Brubeck hits the high notes with piano ‘speech’

With typical disregard for convention, 84-year-old American jazz legend Dave Brubeck acknowledged receipt of an honorary doctorate of letters from York University at the Faculty of Fine Arts convocation June 17 by not doing what he was supposed to do, reported the Toronto Star June 19. Resplendent in his new red gown, sash and hood, and after sitting with unembarrassed delight through York University orator and retired English Professor Maurice Elliott‘s ornate and richly flattering citation, Brubeck made a dash for the grand piano on the stage crowded with faculty members and some 200 about-to-be confirmed graduates, and launched into a jaunty, even ribald version of Duke Ellington’s Take The A Train. The familiar classic, and the ensuing performance of his brother Howard Brubeck’s symphonic composition, Theme For June, charmed the 2,000 onlookers in the huge convocation tent, but clearly surprised his son Matthew, a graduate student who is studying composition in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts Music Department, who was at his famous father’s side playing cello. “He didn’t play what we had rehearsed,” Matthew said after the performance. “But I should have expected it. Whenever I play with him, everything else goes out the window. No matter how much we practise, you can never be fully prepared.”

Brubeck, who broke new ground in the jazz world in the 1950s and ’60s by anticipating the eventual fusion of improvised music and classical tempos and structures, was recognized by York – whose Fine Arts Faculty was the first in Canada to introduce a jazz music program – for bringing jazz into the cultural mainstream and making it a subject worthy of study at colleges and universities across North America. He has recorded 180 albums, composed two ballets, a musical, an oratorio, four cantatas and a mass, as well as works for jazz combo and orchestra and many solo piano pieces. His Blue Rondo Á La Turk and Take Five are classics of the genre and opened up previously unexplored areas of jazz to millions of new listeners four decades ago.

The Star and the North York Mirror printed photos of the father-son performance with the news of Brubeck senior’s honorary award from York June 18.

What comes first – pornography or pedophilia?

Attorney General Michael Bryant has promised to break the back of Internet child pornography in Ontario, reported the Toronto Star June 19, in the wake of Michael Briere’s statement that he had been aroused by watching child porn on his computer just before he kidnapped, sexually molested and killed Holly Jones in 2003. But the Criminal Code already prohibits accessing and downloading child pornography, Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, pointed out. Young believes people should be wary of explanations offered by convicted killers for their crimes. Someone who must live with the curse of having murdered a human being probably has reason for pointing the finger, Young said. “When Briere said ‘Child pornography made me do it,’ it may be a way of coping with his crime for the rest of his life. The fairest statement is nobody knows if imposing restrictions has the effect of curbing pedophilic behaviour.”

US tennis star to defend title at new Rexall Centre

Next month, American tennis champion Andy Roddick, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, will defend his Tennis Masters Canada title when the tournament is played at the new $45-million Rexall Centre at York University, reported the Toronto Star June 19. “I’m excited. I’ve had great results in Canada the last three years. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back to Toronto and seeing the new facilities,” he said. Roddick said Tennis Canada’s new home, set to open next month, “shows a commitment towards tennis, and that’s obviously a big boost in itself,” although “players were ready to come (to Canada) regardless.”

Star experience made student more aware of issues

Recently, the 12 current members of the Toronto Star community editorial board held their final meeting. For the past four years, the Star has operated the community editorial board, which allows people from different ethnic, age and religious backgrounds to tell the paper what is important to them, their friends and communities. At the last meeting, the 12 members agreed to write about their experiences. Lisa Chan-A-Sue is a fourth-year anthropology, geography and education student at York: “I’ve met individuals I would not have met in everyday life. This experience has allowed me to be more critical and more aware of issues taking place in my community, my country and around the world.”

Another Canada 3000 is ‘dumb’

An Ontario entrepreneur says he’s days away from announcing a plan to launch another airline bearing the name Canada 3000, three years after that carrier went bankrupt and left thousands of travellers stranded, reported CanWest News Service in a story printed in the Calgary Herald June 19 and picked up by Canadian Press. Using the Canada 3000 name is “a dumb idea,” said Fred Lazar, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “There’s no good will left in it. In fact, it’s probably bad will. From a branding point of view, it’s a mistake.” However, resurrecting airline names has been done before. Pan Am failed and came back under the same name. TWA did the same, Lazar said.

Bilingualism bonus

We’ve long suspected that today’s young Montrealers will grow up to dominate this country, observed Montreal’s The Gazette in a June 19 editorial. They’re bilingual after all – trilingual, many of them – and in Canada you can’t really aspire to be anything on a coast-to-coast scale, in business or government or anywhere, without speaking both English and French. Now comes word that bilingualism helps people retain their mental acuity as they age, said the Gazette. Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist in York University’s Faculty of Arts, has found that using two languages is just the right sort of exercise, “like going to a brain gym,” as she puts it. There are actual physical changes in the brain of a person who uses two languages, or more, which stave off brain deterioration. Talk about a bilingualism bonus!

‘Starter marriages’ don’t need to end in divorce

Statistics Canada estimates that a third of men and women will enter a “second union” by age 39, reported the National Post June 19. It’s a trend that, no doubt, has a lot to do with “starter marriages,” those youthful marriages that typically last five years or less and end without children, said the Post. In a report for the Vanier Institute of the Family, Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociologist in York’s Faculty of Arts, noted a sizable number of marriages that end in divorce are actually quite salvageable and that many of these former-spouses are no happier after the breakup. “One cannot help but wonder if couples who marry should not be more encouraged to face the inevitability of ups and downs in relationships – and I am not referring here to severe conflict, which after all, afflicts only about a third of divorcing couples,” she wrote. “After 25 years of studying divorce, I have come to conclude that there are too many divorces that are useless.”

Youth vote? It’s a real education

Even students in York University’s political leadership in Canada class, a group that has an interest in politics on the Canadian level, are disillusioned with the election process, reported the North York Mirror June 19. Many said that the candidates in their ridings are doing a poor job of presenting their platforms to the public, leaving the voters to do their own digging for information. “In my riding, there are only two candidates who are really advertising, the Liberals and the Christian Heritage Party,” said Michael Gurr, who graduated in 2003 with a BA in political science and is currently working towards an education degree. “It’s up to me to go into each party’s platform and decide if what I see is reasonable, attainable and desirable.” Others felt that their choices for local representation are lacking. Heather Hughson, a third-year political science student, said her choices in the coming election seemed to be between “a stuck-up cabinet minister, a neo-Conservative, a high-school student and a woman who I think is only running so she can go to weekly meetings and get free beer.” Given unappealing local choices, Hughson and others are forced to look at the parties’ politics and finding platforms that offer promises to virtually everyone but youth. “If the (leadership) debates are any indication, there’s nothing mentioned involving youth,” said Zoltan Lorantffy, a fourth-year political science student at York. “It’s a game of demographics. Older people are more likely to vote, so the leaders look at their interests more seriously.”

Law grad runs for PCs in new riding

In the newly created riding of York-Simcoe, south of Barrie, Peter Van Loan is running for the Conservative Party of Canada, reported the Alliston Herald June 18. He has served as president for both the Ontario and national Progressive Conservative parties. He received his law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1987.