Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS May 27 1996
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS May 27 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

Displaying their devotion

Curvaceous Canadian actress Pamela (Anderson) Lee is the victim of a recent kidnapping spree in Baywatch-obsessed Britain. Life-size cardboard cutouts of the Baywatch babe promoting her first feature film, Barb Wire, are being stolen from movie theatres throughout Britain. Cinema managers, claiming they have never seen so many disappear, have put staff on full security alert. Some theatres have even placed barriers around the shapely star’s cutout—showing her dressed in skin-tight blackleather bustier and pants—to deter would-be thieves. Still, it should come as no surprise that the thefts are happening in Britain, where 40 per cent of the population watches Baywatch. In Canada, PolyGram Canada reports that only a few of the 100 cutouts placed in theatres have been purloined—and those were in British Columbia, her home province. Canadians, however, may be getting their

paper-Pam fix in a different way. Says Cineplex executive vice-president of marketing and communications Howard Lichtman: “Since we placed Pamela’s image on the popcorn bags, they have been flying off the shelves.”

A new 'view' of

the Internet

The Internet is a powerful communications tool, but the blind have been unable to take full advantage of it. Now, however, researchers and computer programmers at Concordia University in Montreal are working to change that. Concordia’s Centre for Small Business (Minority Institute) has developed an Internet site that accepts e-mail queries from small business owners. Blind computer users, using text-to-speech software, hear the questions, compile answers and send back written replies. The Web site “All Our Friends Everywhere” (http:// ourworld. CompuServe, com/homepages/ aofe) links other resources for the blind on the Internet. Although still in its early stages, the venture, which will eventually be part of a larger program to integrate the blind into the world of high-tech communications, has been well-received. “I call it information equity,” says Carmelino Sacco, a blind Internet user and Concordia graduate. “When you can’t see,

you don’t have access to libraries and other resources. The Internet is changing that. It’s going to be a big part of our world.”

Spinning synthetic silk

Prized for its strength and lightness, silk has been traded as a luxury commodity for more than 3,000 years.

Now, a University of British Columbia zoologist is trying to perfect a method for producing synthetic silk by using genes from another family of silk-producing creatures—spiders. Working with spiders from British Columbia’s forests, Paul Guerette has isolated seven genes used in silk production. In the next step, he plans to transfer clones of the genes to a yeast cul-

ture, which could churn out unlimited quantities of silk proteins. Even though Guerette, 27, has yet to receive his PhD, his work is being funded by Ottawa—and by Du Pont Canada Inc. and its U.S. parent. Guerette envisages strong and flexible synthetic silk being used for such purposes as reinforcing tires and manufacturing artificial arteries and veins for use in surgery—but probably not for scarves and blouses. Notes Guerette: “The traditional producers in the Far East have pretty well cornered that market.”

Honorary degrees of distinction

A continuing series of samplings of this year’s recipients:

Matthew Barrett, chairman and chief executive officer of Montreal-based Bank of Montreal. (University of New Brunswick, Fredericton)

Timothy Findley, award-winning author—including two Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards—of novels such as The Piano Man’s Daughter and

The Wars. (Memorial University, St. John’s, Nfld.)

Knowlton Nash, retired broadcast journalist, best known as the face of the CBC TV news show The National from November 1978 to May 1988. (University of Regina)

Buffy Sainte-Marie, Saskatchewan-born Cree Indian folksinger, native-rights activist and Academy Award-winning songwriter. (University of Regina)

Clyde Wells, premier of Newfoundland from 1989 to 1995. (Memorial University, St. John’s, Nfld.)

A castle for keeps

The board of trustees of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., has decided to keep its drawbridge lowered—for now. The university’s International Study Centre at the 15th-century Herstmonceux Castle 75 km southeast of London will remain open while Queen’s looks for a sponsor to share the costs. Wealthy Milwaukee industrialist Alfred Bader donated the money for the castle to his alma mater in 1992, but its operations soon ran up a $14.7-million debt. While the trustees have decided not to sell the castle immediately, it may still be under siege: they also voted to “adopt an exit strategy” if no partner is found by November.

Talking the talk

Veteran CBC broadcaster Lister Sinclair, host of radio’s Ideas program, appeared live before an appreciative audience last week. Addressing a raucous meeting of the Toronto local of the Canadian Media Guild, one of three unions that had set a May 24 strike deadline at the CBC, Sinclair accused the corporation’s bosses of endangering the future of the public broadcaster. CBC managers—“fine fellows every one”—are “under pressure from government [to] privatize the CBC through the back door,” he said. Sinclair, 75, who has negotiated on behalf of both employees and management in past CBC disputes, condemned “the outrageous behavior of yet another fine fellow,” CBC president Perrin Beatty. He accused him of going behind union negotiators’ backs and “dropping in on individuals in their offices” to urge them to accept the CBC offer. The CBC and the unions were to join federal mediators in Ottawa this week in efforts to avert a strike that would severely disrupt radio and TV broadcasts, with the exception of Frenchlanguage services in Quebec and New Brunswick.

Canada

rediscovered

It was a week for Canadians to blush shyly and approv^ ingly. Suddenly, Canada was I hot. ABC’s Good Morning

America hopscotched across ÍS the country, beaming its dai^ ly program last week from § Victoria, Calgary, Ottawa—| where network news anchor | Peter Jennings waxed nostal« gic about his birthplace— | Quebec City and Lunenberg, ö N.S. Along the way, hosts £

Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson and weatherman Spencer Christian chatted enthusiastically about everything from cowboys to health care. The buildup began in March when New York City-based Travel & Leisure published a glowing article about Vancouver, describing it as “the eminently civilized city of the next millennium somewhere between Asia and Oz.” Then the June issue of National Geographic weighed in last week with a 19page report on Toronto. The article was

mainly positive, pointing out, for instance, that “the streets are still clean, the subways punctual, and violent crime rare.” Some municipal politicians demanded an apology from the Washington-based National Geographic Society for quoting the city’s foremost neo-Nazi, Ernst Zundel, about what he sees as problems with Canada’s immigration policy. But all in all, Canada looked pretty good in others’ eyes.