Accolade Project will create cultural hub

When York University fine arts students walk into their classrooms next year, they’ll also be walking into a long-standing vision for the school, reported the North York Mirror Oct. 31. York’s fine arts classes will be moving to a couple of new buildings, known as the Accolade Project, which will cater specifically to the needs of music, film, theatre and dance students. “We had to increase the capacity of York University by some 4,000 students, and this will both free up classrooms in other buildings and give our fine arts students a state-of-the-art facility that will meet their needs,” said Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver. While the Accolade Project promises to be a boon for students, it will also provide some benefits to the community. The 325-seat proscenium theatre, 325-seat recital hall, 80-seat screening room and Art Gallery of York University will all be on the premises and may be booked for public use. “We recognize the role that York has as the centre of some of the cultural life in this part of the [Greater Toronto Area],” Silver said. “We’re really quite thrilled about it. We’ve worked on it for a long time and are looking forward to being able to open it up.”

Kerry versus Bush

In a Nov. 1 editorial speculating on the outcome of the US presidential election, Regina’s Leader-Post repeated remarks Daniel Drache, a political studies professor with York’s Atkinson School of Social Sciences, made in a recent TV interview. “Kerry has kind of a style that Canadians can relate to, but his policies are very close to Bush’s,” said Drache. He also told Toronto’s “680 News” (CFTR-AM) Oct. 29 that terrorist threats such as Al Qaeda’s most recent one can only help George W. Bush retain the presidency.

Biopic captures Ray Charles’s uniqueness

When Ray, the new film biography starring Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, opens this weekend, we might only be partway into a period of genuine mourning for this iconic American singer and pianist, wrote The Vancouver Sun Oct. 30. “He single-handedly started what we know as soul music,” said Rob Bowman, a York University musicologist and Grammy Award-winning writer, of Ray Charles. “He was the first person to in an overt way take gospel material and provide it with secular lyrics, bringing the emotional catharsis that was seminal to black gospel music into popular music.” But he had no interest in stylistic barriers. In 1962 he released Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music becoming, as Bowman explains, the first black artist to actively involve himself in country music. It transformed the genre, putting the music into homes it had never been before.

Pub inspires movie by York grad

On a drizzly Wednesday night, the Duke of Gloucester looks decidedly less glamorous than it does in the movies, judged the Toronto Star Oct. 31. “I think it’s a lot more beautiful in the film than it is in real life,” Jai Dixit, writer/director of It All Happens Incredibly Fast, says of the 28-year-old Duke of Gloucester, a second-floor pub on Yonge Street just south of Bloor Street. The bar is the star of his film, which opened Friday at the Carlton Cinemas. The movie, Dixit’s first full-length feature as director, is a psychological thriller/dark comedy that was filmed entirely inside the pub. Dixit’s half-dozen years spent bartending at the Duke (his brother Jonathan owns the place) inspired the film – he worked there between odd jobs, writing screenplays and gaining “life experience” after graduating from York University’s film program in 1987. 

Magna may be returning to privatization

Magna International’s Frank Stronach pulled a complete about-face when he announced plans to buy back three local subsidiaries last week, reported the Vaughan Citizen Oct. 31. Magna “has made a great deal of noise saying decentralization is the way to go. The proposal is a total reversal of what [Stronach] has been preaching,” said Bernie Wolf, an economics and international business professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. 

Young lawyer putting just cause before big money

While her classmates scurry into high-paying law jobs, a 25-year-old graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School left this weekend for war-ravaged Sierra Leone, where she will earn a pittance interviewing the victims of a brutal conflict that featured sexual slavery and amputations by machete, reported the National Post Oct. 30. “Nobody who’s participating in this effort is getting rich – they’re there because they believe it’s right to be there,” said Alison Reed, a native of Brampton, Ont. Reed is to assist the Special Court for Sierra Leone, set up jointly in 2002 by the United Nations and the local government to try those responsible for crimes against humanity committed during the war. She graduated from Osgoode in 2003.

Top students carry on Harry Jerome’s legacy

Tamara Gordon is a second-time recipient of the $2,000 Harry Jerome Scholarship, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 30. She was among 31 recipients of this year’s scholarships, given to African-Canadian students who demonstrate academic excellence, financial need and make a positive contribution to their community. Gordon, 18, became paralyzed from the waist down and lost the use of her dominant arm after a ski accident two years ago. While in rehabilitation, she continued her high-school education and received an entrance scholarship to York University, where she is currently enrolled in the administrative studies undergraduate program. “Because of the situation I am in, I take regular lessons with tutors at home, and the money I get will help me meet the financial challenges of my education,” she said.

Rookie coach, guard face similar hurdles

Basketball coach Tom Oliveri sees a lot of himself in the freshman guard he recruited to York University, reported the Toronto Sun Oct. 31. That’s because Oliveri, a rookie head coach, and Toronto native Tut Ruach have similar challenges in winning the respect of a veteran team that lost in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport semi-finals last season. “There’s a lot of similarities,” said Oliveri, who was promoted to head coach after working as an assistant for six years. Oliveri and Ruach celebrated an early career victory yesterday at Humber College after York beat Laval 72-68 in the Raptors Invitational Tournament’s consolation semi-final. “It’s more of a challenge,” said Ruach, who had 14 points and six assists against Laval. “In high school, I could drive and shoot whenever I wanted to. Now, I have to control the offence and play a more team game.”

Health care and the free market

In a letter printed Oct. 30 in The New York Times, Harvey G. Simmons, professor emeritus of political science in York University’s Faculty of Arts, defended Canada’s health care system. “When Canadian health care is mentioned, American critics call it a socialist-style bureaucracy that hinders freedom of choice, but Canadians have a choice of doctors, and almost no bureaucracy to deal with. Governments can often provide needed services more efficiently and more equitably than the market. President Bush says United States health care is the envy of the world. Not in Canada.”

Final wishes from a Web site

The thought of receiving messages from the grave might send chills up the spine, but a new Internet service that helps people to plan their final wishes hopes this is one feature, among many, that consumers find useful, reported the National Post Oct. 30. Private Matters was conceived, according to its Victoria-based founder Martin Hubbard, to do personal housekeeping that might not get covered by a will – things like funeral plans, what happens to a pet and the location of bank accounts. One of the ways that can be done is to create messages that are timed for release up to one year after your death. Pictures and video can also be included. Stephen Fleming, a professor of psychology in York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, who works extensively with people suffering from grief and trauma, said: “I would think there would be room for abuse with something like this [referring to the e-mails]. I would like to think that people are kind and caring and loving and would do this in good taste and sensitivity,” Fleming said. “That would be pretty naive.”

Savvy game inventor hopes students infected with Contagion

Contagion, fraught with several nasty infectious viruses, is likely to affect a significant number of York Region students in 2005, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal Oct. 31. That’s actually good news. So contends Jennifer Jenson, a technology professor with York’s Faculty of Education who has co-developed Contagion, a computer game designed to teach children aged nine to 13 about the transmission and prevention of diseases such as West Nile virus, SARS and HIV/AIDS. Acknowledged as one of the leading specialists in the fledgling realm of technology in education, Jenson is convinced computer games are pioneering teaching instruments, capable of maintaining a child’s attention while enhancing retention.

The night Toronto ‘hunted Greeks’

There was a time in Toronto – long before souvlaki had its own street festival on the Danforth – when Greeks were openly hunted on the streets by vicious and drunken Great War veterans, reported the National Post Oct. 30. And yet, the anti-Greek riots in the summer of 1918 do not turn up in most accounts of Toronto’s local history. Thomas Gallant, a scholar of modern Greek history at York University’s Faculty of Arts, who has compiled the first comprehensive account of the “Toronto Troubles,” thinks the reason for their obscurity is quite simple. Just seven days after the August riots were quelled in their fourth day by whip-wielding police officers, Canadian and Australian troops fighting in Europe broke through German lines near Amiens and started the offensive that would end the First World War. All of a sudden, the passions of the summer were reversed; Greeks were no longer “enemy aliens” to be viewed with suspicion and contempt, and a little disorder on Yonge Street seemed inconsequential in light of the Armistice. “The dominant mood becomes one of reconciliation, so for that reason this event is driven off the front page,” Gallant said.

On air

  • According to Nick Rogers, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and author of Halloween: From Pagan Rituals to Party Night, Canadians spend more than $700 million on Halloween, reported CTV’s “Newsnet Afternoon” and “Newsnet Evening” Oct. 29. It’s the second most important retail holiday in Canada, he told “VR Land News” in Barrie Oct. 31.
  • James Laxer, political science professor in York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was interviewed about the US presidential election and what he will be watching for, in terms of trying to determine who will win the election, on CBC Newsworld’s “Weekend Edition” Oct. 31.
  • Every October at the anniversary of Black Tuesday, investors wonder if the 1929 stock market crash can happen again. Gordon Roberts, CIBC Professor of Financial Services at York’s Schulich School of Business, commented on the trigger for the Great Depression, on “Weekend Business”  on Toronto’s 680 News (CFTR-AM) Oct. 30.
  • Richard Leblanc, of Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies, talked about corporate ethics or the lack thereof, on TVO’s “More to Life” Oct. 29.