Too much hand-wringing about women’s roles

“A lot of ink these days is being devoted to mothers and work and roles and identities,” wrote Andrea Gordon in the Toronto Star May 7 in a column reflecting on Mother’s Day. “Though who exactly is reading these books and magazine articles and anthologies is a mystery. No mothers I know could possibly have time. Even Andrea O’Reilly, an academic who spends her working hours thinking about motherhood issues, is a bit taken aback by the media hand-wringing. ‘I think in many ways it’s a good thing,’ said O’Reilly, a professor and mother of three who, in 1998, founded York University’s Centre for Research on Mothering. ‘But part of our preoccupation has become our liability. It’s almost choking us.’ O’Reilly worries that the obsession with women’s role as mothers comes at the expense of their other selves, which feminists of the ’70s fought so hard to reclaim. When, in reality, she says, ‘most women want to work and want to have children and are doing a pretty good job.’”

New York concerts celebrate computer music pioneer

James Tenney is the Zelig of American composition. He has been there for a lot of the big moments. He has known most of the big names. He has been, so to speak, in all the pictures. Yet few people have even heard of him, reported The New York Times May 8 of the York University professor emeritus of music who retired in 2000. This week, two concerts may help change that by offering a cross-section of Tenney’s widely varied work of the last five decades. The sampling includes a tape collage piece made up of tiny fragments of Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes. It also includes Postal Pieces, written as graphic scores that fit on the backs of postcards. And lest you think Tenney is purely avant-garde, it includes piano rags. Tonal rags.

Tenney, you see, resists characterization, stated the Times. You can’t define what kind of musician he is. He is called a pioneer of computer music, having created some of the earliest computer pieces during a tenure as resident composer at Bell Laboratories in the early 1960s. At the same time, he is grouped with the Minimalists, having hobnobbed – and performed – with Steve Reich and Philip Glass during the same period.

How Hitler indoctrinated German children

In a column on the war in print, The Globe and Mail’s book editor, Martin Levin, mentions Hitler Youth by Michael H. Kater, distinguished research professor of history with York’s Canadian Centre for German & European Studies. The book is a comprehensive account of the great brainwashing, in which virtually all Germans between the ages of 10 and 18 – including the present Pope – were indoctrinated systematically into the megalomaniacal mindset of the Third Reich.

Health-related costs make coal most expensive energy source

Lakeview Generating Station, on Lake Ontario near Mimico Creek, is one of the coal plants Premier Dalton McGuinty promised to close during the last election race. The 43-year-old plant was gradually taken off-line last week, reported The Globe and Mail May 9. Environmentalists have extolled the benefits of closing Lakeview. But the Power Workers Union says its members’ jobs are being sacrificed for a political promise with limited benefit. Last week the government hit back at critics by releasing a study that supposedly showed the real cost of coal. The report, done by a pair of consulting firms and a former environmental studies dean from York University, argued that coal is the most expensive way to generate electricity when health-care costs are factored in.

Fake-photo assignment inspired by York class

In a Toronto Star review May 7, Peter Goddard notes that the art show Fabulous Fakes Photo Truth/ Photo Falsehood, organized by Jeff Nolte, was inspired by the historical painting course at York University taught by Barbara Dodge and Srebenka Zeskoski. The latters’ students are showing their works copied from 17th century paintings, drawings and manuscripts in a parallel exhibition. Fabulous Fakes at David Mirvish Books displays reproductions of famous photos by Nolte’s high school students. “These fabulous fake assignments, which I’ve been giving out since 1991 when I was teaching part-time at York, left it up to the students to do what they wanted to do,” said Nolte.

On air

  • Biologist Bonnie Woolfenden, a post-doctoral fellow in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, has found that the Acadian flycatcher will run some risks for its sex life, reported CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” May 7. The endangered flycatcher, like many birds, forms ostensibly monogamous partnerships, but Woolfenden’s research has shown that nearly half of the offspring in a flycatchers nest are from males other than the female’s mate. What’s more, these males are travelling significant distances to obtain illicit copulations. Since this species is endangered, understanding this tendency might have important implications for helping them survive in Canada.
  • Speaking about road rage, David Wiesenthal, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said it is easy to get angry when you drive because other drivers are strangers, reported “News Coast-to-Coast” on CFRA-AM in Ottawa May 6.
  • Political scientist Stephen Hellman, of York’s Faculty of Arts, talked about teaching Italian history, on OMNI TV’s “Studio Aperto” May 6.