Iceland Recovery - Rothko Play - Is Europe Over?

Hour One

In the 2008 economic meltdown, Iceland nearly collapsed. Its three banks failed, it's currency lost 50 per cent of its value and in an unprecedented display of anger, usually peaceful Icelanders took to the streets to protest.

But Iceland defied the orthodox economic wisdom of the time---bailouts and slashing government services---and now is on the road to a recovery that the rest of Europe envies.

The hero of the hour and the man almost solely responsible for this remarkable turnaround is the country's president Olafur Grimmson.

By refusing to go along with conventional thinking and by asking the people themselves what they wanted, he set a course for Iceland's remarkable economic recovery.

In this hour the president of Iceland, on democracy and the fearsome power of the marketplace.

Hour Two

In our second hour, a profile of one of Canada's best actors, Jim Mezon.

He's starring in Canadian Stage's new production of "Red" - a play about the artist Mark Rothko's struggle to create the famous Four Seasons murals.

Hour Three

In our final hour, a backgrounder to this week's flurry of panic meetings in Brussels, desperately trying to save the Euro and the countries that use it.

Is the Euro and European union doomed? That's in Hour Three.

Elsewhere in the show: the magic of the grade school Christmas concert, Frank Faulk on lying about your age and the wonderful subversive power of Go Tell It On the Mountain.

Hour One

Iceland Recovery:

It has been a difficult three years for the tiny northern nation of Iceland.

In fact, as the country's president put it recently, if you were to try to create the perfect laboratory experiment to test the resilience of a nation, you could hardly do better than what Iceland has experienced.

The country was the first to be hit by the global financial collapse. The collapse of its banks led to a complete economic collapse.

One year later, a volcano with an unpronounceable name erupted covering the country in ash. Then six months later came a second massive eruption.

As president Grimsson put it, it was a sobering experience.

So it is no small achievment that three years after it all began, Iceland appears to be emerging from the worst of the crisis.

Unemployment is down to levels that many other European nations would envy. Investment is returning. And the economy is projected to grow by as much as 3 percent this year.

What makes this all the more remarkable is the way Iceland has done this. Instead of following the standard formula of severe austerity and debt repayment, Iceland did pretty much the opposite.

Olafur Grimsson is the President of Iceland. He was in a studio in Reykjavik.

Mail: Men Who Buy Gifts:

Last week on the program, we replayed a documentary by our own Frank Faulk. It was called "Men Who Give Gifts And the Women Who Buy the Gifts Men Give."

That piece struck a chord with many of you, including Steven Hardy in London, who was inspired to send in a song he wrote and recorded. It is about another well known seasonal phenomenon...the Christmas Eve Shoppers:.Here is "The Christmas Eve Shoppers."

Hour Two


In 1958, the celebrated artist Mark Rothko was commissioned to paint a series of murals for a new luxury restaurant on Park Avenue in New York.  

At the time, Rothko was one of the most famous artists in the world,a darling of the abstract expressionist school that also included Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman.

He threw himself into the project with great enthusiasm, announcing to a friend that he was creating "something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room."

But it eventually turned into an artistic albatross that he couldn't shake, the thought that he had sold out to the Philistines.

It is this period in Mark Rothko's life that is captured in John Logan's hit play, "Red".  It features the middle-aged Rothko struggling to create the Four Seasons murals with the help of a young assistant.

Mark Rothko was a large personality - passionate, irascible, pompous, haunted. It is a role that an actor can really sink his teeth into.

Jim Mezon is playing Mark Rothko in Canadian Stage's production of "Red".  It opened in Toronto last month and will travel to Vancouver and Edmonton in the New Year.

One of Canada's most versatile actors, he has appeared at the Shaw Festival for more than 20 years, most recently this past summer in a volcanic protrayal of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Go Tell it on the Mountain:

"Go Tell it On the Mountain" was born in the rich and indomitable oral culture of African slaves in the American south.

A hundred years later it became a rallying cry for the civil rights struggle of the 1960's.

And now it's a perennial favourite at Christmas concerts and church services across North America.

The spiritual "Go Tell it On the Mountain" has come to mean many things depending on the time and place in which it is sung.  Freedom anthem, hymn of faith, or a simple song of Christmas.

As is the case with most spirituals its music and lyrics cannot be attributed to any one person. African American composer John Wesley Work is credited with formally adapting the song and including it in a songbook in 1907.

But the versions of "Go Tell it On the Mountain" are as varied and distinctive as the people performing them.   The lyrics have been adapted and re-adapted and personalized countless times.  And it is always, at its heart, a celebration.

Here is our special Christmastime re-broadcast of the documentary "Go Tell it On the Mountain:  a Joyful Noise".

Hour Three

Is Europe Over?

Yet Another week and what seems yet another last ditch effort to save the Euro. This is the 15th time in 23 months that one of these, let's get together and save Europe, meetings have taken place.

This week's effort involved heads of the 27-member European Economic Community gathering in Brussels to see if there might be agreement to sign on to the German French Accord reached earlier in the week. The agreement reached by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would see a swap of intense austerity and fiscal restraint for a strenthened back up system for the Euro. As the week wrapped up, there was agreement from just about everyone, except Britain, to at least try and rewrite the treaty binding Europe together.

All of this follows months of hand-wringing over government debt and deficits in Greece, then Italy, Spain, and even hints that every member country using the Euro faced a downgrading by the Credit Rating agencies. This week's attempt at a compromise and solution was seen as a last chance to get things right before the new year. Then again, there have been a number of these last chance encounters the past few months.

But what if trying to save the Euro is wrong-headed and futile, what if the premise that Europe and the world's economies can be saved through debt reduction, deficit elimination and extreme austerity is just another example of voodoo economics? On the other hand, what if the doomsayers are right and the economic collapse of Europe means a world wide recession or depression?

Andrea Teti, lecturer in international relations at the University of Aberdeen and senior fellow at The European Centre for International Affairs and a contributor to Open Democracy. He was in a BBC studio in Aberdeen.

Megan McCardle, Business and Economics Editor of The Atlantic. Her work has appeared in numerous other publications, including the Economist. She has been involved in the numerous start up companies and other businesses. She was in our Washington studio.

Don't Act Your Age:

Try this on for size.... you are 16 sitting at a bar and you order a beer. Your server, looks you up and down, chews her gum a couple of times and says can I see your ID. You have been carded.

That's perhaps the first time in your life that you lie about your age and it's something of a badge of courage when you get away with it.  Your friends congratulate you.

Now turn the clock forward 40 years or so... and lo and behold, it's happening again.  Now it's a money saving scam.

50 somethings pretending they are 65 to get a  seniors discount.  10% off, on the second Monday of the month at the department store; $4 not $8 for a ride on the commuter train; $9 not $15 for a movie.

Respectable, more than middle aged citizens, are back to their  adolescent tricks - lying about their age.  And it is a lie.

But no one cards seniors and everyone knows 18 year olds think everyone over 40 is simply  old.  Go for it.

We asked Frank Faulk - who is a "youthful" 58 - to conduct a field study.  Here is his documentary "Dont Act Your Age." 

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