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Letter from Damascus, by Tim Appleby (November 29)
Great to know that the Syrians are friendly. If they can criticize their authoritarian government for funding, supporting, and offering safe havens for terrorist groups, some of which just recently place on Canada's terrorist list, why don't they? Your piece is important in dispelling the myth that "they are not all bad." However, rather than offering you tea I would like them to offer their opposition to state sponsored terrorism. That would make them even better.
Tim's letter is remarkably apt in the descriptions of both safety and hospitality in Arab countries; particularly typical is the situation where there is nothing than can be done to help, but tea is offered anyway.
Great Article. I lived in the Middle East (Cairo) for three years and I totally agree with your view of their hospitality. It is legendary. I studied and became fluent in Arabic. People treated me like royalty and it mattered not that I was from the West. North Americans could learn much from the people of the Middle East. If only the newspapers could print more articles like this one.
It's great to see that there are reporters who can see beyond the stereotype the West has given Arabs and the Middle East.
Good to hear some positive reporting regarding the Middle East. I visited Syria two years ago and can confirm your views. I experienced hospitality that left me with a sincere love of the Middle East and it's people. Many of the problems in the Middle East can likely be linked to the lack of respect and appreciation of the genuine warmth and hospitality of its people.
Having lived in North Africa and the Middle East for ten years I must say that this piece was very good and about time too. The enormous ignorance about this region has reached almost dangerous proportions and such articles can only serve to bridge the gap. Now if only the Americans could see things differently.
I agree with Mr. Appleby's assessment of the general ethos of the Middle East. These people, collectively, are among the most congenial in the world. In Bahrain, where I lived for a while, I felt completely safe. I am currently residing in Japan, one of the mos racist and discriminatory cultures I have ever been exposed to, thus far. If I could blink my eyes and suddenly be in another country, I would remove myself from the horror that I now live in and return to a place where I felt respected, calm and could maintain a sense of dignity. I would return to the Middle East.
I am really happy you told the truth about how kind and human Arabs are. Frequently, when I listen to American political programs I am confronted with open racism and ignorance towards a culture that doesn't conform to the American Dream. Thank you again for writing your letter, and for being the first positive voice defending the Arab community that I have heard in the media.
Letter from Kuta, by Graeme Smith (November 22)
Thank you for your article. It seems that in our newspapers this tragedy has been somewhat forgotten. I, unfortunately, was heading to Bali from South Africa about a week after the bombing. I witnessed the devastation caused to to the tourism industry as travellers became more concerned about travelling in countries with a strong Muslim community. I firmly believe that we have to show no fear and go back to these places.
The writer repeatedly makes references to the hedonistic western influence that suggests the locals have been morally raped by the West. This is nonsense. I have travelled all over Asia and Asians worship money and sex as much as anybody else. After all, Asians are humans beings aren't they?
Letter from Gibraltar, by Alan Freeman (November 15)
I was a little annoyed with Alan Freeman comparing Gilbraltar with Quebec. He says that Gilbratar is "a society that's even more distinct from the rest of Spain than Quebec is from the rest of Canada". Well I wouldn't wonder! Gilbraltar is not part of Spain, unlike Quebec. Quebec isn't distinct from Canada, (whether they like it or not), rather, Quebec is part of the reason Canada is distinctive.
Interesting piece. As a Canadian who has lived in the Gibraltar area (I prefer to live in Spain) for 2 and a half years, I would say that Mr. Freeman summed up some of the aspects, but also repeated pro-Gibraltar propaganda. It is complete BS that there are no violent crimes or drug problems. A hefty amount of Hashish and other drugs flows through Gibraltar on its way into Spain. Similarly, domestic violence is a real problem here, and murders are not 'a few years back', there was one a couple months ago! Perhaps Mr. Freeman should do a bit more personal research, rather than relying on the words of Taxi drivers (who's tax is capped at 200 pounds a year and who are at the forefront of the no shared sovereignty campaign, for obvious reasons).
Gibraltarians are British. Quebec should feel more like Canada because it IS part of Canada - at least for the time being. The whole article is tripe. Your readers deserve better.
Alan, great to see that you're still enjoying the finer spots on earth!600 jews and only 4 synagogues...Now this is quasi unanimity! Seruyan sounds more like Saroyan,more Armenian than Spanish.Ah!The magic of deep roots. funny little place,the article conveys the claustrophobic sentiment almost too realistically. take care,all the best to you and your wife(and the kid(s?)if you get this note.
I can totally understand the situation of the Gibraltarians. I am originally from Hong Kong, the Asian counterpart of Gibraltar. If Britain had allowed us to hold a referendum, I would guarantee that it would be a resoundly no for Chinese sovereignty. Since the British government had chosen to hand HK to Chinese regardless, and I didn't and still don't trust the Chinese, I left HK for good and came to Canada. I strongly urge the Gibraltarians to be extremly vigilant of both the UK and Spain. Don't let them sell you down the river!
I'm sorry that Alan Freeman should repeat the old joke about 'British food'. He's referring to fish and chips, I guess, but is repeating the long-standing canard about British food being inferior. What's wrong with fish and chips? We just don't like them fried to a dry crisp. What's wrong with warm beer? We just don't like it chilled to lose the taste. But worst of all, why is it always assumed that one particular How much longer must the British - now a culture with restaurants to rival any other country - go on putting up with such cheap insults by ignorant (or lazy) journalists? Or just as bad, ignorant and untravelled sub-editors who allow such jibes to slip through!
Letter from Florence, by Leah McLaren (September 6)
You state that one of the holdover effects of fascism is mistrust of authority. While that may be true or it may have been there all along, the examples cited aren't very compelling. The Mafia? I don't think these guys sprang up in the years following the Second World War. Nor do I think that an inefficient train system (one that can get you almost anywhere you want to go in Italy) can be pinned on mistrust of authority. How about workers who don't care, government bureaucrats and their jobs for life.
Being an ex-pat living in NY, I can see with dread the tidal wave of re-living already engulfing the area. We watched the events unfold from our office windows. It took several weeks to fully accept what we saw that day and even today it is personally troubling. What should be a private quiet moment is being turned into a media event. Not having the opportunity to be in Florence, my avoidance strategy will be to avoid the media for a few weeks.
Thanks for your letter, Leah. Florence sounds like an oasis of sanity in a mad world. North American media are just the same as your descriptions of the Brits. The endless commentary on the Jean Chretien/ Paul Martin affair is a typical example of overkill and manufactured news. On Sept. 11, I plan to walk in the woods, read a good book and not buy any newspapers (even The Globe and Mail).
Leah McLaren's letter from Florence has done a great deal to alleviate the guilt I secretly felt about the ennui and outright revulsion I feel towards the media- and state-sponsored overkill of the Sept. 11 anniversary. Enough already!
Well said Leah. You may not always be politically correct, but you always spark lively discussions in my household. My recommendation would be not to go 'Native', but to go 'Tourist' in Florence. Walk a couple of blocks past the Uffizi Gallery to a store on the left side of the street (the name escapes me) that sells excellent gelato and then wander back to the steps of the Duomo and listen to whatever music the scheduled "Busker" is playing.
Leah has probably read some articles about Anti-Americanism in Italy. This explains some of the attitude of Italians although, see Corriere della Sera these days for instance, some are genuinely sorry for all the happenings. Basically, Italians want to be out of these events which are not part of their lives and in addition some love to see the giant being beaten. This has been true since Vietnam and keeps going on. What is unsaid is the economic downturn being generated by the Sept. 11. My airline daily experience tells me that it will take years before recovery will take place. Florentines are probably running their regular life. In our business we are not.
I've never felt Italian until reading this letter. Every time I see another tribute/rememberance/salute to bravery etc. etc. I groan in agony. It is these mass-media sentimentalities that bastardize real issues, create new ones out of non-issues, and in general keep the masses watching during the "6'oclock news" commercial break. Thanks for the refreshing change of pace.
I think you have missed the point in trying to compare Florentines' interest about 911 to London's etc. You seem to digress all over the place and frivolously inject your own logic which ends up being plap... Try reviewing the beauty and magic of Florence and its 'flavour' and leave your political views out of it.
I have just returned from two months in Europe and experienced many of the same things that Leah has found. I feel in love with the Italian way of life, they do things at their own pace and could care less about things outside of their immediate circumstances. Italy was a breath of fresh air along the trip, you just never knew where or what you were going to end up doing next! What more could you ask for!
So glad to read about Florence, a city I adore yet fear, where high-end labels and tenacious gypsies abound. I am not sure if you have left London for good but your article on the dating habits and perhaps the social etiquette of some British men created quite an unsettling time for all concerned Brits. At least, I spotted no hint of controversy here. Maybe skip all mention of the mafia. Rest assured you are one of the more contemporary writers that complete the Globe. Hope your next stop is the Vatican City and our lives will just be a little more enriched. Keep up the excellent work.
Leah's comments truly reflect my own, oh to be in Florence!
Lucky Leah, she gets to spend a lovely autumn day in Florence far from the maddening media crowd. For me, on September the 11th, my television will fall silent, I'll avoid the news sites on the Web, and the newspapers will go unopened. Instead, I'll pick up some long overdue reading, or maybe go for a walk, write my Dad a letter, or just watch the sunset. Anything but all that media manufactured grief. So, Leah, if you can, as you're shopping for shoes or sitting at a cafe quaffing your favourite libation, spare a thought for those of us who have to hunker down and hide ourselves and protection our emotional integrities from the storms and flurries of fabricated feelings.
Your article was refreshing in world of induced hysteria. Too often we allow ourselves to be whipped into a frenzy, only to become the story itself.
I have read your great article and I was amazed that, as a journalist, you did not go with the mainstream frenzy organized and manipulative remembrance. Thank you for being an intelligent and "independent" journalist.
Bravo! I was beginning to feel as if I was the only person who was dreading the upcoming anniversary. Although I can't hide out in Florence shoe shopping (and oh how I wish I could), I plan to see an exhibit of the Group of Seven and the movie Possession and I won't be turning on my television set or radio or logging on to the internet that day. It's not that I'm anti-American, or that I feel that the senseless death of so many people shouldn't be commemorated. It's just that we need to go on and repeatedly showing the tragedy in New York and repeatedly dragging out "never seen before footage", and repeatedly showing more and more specials is, in my opinion, not allowing people to heal, to grieve properly and to move on. Thank you for your insightful comments. Try on several pairs of wonderful Italian shoes for me.
Book me a ticket to Florence!
Finally someone has had the guts to say that enough is enough. We were all horrified by what happened last year, must we re-live the tragedy day after day. I wish the media would stop ramming Sept 11 down our throats and let us focus on the positive things in life once in a while. Thanks Leah.
Leah, you have no idea what fascism was for Italians (e.g. elected and chosen by the people) Also, let me ask you if there's more Mafia here in Canada, or Italy? Hope that your visit in Florence will teach you a little history and culture, because you clearly lack a lot of both.
Gianni De Sua (B.A.,LL.B.)
Chiaro. Bene ditto.
Well Said! I have been trying to find something to hide under to avoid all this anniversary nonsense - it makes me embarrassed to be a North-American. Our media pretend that the anniversary is an event - and we fall for it hook line and sinker. Not to mention the sickening ground-zero-tourism phenomenon. Ugh. Pass the cheap Chianti.
My sentiments exactly about Sept 11. What an orgy of banality.
Leah can go native in Florence as much as she wants. I hope she lost nobody in the Sept. 11 attack. She obviously has no heart and is typically of a left wing champagne socialist who really has no care in the world.
"Media-induced nausea" is the correct phrase to describe my feelings after reading this piece. Do as the Italians do indeed...the popular sweet treat is properly referred to as gelato al limone, not gelato limone.
Leah, it is refreshing to hear that somewhere in this world, people are getting along with each other despite Sept. 11. Being of Italian descent, I can relate to their way of life: the slow and gentle afternoons, the caressing of the sun along the river bank Arno and especially their gelato and espresso. I had lived in Italy and plan to one day return and retire there. However, growing up in Canada made me realize that being north of the border where life seems to revolve these days, it is refreshing that we take a relaxed attitude on life. The British are simply behaving like pawns and feel sorry for the people. But my question in raising people's emotions to abnormal levels is: if Saddam is such a threat, why don't Bush and Blair go fight this war themselves without having to put people's lives at risk. Enjoy your gelato.
Letter from New York, by Simon Houpt (August 30)
Thank you for writing your article. I too am dreading September 11th and all of the hoopla that the U.S. will make of it. I would much rather see what the U.S. and other countries are doing to make all of our lives safer. Airport security seems no better now than a year ago. My 14-year-old son is a diabetic and wears an insulin pump. The alarms did not go off when he went through the so-called security gates. He was alarmed. How do you explain that? As advised by his doctor, he was traveling with a doctor's note explaining all of the supplies he needed to carry onto the plane. These were not searched carefully enough. We all know this terrible occurrence has a very good chance of happening again. I am an intelligent person. I do know all about how The Towers were not built according to knowledge available at the time. The U.S. for years has gone on and on about their military superiority! Where was it on September 11th? It is time for the U.S. to grow up.
I have some slight common experience with New Yorkers who wish 9/11/02 would come and go away. Two years ago, one of the pastors at my church, a beloved man, widely known, died after an eight-month fight with cancer. It was easy grieving for him, but what do you say to the widow? And what do you say, how do you even approach her, a year later? It took me a long time to stop seeing her as my pastor's widow, and to start receiving her as herself. Good luck, New York.
Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I've been a New Yorker for more than 15 years. I'm fed up with the 9/11 hype. I'm pissed off about the persecution of immigrants - which is the dark side of this hype. I'm embarrassed. I know that people all over the world have suffered horribly as a result of war, political violence, ethnic cleansing. Americans are viewed as spoiled babies because we continue to fetish-ize this unfortunate event. And yes, I agree -- nothing is more disgusting than the sight of all these mid-westerners embracing us.
As a Canadian who made Manhattan my home I appreciate Simon's letter for its content and depth. I do not want to be reminded every day of what happened on September 11th. I have not been to Ground Zero neither do I want to be: "visiting it like tourists do". The empty space is a sore reminder of what happened not a tourist attraction per se.... Manhattan is so beautiful and so many things to do so why not keep forward and enjoy it like we always did. Visit the Village, Soho, Harlem, the wonderful parks, look at the people. Enjoy the city for what is and not for what it was. Do not cry for us. I Love NYC more than ever.
No doubt there are many insensitive people who visit the World Trade Towers Site - they are everywhere. We don't plan our cities and memorials for them. When my 20 year-old daughter was planning a trip to New York this summer and mentioned plans to go the site, I had some unspoken reservations. She came home full of her usual exuberance, the trip was great, the theatre was great, the city was great. I had to ask her about the Trade Tower Site, and she didn't say anything, she just shook her head and cried. What happened didn't only happen to New York and it didn't only happen to Americans. Often people don't behave the way we would like them to. Before September, we could get away with saying pretty nasty things about some New Yorkers, and everyone knew what we were talking about. Amidst all of the louts and loudmouths there are people who look like tourists who are really pilgrims, whose need to see.
I guess a lot of New Yorkers may be tired of hearing about 9/11 and want to get on with their lives. But people all over the world especially here in Britain have not just started loving New York just because of what happened on that awful day. I for one have always wanted to visit New York but have never had the chance. Because New York does tend to stand out amongst the rest of the world's cities, it is a place to visit to say "Yes I have been there" and people will be impressed by that. So please do not say think for one minute that we hated New York before 9/11 and we have all of a sudden started to love it because of what happened. After 9/11/02 we will not start to hate it!
Letter from Pasadena, by John Doyle (August 2)
Be careful of those L.A. hookers Mr. Doyle, in particular, the not-so pretty ones. Be even more careful of Burger King! Too bad they don't have a Harvey's or Tim Horton's for the convenience of disgruntled journalists from other newspapers. Take care.
Hi John, great letter. You're reminding me more and more each day of Jay Scott. I grew up on his columns and film international and that's the highest compliment I can give you. I spent a lot of time in the Hollywood and Hyland area this winter, working, visiting my girlfriend's parents and hiding out from bad Toronto weather. The Hollywood and Hyland Center has a number of good restaurants including California Pizza and Wolfgang Puck's Brassierie. Of course there's always the In-and-Out Burger located near Hyland and Sunset. If I were you I'd look for the closest Rubio's Fish Taco. It's a lot better than it sounds. The Hollywood and Hyland Center which joins the Renaissance has exceptional parking underneath. You're a five minute drive to the look-out on Mulholland Drive. I loved the view but I'm still confused about the movie. I don't really consider Hollywood and Hyland to be downtown L.A. Downtown is another 30 minutes away depending on traffic which is always terrible. If you do go downtown, hit the Thai BBQ Restaurant on 3rd Street and Normandie. It's absolutely the best Thai food and there's nothing like it in Toronto.
Hi John, I just read your piece on the Renaissance-Ritz flap. Good stuff. That was me who asked if you could open the windows. Everybody says the rooms are quite a bit smaller at the Renaissance, and the thought of living in a small room for two or three weeks, without being able to open a window, already has me stir-crazy.
Letter from London, by Jeff Gray (July 26)
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Excellent story. Captures nicely newcomers' curiosity of century's social mores. Enjoy your tour of duty in London - from another Canadian living near London.
Letter from Beijing, by Geoffrey York (July 19)
Daren E. Miller
Perhaps it is best that China leaves the memory of Mao Tse-tung to the dustbin of history. Does the fair city of Peking have statues dedicated to the memory of the Dowager Empress, Sun Yat-sen or Chiang K'ai-shek?
I am Chief of the dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beijing United Family Hospital. I have been here for almost five years, since the Ontario government closed down my hospital in Ottawa. I took the only logical step, I came to Beijing in order to escape from dictatorial left-wing governments. We have three Canadian doctors at the hospital. All from Ontario. I have learned quite a lot about the health care system, or rather the absence of a system in health care in China.
Dr. M.J. Moreton
York's letter reeks of an idealized sentimentality for amazingly rough and sad times that only a person who did not experience them first hand could have. While I am not saying that only a direct experience could allow one to comment on this era of revolutionary fervor, when you flip this type of non-experienced nostalgia around you may see the problems. Imagine a modern Chinese reporter going to late 1930s Germany and lamenting a time when everyone believed in something, a time with conviction. I guess, somehow the Chinese, 'their revolution', and their sorrow are still 'cute' to the western media. York's piece is a work of modern Orientalist garbage and the Globe and Mail should be embarrassed for running it.
Well done to write China in China, to understand China in China and relate this to Canada. I know Beijing. I know every piece of its land after my 30 years of living there. This letter brought me back home and brought me back to the history. I Wish with Mr. York luck with the Chinese, and hope that he writes more about life there. In the new era, I believe people are trying to take the chance to develop their talent. Money is just the award and a way of showing their successes. The majority cares about society and others. On the other side, in the 'good old days', I don't believe people were really that pure.
Geoffrey York is quite perceptive. As part of China's dramatic changes, we often take changes for granted. Mr. York has done a good job at seeing, and depicting, the ironies that are part and parcel of the changes. Well done.
Herb Q. He
I am a Canadian who has lived in China for nine years now. It was enjoyable to read an account of modern day China by a journalist who is not China-basher. Give the Chinese a chance; they deserve it. After all, the Canadian government can't be wrong; they make for very responsible citizens with a very strong work ethic. Keep up the good work Mr. York.
Ma Tian De
Ah, yes, the ignoble pursuit of money...as opposed to the noble pursuit of "counter-revolutionaries" into mass graves. Brilliant sentiments.
Hej! Greetings from San Diego, CA! I'm actually old enough remember the original production. I was a college student back in those days, studying (of all things) the decision-making process (or lack thereof) within communist political parties. Madam Mao was one of my favorites! In fact, I still have my Mao jacket, although it's probably three sizes too small now. Anyway, I enjoyed your write-up on the performance. Now, twist your editor's arm and see if he'll let you go over to Shanghai to pick-up a performance of Les Miz. And then, if you're really good, down to Hong Kong to see the Forever Teresa Tang that is about to open. Put them all together and I think you've got an interesting story. It might not get you a Pulitzer, but it might get you a Tony! Good luck with your work in Beijing.
I'm a teacher in Mianyang, Sichuan, in Western China. I'm Canadian. I read your letter with interest. I'm teaching children at a Middle School, which is composed of Primary, Junior, and Senior students. You spoke of wishing for sacrifice and solidarity for a higher ideal than a product's usefulness. I tend to agree with you. Here in Western China the 'foreigner' is still an oddity, though more and more are passing through on their way to Tibet. And children everywhere still covet the 'Young Pioneers' scarf, which is a symbol of their active modeling of good political and moral behaviour within their schools. Not everyone gets to wear it. And it is an odd feeling to stand there on an early Monday morning and see the children raise their hands above their heads in the famous salute to their flag and country, their little red scarves flapping slightly in the breeze, as the national anthem plays as the flag is raised. They have political awareness class, and there is a political office in the school. Indeed in all schools. Children participate in 'moral discussion' activities, and learn what it is to not only be a good socialist, but to incorporate the active and healthy aspects of the West into their lives. Young people feel they are not free to be like young people in the West, and since they are the only child of their family, who love them and work hard for them, then they must fulfill expectations and do what is expected of them. The tiny Sichuan people, with their strong dialect and spicy food, the clack of endless rounds of mahjong played everywhere, the open street markets still where farmers sell their fresh produce for next to nothing, the tricycles, and street sweepers with their huge extended street brooms, I love Chinese life here. It's not modernized yet like Beijing and Shanghai, though it's a high-tech city. I have been asked countless times, What do I think of China? Why am I here? Do I love Canada, or do I love China? I tell them I hope China keeps the best of the old and the new, and lets go of the latest fads and fashions. I tell them I am here because I, as a 'Minority' person from Canada, wanted to see the Minorities here. And I wanted to teach. I love teaching. I tell them I love Canada, and I have fallen in love with China. So Geoffrey, there are still ideals here, even while there is the appearance of modern middle class mindless consumption.
As someone who has lived in China since 1994, I found your commentary typical. You completely miss the point on how communism has been replaced by racially motivated capitalism (a la Hong Kong). Sure Proctor and Gamble is a sponsor. But find out that 99.99 per cent of the workforce (including management) is of Chinese origin (non-Chinese have trouble getting work permits).
Excellent story; I've been in China since 1995 and have seen a lot of changes - most for the good. China has a national solidarity and commitment to the future to be envied by Canadians. Let's hope that their wonderful cultural mix does not get lost to consumerism, but rather evolves with time. Good reporting!
Edward A. Bound
Yes, I am really impressed with "the letter from Beijing" by Geoffrey. I was born in those revolutionary years and your picture of Red Detachment of Woman has reminded me of my childhood. I am an immigrant who has been in Toronto for five years, without returning to China once. But the giant picture of Mao is in my mind forever. The most interesting thing is to see Mr. York describe the Chinese culture so precisely, and I am pretty sure he must have done a lot of research. Waiting for your next letter!!!
Letter from Zurich, by Alan Freeman (July 5)
Fun reading...enjoyed it.
We've stayed at the McDonald's Hotel in Zurich, soon after it opened. You're right about the well-designed rooms and even though it seems expensive, it is good value compared to other hotels in the area. My only comment - stop knocking McDonald's restaurants, like the one next door to the hotel. They offer more good food like meat, potatoes, bread, lettuce, than many so called "nutritious foods" at other places. How about knocking Tim Horton's for their fat loaded donuts?
The McHotel sounds like every other 4 star hotel in Switzerland and Germany, but with worse food.
Letter from Washington, by John Ibbitson (June 28)
I moved to DC from Toronto a year ago, and I am anxiously looking to buy. Looking to buy north of Union Station, still sketchy but there are bargains. This is a city of hidden treasures but it takes some exploring and time to adapt. Don't forget the limitless running/biking trails, there is no excuse not to train here.
Letter from Israel, by Paul Adams (June 21)
Thank you for printing this letter. I can attest to its truth, having been there for five days last month (visiting my sick mother) and experiencing two suicide attacks. More often than not I feel your reports don't include enough background, sometimes not even the slightest mention of the reasons behind those actions. It doesn't read like "objective" reporting. To me it reads like selective reporting. I often feel that people here can't fathom the disasterous effect that terror, of years of living in fear - and I don't mean just the last two, have had on the lives of everyone, not only those who've lost their parents or children, but every person living there.
Letter from Islamabad, by Mark MacKinnon (June 14)
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark's letter and believe it is reminiscent of some of Hemingway's writing: meeting at the foreign press club with ex-pats, etc. Obviously some drinking as well. I look forward to his first publication.
Finally a real writer in a newspaper.