Brad Pitt and Troy ‘all the talk’, says York classics professor

During the opening week of the epic film, Troy, starring Brad Pitt, classics professors from across Canada gathered in Quebec City to discuss Greek and Roman masterpieces at a conference, said a May 24 CP Wire story. Although the official program carried such subjects as “Libanius’ Second Oration”, the hot topic in the hallways was the dreamy Pitt, says the article. “It really was all the talk in the corridors,” said Jonathan Edmondson, coordinator of York’s Classical Studies Program and professor in the Department of History, Faculty of Arts. “Someone at the conference said they heard teenagers talking about how they ‘had’ to go and read the Iliad, as they left the movie. That’s not something you hear every day.” Edmondson and other Canadian classics professors predict the film will give a big boost to fall enrolment in classes dedicated to the classics, such as Homer’s Iliad – the inspiration for the movie. He said Troy is a good example of how an ancient story loses many of its mythical qualities when it is updated for the modern world. He already has plans to capitalize on the new-found popularity of his area of expertise, by using the book and the movie, said the article. “I’ve already decided what my first assignment will be in the fall: It will be to get my students to compare the two. It will be great. This is really good for business.”

IT-savvy politician’s defeat not a surprise, says York prof

On May 24 in the Toronto Star, York political science Professor Ananya Mukherjee-Reed discussed the defeat of Indian cyber minister Chandrababu Naidu, a politician who wanted his state to become an information-technology superpower by the year 2020. While the Congress party’s former-economist-turned-politician Manmohan Singh was sworn in as India’s first Sikh prime minister last week, analysts were still debating what went wrong for Naidu, said the Star. However, Naidu’s defeat isn’t much of a surprise, said Mukherjee-Reed. “Andhra Pradesh is known for its IT industry, but it’s also known as the state where there were a lot of farmer suicides,” she says. “In a sense it reflects what happened in the rest of India with the India Shining campaign. It was a very narrow, urban, highly skilled middle class – which defines the IT sector – who felt the shine. If [Naidu] had paid attention to the degree to which the rural economy was suffering, it might’ve been different. That was a basic miscalculation,” she said.

She also blamed an unbalanced economic policy. “In India, for the last 50 years, we have this classical theory of economic development, that if you develop a very advanced, modern corporate core, the rest of the economy in the periphery will be pulled by the core into its orbit. It’s the very famous trickle down theory. But the trickle down theory doesn’t work until you have very strong redistributive policies.”

In a May 23 article in the Toronto Star, Mukherjee-Reed said the recent election inIndia is a strong vote for secularism after years under the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party. “What it proves is that in public life, ordinary Indians don’t really care what the faith, religion or ethnicity of their leaders is…. What matters is who he is in terms of his qualifications. It remains to be seen if Dr. Singh is willing to seize the moment and steer Congress towards secular, democratic and pro-poor politics,” she said.

York professor comments on sharia in Canada

Homa Arjoman, who fled Iran in fear for her life in 1989, now heads a campaign to stop the use of Islam’s set of laws, sharia, in Ontario, which she believes entrenches the inequality of women, said an article in the Toronto Star, May 22. Mumtaz Ali, head of the Canadian Society of Muslims, was instrumental in creating the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice, which is allowed to use sharia in tribunals in Muslim communities. “It would have been in Mumtaz Ali’s interest to consult women’s groups,” said Professor Annie Bunting, in the Division of Social Science in York’s Faculty of Arts. “Yes, Canadian law will trump the sharia, on the books a least. But what impact will these tribunals have on women’s lives?” she asked.

LeBreton Flats never meant to be a model community

Thirty years ago, LeBreton Flats was touted as “a model housing community” that would inspire other Canadian cities. It was an “exciting experiment” that would produce “innovative forms of housing” and new ways of living, said an article in the May 22 Ottawa Citizen. These were the idealistic intentions of the National Capital Commission and the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That 1970s project, of course, never happened, said the Citizen. Today, the NCC plan for a mixed-use community on the Flats does not employ that kind of hopeful language, nor does it promise a model of housing for the 21st century. Yet, some people wonder why there isn’t more excitement over the proposed NCC development, which is on prime land in the heart of Ottawa, along the Ottawa River. Designers and urban thinkers are asking, why isn’t there going to be a competition for ideas for plans; why isn’t it going to be a showcase for Canadian architecture or young designers; why isn’t it going to be a model “green” community?

For starters, LeBreton Flats was never meant to be a model community, explained James McKellar, the architect and real estate expert who devised the “agora” concept for the Flats in 1989. Currently professor of management science specialization at York’s Schulich School of Business, McKellar told the Citizen, “I thought it was important to weave LeBreton back into the city. Why should a piece of Ottawa be designed to be idealistic? It should be nothing more than a bit of invisible mending. I really reacted to this notion of a model community for Canada. It’s not. It’s a neighbourhood.

The NCC is planning a mixed-use community with 2,500 housing units and more than 1.7 million square feet of offices and shops, surrounded by green space. The Canadian War Museum is under construction and space has been set aside for another, as-yet-undetermined national institution.

York honours Joseph Sorbara

The May 23 Metroland Papers said Vaughan businessman Joseph Sorbara was honoured by York at the University’s annual Bruce Bryden Alumni Recognition Awards. Sorbara, a principal in the Sorbara Group and brother of Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, was named in the contribution category for his work to enhance York. He chairs the York University Development Corporation and is a member of the York University Foundation’s directors, and is an honorary member of the University’s Board of Governors.

On air

  • Professor Fred Lazar, economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, was a guest May 21 on CBC-NW National TV, CBLT-TV Toronto, CBUT-TV Vancouver, CKRD-TV Red Deer, CBXT-TV Edmonton and CBHT-TV Halifax, discussing a story about an Ontario judge extending bankruptcy protection for Air Canada until September. Lazar was also quoted on the subject in the May 22 Vancouver Sun,  and in the May 22 Hamilton Specatator saying he estimates that federal government policies put an additional $350 million in costs on Air Canada that are incorporated into the cost of a ticket.
  • Alok Mukherjee, course director as CUPE Unit II member of a York foundations course on Indian: Life, Culture and the Arts, and soon to receive his PhD in English at the upcoming York Convocation, was interviewed May 19, on CBC Newsworld’s Morning News. He spoke about India’s Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi’s refusal of the post of Indian prime minister.
  • On May 21, several CBC radio programs across the country – from Yellowknife, NWT, to St. John’s, Nfld.– before a federal election was called, York political science Professor Robert MacDermid, who specializes in political campaigns, said that political parties are already campaigning pretty hard. He commented on which ads are effective, which are not, and analyzed what each ad campaign strategy is trying to achieve. MacDermid also took a look at the Liberal and Conservative party “attack” ads. This campaign is not about policy or parties, but will be all about the leaders, he said.
  • On May 21, CP24-TV Toronto’s “Opening Bell” carried a program about the 2004 YWCA Young Women of Distinction Awards, mentioning York’s Osgoode Hall Law School student Michelle Dagnino, who was an award recipient.
  • Gervan Fearon, professor in York’s Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, and Atkinson School of Analytic Studies & Information Technology, spoke on CBC National News on May 24, about whether or not the federal election is a boon for the economy, with respect to the amount of money being spent in trying to get politicians elected.
  • Rodney Webb, York associate VP academic, was interviewed on the “John Moore Show”, CFRB-AM, Toronto, on May 21. He was discussing the question, “Should Alberta Premier Ralph Klein have been suspended from Athabasca University?” The university alleges that Klein plagarized an essay he wrote on Chile.