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Arts in the Afternoon: Special Canadian Edition

4:07 PM, Apr 27, 2011 • By KELLY JANE TORRANCE
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Globe and Mail television critic John Doyle notes that Laurence C. Smith's book, The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, posits that northern countries will soon rule the world as a result of global warming, water shortages, and the need for oil. This spells great news for our northern neighbor, doesn't it?

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Not according to Doyle. He's disappointed most, it seems, by the fact Canadians enjoy American television programming so much. His repetitive column offers rating numbers to back up his claim. But they actually do the opposite. He complains that Canada is a hockey-mad country more interested in U.S. reality shows than its own future. But more people watched the political party leaders' English debate -- 3.85 million -- than watched Canucks and Canadiens (a patriotic pair!) playoff games -- under three million each. In fact, more people watched the debate than watched episodes of The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, American Idol, and House. That's an impressive level of engagement for an early election -- and remember, there was also a French-language debate (which, admittedly, was moved to avoid a conflict with a Habs-Bruins game). In fact, when you count people who watched at least a part of the debate, the viewership goes over 10 million.

Doyle concludes: "This is part of that distinct set of Canadian values – indifference to new ideas, shrugging off chicanery, fetishizing hockey, watching Survivor." Doyle forgets that Canada has been at the forefront of a number of political developments over the last few decades.

The Great White North has been the leader in establishing hate crime legislation and human rights commissions -- the quasi-judicial Canadian Human Rights Commission opened for business in 1977. Long before Democrats began complaining that right wing political rhetoric was responsible for violence and should be curbed, Canada threw the idea of free speech out the window. Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard in Alberta, was brought before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission after his magazine published the Dutch cartoons of Mohammed. Two Muslim groups made the complaint, which was later withdrawn. Doug Collins, a columnist for the North Shore News, was fined $2,000 -- and so was his community newspaper -- by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission over alleged anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic columns he'd written.

Perhaps Canadians should stay away from politics and watch a little more hockey -- the Canucks did win this series, after all.

-- Speaking of Canadian ideas, John Doyle, one of Canada's most important publishers, has launched a new nonfiction imprint. McClelland & Stewart's Signal "is dedicated to the power of ideas and original thinking." It has an impressive list of authors already signed. Oryx and Crake author (and Canadian treasure) Margaret Atwood's In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination comes out this fall, as does Arguably: Selected Essays of Christopher Hitchens. Alain de Botton and Conrad Black have also promised books to the new imprint.

-- One Canadian with a lot of time on his hands -- despite studying at Harvard Law -- has created the Internet Music Score Library Project. So far, this labor of love has made about 100,000 scores -- from Beethoven to Berg -- available at no cost.

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