Canadians waiting for Harper to turn a new leaf may end up stung

It is not in [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper’s character to relent or stray from the path he set out on two decades ago just because 60 per cent of those who voted on May 2 voted for someone else, wrote Yahoo!News Canada May 23.

“He has a majority, and he has quite a sizeable majority. I think you will see red-meat conservatism, and I think there is a lot of it,” York University political scientist Daniel Drache [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies] told Yahoo!News.

“I don’t think this is bravado,” says Drache. “They’re mad, they have a deficit, they have a strong economy relative to other economies and they said we’re going to solve all our problems in three years, so if you understand what that message is, they have to reduce the deficit.”

Will the security of a majority change Harper’s personality, liven him up a bit, maybe entice him into meeting the public on Parliament Hill and walking into the Commons through the front door instead of a rear lobby entrance?

“I don’t think so,” says Drache. “The message is Canadians expect this, I think Harper will remain not a very ebullient person and just go ahead with his mandate. I think he’s a fairly humourless kind of guy who’s highly functional in the job.”

First rock song turns 60 in obscurity

Sixty years later, many historians consider [Rocket 88 by Ike Turner] the first-ever rock ‘n’ roll song, and musicians revere the tune, as well as the band’s livewire performance, wrote The Canadian Press May 22.

And yet, most regular people don’t know that the track even exists.

"If I went to my local grocery store here and stopped 20 people, if I found one who knew about it, I’d be shocked," said Grammy Award-winning York University music Professor Rob Bowman [Faculty of Fine Arts], who’s been lecturing about Rocket 88 since 1979. "It’s definitely not as well known as Elvis’s hits or Jerry Lee (Lewis)’s big hits, or Rock Around the Clock. This is (before) the massive explosion…. You don’t hear it as a golden oldie. You listen to oldies radio, and you’ll hear Hound Dog, you’ll hear Great Balls of Fire, you’ll hear Maybellene by Chuck Berry, you’ll hear Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti – you won’t hear Rocket 88.”

Other elements of the song were different as well.

As Bowman explains it, the song’s whole groove is underpinned by riffs, which were derived from the blues tradition and became a crucial element in rock music.

"(The song’s) significance on white teenagers in ’51 probably wasn’t huge, but it was a huge record on the black charts," Bowman explained. "I mean, some white hipsters who were listening to black radio at the time did hear it, and I think it had a big influence on those musicians."

"Besides its significance historically, it’s just an unbelievably great, exciting record," Bowman enthused. "This record’s got distorted electric guitar, it’s riff-based, it’s got the honky tenor sax tradition encoded within it, it’s got boogie-woogie piano, it’s got lyrics that are a series of sexual automotive metaphors, and it’s at a souped-up tempo.

"What’s not to love?"

Festival celebrates a fusion of cultures

Bageshree Vaze [MA ’00] loves Toronto’s diversity. She just doesn’t like the word “multiculturalism”, wrote The Globe and Mail May 21.

“It’s as though there are several little communities in the city, each in their own zone, never interacting with each other,” she said. “Instead, we should talk about making Toronto one big community.”

That’s why this Indian-Canadian Kathak classical dancer and choreographer is working hard to establish a new festival at Harbourfront that would encourage musicians, dancers and food vendors to create cross-collaborations. She calls it Spectrum Festival.

“Usually music and dance festivals feature only one cultural heritage, and the majority of the audience that goes to that festival is from that community only,” she explained, citing Masala! Mehndi! Masti! and Afrofest as examples. “You run the risk of ghettoizing, or segregating, communities this way. Where is the Canadian element?”

Not that she has a problem with cultures maintaining their specific tradition – “Heck, I’m very clear I’m an Indian Kathak dancer,” Vaze said. Her personal history, however, reflects this mixing of styles. Initially trained in the style of Bharata Natyam (a South Indian tradition) in St. John’s, she learned North Indian classical voice music from her father. She has studied dance and music in both India and Ontario – getting her master’s degree in dance in 2000 from York University [Faculty of Fine Arts].

Air Canada faces angry workers on planes and off

Just a day after Air Canada’s pilots rejected a tentative contract, the airline’s customer service agents have given their union an overwhelming strike mandate, wrote the Toronto Star May 21.

Air Canada said it is business as usual for the airline and customers can continue to book Air Canada flights with confidence.

Fred Lazar, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said it’s tough to be negotiator for either the unions or the company.  “The union says, ‘We have made a lot of sacrifices over the years. At what point do we start to recover?’” Lazar said. “But they just happen to be stuck in an industry that has been whipsawed since 2002.”

He added the pilots’ union needs to resolve its internal problems before the company can be assured the leaders can bargain effectively.

While the airline says it would maintain operations in the event of a Canadian Auto Workers strike, Lazar believes the airline could not operate a full schedule.

Help yourself by helping others

A study at Toronto’s York University has reasoned that those who perform minor acts of kindness get an emotional high that can be charted long after the moment of goodness has elapsed, wrote 24 Hours Ottawa May 24.

Lead author Myriam Mongrain, a professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, told QMI Agency: "After six months, more than half continued with the exercise because they felt good doing it." In fact, they thought being nice had changed their lives.

She says her research ( is finding karma may be worth more than cash.

While most religions have long preached we should be kind to others, the results on our aura have had very little academic study.

"What’s amazing is that the time investment required for these changes to occur is so small," she notes in her conclusions. "We’re talking about mere minutes a day."

The study, coauthored by searchers Jacqueline Chin and Leah Shapira, will run in the Journal of Happiness.

  • The research results are in: practising small acts of kindness on a daily basis will not only make you a better person, you’ll be happier for it, wrote the Calgary Herald May 23.

Why does acting selflessly give our own self-esteem a boost?

“The simplest answer is that doing noble, charitable acts make us feel better about ourselves. We reaffirm that we are ‘good’, which is a highly valued trait in our society. It is also possible that being kind to others may help us be kind to ourselves,” says lead author Myriam Mongrain, professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health.

Lions’ Smith will anchor Canada defence

Mississauga’s Jamaal Smith was named today to the team that will represent Canada in men’s soccer at the 26th Summer Universiade this summer in Shenzhen, China, wrote The Mississauga News May 20.

The 6-foot-3 defender is one of five York University Lions named to the squad. York is the reigning Canadian Interuniversity Sport champion.

Smith was an all-Canadian for the first time this season and is one of four players returning from the Canadian team that finished 12th at the last world university games in 2009 in Belgrade, Serbia.

A Rick Hansen Secondary School graduate, Smith has been one of the leading defenders in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) play in his five years with the Lions, receiving three all-star awards while winning two national titles (2008, 2010), an OUA banner (2007) and two OUA silver medals (2008, 2010).

  • Defender Dominic Antonini was the only Winnipegger to crack the national soccer squad that will represent Canada at the 26th Summer Universiade in August in Shenzhen, China, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press May 24.

The York University student is one of 18 standouts from Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) that made the team, along with a pair from the NCAA.

Osgoode prof comments on changes to law

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act: The bill places a greater emphasis on public safety when Ottawa is deciding whether to transfer a Canadian offender serving a sentence in another country, wrote the National Post May 21.

The buzz: "Some people will say that if you commit a crime in the States, for example, then that’s where you should do your time and it’s not our problem," said Professor Joseph Di Luca, who is an adjunct professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

"But there are others who say the person is still a Canadian citizen, and they still have rights as a Canadian."

Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act: The bill streamlines long and complex trials by reducing duplication and creating a pool of case-management judges who can assist the trial judge.

The buzz: "The ability to have a judge, other than the trial judge, decide questions of evidence is definitely a [positive] feature, as is the ability to preserve rulings in the event of a mistrial," Di Luca said. He does have concerns, though: "By binding counsel to a position taken at an earlier trial, with no mechanism to change that position, seems unfair…. Cases evolve and trial strategies change."

West at fault in Barrick tragedy

The deaths of desperate villagers at the Barrick gold mine in Tanzania are more than just another local tragedy linked to a Canadian mining operation abroad, wrote Sam Lanfranco, professor emeritus and senior scholar of economics in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the Toronto Star May 21. It is yet another consequence of gross mismanagement of the economic affairs of the rich countries of the world. A mix of local Tanzanian poverty and the skyrocketing price of gold have driven this particular tragedy.

It is important to understand why a metal with limited industrial uses should be in such demand. The short answer is not that the wealthy of North America and Europe, or the newly affluent of China and India, want more jewelry. It is that the governments of Europe and North America have so failed in their domestic economic policies that their own citizens and speculators have lost faith in the stability of their currencies, and are trying to protect or enhance their wealth by securing it in gold.

A deadly brew of bad economic policy, inequitable trade practices and ill designed foreign assistance strategies will continue to make things worse. As policy driven risks to the US dollar and the euro grow, as we fail to learn from the shortcomings of our trade and aid strategies, as the tensions between poverty and survival heighten, these tragic events will multiply.

While Barrick should be censured for this tragedy, it is important that we not stop there and look into our own roles in the deeper causes of the injustices that propel such tragic events.

New publisher for Western Star

Trina Burden [MBA ’03] has been appointed as publisher and general manager of  Corner Brook, Nfld.’s The Western Star, wrote Metro Halifax May 20.

The appointment marks the first time the daily newspaper has had a female publisher in its 111-year history.

Burden holds a bachelor of science degree from Acadia University, a master of science degree from the University of Guelph, and a master of business administration degree from York University [Schulich School of Business].

On air

  • Harvey Simmons, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the impact on France’s socialist party of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on sex charges, on CBC Radio May 21.
  • Allan Hutchinson, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and author of the book Is Eating People Wrong?, spoke about Canada’s common law system on TVO’s “The Agenda” May 20.