tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Memorable Mag Covers: Maisonneuve's Crème brûlée

It's May 1 that the Canadian National Magazine Awards will reveal the nominees for the 35th anniversary awards. Counting down the days till the announcement, they're showcasing some of the cool creative from the past few years. One award we never tire of reviewing: Magazine Covers.

This one, which can best be described as "spacemen walking on crème brûlée" from Maisonneuve, was the 2007 winner for best magazine cover in Canada. View more here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saturday Evening Post Ads, 1968

Few of us were alive and/or cognizant during the glory era of The Saturday Evening Post, the bedrock of the American magazine publishing establishment from, say, 1903 (when the mag famously introduced readers to Jack London's The Call of the Wild in serialized form) until 1969 (when a defamation lawsuit shuttered the publication, if temporarily). While the Post re-emerged in 1971 and has continued to exist in various forms since, it's more homage to its former grandiosity than it is vanguard of the magazine institution.

That said, the Post's innate aura of nostalgia (Norman Rockwell aside, please) draws one to its yellowing pages even today, and one can't help but breathe musty fumes of historical embers from one page to the next in, for example, the April 20, 1968 issue which I happened upon recently.

Most remarkable for a condensation of the grandiloquent Canadian-born economist and statesman John Kenneth Galbraith's novel The Triumph and a cover story on how America's police were honing their crowd-busting skills in the midst of the race riots of the Civil Rights era, one also finds comfort in the now-quaint historicity of its ads. To wit:

Ah, the Record-Club trap. Sure, you can get Sinatra for 99 cents. Then Dean Martin will cost you more.

This image tugs on more heart strings than you knew you had.

What happened to the guy who thought it was a good idea to print "Pay More" in size-144 font?

A 1968 ad that refers to 1907 as the good old days. Ah, the good old days.

These fictional barkeeping ballplayers are now a huge draw on eBay.

Click here to view the full album of 29 bourbon-shilling, muscle-car-bragging, cigarette-filter-innovation-boasting ads from the April 20, 1968 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Greg Mortenson's Shame is on Us

Now that self-made humanitarian and "stones-into-schools" false prophet Greg Mortenson has been ordered to repay more than $1-million to the charity he founded, exploited and financially mismanaged, it's as good a time as any to assess the disgraced Three Cups of Tea author and his crumbling empire of goodness.

Quick recap of Mortenson's (true) journey:

  • In 1993 Mortenson allegedly took a wrong turn (how prescient) while descending from a harrowing and unsuccessful summit attempt of K2 in Pakistan's Karakoram Range, into the village of Korphe where he discovered his inner altruist; 
  • In 1996 he founded the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI) with seed money from a Swiss millionaire to fund educational development in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan;
  • In 2006 he co-authored the best-seller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time, and became a huge draw as a motivational speaker while all his expenses were being paid by CAI;
  • He collected no fewer than thirty-nine literary and humanitarian awards and honorary degrees between 2004 and 2011;
  • In 2010, US President Barack Obama donated $100,000 from the proceeds of his Nobel Prize to CAI;
  • In April 2011 the investigative news show 60 Minutes exposed the fact that Mortenson's famous 1993 sojourn to Korphe, as well as other claims made in the book (such as his capture by the Taliban, and, er, building lots of schools) almost certainly never happened;
  • A day after the 60 Minutes report, celebrated journalist, mountaineer and CAI donor Jon Krakauer released his own damning investigation of Mortenson, Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way, detailing Mortenson's rap sheet of hypocrisy and how he (Krakauer) was duped into investing.

Charity fraud doesn't often come with the kind of alarm bells as Three Cups of Tea, a nauseating read whose obnoxious aggrandizement of Mortenson is both its marketing genius (it was published by Viking Press) and its flashing red warning light.

That is not to say that its millions of readers should be (solely) blamed for seeing a halo form above the author's head. Our appetite for such tales is as ravenous as our wallets are fat and our secret shame of wealth is heavy. Greg Mortenson created a religion and made himself its prophet. And like others before him, things didn't quite pan out the way he'd prophesied, if mainly because, as Nicholas Kristof noted, "Greg is more of a founding visionary than a disciplined CEO."

Krakauer and others concede that Mortenson is not pure evil (Bernie Madoff is the cited contrast), just someone in whom we invested an unholy amount of unearned trust.

That is why, we must conclude, bold promises attached to fabricated tales of education-starved children in Asia resulted in tens of millions in book sales and funds raised, a charity-funded book tour, private jets, disgruntled donors, shoddy financial statements, deliberate misinformation, and yes, a few schools.

In other words, Greg Mortenson did what he did because nobody stopped him. Nobody checked the facts, and nobody tempered his idealism (or our own) with a dose of reality. Or if they did, it didn't work.

His real success was not in exploiting his unique encounter with poverty in Pakistan to build schools, but in exploiting our naïveté with respect to encountering poverty. Greg Mortenson's shame is on us.

May we think about that before we write our next cheque to charity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jenin's Freedom Theatre marks anniversary of founder's murder

Juliano Mer-Khamis
(photo courtesy Freedom Theatre)
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis -- the Israeli actor and co-founder of Palestine's Freedom Theatre -- who died in a hail of gunfire from still-unknown assailants on April 4, 2011, just a few steps from the door of his beloved children's drama centre in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin.

Juliano's murder has been blamed on radical Islamists who may have opposed the Freedom Theatre's co-educational curriculum of dance, drama, street art and photography, and the elements of cooperation and non-violent peace-building inherent in the joint Palestinian-Israeli, grassroots project.

The focus of today's sombre commemoration of Juliano's life and death is the shameful absence of justice, as his friends and the many supporters of the Freedom Theatre stage a demonstration outside the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, demanding more action in bringing the murderer(s) to justice.

Community theatre companies in the Israeli cities of Jaffa and Haifa are staging special performances to mark the anniversary in solidarity with the Freedom Theatre.

Arna Mer-Khamis
(photo courtesy
A ruminative month lies ahead for Jenin Refugee Camp, where Juliano's mother, the Israeli peace activist Arna Mer-Khamis, founded the original Freedom Theatre in the early 1990s. April marks the ten-year anniversary of the Israeli military destruction of the camp, a two-week bombardment and bloody demolition campaign that proved to be the most infamous flank of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, a military offensive designed to crush the Palestinian intifada in the spring of 2002.

Sometimes referred to as the "Battle of Jenin," the assault left 23 Israeli soldiers and more than 50 Palestinian civilians and resistance fighters dead (and hundreds wounded and permanently maimed), including several who as children had participated in Arna Mer-Khamis's original Freedom Theatre.

In the wake of the destruction of the camp and the 2003 film Arna's Children -- which chronicled the lives of some of the Palestinian children from the Freedom Theatre, and also of Arna herself (she died of cancer in 1995) -- Juliano and several Israeli and Palestinian activists re-started the Freedom Theatre, which for the past eight years has been training Palestinian refugee children to embrace art and creative self-expression as a means of resisting the Israeli occupation and building a new Palestinian society.

Zakaria Zubeidi (photo by Natasha Mozgovaya)
Perhaps the most famous of Arna's children is Zakaria Zubeidi, who grew up a child effectively imprisoned within the squalor of Jenin Refugee Camp, participated in the original Freedom Theatre and then, as a young man, years after the death of Arna and the disrepair of the theatre, joined the Palestinian violent resistance to the Israeli occupation, becoming a bomb-maker and a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

After surviving the assault on Jenin and landing on Israel's most-wanted list, Zakaria renounced violence and embraced Juliano Mer-Khamis as his mentor, helping to found the Freedom Theatre anew. In 2007 Israel granted him amnesty, though as of December 2011 that amnesty is revoked.

He remains in hiding and wanted by Palestinian security forces, such as those who will have a front-row view of today's demonstration in Ramallah, where activists face down the Palestinian (and, by extension, Israeli) powers-that-be, demanding justice for those who have died to build peace in Israel and Palestine.

{Read other Tuque Souq posts about the Freedom Theatre}