Archive for May, 2009

Humanist of the Year: John Robert Colombo

Friday, May 1st, 2009

On May 10, 2009, John Robert Colombo received the Humanist of the Year Award of the Toronto Humanist Association. CHIMO, JOHN!

Here is a recording of the talk given by JRC on the occasion.



Friday, May 1st, 2009

VOL. 9 NO.5    May, 2009


Friday, May 1st, 2009

You may reprint any item appearing in this blog with credit to Canscene and, with permission , to the author of a signed article. The publisher wishes to inform you that any opinions expressed in articles from sources outside Canscene do not necessarily reflect Ben Viccari’s thoughts or opinions.

Master gatherer anthologizes himself

Friday, May 1st, 2009

a-far-cry(Canscene) — John Robert Colombo’s latest publication offers us 365 of his poems written daily during 2008. adding one more volume to the more than 200 original writings and anthologies by this Canadian literary phenomenon, aka the master gatherer. The 192 page book also contains the author’s dream diary for 2008.

This volume presents a wide ranging choice of subjects for John Robert’s poetry from the lyrical to the whimsical. It is published by Colombo and Company at $30 (Cdn) and may be ordered through bookstores.

Puffed with pride, I find myself on page 65 with John Robert’s 90th birthday wishes for me —Chimo! repeated 90 times. It was not long ago that he and I exchanged a word or two on the way this uniquely Canadian toast has fallen into disuse.

Two Prime Ministers

Friday, May 1st, 2009

The admirable Extraordinary Canadians series of books published by Penguin Canada under the overall editorship of John Ralston Saul includes former prime ministers Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Lester Bowles Pearson

On the surface, neither of the two could be farther apart in personality and style. Yet each in his own way did more to persuade us to be proud of our Canadian nationality rather than of our colonial heritage.

Lester B. Pearson is written by political author and columnist Andrew Cohen while novelist Nino Ricci was chosen to pen the story of Trudeau. Each volume sells for $26.00.

The man who drove Diefenbaker wild

Friday, May 1st, 2009

pearson(Canscene) — In 1973, I had agreed to travel to Vancouver to assist in the announcement of the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific. At Toronto Airport, I ran into a friend, a corporate lawyer who was an ardent supporter of the federal Progressive Conservative Party

When I told him why I was travelling to Vancouver, I thought he was going to have an apoplectic fit. This most reserved and genteel of men actually began to shout his invective-laden condemnation of a man who had died the year before and had, in his own quiet way left the Liberal government’s mark on so much that is Canadian. At one point, I expected him to change into John Diefenbaker, Pearson’s vitriolic adversary. But that is the kind of anger this decent and gentlemanly Pearson evoked.(A sardonic twist: in 1984, the airport was to be re-christened Pearson International).

Lester Bowles Pearson, Mike to his many friends and admirers, qualifies as one of Penguin Books extraordinary Canadians on many counts. (more…)

The unforgettable

Friday, May 1st, 2009

trudeauNino Ricci’s take on Pierre Elliott Trudeau must have been a difficult task. To cast new light on the person who is arguably the most written-about Canadian of all time is a tall order. Wisely, Ricci eschews his novelist’s flair for the dramatic and gives us a concise record of the man who became Canada’s all-time best-known personality both at home and internationally.

Ricci chronicles Trudeau’s early years as student at the Jesuit Jean Brebeuf College where he developed a rebellious, contrarian nature. After graduation, he flirted with Communism and Fascism. Then he matured into a champion of French Canada not as a separatist but seeing it as part of a harmonious nation. His entry into politics led to his nomination and inevitable Trudeaumania.

For me, Nino Ricci’s most absorbing chapter deals with the October Crisis of 1971 and the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and Pierre Laporte, the latter an old Jean Brebeuf school chum.

The saga of Wheezy Rider and Thao

Friday, May 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — At last report, motorbike traveller-diarists Peter Sever and his partner Thao Ngyuen were in Iran, waiting for the necessary permits to reach South Asian countries.


Thao came here from Viet Nam as a baby and is a school teacher and Peter, an immigrant from Prague many years ago has had a varied but successful entrepreneurial career including the successful importing of La Vida, the Cuban ballet that was such a hit at the first Luminato, two years ago. Black Bike, their Honda is the chosen vehicle for their trip

Their trip around the world began July 15 last year with their arrival by plane in London, England. Their diary began on that day and you can find it by clicking this link to

After England and Scotland, they crossed to Europe where they visited a number of countries including Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and Romania. (more…)

CBC: love and loathing on the airwaves

Friday, May 1st, 2009

(Canscene) –Each year the Sikh Centennial Foundation celebrates the settling of the first Sikhs here in Canada, thus becoming early pioneers of  Canadian multiculturalism.  I was privileged to be invited to attend this  year’s glittering gala which honoured four persons who’d made  significant contributions to society.

Richard Stursberg, executive vice president of the CBC’s English  services was the keynote speaker.  His subject? Diversity in CBC programming which now includes Punjabi narrated NHL games for cable  subscribers and the over-the-air Little Mosque on the Prairie hit  series. (more…)

Sammy Glick: still running

Friday, May 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — The recent Toronto Jewish Film Festival which saw more than 90 films screened featured as its closing night attraction a screening of the 1959 television production of Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? It was the second of two TV versions of a bestselling novel that never made it to the big screen. Why?

I recently saw a filmed interview with Budd Schulberg, the author, now in his 90s and son of the late Ben P. Schulberg, once boss of Paramount Pictures. His first novel published in 1941 immortalizing the archetypal Sammy Glick brought fame to the young screenwriter.

Schulberg tells how his novel, about the rise of ruthless, power hungry Sammy Glick from newsroom copy boy to Hollywood mogul so outraged the movie industry that his ostracism by fellow screenwriters and industry bosses drove him out of California. Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer led the charge. (more…)