Into the Cold
Into the Cold is one of the most interesting DVDs I've seen in a long time. It chronicles the attempt by Sebastian Copeland and Keith Heger to recreate the epic trip by Admiral Byrd to the North Pole in 1909. Copeland and Heger undergo rigorous physical training in Duluth, Minnesota, to acclimatize themselves. Sponsors have to be lined up, and once everything is ready to go, they pack up and fly to a remote location to begin the journey. They undertake the 400-mile trip across the frozen ice cap across the desolate, but somehow beautiful, Antarctic "desert" with a 300lb sled containing enough food for 6 weeks. The pair burn 7,000 calories apiece per day as they aim to travel about 13 miles per day. They have to contend with brutally cold temperatures (-45 degrees F), cutting winds and overcast skies, which reduce everything to a white landscape. The sun never sets, but hangs just above the horizon. I was struck by the fact that once you reach the geographic North Pole, no matter what direction you head in, you're headed south! Their isolation gives them the opportunity to turn inward and reflect on their spirituality. Yet, they still rely on technology in the form of cellphones and tablets to keep in touch with the outside world. Copeland laments that this might be the last time such a trip can be undertaken as the polar ice cap is melting due to global warming.
They encounter many challenges in the form of rubble areas and pressure ridges (which create big hills of ice blocks), water breaks (which force them to alter their course) and arctic drift (which moves them slowly south away from the Pole.) Copeland points out that the massive power at work in the ice and water could be tapped for renewable energy.
The film is masterfully done. Copeland does a great job narrating the journey, and the photography is exceptional. You really feel like you're there with them. As Copeland points out, it's one of the last true frontiers on earth. Unless man takes immediate action, this environment (and ecosystem) may be lost forever.
Into the Cold
Best Friends Forever: a World War II Scrapbook, by Beverly Patt
Fourteen-year-old Louise keeps a scrapbook detailing the events in her life after her best friend, a Japanese-American girl, and her family are sent to a relocation camp during World War II.
The Dragon in the Sock Drawer, by Kate Klimo
Cousins Jesse and Daisy always knew they would have a magical adventure, but they are not prepared when the "thunder egg" Jesse has found turns out to be a dragon egg that is about to hatch.
I usually write about books (or e-books) for Staff Picks. This time I decided to review the 2012 movie (DVD) War Horse. This British movie contains spectacular scenery and special effects. It's the story of a horse born and raised on a farm in Ireland. When World War I breaks out, the horse is sold to the British Army to raise money to save the farm. The young boy who raised him promises they will eventually be reunited. A very touching scene involves "Joey", as the horse is named, befriending another military horse. Joey serves with distinction in the British and German Armies, and is taken care of by a French grandfather and his young granddaughter. The most powerful scene for me showed hundreds of horses killed in battle. I'd never thought of this type of casualty before seeing this movie. Horses, like soldiers, also suffered. Joey, The War Horse, was very brave, indeed, and affected everybody he met.
I recommend this movie highly. The story line is dramatic and well - written, and the acting is superb. It will change your perception of World War I.
Three Good Deeds, by Vivian Vande Velde
If Howard had known the old witch would cast a spell on him, he would never have bothered her or her geese. The witch had enough of Howard and the tricks he played on her and the geese and she turned him into a goose. Howard finds out the only way to break the spell and turn back into a boy is to do "three good deeds", but how can he--with webbed feet, wings, and only a "honk?"
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The best science fiction works on multiple levels; yes, it should almost always include interesting descriptions of the state of science and technology at some future (or past) place and time, along with insightful commentary on the state of mankind itself--or at least some alien species that we can all relate to in some way. And typically there is compelling action taking place. But the best of the best, I find, also works on a more personal level. There has to be something about the main character(s) of any story that draws us in and lets us identify with them, and there has to be some kind of conflict of character and an ultimate resolution of that conflict that strikes a chord within us. As I read Alfred Bester's classic The Stars My Destination (previously published in the U.K. as Tiger! Tiger!), what I initially found myself identifying with most in the character of Gully Foyle was his driving need to balance the scales between himself and a world that seemed to have gone out of its way to heap injury and indifference upon him--as I am certain that most people who have ever felt put-upon by the world will likewise relate to. But what I found even more compelling was Gully's necessary transformation from a mediocre, uneducated brute to a self-made man with iron control over his own thoughts and emotions as his quest for revenge likewise evolved from lashing out in mindless fury to flexing his intellect in pursuit of his goals. As Gully acquires intellect he also acquires empathy, and conscience, arguably prerequisites for true sentience in any species. In many stories, heroes have a tendency to become god-like in their power; in Bester's story, his main character's physical abilities are matched in turn by his mental and spiritual evolution. Not to give anything away, but Gully's quest for vengeance takes a turn that I believe makes his character superior to Alexandre Dumas' Edmond Dantès (to whom Gulliver Foyle is often compared). Give Alfred Bester's visionary classic a read for yourself and see if you agree.
The Power of Un, by Nancy Etchemendy
Until a week ago, Gib Finney was just a regular guy, shooting spitballs and messing up his science experiments. But when he receives a mysterious device called the Unner, everything changes. Gib discovers that the Unner has the power to travel back in time to undo his bad decisions. What will change in Gib's life if he uses the Unner?
No Easy Day, by Mark Owen
Prior to last year's Presidential election, I remember hearing about a Navy SEAL who was publishing a book about the covert operation to apprehend terror chief Osama Bin Laden. It was listed on the New York Times bestseller list. I put my name on the reserve (HOLD) list, and received a copy within a few weeks. No Easy Day was written by Navy SEAL Mark Owen in 2012. It chronicles Owen's enlistment and ultimate selection as a Navy SEAL. He applies for a special unit assignment, which leads to covert operations in the Middle East over a ten-year period. When Bin Laden is finally located in Pakistan, Mark finds himself in the right place at the right time. Owen describes how the team trains in Virginia for "clearing" suspected terrorist houses. Then, he relates how his team is transported to Afghanistan, where they await the green light from Washington to enter Pakistan. Finally, permission is granted, and the teams travel by helicopter and cargo plane to Abbottabad. The SEAL does an excellent job of describing the step-by-step search to apprehend their target. He also expresses frustration at the inability of the government officials to keep a lid on mission information. Owen has no regrets because he knew Bin Laden had to be eliminated. I feel this book is well-written and accurate. I suggest you read this book to dispel much of the rumor and misinformation about the mission.
The Elevator Family, by Douglas Evans
When the eccentric Wilson family arrives at the San Francisco Hotel only to find there are no rooms available, they waste no time in finding the next best place to stay--the elevator!
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo
Edward Tulane, a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself until he is separated from the little girl who adores him and travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.
Francona: The Red Sox Years, by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy
As a long-time (suffering) Red Sox fan, I was shocked by the historic collapse of the team at the end of the 2011 season. After the All-Star break, they seemed to be steamrolling their way to The World Series; but they didn't even make the playoffs - even with a sizable lead at the start of September. I'd heard that ex-Manager Terry Francona was writing a book with Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, so I put a Hold (reserved) on the book online when I saw it in our catalog.
Francona: The Red Sox Years starts by explaining how Terry grew up around ballparks since his father was a struggling player in the minors. He attended Arizona State, where he played baseball, then played on several major league teams. A knee injury ended his career. He was able to work his way up the management chain until he landed a job in Boston. Francona managed the team for 8-years, during which time the team won two World Series. He would be the first to tell you they should have won a third; but a combination of factors derailed that trip!
Francona states that the ownership (John Henry, Tom Werner) and CEO Larry Lucchino were more focused on marketing the team than building for the future. A rift developed between the pitchers and other players, and the "team spirit" suffered. A trust issue developed between the Manager and management. This situation was further aggravated when Francona's personal information was leaked to the Boston press. He left Boston feeling unappreciated and angry.
I thought this book might be one-sided and vengeful; but I believe Francona was fair and honest in his assessment of the situation. This book should be read by anyone interested in baseball - regardless of affiliation.
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
The Newbery Medal winner in 1979. The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together 16 possible heirs who become involved in a "game" to solve how Sam Westing died and win their inheritance.