Pioneer film educator John Katz dies in Philadelphia

John Stuart Katz, 72, a film scholar, author and University of Pennsylvania professor [and professor emeritus at York University] , died of complications from renal failure Nov. 26, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer Nov. 28.

A movie omnivore whose courses explored film’s impact on political change, Katz co-edited Image Ethics, a book about the moral ramifications of documentary films. He was passionate about nonfiction cinema such as Errol Morris’ The Fog of War, but, if pressed, would say his favorite movie was Annie Hall.

Katz cut a jaunty figure at York University in Toronto, where he was a member of the Faculty of Fine Arts for more than three decades, and at Penn, where he taught for 13 years in the English department. On both campuses, undergraduates adored the inquisitive professor with the Richard Dreyfuss vitality and curiosity. His students included François Girard and Don McKellar, makers of the award-winning Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould; and Ryan Lee, a Hollywood agent.

A native of Cincinnati, Katz was a pioneer film educator and one-stop movie resource who earned his doctorate in English at Harvard University before publishing his first book, Perspectives on the Study of Film, in 1971. Complementing his professorial duties in Toronto, Katz served as a movie critic for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show “Arts National” and the television culture magazine T.O. to Go. He was a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival.

York student, 20, dies after being intentionally mowed down by SUV

For the Dang family, it was supposed to be a day of celebration. Instead, the Vietnamese immigrants from Concord, Ont., spent Saturday morning at a Toronto morgue learning how their son Vincent Dang, 20, had been intentionally mowed down by an unidentified SUV driver who now faces a murder charge, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 29 in a story that has been widely reported in print and broadcast media.

“They’re devastated,” Detective Sergeant Dan Nielsen said. “In addition to this terrible tragedy, it was his mother’s birthday.”

Toronto police say Dang, a finance student at York University, was partying at the Rockwood nightclub at 31 Mercer St. when he and his friends got into a “minor altercation” with a rival group around 2am Saturday. The disagreement spilled out onto the streets of the entertainment district. “They were staring (each other) down, having words,” Nielsen said.

Although some in the rival groups may have met before, police believe Dang and the man accused of killing him didn’t know one another.

The suspect’s group hopped into a taxi that drove them about 20 metres to a parking lot where they got into a vehicle witnesses describe as a full-size, grey or charcoal blue sport utility vehicle, possibly a Chevrolet Suburban. Dang and his friends, meanwhile, walked around the corner to the north side of Wellington Street, just east of Blue Jays Way.

What happened next was captured on a surveillance camera mounted outside a nearby condominium.

“He (the SUV driver) mounts the sidewalk as if he’s going to drive into the group of males. He makes a sharp left turn onto the roadway, then makes another sharp right turn and he strikes the victim on the sidewalk,” Nielsen said.

Dang was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead around 3:30am. An autopsy completed Sunday morning found he died of “multiple injuries.”

The SUV fled southbound on Blue Jays Way toward Front Street, and police are still searching for its driver and an unknown number of passengers.

The driver is facing a second-degree murder charge at minimum, Nielsen said. Police can’t say yet what charges, if any, the passengers might face.

The driver is described as a slim, brown male with a light goatee and mustache. He is believed to be between 19 and 25 years old.

Police say the investigation is progressing well. They’ve already interviewed the driver of the taxi believed to have ferried the suspect and some of his friends to the SUV and officers are reviewing footage captured by the cab’s security camera.

Students get the best of both worlds in college-university programs

Students get theory and practice when they study in programs offered jointly by universities and colleges, reported the The Globe and Mail Nov. 29 in a special national report.

Joint-degree programs offered by colleges are gaining popularity, says Terry Anne Boyles, vice-president, public affairs for the Ottawa-based Association of Canadian Community Colleges.

There are about 90 joint-degree programs across Canada. Four of the 14 listed in the Globe were York University programs:

  • a broadcasting-television program with Seneca College
  • a four-year Bachelor of Nursing degree program with Seneca College
  • a one-year certificate in International Project Management from Humber College for York University students who have attended the three-year Bachelor of Environmental Studies program
  • a one-year joint program in Ecosystem Management from Fleming College for York University students obtaining the Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree.

Canadian university players bound for MLS SuperDraft?

In case you missed it, York Lions head soccer coach Carmine Isacco dropped a bit of a bomb on “It’s Called Football” last week when he revealed that there are efforts underway by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) to see Canadian university players participating in the MLS [Major League Soccer] SuperDraft and MLS Combines in the near future, reported Nov. 28.

"I’ve been seeing some initiatives for CIS players to become draft eligible. Not sure where they’re at but I know there has been a lot of data aimed and talked back and forth (between MLS and CIS). We are at that level now."

As it stands currently, there is no direct route into the MLS system for a Canadian player and the league, and the United States Soccer Federation have resisted past inquiries by Canadian representatives. Isacco, who was on Toronto FC’s staff in 2007, thinks those who opposed Canadian draft entry in the past don’t have much of a leg to stand on anymore. 

"People preached about having national team players – well, our programs have national team players. People preached about the level of athleticism – I ask anyone to come watch a CIS game and, when push comes to shove, the best teams in the nation, and the final eight, all have very good technical players," he said. "There is credible evidence now to say that ‘Hey, our programs can develop these types of MLS players and proper professionals." 

Isacco, who played at the University of Maryland himself, takes it a step further and asserts that any of the top teams in this country could compete against those in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). "If you look at the UBCs, you look at the Yorks, you look at the U of Ts, you look at Laval – those teams would compete with any of the the top 25 teams in NCAA – without a doubt." 

In fact, NCAA teams have been challenged by Isacco and other CIS coaches to friendlies in the past, only to be turned down on the appearance of what losing to a Canadian team might look like. 

The shop teacher

Fabio Cattelan (BFA Spec. Hons. ’85) estimates it costs about $2 in supplies for each of the 300 students that pass through his woodworking shop each year, and that they learn far more than just how to build a spice rack, reported the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 28.

Shop, he says, often fills a need for students who get little or no satisfaction from "regular" classes. It requires a different sort of focus, different, more hands-on, skills, and at the end of it all, students have something tangible to take home to show their parents.  

Schooled in fine art at York University, Cattelan worked in design in Toronto before becoming a teacher.

On air

  • James Morton, adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on the violent arrest of Stacy Bonds at the hands of Ottawa police officers, on Global TV and Citytv news programs Nov. 26 and 27 across Canada.
  • Howard Moscoe has 31 years in city politics. He was chief rabble-rouser at city council. Now he has applied to York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, reported CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition” Nov. 28.