Cookery’s musical chef in tune with black history

“This is anything but Mamma Mia!,” says Andrew Craig, the musical director of the hugely satisfying and successful musical, Cookin’ at The Cookery: The Music and Times of Alberta Hunter, wrote the Toronto Sun June 14. A York University music grad (BFA ’93) who has worked as a musician with Molly Johnson, Ashley MacIsaac and Snow, and was musical director for local productions of Wang Dang Doodle: The Harlem Musical and Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, Craig feels he isn’t dealing with pop culture, but with black culture, and with that come some responsibilities. He’s interested in how the black-culture music relates to the story. “This music is about messages, it always has been.” Craig says he fought hard to ensure that an all-black band would support Jackie Richardson as Alberta Hunter. “There’s an authenticity that comes from having black people playing this music, we have a lineage to this music.”

Sex therapy on call

There are few published studies of distance sex therapy, but one unpublished study, conducted nearly two years ago as part of a doctoral dissertation at York University, suggests that online therapy of various kinds may help some patients, reported the Washington Post June 15. Stephen Biggs (MA ’95), a former PhD candidate in clinical psychology, surveyed 44 people who said they had received therapy strictly over the Internet. Among these respondents, 16 percent said their therapy involved sexual issues; ages varied and women outnumbered men. Eighty per cent (35) said they found the therapy experience somewhat or very positive, but all said they would use online therapy again and “reported that the therapist was empathic,” he said. “It’s sort of funny,” said Biggs, “but people get this feeling of being cared for from this person they’ve never met.” Biggs acknowledged, however, that since the study was based on patient surveys and not observations, there was no way of knowing whether the clients actually benefited.

Tutoring doesn’t always work

Reading Recovery, an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program is considered by literacy experts to be a struggling Grade 1 student’s best chance of catching up before it’s too late, reported the Toronto Star June 14. But the program’s tight time frame could be one of its weaknesses, says Sharon Murphy, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Education. She worries about the 20 to 30 per cent of students who are “discontinued” from Reading Recovery because they aren’t succeeding quickly enough within the 12 to 20 weeks. “When a child is discontinued the experts are saying that we know this child cannot succeed with these strategies,” said Murphy. There’s a temptation to look at the success of a program like Reading Recovery as the whole answer, when it will never be more than part of the solution for some children, she said. “The full answer is to think that every child is a whole complicated set of entanglements you have to work out.”

Ban on corporate donations a ‘leap forward’

Robert MacDermid, a professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Arts and an expert on election financing, says the new law banning corporate and union donations to political parties is not perfect, but it features some badly needed reforms, reported the Winnipeg Free Press June 13. Corporate tax cuts and other business-friendly laws emanating from Parliament Hill suggest banks and corporations have been getting some bang for the millions of bucks they’ve poured into Liberal and Conservative coffers, he said. By severely limiting the amounts corporations can give, “it’s just an enormous leap forward,” said MacDermid. He also likes the law’s more extensive reporting requirements for money raised and spent. The law closes a number of loopholes that left money unreported when it was raised and spent by local riding associations or used to fight candidate nominations and party leadership contests, MacDermid said. Much in demand to comment during the current federal election, he also recounted some of the more memorable televised federal leadership debates from the past, on CFTR-AM’s “680 News” June 14.

Apple is the new lemon

In the fast-changing world of consumer product flavourings, green apple shows signs of putting the squeeze on lemon, reported the Toronto Star June 13. Alan Middleton, a marketing expert with York University’s Schulich School of Business, suggests the flavour has migrated here from Asia. “Green apple candies have been big sellers in Japan for a long time,” he said.

A singer in her own right

Neshama Carlebach acknowledges the influence of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, but for Jewish audiences around the world, the 29-year-old York grad is more than just a singer – she’s the reincarnation of her father, reported The Globe and Mail June 12 in a story about her latest concert tour in Israel. Her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was a towering figure in modern Jewish life, a yeshiva-trained Hasidic rabbi and 1960s hippie who became a wandering minstrel and the leading Jewish songwriter of the century. Neshama, his eldest daughter, grew up in Toronto and studied drama at Ryerson University before studying humanities for three years at York University. She aspired to be a Broadway actress until her father’s death in 1994 at age 69 thrust her into the limelight.

New York Times observes York’s supernova

Most black holes or neutron stars are the remnants of supernovas that occurred long ago. But last week, astronomers from York University and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico, announced the discovery of one from a supernova that exploded only two decades ago, reported The New York Times June 15. The supernova was discovered in 1986 but likely exploded several years before that. That makes the black hole or neutron star – more work is needed to determine which it is – the youngest to have been detected, suggested writer Henry Fountain in the Times’ Observatory column. Until now, the youngest was a neutron star left by a supernova that occurred 822 years ago. News of the black hole/neutron star discovery also appeared in the Whitehorse Daily Star June 11.

Bilingualism-flexes-brain study makes global news

Media from around the world are highlighting news of York University psychology researcher Ellen Bialystok’s study that finds bilingualism helps keep your mental edge as you age. The story appeared June 15 in India’s New Kerala and via Reuters on ABC.NET in Australia. In Canada, it got more air play June 14 on Toronto’s City-tv and OMNI.2 television, and Quebec’s CKMI-TV.

On air

  • Gordon Flett, Canada Research Chair and a psychology professor with York University’s Faculty of Arts, says perfectionism can be bad for your health and has written a list of the top 10 signs of being a perfectionist, reported CKLW-AM’s “Windsor Now” June 14.