This week’s print edition of Maclean‘s, which doubles as next week’s print edition of Maclean‘s because it’s the mammoth Labour Day double issue, features yeoman work from all hands, and, if nothing else, copious work from mine. I’m pleased to appear in several places in this even-more-excellent-than-usual issue, but most of the really good work was done by colleagues. Let us have a gander.
• The cover story is “The Smartest Cities in Canada,” by Cathy Gulli, based on the extraordinary work the Canadian Council on Learning has done in developing a “Composite Learning Index” — a measure of learning that takes into account both traditional notions, such as university enrolment or literacy rates, and less-obvious notions such as voluntarism and attendance at performing-arts events. The CCL then found out how 4,700 Canadian communities (yes, four thousand seven hundred) measure on this index and its assorted sub-indices. I’ll be straight with you: The CCL reported the results of this ambitious bit of data-mining months ago, but almost nobody took notice of it. So, no fools, we’ve taken their valuable and overlooked effort, plunked it onto the cover of what is one of the most important issues of the year for us, and we frankly hope it’s not the last time we do so.
• My contribution to the smart-cities package is a return trip to Kitchener-Waterloo for an update on the goings-on at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The excitement there as they prepare for the arrival of a new Executive Director, the British cosmologist Neil Turok, is considerable. My story appears at our Maclean’s OnCampus website, here.
• We also have cool pictures of Canadian celebrities, including Stephen Harper and Keanu Reeves (separately, I’m afraid) on their summer vacations. The pics that appeared in the magazine are here; there are also a few web extras, including this one, of which I’m fond, with saxophonist Phil Dwyer running a summer jazz-and-cooking camp at his home on Vancouver Island (yes, that’s Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and ball cap):
• I should point out that both the smart-cities package and the how-I-spent-my-summer package were co-ordinated by our latest clever strategic hire, Senior Editor Duncan Hood, who was at Canadian Business before we snagged him. Duncan will continue to do business writing, but the bulk of his time is devoted to, well, senior-editing of a very specific sort. We want (and of course, when I write about home news at Maclean’s, when I say “we want,” I mean “Ken Whyte wants”) to have more frequent “tent-pole” features, large packages that make an issue stand out from the everday, as our assorted Universities issues and our year-end Newsmakers photo package already do. Putting those festivals together is a huge drag on our modest staff; before, the rest of the magazine had to suffer (we hope not noticeably) while everyone pitched in on the packages. Now Duncan can plan, assign, edit and assemble the packages while everyone else concentrates on keeping the rest of each issue strong. He’s been with us since spring, but with Smart Cities and Summer Vacations, this issue gives us a chance to give him the mad props he deserves.
• In addition to my regular print column, which points out one of the less obvious absurdities of recent days in Ottawa, I have yet a third piece in this issue. It’s about the great literary feud between Penguin Canada and two of Canada’s finer literary magazines over what constitutes a good short story. Russell Smith’s Globe column today is on the same topic. Mine’s not online. But you’ll really want to see it in print anyway, because it features gorgeous, very funny layout and illustration from Una Janicijevic at unaart.com, whose website quite literally rocks.
• My literary-feud piece and Una’s art were commissioned and assembled by my friend, the legendary Dianne de Fenoyl, who watches over our back arts-and-culture pages and who, 14 years ago (!), edited the first magazine article I ever wrote, a profile of Jacques Parizeau for Saturday Night.
• All that, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s an extended column by Andrew Coyne on the political uses of patriotism; a surprising interview with For Better or For Worse cartoonist Lynn Johnston, who’s recently gone through some Worse; an article from novelist Joseph Boyden about Cree politics on James Bay; a lovely guest column by my revered predecessor Allan Fotheringham; and more.
Frankly we’re all exhausted but proud. Go check it out. Thank you.