Archive for September, 2009

For openers…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Many times this year as I look at what’s happening in the world and outer space, I’m tempted to think that Chaos rules and that we’re in a helter-skelter spin to oblivion.

But then, think again, I say, in a world where anything can happen some things are happening for the good, somewhere and a dash of pollyanna — not too much but a dash — can give us a temporary kick in the ass to get back in the race.

Here in Canscene, you’ ll find the quixotic, the odd and the downright funny.


Big Bear

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

BigBearBig Bear
Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series
230 pages, $26.00

(Canscene) –History is the study of the past. Many questions of why and how are answered by a person’s interpretations of the evidence collected from a historical event. However, what happens when a person or people are limited in telling the story because of the lack of historical evidence — either by accident or design? wrote critic James Knockelby on the publication of Novelist Rudy Wiebe’s novel The Temptations of Big Bear, which Wiebe now reprises in biography form for the Extraordinary Canadians series.

“A society disinterested in the plight of the Plains Cree created an information vacuum in which little of their history remained to reference. To tell their story, the historian must recreate conversations, lives, even people; the storyteller must flirt with the fine line between fact and fiction divining it from the past.’ One senses that much of this spirit remains in the biography.

The Plains Cree were hunters pure and simple and conscious only of Hudson’s Bay trading posts as friendly symbols of white presence.

Then come the soldiers establishing the sovereignty of the White Grandmother, establishing reserves and endeavoring to make Plans Cree farmers– a disaster.

Slowly, Big Bear emerges as a leader of his people , intransigeant, refusing to understand or acknowledge the new colonial laws and even at times entering into armed conflict with white soldiers. Falsely accused of supporting the Riel rebellion, Big Bear is tried for treason in 1883 and sentenced to three years in Stony Mountain Prison, where he sickens and released to die in 1888 on the Poundmaker Reserve.

The heritage of Big Bear lives on in Rudy Wiebe’s biography.


How a Swede, a Japanese and an Englishman gave me the willies

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Of all the villains who haunted my early youth none was more insidious than Dr. Fu Manchu.

“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, … one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present… Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man. –The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu”.

Fu Manchu was the creation of Arthur Henry Ward, an Irishman who preferred the mysterious-sounding Sax Rohmer as a pseudonym. He created many villainous characters, but none so unforgettable as the Devil Doctor.

karloffOf all the portrayals in major feature films, Warner Oland, born in Sweden, was a shade too roly-poly to fill Rohmer’s criteria, but played well. Sojin, a Japanese character actor of undeniably sinister mien may have played Fu Mahchu, but I’m not sure, and Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu most closely approximated the Rohmer description. Sir  Christopher Lee, the English actor of Anglo-Italian parentage continues to play the role.

It’s interesting to note that both Oland and Sojin went on the play the Chinese Hawaiian private detective Charlie Chan. Sojin’s last role was in the Seven Samurai, the blind musician at age 100, the year of his death.

My boyhood fears of Chinese men with long knives vanished as the world observed the Japanese atrocities against China.

And then came my discovery of Chinese restaurants in London: Lee- on’s on Wardour Street and Maxim’s in Piccadilly.

Adopt a Canadian author

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

(Canscene) –The Word on the Street, Toronto’s annual explosion of tribute to the printed page.
How does it work?
Make a $100 contribution in support of The Word On The Street Toronto and “adopt” one of our featured authors for the day. You’ll be able to select from a comprehensive list or you can let us select an author for you. The benefits are great: you’ll receive a tax-receipt for your charitable donation as well as an email informing you of the time and location of your author’s reading.

At the reading venue, your name will be announced when your author is introduced and you’ll receive a personalized certificate and a copy of the author’s book for your own library — be sure to get the book autographed!

The Adopt an Author program is a great way to be a part of Canada’s largest one-day literary festival. Individuals can adopt as many authors as they like, and authors may be available for more than one adoption subject to availability. You can adopt an author for yourself, a friend or have your book club join the fun.

Companies can also use the program as a unique marketing tool or as an employee recognition award. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. It’s a fun way to support The Word On The Street Toronto. So what are you waiting for?


The Last Word

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

billandersenWhen Ben offered me the chance to be a guest writer for this month’s Last Word, the topic that occurred to me first was Canada’s slow progress with high speed internet.

Where’s the John A. MacDonald of this century? Where’s the vision to unite our vast country not with railroad steel, but with fast, affordable web connections?

Without a first-rate communications infrastructure, Canadians will continue to lag behind other nations who are rapidly developing new products and services. Think about what Nokia has done for Finland.

And yet here we are, tangled in bureaucracy and narrow business interests, unable to keep up with other, smaller countries. Do we even realize how poorly we are doing, compared with Japan and South Korea, for example?

We need federal leadership that will push past lobbyists to tie Canada’s population together into a network of connections that is second to none. We need to spread that network to include small communities everywhere, available to everyone.

Come on, Canada. We’ve got spine but it’s no good without a nervous system.

–Bill Andersen