Archive for June, 2009


Monday, June 1st, 2009

Vol 9 No 6 June, 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.


Monday, June 1st, 2009

Canadian Identities

Monday, June 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Two books related to Canadian identity have recently been published. They are reviewed in this issue, one on Stephen Leacock in the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series edited by John Ralston Saul and Michael Ignatieff’s True Patriot Love.

True Patriot Love

Monday, June 1st, 2009

By Michael Ignatieff
Viking Canada
211 pages, $30.00

NEW: An audio recording and slide show of Michael Ignatieff’s recent Q&A session with CEMA (Canadian Ethnic Media Association) has been added at the end of this item. Click the “more…” link below.

ignatieffbook(Canscene)— I had the great pleasure of meeting Michael Ignatieff at a reception preceding the May 7 launch of his new book. Working the room, dressed comfortably in blazer and gray pants, he proved personable, attentive to whomever he was exchanging dialogue with and a fine public speaker.

When he addresses an audience one quality Michael Ignatieff displays in abundance is passion: not the seething ranting of an ideologue but a sustained and loving exploration and dedication to his subject.

This book is not about Michael Ignatieff the politician. It is a statement of what the author believes true patriotism is all about. Ignatieff reveals that nine years ago, the year he accepted the teaching position at Harvard he and his family spent a vacation in Canada, tracing the journey of his maternal grandfather from sea to sea.

Ignatieff, whose The Russian Album on the history of his father’s family won a Governor General’s Award and a Heinemann Prize now turns to his mother’s family, the Grants and their own steadfast passion for Canada.

Great grandfather George Monroe Grant, though a man of the cloth with a parish in Halifax, declared his love for Canada through accepting the hazardous life of an explorer. He joined with a parishioner, engineer and surveyor Sanford Fleming in a historical ocean-to-ocean journey. The goal was to establish the feasibility of a trans-Canada railway. Taking his family on that trip gives the lie to the belief that by working abroad, Ignatieff had forgotten his native land. (more…)

Colombo named Humanist of the Year

Monday, June 1st, 2009

On May 10, the Humanist Association of Toronto named John Robert Colombo Humanist of the Year. The Toronto writer and public intellectual gave an amusing and informative acceptance address, without notes, revealing an encyclopedic mind combined with the choice of words to keep an audience amused and enlightened.

The address was so good that I make no attempt to summarize it, but instead with the permission of John Robert and Donna Andersen who recorded the speech, offer it to you in its entirety.

Please give yourself time to listen to it all. It lasts 53 minutes. You won’t regret it!

Stephen Leacock

Monday, June 1st, 2009

by Margaret MacMillan
Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series,
$26.00. 175 pages

leacock_cover(Canscene) — Arriving in Canada in December 1947 with little knowledge of this country, I felt that while individual Canadians displayed a sense of humour, there was little
in print or on radio to make them laugh. Wayne and Shuster had a weekly radio show on CBC, Robertson Davies had yet to display his genius and Mordecai Richler was still in high school in Montreal

Although a voracious reader since the age of five, I didn’t know Stephen Leacock, a writer, academic and public intellectual whose humorous works had taken their place among the world’s classics. I wonder now, how I’d come to reach twenty-nine without knowing this man’s works as many non-Canadians already had.

Margaret MacMillan’s biography of Leacock would have set me right quickly, . It would have driven me to Leacock’s humorous writings, which have placed him on a level with America’s Mark Twain. MacMillan cites the many international admirers of Leacock among whom were comedians Groucho Marx and Jack Benny. (more…)

Peter’s progress

Monday, June 1st, 2009

peterthaoCanscene) — Peter Sever and Thao were finally able to leave behind the middle eastern hangups in trying to reach South Asian destinations.

Here’s an update on their journey as of June 1:

The Pakistan-India Border: There is only one road crossing between the nations, and that is 40 km from Lahore at Atari on the India side. The excellent four-land road there was under construction and in parts was sand-trap hell (more…)

Canadian “documentary” intrigues

Monday, June 1st, 2009


(Canscene) — Many Canadian films have tried so hard to be different that too often the result never lives up to the promise.

Now here comes Let Him Be, which its makers insist isn’t a mockumentary but more properly a “documentary” that is to say a film made in documentary style without the laughs.

The film asks What if John Lennon hadn’t died from that assassin’s bullet back in 1980?

Let Him Be started a week’s run at the AMC Metropolis 24 Theatre, Dundas Square in Toronto on May 29. It was then to travel on to Vancouver. (more…)

The past of pasta

Monday, June 1st, 2009


(Canscene) — Pasta, Italian style with its varieties of shape, texture and cooking time has conquered the world, and claims that it was invented in ancient China are utterly false.

When Marco Polo visited China, they were probably eating some form of rice noodles but the date of their origin is not known and Polo doesn’t mention them irs. Mention of pasta may be found in ancient Roman times.

The late, great dietary expert Ancel Keys who lived to be 100 was a fervent champion of Mediterranean food. He wrote: “One of the least fattening cuisines in the world is….the real Italian cuisine consisting of a plate of pasta with tomato sauce with a little ground Parmesan., followed by a little meat or fish and fresh fruit.” (more…)

Bonds —- James Bonds!

Monday, June 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Britain’s Daniel Craig, who has proven himself a very good actor in films like Munich, Defiance and Copenhagen does not endear himself to me as James Bond. The new treatment shows for Bond as a cold blooded killer and a torturer and Craig plays his part so well, when he’s allowed to act in between all those confusing high-tech chases, that he repels me.


This new, humourless Bond is light years away from the original created by Sean Connery, my all-time favourite. And Connery is no one-trick pony as he has proven in so many films like The Name of the Rose for which he merited Britain’s top movie award and The Untouchables winning him an Oscar.

Even though licensed to kill, the old Bonds as played by Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and others did so when up against a real threat to their lives or the lives others. Who can forget in from Russia With Love, the fight to death in a railway carriage between Bond and the Red Grant the Irish terrorist? Pretty low tech stuff but nail biting.

I recall another sequence when Connery threw an electric fan into a bath tub to polish off his adversary. His remark: “Shocking!” It was pre title scenes like this that always opened the Connery pictures and good old James came out of them all with a twinkle in his eye.

My verdict on the Craig series: Shaking but not stirring.