Monthly Archives: February 2020

10 Thoughts On Seeing The Movie Call of the Wild

call of the wild

  • The plot was exciting and kept me engaged throughout. There is an avalanche scene that is a heart-stopper. 
  • Watching the movie had me going back to skim the text of the novel which is available online.  I realized Harrison Ford had quoted directly from the book in some parts of the film and that quite a few changes had been made to deal with the racist nature of some of the events in the book. 
  • The fact that the animals on the screen were computer-generated images didn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of the movie at all. 
  • I don’t think I would take my nearly four-year-old and almost eight-year-old grandsons to the movie because there is some pretty terrible cruelty to animals and even though Buck’s wild nature is toned down from the way it is in the book he still kills people.   
  • I decided you have to view the story of the film as a kind of fairy tale with larger than life characters and events that aren’t necessarily realistic. 
  • Even though it wasn’t filmed there, I liked the setting in the Yukon.  It is a place that I want to visit.  My husband Dave spent his first summer after high school in the Yukon and I’d really like to go and experience the place with him. call of the wild buck and john
  • I am not a dog lover but I have observed first hand how a relationship with a dog can provide healing and hope to a person, so the fact that Buck, the dog in the movie, does that for Harrison Ford’s character John Thorton, is completely believable and really kind of touching.

    joe fafard between dog and wolf

    Between Dog and Wolf by Joe Fafard

  • The movie reminded me of a piece of artwork by Canadian Joe Fafard which is in the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden near my Winnipeg home. It is called Between Dog and Wolf. 
  • The movie was a good way to pass the time on a rainy afternoon in Arizona.
  • I liked this movie a lot more than my husband did. 

Other about dog books and movies……….

Coop the Great- A Book That’s Not Just For Dog Lovers

Between Dog and Wolf

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

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albatrossAlbatross is the third Terry Fallis book I’ve read. Fallis novels are quirky and interesting.  The intriguing premise in this one is that there is a mathematical formula to determine whether someone has the perfect body for a certain sport.  The protagonist of Albatross Adam Coryell has the perfect body for golf. His highschool physical education teacher discovers this and Adam goes on to great recognition and wealth as a golfer. But…… he is not happy.  He may be the greatest golfer in the world but what he really wants is to be a great writer. 

Terry Fallis makes us think about what it means to be successful in Albatross. He also introduces us to the fascinating world of fountain pens, throws in a charming romance and passes commentary on the state of publishing in Canada which is dire.  He also gets us to think about the importance of making libraries available and accessible to everyone.  We are a society that exalts and worships sports stars.  Adam Coryell isn’t interested in that kind of recognition even though he is an Olympic champion, multi-millionaire and has worn the Masters’ green jacket.  Fallis makes us think about whether our adulation of sports figures may be misguided and perhaps even harmful.

Albatross is an easy read and Fallis is a straight forward writer not given to flowery description or deep literary prose.  I read this book on a bus, in a car, by a swimming pool, in a restaurant and at a ball game.  It kept me engaged.

Other posts about books by Terry Fallis……….

Best Laid Plans

Poles Apart


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Siblings That Get Along

Last Thursday the New York Times ran a feature by Kate Lewis on what parents can do to raise siblings who get along.  I know just how fortunate I am to have supportive siblings whose company I thoroughly enjoy and I think there are things my parents did to help lay the groundwork for good future sibling relationships. 

stay lox bricks dad plays

My sister and I share a set of building blocks we received as a gift.

 My parents made us share things.  My sister and I always shared a room.  We shared our toys. Our whole family shared the dinner table.  We shared the car on vacations.

With my siblings when I was eleven

My parents expected us to care for one another.  I was frequently given the responsibility of helping to look after my younger siblings. 

My Dad with his sisters. 

My Mom with her sisters 

My parents were role models by having good relationships with their own siblings.

My sister and I were featured in the local paper after our winning piano duet performance in the Winnipeg Festival

My parents provided opportunities for us to work together at things as a team.

Skiing with my family in Banff Alberta

My parents organized fun family times together.

Family conversation 

My mother was a great listener and my Dad readily expressed his opinions and so my siblings and I learned to do that with each other too. My parents maintained a cottage where we spent lots of quality time together as siblings

My Mom in the boat with us kids

and where we learned to work together, enjoy nature together and have a good time together.

With my two great brothers

With my terrific sister

I realize that despite their parents’ best efforts sometimes siblings don’t get along and I can assure you that in our family we had our share of sibling spats, particularly in our younger years.  One thing I noted in the comments about Kate Lewis’ story in the New York Times was that even when siblings didn’t get along as children they often had rewarding relationships as adults particularly if their parents continued to work at fostering family connectedness.  The comments also made me aware however that many siblings have very distant or contentious relationships which made me all the more appreciative and grateful for my good relationships with my siblings. Those relationships enrich my life a great deal and I need to be careful not to take them for granted. 

Other posts………

Siblings- More Important As You Grow Older

Giving a Child Away



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Who is Gaylord Perry and What Does He Have to Do With The Apollo 11 Moon Landing?

Gaylord Perry

I had no idea who Gaylord Perry was till Monday afternoon when I met him in person.  My sister-in-law Shirley had arranged for us to take part in a special event being organized by the Scottsdale vacation community where we are guests.

The view of the ball field from our private box at the Scottsdale Stadium

We were going to a major league baseball spring training game to see the San Francisco Giants play the Arizona Diamond Backs.

With my sister-in-law Shirley in our VIP lounge overlooking the ball field

Our event package included a bus ride to the San Francisco Giants’ Scottsdale Stadium, seats in a VIP box, a hearty lunch with beverages of all kinds, and a chance to meet Gaylord Perry a right-handed pitcher, famous for his spitball. Perry played in the major leagues from 1962 to 1983, nine of those years with the San Francisco Giants. Perry is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Shirley and Dave outside the Scottsdale Stadium where the San Francisco Giants host their spring training games

After the game was underway we could take turns talking to Gaylord, asking him questions and getting an autographed baseball card from him. We could pick which card we wanted from Gaylord’s collection. Dave chose a card featuring Gaylord and his brother Jim who was also a major league pitcher for 17 years. Both Perry and Jim won the Cy Young Award during their careers. The award is for best pitcher in the league in a given year. I picked a card showing Gaylord as a six-year-old grade one student in his home community of Williamston North Carolina. I told Gaylord I had once been a first-grade teacher. My sister-in-law Shirley and brother-in-law Paul had a chance to meet Gaylord as well. Gaylord was wearing a San Francisco Giants shirt because the Giants were the first of eight major league teams he played for. Shirley asked Gaylord to verify a story she had read that he hit his first homerun in the major leagues the same day as the first astronaut walked on the moon.  Gaylord said that was true. The story goes that although Gaylord was a prized pitcher he was such a poor hitter that the manager of the Giants once said to a sports reporter, “Mark my words, we will land on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a homerun.”  Five years later on July 20, 1969 at a game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, Gaylord hit his first major league home run just thirty minutes after the announcement was made over the loudspeakers at the ball park that Apollo 11 had landed on the moon.

There were several homeruns in the game we watched between the San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamond Backs. The Giants won the game with a score of 11-9. 

Other posts…………..

Spring Training in Florida

Tigers Baseball

Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Osaka Style

Let’s Play Ball- Mayan Style

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10 Things I Learned About Carole King

The gorgeous Gammage Theatre- photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I was so excited to arrive in Phoenix and find out the Broadway musical Beautiful which features songs by Carole King was coming to the city shortly. Luckily there were still a few tickets left and thanks to my husband Dave’s online savvy we managed to score some for Sunday, the final night of the show at the architecturally stunning Gammage Theatre on the Arizona State University campus.

 Carole King’s Tapestry is one of my all-time favourite albums. I love the lyrics and the music and I know every song by heart so it was a thrill to hear most of the tracks from the album performed by the very talented Kennedy Caughill whose powerful voice did justice to the legendary Carole King’s memorable hit tunes like I Feel the Earth Move and You’ve Got A Friend.

Excited and ready for the show to begin.

Although I am a big fan of Carole King’s album Tapestry I admit I didn’t know very much about her personal life or her legendary songwriting career. My knowledge about Carole King basically included two facts. She had been good friends with James Taylor and had toured with him and………… in 2015 President Barack Obama cried when Aretha Franklin sang Carole’s song You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman during the ceremony to honour Carole for her lifetime achievement in music at the Kennedy Centre. 

The program for Beautiful. Check out my new Arizona pedicure and the way this photo matches the banner for my blog.

Watching the musical I learned that……………..

  • Carole was born Carol Joan Klein in New York City in 1942.
  • Her mother wanted her to be a teacher but Carole had dreams of becoming a famous songwriter. 
  • She dropped out of college when she found out she was pregnant.
  • She got married at age 17 to fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin.
  • Gerry and Carole divorced nine years later. Gerry struggled with mental health issues that led him to be repeatedly unfaithful to Carole. 
  • Carole and Gerry had two daughters. 
  • Many of Carole’s well-known songs were written with Gerry. Their first big hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow topped the charts in 1961. 
  • Carole and Gerry were very good friends and competitors with another songwriting husband and wife duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Mann and Weil wrote hit songs like On Broadway and Happy Days Are Here Again. 
  • In 1972 Carole won four Grammy awards -Album of the Year for Tapestry, Record of the Year for It’s Too Late, Song of the Year for You’ve Got a Friend and Female Pop Vocalist of the Year for Tapestry.  
  • Carole’s first performance at Carnegie Hall was in 1971. It was recorded live and later released as an album. 

Carole’s piano on stage before the show

At the end of this week, we will move into our own apartment just a few blocks from the Gammage Theatre. There is a terrific line-up of performances there during the coming month so I hope Beautiful was just the first of any number of great shows we will enjoy there. 

Other posts…………

Lessons From Leonard

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

The Color Purple- God In Every Living Thing


Filed under Arizona, Music

Cut in Half- Good News in America

Since I am in the United States right now I thought it would be a good idea to highlight two positive pieces of news from this country.  

teen pregnancy

Teen pregnancies in the United States are at an all-time low, in fact, they have been cut in half in the last decade.  It’s true.  This is good news because according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services teen mothers and their children are at increased risk for life- long health, social and economic challenges.  violent crime in americaThe number of violent crimes in the United States have been cut in half since 1995.  It’s true.  According to the Nation Master website ,the violent crime rate is still double that of Canada’s, but progress is being made. 

Other good news posts

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Three Likes and Three Dislikes

Three things I liked about the novel Akin by Emma Donoghue were………….

  1.  I fell in love with the city of Nice, France. One of the main characters Noah, a chemistry professor nearing 80 was born there and in the book, he takes his 11-year-old great-nephew Michael on a trip to Nice.  Donoghue does a good job of introducing us to the city as we read the book. We learn about its history, its culture, its geography.  I have never been to France but it is on my list of places to visit and when I do Nice will definitely be included in the itinerary after reading Akin
  2. The book highlights the important role women played in the resistance movement against the Nazis during World War II.  Noah who was a child during the war was sent to live in America in order to keep him safe. He finds out his mother who remained in France played a key role in the resistance against the Nazis. Finding out about what exactly that role was, is one of the mysteries that drive the plot of the novel. Often war stories focus on the role of men (think of the recent movie 1917) I liked it that this one revolved around a woman. 
  3. In the novel, Noah’s deceased wife Joan keeps giving him bits of advice and making commentary on what is happening in his head.  I liked Joan and she was one of my favourite characters in the novel even though she is dead. Although some reviewers panned Donoghue for using this technique I found it believable and Joan’s voice helped us get to know her husband better.  I often hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me things and she died in 2013. 

Emma Donoghue

Three things I didn’t like about the novel Akin by Emma Donoghue were…………….

  1. Emma gives us a lot of information about Nice, about science, about photography, about history in her novel but sometimes this is delivered in an almost lecture sort of way and it made me feel that the characters were just mouthpieces for filling us in on all this information and what they were telling us didn’t really contribute to us getting to know them better as people. 
  2. I found both Noah and Michael a little hard to like.  They are both interesting characters to be sure and I know writers have to give characters a balance of positive and negative traits but somehow I just couldn’t get attached to Noah or Michael.  Perhaps Donoghue wrote them a little too much to the stereotypes of crotchety, absent-minded octagenarian and rebellious, technology addicted near teen.  
  3. Nothing gets totally resolved by the end of the book.  Is Michael’s mother really not guilty of the crimes that have her incarcerated?  Can her case be revisited?  Was Michael’s father really a drug dealer or was he set up? Did Noah’s mother give in to the Nazis when she was tortured? Will  Michael be allowed to continue living with Noah when they return to New York? 

I think you should read the book, Akin.  It is by an excellent author and the premise for the story is stellar.  But I have to admit it was not one of my favourite Emma Donoghue books.  Have you read the novel?  What did you think?

Other posts…………

Getting to Know Emma Donoghue in Person

It Isn’t the Hand Maid’s Tale- A Review of Testaments

Five Wives by Joan Thomas

The Quintland Sisters


Filed under Books

Politics By the Pool

When I was drying off after my water aerobics class on Thursday morning at the vacation community where we are staying in Arizona, I heard two women talking about attending the Trump rally the previous night in Phoenix. They’d had to wait in line for two hours and forty minutes to hear the President speak but they were happy they got in and found seats together at the event.  “It was so great,” they said.  

My sister-in-law and I decided to sit in the hot tub for a spell after our class and we joined a couple who started chatting with us almost immediately. They were originally from Chicago and when they found out we were Canadian they said one of their favourite holidays had been at Niagara Falls.  They talked about how the Canadian side of the falls was so much better than the American side. “Your government takes the money they earn at the site and invests it in making the area better.  The Americans don’t do that.”  

I mentioned I had read articles about how funding for maintaining the United States’ national parks was being cut by the Trump administration.  “Not only that,” the couple from Chicago said. “Trump is allowing mining and oil drilling in national parks.”  They went on.  “That’s what happens when you elect a President who doesn’t care about nature, or the environment, who doesn’t believe in science.” 

Many historians and political analysts say the United States is the most divided it’s been since the Civil War, but you don’t need academics and experts to tell you that.  All you have to do is spend a little time hanging around the swimming pool area at a vacation community in Arizona. 

Other posts……….

Women Should Be Leading the World

Knock Down the House

Where Does She Get Her Energy

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Hiking in the Traditional Homeland of the Hohokum, Yavapai and Apache

Yesterday we did our first hike of the holiday starting at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead with Paul and Shirley, Dave’s brother and sister-in-law who are generously sharing their Scottsdale condo with us for the first weeks of our vacation in Arizona. 

Dave and my sister-in-law Shirley choose our trail for the hike

Since almost every event I attend in my home province of Manitoba now begins with an acknowledgement of the original inhabitants of the land on which we are situated I was interested to learn from signs at the trailhead that we would be hiking on land inhabited by the Hohokum people from 500 to 1300.

Since Dave will be our guide he reviews the routes before we leave

The Hohokum were desert farmers. It is hard to imagine someone farming in this arid area, but the Hohokum grew corn and beans and squash by building small dams in desert washes to trap water for irrigation. They hunted game and collected fruits and seeds. In this way, they were able to sustain themselves in this area for nearly eight centuries.

This image from the Maricopa Historical Society shows an artist’s rendition of the Hohokum farmers at work. 

I tried to imagine the Hohokum people farming in this area as we hiked.

I also learned that some three hundred years after the Hohokum had left to join larger groups of their people in a river valley the Apache and Yavapai came and inhabited the land. 

Apache Women cooking- Photo courtesy of the Yavapai Apache Nation

Although the two groups had very different cultures they managed to co-exist for almost three hundred years in the area beginning in the early 1600s.

When gold was found in 1863 prospectors, miners and ranchers moved in.  The Apache and Yavapai tried to defend their territory and a series of army posts were constructed to wage battle with them.  Eventually, the Apache and Yavapai were removed to reservations. Could there have been a way for the indigenous and colonizer groups to share this beautiful area? The land we hiked was acquired from Mexico in the mid-1800s and in the early 1900s, a large ranch with some 5000 cattle was started by a man named E.O Brown from Scottsdale. The cattle were brought in from Mexico and many of the ranch hands were from Mexico too. The ranch stayed in the Brown family for a couple of generations and was then sold to the city of Scottsdale to be included in their Sonoran Desert conservation project. We had perfect weather for our hike in this beautiful area with a such a rich history. We have been to Arizona many times but I never tire of its stark and unique beauty. We plan to do many more hikes during our seven weeks in Arizona but this easy and interesting one at Brown’s Ranch was a good way to start.

Other posts……….

Up to Weaver’s Needle

Conquering Signal Hill

Up and Down With the Brauns

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Song Versus Album Argument

My husband Dave does the driving when we go on long trips so I thought I would make a contribution by creating a playlist of music for us to listen to on our journey down to Arizona.  I recently joined a music streaming service and I downloaded dozens of songs I knew Dave would like, favourite artists of his like the Beatles, Carol King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neal Young, Joe Cocker and other sixties greats.  

 After we had listened to the long playlist I’d created I asked Dave if he’d enjoyed the music I’d downloaded. He was brutally honest. He hadn’t.  Turns out he doesn’t like listening to individual songs, even songs he likes.  He prefers to listen to a whole album and I hadn’t downloaded any albums.  For example, he needed to hear the entire Woodstock album so he could have the whole Woodstock experience.  He wasn’t going to get that from only listening to Joe Cocker’s I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.  

I wondered what conventional wisdom had to say about listening to individual songs rather than whole albums. I found out that there are arguments to be made for both preferences. Here are a few. 

Why listen to the whole album?

1.Because it’s the way you grew up listening to music if you were born before the digital age. It wasn’t easy to skip from song to song on an LP.  Listening to the whole album is a comforting habit. 

2. Artists put lots of thought into how they order the songs on an album and the whole album is meant to tell a story and interconnect lyrically and instrumentally.  You need to honour that. 

3. If you only listen to individual songs you might miss finding some real gems you would enjoy on an album. 

4. Listening to the whole album allows you to build a deeper connection with the artist. 

Why listen to individual songs?

1. There are usually only one or two really great songs on albums. Why waste time listening to all the others?

2. If you have a very eclectic taste in music listening to individual songs gives you more of an opportunity to listen to a wider variety of tunes. 

3. Certain songs fit with certain moods or activities.  With individual songs, you can make a playlist that is great to listen to while you do your fitness workout or when you are trying to fall asleep when you are journaling or making dinner. 

4. There is so much great music out there.  Listening to individual tunes gives you the time and opportunity to enjoy more of it. 

For our trip back home I will download some albums for Dave, but I will keep the individual tunes as well because I tend to listen to music that way and I think there are times when both ways of listening to music are good. 

Do you listen to individual songs or the whole album?

Other posts……..

Waver- A New Album From Royal Canoe

What Happens When A Woman Takes Power

The Symphony – Mexican Style

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