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McGill Reporter
May 4, 2000 - Volume 32 Number 16
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Celebrating Leonard


And you want to travel to McGill
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can't miss this conference
For Leonard touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now that we've despoiled Leonard Cohen's classic Suzanne, we can offer hardcore Cohen fans some good news.

A conference covering the life and career of one of McGill's most illustrious graduates (BA'55) takes place at the Arts Building from May 12 to May 14 as about 200 Cohen aficionados gather to gab and gush about the man in black at Montreal 2000: The Leonard Cohen Event.

While the (now) reserved Cohen will not be present, his manager, Kelley Lynch, is flying in from LA to take part in the conference. As a treat (or an olive branch for his absence?), she'll be bringing along memorabilia. She'll even offer fans a premiere of three new Cohen songs — A Thousand Kisses Deep, Secret Life and Here It Is — featured on his future, yet uncompleted, album.

The lovefest will include panel discussions, a tribute concert by the Damn Personals and screenings of Cohen-related films including Leonard, Light My Cigarette. Lynch is making a point of joining the event, she says, "since it's in Leonard's home town and I think it's important to pop up.

"Leonard is greatly appreciative that people interested in his work are gathering together," she adds.

Those wondering if Cohen can't attend because he's holed up in a California Buddhist temple need not worry. Cohen ended that spiritual chemin recently after segregating himself from society for five years as a mountaintop monk.

This will be the first Canadian tribute to the 65-year-old Great Gray One, although similar events have been held in England and France and a tribute concert takes place almost every year in Poland. So far, Cohenists from France to Finland have registered for the Montreal conference.

McGill has few links to the event, other than renting its space to organizers. English professor Brian Trehearne will take part in a three-person panel; Trehearne taught a Cohen course for several years at McGill. He'll discuss how "Cohen was one of the great liberators of Canadian literature. He may have offended quite a few people along the way, but he was one of the few authors who pushed the envelope to take literature to new levels."

Conference chairman Bill Van Dyk says organizing the event was a way to allow fans to admire all things Cohen. "We'll do everything from look at the impact he's had on society," he says, "to celebrate the works of one of the greatest singers, songwriters and poets of our time."

Registration for the Leonard Cohen Event is $100 at: www.cohen2000.com.

Prizeworthy performances


The Students' Society of McGill University recently recognized the best and brightest student groups on campus at the annual SSMU Awards Night.

Queer McGill took the award for service of the year. The group runs several weekly discussion groups around topics such as coming out and transsexualism, operates Queer Line, a confidential listening and referral service and, by its own estimation, "organizes kick-ass dances."

The student group of the year was the McGill Legal Information Clinic. Run by law students, the clinic offers information on a wide range of legal issues to about 3,000 callers and visitors each year.

The event of the year was Korea Night 2000 (pictured), a celebration of Korean culture co-sponsored by the Korean Students' Society, the Korean Studies Program and the Centre for East Asian Studies Research.

Stepsmagazine, the quirky Faculty of Arts periodical that featured articles ranging from an irreverent piece about being a student intern at the National Post to pro and con essays concerning the proposed McGill College International, won publication of the year.

The new club prize went to the Association for the Development of Aerospace Medicine, a group that organized several events featuring space experts from McGill and the Canadian Space Agency.

DriveSafe, a new service that offers van rides home to students after big parties on or near the downtown campus, took the award for special project.

Other winners included Folk Music Club president Fraser Hall (best club president), The McGill Tribune web site (best web site), the Education Undergraduate Society (best faculty student society), science councillor Shelina Jiwa (best SSMU councillor) and SSMU elections coordinator Ben Davies (coordinator of the year).

For the birds

Professor David Bird

The notion was a flight of fancy, but it's coming together and will be visible to all in two weeks' time. The Montreal Bird Festival, first dreamed of by David Bird 20 years ago, takes wing on the Victoria Day weekend as an anticipated 5,000 to 10,000 Montrealers and visitors gather for this three-day event.

"The idea is to celebrate birds," says Bird, professor of wildlife biology, the Avian Science and Conservation Centre and president of the festival. Bird pitched the idea to Mayor Pierre Bourque a few years ago, entering the mayor's office with a peregrine falcon perched on his wrist.

"I came to propose the peregrine as Montreal's official bird and to propose the bird festival," says Bird, adding that Montreal would join the 125 other such festivals on the continent. "Bourque, who's also a birdwatcher, agreed, providing the event be annual."

Not only did the city become involved, both in terms of financing and organizing, so did the Fondation de la faune du Québec, Environment Canada, La Presse and the Canada Millennium Partnership Program, which contributed $45,500.

Aside from "trouble-shooting and shaking hands, like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland," Bird will talk on owls at the Bird-lovers' Symposium, one of the many events organized for adults and children. His colleague from Macdonald Campus, natural resource sciences professor Roger Titman, will speak in the same forum on "How to identify ducks." Eleanor Maclean, director of the Blacker-Wood Library, and Victoria Dickenson, director of the McCord Museum, have put together an exhibit of 17th and 18th century illustrations of birds for the festival.

Outside the entrance to the Biodome, participants will see a flight demonstration of a peregrine falcon. In the Botanical Gardens, there will be a contest for counting the most bird species in the gardens. There will also be exotic caged birds, a birdcalling contest, films, bird-related art and photography, and workshops on building bird boxes.

For more information, see the MBF website: www.montrealbirdfestival.qc.ca.

Sprinklers in the nick of time


When fire broke out in the McConnell student residence two weeks ago, it was a very good thing that a sprinkler system had just been installed. "There was water damage done only to the students' belongings and to the paint," says Florence Tracy, director of Residences and Student Housing.

The fact that the fire, caused by a candle, was so quickly and neatly looked after was cause for vindication for Tracy and the 1,700 McGill students in residence who have had to endure two years of disruption while the buildings were brought up to fire code standards. "'Now we understand why you put us through all that,'" Tracy recalls one student telling her.

Wayne Wood, too, was pleased. For the manager of the Environmental Safety Office, this fire put to rest the "Hollywood" myth that sprinklers do great water damage. "You can't set off the whole system simply by holding a match to one," he says, noting that the damage done in McConnell was minimal compared to what it could have been had the building been sprinklerless.

"There was little water damage as compared to what could have been caused by firehoses," says Wood. "Better a small amount of water at the early stage than lots later."

Installing sprinklers in every room and at 12-foot intervals in the corridors was both costly and disruptive. The cost of the entire fire standard upgrade — which included sprinklers, smoke detectors, modification of exit doors, purchase of a generator (to keep the sprinklers working when the power fails) and upgrading of the plumbing system — was $5 million, $1 million of which was paid by the University, the rest by the residences.

Aside from the fact that city bylaws require such installations, Tracy considers the work essential. "It's a lifesaving measure in a milieu where the population is not always careful," she says, reminding the listener of the deaths in a fire last fall at a student residence in New Jersey. At McGill, says Tracy, there's at least one fire per year.

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