Gap in a show’s narrative lets kids jump in

Television executives, the advertisers they pitch to, and busy and beleaguered parents are quick to hail the educational elements of the creative pause (in which the character stops the action and turns to the screen,sometimes addressing viewers directly, giving children a chance to shout answers, instructions or warnings to the heroes), and other techniques infused into children’s programs to engage preschool viewers. But not everyone sees the pause as a chance for the child to truly enhance their learning, reported the Toronto Star May 29. “There’s only one correct answer. The kids have to learn how to respond with that specific answer,” said Beth Seaton, a social science and communication studies professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who has studied the relationship between children and consumerism. “I view these programs as very tightly scripted.”

Seaton, who also has a seven-year-old daughter, points out that, with children of preschool age not yet ready or able to control the remote and do their own surfing, the educational and interactive element is not necessarily there for their benefit. “It’s cynical, but…the history of marketing television to children is the history of marketing to parents, especially if we’re talking about preschoolers,” she said. “How do (marketers) reassure parents that what your child is watching is better for them than “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”? It’s the education angle, the interactive element.” Whether or not you believe programs such as “Dora the Explorer” and “Blue’s Clues” really are beneficial depends, Seaton said, on your answer to one question. “You have to ask yourself,” she said, “what constitutes learning?”

Twentysomething millionaires defied dot-com bust

They are a throwback to the 1990s when computer geeks working in a parent’s basement or in a crowded student apartment could sow immense wealth. But somebody forgot to tell Alex Zhardanovsky, 28, and Joseph Speiser, 26, that the dot-com bubble burst and Internet millionaires were a thing of the past, reported the Toronto Star May 29. These guys are self-made millionaires who run Markham’s Inc. It’s an online advertising company that reached US$63.5 million in sales last year and just secured unsolicited private equity financing of $48 million from US investors. “But we didn’t need the money,” emphasized the best friends in unison. Their company has been profitable since it started in 2000, the year Zhardanovsky graduated from York with a bachelor in business administration.

Poet casts shadow in son’s new novel

The Bird Factory by David Layton is a fictionalized treatment of the story of a son who grows up in the shadow of an artistic, erratic, temperamental father, reported Montreal’s Gazette May 28. Searching for Irving Layton (David’s famous poet father) in Duncan Gray (the father in the novel) is an irresistible exercise, suggested the reviewer. Both are incorrigible womanizers and untamed spirits. Irving has said that if he could begin his career again, he would not pursue poetry, but instead would be a filmmaker. At one stage of his career, Irving was forced to divert his attention from his art and earn a living by teaching poetry at York University (in the ’60s and ’70s), much as Duncan, in the novel, abandons his filmmaking to teach at one of Toronto’s other universities, Ryerson.

Documentary focuses on ‘Flyerman’

Mark Vistorino found success in the most unlikely of vocations – handing out flyers that solicited film extras, reported The Toronto Sun May 30. He’s easily recognized by his signature outfit – a suit with his working name “Flyerman” in lights across the back. Jason Tan “said he remembered me handing out flyers at York University when he was a film student there,” Vistorino said. “Three months later he was out filming a documentary about my life.” The documentary covers five years of Vistorino’s life. When Tan (who studied film at York from 1993 to 1997) and his partner Jeff Stephenson (BFA ’98) started the project, it began as a character study of what the filmmakers thought was an eccentric guy looking for attention and acceptance. What it ended up being is a fascinating portrayal of the relationship between a father and his son.

Why wait for annuities?

Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business and executive director of the Individual Finance & Insurance Decisions (IFID) Center, a non-profit corporation that provides a forum for academic research in the field of finance and insurance, has spent a career crunching annuity numbers, reported a business columnist in Montreal’s Gazette May 30. Based on Milevsky’s mathematical formula, a male currently age 70, wishing a single life annuity income of $1,000 per month (with a five-year guaranteed period) would have to earn at least 6.22 per cent on his non-annuity investments if he were to defer the annuity purchase for five years. A female of the same age would have to earn 5.45 per cent.

Six inducted into York hall of fame

This past week York University inducted six former student-athletes into the school’s sports hall of fame reported May 28 issue of The Toronto Sun. The inductees include: Mark Ainsworth, volleyball, 1978-1982; Sharon (Bayes) Speers, field/indoor hockey, 1984-1988; Angelo Kioussis, football, 1976-1980; Steve MacLean, gymnastics, 1973-1978; Nancy (McDonnell) Gabriel, gymnastics, 1974-1975, 1977-1978; and Dan Gaudet, gymnastics, 1978-1983.