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Liberal Arts Blog

SFU Continuing Studies

Cool & Weird: South Africa

October 17th, 2014

Tricia Sirrs writes about her experience in one of our fall 2014 classes: South Africa: From Colony to Rainbow Nation, taught by Richard Harvey.

The evolution of South Africa: through the eyes of someone who was there.

Those of us registered in Richard Harvey’s From Colony to Rainbow Nation, the story of South Africa, really won the instructor lottery. He (along with his parents and his grandparents) lived through it all.

He’s seen the wild animal preserves, the grasslands, the diamond mines, and the townships. He’s experienced the tensions between the white (European) farmers and the black (African) labourers. And he’s heard the music.

He knows how the Dutch and British settlers took ruthless advantage of the unsophisticated indigenous people living in what is now the Union of South Africa.

And he’s seen the societal breakdown that comes from poverty and joblessness, even in a country blessed with some of the richest diamond and gold resources on the planet.

Now he’s here, making the history of that faraway country come alive to those of us fortunate enough to be listening to him in a classroom in downtown Vancouver.

Professor Harvey grew up in South Africa under apartheid – brutally-enforced separation and stratification of the races. The Europeans (whites) owned the land, owned the mines, and governed the country as they pleased. The blacks owned nothing, not even a vote.

Basically, to be a black African, was to be invisible. A pair of hands and a strong back: a wage slave. That’s all.

(When Professor Harvey came to Canada in 1997, he said he was “astonished” to see white men actually working as labourers on road and construction crews.)

Most of us remember the day in 1994 that Nelson Mandela walked free. And most of us shared the hope that what Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the ‘Rainbow Nation’- where so many peoples would live in peace – would flourish.

It hasn’t happened. In fact, Dr. Tutu reportedly has wondered aloud if the name he gave his country is still valid.

Without another Mandela miracle, more tensions and troubles undoubtedly lie ahead.

Tricia has written everything from ad copy to annual reports, from websites to speeches, and from film scripts to here’s-to-you toasts. She moved here from Calgary six years ago, and has been taking classes at SFU ever since. She’s now thinking of starting another business: ghost-writing family “legacy” biographies.

Cool & Weird: Okay, So the World Seems to be Going to Hell in a Wheelbarrow. . .

October 15th, 2014

Tricia Sirrs writes about her experience in one of our fall 2014 classes: The Politics of Financial Crises, taught by Ted Cohn.

Okay, So the World Seems to be Going to Hell in a Wheelbarrow. . .

But now, thanks to Professor Ted Cohn’s course on The Politics of Financial Crises, at least I have some very basic understanding of how we all got into this mess.

Follow the money.

Who’s got it. Who used to have it. And who intends to have it next.

Because with money, comes power and influence. And that power and influence are shifting under our feet these days.

Of course that’s an over-simplification. And of course we can’t blame all the woes we watch on the news every night on simple greed. Global woes like the ISIS crisis; Ebola; Russia’s annexation of Crimea and moving in on the rebel / puppet ‘statelet’ of Eastern Ukraine; downed passenger jets; hundreds of thousands of refugees; climate change; etc., etc.

The list goes on and on.

But neither is all this happening just because Mr. Putin was / is an empire-hungry bully. Nor is it mostly the work of dozens of terrorist splinter groups – whose names all sound the same – with axes to grind, machetes to swing, and missiles to launch, against anything and anybody remotely connected with the West and the Western way of thinking.

Not big oil, big banks, or big government. Not religion. Not Wall Street, Bay Street or Fleet Street. And not conflicting isms; bursting bubbles; austerity cutbacks, stimulus spending; or any country caught cooking the books (Hello, Greece).

These are all both symptoms and ‘accelerants’ in the current global power shift. And the whole volatile mix is enough to keep us up all night.

It’s somewhat reassuring to remember that financial crises are not exactly new: they’ve been happening regularly since sometime in the 13th century. But it seems the world hasn’t learned anything much in all that time.

So just watch what happens in the next few months. Power and influence is moving – and moving fast – away from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Now it’s China and, to a lesser extent Korea and India, calling the global economic shots.

The power shift is not surprising. After all, China practically single-handedly restored global economic stability in the face of the world wide meltdown of 2007-08. Some would say they’ve definitely earned the right to be top dog.

And apparently it’s just dawning on the Europeans that they’re going to have to make some changes in their economic policies and practices if they want to keep their heads above water in this new reality.

Another sign of shifting power: The G20, formed in 1999 and which includes the emerging Asian and BRIC countries, has now effectively replaced the G8 (reduced to the G7 when Russia is being punished and suspended for bullying), as the forum for global economic decision-making.

It’s a fascinating class. Watch the international news in the evening, then have it interpreted in class the next morning. Any class Professor Cohn teaches, sign me up.

Oh, and one tasty tidbit: it seems France was thoroughly ticked off (to put it politely) when in 1976, the U.S. brought Canada into what was then the G6. Apparently the French didn’t think we were worthy. Again.

Tricia has written everything from ad copy to annual reports, from websites to speeches, and from film scripts to here’s-to-you toasts. She moved here from Calgary six years ago, and has been taking classes at SFU ever since. She’s now thinking of starting another business: ghost-writing family “legacy” biographies.

Cool & Weird: Calling all film buffs!

October 13th, 2014

Lorna Court writes about her experience in one of our fall 2014 classes: Dancin: Choreographers from Hollywood and Broadway, taught by Neil Ritchie.

We all love Hollywood trivia, and with Neil Ritchie’s course on Choreographers (Sept/Oct 2014) only half over, I’ve already picked up some gems. For instance –

Who should we thank for the interesting camera angles that we take for granted in modern movies? A choreographer named Busby Berkeley! It was the early 1930s, and until Busby arrived on the scene the camera was considered a stand-in for the audience, so it was positioned accordingly – front and centre, and completely stationary. But Busby’s artistic vision required movement and flexibility. He used his dancers to create patterns, often kaleidoscope-like, which were best appreciated from above – or below. In order to achieve this he needed to free the camera (which he operated himself). Talk about thinking “outside” the box, his thoughts required such a bird’s eye view that he and the camera spent much of their time perched 70 feet above the stage. (I don’t know if he invented the safety harness, but he certainly used one! More than once Busby would be so intent on capturing the perfect angle that he’d step right off the filming platform and find himself dangling at the end of his lifeline, requiring his assistant to reel him back to safety.) Once Busby started moving the camera, there was no limit to his imagination. He positioned tap dancers on transparent platforms in order to shoot from below. He shot through legs. He shot swimmers from below. He even experimented by running film sequences backwards. (If his name doesn’t ring a bell, watch GOLD DIGGERS 1935 or FOOTLIGHT PARADE for a taste of his work.)

Ever wonder about the genesis of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ romantic routines? Ginger wasn’t even on-set! Instead Fred and his close friend and choreographer, Hermes Panagiotopoulos spent weeks dancing in each other’s arms in a deserted sound stage creating the steps. Only once the dance was complete would Ginger arrive, relying on Hermes who was used to dancing her part, to teach her the steps.

Where did Bob Fosse get his start? In KISS ME KATE (1953), with Ann Miller. Hermes was the movie’s choreographer, but he let a very young Fosse create 38 seconds of original dance within one of Hermes’ pieces. If you’re a Fosse fan, check it out! His style was distinctive, even then.

Lorna came to the 55+ program with an arts education and a business background, so is now revelling in as wide an array of courses from other disciplines as possible — Physics to Fashion, Astronomy to Archeology.  (She says it’s incredibly liberating to know these are courses that it’s impossible to fail!)  As a Headhunter Lorna conducted thousands of interviews, examining the  backstories behind the events and choices that shape people’s lives.  The same curiosity led her to these courses, and she finds them addictive!

Cool & Weird: Bioelectronics, Medical Imaging and Our Bodies

October 9th, 2014

Sue Robinson writes about her experience in one of our fall 2014 classes: Bioelectronics, Medical Imaging and Our Bodies, taught by Maryse de la Giroday.

Interested in the advancements of technology and how it may help the 55+ group? The bioelectronics course currently being offered deals with recent projects/research.

Did you know that the first “bionic” eye was approved for patients in the USA in 2013? Physicists (in 2014) have now developed an interface (of this Argus II Retina) to the optic nerve. Cornell University has bioengineered a 3D ear. Washington State can print bone on a 3D printer.

A man with a nano competent synthetic trachea is still alive a year and a half later. Knee cartilage is printed out using an ink jet printer.

Better glaucoma treatments pair a smart phone with an eye implant to improve the way doctors measure and lower a patient’s eye pressure.

A better “power” knee for going upstairs has been developed. Xenon gas is currently being used to help PTSD patients. The latest research from Mexico is on a 5 second x ray which doesn’t use film.

A graphene-based wearable sensor developed at the University of Michigan detects acetone (for a possible diabetes diagnosis) or nitric oxide and oxygen (for possible lung disease, anemia, high blood pressure). Wearable technology includes a Ralph Lauren sports shirt which reads heartbeat and respiration.

An electronic “skin” made of 3 layers of gel nanoparticles and 2 layers of cadmium sulphide separated by 9 layers of polymers can detect lumps in breasts.

Through technology such as MRIs & PET scans, we have (in 2009) learned that: our brain has 86 billion neurons, we use all of our brain all of the time (not just 10%), we use both sides of our brain (so we are not totally left-brained or right-brained). Massive amounts of data are coming in from BRAIN, Human Brain Project and CBRAIN (Canada).

Robotic police directing traffic in the Congo were developed by a woman (to assist train engineers).

“Reserve” cells in our body can be attracted to the site of an injury. A 67 year old regrew the end of his finger in 8 weeks. Through regenerative medicine research, we have learned that we can replace 5-6 inches of the tissue in the esophagus in a lab situation. Companies are working on regeneration of bladders. A skin “gun” can spray a burned patient’s own cells in solution which can regenerate skin much faster than before.

On October 1, 2014, scientists found a stem cell reservoir in the human eye. We can culture cells in a “dish” but also on a computer chip the size of a microscopic slide. Chips are cheaper, better, more humane.

March, 2013 saw the EU ban cosmetic testing on animals. China followed in 2014. Tekmira, in North Vancouver, has sent vaccines for Ebola to Africa, making it, in essence, a human clinical trial (which I hope can be tested in a different in the future).

If you liked what you have read here, please join us in the Nanotechnology Course starting on Oct 23 and ending on Nov 27, 2014.

PS The prof. is an expert in nanotechnology.

The Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ program will be offering a class titled “Nanotechnology: The Next Big Idea” by Maryse de la Giroday in the second session of Fall 2014. Register for the course now!

Sue has had an illustrious 42-year teaching career and is now embarking on a journey as a student in our Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ courses. SFU courses have led to many explorations for Robinson; “SFU just opened me back up to all sorts of things,” she says.

Observation, Insight, Enlightenment!

October 7th, 2014

Such words, taken from the world of the arts and sciences, connect how we understand with how we see. Our upcoming SCFC852 course, “The Impact of the Arts and Sciences on Photography,” taught by professional photographer and photography teacher Rick Hulbert, will take students on an intellectual and visual journey that will enhance both how they see and how they understand.

By engaging the class in a dialogue between the visual and the intellectual, both photographers and potential photo viewers will develop a deeper appreciation of how sight cannot be separated from insight. Spaces are still available, so register now!

Rick Hulbert is currently featured as the author of the cover story in the fall 2014 issue of Canadian Camera Magazine.

Cool & Weird: Jewish Mothers, Matriarchs, and Mythology

October 3rd, 2014

Diana Cruchley writes about her experience in one of our fall classes: Jewish Mothers, Matriarchs, and Mythology taught by Lindsey bat Joseph.

“Jewish Mothers, Matriarchs, and Mythology” is a terrific course being taught by Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph. Picture me surrounded by a mass of women (and two men) who have either a Torah or a Bible with them. The woman next to me just wanted to “review” the Bible which she only vaguely remembers from her childhood.

What is the take-away from the lecture on Rebekah? A surprising number of the patriarchs are not first born (as would be expected in a patrilineal society). Moses was not—Aaron was his older brother. Jacob was not—Ishmael was the first born of Abraham. Jacob was not—Esau was the first born of Isaac. David was not—he had seven older brothers. Solomon was not—Zerah was David’s first born. Even in the case of Adam, the oldest (Cain) killed the middle child (Abel) and everything presumably was inherited by the youngest, Seth.

We explored in some depth the tension between the old matrilineal ways as the culture around Abraham and Isaac turned to a patrilineal one, especially as shown in the verses describing Isaac and Rebekah’s courtship. The matrilineal is preserved today in that to be a Jew one must be born to a Jewish mother.

You learn something new every day—both cool and often weird—at SFU’s 55+ program.

Diana Cruchley, passionate learner, used to attend random classes at university as an undergraduate just because she “heard the prof was good.” A former District Administrator in Langley, Diana is an award winning educator and an author who gives workshops for teachers (and seniors) across British Columbia, Alberta and in the United States.

Cool & Weird: 2014 Terry Fox Run

September 22nd, 2014

Sue Robinson writes about her 2014 Terry Fox Run experience:

I’ve been taking classes since 2011 in the Adults 55+ program at SFU. I love the program and the connection to this university, which is a very forward-looking place. A few weeks ago I received a letter from the Four Seasons Hotel inviting me to, yet again, be involved in the Terry Fox Run. I have been walking for a cure for cancer for about 22 of the 34 years since Terry Fox tried to run across Canada.

At the run site the t-shirts are often sold out before I get my registration finished. I have kept my most treasured shirts over the years. Even though I have been at SFU for three years now, I knew nothing of the Terry Fox Run shirts for SFU students. When I saw them hanging in the bookstore, I just had to purchase one.

I ran last Sunday for my niece’s mother-in-law, cancer free for over five years, and my friend, currently in radiation treatments. I felt honoured and humbled to be able to wear the student shirt, all the while remembering that Terry Fox ran 42 k every day, while I was only walking 3 k.

I’m so proud of SFU and Terry Fox’s amazing journey.

Sue has had an illustrious 42-year teaching career and is now embarking on a journey as a student in our Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ courses. SFU courses have led to many explorations for Robinson; “SFU just opened me back up to all sorts of things,” she says.

Fall Update

September 12th, 2014

Welcome to the fall season, when leaves tumble, the sky grows grey, and the rush, rush of activity begins again. Fall classes in Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ are in full swing. If you haven’t already registered for a class, a number of our second session classes are still open.

This fall we are also offering two FREE Saturday Forums. This coming Saturday, September 13th at 1:30 in Room 1900, come hear a discussion about “Back to School: School vs. Education.” Then on November 1, also at 1:30 in Room 1900, Shawn Michael Bullock will present “Snap, Crackle, Pop!: A History of Noise”. Reservations are required. Reserve HERE.

If you’ve ever wondered about the state of the world—how we got to be where we are today, then you need to come to one of our Quantum Leap lectures. These lectures focus on momentous changes or earth-shattering discoveries that have permanently altered our view of the world or of ourselves.

Our autumn series are Changing the Course of History and Scientific Revolutions. The history lectures discuss the emergence of the city and its profound changes in how we live, work, love and consume, and the impact of World War I—that proverbial “war to end all wars.” The science lectures discuss the primeval atom and Einstein’s theories of the universe. Space is still available for both lectures, but hurry, because spaces are filling quickly. Cost is $23 + GST. Reserve HERE.

Hoping to see you in a class!

Our Program Has Been Featured on Two Blogs!

July 30th, 2014

Registration for Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ fall courses is now underway!

Six courses have already reached full capacity, but there are many more courses available for registration. Come have a look at them by clicking HERE. Don’t forget to register for all the free events we offer too!

Our program has also been featured on two outstanding blogs.

Kamilah Charters-Gabanek writes about our program on the SFU Vancouver Blog: Lifelong learning in the city: 5 reasons to take a class with Liberal Arts and Adults 55+.

Gordon Price writes about our program on his Price Tags Blog: Ordinary Stats: The Education-Transit Connection.

Our Fall Courses and Events are Online!

June 27th, 2014

Fall? What? Yes, just when you think summer has finally arrived, Fall is in the air.

Well, not quite, but our fall line-up of courses is now available to you, and what a line-up it is! We’ve got something for practically everybody, ranging from free events and courses on evenings and Saturdays for everybody and courses in the daytime for Adults 55+.

The range is truly amazing, too, covering a host of fascinating topics in the liberal arts (history and literature), in science, in politics and also taking in photography, art and music and archaeology. From touring the Galapagos Islands to understanding the secrets of the universe and its planets and black holes our stretch couldn’t be larger.

Why not check us out online now and plan an exciting fall of learning and discovery?

And, oh, yes, our print brochure will, of course, be off to you in the post shortly, but that’s only a skeletal view of what’s happening. Because of space restrictions and print costs, our online version is the only one that gives you the complete picture: it contains the full description for each week’s course, required or recommended reading (if any) and an extended (rather than a short) biography for each instructor.

Hit us up today … and we’ll look forward to seeing you in the fall!

Registration for our FALL COURSES AND EVENTS in the Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Program begins on July 23 at 10:00 a.m.