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McGill Reporter
March 21, 2002 - Volume 34 Number 13
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Willy Blomme: Party all the time

Photo PHOTO: Owen Egan

As she waits for a Friday afternoon bus, Willy Blomme mentions the 200 pages of Kierkegaard she must wade through over the weekend. "That's a little worrisome," she says, mock cringing at the thought. And then she's off to Ottawa.

As a prominent operative for one of Canada's major political parties, Blomme has become accustomed to wrestling with the writings of philosophers while on the run.

A second-year undergraduate majoring in political science and philosophy, Blomme is the co-chair of the New Democratic Youth of Canada, the NDP's youth wing.

She is committed to the NDP cause, having run for the party herself as a Quebec candidate during the 2000 federal election.

Just 19 years old and a few weeks into her first year at McGill, Blomme ran in the Westmount-Ville-Marie riding, her 2,001 votes cinching her fourth place out of 10 candidates.

Her high-profile extracurricular activities earned Blomme good-natured in-class ribbing. "My comparative politics professor kept mentioning that there was somebody in the class who had firsthand experience with the electoral process."

Right now, however, Blomme is focusing her efforts behind the scenes. Topping the youth wing's to-do list is protesting this June's G8 summit in the Kananaskis.

Blomme and the NDYC are readying G8 protest pamphlets for release in mid-April, as well as organizing a Kananaskis "solidarity village" where protesters can "feel safe and meet each other." They are also taking care of the nuts-and-bolts details involved in rallying protesters from across the country, including online ride-sharing message boards both for the G8 proper and a concurrent protest to be held in Ottawa.

Blomme was tear-gassed during the FTAA talks in Quebec City. She watched the Seattle protests on TV with her mother, "who was getting really excited because it was the first huge protest she'd seen since the '70s." Blomme's mother, a journalist and a member of the NDP since she was a teenager, is one of her major political influences.

"We used to have riding association meetings in our living room," recalls the younger Blomme. The mother's political passion slowly rubbed off on her daughter. Blomme says her mother, while thrilled that her daughter picked up the familial left-wing torch, has the usual maternal worries about her daughter spreading herself too thin. Maybe with good reason.

Blomme wakes up by 6 am to do school-related reading, leaves for classes at nine, and returns home to an inbox jammed with NDP-related email.

She spends her evenings with youth-wing conference calls "then, hopefully, schoolwork.

"There are times when I'm scared that I'm not spending enough time on school," she admits. "But this past summer I was just taking a summer class and not doing much other activity, and I got really restless.

"It's a cause I really believe in," says Blomme of her NDP activities. With the Liberal Party's shift to the right in recent years, Blomme says, "I think it's really important that there is a voice politically on the left.

"I'm worried about the country. Governments at both the federal and provincial level seem bent on slashing or even eliminating social programs in the name of efficiency. Is it really efficient to have a sicker population or to limit access to education to the rich?"

In addition to her jam-packed daily schedule, Blomme is also required to make a half-dozen party-related trips each year. (As youth-wing co-chair, she sits on the federal executive and attends federal councils.) As a result, she reluctantly gave up her longstanding involvement in student theatre.

Last November, she worked as stage manager for the Tuesday Night Café's production of Drunk on Oil, "but I missed opening night because I had to fly to Winnipeg for the national convention. Actually, I missed the whole opening week."

Blomme sees similarities between politics and theatre, specifically in the "unglamourous," detail-oriented backstage work required to keep a campaign, or a production, running. "But," she says, "I think the biggest parallel is in how much of your life it takes over. The last three weeks of a show, you do nothing else. And a political campaign is the same way. Both are very involving activities.

"Another way that they're the same," she laughs, "is that once they're over, you have to catch up on all the schoolwork that you've let slide."


We sell eggs and sperm and we pay surrogate mothers. There are problems with all of these things, but we allow them. So we need to discuss the selling of organs.

Anthropology and social studies of medicine professor Margaret Lock talking to the Boston Herald. Lock is a member of the International Forum on Transplant Organs. She says the selling of organs ought to be allowed, but they would have to be purchased by a medical agency or trust that would decide who gets them.

Cooking up a character

Betty Crocker, 1996. The portrait by John Stuart Ingle is inspired by a morphed computerized composite portrait of 75 American women who each embody the characteristics of Betty Crocker.
General Mills Archives

After tackling Margaret Atwood and her writing in her last book, English professor Natalie Cooke is busy ferreting out facts about a woman who is arguably even more famous than Atwood - Betty Crocker.

Actually, Cooke is stirring up details about all the fictional folk who came to represent different food products to consumers - Robin Hood (flour), Crocker (baking mixes) and their various counterparts. "I'm interested in the development of the corporate script of the trade character."

These trade characters were often portrayed by an assortment of real-life people. There were at least 21 Betty Crockers working in General Mills' polka dot kitchen, who would dispense advice and answer letters (all signed with the same rehearsed signature). These Betties were maternal without being mothers - indeed, earlier this century it was unclear if a Betty could get married and retain her job.

Fictional food folk authored cookbooks and showed up for bake-offs and corporate promotions. There was also the flamboyant Robin Hood - L.P. Authier was one Robin Hood who rode from door to door on a black horse in Drummondville in the late 20s.

Betty Crocker, 1936, by Neysa McMein who blended together the features of several Home Service Department members for this official likeness.
General Mills Archives

Cooke wants to compare explicit corporate brands and logos with "soft claims, the subtext, articulated by the trade characters who can have a life and persona of their own."

Cooke will be addressing these themes next week at Concordia University during a discussion titled, "The Marketing and Construction of Pleasure: Sweet Sensations in Foodbooks and Advertising." Her co-presenter will be Concordia marketing professor Jordan Lebel, a professionally trained chef turned academic who researches the marketing of chocolate and the relationship between pleasure and consumer behaviour.

Cooke is interested in gathering information about food-related trade characters, so if you were once a Betty Crocker yourself, or if you used to carpool with a Robin Hood, she would love to hear from you. Contact her at nathalie.cooke@mcgill.ca or 398-3705.

Cooke and Lebel's presentation will take place Tuesday, March 26 at 11:45 am, deSeve Cinema, McConnell Bldg. 1400 de Maisoneuve Blvd. West.


People are always taking their frustrations out on equipment, and photocopiers are notorious for not giving you what you want. I feel like abusing them myself, but then I would have to fix them.

Joseph Swift oversees the photocopy service in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. He spoke to The Gazette about a recent survey that indicated that one in 10 Canadians has been violent with a photocopier.

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