Archive for November, 2009

What next?

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

With Ben Vicarri, you never know. Now into his second year of 90s, he has begun to hand off responsiblities to others. He resigned as president of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association after nine years but remains a board member.

He recently stopped recording video “Commentaries” for OMNI TV and for the past few years has declined his press pass for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Even keeping up with the monthly Canscene has been interrupted by recovery from viral pneumonia and the necessities of coping with the inevitable problems of advancing years. (Hence my guest column appearance this month).

Will Canscene keep going as a blog? Who knows? Maybe the pressure of filling it up every month will become irksome. But I do know this… Ben is an active intellect who still has all his marbles. He will continue to voice his opinions, keep contact with friends and indulge in his passions for reading and watching films.

Canscene might stop, but Ben won’t.

— BA

Where Canscene came from

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Canscene (the blog) was preceded by Canadian Scene (in print). Founded in 1951, it provided free, multilingual news and information content to publishers of ethnic media.

Imagine yourself in new country where you barely understand the language, where everything is strange; the currency, the shops, the streets, even the weather.

Then imagine little scraps of news from home, printed crudely on a sheet or two of paper, but in your own language. Imagine it tells you where you can shop locally for familiar foods and products and where to meet others like yourself. What a life line! What a comfort!

That’s the core appeal of ethnic news and it is powerful stuff. Such “newspapers” have often started as typewritten, mimeographed pages held together with staples. Their strength is in their usefulness.

— BA

A downside of ethnic news gets an upside

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Won’t reliance on publications in the “mother tongue” tend to encourage immigrants to remain ghettoized, apart from the mainstream culture of their new home in Canada? For the first while, probably so.

But what if those newspapers also carried articles explaining the history, laws and customs of Canada? What if the articles were given for free to publishers, ready to go, tranlated into the languages of readers?

That was the brilliance of Canadian Sene, a news service begun as a non-profit organization. It acted as a bridge, helping newcomers understand their new environment.

— BA

A Welcome Sign

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

It was also a “welcome sign”, demonstrating Canadian interest in immigrant communities.

Canadian Scene said, “We want you to be at home here, to be one of us. Here is who we are and what we are like, explained in your native language, to help you settle in”.

What better way to help newcomers OUT of the ghetto syndrome?

— BA

Canadian Scene becomes Canscene

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Canadian Scene was a good idea, strong enough to last half a century, but eventually it starved for funding and could not be sustained. Ben Viccari was the last managing editor and he  kept it going as long as was humanly possible.

Translation and mailing costs were killers. Printed issues of Canadian Scene became impossible and Ben looked to the internet as a possible way of continuing the service.

“Ma and Pa” ethnic publications were usually not sophisticated enough to access internet content, though. Translation wasn’t affordable either. Early web browsers weren’t very good at reproducing foreign alphabets, anyway.

Ben decided he could at least continue to make content free, if only in English. All on his own (with a little tech support from yours truly), Ben launched Canscene as an online monthly. That was about 10 years ago, well before blogging became as popular as it is today.

— BA

[Note: Bill Andersen is too modest.  He was my mentor in the skills I possess today and I cannot thank him enough for being able to offer these few thoughts today. — Ben Viccari]

No love for Shaw

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

no-love-shaw(Canscene) My school drama club once put on a creditable version of Shaw’s Arms and the Man.  And in 1944, I revelled in the 1944 production at London’s New Theatre where Laurence Olivier (Sergius) and Ralph Richardson (Bluntschli) had revived and relocated the bombed-out Old Vic.

Similarly, I had listened to endless playing of the My Fair Lady platter and likewise had enjoyed the movie for which the world had Shaw’s Pygmalion to thank.

But.. I must confess that I find the remainder of Shaw a colossal bore. My collected works go largely unopened at the thought of struggling through those sententious essays and prologues plus the minutiae of the stage directions.

In view of the enormous success of the Shaw Festival I bow my head  to the venality engendered by the man who boorishly slandered Shakespeare at every occasion.


Obama’s unique achievement ignored

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

(Canascene)  — No sooner had Barack Obama been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize than  detractors were asking “why?”

They, and others who seek to belittle the President forget that during the 2008 campaign Barack Obama’s unique achievement was to persuade a majority of Americans that their nation sorely needed change and that a Democratic win could kickstart that change.

Whether in the last analysis, Obama will be the true agent of change depends on much political debate and infighting but the very fact that this man dared to challenge the status quo, and won surely was sufficient to guarantee him the Nobel Peace prize.


Make up your minds, please.

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Not long after the beginning of the concern over a Swine Fever pandemic, media were urged to refer to it as H1N1, and to a certain extent, complied but soon slipped back into the former usage. In many cases and often in the same paragraph one now encounters H1N1 and Swine Fever in the same breath, as it were.

Will media  ever address the shabbiness of what I call “headline expediency.”  Persons not yet tried are still referred to as “accused killers” or “accused fraudsters” instead of “alleged” miscreants.

Laconic about iconic…but…

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

(Canscene) — Madeline Ziniak has been elected as a Member of the Order of Canada. Asked to say a few words at a party given in her honour by the Canadian Ethnic Media Association, I deplored the promiscuous, widespread use of the words “icon” and “iconic.”

The words should be reserved for persons like Madeline who has achieved great distinction in her chosen profession with a unique record that truly merits her status as the icon of multicultural/multilingal broadcasting.

The Last Word

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

(Canscene) From Margaret Macmillan’s Introduction to The Uses and Abuses of History

How can we understand the often passionate feelings of French  nationalists in Quebec if we do not know something about the past that has shaped and continues to shape them? Or the mixture of resentment and pride that formerly poor provinces such as Alberta and Newfoundland feel toward central Canada now that they have struck oil? […]How can we understand the deep hostility between Palestinians and Israelis without knowing something of their tragic conflicts?