Game, set, haiku? Tennis gets poetic

If you’ve seen Venus Williams nail a hard serve or Roger Federer do, well, anything, you know that tennis can really be poetry in motion, reported The Globe and Mail July 21. And since poets and tennis players both love a good slam, why not make a match of it? So following in Wimbledon’s literary footsteps, this year’s Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament in Toronto has netted an official poet-in-residence.  

"One of the nice things about tennis is its vocabulary is so playful and it’s so close to life experiences," says Priscila Uppal, who served as the poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the Vancouver Olympics.

Each day during the Rogers Cup, Uppal will go deep, serving up haikus, free verse and other not-so-base lines on the tournament website and in the Daily Draw Sheet, blogging about tennis-related art, and inviting fans to submit poems of their own. She’ll also hold court onsite, at the Tennis Canada booth.  

"The challenge with the tennis position is that I have to come up with new and interesting ways to write about tennis every day. At the Olympics, I could switch sports when I got stuck."  

Still, with that gold medal experience, as well as the fact that Uppal is an English professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University (where the Rogers Cup is held), you could say she has an advantage. A tennis-loving poet who has the opportunity to rhyme Petrova with Sharapova and has already come up with lines such as "where there’s a Williams, there’s a way?" You could do…verse.  

Lawyer makes case for poetry in (legal) motion

It’s a long way from the bar to The Bard, but an Ontario lawyer believes poetry may be the antidote to decades of verbosity in his profession, reported The Leader-Post of Regina July 22.  

Though admittedly whimsical, condensing lengthy legal documents into limericks, couplets and other rhymes is proposed as a way of teaching lawyers not to write a symphony where a song would suffice.  

"We’re trained to write a certain way, and it tends to be very formal, stiff, distant and objective," says Jordan Furlong, who for a decade helmed the Canadian Bar Association’s flagship magazine. "I’d love to see lawyers liberated from the straitjacket that legal writing often places us in."  

James Morton, an adjunct professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, thinks poetry isn’t that far-fetched a solution.  

"A classic example of bad legal writing is: ‘I am herewith returning the stipulation to dismiss in the above entitled matter; the same being duly executed by me,’" says Morton. "It means, ‘I have signed the consent to dismiss the case and attach it to my letter.’"  

Harper’s omnibus justice bill is an ‘anachronism’, critics charge

New statistics show the national crime rate is continuing its 20-year decline – reaching levels not seen since 1973 – even as the federal Conservative government prepares legislation that would put more Canadians behind bars for longer periods of time, reported The Globe and Mail July 22.  

It is a juxtaposition of politics and reality that has prompted critics to accuse the government of ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues a criminal-justice agenda focused on punishment rather than prevention.  

Statistics Canada released its annual survey of police-reported crime on Tuesday. It shows the overall volume of criminal incidents fell by five per cent between 2009 and 2010, and the relative severity of the crimes took a similar dive.  

Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said Harper is an "anachronism" when it comes to criminal justice policy. "I believe this is coming from him and his caucus and they have a certain vision of what they would like to see in criminal justice," he said, "and it’s a vision that ran its course 30 years ago. Been there, done it, tried it, failed." The government, he said, is impervious to scholarship and research and is making public policy determinations based on gut reactions rather than empirical evidence.  

KPMG report ‘smoke and mirrors’, critics say

When finished, Toronto’s overall service review – for which council is paying outside consultants $3 million – is supposed to produce a map to the rivers of gravy Mayor Rob Ford says are hidden in every city department, agency, board and commission, reported the Toronto Star July 21.  

Many expected KPMG’s reports, one of three parts in the analysis, to lead the way. Instead, the firm’s findings, released in eight reports over the past two weeks, have been characterized by the mayor’s critics as purely political, useless and a waste of money.  

Industry experts say KPMG, which received $350,000 and two months to complete its part of the research – one of three parts in the review – was not given the resources to do more. For the most part, the firm relied on reports prepared by city staff, some interviews with key managers and KPMG’s "expert panel" for intel on other municipalities, provinces and federal jurisdictions.  

"There is no way a city as complex as Toronto, with a budget in the billions of dollars, with so many departments, could be reviewed with $3 million. This was not an economic decision, it was a political one," said Theodore Peridis, an expert in strategic management at York University’s Schulich School of Business and director of York Consulting Group.  

Real savings happen when you review processes, not line items on a budget, Peridis said. This entails following people, hundreds of interviews and months of primary research.

Peridis estimates that a review of serious scope would take at least a year and cost $15 million. But that type of in-depth strategy isn’t Ford’s style, he said. A shallow review of services would come up with the programs Ford has been talking about.  

"You hire a consulting firm, you can say: ‘Don’t blame us. Someone from outside said it,’" he said. "This is smoke and mirrors."

Down-to-Earth priorities could scuttle future plans in space

The most cheerless moment in the tumultuous, 30-year history of the space shuttle may have been Thursday, when Atlantis returned to Earth – the final shuttle mission in a program that has included 133 safe flights, two disasters and Canadians reaching the stars and achieving amazing scientific heights, reported Postmedia News July 21, in a story published in major newspapers across Canada.  

But now the question becomes: what’s next?

The underlying question about space exploration is still “why bother?” It is an even more pertinent issue now, as people reassess priorities after the shuttle, said Paul Delaney, a senior lecturer of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. 

“The role of Canadarm fixing the Hubble telescope was amazing and truly inspiring to Canadians,” Delaney said. “Getting the Hubble up and fixed was arguably the single greatest event in the past 20 years. Now we’re at a very pivotal moment. But our destiny is out there, beyond Earth’s orbit.”

Privatizing search-and-rescue won’t save much, says researcher

The Harper government is considering the privatization of the military’s search-and-rescue capabilities, reported the Ottawa Citizen July 21. 

The option is to be discussed at a meeting between government procurement officials and representatives from various aerospace firms in Ottawa on Aug. 16 but industry sources say they expect the air force to fight any such move.  

Martin Shadwick, [a research associate in York’s Centre for International & Security Studies] said privatizing search-and-rescue should be looked at but he questions whether there are large savings to be had.  

Shadwick said he is not surprised that the air force would fight any such proposals since search-and-rescue provides the service with a high public profile. Search-and-rescue is also often highlighted in recruiting, he added.  

Shadwick noted that some in the air force believe the organization should be focused only on combat-oriented missions, and not conduct search-and-rescue missions.  

"But I think if the air force was confronted with it being taken away, most of them would close ranks and support SAR," he said. 

Should sex offenders wear GPS tracking devices?

Convicted sex offenders will be wearing GPS tracking devices if a Progressive Conservative government is elected in October, party leader Tim Hudak says, reported the Aurora Banner July 20.  

The idea has drawn a mixed reaction, with passionate debate on both sides.  

Using GPS technology on all sex offenders goes too far, says James Morton, lawyer and adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.  

The number of people listed on the sex offender registry is enormous and ranges from people who really pose no threat to society to those who pose a real and present threat.  

"A sort of blanket decision that everyone is going to wear one of these GPS units at all times forever really does raise a spectre of large numbers of people being permanently under surveillance and I find that problematic and troubling," he said.  

He acknowledges some offenders can’t be rehabilitated, but the government can protect society without denigrating the humanity of the punished, he added.  

Ultimately, Morton believes the GPS idea smacks of politicking. "Overall, I see this as being a proposal intended for public consumption, rather than a proposal of any inherent merit."  

Metallic’s PhD makes history

A man recently marked an achievement in his life, in turn marking a milestone in North American history. On June 13, Fred Metallic received his PhD in environmental studies from York University, having successfully defended a dissertation that to the University’s knowledge is the first to be written and defended in an indigenous language in North America, reported The Tribune of Campbellton, New Brunswick, July 22.  

Metallic grew up in Listuguj speaking Mi’kmaq until the ages of five or six when he entered the provincial education system in New Brunswick. Although he learned the language from his parents and grandparents, he said he has no formal training in studies of the Mi’kmaq language.  

It took three and a half years of consultation, committee-forming and discussion for the recommendation to be made and accepted to allow students at York to write and present major papers and projects in an indigenous language.  

On Oct. 12, 2010 Metallic defended, in Listuguj, his dissertation entitled Critical examination of Mi’gmaw ways of knowing and how we come to understand our rights. The dissertation passed with distinction and on June 13 Metallic graduated from York University.  

Metallic said that with the policies changed at York University allowing students to write in an indigenous language, doors have been opened.  

"There is no policy now that can prevent you from going there. Mind you, each university is governed a little bit differently; however, because a precedent has already been set at Trent University and at York University it would be very difficult for a university to deny a student the opportunity to write in their languages on subjects that they want to study," he said.  

Metallic said University committee and community members felt that the dissertation defence was a very respectful, honourable and dignified process and that it had been properly conducted.  

"I think from that York can now say positively how wonderful the change to that policy was and that the doors are going to open."  

Metallic’s dissertation addressed a void that he had noticed when reviewing literature, the fact that Aboriginal people were "more of an object of history than a subject of history."  

"I felt that by doing the work in the language I could close that gap a little bit and create something a little more relevant to the First Nation community. At the same time it is done academically, it is done with respect to those traditions that the institution has created as the foundation of its existence."  

Schulich offers top-tier business education, dean tells Asian press

During a July trip to Asia, Dezsö Horváth, dean of York’s Schulich School of Business, was interviewed for features in Indian and Korean newspapers.

In a question-and-answer feature in the Hindustan Times July 13, Horváth said global orientation will be key for students at Schulich’s new GMR campus in Hyderabad, India. 

Q: What kind of educational model do you intend to bring to India?

A: We will bring a very different model to India. There is a need in India for good graduates who can help Indian corporations – which are very successful because they are globally oriented whereas the Chinese are still not. Where our school in India is concerned we will provide a seamless opportunity for students to go back and forth between Toronto and Hyderabad. In fact, we will recruit students from all over the world and give them the option of going either to Hyderabad or Toronto. With so many exchange partners in different countries we have very different dimensions. Globally, we have made it to the top 10 in the Forbes ranking and are in the top 20-25 list for executive and other MBAs. 

In The Korean Times July 18, Horváth said it is time for [Korean] MBA candidates to change their approach in selecting business schools as the world has changed over the past decade. Good business schools in the global environment should not only ensure good salaries after graduation but also help their students get a “global reach” and “diverse perspectives” through their programs. 

Is latest Harry Potter movie the end of our childhood?

Every other week in the National Post, experts, artists and movie customers dissect a recent release. It’s fun. It’s healthier than nachos. It’s the Popcorn Panel.  

This week’s panel, says the Post on July 22, includes Alison Halsall, who teaches children’s literature – including Harry Potter – at York University. She has always been sorted into Slytherin House, despite being desperate to join Gryffindor!  

This week’s film is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. 

Alison H. I confess, I shed many tears during the last film and during the final novel. I’ve bought into the hype, hook, line and sinker. I see it as the end of an era, especially for the tween and teen set. I would welcome more instalments, as long as they were in line with the rest of the series. 

Artist’s popular webcomic follows the adventures of a homicidal girl

Elise is a homicidal teenaged girl who has aspirations of becoming the next high profile serial killer. Can’t believe such a teenager could exist? Oh, she exists, although mostly in the bizarro mind of Adam Atherton (BA Spec. Hons. ’08), reports HERE – Fredericton July 21. But it’s OK – he’s a comic book artist, and that makes it all legit.  

"Making comics, all of a sudden I’m not some weirdo with strange ideas and bizarre compulsions sitting on the subway thinking about creative ways to kill people, I’m a ‘writer’."  

Atherton is an NB transplant now kicking it in Toronto, currently self-producing and creating a webcomic called Elise in Pieces.  

Let’s rewind a bit. How does a kid from Woodstock with an affinity for doodling become a DC Comics-published artist?  

After high school, Atherton dabbled in two different programs at New Brunswick Community College before heading for the Big Smoke and completing a bachelor of arts in film studies at York University. In between bouts of homework, he liked hanging out alone in the deep recesses of York’s library, sketching out ideas. 

Atherton won an online competition with a webcomic called Lily of the Valley, hosted by DC Comics. You may have heard of some of their more established characters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman…ring a bell?  

Elise in Pieces, Atherton’s current masterpiece, is set in Toronto in a fictional townhouse complex. He says it’s visually a replica of the townhouse complex he lived in when he first moved to Toronto, but otherwise it’s an expression of small town living inspired by growing up in Woodstock.  

Mayor broke no conflict of interest rules, says prof

Mayor Angelo Orsi’s election-campaign connection to council’s chosen applicant for the city manager’s position isn’t a conflict of interest, says one expert in municipal law, reported The Orillia Packet and Times July 22. 

Orsi hasn’t done anything wrong under the auspices of Ontario’s Municipal Act, John Mascarin, a partner with Aird & Berlis LLP, said on Wednesday. 

The act’s parameters for conflict of interest are "very narrow" and only deal with pecuniary interest, noted Mascarin, who is also an adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.  

On Monday, Orsi and four city councillors voted in favour of offering Fernandes, only identified as "Candidate C", a conditional offer of employment pending reference checks and agreed-upon terms.

Snapshot: The untold stories of CAMH patients

As part of last week’s Mad Pride celebration, the Friendly Spike Theatre Band put on a theatrical tour of the historic patient-built walls that surround the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Queen West grounds, reported The Grid, a Toronto newspaper, July 18. 

“The Walls Are Alive with the Sounds of Mad People” tour is based on the stories collected in the book Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940 by Geoffrey Reaume, a critical disability professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management. 

Walking along the brick boundary, the band re-enacted the stories of former patients’ experiences within the walls, the exploitation of their work and the ingenuity of their skills.  

On air

  • Nazilla Khanlou, chair of women’s mental health research in York’s School of Nursing, was interviewed about resilience of children and youth, and social inclusion, for a show on TV Escolhas in Portugal July 17. She was in Lisbon to give a keynote address at an international conference.
  • Sean Rehaag, a professor of immigration and refugee law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s announcement that Ottawa will attempt to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people who are suspected of obtaining their status through fraudulent means, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” in Toronto July 20. The interview aired on CBC regional programs the same day in Victoria, Calgary and Windsor.