A Renaissance man

Universities tend to attract donations for the STEM faculties – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – with the liberal arts often left behind. That’s not the case at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., where the humanities benefit, too. Yesterday L. R. (Red) Wilson gave $2.5 million to extend for another five years the L. R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History he launched five years ago with a similar $2.5 million gift. Wilson served as chancellor of McMaster and has also given a $10-million lead donation for a new building, now under construction, that will house the humanities, social sciences and his beloved...

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Fair for all

For twenty-five years Access Copyright has gathered payments from sources that use written or visual content produced by Canadian writers and artists and then distributes those monies to the writers and artists who created the original work. It isn’t a huge amount, but not insignificant. Last year my payment was $995 for material that I had produced, mainly in books, material on which I hold the copyright. This year the amount was $770, a drop of 23 per cent. Did certain of my material suddenly evaporate or did the copyright expire? No, some users of the material decided they’d no...

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A hit and two misses

Too busy writing until recently, I finally found some time to read. Two out of the three books I just finished were disappointing. The first is by Gord Pitts: Fire in the Belly: How Purdy Crawford Rescued Canada and Changed the Way We Do Business. Here was a case where I was a fan of both the writer and the subject yet came away empty. My first complaint is in some ways petty. Normally, subjects are referred to by their surnames. Pitts didn’t do that. Sometimes he called him “Purdy” which is a tad too friendly for me. Sometimes he called him...

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The silence of the lambs

We are living in a bizarre time of mixed morality messages. The National Football League suddenly gets tough on players who are wife-beaters. Campuses are giving wholesome talks on the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ while dating. Both of those feel like good steps.  Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, who twerked on last year’s MTV Video Music Awards have had very different outcomes. Cyrus is widely admired as a rebel; her career has taken off. Thicke is pilloried as philanderer; his career has cratered. Even his “forgive me” album for his wife flopped with sales of less than 50,000....

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Innocence and experience

The events at the War Memorial and in Centre Block on Wednesday are a reminder that the veneer of civilization is thin. If one individual decides to take a gun and do harm, he can do so with impunity – at least for a few minutes. You’d need dozens of armed guards in the area to stop the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo or the crash-through arrival of the gunman on Parliament Hill. No less a well-defended place as the White House also recently had menacing intruders. Of all the comments on Wednesday’s events, surely the most foolish was by...

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Get a job

I wrote this a while ago, shared it recently with a young job seeker, and thought others might benefit, or have a daughter or son who would. Here are my top ten steps for getting a job. Step #1: Figure out what you want to do. I can’t tell you what that is, but make it something you enjoy. There’s nothing worse than working with duds, accomplishing little of consequence, and having no fun. Step #2: If you’re a humanities grad, many will say you’re fit for nothing. I say you’re fit for everything. You can research, write, talk, and analyze....

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The people are speaking

There was some confusion at the advance poll where I voted. Like a lot of people, I hadn’t received my “vote at” card in the mail so we were all lined up to go through the ID process and be verified. The wee woman behind me had white hair. She said to no one in particular: “We’ve got to get rid of the F boys.” The way she said “F boys” made the phrase sound like an expletive. Once we got sorted away, each of us was handed a ballot the size of a kitchen-cupboard door. The ballot was further...

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Thumper launch

Last night was the official launch of Thumper: The Memoirs of Donald S. Macdonald (McGill-Queen’s University Press). Of all the cabinet ministers in the Pierre Trudeau government, Don was the most powerful. His portfolios included House Leader when the rules changed, Defence during the War Measures Act, Energy when oil costs quadrupled, and Finance when he imposed wage and price controls. After leaving government, he chaired the Royal Commission that led to free trade, was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and served on a number of corporate boards including Scotiabank and Sun Life. Don and his wife Adrian both spoke,...

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