The Gossip Column

Yeah, it’s a degenerate age for journalism. (See Roman Polanski’s recent antics). Not that I’ve ever had “standards”.

Yesterday, the university’s greybeards gathered at Norman Mackenzie House (president Toope’s residence) to honour several of this year’s honorary degree recipients. The elegant reception came upon the heel of a long day of taxing hand-shaking for the President and Chancellor at a relentless stream of graduation ceremonies. Indeed, the notion that the act of standing on a stage and honoring graduates is, in itself, an invested, laudable feat, deserving of splendid respect and thanks, figured prominently in the evening’s small talk. UBC-O’s student BOG rep had attended every ceremony! The chancellor shook every student’s hand! The president actually did his job! O!

After being name-tagged and equipped with an initial glass of wine, people milled about the garden and house, nibbling on shrimp-on-a-sugar-cane-stick, mini-kebabs, barbecued chicken limbs (of mysterious size and composition), bits of fruit, and miniature chickpea salads-in-a-spoon. If they happened across the open bar a few more times than strictly probable, all the better. Two chairs in which Clinton and Yeltsin once sat were prodded, artwork was admired, and views from the cliff-edge were viewed. Small talk, a skill I’ve neglected for my entire life, is highly necessary; it’s an earnest and serious currency. Bigwigs – probably due to their horror of natural pauses – are quite friendly though. I suppose it comes in the manual. That and the polite retreat.

Anyway, among the honorees were Cassie Campbell, the former captain of the women’s national hockey team, David Dodge, the CEO of the bank of Canada, Michael Bliss, a historian of Canadian medicine, Michael Halliday, a linguist, and P.J. Peebles, the cosmologist who discovered the universe’s microwave background. The Chancellor spoke a few words about each, and they all seemed quite happy. These distinguished folks have have been attending some of the graduation ceremonies this week as well. I wish there had been a bit more time for them to speak or discuss something they care about though – it’s hard to be inspired when the accomplishments of established, distant people are coagulated and volleyed at you. Though, information and inspiration weren’t really the point, I acknowledge. Appreciating, schmoozing, and “welcoming them to the university family” were.

Some of the other guests were the student valedictorians of the various grad ceremonies, as chosen by the grad council. Various administrators and department heads were in attendance too. Some distinguished students (Senator Gina Eom, SUSer Reka Pataky, UCSer Jon Lam, BoG rep Darren Peets, ex-BoG rep Omar Sirri, AMS president Jeff Friedrich, token first-year Sonja Babovic, and Senator Tariq Ahmed) were present. Cool faculty included Miltonist, historian of astronomy, and former faculty BoG rep Dennis Danielson, who apart from being a good teacher, is also responsible for the fact that there’s no traffic on U-Blvd. Nancy Gallini, the Dean of Arts, was also in attendance.

The funniest quote of the night belonged to Brian Sullivan, VP Students, who was, as always, dashing in a bow-tie. When warned not to fall off the cliff as he wandered across the lawn, he replied that not to worry, he’d probably land on squishy middle-aged bodies on the beach below if he did. Lovely. Not quite close, but also note-worthy, is when Gina Eom remarked that I truly looked like one of god’s chosen people. Cuz divine discrimination rocks. Physics professor and fellow microwave-background genius Mark Halpern and the President’s wife Paula Rosen share the prize for best-dressed. Mark wore a fantastic suit and gorgeous delicately-striped, pale green shirt. Ms. Rosen was dramatic in a geometric black ribbon and chiffon dress. A lady with a lovely red sash was also noted and admired.

Though I got permission to fabricate some table-dancing embarrassments from a few people, I’ll forgo the creative flights of fancy and conclude by assuring you all that your money is well-spent!!


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