Not just a number

A-7630, Holocaust Survivor (Thx to our friends at Google Images)

Every afternoon, I drive to CHAT, the Hebrew Academy where my son Noah goes to school.  It has been part of my hectic schedule for the last few years, and, despite the laborious routine, something I always look forward to with particular anticipation.

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Where’s Walda?

Where’s Walda? Graduation ceremony under the veil of anonymity (Thx to our friends at Google Images!)

I recently had an interesting conversation with a Muslim woman who vehemently defended the right of women to wear the burqa or niqab freely and without any restriction.

This is a highly debated topic in many modern societies, particularly in Europe, where several members of the EU have recently imposed restrictions on face and full-body coverings for reasons ranging from security, personal identification, border or police control, civil equality, respect of national institutions, to human rights, interpersonal relationships, protection of women, etc. (see: France, the Vatican, Italy and Canada: Pros and Cons of a Law Forbidding the Burka).

On one hand, some advocate the respect of religious traditions as well as the free and unbound choice of women to wear what they wish to wear; while on the other hand, some denounce the coercion imposed on women by religious traditions and patriarchal societies, resulting in the obligation of women to comply to strict sets of extremely restrictive rules and wear all kinds of coverings that essentially deprive them of freedom and identity.

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RAP Poetry and Military Intelligence

RAP performance, Kensington Market, Toronto, 2008 (Michel Botman photography)

Yesterday, I wrote a satirical, letter to Laura Di Battista of CBC radio regarding a piece of RAP Poetry aired on CBC radio on October 18, 2012.  My observations are of course “tongue in cheek” commentaries and should be taken as such.  I however believe that public radio – unlike blogs – has a duty to provide balanced reports on issues at stake, including allowing detractors to voice their concerns, albeit in an ironical manner this time.

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The lives of Brian

The Life of Brian, Monty Python, 1979. (Google Images)

Three weeks ago, I wrote a reflection on Rimsha, the unfortunate young girl arrested recently in Pakistan under the infamous blasphemy law.  In that last entry, I tried to articulate the reasons behind the absolute necessity of unrestricted freedom of expression, including open and free criticism of any form of political or religious authority, and even the right to distasteful or offensive speech, in order to promote true democratic societies.

In my short piece, I made reference to the glorious and iconic Monty Python movie, “The life of Brian”, an acerb and witty criticism of (dis-) organized religion and brilliant parody on the life of a messianic Judean prophet born in Nazareth a little over 2,000 years ago.

A few days later, I got this sickening feeling that my latest blog entry had unfortunately been quite prophetic – as indeed it became all about the prophet once again all over the world.  The “Innocence of Muslims” produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula enflamed the Muslim world in a vortex of enraged intolerance and fanaticism.  In a tragic course of events, the U.S. ambassador in Libya, Christopher Stevens, was murdered by an angry mob.

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Kids on the Street

Word on the Street, Toronto, September 23, 2012 (Michel Botman Photography)

Last Sunday, like every year, Toronto celebrated the encompassing nature of literary imagination during its “ Word on the Street” event.

As every year, Lindy woke up early to join her colleagues and volunteer teachers at the OTF booth.  This year was particularly exciting.  Lindy worked on an extraordinary project, called “Books of Life”, encouraging students from all over Ontario to create graphic books filled with drawings and photographs about their lives, their celebrations, as well as native themes and all magical elements of the Great White North.

It was truly fantastic to see many of these kids bringing their proud parents to the OTF tent to show their works of art.

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Rimsha, the call for freedom

Rimsha Masih (Google Images)

Sadly, every day brings us its lot of tragic news from the Muslim world.

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Queen’s Park rally for democracy and education

Image

Noah and Lindy near Queen’s Park, August 28, 2012. (Michel Botman Photography)

After a long summer hiatus, we are back in town and walked with the Ontario teachers at Queen’s Park earlier this week.

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“The tails of two kitties” … The British Shorthair and Scottish Fold story

Newborn British Shorthair Kitten, 3 weeks old (Michel Botman Photography, Toronto February 27, 2012)

A few words on our gentle cat, Misty, her partner Johnny, and their lovely five new kittens. (See photo gallery following article by clicking on link below.)

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RMR

Rick Mercer, Lindy and Noah (Michel Botman Photography, Toronto, November 2011)

It has become a bit of a tradition of the Botman-Amato clan: around Noah’s birthday we try to make it to an RMR taping and shake hands with Rick Mercer.

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The dog ate my homework!

Noah, rescuing paperwork from Thea's jaws (October 16, 2011)

We recently acquired a brand new paper shredder …

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Diamonds from the sky

Diamonds from the sky. Unexpected hail storm in Harare. (Michel Botman Photography, Zimbabwe, 2011)

Going back to Zimbabwe, the land of so much love and so many dreams, after such a long absence, had filled us with both anticipation and enthusiasm as well as with some gut wrenching apprehension – not unlike going back to visit a long lost relative that one loved dearly but knew to be in poor health and frail condition.

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Passing on my blue genes and watery dreams

Michel and Jules, Cannes, French Riviera, 1975.

To Noah, with love, always …

Life is passing by – fast and furious, like a torrent fed by the eternal snows of the Kilimanjaro.

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Berlusconi on Middle Eastern subjects

Ruby (aka Karima El Mahroug) in an undated photograph (thx to our friends at Google Images)

Who knew that Berlusconi was inclined to spend that much time on Middle Eastern subjects?
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Canada … Obama … Osama …

A proud admirer ( Michel Botman Photography, Ottawa, March 2010)

Canada just experienced a radical shift to the left of the chessboard.  Yet by some ironical twist of sense, our conservative Prime Minister, the honorable and musically inclined Stephen Harper, got reelected with a perfidious majority … “with a little help from my (Quebec) friends”, he was heard singing jovially the next day …

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Spider?

Gorky Park

Russian immigrants exercising in "Gorky Park" (Michel Botman Photography, 2006)

A (true) story, in honor of India and all our friends from that wonderful place.

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