August 1, 2010: Satirizing the Sunshine State - Top of the Pops in Pakistan - What is "Happiness" - Habtom's Path (Doc)

This week our Summer guest host was Ian Hanomansing.

Hour One: Satirizing the Sunshine State- We spoke with columnist Carl Hiaasen about how he parodied a world that's already stranger than fiction in his new novel Star Island

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Hour Two: Top of the Pops in Pakistan - We heard from two young Muslim women with family ties to Canada. We spoke to them about their sudden success on the pop charts and what their challenges are as new celebrities in their native country, Pakistan.

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Elsewhere on the Show: We met a researcher who spoke to us about the ruler she uses to measure that elusive, important notion: happiness; and he aired Habtom's Path -- a documentary about one refugee who journied to Canada only to meet a tragic end.

Hour 1

Song: The Dynamic Duo
Artist: The Creaking Tree String Quartet
Album: Side Two

Satirizing the Sunshine State

Imagine the challenge of trying to satirize the tabloid world of drug addled celebrities, chasing after and running from paparazzi, all stage managed by greedy, misguided parents.

Even Jon Stewart can be reduced to showing a clip and staring gobsmacked in disbelief.

If you're a satirical novelist, there's the added worry that news stories might eclipse the zaniest idea that might spring from your fervid imagination. All of which makes the novel Star Island so intriguing.

It's the story of a teen pop star named Cherry Pye, who is embarking on her second comeback tour while taking every drug she can get her hands on. Her antics, and the strange people who hang around her, serve as the launch pad for a surreal portrait of modern day celebrity.

This is a tale that emerges from the twisted imagination of Carl Hiaasen. As a long-time journalist and columnist at The Miami Herald, he has been writing satires set in his home state for almost a quarter century.

Star Island is in the bookstores and Carl Hiaasen was in our Toronto studio.

Featured Disc - All the Right Reasons

Song: Rock Star
Artist: Nickleback
Album: All the Right Reasons

The Sunday Edition is in Pursuit of Happiness

The characters in Carl Hiaasen's novel, Star Island, may all have serious character flaws, not to mention some odd strategies for making it through life, but they do share one thing. They, like the rest of us, are trying to be happy.

But what makes us happy has puzzled philosophers for centuries.

The novelist Edith Wharton once wrote, "If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we'd have a pretty good time." Aristotle observed, "Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient." And the 1960s philosopher, longshoreman Eric Hoffer once wrote, "You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy."

Despite the universal importance of happiness, it has proven to be an elusive thing to define, measure or even conceptualize. But that doesn't mean people aren't trying.

For some years now, economists - using the tools of psychologists - have been attemptin to nail down happiness: what it is, how you measure it, how you stimulate it, and what role -- if any -- government might have in promoting it.

At the forefront of that research, you'll find Carol Graham. She's is a Senior Fellow in the Global Economy, Development and Foreign Policy Programs at the Brookings Institution. She is also the College Park Professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. She spoke to Michael earlier this year from a studio at the Brookings Institution in Washington. We aired that conversation for you again.

Song: Milk and Honey
Artist: Oliver Schroer and the Stewed Tomatoes
Album: Freedom Row

Hour 2

Song: Butterfly's Day Out
Artist: Yo-Yo- Ma/Edgar Meyer/Mark O'Connor
Album: Appalachia Waltz

Habtom's Path - Documentary

The story began in a dusty, hot village in Eritrea, and ended in an icy wood in Halifax.

That day, Habtom Kibraeb was told that his refugee claim had been denied by Immigration Canada. Deportation was almost certain. Now - on Habtom's path - from shepherd boy to young solider, from runaway to laundry worker - there was an obstacle he couldn't face, a fate from which he saw no escape.

So in his mother tongue of Tigrinya, he wrote a letter to the people he cared about most. Then he hung himself from a tree in a Halifax neighbourhood he knew well. His friends, his advocates, his community struggled to piece together what happened and why. Our documentary is called Habtom's Path.

Featured Disc - A Fragile Balance

Song: Honour This Land
Artist: Ray Montford
Album: A Fragile Balance

Mail Pack - Braille

Reading: it goes beyond picking up a book or a newspaper. We read things every day that give us survival information -- like ingredients on food labels or street signs -- and most of us more or less take it all for granted.

Last week on The Sunday Edition in the Summer, we met two people who are blind and take none of that for granted. Joining them was John Rafferty, the CEO and President of the Canadian National Institue for the Blind. There was mail about that conversation, most of it in response to comments made by Mr. Rafferty.

Featured Disc - A Baroque Feast

Song: Andante from Marcello's Concerto for Oboe in D Minor
Artist: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Album: A Baroque Feast

Top of the Pops in Pakistan

It might surprise you to hear that the pop duo at the top of the Pakistani music charts these days is a couple of young women- and even more surprising-- that one of them a Canadian whose family lives in Mississauga.

Zeb and Haniya are first cousins with roots in Peshawar. They have been pushing gender and ethnic boundaries since they burst onto the charts in 2002.

The duo are role models for a new generation of Pakistani girls who want to move away from the male-dominated music scene. They have an unusual sound that has captured the ear and the imagination of Pakistani youth. Zebunissa Bangash and Haniya Aslam joined us from our studio in New York City.

Song: Surya
Artist: AutoRickshaw
Album: So the Journey goes

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