Emphasis on celebrity factor could hurt Obama campaign, says York prof

The Democratic convention in Denver and Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee could play directly into the hands of Republican opponents if the focus is on Obama’s celebrity status and is lacking in substance, wrote The Toronto Star Aug. 28.

"It’s a risk," says Stephen Newman, a professor of political science at York. "If it comes off like a rock concert with no more depth than a rock concert, then he’ll have failed."

Obama will not be speaking at Denver’s Pepsi Center, where the convention itself has taken place, but at nearby Invesco Field, the giant stadium and home of the NFL’s Broncos. He will deliver his speech at the 50-yard line from an elaborate stage with the Greek and Roman neoclassical columns evoking Washington’s Capitol building and the White House. And when he speaks, fireworks will blast from spots along the stadium wall and confetti will rain down on him.

Will it appear as if Obama is trying too hard to look presidential? Will it appear tacky? Newman, who hails from Scranton, Pa., hometown of Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, says: "These images work. They invoke the ancient Greeks, and the founding fathers were big on these guys."

At the same time, "McCain has painted him as an empty-headed celebrity, not ready to govern," Newman said. "He can’t let this take. If he does he’s in trouble."

Burnout hitting many young athletes

Increasing pressure on young hockey players may be causing some of them to leave the sport earlier these days, reported The Canadian Press Aug. 28.

There’s no research to suggest that young kids who love their sport will risk burnout, says Joe Baker, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. But with so much at stake, it’s no wonder some kids don’t speak up about not enjoying it.

Police often turn blind eye to prositution, says York prof

Complaints caused the number of prostitution-related charges in the Chatham-Kent area to increase, while the number of charges laid for prostitution-related offences decreased by 24 per cent province-wide, reported The Chatham Daily News Aug. 28.

There is generally little "proactive enforcement" of prostitution laws, said Alan Young, a lawyer and professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and long-time champion of a more liberal approach to issues like drug enforcement and prostitution.

Young is currently spearheading a constitutional challenge to strike some of the Criminal Code provisions against prostitution-related activities. "For the most part, they turn a blind eye," he said of the typical police approach to sex workers.

Canadian Securities Administrators need to reform communications

Edward Waitzer, the Jarislowsky Chair in Corporate Governance at York University, and Claude Lamoureux, former CEO of Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, discussed the Canadian Securities Administrators slow-motion rule-making in the Financial Post’s comment section Aug. 28. The pair revisited the recommendations they made in a 2004 column regarding rules governing shareholder communications.

Waitzer, a former chair of the Ontario Securities Commission and a senior partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP, and Lamoureux stated that while a growing number of shareholders (both retail and institutional) are choosing to assert their right to anonymity, an unfortunate result of the rule has been their increasing disenfranchisement.

This arises because the rule is silent on the obligation of companies (or anyone else) to pay for the delivery of proxy materials to beneficial shareholders who choose not to identify themselves. No clear requirement to pay, coupled with a decline in issuers or intermediaries volunteering to pay, means more shareholders are not getting proxy material and are thus denied the vote.

Margaret Visser’s new book explores social history of gratitude

Brian Bethune discussed Margaret Visser‘s upcoming book The Gift of Thanks (HarperCollins, 2008) in the books section of Maclean’s Sept. 8 issue. Visser taught Latin and Greek at York from 1974 to 1978; her book is expected out in September. Margaret Visser, to adopt a lovely phrase she herself turned, is Canada’s master of "the invisible ordinary", wrote Bethune. The South African-born writer may have made her living teaching Greek and Latin at Toronto’s York University, but she made her reputation as a cultural anthropologist, teasing out the inner meanings of domestic rituals (especially as they surround food), and later, in translating the almost lost language of church decoration.

In her latest book, Visser, 68, turns to a subject even more ethereal, even harder to see at work in our daily lives: gratitude. Shot through with the intriguing detours into etymology and variations in cultural norms that distinguish her works, The Gift of Thanks rejects the idea that gratitude is hard-wired in our species. Visser starts from the contrary observation of just how hard it is to drum into children’s heads the obligation to say "thank you" — and, more to the point, to actually feel thankful — and ends up making the case for gratitude as "the moral memory of mankind," the glue that holds us together.

Adam Ross joins the hockey Lions

The Miramichi Timberwolves’ leading scorer from last season is headed to York University to play for the Lions hockey team in 2008-2009, reported New Brunswick’s Miramichi Leader Aug 27.

The right-winger and Edmonton native has major junior experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Victoriaville Tigres, 2005-2007) and the Western Hockey League (Calgary Hitmen, 2007-2008). Adam Ross finished his junior career with the Timberwolves, of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, this past season.

"We are very pleased that Adam has chosen York as a place where he can earn his degree and continue to develop as a hockey player," former Lions head coach Bill Maguire said. "Adam is a big, very competitive player who is dedicated to continuing to improve. We feel he has the ability to be a very solid player in the OUA."

York quarterback high on new coach

No matter how many games he wins and no matter how many passing yards he accumulates, quarterback Bart Zemanak plans on leaving York University on good terms, reported the Toronto Sun Aug. 28.

With the football program starting from scratch under first-year head coach Mike McLean, Zemanak relishes his final opportunity. "We haven’t even played a game yet, but I know I won’t be leaving here with any bitter feelings,” Zemanak said yesterday as the Lions continued to prepare for Monday’s curtain raiser against the Windsor Lancers.

Zemanak took a pass last season when the program was fraught with internal issues and decided to go overseas and play semi-pro football in Finland. Zemanak returned to York to complete his masters of science and felt compelled to play out his final year of football eligibility after he met with McLean. "I just knew he was the guy the moment I first met coach,” Zemanak said. "He’s a guy you want to follow."

Alumna sells bottled water for $38.50 a pop

Andrea Bates (née Grant) (BSc ’88) and her husband Tim are making waves in the emerging market of luxury water, reported BC’s Cariboo Press Aug. 26.

The Kelowna couple launched their glacier-sourced 10 Thousand BC high-end hydrator in January 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival. They were featured soon after that on “Good Morning America”.

They now have a global reach with their water, which sells for as much as $38.50 a bottle. The magical liquid comes from a glacier on Hat Mountain, about 200 kilometres north of Vancouver. There, the water is pumped into glass-lined barges, shipped to the Lower Mainland and transferred into stainless-steel trucks which make their way to Kelowna. At the 10-employee bottling plant, the water is bottled to the good vibrations of classical music.

It’s the first joint venture for the couple. "It’s a beautiful product," said Andrea, noting that other water marketed as glacier-sourced uses plastic bottles, compared to 10 Thousand BC’s frosted glass. "It’s a premium product in a premium package."

York grad chosen as a Niagara Voice

Meghan Lenchyshyn (BA ’07), was chosen by the St. Catharines Standard as one of its 2008-2009 Niagara Voices, 12 local columnists who double as members of the community editorial board. It’s evident there are a lot of Niagara residents who care about their community and want to contribute to make it a better place in which to live, said the Standard in its announcement Aug. 28.

On air

  • Randy Pitawanakwat, coordinator of the Aboriginal Student Community in York’s Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development, and Barbara Rahder, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, discussed York’s move to include Aboriginal languages in graduate thesis work on “Here & Now” on CBC Radio (Toronto) Aug. 27.