Archive for February, 2008

Ben Viccari’s Canscene

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Vol 8 No. 2 — February 2008

Thoughts for Black History Month

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) – February 1 ushered in Black History Month, but there’s one chapter I hoped never to see in the pages of that history.

That’s the establishment in 2009 of an experimental, ethnocentrically focused school for Black students, as approved by the Toronto Board of Education by a vote of 11 to nine with two board members abstaining.

Those of us who study and believe in, Canadian multiculturalism deny that neighbourhoods “ghettoize” certain cultures. For many reasons, immigrant groups wish to settle close to others with whom they have something in common. That’s freedom of choice. (more…)

Canada’s World needs your input

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –Canada’s World is having a conversation about our country’s role in the world. The organizers want to get Canadians informed and talking: talking about how they want us to act in the world, and what we have to do to make that happen.

The project is having this conversation in person, through dialogues with randomly selected participants in every region of the country, and online at The outcome of this conversation will depend on what you say so it’s up to you to participate and make your voice heard!

To get you prepared to talk about your country and the world, they’ve created the above website. From which you can find more information about Canada’s World – the overview of the project, the project team, information about the other members of the site, advisors, collaborators, and funders, and ways to contact Canada’s World

From the rest of the site, you can learn more about your country and the world and get prepared for the online dialogue, which will happen next spring. You can take quizzes on international issues, browse the gallery and add your own photos to it, read guides for how to get involved in making change in the international arena, and learn about new realities facing Canada in the world. So – get going!

Don’t forget


Thinkers or front men ?

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) – To the number of right wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute and the Donner Foundation that front for laissez faire business and industry, add Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Winnipeg-based organization I’d never heard of until I received from the centre a book titled Unstoppable Global Warming — Every 1,500 Years.

warming.jpgDon’t worry about global warming; it’s happened before, every 1,500 years. That’s the message physicist Fred Singer and science journalist Dennis Avery are trying to convey in the book, published last year and delivered to me recently, unsolicited.

The authors claim their exhaustive research proves that, approximately every 1500 years, we experience a warming period such as we’re undergoing now. “They piece together clues from ice cores, tree rings, ocean sediments and stalagmites to reconstruct Earth’s temperatures over the eons, “says the covering letter from Peter Holle, president of the Frontier Centre in a letter accompanying the book and addressed to me.

Now let’s look at the facts. (more…)

The ultimate crime

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Genocide seems to be the hot button word of the moment. Most of us agree it refers to an unspeakable, organized crime against humanity.

Recently, I was asked to provide input into the proposed Toronto School Board course for grade ll students “Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications” I was told that there were three main subjects; The Holocaust, the Massacre of Armenians in 1915 and the Rwandan Massacres.

I declined to endorse the line of study, because it chose but three subjects. (more…)

Book review

Friday, February 1st, 2008

mafia-book.jpgMafia and Outlaw Stories from Italian Life and Literature
Translated and edited by Robin Pickering-Iazzi
Toronto University Press, 180 pages Cloth $55.00. Paper $24.95

(Canscene) — “It was raining the day they killed my son.”

So begins a mother’s factual testament on the loss of her son who became an anti-Mafia activist in Sicily. It’s one of the pieces included in this valuable anthology of fact and fiction about the Mafia and other forms of organized criminal activity in Italy.

The editor and translator, Robin Pickering – Iazzi, has chosen ten short stories and four personal accounts which illustrate the role of organized crime in Italian society.

Here you’ll find such celebrated Italian verismo authors as Giovanni Verga and Grazia Deledda, together with contemporary writers. Their stories range from the 1880s to the 1990s

The personal accounts, all by women, all of whose lives have been touched by the Mafia show a determination to oppose a way of life that accepts such criminality. They include the heart-wrenching story told by a Felicia Impastato, mother of the murdered young man. (more…)

Take off the blinkers!

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –Once politicians  get elected, they begin to worry about their re-election chances, which tends to inhibit their acting in the long term interests of the people they represent.

It’s quite clear that George W. Bush is seeking to carve a place for himself in his country’s history before the end of his term. through his recent trip to the Middle East. But instead of doggedly concentrating on a lasting peace and territorial  settlement between Palestinians  and Israelis he was firing salvos at Iran and flitting from country to country trying to back up his oil policies.

Here  Stephen Harper is more concerned with the seeming  inevitability of a 2008 election than rallying a nation on any one point as he wavers on environmental issues and foreign and military policy.

Down South two very strong opponents are emerging for the Democratic nomination:” And  Obama and Clinton are both getting the attention of the younger voter which Canadian politicians have failed to do.

For our candidates, the big challenge  here is shaking up the youth vote, otherwise  the apathy of young people may still result in another minority government.

A memoir of Oscar

Friday, February 1st, 2008

peterson_stamp1.jpgIt’s almost sixty years since I first heard the magic of Oscar Peterson on CBC radio broadcasts from Montreal.

So many thoughtful and gracious words have been written and spoken in memory of this exceptional musician that I tremble to add my own.

Flashback to a summer night in the late fifties and a concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall featuring Peterson, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis sharing the stage with the great Ella Fitzgerald. This was a concert that resonates fifty years later: a devoted audience stripped to shirt sleeves against the intense heat but totally wrapped in the music in spite of a thunderstorm that for a while raged outside. All else seemed to fade away through the magic of those four on stage.

I subsequently met the great Oscar, just once about 20 years later, but there was no time to tell him of he magic that concert brought to me.

Nor of the solace I get when, troubled by gloomy thoughts about what’s wrong with the world, I play Oscar’s Hymn to Freedom, the inspiring anthem he created for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Since I have donated my body to medical research instead of requesting a funeral, I’ve left instructions for a modest celebration for those who care to remember me kindly. No sad songs, but plenty of Frank, Tony, Dean and Ella. And of course, much Oscar, closing with Hymn to Freedom

Lalita in Peru

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Lalita Krishna and I have worked together on three documentaries under the OMN TV Inependent Producers’ Initiative funding program, I’m proud to say. This talented lady of documentary films has a career which has embraced a large canon of memorable work, information on which you’ll find at

Recently Lalita and her husband Ram were in Peru where she was directing a new documentary. Here’s her e-mail to me which casts an interesting light on a country of which I know little.:

Dear Ben

We got back yesterday. One week of work and one week of holiday, Ram joined me for the second week and we went to Machu Pichu and spent some time in Lima.

The official purpose of my trip to Peru was following the Canadian photographer Rodrigo who had been invited to teach photography to young kids in a Centre (URUKU) run by an environmental activist- Carlos Daniel. (more…)

The last word(s)

Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — English is said to be the most difficult language to learn because so many words that look alike have dual and sometimes even more meanings. Here are some samples, submitted by good friend Sandy Zwyer.

Do you have some examples?  Our comments site is open to all.  Just scroll to the end of this piece and click.

1) The bandage was  wound   around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse  more  refuse .
4) We must polish  the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead  if he would get the lead  out.
6) The soldier decided to desert  his dessert in the  desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present , he thought it was time to present  the  present .
8) A bass  was painted on the head of the bass  drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove  into the bushes.
10) I did not object  to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid  for the invalid.
12) There was a row  among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close  to the door to  close  it.
14) The buck  does   funny things when the  does  are cool toward them.
15) A seamstress and a sewer  fell down into a  sewer  line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow  to sow.
17) The wind  was too strong to wind  the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear  in the painting I shed a  tear.
19) I had to subject  the subject  to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate  this to my most intimate  friend?