Are we becoming phobophobic?

With so much to make us nervous, are we getting sick of being scared?, asked the Toronto Star in a story on Friday, April 13. Quite the opposite. "We’re not getting sick of being scared at all," says Henny Westra, a professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. "With the barrage of threatening messages out there, it’s making us more frightened. People are more fearful than they were 10 to 20 years ago."

And we’re not good at coming up with rational, sensible ways to make ourselves feel better, says Westra. Instead of facing our fear of fear, we devise rituals to avoid it. We toss salt over our shoulders, avoid black cats, or possibly stay home on a "cursed" day like today, wrote the Star. When nothing bad happens, we heave a sigh of relief, Westra says, and reinforce our nonsensical behaviours. "Because of that negative reinforcement, people never get to realize the rituals don’t really control things." They also fail to realize superstitions are all made up.

  • If you find yourself dreading Friday a little more than usual, beware; you just might be coming down with a case of paraskevidekatriphobia, wrote the North York Mirror April 12. Paraskevidekatriphobia, also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia, is the rather long and tongue-twisting name for the phobia associated with Friday the 13th. Despite all of the evidence, Henny Westra, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, is largely skeptical of the existence of paraskevidekatriaphobia. She admits that some people might feel some anxiety towards tomorrow, but she has yet to see anyone paralyzed with fear by Friday the 13th. "It’s one of a number of superstitions that people have," Westra said. "But I’ve been in practice for 15 years and I can’t think of a single example of someone coming to me with that particular concern."

Budget chief says subway expansion could face delay, but mayor hopeful

Toronto’s budget committee is recommending city council use $30 million in capital funds designated for the Spadina subway extension to help balance the books this year and cover a shortfall in provincial funding, wrote the North York Mirror April 12. But that decision could delay the completion of the project to extend the line to York University, according to budget chief Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East).

Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc (St. Paul’s), who moved the recommendation, estimated it could delay the completion of the project by as long as two years, wrote the Mirror. "I don’t want to be alarmist and suggest we’re not supportive of the project – we don’t have the money, it’s as simple as that," he said. "This subway project may be a nine- or 10-year project. We have to do it at a rate that we can afford."

Mayor David Miller defended the committee’s recommendation telling reporters that it’s appropriate to use the transit funds to offset pressures in the $7.8-billion operating budget, wrote the Mirror. "The federal and provincial money is there for York University. It’s my hope that they’ll use their money at the beginning and a few years from now we’ll be in a better financial position once we do have support for the social programs. But we’re operating in a difficult position." Miller said he’s hopeful the project won’t be postponed as a result.

Local resident’s new radio show appears right on Q

Glendon graduate Jian Ghomeshi (BA ‘95) became a staple on both television and radio with regular appearances on “CBC News: The Hour”, the Toronto edition of “Canada Now” and “The National Playlist” among his many credits, wrote the City Centre Mirror April 12. Despite his broadcast success, he confessed to still feeling the musical itch from time to time. "I really miss playing because music was always my catharsis," he said. "I did some solo gigs this winter and it was great getting up there on stage again."

Ghomeshi said he came into his own during his time at York, where he finally became comfortable with his Iranian-Canadian heritage. “I came out of the ethnic closet there and got a sense of what I wanted to do in life, which was to create social change around issues and ideas I care about,” he said. Even the quirky songs that plunged him into Canada’s arts scene often had a deeper meaning, touching on political and social issues.

York grad killed in Afghanistan

York University graduate Brent Poland (BA ’92) was one of the six soldiers killed in last Sunday’s bomb blast in Afghanistan, wrote the North York Mirror April 12. Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, said there were no immediate plans to commemorate the former student at the school. "Usually, (commemorative ceremonies) happen quite a bit later and at the request of the family," he said.

Courts have enhanced the reputation of justice, writes Osgoode professor

Polls indicate that a majority of Canadians believe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has moved the country in the right direction, wrote James Morton, adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star April 13. However, a significant and increasing number of citizens believe the Charter is soft on crime. Many have suggested it has made the criminal courts unworkable and has led to criminals escaping justice. They would have a hard time arguing that on the evidence. Properly applied, the Charter is no hindrance to the prosecution of crime. Courts across the country have consistently followed [a] balanced approach. The Charter has been no bar to real law enforcement.

Poetry in motion

Students from grades 9 to 12 fired off questions during 40-minute Poetry in the School sessions with York alumna Angela Rawlings (BA ’01), wrote the Woodstock Sentinel-Review April 13. Although she does post online, Rawlings took a five-page poem and built on it to make a full-length book of poetry that was published last year. The book, Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, is a collection of poetry that uses the terminology of people who study butterflies and moths, to evoke images (lepidopterists).

Rawlings received the bpNichol Award for Distinction in Writing and has been honing her skills as an artist. Taking six years to write the book seemed like a long time to students, but Rawlings explained sometimes it just takes that long. "You can write at anytime you want, but whether it’s good or not is to be determined," she said.

Runner may be ready to rip them up again for charity

Mark Toll entered and won a competition to recognize someone who had done amazing charity work in a local community. Mark wrote about his friend, York graduate student Greg Knoll, wrote the Brantford Expositor April 13. Knoll all but ripped his feet to shreds by running an ultra marathon of 100 kilometres and raised $13,000 for prostate cancer awareness. Lately Knoll has been restricting himself to running around preparing to defend his master’s degree thesis at Yorkbut he has pondered a bit of craziness in the future. "It’s crossed my mind to do it again. It was very painful but I might take on a new project."

On air

  • Lauren Sergio, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, spoke about her recent research on gender differences in hand-eye coordination on CJOB Radio (Winnipeg) April 12.
  • Kim Phuc (LLD ’04), “the girl in the photograph” taken in 1972 during the Vietnam war as she fled from an attack on her village, was mentioned on CHAN-TV (Vancouver) as holding an honorary degree from York.