incite 08 | 05 March 2 0 0 6
In Defense of the Pita Pit
can’t believe you blasted The Pita Pit in your latest issue of Incite. First of all, I find it highly ironic that in the editorial letter at the beginning, the first sentence is “It’s easy to insult people in print,” and then later says that you shouldn’t write anything you wouldn’t say to anyone’s face. So I’m wondering, when you are critiquing all of these restaurants, do you also go into the store and let them know your opinion? I’m sure they’d love to hear it. Then again, I doubt you’re that bold. The Pita Pit is very popular with Mac students... have you ever been there after the bars? When there are almost line ups out the door and these poor university students are making pitas constantly until 4 am in the morning on a Friday or Saturday when you’re out getting drunk? You sounded completely stupid in your critique of them, because you ASKED for the works on your pita... and you’re mad they didn’t warn you it would taste bad? That’s their fault? They’re mind readers???
Everyone has different tastes, and I for one, enjoy the combination of pickles, hummus, and feta. For them to question your order would seem patronizing and would be bad customer service. Also, please enlighten me as to how they got a bad grade on “appearance”... it’s A PITA - ROLLED UP. They all look the same... unless you were judging the appearance of the delivery driver, which is just superficial. Stop being so selfish trying to get a good story and get your facts straight. Your paper is lame and I hope everyone else who reads the critiques laugh just like I did. - Emma Lee
emories are funny things. In his column this month on page 23, Rob Lederer riffs on the soundtrack of a particularly memorable summer, remarking on how easily a three–minute song can conjur vivid memories of entire weeks’ worth of experience. We can all relate, of course—there’s a pop–cultural touchstone that stores “last dance of grade nine” for me and “summer at camp” for you and “last dance of summer camp after grade nine but then also that weird retro nineties party where I listened to it again” for someone else. But pop isn’t the only source for unlikely vessels of memory. Food (as we see in this month’s fiction, on page 18) can also have memories literally kneaded into it, such that a bite of bread can conjure a smorgasboard of memory. It is the same with distinctive smells or particular objects. Page 10’s wanderings through downtown’s Beasley neighbourhood and its surrounding area mentions many of our city’s historical buildings, and the accompanying photos invite us to contemplate the stories that could be contained in the the Lister Block or in City Hall’s façade. Rather than food, songs, or smells, we often think of writing, photography, or video as the ways to preserve the present while it quickly becomes the past. Incite is of course an ex-
ample—each month we choose stories and issues that we think worthy of preservation, and we take time to capture them in pictures and in print. But preservation by print or photo demands change in the preserved object. We have to stop or somehow modify what we’re doing in order to record it. It’s the classic quantum mechanical moment—the instant one tries to measure a particle, something about it changes. We can capture length but not speed, or speed but not length. We can’t measure without modification. This paradox—the more effort that one goes to in preserving a moment, the less like its original state such a moment becomes—makes memories captured in unconventional ways all the more intriguing. The powerful association that I have between the taste of popcorn rice cakes and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t one that I set out to create. Nor is the (for me) inescapable connection between Old Spice and exploring creeks and gulleys, thanks to the jacket that I always begged my grandfather to let me wear. But despite—or because of—their lack of intentional capture, these memories seem somehow truer. I wasn’t consciously trying to pack lines of prose into crunchy and calorie–free snacks, it just happened that way. And now I can’t even sniff a popcorn rice cake without picturing exactly where I was, what I was wearing, and how I
Editing and Production Co–ordinator Catherine M.A. Wiebe Editors Samantha Green Kerry Scott
Kate MacKeracher Jacob Stewart–Ornstein
felt when reading the book. Large scale memories still do well with newspaper articles, magazine features, and history books—getting something out of Thucydides would likely be more difficult if, instead of writing such a weighty tome, he had enjoined his readers to remember the entirety of the Peloponnesian War simply by sniffing a used sandal or eating eight–days–stale bread. But smaller, more personal memories are perhaps captured best when they are left to their own devices—and even forgotten for a time—until a bite of pastry or a shopping–mall speaker brings them rushing back. But if what I have said has merit— that large memories do well in print while small, personal ones should just be left to capture themselves in unlikely vessels—then where does that leave this paper, and you, its readers? Do we cover only the most gargantuan of events, dismissing coverage of human interest pieces as unavoidably and unredeemably scarred by the reporter’s touch? Or do we ditch the paper format and instead give out rice cakes and mix tapes, hoping that we can communicate our personal thoughts to our audience that way? Neither, of course. As a professor I once had often puts it, “there is a third way.” Huge problems—the decay and poverty of much of our downtown is only one example—can be personalized. Jeanette Eby’s wanderings tells the facts of what she sees, and after
reading it, you may be inspired to visit some of the places she mentions yourself, get your own association, and no longer need to rely on her words. You’ll have a firsthand experience, and likely some smells and sounds that preserve it for you. Similarly, we can also spin personal memories—“The Sweater Song” or the smell of yeast and tears—into broader ideas. You may not think of Rob every time you listen to Weezer (although I think I just may...), but his discussion of power of memory stored in song may cause you to hear familiar songs differently, allowing the memories you’ve stored in them to float to the surface while you listen. Even though two people will never see, hear, taste, or think the same things when they encounter an unlikely vessel of memory, using print to communicate—albeit imperfectly—your experience with a memory allows some of that association to be transferred, and imbues the object of association with more meaning for your reader. No vessel of memory is perfect. Those vessels that can be easily understood by many may adulterate the memory as it is recorded, and those that capture a memory most truly may be destined to only be understood by one. How best to remember, then? Perhaps by starting a collection of vessels, many misshapen, some perhaps cracked or broken, but all unique in both contents and shape.
Layout Co–ordinator Sylvia Andreae Graphics Co–ordinator Erin Giroux
6 The Faces of Westdale Retail 12 Letter From Israel 16 When Love Don’t Pay The Bills 18 Sad Bread 20 Iranian Nuclear Power 24 The heat and the Harbour Front
Graphics Boram Ham Jessica Shelley
Incite interviews local shopkeepers
Evan C. Lichty Steve White
Contributors Muneeb Ansari Claire Marie Blaustein Jeanette Eby Ben Freeman Randi Gordner Laura Tomalty
Randi Gordner shares her experiences in Israel
Rivka Birkan Nick Davies Zsuzsi Fodor Rob Lederer Erin O’Neil
How to manage your money Original Fiction
Soverign right or smokescreen?
Hamilton Web Printing Impact Youth Publications 1004 King St. W. Hamilton, ON L8S 1L1 email@example.com
Incite is published six times per academic year by Impact Youth Publications. 10,000 copies are distributed in the McMaster University–Westdale area. Entire contents copyright 2005–2006 Impact Youth Publications. Letters up to 300 words may be sent to the above address; they may be edited for length and clarity and will not be printed unless a name, address, and daytime phone are provided. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Incite’s staff or Impact Youth Publications.
4 10 15 23
Happenings: News from Near and Far Wanderings: A Visit to Hamilton Harbour Column: Rock of Ages Column: Pop
Cover art by Jessica Shelley Cover design by Catherine Wiebe
MINUTES FROM LAST MONTH selected news from near and far
A Lengthy Commute to Class Third–year midwifery students Rhea Wilson and Catherine Goudy should be required to do three elective placements this year; however, they have graciously been allowed to do just one. On 5 March, Mukinge Hospital in rural Zambia opened their doors to the pair. Their month in Zambia will fulfill the final practical requirements of their degree, although the prime reason for the journey is not academic recognition. They plan to help provide care for mothers, children, and pregnant women there. Zambian women are for the most part uneducated about the risks of HIV/AIDS and other STDs as well as some of the details of pregnancy and motherhood. Wilson and Goudy will offer women in the hospital proper prenatal care, performing tasks ranging from drawing blood to delivering babies. Their ultimate goal is to help tackle high maternal and infant mortality rates.
Science and Humanities Hybrid Come September, McMaster will be admitting students into its newest program, an offspring of the faculties of Science and Humanities. Founded by Mac professors Alex Sévigny and Karin Humphreys, Linguistic Cognitive Science will offer unique interdisciplinary courses, combining the study of the mind’s activities with
the formation and use of language. The program branches off into two streams, speech and language pathology preparation (SLP) and teaching English as a second language (TESL). Both require a practicum, which will provide students with hands–on experience and teaching certifications. The founding pair is aiming for a government grant of $1.2 million to build the program’s home base, including exclusive humanities labs. An excited Humphreys told the McMaster Daily News, “For centuries, scholars in the humanities have led the way in defining the central questions about the human mind and experience. Science, on the other hand, can bring new and useful techniques and methodologies for addressing these crucial questions.” Sévigny concludes, “[The program] is going to bring the sciences and the humanities back together.”
Alumni swipe women’s hockey Gold in Torino McMaster alumni Margot Page was named female athlete of the year during her undergrad years at Mac, where she received a bachelor of physical education in 1987 and was awarded the Honour M Award. She went on to win international gold as a player on the Canadian National Women’s hockey team in 1990, 1992, and 1994. Her most recent prize is Olympic gold in Torino as assistant
inside the bubble
coach of the Canadian women’s team. A more recent Mac graduate, Doug Stacey, is also a veteran gold medal winner. Stacey received his master of science degree in human biodynamics just last year, before moving to Calgary for six months to join the women’s hockey team. He acted as the physiotherapist for both the victorious Torino and Salt Lake City squads, making this his second gold medal. Team Canada anxiously awaits the Vancouver 2010 Games in hopes of taking home the trophy for the third time in a row. How’s that for a hat trick?
Writer in Residence McMaster will host its first–ever International Writer in Residence, exiled fiction author Nooshin Salari of Iran. She will be on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays from February to April to visit classes and meet with students and members of the community. Salari arrived in Canada in 1992 to attend the University of Saskatchewan, but before that she wrote as a teenager in Iran. Many of Salari’s works have been published in Iranian magazines; she also has two collections of short stories, both available in translation. Her position at McMaster was created by PEN Canada which works to promote the right to freedom of expression. The group helps international authors who have been persecuted for their writing, especially those who
have been exiled. Salari will work with the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster and is available at 905–525–9140, ext. 24491.
If you’re an engineering student looking for a break from the Canadian university scene, you’re at the right school. As of this year, Mac engineers will have the opportunity to study in Russia with the Engineering Study Abroad Program (ESAP). Participants will explore Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Volgograd with the option of visiting either the Ukraine or Poland. The students will spend time in the classroom at three different institutions in Volgograd taking a selection of courses that are compatible with every year of engineering, from first year to graduate studies. McMaster has partnered with the Michigan State University to provide this ESAP, and courses will be taught in English by Canadian and American faculty, supported by Russian staff. The program offers professional development and invaluable international experience. If you’re scared of formidable Russian winters, don’t worry—the program is only offered during the summer semester. Compiled by Zsuzsi Fodor and Laura Tomalty
Council supports damning report to United Nations City council has endorsed a damning report to the United Nations on poverty that uses detailed local evidence to document the failure of the Canadian government and its provincial counterparts to meet their international treaty obligations. The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living in Hamilton was prepared by the Income Security Working Group (ISWG) of the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton in response to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—a treaty to which Canada is a signatory. Article 11 of the covenant guarantees “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” The report finds that none of these rights are actually assured to all Hamiltonians. At last week’s meeting, council agreed to endorse the report and forward copies “to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva, The Prime Minister, The Premier, and the area MPPs.”
Pillow Fight Club Has Three Rules… OREGON—On 3 March, Portland residents witnessed a scene of unparalleled brutality. Hundreds of people arrived at seven p.m. in the city’s Pioneer Courthouse Square armed for battle. This was no mob rally, nor was it organized by the Hell’s Angels. In the spirit of second grade slumber parties, these people gathered for a full–fledged pillow fight. There were only three rules to the rumble: all pillows had to be hidden until starting time, only fellow feather fighters could be struck, and, most importantly, no hard objects draped in fabric could be passed off as pillows. Heavily promoted online, large scale cushion combat seems to be making the global rounds. With similar events hitting Budapest, Toronto, and San Francisco over the past months, pillow fighting has become a popular way of flash mobbing. Keep your ear to the ground and you could play a part the next time a brawl breaks loose.
Winning the World Cup: $14,000; Winning Five Medals at the Olympics: Priceless NETHERLANDS—A mere week after
Using Statistics Canada data, the report shows the differences between rich and poor in Hamilton increased dramatically between 1995 and 2000. “During the period, the after–tax income of families in the bottom five per cent of income decreased by approximately 21.4 per cent, while the after tax income of the top five per cent of families increased by a corresponding 21.2 per cent.” In response the ISWG calls for an “intelligent social assistance system” where benefits at least equal the cost of subsistence and people aren’t forced into food banks and homelessness. “In Hamilton there are over 17 000 people per month who access local food banks,” notes the report. The report concludes with a call to the UN committee to “consider the facts provided in this Report and use those facts to call upon Canada to take immediate measures to ensure an adequate standard of living for all in our communities.”
port to review this aspect of the area– rating system as a way to avoid fare hikes. And the debate over other variations in tax levels between the suburbs and the old city promises to be a hot one. A little over half of HSR costs are paid from bus fares, with the remainder coming from taxes. For an average $177 000 home, residents of the former city pay taxes of $163 a year for HSR. The levy in Ancaster is $34, in Dundas $41, in Glanbrook $70 and in Stoney Creek $52. Staff explained that the amounts are determined by the amount of service each of the former municipalities receives. City treasurer Joe Rinaldo promised to start working on options for changes to HSR levees, but any changes can’t occur until at least 2007. City councillor Chad Collins suggested it might take 100 years to apply the same tax rules to all parts of the new city. “I’m not sure what year we will drop those lines on the map,” he mused. “It probably won’t be during my time on council or any one else’s who’s around the table.”
Transit tax shift moving slowly
Demands for sludge assess- Condensed from reports by Citizens ment at City Hall, http://www.hamil-
Changes in the division of the tax levy for the HSR aren’t likely to occur this year, despite growing council sup-
A private proposal to burn sewage sludge in east Hamilton is fac-
ing demands for a much more thorough environmental review. At least four local organizations, an MPP, city council, and an air pollution scientist have formally asked the province to require the Liberty Energy proposal for a gasification facility on Strathearne Avenue to undergo a full environmental assessment. Waste management facilities are normally subject to a full assessment. But Liberty dodged this requirement by describing their facility as a “renewable energy power plant” and taking advantage of much more lenient provincial rules for evaluating “green” electricity projects. Liberty says its facility will produce 10 megawatts (Mw) of power—enough for about 8 000 homes. Concerns have been raised about air pollution from possible chemical contamination of sewage and waste wood burnt in the facility—the largest in the world using this technology.
toncatch.org/. For updates, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted with permission.
in canada and the world the Torino Olympics drew to a close, Canada’s Olympic poster girl continued her winning streak at the World Cup of speed–skating in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Cindy Klassen, a long– track speed–skater from Winnipeg, won five medals in Torino, becoming Canada’s most decorated Olympian. She now holds one gold, two silver, and three bronze medals, including a bronze from the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics. Klassen was Canada’s flag–bearer for the closing ceremonies in Torino, but, unlike many fellow Olympians, she did not return home for a well–deserved rest. Instead, she and the speed–skating team travelled to the Netherlands, and Klassen proceeded to win the World Cup title in the 3 000–metre event while setting a new track record. Klassen’s victory earned her $14 000 in prize money, but the multiple medals adorning her neck are what have garnered her the most attention.
Baby I’m Amazed by the Way You Club Seals All the Time LARRY KING LIVE—On 3 March Larry King hosted an unlikely debate between a Canadian premier and a British icon on his live television show. Ex–Beatle Paul McCartney and
his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, argued with Newfoundland premier Danny Williams about the infamous Canadian seal hunt. The McCartneys are trying to pressure the federal and provincial governments to discontinue the seal hunt, which has been called inhumane by celebrities and animal rights activists alike. Those opposed to the seal hunt cite reports of baby seals clubbed to death to condemn the centuries–old practice. The McCartneys have called the seal hunt a stain on Canada’s reputation. Williams vehemently disagreed with the couple. He stated that, contrary to general perceptions, clubs are rarely used anymore and have been replaced by bullets. He also emphasized ecological reasons for the seal hunt, saying it provides a quick death for seals that might otherwise perish horribly by starvation due to a ballooning seal population. Williams stated that the seal hunt is humane and supported by the United Nations and the World Wildlife Fund. He accused organizations like Greenpeace and PETA of using celebrities armed with inaccurate information as propaganda to disseminate their opinions to the public. The passionate premier said that he came on the show to set the record straight, saying that “I live here and I actually know.”
Hairspray Remake on the Way MOVIELAND—Queen Latifah and John Travolta are the first actors to be cast in a remake of the hit Broadway musical Hairspray. The Broadway show is based on a 1988 movie of the same name. The original was not a musical, but the upcoming movie will include the musical numbers from the Broadway production. The story of Hairspray is set in 1960s Baltimore, and centres around Tracy Turnblad, a chubby teen who succeeds in becoming a regular on a popular television dance show, and uses her new celebrity status to speak out against segregation. Her mother, who was played by a transvestite in the original movie, will be played by Travolta in the upcoming production. Queen Latifah will play a character called Motormouth Mabelle. The producers, who also produced Chicago, are specifically looking for an unknown actor to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad. Production is set to begin in the fall, and part of the filming will take place in Toronto. The film is set for release in the summer of 2007. Compiled by Erin O’Neil and Rob Lederer
Incite’s Nick Davies chats with shopkeepers in Hamilton’s West Side
ow well do you know Westdale? While most students are used to stopping at Pita Pit on their way home from the Snooty Fox, or grabbing a coffee from Tim Hortons to get through the following morning, I doubt many of us have more than a superficial understanding of the neighbourhood and its retailers. Westdale, the residential and commercial community centred around King Street West as it passes near McMaster University, is populated by an occasionally uneasy mix of students and permanent residents. The locals are served by an eclectic collection of tiny shops along King Street, which offer a level of customer service that is a welcome change from the shopping mall or big box outlet experience. Over the course of two afternoons, I explored the shops of Westdale, looking in display windows, interviewing shop owners, and taking in the community—not to mention a few free samples. I spoke to David Simpson, co–chair of the Westdale Business Improvement Area, to learn more about the inner workings of Westdale’s retail sector. Incite: What do you think Westdale has to offer? David Simpson: Westdale has been something of a unique community. It was created as a planned community back in the Depression years—that’s why Westdale has a sort of cobweb design with the business community in the middle. They didn’t know that everyone would have two or three cars per family back then. I think they called it a garden–style community. McMaster was very small at the time as well so Westdale was off to a slow start. But it developed a reputation as being a very prestigious part of Hamilton, and the shops in their glory days were considered some of the higher–end shops of Hamilton as well. I: What role does it play in Hamilton now? DS: There are still people out there who aren’t as keen on the big box stores. We still don’t have many chain stores here; there are a lot of individual, owner–operated or mom and pop stores. People like the attention they can get that way, the selection, the quality of products, the convenience.
I: Do you see big box stores or chain stores as a threat to Westdale? DS: I think they absolutely have been, certainly. We were affected when the Meadowlands went up in Ancaster. There’s a big proposal in Waterdown that is liable to affect us. Nobody says that the business landscape has to stay the same, but I think people like an area that’s in their community, dealing with people who are knowledgeable about their products or their services. It’s only recently that we’ve had things like Subway shops. We did have the second Tim Hortons, though. At the time, that didn’t seem like a huge chain. I: Are the majority of Westdale customers residents of the area? DS: It’s difficult for me to say because even within our mix of shops there are some stores that draw customers from all over. There are other shops that are definitely just for the local area. Weil’s Bakery and the Casual Gourmet draw people from all over. Sometimes it’s people who grew up in Westdale and have always been fond of the place. Something like that draws people back. I: How has the growth of the university affected Westdale? DS: I think the university has grown a lot faster than Westdale, and has changed the neighbourhood as well—there are a lot more students living in the area. There are now businesses like the Snooty Fox or the Pita Pit that cater to Mac students. I: Has the increase in the proportion of students caused problems or has it created opportunities? DS: It’s done both. It’s created opportunities, although people don’t always take advantage of this. And it’s created problems as well; I suppose that’s to be expected. I don’t want to overplay it. Students are perceived as a transient population that don’t have as much of a stake in the community and as a result, they generally get blamed—in a lot of cases, maybe correctly—for graffiti and for vandalism and for late night parties and for this and that. Of course, they’re not all bad. Even the police will tell you that there’s just a few bad houses that cause the majority of complaints. And the university, in turn, works with city hall at trying to keep
G RAPHICS BY BORAM HAM
The Faces of Westdale Retail
the residents happy and being proactive about bylaw enforcement. McMaster itself have sponsored extra special–duty police officers for weekends, and that seems to help a lot too. Westdale’s still a very attractive part of the city to live in. We have to find a better way to let the university know that we’re here, because they don’t always seem to know that. I think I see the problems getting better. I was a Mac student too—I know there are lots of good people. • • • As I finished talking to David Simpson and embarked on interviews with some of the Westdale merchants, I couldn’t help but feel the passion with which they operated their stores. These places aren’t just money–making ventures or faceless chains intent on cornering every market; they’re not just smiling because it’s in an employee rulebook. At Weil’s of Westdale Bakery, Sandy Zimmerman takes pride in her exclusive use of “real” ingredients. At Basilique Gourmet Pizza, Mamdouh Dahab knows French cuisine. Alice Saunders of Cupcakes is a self–described “passionate eater of cake.” Michael Granat of Vital Planet believes in the power of natural healing. Penny Palmer of Global Village Market advocates strongly for fair trade. Bryan Prince, bookseller, devours books, and runs literary events in the community. All the shopkeepers with whom I spoke agreed that to stay afloat as a small business owner today, you need to provide an element that can’t be found at a big box store. In Westdale, I saw merchants who greeted their customers by first name, who offered to rush order items not in stock, who helped specially gift–wrap a customer’s present to a loved one, who prided themselves in preparing special meals that are not on the menu, and who spoke fondly about items that McMaster students have been buying for decades. They’re clichés certainly—the kindhearted small–store merchants contrasted against faceless and feckless corporate stores that seem to consume you as you consume their goods. But, like all clichés, they exist because they contain truth. So the next time you need to shop, consider taking the ten–minute walk from McMaster for more than just cheap pitas and beer; odds are you’ll be served by people who love what they sell and who want to know who you are.
Cupcakes 1050 King Street West Cupcakes is a relative newcomer to Westdale, having opened in April 2005. The shop, which sells only cupcakes, services McMaster students, Westdale residents, and also caters for large functions. I interviewed the owner, Alice Saunders, while she tended to the customers that came in, hungry to sample her delicious creations. I: Why did you decide to open in Westdale? Alice Sanders: Well, that’s why I decided to open— because I got a spot in Westdale. I was not ready to open a business at all. I had just moved here from Vancouver, and was working at Fortino’s. I came down here, had a little walk around, and really liked the area. When I saw this place I thought, “What can I do? I can do cupcakes. That would go over well.”
I: What is your biggest seller? AS: The biggest seller is usually Chocolate Vanilla: chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. But today, the biggest seller has been Piña Colada. I think it’s got that tropical kind of feel on a snowy day, because I’m almost sold out. I: Why do you think people like your cupcakes? AS: Because they are homemade, for one thing. And by homemade, I don’t mean “homemade in a machine in the back,” I mean homemade by my hands, from scratch. And all my ingredients are the best ingredients I can find—real butter, real eggs, real cream. The secret is no big secret, just use really good stuff and keep it simple. I: Isn’t it difficult to sustain a business with a single, simple item? AS: I don’t know why people see it that way. When you have something that’s so simple, you don’t have a lot of overhead, I don’t have to worry about staff, it’s something that I can do on my own. Something so simple is easy to maintain and run. I: What is unique about Westdale? AS: Definitely the people. I love the mix of students and local people, and how well everyone seems to get along. And I really like the vibe. Every shop along here gives personal service—where do you find that anymore? Walker’s Chocolates is a family–owned local business, and you go next door to the gourmet shop and she gives the best service, and if she doesn’t have something, she’ll find it for you. You go to the shoe shop and if you don’t have enough money to pay for your shoes, he says come back next week and give me
Basilique Gourmet Pizza 1065 King Street West Mamdouh Dahab left his native Egypt in 1989 to pursue a career in North America. Trained in French cuisine, he worked at a restaurant in the United States and hotels in North York and British Columbia before opening Basilique Gourmet Pizza in 2000. Basilique, featuring authentic Mediterranean– style cuisine made with fine ingredients, recently became compatible with McMaster meal plan cards, and features free delivery. Basilique specializes in pizza, kabobs, and shawarma. It has vegetarian meals too, including falafel and veggie wraps.
the rest of the money. It’s a community feel here, where everyone knows everyone’s face. It feels like a small town in a big city. • • • As the interview concluded, Alice sent me off with a peanut butter cupcake. It was delicious— peanut butter flavoured cake with a thick, not– too–sweet layer of chocolate icing and a little peanut butter chip on top. After eating, I reminisced fondly about a mint–chocolate cupcake from the same place that I had received on my 19th birthday. “Cupcakes” may not have been around for that long yet, but this one’s definitely a keeper.
deserve more business from the university, from the students. • • • After the interview concluded, a pair of McMaster students happened to enter the restaurant: Joel, an acquaintance of mine, and his friend Dani. Mamdouh helped them pick out a meal. I sat with Joel and Dani as they took the first bites of their fresh food. After commenting on the excellent service, Joel said about his chicken shawarma: “It’s delicious. The prices are reasonable, and I’m happy to support the local business.”...and he didn’t even get his food for free!
I: Why did you decide to open Basilique? MD: I decided to make something nice, fast, tasty, and homemade that would suit a student’s budget. We’re known for quality food. I: Why did you open in Westdale? MD: This spot was for sale when I came to check out Hamilton. I got a tour of the area, saw the students, saw that this was a good spot with a good location. Westdale is very clean, has a good neighbourhood, and the people are very friendly. I: Are you known for any specific dishes in particular? MD: Sometimes people come for a surprise meal, and with my experience in French cuisine, I cook them something not on the menu. Grilled chicken with mushroom sauce is not on the menu, but students come for it. Fattoush salad—people ask for that all the time. Our pizza is very high quality and very different. BBQ Chicken pizza is very, very popular—it has chicken breast, barbeque sauce with caramelized onion and a blend of three cheeses. Our Montreal meat lover’s pizza is also popular. I: Have you encountered many challenges operating in Westdale? MD: It is a competitive market, with the Pita Pit and Little Caesar’s, but business is growing. We have an edge over the franchises because we have better quality ingredients. The big names spend a lot of money on advertising, but my advertising is the quality that makes the customer come back. I think we
and bigger, there’s the old problem of a few bad apples who can really make things miserable. And the tone of Westdale has really changed over the past few years.
Bryan Prince Bookseller 1060 King Street West Bryan Prince has been operating his bookstore in Westdale for 18 years. During that time, he has established the store as an important presence in the community. The bookseller is well known for his book ordering service—most books come in within two days. I spoke with Bryan Prince about the interplay between McMaster students and the Westdale community. I: What is unique about Westdale? Bryan Prince: It really is a firmly defined residential community, and because of the need for homes in this area, it’s insulated itself from big box and strip mall development. That’s what I saw 18 years ago, and that’s why I wanted to come here. I mean, I really like the atmosphere, I think there’s a real sense of community and neighbourhood in Westdale. And my decision has proven right, because the big boxes are coming close, but they can’t seem to elbow their way right into Westdale. I: Are there any problems in Westdale? BP: I’ve always defended the students’ presence in our community. But as McMaster gets bigger
Vital Planet 1047 King Street West Vital Planet, a health food store, has been operating in Westdale since September 2001. Owner Michael Granat and I talked in the back room as customers explored the shop’s wide selection. I: What do you sell here? Michael Granat: Basically, we’re a typical health food store. We sell vitamins and supplements, typically natural ones. We also sell organic foods, organic dairy, bulk foods, bulk herbs, and we have natural body care products, homeopathic products, herbal remedies, and books related to natural health. I: Why did you choose to open in Westdale? MG: First of all, I don’t like malls, and so in terms of retail in Hamilton, there’s not much available that has any traffic outside of the malls; and Westdale has the university. It seemed like an area with a lot of potential.
I: So is this is a problem that’s getting worse? BP: Yeah. There’s a lot more noise and drunkenness. Again, I’m not quick to point fingers. I mean, I don’t think it’s drunken graduate students who are out tagging my walls. Those are probably high school kids who have nothing to do with the university. But a lot of the noise comes out of the pubs, and there are beer bottles lying around, and you know, all of this kind of thing. You keep adding one straw after another to the camel’s back. As frustrated as I get, I still think that students get generally a bad rap, because everybody says “Oh, it’s students!” and I say, well, how many students is it? You know, it’s the four who drink like crazy and pull their sofa out onto the lawn as soon as the sun comes out, but it’s not the other 99 per cent. I: Do you see a solution? BP: The solution is to talk. There has been a kind of “two solitudes,” to use a literary reference to Hugh MacLennan. There have been two solitudes between the residential Westdale and the university, and as much as the problems seem to be rising, the dialogue also seems to be opening up, so I think talking about it is a good thing. I think that part of the problem in Westdale seems to be that other than the pubs and the Pita Pit, people haven’t done an awful lot to reach out to the students. So for me, I think there’s a squandered market there, when the only reason to come down to Westdale is really to get a beer late at night. The other issue is, back in my heyday, back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think kids had a lot more discretionary time when they were at university. I think that studies today are so demanding that
I: Are you known for anything in particular? MG: We try to do certain things not because they’re profitable but because they’re products people need, like herbs. I’d venture to guess that we probably have the best herb selection in Hamilton, but it’s not something that’s really profitable. It’s something that we’re proud of because a lot of people like the herbs and it helps them. We’re not trying to open up new markets, we’re really trying to serve people. I: What do you like about Westdale? MG: It’s peaceful; it’s also very aesthetically pleasing. It’s nice to see the mixture of people—we get people here from the university, there’s older people, and a lot of people are walking. Many people seem to shop at malls and box stores. We’re living in an age that’s really market driven, which has a bit of shallowness to it because someone’s really telling you what to think and what to like. It’s depersonalized, in a way. I think ultimately, there will be enough people who are dissatisfied with that mentality.
I can’t expect to see a lot of kids in here buying books for recreational reading. I: How does the shop interact with the community? BP: We consider ourselves part of the community; we take real pride in that. Our bookstore isn’t just a static organization. We sponsor lots of events, we advocate and support lots of things, on campus and off campus. We make donations to book tables and silent auctions, and we bring in our authors. This spring, we have a fairly light schedule but we’re launching two or three of our local authors who have new books out. We have David Suzuki coming in; we had Stephen Lewis in the fall. We really take pride in our involvement in the community. I: What are the hot titles this month? BP: Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road, which I really like, just came out in paperback, so I expect that it is going to get another bump. It was my favourite book of last year, won the Writer’s Trust award and is also on Canada Reads. And I’m thinking that the new Douglas Coupland, which I have read in galley form, will be big, although it’s not due for release for two or three weeks. I: Any closing remarks? BP: I do want to emphasize that we’ve got some problems right now as the university gets bigger and bigger. Growth can be painful. When I’ve spent literally $25 000 on the storefront and the new sign and somebody tags it, it just tears my heart out. It really does. I joke with my young daughters, “I’m not the Man.” And I’m not the Man, I’m not the establishment. If I could find a different way of doing this, I’d do it. If I could find a way of giving the books away, and of still feeding my family and affording a roof over my head, I’d do it.
Weil’s of Westdale Bakery 981 King Street West Weil’s of Westdale has been open in Hamilton for over 100 years, and they espouse the same qualities today that they valued at the time of the bakery’s opening. Sandy Zimmerman bought the bakery from the Weils eight years ago, and has kept up the tradition of using old–fashioned ingredients in all the baking. I: What kind of goods do you sell here? Sandy Zimmerman: We’re part of the dying breed of full–line bakeries. We sell everything from wedding cakes to bread. Our kind is fading because of competition with grocery stores that offer more one–stop shopping. However, according to the latest statistics, people are coming back to real bakeries, as they realize that the big stores simply are not the same quality. We make everything from scratch here.
I: Is there a certain product you’re known for? SZ: We’re known for our chocolate chip buns—Mac students have been eating those for decades. We’re also known for our real whipped cream éclairs and our birthday cakes but we’re starting to offer more artisan breads and sourdoughs as well.
Global Village Market 948 King Street West Penny Palmer, owner of Global Village Market, which opened in March of 2004, believes strongly in fair trade. GVM offers fair trade products, food, coffee, and giftware from Ten Thousand Villages. We chatted over hot chocolate on a Friday afternoon. I: Why would a person come to shop in Westdale who’s not from around here? Penny Palmer: I think just to see the alternative stores that are here. In our case, we have customers who are gluten–free or who want Kosher products, so we special–order. I think you’ll find that with Bryan Prince and all the other stores in the neighbourhood—if you want it, then they will find a way to get it to you. Everybody’s working hard to get different products. I: Do you get a lot of students here? PP: Yeah, I do, a fair amount. We love the students, they never want bags. We’ve worked with MACgreen on campus. We do a program here where if you bring your own
PHOTOS BY N ICK DAVIES
I: What do you like about Westdale? SZ: It still has a bit of that village feel in a bigger city. It’s bustly, but not hard–core downtown. I like having students, the elderly, mixed ethnic groups, there’s a lot of diversity. • • • I left Weil’s with one of their famous chocolate chip buns, and I was not disappointed. It was a big bun—not that puny size I’ve come to expect from grocery stores. The bread was fresh and tender, encrusted with rich chocolate chips, and smothered in a thick layer of creamy chocolate icing. Ausgezeichnet!
mug in, we fill your coffee up for $1.30. Students come in for the vegetarian samosas we have on Fridays. This is a great neighbourhood because of the Mac students. It’s really eclectic. The students come from Sault Ste. Marie, from London, from wherever. I love meeting people. I: Do you see the proliferation of big–box stores as a problem to Westdale? PP: I think if Wal–Mart started selling fair trade, which would be a total oxymoron, then I would be concerned. I’m afraid of what big box stores will do to other stores and independents. I will never be able to compete on price, which means that I’ll have to rely on my specialized products and better customer service. They scare me because they’re ugly and they don’t offer a lot to any downtown area. Some argue that they employ a lot of people, but they employ at minimum wage. This employment situation creates a catch–22 where people can’t support their families. But they exist and they’re not going away. • • • After the interview, Penny showed me some interesting developments in materials science—coffee cups and transparent plastic containers both made from completely biodegradable corn cellulose fibres. With such advances in materials that are friendly to the environment, it is a shame that Mac still uses Styrofoam containers. As I left Global Village Market with two veggie samosas, I contemplated the edge that the shops of Westdale have over their corporate competitors—not just sales, but service, something quite rare indeed.
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I: Are there any challenges to operating in Westdale? SZ: It’s a challenge to try to reach a customer base beyond Westdale. Advertising is expensive. A large proportion of our clients are from Westdale or the McMaster community, but there are also many from outside. We need to get people to see the quality of food here as opposed to grocery stores. We use good ingredients—sweet cream butter, real whipped cream, Belgian chocolate. We also recently switched to non trans fat shortenings, so all our bread is trans fat free.
Navigating The Beasly Neighbourhood By Jeanette Eby
he heart of downtown Hamilton is so much more than meets the eye. Most people glance around, see rejected buildings and dirty streets, and are immediately turned off. The Beasley neighbourhood epitomizes a lot of these turnoffs, and is home to about 9 000 Hamiltonians. It comprises 42 blocks of the downtown core, bordered by Barton, James, King, and Wellington streets. It is the poorest neighbourhood in the city, and one of the 20 poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. There is more to Beasley, however, than its homes and apartments, deserted buildings and parking lots, and faltering businesses. Beasley has a high concentration of social services, such as shelters and drop-in centres, which speak to a determination to change things. When I looked a bit closer, beyond its apparently dismal surface, I saw that the core could teach me a lot. Its many gems are too often overlooked, as are the many people who care about the city and contribute to its character in ways that are not always acknowledged. I was lucky enough to go on a whirlwind tour of the downtown core on a snowy Thursday afternoon. Matt Chamberlain–Thompson, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable fourth year here at Mac, who lives downtown and loves it, led me through his neighbourhood and told me all that he could about downtown in the two hours we spent together. It is impossible to experience all that the area has to offer in only two hours, but I definitely got off to a good start. Before this adventurous afternoon, I had no idea that I could feel so simultaneously overwhelmed, excited, encouraged, depressed, and sensitive about a city. Even amidst areas of the city struggling with poverty—particularly Beasley— Matt still considers Hamilton “the best undiscovered city in Canada.”
After getting off the bus from Mac at MacNab, we headed towards the first stop on our impromptu tour, Hamilton City Hall, which is located beside the Family Court of Justice. I’ve bused it downtown many times, but each time I’d gotten off at this stop I hadn’t even noticed this prominent building. Matt and I took the elevator all the way up to the seventh floor and climbed a narrow staircase up to the
eighth floor, where there is a small rooftop café. The restaurant has large windows across two sides of the room, providing an incredible view of the city. We sat down to a quick cup of mediocre coffee and delved into the details of Hamilton. If the day hadn’t been so snowy and grey, we would have been able to see across the Bay and up the Mountain. The next stop was The Comfortable Pew tearoom located at Main and MacNab, a unique, community café coordinated by and attached to the Centenary United Church. The tearoom is homey and old–fashioned, with antique furniture, china, a beautiful piano, and classical music playing in the background. We sat down and I enjoyed a delectable piece of homemade key–lime pound cake. You can’t go wrong with a giant piece of cake made with love for $2.50. Matt introduced me to Bruce, the remarkable manager of the Comfortable Pew, who opened up the tearoom because he was moved to provide a ministry, in a non-religious sense, to people of all faiths, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. The name “Comfortable Pew” was inspired by the book of that name by Pierre Berton, which criticized the church’s focus on white, middle class families. Bruce emphasized that the Comfortable Pew and the Centenery United Church are affirming and inclusive. He sits and talks with to his customers, and is there to listen, rather than to evangelize. He is actually the only employee—the rest of the work-
ers are volunteers, and the money the Comfortable Pew earns goes to feed the poor. Bruce is acutely aware of poverty in Hamilton, especially of the difficulties that face working–class poor. The Comfortable Pew is inclusive in its food options as well as its clientele, and Bruce strives to accommodate the needs of everyone by providing vegetarian and dairy-free options. This uplifting place is worth a second look; as an added bonus, it’s reputed to have the best vegetarian chili around. We passed on through King William Street, a narrow street with little traffic that is the city’s big hope for the walking core. It doesn’t look especially appealing, but there are some hidden treasures, such as the Sky Dragon Centre, which hosts a variety of social justice events, and Reardon’s, a restaurant that has been run by the same family for 91 years. We entered Beasley via Hughson Street. Matt took me to McLaren Park on John St. North, one of Beasley’s two parks. It is small and plain, with swings, a slide, and a basketball court, and could be a nice park in the right kind of weather; Matt mentioned that it’s a prime location for drug dealing in the summer. Mark Thornborrow, who is the head of Beasley Neighbourhood Watch, organizes free barbeques in the park on Fridays during the summer to reach out to local kids and discourage the trafficking. We went from John to James Street and dropped by the art supply store Mixed Media. The owner, Dave, is the creator and editor of H Magazine, a magazine about the architecture, history, landscape, signs, and people of Hamilton. Dave’s latest project is intended to transform McLaren Park’s image—vibrant murals are to be painted there this spring. We said goodbye to Dave and continued to walk up James towards King, stopping at the remains of the Tivoli Theatre; its 750–seat auditorium was once the largest theatre in Hamilton. The Heritage Canada Foundation put it on their Top Ten Most Endangered Places in Canada list last year. In 2004, the building’s south wall and roof collapsed, and now only one third of the original building remains standing. Many other historical buildings in Hamilton have likewise fallen into disrepair. Across the street from the Tivoli is the Hamilton City Centre, which is the exceedingly ugly 1980s addition to Jackson Square Mall. We walked up the outdoor stairs to the roof of the mall for a last look at the heart of Hamilton. We saw the Lister block building across the street, an empty, vandalized building that is 100 years old and used to be beautiful. In Matt’s own words, the Hamilton City Centre is “not beyond redemption, it just needs a lot of work.” During the week of 24 February, Hamilton’s Downtown Renewal Department announced 14 new projects designed to promote the downtown centre after years of neglect, including some condo developments and major changes to Gore park. There are passionate people working together to engage others to care about the core; people like Matt and Dave, people like Mark Thornborrow.
Thi Ça p
ndr buan omat deri . e.
BY J ESSICA S HELLEY
BY ERIN G IROUX
BY J ESSICA S HELLEY
TRAVEL & WORK ABROAD VOYAGER ET TRAVAILLER À L’ÉTRANGER
Letter From israel
Shalom Chaverim! Yesterday, while in a taxi in Tel Aviv, the driver called me “an Israeli”—but not as a compliment. After I asked him to pause the meter while he took a personal stop during my ride, the driver (Israeli himself) deemed me rude and petty, muttering “what would I expect from an Israeli.” I was shocked. No, not because he had yelled at me just for being an aware passenger who refused to get ripped off as many foreigners do. I was shocked because he had called me an Israeli. Trying to insult me, he had unintentionally made my day. I first arrived in Israel on 30 August 2005, and stepped directly from the plane into Tel Aviv’s crushingly humid air. Having just survived one of Toronto’s hottest summers, I was not exactly thrilled to land in the midst of extreme heat. Nevertheless, as my feet touched the ground, my thoughts of heat subsided and I began to contemplate the adventure ahead. I was about to embark on a six–week stay at a kibbutz and then eight–and–a–half months living in a very low–income area of South Tel Aviv. I did not know what to expect. I had first been to Israel back in 1998 on a summer program; thirty–nine Americans and I (the lone Canadian) travelled the country for almost two months. I was charmed by the diverse landscapes, but also overwhelmed by the country’s personality. Granted, I did not have much exposure to real Israeli life. My days were spent with a tour group, frantically crisscrossing the country to visit all the tourist sites. I swam in the Dead Sea, climbed the ancient fortress of Masada, and put a note in Jerusalem’s Western Wall. In the cities, I was overwhelmed by the crazy drivers, the constant honking of horns and the loud Israeli people. At 16, I don’t know if I was ready for the dynamo that is Israel. Fast forward seven years to my graduation from McMaster in April 2005. I was confused. I didn’t want to go to grad school right away, but finding a low–paying job to make rent didn’t seem appealing either. Then I heard about a program called Tikun Olam in Tel Aviv, running under the auspices of Bina, a secular, pluralistic organization. Tikun Olam, Hebrew for “repair the world”, was indicative of the aims of the program. With seven other people from abroad, I would live and volunteer in a neighbourhood with very few resources. I wasn’t sure exactly what the volunteering would entail, but I knew I would be working with Israeli volunteers and the experience sounded enriching. After living in a university bubble, I was excited to get out into the world, and escape familiar sights and sounds. I chose Israel partly because my father had sent me an email describing the opportunity, but also because part of me wanted to give Israel another chance. I learned Hebrew while growing up, but I had forgotten most of it by the time I was 22. I knew many people who had visited Israel and “absolutely loved it,” and after learning about the country for so long, I wanted to feel that way too. Instead of just visiting the country, I wanted to live it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Our program started on kibbutz Beit Guvrin, located between
PHOTOS BY R ANDI G ORDNER
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The kibbutz system is a socialist movement developed in Israel—people lived together, worked the land, and developed factories for product export, and all settlers shared the fruits of their labour. As Israeli society became more “Western” though, the kibbutz movement deteriorated. Now, only the wealthy kibbutzim still run as they originally did. Beit Guvrin is not a wealthy kibbutzim, and is currently on its way to full privatization—although it is still a wonderful place to reside. On a kibbutz, everything moves at a slower pace (much like the rest of Israel, where being late is not only accepted, it’s practically encouraged!). Beit Guvrin is a beautiful kibbutz surrounded by green hills and Roman ruins, though it is not exactly party central. On the weekends, however, we did manage to have fun—even in the middle of nowhere. The army girls and boys returned home on weekends, and we thus had the chance to socialize with the locals. On the kibbutz they are used to groups of volunteers, so the 20– to 30–year–olds were happy to hang out with us. It wasn’t long before I really started to live like an Israeli and found myself an Israeli boyfriend. But he wasn’t just any Israeli, he was a “kibbutznik” and they, my friends, are a whole different story. Imagine. You grow up in this small community, maybe 100 people. When you are young, you do not live in your parents’ house, but in a “children’s house” with the other children your age. As you grow up, you move into your parents’ house, but you do everything with the seven or eight other people your age. You are in the same class with them from kindergarten until you graduate and they are everything you know. Essentially, you have non–biological brothers and sisters for whom you would do anything. These are the kibbutznikim, and it felt like I was always competing with those seven or eight brothers and sisters. For an outsider, coming into this extended family is not as easy and interesting as it initially appeared. It eventually became quite tiresome and too difficult to ignore. However, while I was still enamored with my Israeli boyfriend, his airforce duty, and the kibbutz lifestyle, my group moved to Tel Aviv. It’s a fantastic city—small, but not too small. It has three main club and bar districts, an inordinate amount of cultural activities for a city its size and the streets are just as alive at three a.m. as they are at three p.m. Like most of the big cities in Israel, Western culture is overwhelmingly present, but Middle Eastern influences are far from absent. I may be technically living in the city, but ask most Tel Avivians if they’ve heard of the neighbourhood Kiriyat Shalom and they will respond with a blank stare. Kiriyat Shalom is in South Tel Aviv. Made up of six or seven neighbourhoods, South Tel Aviv is a mish–mash of different cultures, languages, and personalities. The unifying factor is money—the people who live in the South of the city don’t have it. In Kiriyat Shalom, a community with a large mob influence,
there are traditional families fr tan as well as ultra–Orthodox f Europe. While all of the families generations, their backgrounds c of this neighbourhood. My time as a volunteer there bourhood’s issues and also gave could to the meagre resources of t Sunday is a work day in Israel), named Remez located just behind assist one of three English teache with a different class giving atten extra English help. Even during extraordinary number of kids wi dent–teacher that dif-
greatly those in Canada. When at McMaster, I volunte two years. I worked with childre kids, and the experience was tota poorer schools have a special ed tance for certain students. Reme ford this help, and kids that migh are left behind in a large class an But apart from the screaming the student–teacher relationship the United States, where the th Brother, in Israel, teachers can h pat on the back is not automati kids need people they can coun
rom Iran, Yemen, and Uzbekesfamilies originally from Eastern s have been in Israel for several certainly influence the character
e informed me about the neighme a chance to add what little I this community. On Sundays (yes, I work at an elementary school d my apartment. For five hours, I ers in the school. Each hour I am ntion to those children who need g my first session, I noticed an ith behavioral problems and sturelationships fered
f r o m
eered at an inner city school for en of the same age as the Ramez ally different. In Hamilton, even ducation teacher and extra assisez, on the other hand, cannot afht work well with extra attention nd act out accordingly. g, there is something nice about at Remez. Unlike in Canada and hreat of litigation lurks like Big hug their students and a friendly ically seen as abuse. And these nt on; many come from broken
homes or live in foster care, abuse in their homes is not uncommon, and the threat of drugs looms large. It is not an easy life in Kiriyat Shalom, but Remez, even with its lack of resources, tries to provide both an education and safe space for the neighborhood children. While volunteering at Remez and on other projects does provide me with insight and access into Kiriyat Shalom community life, adjusting to daily life in Israel was initially very difficult. It is hard to blend into a society when you are part of a “group from abroad.” I never quite realized how isolating being a member of such a group could be. Let me explain. My group is made up of eight people: six from the United States, one from Russia, and me, the lone Canuck again. Although two of us are not from the U.S., to the Israelis who live and volunteer in Kiriyat Shalom we are “The Americans”. We only speak English, we are spoiled, and we don’t know hard work because we are not in the army. Stereotypical? Yes. True? Only partly! When we first arrived, our collective Hebrew skills were not very good. Now, over halfway into the program, I am nearly conversationally fluent. But it is difficult to practice Hebrew with the Israelis in the neighbourhood because they either want to practice their English or still assume that our Hebrew isn’t very good. Sure, their English is generally better than our Hebrew, but how can we learn if we don’t practice? Are we spoiled? Some more than others, but our actions don’t seem to affect that label. Finally, we may work hard, but if our work doesn’t relate to the army, then it is functionally invisible. In Israel, the army dominates all aspects of life and culture. When people meet each other the first thing they ask is the other’s position and station in the army. Employers ask potential candidates what they did in the army. Even though more and more people are choosing opportunities such as volunteer work in place of army service, the primacy of the army still prevails in a place where most 18 year olds are conscripted. You can see how “The Americans” have a hard time finding our place in Israeli society. If we cannot identify with the Israeli army, how can we integrate ourselves into a society on which it is based? One might assume that because of the intense militarization of its culture, Israeli society would be strong and fierce, but that’s only partially true. Israeli society is tightly knit and it is tough to find a place in it. Like the close kibbutz ties, Israeli culture as a whole is insular. They are wary of outsiders and stick together against them (although religious factions do cause internal problems), knowing that many neighbouring countries don’t exactly value the State of Israel. Even though my group–mates and I have found it difficult to penetrate the closed Israeli society, once you find even the smallest of openings, their tough exterior softens considerably to
reveal unquestionably genuine interiors. Israelis don’t understand gossip and don’t see the point. When they have a problem, they will talk it out, face to face. What an idea! It is like taking off a band–aid: it might hurt for a second or two, but there is no sense in dragging out the problem. As well, you will never find a better friend than an Israeli. They are fierce and fiercely loyal. Even their nicknames are indicative of the way they feel about their friends. Men call each other “Achi”—Hebrew for brother—and everyone is “motek” (sweetie). And as corny as it may sound, it isn’t. It’s honest. Israelis love their friends and they are not afraid to show it. Unabashedly hospitable, Israelis will invite everyone in and will not ask if guests want something, but rather what they want. People will sit for hours in each other’s homes drinking black Turkish coffee or tea with freshly picked nana (mint) leaves from the garden. After coffee, Israelis of all ages will get out their packs and go for a hike on one of the millions of hiking trails in this tiny but varied country. At night they will take in a concert or play or have a discussion about politics—because EVERYTHING comes back to politics. Except this letter. Surprisingly, my daily life is not occupied with the politics of Israel or the Middle East. Sure, we have numerous discussions on the disengagement, we ponder Sharon’s most untimely fall from parliament, we send phone calls home when there is a terrorist attack; but I say honestly and thankfully that these issues lie in the background rather than obscuring the foreground of my Israeli picture. Looking back on that sweltering day in August, I could not have imagined the incredibly diverse experiences that I would encounter in Israel. Living in Israel as a part of a group has not been all candy canes and choo–choo trains. Tensions can run high and there are few escapes from one another; we live together and often volunteer together. While we’ve each made our own friends, we are inexorably tied to one another, for better or for worse. As tough as group living can be, it has supported us as we navigate our way through this crazy country. We have the wonderful opportunity to be tourists, taking trips all over the country, while still creating meaningful and often happily mundane daily lives in Kiriyat Shalom. With only four months left in the program, I realize that I’m not quite the naïve traveler I was when I first arrived. I speak my mind a bit more, and am not so worried about the response. I am getting better at being late (I will, however, have to fix that before I return back to Canada…) and Israel has, unfortunately, forced me to depend on my cellphone. I’ve struggled, over the last six months, to find my place in this impassioned country and I’m not sure I’ve found a definitive position. However, while cabbies may try to rip me off upon hearing my “Canadian” Hebrew, I am not afraid to give the drivers “what they would expect from an Israeli.” And I have to say, it is much more fun than being a polite Canadian!
G RAPHIC BY BORAM HAM
e! ner y b d a, l r l o a Y di G n a R
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atic themes or offensive content would be to create an incredibly boring product. Imagine this: Act 1: Shepherd boy sits in the meadow, singing to the sky. He wishes he had a girl with him. Suddenly…a girl appears! He courts her, she accepts, they get married, have a family and everyone lives happily ever after. The end. Who wants to spend three hours listening to that? It’s far easier to gloss over controversy in instrumental music, because you don’t get to see the devil leering from the stage. Generally, music teachers are not chastised for teaching Shostakovich, whose works portray acts of war and violence. We don’t see the darkness and misogyny in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Would the parents have accused a teacher playing Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, with or without Mickey Mouse and Disney’s Fantasia, of promoting sorcery and devil–worship? Will we stop teaching about Paganini because he supposedly sold his soul to the devil? What about Schumann, who claimed to have a legion of voices speaking to him inside his head? Even Mozart, most innocuous of composers, said a dark visitor drove him mercilessly to write his Requiem. Sound demonic to anyone else? Of course we won’t stop teaching any of that. That would be stupid. Music should not be accepted because it is safe or harmless—it should be studied and praised because it is poignant and powerful. These students should watch Faust—the whole thing—and appreciate it for its message, its music, and its story, which in the end is a powerful warning against precisely the things that these parents are afraid of. By trying to make the arts safe and palatable, we take away any ability that they have to change things. Looking at all the debate and strife that resulted from twelve Danish cartoons should be plenty of evidence that arts can be powerful. Does that mean that we should stop drawing things? Of course not. We should keep drawing things, keep listening to things, keep being exposed to things that excite, inspire, and enrage us, because that is what the arts are for. Opera usually gets a bad rap for being long, boring, and all about fat ladies with horns. Faust moves us from fat women to cloven– hoofed men, but still—albeit for different reasons—gets an unfair reputation as something to be avoided. By restricting exposure to opera—whether for engendering ennui or espousing evil— we are contributing to a legion of kids ignorant of the profound moral and metaphysical questions that opera so deftly depicts. They will have no basis upon which to judge what is good or bad, right or wrong, because they will have never had the chance to learn about any of it.
D E F I N I T E LY THE OPERA
G RAPHIC BY W. M OFFAT
music teacher from a town near Denver, Colorado might be fired for showing her elementary school students opera. Yes, opera. Not for teaching sex ed, or explicit literature, but classical music. The teacher showed students 12 minutes from Gounod’s Faust, which tells the story of how the aging scholar Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his heart’s desires. The video was from a series—featuring soprano Joan Sutherland and narrated by a trio of puppets—called Who’s Afraid of Opera? Well, apparently the parents are afraid. Some are claiming that students were traumatized by images of the devil and also by allusions to suicide, as a character is seen impaling himself on a sword in silhouette. One parent is quoted as saying, “I think it glorifies Satan in some way.” Saying that Faust glorifies Satan is like saying that Requiem for a Dream glorifies heroin use. Faust is damned for his association with the devil, and the whole opera details the destruction of Faust’s life as a result of his contract. Taking a few moments to understand the context of the thing they find so objectionable might have served the parents well. I also have a hard time believing that normal, acculturated seven– and eight–year–olds would be permanently scarred by seeing puppets telling them about the devil, especially when it is abundantly clear that he is the bad guy. One would presume that they do watch television, where even the most benign cartoons have villains with pointy horns and forked tails. I don’t think that images of the devil should be the issue here, nor do I think it rational to assert that watching Faust suddenly makes this teacher a glorifier of Satan. But I will admit that there is some scary stuff in Faust. It is about the devil, and rape, and suicide, and madness. It hardly seems well–suited to puppet narration. But Faust has some incredibly beautiful music, and its potential to unsettle the audience is exactly what makes it worthwhile. Faust was written to reflect concerns about morality, with a message that the temptations of the devil, in the end, are more harmful than the pleasures they provide. The woman Faust loved died insane because of him, and he goes to hell to be punished for his association with the devil, while she ascends into heaven. I can’t say for sure, but I think these concerned parents would want to promote such a message about the devil. I wholeheartedly support the teacher’s decision to show the video. What I do question is one of the arguments in favour of the teacher’s actions. Some supporters have said that showing Faust to kids is okay because it is classical music and thus inoffensive by nature. It’s all pretty, happy background music, right? Of course not. Most of the best classical music is about topics that could make people uncomfortable. Music is good because of conflict, because of toil, strife, temptation, damnation, love, lust, pain, blood, guts, and gore. It’s what we like in our TV, too. There is no opera without conflict—to remove potentially problem-
If you’d like to try opera, Opera Ontario will be performing La Traviata on 29 April and 4 and 6 May, and the Canadian Opera Company is doing Bellini’s Norma from 31 March until 15 April and Berg’s Wozzeck from 30 March to 13 April.
by Claire Marie Blaustein
When Love Don’t Pay The Bills
How To Manage Your Money With Kerry Scott
Financial stability—not just for oil tycoons anymore
My first find was positive: you don’t need a lot of money to be financially stable. Personal financial stability can be defined as the state where, even if you lost your job/student loan/sugar daddy tomorrow, you’d still be able to get by until you found something else. More quantitatively, it’s being debt–free or having a plan to manage your debt, having a source of income, and having a plan to be able to live comfortably for the foreseeable future. Financial stability is the culmination of many well–made small choices.
The Priority Pyramid (below) illustrates the process of building financial security. Just as it’s hard to appreciate Guinness without first learning to stomach Labatt Blue, you wouldn’t want to strap all your precious birthday money into a leveraged investment rollercoaster without first understanding the teacup ride that is mutual funds. And no matter how appealing it might be invest in an obscure Picasso, you should first make the slightly less thrilling payments on your student loan.
The kiss of debt
Debts are a lot like term papers; while almost everyone has them, it’s only a rare (and likely smug) student that actually has the self–discipline to deal with them before panic takes over. The longer you pretend they don’t exist, the harder you’ll want to kick yourself in the long run. Not all debt is created equal. While some debt is entirely manageable, other debt can cause long– term damage to your credit rating and cost you far more than the three per cent deduction for a late paper. And of all debts, credit card debt is the worst. It’s the obscure–comparison–essay–of–two– gigantic–books–that–you–haven’t–even–read–yet kind of debt. Credit card companies make a ton of money off this kind of debt because the interest rates are incredibly high. Just making your minimum payment on your credit card debt is not a good idea; while it may preserve your credit rating, you’ll wind up paying back far more (think at least twice as much) money than you spent. If you’re planning on spending money that you don’t have, consider other options before whipping out your plastic. Borrowing from parents is a far better (although humbling) option, as they’ll undoubtedly offer you a lower interest rate than a credit card company. And any interest that you do pay will stay within your family; helping finance your parents’ ballroom dancing lessons is at least slightly preferable to throwing money at a faceless corporation. Taking out a student line of credit is another option. The interest rate will again be lower than a credit card, so you can use this money to pay off your credit card bill upfront, and then pay back the new debt when you can. Ultimately, if you can possibly avoid it, don’t spend more than you have until absolutely necessary, like when you buy your first house or car. If you don’t trust yourself to use your
art gems commodities gold and silver leveraged investing t a x s h e l t e r s stocks/bonds/options mutual fund investing residential real estate RRSPs/canada savings bonds/t–bills/term deposits
w il l / p o w e r of at tor ne y / l if e in s u r a n c e d e b t c on t r ol / e m e r g e nc y f u nd Priority Pyr amid From Balancing Act, By Joanne Thomas Yaccato
G RAPHICS BY ERIN G IROUX
recently laughed out loud at a CIBC bank machine as it asked if I wanted to withdraw or deposit. “Need you even ask?” I chuckled, while selecting “quick cash” and listening to my twenty–dollar bill whir towards me. It was only later that week, after taking a long, hard look at my bank statement, that my attitude sobered. Where had the fruits of my summer labour gone? And the cheques from my grandparents? The loans? I had to admit it: at twenty–one years old, all I really knew about money was how to spend it. It was time to make some changes. I began by asking friends about their investments, savings, and credit. I got a lot of blank looks and admissions of “I think my dad sort of handles that stuff.” It seemed that plenty of others were caught in the same cycle as myself: earn, spend, beg, spend, borrow, spend, steal, and above all else, spend. The more savvy of those I spoke to mumbled about their RRSPs, T4s, and GICs before eyeing me suspiciously and hunkering in more tightly over their PINs. I was beginning to realize that understanding my finances was going to require more than a few questions over beer. I called home. My parents, while a little concerned that my upbringing hadn’t included a better financial education, sounded distracted. They told me to read The Wealthy Barber, check out a few websites, or sit down with a banker, before quickly ending the conversation—they were late for their ballroom dance lesson. It looked like my money and I were going to have to figure out this world of acronyms, fluctuating percentage points, and overly happy financial planners on our own.
credit card as you would your debit card, leave it at home unless you have a specific purchase in mind. Student debt is the 300–hundred–word–plot– summary kind of debt—it still nags at you, but it’s significantly more manageable. You have a grace period after you graduate before you have to pay interest, so the more debt you can get rid of during those years, the better.
Credit rating—your real–world GPA
If you aren’t supposed to exploit the credit on your credit card, then why get one? Aside from the perks of carrying plastic—eBay won’t let you play without one and traveling with your VISA is safer, cheaper, and easier than traveling with cash or debit—a credit card is an excellent way to develop your credit rating. Credit ratings are testaments to how reliable you are with money. Always paying your hydro bill on time, repaying loans to your bank, and making at least the minimum payments on your credit card bills are all ways of developing a strong credit rating. Later in life, when you need a mortgage, a loan to start a business, a line of credit to buy a car, a higher spending limit on your bank card, or a Leon’s No–Money–Down pleather couch, this strong credit rating will increase the level of trust your bank, and Mr. Leon, has in you. A credit rating can even affect
your ability to rent an apartment, as landlords often check credit before allowing you to sign.
Savings—for when gold digging doesn’t pan out
Once your debt situation is under control, you should start saving. As long as you can meet the payments on your loans, there is no reason not to start saving 10 per cent of your income even as a student. Start early, and look into having your bank automatically transfer that 10 per cent directly into your savings using Pre–Authorized Chequing (PAC)—that way, you’ll never really feel the pinch. Just make sure that your PAC isn’t inadvertantly draining your account. Your savings will generate compound interest. Interest is being paid in return for letting others use your money; compound interest is being paid for the money you make on your money. If you invest $1 000 today at an interest rate of seven per cent, compounded annually, after one year you’ll have $1 070. You’ll then earn interest on that $1 070 and in two years you’ll have $1 144.90. In ten years you’ll have $1 967.15, and in twenty years you’ll have $3 870. The place you put your money will decide the interest rate you are paid and the frequency at which your interest is compounded.
RRSPs—how much is that condo again?
While a bingo bus tour of Florida and neon money belt may not top your priority list right now, a lot can change in fifty years. A Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is an awesome way to invest, as it will not only provide for you after retirement, but can also be cashed in to help finance a house or other large purchase in the nearer future. RRSPs can have GICs, mutual funds, stocks, or any combination of these and other investments, depending on how much risk you want to deal with. The money you make in your RRSP is not taxed by the government until you remove it from the RRSP to use it—the idea being that it will grow without taxes, and by the time you’re retired (i.e. no longer making money) and take it out, you’ll be in a lower tax bracket and thus able to keep more of your earnings. The downside of this sweet deal, though, is that there is a limit to how much you are allowed to invest each year. It’s tempting, as a poor student, to avoid paying much attention to tax–time, but by filing tax returns each year you are building up valuable RRSP contribution space for later investment. RRSPs are an excellent savings vehicle, and if you find yourself making a lot of money, they can also be used as a tax–free place to store some money and lower your taxable income.
Generating Interest Conservatively
Ned Flanders probably dreams about Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs); you really can’t get much more conservative. Although returns are low, there is no risk of losing any capital. No one loses sleep, suffers high blood pressure, or ruffles any dry–clean–only Sunday suits. The more money you invest, and the longer you let the bank keep it, the better your interest rate will be. They currently sit around 4 to 4.5 per cent.
Mutual funds—not–so–risky business
Mutual funds are the gangsta posers of the investment world. They like to think they’re tough and risky, but when push comes to shove, a scraped knee is usually the maximum damage they’ll dole out. Mutual funds maintain a fairly low level of risk while increasing potential gains by pooling a group of investors’ money. A professional fund manager will spread the group’s money between a number of different investments, including stocks, bonds, and commodities.
Mutual funds allow you to create a diverse portfolio—important for minimizing risk—without requiring you to research the market on your own or pawn your grandmother’s jewellery in order to afford one stock each in hundreds of companies. You can also control your level of risk and potential payoff by directing your investment manager to focus on a particular area you expect to grow (like natural resources). Alternatively, you can invest in ethical funds and avoid supporting the tobacco industry or oil companies that drill in environmentally sensitive areas. A typical mutual fund currently earns around seven per cent on your money, but the range of risk—and therefore of return—varies from GIC–low to speculating–in–futures high.
Stocks and bonds—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
Buying stocks and bonds is like taking the training wheels off your investment bicycle; you lose some safety features in exchange for a far more exhilarating ride. When you choose to buy a bond in a company you think will do well in the future, you’re basically lending that company your money, and hoping to get paid for it. Because companies tell you how much interest they’ll pay you on the money
While a bingo bus tour of Florida and neon money belt may not top your priority list right now, a lot can change in fifty years. they’re borrowing, bonds seem completely safe. But you have to keep in mind that the interest rate you get will vary as market interest rates rise and fall, and as the credit rating of the company changes. Owners of companies can sell parts of the business, called shares or stocks, in order to gather additional capital to invest in new projects. Buying a stock entitles you to a role in the decision making process of the company, usually realized by allowing you to vote in the election of members of the company’s board of directors. As an owner, the value of your stocks increases when the company does well, and decreases when the company does poorly.
Leveraged investment—fun with other people’s money
If Tony Soprano did legal stuff with his money, he’d be into leveraged investing. Just like drug deals and drive–bys, the risk is high but the payoff can be great. A leveraged investment is made using borrowed money. If you can borrow money at an interest rate of five per cent and invest it in a stock that makes eight per cent, then you can earn three per cent profit. The obvious downfall is that if your
stock plummets, you’re not just out a chunk of dough, but also have to make interest payments on your losses. So unless you’re a seasoned and brave fat Italian man, you should probably leave this type of investment to the experts.
Taxes—as certain as death
Taxes, while reminding most of us of confusing paper work and grumpy adults, are also what give us health care, public school, and streetlights. For poor students, tax time is an espeically beautiful time of year. Tuition and many living expenses are deductible, meaning that if you file all your papers, you often get money back. Prepare for tax time by keeping track of tuition receipts from school, charitable donation receipts, RRSP contribution receipts, how much you spend on rent, scholarship records, and anything that starts with a T and ends with a number—these are from the government, employers, or investments, and enumerate different types of income. If you want to file your taxes the old fashioned way, you can find the necessary forms at your local post office. However, it’s a lot easier to file your taxes online using the Canadian government’s Netfile program. It’s free and easy to navigate—to use it you need only the access number printed on your T1 form (which comes in the mail) and your social insurance number. Just remember that if you file electronically, you should save the physical records of receipts and forms for seven years—you never know if you’ll get audited.
Budgeting—balancing beer and books
We all know we should, in principle, spend less than we make. But like sleeping eight hours a night, it’s easier said than done. Budgeting is a worthwhile exercise, as it can show you areas where you are overspending, let you see if you’re heading into dangerous debt, and help you figure out how much you can save for the future. While budgeting, look for small habitual expenditures that are costing you in the long term, and that could be curbed without too much difficulty. Spending $3 a day at Second Cup will not only make the baristas suspect you’re stalking them, but will also cost you $672 by the end of the school year. If your furtive trips to the corner store to pick up the latest issue of Seventeen have passed the irregular–guilty–pleasure mark and moved up to the can’t–live–without–it level, you may want to just admit that you’re obsessed with Lindsay Lohan and buy a subscription. You’ll save money in the long run—money that could be put towards buying a signed Lohan poster for your room.
The bottom line
If you’re still desperate to know more you should consider finding a Certified Financial Planner (look for “CFP” on the business card). Many CFPs will help a poor student for little or no cost. Getting a handle on your financial situation may take some of the wry humour out of banking. But in exchange for a more mundane relationship with your bank machine, you’ll be a more relaxed and secure individual—one who will get to drive the coolest RV to your condo in Florida when you’re 65.
SaLT Bread original fiction
Yeast is made from sadness, my grandmother told me. I went home after she told me this and asked my mother if it was true. She said of course it wasn’t, that yeast is made of fungus (and here she showed me a picture from her textbook, of yeast and yeast’s relatives, who I pictured as tiny fungus families living inside bread–houses, inspiring a vow that I kept for seven hours to never eat bread again). You cannot make things from sadness, my mother continued, except for artwork. All art is made from sadness—just look at your father. I was unclear as to whether my father was supposed to be a work of art, and he was made from sadness, or if it was my father’s artwork that was made from sadness. If it were the latter, I didn’t know where he got the sadness from, as he made very many pieces of art and hardly ever seemed to be sad, except when my mother put up her hair to go to work and made it seem straight instead of curly. I went to my grandmother’s house again the day after she told me about yeast, and I told her that my mother said yeast was not made from sadness, it is made of fungus. I had even traced the picture of yeast and its relatives from my mother’s textbook into my school notebook and taken it from home to school to my grandmother’s house in order to show her. This is irrefutable evidence, I told my grandmother. Yeast is made of fungus. (Every day when my father came down from his studio in the attic, he brought with him a new word, in the same way that other fathers bring home presents from their business trips or chocolate from the office vending machine. Three days ago my father brought home irrefutable, and this was my first chance to try it out.) We are going to make bread, said my grandmother. I promise to teach you nothing about fungus, but when we are finished, you will know how to bake with sadness. I said that I had no sadness and neither did my father and I thought that perhaps that was why neither one of us made bread.
What about your mother? said my grandmother. I said that my mother made bread sometimes, but always at work. She grew the yeast in her lab and baked the bread while she was waiting for her experiments to finish. Until my confusion the day before, I had never wondered what she grew the yeast out of; yesterday, I spent half the day picturing petri dishes full of sad movies and Old Yeller and the other half imagining the drawing from the textbook somehow sprung to life inside a forest of test tubes growing on a rack in the lab’s kitchen. My grandmother asked which bread tasted better, the bread that my mother brought home from her laboratory or the bread that I had at my grandmother’s after school. I told her that hers tasted better, not because she was there and my mother wasn’t, but because it was true. I later developed this thought into a hypothesis that some things can only be made properly once one becomes a grandmother—bread, gravy, and turkey stuffing chief among them. When I told my grandmother of this hypothesis, she said that it had nothing to do with being a grandmother and everything to do with accumulating enough sadness to put in your bread and still have some left to cry over. While we talked about my mother, my grandmother got out the ingredients for bread and lined them up on the counter: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lard, milk. I ripped open the tiny packet of yeast along the edge of its yellow stripe, and poured it into the bowl that my grandmother held out. She cupped her hand and poured sugar into it from the Redpath bag, and tossed it on top of the yeast. She filled the bowl halfway with water, and said “enough” when I asked how much water and sugar to put in. The yeast eats the sugar, she said, that’s how it grows. Sadness eats the sweet memories that make it seem sadder in comparison, she said, that’s how it grows. My grandmother scooped the lard from its bucket and dropped it in a pot, and poured the milk on top. She sprinkled in some sugar and some salt. She heated them on the stove. We heat until the fat is just melted, said my grandmother. I asked her why there was no recipe for her bread. My mother used a recipe—I knew this because once when I was too sick to go to school, she took me to her laboratory with her. I don’t know why I didn’t
...do you have a recipe for sadness? my grandmother asked... just stay with my father in his studio, which is what I usually did, perhaps he was away showing pictures at an exhibition. At any rate, he was gone and my grandmother must have been gone, too, because I went with my mother and it was Friday, which was the day for bread. My mother had various page holders which stood by the machines that analyzed her experiments. Mostly they held notes for experiments or letters from another laboratory about Call for Papers! Results of Study In!, but one had on it a recipe for bread. It sat behind the other paper holders underneath the painting of my father’s on the wall next to the door and looked like it did not belong, which, perhaps, it did not. I was small enough to sleep on two of the lab’s chairs pushed fronts together, and my mother brought in blankets and pillows and pieces of stale bread from last week to nibble on, and I lay in the lab beside the fume hood, watching her make bread and experiments as I dozed away my sickness.
understand, and she told me that I did not understand bread, either, and that one day I would forget that yeast was made of sadness and forget how to make bread and start believing in the irrefutable evidence for fungus yeast, and that then I would know why she had never told my mother. I told her that I believed her, and that her evidence was more irrefutable than my mother’s. I said that I would not forget and that I did understand. She handed me the empty bowl and told me to wash it while she floured the counter. My grandmother kneaded the bread and tore off a corner for me to knead, too. We kneaded, her standing on the floor with a butcher block under her feet to lift her up, and me standing on the chair brought in from the dining room. I asked her why, if yeast was made from sadness, did tears
She always checked with the recipe, which she said came from my aunt, my grandmother’s sister. I never asked why she did not use my grandmother’s non–recipe instead. Do you have a recipe for sadness? said my g r a n d m o t h e r. No? Then why do you expect me to have a recipe for something made of sadness and flour? We poured the stove pot into a bowl and I stirred it to make it cool faster. The whole time the yeast had been getting larger, bubbling almost out of its bowl. That is the reason that when you are sad, the sadness bubbles up inside of you, because sadness is yeasty, said my grandmother. And if there is nowhere for it to go, it will sit inside your belly and expand inside your stomach until there is no other thing for it but to grow into the corridor of your throat, where it will sit until it escapes as a sob or until it is temporarily delayed by a glass of cold water.
taste like salt and not like yeast? She laughed and said that I would understand once I understood how to make bread. We punched down the bread and let it rise, then punched it down again and let it rise again, sitting on top of the radiator so that it would be warm despite the coldness of the kitchen. We baked six loaves, each the same size, except for one that was smaller and looked like I had made it.
We poured the yeast into the bowl, once the milk had cooled, and stirred. My grandmother added flour, a cup at a time, while I stirred until my arms were not strong enough any more and then I added flour, a quarter cup at a time, while she stirred, her hands that were both mixers and pistons plunged into the dough.
I took home one loaf of bread, and at dinner that night, we ate my loaf and my mother’s loaf. We could tell which one was hers because she always put crosses in the top, and my grandmother always left the tops plain. My father brought down a new picture and hung it over the kitchen table, on the wall on top of the window. He said it was called sadness, and it was a picture of me and a loaf of bread. I told him that I did not understand.
I asked my grandmother why she had never told my mother that yeast was made of sadness. She said that she did not know until much after my mother would have believed her, and that she and I were closer in age than she and my mother were. I told her I did not
Years later, I told my own granddaughter why tears taste like salt instead of yeast. I thought that the age when you can understand bread is far too late to understand sadness. Tears taste like salt because salt is the ingredient that stops yeast from rising forever.
Iranian Nuclear Power:
Sovereign Right or Smokescreen? The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that defined the global nuclear system for decades is in decline. It enshrines the central bargain between the established nuclear powers and other states; in exchange for forswearing nuclear weapons, states are supported in their efforts to develop a civilian nuclear power program. This global nuclear system is being threatened, though, by more nations seeking to join the once rarefied nuclear club and the established nuclear powers trying to restrict technology transfers in response. Most recently, Iran’s aggressive attempt to expand its nuclear program to include the production of enriched uranium—the primary component of nuclear weapons and most nuclear fuel—has provoked an international crisis. Iran insists it is within its rights as a signatory of the NPT to a full civilian nuclear program. The United States, Britain, France, and Germany insist that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and is therefore in violation of the treaty. No one wants the increased global instability of a nuclear armed Iran, but Russia and China’s ideas about how to prevent such an event differ markedly from those of the Western powers. If no international consensus can be reached on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, then unilateral action either against or by Iran becomes a distinct possibility. Ben Freeman argues that Iran gave up its right to enrich uranium when it began to mislead the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the purpose of its program, and should therefore be prevented from continuing with its nuclear program by whatever means necessary. Muneeb Anasari Counters this by asserting that Iran, as a sovereign signatory to the NPT, has every right to a civilian nuclear program, and that attempts to deny Iran this right are based on narrow-minded, hypocritical, and irrational fear of an “Islamic Bomb”.
By Ben Freeman
y ratifying the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty in 1970, Iran obtained international permission to pursue a strictly civilian nuclear program, which included producing enriched uranium for fuel rods. Many countries that use nuclear power import their fuel, but Iran has insisted on becoming completely self– sufficient by developing facilities to enrich domestically mined uranium. These same facilities can also be used to produce nuclear weapon material. For this reason, uranium enrichment is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Iranian government claims it has been open and honest in its nuclear program and dealing with
the IAEA, but the agency remains unconvinced. On 4 February 2006, the IAEA voted 27–3 to report Iran to the UN Security Council for misleading IAEA inspectors about the nature and extent of its nuclear program. Iran’s open hostility to inspections, combined with suspected military tie–ins of its nuclear program, cast doubts on the program’s peaceful nature. The first evidence of Iran’s duplicity was detailed in 2003 by Mohamed El Baradei, the director–general of the IAEA, who declared that “Iran failed to report certain nuclear materials and activities” and called on the country to halt its uranium enrichment process. Two months later, the IAEA again urged Iran to cooperate more fully with the agency, expressing “grave concern that…Iran has still not enabled the IAEA to provide the assurances that…there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.” As
Peaceful Power By Muneeb Ansari
ran’s pursuit of a full nuclear program—including uranium enrichment—has drawn international condemnation and threats of sanctions. Yet Iran has done nothing wrong, let alone illegal. It has proclaimed its entire nuclear program to be open and peaceful, with the sole purpose of generating electricity for a growing economy. Even the most widely condemned portion of its nuclear activities—the enrichment of uranium—is necessary for its Russian-designed nuclear power plants, which require mildly enriched uranium fuel. Iran’s opponents accuse it of using its civilian nuclear program as a smokescreen to hide a military program bent on producing an “Islamic bomb.” But, in much the same way as the Americans claimed that Sadam had an active unconventional weapons program on the basis of forged documents and self-serving exiles, the evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons is based on hearsay. The current
Euro-American policy on Iran amounts to declaring Iran guilty until it can meet an impossibly strict definition of innocence, while keeping up the rhetoric of sanctions and penalties. Unlike the case of Iraq, no one has been foolish enough to threaten war, but American and European nations are actively discussing an Iraq-like embargo of military and “dual-use” items—including many medical instruments and drugs. Despite the rhetoric, as Iran never tires of pointing out, sanctions are unrealistic given current tight oil supply conditions and Iran’s position as the number-four global exporter of oil. Even as extreme sanction options are discussed, all sides admit that Iran has not explicitly violated any international law. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) defines the global nuclear regime. Signatories—with the exception of the recognized nuclear powers of the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia—promise not to
of November 2005, the IAEA reported that Iran was refusing access to certain sites. Although Iran was not legally bound to allow such inspections, permitting them would have helped assuage the doubt of the international community. Furthermore, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, has admitted to selling nuclear technology and information to various countries, including Iran. These sales reportedly involved centrifuge parts, which are used in the enrichment of uranium. Additionally, the IAEA is evaluating evidence of a link between Iran’s nuclear program and its military establishment, including apparent atomic weapon blueprints. Although such dealings do not constitute proof of an Iranian weapons program, they raise considerable suspicion about the goals of its nuclear program. Since early 2002, when concerns about the Iranian nuclear program first surfaced, the tension between Iran and the U.S. and Europe has centred on Iran’s single–minded drive to enrich uranium domestically. Iran has insisted on its right to become self–sufficient by developing facilities to enrich domestically–mined uranium as fuel for its reactors. Although the U.S. has been consistently opposed to the very thought of an Iranian
pursue nuclear weapons, and in return the treaty explicitly allows them to develop nuclear programs for peaceful purposes with the help of the established nuclear powers. Iran has signed the NPT, and has always maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Iran is permitted under this framework to conduct some nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment. Iran has also cooperated in optional inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the UN organization which monitors nuclear activities—only cutting off these investigations as international threats mounted. Admittedly, the IAEA has not exactly given Iran a clean bill of health. They have complained of widespread interference with inspections and are investigating potential links between Iran’s nuclear program and its powerful military establishment. These complaints are not, however, as condemnatory as they seem. No country, let alone one as isolated and reviled as Iran, is eager to have international inspections of its most sensitive facilities. As for the accusations of links between the Iranian military and the nuclear program, they are based on a laptop obtained—read: stolen—by the Americans, and would be more convincing if they did not come from a state with a history of creative use of evidence to justify foreign policy. To single out Iran for denunciation is also sus-
nuclear program, the European Union has been willing to permit the construction of reactors—so long as Iran did not enrich uranium. In exchange for Iran’s co–operation, the E.U. has offered nuclear fuel, a light–water reactor and trade benefits. Iran briefly agreed to suspend its enrichment program, but recommenced after the inauguration of its new hard–line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s dogged pursuit of uranium enrichment is troubling. At the very least it represents an irrational obsession with self–reliance. Russia has promised to enrich uranium for Iran, its Cold War ally, at a reasonable price. Developing a nuclear program and constructing reactors is expensive enough on its own; why would Iran want to deal with the many techn i c a l
pect given that Iran is not the only state in the region with an active and less-than-public-nuclear program. Iran borders one nuclear state—Pakistan—and lives in a state of mutual antipathy with another regional nuclear power—Israel. Israel has a larger and more secretive nuclear program than Iran, and is generally assumed to have approximately 200 nuclear weapons. Israel’s weapons program therefore dwarfs the nuclear arsenals of India or Pakistan and is comparable to that of China, Britain or France. Yet Israel’s nuclear program goes unremarked and unpunished and Pakistan is close to being an accepted nuclear power. India is an even more interesting example of Euro-American selective nuclear blindness, as the United States has recently signed a deal with that government that effectively recognizes India as a nuclear power. India promised to be “more open”
hurdles of enrichment if its sole purpose were electricity generation? North Korea employed a similar tactic in its seemingly successful quest to join the “nuclear club.” The country ratified the NPT and used it to gain assistance in building nuclear reactors and acquiring uranium. But in 1993, North Korea withdrew from the treaty and began pursuing a nuclear weapons program. With the help of Qadeer Kahn, it began production of plutonium and eventually enrichment of uranium, producing enough nuclear material for two to four nuclear bombs. If Iran is permitted to enrich uranium, nothing would prevent them from abandoning the NPT in the future and pursuing nuclear weapons. Although most estimates place Iran about a decade away from producing a nuclear bomb, within a few years, it will have enough technology and expertise to make such a development inevitable. It is harmful for any country to gain access to nuclear weapons, but a nuclear–armed Iran would dramatically destabilize an already volatile region. Iran is an unstable theocratic state and supports terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s current president is virulently anti–Semitic, questioning the exisContinued top of page 22
about their civilian nuclear facilities—while maintaining a separate military program— in exchange for nuclear technology from the United States. Instead of adopting the approach of isolation and saying that India cannot have a nuclear program of its own, the international community has used diplomacy to find a solution that the IAEA has praised. Iran has not received such an option. Even though it has allowed limited inspections—more then demanded by the NPT—it is being treated as a “rogue nation,” intent on developing weapons. The common presumption that Iran is inherently wrong to aspire to a full and domestically viable nuclear program is questionable. True, Iran has not been completely compliant with the IAEA, and has only reluctantly agreed to inspections. But, it also has been isolated internationally for the past two decades, leaving the country understandably less open to diplomatic solutions involving compromise with an international system that labels it as aberrant. Could it be that these strong responses are provoked, not simply in fear of the rise of another nuclear power, but by the possible creation of an “Islamic bomb”? Iran has not been clever at defusing these tensions; many were alarmed when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, spoke of wiping Israel off the map. But would Iran really use a nuclear Continued bottom of page 22
(Potential Proliferation Continued) tence of the Holocaust and calling for Israel “to be wiped off the map.” Some describe his statements as empty rhetoric, a political leader openly inciting genocide is certainly cause for grave concern. The Israeli government clearly feels threatened by Iran and has suggested it may bomb nuclear sites in Iran to “protect itself”—as it did to Iraq in the 1980s—though its ability to do so is questionable. The U.S. has also openly mused about a bombing campaign aimed at disabling Iran’s nuclear program. Both Israel and the U.S. are concerned about the immunity a nuclear armed Iran would enjoy against conventional attack. A radical and emboldened Iranian government could use the freedom of action a nuclear umbrella provides to increase its support for terrorist groups or in-
(Peaceful Power Continued) weapon if it developed one? The Iranian government knows that the retaliation for such an attack would be overwhelming, igniting a war that Iran could not possibly win. Even the more commonly circulated scenario of Iran supplying a nuclear weapon to a militant group seems unlikely. If the weapons’ origins were ever discovered, the results would be terminal for Iran’s regime and potentially its populace. No state, let alone one as paranoid and centralized as Iran, would be willing to put its fate in the hands of unpredictable fanatics. Although it is arguably in Iran’s interest to develop nuclear weapons, such weapons could only have deterrent value; a nuclear Iran is a threat to Israel, but a nuclear Israel is also a threat to Iran. Iran’s relationship with the U.S. has also been strained of late. In the past five years, the United States has invaded two of Iran’s neighbours. The U.S. has also threatened Iran continuously, despite warnings by other countries that these threats are as likely to impel Iran towards weapons as dissuade them. Given these threats, it is easy to see why Iran would build a nuclear bomb for defensive insurance. The U.S. has dealt with the third member of the “axis of evil” —nuclear-armed North Korea—much more diplomatically; in an environment of
GRAPHICS BY EVAN C. LICHTY
tensify its prosecution of internal minorities. An Iranian nuclear weapon could also potentially trigger a regional arms race. Iran—a Shiite state—gaining the bomb might encourage Sunni Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, to pursue a weapons program. Such an arms race could also draw in Turkey and potentially turn Iraq into a battleground for regional interests. An Iranian state with a nuclear arsenal would be even more hostile and unpredictable than it is now, with potentially disastrous consequences for the Middle East. We should also ask ourselves why Iran has been so single–minded in its pursuit of a nuclear program at all. Iran is the fourth largest petroleum producer in the world, the second largest in OPEC, and has the world’s second largest natural gas reserves. Given that electricity generated from oil or gas is cheaper than nuclear power, why would a country so awash in petroleum pursue a nuclear program? Iran has suggested that its desire for nuclear power is triggered by its need for a sustainable source of electricity, but, as we have seen in Ontario, nuclear reactors are extremely costly to construct and maintain. Iran has pointedly not considered non–nuclear alternatives to fossil fuels. The international community has relatively few options to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has reached a technical stage at which, if they are
truly committed to enrichment, there is little anyone can do to stop them short of military strikes—which are unlikely. This is not to say that nothing can be done to convince Iran that the costs of enrichment outweigh the benefits. The most reasonable way to do this is through sanctions and threats. A push in the security council for stiff penalties for Iran unless it allows inspectors back in and forswears domestic enrichment would be a useful and reasonable first step. Given Iran’s ratification of the NPT, it should not be barred from developing a civilian nuclear program, as long as it complies with IAEA regulations and inspectors. But the UN must endeavour to prevent Iran from acquiring the necessary technology to produce an atomic device, including uranium enrichment facilities. Iran has flouted IAEA directives and engaged in dealings with nations who broke the NPT; as a result, it has lost the right to pursue processes which could lead to a bomb. It is conceivable that, like North Korea, Iran could abandon the NPT and produce a nuclear weapon, the consequences of which would be disastrous for the Middle East. The IAEA and its associated bodies must closely monitor the development of Iran’s nuclear program and the Security Council should not hesitate to employ sanctions as a tool to encourage Iranian cooperation and punish any of Iran’s misdeeds.
threats, nuclear weapons are a tempting bargaining chip. Even the most cautious diplomats are somewhat confused by Iran’s apparent obsession with nuclear power given its enormous hydrocarbon reserves. Why would Iran want nuclear energy when they have an amount of oil many states have killed for? The Iranian government logically insists that it is thinking long term, a virtue in a region where oil revenues more often fund palaces then infrastructure. Oil prices right now are at record levels and oil exports comprise much of Iran’s economy. This dependence on oil exports—and soon gas, to India and Europe—necessitates a plan to provide for Iran’s growing electricity demands with a non-hydrocar-
bon source. Iran needs an alternative and, like Ontario, has selected nuclear power. Whether nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons are good or bad, Iran is a sovereign nation that has the right to pursue the energy regime it wants. In its pursuit of nuclear technology, it has been singled out primarily because it is not an ally of the United States. It has signed the NPT, and has always maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, to generate electricity. Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini last August issued a fatwa saying that nuclear weapons are against Islam. If the argument goes that the fundamentalist regime in Iran will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons, why would their religious leader explicitly outlaw their use? A nuclear weapon-free world is an idea that many of us, including the Iranian government, would likely embrace. Given the current global nuclear regime, however, the best we can hope for is equitable enforcement of rules and norms. Isolating and condemning Iran for its perceived intentions rather then actual violations of these rules is hypocritical and dangerous. The emergence of a new nuclear weapons state is something no one should hope for, and threats against Iran’s lawful pursuit of nuclear power makes such an outcome more, not less, likely.
POP WITH ROB LEDERER
y parents never talked to me about sex. Dad never awkwardly told me how to treat a lady, nor did Mom ever pull out any revealing popup books. Instead, they left it to the pervasiveness of television and, more importantly, the pervertedness of my peers to educate me about the birds and the bees. Although I may have missed out on some humourous, Uncle–Danny–trying–to–relate–to–quickly–maturing–DJ moments, the way I came to learn about all things sexual was certainly as memorable and probably just as psychologically damaging. Every summer of my childhood, I spent two weeks at a cottage with my immediate family, two older cousins, and their parents and friends. One year my cousins, along with their French friend Thomas, took it upon themselves to spend the better part of the fortnight holding fairly formal and highly provocative sex–ed classes for their younger—and far more naïve— relative. Unlike elementary school classes that focus on the biological aspects of the male–female relationship, my relatives’ rendition was based far more in current social realities of the sex scene. They were wannabe Anderson Coopers, showing the real issues, not highly glossed over rubbish. I’m not quite sure why they decided that eight years old was the perfect age for a young lad to be educated about the adult world of kink. Maybe it was fuelled by their own adolescent sexual angst or the many bottles of Molson Canadian they stole from the kitchen cabinet. Or, maybe they were just bored by the prospect of a two–week stint of family fun. Regardless of their motivation, my relatives began their mission with a series of lectures, usually beginning sometime after Thomas had charmed the mothers into having one glass of red wine too many and ending whenever I dozed off mid–discussion. After my initial tutelage, they devised a game—Balderdash with
a twist. Rather than trying to accurately define the game–given word (which of course was the kind used only twice in the English language, and both times in Canterbury Tales), we scribbled down the most grossly sexual lines and limericks imaginable, and then voted on our favourite. Thomas eventually began drawing pictures, signaling the beginning of the end for our board game brainchild. That summer contained some of the most defining moments in my young life and saw me take a few baby steps towards maturity. It was like Lucy’s first trip through the magic wardrobe, only the one I walked into was filled with leather and lingerie instead of old fur coats. I have no pictures from those two weeks; mine is not a photo family. All of my memories are housed in “Undone—The Sweater Song”. My eldest cousin had just picked up Weezer’s Blue Album, so we played it constantly and always at an ear–bleeding volume. Now every time I hear River Cuomo indignantly describe the destruction of a knit, all the sexual dialogue comes flooding back to me. More importantly, I remember what life was like for those two weeks. For me “The Sweater Song” encapsulates all of the emotions—the fears, the faux–pas, the anxiety—tightly packed into one punk–pop classic. There’s nothing unique about this hit, nothing in the lyrics or the tone that makes it anything special. It’s just a Pavlov’s Dog thing. When I hear the song, memories of that monumental vacation take centre stage in my mind. The simple sound of the stoned guy’s voice in Weezer’s intro triggers memory as intensely, as could any photograph. If a picture can speak a thousand words, a four–megabyte melody can speak volumes about a life. At a time when family photo albums seem to stay dust–covered for years and slide shows are most commonly used for academics, song association—like Ross Geller’s
impressive archeological collection—is an appealing way to store memories. It’s incredibly personal and inescapably eternal—sort of like getting your girlfriend’s name tattooed across your chest. Pop culture provides endless opportunities to form these kinds of automatic memory prompts. Sometimes they happen by chance, while other times we consciously Post–it note a song to a time of our life. Regardless, they are something we all have. Whether vinyl record or rap, Lifetime movie or Anne Murray Christmas Special, we all have our own unique pop Pensieve to draw from. Songs become unavoidably entangled in real life. The memories I have of Paris will always relate to Rufus Wainwright’s “Foolish Love”. Just as the words “I’ve had the time of my life and I owe it all to you” causes Patrick Swayze to dirty dance across every 30–year– old woman’s mind, Rufus’ matinee idol charm will always come with a café au lait from a bar just around the cobblestoned corner. It’s the only way I have found to re–experience the true intimacy and raw emotion of the past. Some critics condemn pop culture as the clearest and most obvious sign of society’s demise. However, there is more to it than just cheesy lyrics, bubble gum beats, and guitar riffs. With pop we can construct our own grade–five memory capsule, burying it in the back of our minds for a rainy day. As far as I can see, there is a four–year–old–Michael–Jordan’s worth of potential for every song we hear to bookmark a time in our lives. Many people claim they can remember exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated and Ashlee Simpson was caught lip–synching. That’s all well and good, but I can recall in full screen, video–montage format, the moments that have molded my life. Just skip to the Blue Album’s fifth track, and I’ve got two weeks’ worth of blush–worthy memories to prove it.
Past incite 23
The heat and the Harbour Front (In retrospect)
In the sun reﬂected oﬀ the harbour front your hair gel melds with sweat on (I want to kiss) your forehead (and rest my palm on) your neck
sulk and sink into the wet front seat In tandem we try to steer the still shallow waters of green brown green blink and the water is a still white sheet
With your Hebrew tongue you curse the sun reﬂected oﬀ the harbour front and rest on the bleached blistered bench in the black pool of a maple (wishing for palm or olive branches)
We tear at it with staggered strokes out of synch
At your burning feet crippled gulls ask for oﬀerings from your tensing, ﬂexing empty hands (that I see but don’t bother to hold) I stand at ease and watch your back and wait for your (shoulders to fall but they never do) reluctant consent We buy four paddling hours in a blue tandem kayak to navigate the harbour that reﬂects the cursed sun Your (familiar) ﬁngers zip and tighten my orange life vest (before your own) and in buoyant armour we heave our kayak and walk the sloped slats of the plank to posit our vessel You assume stern And (secretly grateful) I take oﬀense at the inequity ﬂex my bicep
Kayak pointed west we both face front You ask my hot scalp to stop splashing while I curse (you) the horizon too hateful to face you or too lazy to turn around You lead us to an inlet where bushes, reeds, bull-rushes blot the ferries and yachts and “Lady Anne of the Sea”s And you, the (soft and forgiving) stern-man ask me to be still My beating paddle pauses but too impatient for the water to heal resumes its deﬁant strokes and steers our tandem vessel toward an outlet from the inlet Enter the beat of foreign strokes A man and woman face to face in a scrappy row-boat steer along side us “Mate, you’re doing it all wrong!” And she smiles and steadies their boat as his outstretched arm oﬀers us his card that we lose somewhere at sea.
By Rivka Birkan
G RAPHIC BY ERIN G IROUX