Kindness pays off, study finds

There is karma in kindness. It seems that the Biblical adage of doing unto others, as you’d have them do unto you, pays off in happiness, reported the Toronto Star May 17.

A York University study found that people who performed small acts of kindness – every day for five to 15 minutes for a week – increased their happiness and self-esteem.

After six months, many were still actively helping others and were reporting that their happiness and self-esteem levels were still up, according to the study, which will be published in the spring edition of the Journal of Happiness Studies, an international scientific quarterly available online through Springer science and business media. 

Myriam Mongrain, associate professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health and lead author for the study, says 700 people from across Canada were recruited online at the end of 2007 through a Facebook ad and then directed to the survey site, The age group of respondents ranged from 18 to 73 with 80 per cent women and 20 per cent men. 

The data collected on the original respondents – before they had started the compassion exercise – showed that the majority were “depressed,” says Mongrain. 

Of the original 700 recruits, 458 people completed the first week’s exercise which required them to help or interact with another person every day – it could be someone they knew or a stranger – “in a supportive and considerate’’ way. The positive effects on their happiness and self-esteem were “very strong,” says Mongrain. 

After three months 260 responded, with the majority saying that they were still performing acts of kindness – one to three days a week – and feeling the same positive effects. After six months, which was the end of the study, there were 179 responses with most still doing a good deed one to three days a week and feeling happier for it. 

Despite the high drop-out rate, the results indicate that the exercise of performing acts of kindness “sustained increases in happiness and self-esteem,’’ says Mongrain, who had help analyzing the data from co-authors of the study, [York University researchers] Jacqueline Chin and Leah Shapira.

  • The study was the subject of stories May 17 in the London Free Press and Toronto Sun and May 18 in The Globe and Mail and on 680 News in Toronto.

That’s my purse, but not my brand!

Like so many other affordable mainstream brands, shoe label Jeffrey Campbell’s stock in trade is heavily inspired by runway designer confections at least quadruple the price. Lancôme artistic director Aaron De Mey decides that lavender eyeshadows are the hue of the season and CoverGirl comes up with similar shades. Is that copying or zeitgeist-catching? asked the National Post May 18. 

Marcus Boon argues that such copying is an essential part of being human in his recent book, In Praise of Copying. Boon, an associate professor of English literature [in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], delves into intellectual property’s Platonic legal ontology, as well as the Buddhist idea of "essencelessness". 

"IP law’s three constituent parts – copyright, trademark and patent law – are each built around the paradox that you cannot protect an idea itself, but can protect only a fixed, material expression of an idea," Boon explains. 

I’ll spare you the details and just ask, when is original, original? The US Congress can’t agree and seems unwilling to police brands and designers: The latest versions and amendments to the proposed Design Piracy Prohibition Act have been tabled there since 2007. The only thing protected, at present, in Canada or the United States in fashion design is the textile pattern or print, if it’s original and has been registered. 

Spenny sans Kenny, looking for love

No more mean tricks for Spencer Rice [BFA Spec. Hons. ‘93]. The kinder and gentler half of “Kenny vs. Spenny” moves into more civilized comedy territory on the new series “Single White Spenny”, reported The Globe and Mail May 17. 

Born and raised in Toronto, Rice was still a student at York University when he wrote and directed the short documentary Telewhore, which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. Soon afterward, Rice collaborated with childhood friend Kenny Hotz on the indie docs It Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Say Good Morning and, more notably, Pitch, which documented their efforts to sell a movie script about a mob boss who undergoes a sex change. 

Then came “Kenny vs. Spenny”. For six seasons, the show pitted the pair in a series of bizarre competitions – Who can gain the most weight? Who can annoy more people? – with most episodes casting Hotz as the nasty provocateur and Rice as his hapless victim. There’s no such vitriol on “Single White Spenny”, which follows the lovable Spenny on a never-ending quest for true love.  

Kielburgers and Arbour will receive honorary degrees

Free the Children founders Marc and Craig Kielburger [EMBA ’09] and senator and author General Romeo Dallaire are among nine people receiving honorary degrees from Wilfrid Laurier University during convocation ceremonies in June, reported the Waterloo Chronicle May 17. 

The Kielburgers are prominent children’s rights advocates, with more than one million young people involved in Free the Children programs in more than 45 countries. 

Craig has earned an executive MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business. Marc earned a Harvard degree in international relations, and a law degree from Oxford University. 

Louise Arbour will also receive her honorary doctor of laws degree on June 8. Arbour is a former [professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School,] justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

York grad is a mentor to Justin Bieber

As the guitarist and musical director for 17-year-old pop music phenomenon Justin Bieber, Ottawa-born Dan Kanter [BFA Spec. Hons. ’07] has also taken on the roles of mentor and friend, reported the Canadian Jewish News May 19. 

“He is a great kid, a sweet guy, with a good heart,” said 29-year-old Kanter, who spoke to
the CJN from Melbourne, Australia, where he was on break from Bieber’s world tour. 

“I definitely mentor him. Even though he’s my boss, I compare it to when I was a camp counsellor. He’s not just musically impressionable, but even in life, we try to steer him in the right direction.” 

Kanter displayed a musical talent as a child and then studied piano, drums, bass and guitar. It seemed only a matter of time before he made a name for himself in the music industry. By the age of 14, Kanter was playing clubs in Ottawa as the lead guitarist of a rock band called Hubris. Four years later – no doubt influenced by his father who directed musicals performed at the local Jewish community centre – Kanter wrote a full-length musical titled Destiny: The Musical

After moving to Toronto in 2000 to pursue a music degree at York University, Kanter continued to build on his experience, eventually touring with up-and-coming artists, including Toronto’s Fefe Dobson and Shiloh.  

Kanter was well on his way to a promising career in the music biz, but he never imagined how quickly his career would snowball when he joined the “Bieber crew” in 2009. Two years ago, Bieber was scheduled to perform an acoustic show at MuchMusic in Toronto, and was in need of a second guitarist. Kanter’s record label recommended him. 

“Right off the bat, we hit it off, and we’ve been working together ever since,” he said. 

On air

  • Emily Bartlett [BFA Spec. Hons. ‘05], an actress based in Toronto, spoke about performing in The Theatre Company’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, on CBC Radio’s “Info Morning”, Saint John, NB, May 17.
  • Jason Tojeiro, a York University student and BMX rider, discussed the small section of forested land in southeast High Park that has been damaged by stunt bike riders and is now occupied by native peoples claiming it was once a sacred burial ground, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now”, Toronto, May 17.