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Books, movies and TV reviews

Redemption: Shelter Plan B

Nathan Winograd with cat Shelter Plan BMy impression after reading about Nathan Winograd is that it’s animal shelters that need redemption. He is Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in the US and is giving a lecture and workshop at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Apr. 14th [2012] . I don’t get star-struck that often, but this sounds like one very impressive man.

In 1993-94, he turned the San Francisco SPCA from a kill processing plant to a shelter where animals got homes. Killing healthy animals “declined 100 percent” and for sick or injured animals “it declined by about 50 percent” (Redemption). He did the same at the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York.

Are these places with less of an ‘animal problem’? Not likely. If you can do that in San Francisco, heart of ‘disposable land’, or upstate NY amid wilderness that people would see as perfect for dumping Fluffy, you can do it anywhere! Here is how Mr. Winograd looks at shelter management, from a 2007 article by Christie Keith.

“If … motherless kittens are killed because the shelter doesn’t have a comprehensive foster care program, that’s not pet overpopulation. That’s the lack of a foster care program.

Amazon link for Redemption
Amazon link

“If adoptions are low because people are getting those dogs and cats from other places because the shelter isn’t doing outside adoptions (adoptions done off the shelter premises), that’s a failure to do outside adoptions, not pet overpopulation.

“…If animals are killed because working with rescue groups is discouraged, again, that’s not pet overpopulation. If dogs are going cage-crazy because volunteers and staff aren’t allowed to socialize them, and then those dogs are killed because they’re quote-unquote “cage crazy,” because the shelter doesn’t have a behavior rehabilitation program in place, once again, that’s not pet overpopulation; that’s the lack of programs and services that save lives.”

Animal Shelter Plan B

Commonsense, when you approach it from the shelter side of the equation. “If a community is still killing the majority of shelter animals, it is because the local SPCA, humane society, or animal control shelter has fundamentally failed in its mission… And this failure is nothing more than a failure of leadership. The buck stops with the shelter’s director.”

Lab looking out from shelter pen, Wikimedia Commons, NhandlerHe describes his second day at the Tompkins Co. SPCA. “’My staff informed me that our dog kennels were full and since a litter of six puppies had come in, I needed to decide who was going to be killed in order to make space. I asked for ‘Plan B’; there was none. I asked for suggestions; there were none.’

“He spoke directly to his staff, saying, ‘Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says, ‘I can’t do it,’ I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?’”  Wow.

Nathan Winograd’s publications:

Welcome Home: An animal rights perspective on living with dogs & cats

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

Irreconcilable Differences: The battle for the heart and soul of America’s animal shelters

All American Vegan: Veganism for the Rest of Us

Friendly Fire

Reforming Animal Control/Building a No Kill Community Resource CD.

1 day body count of dog and cat corpses in 50 gal drums at pound
1 day body count at pound – click image to go to Imagine blog

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 5, 2012. See comments below.

Dan Patch

Dan Patch was a harness racing horse, a pacer. He was crazy good, they said. 110 years ago, he was the best pacer ever seen. He was a Harness racing Dan Patch Breeder_and_sportsman_mag_1911_wikicommonshuge celebrity in the US, the first multi-million dollar sports superstar.

His story is told in Charles Leerhsen’s 2010 book Crazy Good. You will enjoy it even if you know nothing about harness racing. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, of middle America at the dawn of the automobile age, and of the hucksterism that Americans do so well.

Crazy Good: The true story of Dan Patch - Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana in 1896 to Zelica, a mare obscure in Standardbred breeding history. His sire, Joe Patchen, was well known for both his speed and his bad temper.

At birth, Dan Patch’s prospects seemed zero. His left rear leg was misshapen. His owner Dan Messner was advised to put him down. But he didn’t. For the history of harness racing, and for Dan Patch, that was a very wise decision. Dan Patch learned to walk, then run.

Dan was a natural. He loved to race and he loved audiences. As his star rose, other parties became interested in him. With a new owner, he went to the big time. That’s when the hucksterism started. Not by Dan Patch, who simply continued to run the very best he could, but by Marion W. Savage, his new owner. At Savage’s International Stock Food Company farm near Minneapolis, Dan Patch lived out the rest of his days. When he wasn’t travelling the country in his own rail car.

T-Eaton-Co- photo Dan_Patch_wikicommonsDan Patch never lost a race. Horse owners became unwilling to enter their horses against him. So Savage promoted exhibition races with Dan running only against the clock. Dan set a record in September 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair with a mile in 1:55. That time was not officially recognized because a windshield was used. Dan Patch’s official mile record was 1:55:¼ set in Lexington KY in 1905. His unofficial record was not matched until 1938 when Billy Direct paced a mile in 1:55. It wasn’t beaten until 1960.

Dan Patch Two Step (for piano)

Dan Patch coffee can from ctpost.com
from ctpost.com March 22 2012

Savage was an odd man, very successful at selling himself and products. However much he may or may not have known about horses, he knew a lot about marketing. And market Dan Patch, he did. Dan’s image and name were on livestock feed, tobacco, a railway and everything in between. He even gets a mention in The Music Man.

For horse people, Dan Patch didn’t need a front man. His talent spoke for itself. But Savage’s marketing of Dan and racing made both better known to a public much larger than harness racing fans.

Dan Patch died July 11, 1916. Marion W. Savage died one day later. By that time, harness racing had ceased being a major national sport.Dan-Patch-Line-MN-Bachman-farm workers load train car-wikicommons

If, like me, you’d like to do a pilgrimage to the homes of Dan Patch, check Dan Patch Historical Society in Savage MN for places and events. Also look for “Dan Patch Days” in Oxford IN.

Flat Bay, Newfoundland

The Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay in Bay St. George is on YouTube. Below is a 16 minute documentary about the west coast Newfoundland village (Feb. 2017).

You can also download the accompanying report on Traditional Land Use and Occupancy. In 86 pages, the authors give a good overview of Flat Bay’s history, traditions and kinship networks.

Flat Bay is an important historical and political centre of the Newfoundland MI’kmaq. Its people have been central in the fight for official recognition as a First Nation. But if you’re driving across Newfoundland, you’re likely to miss it. It’s well off the TransCanada Highway at the end of a road that goes nowhere else. This has been good for Flat Bay’s preservation of identity. From the conclusion of the report, here’s a bit of the reason why.

flat bay tluos cover photo
Flat Bay, photo from TLUOS cover page

[The Mi’kmaq] settled in Flat Bay, due to its abundance of eel, access to the interior by the “river highways,” and provided isolation while allowing closeness to trading partners on Sandy Point.

…Originally a patchwork community was knit together due to their natural river boundaries. Hundreds of people bound together, through various means, surviving off the bounty of land and water, slowing closing the distance between them through the relationships that established the bloodlines we document in this study. For a time, the communities, Flat Bay West, East, and St. Teresa’s, were divided by the dialogue of outsiders. Divisions [were] drawn along… place name, family name, income and occupation, education, dialect…

As the community began to shrink for these reasons and others, the residents undertook policy, whether they did it consciously is still up for debate, of their community’s regeneration… Flat Bay was not unlike a thousand other small communities… of Newfoundland; the difference was someone else was writing our story. [pp 57-58]

google map flat bay
Google map of Flat Bay (click to enlarge)

Flat Bay History and Families

Flat Bay has been writing its own story, in terms of maintaining a strong Mi’kmaq community, for a long time. They literally write their own story in this study, in its authorship and use of interviews with residents. It begins with a concise history of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq and of Flat Bay. The authors then trace the history of industrial and subsistence economic activities, social and trade contact with nearby communities, and the effect of game laws. Education, language and the role of women are discussed in terms of tradition and change. The final section is an easy to follow history of the major Mi’kmaq families in the town: Benoit, King, Webb and Young.

It is an excellent study. Thanks to authors Calvin White, Hailey Burroughs, Mary Elsa (Dale) Young and Ivan White.

Pen Name Mysteries

Amazon link for The Cuckoo's Calling
Click to buy on Amazon

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.

The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder. It looks like J._K._Rowling_wikicommons pen name mysteriesan open and shut case of a London celebrity suicide. But is it? Or is a murderer hiding in plain sight? With his office temp, Robin, he gets drawn into a sad, tangled story of fame and envy, money and family.

Despite the sadness of Cuckoo’s central story, you still feel cozy in Cormoran’s office looking out on a wet and wintry London. Despite the nastiness of some of the characters, you feel sympathy toward them.

In Devoted in Death, you never feel cozy nor inclined toward understanding the reasons for murder. You see right off the bat who dun it, and why. You then follow the action and the thinking by police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her detectives as they figure it out. The plot is grisly and twisted enough to make a good episode of Criminal Minds.

Amazon link for Devoted in Death
Click to buy on Amazon

It takes place in New York City in 2061. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but this setting is ok. There are some technologies that we, to my knowledge, do not have at the present time. And that is kind of neat to think about. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Some aspects of American society maybe are eternal, one being the disconnect between NYC and the ‘flyover zone’.  An Arkansas deputy in the city for the first time expresses his awe: “That kicks the cow in the ass.” That line alone made the book worth reading.

The edition that I have is labelled ‘romantic suspense’. I don’t know why. There is suspense but no more ‘romance’ than in any other Nora_Roberts-wikicommons-Devillibrariangenre mystery. The book includes the protagonists’ lives outside the investigation, but not overwhelmingly so. The book is suspenseful, yes, but romantic, no.

In their different ways, English versus American most obviously, both books engaged me right from the start. I may now seek out books written under the authors’ real names to see how they differ. For sure I want to read more of their pen name mysteries.

Super Superdogs!

pc superdogs logoCame home smelling of strange dogs tonight.  I’d been to see the PC Superdogs at London’s John Labatt Centre [now Budweiser Gardens].  My dogs are now sitting either side of me, as close as they can get.  Maybe they’re afraid I’m going to trade them in.  They’re not in any danger of being replaced, but the Superdogs were awesome.

Big, little, purebreds, mongrels, shelter dogs, pound rescues – they’re all there, and Poles - Sheepdogthey’re brilliant.  We sat in the front row in floor seating.  Sometimes dogs that veered off the path came right in front of us.  We took pictures, held our breath when they jumped hurdles, cheered “our” dogs on in races until we were hoarse.  It’s regular people with their regular dogs, a little bit of glitz with rhinestone collars and sparkly scarves.

A bit of clowning with Pot Roast, a bulldog who couldn’t really jump or weave around poles but had a good time trying.  Dogs sometimes doing incredible agility feats, sometimes starting out brilliantly then just kind Superdogs Jack Russellof losing track and going off to sniff the floor in search of popcorn.  The ‘dog freestyle’ Rottweillers turned out not to be in a dancing mood, so pretty much just goofed around.

After the show, everyone got to meet the dogs.  They enjoyed being the stars and loved the pats and kisses.  When the arena cleared out, some of the pups in training came out and played around with each other and the audience members who were still hanging around.  I think we were the last to high hurdlesleave.  The arena security people were telling us and the remaining dog handlers which exits to use, as in it’s time to leave now!  It’s a great show – kids and adults alike loved the show and the dogs.  If you have a chance to see them, it’s well worth it.

PC Superdogs tour dates

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 8, 2010. Here are the cities and dates for the 2016 PC Superdogs Canadian tour covering Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Annabel

Michael Crummey wrote of Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel, “a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom.” That’s on the book jacket. It’s true. This is a beautiful love story – of two young people, a family, friends, and a big land.

Amazon link for Annabel
Amazon link for Annabel

It was one of the books chosen for 2014’s Canada Reads on CBC Radio. Despite (or because of) the praise it received, I decided to avoid it at all costs.

Its Labrador setting interested me – but. It sounded too much like it was good for you. “Diversity” and “inclusiveness” were used to describe its story. These are words that I used to like but now make me gak like a cat with a hairball. Hearing them now used too earnestly, too combatively, too often, too everywhere.

Last time I was at the library, there was Annabel in a display rack. I stopped and looked at it, went on, then came back. I took it, reasoning that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to finish it. Too quickly I finished it, even reading and rereading as slowly as I could. I wanted it to go on forever.

People and Places of Annabel

It took a few pages to overcome my resistance and hook me. I still feared it would be a misery of a read, filled with horrible, heartbreaking things happening. And there are those. But, as the characters do, you get past them somehow. It’s how Kathleen Winter tells the story, I guess. You care about the people, and they all have something very good in them (well, all but a few of them). I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot. You’ll have to take my word that it is a rare and joyful experience to read.

Annabel - Sunset-NWRiver-WikipediaYou move into the story – into the houses and the towns and the landscape. And the story moves into you. I realized just how much when I said aloud to the book “You’re up by Bannerman Park!” when a character, lost, describes what’s around him to another character over the phone.

Books can make you laugh out loud and cry. Rarely do they make you simply smile as you read passages that are so lovely you want to imprint them on your mind and memory. Annabel is one of those books. You want to know what happens after the story ends, and you also just want to remember what was in the pages.

Your Blues

Your Blues Ain't Like Mine Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

If you want to do some social research on the US of the latter half of the 20th century, read Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. It is a first novel by Bebe Moore Campbell, published in 1992. All the major socio-political movements from the 1950s to 1990s are here, seen through the eyes of individuals living amidst the turmoil generated by idealism and socio-economic changes.

It can be emotionally hard to read but it’s well worth it. At the beginning, you meet unhappy poor people in rural Mississippi in the 1950s. Right off the bat, you see that there is going to be violence and misery. They are so unlikable that I almost pic Tim Hilton Mississippi house 1966stopped reading. I couldn’t get past them but my brother had told me this was a really good book. So I kept going. He was right.

Bebe Moore Campbell takes you into the black and white worlds of Mississippi and Chicago, of racism both personal and institutional, of poverty, of people who have dreams and those who have no hope. There are heroes and Chicago inner city apartments 1975 pic Danny Lyons wikicommonsvillains but there is no simple categorization of either/or. Just when you start feeling sympathy or respect for a main character, she or he will do something cruel or unthinkingly hurtful. When you decide that a character is unremittingly nasty, you will get a glimpse into his or her motivation. That at least explains why or gives you reason to sympathize.

Bebe Moore Campbell NPR photo“Powerful,” “compelling,” “engaging,” “extraordinary” – the words in the cover blurbs describe the book perfectly. It also scares the hell out of you, makes you cry, and makes you think.

NPR wrote and broadcast about Ms. Campbell at the time of her death in 2006.

 

 

Mi’kmaq Images

Mi'kmaq Images - Ruth Holmes Whitehead
Click for Amazon link

Ruth Holmes Whitehead’s new book Niniskamijinaqik, Ancestral Images: The Mi’kmaq in art and photography is beautiful. If you are interested in Mi’kmaq history, it is also essential.

It puts faces to names. That is what makes it so valuable to Mi’kmaq genealogy researchers. Even more, Ms. Whitehead’s descriptions set those people and places in a historical and cultural context.

It is a picture book: Mi’kmaq rock carvings and paintings, sketches and photographs from European contact to the 1980s. The photograph on the cover is of Molly Muise of Annapolis Royal NS. A tintype from the mid-19th century, the full image is described in the preface:

“Molly’s photograph may be the earliest surviving photographic Mi'kmaq images Molly Muiseportrait of any of the Mi’kmaq. (Her name was originally French ‘Mius,’ and is now spelled Meuse.) She is wearing a peaked cap with double-curve beadwork, a dark shirt, and a short jacket with darker cuffs, over which she apparently has draped a second short jacket with its sleeves pulled inside, as a short capelet. Her traditional dress with the large fold at the top is held up by suspenders with ornamental tabs. In her hands she may be clutching a white handkerchief.”

Mi’kmaq Images and Information

Descriptions of clothing styles, as in this picture, or surrounding landscape or structures or implements – anything that might contribute to knowledge of who and where people were, and how they lived. Documents that give further insights are quoted in whole or relevant part in the description or endnotes.

Dates of birth and death, family members, name variations, and historical references are given. She also gives conjectures about who someone may be, making the basis for her conjecture clear. If conflicting information is in records or recent research, that is mentioned.

Mi'kmaq Images Mr and Mrs Frank JoeDescriptions of two photographs of Frank Joe and wife and their home in Bay St. George show this preciseness and detail of information. Ms. Whitehead remarks on a sled and the type of cabin construction shown in the photo of their home. On the other photo (shown here), she discusses in detail the family history of Frank Joe and his wife Caroline.

When your eyes are tired from looking at family groups on your computer screen or deciphering old documents, you can take a break with this book. You may also find a new piece of your puzzle or a new avenue to search. Even if you don’t, you’ll see a beautiful record of the past.

 

Nim the Chimp

Amazon link for dvd

Project Nim is a film by James Marsh about Nim Chimpsky, the chimp who was raised from infancy as a human in order to explore the learning of language in non-human primates.  The film is based on the book by Elizabeth Hess, Nim Chimpsky:  The chimp who would be human.  CBC Radio’s Q interviewed Marsh about his film and Nim.

In an experiment started in 1973 by Columbia University psychologist Dr. Herbert S. Terrace, Nim grew up like a human child and learned American Sign Language.   As he matured, he became a real male chimp with all the aggression and wildness that goes along with that.  But he also liked going to the ice cream parlour for peach ice cream and sleeping in his bed.

After four years the experiment came to an end.  Nim was taken from his home to an animal research facility.  When it closed, he and the Nim Chimpsky, at home, drawing on chalkboardother chimps were sold to another lab.  In the labs, he lived in a cage.

Once Nim escaped.  He broke into a house where he climbed in a bed and went to sleep.  Just like Goldilocks.  Poor Nim.  Listening to that in the interview broke my heart.

from Nim Chimpsky to chimpanzee

Nim grew up in human surroundings.  He knew how to communicate through ASL.  Then all that ended, and none of his new “keepers” knew sign language.  What must he have thought?  Obviously, he knew something was wrong and he sought to rectify it.  Shows intelligence and rational thought, in my opinion.

And the people responsible for this:  what on earth were they thinking?  They had taught him to live like a human, so why would they think that he would ‘adapt’ to being treated differently?  Would it Chimp in a lab cage (Capital Chimpanzee Exhibit, AHS 2009)have been so hard to provide him, in any environment, with his own ‘room,’ with the bed and pillow and blankets that he was used to?  Hire someone who knew sign language?  Not understanding that, to me, shows less intelligence and rational thought than Nim demonstrated.

Some of his original caretakers continued to care, and publicized his plight.  Nim was rescued by Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch.  He lived there until his death at 26 in 2000.  I don’t know if he had his own bed, but he had chimp companions that he liked and humans with whom he could sign.  I hope he also had all the peach ice cream he wanted.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, July 22, 2011

Who’s Kitten Who?

In the mood for a fluffy book, I wondered if Cynthia Baxter’s Who’s Kitten Who? might be a bit too fluffy based on the cover and title.  Still, give it a try.

Who's Kitten Who?
Click for Amazon link

Amateur sleuth Jessica Popper is a veterinarian who runs a mobile clinic on Long Island.  She lives with her fiancé and numerous animals.  She has a habit of running into murder and mystery.  In this book, it’s the murder of a community theatre writer. The backdrop is her home life and the visit of her future in-laws, whom she has not yet met, and their little dog Mitzi.

The actual mystery is good – some clues so you could feel like you were figuring it out but not enough to be too obvious.  The pets and her interaction with them are well drawn and entertaining.  Some LOL moments produced by her daily life with humans and animals. Fluffy? Yes.  A good read?  Yes.

The visit by the in-laws – good in that her fiancé’s mother is so god-awful that she gives you nightmares.  The tension between Jessica, her fiancé and his parents and Mitzi is very good.  It is realistic enough for any of us who have hideous memories of meeting “the fam” of a significant other.  It is over the top enough to make us laugh and feel relief that nothing we experienced was ever quite this bad.

Where it fails, in my opinion, is that Jessica tolerates this abuse by fiancé and his parents and actually still wants to be involved with this inconsiderate jackass.  I was relieved when I thought she had seen the light, smelled the coffee, woken up to her future with this dysfunctional pack of egotistical lunatics.  When loose ends are being tied up after the mystery was solved, I fully expected her to say “I never want to lay eyes on you again, go live with your deranged mother and her deranged dog and spare every other woman’s emotional wellbeing.”  What I read instead surprised me – indeed annoyed me.

Aside from that, I don’t like books where there’s no connection between title and content (excepting those with a series-based reason) and there isn’t here.  I don’t like mystery protagonists who suddenly act stupid for the sake of moving the plot along, and that happens here at least once in a major way.

I should, I suppose, read another of the ‘Reigning Cats and Dogs‘ series to get a better sense of Jessica and the pillock she’s engaged to.  Other than the points I mention, it’s a fun, well-written and engaging mystery with mostly likeable characters.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 8/11. Below are Amazon links to the first two Jessica Popper books. The right sidebar links are for Ms. Baxter’s second series featuring travel writer Mallory Marlowe.