Archive for August, 2008

Ben Viccari’s Canscene — Canada’s multicultural scene

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Vol. 8, No 8, August, 2008

The opinions expressed in signed or attributed pieces in Canscene do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher/editor of this blog. Your personal comments, as always, are welcomed. No login required. Just click the “Your comment” link beneath any article.

Thoughts at 90

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) “How does it feel to be 90?” everyone asks me. I’ll let you into a secret….. no different from being 89.

But it has become a time of evocation when often, unbidden, thoughts of other times, places and people come to mind. Like:

*** My first visit to Italy at four which, through change in surroundings, completely wipes out all earlier infanthood recollections. The sights, first Paris and the Eiffel Tower then the long overnight train ride to Rome and its marvels. Then on to Saints Cosma and Damiano for my one and only stay with paternal grandparents, the formidable Don Silvestro and Nonna Concetta. More »

Passing of a pioneer

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — It was in 2004 that I last googled for information on a hero and found him alive and well, just having passed his 100th birthday. On reaching my own 90th last month, I gave a long neglected thought to Dr Ancel Keys who as a food scientist had a profound effect on society’s attitudes towards eating and exercise. He had died in that same 101st year unnoticed by me and as far as I know, by much of a world that should have sung his praises.

I had discovered his work in the 1980s when I purchased a remaindered copy of he book he co-wrote with his wife Margaret: How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way. As heir to Mediterranean food and ways, for me the book was an eye-opener; not only was this the tastiest food in the world, but low in cholesterol – inducing fats and containing hundreds of recipes as well as a substantial text.

Keys’ work, beginning in the 1930s, pointed to high cholesterol and fatty diets as chief culprits in heart disease. Some of his other work included the invention of military K-rations (the K stands for Keys) for combat forces in World War II and the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which had implications for rebuilding postwar Europe.

His work spanning from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, introduced many of the assumptions which we now take for granted about the relationship between diet, energy expenditure, metabolic rates and health.

Margaret Keys, co-author of three books with her husband, including the bestseller Eat Well and Stay Well, was 97 when she died two years ago. Margaret Keys met her husband when he hired her to work as a research chemist at the Mayo Clinic during the late 1930s. They married in 1939.

She was especially active as his research partner during most of the 1950s, when they studied the health and diets of people around the world.
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Iconic more laconic?

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –In one recent section of the Toronto Star I counted the use of the word “iconic” four times. For me   that word’s  becoming as annoying as was “at the end of the day” a few years back. It seems the adjective is being applied far too generously to anything animal, vegetable or mineral.

Naturally, to editors the word is a space saver but it ranks in laziness and inaccuracy with the term “accused murderer” instead of “charged  with murder.”

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes iconic as “constituting a cultural icon” in the sense that this or that object stands out above others and whose achievements have  withstood the test of time, not of the past few hours.  As we see, there are icons and icons: Vince Lombardi and Jackie Robinson, William Hutt and Ruth Draper, Al Purdy and Margaret Laurence, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee,  Willie Nelson and Gordon Lightfoot, Pierre Trudeau and Nellie McClung —   yes, but the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and countless others whose shadows as they pass will leave no impression 20 years from now   —– a resounding NO!

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Some promising entries for TIFF 08

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Deepa Mehta, Don McKellar, Bruce McDonald — all names familiar to Toronto International Film Festival goers will be returning to TIFF screens this year with new Canadian productions.

Deepa Mehta, a TIFF veteran, enters Heaven on Earth based on the true story of Punjabi-born Toronto woman who is a victim of domestic violence. Mehta has already filmed a documentary on the same subject, but Heaven on Earth will be presented as a feature.

Don McKellar (Last Night and Red Violin) wrote the screenplay for Blindness, shown this year at Cannes. It’s the story of a world struck blind by a virus and stars Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool also has a post-apocalyptic story line. From a novel by Ontarian Tony Burgess, it offers a glimpse into a future that is far from promising for humankind.

For star gazers, there’s Appaloosa, directed by and starring Ed Harris, also featuring Viggo Mortensen. The two star as gunslingers hired to clean up a New Mexico town. Sounds familiar? But it’s a world premiere and with Renee Zellweger as a “provocative outsider” likely to attract a large crowd to the screening and eventual press conference.


Viggo: Back in the saddle again

Canadian offerings in addition to Heaven on Earth, Blindness and Pontypool are profuse and varied. In its Canada First series, TIFF has scheduled nine productions for first-time Canadian directors as well as those presenting at TIFF for the first time.

Before Tomorrow is directed by Marie-Helen Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu and based on an acclaimed Danish novel. It’s described as “a moving drama about a strong Inuit woman and her beloved grandson trapped on a remote island as they face the ultimate challenge of survival.”

Canada’s first stop-motion animated feature Edison and Leo is “ a sumptuous fairy tale about a quirky inventor (Powers Boothe) who endangers his family in quest to create a viable electric light bulb.”

In the Contemporary World Cinema series, Carl Bessai’s Mothers and Daughters is a look at the strained relationships three women have with their daughters. Features Tantoo Cardinal, Gabrielle Rose and Babz Chula.

Also to be featured are Maman est chez le coiffeur Lost Song, Toronto Stories and Summer Without a Home Run a Quebec baseball story.

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Whatever happened to Chimo?

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — At a recent party given to celebrate my 90th, glasses clinked as toasts were raised in variety of languages. Lalita Krishna and Paritosh Mehta raised the point that South Asian languages don’t accommodate the meaning of “Cheers” and “Salute” and kindred hundreds of toasting words and phrases.

I was reminded of “ Chimo.”

I told my friends that, 41 years ago as we geared up for Expo 67 to become a defining moment in Canadian history, my good friend “Mr. Canada” the late John Fisher, broadcaster, storyteller and author proposed that Canada adopt the Inuktituk word Chimo as our unique national toast. All went well for a while and then somehow Chimo faded out of sight as though we Canadians had become too self-conscious about making a toast so far from the ordinary.

John, it’s time we brought Chimo back to life. No easier way than to say we’re Canadian.

Let’s hear your views out there! That’s what the comments sections are for!
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Kymlicka’s book sends a message to Canadians

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — 

Will Kymlicka, who’s Canadian Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University, has written a number of books and papers on multiculturalism. In his latest, Multicultural Odysseys (Oxford University Press) he examines the prospects for the adoption of multicultural policies by countries in which firmly entrenched ethnic enclaves threaten harmony and peace.

In the last analysis, says Kymlicka, the acceptance of multiculturalism is closely linked with acknowledgment and acceptance of human rights. He admits to the daunting nature of his desirable aim.

My own thoughts are that we in Canada can afford to be proud of our own record, although we lag behind in our attitude toward native communities as components of multiculturalism. Nevertheless, Canada along with, to a lesser degree, Australia, has far outstripped other countries.

Here, there’s relative harmony and understanding between ethnic factors that, in their countries of origin, are still hostile to each other. It is this attitude we must foster among all Canadians irrespective of their origin.

We must embed in the very idea of citizenship to which all immigrant newcomers should aspire that in no other country does there exist the opportunity to see in Canadian citizenship an ideal that can teach the world an understanding, beyond mere tolerance, of diversity within the law.

Let’s forget the external irritations felt by some: burquas, hijabs, turbans, kirpans. yarmulkas. these are not of themselves lawbreakers. Let’s dwell on the values of citizenship in a country that makes the most of the cultural and trading and peacemaking opportunities that have been bestowed on us.

NDP’s poster boy against co-operation

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Recent receipt of Stephane Dion’s newsletters reveals that several former NDP luminaries endorse his Green Shift program. Not to mention Bob Rae.

Yet handsome Jack Layton persists in his  anti-liberal-above-all-stance by continuing to ridicule Dion’s platform. Which is surprising, considering NDPers were among the first to lead the fight against global warming and press for a cleaner environment.

One would think that since Layton shares with the Liberals an equal contempt for Stephen Harper’s do-nothing environmental policy, he’d at least keep his  mouth shut on the subject.  But it’s obvious he prefers the sound  of his own voice to the voice of reason as he struts his way to oblivion.
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What’s in a name?

Friday, August 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Passing a few idle moments at a magazine stand I spotted a lavish American magazine called Cowboys and Indians. Googling the content I find much that glorifies the “western way of living” but nothing overtly racist. In fact the September issue has a section featuring native Indian art.

But that title…………!

The last word

Friday, August 1st, 2008

I have a theory that the overwhelming majority attracted to live in Canada already had in them the gift of seeing the other side of the point. We attract who we are.

That is why Canadians are not tolerant; Canadians are accepting.

The word “tolerant is pejorative. It means people put up with those they deem to be different from them. This is an insult. This is not what Canada is. Canadians have a great sense of accepting others. We walk down the street and feel it is normal to hear a world full of accents and languages.

Being accepting means you know groups to which you do not belong accept you.

Being accepting means you see the other side of the point.

Rochelle Burns, social historian and former citizenship court judge.

Toronto Star, July 1.