I am in Beijing again for the annual PhD workshop…
November 29th, 2013
I am in Beijing again for the annual PhD workshop, about to interview, with a few colleagues, some 180 or more students with an interest in doing a doctoral program in Canada. As I always like to say, it’s really more about them interviewing us, because they are almost all smart, focused, and pretty sure of what they’re doing. Most of them speak excellent English, a fact that always makes me regret not knowing more than five grunts of comprehensible Mandarin. Last night Memorial hosted a large meal for our alumni and exchange students. One of the guests was a Canadian who ended up working and living in Beijing after he graduated. He has been here almost five years and his Mandarin sounded pretty impressive to me. He claims after a little Rosetta Stone he managed to learn by himself. Enviable. (more…)
This is the eve of the Kennedy assassination, fifty years ago.
November 22nd, 2013
There’s been a lot of focus and nostalgia about the event, especially through television documentaries about every aspect of the Kennedy family, their personalities and flaws, and extensive attention to continuing theories about the fatal day itself. Like everyone else old enough to remember the moment, I vividly recall my own place in that history—when my elementary school teach came into our classroom in tears, announcing the tragedy and the closing of our school for the rest of the day. I went home and started watching the news coverage on both Canadian and American networks, and kept watching through the next few days with the rest of family, riveted as we were to the details, and participating in the mass expression of mourning electronically. (more…)
I was in beautiful beautiful Montreal for six nights last week…
November 14th, 2013
I was in beautiful beautiful Montreal for six nights last week, before heading to Toronto for another four. Growing up in Montreal I was taught that Toronto was a far inferior city, devoid of edge, culture, and attitude. That might have been somewhat true then, but things have changed. Montreal is still more interesting in so many ways. Bars stay open late, the streets are always alive, the poutine is vastly superior, and the women are gorgeous. The Toronto of today, however, is larger, intensely diverse, architecturally interesting and confused, and rich with ethnic restaurants, neighbourhoods, and shops. Montreal is always welcoming—a city of views. Toronto is a nice place to visit—and it now hosts one of the most bizarre spectacles of modern-day politics, the Rob Ford show. Throughout my stay in both cities I was totally transfixed by the day-to-day unfolding of that strange, sad narrative—a mayor out of control, emptying his addled mind in real time, on air, with the world’s cameras pointed directly at his enormous head. As I write this, the story keeps rolling, the mayor still performing random acts of candor, shocking candor. It’s hard to know whether the guy actually lacks a filter or knows that not using one gets him more attention, which he obviously craves. I remain totally transfixed by the show, as do millions of people who are tuned in around the globe. It’s not every day you see a public figure flaming crazy before your very eyes.
This has been an incredibly dramatic week in Canadian politics…
October 24th, 2013
This has been an incredibly dramatic week in Canadian politics, with way more theatre than most of us get in an average year. A tangled set of conflicting narratives is in play in Ottawa, as the Senate confronts its own history and spending practises, many of them bad. But here at home one political party is actively imploding. Through a series of missteps and bad counter movements, the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP is effectively undermining its own integrity, credibility, and sensibility. It’s a train wreck, all right, one squarely engineered by its own members.
So this week I am in Monterrey, Mexico…
October 22nd, 2013
So this week I am in Monterrey, Mexico, site of the annual Conference of the Americas on International Education. About 800 or so of us are here from North America, Central and South America, to do the networking, compare notes about the subject and assess our progress in the internationalization trend. It’s not just about recruitment, that’s for sure. Internationalization comprises a broad spectrum of activities involving faculty, staff, and students, and some of us are doing better at it than others.
I flew to Toronto this week…
October 11th, 2013
I flew to Toronto this week, having been invited to participate on a panel at the TIFF Light Box. That’s the name of the building you see above, in the heart of the downtown theatre and club district. By day it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but at night it really does earn its name. More importantly, perhaps, the interior of the building is a marvel of architecture and engineering. It’s a film lover’s dream, an exquisite shrine to the moving picture. In addition to the Toronto International Film Festival offices, there are five theatres, all superbly appointed, acoustically perfect, comfortable, and warm. The lobby areas are spacious and inviting, with cosy armchairs and lounge areas for gabbing about films after you’ve seen them and need to talk. And the café scene is totally wonderful, with a first-class restaurant, café, and bar, of course. Once you’re in there you just don’t want to leave.
This is beautiful Pest from the Buda side of the Danube…
October 4th, 2013
This is beautiful Pest from the Buda side of the Danube, from what is known as Castle Hill. Those are the impressive Parliament Buildings across the river, a most elegant site of democracy in a city that has seen more than its share of twentieth century trouble. A visit to the infamous House of Terror, where first the Nazis and then the Communists held prisoners, and tortured and killed them in the name of whatever ideology was current, is enough to put Hungary into some darker perspective.
Just returned from the beautiful fall-turning Quebec Laurentians…
September 27th, 2013
Just returned from the beautiful fall-turning Quebec Laurentians where I had some family business to attend to, and am barely touching down before heading to Budapest on the weekend. You don’t see quite the display of red here in Newfoundland as you do north of Montreal. Canada has many parts. Red is good, livens up the dreary anticipation of winter.