Litz hits glitz blitz: Then she goes home to law textbooks

Ah, the glamour of being an actress with a movie in the Toronto International Film Festival, wrote the National Post Sept. 9! By day, York student Nadia Litz – who stars alongside Don McKellar and Tracy Wright in Reg Harkema’s political comedy Monkey Warfare – will be promoting her film, attending glitzy premieres and hanging out with the stars. And by night, she’ll be…attending a Princeton Review course in preparation for her LSATs?

Yes, Litz is considering heading to law school next year. “It’s a fallback career possibility,” the auburn-haired actress divulges, lounging at The Drake Hotel on a late summer afternoon. Still in her 20s, Litz has been working steadily in Canadian film for almost a decade. Her breakout role was in Jeremy Podeswa’s 1999 film The Five Senses, which travelled to Cannes and earned Litz international notice and a place as one of the 25 People Under 25 To Watch in Maclean’s millennium issue.

The Poist said Litz is inspired by McKellar and Sarah Polley’s approach to living and working in Canada. “They have both recognized that in order to sustain yourself as an actor, you have to be involved creatively in other capacities of film,” says Litz, who is about to enter her third year of film studies at York University. And that, ultimately, is why Litz will be cramming for her LSATs in between gala openings and schmoozefests this week. She hopes a law degree would help her become a producer, not a criminal prosecutor. “It’s just another skill that could use to be part of an industry I love,” says Litz.

A blog, a bottle, a mint; Pepsi and Mentos

Before hitting the big time, the “Mentos effect” was a schoolteacher’s gimmick to make 13-year-olds listen up in science class, reported The Toronto Star Sept. 10. Drop an unwrapped roll of Mentos into a freshly opened 2L bottle of soda and stand back. The pop becomes a geyser of foam guaranteed to soak the ceiling of anybody foolish enough to try it indoors. Now it’s a North American craze, with scientists, kids and frat boys lining up in grocery stores to buy Mentos and pop.

But grown-up scientists don’t agree about what causes the Mentos effect. Scott Fielder is a chemistry professor at York University (Faculty of Science & Engineering), who has watched the Mentos controversy evolve. “I find it funny that you could ask 10 chemists and get 10 different answers,” he says. So what is it about a Mentos candy, scientists are asking, that makes soda pop explode almost immediately in a geyser of foam? Somehow, the candy speeds up the chemical reaction [of carbon dioxide and water].

Fielder introduces the term “catalyze.” Mentos somehow catalyze the reversion of carbonic acid to carbon dioxide and water. “They make it go faster. They sink to the bottom, catalyzing it there. What we’re doing is making a little carbon dioxide explosion at the bottom of the pop bottle that blows all the pop up and out,” Fielder said.

Controversy time. “There are some (scientists) who think there are ingredients in the Mentos – no one knows for sure – that catalyze the breakdown of carbonic acid to carbon dioxide and water,” says Fielder. “I read the ingredients on a package of Mentos mints, and there’s nothing on there that would obviously catalyze things.”

Laxer writes about American Empire in new children’s book

In Empire, James Laxer, professor of political science in York’s School of Social Sciences, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, compares the current American empire to empires of the past, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 9. Laxer, an award-winning author, begins with a description of what empire is: “one nation, tribe, or society [exercising] long-term domination over one or more external nations, tribes, or societies,” with the power at the centre reaping economic benefit from those who are subjugated. After a quick, clear look at past empires, complete with informative maps, there is an examination of the history and rise of the American empire. Laxer gives the reader a history and an overview of the various components of this modern empire, including its contradictions and opponents. A final section looks at historical and current acts of resistance to empire.

Meditations on mortality, with the power of myth

Much of the difficulty arising from the paintings of Janet Jones is traceable to the peculiar and almost touching way in which her considerable critical intelligence (she teaches at York University) tends to formulize and otherwise throttle her expressiveness, wrote a reviewer for The Globe and Mail Sept. 9. The paintings she makes – of which these new ones, gathered under the rubric DaDa Flow, are exemplary – tend to bend, bathetically, beneath the impress of her own (highly informed) programmatic ambitions for them.

But what are the paintings like? Well, they do have a certain “newness” about them (and this is something Jones manages well). They are sleek, bloodless and clever. They are either vertical sets of illusionistically painted black “columns,” enlivened with little, severe, deco-like speed and direction marks, or they are clenched, horizontal artificial vistas (Nowhere, Everywhere) that look like expansive diagrams from Scientific American. Their surfaces are immaculate, their event horizons bleak and mechanically performative. And they might have passed for despairing and even elegiac if they didn’t seem so aloof and so solipsistically pleased with their own immaculateness. Can this really be the space of “feminist geography”?

Preaching a different sermon

York alumna Rev. Cheri DiNovo (BA ‘94), spent the latter half of the 1960s as a street kid, the 1970s as a student, the 1980s as a successful entrepreneur and the 1990s as a theology doctoral candidate, then United Church minister, wrote a contributor to The Globe and Mail Sept. 9. In between, she married twice, had two children, published a book arguing that gays and the transgendered are the new evangelists and performed Canada’s first legally recognized same-sex marriage. Now, after tripling attendance at her church, Emmanuel Howard Park in Roncesvalles – largely through the force of her own often radical ideas and brash personality – Ms DiNovo, 56, has decided to take another turn: as the NDP candidate in this Thursday’s provincial by-election.

The product of a working-class family in the Annex, DiNovo had, by her admission, an at-times turbulent adolescence. But after a four-year stint living on the streets, she got back on her feet and headed to York University. By the 1980s boom, she was the owner of The Abbott Group, a woman-focused personnel agency that she says she took from a $5,000 start-up to a $500,000 business in a year. But the death of her first husband in a motorcycle accident in 1992 recalibrated her life. DiNovo went back to school, got a PhD in theology and took a job as the minister of Emmanuel Howard Park in 1996.

NASA shuttle lifted off

An excerpt from the CTV News report of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, from Sept. 9.

Sandie Rinaldo: Good evening. Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean is right where he wants to be tonight, looking down on earth from outer space. This was a day MacLean has been training and waiting for, for more than four years, and by all accounts it was worth the wait. After weeks of frustrating and costly delays, the space shuttle Atlantis finally lifted off this morning on one of NASA’s riskiest missions ever. But for MacLean and the rest of the crew, the risk is worth the reward. For more on this momentous day we’re joined by CTV’s Tom Walters in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Tom.

Tom Walters: Well, Sandie, there is an empty launch pad here at Cape Canaveral tonight, and that’s what everyone has been waiting a long time to see. Fourteen years since his last mission, more than four years of preparing for this one, and two weeks of launch pad delays. Now Steve MacLean is ready to fly. Carrying mutant apple seeds from York University, a rock from Mt. Everest and various banners including a Vancouver 2010 Olympic flag, MacLean boards the shuttle and straps in. The waiting is over.

Orillia has three university campuses

The people who began the movement to bring a university to Orillia more than four decades ago couldn’t have imagined a future where not one, but three universities, would set up shop in the city, said an editorial in the Orillia Packet and Times Sept. 11 after the opening of a Lakehead University satellite campus. Georgian College, lest we forget, is also a satellite campus for Laurentian and York University, said the paper. 

Our Eastern wolves not endangered so far

Karen Lockyear, who is completing her PhD at York University on the reproductive biology of red wolves, points out that under a US effort, 400 wolves were captured between 1974 and 1980 to form the core of a breeding program, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 9. However, of them, only 43 were not hybrids, and of those, only 14 were not inbred and had enough of the classic characteristics of a red wolf to qualify. In other words, when all those that looked like wolves were tested, only 3.5 per cent were actually true wolves with solid genetics.

A ratio such as this can’t be directly applied to Ontario’s Eastern wolves because their situation is not as extreme. They aren’t as totally surrounded and outnumbered by coyotes as were the few remaining red wolves. Nevertheless, the figures send out a warning signal loud and clear that the extent of hybridization in Ontario may be far greater than anyone expects, especially since coyotes have expanded their territories so widely. They now can be found as far north as Red Lake in Ontario and Whitehorse in Yukon.

Beware citizens’ assemblies on electoral reform

Ontario is about to take a leap of faith into electoral darkness, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 9. At a lecture hall today on the campus of York University, a “citizens’ assembly” of 103 randomly picked individuals (one per riding in the province) begins its deliberations on proposals for a new way of picking MPPs to fill the seats in the Ontario Legislature. In a series of weekend sessions, the assembly will spend the next couple of months getting up to speed on the issue before holding public hearings, with the aim of making a recommendation next spring. The recommendation is to be put to the voters in a referendum, probably coincident with the next provincial election in October 2007.

What the assembly will recommend is anyone’s guess, said the Star, but bet on a call for radical change from our centuries-old system, inherited from Britain. Two years ago, a similar assembly in British Columbia recommended a loopy new system called the “single transferable vote,” which hardly anyone understood.

‘Burbs take a beating on film

For decades, suburban living has provided a rich vein of material that filmmakers have tirelessly mined and processed into films nearly as predictable as the ‘burbs themselves: the simmering – and occasionally over-boiling – unrest that lies behind the picture- perfect veneer of non-urban living, wrote a reviewer for the Toronto Star Sept. 9. This year’s film festival is no exception, with a large handful of movies exploring the by-now familiar theme.

“When I see a suburb, in an Americanized suburban environment in a film, I immediately switch into the mode where I’ll think there’s going to be some lost souls here,” says John McCulloch, who teaches film studies in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “It’s like when a woman would wear a mink and jewels in a ’40s crime film: you knew she was the femme fatale. It’s a trope that immediately gets the audience onside to think about how this narrative pattern is going to flow.”

Baha’i shows courage of her namesake

A Stratford woman and York alumna who believes all people are “created noble” has taken on the biggest challenge of her life as a non-governmental delegate at the United Nations, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 9. Tahirih Naylor (LLB ‘03), 27, has been appointed one of three Baha’i representatives at the UN in New York with a special focus on the defence of Baha’is in Iran. She will be working with the Human Rights Committee, which reviews the status of human rights around the world.

When she finished high school, she spent a year travelling with Baha’i youth Diversity Dance Theatre. “We must have visited 15 countries (in Eastern Europe and the Pacific) performing dances about racism, equality of men and women, and poverty.” She returned to Canada and went to law school at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. After graduation, “I knew I wanted to do something in the field of human rights or international law but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen” so she practised family law with the provincial government, then worked for a year in Ottawa with the Baha’i representative to the Canadian government.

Calgary films take Toronto stage

If you’re a 21-year-old York University film school graduate like Calgary cinematographer Matthew Lloyd, how exactly do you raise $15,000 to shoot a little 12-minute short called Plume that lands in the Toronto International Film Festival?, asked the the Calgary Herald Sept. 9 “I come from a family of executive producers,” says Lloyd over the phone from Toronto, revealing the dark secret every parent must understand: if dad sends his kid to film school, he pays twice: once for tuition, and once for the film his film-student child must produce in order to graduate.

Happily, for both Lloyd, who shot the movie, and 22-year-old director, writer and fellow York student Chelsea McMullan‘s family, Toronto film fest programmers thought highly enough of the work to include it in the festival’s Short Cuts Canada program.The movie is part of a small, but credible, Calgary contingent screening films at the festival, one of the world’s most pre-eminent.

  • Chelsea McMullan also spoke about how the Toronto International Film Festival can be a springboard to a career in film on CBC Radio’s “The World at Six” Sept. 8.

York sculptor writes in new book about his artist father, Andrew Bieler

If a life begins as an empty canvas, then Andre Bieler filled his as he painted: fully in bold and colourful brush strokes that left his mark on Canada, and especially Kingston, long after his death, wrote the Kingston Whig-Standard Sept. 9. His remarkable life story is being told again in the most comprehensive collection of his work in a new book released this month called Andre Bieler: An Artist’s Life and Times. Published by Firefly Books and edited by Bieler’s grandson, Philippe Baylaucq, the book also has an epilogue from the artist’s son, sculptor Ted Bieler, professor emeritus in York’s Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts.

 On air

  • Ellen Bialystok, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about her study on the potential health benefits of being bilingual, on CBC Radio (Ottawa) Sept. 9.