Pierre Berton vs. historians

“To some university historians, Pierre Berton’s name should never be spoken in proper company,” wrote Larry Hannant in a special piece in Victoria’s Times Colonist Dec. 5. “I heard stories about Berton being invited to appear on a panel at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) in the early 1970s. According to the legend, he was treated rather roughly over his two-volume history of the Canadian Pacific Railway,” Hannant wrote. “That antagonism seemed to be confirmed by retired York University historian Jack Granatstein‘s assessment, published last week, that ‘It was inevitable that there was a clash between the two.’ But as with many stories – and much history – this ‘inevitable clash’ is far more complicated than Granatstein suggests. I saw a confirmation of this scholarly ambivalence toward Berton when I sent out an e-mail request for factual details about the rumoured early-1970s clash between Berton and the pointy heads in the CHA. The responses tell much about historical interpretation, and historians. ‘I was at that early 1970s CHA session featuring Berton (likely the 1971 meetings at St. John’s),’ wrote Carleton University professor Brian McKillop, who is preparing a biography of Berton. ‘My clear memory – clear because I was surprised at the time – is that Berton was treated not simply politely but rather deferentially’.”

Apple’s iPod revitalizes company

The iPod has become a cultural icon that has driven a remarkable recovery at Apple, which is enjoying record revenues and a soaring stock price, reported Regina’s Leader-Post Dec. 6. “(Apple chief executive Steve) Jobs really understands his marketplaces. IPod is a perfect example. The design, the look and iconic value of it is just fabulous,” said Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “He recognizes the role of technology as an enabler, not an end point.”

There must be more to Air Canada’s battle over lunch money

Air Canada is threatening to smear the credit ratings of as many as 5,000 of its flight attendants if they don’t pay back what the carrier claims are overpaid meal expenses – some as little as $20, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 4. Fred Lazar, a business professor at York University who studies the airline industry, said the carrier’s letter may underscore a more pressing concern, because it’s “too petty a matter for the company to be pursuing. I just can’t believe they’d be going through with this if there’s nothing more to it,” he said. “It’s not the way to improve relations with employees.”

Male youth culture dominates IT workplace

While many women IT professionals say they love their jobs, some of their experiences indicate that gender, pay and other inequities still exist, according to York researcher Krista Scott-Dixon, reported IT World Canada online Dec. 6. She teaches a course in women and technology at York University and recently published a book on the topic. Doing IT: Women Working in Information Technology depicts the tech industry, from its boom in the ’90s to the present day, as dominated by a male youth culture. “This is not just about gender but also about age and other demographics — the IT culture is not just a guy’s culture, but a young guy’s culture,” Scott-Dixon said.

Arthurs heads labour review panel

Harry Arthurs, former York University president and former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been selected to lead the first major review of federal employment and labour standards in four decades, reported the Vancouver Province Dec. 5.

Trumpeting Mary Swan

Alice Munro has been a large presence in novelist Mary Swan’s life, and it is a relationship that began more than 30 years ago when Munro was a writer-in-residence at York University, wrote James Macgowan in an opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 5. Swan, 53, is an anomaly among Canadian writers. Here, in her home country, she is published by the tiny Porcupine’s Quill. In the US she was published by the behemoth Random House – a rare thing indeed, for a Canadian writer of literary fiction. It was Munro who first suggested Swan go to John Metcalf, senior editor at Porcupine; it was also Munro who recommended Swan to Virginia Barber, Munro’s agent.