From ballet flats to blood and guts

In Nadia Litz’s short and shocking directorial debut, a woman deals with her relationship problems by slicing her boyfriend with a scalpel and removing the “negative emotions” inside him, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 11.

The graphic do-it-yourself surgery is not unlike Litz’s new approach to her career, as she quietly but firmly shifts emphasis from being a rising Toronto actor to being an aspiring Canadian filmmaker. “It’s a way of communicating, because it doesn’t come naturally to me to communicate my feelings verbally,” she said in an interview in her Queen Street West apartment.

Her 15-minute film, premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, has the very long title How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You! The screenplay is by Ryan Cavan, her fellow student at the Canadian Film Centre, but he’s right in tune with Litz’s state of mind.

Litz was feeling similarly hemmed in. She’s beautiful, but not in the cookie-cutter Hollywood way. As a result, she’s been frequently called upon to play, as she puts it, “the wacky whatever or the weirdo.”

She would try to choose clothing and costumes that made her characters more interesting. But an actor only has so much leeway. “You don’t get to edit. You don’t get to shape the performance in that way. You don’t get to write the lines. You don’t get to cut out the lines that don’t make sense…all sorts of nuances plus the toolbox you have when directing.”

This explains why Litz all but dropped out of acting a few years ago, taking on a few roles to keep her hand in. She studied filmmaking and screenwriting at York University, following that with work at the Canadian Film Centre, where aspiring filmmakers are groomed to bring projects to the screen.

York student survives fatal bus crash

The driver of a bus that crashed into a railway bridge en route from Philadelphia to Toronto on Saturday, killing four people, “simply took a wrong turn” looking for the Syracuse, NY, bus station, according to the county sheriff, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 13.

Branislav Nikolic, 25, a student at York University in Toronto, and his wife, Masa, 24, were Canadian passengers who were treated in hospital and released.

Pulling the strings for Justin Bieber

It wasn’t so long ago that York graduate student Dan Kanter (BFA ’07)could go about his day with little fanfare – and absolutely no interference from hordes of gushy girl fans, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 11.

That was before he became the music director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber. Hardcore followers know him as the mop-haired rocker wingman with the yellow-and-black Gibson Les Paul guitar. Bieber even sings a little ditty in his honour during rehearsals: “Dan Kanter, we wrote this song for you. We hope you like it, we really do.”

Kanter has appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show", played at Madison Square Garden and entertained Malia and Sasha Obama at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

“Dan is really open-minded; he can hear all sorts of things and wants to understand music,” says Rob Bowman, a professor of ethnomusicology in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and supervisor to Kanter, who is pursuing his master’s there. “He’s an inquisitive and curious individual, which makes him an ideal student,” adds Bowman. “Onstage, you [can] see the way he bobs his head along; he is extremely supportive and participatory and he’d be that way with anyone.”

The main reason Kanter has never aspired to the role of frontman is that, as he tells it, singing is not his forte. But he has never let that hold him back.

Schulich sees high demand in India for MBAs

The Schulich School of Business…started out with an Indian partner, wrote The New York Times Sept. 12 in a story about North American universities responses to a change in India’s education laws.

In January of this year, it started a joint master of business administration degree program with Mumbai’s S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research. But even as it began this partnership, it was in advanced talks with the GMR Group, a consortium of mostly infrastructure companies, to set up an independent campus in Hyderabad.

Ashwin Joshi, executive director of the Schulich MBA in India program, says there is strong demand in India for a top-quality MBA program, which the school plans to start offering by 2013. “There are people who are incredibly bright and people who can pay,” he said.

Joshi believes there are “tens of thousands” of people who can pay the more than $24,000 in annual tuition fees that international students pay when they go to Schulich. “I don’t have any doubt that there will be any shortage of demand at these price points.” He could be right. The privately run Indian School of Business, also in Hyderabad, charges $35,000.

York researcher called ‘big-time space scientist’ by BC host

The Vancouver Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is holding its annual International Astronomy Day event in conjunction with [an event at Simon Fraser University (SFU)], wrote BC’s Burnaby Now Sept. 11. The society will host guest speaker Jim Whiteway of York University for a lecture at 4pm.

“He’s a big-time Canadian space scientist,” said Howard Trottier, a professor of physics at SFU. Whiteway is best known for spotting snow on Mars. He was the principle investigator for the Canadian weather station on the Phoenix Mars Lander, wrote Now.

One for the money

Supporters of mayoral front-runner Rob Ford recently received an invitation to an upcoming fundraising dinner, and a gentle reminder of a municipal rebate program that uses tax dollars to subsidize campaigns, wrote the National Post Sept. 11 in a Q-&-A feature about political campaign donations.

Q: And who ends up paying for all those rebate cheques?

A: City taxpayers do. In the 2006 election, Toronto spent $2.1 million on the rebate program…. York University Professor Robert MacDermid, an expert in campaign financing, said that while Toronto’s program is “by far the most generous” among the municipalities, it is not particularly more generous than the federal and provincial programs.

Q: So how do our provincial and federal donation rules compare?

A:…. “Taxpayers fund elections in a whole series of ways,” said MacDermid. He noted that the amount of public money going to the political process is greatest at the federal level, where registered parties with a certain amount of support are granted an annual allowance of $1.75 for every vote cast in the previous election.

Q: Why is this rebate program a good thing?

A: MacDermid said they encourage candidates to go out and raise money from individuals and that improves democracy. “We want the candidates to go and talk to us, the voters, rather than going down Bay Street with a bag, collecting money from corporations.”

Toronto became the first municipality in Ontario to ban union and corporate donations, which according to MacDermid’s research accounted for 14 per cent of disclosed donations in 2006 (12.1 per cent corporate, 2.2 per cent union). In Toronto, 68.2 per cent of donations came from citizens and 17.5 per cent came from candidates themselves. He noted that only about 1 per cent of the voter pool donates to political campaigns, and rebate programs in the three Ontario municipalities resulted in higher percentages of contributions from individuals.

The Americanization of Canadian law?

The juris doctor (JD) law designation is common in the United States, where students must complete an undergraduate degree before attending law school, wrote online Sept. 10 in an article about the trend by Canadian law schools to replace the bachelor of laws (LLB) degree with a JD.

Meanwhile, the LLB designation has reigned supreme in Canada and other Commonwealth countries such as Britain. The difference is that in Canada – like in the States – most students have already completed an undergrad degree before entering law school; across the pond, students can attend law school straight out of high school.

Proponents say that the JD signals to foreign – read American – employers that a Canadian law grad isn’t just a “snot-nosed kid barely five years removed from high school,” as Toronto litigator David Cheifetz put it on the Canadian law Web site Slaw. The JD is now seen as “more prestigious than the LLB,” explains Simon Fodden, professor emeritus at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, which offers the JD.

More serious criticisms abound: that this marks the “Americanization” of Canadian law.

The Ministry of Happy Marriages

Anne-Marie Ambert, professor emerita of sociology in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and author of the text Changing Families: Relationships in Context, says the well-being of both adults and children is better served in stable marriages, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 11 in an article about efforts to get Ottawa to bolster the family.

“Children develop more happily, become better citizens, do better in employment and education when they live in two-parent families,” Ambert says. “I could care less if people get married or live together. But I am a researcher and an educator and the facts agree.”

But she argues that if we want to strengthen conjugal bonds as a society, we first need to attack poverty, which prevents people getting married in the first place and is one of the most significant risk factors for divorce once they are married.

Ambert says children should learn as early as elementary school about how to become part of a happy couple – how to empathize and how to be sensitive – and they should start learning about relationships before they learn about sex. That requires that teachers be trained and be brave, because there is the risk of offending people. “The earlier the better,” she says.

Young, talented…and staying

Kevin Pangos has all the characteristics of Canada’s celebrated wave of high-school basketball talent – a surefire shot, surgical passes and buzz that the six-foot-one point guard may be Canada’s next Steve Nash. But his commute to school makes him the odd man out, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 11 in a story about Canadians who look for scholarships in the US.

His father, Bill Pangos, was against the move. He played basketball for the University of Toronto and has been the women’s basketball coach at York University for 24 seasons. “I believe strongly that anybody, given the opportunity and if they’re dedicated enough, can succeed whether they’re in Canada or the United States,” he says.

Going ape is the only way to go

Elephants in Water for Elephants. Bonobos in Ape House. Why do your novels centre around animals? asked Martin Levin of author Sara Gruen in The Globe and Mail Sept. 11.

I’ve always loved them, I think it’s in my genes. But Ape House began when my mother sent me an e-mail about the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, where language acquisition and cognition in great apes was being studied.. I’d never even heard of bonobos as a separate species before, but was fascinated. I’m always interested in the ways humans so often underestimate the intelligence and feelings of animals.

When I knew I was writing [the book], and would need to deal with ape language, I applied to visit the Great Ape Trust, which is about not just understanding the culture of the great apes, but about preserving them as well. My extensive homework included coming up to York University’s [Glendon College] in Toronto for a crash course in linguistics. It’s not that easy to visit the apes; not only does the Trust have to approve you, but the bonobos do as well.

Not folly to fall for Foley

The Argonauts think they will have a clearer idea of where they stand in the Ricky Foley sweepstakes some time in the next few days, wrote the Toronto Sun Sept. 11.

But the Toronto Argonauts, the BC Lions and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats all would love Foley, a native of Courtice, who played at York University, in uniform. The Argos would have to do some roster juggling to get Foley in under the salary cap.

Facebook study still making news

OMG! Facebook users are narcissists, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 12. Well…unless they are having self- esteem issues. Those two groups are your typical Facebook users, according to a survey of 100 York University students. The researchers feel the study may prompt Facebook users to take a closer look at themselves (which should be a breeze for narcissists) and their Facebook friends (who are all self-loathers, no doubt – otherwise, why would they be a narcissist’s friend?). Meanwhile perhaps another study could be done on people who loathe themselves for having so many Facebook friends.

York Lions crushed by Gee-Gees

The No. 3-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees (3-0) rode a high-powered offence led by quarterback Brad Sinopoli en route to a 45-3 thumping of the York University Lions (0-2) on Saturday afternoon at York Stadium, wrote the Toronto Sun Sept. 12.

York was led by third-year quarterback Nick Coutu, who completed 14 of 39 passes for 117 yards. He also rushed nine times for 85 yards.

Ryan Redford showcases Oliver Sherman at Toronto film fest

Earning a spot at the Toronto International Film Festival is a big coup for an emerging director, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 12. Today, we profile Ryan Redford (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01), who is at the fest with Oliver Sherman.

Hometown: Vancouver, though he relocated to Ontario as a teenager and stuck around to attend York University.

Kathleen Taylor to receive 2011 ISHC Pioneer Award

The American Hotel & Lodging Association issued the following news release:

Kathleen Taylor (JD & MBA ’84), president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, will receive the 2011 International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) Pioneer Award at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), January 24 to 26, 2011, in San Diego, wrote Targeted News Service Sept. 9.

Taylor’s business achievements have been recognized with the Schulich Award for Outstanding Executive Leadership in 2001, the IREFAC (Industry Real Estate Financing Advisory Council of the American Hotel & Lodging Association) Chairman’s Award in 2003, the CGCA (Canadian General Counsel Awards) Award for Business Achievement in 2006, and induction to the Marketing Hall of Legends in 2009. In 2010, Taylor received The Hennick Centre for Business & Law Medal for Career Achievement.

Taylor obtained a law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University in 1984.

New executive director of community legal services is a York grad

Terry Hunter (BA ’69, LLB ’72) believes in justice for all, wrote the Welland Tribune Sept. 13.

The new executive director of the Community Legal Services of Niagara South said the agency will take a more aggressive approach to social problems in Welland, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, southern Thorold, Pelham and Wainfleet.

Hunter grew up in what was at the time rural Pickering and attended York University and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.