Archive for January, 2008


Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2008

2008: the point of no return?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008


(Canscene) — Each year, it becomes more difficult to accept the flawed judgment of fools who refuse to look the threat of global warming in the face.

Each year we refuse to look at the prospect of denying many of the creature comforts we have relished at risk of what realists now know is a menace to humanity itself.

The threat? No, the clear and present danger. One day in one year we shall reach the point of no return. Could it be in 2008?

2008: a parallel menace

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — The assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the subsequent suicide bombing claiming innocent victims is just one more example of the total evil of the presence of instruments of war and crime in every corner of the world.

Must we be compelled to the pessimistic belief that if global warming doesn’t get us, weapons of human destruction will, whether they be guns and machetes in Rwanda or the Congo or missiles’ reciprocally fired across borders in Palestine and Israel? Or worse, that dreaded BOMB.

Most guns, rockets, bombs are scientifically manufactured objects. Their makers are armaments companies all of which must turn a profit to remain in existence. They must satisfy shareholders and pay employees in order to survive.

Before we Canadians begin pointing our fingers at the armaments industries of other countries let’s take a look at a recent CBC report claiming that in 2003, Canada’s arms exports topped $2 billion. There was a decrease in 2004 and 2005 and we’re awaiting figures for 2006.

More than 500 Canadian companies and tens of thousands of employees make military products across the country — everything from bullets and rockets to light armoured vehicles.

Ken Epps, of the arms control group Project Ploughshares, said Canada is shipping arms to questionable places with low concern for human rights.

The ten best?……..well…

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –Last month the Toronto International Film Festival published its list of the ten best Canadian feature films of 2007. All were screened at TIFF’s ‘07 film festival.

I found little to find disagreement with concerning six of the seven listed films I had seen at the festival. The exception was the inclusion of the Quebec film Continental: Un Film Sans Fusil, which I, like many others who saw it at TIFF 07 found pointless and by no means the epitome of black comedy its champions claimed.

That the voting committee had omitted Clement Virgo’s Poor Boy’s Game from the ten best list baffled me. With a cast headed by Danny Glover and including Rossif Sutherland, Tanya Lee Williams and Stephen McHattie, it tells with compassion the moving story of a father’s struggle to overcome hatred and a desire for revenge against a young hoodlum who has served time for a vicious beating of his son, robbing the lad of his full mental faculties. For a full review, see Canscene archive for September 2007.

Played against a background of black/white racial tension in Halifax, where a Black population dates back nearly 400 years, Poor Boy’s Game would be a highly appropriate film for release during Black History Month, February 2008.

This Teddy Bear no picnic for Gillian

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008


(Canscene) — Gillian Gibbons, the British school teacher in Khartoum who asked her pupils to name a teddy bear and was jailed because they chose Mohammed found herself in a potentially life-threatening position had it not been for the decision of the Sudanese government to pardon her and permit her to leave the country.

As most of the world knows, it is no sin for a devout Muslim family to name their male children Mohammed any more than for Spanish speaking people to name a child Jesus. It is clear that with many of her pupils Muslim, the naming of the bear was an act of innocence.

But just as international opinion had generated Gibbons’ pardon and she was about to leave along came a group of “liberal” Canadian Muslims. They asked concerned Canadians to send teddy bears to the Sudanese embassy in Ottawa as a pleas to free Gillian.

I don’t know how many bears were actually sent, but thank God Gillian Gibbons got away safely. Mindless stunts like these may generate publicity but at a potential cost of victims’ lives since quite apart from the Sudanese government’s decision, mobs of fundamentalists were howling in the streets for Gillian’s execution.

Heaven preserve us from well-meaning fools who value publicity for their views more than human lives.

Will 2008 be Mike’s lucky year?

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

(Canscene) For almost as long as I have known him Mike Janacek, longtime publisher of the Czech-language Kanadske Listy has been pleading with Canada Post to issue a stamp commemorating Canada’s first honorary citizen (1985) Raoul Wallenberg.


Wallenberg, it will be remembered, was the Swedish diplomat sent to Budapest, Hungary to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. He was one of the prominent Swedish Wallenberg family.

He worked to save the lives of many Hungarian Jews in the later stages of World War II by issuing them protective passports from the Swedish embassy. These documents identified the bearers as Swedish nationals awaiting repatriation. His disappearance into the maw of Soviet imprisonment has left his admirers without closure.

Honorary Canadian citizenship requires the unanimous approval of Parliament. The only people to have it are Wallenberg in 1985, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela in 2001, Tibet’s 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso in 2006, and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007.

In recent years, Canadian stamps have honoured both living and deceased celebrities and it remains a mystery why the committee making decisions on the content of stamp issues, should not have chosen Wallenberg.

Since stamp issues are frequently released in sets of four it now seems highly feasible that along with Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Aung, Wallenberg will eventually appear.

Mike Janacek, now in his eighties, hopes it will be soon, perhaps this year.

How to avoid media coverage

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

(Canscene) —  Attention publicists!

These pointers come from a woman at one of Canada’s major television stations whose sad lot it is to deal with public relations people and others who want to get on the air.

•     Be sure to send your release on the same day as your event or better still, a few minutes before or — even better — after it;

•     If you’re new to this, here’s a handy hint: a release reporting what happened at your event, after it happened, will virtually guarantee that you and your organization will be ignored;

•     Make vague and ambiguous statements about the purpose of your event and be especially careful not to reveal its date, time and location;

•     Misspelling the name of the person to whom you are writing will work to your disfavour, as will being clueless about your target  audience;

•     Issuing numerous confusing reminders about your event will also help to create a negative impression;

•     Confuse being newsworthy with blatantly commercial intent;

•     Don’t bother with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation;

•     Send huge memory -heavy graphic files so that what you have to say will freeze their computers and not only be deleted but also be flagged as spam for future e-mailings;

•     Create ongoing annoyance by releasing strictly internal information that will interest no one outside of your  circle;

•     Utilize the fact that competing media are already committed to participating in your project.

The last word

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I can scarcely apologize for the content of this issue of Canscene. It voices many personal worries and discontents concerning the future of humankind. But discontents are materials to build on: for good or ill.

On a recent re-reading of Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan’s magnificent Paris, 1919 which described the fateful Versailles Peace Conference after the ending of The First World War, I marvelled at the number of land swaps that were made, creating the seeds of present discontent.

But the greatest tragedy of all was that future superpower America, through its legislators, threw away President Wilson’s dream of his country’s participation in a League of Nations the organization of which was his idea.

One year remains to George W. Bush’s lame duck presidency after which we must fervently hope that with China, Russia and India in the ascendancy as superpowers, the United States may find the kind of leadership enabling its people to see themselves in a global perspective.

And may Canadian leaders find the courage to speak up for our country as a moral superpower facing issues not just good for Canada, but for the peoples of the world.