Review of “Arthurian Omen” by G. G. Vandagriff

Arthurian OmenArthurian Omen by G.G. Vandagriff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Arthurian Omen, by G.G. Vandagriff deals with the intense passion that arises when the location of a long lost manuscript is uncovered. The story is starts out being riveting and it makes you want to find out more, and then when you do, it disappoints.

The first thing that will strike you about this novel is the stupidity of the characters. They seem to make more bad decisions in the first three chapters than most of us make in a year. Their stupidity, though, doesn’t stop there. They continue to make poor decisions, and leaps of logic that can only be author inspired.

From beginning to end the characters come across as flat caricatures who exist merely for the convenience of the plot. The “bad guy” in the novel is constantly ascribed greater malevolence than befits his actions, while the lurking secret behind the story, a Colombian drug cartel, disappears into the mist several chapters before the lackluster climax.

The suspense is held by keeping the identity of most of the characters a secret from the reader, while showing us tantalizing hints of which of the hunters on the grand quest might have an alter-ego under one of the pseudonyms we know is used by one of the bad guys. This suspense is held until about two thirds through the book when, for no apparent reason, Vandagriff breaks the suspense and tells us who is who, leaving just one villain unmasked. The unmasking of the final villain at the climax of the book, left me with only one word: meh. I didn’t care about who it was. The reasons behind the nefarious deeds then come out to be some sort of poor family relationship that the character had as a child, and a nanny who brainwashed them. Of course none of this is mentioned until after the unmasking, which means that the reader is not invested in the investigation, and so has no “aha” moment at the unmasking.

I was once told that directors and writers are like the Wizard of Oz, the character, not the book. If they’re very good you’ll never notice the man behind the curtain. Every author’s motto should be “take no notice of the man behind the curtain”. Vandagriff, instead, writes more like she is standing in the middle of a three ring circus, rather than behind the curtain. The author’s hand is visible on the strings of every character, forcing them into decisions that no reasonable person would make, and manipulating them into actions that seem out of place given their past history.

This is not to say that the novel is not enjoyable. I quite enjoyed the quest through the Welsh countryside. I enjoyed her descriptions of the landscape as they moved through it. I did, though, have some concerns about the amount of detail that went into describing the outfits of the main character, not seeing the reason behind telling us exactly what she is wearing down to the last stitch and hue.

Though the novel had some bright points, this is not an author I will be seeking out in the future. She is too visible in the actions of her characters, and does not allow them to behave as they desire. The story, while interesting, can not make up for the lack of depth in her characters.

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Reply from an M.P.

As you know I sent an e-mail to Nina Grewal (my M.P.) a few weeks ago in regards to the “case” against Ezra Levant before the Alberta Human Rights Commission (you can read my reaction to it here).  A similar case is currently proceeding against Mark Steyn.  A few weeks later I sent a follow up e-mail (just in case my first one got lost in the ether).

Greetings; I would just like to inquire as to what your progress on the matter in the attached e-mail has been.Also.  I noticed the other day that your colleague Mr. Keith Martin has entered a private members motion: M-446 — January 30, 2008 — Mr. Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) — That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act. I was wondering where you stood on this.  While I believe that the Human Rights Act is important, I could not figure out the purpose behind subsection 13, especially after finding out that a single person brought up nearly all the cases in which it was the primary issue.I look forward to your input on this.

Noah D. Arney

Just the other day I received a letter from my M.P.  I assumed it would be one of her mailings which I receive regularly, but in fact she had taken the time to send me a letter rather than an e-mail in response to my questions.  As I posted the original e-mail to her, I also am attaching a transcript of her letter.

6 February 2008

 Noah Arney

(Address removed)

Dear Mr. Arney:

Thank you very much for your recent correspondence concerning complaints before Canadian human rights commissions.

In recent weeks I have read several news articles expressing concern over the decisions of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and several of its provincial counterparts to proceed with complaints against Macleans Magazine and Ezra Levant and the Western Standard.  In the Macleans case the Canadian Islamic Congress alleges that an article published last year, excerpted from Mark Steyn’s book America Alone, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia.”  In the other case, the Alberta Human Rights Commission is considering whether or not to proceed with a complaint over a decision by Mr. Levant to publish the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

The federal and provincial governments established human rights commissions in the 1960s and 1970s to investigate complaints of discrimination.  In the case of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Act sets out the commission’s responsibilities.  Complaints may relate to employment, or to the provision of goods, services, facilities and accommodation that are customarily available to the general public.  Complaints of discrimination may be made based on race, national and ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.  The commission also has a statutory responsibility to foster public understanding and recognition of the principles of the Act.

I believe there is still a very important role to be played by human rights commissions.  There are, however, areas where reform may be required; specifically the willingness of commissions to consider questions relating to freedom of speech.  I am worried that by censoring one kind of expression, it will be easier to start censoring others.

I feel it may be appropriate at this time for the Minister of Justice to undertake a broad review of the Canadian Human Rights Act including those sections of the Act dealing with the Human Rights Commission.  A fundamental review by Parliament is needed to ensure that the commission remains true to the intentions of Parliamentarians.

As for Mr. Martin’s private member’s motion, M-446, repealing section 13 of the Canada Human Rights Act, it was just recently tabled and will not be up for debate in the near future.  Enacted in 1977, the original purpose of s. 13 was to deal with “telephone hate lines.”  The legislation was extended in 2001 to cover hate messaging on the Internet (s. 13(2)).

Section 13 provides:

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

I can assure you that when this motion comes before the House of Commons for debate, I will follow it closely and will arrive at a position at that time after careful considering on the arguments for and against its implementation.

Thank you again for writing to me and expressing your views on this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

Nina Grewal

Member of Parliament

Fleetwood-Port Kells

Well.  That was a bit long, but important it.  It’s good to remember that our MPs are just as interested in these matters as we are.  Also, Ms. Grewal is wonderful.  Thank you.

Prep Room Discussions and Grading

I originally posted this on a Ning site that we use for classroom discussions in my Educational Psych class. Today there was an interesting discussion in the English/social studies prep room at my school. Someone brought up how grades were posted, and that most teachers posted them by student number (essentially alphabetically). One teacher though posted them that way and then highlighted in one colour those getting As, and in another colour those failing. A second teacher posts his grades sorted by grade. This lead to a discussion of the purpose of grades. Grades seem to be a motivation for students. But what we decided on was that it wasn’t just the grade, it was the competition for the grade. Competition was the motivator, not grades. I brought up that I felt it was doing a disservice to the students to assume that they can’t be intrinsically motivated. I said that in a Pass/Fail system students may start to loose their grade focus, and instead compete for doing individual assignments better than others, giving students for whom competition is the motivator more frequent chances for reward from their competition, rather than competing solely for the final grade. It’s an interesting thought about what motivates our students to do well. I think that if grades are the main motivator, then we as members of the education system have failed them. But really, think about it. What is the purpose of a grade?

Grades? What Grades?

Why do we give students grades? Wait, no, that’s not it.  I understand why we give students grades, what I don’t understand is why we use the traditional A through F system. It seems to discourage cooperation, and provide yet another thing for students to make fun of each other over. I believe that we should go to a Pass Fail system, with a few alterations.  I don’t mean that we should get rid of numerical marking.  I think that many people use this correctly.  Numerical marking allows students to see where they are in comparison to the standard.  What I do not agree with is when it is used to see where students are in comparison to others.  A pass, then, should be 60% and higher (perhaps even 70%?).  This way in order to pass you must actually have achieved a level of ability that will allow the students to move to the next level of classes. Grades should be used to help students, not to label them.  Provincial exam marks have taken the place of actual GPA in deciding if someone can attend a particular university, so why bother with them? Perhaps it is in fact to encourage competition.  Maybe people believe that students wont work hard unless there is a grade attached?  I believe that students will always find a way to compete, and that our focus on grades has simply made that the reason for competition.  But in reality we’ll see how my opinion changes as I work in the schools.  Maybe I’ll find the reason for grades.

Letter to an MP

In regards to my previous post.  I am so frustrated I just sent an e-mail to my MP Nina Grewal.  You can read the text below. 

Greetings; My name is Noah Arney.  I love this country.  I am proud to have become a Canadian.  I am proud to live in this great land.  I am proud that our country is free.  That we are not persecuted for our expressions of personal beliefs.  I am proud that newspapers are allowed to publish the truth and fact without fear of reprisal.  I am proud that if there is a news story, our news media have the right to tell us about it, to give us the facts, and to let us decide what we believe.And then I found out about the case of Ezra Levant.  And I felt shame for being in a country that is trying to take away someone’s right to publish the news. Ezra Levant is currently before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing a set of cartoons in his newspaper, a set of cartoons which made headlines around the world.  And he was publishing them so that people could see what the news was about.  They were published to illustrate an article that was about the impact of those same cartoons. Why, in our free country, is a man being persecuted for publishing the news?I do not agree with everything Mr. Levant says, or even most of what he says, but this is a free country, and he has a right to say it. Please look into this.  Please bring this up in parliament.  Please stop our system from being corrupted.  And please give our country its honor back.  Noah D. Arney