1,415 missing Canadians are largest such number in decades

The frantic hunt for survivors in the Port-au-Prince rubble is becoming a recovery of corpses – with close to 1,500 Canadians among the missing, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 16.

The 1,415 people missing comprise the largest number of Canadians affected by such a disaster in decades. David Etkin, director of the Graduate Program in Disaster & Emergency Management in the School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, said a massive storm in the 1700s killed thousands of Canadians stationed in ships on the East Coast, but he can’t think of any recent natural disaster that has affected as many citizens.

  • Disaster response is not about psychotherapy, wrote Rachel Vella-Zarb, a York graduate student in clinical psychology, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Jan. 18, responding to a column about the “grief industry” by Margaret Wente. It’s about assessing the needs of survivors and providing emergency help. Perhaps this could be better done with “community and casseroles”, but I doubt the people of Haiti are able to drop by their friends’ homes right now with a cooked meal and a box of tissues.

Hogg says 2008 prorogation was right move

One of the people who advised Governor General Michaëlle Jean on her decision to prorogue Parliament in December 2008 says, despite the controversy, Jean made the right decision, wrote Fredericton, NB’s The Daily Gleaner Jan. 18.

University Professor Emeritus Peter Hogg, former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Canada’s leading scholar in constitutional law, was in Fredericton recently to address the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law school on the issue of prorogation and the governor general’s role in it.

On Dec. 4, 2008, “although (Stephen) Harper did possess the confidence of the House at that time, it was politically known and the governor general had letters from the three opposition leaders that they were united in their determination to vote no confidence on Dec. 8,” Hogg told a packed lecture room at Ludlow Hall last week. “She (also) has a discretion when loss of confidence is known to be imminent, as it was known in this case.”

Hogg said Jean had the option to refuse Harper’s request, name Dion prime minister and allow him to form a new government. But in hindsight she made the right decision since the coalition fell apart soon after, Hogg said.

Lady Gaga is a master of reinvention

Is Lady Gaga the first major pop icon of the Internet age or will she disappear like a bad romance? Here’s betting Stefani Germanotta, a 23-year-old New York private school graduate, will become a huge star with the staying power of Madonna, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 16.

Watching Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance video recently, Marlis Schweitzer, a theatre professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, was struck with the similarities to Madonna’s Express Yourself video, including the crawl along the floor. A troll through YouTube shows Lady Gaga never performs a song the same way twice and uses different costumes and props, including a dancer as a piano bench.

“What she is promising is that ‘You will see something completely different if you come to my show,’” says Schweitzer, author of When Broadway was the Runway, a look at fashion and theatre. “That’s smart. If she wears five different outfits in a day, and Jennifer Lopez only wears one, then she has five times more pictures on the Internet that day. It is savvy self-promotion.”

The Arctic tern’s global trek

Of all migrating birds, the Arctic tern flies the farthest – braving cold, wind, storms, predators and starvation to travel from as far as upper Greenland to the shores of Antarctica, wrote the Los Angeles Times Jan. 16.

But little has been known about how these birds, weighing less than 125 grams, make their gruelling journey. Now, for the first time, scientists using tiny geolocating devices have tracked the terns’ migration, and discovered some surprising details.

“We see them when they’re breeding and think, ‘Oh, they’re nesting,’ but the rest of the year we have no idea where these birds are,” said Bridget Stutchbury, a biology professor in the Faculty of Science & Engineering at York University, who runs a behavioural and conservation ecology lab. Stutchbury was not involved in the study.

The study, published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was made possible by new technology. More traditional tracking devices are equipped to regularly transmit information via satellite – which requires a lot of power and a heavy battery. These can only be used to track the migration patterns of larger birds, such as albatrosses.

Attaching a device of this size to a tern’s leg "would be like giving me a 100-pound pack to carry up a mountain," Stutchbury said.

York professor lauds Mississauga hockey league’s new rules

Mississauga has reinvented minor hockey enforcement rules with a unique escalating disciplinary system designed to get tough with thuggish conduct, wrote the Toronto Star and The Mississauga News Jan. 16.

The new law in town, dubbed “discipline emphasis”, hands out increasingly lengthy suspensions to repeat offenders who have remained unswayed by traditional hockey justice.

The stepped-up enforcement approach is inspired, says Paul Dennis, who has spent more than half a century as a player, amateur and professional coach, president of the Toronto Marlboros and now a sports psychologist in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, after a 20-year career with the Leafs. “Kudos to them,” he said. “You would think that other organizations would jump on this and replicate it.”

All about Alison

Visit the Old Courthouse one evening later this month and you’ll step into the life of Alison, a journalist with more than a story or two to tell, wrote Kamloops, BC’s The Daily News Jan. 16 in a preview of You Are Here, the winter presentation of Project X Theatre Productions.

Tom Bradshaw (MFA ’92), a theatre graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and a recent arrival in Kamloops, joins them, playing the role of Thomas Roman.

CBU Dramagroup stages intense, psychological drama – with goats

“Ugo Betti was considered to be Italy’s greatest playwright after Luigi Pirandello (famous for Six Characters in Search of an Author),” said director Todd Hiscock (MFA ’99), in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Post Jan. 16 in a preview of Crime on Goat Island being staged at the Boardmore Theatre during the last week of January as part of the Cape Breton University Dramagroup’s current season of plays. “Besides being a playwright, he was a judge and a lot of his plays are set in the world of the criminal where he looks at how people take responsibility for themselves and their actions.”

Hiscock first encountered Goat Island when he performed as Angelo 10 years ago as part of his master’s thesis in acting in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

A Mez-merizing list of city-specific ideas

Dave Meslin is the ultimate ideas guy, a mad scientist whose lab is the city and whose mission is making it better, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 18. The 35-year-old full-time community activist takes an idea, assembles a team, makes it work – and then hands it over.

The latest brainchild? Better Ballots, a fledgling citizens’ movement to push for change in city elections.

Despite a superior intellect, Meslin is a postsecondary dropout who left York University after half a term. “I didn’t get along well with school,” he explains.

On air

  • Ben Todd, executive director of London’s "green" Arcola Theatre, who delivered the Wendy Michener Lecture at York University, spoke about sustainability and the arts, on CBC Radio’s "Here & Now" Jan. 14.