Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — August 2007

It was only a matter of time…

The iPaul has landed.

August 25, 2007   1 Comment

Speaking of brain drain…

From today’s Globe and Mail:

TORONTO — Internationally renowned urban thinker and best-selling author Richard Florida was formally welcomed to the University of Toronto’s business school last night – and he plans on jumping straight into his research next week.

Prof. Florida, whose arrival is a coup for the university, will lead the newly established Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management.

“The institute is up and running … In the next week, we’ll be going like gangbusters,” Prof. Florida told a room full of politicians, business leaders and scholars gathered at the university last night.

The 49-year-old has often cited Toronto as one of his favourite places and one of the more “creative” cities with the potential to be one of the top 20 research and economic hubs in the world.

August 22, 2007   No Comments

Some good advice for the first day of school….

Michael Leddy has some great words of wisdom today for students about how to read:

My advice: slow down. Here’s what the poet Ezra Pound says about reading literature: “no reader ever read anything the first time he saw it.” Or consider this exchange between Oprah Winfrey and the novelist Toni Morrison: “Do people tell you they have to keep going over the words sometimes?” “That, my dear, is called reading.”

[. . .] Taking the time to slow down — marking a passage, pondering a detail, looking up a word, writing down a question, changing your mind, looking at the page in a way that allows you to begin to notice what’s there — might change, for keeps, your idea of what it means to read literature. Slowing down will also help you begin to understand how it is that some people seem to see so much in what they’re reading. They know that reading well sometimes means taking your time.

I say much the same thing on the first day of class every year, but I don’t think one can reiterate this enough. I love the quote from Pound, and I think I’ll be using that one for years to come.

(Here’s something interesting, too: when I looked at this article on, a google ad appeared saying “Take an English class: Learn about English and literature at the University of Vermont.” The link took me here to Continuing Ed’s list of fall English courses.)

August 21, 2007   No Comments

The future of the book….

Wow, so much to say about this topic with the prospect of Espresso Book Machines, higher quality e-book readers, and new models of publishing headed our way. Unfortunately, pending deadlines leave me no time to say it! (how’s that for a cop out?)

In the meantime (and please don’t hold your breath — I would hate for anyone to harm themselves while reading my blog), read this interesting article by Jon Evans from this month’s Walrus Magazine, one of the finest Canadian magazines we’ve seen in a long time.

Both e-books and sheaves of paper have pros and cons. Sheaves never lose battery power; you can flip through them quickly, use them as bricks, or take them to the bath; and they are still relatively cheap. On the other hand, digital readers can store hundreds of e-books, including those available for free, and their contents can be updated, searched, and annotated. In the near future, the number of digital readers will skyrocket, and making copies for friends will be simple. All things being equal, you’d expect e-books to have grabbed a significant share of the book market by now. So why haven’t they?

August 20, 2007   No Comments

Reasons that Vermont is cool #17: Patrick Leahy

Part of my ongoing series of reasons that I love being in Vermont.

Patrick Leahy makes the list for more than just helping get me into the US one night after I was refused entry into the US. It’s a long story, but I was headed here on a brief visit a few months before my job started in order to get a place to live lined up for my family and me. Needless to say, one can understand why a soon-to-be professor crossing the border to inject money into the local economy by buying a house might seem to be highly suspicious. Right? 🙂

From his work in Washington to his work supporting things like banning landmines and being very proactive about border issues, the guy is a truly admirable guy. And then I saw this! How can you not like the guy even more?! When was the last time we saw a Canadian politician in a Batman film, eh? Don’t worry, I do remember the issue of the X-Men comic book (in fact I have it at home) where Pierre Trudeau makes an appearance.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., who once one re-election against a cult movie star, has a role of his own in the next Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.”

“I don’t wear tights,” Leahy said. “I think I’m referred to as the ‘distinguished gentleman.'”

Leahy said he was reading at 4, and enjoyed reading comic books. He’s a longtime Batman fan who has done voice-overs on Batman cartoons and wrote the preface for a Batman book.

“I like the fact that he’s standing up for people who didn’t have anyone standing up for them,” Leahy said.

Leahy had small roles in the last two Batman features, according to his press secretary, David Carle. The earnings from these projects and other artistic endeavors, including his published photographs, all go to the Montpelier library, Leahy said.

In “The Dark Knight,” which is scheduled for release next summer, Leahy is in a scene that involves Batman (Christian Bale), The Joker (Heath Ledger) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine.)

Not only does the guy appear in the movie, he’s a Batman fan. He’s even WRITTEN about Batman! He’d have my vote if I were able to vote.

August 20, 2007   No Comments

Canadian indie bands of the 1980s


(Artist: the inimitable Rick Clegg; source:; this three-night benefit gig was put on by my pals Rob Stocks and Nick Copus in [1987]; I played on the Tuesday night as part of “i remember not,” a one-time spinoff of my band Aardvark Safari)

This week’s Radio3 podcast is a glorious (for me anyhow) trip back to the days where you were more likely to find me on stage than in a classroom. When I graduated from high school in 1986, I had no intentions of ever going to university. The plan was simply to keep making music. Indeed, after a year off from school altogether, I only started taking classes at the U of Alberta as something to keep my mind busy during the day while I rehearsed and gigged in the evenings. Then, I took Ted Bishop‘s class on the Modern British Novel (check out Ted’s great book Riding with Rilke ) and Tony Purdy‘s class on 20th century French literature and I gradually moved to becoming more of a scholar than songwriter.

If you’re into Canadian music or intrigued by the 1980s, make sure to check out the Radio3 podcast this week. Wow, does it ever take me back… I still love the song “Just Another Day” by Go Four 3, who I saw play in a memorable 1987 show at the Roxy Theatre in Edmonton, if I recall correctly. The Blue Peter track on the podcast is another old fave, too, though I’ve always preferred their song Don’t Walk Past. The podcast also includes the quintessential Edmonton band of the 1980s and 1990s, Jr. Gone Wild. I saw Jr. play many, many times and if I were to create a soundtrack of my life between, say, 1985 and 1995, they would be a big part of it. Great to hear their song “I Don’t Know About All That” again, as well as tunes by Deja Voodoo and the song “Curling” by the Dik Van Dykes.

August 17, 2007   No Comments

Border issues going in to Canada

Just to show that border frustrations go both ways, this story about hockey player Brandon Nolan (son of Ted Nolan) getting hassled and subject to racist insinuations at the Canadian border is worth reading. The fact that his status card was disregarded by the border guards is shameful.

August 17, 2007   Comments Off on Border issues going in to Canada

Big Brother is watching, or at least googling

Thanks to my colleague and pal Richard Parent for writing about this story on his blog. This is a chilling story for all of us who depend on crossing the Canada/US border on a regular basis. It’s also an important reminder of how cautious we need to be about what we post online.

When Feldmar looks back on what has happened, he concludes that he was operating out of a sense of safety that has become dated in the last six years, since 9-11. His real mistake was to write about his drug experiences and post this on the web, even in a respected journal like Janus Head. He acknowledges that he had not considered posting on the Internet the risk that it turned out to be. So many of his generation share his experience in experimenting with drugs, after all. He believed it was safe to communicate about the past from the depth of retrospection and that this would be a useful grain of personal wisdom to share with others. He now warns his friends to think twice before they post anything about their personal lives on the web.

“I didn’t heed the ancient Alchemists’ dictum, ‘Do, dare, and be silent,'” Feldmar says. “And yet, the experience of being treated as undesirable was shocking. The helplessness, the utter uselessness of trying to be seen as I know myself and as I am known generally by those I care about and who care about me, the reduction of me to an undesirable offender, was truly frightening. I became aware of the fragility of my identity, the brittleness of a way of life.

August 13, 2007   No Comments

Canadian literature in the news

A few things I’ve been meaning to blog about over the last few days as I settle back into work after a week off.

I was saddened a few days back to hear of the death of Margaret Avison, one of Canada’s great poets of the 20th century, I think. You can find a few of her poems online here.

One of the books I’m looking forward to reading is William Gibson‘s Spook Country. There have been a number of articles about him and the new book over the last few weeks, but here’s a link to one of the best and to an audio interview with him.

Toronto’s Michael Redhill is one of thirteen writers on the long list for this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction. He was nominated for his novel Consolation.

August 13, 2007   No Comments

More on the Espresso Book Machine

From an article in today’s NY Times:

Mr. Neller’s firm is pitching the book machine, which may eventually sell for $20,000 or more, principally toward the nation’s 16,000 public libraries and 25,000 bookstores. A 300-page book costs about $3 to produce with the machine. A bookstore or library could then sell it to customers or library members at cost or at a markup.

Why bother? The machine, Mr. Neller said, is for the “far end of the back list,” those books that are out of print or for which there is so little demand that it would be too costly to print a few hundred copies, let alone one.

With the machine, Mr. Neller said, anything available in a portable document format, or PDF, including Grandfather’s memoirs and Ph.D. dissertations, can be printed in minutes as long as a computer can read it.

Books that are copyrighted and require royalties would need a negotiated fee before they could be published, he said.

“But think what this means,” Mr. Neller said in an interview yesterday. “It’s not just bookstores and libraries. This is small. It could go into a Kinko’s, or a coffee shop, or a hotel or a hospital or a cruise ship.

“A rare book available only to scholars, let’s say, would now be available to anyone,” Mr. Neller said. “Let’s say you want a book in Tagalog, a book in French or a book in Spanish. Think of the implications for universal knowledge!”

I’m dying to see this machine in action! This could be a really cool solution for professors who typically use course packs etc. The thought of creating one’s own anthology just for a particular course is something that really appeals to me. Not to mention being able to print off copies of long out-of-print books.

August 2, 2007   No Comments