Pierre Berton: ‘Best popular historian in English Canada, ever’

Pierre Berton, the man they called Captain Canada, had a stellar career as a popular historian, crusading journalist, scrappy columnist, television personality and cultural icon, wrote Sandra Martin in The Globe and Mail Dec. 1. The author of 50 books, he won three Governor’s-General awards, and received 14 honorary degrees and the affection and respect of ordinary Canadians for making their past come alive. “He may be the best popular historian in English Canada, ever,” said Ramsay Cook, a retired professor of Canadian history at York University and the general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. “He had a journalist’s eye, but he was also a natural storyteller with a terrific talent for dramatic narrative. He knew how to choose a story and he knew how to tell it, but what made him a good historian was that he knew that history was more than anecdotes, personalities and a big screen.”

Law prof has message for Bush

A man in a black windbreaker and horn-rimmed glasses bolts up to the stage, reported the Ottawa Sun Dec. 1 in a report about anti-Bush protests. His name is Michael Mandel. He is 56. A professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and he’s preaching for Lawyers Against The War. He shouts, “Bush signed 150 death warrants when he was governor of Texas. He’s signed 100,000 in Iraq. He’s a homicidal maniac. How can our government shame us and compromise us with this visit? Where’s our immigration policy that says war criminals are absolutely not allowed into Canada?”

Filmmaker turns lens on legendary bank robber

Stander is based on the true story of Andre Stander, a Johannesburg police captain who became a legendary bank robber under South African apartheid during the late 1970s, reported Maclean’s in the Dec. 6 issue. Shot entirely on location in South Africa, Stander is a Canadian co-production directed and co-written by Toronto-born Bronwen Hughes. A 1985 York University film grad, Hughes cut her teeth making commercials, caught Hollywood’s attention with short films for The Kids in the Hall, then made two studio confections, Harriet the Spy (1996) and Forces of Nature (1999). “I’m working my way backwards down the budget scale,” she joked in an interview last week. “Stander is closer to the kind of film that made me want to make films in the first place.”

The Toronto Star Dec. 1 said Stander is for Hughes what Lost In Translation was for Sofia Coppola, or Jagged Little Pill for Alanis Morissette. The personable Hughes, who looks younger than her 40 years, began her career making the poppiest of pop fluff, wrote reviewer Peter Howell. Her first assignments after leaving York University’s film school were as bubblegum as they come. She directed commercials for companies like Air Canada and McDonald’s, and made a music video for Christian singer Amy Grant (“Lucky One”).

SAME coverage

Vincent Tao, an engineer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, has invented a mapping and surveillance tool called SAME (See Anywhere, Map Everywhere), which produces images so sharp that geographic coordinates typed into a Web site can reveal the make of a car parked on the street, reported Reuters in a story posted on CNN International Online Dec. 1. The Edmonton Journal also printed a story about the potential – for use and abuse — of SAME.

Women face IT job barriers

Female information technology workers have run up against a new kind of old boys’ club, suggests York University researcher Krista Scott-Dixon, reported Metro Toronto News Dec. 1. “IT was supposed to be a radically new form of work,” said Scott-Dixon. “But the experience has been less than progressive for women.” Her new book, Doing IT: Women Working In Information Technology, uncovers the tech industry, from its boom in the ’90s to present day, as dominated by a “male youth culture.” Scott- Dixon has found this new status quo keeps gender, race, class, ability and pay inequities firmly in place.

On air

  • Mark Kamstra, finance professor inYork’s Schulich School of Business, discussed his study showing how seasonal affective disorder can result in poor investment decisions and lower returns, on CBC Radio’s Business Network” Nov. 30.