Nick Rogers shells out on Halloween

As Halloween loomed, US and Canadian media scrambled to demystify the annual spook night by interviewing Nick Rogers, a history professor with York’s Faculty of Arts and author of Halloween: From Pagan Rituals to Party Night. His observations have been carried on the pages of major Toronto and national newspapers, in news features on leading Canadian radio and television news programs, and on at least a dozen news Web sites. Media have been picking up the theme that more and more adults are celebrating Halloween.

In a story posted Oct. 31, Rogers told, for one, about the Celtic history of the festival and talked about the dangers of trick or treating these days. “People are nasty, they’re putting razors in apples and contaminating candy,” said Rogers. He pointed out that the sniper attacks in the Washington, DC, area a year ago and the anthrax attacks of 2001 made many communities think twice about holding Halloween events. “There are all these scares out there,” he said. “They catch the eye of the media and they become big and scary and in some ways they become urban legends…. The panic over an unsafe Halloween is often disproportionate to the danger.”

And increasingly, Rogers said, people are affixing political agendas to Halloween. “There are debates in some schools, should we get rid of Halloween and have an autumn festival? There are some who say we shouldn’t make it such a gruesome holiday. Last year, after 9/11, a lot of people were saying, ‘Turn down the gore, let’s not frighten the kids.'” In addition, Rogers says, “There are some people who are offended by the marketing of witchery.” They include both conservative Christians, some of whom claim the holiday promotes paganism and the occult, and Wiccans or modern-day witches, some of whom resent the sight of costumed trick-or-treaters wearing black hats and carrying brooms.”

Healthy living hard to come by for low-income Albertans

The provincial government’s efforts to encourage Albertans to lead healthier lives may not be as beneficial as initially projected, reported news weekly Fast Forward Calgary Oct. 30. “[Provincial] governments are focused only on the holy trinity of risk – diet, tobacco and physical activity – and not on the crucial determinants of health,” said Dennis Raphael, health policy and management professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. His research cites a Poverty and Health Care Reform report prepared by the Social Issues Committee YWCA of Calgary that identifies poverty as the single most important health factor. “Low-income Canadians are twice as likely to report poor health as compared to high-income Canadians,” said Raphael. Lack of affordable housing and government assistance has left many Calgarians on the streets, cold and hungry. “Usually this stuff [homelessness] is not a lifestyle choice, but the governments act as if it is,” he said.

York prof directs Don Giovanni in Winnipeg

Tom Diamond, contract theatre faculty with York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, is directing Manitoba Opera’s production of Mozart’s 18th-century opera Don Giovanni in Winnipeg, reported The Winnipeg Sun Oct. 31. “I think you have to have seen a Don Giovanni in your lifetime. It’s one of those great operas – it’s a thrilling, great opera,” he said. Diamond, who is directing Theatre@York’s spring production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, is a former Winnipegger.