The Internet is the new radio

Like a stuck 78, history has kept repeating for the record industry, which rarely responds well to technological change, reported the London Free Press Nov. 25 in the first of a four-part series. "If you look back at the history of selling records, tapes and CDs from the 1890s to the present, you’ll see waves of incredible expansion and then troughs of crisis," says Rob Bowman, Grammy-winning music historian and professor of ethnomusicology at Toronto’s York University. And of course, it’s happening now as the music industry struggles to deal with the paradigm shift posed by the Internet.  

"I look at the Internet now in the same way as radio in the ’20s," Bowman says. "But (the record labels) are too afraid to turn, in some ways. You get people who are entrenched in a particular business model. So when there’s a paradigm shift like we’re seeing, and it means that dozens of your employees – and maybe even you – are going to become redundant, you’re probably going to try and fight that. That’s a natural instinct. 

“It’s easy to say, ‘What a bunch of idiots, they should have seen this coming and they should have done that.’ And yes, all of that’s probably true. But it’s not surprising. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising." The record companies might do well to absorb at least one lesson from the days of 78s and radio. "A lot of those companies that were around back then don’t exist anymore," Bowman says.  

At 78, master’s quest keeps former pharmacist sharp

Walk around the York University campus and you might bump into Bertie Friedlander, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 26 in a special section on continuing education. The grey hair, the deep grooves that form parentheses around his mouth, the cozy sweater and slightly abstracted air might lead you to think he’s a professor. You’d be wrong. Friedlander, 78, is a student now studying for his third degree. He earned a bachelor’s degree with honours in anthropology in 2003, a master’s in social anthropology (cum laude) 2-1/2 years later and is now enrolled in another master’s program, this time in environmental studies. Both his theses deal with issues related to aging.  

Friedlander points out he could afford to go back to school because, as a senior, he didn’t have to pay tuition. "I wasn’t going to start a lengthy university program, knowing what the fees are," he says. "The amazing thing is so few people avail themselves of the opportunity."  Out of York’s student population of 55,000, the post-60 crowd only numbers about 150, with most enrolled in arts courses or programs, says school registrar Joanne Duklas. The number of seniors returning to school may soon grow, as the population continues to age.            

In related coverage in the Star’s Continuing Education section:

  • Admissions officers at York University and Durham College suggest prospective students ask the following questions during campus tours: How does the school help me with the transition to university? What resources are available to help me excel in my classes? How can I incorporate international experience into my degree? What financial resources are available and how do I access them?  

‘Ambassador of the saxophone’ was a champion of his own virtuosity

During his 50-year career as a professional musician, Paul Brodie, "the ambassador of the saxophone," probably played more concerts, recorded more albums, toured more countries and taught more private students than any classical saxophonist of his or any other day, wrote The Globe and Mail in a Nov. 24 obituary. Although some modern classical composers have written for the saxophone, it is still mainly played in military and blues bands and jazz combos. Brodie tried to change that. "He was a master promoter and the saxophone needed someone like Paul, because as an instrument, it was invented late in the history of music, so it was shut out of orchestral circles," said his former student, concert saxophonist and composer Daniel Rubinoff.

Brodie was the first person to teach saxophone at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, reported the Globe and the Toronto Star, which also published an obituary Nov. 24. In his quest to promote the saxophone he co-founded the World Saxophone Congress with Eugene Rousseau in Chicago in 1969 to bring players, critics, composers and audiences together in a different city every four years, noted the Globe. He never stopped teaching, however, either privately in a smaller studio or at York University, where he taught from 1982 until the late 1990s.

Pursuing a PhD? Considered Wii studies?

Video game studies is busy establishing itself as a bona fide academic field, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 24. Scholars might spend hours discussing avatars – the identities people adopt in online virtual reality games – but they are doing so in post-secondary institutions, peer-reviewed journals and in societies of the learned. Aside from specific areas of research like the oft-discussed studies linking video game violence to aggression in children, this worldwide phenomenon is still flying mostly under the public radar.

Jennifer Jenson, a professor of pedagogy and technology in York’s Faculty of Education, said academics began finally waking up to games because "it looked like, as a medium, this wasn’t going to go away at all. It was no longer just the realm of the teenage boy," said Jenson, who is also co-president of the Canadian Game Studies Association. "So we have a really grown-up audience, we have a more sophisticated audience, and then we have academics who are saying, ‘Look, this is an entertainment medium that’s outpacing Hollywood movies and music and everything else. So why are people devoting this much time and energy, this much cultural (and) economic capital to this medium?’ I think that really sort of started stuff off."

Barry Sherman, one of Canada’s richest, and most mysterious, business icons

Barry Sherman is a man of contradictions, began a Globe and Mail profile Nov. 24.  As head of Apotex Inc., the largest Canadian-owned manufacturer of generic drugs, he has made countless headlines for his fierce legal battles with Big Pharma – including a major blowout with US giant Bristol-Myers Squibb last year. The 65-year-old has also taken part in high-wattage handouts. He has donated more than $50 million to the United Jewish Appeal for a community development in North York. And last year he gave $5 million to York University. But the man whose wealth is estimated at $4.4 billion (US) may have the lowest profile of Canada’s highest fliers. He and his wife, Honey, generally steer clear of the social circuit to spend time with their four children. "I’m not seeking publicity," he says.  

Is the Grey Cup an integral part of the national fabric?

Even in the Canadian Football League’s rocky times, there has always been a sense that three-down football and the Grey Cup matter to Canadians, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 24. Now we have proof. A survey shows that Canadians have a strong and deep identification with the CFL, which they do not want to part with, even though many of them would welcome an National Football League franchise to Toronto.

Football is unique as the only sport defined so clearly as either Canadian or American by its rules and the history of two games that have evolved separately. "An institution like the CFL is unique," said Steve Bunn, a former doctoral history student at York University and devout member of, a Web site for Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans. "There is, of course, [NHL] hockey, but the Americanization of that is well known. In regard to finding anything comparable to the CFL in Canada as a Canadian cultural and historical institution, you have to go outside sport and look at something like the Hudson’s Bay Co. Like the CFL, it’s something that in its best years turned a meagre profit, but the value of it isn’t measured in dollars."  

Former York adjunct prof wins teaching award

Woodbridge Public School teacher Suzanne Mizuno (BA, BEd ’96) has been named the winner of the excellence in teaching award presented posthumously by the York University Faculty of Education Alumni Association, reported the Vaughan Citizen Nov. 24. Mizuno, a gifted music teacher, was killed by a drunk driver in 2006. Mizuno supported colleagues in the school, the York Region District School Board and at York University, where she was an adjunct professor. She worked to create the innovative York University practicum evaluation for teaching candidates and, year after year, the candidates were given her document featuring classroom tips for beginning teachers. Mizuno taught piano to children at recess, lunch and after school. She also sponsored a student who could not afford to attend teachers’ college.  

The business of art

Visual artist Sam Shahsahabi has added entrepreneur to his portfolio, reported the Sudbury Star Nov. 24. In an attempt to make art more accessible to the public and share his love for film, Shahsahabi has opened The Art Gallery (T.A.G.) & Eclectic Film Rental. Shahsahabi came to Canada in 1997 from Iran, where he had already established himself as an artist. He went to York University and earned a master’s in fine arts in 2002, which introduced him to the Canadian art world. "One of the good things that happened to me in Sudbury was when I decided to become self-employed," he said. To ignite the entrepreneur in him, Shahsahabi took some business courses at Learning Initiative.  

Charge dropped against female teacher accused of affair

Paola Queen (BA ’95, BSW ’00) was arrested last March and charged with one count of sexual exploitation for conducting an affair with a student at a west-end high school where she taught family studies, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 24. Friday, in sharp contrast to the blaze of publicity surrounding her arrest, a Crown attorney quietly withdrew the charge in a Finch Avenue West courtroom. Queen was not in court. Instead she was at home with her "beautiful baby daughter" born this past summer, her lawyer, Howard Rubel, said after appearing briefly in court. "Everyone involved is operating as a family unit and relieved they have put this behind them," he said. Queen has two undergraduate degrees – in arts and social work – from York University.

On air

  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on the news that the House Of Commons Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into the dealings between Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney, on CBC Radio’s “The World This Hour” Nov. 22.
  • Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed assisted suicide on a legal roundtable on CTV’s “The Verdict” Nov. 22.