Schulich prof comments on $2.4 million sale of ‘Trophy Wife’

Last Monday at 6:43pm, at the new auction headquarters of Phillips de Pury on Park Avenue in New York, auctioneer Simon de Pury dropped his hammer to signify the [US$2.4 million] sale of lot 12, a lifelike, nude waxwork of former actress and supermodel Stephanie Seymour, wrote Don Thompson, professor emeritus of marketing in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the National Post Nov. 13.

Designed to be mounted on the wall like a deer’s head, it is titled Stephanie but the art world knows it as "Trophy Wife".

Why would anyone pay such a price for a waxwork of someone else’s wife, when the same amount might buy a modest Monet or Picasso — or an actual trophy wife?

The value of Stephanie, and the thinking behind the auction of which it was a part, demonstrates how the value of contemporary art is determined.

The very highest levels of the art world are brand- and event-driven. My 2008 book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark described the curious economics of contemporary art, where branding is all-important. Art-world branding is conferred by the artist, the auction house or dealer, or by prior celebrity owners. Branding overcomes uncertainty in the art purchase decision.

Columnist writes about and plays with prof’s research

Anyone can write a love note to himself to help create lasting happiness, wrote Sarah Hampson in The Globe and Mail Nov. 15 in a column that included fictional satirical letters to themselves by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. The only caveat is that it doesn’t work as well if you’re too self-critical, needy and oversensitive to potential abandonment. That’s the finding of a research paper out of York University, published recently in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

"It was an effort to create a tool for when things don’t go as well as you wanted," says Myriam Mongrain, professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Hedicine, who worked as project leader on the study along with lead author and York graduate student Leah Shapira (MA ’09).

Mongrain acknowledges that in Western society such Buddhist-style loving kindness directed toward the self is not encouraged or even acceptable. "Many believe that you won’t get anywhere by being kind to yourself; letting yourself off the hook is a recipe for failure or disaster," she says. "They’ve begun to believe that they need to be tough on themselves to reach their high standards…. For them, they might think it meant they were lazy or self-indulgent. But it offers another world view, another prescription in how to relate to oneself. … The public needs to know that this will not interfere with their work ethic."

The approach might also lead to greater harmony among people, she adds. "If you interpret events as signs that you’re incompetent, that you’re a failure, that you’re inadequate, all of those judgments toward yourself will lead to an unhealthy approach – overcompensating for example…and you become angry as a way to defend yourself, to retaliate."

Man charged with sex assaults

Police have identified a man charged with two sexual assaults in a natural area near York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 13.

On Thursday, officers arrested 25-year-old Danny Correa for one of the assaults; after interviewing another victim Friday, he was charged with a second attack.

Police say they plan to speak with two other victims to determine if they will charge him with those attacks as well.

A series of assaults, which started in September and ran to this month, all followed a similar scenario. A man would hide in the woods of the Black Creek Parklands, near Finch Avenue West and Sentinel Road, then approach women from behind while making sexual comments, police said. The man would eventually sexually assault the woman.

  • A 25-year-old man is now charged in connection with a string of sex attacks near York University’s Keele campus, wrote 24 Hours Nov. 15. Since September, four women aged 20 to 25 have been attacked while walking through Black Creek Parklands, near Finch Avenue West and Sentinel Road, Toronto police say. In each case, the attacker lays in wait for his victims in a wooded area, approaches the women from behind while making inappropriate sexual comments, then attacks. "Investigators were questioning a suspect on Thursday regarding his possible involvement in these alleged incidents," Const. Tony Vella said Friday. "That man is now charged." Danny Correa, of Toronto, faces two counts of sexual assault.

Legal process ‘rigorous’ for mentally ill

Several recent cases…have some wondering whether Ontario’s forensic health-care system – which treats, monitors and decides whether to release those judged not criminally responsible for their acts – is properly protecting the public, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 15.

Provincial review boards, mandated by the Criminal Code, have jurisdiction over those deemed not criminally responsible for their acts, officially known as "accused," as well as people judged unfit to stand trial.

Even in the best system, errors are inevitable, says James Stribopoulos, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "Predicting future dangerousness is just fraught with uncertainty at the best of times. You just can never know for sure."

Yet it’s the rare mistakes that dominate the public consciousness, he says, in part because of the perception that those deemed not criminally responsible got a free pass. "The reality is, if you speak to anyone close to the criminal justice system, these are hard defences to advance. I think judges and juries view them with skepticism," Stribopoulos says.

One in five gets an absolute discharge after their first hearing. But almost one-quarter spend at least a decade in the review board system, and some much longer. "I’m aware of many cases where people have been in Penetanguishene (mental health centre) for the last 40 years," says Stribopoulos. "They can never be released."

‘House’ creator David Shore dishes on what might have been

"House" creator David Shore’s life would have been very different had he never left the law firm where he worked as a municipal and corporate lawyer for six years and had never followed his best friends from the firm to Los Angeles, wrote the Nov 12.

And imagine if he had returned to the firm after having never found success writing for shows like "Due South", "The Practice", "Law & Order" and "Hack"? Ironically – as Shore told the large audience at a Q&A session at Toronto’s York University – had he never become a lawyer, he may never have created "House" at all.

The medical concept for "House" was foisted on Shore by husband-and-wife producing team Paul Attainsio and Katie Jacobs. They pitched it as a cop show in a hospital where the germs are the suspects, but initially the show just wasn’t doing it for Shore. "The fact is, we don’t watch whodunits," said Shore. "We don’t watch what-dunits, we watch why-dunits. We don’t care that the butler did it with the candlestick in the library; we care that he did it because he was having an affair, and germs don’t have motives."

Gift card biz reaches $100 billion in 15 years

In the mid-’90s, the gift certificate – made of paper, with pre-specified amounts and designated for a specific recipient – was still king, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 13 in a story about the popularity of plastic gift cards. But its reign wouldn’t last. The gift card, which was transferable and more durable, would soon ascend the throne.

The fact that gift cards offer choice is attractive, says Russell Belk, a marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University. "It’s like buying a generic tie for a man. It’s a safe gift, but in this case, one that is going to presumably please the recipient more than just a safe generic gift because they have their choice of something that’s going to be more appropriate."

Prokop keeps the light shining

[An] Electric Circus show in New York introduced Skip Prokop to Paul Hoffert, a Toronto keyboard player and composer with whom he would go on to establish the rock orchestra Lighthouse, one of the most successful bands to ever come out of Canada, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Nov. 13.

The Lighthouse run of hits lasted until 1974. Hoffert stopped touring with the band…and returned to television, theatre and film work, eventually enjoying an academic career in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Argos and Ticats are well-connected competitors

Former York Lion Jeff Johnson (BA Spec. Hons. ’02) admits he still has a soft spot for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 13.

After all, the veteran running back for the Toronto Argonauts signed there as an undrafted free agent out of York University in 2000, played his first two CFL seasons with the team and still has friendly chats with the oskee-wee-wee set when he returns to Ivor Wynne Stadium. "I love the fans there. Their hearts are big," said Johnson, a 33-year-old Toronto native in his 11th CFL season, the last nine with the Argos. "They love their team and I’ll always appreciate that."

But make no mistake, such admiration will not be part of the mix when the Argos take to the field of Ivor Wynne on Sunday in the East Division semifinal. There will be time for friendliness later. Much later.

"It goes out the window until a few weeks after we beat them and they’ve settled down," Johnson said with a laugh. "Actually, in their case, it would be a few months after we beat them until we could have a chat again."

  • The article noted Argo Andre Durie also played at York.

Too many clowns with no financial plan

Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says there might me some method to the madness of people who are not saving any money for retirement, wrote PostMedia’s Nov. 13.

"There is 20 to 30 per cent of the population whose standard of living will actually go up once they retire," says Milevsky, adding Statistics Canada data supports the notion that if you are earning median wage or lower and you retire, the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security might provide a better standard of living than you had before.

Those people find themselves retired but without the expenses that involve going to work and the costs of a mortgage and kids. "Relative to what you experienced at 55, 65 is better," Milevsky says.

Women face special challenges in retirement

When Marcie Graham was planning her retirement, no one ever sat her down and told her to save an extra $160,000 because she was a woman, wrote Nov. 15.

During their working lives, women face a much larger savings challenge than men because they typically earn less – and then have to stretch their incomes out over a longer life-span when they retire. "Women live longer and they marry people who are older than they are. Add those two together and that, in itself, will cost you 20- to 25-per-cent more," says Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University and co-author with Alexandra Macqueen of the book Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

Milevsky calculated that a man can safely afford to withdraw 4.2 per cent of his savings a year from age 65, while a woman would need to cash in at a more conservative pace of 3.7 per cent to be confident of making her savings last for the rest of her life.

Race matters: In anti-gay protests, gay bashings and suicides

People of colour have been missing from the conversation about attacks on the LGBTQ community, wrote York graduate student Sulaimon Giwa on Nov. 15. A conversation on CBC’s "The National" was a case in point. It promoted the view that to be LGBTQ meant to be white.

Canadian news media have provided heart-wrenching accounts of the string of suicides and homophobia-fuelled violence that has occurred recently in the United States. The coverage has made clear the deep-seated hatred and violence that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ) are subjected to on a daily basis, just for being who they are.

I was heartened by Wendy Mesley’s coverage on "The National" in early October of the recent anti-gay attacks and suicides in the US…. However, as I watched and listened to the panel members speak, I was disheartened by the omission of race in their discussion…. The struggles and challenges faced by LGBTQ people of colour were not reflected except for a very brief reference to an Iranian immigrant whose family might not approve of his or her sexual orientation.

York Lions thwart Thunderbirds’ bid to add another national soccer title

The York University Lions weren’t about to let the UBC Thunderbirds add to their record [number of] CIS men’s soccer crowns, wrote Postmedia News Nov. 14.

The Lions defeated UBC 1-0 on Sunday to capture the Canadian Interuniversity title, after riding Adrian Pena’s 17th-minute goal to the third national crown in the university’s history, and dashing the Thunderbirds’ hopes of adding to their CIS record of 11 crowns.

"We did what we were expected to do as far as I’m concerned," said York head coach Carmine Isacco. "We just made a commitment to each other, a commitment to defending and we tried to counter, it didn’t work out as well as we wanted, but we did what we needed to win the game."

Pena connected on Dominic Antonini‘s cross to beat UBC keeper Zach Kalthoff, and from there, the Lions’ defence came up big and added to the 1977 and 2008 titles won by the school.

York study cited in list of ways to pump up your willpower

See yourself on the red carpet, wrote doctors Michael Roizen and Oz Mehmet in the Houston Chronicle blog "Chron Life" Nov. 14. It’s an old trick of athletes, performers and speech-makers: Visualize yourself succeeding, and you’re more likely to do just that. In a study from Canada’s York University, people who visualized themselves succeeding while an admiring crowd looked on felt more motivated to do well than those who just imagined watching themselves do well.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the start of Christmas shopping season, on CBC Radio Nov. 12.