Electric guitar’s rebel roots

The evolution of the electric guitar has social and cultural overtones, as well as industrial implications, York University professor and musicologist Rob Bowman points out, wrote the Toronto Star’s Greg Quill. “It was more complex than making noise,” Bowman said. “In the late 1940s and early 1950s, record companies and producers were encouraging cross-pollination between segregated black and white musicians, between white country music and black rhythm ‘n’ blues. In Memphis, Sam Phillips was beginning to record white country singers performing ‘black’ music, and decided to divest the studio bands of country music identifiers such as steel guitar, mandolin and fiddle,” he continued. “The guitar, the only expressive instrument R&B and country music had in common, suddenly became extremely important, particularly when it was picked up by the so-called rebels of rockabilly, and became associated with youth, emotional intensity, energy…. It was a way of asserting the identity of a new kind of music.”

Money for transition housing stemmed from York report

The province’s decision to allot money for women escaping abusive relationships could mean new transitional housing in Brantford, reported the Brantford Expositor April 12. The province will spend $3.5 million for transitional housing and counselling services for women who leave abusive relationships. The decision stemmed from a report released on April 5, which called for changes to Ontario’s welfare system to help abused women escape from abusive relationships. It was written by Janet Mosher, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

NDP glory past and future

Three factors contributed to the New Democratic Party’s electoral success in 1988, says Greg Albo, an expert on the NDP and political science professor at York University, reported the Regina Leader-Post April 12.

  • Despite the fact the NDP downplayed their anti-free trade rhetoric during the campaign it still played a pivotal role in their popularity;
  • Traditionally, close elections have benefited the NDP by allowing them to sneak up the middle and win a greater number of seats;
  • Neo-conservative political values – such as lower taxes, privatization and smaller government – had yet to be widely accepted by voters. But these values have dominated Canadian politics throughout most of the last decade.

Many Canadians, in 2004, do appear more apprehensive of conservative ideology. Voters rejected Ontario’s Conservative provincial government in 2003 and have recently elected left-leaning mayors in Vancouver and Toronto, Albo explained. Relations with the US and Canadian nationalism could also affect the election – as they did during the free-trade debate of 1988, Albo says. “Because of public concern with American foreign policy and international issues, the NDP will be able to run strongly in those areas,” he said. “There are not a lot of differences between the Liberals and Conservatives when it comes to American-Canadian relations…and the NDP always does well on issues of nationalism.”

Toronto ex-pat won’t return to South Africa

In 1956, Clifford Jansen, a 21-year-old South African designated as “coloured” by South Africa’s apartheid government, set out from his home in Cape Town, determined never to return, reported the Toronto Star April 11 in a story about the dawning of a new South Africa. “In a way, my life began when I left there,” Jansen says now, seated in his Thornhill home. “From that point on, I lived what I would call a normal life. I didn’t have to think about my colour every day. So, to be honest, I never missed the place. Not at all.” Now 69 and a retired York University sociology professor, Jansen left behind a world where he could never have achieved his academic goals. He can still vividly recall the programming of apartheid. “We were so brainwashed to believe that we were inferior.” The coloureds, people of mixed heritage, fell somewhere between blacks and whites in terms of government status, so “you were constantly trying to move up a shade,” Jansen explained, recalling the efforts of friends to straighten their hair or lighten their skin with creams. He kept his outrage hidden from his family. For Jansen, the anger has now faded, along with his sense of himself as a South African. Since his 1993 visit, he has found some peace. “If my life was taken away from me by South Africa, it has been given back in surplus since I left,” he said. “If there were no apartheid, I might never have gone to university, never have become a professor, never have made it to Canada. So, in that sense, I don’t have any more bitterness.”

Master of horror recommends Inspector Banks

Peter Robinson (PhD ’84) still shakes his head in disbelief when the “King” creeps into conversation, reported the Ottawa Citizen April 11. Just how did that icon of American horror-lit discover the scribblings of a transplanted Yorkshireman – and York grad – living in Toronto? “It really knocked me for six,” Robinson concedes as he recalls how Stephen King swept into his world, giving him and his books the publicity lift of a lifetime. The author encouraged readers in his new column in Entertainment Weekly to seek out good mystery – specifically the works of Robinson, Dennis Lehane and Peter Abrahams. “I couldn’t believe it,” Robinson said, his surprise turning to incredulity when the king of horror happily put his unsolicited comments in writing for the dust cover of his latest bestselling Insp. Banks novel, Playing with Fire: “The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market. In fact, this may be the best series of British novels since the novels of Patrick O’Brian,” King wrote. “Try one and tell me I’m wrong.” Robinson, a writer virtually from his days in the cradle, created the popular Insp. Alan Banks in the early 1980s as he finished a PhD in English at York University. It wasn’t until 1987 that he convinced a publisher to run with Banks’ first case, Gallows View. Nominations for top awards immediately flagged him as a writer to watch.

Social work student designed own summer job

Labatt Breweries of Canada has helped youth gain valuable work experience by funding summer employment the students create themselves in partnership with registered charities, through its Labatt People In Action program, reported the Toronto Star April 10 in a story about the search for summer jobs. These jobs are practical opportunities to do something significant. For example, York University social work student Sonia Baruzzo (BA ’03) made a winning proposal to provide outreach activities and fundraising expertise to Toronto’s Casey House, an AIDS/HIV hospice. The experience, which helped her confirm social work was her career passion, puts “meaning into one’s summer,” she said.

Cricket is suddenly hot in schools

Waves of immigrants from cricket-loving nations have arrived here before. What’s provoked the recent demand for the game is an attitude shift in newcomers, says Carl James, a professor of education specializing in youth and sport at York University, reported the Toronto Star April 9. “Playing cricket is a way of reclaiming their identity and culture. For those who came 10 or 20 years ago, there was more pressure to fit in,” so parents encouraged their children to play mainstream sports, James said. What’s more, teachers today are more sensitive to equity issues and the cultural diversity of their students, James added.

York U brew

There’s a new brew in town for discerning coffee drinkers with a social conscience. Timothy’s World Coffee is selling York University’s own brand of beans, grown in an environmentally sustainable way next to the school’s 120-hectare Las Nubes rain forest in Costa Rica, reported The Globe and Mail April 10. The first of 45,000 pounds have arrived at Timothy’s headquarters in Downsview, where they are roasted and then shipped to 140 stores across the country. The coffee is sold by the cup ($1.45 to $1.95, depending on size) or by the pound ($12.99), with $1 of every pound going toward York’s conservation efforts in the Costa Rican rain forest. The plan was spearheaded by Howard Daugherty, a professor in York’s faculty of environmental studies, whose research in Las Nubes includes studying the benefits of shade-grown coffee. Daugherty found that growing coffee plants amid the existing rain forest vegetation (as opposed to clear-cutting) drastically reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides while keeping the ecosystem intact. It also allows beans to mature slowly, giving them a rich, full-bodied flavour.

Timothy’s, an upscale coffee chain, was willing to give the farmers $1.30 (US) per pound of premium java – a better deal for them than the bottom price of 70 cents and a better product for consumers than fair-trade coffee, which is not shade-grown. York student volunteers are helping the Costa Rican farmers develop a nursery of shade trees to replenish clear-cut spaces and are giving workshops about the European and North American coffee markets, reported the Globe.

A chance to play a bigger role

If you cast a seed upon a rock, needless to say it is unlikely to bear fruit. Broadcaster Don Peuramaki of Fireweed Media Productions uses that analogy to highlight the significance of this year’s decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to demand that people with disabilities play a bigger role in all aspects of programming, reported the Toronto Star April 10. Another way to push the envelope is to go for a degree in critical disability studies. Ryerson has an excellent undergraduate program leading to a bachelor of arts. And York University’s postgraduate program is heading into its second year with great reviews. Says Marcia Rioux, director of York’s School of Health Policy & Management: “It has been a truly exhilarating inaugural year…. The spirit of inquiry combined with a feeling of togetherness has never been more personified.”

Liberals play havoc with the rule of law

Ontario’s Liberal government is taking a backward step in the long and contentious struggle to wrest individual rights away from kings and queens, because the legislation it introduced to shut down the controversial plan to ship Toronto’s garbage to the Adams Mine also denies its backers the legal right to sue for redress, reported The Globe and Mail April 8. Patrick Monahan, dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that governments across Canada are showing a taste for legislation that takes away the rights of individuals. “It’s unfortunate, in my view,” he said.

The rich got richer in the 1990s

A study released April 7 by Statistics Canada found that the median income of Canadians living in larger cities increased by just 1 per cent between 1990 and 2000, and was concentrated among high-income earners, reported the Globe and Mail April 8. While the poorest 10 per cent of families in most cities saw their income fall during the 1990s, those in the top 10 per cent saw increases of between 5 and 10 per cent. The polarization of a city into neighbourhoods based on income produces a situation where there are several cultures living parallel to each other but not interacting, said Engin Isin, a professor of social sciences in York University’s Faculty of Arts. “Just imagine a city that is caught in that cycle, that the rich only sees its own kind and poor only sees its own kind,” Isin said. “If we increasingly insulate people into their own, they are less and less willing to see and encounter people who are not their own . . . [and yet] the fundamental premise of a city is openness to others.”

Yiddish classes start at York this fall

York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies is offering Yiddish language courses beginning this fall, reported the Canadian Jewish News April 8. “This is an important development at York for our Jewish students and for those interested in a deeper understanding of life in eastern Europe before the Holocaust,” said Martin Lockshin, director of York’s Centre for Jewish Studies. The courses are offered through the Committee for Yiddish of United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto. Humanities Professor Keith Weiser, who is currently the Silber Family Chair for the Study of the Holocaust and Eastern European Jewry at York’s centre, will be the course director. A Yiddishist and expert on eastern European Jewry, Weiser, 31, has been teaching modern and European Jewish history, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism at York for two years.

York survey says residents getting West-Nile message

Halton Region’s top health experts are crossing their fingers that a $1.2-million plan to battle West Nile Virus yields similar results to last year when there were no humans infected with the mosquito-borne illness, reported Metroland’s Georgetown Independent April 9. Results from a phone survey conducted by York University for the region last year indicate residents are getting the message, a staff report said. It showed 93 per cent knew how the virus is spread and that more than eight out of every 10 people removed standing water on their property.

Baby news blues

“Women whose ultrasounds show fetal abnormalities want clear information about results,” reports the Medical Post in a recent issue, according to an April 11 Toronto Sun digest of lifestyle news. “The women are requesting results as quickly and as empathetically as possible,” concluded a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital and York University.

On air

  • Lorna R. Marsden, president and vice-chancellor of York University, commented on the impact of a two-year tuition freeze on Ontario universities, in a news item aired on CBC-TV’s “Canada Now” April 8. Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Colleges and Universities, made the announcement at York University, a fact contained in news reports on CBC Radio in Ontario, CP24-TV and Global TV.
  • Historian Irving Abella, author of a landmark study on Canada’s deliberate betrayal of Jewish refugees during World War Two called None Is Too Many, discussed anti-Semitism in the world today, on CBC Newsworld’s “CBC News: World View” April 11.
  • Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed pension strategies on Global TV’s “Inve$tv” April 11. He commented on his 20-1 philosophy: You have to subtract all income from Canadian Pension Plan, registered pensions and other annuities and what is left over, you should have 20 times that.
  • Bruce Ryder, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed who might replace two departing Supreme Court judges, on CBC Newsworld’s “Sunday Report” April 11.