The satisfactions of fine drinking

The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail published reviews of York researcher and humanities lecturer Christine Sismondo’s Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History this past weekend.

In the Dec. 4 Star, the reviewer said “Mondo Cocktail will not show you how to make a B-52, but it will teach you how to make the classics, step by step.” Sismondo “has written a lively and entirely engaging meditation on the satisfactions of fine drinking. She moves quickly from global warming and the danger of ice shortages to a group called LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), a Pittsburgh-based organization bent on preparing and consuming old-fashioned drinks to honour ‘the spirits of their Forebroads.’ Elsewhere she segues sure-footedly from Tennessee Williams to baseball, via Hart Crane (born the same day as Hemingway, who crops up in practically every chapter), and back to the Bourbon Sour. This is not one of those trivia books, though the reader comes away with a staggering (literally) array of little-known facts. Is it true that Humphrey Bogart’s last words were, ‘I should never have switched from whiskey to Martinis?’”

The Globe’s Dec. 3 reviewer states this is not the sort of book that will change your life. “What it will do is make you the life of the party, a font of boozy and breezy stories that are sure to wow. You will be able to quote Faulkner’s putdown of Hemingway: ‘In all you’ve written, you have never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.’” And “like the 12 classic cocktails it so lovingly chronicles, [the book] imparts a pleasant buzz, an effect heightened by the book’s very stylish design,” wrote the reviewer. “The sensation is like spending a few hours in the company of a gifted raconteur.”

York researchers to assess Hamilton cleanup

It could cost $90 million – double the earlier estimate – to clean up Hamilton’s contaminated harbour sediment. But Environment Canada’s John Shaw says doing it will help overcome Steeltown’s image as a dirty, polluted city, reported the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 6. He’s so sure of a payback that he’s commissioned York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability to find a way to measure it. “They’re developing a method to assess the monetary and non-monetary benefits of the sediment cleanup and extending that to what the delisting (of Hamilton Harbour as a Great Lakes pollution hot spot) would mean. We hope we can then apply that tool to other sites in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.”

York grad wins France’s Prix Nadar for photos

Canadian photographer Larry Towell (BFA ’76) has won France’s Prix Nadar for his book of photographs, No Man’s Land, reported CBC online Dec. 6. The Prix Nadar is awarded annually for a book of photographs edited in France. The prize was created in 1955 and is awarded by a jury of photojournalists and publishing experts. Towell is the only Canadian member of the Magnum Photo Agency, a photo agency created in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. Born in Chatham and educated at York University, Towell has had numerous one-person and group exhibitions across Europe, the US and Canada. His photo essays have appeared in Life, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and Rolling Stone.

Haven in Hamilton

Ibrahim Absiye knows the challenges that continue to haunt Somali newcomers year after year, reported the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 6 in a story about refugees. He is Somali and is the executive director of Midaynta, a super-agency of social services for Somalis in Toronto. Absiye quotes a York University study of racial inequalities in Canada, in which a researcher compared ethnic groups in terms of education, employment and housing and found the Somalis to be at the bottom of the pile.

Star’s Honderich helped York grad

In a final letter to the family read by his son John, Beland Honderich described his life as one “that was far from perfect, but endeavoured to make a useful contribution to society,” reported the Toronto Star Dec. 6 in a story about a gathering to celebrate the life of the Star publisher who died Nov. 8. For Maithily Panchalingam, that sensitivity has permanently marked her life. A decade ago, the 28-year-old Star advertising employee learned that she had won a Honderich Scholarship award. Then a new immigrant from Sri Lanka going through a “rough patch,” the award – for high grades and financial need – was a chance to succeed where she might not have been able to on her own. “Just the fact that you’re an immigrant, you’re not going to have the right connections,” she said, adding that the scholarship, combined with part-time jobs at the Star, helped her earn a BSc in kinesiology from York in 2002. “He gave me a start. He made success possible for many students like me,” she said.

On air

  • See Headline News for an account of how anchor Kevin Newman asked students assembled for a broadcast at York’s Glendon campus about voter apathy among young people, on Global TV’s “Global National” Dec. 5.