Jewellery giant creates diamond buzz at film fest

When it comes to marketing, Ashwin Joshi, professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, had lots to say this past weekend.

  • He applauded Birks’ hosting Saturday of the after-party for the Toronto International Film Festival’s showing of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. At its Bloor Street store, the jeweller recreated a scene from the animated film in which a man, voiced by Johnny Depp, puts a wedding ring on a skeleton (Helena Bonham Carter). The jeweller has a good reason to throw the lavish fete: Birks stores will begin selling the Amorique Diamond on Oct. 15, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 10. Joshi said “new products need a good story to attach themselves to and TIFF is a good strategy to align itself with. There’s the influx of celebrities, and attention on the city. It’s a great time to launch products that are meant for aspirants to their [celebrity] set.”
  • He also commented on Hilary Radley’s strategy of licensing her name, which has allowed her to reign supreme in women’s outerwear for nearly two decades. In 1992, Radley entered into a partnership with Utex and licensed her name to the company, but insisted on retaining creative control – in the form of having final approval over designs – and kept her design studio and pattern makers separate from Utex, reported the Star Sept. 11. “The reason you would license as opposed to do it yourself is because you might not have the capabilities required,” explained Joshi. “The benefit is that it gives you a wide reach to new markets, but the downside is that you lose control. To make licensing work, you need a contract and a second (real) relationship with the partners,” said Joshi.


MFP judge cuts to the chase, politely


Judge Denise Bellamy is widely regarded as fair, likeable and astute, began a Toronto Star profile Sept. 11, the day before she released her findings on how the City of Toronto’s $43-million computer leasing deal with MFP Financial Services Ltd. nearly doubled in size and on whether the rules were followed in three other information technology projects. For the 56-year-old judge, it’s the latest peak in a career that started modestly in secretarial college but quickly gained momentum as she set her goals on a legal career. She went to Carleton University, earning a bachelor of arts in political science in 1975, and started at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School later that year, graduating in 1978. After law school Bellamy was in a vanguard of young women hired in the Crown’s office – then a male bastion. Michael Code, a prominent defence lawyer, recalled that in those days criminal courts, filled with “gruff, tough guys,” could be intimidating for a young lawyer. “But when you ended up in Denise’s court it was always a real pleasure, because she was so human, decent and friendly,” Code said.


Lions’ star running back injured


The York University Lions suffered a huge loss on Saturday when all-Canada running back Andre Durie suffered a serious leg injury in the first quarter against the Queen’s University Golden Gaels, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 12. Durie missed the remainder of the game and his status for the rest of the season is unknown. The visiting Lions lost 40-7.


Toronto prof ups the odds for poker


You might not find W. Forbes Cavanagh playing at the final table of a World Poker Tour event any time soon, but when it comes to crunching the numbers of poker, you won’t find a better source, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 10 about the math professor in York’s School of Administrative Studies who has recently published 10 Steps to Winning Texas Hold ‘Em. Cavanagh lectures on mathematics around the globe and knows it like James Brown knows soul. An avid poker player often found at the middle-limit table, he spent years analyzing the statistics for limit Texas Hold ‘Em cash games. He has the winning percentages down to fractions of one per cent. Cavanagh accumulated his information by playing out dozens of hands with all 169 possible combinations at a full table and composed it on to graphs to see how each hand stood up in realistic table scenarios. “Eventually, you get a really clear understanding of which hands can stand up to the betting,” Cavanagh said. “You could sit there and look at the results, and really see the win curve go up and down.”


Available for less than $14, his book is worth it for the percentage charts alone, but it also contains other introductory information that can get somebody playing competent limit Hold ‘Em in less than an hour. “Some people that play don’t have any idea of even the simplest of odds,” Cavanagh said. “They just play by the seat of their pants, and my book is aimed at these people. A lot of people can’t pick up a 350-page book, let alone study it. They need a quick fix, and this is what this book is for.”


Game promotes pandemic-preparedness


With SARS still fresh in Canadian memory and angst about a possible avian flu pandemic growing, a new computer game for youngsters could prove fortuitous, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 12. It aims to teach children – as they play – what they can do themselves to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as SARS, West Nile Virus, AIDS and bird flu. “In epidemics, the big enemy is not illness and disease [but] ignorance,” said Suzanne de Castell, an education researcher at Simon Fraser University, who developed Contagion along with Professor Jennifer Jenson of York’s Faculty of Education.It’s part of a program called SAGE (Simulation and Advanced Gaming Environments for Learning), which is developing a range of interactive games that kids can play on computers, the Internet, hand-helds and cellphones. The goal is to slip in a dose of learning with the kind of play that today’s media-savvy kids adore.


Argo chose games over guns


Jeff Johnson

comes from a rare breed, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 11. Unlike the thousands of emigres who adopt Toronto as their new home, Johnson was born and raised in the city and has lived in neighbourhoods like Etobicoke, Black Creek and Rexdale. He loves T.O. for being a pillar of tolerance and diversity. But the wave of violence that seems to be screaming out of newspapers and TVs isn’t new, says the Toronto Argonaut and former York Lion, and it needs to be dealt with.Like some of his teammates who grew up within arm’s reach of guns and violence, it would have been almost natural for Johnson to get mixed up in gang culture. Johnson never got involved because, instead of being idle after school, he chose extra-curricular activities, heavy on sports. “It all comes down to choices,” he said. And it’s not just sports that can save you, stressed Johnson, who earned a BA in kinesiology from York in 2002. “School is your future. The choices you make now are important to your future.”


Split leadership not necessarily good for corporation


North American companies are under growing pressure by shareholder activists to split the combined roles in the post-Enron world of financial and accounting scandals, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 12. Many experts favour the split-leadership structure, saying it is essential for good corporate governance because of inherent conflict in the roles of CEO and chairman. But some warn there is no guarantee of improved corporate performance, while there is a risk of turf wars. Richard Leblanc, a professor of corporate governance at York’s School of Administrative Studies, said separating the two roles offers no guarantee of improved corporate performance, and that’s the finding of many US studies over about 20 years. “It’s not whether you separate the role, it’s the effectiveness of the individuals in the roles,” argued Leblanc, co-author of Inside the Boardroom: How Boards Really Work and the Coming Revolution in Corporate Governance. “It’s better to have the same person occupying both roles, who does an effective job, than to split the role and have a non-performing, non-executive Chair who doesn’t understand the business.”


Writer as mentor: Nino Ricci on hand for budding authors


Prize-winning novelist Nino Ricci knows the value of irony. He doesn’t have to look further than his own tentative first attempts at creative writing, reported The Windsor Star Sept.12.At 18, Leamington-born Ricci enrolled at York University to learn to become a writer. He asked to join a writing workshop conducted by W.O. Mitchell, author of Who Has Seen the Wind? and several other Canadian classics. Over the first three weeks, Ricci submitted the required assignments, “about 60 or 70 pages.” Then he was summoned to Mitchell’s office. “He told me there was nothing of substance in my writing, it was a waste of time my taking the course and I should drop out,” Ricci said. Ricci, who graduated with a BA in English literature in 1981, went on to win both the Governor General’s Award for fiction and the Books In Canada First Novel Award for Lives of the Saints, and he has published five books to wide critical acclaim.His newest appointment as writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor is a position Mitchell himself once held.


York cancelled film classes during festival


In a Sept. 10 special about the Toronto International Film Festival, The Globe and Mail reported that US distributors shunned the event when it opened in 1976 at the Festival of Festivals, but York University suspended film classes so that students could attend.


Foreign university opens in Burlington


Burlington has a tiny new university campus with an international flair, reported the Hamilton Spectator and The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo Sept. 12.Charles Sturt University of Australia is the first foreign university to offer teaching degrees since Ontario opened its doors to accredited out-of-province teacher-training programs. The one-year program fee is $15,000, which is much higher than Ontario universities but less than US universities, where costs can top $20,000. Tuition for York University‘s bachelor of education program is $4,183, and at Brock University, it is $5,500.


On air

  • On CTV’s “Talk” Sept. 9, Ben Mulroney reported that Chris Nash, a young filmmaker who received a D in his third-year film class at York last year, made the grade when his film joined the ranks of Canadian shorts running at the Toronto International Film Festival.