Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Posts from — February 2007

This made me laugh…

On a day when I’m truly mourning the loss of Ryan Smyth, I caught this snippet from a USA Today article on Brett Hull that Paul Kukla posted on his excellent Kukla’s Korner blog:

“You need to have some sort of pregame or postgame show so we can sit down and talk about the trade deadline — or the Buffalo-Ottawa (brawl),” Hull says. “I have a lot to say. But in 20 seconds, you have to be some sort of English lit professor to do it with any style or bravado.”

Uh, gee Brett, thanks for that. Well, um, I don’t know, I think most all of my students would tell you that, more often than not, it usually takes me more than 20 seconds to say… What? Time’s up?! Darn.

On a more serious note, Smyth deserved way, way better than this.

February 28, 2007   1 Comment

Al Gore for President

Didn’t you just love Al Gore on the Oscars last night? I might be one of the only people around yet who hasn’t watched An Inconvenient Truth, but you just have to think he’d be a vastly superior president than any current candidate.

I like what Kathleen Reardon writes today in the Huffington Post:

Why would Al Gore become a Presidential candidate under such circumstances? Would he do it for glory? Unlikely. Would he do it for a place in history?

The reason that could pull him into the race is patriotism – love of country – the need to step forward to undo what has been done so horribly to so many in its name. And this would take inordinate courage for a man once burned so badly by a system that clearly can be, repeatedly, rigged.

Whether you’d vote for him or not, it’s hard to deny that he’d extricate the Democratic Party from silliness by insisting that candidates grapple with issues of enormous importance to the world. Al Gore has the focus, humor, credibility, and good intentions to make that happen. His candidacy could raise all boats by raising the level of debate.

[. . .] Once too practiced in his responses, his current public demeanor suggests he’d likely be far less so this time. From him we’d likely get the truth. That would be a breath of fresh air in these times of constant maneuvering. Even if he entered the race to advance environmental concerns, that would do just fine. We need him there. We need someone driven not by what sells but by what matters.

I have to think that as president he’d be great for Canada, too, and would help push us further in the right direction on the environment front.

That said, I still don’t expect we’ll see him run; I think that he rightly sees that he might well have a bigger impact on the world doing what he’s doing now. The world’s gain will be the USA’s overall loss, to be sure.

February 26, 2007   No Comments

Hockey and baseball

On the way into work today, there was a story on the radio news about how Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox was rumoured to be appearing at a car auction this weekend instead of tending to his sick mother, his reason for not currently attending training camp.

“How is THAT newsworthy?!,” my wife asked. “Ah, I said, it’s because it’s baseball. Clearly, we’re not in Canada anymore.” Were something similar happening in the NHL, though, I could see it perhaps making the local news somewhere.

If only we could combine hockey and baseball, we might truly have a sport that could appeal to a wider range of North Americans.

But wait! Maybe “Clark, the Canadian hockey goalie” has the answer we never really knew that we’ve been waiting for….

February 23, 2007   No Comments

Next fall’s freshman seminar….

Just finished the blurb for my TAP class next fall:

From Pucks to Parliament: Canada’s cultural landscape

If you ask the average American about Canada, you’ll find that most know very little about this mysterious land north of the US, labeled on most American maps as nothing more than “Canada.” In this course’s exploration of Canadian culture, we’ll “travel” from coast to coast to coast in our quest to learn more about the people, culture, politics, and history of Canada, the United States’ largest trading partner and one of its most important allies. Throughout our journey, we’ll be paying particular attention to Canadian literature, music, television, and movies.

This Residential TAP course will see most students living in Canada House, part of Living/Learning’s Global Village Residential Learning Community. This will also be a technology-driven, writing intensive course that will see you writing, blogging, and even podcasting about your new discoveries about Canada. The course will include a mandatory class trip to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, during which we will visit Parliament, the National Gallery and Museum of Civilisation, and, yes, even attend a hockey game.

For the duration of the course, each student will also be loaned an iPod loaded with Canadian music, audio books, and lectures connected to the topics we will be studying.

Paul Martin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Director of UVM’s Canadian Studies Program. Paul grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and has lived in Vermont since 2003. Although he enjoys living in Vermont, you’ll frequently hear him longing for Tim Hortons coffee and donuts and pining for the big sky of the Canadian prairie. His research areas include Canadian literature in both English and French and contemporary fiction. Although he spent his youth playing music instead of hockey, he’s a diehard Edmonton Oilers fan, having grown up in the heyday of Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, and Fuhr.

February 22, 2007   No Comments

Memorable moments in Canadian tv history

Had a chance to watch a bit of the East Coast Music Awards last night on CBC. It really is amazing how much great talent there is out there, including Ron Hynes, Joel Plaskett, Measha Brueggergosman, Ashley MacIsaac, and, of course, Sloan, to name but a few. As often seems to happen whenever she’s involved, however, the most memorable moment came from the inimitable Mary Walsh:

Newfoundland and Labrador comedian Mary Walsh referred to the federal Conservatives as ‘the arse-lickers of Satan’ before introducing a performer.

The cameras then focused on Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, who had committed a faux pas earlier in the evening, when he mistakenly referred to Halifax as Toronto.

He drew a chorus of boos and was ribbed about it throughout the night.

(From the CBC’s report on the ECMA ceremonies)

February 19, 2007   No Comments

Snow Day 2: Revenge of the Plow

Snow Day 2007

I’ll take snow blogging over snow blowing any day. Still, it would have been nice to have had a snow blower at a couple of points in the last day or so. We had a record 24-hour snowfall yesterday and TWO full snow days for the kids and me. I’ve been working at home in between shovelling, shovelling, getting the kids dressed to get outside, shovelling, shovelling, helping kids get inside for hot chocolate, and more shovelling.

The amount of snow here is still hard to believe, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. If you’re going to take a snow day, it may as well be a big one.

February 15, 2007   1 Comment

Snow day!!

snow day 2007!

Having experienced the only day in the history of the U of Alberta where the entire university shut down because of the weather (I don’t think I’ve seen a storm like that one since), I can now add the Valentine’s blizzard of 2007 to the list!

We knew the storm was coming, but by 3 AM last night it had only just begun snowing. So, I figured I would definitely still be teaching today. By the time I looked out at 7:30 though, we’d already had about a foot of snow. I cancelled my classes early this AM, and by about 10 AM the university announced they would be shutting down entirely. Given that it took me about 90 minutes to clear the driveway this morning, I’m glad I don’t have to head in today and can work from home.

The snow and winds have not let up and, apparently, are only going to get worse today.

Snow day!

February 14, 2007   No Comments

Where Are the Children?

Where Are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools is an incredible online multimedia exhibit that accompanies a physical exhibit touring Canada right now. I’d like you all to spend some time here learning more about the legacy of the residential school system. There’s lots of important information here that connects to the works we’re reading, including the sections on intergenerational impacts, educational materials, and shared stories. Make sure to take the time to check out some of the video clips.

From the website:

This virtual exhibition presents photographs largely from public and church archival collections, from as early as 1880 to the 1960s. Aboriginal youth want to know about the experiences of their parents and grandparents, the stories that have not been told. It is hoped that this website will bring healing and restore balance in Aboriginal communities by encouraging children to ask, and parents to answer, important questions about their family histories.

The terrible conditions on many reserves today has been front and centre in the Canadian news in the last week or so, as they should be. The fact that “Save the Children” recently came to investigate conditions on reserves here says it all. My students and I have been talking a lot about this in my new course on First Nations writers and about Canadian attitudes towards First Nations peoples. We’ve just finished reading Thomas King‘s The Truth About Stories and one of the things he talks about in those lectures are the stories Canadians like to tell themselves about how we’ve learned from the past or how Natives are to blame for poverty/suicide rates/health issues/despair/crime rates/unemployment many communities are dealing with.

One of the stories we might like to tell ourselves is that the majority of non-Natives don’t actually believe this and really want to help. Yesterday,
Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, did a live question and answer session on the Globe and Mail website. Reading through the questions and Fontaine’s overly gracious and patient answers to them, I couldn’t help but be shocked by some of the uneducated opinions of many readers who questioned such things as “why we should keep paying to help them.” Sigh.

Those questions and the comments posted later on the Globe’s website show just how far we still need to go in educating the average Canadian about the history of our treatment of the First Nations, what treaties are, and why problems like the ones mentioned above are so much more prevalent among Native communities in Canada than among non-Native ones. I’d like to tell myself the story that the people posting on the Globe and Mail site don’t represent the Canadian mainstream. The truth about that story, though, is that we all have a long, long way to go.

Fortunately, there are a number of great organizations who are trying to help. I’d like to see much more being done by the federal government and the school system to educate Canadians about this part of our history and of Canadian society today.

Phil Fontaine, by the way, will be interviewed on CBC’s The Hour on Feb. 9th. The Hour is turning out to be my “must-see TV” these days. Their archive of interviews is tremendous and well worth checking out.

February 7, 2007   No Comments

“Why can’t we be more like Edmonton?”


Aside from being a fine place to live and visit, Edmonton leads Canada in recycling and composting, keeping a remarkable 60% of its waste out of the landfill system. Listen to this panel discussion from CBC’s The Sunday Edition (entitled “Why Can’t We be More Like Edmonton?”) on how other cities in North America might work to achieve similar targets.

Not a week goes by where I don’t wish that Chittenden county had a waste management/recycling program half as good as Edmonton’s…

February 6, 2007   3 Comments

Groundhog Day

My life is feeling a bit more like Groundhog Day these days, and I’m sorry to report that I saw my shadow today which indicates that my own personal winter seems destined to stay for longer than I’d expected. At any rate, I’m relieved by the the predictions of Wiarton Willie and Shubenacadie Sam. Their American cousin didn’t see his shadow, either. Who knew about all these other guys? (update: Don’t forget Claude the Cajun Crawfish either! Thanks to Heidi for that one…)

Of course, as Dr. Crazy’s blog reminded me today, it’s also the birthday of James Joyce and the 85th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses! Now that’s something well worth celebrating.

February 2, 2007   No Comments