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Holiday shopping is not for the delicate. It's hip checks and guerilla warfare and panicked flights from store to store — all soundtracked by the endless loop of "The Little Drummer Boy." And then, there it is, the McGill Bookstore beckoning like a safe harbour amidst a tempest of flying elbows and curses. Admit it, the siren song of one-stop-shopping is too strong (plus, all McGill employees get a 20 percent discount with their coupon).
Nothing says "the holidays" like pseudo-haiku. The World is a Heartbreaker, Sherwin Tija's delightful collection of bite-sized poetic nuggets, was a finalist for the Quebec Writers' Federation 2005 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. With poems like "call a taxi! / you're too beautiful / to walk in the street," what's not to love? Besides, couldn't "i think i can / i think i can / i thought i could" be the mantra for post-holiday revelers trying to squeeze back into their work clothes?
With a PhD in Chemical Engineering from McGill tucked under one arm, and an award-winning book of short stories tucked under the other, brainiac author Jaspreet Singh is a rare combination indeed. Seventeen Tomatoes, a collection of linked tales that revolve around two boys growing up on an Indian army base in Kashmir, was awarded the QWF McAuslan First Book Prize in 2004.
On the non-fiction front, George Grant's Lament for a Nation is considered essential reading for anyone interested in questions of Canadian identity, sovereignty and national unity. With the McGill-Queen's University Press having issued the 40th anniversary edition, this masterpiece of political meditation was recently included in the Literary Review of Canada's list of 100 most important Canadian books. It garnered more votes than any other.
Another MQUP offering, Far in the Waste Sudan is the riveting, first-person account of Nicholas Coghan's tenure as Canada's first diplomat to be posted in Khartoum, former home to Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin-Laden. Coghan ventures deep into the heart of one of Africa's most inaccessible countries from the Nubian desert to the rebel-controlled swamps and jungle lowlands of Equatoria.
Finally, for a grittier holiday gift, why not offer Vice Dos and Don'ts, a compilation of 10 years worth of Vice magazine's raunchiest fashion commentary. Co-edited by McGill grad, Suroosh Alvi, this hilarious book includes candid snapshots and scathing critiques of tacky tourists, clued-out club kids and every tasteless person in between. Warning: not for the faint of heart.
Tired of "Deck the Halls" and other tinny jingles? Bop on over to the McGill Bookstore to pick up some McGill CDs. Get funky with the a cappella group Soulstice's /A slice of soul/, snappy with jazz prof Gordon Foote's latest jazzy oeuvre or dramatic with Maureen Forrester singing "Elgar's Sea Pictures" with the McGill Symphony Orchestra. You can order them without leaving your desk from www.mcgill.ca/bookstore/merchandise/giftware or www.mcgill.ca/music/events/records.
Or treat your ears to Daniel Lessard's "playful and lascivious" jazz trio's Pas a Pas, or Rémi Bolduc's Cote d'écoute. Both teach licks at McGill and their CDs are found in record stores across town.
Or give an excuse to get out of the house on a musical date, by presenting a couple of tix for Leonard Bernstein's Candide put on by Opera McGill and McGill Symphony Orchestra at the end of January, or the CBC/McGill Series. Upcoming concerts will include Mozart with Les Vents classiques du Québec, and new faculty members Jonathon Crow and Matt Haimovitz. See www.mcgill.ca/calendar or call 398-4547 for details.
Give your holiday meals a spicy boost with communication studies grad student Anthony Kinik's devil chutney. He and his partner, Michelle Marek (a pastry chef at Les Chevres) make sweet and savoury preserves with enticing flavour combos such as pear-vanilla-bourbon and carrot-cardamom.
Parking services' Danielle Oertle does homemade holiday baking so you don't have to. For her sideline biz, Scrumptious Bites, she takes tasty cookie recipes and reduces the sugar. You can order from two dozen eclectic flavours such as chocolate mocha pecan, gingersnap, hazelnut or holiday front runners shortbread logs and cranberry chocolate chip.
Her fave? "Chocolate chip. I can eat a whole dozen, but I limit myself to one a night." Not bad, for a woman whose spare bedroom is loaded with boxes of cookies.
Call 214-9585 or email Danielle Oertle. $5 for 1 1/2 pounds, roughly 26 to 30 cookies. Twenty-four hour advance notice required, one week for five boxes or more.
Continuing Education prof Sharron Wall and her husband Tom Littledeer produce beautiful wooden tools that scoop sauces, serve salads and spread frosting. It all started when woodworker Littledeer was perfecting canoe paddles. Miniature promotional versions made their way into the kitchen, where they were declared perfect for cooking. Since then, he's developed models for culinary southpaws, and designed a whole line of utensils that make any cook's life a little easier, and certainly more attractive.
You can find them at stores around town, the Salon des Metiers des Arts, or at www.littledeer.ca.
So there you are in the playoff round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, having just won the title by holing your shot from the fairway. The crowd goes bonkers. You pause to replace your divot with your gold-plated McGill divot tool, doff your McGill cap to your adoring fans as Tiger Woods pats you on the back of your McGill golf shirt and hangs his head in defeat. In the clubhouse, you sign your scorecard with your McGill pen, pause for photos of you and a giant cardboard cheque, look at your McGill watch and drive off in your BMW, pewter McGill car emblem glinting in the sun, trumpeting your allegiance to everyone left in your wake.
Sunday morning couch fantasies for duffers like you and me? Well, yes. But all the cool McGill merch, plus the classic McGill t-shirts, hoodies, rugby shirts, sweatshirts, are on sale at the McGill Bookstore. Although not as extensive, the Athletics Department store also is well-stocked with McGill paraphernalia. Take the sting off of hacking your way through a 54 on the back nine by dressing like a winner.
Deck your halls with boughs, trees and poinsettias from the Morgan Arboretum, or become a member and enjoy snowy, muddy, or green access all year round. Call 398-7811, or see www.morganarboretum.org for more info. They're selling trees daily until Dec. 20 at 21111 Lakeshore Road. Right, Amanda Scholefield, BSc agricultural and environmental sciences, loads a Christmas tree onto a car at the Morgan Arboretum.
Speed dating at McGill? Well, almost. Same concept, different context; and yes, chemistry's definitely part of it. From January 9 to 13 science undergrads are invited to take part in the first annual "Soup and Science Event," organized by the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science. Each day five professors will give brief presentations about their research. Then there will be a "free-for-all" over lunch, when students can connect with professors and fellow like-minded students.
Students will see what professors are investigating and get a taste of what it's like to be an academic. Who knows, maybe sparks will fly and they'll find a new love?
January 9-13 (Mon/Wed/Fri: 12:30-1:30; and Tues/Thurs: 11:30-1:00) in the Trottier Building Lobby, 3630 University. For info visit www.mcgill.ca/science/ours.