March 30, 2008

In Memorium

Dith Pran

September 23, 1942 - March 30, 2008

The film "The Killing Fields"(1984) marked the birth of my social conscience. I was all of 13 but so profoundly affected by the horrific events depicted that it led to my involvement with Amnesty International and, later, a youth delegate in the model United Nations in the Ottawa region. This was the first time I had heard of the Khmer Rouge or understood that film could do more than merely entertain. The movie tells the compelling story of Dith Pran, a journalist and interpreter who somehow endured becoming one of Pol Pot's forced labourers and who, through his bravery, wit, and convictions escapes the notorious killing fields where thousands of his countrymen were executed. How unbelievably sad to learn that we lost this true hero earlier today to pancreatic cancer.

March 29, 2008

Pull the covers up

30 years ago this month U2 won a talent show in the town of Limerick, earning them some cash and--more importantly--the ability to record their first demo tape, which they went on to do inApril of 1978. Many folks know the rest of the story, or at least the great albums and songs that have come out of it. One of the pleasures for me as a U2 fan has been the way that the band has interpreted their own songs live over these past three decades. "Where The Streets Have No Name" is a great example of a song that has been transformed over the years, and an astute fan can tell you what band era any particular live version of that song came from. Another great pleasure is hearing interpretations of U2 songs by other artists. While some don't always work others own songs outright and take them to another place. Enjoy some great U2 covers here.

March 20, 2008

And you give yourself away (again and again)

A longtime U2 fan and collector, I have finally stumbled across the finest remix of a U2 song in 20 years. Please grab your headphones, plug them in, turn up the volume and click here!

Public Service Announcement

Our language is in a sorry state. With the advent of IM, email, text-messaging, and the shift in educational philosophy we are losing our ability to use our language correctly. As a public service, and hopeful corrective, I recommend all to read the following site's guide to the use of proper English.

March 14, 2008

Two faiths. One Messiah.

A new film about Jesus Christ has emerged from Iran, and is getting a great deal of attention, including an award from The Vatican for promoting interfaith understanding about a figure important to both Christian and Islamic beliefs. In a striking difference from the Bible, however, the film "The Messiah" extrapolates on elements of the Qu'ran, suggesting that it was not Christ but rather Judas that was crucified after he was transformed by the angel Gabriel into Jesus' likeness. The film also offers two endings, one from a Christian and the other from an Islamic perspective.
I have not seen this film but I applaud any attempt to broker common ground. I suspect that the vast majority of Christian folk have no idea that Jesus actually plays a large role in the Qu'ran, and is revered as a major prophet by Muslims. Indeed, any effort to remind us that we are more alike than different is worth supporting.

March 12, 2008

I am pleased to share that I have recently received and accepted an offer of admission into the Queen's Master of Education program. I will be a part-time graduate student so I can continue to work, and my program will begin in July. I am interested in examining the effects of the privatization of Canadian universities, with a specific focus on business schools. My aim is to research the following question: To what extent has the privatization of business programs affected the quality of management education at Canadian business schools?

My research interest arises out of my professional experience as an administrator at Queen’s University since 2000. Having been a manager of Canada’s first “private” MBA program I have had first-hand experience leading and driving privatization. Currently, I am a fund-raiser for Queen’s School of Business, furthering the linkage between private interests and higher education. I have also served on the Queen’s Senate Internal Academic Review Committee, where questions about academic quality and resource usage were paramount.

Initial research into this subject, through the works of Lawrence Soley (1995), Wesley Shumar (1997), and Michael Engel (2000), have led me to conclude that the university has undergone a profound change of its values, structure, and ideology from the liberal education tenet of public good to a market-based tenet of private good. Robert Birnbaum (2000) claims that higher education has shifted from a social institution to an industry. In Richard Florida’s (2003) words, the rush by universities to link with industry has derailed them from their core mission of knowledge and talent creation. Whereas Christopher Newfield (2003) points out that corporate interests and ideology have long been an integral part of universities, Jennifer Washburn (2005) argues that it is only more recently that universities have been corrupted by corporations and corporate values. Similarly, former Harvard president Derek Bok (2003) contends that, for all of the benefits university commercialization has created, there has been a toll on the quality of education.

Based on my professional experiences, I believe the privatization of higher education has occurred nowhere more quickly in Canada—and perhaps most irrevocably—than at our business schools. Moreover, the belief that business models will best solve the university’s mission has deeply influenced the operation of our business schools, and their complex funding models. This market-based shift is most noticeable in the classroom and in the dramatic proliferation of deregulated degree and non-degree programs. Through its mission statement, philanthropic linkages, facility design, program offerings, and its annual reports, the Canadian business school does all it can to emulate the corporate model. According to Alan Hochstein (2006) of Concordia University, privatization has led to the “dramatic decline into mediocrity” of Canadian business education, where academic quality has been sacrificed for the sake of profit.

To answer my primary research question I want to investigate the hinge-point of the debate over privatization: what is quality and how should it be defined? Proponents of private programs argue strongly that quality is much greater in private programs, and they point to external and internal quantified results to support their claims. However, quality, as currently defined by business schools, is viewed solely as a product of measurable results. What I want to ask through my research is should such results-oriented measurements, such as salary and employment figures, be the criteria for judging the quality of a university education? Indeed, I am interested in not only figuring out how quality is defined in the contemporary Canadian business school, but pose a much harder question of how ought quality be defined and determine whether privatization has hindered or fostered academic quality.

March 10, 2008

My kingdom for a flight!

Alas, the wondrous experience of my trip to Chicago came to an abrupt end as soon as I arrived at O'Hare to check into my flight. Despite the fact that I was 2 1/2 hours before my scheduled departure of 6:00 pm, the check-in counter process took a solid 35 minutes, as the staff spent inordinate amounts of time with four passengers who seemed to need help booking a world tour. I began to get rather grumbly and tried to calm myself down, as one of the three check-in agents essentially ignored us and kept scribbling notes, walking around, picking up the phone, scribbling more notes and then after about 20 minutes of this waved the woman in front of me over rather begrudgingly. This was an omen of things to come.
In any event I got my two boarding passes (to Toronto and then on to Kingston) and proceeded to the fun adventure that is U.S. airport security. I killed some time at a cafe, bought and browsed some magazines, and then it came time to head to the gate for the 17:25 boarding time. Alas! The electronic board read "Now 18:25". Hmm...well, these things happen. I'll go grab a treat and walk around. So, I wandered back to the gate and the board had changed again, reading "Now 19:00". Arg! At that point I spotted an acquitance of mine who is a member of the Queen's MBA Class of 2005. It was a thrill to meet her in the Chicago airport, and we had a fun reunion and complained about the delay. We then happened to look up to see that the board had changed yet again, reading "Now 20:00". Aaaaagh! Needless to say, I was now especially grumbly, and it was becoming clear that it was unlikely I would make my Kingston connection. On the plus side, I had my first of two political celebrity sightings. Former Canadian deputy Prime Minister John Manley was sitting in the small business class section of the Toronto-bound flight.
I went online at a little kiosk and logged on the Starwood site and booked myself into the Four Points Toronto Airport, just to be safe. Good thing. My Kingston flight was scheduled to leave at 11:15 ET and by the time we took off from Chicago, landed, taxied, then sat on the tarmac waiting for the ground crew to arrive, we actually left the plane at (you guessed it) 11:15. Uh...yeah...about going home...
So I resigned myself to my fate and went through customs (lovely fellow) and then waited for my delayed luggage (will this ever end?!), got out some Canadian currency and then waited for a cab, alongside my second politcal celebrity, NDP leader Jack Layton. I checked into the hotel at 12:05 am. By mighty strange cosmic coincidence there was another member of the Queen's MBA Class of 2005. Weird! He was delayed out of Calgary and was actually at the wrong hotel. We said a quick hello and goodbye. I waited on hold with Air Canada's "special reservation service" for 35 minutes. The lady was most polite, and I am booked on the 4:40 flight. The best part of all this is that as I write this I am watching the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine are on a flight, and Jerry is upgraded to first class while Elaine struggles in economy. Sometimes you just have to laugh or you cry.

March 9, 2008

Sweet Home Chicago

Chicago has put a spell on me! On Thursday night we went to Pizano's, one of the original deep dish pizza locales. It was packed, and the pizza was a unique creation. We loved it. We then walked over to one of the finest blues clubs in the land, called Blue Chicago. Since we had arrived just after opening the place was pretty much to ourselves and we got the first booth next to the stage. The atmosphere was genuine and the artwork (see attached example) was awesome. After a couple of drinks the 4-piece band, BTS Express, warmed up with some stunning grooves. They were remarkably tight, and they just lit the place up. After a couple of songs they were joined by vocalist Big Time Sarah, one of the club's featured "Mojo Mamas". She was simply awesome! When she took a break I bought a CD from her, and she was kind enough to sign my liner notes with a dedication.

Saturday night, however, was even more memorable. We started the evening off by going to see U2 3D, the first live-action digital 3D concert film. Presented on a giant Imax screen this was, suffice it to say, mind-blowing!! The 3D effects were beyond imagination. The whole concert just seemed to hang in the air, about 3 feet from your eyes. The performances were, as to be expected, passionate and really driven. Filmed in South America, U2 had the benefit of the great Latin American audiences to work with, and being immersed in stadium of 80,000 people with U2's singular music was a remarkable experience. The two people I went with were equally impressed, and we were all grateful that we had made the trip out to Chicago's Navy Pier.

Next on our list was a musical called Altar Boyz. This was a 90-minute romp of great dancing, clever lyrics, and hilarious sexual innuendos. The musical is about a fictional boy band of altar boys who go on a tour across America to save people's souls. The premise is that the play is the last show of their "Raise the Praise" tour. I went with two colleagues from Queen's and a new colleague from Australia. We had perfect seats and we nearly choked to death laughing so hard. The cast were great--five young men with obvious chemistry, great dance skills, and they knew how to work it. This was a riot.

I then left our foursome to head out on a pilgrimage of my own. I hopped in a cab for a fairly long ride into the northern section of the city. My destination was one of the most infamous jazz clubs in all of America, the Green Mill. Originally opened in 1907 as a roadhouse, the Green Mill came into its notoriety during Prohibition as one of Al Capone's speakeasies. One of Capone's key henchmen, Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, had a 25% ownership in the club. McGurn famously slit the throat and tongue of comedian/singer Joe E Lewis in order to, er, persuade him not to move his act to another club. This story is told in the movie "The Joker is Wild" (1957) starring Frank Sinatra as Lewis. Patrons of the Green Mill included Capone himself (you can sit in his preferred booth), Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, and "Blue Eyes" himself. I got to experience a 5-piece band headed by a violinist (yep, you read that correctly) named Zack Brock and joined by a Jane Sibbery-esque singer who was out of this world. It was sort of a jazz house, atmospheric, ephemereal experience. Wow!! And despite the fact that there were at least 250 people there, service was amazing, and the club has a strict no talking rule when bands are on. They actually have an announcer who presents the band and reminds everyone about the rule. I was amazed at the respect accorded to the musicians. Everybody just stopped talking. I have never seen that before. It was a experience that I told myself to just live in and enjoy. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the music. The 1920's decor, the great patrons, the amazing band just combined to give me a memory for my lifetime.

March 7, 2008

Reporting Live from Chicago

Chicago is certainly living up to its sobriquet of the "Windy City". In fairness, though, my stunning inn is just a block and a bit from Lake Michigan so the winds are coming off a huge mass of very cold water. The picture attached shows the north end of the downtown. The tall black building is the John Hancock Centre. I am staying just three blocks north of it.
After a harrowing cab ride from the airport I settled into to my suite around 1:30, which gave me plenty of time to stroll down "The Magnificent Mile", which is Chicago's version of New York's 5th Avenue or Toronto's Bloor St, albeit with much better architecture. I think I walked for about an hour, with a stop in Millenium Park before heading to my ultimate destination, the famed Art Institute of Chicago. This musem has easily the best Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection anywhere in North America, and I was suitably impressed and blown away. They seemed to have an endless collection of Monet pieces, as well as plenty of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas, Bazille, and some stunning works by Renoir. It was like walking through an art history textbook. The most famous work is "A Sunday on La Gande Jatte" [click enlarge photo to see how grand it is] by Georges Seurat. It's a huge painting, at 81 feet by 121 feet!! This is the painting that Ferris and his girlfriend stood in front of in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when they were playing hooky and going around Chicago.
I met up with my colleagues arouns 8:00 for a late dinner at a celebrated restaurant called Rosebud. This was the finest Italian cuisine I have ever had! The only downside was the portions were huge. The other interesting gastronomical fact about Chicago is that they love to put cheese any anything and everything. I guess it's part of their mid-west heritage. On tonight's roster is some famous Chicago deep dish pizza and a legendary blues club. More to come...