By Aaron Brophy - Monday, December 3, 2012 - 0 Comments
The winner of a Star of Military Valour in conversation wtih Martin Patriquin
Pte. Taumy St-Hilaire is decidedly nonchalant about saving the lives of two people he will never know. In April 2011, the Montreal native and member of Quebec’s vaunted Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, was engaged in a firefight in the Afghan village of Chalghowr in the Panjwai district when his battalion was attacked—and St-Hilaire did what his instincts and training told him to do. The results of one heroic deed, for which he can barely bring himself to take credit, earned him the Star of Military Valour this month. He is one of only 18 people to receive the Canadian military’s second-highest honour.
Q: Tell me about yourself. I understand that you got into the Canadian Army after playing high school football.
A: Yeah, and I didn’t like the way my life was going. At 18 I was taking football pretty seriously, full-time, and working on the side. I hadn’t finished high school yet, and I was living in Montreal alone. It was like I was going nowhere. I felt a bit lost. And yet I still wanted what I got out of football, like team spirit and competition. Continue…
By Aaron Brophy - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
If you were told Wednesday’s meeting had been moved forward two days, when would you expect it? Some will say Monday. Others Friday. How you answer reveals the different ways in which people experience time.
People who expect the rescheduled meeting on Monday tend to see themselves as fixed in place with time as a conveyor belt of new experiences moving toward them. Those expecting to meet on Friday instead have the sensation they are the ones moving forwards into the future. It’s a subtle but noticeable difference: are we fast approaching Christmas, or is Christmas coming up fast?
Hammond’s book is filled with fascinating details of this sort, uncovering the many ways in which time may be an entirely personal matter. Blending the latest research on brain science with history, sociology, philosophy and pop psychology, the author, a BBC radio personality, seeks to understand how we perceive time. “Our minds actively construct our subjective experience of time through a combination of processes involving memory, attention and emotion,” she writes.
Why does the first time you drive to an unfamiliar location always seem to take longer than subsequent trips? According to Hammond, the answer is found in how your brain catalogues experiences and thus keeps track of time. New sensations require a greater application of brain resources, leading to more detailed and permanent memories, which form the basis for time perception. On subsequent trips, your brain doesn’t have to work as hard, so time seems to move faster.
This is the same reason time appears to pass more quickly as one ages. As you grow older, life is increasingly filled with familiar experiences and the necessity of recording new details fades. The bulk of permanent memories are created between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, Hammond argues, which plays havoc with attempts to estimate time correctly over the long haul. She concludes with tips for getting a handle on the past, present and future by altering how you perceive time. Time as objective reality? That’s so yesterday.
By Aaron Brophy - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 7:10 PM - 0 Comments
Weathering coming storms
Milder winters may be nice, and an open Northeast Passage may…
Weathering coming storms
Milder winters may be nice, and an open Northeast Passage may be economically beneficial (“The winter that never was,” National, March 26). I’m a proud Canadian, but I can see past the potential effects climate change will have on our national identity. What’s most important at this point is to consider ourselves citizens of planet Earth, and realize the much worse devastation our home will face across the globe, not just in our own backyard.
Bradley J. Dibble, Midhurst, Ont.
Why can’t Johnny count?
I am a high school math teacher in Ontario, and today’s curriculum is bunk (“Have you finished your homework, mom?” Society, March 19). Every year, I see students who cannot perform basic arithmetic without a calculator. I see Grade 12 students who do not know the difference between “10 divided by three” and “three divided by 10” and cannot even comprehend how to perform the division either way. The best math students in my experience are generally foreign trained or have parents who were. Is it a coincidence that the domestic generation—raised on a steady diet of self-esteem and instant gratiﬁcation—has no attention span for memorizing math facts or persevering through challenging problems without the aid of electronics?
Shannon Matthews, Toronto
In a Grade 3 classroom last week, I saw students excited about math. Some were using concepts well above the curriculum. Others were operating at the curriculum level but showed real number sense sharing long mathematical sentences. The teacher there has high expectations. Students are regularly required to demonstrate knowledge of the facts. Math is presented in a context of meaning. Multiple strategies are explored but the teacher does not insist on doing it one right way. We need to look at our many successes and figure out how to make the joy of mathematics happen for everyone.
Trevor Calkins, Victoria
Most of the children in my elementary class understand a variety of math strategies. The curriculum states that the traditional standard algorithms also be taught, so it is incorrect for your article to suggest they aren’t. Many people who were math whizzes back in elementary school used a wide variety of math strategies intuitively. Now these intuitive strategies are being taught.
Cathi Stewart, Waterloo, Ont.
Your article makes it sound as if a couple of English teachers sat in a basement one summer and developed some cut-and-paste activities to make math fun. Many experts in math from universities and schools and business identified what students needed and how best to go about teaching it. Working with Grade 5 students over the past 25 years, I noticed many students had great difficulty with division. After we started using pictures and numbers and stories in multiplication, the class scores in division were all over 70 per cent. The new math curriculum works.
Kerry Armstrong, Ottawa
I can see some of the alternative methods working for those with various forms of dyslexia. But what percentage of the children are dyslexic? My daughter is dyslexic; numbers to her were just squiggles on paper, and yet continual iteration helped. There is nothing wrong with rote when needed.
Constance Dwyer, Halfmoon Bay, B.C.
Shifts in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment over the past two decades should reassure many when we consider how Canadian 15-year-olds performed on international assessments such as PISA. Our kids topped out again in reading, science and, yes, math, with other top performing OECD countries. The kids’ test results speak for themselves.
N.S. Carlton, Abbotsford, B.C.
I fully agree with your alarmist cover headline “Why is it your job to teach your kid math?” I am shocked that some teachers expect parents to help their kids with math homework! Don’t they know we’re busy?! The next thing you know, they will want parents to teach kids manners, too!
Terry Hogan, High Prairie, Alta.
“Why is it your job to teach your kid math?” Because you elected a succession of governments whose only focus is on keeping taxes low. The result is a chronically underfunded education system. In a class of 30 kids there will be a number of children who do not speak English, or are learning handicapped, or have emotional problems, but teachers’ aides have been eliminated in order to save money. The system will look for more ways of shifting the onus to you, the parent. This will only get worse. Get used to it.
R.E. Langemann, Calgary
Opioids and addiction
Your article “The latest opium war” (Health Report, March 19) touches on a number of problems, including the myth of addiction in patients with chronic pain on opioids. Addiction is extremely rare in patients on narcotics for control of chronic pain. I treated a patient who required a very large dose of morphine to control severe metastatic bone pain. He had developed a significant tolerance but he was not addicted. The day after radiotherapy for his cancer pain, he was able to reduce the dose by more than seven times.
W.W. Arkinstall, MD, Kelowna, B.C.
I wish to correct the statement attributed to me in your recent article about prescription opioids. The facts are these: OxyContin releases about 35 per cent of the medication immediately. This rapid absorption can help with the immediate relief of pain but at the same time can make it addictive.
Peter Selby, Clinical Director, Addictions Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto
M.G. Vassanji needs to be aware that we can’t have it both ways (“The trouble with Kony 2012,” International, March 26). Dependency on foreign aid need not negate Africans doing their own part for their own countries. Vassanji is correct: there are too many outsiders involved in the development of African countries. To that end, tomorrow I will contact World Vision and ask that my child in Malawi no longer receive my support and I will give it elsewhere.
Lee Masciarelli, Nanaimo, B.C.
When all else fails
So-called “quackbuster” Joe Schwarcz (“Who you gonna call?” Society, March 26) thinks that he is protecting the ignorant simpleton public from homeopathy. I’m a dentist and a homeopath; my patients are highly intelligent, informed, and many have tried the traditional medical routine only to meet with failure. This is not to say that medicine is a failure, but only that doctors are human. When these patients tried the alternative approach, many have met with improvement in what ails them. No one says homeopathy can cure everyone; we too are only human.
Gary Fortinsky, Toronto
The medical community has failed to embrace nutrition as both a source of, and cure for, many of our health problems, including cancer. What would Joe Schwarz do if given a diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer? Surgery and radiation are not an option. Chemotherapy offers abysmal prospects. Death within a year is almost certain. Would he wait for a double-blind clinical trial to prove nutrition and supplements could offer some hope, or would he stick to the limited choices science offers? Wouldn’t the $5.5-million federal grant Schwarz received be put to better use investigating food companies who put unpronounceable chemicals in our food supply, genetically modify our corn and who knows what else?
Frank Ninno, Toronto
Home on the free range
I hope Peter Clarke, chairman of the Egg Farmers of Canada, was blushing when he dismissed backyard chicken farming cloaked in his overwhelming concern for the consumer (“Running a-fowl of the Constitution,” National, March 19). Before I retired, I had an intensive hog operation; I know how difficult it is to maintain the health of livestock without the judicious use of vaccines and antibiotics. On the other hand, I have kept free-range chickens my whole life and no one in my family has ever caught a disease from eating the eggs and chickens. Trying to frighten people by playing the disease card is unworthy and is a tactic to divert attention away from the caged versus free range debate and to prevent people from accessing eggs from anyone else but Clarke’s membership.
Bruce Owen, Wadena, Sask.
Donors, death and safety
As Dick Teresi (Interview, March 19) points out, the declaration of death is an essential part of the organ donation process and, as such, it is only done in compliance with a stringent set of policies. Every three days, someone in Ontario dies waiting for an organ because there simply aren’t enough organs through donation available to meet the demand. These deaths are preventable. Not only can a single organ and tissue donor save up to eight lives and enhance as many as 75 others, but organ donation often offers comfort to a grieving family. They see something positive coming out of their loss.
Ronnie Gavsie, President and CEO, Trillium Gift of Life Network, Toronto
By definition, a patient with brain death cannot react to pain in any way. Everything above the blood pressure and heart rate centre, both low in the brain stem, is not working. It is true that heart rate and blood pressure can “soar” but this is the last dysfunctional sputtering of this cardiac centre low in the brain stem before it, too, ceases and has nothing to do with pain response. Drugs may be given to control these bursts, but otherwise anaesthesia is indeed not required. One only hopes that Teresi’s negative comments have not persuaded some family to withdraw their consent and support for the life-giving process of organ donation.
Russ Reid, MD, Kamloops, B.C.
Contrary to reports from the Icelandic press that were cited in our March 26 editorial (“Canada should embrace the Loonification of Iceland,” From the Editors), no Bank of Canada officials flew on an Irving Oil junket to Iceland, or visited Iceland, to discuss that country adopting the Canadian currency.
By Aaron Brophy - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 3:08 PM - 0 Comments
Remember all those Canadian alt-rock bands from the 90s? Well, they’re back.
The period between Kurt Cobain’s death (April 5, 1994) and the release of Arcade Fire’s Funeral (Sept. 14, 2004), this country’s rock bands experienced a surge in popularity not seen before or since. Canadian bands dominated radio and television, and scored gold and platinum records while playing giant national touring festivals like Edgefest and Summersault. Major record labels scrambled to plug a seemingly endless cast of homegrown bands into the machine.
There was The Headstones (one platinum, two gold albums), The Tea Party (two double platinum, two platinum, two gold albums), Treble Charger (one platinum, two gold albums), I Mother Earth (two double platinum, one platinum, one gold album), Big Sugar (two platinum, two gold albums), The Watchmen (one platinum, three gold albums), not to mention Thrush Hermit (featuring Joel Plaskett), Weeping Tile (featuring Sarah Harmer), hHead (featuring Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning), Eric’s Trip (featuring Julie Doiron), and the likes of Big Wreck, Econoline Crush, The Inbreds, Change Of Heart, Rusty, Raggadeth, The Doughboys, King Cobb Steelie, Tristan Psionic… the list goes on.
By Aaron Brophy - Monday, October 31, 2011 at 9:59 AM - 37 Comments
With Bono musing about retirement, we asked music industry veterans if they’d miss the Irish foursome
Barbara Streisand, Cher, Jay-Z, Garth Brooks, Frank Sinatra—all of them “retired” at some point in their careers before miraculously returning to the music world, not coincidentally surfing a tsunami of cash all the way to their favourite banking establishments.
So one would have to look at U2 lead singer Bono’s recent comments to Rolling Stone that “We’d be very pleased to end on No Line On The Horizon” with a certain amount of cynicism. The band, not coincidentally, are set to release a 20th anniversary deluxe edition reissue of their Achtung Baby album on Oct. 31. On top of that, they’ve reportedly been recording new music.
Why even bother dangling a retirement then? After all, the only thing you’re doing is taking your fans on a ride that’s just going to alienate them. But that’s nothing new for the Irish foursome. Some people got that feeling long before No Line On The Horizon.
For me, it was March 24, 1992.
That’s the night that I broke up with my favourite band, the biggest rock band in the world, U2.
Bono and crew were playing Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens as part of the Zoo TV tour following the release of Achtung Baby. In a gesture equaled in rock music’s pantheon perhaps only by Dylan going electric, Metallica getting haircuts, and Radiohead turning their backs on “songs,” U2 had just abandoned earnestness in favour of glamour, spectacle, and worst of all, irony. The flying cars, the television screens, Bono’s turns as “The Fly,” “Mirror Ball Man” and “MacPhisto.” It was meant to be A SHOW!
But it wasn’t my show. I wanted protest songs, but got wraparound shades instead, so I dropped U2 and never looked back.
When U2 came to the Toronto International Film Festival in August for the premiere of the documentary From The Sky Down, which is being packaged as part of Achtung Baby‘s deluxe reissue the frontman said the following:
“U2′s been on the verge of irrelevance for 20 years. We’ve dodged and we’ve dived and made some great work along the way and occasional faux pas, but this moment where we’re at, to me, feels really close to the edge of irrelevance.”
Are U2 really on “the edge”? Should they quit? Certainly, their discography at the 30-year mark remains better than The Rolling Stones’ at 30 (No Line On The Horizon vs. Voodoo Lounge), but for every one of the 7.2 million people who took in the band’s recent 360° Tour, surely there are just as many who have fallen off along the way.
To find out if and when U2 lost their mojo, Macleans.ca polled 50 prominent Canadians with an ear for music Continue…
By Aaron Brophy - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 3:12 PM - 1 Comment
‘She doesn’t want people to know she did the record’
Feist’s fourth proper album, Metals, comes out today, rightfully cementing her place alongside Joni, Celine, Shania and Sarah in a lineage of singularly recognizable, internationally lauded Canadian songbirds.
The 12 new songs on Metals are not be the most sought-after item for subjects of Canada’s undisputed indie rock queen, however.
If the resellers at Amazon.com are any indication, that distinction goes to Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), Leslie Feist’s first album, which she released in 1999. At the moment of writing this, there exist five copies available for purchase from used CD vendors at prices ranging from $79.99 to $231.08. Continue…
By Aaron Brophy - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 3:23 PM - 1 Comment
Just because Arcade Fire has won every prize in the known universe doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk
The Suburbs, Arcade Fire’s concept album about tract housing ennui, has already netted the Montreal-based band an Album of the Year Grammy, the Best International Album award at the 2011 Brit Awards and the Juno Award for Album Of The Year. All that’s left now is planning the parade for its inevitable win at the prestigious Polaris Music Prize gala on Sept. 19 in Toronto, right?
Not quite. Arcade Fire’s victory won’t be so easy or clear-cut.
The Polaris Prize, which honours “the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label,” has frequently been awarded to unlikely outsiders (see: Karkwa’s victory in 2010, F–ked Up’s in 2009, or Patrick Watson’s in 2007). Continue…