Amira Hass - Geraldine Brooks - Abstract Art

Amira Hass - Amira Hass has perhaps the most dangerous beat for a reporter in the world. For the past 18 years, she has reported from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Her work is not only dangerous, it is littered with political minefields.

You see, Ms. Hass is the only Jewish Israeli reporting from the Palestinian territories. She is a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

She has covered the occupation, endless and fruitless peace talks, the intifadas, the army incursions, the blockade and perhaps most importantly the daily lives of Palestinians.

When she moved to Gaza City, many of her Palestinian neighbors thought she was an Israeli spy. And to this day, some Israelis consider her a traitor to the state.

She is a reporter's reporter.

In our First Hour, a conversation with Amira Hass.

Read more about hour one here

Geraldine Brooks - Geraldine Brooks is a reporter who used to cover war zones but in the mid-nineties turned her talents to writing novels.

Since then she has penned a clutch of best-selling novels not only in her native Australia, but around the world.

Her latest, Caleb's Crossing, tells, in fiction, the historical story of the first American Indian to attend Harvard University in the 1600s.

In our Middle Hour, a conversation with Geraldine Brooks about God, Satan and the human impulse to learn.

Read more about hour two here

Abstract Expressionism - Michael knows next to nothing about painting and he's not even sure what he likes. But he's about to find out.

Mathew Teitelbaum is the erudite head of the Art Gallery of Ontario and is Michael's tour guide of an extraordinary exhibit of American Abstract Expressionism.

The post-war abstract expressionists wanted to change the old order in painting, in fact wanted to change the whole world.

In our Third Hour, Michael will tour the exhibit with Mr. Teitlebaum and ask the question artist Jackson Pollock once asked his wife: "Is this a painting?"

Read more about hour three here

Elsewhere in the program: the tragedy of horses nobody wants, some of your mail, the banjo as funereal accompaniment and some thoughts on hockey riots.

Hour 1

Michael's Essay

In this week's essay, Michael thoughts on hockey and violence.

Amira Hass

If Michael were to sit down with all the Jewish Israeli journalists who live and work full-time in the Occupied Terrorities, he'd need only one extra chair. And luckily he has it, because Amira Hass was in our Toronto studio, and she's the only person who fits that description.

Ms. Hass is a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Her beat is the West Bank and Gaza. And for the past 18 years, she has lived in one of those two places, covering the intifadas, the Oslo fallout and perhaps most importantly, the daily lives of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.

Her writing - and her choice of residence - has made her a thorn in the side of Israeli authorities. And many of her countrymen consider her some kind of traitor.

She has written two books about her experiences - "Drinking the Sea at Gaza" and "Reporting From Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land."

She was in Toronto for the Luminato Festival, where she was part of a Middle East panel assembled by New Yorker Magazine.

Music - Enigma Variations

The West Eastern Divan Orchestra was created in 1999 by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said. The ensemble brings together young Israeli and Arab musicians.

This is the Adagio from Edward Elgar's Engima Variations.

Hour 2

Geraldine Brooks

Earlier this week, Michael hosted an event at the Toronto Reference Library as part of Luminato's "Modern-Day Shahrazads" program, where he spoke with the Pulitzer Prize winning Australian writer, Geraldine Brooks. Here is that conversation.

Mail - Norman Jewison

Last week on the show, Michael spoke with legendary film director Norman Jewison. We'd planned to devote the first hour of the show to that conversation, but Mr. Jewison had so many stories to tell - and he told them so well - that we ended up giving him part of our second hour too.

Judging by the mail we received, that seems to have been the right call.

Horse Breeders

Every month, there's a horse auction in Candiac, a small farming community about an hour-and-a-half's drive east of Regina. About a hundred spectators stand outside the auction barn, watching as a fine pair of grey draft horses are paraded up and down.

Things are not going well.

The auctioneer started the bidding at three thousand dollars for the pair. The owner would be happy with two thousand. But the horses are finally sold for just nine hundred and fifty dollars.

That's a lot less than the owner would have received for each of them, just a few years ago.

Across North America, horses are selling for less than it costs to produce them.

In Canada, three-quarters of horse breeders have left the business in the last five years. And many of those of who remain are struggling to survive.

Recently, producer Sean Prpick visited one of these survivors at her ranch in north central Alberta.

Betty Coulthard has been raising horses for more than twenty years. But her business is now in deep trouble. And the measures she has taken to survive, have made her the target of angry animal rights activists.

Hour 3

Abstract Expressionism

If you are visiting Toronto this summer, you'll be wanting to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario's very important show, Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art. The very best of the very best collection of abstract expressionism in the is a spectacular exhibit.

It is reasonably well known that the abstract expressionist movement changed the world of art forever, and that it marked the shift of the artistic centre of the universe from Europe to New York in the post World War Two years.

Yet it is a movement that, all these decades later , remains by most of us at least, misunderstood. Before Pollock and Rothko and De Kooning, art, for the most part, meant pictures. Art usually represented a thing that existed in the world. The idea of art as expression... the idea that art should represent what was inside the artists head...was something new.

Sometimes...Michael admits... he still doesn't get it. And he may speak for millions.

So we asked Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, to give Michael a tour.

Personal Essay

If you're a banjo player, you're probably wearily familiar with the long list of terrible jokes about banjos. Here's one:

Question: Why do some people take an instant aversion to banjo players? Answer: It saves time in the long run.

And - here's a joke that seems particularly suited to today's essay.

Question: What's the difference between a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a banjo? Answer: You can tune a Harley Davidson.

Let's face it. There's something about that twangy, strident, frequently off-key pickin' and strummin', that can set people's teeth on edge. So you might not think of a banjo as an appropriate instrument for a solemn, decorous event, like a funeral. Especially if some of the mourners look - shall we say - a little scary.

Sean Dixon disagrees. Sean is a writer, actor - and banjo-player -- living in Toronto. Here he is with his essay: "How I Played My Banjo at a Biker Funeral, and Lived to Tell the Tale."

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