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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Summer 2002 > Reviews


One Thousand Beards, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2001, $19.95, by Allan Peterkin, DipPsych'89.


What's the appeal of beards? It's a question that has long perplexed women, who can't imagine what it must be like to sport hair on their cheeks and chins -- or do whatever they can to conceal the occasional unruly sprout. In what must be the definitive display of bearded pride, Toronto psychiatrist Allan Peterkin offers an exhaustive account of all facets of facial hair -- from history to fashion to detailed instructions at the book's conclusion regarding beard growth for those his book has inspired.

Indeed, the comprehensive approach with which Peterkin addresses his slightly esoteric subject is remarkable, to the point of weirdness. Peterkin (shown lightly fuzzed in the author's photo) essentially assesses the entire history of the world through a beard's-eye view, addressing questions ranging from "What's the ritualistic symbolism of shaving?" to "What's the post-modern, post-feminist meaning of facial hair?"

Dividing his book into 13 focused chapters, Peterkin notably makes an effort to derail any accusations of sexism: he includes a thorough discussion of "The Feminine Beard" in chapter six. Some sections are more interesting than others. While "The Antique Beard: A History of the Beard" offers a very interesting explanation of various fashions in facial hair, "Beards of Fame and Infamy" presents dozens of familiar historical male figures and analyzes the significance of their beards and mustaches. The wide margins are peppered with beard- and mustache-related illustrations, verse, quotes and trivia: "Men with waxed mustaches, like Hercule Poirot's, sometimes sleep with a mustache bra in place to keep things in shape until the next morning."

The book is exhaustively researched, including much fieldwork by the author, who spent large amounts of time staring at strangers. "I'm sitting in a café on Church Street, the heart of the gay village in Toronto," Peterkin writes. "It's the first real spring day and short shorts and tank tops abound; a lot of the bodies are muscular, epilated and tanned, despite the harsh winter. What I observed earlier in quite a different context holds true here too: at least every third face, no matter what age, sported some form of facial hair." Undoubtedly there has never been such a pertinent book for those of us who lie awake at night pondering life's beard-related conundrums. One Thousand Beards is the definitive guide to facial hair.

Pennies From Heaven, Justin Time Records, 2002, Susie Arioli Swing Band Featuring Jordan Officer, BMus'02.


They took the Montreal Jazz Festival by storm a few years ago, returned for sold-out shows the following year, and their Juno-nominated debut CD,

It's Wonderful, was named by Maclean's magazine as one of the top five jazz records of 2000. Those who enjoyed them the first time out will not be disappointed with this second release from Susie Arioli and Jordan Officer.

You'll probably be hooked by the end of the first verse on the opening track, "Pennies from Heaven." This gem is followed by a jaunty reading of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," then Cole Porter's exquisite "Night and Day," by which point the record has already earned its fourth star. Here is a pair of musicians with wit, charisma and talent playing carefully selected standards and less familiar fare from the '30s and '40s in infectious, subtle arrangements. Arioli's voice is purity personified and her direct, charming interpretations hearken back to an era of style and taste. The young Jordan Officer continues to dazzle with his swinging guitar playing and as the arranger on the disc shows a very deft musical hand.

Arioli and Officer are joined by Michael Jerome Browne on acoustic rhythm guitar, and Solon McDade and Colin Bray alternating on upright bass. Putting in a surprising guest appearance is Toronto guitar whiz Jeff Healey, perhaps better known for his raunchy blues-based music but an aficionado of historic jazz who contributes an old-style acoustic solo on "Having Fun" that augments an already guitar-rich album. The other guest on the CD is the late Ralph Sutton, the "Glenn Gould of stride piano" in the tradition of James P. Johnson. It's Sutton's last recording session before his death at age 79, and his playing on the up-tempo instrumental "Walter's Flat," one of two Officer originals on the record, is like hearing the past come to life.

Pennies from Heaven is a very fine, laid back CD of cool swing, and you can catch Arioli and Officer at the Montreal Jazz Festival again this summer.

Planning the New Suburbia: Flexibility by Design, UBC Press, 2001, $85, by Avi Friedman, MArch'83.


The 'burbs. Love them or hate them, these days they house two-thirds of the North American population, and urban planners, architects, developers, policymakers, and citizens are often at odds with each other over how suburbia should work. With urban sprawl becoming a phrase on more and more people's lips, many are trying to address how the suburbs affect the cities they surround. Likewise, in the age of megacities, the suburbs themselves are struggling with how they function and evolve.

Avi Friedman, a well-known professor of architecture at McGill who's been named "one of ten people who will change the way we live" by Wallpaper magazine, takes on the Pleasantville paradox in his latest book. Rather than just complaining about the 'burbs, Friedman proposes doing something about them, addressing the challenge of creating affordable, adaptable and environmentally sustainable neighbourhoods.

Friedman surveys the evolution of urban planning, the history of "ideal" communities, the development of North American suburbs, and the theory behind his concept of flexible suburban design. He offers three case studies with examples of his approach to suburban planning, all illustrated with drawings, plans and photos.

Are the planning processes that regulated development in the suburbs for the last 50 years breaking down? Has the post-war suburb run its course? Are we doomed to ever-expanding suburban sprawl? Friedman suggests new methods that would enable planners to conceive and inhabitants to adapt communities and homes to their evolving needs as a result of changing family size, an aging population or new working conditions. In short, turning them into real neighbourhoods that develop holistically, with flexibility built into their design. Planning the New Suburbia is a book for urban planners, homebuilders, architects and concerned citizens interested in the planning and redevelopment of the communities we live in.

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