We must take the robocalls scandal seriously

“The robocall affair puts us at the brink of crisis in our electoral democracy,” wrote Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Gus Van Harten, in Vancouver’s The Province March 4. “Yet there appears to be an effort to stifle public outrage, and resolve any doubts in favour of the government, at this still-early stage in the affair. This effort traces to the Harper government, unfortunately, but also to media commentators (Chantal Hébert, John Ibbitson and others). The fire brigade’s argument goes something like this. One, there is no evidence that the Conservative party took part in the robocall affair. Two, there are few ridings in which Conservative victory is in doubt. Three, in any event, the overall federal election result is beyond question. All of these points are inaccurate or misleading and point to a lack of concern for the integrity of the democratic process.” Read full story.

The $460,000 dead tree and other art world mysteries
When I saw the huge dead tree in the Art Basel exhibition hall last December, I  just hit the wall, wrote columnist John Dorschner in the Miami Herald March 3, talking about an art piece by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. Dorschner sought out Donald Thompson, an economist in York’s Schulich School of Business and author of The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art. Thompson, wrote Dorschner, told me by phone I hadn’t seen a dead tree: “It’s driftwood, essentially made of fallen chunks of trees bolted together. It’s a Taoist process – using giant screws essentially.” Read full story.

Old friends together again
Robert  Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo’s vice president of life sciences,  has advocated for living arrangements at zoos most suited to orangutans, said Anne Russon, psychology professor at York’s Glendon College and an expert on orangutans, reported the Indianapolis Star March 5. “He was a key person in developing…a high-wire travel route that allowed orangutans to leave their cages and travel to other specified areas at will. I know of at least two other zoos (in Japan) that have built similar (routes) for their orangutans,” said Russon. Read full story.

Ontario’s poor need to make some noise
History shows us that poor people’s silence will be met with government inaction,” wrote graduate student Simon Black, a researcher in urban social policy at the City Institute at York University,  in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star March 5. “The Drummond report tells poor people they must wait. Now it is up to the poor to reply: ‘We will not.'” Read full story.

The New Recruit: Matt Lennox on The Carpenter
Writer Matt Lennox (BFA Spec. Hons. ’04) told the National Post March 2 he gave up his plan for a career in film because he didn’t enjoy collaborating with people all that much. “I always thought that if I ended up as some kind of movie-maker, I’d be one of those crazy ones that people tell horror stories about.” Read full story.

Filmmakers win big with ‘The Reel Challenge’
York grad Gerald Patrick Fantone (BFA Spec. Hons. ’10) is an emerging filmmaker based in Toronto who comes with a wealth of experience in theatre and film, wrote GlobeAdvisor.com March 2.  Besides writing and directing, he also facilitates drama, onscreen acting, film and visual art classes for children, and individuals with disabilities. Read full story.

Not your typical Boy Scout
Titling an art exhibition One Continuous Mistake is a potentially hazardous choice, if only because it gives venomous critics a too-easy lead for a scathing review, wrote Xtra! March 2. But when Toronto artist Daryl Vocat (MFA ’01) selected this phrase as the moniker for his exhibition at KWT Contemporary (Kristyn Wong-Tam’s west-end gallery) the possibility of negative press hadn’t crossed his mind. “I don’t get very much press, so that’s probably why it hadn’t crossed my mind,” said Vocat. Read full story.