Category Archives: arts

Toronto’s ROM Facing Controversy Over the Dead Sea Scrolls

In June the Royal Ontario Museum is planning on exhibiting the Dead Sea Scrolls. That showing is being blasted by the Palestinians as they say the scrolls were acquired illegally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.
For six months the museum plans to exhibit what has been hailed as one of the greatest historical finds.

That’s a problem for top Palestinian officials. This week they declared the exhibit a violation of international law and has demanded that Canada cancel the showing.

Letters have been sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the top brass at the ROM with senior Palestinian officials arguing that the scrolls are theirs and not the property of Israel.

The Toronto Star reports:

“The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories,” said Hamdan Taha, director-general of the archaeological department in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. I think it is important that Canadian institutions would be responsible and act in accordance with Canada’s obligations.”

The Palestinians are saying that both Canada and Israel are signatories to all agreements.

The protest letter sent to Harper was signed by Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and its second-in-command while the letter sent to the ROM was signed by Khouloud Daibes, minister of tourism and antiquities.

The scrolls were discovered in 11 caves lining the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1957. Who owns them has been loudly disputed since that time.

Lauren, a spokeswoman for ROM, told Digital Journal there is no further information at statements being given until the matter has been fully investigated.

Omar from the General Delegation of Palestine in Canada was also unable to release an official statement at this time.

The Consulate of Israel in Toronto is closed until next week for Passover.

The planned exhibition at the ROM is called the Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World. It is set to run from June 27 to Jan. 3.


Opinion: It’s Saturday Night In Toronto, Must Be Time To Slam

If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto you can come to Poetry Slams at the Drake Underground on Queen Street West every month. On March 28, it was the Toronto Poetry Slam’s semi finals hosted by Dave “Big Deal” Silverberg.
This Saturday night’s show featured some of Toronto’s best Slam Poets along with special guest Jamaal St. John from New Jersey. Big Deal David Silverberg (yes, the same guy who helps run DigitalJournal.com) was on hand to keep the pace moving and provide a haiku or two.

People had to be turned away tonight. There was no room to find a chair so the floor had to make due for many lucky enough to find a spot to rest. My spot on the ground was beside Valentino Assenza’s mother who told me how very proud of her son she was.

Teens on a first date and teachers wanting to have a first experience joined others who live for Slam. Screaming out the Slam Anthem we all became one, a mass of souls ready to hear the spoken word.

Tomy, Lara,Truth Is, Nolan, White Noise Machine, Yogi, Peace, Pan, Valentino Assenza, Ariel Platt, Kimiko and Mike Lipsius were all completing for the eight spots to go onto the finals in April. The final winners will be representing Toronto not only at the Canadian slam Finals but at the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Springs, Florida later this year.

Slam Poetry isn’t your momma’s poetry. It’s gutsy, new age and in your face. Topics can range from comedy to tears. The energy is infectious and the emotions are raw. Tonight’s spoken words did not fail the standing room only audience. From the fears of Iraq and the pain of the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip the horrors of war were expressed by many of the poets. Self doubt, body size, capitalism and the spoken word rounded out the mix. Two of my personal favorites were spoken by Tomy and Truth Is. Truth Is spoke of wanting to be able to sing a love song to one’s self and fearing that the words would never ring true while Tomy spoke of his daughter’s silent first minutes of life. Both poems are raw and powerful, as were all of the poems tonight.

Slam events have judges. It’s hard to judge a poet’s word but as Slam is not just poetry in motion but the energy and performance level the judge’s scores are needed for one poet or several to move on.

The eight finalist that will move on to the Finals on April 25, 2009 at Hugh’s Room at 2261 Dundas St. West are:

Tomy, Lara, Truth Is, Nolan, Peace, Valentino Assenza, Ariel Platt and Kimiko. Kimiko and Peace are newcomers to the Toronto Slam scene while the other six have been touching the crowds for a while now.

As with all Slam’s an international star is featured. Tonight the audience was graced with the stylings of Jamaal St. John from New Jersey. He was amazing. From his poem honouring women who know what Lane Bryant’s is and how he knows there is a God because real women have curves to his final piece the questioned a man who told him that Barack Obama wasn’t black enough to earn his vote, his words rang true.

If you have the chance to hit up Hugh’s Room on April 25 don’t hesitate. Poetry slams are where it’s at in Toronto. Culture comes cheap and speaks to your soul.

*The photos with this article are not the best quality, as they were taken on a cellphone with dark stage lighting.


Sylvia Plath’s son commits suicide

Forty-six years after his mother poet Sylvia Plath killed herself, Nicholas Hughes ended his own life by hanging himself.

Nicholas Hughes was the son of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

Ms. Plath’s suicide in 1963 reportedly after enduring her husbands many relationships with other women. Six years later Ted Hughes’ mistress Assia Wevill also killed herself in the same manner as Plath.

Nicholas and his sister Frieda were just infants when their mother pinned a suicide note to their pram. She then went to the kitchen and gassed herself by inhaling the fumes from the over. she spared her children’s lives by sealing the door with towels. She was a mere 30 years old.

The children were not told how their mother died until they were teenagers. Friends told the Daily Mail that Hughes’ suicide was not a legacy of his mother’s death.

‘Nick wasn’t just the baby son of Plath and Hughes and it would be wrong to think of him as some kind of inevitably tragic figure,’ the friend was quoted as saying.

‘He was a man who reached his mid-forties, an adventurous marine biologist with a distinguished academic career behind him and a host of friends and achievements in his own right.

‘That is the man who is mourned by those who knew him.’

Nicholas Hughes, 47, had been battling depression. He was unmarried and had no children.

Hughes was a evolutionary ecologist professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Guardian reports:

“It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday 16th March 2009 at his home in Alaska,” Frieda Hughes said in a statement published by The Times.


Toronto Street Art Means Spring Is Back

Walking down the streets in Toronto can be an adventure in art. A person doesn’t have to shell out any money to be serenaded or see a new painting.

Art takes place on the streets of Toronto everyday but once Spring is in the air it really takes off. Listening to guitarists or fiddlers or the sounds of Scottish bagpipes can be had just by taking a walk on any downtown street.

KJ Mullins

Chalk artists are everywhere. One of those artists, Chalkmaster Dave Johnston was outside the Eaton Centre on Wednesday bringing his talents to life. He’s been working the cement since 1991. Now he’s a master and that skill has taken him to corporate gigs, special events, festivals worldwide and private commissions.

KJ Mullins
Chalkmaster posing with his work
Visit Toronto’s streets with a camera. You never know when you’ll have the chance to have a piece of art to capture. With Spring back though chances are very high the street is filled with it.

Shane Mullins

Toronto’s Filmport Studios Are Booming

Toronto’s newest film and television studio doesn’t have any free parking places. That’s great news for the city as filming is up and the studios are almost completely booked.

Filmport Studios opened last year at the worst time possible. The Canadian dollar was close to par with the U.S. dollar and producers were staying south of the border. The dollar rates have changed though, helping Toronto gain more work.

Filmport is attracting a number of pilots this year as well as feature films. Both Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, starring Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, and Love Child, starring Donald Sutherland are being shot in the city. Next month Brampton native Michael Cera will be shooting Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in T Town.

The pilot market is looking rosy as well with Happy Town for ABC/Disney, Battle of Maggie Hill for Fox and two CBS/Paramount pilots, Back and U.S. Attorney all being shoot in the studios and streets of Toronto.

The Toronto Star reports:

“We’re definitely looking at 2009 being a better year in film and television production than it was in 2008. Notwithstanding the horrible recession that’s going on in the world, this is one sector in Toronto that’s going to be better off,” said Ken Ferguson, president of Toronto Film Studios.

That’s good news for the 35,000 Torontonians that make their living in the film industry.


Feeling The Economic Pinch- US Museums

As the economic crisis continues museums in the United States are feeling the pinch. New York and Philadelphia are both slashing jobs, salaries and closing up shops as their endowments are being hit hard.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is down to only eight stores of their 23 across the United States. By July 21 ten percent of their work force will have been handed a pink slip.

Founded almost 130 years ago the museum has lost about $800 million since mid-2008 from their endowments. The Met is a nonprofit that survives only with the help of endowment, government aid, private donations and admission revenues.

On Friday The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia frozen hiring and announced that salaries would be slashed by 5 percent. In early 2008 the museum had $60 million in endowments, today that figure is less than $40 million.

People have had to stop coming to museums as wallets shrink. Even foreign tourist are shying away from the suggested $20 donation for admission fee.

In Toledo, Ohio the museum is also having to make staff cuts to stay afloat. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland has had to stop plans to build a new home until the economy recovers.

Across the country museums are having to let their staff go or cut salaries.

The super wealthy that funds museums are having to tighten their belts as their money is flying away quickly. Without the funding could the United States soon be without the culture that comes from a trip to the museum?

Perhaps it is time for people to skip a movie and take their family to see live action art in it’s glory. Wait to long and the art may no longer be available for viewing.


Jay Leno Could Be Yanked From Writer’s Guild

When Jay Leno went on the air during the writer’s strike last year he performed his own material. The Writers Guild of America is considering tossing him out because of that.
Leno is a member of the Writers Guild of America and should have been on strike right beside them according to their rules. The union is putting the late night talk show host on trial. On Wednesday he appeared before the union with his lawyer on charges that he broke the rules, a year after the alleged violations.

Jay Leno is fighting back. He is insisting that he did no wrong. He is the highest profile of writers who are being reviewed by the committee. That committee will rule on what actions should be taken. Penalties could include a reprimand, a fine and finally at the worst case, expulsion from the union.

Leno is being accused of performing “struck work” that would otherwise have been done by a WGA member.

Last January Leno told his audiences that he was doing his old job for himself according to the LA Times.

“I’m doing what I did the day I started,” he told his audience on his first night back on the air. “I write jokes and wake my wife up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Honey, is this funny?’ “

“We are following the guild thing,” Leno assured his viewers. “We can write for ourselves.”

Leno maintains that as a performer he was exempt for the rules that banned any members from performing work that would have been done by striking writers. As a guild member and a writer credited on the show, Leno was also barred from writing in general.

NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks has said that the network will support Leno in this matter.


Scott Symons, Groundbreaking Author Has Passed Away At 75

Before it was legal to be gay in Canada writer Scott Symons flung open his closet door. In 1967 he wrote Place d’Armes, a groundbreaking book with gay themes and an experimental style.
The novel presented as a journal, unusual for its time. The stream-of-consciousness style told of a man who escaped Toronto’s Anglo-Canadian morality to live in Montreal.

Symons was no stranger to scandal. He fled Toronto with his 17-year-old male lover for the warmth of Mexico. Left behind was his wife and young son.

He was born in 1933 amidst the wealth of Rosedale. He was educated at the University of Toronto, Cambridge University and The Sorbonne. Early in his career he was a journalist with the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and La Presse. His career path lead him to the Royal Ontario Museum where he wrote Heritage, A Romantic Look at Early Canadian Furniture during his time as curator.

Evading Mexican police who were seeking him at the request of his and his lover’s families he moved to Morocco. There he lived for 25 years. He wrote his novel Helmet of Flesh while residing there.

In 2005 Symons returned to Toronto where he resided until his death Monday.


India Is Giving Slumdog Child Actors Decent Housing

The two youngest “slumdogs” are moving on up. The Indian government has announced that Slumdog Millionaire’s Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail will be receiving new homes when they return from the United States.
Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail played the roles of Latika and Salim as children in the movie that swept the Oscars.

Prior to the Oscars it was revealed that the two young actors were living in Garib Nagar, a slum in north Mumbai and were paid very little for their roles in the movie. At present Azharuddin lives under a tarpaulin next to a road. His father supported his family on just a £1 a day. He has been unable to work because of his failing health from TB. Rubiana’s family has it slightly better, they share a one-room hut that is next to an open sewer.

MSNBC reports:

“These two children have brought laurels to the country, and we have been told that they live in slums, which cannot even be classified as housing,” said Gautam Chatterjee, head of the state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority.

Danny Boyle, the director of the film, and producer Christian Colso have denied claims that the children were exploited in the making of the film. Instead they say that Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail were paid above local Indian wages. They also contend that the children are now enrolled in school with a fund in place to pay for their education, medical emergencies and other basic living expenses.

The nine children that were featured in the film were at the Academy Awards. Fox Searchlight Pictures paid for their visas, travel and accommodations to California so that they could attend the Oscars.

While the government is getting housing ready the children are enjoying their time in California. Danny Boyle took them to Disney on Monday.

The Daily Mail reports:

Boyle told the Daily Mail: ‘These are bricks and mortar flats. They will have electricity, running water and good sanitation.

‘They will still be close to their friends and extended family.

‘Their community is very important to them, and they don’t want to move too far away from them.

The children all have a trust fund set up for when they turn 18. But 18 is a long ways off when they live in extreme poverty.

At this time the film’s investors and distributors are setting up a fund for the slum and street children residing in Mumbai. The initial figure is at £500,000 and expected to rise.


Toronto Poet Truth Is Tells It Like It Is

How do you change the viewpoint of society? For some it’s the pen. For some that pen bleeds the soul of an audience, hitting hard. Powerful words in the form of poetry shook us to the core. Such words are spoken by a Toronto poet named aptly Truth Is.

“Words mean nothing without expression!” -Truth Is

For Truth Is word are in fact truth. Her truths the truths of the underdog. The truths of one who is shy or beaten or angry. Truth is a hard crevice to conquer at times for it’s not always a pretty picture of white picket fences. There are holes in those roads. There are reasons why she doesn’t write letters to Santa Claus. Her words mean something. She means something.

Truth Is is young. Only 24 but making a huge impact on the Spoken Word circuit in Toronto. She has been performing for the past three years but only in the Slam scene for the last sixteen months.

Her words have seen the airwaves as both FLOW 93.5′s OTA LIVE and CBC Radio One 99.1′s Big City, Small World have aired her poetry.

She is involved with Strong Words, Cryptic Chatter, Word Jam, Dementia 5, Underground Sounds and the Toronto Poetry Slam. She also gives of her time working with youth shelters, schools and the Children’s Peace Theater.

Karen Emerson, artistic director of the Children’s Peace Theater said in a phone interview that Truth Is has been an inspiring artist for those who have had the pleasure to work with her for the last three years. Her volunteer work with the group has been “amazing.” Truth has not only performed but worked on long term projects helping the youth of the city of Toronto.

Those in Toronto have a chance to check her out on March 1, 2009 at The Boat at 158 Augusta Avenue.


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