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Alan Hustak

Charles Dickens: The man who gave us Christmas

Par Alan Hustak le 16 décembre 2011

dickens.jpgIn the spring of 1842 Charles Dickens took a steamboat from Kingston, Ont. and sailed down the St. Lawrence intoMontreal with his wife, Catherine, and found the town  “full of life and bustle.”  Dickens was 30 and had already written six books, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. No other novelist has had such a spectacular success. Two hundred years after he was born in 1812, Dickens remains as immortal as Shakespeare.  It  is probably fair to say more people know of Oliver Twist, the artful dodger, Syndey Carton, Miss Havisham, Micawber, Scrooge and Tiny Tim from the endless  television mini-series, movies and Broadway musicals based on his novels than they do from reading his books.

Jack Layton, a happy warrior

Par Alan Hustak le 26 août 2011

layton.jpgThere can be no argument that Jack Layton built a place in history. “Bon Jack”, was today’s NDP.
A cheerful political warrior, Layton’s always positive, often too sunny demeanour resonated with many. In the recent federal election Quebecers felt, because of Jack, that the NDP was a comfortable pace to park their votes and  propelled him into the Opposition leader’s seat. And this year, many Ontario Liberals abandoned their leader to become, at least for one election, “Layton Liberals.”

Caravaggio the outcast and artist

Par Alan Hustak le 26 août 2011

 

01_caravaggio_musicians.jpgThe National Gallery in Ottawa has scored a coup with its blockbuster Caraviggo exhibition that runs until  Sept. 11.

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome  features  ten  paintings  never  before seen  in North America, two that have, and another  50 paintings by artists who were influenced by  his work.   In view of the fact that only 70  of the artists works  known to exist, and many of them are altar pieces that cannot be moved,  it’s an extraordinary collection. 

 

GRIFFITH BREWER 1922-2011 Theatre Stalwart

Par Alan Hustak le 2 août 2011

brewer.jpgGriffith Brewer was a mainstay of Montreal s English- speaking theatre for almost 80 years. He was an unassuming supporting actor, properties master, director, carpenter and all around handyman who rarely let his ego interfere with his love of the stage.  Even after  he retired and lost his sight and roles for senior actors  became  harder to find  he was content to play a  corpse.



The Blogging Bishop

Par Alan Hustak le 18 juillet 2011

dowd.jpgCanada’s newest and youngest Roman Catholic bishop-elect, Thomas Dowd, is  a media savy priest who says his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Montreal signals a generational shift in the thinking of the church.

Dowd is expected to shoulder some  of the workload now being done by Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte. Among his duties, Dowd will be responsible for the city’s 250,000 English-speaking Catholics who have been without a bishop of their own since  Anthony Mancini left four years ago to become Archbishop of Halifax. 


Claude Léveillée 1932-2011

Par Alan Hustak le 16 juin 2011

Claude Léveillée, who died June 9th at the age of 78, was one of Quebec`s most alluring singers and a poet in the tradition of Felix Leclerc and Gilles Vigneault.   Léveillée worked with and wrote 25 songs for the legendary French singer Edith Piaf and another 30 with Gilles Vigneault. Among his best known melodies are Fréderic, Elle Tournera la Terre, Quelques arpents de neiges, Piano Méchanique. His best known hit, perhaps, was Roger Williams recording of  Leveillee’s Pour les Amants as Only for Lovers.  Léveillée  was also an actor seen in Denys Arcand`s Jésus de Montréal and played the character of Émile Rosseau in the 1990 French-language television series Scoop.

Election analysis: What Harper hath wrought

Par Alan Hustak le 10 juin 2011

The True North  is undeniably  stronger  for Conservative supporters  following the recent election but  is perhaps a  little less free for those who believe that liberalism and  social justice still matter.
The Harper government’s 15-seat majority  puts an end to  political uncertainty for the next four years. But the untimely  collapse of the Liberal party  leaves the country without  a voice for non-dogmatic policies, a less invasive government and a fidelity to executive federalism.

 

JEAN-PIERRE GOYER: Born in Ville St. Laurent, long-time MP for Dollard was architect of prison reform

Par Alan Hustak le 10 juin 2011

As Solicitor General in Pierre Trudeau’s government, Jean-Pierre Goyer was the architect of prison reform in Canada. Concerned about both the cost of keeping a prisoner in jail and the rate of recidivism, Goyer promoted  a more humane approach to incarceration. During the 1970’s heintroduced better haircuts and better clothing for inmates, inaugurated new housing arrangements that permitted conjugal visits, and made it easier for prisoners to work and go to school. If society really was to be protected, prison he argued, should offer inmates a “more rehabilitative atmosphere.”

A temple of art and music

Par Alan Hustak le 10 juin 2011

IMG_0418a.jpgFrom the natural light that floods the fourth floor   Inuit sculpture gallery to the  luminous  glow of the Tiffany stained glass windows in its  concert hall, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts newest pavilion is as calm and as uplifting as ….. well, a church.  Which it once was.  The  old  Erskine American Church,  a brownstone Sherbrooke St.  landmark  since 1894, has been converted into a  $40-million temple of art and music  known as the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavillion.

Maynard Gertler: Editor, publisher, pacifist, farmer and activist (1916-2011)

Par Alan Hustak le 27 avril 2011

 

IMG_0423a.jpgMaynard Gertler was an innovative farmer, civil libertarian, and  the  headstrong Montreal publisher who was the first to market books by French-Canadian authors in English Canada during the Quiet Revolution so the rest of the country could appreciate what was happening in Quebec in the 60s and 70s.
Gertler was the founding editor  of  Harvest House Ltd , once described as “a one man university press,” Harvest House was the first  to translate the works  of Quebec writers such as  Jacques  Ferron, Victor-Levy Beaulieu,  Anne Hébert, Yves Thériault  and the poet  Emile Nelligan.

 

...THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM

Par Alan Hustak le 21 avril 2011

 

wall.jpgA trip to Jerusalem is an act of faith no matter what your convictions.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel but it is not by any stretch of the imagination, an exclusively Jewish city. It throbs with a brash energy, pulsates with Semitic and Slavic rhythms and resonates with a sense of shared history unequalled in any other place on earth.
In  the words of one writer, it remains “a golden object of desire,” a site for pleasure, prayer and pilgrimage.

 

New palliative care unit facility

Par Alan Hustak le 21 avril 2011

p_c.jpgPlans to  convert  the church of St.  Raphael  the  Archangel in Outremont into a 12-bed palliative care unit and day centre have  moved into high gear.   The  church on Lajoie Ave.  opposite the Sanctuaire apartment complex,  served an English-speaking congregation for almost eight decades until it  closed in June 2008.

 

 

The Montreal Dialogues: Solutions for the post-crisis world New School of Athens global initiative brings leaders to Montreal on April 14th at ICAO

Par Alan Hustak le 27 mars 2011

 

NSOA_02.jpgPoliticians, economists, political scientists and sociologists will be gathering in Montreal  on April 14th to examine the flaws in the world’s financial and social policies and at the same time consider why some countries, Canada in particular, have weathered the recent economic meltdown better than others.The Canadian Model: Strategic lessons for the post-crisis world,  is the second of nine global conferrences sponsored by the New School of Athens and is aimed at determining what about globalization works and what doesn’t.

 

May Cutler 1923-2011

Par Alan Hustak le 6 mars 2011

May_Cutler_photos_4.jpgNot  only was May  Cutler  the  fearless  Quebec  champion of kids lit  who  pioneered the market for quality children’s  books  in Canada through  her  publishing house Tundra Books  she was also the girl from the other side of the tracks, the outsider,  who in 1987  became the  hell-raising  Mayor of Westmount, the first woman  elected to run the tony Montreal suburb.

NAOMI BRONSTEIN, CANADA’s SWEARING MOTHER TERESA: 1945-2010

Par Alan Hustak le 2 janvier 2011

Naomi Bronstein, who died in Guatemala City on Dec. 23 at the age of 65,  was a humanitarian,  Children’s aid worker and a non-conformist whose abrasive  personality earned her a reputation as the swearing Mother Teresa.

1500 mercredis consécutifs!

Par Alan Hustak le 27 décembre 2010

WedNit9_small.jpgCe n’est peut être pas impressionnant si vous le dites rapidement, mais contemplez le nombre pour un instant et il est en effet impressionnant. 

Since David and Diana Nicholson held their first salon in February, 1982, we’ve gone through seven Canadian Prime Ministers, five United States Presidents, ten premiers of Quebec, eight periods of negative economic growth, four economic recessions, and two Quebec referendums. The ramifications all of which have been either debated, dissected, discussed or dismissed by those who have kept the flame of friendship burning at their table for 28 years. There have been Wednesday nights on Christmas Eve, even on a Leap Year a Wednesday in 1992. Through it all there has never been an occasion when no one has shown up.

Reseau Liberté-Québec! Quebec`s freedom network is born

Par Alan Hustak le 4 novembre 2010

Eric_Duhaime.jpgYou may not have heard of the Quebec Freedom Network, but you will now. They turned people away at the door so full was its opening meeting in Quebec City this past weekend. Over 500 people listened to Ezra Levant, Tasha Kheiriddin, Adam Daifallah and Eric Duhaime advocate for a freer, less invasive Quebec state with a dramatically reduced bureaucracy and a greater emphasis on self-reliance. The next gathering of the Reseau Liberte- Quebec will be in Montreal, perhaps even on the West Island



Vera 1944-2010

Par Alan Hustak le 4 novembre 2010

24.jpgVera Danyluk’s anger over the attempted rape of a young teenager in Montreal’s quiet, upscale Town of Mount Royal neighbourhood 40 years ago led her into a life of public service when she co-founded a Women’s Committee on Public Safety. The committee began demanding better police protection, and it helped launch her distinguished career in public service. She went on to win a seat on council, four elections as mayor of Town of Mount Royal, today a municipality in Montreal’s recently re-constituted system of municipal government, and served for eight years as Chairman of the Montreal Urban Community’s now defunct regional authority.

JFK bust moved

Par Alan Hustak le 4 novembre 2010

The bust of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy that has stood outside the Place des Arts metro station since 1986 is no longer there. Because he public square in which it stood is being rebuilt as part of the new Symphony Hall project,  the statue has been taken away and  JFK Square has been renamed Promenade des Artistes. 

Death and Decadance: Otto Dix

Par Alan Hustak le 4 novembre 2010

dix_IMG_0251.JPG“I never give any information about me in writing because you can tell at a glance my paintings contain the most accurate information about me. I have no intention of revealing to the astonished bourgeois and contemporaries the depths and abyss within my soul,” the German artist Otto Dix once wrote to a friend.  That may explain why the engrossing exhibition running until January at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Rouge Cabaret, A terrifying and Beautiful World, is both an immersive experience and a revelation. Not only do the 220  works on display examine the career of Otto Dix  but follow a chronology that emphasizes the peculiar mix of  decadence and despair which not only represents “the abyss within” his soul, but the dehumanizing times through which he lived.

The silly season

Par Alan Hustak le 9 septembre 2010

GILLES-VILLENEUVE.jpgSummer traditionally is considered the silly season in the news business and it doesn’t get any sillier than in Quebec. There may be dumber regulatory jurisdictions in the world, but you would be hard pressed to find them.  Just when you thought nothing could be sillier than the language police, or the garbage police, the tobacco police appear.  You didn’t know we have tobacco police?  Either did I until the Journal de Montreal broke the story  that they were on the march, out in full force during the Grand Prix weekend.

Harsh justice for whom?

Par Alan Hustak le 9 septembre 2010

 

There are bleeding-heart liberals who are said to be soft on crime and then there are the hardliners who would have us believe that, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, crime is on the rise in Canada and the only fix is to lock up more Canadians.
About 120 out of every 100,000 Canadians, about 14,000 inmates, are doing time in Canada’s 58 federal prisons. The Harper administration now proposes to spend $2-billion to incarcerate another 4,000 because, there are supposedly perpetrators guilty of unreported crimes running loose on the streets. While it wants to build more prisons, the government also proposes an equally misguided policy that would close the country’s six prison farms which were designed, in part, to help integrate inmates back into society.

 

Otto Joachim: A majestic legacy

Par Alan Hustak le 9 septembre 2010

Otto_Joachim.JPGDuring the First World War Otto Joachim was still a boy taking music lessons at the Buths-Neitzel conservatory. In Dusseldorf each day he passed a house that once belonged to Johannes Brahms. That, he said, gave him an inspiration, if he needed any, to think, “Hey, are you going to be a composer some day?”







Public spaces I - Circling the Square

Par Alan Hustak le 22 juillet 2010

IMG_3209.JPGThe $14-million redesign of Place d’Armes in Old Montreal gives new meaning to the expression tearing up the city.  Ongoing construction for more than a year has turned the historic ground in front of Notre Dame basilica into a no man’s land.  Tourists expecting to see the statue of Montreal’s founder, Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, are greeted instead by bulldozers. Making your way up Beaver Hall  hill into Notre Dame or into any of the office buildings around the square means running an obstacle course around the massive excavation. 

Public spaces II - Bulldozing the Bonaventure

Par Alan Hustak le 22 juillet 2010

Autoroute_Bonaventure.jpgThe plans to bulldoze the Bonaventure expressway and replace it  with a ground level  boulevard, for example, have gone back to the drawing board.  The Office de consultation publique de montréal  was right  to doubt the wisdom of the entire $260-million redevelopment scheme initially  proposed by the  Societe du Havre de Montreal,  and to recommend a second  look at the whole idea. 

The people at City Hall responsible for the ambitious project might learn a thing or two from Boston’s experience. 

GÉRIN-LAJOIE: RÉFORMER ET RENOUVELER

Par Alan Hustak le 10 juin 2010

Une collection amusante d’une centaine d’hiboux ornementaux remplit un cabinet dans l’appartement spacieux de Paul Gérin-Lajoie - une centaine d’hiboux en cristal, porcelaine, verre, bronze et argent. Les hiboux, dans toutes les formes et tailles, sont des cadeaux qu’il a reçus au cours des années des amis qui le considèrent un vieil oiseau sage qui, comme un hibou, travail tard, et bat des paupières en reconnaissance tranquille de tout ce qu’il voit.

Georges-Emile Lapalme

Par Alan Hustak le 10 juin 2010

georgesemilelapalme_1950.jpgRevolutions, quiet or otherwise, rarely go according to plan. Georges Emile Lapalme might have been premier instead of Jean Lesage, had events not conspired against him “Lapalme was the main brain behind everything,” agrees Paul Gerin Lajoe, “There were others who contributed, but he was the chief engineer behind the 1960 election victory.”

Send in the clowns: Canada at Shanghai’s world’s fair

Par Alan Hustak le 23 avril 2010

expo2010.jpgToo little thought has been given to Canada’s national pavilion at the World Exposition in Shanghai, opening May 1. Whatever one may think about the previous Canadian government’s decision to take part in the Shanghai World’s Fair which just opened as yet  another showcase for the totalitarian Communist regime, once a sovereign nation has signed onto to an agreement it is customary that it is an obligation on future administrations of whatever party. It is not like the Olympics. This is a state commitment to put Canada’s best foot forward. 

 

PHILIPPE CASGRAIN A renaissance man passes

Par Alan Hustak le 25 mars 2010

Casgrain_Philippe.jpgIf Philippe Casgrain hadn’t gone into law he might have been actor. 
Mr. Casgrain, who  died  Feb . 28 at 82 was one of those cultivated, old-world figures with a sense of panache.  A specialist in commercial and environmental law, he often relied on his natural charm to argue a case. “I’m always anxious for the judge to take his seat in the courtroom so I can put on a show for him,”  he once told a reporter, “You  have to be as well prepared as any actor if you are going to be convincing and win any sympathy for your client.”


The discreet charm of Pascale Bussières

Par Alan Hustak le 25 mars 2010

YRC8773.jpgThere are actors, and then there are stars.    
Pascale Bussières, the alluring star of at least 30 Quebec feature films, was never trained to be an actor -  she was always too busy working before the cameras  to bother going  to a theatre school.
 With her seductive eyes, luminous features   and expressive face,   Bussières can play almost anything. 



Back to her roots: An affectionate history of Griffintown

Par Alan Hustak le 25 mars 2010

Brave is the writer who tackles a history of Griffintown;  braver still the writer who would weigh in on the storied Montreal slum neighbourhood  from her  vantage point in Toronto.  There is much to admire in Sharon Doyle Driedger’s  enthusiastic,  if  somewhat  disjointed history of the Irish experience in Canada.  But  for a book with the subtitle:  How a Small Immigrant Community Shaped Canada ,  often the story she tells  doesn’t have all that much to do with “The Griff.”   Driedger holds forth  with authority in some chapters, especially her telling of  the 1842 canal workers strike at Beauharnois,  the floods and on the Christian brothers influence on the  neighbourhood.

Activists and diplomats unite to help Sun Youth’s Haitian relief

Par Alan Hustak le 11 février 2010

SunYouthBW.jpgSometimes tragedies do bring out the better angels of our nature. And they bring together new allies in common cause to help those who are always at the forefront of relieving human suffering.
Much money has been raised for Haitian relief. World leaders meet at conferences to discuss reconstruction. Great concerts are held. All this is just and right.


The politics of climate change

Par Alan Hustak le 11 février 2010

cleo.jpgEveryone in the non-stop debate on climate change has an opinion, but how much consideration has been given to the potential  seismic shift  in international diplomacy  that can be attributed  to  global warming?  What happens to nation states, to the realignment of political boundaries, and to shifting corporate interests as we become even more dependent on fossil fuels, and as forests disappear, farmland is exhausted and sources of fresh water evaporate?


KATE McGARRIGLE: Musical Matriarch 1946-2010

Par Alan Hustak le 11 février 2010

McGarrigle.jpgKate McGarrigle was a free spirit who, with her much more restrained sister, Anna, enchanted us with their unornamented, honey-voiced duets in both official  languges.  Kate was the taller of the two, the slightly off kilter one, tart and earthy, the one who took charge on stage assuming everyone in the audience was a member of the family.

MONTREAL JOURNALISM; THEN...

Par Alan Hustak le 7 janvier 2010

MONTREAL CONFIDENTIAL

A Reprint of a 1950’s Montreal tourist guide; plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


 


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