Singing for Row A, Seat 20

Walking into Theatre Aquarius, Jeff Giles [BFA ’06] is confronted with his past, wrote the Hamilton Spectator April 26, in a story about his role as Buddy Holly in a new theatre production.

“Coming back here to be Buddy Holly is like coming home,” Giles smiles. “I’ll be walking out on that stage and memories will be flooding back. It’s not about being a star. It’s about working at something you love to do. Yes, in Buddy the focus is on me, but I don’t feel more important than anyone else. It’s about teamwork.”

After studying theatre at York University, Giles did shows on the summer circuit. The big break came when he landed a role in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Boys in the Photograph. “There was my picture outside the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. There I was in my little gym shorts and T-shirt, Jeff Giles from Stoney Creek.”

Then came the title role in Buddy at the Charlottetown Festival. Watching Giles perform Holly you could see the way he used his own sexual tension to fire the audience. Based on tips, Aquarius artistic director Ron Ulrich flew to Charlottetown to see the Hamilton kid strut his stuff. He signed him on the spot. Giles was coming back to Hamilton as Buddy.

“It’s just so cool to come home to do this,” Giles says, a big smile spreading across his face. “It’s not that Holly’s spirit is channelled through me. I wouldn’t say that. What it is, is I see how people who watched him live back then watch me now and tell me I bring back memories of their own youth. All ages come to the show. There are the young kids who only know Holly through his old records. And there are the middle-aged types who knew him because their moms and dads danced to his music.”

But, there is sadness, too.

“I look out at the rows of seats in the theatre. Row A, Seat 20 has a little gold plaque with my mom’s name on it. She always tried to buy that seat when she came to see me on stage. That 20 is a reminder of something else, too. She died on the 20th of November. Looking out at that empty seat today I cried. I still have my dad and we are very good friends, but my mom is gone and that’s pretty hard.”

Slaying of York student Qian Liu leaves two families in anguish

The contrast is bleak, wrote the Toronto Star April 26. The minute Qian Liu’s parents stepped off the plane at Pearson Airport last week, a team of officials from the Chinese consulate enveloped them, guided them through a crush of reporters and whisked them away. Message boards have been swamped with messages of sympathy for them; dozens of stories have been written about their daughter’s good nature, her endearing smile.

Some kilometres away, at Austin Avenue in Riverdale, Brian Dickson’s grey-haired parents, averting their gaze from neighbours, quickly left for the court where their son was to appear.

On April 15, Liu, a 23-year-old Chinese visa student, was found dead by two friends and her landlord in her apartment at Aldwinckle Heights near York University. Dickson, 29, is charged with first-degree murder.

Both sets of parents are enduring terrible anguish; both are clueless about what happened. But that’s where the similarity ends. While there is widespread sympathy for Liu’s parents, the Dicksons have been under intense scrutiny, their door knocked at repeatedly by reporters with pointed questions to ask.

  • With a recent murder of a York University student and other acts of violence around campus, the York Federation of Students came up with a list of demands they would like implemented immediately by the school’s administration, wrote April 25.

At a media conference Thursday at the Keele campus, York Federation of Students’ incoming president Vanessa Hunt called on York "to take concrete steps to address the ongoing sexual assaults and acts of violence at York University."

Demands include a mandatory anti-oppression training and equity course for all students, staff and faculty; immediate and permanent expansion of the goSafe and Walk Safe programs, and the creation of a Community Watch program, with specific emphasis on the York Village and Shoreham Drive community; restructuring of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) audit implementation committee to include representation of York’s students’ unions, Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line, Centre for Women and Trans People and York Student Fieldhouse community service groups; immediate acknowledgment from York administration they have a responsibility to ensure student safety in adjacent communities such as York Village and full implementation of the METRAC audit report.

Hunt, who said students don’t want York to become a police state, said having officers on campus doesn’t tackle the systemic reasons why crime happens in the first place. "Having police around just makes people more cautious about how to commit crimes," she said.

With some 4,000 York students living just outside of campus, Hunt would like to see the Walk Safe and goSafe programs extended to include those students, along with extending the hours of the programs, although she didn’t suggest a time the programs should run until.

The University said it has made significant safety and security improvements over the past two to three years in response to the safety audit released by METRAC in June 2010, including providing shuttle service to both on and off-campus locations, including York Village.

Other security improvements include the Residence Watch program, which employs 22 security officials focusing on residence security; $200,000 annually invested in lighting improvements; additional security cameras on campus and in residences; door alarms in residences and 220 emergency phones, including safety phones in classrooms.

The list of demands by York Federation of Students was brought to the forefront following the murder of student Qian (Necole) Liu, 23, who was found dead in her Finch Avenue and Sentinel Road basement apartment Friday, April 15.

  • York University students will be patrolling the neighbouring area, known as the York Village, in response to the recent killing of student Qian LiuExcalibur reported, wrote April 25. The student patrols, which began late last week, were one of the ideas to come out of a forum on campus safety, hosted by the York Federation of Students (YFS) on Thursday.

York sport psychology instructor has advice for Canucks’ goalie

Local sports psychologist Paul Dennis, the former Maple Leafs coach who teaches the subject at York University [Faculty of Health] and the University of Toronto, said the beleaguered netminder must focus on the “challenge and thrill” of playing a Game 7 and avoid thinking about the pressure he is under, wrote the Toronto Star April 25.

“He might be thinking about, ‘my poor record against Chicago, what are my teammates thinking about me, what are the coaches and management thinking about me, am I letting everybody down?’” said Dennis. “If he is in fact thinking those thoughts, he’s going to implode. What’s he’s doing is bringing tension to an already tense situation. That’s very unhealthy. It’s not going to help his game. He will have trouble sleeping. His sleep patterns will be off. His diet will be different. If he’s beating himself up mentally, he’ll feel drained. He’ll feel tired, he’ll feel lethargic, even though he’s in great shape.”

Dennis suggests that between now and puck drop, Luongo, instead, focuses on positive images such as watching video of his solid, and sometimes stellar, play in the first three games of the series and recall how he silenced critics by winning that Olympic gold on the same ice surface. He should just relax and enjoy the opportunity. He is a Vezina Trophy nominee, after all.

“What he should be doing is focusing on the fundamentals of being a goaltender, his puck movement, his body positioning, how much he enjoys playing the game, how much he enjoys being around his teammates,” continued Dennis.

“I’d say to him, the word ‘pressure’ should never enter your mind. You replace pressure with challenge and thrill. And that guarantees him the chance to be successful. Not that he’s going to win, but it guarantees him a chance. I think if he obsesses about the other things I talked about, it’s going to guarantee the chance that he’ll do poorly.”

Safe as houses? That loud knocking is falling prices

The most enduring and simplistic argument for buying a house is that you’re making an investment, wrote The Globe and Mail April 26.

What an understatement. Between your mortgage, property taxes, utility bills, maintenance, furnishings, renovations, landscaping and such, you’ll be investing non-stop in your home. But what’s the return on your money?

"The fact remains that housing can decline in value, and for prolonged periods," Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote in his 2009 book Your Money Milestones. "It is definitely not a risk-free investment."

More York grads in the running…

York grads were featured in more election candidate profiles.

  • Liberal candidate Ken Boshcoff [MES ’75] says he can hit the ground running if elected as the member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, wrote Thunder Bay’s April 25.

The former mayor and recently elected at-large city councillor is taking his third stab at federal politics by running in the May election. Boshcoff graduated from Lakehead University, where he completed degrees in political science and economics. In 1975, he received his master’s degree of environmental studies in systems planning from York University.

  • The Greens have also seen their vote total improve but remain well back in the riding and never bringing in more than 5.1 per cent of the vote, wrote April 25, in a profile of the riding of York South-Weston. The party is running Sonny Day [BA ’04], technical analyst at York University [Client Services, UIT] and a volunteer for Amnesty International.

On air

  • Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about technology and rules governing reporting of voting results, on CFRB radio April 25.
  • Bob Drummond, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the election campaign in the riding of York Centre, on Global TV April 25.
  • Constitutional expert Patrick Monahan, York vice-president academic & provost, spoke about possible changes to the Supreme Court of Canada depending on the outcome of the federal election, on CTV April 25.