Archive for April, 2008

Great days for Anton Kuerti

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

(Canscene) — It is Canada’s good fortune that one of our citizens ranks among the world’s great pianists. Two consecutive days in his life have just added to his reputation.

Last month, Kuerti’s son Julian, conductor of the Boston Symphony with Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto on the program featuring renowned pianist Leon Fleisher as soloist.
Laid low by a stomach flu on the afternoon of the performance, Fleisher was replaced by Anton Kuerti who just happened to be in Boston to hear his son that evening.

The very next day, Anton Kuerti was informed that he was chosen to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of this year’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards to be presented in Ottawa in May.

Meanwhile Kuerti is scheduled to close Toronto’s Mooredale Concerts season. He performs Sonata No. 13 in E flat, Op. 27, No. 1, and the Diabelli Variations Saturday, April 12 at 8 p.m. at Willowdale United Church, 349 Kenneth Avenue (four blocks south of Finch, one block east of Yonge); and Sunday, April 13 at 3 p.m. at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Bldg., 80 Queen’s Park Crescent, (south of the R.O.M.; Museum subway). Tickets are $25; seniors and students, $20. For tickets and information, phone 416-587-9411, or visit

Brilliant Darwin exhibit at ROM

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008


(Canscene) — The Royal Ontario Museum’s major spring exhibit, titled Darwin the Evolution of Revolution gives us a detailed and intimate picture of a great man’s life and work.

Charles Darwin whose theory of evolution shook the scientific world, still excites public debate between, on one side, fundamentalists and creationists and on the other those who believe in the ordered evolution of animals and man over millions of years rather than the mere 6000 years between the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden and the present; this enlightened group includes the religious as well as freethinkers. (more…)

The PMO and libel chill

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Most Canadians whose political sentiments are somewhat left of Attila the Hun have long questioned the goings-on in at Prime Minister Harper’s office, known as the PMO.

Since Harper’s reputation as a control freak is well-known, it follows that he and his minions regard the PMO as the seat of all power.
Lately, the leaking of statements concerning the sincerity of both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama in their claims to re-examine NAFTA have become attributable to one of the top denizens of the PMO, Chief-of-staff Ian Brodie and even Ambassador Michael Wilson.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion and other opposition MP’s pounced on the information that MPs tried to bribe independent Chuck Cadman to return to the Tory fold for a crucial vote that could have toppled the Martin government. Cadman refused and voted Liberal. 1550174274.jpgNow, Tom Zytaruk a Vancouver journalist is bringing out a book titled Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman story, in which the “bribe” incident is recorded.

The threat to sue the Liberal Party is an example of attempted libel chill that went awry. Refusal by Stephane Dion to apologize has brought about an actual writ which one presumes will take months, even years to filter through the courts to trial stage.

If Harper and his staff thought that libel chill would set in against the publication of Like a Rock, they were wrong. I spoke to a representative of Harbour Publishers who said the launch was on course for mid-March and also to Indigo/Chapters bookstores who would not be deterred from selling it.

For obvious reasons……….

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Canscene) — Canscene will not be carrying any items relating to contestants and events during the Beijing Olympics.

Political comment may, however, appear as deemed necessary.

A truly great American speech

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — On Tuesday March 19, in Philadelphia, presidential contender Barrack Obama gave more than a campaign speech. In is own words, not those of a speechwriter, he spoke to a nation of the need to move forward from the baggage of the past.

I’m not going to excerpt the speech here. If you can use a computer and you can because you’re reading this, Google the many sites that carry the speech in full.

And then, before you criticize our US neighbours’ attitudes, think of how much of what Obama said applies to us Canadians and how great is our opportunity, as a multicultural nation, to mend our own differences

Whatever happened to diplomacy?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — The “Obamagate” statement from Prime Minister Harper’s chief-of-staff Ian Brodie and another from Ambassador Michael Wilson are just two more examples of the tiresome round of Conservative diplomatic gaffes we have witnessed since 2006.

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary “diplomacy” means skill or tact in handling negotiations and it certainly seems the Harper regime has been acting in blind ignorance of
these qualities.

Now a federal court has permitted Canadian Army personnel in Afghanistan to continue to hand over detainees to Afghan police in spite of their reputation for torture of prisoners.

Both foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier and the former incumbent, gaffemeister Peter MacKay have been unable to change Maher Arar’s security status on the U.S watch list and have proved miserable failures in communicating
Canadians’ concern abou the handling of the Omar Khadr case.

At a time when the political future of the United States hinges on three people, Clinton, Obama and McCain, our diplomats should be making courtesy visits to all three, speaking up for Canada and diplomatically Letting them know that with the inauguration of a new president in 2009, we hope to see the beginning of a new era in relationships between our two nations.

For instance we should let them know the frequent criticisms of both Ambassador Wilkins and his predecessor Celucci have not been models of tact and diplomatic skill, but then neither has the behaviour of their boss whose performance in these areas in a “nukelar” age rates a big zero both for intelligence and tact.

The Liberty Kid: a highly successful indie

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Illya Chaiken, a young woman I’ve never had the good fortune to meet is the daughter of an old friend, Winnipeg–born painter Bill Chaiken who in his eighties is still making brilliant and colourful statements on canvas.

In recent months, Bill’s wife Elke has been keeping us informed on the remarkable life of an indie production written and directed by their daughter Illya and about the remarkable prowess of the film which is becoming a runaway success at film festivals and theatrical showings.

The film The Liberty Kid was turned down for both Sundance and the Toronto International festivals but since last summer has gained terrific momentum; it was seen at the Los Angeles, New York Latino and Woodstock festivals and last month ran on two HBO channels. It also runs in competition at the upcoming Atlanta Film Festival.


The Liberty Kid is the story of two young American Latinos who peddle souvenirs at the base of the Statue of Liberty until 9/11 finds them in a prohibited site and drives them out of business. (more…)

An evening with Roberto Martella

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — “I hope the Prime Minister won’t revoke my citizenship for accepting this honour,” quipped Toronto restaurateur Roberto Mandela. The occasion was his investiture as a Cavaliere della Repubblica, the Italian Republic’s order of knighthood.

The ceremony, officiated by Italian consul general Emanuele Punzo took place, March 3 at the Toronto Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano della Cultura) which schedules a number of events each month relating to Italy and Italian Canadians.


Roberto Martella then took the podium and gave an often humorous talk “So, you want to be Italian..?…” which was packed with anecdotes explaining why his restaurant, Grano, specializes in Italian foods and wines and promotes events celebrating Italian culture.

I have known Roberto since 1980, when he was the young executive director of the fledgling Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association. Desperately trying to keep my weekly, Oggi Canada, alive I called on him to solicit advertising only to find that CIBPA was itself struggling to make ends meet.

Through the years we ran into each other until one day in 1986 I dropped off a friend at Yonge Street south of Eglinton, to find Roberto putting up a sign outside a store announcing Grano, a bakery restaurant he and his wife would would open in a few days. (more…)

Film sees war as a brutalizer of humans

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –Tommy Lee Jones, one of the best actors in the business was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in In The Valley of Elah.

He didn’t win but you can rest assured that any thinking man or woman who’s seen the film will have admired his truly remarkable performance as Hank, a retired Army sergeant.

Now I’m not a plot spoiler. Suffice it to say that Hank’s son who’s reported back to base camp after a tour of duty in Iraq has gone AWOL, and Hank drives across the country to find the boy. His search leads to the discovery of his son’s remains and from then on, Hank is involved in a relentless search or the truth.

Tommy Lee Jones as Hank, perplexed father

The film directed by Paul Haggis, isn’t exactly a model of storytelling; it tends to drag in a few places. But Jones, aided by Charlize Theron as a police detective (in another great performance) eventually learns the truth and it isn’t pretty. (more…)

Book review

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008


I Am Hutterite
by Mary-Ann Kirkby
Published by Polka Dot Press, $29.95, 207 pages.
(Canscene) –At the beginning of this enlightening and often entertaining, book, successful journalist Mary-Ann Kirkby sets out on a visit to the Hutterite colony of her birth; her editor has requested a story on Hutterite gardens.

Mary-Ann finds that her visit strengthens her sense of heritage in the simple God-fearing people who originated in Austria and migrated because their belief in absolute pacifism met with the disapproval of the more orthodox religions. (more…)