.
3: The monkey.
4: I love how the bad guys give me the creeps. Not many movies have really good bad guys.
5: The way they overlay plane with map/destination. It's one of my favorite things about the movies.
6: The snakes. They looked very real.
7: How nothing on the movie seems like a set or unreal. You do forget you're watching a movie.
8: The massive feeling you get when he's down with the snakes. The statues are huge and impressive.
9: I love the part where they kidnap Marian.
10: My favorite part of the movie is after Indy kills all of his attackers with a sword/whip, etc, and the last swordsman leaps into the open, brandishing his sword so expertly that the audience is left asking, “How will he ever defeat him!” because not even Indiana Jones is that good. Indy sighs, pulls out his gun and blows the guy away. It always cracks me up.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Messed up theology. It's really bad. Lol!
2: Marian was too tough and too seductive.
3: Please tell me that every ship captain on the seven seas has a Vera Wong evening gown in his locker.
4: The almost bed scenes. Didn't help the story.
5: The language. Not too much but enough to be offensive to some.
6: How stupid Indy is at times. I suppose every hero has some down time but it seemed extreme at times.

I am still debating on whether to give this movie a 4 Star rating or keep it at a three. There are certain aspects about about this film that aren't that well done but there is a certain magic about Indiana Jones that I love, regardless of how well, or not, the film is done. :-) I understand why people flocked to the theaters whenever a new Indiana Jones movie came out.

And if it hadn't been for Harrison Ford...


Sunday, June 20, 2010

House Calls and Hitching Posts

House Calls and Hitching Posts

Dorcas Hoover

My Rating: 5 Stars

Told in the manner of James Herriot but instead of vetting, you read about a real life doctor who spent his years as a doctor to the Amish and Mennonites of Mount Eaton, Ohio.

Dr. Elton Lehman was a man who decided to come to his home town to open his practice after he'd graduated from medical school because he felt God was calling him back. 36 years later, he finally took the slower hours as his son stepped into his shoes. But during those 36 years, he had many experiences and lots of stories to tell. Finally, Dorcas Hoover sat down with him and wrote his book.

There are 30 chapters in this volume. The stories range from happy to sad, dramatic emergencies, to comforting moments with his family in the growing up years. Dr. Lehman worked tirelessly; his main goal to help the people had come to think of as his own, sometimes for nothing or on the faith of a handshake. He comforted the grieving and rejoiced with them during the happy times.

You will read about the five Amish children who were killed by a speeding car. You will read about the new birthing center and how much effort Dr. Lehman went through to convince the Plain People that it was fine to have children out of their homes. You will read about “Dogs, Bullets, and Other House Call Hazards”, the twins “Checky and Becky” and Blizzard Babies. It's a fascinating book that will keep your interest peaked to the end.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Garden Fancies -- Robert Browning

Garden Fancies

II Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis

Robert Browning

Plague take all your pendants, say I!
He who wrote what I hold in my hand,
Centuries back was so good as to die,
Leaving this rubbish to cumber the land;
This, that was a book in its time,
Printed on paper and bound in leather,
Last month in the white of a matin-prime
Just when the birds sang altogether.

Into the garden I brought it to read,
And under the arbute and laurustine
Read it, so help me grace in my need,
From title-page to closing line.
Chapter on chapter did I count,
As a curious traveller counts Stonehenge;
Added up the mortal amount;
And then proceeded to my revenge.

Yonder's a plum-tree with a crevice
And owl would build in, were he but sage;
For a lap of moss, like a fine pont-levis
In a castle of the Middle Age,
Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber;
When he'd be private, there might he spend
Hours alone in his lady's chamber:
Into this crevice I dropped our friend.

Splash, went he, as under he ducked,
--At the bottom, I knew, rain-drippings stagnate:
Next a handful of blossoms I plucked
To bury him with, my bookshelf's magnate;
Then I went in-doors, brought out a loaf,
Half a cheese, and a bottle of Chablis;
Lay on the grass and forgot the oaf
Over a jolly chapter of Rabelais.

Now, this morning, betwixt the moss
And gum that locked our friend in limbo,
A spider had spun his web across,
And sat in the midst with arms akimbo.
So, I took pity, for learning's sake,
And, de profunis, accentibus laetis,
Cantate! quoth I, as I got a rake;
And up I fished his delectable treatise.

Here you have it, dry in the sun,
With all the binding all of a blister,
And great blue spots where the ink has run,
And reddish streaks that wink and glister
O'er the page so beautifully yellow:
Oh, well have the droppings played their tricks!
Did he guess how toadstools grow, this fellow?
Here's one stuck in his chapter six!

How did he like it when the live creatures
Tickled and toused and browsed him all over,
And work, slug, eft, with serious features,
Came in, each one, for his right of trover?
--When the water-beetle with great blind deaf face
Mad of her eggs the stately deposit,
And the newt borrowed just so much of the preface
As tiled in the top of his black wife's closet?

All that life and fun and romping,
All that frisking and twisting and coupling,
While slowly our poor friend's leaves were swamping
And clasps were cracking and covers suppling!
As if you had carried sour John Knox
To the play-house at Paris, Vienna or Munich,
 Fastened him into a front-row box,
And danced off the ballet with trousers and tunic.

Come, old martyr! What, torment enough is it?
Back to my room shall you take your sweet self.
Good-bye, mother-beetle; husband-eft, sufficit!
See the snug niche I have made on my shelf!
A.'s book shall prop you up, B.'s shall cover you,
Here's C. to be grave with, or D. to be gay,
And with E. on each side, and F. right over you,
Dry-rot at ease till the Judgment-day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Produced By: Lari Goss

Song Titles:
1: Shout, Brother, Shout
(Lari Goss)
2: Trying to Get a Glimpse
(James Weatherington, Suzanne Jennings)
3: Godspeed
(Joel Lindsey, Sue C. Smith)
4: Then Came the Morning
(Gloria Gaither, William J. Gaither, Chris Christian)
5: Do You Want To Be Forgiven
(Rodney Griffin)
6: This Old Place
(Dianne Wilkinson)
7: If This is What God Wants
(Rodney Griffin)
8: Pray For Me
(Dianne Wilkinson)
9: Goodbye Egypt (Hellow Canaan Land)
(Marty Funderburk/Jerry Kelso
10: Forgiven Again
(Gloria Gaither, Benjamin Gaither)

On the list of popular Southern Gospel Singers/Groups, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound are probably right at the top. They have added a new sound to the Southern Gospel genre and lots of people love it. Including me. :-)

This is my favorite of their recordings, so far, with my favorite song being “If This is What God Wants.” The first time I listened to the recording, I was in bed with a case of pneumonia. I needed the encouragement and there it was. Especially in the song title I listed. It helped me realize that I didn't need to worry how long it was going to be before I was back on my feet... or if I was ever going to be. Whatever God wanted for me was best and I wasn't going to stand (or would that be lay? :-)) in His way.

As you can see, Signature Sound is closely associated with Bill and Gloria Gaither but I assure you that the sound they produce is completely different. :-)

The Group:
Ernie Haase – tenor
Ryan Seaton – lead
Doug Anderson – baritone
Tim Duncan – bass
Roy Webb – pianist & mischief maker

Monday, June 14, 2010

Emma -- 1996


My Rating: 5 Stars

Kate Beckinsale
Bernard Hepton
Mark Strong
Samantha Bond
James Hazeldine
Dominic Rowan
Samantha Morton
Olivia Williams

A&E put several excellent productions of Jane Austen's stories of the 17th century English middle class and Emma is no exception to the idyllic quality of their other films.

Emma Woodhouse is the 20 year old daughter of her father and the neighborhood matchmaker. She has only the best in mind for those around her but she doesn't see her meddling for what it is. Her oldest friend and confident, Mr. Knightley (also her neighbor) reprimands her more than once as she twists her friends' paths into mazes that astonish even her.

Horrified at the thought of depriving people she loves of happiness, Emma learns a painful lesson about friendship, human beings and... love. Will she ever find it?

What I Liked:
1: The acting. Everyone was phenomenal.
2: The story. They caught the spirit of the book... and of Jane Austen.
3: My favorite character was Jane Fairfax (Olivia Williams).
4: They really portrayed Emma well. You felt the emotions she experienced. It didn't seem extreme in any way.
5: Mr. Knightley was a good Prince Charming. :-)
6: The score. Lovely!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beethoven -- 1992


Rated PG for thematic elements
My Rating: 4 Stars

Charles Grodin
Bonnie Hunt
Dean Jones
Oliver Platt
Stanley Tucci

“Really, honey. I've never been more attracted!”

The Newton family is a regular, run of the mill family until a puppy wanders off the street straight into their lives. The children desperately want to keep the dog but Dad (Charles Grodin) says no. However, the mass of wiggling fur and slobber manages to have found a place in the children's hearts and Mr. Newton can't say no. So it is that the puppy, which the children had christened Beethoven, became a permanent fixture in their home.

Months later, Beethoven is fully grown and life is progressing smoothly. He saves the Newtons from bad decisions, bullies, drowning and gets Ryce the attention from a boy she likes among other things. But there is a villain: the local vet (Dean Jones) happens to set his eye on Beethoven as a good size for  experimentation. He stages the dog 'attacking' him and the Newton's are forced to send him the the office to be put down. But the children insist that something is not right...

Will the family be able to save Beethoven in time? And will Beethoven ever find a place in Mr. Newton's heart?

What I Liked:
1: This movie is 99% clean and really, really funny.
2: The bad guy is really creepy.
3: Beethoven is so lovable but very protective.
4: Mr. Newton punching the vet in the face. We were cheering him on. :-)
5: The story is unique enough that it holds you interest. I don't think there has been a movie quite like Beethoven before or after.
6: The bad guys all suffer appropriate endings.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The baby sitter makes one off-color comment...
2: Some language.
3: When the little girl is in the pool and Beethoven rushes to the rescue, they show a young woman sun bathing in a bikini. We know when it's coming, so we just cover the screen. :-)

Things to Know:
1: At one point, Beethoven climbs into Mr. and Mrs. Newton's bed and Mr. Newton thinks it's his wife. It's very funny but maybe a little much for the kids.
2: Mr. Newton is saved by a dog biting the evil vet... in a place I won't mention. Appropriate consequence, I thought. But for girls who don't know boys have them, parents beware.

If you like dog movies, this one is for you. A little cheesy but cute and funny. :-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Arctic Adventures

Ian & Sally Wilson

My Rating: 5 Stars

The musty smell of canvas filled my nostrils as Sally and I rummaged through a pile of tents. Nearby, the grizzled denim-clad owner of the camping supply store leaned against a rack of snowshoes.
“Let's see if I've got this straight,” the old timer said as he surveyed the pile of supplies we had selected. “You're planning to go on a year-long trek across the Arctic by canoe and dog team.”
“That about sums it up,” I said, steeling myself for the questions I knew would follow. The old-timer had always taken an interest in our adventures and misadventures.
“And you tell me your whitewater canoeing is a little shaky, your wife is scared of dogs, and you've never even had a pet mutt before,” he continued, looking me straight in the eye.
I reminded him that we had managed to tackle several demanding rivers on previous trips. Sally added that she was sure she would get over her fear of dogs once she got to know them. Then, almost as an afterthought, I assured him that we would learn what we needed to know along the way. I hoped I looked as confident as my words sounded. (Prologue)

Ian and Sally Wilson are an incredible couple. They are both talented: her in art; he in writing. They joined their talents and love for adventure and have written several books as a result.

As you may have judged by the title, Arctic Adventures is about their trip in Canada's north. The first route of the journey was made by canoe from the headwaters of the Thelon River to the Chesterfield  Inlet of Hudson Bay, a distance of twelve hundred kilometers. That may sound simple but keep in mind these key words: mosquitoes, rapids, black flies, bathing, frigid water, campfire, maps, falls, gear, storms, portages.

The first third of the book is about the canoe trip. The rest of the book is taken up with their experiences with the Natives at Baker Lake, where Ian and Sally learn the necessary skills for their trip by dog sled. They learn how to prepare caribou hides for warm clothing: chewing (yes, with your mouth/teeth!). How to eat raw meat (if you eat too much at once, you end up with stomach problems). How to build an igloo. How to stay warm when it's -100* with a blizzard raging. How to function at all when it's -100* with a blizzard raging. How to drive a dog team. How to treat frost bite... and a million and one other things necessary for surviving their adventure.

By the time they were at their journey's end, they had a new perspective on life, dogs, cold and the Great Up North in general. Ian kept a detailed diary that makes for a fascinating read, especially for those who are exposed to some of the same things as the Wilsons went through. Someday, it would be fun to go see some of the places mentioned for myself! Also, they took many photographs, so it isn't completely up to the reader's imagination. :-)

ARCTIC ADVENTURES - Exploring Canada's North by Canoe and Dog Team

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

James Herriot

My Rating: 5 Stars

(Note: all pictures, except for the first are from the t.v. series based on James Herriot's books. Enjoy!)

"We did two more visits, one to a calf with a cut leg which I stitched, dressed and bandaged, then to a cow with the blocked teat.
Mr. Sharpe was waiting, still looking eager. He led us into the byre and Farnon gestured towards the cow. “See what you can make of it.”
I squatted down and palpated the teat, feeling the mass of thickened tissue half up. It would have to be broken down by a Hudson's instrument and I began to work the thin metal spiral up the teat. One second later, I was sitting gasping in the dung channel with the neat imprint of a cloven hoof on my shirt front, just over the solar plexus.
It was embarrassing, but there was nothing I could do but sit there fighting for breath, my mouth opening and shutting like a stranded fish.
Mr. Sharpe held his hand over his mouth, his innate politeness at war with his natural amusement at seeing the vet come to grief. “I'm sorry, young man, but I owt to 'ave told you that this is a very friendly cow. She allus likes to shake hands.” Then, overcome by his own wit, he rested his forehead on the cow's back and went into a long paroxysm of silent mirth." (Chapter 2)

It's no wonder why James Herriot's books were best sellers in their day and why people (myself included in their numbers) still love them and want their kids read them. As a country vet practicing in Darrowby, a small village in Yorkshire, England, James Herriot's tales appeal to the humanity in each of us. What makes the stories even better is that they are true. Somehow, it makes his work more enjoyable. :-)

Some of the chapters are stories in themselves; sometimes there are several chapters to one tale. Regardless, I found it difficult to put down the book once I'd started. There are so many different kinds: some are very humorous; others, sad and lonely; some are just comfortable. You learn all about the farmers in Yorkshire and what types of animals they keep and what their families are. You get to read about births and deaths, friendships made and enemies kept, romance (Tristan was always up to his neck in it!) and a wonderful woman named Helen who happened to be James' better half in waiting.

Sigfried and Tristan Farnon: Sigfried was the elder and he owned the clinic. Tristan had followed in his brother's footsteps (well, to a certain degree, anyways. What does it matter?) and out of begrudging sense of duty, his brother shared the practice with him. James worked as an assistant to Sigfried until Sigfried made him a partner vet of the clinic.

Sigfried was an odd duck, to put it kindly. In real life, he was even more peculiar. But he was a good vet and he really did care about those in his life, even though if he had difficulties showing his affection. For the most part, he was very responsible and was always on James and Tristan's cases for their not being as diligently conscientious as he was... on occasion.

“We must put on a better show at these operations on the farms. It just isn't good enough to fish out a few old instruments from a bag and start hacking at the animal. We must have cleanliness, asepsis if possible, and an orderly technique.” (Chapter 27; during one of his “efficiency drives” during which everyone suffered...)

Tristan was the exact opposite of his brother. He was jolly, funny, as irresponsible as possible. He pulled some humdinger pranks on James, my personal favorites being the prank phone calls and ghost monk. But my most favorite story of Tristan is the time he threw his girlfriend out the living room window.

Tristan wiggled in his chair. “I'm sorry, I can't think how...”
Siegfried held up his hand. “Oh, don't worry. Your usual luck has come to your aid...”

And James? Sweet, kind, naïve, not above pranking Tristan out of revenge. It isn't surprising that Helen fell in love with him as deeply as he had fallen in love with her. Because for all of his faults, he had a surprising lot of good character traits.

She turned a quizzical eye on me. “You look kind of pleased with yourself this morning, Mr. Herriot.”
I leaned back against the oak dresser. “Yes, Mrs. Hall, I've just been thinking. It must be very nice to be the principal of the practice but, you know, it's not a bad life being an assistant.”

Of course, you'll read all about vetting in green hills of Yorkshire. Some of his stories are full of very practical advice and we've used it more than once. Just the other day, we had a cow prolapse and used the trick of putting sugar on the uterus to help it back in. It worked well. I don't know what we'd have done without that bit of knowledge tucked away in our heads.

There is so much humor in the books. I love the story about the dog that had surgery and wouldn't stop howling for hours (I mean, 12 hours, at the least). Sigfried was feeling a little malicious and made sure that he and James were away all day, leaving Tristan stuck with the dog. Poor Tristan was nearly driven insane by the time he decided getting drunk might be a good idea. When Sigfried found all the empty bottles on the living room floor, he felt a big-brotherly need for Tristan to learn more responsibility (it had nothing to do with Sigfried not wanting to watch the dog) and stowed both of them away in Tristan's room for the night. (Chapter 21)

There was the story about the cow that had picked up a wire in her feed and had to be operated on. During the process of being cut open, she literally exploded, sending foul, green liquid over everything... Sigfried being her prime target.

...but it was the unkindest cut of all when a particularly powerful jet sent a liberal spray over the new jacket hanging on the wall. Sigfried's face was too obscured for me to detect any change of expression but at this disaster, I saw real anguish in his eyes.
The colonel's [owner of said cow] eyebrows were now raised to a maximum and his mouth hung open as he gazed in disbelief at the chaotic scene. Siegfried, still hanging grimly on, was the centre of it all, paddling about in a reeking swamp which came half way up his Wellington boots. He looked very like a Fiji Islander with his hair stiffened and frizzled and his eyes rolling whitely in the brown face. (Chapter 27)

Things to Know:
1: There is some drinking and carousing.
2: Some girl/romance stuff that never goes beyond kissing and Tristan having a girl sit on his lap.
3: For those squeamish about blood and animals and birthing, etc, these stories are very detailed.
4: For the most part, all of James Herriot's books are clean and good for family reading.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Transformers -- 2007


Rated for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language
My Rating: 4 Stars

Shia LaBeouf
Tyrese Gibson
Josh Duhamel
Anthony Anderson
Megan Fox
Rachael Taylor
John Turturro
Jon Voight

“What'd they get you for?”
“Uh...bought a car. Turned out to be an alien Robot. [pause] Who knew?”

I was not impressed with Revenge of the Fallen, except for the occasional good humor it had. However, I spoke to a friend about it and she mentioned that she had some friends who really enjoyed Transformers. So I felt that I should watch the original and see if there was improvement. There was. It's interesting how the sequels are rarely as good.

Sam Witwicky is a normal kid with a normal desire for a car and girlfriend. According to his Dad, it's only if he gets three A's and $2000 that he gets the car. So he gets the A's and the $2000 and ends up with a used-to-be hotrod Camaro that has a personality.

But getting the girl is up to Sam. Or at least it seems so at first glance. If it had been left up to Sam, the typical guy (all thumbs when it comes to talking to girls) it would have been a disaster. But there's Mikaela (Megan Fox), the gorgeous girl he goes to school with but doesn't even know he exists. Sam has been in love with her for years. Amazingly, it's the car and what's under it's hood that attracts the attention of the girl.

The circumstances surrounding the car was strange from the first, but Sam didn't realize how strange until he woke up one night to the engine starting. He got to the bedroom window just in time to see the car rolling out the driveway. Sure the car is being stolen, he rushes out of his room, telling his father to call the police. When he finally catches up with his vehicle, he was astonished to find that his car was alive. Between Mikaela, the car and Sam, they stumble into some interesting situations.

At the same time, across the world, something attacked an air base in Kuwait... and yet again, something hacked into national security, then disappeared without a trace. The US is sure it's a terrorist country at first. Then, they begin to question themselves. What is that sound? What is in that picture? What about eye-witnesses? Could these be... aliens?

What I Liked:
1: It was fairly well acted.
2: Funny.
3: Had patterns of dark and light... nice mix.
4: Military sequences were nicely done. Great job guys!
5: The alien robots were funny, sweet and majestic.
6: The scene where Sam finds out about Mikaela's background, his reaction is very realistic. That was probably my favorite thing about the film.
7: Next favorite is the way Bumblebee uses the radio/t.v. to talk/communicate. I love how they use John Wayne's voice... “anymore questions you'd like to ask?”
8: I like Mikaela. She's a no-nonsense type of girl.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Crude humor
2: The way Mikaela was dressed... it really concentrates on it.
3: The language.
4: Sam's parents are too irritating and naive. How does somebody get to be that way? Lol.
5: Sam's response to Mikaela's body. The way
6: How the aliens seem to take the place of God or angels. It's not pushed heavily but it's still there. For the record, it didn't hurt my belief in God but it might hurt someone else.

If you like Sci-fi, this is a fairly good film. Go for it. :-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Princess Bride -- 1988

The Princess Bride

Rated PG violence, torture and some innuendo
My Rating: 5 Stars

Cary Elwes
Mandy Patinkin
Chris Saradon
Christopher Guest
Wallace Shawn
Andre The Giant
Robin Wright
Carol Kane
Billy Crystal

“There's not a lot of money in revenge.”
Our family has favorite movie and it is called The Princess Bride. Well, why shouldn't it be? Of all satires I've ever experienced, this movie is by far the best.
[Young grandson has been sick with the flu and Grandfather arrives to cheer him up. He brings with him a very special gift.

“A book?” asks Grandson, blankly. Grandfather regards him sternly and says that in his day, books were the video games and TV. Then he proceeds to open said book and read from it aloud, to Grandson's chagrin. “Fine. I'll try to stay awake.”]

Buttercup was a beautiful maiden who lived on a farm with her horse and stable-boy/servant, named Westley. She loved to take long daily rides on her horse and torment the stable-boy because all he ever said when she told him to do something was, “As you wish.”

Then came the day when an amazed Buttercup realized that when Westley said, “As you wish” what he really meant was, “I love you.” But what was even more amazing was the realization that she loved Westley back. Thus, the two fell into true love.

[“Are you trying to trick me?” Grandson asks suspiciously. “Is this a kissing book?”]

They would have been very happy but Westley had no money for marriage, so he left for high seas, promising to return. But alas! News arrives that his ship has been attacked by the dread Pirate Roberts. And Roberts never takes prisoners.

[“Attacked by pirates is good,” says Grandson, approvingly.]

Heartbroken, Buttercup succumbs to the wiles of Prince Humperdinck and they are engaged to be married. Buttercup (now, Princess Buttercup) did not love Prince Humperdinck and always missed her one true love. Her only consolation was in taking rides on her horse, which is how she ended up getting kidnapped one day by three (unlikely) villains.

[Grandfather looks up from his reading, “Ah. You're getting tired. I'll stop for now.” Grandson, pleadingly: “No... no! I'm fine. Really.”]

This movie has it all: beautiful maidens, dashing heroes, evil princes, six-fingered villains, giants, revenge, mind games, thieves, Fire Swamps, poison, weddings, romance, R.O.U.S's, torture, miracle pills, chocolate, murder, castles... and of course, “twoo wuv”.

What I Liked:
1: The humor. If I'm ever feeling the least bit down, I watch this and it makes me smile.
2: The beautiful dresses Buttercup wears.
3: Even though the story makes fun of love, you are left feeling with a hope that you may have true love, too.
4: The music. It's dorky... and appropriate.
5: Miracle Max (Billy Crystal). So, so, funny. “Nobody's hearing nothin'!”
6: The swordfights. I love the swordfights!
7: The satire.
8: The acting is excellent.
9: The story is perfect.

What I Didn't Like:
1: One use of bad language.
2: One inappropriate mention of Buttercup's anatomy.
Note: neither of these were overdone.

If you like fairy tales and satires, this film is for you. Prepare to laugh yourself silly and wince as your favorite tales are torn to shreds.

“Chocolate makes it go down easier.”