Archive for July, 2008

Ben Viccari’s Canscene

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Canada’s Multicultural Scene
Vol 8 No 7 –  July, 2008

An open letter to Barack Obama

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) —- Dear Senator,

Please don’t consider this letter, from a Canadian, as a colossally impertinent attempt to tell you how to run the United States of America if, as so many of us hope, you become its next President.

It is, rather, an expression of how I personally believe  two great  neighbours can return to a friendship once enjoyed but gone astray these last eight years through the  arrogant dictatorship that has become the Republican administration.

Like many others, I congratulate our former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for refusing to join a coalition based on  a web of deceit and plunging American lives like  Gadarene swine into the morass that is now Iraq. To say nothing of a wounded and bleeding Iraqui nation.  Since then, our own current federal government elected two and a half years ago, proved initially to be a lickspittle to George W. Bush but now finds itself in a dilemma.

All of which goes to show that like the United States of America, it’s time for change here in Canada too: change in the way we look at poverty, at our regard for human rights, at the environment and at the war in Afghanistan, a country that the United States government left to its own devices after the Soviet forces had been defeated. And change to so many other fossilized ideas and institutions.

If it is true that the young people of America and their desire for change  will be the deciding factor in bringing you to the White House, so must young Canadians break free from their dismal voting record and opt for change.

We fervently hope that you will become President for eight historic years during which  democracy in the West is restored to its former regard in the eyes of the world.  Then, you can begin to show us the way.

The arts explosion in Canada

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Sixty years ago, the erection of a statue of a modern Canadian poet on the grounds of Queen’s Park would have been unthinkable,  but there he is, larger than life: Al Purdy one of Canada’s most widely quoted poets.

Just another example of the arts explosion in a country, which this citizen remembers as a virtual cultural wasteland 60 years ago. True there were token art galleries, museums and symphony orchestras in many Canadian cities, even the  Royal Winnipeg Ballet. And the Hart House Theatre company which spawned some theatrically famous players.

Today there are 125 listed film festivals across Canada ranging from the now gigantic Toronto International to the Arctic Circle.

Our art galleries and museums are included in tours of major historic displays and exhibitions.

To name a mere handful, names such as Christopher Plummer, Glen Gould, Mordecai Richler, Leonard Cohen, Atom Egoyan, Maureen Forrester and Anton Kuerti are known internationally. (more…)

TFS: a near miss for the witch hunters

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –It was 60 years ago this 25th of October that the Toronto Film Society, reformed after its wartime hiatus, began the first of its monthly showings . I was delighted and honoured to have been invited to join the Board, chaired  by the CBC’s Gerald Pratley the first serious Canadian critic to air his views on network radio.

Gerald, I’m happy to say is still with us and we often  chin wag over the phone; he now lives in Barrie.  The TFS held its screenings at the Royal Ontario Museum Theatre and we opened with Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel and the British documentary Song of Ceylon.

When in the spring of 1949 we applied to begin  a new season in September, we  found the museum authorities evasive.  It didn’t take us long to discover that we had become a suspect group  under investigation by the RCMP.

In those days American paranoia equated even small “l” liberals with communists — days that would culminate with the disgraceful era of McCarthyism. Apparently, because we had been showing some of the classic Russian silent movies absolutely essential to the study of the art of cinema we were thought of as communists.

Fortunately one of our group was the late Roy Clifton, a former lawyer turned teacher at a prestigious private school. He took on Museum’s board and the case was soon dropped.  The Toronto Film Society  remained at the Museum theater for many years and this year has much to celebrate as one of the arts pioneers of the 40s and 50s.

Gone but not forgotten: Maxime, the guru of gaffes.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Let’s forget Ms. Couillard for the moment and look at some of the other damage Maxime Bernier did as Foreign Affairs Minister.

During one of the many grillings opposition members gave Bernier in the house, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae spoke up on Bernier’s most recent gaffe regarding the availability of Canada’s new C-17s to help the people of Burma/Myanmar.

“This latest blunder is not just an embarrassment for Canada – it is irresponsible,” said Rae. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about, and Mr. Bernier needs to have

a better handle on precisely what it is Canada can and cannot do to help them.

“It is just the latest in a string of examples that proves Mr. Bernier is incompetent, and the only action left for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to fire him.”

Officials with the Department of National Defence were forced to quickly rent a Russian plane to ship helicopters to Thailand to help the people of cyclone-ravaged Burma/Myanmar after Bernier publicly stated it would be carried out by Canada’s new C-17 aircraft.

Contrary to Mr. Bernier’s claim that there was a C-17 ready and available to do the job, officials confirmed that as false, which is why the Russian plane had to be dispatched.
“As I’ve stated in the past, Mr. Bernier is clearly in over his head,” said Rae.  “He continues to be a liability to Canada and to the international community. He has got to go.” (more…)

Rendition shocks, as it should

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Rendition shocks, as it should
(Canscene) Leafing through the 1999 edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary I found no references to words and terms  like “blog” “log on and “heads up.”

And then here’s “rendition” for long years a word usually relating to performance, but since 9/11 taking in a new and sinister meaning.

Recently, I saw the DVD version of the  controversial American movie Rendition.  I found it extremely well-directed, suspenseful and well-played by Jake Gyllenhall, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Omar Metwally, Alan Arkin  and a host of actors who were  hitherto unknown to me, but also performing very well.

It’s a fictional story about the  kidnapping of an Egyptian  engineer who’s lived in the States for many years, married to an American but suspected by the CIA of terrorism connections  He’s shipped off to an unnamed Middle Eastern city where he’s subjected to extreme physical and mental torture.

The Moroccan city of Marrakech  “plays” the city to which the unfortunate engineer is taken, and the local CIA rep Douglas (Jake Gyllenhall) is forced to watch as a  brutal chief of police uses a variety of torture on the hapless victim.  His growing sense of disgust with the whole process of rendition leads to a crisis of conscience. (more…)

Reports of racism against Asian-Canadian anglers valid: CRRF

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Reports of racism against Asian Canadian anglers valid: CRRF
(Canscene)–the following is the text of a news release issued by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) welcomes the report of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on the attacks against Asian Canadian anglers last summer and fall, and is particularly encouraged by the commitments that so many institutions in the area have made to address racism and hate.

“At the time the reports of the attacks were brought to the attention of the public, there were a number of people who claimed that it had nothing to do with racism,” notes Dr. Ayman Al-Yassini, Executive Director of the CRRF. “The very fact, and which the Commission’s report acknowledges, that there was a racial slur attached to the attacks clearly identified that they were racially motivated. (more…)

Book review by Rudi Tomic

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

We Are Now a Nation
Croats Between ‘Home’ and ‘Homeland’
Author:  Daphne N. Winland  –  University of Toronto Press (264 pps)

In her book, We are Now a Nation, Dr. Daphne Winland, Professor of Anthropology at York University, has written an up-to-date  historical account of the lives of diaspora Croats, their contributions during and after the homeland war, and their relationships with Croats living in Croatia.

Subtitled Croats Between ‘Home’ and ‘Homeland’ the book  is the result of almost 20 years of dialogue and interviews with several hundred individuals both in the diaspora and numerous citizens across Croatia; It relies on reference and research from 359 sources.

It seems what touched Winland initially was the war in Croatia and the tremendous reaction and generosity of Croats in Toronto to those in the homeland. (more…)

Anton Kuerti a sensation in Amsterdam

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) — Substituting on short notice for pianist Murray Perahia, Anton Kuerti scored a huge success at his solo recital last month in the packed 2,000-seat Great Hall of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.  The concert was part of a series of “Master Pianists”, which presents only the most illustrious names in the piano world.

Kuerti gave an all-Beethoven program, featuring two of his most famous sonatas, Les Adieux and the Appassionata, as well as the rarely-performed Diabelli Variations.

Reviews heaped superlatives on him. Here are some from Dutch newspapers.

Trouw wrote: ‘The miracle occurred when Anton Kuerti began his superior interpretation of the ‘Diabelli Variations’. … this work is considered an unconquerable fortress by many a pianist.  Not by Kuerti, whose performance was flawless, dazzling, lively and analytical, with an unparalleled ability to link the 33 variations with each other….. After this debut [he] will hopefully be world-renowned here as well.”

According to de Volkskrant, “Kuerti played [the Diabelli Variations] so flawlessly that you could have made it into a CD.  And, much more importantly, it was more poetically refined than you will ever hear anywhere else.” (more…)

The last word

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

(Canscene) –The following is excerpted from Barack Obama’s speech to  to supporters after his victory in the Oregon primary. I make no apology for repeating it for a second month.

Change is a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth……..

Change is a health-care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it.

Change is an energy policy that doesn’t  rely on buddying-up to the Saudi royal family and then begging for it……..

Change is giving every child a world-class education by recruiting an army of new teachers with better pay and more support……..

Change is ending a war that we should never have started

Change is finishing a war against El Qaeda in Afghanistan that we never should have ignored.

……The choice in this election is more of the same versus change.  It’s the past versus the future. It has been asked and answered by generations before us.  And now it is our turn to choose.