incite How Green is Mac? Studying Stimulants Defying the Israeli Defense Force
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“Petal Nova” by Randall Lau
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ver since I was thirteen and learned about Médecins Sans Frontières I wanted to be one of them. I imagined myself flying into war zones and performing surgery amidst gunfire, an altruistic hero doing her best to help those in need. Although my focus shifted from stitching wounds to studying development theory, I maintained a belief that my education and drive could be put to work for the good of the internationally disadvantaged. I believed in giving to charity. I believed that the work of NGOs, CIDA, and the UN would fix global problems. If I joined them and went to benefit concerts and bought the white bracelet I could be a part of the solution. Religion wasn’t my thing; it was the notion of development that encompassed enough mystery, goodness, and hope for me to place my trust in something larger and better than myself. But I’ve lost my faith. I don’t know what or where development is anymore. Still worse, I don’t know if I, or even my heroes at MSF, can ever find and foster it. I was listening to Stephen Lewis passionately entreat the Canadian government to fulfill its development assistance commitments when I suddenly realized that I didn’t think any of it would
work. Even if Canada paid up, which is unlikely in itself, the money would be far too little, far too late, and the wrong response altogether. Raising money and turning it into good things such as water, medicine, and food in poor countries undoubtedly saves and improves lives. But it also perpetuates a world system where life, death, water, medicine, and food is rationed out at the whim of the rich. If Canada gives that promised 0.7 percent gross national income with one hand, it is only because it took far more through a violent history and unfair trade practices with the other. Charitable donations to international development projects flow from us, the rich, to them, the poor. They are gifts, not taxes. There is no entitlement and obligation. When we give, as individuals or as a country, it is because we can and we feel like it. Similarly, we can change our minds and stop feeling like it. We can control the way our money is used. And while we have no economic vested interest in improving the lives of people over there, we do have a vested interest in maintaining the larger global structure that keeps us in power. I thought of development as a long process of helping the third world grow to look more like us. The higher the GDP, the better. The more industry, the better. The more trade, the better. But
Editing and Production Co–ordinator Kerry Scott Editors Samantha Green Rob Lederer Kate MacKeracher Jacob Stewart–Ornstein Layout Co–ordinator Sylvia Andreae Graphics Co–ordinator Erin Giroux Graphics and Layout Emma Genovese Boram Ham Randall Lau Sara Law Anne van Koeverden Andrew Mok André Oliveira Steve White Contributors Muneeb Ansari Andrew Carreiro Saurabh Chitnis Jeanette Eby Ben Freeman Robyn Guyatt Rahim Jamal Laura Kieft Elaine Logie Emma Love Laura McGhie Ana Nikolic Meaghan Smith Maria Trimble Siva Vijenthira Catherine M.A. Weibe
now I don’t think so. If the west says it has set out to help the poor countries grow into little models of itself, it is probably lying and definitely doomed to fail. I don’t think we actually want the poor to live like us. We need their poverty to support our affluence. We need some people to use two liters of water a day so we can use 100. We need someone to work for low wages so we can buy what we want. If there is such a thing as “developed,” a place that prospers amidst poverty certainly doesn’t seem to have attained it. Development isn’t hanging out in Canada and avoiding Zambia. We Canadians don’t know how to make compassionate policies, treat each other with respect, and reverse a legacy of colonial violence any more innately than the next country. Despite rhetoric and funding efforts from genuine to mediocre, there are still thousands of Indigenous peoples in Canada living in conditions so terrible and grappling with a history so brutal that their suicide and substance abuse rates soar above the national average. I don’t see how the people who most benefit from the spoils of colonialization can be the ones to reverse its effects. But those who suffer because of this system haven’t had much luck changing it either, despite aid money. So why all the charity? Perhaps we are trying to convince
6 Searching for Sustainability 12 Unravelling the Hour 16 Defying the Israeli Defense Force 18 Boxing Daze 21 Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. 24 Whose Tube? 25 Resurrecting the Christian Left? 28 Dictionary of Loss McMaster’s shameful environmental practices Musings on time
Incite talks to Jonathan Ben-Artzi
Shopping with the Jamals In Memoriam
Assistant Editors Erin Dunham
Activism on YouTube
Printing Hamilton Web Printing
Impact Youth Publications 97 Sterling Hamilton, ON L8S 4J3 email@example.com http://www.incitemagazine.ca 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 2006–2007 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.
ourselves—and the global poor—that famines, despair, civil wars, and sweatshops are peculiarities not inevitabilities of a flawed system. Perhaps we’re trying to take down the house from within: a microcredit system here and a school there, until—bam—trade benefits and resource allocation have evened out. Perhaps we’re choosing the lesser of two evils: inaction to perpetuate the system or flawed action to perpetuate the system. Decades of charity have largely succeeded in keeping the poor dependent on the west’s trendy theories, sexy campaigns, and fickle pity. The development depicted in glossy brochures with smiling children and newly dug wells is a false religion, nothing but a myth that keeps us satisfied with tiny improvements amid massive failures. But the evaporation of old beliefs creates space for new ideas. Maybe losing faith in today’s flawed version of development will enable us to see something new and better. I’m a little concerned that what we find won’t be particularly clear or easily achieved. It will likely ask uncomfortable questions about how much the rich are willing to give up for social justice. But at least it will offer a glimpse of a place where sustainability and justice in one place don’t come at the expense or behest of another.
Cover by André Oliveira
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Happenings: News from Near and Far Wanderings: Hamilton Landmarks Column: Digitize me, Captain Letter From Cuba Column: Pop
MINUTES FROM LAST MONTH selected news from near and far
You Are Here
Sealand Welcomes You
Racking up the red stuff McMaster is one of five Canadian universities participating in the first nation–wide blood donor challenge for Canadian Blood Services. The challenge, “Blood 101: Canadian Students Saving Lives”, takes place from 8 January to 14 February. It is a friendly competition; the winner will have the privilege of bragging rights. McMaster is ambitiously striving to donate 440 units of blood by 14 February. One unit of blood can help save up to three lives. Students donated 119 units of blood at the first donor clinic of the competition on 9 January. Two additional clinics were held in the month of January, and the final clinic will be in CIBC Hall on February 13th. To donate, call 1-888-2-DONATE and book an appointment to help McMaster and Canadian Blood Services save lives.
Galaxy Quest! The William J. McCallion Planetarium is McMaster’s exciting but underused room that lets us explore our surrounding solar system. The Planetarium is located in the basement of the Burke Science Building, and offers public viewings biweekly, usually on Wednes-
inside the bubble day evenings. There are three different viewing times, 6:45, 8:00, and 9:15. In February and March there is much to explore. On Thursday, 8 February the Planetarium will give a show on Extrasolar Planets and Extraterrestrials. You can also catch Stellar Life and Death on 21 February, Galaxies on 7 March, and the Final Fate of the Earth on 21 March. Viewings are $3.00 per person; to reserve seats call 905-5259140 ext. 27777 or reserve online at http://www.physics.mcmaster.ca/planetarium/index.html. This site also provides additional history and information about the Planetarium as well as a full schedule of public showings.
Fun–raising? The province has gone head–to–head with universities for years about funding, often leaving DeGroote to swoop in to save the day. Now in search of different names for future buildings, Peter George has assembled a fundraising campaign “cabinet executive” led by Ron Joyce. Members include the presidents or CFOs of MacKenzie Financial, Lakeport Brewing, Corel, Xerox, Audcomp, and BMO Financial, plus Canada’s new Consul General in New York. We look forward to the
Lakeport Engineering Building, with walls made of recycled bottles and a fountain of cheap beer.
We all want to change the world The Global Citizenship Conference is happening again at McMaster, from 2–4 March in MDCL. Last year’s keynote speakers included Stephen Lewis and George Roter, the co-founder of Engineers Without Borders; this year, rumours suggest that David Suzuki could make an appearance. GCC organizers declined to comment, but the odds are looking good. The theme of this year’s conference is “Visions into Actions”. The lectures, workshops, and panel debates are all led by professors, community leaders, and Mac clubs and will focus on creating and implementing ideas for global change. Other events of interest will be the “Aladdininspired” marketplace and a recreated refugee camp in the MDCL Atrium. Registration can be completed online at http://www.mcmaster.ca/gcc/.
have a long history of bringing the latest and greatest theatre productions to Robinson Memorial Theatre. This year they have upped the ante with a change in name and a change in direction. The graduating class of Theatre and Film are now collaboratively tackling all aspects of stage craft by both writing and directing their own plays in what is now called The Honours Performance Series (formerly known as the Directors’ Series). If the fall’s Major Production “In the Kitchen” is any indicator, the new approach will prove to be a winning combination. McMaster students can now create dynamic theatre that truly reflects the more important nuances of student life. The Honours Performance Series is comprised of six plays that kick off 1 February with Fault Lines, written and directed by Heather Hogan, Nicole Redmond, and Ciara Murphy. Performances take place from 1 February until 17 March in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103) at 8 PM. For more information and show times check out http://sota. mcmaster.ca/theatrefilm.
With honours… In McMaster University’s School of the Arts, Theatre and Film students
Compiled by Jeanette Eby, Elaine Logie, and Siva Vijenthira
in canada... Not your regular dispatch EDMONTON—Edmonton paramedics were taken by surprise by a call this New Year’s Eve. While answering a drug overdose call, they left the the ambulance idling on the roadside. The 45–year–old man they came to help jumped into the cab of the ambulance and sped away with the lights flashing and sirens wailing. Police and officers from a nearby military base followed the man’s erratic drive across the city. After the man crashed the ambulance in a snowy field, a police helicopter followed his trek across the field. Following a long and complex search, a police dog and his handler finally caught up with the man and made the arrest.
Big Brother is watching… YOUR WALLET—They’re everywhere, watching you—even in side your money. The US Defense Department has issued a warning to classified contractors from the Pentagon to beware of the Canadian
coins they have in their possession. The US reports finding Canadian coins with radio frequency transmitters inside them planted on their highly classified workers between October 2005 and January 2006. The US believes either China, Russia, or France planted the coins, as all these countries are known to run sophisticated espionage outfits from inside Canada. Canada itself is not suspected, as the CIA and CSIS work closely together. The report doesn’t explain why anyone would be tracking the contractors, and experts say that the transmitters could only have a range of a few feet because they are so small. Tracking a person by means of a coin is particularly risky, as it has a high probability of changing hands. The CIA admits to using hollow US–dollar coins to hide messages and film.
Fake java? COFFEE CUPS—When we think of fake, we’re more likely to think of a Louis Vuitton bag purchased from a street vendor in some dark alley
in the Bronx than a cup of coffee. But, according to TransFair, the Canadian fair trade certification body, over 450 000 pounds of coffee marketed as fair trade in Canada is uncertified, and is essentially “fake” fair trade coffee. The federal government can charge a fine of up to $50 000 for tampering with certification labels. However, the federal government has not intervened, as there is no official definition of fair trade coffee.
Clean means to an unclean end ALBERTA—Alberta Energy and a number of oil corporations have proposed building a CANDU nuclear plant to power oil extraction from the Alberta Tar Sands. Currently the operation expends large quantities of cleaner-burning natural gas in extracting “dirty” oil. With the charming spectacle of George W. Bush and Stephen Harper madly scrambling to acquire climate change street cred, nuclear’s greenhouse–gas–free power could give Albertan oil companies— which are, after all, in the business
of selling one of the chief sources of CO2—a pleasantly greenwashed image. Concerns about the plant’s projected consumption of Alberta’s already–depleted lakes and rivers may present a slight hitch in this deep ecological vision.
Homeward bound MIDAIR—They check carry–on luggage for any liquid substances, but what about poisonous animals? A man on a flight from Miami to Toronto was stung by a scorpion that had hidden itself in his carry–on backpack. He was returning from a camping trip in Costa Rica, which was probably where the scorpion hitched a ride. The flight was delayed as Toronto airport officials searched for more stowaway arachnids. The man reported feeling some numbness and was treated by paramedics before being sent to the hospital. Where’s Samuel L. Jackson when you need him? Compiled by Laura Kieft, Kate MacKeracher, and Ana Nikolic
...and around the world iQuit UNITED KINGDOM—The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently unveiled a plan to reward junkies for kicking their drug habit. Prizes awarded to the newly drug–free will include iPods, television sets, and various shopping vouchers, and will get better and better the longer the individual stays clean. This decision comes only three months after the organization deemed £2.50 a day Alzheimer’s medication too pricey to be covered by the National Health Service. While NICE proclaims to have found an effective way to fight drug abuse, many people see flaws in the proposed program. A major criticism is that rewards and abstinence programs do not fight the complex psychological issues surrounding addiction. Others fear that people will find a way to trick drug testing, done through urine tests.
up young German citizens for rent in potential protests, along with cars and holiday homes. Each protester comes with a complete physical description, and even the distance that he is willing to be deployed. For around 150 Euros, approximately CDN$225, you can hire one of over 300 would–be protesters.
Snakes in an orchard MALAYSIA—Over a span of three months, 11 guard dogs disappeared from the Malaysian village of Kampung Pogoh. It turns out the pooches, on watch for thieves at their owner’s mango orchard, had been devoured by a 25–foot python. The reptile, big enough to swallow a dog in one piece, was discovered near a river’s edge close to where the dogs disappeared. It was captured by wildlife officials and released far away from the village. Let’s hope that they didn’t bring it as far as Westdale!
Buy your own protester online! Pirates of the North Sea ONLINE—Protesting isn’t only about effecting change; it has also become a great way to make a few extra bucks. Recently, internet ads have been circulated offering
SEALAND—The Pirate Bay, the world’s largest bit torrent server, perpetually comes into conflict with international copyright laws. The Motion Picture Association of
America, the Swedish Anti–Piracy Bureau, and the US government have all petitioned to shutdown the Swedish–based file sharing website. The Pirate Bay’s solution? Buy a small country, of course! The website’s owners have begun a campaign to purchase Sealand, population 10; not to be confused with “Marineland”, Sealand is a naval platform just seven miles off the coast of southern Britain. It has been put on the market by Prince Michael, whose father originally claimed the land’s sovereignty and began issuing passports and Sealand dollars in 1967. If the Pirate Bay cannot fork over the estimated £504 million required to purchase the micro–nation, the website’s owners have decided to look at other options—that is, other nations. Dear Pirate Bay: I’ve got a sweet basement apartment with free wireless Internet, and rent’s only a cool million.
Getting ahead in the dating game NEW YORK—Savvy singles know that dating in New York is a tricky, often perilous matter. After all, you never know if that gorgeous blonde you met online is really a Harvard graduate and lawyer at a top–tier
law firm, or a washed up local performance artist–turned–golddigger. Thankfully, there’s a solution to this problem: you can hire a private eye to find out more than you ever wanted to know about your date. Companies such as Intelius run thorough background checks for avid daters; in fact, 38 percent of their clients are singles. So, if you are having doubts about that blind date and have money to spare, background checks are the way to go!
Sweden to establish virtual embassy E–SWEDEN—The Swedish government recently announced a plan to establish an official embassy in the online virtual–reality game Second Life. This move will make Sweden the first country to establish an official embassy in the game. Second Life has rapidly increased in popularity, and now boasts nearly three million users. In addition to the embassy, the Swedish Institute also plans to purchase an island to help Swedish businesses establish a presence in the online world. Compiled by Rob Lederer, Ana Nikolic, and Meaghan Smith
Searching F r Sustainability Incite’s Kerry Scott exposes McMaster’s shameful environmental practices
nless you attended a one–room schoolhouse, remember calling a strap–wielding spinster Missis, and jammed to a gramophone, odds are you associate the 3Rs with blue bins and Captain Planet rather than a terrifying curriculum of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Those Earth Day assemblies in elementary school did more than cut into Social Studies time. Most of us know that the way to fresh air, liquor store refunds, plastic lumber, and eternal salvation is through the glory that is reducing, reusing, and recycling. It’s also pretty clear that reading, writing, and arithmetic is the lamer of the two alliterations. Times have changed and I’m not afraid to point out that there are only two words there that sound like they start with an “r” and only one that actually does. Yet if you take a close look around the many–roomed schoolhouse we now know and love, you may start to wonder who missed the environmental memo. While McMaster hasn’t brought back the strap, it appears that we spend our days on a campus that has picked the old three Rs over the new. Sure, becoming really good at reading, writing, and counting is a good idea, especially since McMaster insists that it’s producing the innovative, responsible leaders of tomorrow. Even if the lofty rhetoric is as embarrassing as a boastful parent at an office party, most of us are here because we believe it. Whether we’re wearing pajama pants or pinstripes, getting a university education is smoothing a path towards higher earnings and decision–making power in our futures. The problem is that without the new 3Rs—the ones that suggest Nalgenes are as important as notebooks—I’m a little afraid of what the leaders McMaster spews from the formidable oak doors of Con Hall will do to the planet Alongside facts, equations, theories, and techniques, McMaster is teaching us that it’s absolutely acceptable to tackle the world’s problems in the classroom and exacerbate them in the cafeteria. When we finish lamenting global warming and cursing America’s war over oil, we walk to the MUSC and eat lunch out of Styrofoam with a plastic fork. As we learn to write lab reports, we also learn that disposable coffee cups are costless since there is no extra charge for them at La Piazza. By the time we’re finished first year we know it’s okay to live in residences where toxic waste gets thrown in the garbage on a regular basis. We quickly understand that conserving paper is as unnecessary as reading endnotes and that bottled water is as wonderful as Wikipedia. Three days a week in BSB/109, we listen to our ethics prof (who will remain nameless) lecture about social responsibility and then watch him throw his pop can in the garbage on the way out the door. Expecting theoretical excellence in the classroom and practical mediocrity in the hallway teaches us that value can be expressed in GPA and not in responsible day–to–day action. No one ever got an A in Engineering and Society for bringing her own mug to Union Market. Creepy as it sounds, a university serves as a big human training facility, a continuous experiment in the creation of social norms. We’re attending the ultimate of prep schools, a place that teaches the future elites to meet deadlines, shake hands nicely, and run the world. The risk is that we may just be the ones who run this world into the ground. ra p
Gettin’ hot in here
The scale and speed of climate change, air and water pollution, soil erosion, toxin and greenhouse gas emission, and natural resource depletion is unprecedented. Aquifers are dropping, species are disappearing, cancer rates are rising. From plastic water bottles to first cars, our lifestyles demand a constant input of mass amounts of oil. The global supply won’t last forever, and our efforts to help use it up are setting the planet on simmer. And we know we’re in trouble: in a 2007 Incite poll of over 200 McMaster community members, 90 percent of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat concerned about the current state of the environment. It may not be Canadians who suffer first from rising oceans and increasingly severe weather; we have the resources to evacuate communities and fix infrastructure that places such as Bangladesh simply don’t. But the developed world can’t separate itself forever from the environmental problems it creates. On 17 January 2007, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock from seven to five minutes before midnight. This countdown won’t end with champagne and a sloppy kiss—12 o’clock AM represents the figurative end of civilization. The BAS Board of Directors and Board of Sponsors, which includes Stephen Hawking among its 18 Nobel Laureates, stated that their decision to adjust the clock reflects concern over the interplay between the problems posed by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis. The clock hasn’t been set this close to midnight since the height of the arms race during the Cold War.
Reforming U of Greedy
In 1990, a group of university administrators got together in Talloires, France to address the relationship between environmental degradation and university education. They recognized that “universities have a major role in the education, research, policy formation, and information exchange necessary to make [environmental sustainability] goals possible” and drafted a ten–point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities. This document, called the Talloires Declaration, has been signed by over 300 university presidents and chancellors in over 40 countries. On the signatory list you’ll find universities from Argentina to Zimbabwe, including the University of Melbourne, the People’s University of China, the University of New Dehli, and Brown University. Twenty–four Canadian universities have joined, including Carlton, Dal, McGill, Ryerson, UBC, Guelph, Simon Fraser, U Vic, Ottawa, Western, Windsor, and York. Despite McMaster’s notable absence from the Declaration, our campus has become increasingly sustainable and environmentally progressive over the past 15 years. In 2005, McMaster announced a building policy that seeks to improve the sustainability of campus construction projects. All renovations and new buildings on campus have to meet or exceed the silver level rating of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The LEED rating system assesses the environmental sustainability of buildings,
from the flooring materials to lighting systems to use of energy efficient technologies. Don’t worry, just as LEED certification approves naturally renewable wood product like bamboo, big metal statues of philanthropists also make the cut. Phewff. McMaster deserves another nod for proactively retrofitting most older buildings on campus, through the Campus Renewal Partnership. This initiative has reduced campus energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 percent by adopting more efficient heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Residence buildings are now able to recycle fine paper and the three gazillion pizza boxes that get delivered post–Quarters. Bins for cans and bottles, newspaper, and waste are prominent throughout campus. The kindergartener in all of us can get a rush when we match the cylindrical pop can to the circular hole and the long, skinny newspaper to the long, skinny slot. The Alternative Commuting & Transit (ACT) office has increased GO bus usage by over 200 percent and has developed impressive carpooling incentives. Even the plants on campus have gotten “greener”—we’re now choosing more native species and using less fertilizer and pesticide.
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Unfortunately, for every improvement in sustainability, there are a plethora of unacceptable shortcomings—and many are as entrenched in university life as the Willy–Dog cart. Let’s begin with garbage. We have structured a campus that revolves around disposability. You cannot avoid leaving a trail of plastic behind after a meal in the MUSC, but it didn’t have to be that way. When the building was being planned, there was a push to have an enclosed eating area where ceramic dishes and metal utensils could be used. Silly hippies, didn’t they know that building a dishwashing facility and buying durable, reusable dishes is expensive? Plastic and paper are cheap and make everyone happy. The expenses associated with reusable dishes, cups, and cutlery are primarily up front; instead of biting that bullet, McMaster now pays Waste Services Inc (WSI) a hefty price per ton of waste trucked away. Over time, the initial cost of sustainability may not seem so high. And when you consider that it takes 2.26 kilograms of fossil oil to make one kilogram of Styrofoam, and that each container will sit in a landfill for 20,000 years, it’s hard to understand how a campus that claims to be environmentally progressive could possibly support its use. Campaigning to switch to “greener” synthetic take–out materials is pretty much a waste of time. Contrary to widespread belief that biodegradable polymers are a sustainable way to throw out whatever you want, Dr. Tillman Gerngross in Nature Biotechnology explains that they actually require 22 percent more steam, 19–fold more electricity, and seven–fold Ko ev more water than a conventional process for producer de n ing Styrofoam. Not to be a Pollyanna, but there is a plus side to all this garbage. Not only might it provide cool petrified artifacts in excavation sites for curious aliens in thousands of years, but it’s also keeping WSI in the black. Why should we care about the financial health of a faceless corporation when it comes at the cost of our planet? WSI is directed by none other than our favourite patron’s son, a Mr. Gary W. DeGroote. If Gary’s happy with McMaster, maybe Michael G. will be too. The MUSC isn’t a relic of a bygone age of innocence, when mullets were cool, oil supplies were endless, and oceans were big enough to dilute anything. This year our Centre will celebrate its fifth birthday, unable to claim anything but insanity for its destructive habits. It’s hard to reform a monument to garbage after the fact. Instead it’s up to us to demand structurally sustainable building projects for the future and make the best of a bad situation. And guess what? The new 40 000 square foot, three–story Engineering Building that McMaster is planning to build may just become another garbage factory. Linda Axford, McMaster’s Campus Planner, says although she would “kill to be able to say it’s only china in there…the people in Hospitality say it’s too expensive.” Moreover, students could, at one time, use Tupperware at food outlets by
across campus. (Tupperware is almost universally accepted at food outlets at other Ontario and Canadian campuses.) In September 2003, McMaster decided that Hospitality staff could no longer serve food directly into Tupperware, ostensibly for “health” reasons—a microbe from one student’s poorly washed container could make its way, via a serving spoon, into another student’s dish. There must be a simple solution; the university could provide sanitation stations for Tupperware or Hospitality staff could wash and replace serving spoons more often. Neither staff nor students are investigating. Grabbing a cup of coffee on campus is like a ritualistic exercise in maximizing waste production. The waxed paper cup, heavy insulating sleeve, plastic lid, sugar packets, milk carton, and stir stick enjoy a few fleeting minutes of fame before finding their way into a garbage can. Even if only 10 percent of people at McMaster buy a hot drink in a disposable cup each school day, McMaster would use over 1.5 million cups per academic year. From harvesting trees, processing pulp, bleaching, adding adhesive, making the lids out of oil, and driving all of the components to campus in transport trucks and away from campus in garbage trucks, the energy used and amount of greenhouse gases emitted for the sake of our daily caffeine hits is atrocious. Reusable mugs should be a given, not the conspicuous mark of a lonely Peace Studies student. As it is today, almost half of those surveyed by Incite reported that they never used a reusable mug, while only 10 percent said they did so on a regular basis. How, you may ask, do we reduce the use of disposable coffee cups? Odds are you already know the answer. Over 80 percent of those surveyed on campus said that they would use a reusable mug if offered a small discount for doing so. The posted price of coffee throughout campus should assume the use of a travel mug— and the extra cost of using a disposable one should be significant enough for people to notice the difference. The profit made from charging extra for a paper cup (and sleeve and plastic lid) can go towards keeping the price of caffeine reasonable for the conscientious coffee drinker—the one with the reusable mug. McMaster Hospitality and Union Market are able to adjust their prices to respond to the demands of the student body, but would be committing a capitalist’s sin to do so without a guarantee that Tim Hortons and Williams take similar steps. Unfortunately, despite their homely names, Timmy’s and Will’s are big corporations whose outlets follow centralized policy, and their executives are more likely to wear Armani loafers than Birkenstocks. It should be simple: if they want to make a profit on our campus they should have to play by our rules. In reality, it will probably take a national, multi– campus effort to convince the biggest players to adjust their prices to reflect their products’ true environmental costs.
Blue bin blues
Like a typical youngest child, recycling is the cute, attention–loving sibling in the 3R family. Even the curmudgeonly history professor will eventually come to love the bright and friendly little blue box—and for good reason. Recycling is the easiest way to reduce one’s contribution to filling dumps and draining the earth of vital resources. In places such as the MUSC, where waste reduction is impossible, comprehensive recycling can cut the damage of our shortsighted design. Linda Axford, McMaster Campus Planner, points out a more direct benefit to on–campus recycling: “We pay the [waste disposal] contractor by tonnage so we don’t pay for things that are in recycling.” The campus community seems willing to recycle when presented with a convenient, straightforward way to do so. If you’re not afraid to appear a bit crazy, take a look inside the garbages and recycling bins around campus. It doesn’t take long to see a pattern: when clearly marked and located in a row, bins for cans and bottles, newspaper, and waste are usually used correctly. But a garbage can without a recycling bin will end up full of recyclables and a recycling bin standing alone will last about as long as a
virgin in a whorehouse. If a recycling bin is more than 10 percent contaminated with non–recyclables, the entire thing must be treated as waste. Even with the best intentions and convenient facilities, a lot of us do more harm than good when we pick a slot for our junk. While over 90 percent of those surveyed felt recycling was very or somewhat important, only 12 percent actually knew what was recyclable on campus. Milk cartons and coffee cups—neither of which are recyclable at Mac—were among the worst culprits, despite MACgreen’s colourful poster campaign. Are we all naïve idealists, unable to admit to ourselves that Styrofoam and paper cups are not, in fact, recyclable? Are we just really stupid, thwarting the university’s attempts at recycling with our dogged refusal to abandon all preconceived notions? Not at all. We are merely doing what we know within the confines of an impractical, flawed system. Whether you commute from Toronto or walk to campus from Westdale, municipal recycling systems are miles ahead of McMaster. McMaster’s contract with WSI was renewed in 2003 under the terms that they collect, remove, and recycle plastics 1 and 2 and paper. The City of Hamilton recycling handles plastics 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, as well as paper, milk cartons, Styrofoam, and Tetrapaks, and the City’s Green Cart program takes coffee cups in with the organic waste. No wonder McMaster staff and students are profoundly confused. A university should be a progressive social force, yet McMaster is spending four years trying to teach us to recycle less. Andrew Cooper, 2004–06 McMaster Environmental Assistant, explains, “Is it easier to try to teach people about a system that doesn’t match what they know, or is it easier to match the system? In an ideal situation, if we could start tomorrow collecting everything the City does, it would be fantastic. We would never have to spend a dollar on training people—the City would do all the training for us.” When WSI’s contract comes up, it’s time to step up our demands. The supplied recycling facilities will never improve if we don’t ask that they do. If WSI can’t match the City’s recycling program then we’ll just have to find someone else.
They keep going, and going, and…
Like the Vodka Redbull that keeps you partying all night and aching all morning, batteries can morph from friend to foe in a snap. They’re your best friend while they power your MP3 player, calculator, laptop, cell phone, and toys, but can do some serious damage when they’ve had enough. The list of metals and acids inside a battery is a like a CHEM 1A03 review: lead dioxide, metallic lead, sulfuric acid, potassium hydroxide, mercury, silver oxide, sodium hydroxide, lithium, cadmium, nickel,
An idiot’s guide to an idiotic system
1) Disposable coffee cups are NOT recyclable. Neither are the plastic lids. Off campus the cups can be composted in the Green Cart and the lids can be recycled in the Blue Box. But not on campus. 2) Of the 220 McMaster students and staff surveyed, 14 percent always put their disposable coffee cups in the recycling bin and 40 percent often, sometimes, or rarely do. DON’T BE ONE OF THEM! 3) The following are also NOT recyclable on campus: Plastic bags, Styrofoam, straws, milk cartons, bottles or cans with water or juice still in them (just pour it out). 4) Pizza boxes ARE recyclable, but not if there’s pizza still in them. 5) Mac still doesn’t have an official policy on double siding, but faculty are encouraged to accept assignments printed on both sides of the page and/or without a cover. Make a statement and hand in your next assignment double-sided.
and cobalt. Some are just flammable, but others, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, can leach into soil, air, and water and find their way into your tissue. Municipalities recognize the danger of incinerating or dumping batteries and offer safe disposal services. There is a Household Hazardous Waste Depot in Dundas, only two kilometers from Mac. Unfortunately, because of a series of complications on– and off–campus, the site might as well be in Nunavut. The issue is twofold: first, the Dundas site is for residences, not businesses, so McMaster can’t officially collect and send batteries there. Second, the University can’t collect and transport batteries to an appropriate location without hiring a licensed Hazardous Waste transporter, which isn’t in the budget. MACgreen Director Matt Leiss explained that even the McMaster Hospital’s standard practice is “just to throw them in the garbage.” At the end of the day, Mac treats battery waste like it treats the HOG–wild Engineers—it stays nice and quiet and hopes the pesky situation will go away.
From apple cores to used paper towels in washrooms to greasy pizza crusts, McMaster produces a lot of organic waste. In fact, Hamilton researchers suggest that over 40 percent of the waste currently going to landfill could be diverted to composting sites. Matt Leiss points out that Union Market alone produces three black garbage bags of used coffee filters each day. Not only does this organic waste weigh a lot, and hence cost a lot to be taken to the dump by WSI, it would also make rich compost. Union Market offered their coffee–related waste to MACgreen, but Matt was unable to take it since the university currently has no composting program in place. Organic waste, when processed by Hamilton’s Central Composting Facility, is converted into a soil enhancement product that can be used for landscaping. When it doesn’t get composted and sits in landfill sites, organic waste releases dangerous fumes. Environment Canada reports that Canadian landfill sites give off 1.2 million tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere each year. When it comes to warming the globe, methane is 21 times more efficient than carbon dioxide. Canadian landfills ultimately produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than six million cars—or 40 per cent of all the passenger vehicles in the country. Composting is the obvious solution, and it’s time for McMaster to stop dragging its feet. Whether we try composting on–site, contract it out to the City, or find a third party willing to process our guck, we need a focused push for improvement. Even starting small—by confining composting to Hospitality Services kitchen waste or Physical Plant yard waste—would make a dent in McMaster’s waste and greenhouse gas production.
Subsuming the radicals
A significant proportion of McMaster students maintain delusions of grandeur, incorrectly assuming that our recylcing program is capable of handling such items as milk cartons and plastic bags—over 20 percent of us even try to recycle Styrofoam.
MACgreen, born in May 2003, is the tree hugging baby of an environmental orgy that took place at Mac throughout the 1990s. A crowd of clubs, all agitating for different but interrelated green initiatives, were each struggling to find meeting space, raise funds, organize volunteers, select executives, and get anything done. Consolidating all the small clubs of varying degrees of efficiency into a big MSU service was considered the best way to organize and streamline the McMaster environmental movement. With MACgreen, environmentalism has become institutionalized, with a substantial yearly budget, the ability to hire paid staff, an office to keep their plants and Tupperware, and a fairly permanent position in the McMaster machinery. The organization has access to MSU resources such as advertising, computer support, budget–planning assistance, accounting, and staff training. These resources have allowed the service to
get a lot done in the past three years: they run do–it–yourself workshops, a successful reusable dishes loan program for on–campus meetings, a biannual Cootes clean–up, an annual “stuff–exchange”, and they greet the incoming first years with travel mugs, bike and transit maps, and campus environmental information. MACgreen is also behind the current sustainability assessment coordinated by Sarah Baker, which will use 171 quantitative criteria to determine how the campus is doing in terms of social and environmental action. For all that McMaster has gained through institutionalizing environmentalism, we’ve managed to lose an important part of the very movement we were trying to strengthen. MACgreen is not an advocacy group, they are a service of the Student Union. As Matt explains, “We [MACgreen] try to get the administration to work with us and tell us where they stand on issues and where MACgreen may be able to make positive suggestions. But there’s no way we can tell them to do something and they’ll just do it.” The partnership between MACgreen and McMaster’s admin seems a little too friendly; MACgreen risks throwing away a tolerably productive relationship if they decide to stage a protest or organize a boycott around an issue the administration isn’t interested in addressing. As much as small groups can be inefficient, they can also be passionate, angry, and outspoken. They can get heated about an issue and mobilize more quickly. They don’t have to worry about reporting to the MSU, and, if they piss off the McMaster administration, they don’t have to work with them in other capacities. Additionally, volunteerism declines when students see paid part–timers already working on environmental issues. Once you’ve institutionalized something, it’s easy to feel as though you don’t have to worry about it—now there are people paid to do that. But one director who works full–time in the summer and part–time with three others during the school year can’t be the voice of an entire student body. Unfortunately, at this point, they essentially are.
Empowered to death
The administration has chanted the mantra of student empowerment for so long that it has become our undoing. Now us students are not just empowered, we’re to blame. Want better recycling, a composting program, and battery collection? Well stop complaining, contact the involved parties,
write a 30 page report, and conduct an exhaustive study to prove that the whole thing will work. What do you mean you have to study for Econ?! The problem is that by the time most of us notice there’s something wrong, we’re in third year, and by the time we understand the system well enough to set about fixing it, we’re being handed a degree and herded out of Con Hall. An organic body that replaces itself completely every four years cannot be expected to lobby for substantive structural change in a place as bureaucratic and complex as McMaster. The solution for this wheezy, wasteful campus is a permanent sustainability office with permanent full time staff that can start an initiative now and see it through for the next seven years. As Sarah Baker found while trying to organize the sustainability assessment, the lag time between asking the administration for information and actually getting it can eat up a school term faster than ebaulmsworld. com. UBC, the shining beacon of hope to university environmentalists everywhere, has a staff of four full–time and three part–time employees in their spectacular sustainability office. Their office is completely funded by savings from their energy reduction and conservation programs. Linda Axford supports the idea, saying that she “would kill for a sustainability office” at McMaster. But in the next breath she backtracks, reminding me that “there just isn’t a budget.” She further explains that not only is getting a sustainability office about “finding the time to go out there and organize it …it’s also about the space they occupy on campus, their office, their benefits…and faculty priorities.” But hang on McMaster, didn’t Standard and Poor’s just release a financial analysis of the university that ranked it “AA”, or financially stable? And Linda, didn’t you just say that a sustainability office “would be a huge savings and any money that it costs we would save [through waste and energy conservation such that] we could cover the payments of it”? Until the students get organized enough to push for a sustainability office, it looks like we’ll have to keep fumbling the torch of environmentalism from year to year. And what about composting? Axford tells me that an Engineering grad student named Mark is looking into it. But he hasn’t gotten back to her yet.
Everybody and nobody
Transforming Mac from a brown wasteland to a green field of hemp and daisies requires commitment, organization, and effort at the administraI should have gone to UBC tive level. While the suits deserve our UBC was Canada’s first university to adopt a sustainable development polprops for initiatives such as ACT and icy and remain the most progressive. Since they started counting in 1999, their LEED there is so much more to be done. campus sustainability office has saved 81 million sheets of paper, 9 billion Linda Axford is as pro–sustainability as litres of water, and almost $15 million. Among many environmental programs, the next person and believes heartily the Fisher Scientific Fund offers students, staff, and faculty $15 000 in yearly that “recycling is the right thing to do.” grants to pursue projects that offer creative solutions to sustainability concerns Yet she is already so busy overseeing specific to UBC. all physical aspects of the campus from The University of Guelph employs a full-time sustainability officer and, in landscaping to maintenance to construc2006, the student body voted to pay a small premium to power their restaurant tion that it shouldn’t be surprising if she and lounge, The Bull Ring, with wind energy. Guelph’s Hospitality Services is hesitant to add the creation of a susonly charges the price of a small coffee for those with a reusable mug, no mattainability office to her workload. ter how big it is—resulting in up to 43 cents savings per cup. Nonetheless, the massive task of Concordia has built a composting facility capable of processing 24 tons of initiating, coordinating, and assessing organic matter per year and plans to up the capacity to 100 tons over the next the many sustainability initiatives necesfew years. They also have a sustainability office with two full-time staff, which sary to get this campus on track needs to was created as a result of the 2003 sustainability assessment. be taken up by someone. Perhaps we will U of T—sensing a trend?—also has a sustainability office and is currently be able to follow in the footsteps of unilooking into switching campus vehicles to biodiesel, a fuel shown to produce versities such as McGill and Concordia over 70 percent less carbon dioxide emissions. They are also conducting a and use the results of our sustainability greenhouse gas inventory in an effort to ensure the campus meets all the Kyoto assessment to make a case for a sustainProtocol guidelines. ability office. Whether we like it or not, In fact, McGill, U of PEI, Simon Fraser, U of Montreal, U of Toronto at a significant amount of responsibility for Mississauga, U of Ottawa, Trent, U of Manitoba, and U of Winnipeg also the environmental future of this campus have sustainability offices. currently sits like heavy smog on the student body’s shoulders.
Our Trip to Some of Hamilton’s Famous Landmarks
“I am on fire and have dangerous cargo; keep clear”
By Ben Freeman, Robyn Guyatt, and Laura McGhie
hen we were informed of our mission to visit some of Hamilton’s landmarks, our first choice was Griffin House, because it stood out from the long list of restored houses owned by stuffy old men. One of the city’s lesser known museums, it is located in Ancaster and is a tribute to the black slaves who came to the area through the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately for us, Griffin House is only open on holiday Mondays from May to October—only five days a year! Robyn, though, had had the opportunity to visit it for a Grade Seven project and told us that it was little more than a one–room cabin. In its place, we settled on the cultural triumvirate of the Dundas Museum, Dundurn Castle, and the Hamilton Military Museum. Finally, a day spent visiting Hamilton’s landmarks would not be complete without a visit to Hutch’s, a restaurant on the Bay famed for its fish and chips. We embarked on our cultural journey on a snowy Sunday afternoon, driving west on Cootes Drive towards our first stop: the Dundas Museum. Founded in 1956, the museum focuses on the history of Dundas, which existed as a separate municipality until its amalgamation with Hamilton in 2001. The museum also describes the region’s history before human settlement, going back as far as 150 million years. In fact, there is even a rock on display from that era, which may be “gently touched” by museum patrons, an opportunity we found impossible to pass up. The museum was empty when we arrived, save for a few volunteers, whose average age was probably 60 years. We thought better of asking whether they were some of Dundas’s founding inhabitants. One of these volunteers—a friendly septuagenarian—showed us around the museum and commented on the displays. The museum’s first room focused on the founding of Dundas and contained artefacts belonging to some of the community’s first inhabitants. Here we saw Indigenous artefacts and the cradle of Ann Morden, who moved to Dundas with her family in the nineteenth century. In the next room, we found one of the museum’s highlights: a scale model of Dundas’s Desjardins canal, which turned the town into an important port during the mid–nineteenth century. After this area, however, the museum seemed to lose what little historical narrative it had. Instead, displays started to focus on the stories of select locals, such as former NHLer Tim Bothwell who apparently “lived the Canadian dream.” This shift was even more pronounced in the museum’s other main room, which seemed to largely consist of random objects loosely connected to Dundas’s past (and some appeared to fail even this criterion). These bizarre objects included two dollhouses—one of which was a scale model of a Hamilton (as opposed to Dundas) home, a doll with a coat made entirely of buttons, and an intriguing cone–shaped object called a “bee skep.” We were disappointed to discover that a “bee skep” was simply an old–fashioned beehive. The strangest item on display, however, was a large metallic urn, which may have been a funeral urn and possibly still contained ashes. Fortunately though, it was not all downhill. Before leaving, we returned to the first room and saw the most entertaining part of the museum. After learning that “fire, like the Grim Reaper, is no respecter of people or buildings, unless the latter be of the fireproof kind, none of which, unfortunately, exists in Dundas,” we were drawn to a number of early newspaper quotations painted on the wall. The strangest of these told the story of Ed Collins and Jimmey McMahon, who, while on their way home from a fishing trip, had “a three pound pike jump into their boat and nearly frighten them to death.” We feel this gives an accurate summary of our experience at the Dundas Museum. On our way to Dundurn Castle, we stopped at what remains today of the Desjardins canal, which was largely filled in to create a park in the 1960s. For Robyn, this site has a more sinister connotation, since it was here that she was viciously mauled by a gaggle of Canada geese (“I was only trying to feed them,” she claims). When we arrived at Dundurn Castle, we were greeted by a man in a fantastic puffy orange shirt. While we waited for our tour to begin, he told us the story of the history of the castle before it was restored over 40 years ago, including the stuffed two–headed calf that was once on display. Laura was very disappointed to find out that the current whereabouts of said calf are unknown. More relevantly, we learned that Dundurn Castle used to be the home of Sir John MacNab, Premier of the United Canadas from 1845 to 1856. Today, the building has been restored to its 1855 condition, when MacNab was at
the height of his career. The tour began with the room that MacNab’s guests would have found most impressive: a bathroom with flush toilet, complete with Hamilton Spectator toilet paper. We were then led to the basement by a McMaster History graduate in costume (our tour guide), where we were shown the servants’ quarters. She and her colleague described an unexpected perk of servant life: a “health drink”, also known as beer, consumed three times a day. Our guide regretfully informed us that beer was only healthier back then because the water was boiled in the brewing process, thus shattering our new healthy diet plans. The highlight of the basement was the cubes of shortbread, which our guide claimed he had prepared earlier, though we remain sceptical. The tour continued on the main floor, where we saw MacNab’s impressively pink drawing room, woodsy smoking room, and study, and the cavernous twenty–four–person dining room. Next door, we were shown how food was transported from the basement kitchen to the main floor via a dumbwaiter (or “dumb waiter” as our witty, albeit pre–teen, fellow tour member suggested). A new tour guide (who happened to be both taller and better) led us upstairs to MacNab’s bathroom, where we gained the greatest insight into his true character. In the mid–nineteenth century, doctors recommended that men take cold baths to keep them tough; MacNab, however, suspiciously bathed next to a stove and a copper cistern. Although he heated his water, MacNab’s heart likely remained cold as death, seeing as he bathed in a sarcophagus–shaped tub. After viewing the bedrooms, we descended the stunning curved staircase and came full–circle to the flush toilet. Exiting the castle, we walked 30 feet across the yard to the Hamilton Military Museum and saw the site where the newly–restored garden can be found during the summer. The Military Museum has two floors; the first is dedicated to the War of 1812 site, while the second focuses on the two World Wars. This site was by far the most interactive of the three museums we visited, offering 1812–style dress–up and a knot–tying station (where we also learned that knots have existed since prehistoric man first tied two vines together). While Laura and Robyn tied knots and modeled the latest British military fashions, Ben was busy building a block fort to repel the Americans and practicing his military strategy through a game of checkers. Needless to say, the Americans did not stand a chance. The staircase to the second floor was covered with propaganda posters, and we were suddenly overwhelmed with the patriotic urge to buy Victory Bonds to help the Canadian war effort. Our impulses were dashed when we realized we had already won the Second World War. Upstairs we discovered more hands–on fun at the bandage station, where we treated Laura’s dislocated shoulder. In the next room, we discovered the language of nautical flags. Our favourite was the J–flag, which apparently means “I am on fire and have dangerous cargo; keep clear.” We could only assume this was a common occurrence on the high seas. We noticed that some of the other flags could also be useful in relationships; such flags included “Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals” (the X–flag) and “I wish to communicate with you” (K–flag). Being a sailor must be a lonely occupation. Our visit to the museum ended with the purchase of some “cartridge candy,” which turned out to be 95 percent powdered sugar and five percent gumball; we also bought two compass rings in case of military–related mishaps. Our final stop of the day, Hutch’s, was recommended by Hamilton food connoisseur Noel Severin Iverson III, who is also a first–year Mac student. Mr. Iverson had informed us that Hutch’s won View Magazine’s award for best fries for the last seven years. We each ordered a small fish and chips; while we waited for our food, we admired the scenery, an autographed picture of Paul Martin, and the glass display featuring over 50 different types of hot sauce. Our meal arrived shortly; it was greasy and delicious. The milkshakes were the best thing Robyn had ever tasted. And thus, having satiated both our physical and intellectual needs, we concluded our museum crawl of the GHA (Greater Hamilton Area) and returned to our unhistorical, un–restored, and wholly unremarkable student dwellings. But that night we dreamt of the day we would be famous enough to have our past residences faithfully restored to, and preserved in, their present condition. And if Laura has her way, that house will include a stuffed two–headed calf.
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l unravelling the hour By Sam Green
the introduction of the mechanical clock in Europe, artists from across the continent were creating paintings and engravings portraying Time as a deadly spirit against which people fought. The association of clocks and time with impending doom may have been related to the primary public use of clocks: churches used clocks to remind parishioners of sermons and funerals. The clock is also a tool, both in the obvious sense as a device to measure time, and also in other, less evident, ways. Everyone knows someone who sets her clocks purposefully ahead; that person uses the clock as a tool to manipulate time—or at least her perception of time—to prod herself towards punctuality. At best, clocks are merely metaphors for time—a truth that we tend to forget. What would happen if everyone refrained from checking the time for a day? Would we somehow feel a greater, more genuine connection to wildlife and our natural environment? Would we make it to meetings on time instinctually, out of habit? If time was measured in relative terms, would we still be productive? The industrialists certainly didn’t think so. A character in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury remarks, while looking at dozens of contradicting watches in a jeweller’s shop window, “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” While my “Trinidadian” friend would probably wholeheartedly agree, thankful for any deep, societal excuse for his perpetual punctuality problems, the assessment seems a little severe. The clock has artificially organized time; but with its effects understood and acknowledged, we can view the measurement of time less as a constraint, and more as a tool and framework for living.
Graphic By André Oliveira
have a friend who, I’m convinced, must have spent a significant amount of his life in Trinidad—or perhaps India. In addition to being a big fan of curry, this friend sees nothing wrong in arriving one, two, even three hours late for all formal and informal engagements. He claims to have never left North America, but his assertion loses credibility each time it is reiterated after another “fashionably” late appearance. Kevin K. Birth, an anthropologist at the City University of New York, has studied the perception of time in Trinidad. According to Birth’s 1999 book Any Time is Trinidad Time, Trinidadians consistently show up an hour or more late to meetings without anyone minding—or even noticing. Across the globe, from Trinidad to Canada to India, an hour is identical down to the last nanosecond, thanks to atomic clocks. But, as many social scientists have observed, organic, cultural time is remarkably variable. Robert V. Levine, a social psychologist at California State University at Fresno, conducted pace–of–life studies in 31 countries for his 1997 book A Geography of Time. Levine measured walking speed on urban sidewalks, the time required for a postal clerk to fulfill a request for a common stamp, and the accuracy of public clocks. He concluded that the five fastest–paced countries are Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, and Italy, while the five slowest are Syria, El Salvador, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico; Canada is somewhere in the middle. If organic time is so inconsistent, where did the contemporary concept of time—measured in arbitrary yet absolute seconds, minutes, and hours—even come from? The mechanical clock is thought to have been invented by thirteenth century Benedictine monks who believed it to be a sin to waste time. (Clearly my friend would have never made it in the cut–throat world of the Benedictine monastery.) The monks needed something better to measure time with than sundials, astronomy, and water clocks—all unreliable in cloudy and cold northern Europe. The first mechanical clocks proved fairly inaccurate: cities reset them by reference to a sundial several times a week. But with constant improvements in accuracy, especially with Christiaan Hugyens’s 1657 invention of the pendulum clock and the addition of minute and second hands, a fundamental change in time conciousness took place. Until the late fourteenth century, some Europeans punctuated their day with “hours” of twelve equal parts with the length varied across the seasons; others—especially agrarian labourers— did not use divisions of time at all. The invention of the clock and the concurrent expansion of urban wage labour during the fourteenth century brought about the modern notion of absolute hours. Urban employers paid wage labourers by the day, and wanted to mark the start and end of work shifts in a public, official way. These employers established a standard work shift that remained the same regardless of the season. Constant hours permitted an assessment of commitments both at work and at play. Time was no longer just a resource, but was an object that could be spent or invested in standard denominations. Time–keeping led to time–accounting and time–rationing. Lewis Mumford, an American historian of technology and science, called the transition to abstract, measured hours and minutes a process of alienation from nature; the days of the year, the pulse, and the breath all vary in a way that mechanical time does not recognize. Our new reliance on the clock distorted the organic time that had been a sequence of elementary human experiences and events. Before the mechanical clock, keeping regular time had only been a peculiar attribute of music. With the invention of the digital clock in 1956, the perception of time again evolved, although less drastically and perhaps less overtly than with earlier transformations. Instead of articulating moments within an uninterrupted continuity, the digital clock sees time as discontinuous and fragmented. The clock is an inconspicuous and forgotten technology that has nevertheless radically changed the way society functions and even the way we think. Faith in mathematically measurable sequences dissociated from human events promoted the application of quantitative methods in science. The clock shows no beginning or end, and has no middle nor any intrinsic goals. The clock causes us to anticipate, procrastinate, and judge. (Is it irrational for me to judge my tardy friend—and those silly El Salvadorians—as irresponsible?) Even more insidiously, the clock has acted as a memento mori: continuously with us, it is a reminder of the passage of events, of the changes we witness, and of our continuous march towards death. Indeed, shortly after
Photo by Emma Genovese
“Circuts and Wires” by Sara Law
“Dew” by Randall Lau
m o r F r Lette
a! b u C e Desd
I started my fourth year of university by flying off to Cuba—Havana, to be exact—filled with romanticized visions of incredible salsa dancers, old 50s cars roaming the cobblestone streets, nostalgic revolutionaries telling their tales, monuments to Che Guevara, and old men and women smoking cigars on their stoops. Cuba was most definitely not what I expected it to be, but it was a semester that I will always remember—with great fondness and sometimes with great frustration. When I arrived in Havana at the beginning of September it was brutally hot. The average day was 32 degrees in the shade, replete with blistering sun and suffocating humidity. The well–known Latin American and Caribbean tradition of siesta suddenly became a welcome reality. Without fail, the hours between 1 and 4 PM were more than willingly dedicated to siesta. It was impossible to even think of doing anything remotely active in such heat; the only way to forget how disgustingly sticky I felt all the time was to fall asleep with the steady hum of the fan on high. Although I would consistently wake up drenched in sweat, spending three of
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Photos by Carla Novella and María Trimble
in Cu ba…”
the worst hours of the day in my personal dreamland made it worthwhile. As the weeks wore on, either the heat subsided or I started to acclimatize to it (I am still not sure which is the correct explanation, and am even less sure if it mattered). I settled into a daily routine that began to feel a lot like home. I lived in a majestic old house with 20–foot ceilings built in 1919, exactly a 40–second walk from the main stairs of the University of Havana. From my balcony, I had a clear view of the bronze statue of Alma Mater near the top of the stairs. That view was not to be outdone by the view of the crazy woman (who, for brevity’s sake, became known simply as “Crazy”), who would sit underneath my balcony every day from 3 to 5:30 PM and scream incomprehensible phrases at people passing by, or at no one in particular. It wasn’t until much later that I began to appreciate Crazy as a pillar of my community and a foolproof method of telling time. Neighbours told me that she used to be a social worker in the barrio. Because of her trade, she knew many peoples’ shameful secrets; slowly, she went insane and started screaming at them in the streets. Today, the things she screams are brushed off as incoherent madness, but perhaps there is some truth to her insanity. The daily run–ins with Crazy were just the beginning of the madness in Havana. It was impossible to walk down my street past the corner mercado without receiving a proposition from the men working the counter. Every day while picking up some fresh bananas or avocados, it was the same routine: “Let’s go for a drink so you can get to know me better.” “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.” “Is he here?” “No.” “Well then it doesn’t count.” In every street, the catcalls and whistles were constant. It was impossible to walk anywhere without feeling harassed, or at the very least looked up and down, simply because I was female and a foreigner. In all honesty, when it is 32 degrees outside, you are wiping the sweat off your upper lip every 10 seconds, and suddenly some random man tells you that you are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, what do you think? You think, “Wow! I am pretty sure I have never looked uglier in my life, but thank you! I am beautiful!” If my daily routine taught me anything, it was that, above all, patience really is a virtue—especially in Cuba. The first time I went to Coppelia, the national ice cream franchise, was a perfect illustration of the Cuban patience quotient. Coppelia sells what I now consider to be the best ice cream in the world—and on a really lucky day, once in a blue moon, it also sells the best cake in the world. On my first trip to Coppelia, I waited patiently in a massive line up—that I would soon learn is the
norm—for two hours. Once I arrived at the front of the line, an employee came out to inform the crowd that there was no more ice cream. This pronouncement led to stunned silence on my part and to the angry shouts—and mob–like behaviour—of 10 Cuban women, who declared that it was an injustice that there was no ice cream left for their children. Coppelia and its famous ice cream is a mainstay of Cuban life. In a speech shortly after the “Triumph of the Revolution”, Fidel declared that one of the transformations of the revolution would be the introduction of a 29th flavour to the 28 already available at Coppelia. Today, Coppelia doesn’t have the 29 flavours that Fidel promised; it doesn’t even have the 28 that he considered insufficient. On a good day it has one flavour, on an amazing day it has two flavours, and on a day that would blow your mind—and send you running to the phone to let everyone know—it has four flavours and CAKE. The four flavours and cake only materialized once during my stay in Havana. The five peso (C$0.20) ice cream ensalada with four flavours—chocolate, coconut, strawberry, and orange—after two–and–a– half months of only one flavour at a time stunned me so much that it took me a solid 40 minutes to eat my ice cream; I savoured each flavour individually, not wanting to ruin the experience by mixing them together into a soupy mush. It is true what they say about life’s lessons being learned outside the classroom, particularly in Cuba. The most significant thing I learned at the University of Havana was the reality of censored education. My peers and I discovered very quickly that in Cuba there is one official story; no matter what you believe and no matter what you have been taught somewhere else in the world, it is wrong if it doesn’t coincide with the official history that glorifies the Cuban government’s successes and ignores its failures. It is also best to simply agree with the faculty, to regurgitate the lessons of the revolution, and to keep your true thoughts private until outside the classroom. During the writing of our theses, one of the students was told that his was very controversial and his Spanish was not good enough to defend it, so he would therefore fail unless he rewrote it—the day before it was due. He rewrote it, of course, not wanting to incur a failing grade, and he even went so far as to finish the defense of his thesis (in front of all of our professors) with a passionate “Viva Cuba! Hasta la Victoria Siempre!” Halfway through my stay in Cuba we were giv-
en a week’s break from classes to “explore the country.” We all took off excitedly on the 15–hour night express from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, which is on the eastern side of the island. We had been warned that the 15–hour express might turn into the 40–hour express, but, much to our surprise and pleasure, we arrived in Santiago exactly 15 hours after departure from Havana. From Santiago our journey took us on a dubious road to the easternmost tip of Cuba, to a small town called Baracoa. Baracoa was the first settlement in Cuba, and when Christopher Columbus came ashore there, he thought that he had reached Japan. Far from being Japan, Baracoa is a tiny and remote town that is famous for, among other things, its chocolate. After two months in Havana, the quiet and relaxed pace of Baracoa was unadulterated heaven. The days were filled with hiking, beach time, and, most importantly, the consumption of fresh air and dirt–cheap chocolate products from the Casa de Chocolate. Despite the reprieve that Baracoa offered from the polluted city life, it could not offer relief from the weekly fumigations that haunted my stay in Havana; they continued in Baracoa just as they had in the city. Once a week, a man would enter each home with a contraption very similar to the Ghostbusters machine, and he would, without warning, let loose huge clouds of white and offensive–smell-
ing smoke. Cubans never seemed too concerned about the fumigation. They hung out on their balconies with smoke pouring around them and always re–entered within the 40–minute recommended wait time. The purpose of the fumigation was to put an end to a supposed outbreak of Dengue Fever, evidence of which I never saw with my own eyes. Furthermore, throughout my stay, not one person could give the list of ingredients in the fumigation. My peers and I deemed the whole fumigation business very shady indeed and tried our best to steer clear at all times. It was in Baracoa that, for the first time, I saw what could be called real desperation and poverty; people were willing to trade artisan goods for anything—toiletries, small food items like powdered soup, and even the shirt off my back. Before going to Cuba I had been warned by many people to be prepared for the extreme poverty that I would encounter. It was interesting to see once there, that, in my opinion, Cubans—at least in the places I visited—were not as ravaged by poverty as many people had claimed. Of course, this is a relative statement; my experiences in the developing world are limited to a great deal of time spent in Colombia and extensive travels in Mexico. Regardless, I can say with confidence that I have seen far worse poverty in other parts of the world. Judging from what I witnessed, Cubans have the bare necessities and, while it may not be desirable to live with just the bare necessities, no one is dying on the street or starving to death. No one is homeless (although they may live in buildings that are structurally unsafe—not something to be proud of either) and everyone has access to health care and education. What the Cuban people lack are the consumerist opportunities that the capitalist world takes for granted. It is very easy to criticize Cuba for censorship and propaganda; restrictions placed on Cubans, such as their inability to leave the country and barred access to prime tourist locations; the new and inevitable class system that has emerged due to remittances, tourism, and the black market; and, most notably, the inability of the Cuban government to realize that the golden era of the revolution is over. Despite these criticisms, I still believe that Cubans are in a better position than the great majority of impoverished people in the world. As my time in Cuba came to an end, the festivities surrounding Fidel’s delayed birthday party and the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the boat in which Fidel, el Che and 82 other combatants arrived from Mexico at the beginning of the fight for the Revolution, began to take shape. There was much speculation that Fidel would be present at the military parade that took place on 2 December, and the week leading up to the parade was filled with free concerts headlined by some of Cuba’s greatest artists, including Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, and Los Van Van. The displays of patriotism were incredible and on the day of the military parade—or rather, at midnight the night before, when celebrations always begin in Cuba—fireworks went up over the Castillo del Moro, perfectly visible from where I was sitting across the bay on the Malecón (the wall separating Havana from the sea). At 4 AM we began the trek to the Plaza de la Revolución, where the speeches and parade would be taking place, and soon found ourselves among throngs of people all making their way to the Plaza, carrying flags and signs. Every few blocks there were giant speakers playing the latest salsa and reggaeton hits, keeping us awake and reminding us that this was not just any old parade; this was a party. The event itself was rather anticlimactic, yet impressive nonetheless. There was no appearance by Fidel, which was a great disappointment not only to me, but also to the many Cubans who saw it as a sign of his impending and inevitable death. Instead, we had the pleasure of listening to his brother Raul
The vi rgin w my ne ho watche ighbo s urhoo over d!
speak in a drowning tone about “Yankee terrorists” and the need to “bring down Yankee imperialism.” The parade was filled with Soviet era tanks, missiles, and rockets, proudly displayed in a huge procession, which was cheered on by massive crowds. Following the parade, thousands of people, myself included, marched through the Plaza de la Revolución waving flags, holding signs and photographs, and chanting “Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel!” It was a mesmerizing, dreamlike experience, the magnitude of which can never fully be understood unless witnessed first–hand. My story stems from my experiences and perspectives as a student living in Cuba; it is not the story of a tourist, who has never witnessed the real Cuba, nor is it the story of a Cuban who has always lived with the reality of daily life in Cuba. Despite the great deal I learned in Cuba, it is a country that I can never claim to truly know. I will never have the experiences of a Cuban, nor can I ever claim to really understand or have any idea of what Cubans have been through, because it is not my history. As speckled as that history may be, it is still theirs— something of which Cubans are fiercely proud.
o! g e u l a e t l s b a H im r T ía r a M
Here I a m...
Defying the Israeli Defense Force
onathan Ben–Artzi is a 24–year–old Israeli graduate student in mathematics at Brown University. In 2002, he entered military prison for the first time for refusing to comply with the Israeli Defense Force’s mandatory conscription policy. Ben–Artzi, whose uncle is the conservative former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has served one–and–a–half years in prison and is currently awaiting the results of an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court on a further sentence of four months.
Incite: When did you decide that you were going to refuse to serve in the IDF? Jonathan Ben–Artzi: I never thought I would join the Army—I always knew that I opposed everything it represents. However, it was not until I was 16 or 17 that I began to understand the concept of pacifism, and grew more and more interested in “the politics of violence.” A decisive moment was when I visited one of the main battlefields of WWI in Verdun, France. The “Battle of Verdun”, which lasted most of 1916, resulted in the deaths of 800,000 Germans and French. This battle achieved nothing for either side. Incite: How much support did you have in this decision and your subsequent actions, and from whom? JB: My parents and siblings are close to me in their views, and thus I received complete support from them. My friends also knew of my views, and were understanding, although [they] were not in agreement. Almost all of them remained good friends of mine, even though most of them were soldiers at the time. Incite: When you were imprisoned for refusing to serve in the military, were there elements within the IDF that supported you? JB: No. Only individual people who met me and got to hear what I have to say showed understanding. The Army as an organization speaks with one voice against refusal. Incite: How has domestic media in Israel portrayed you? JB: Surprisingly, Israeli media is quite open and liberal, more so than most of the American media, for example. Reporters, who know better than most people how the Army truly works and how much politicians truly “care” about sending troops to kill and die for “noble” causes, could appreciate my stance. This is why I received rather extensive media coverage, which was sometimes blocked by the editors supervising the reporters. Incite: Do you feel the Israeli public is receptive to your pacifist ideology? JB: No. The Israeli public is brutal and careless about others. To this day, for example, Israel is the country to show the greatest support for the war in Iraq. This is, in fact, crazy, because, truly, Israel has no interest in this war. But Israelis like wars. On a person–to–person basis, Israelis are nice and kind. This paradox I really cannot resolve. Incite: How did you become involved with Amnesty International and what role did the organization play in supporting your cause? JB: Amnesty International supports all prisoners of conscience. I got in contact with them through
my parents, a connection that remains alive to this day. Their support was crucial—sending me hundreds of letters from all over the world, mentioning me on their website, monitoring my case. Incite: Many of those who object to serving in the Israeli military do so out of a belief that Israel is acting unlawfully in the Occupied Territories. You have stated that your refusal, on the other hand, stems from your pacifist ideals. How closely aligned do you feel these two positions are? JB: Of course I am against the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But my refusal is more general. I think that our problems are far more complicated, and will not be resolved by merely ending the occupation. Militarism and barbarism have become a part of Israeli society, and we have somewhat lost touch with reality. I feel that most of my friends who refused due to the occupation are, deep down inside, sharing the same views as I do. Incite: Do you see the demilitarization of Israeli society as a goal? And, if so, is it an end within itself or a step towards stable peace within the region? JB: Demilitarization is crucial for the survival of Israel. It will come together with peace someday. As I said before, Israeli society is very brutal. In order to achieve a lasting peace, Israeli society will have to be able to regard others, namely Palestinians, and Arabs in general, as equals. For this to happen, a civil agenda has to take over the existing militaristic agenda. Incite: Many people would argue that without the IDF, Israel would have ceased to exist long ago. What are your personal feelings about the IDF? JB: The Army—not IDF, which stands for [the misnomer] Israeli “Defense” Force—is similar to any other army in the world. Nothing special about it. Currently, the fact is that it is the army itself that is sustaining a constant level of hatred amongst Palestinians towards Israel, and thus encouraging them to fight Israel. It is the army that takes [money] away...from public services and schools, and shifts [funds] towards preparing for the next war, which will come only because it is a vindication for the necessity of an Army. Incite: Until recently, Israeli politics have been dominated by the generation that fought in Israel’s wars with the Arab states. As this generation cedes power, do you think that Israeli politicians will become less willing to use military force in dealing with Israel’s foreign issues? JB: I am not sure this is correct. Most prominent
Compiled by Muneeb Ansari politicians—in the present and in the past—were high ranking military officers. Their minds are militaristic. This has not changed since 1948, and I do not see this changing in the near future. Even the current Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, who is not an ex–general, is acting as one to win the hearts of the people. Incite: Internationally, belief in the Israeli military’s invincibility has been shaken by the war in Lebanon, and its reputation has been tarnished by accusations of war crimes; does the military’s standing in Israeli society reflect this disenchantment? JB: Israeli society is disappointed in the [performance of the] military. This disappointment is directed towards the political and military heads. The Army itself [as an institution] is still regarded highly. As to war crimes, the Israeli Army has been committing war crimes since 1967, and even before that. Most Israelis would dismiss anyone stating that as a traitor. Incite: North Americans often look upon the seemingly endless conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with a sense of hopelessness. Is there anything we as individuals can do to contribute to a solution? JB: Yes. North Americans, especially US citizens, should influence their governments to stop automatic support for Israel, which, in the end, not only harms Palestinians, but harms Israel itself. The Middle East seems to be the US’s playground, and [the] lives of people in the region [are regarded as] worthless. The endless conflict is such mostly because of American politicians. Incite: What is your prognosis for Israel over the next decade? Will there be a Palestinian state? JB: These are hard questions. Risky to answer them, especially in writing. I feel that unless America’s attitude towards the region makes a 180 degree change, the situation will worsen. I do not see good times in the near future for the Middle East. Israel, in addition to all these problems, has many other issues—corruption, religion, growing economic divides within the society—that are also affecting it in a bad way. Incite: Do you plan to spend a portion of your adult life formally discussing and promoting non–violence? If so, where and how? JB: For now, I am busy studying math. Politics and civic involvement were always things I did as a human being, when I simply could not sit any longer on the sidelines quietly. When a time like this comes again, I will speak as much as necessary.
Digitize Me, Captain!
"lulz or your money back!"
elcome! Welcome to Digitize Me, Captain! the tech column in Incite. You have chosen, or were told, to pick up one of the finest literary outlets available on a monthly basis. I thought so much of Incite that I elected to establish my own column here in the space so thoughtfully provided by our editors. The column will focus on a different tech topic per issue, thus I have been proud to call Incite my home. And so, whether you are looking for a fun read, or some serious tech advice, welcome to my column. It’s cooler here. Through that introductory paragraph, some readers may already have an inkling (print pun not intended) of what this particular installment will focus on (Unless you cheated and looked at the subtitle). Anyhow, there has been enough beating around the proverbial bush; time to get down to the deep, philosophical, and heated issue: Which video game system is the best? I will be listing the goods, the bads, and the downright uglies of each of these new systems. The average life span for a system is about four years, so buying a console is like buying a four– year magazine subscription, or choosing the right equipment for a particular job. I’m here to make sure that you don’t go out and get “Country Living” when what you wanted was “Gothic Poetry Club Monthly”. I also wouldn’t advise bringing a wrench when skydiving and a parachute while rotating tires. So, without further ado, I will begin the column by listing the price for the console, one extra controller, and a game if the console package does not include one (average XXX G-rated title). And so, here it goes:
Package Price: $499.99 (economy–class package available for $399) Contains: Console, Ghost Recon game, XBOX Live Arcade Unplugged Vol. 1, one month XBOX Live subscription, headset, 20GB Hard Drive. Extra Controller: $54.99 Total (After Taxes): $632.67 First things first: I am quite sick of writing “XBOX” in capitals and so will henceforth stick it to the man, and just type in lower case. As for the actual console, the new iteration of the machine we can run Halo on is a solid choice for someone who will make use of it often. This system has a comfortable controller and is a real digital media centre. It can also rip or play music from mp3 players and audio CDs, store photos and share them via xbox live,
A Tech Column By Andrew Carreiro
and play DVD movies as well as HD–DVD movies if you buy the add–on drive. The xbox 360 has a robust online service ($60/year), a solid library of games, and a strong community of other xbox players (which is especially important if you plan to play online). Through xbox live, one can also pay to download retro, indie or small–sized games, TV episodes/movies, additional game content such as maps or character models, or visual enhancements such themes and pictures. All these things are saved to the internal hard drive. The bottom line is it’s great for a million reasons, but just make sure that you’re going to spend enough time with it to justify the price.
Package Price: $279.99 Contains: Console (wiimote and nunchuck), WiiSports game Extra Controller: Wiimote (main part) $44.99 and Nunchuck (needed for some games) $24.99 Total (After Taxes): $398.97 Wii—the name says it all. This fun machine is meant for everyone (“we”) with less graphics capabilities than the other systems. In case there is someone 40 miles underground reading this issue of Incite and wondering what the hook of this console is, I shall elaborate. The Wii has a motion– sensing remote control–style controller, which can be held with equal ease in either hand in a variety of different ways. The main selling point of the Wii is the ability to emulate real–life actions by holding the wii remote like a gun, sword, golf club, etc. As far as I have seen, the Wii can be fairly accurate to your actions, but it depends on the games at this point. The system in general has a bit of a delay between your movement in real life and on screen, but in some titles it’s not even noticeable. This console can also browse the internet, play old games from a plethora of systems, check the weather, display photo slideshows, display news headlines from around the world, is compatible with Gamecube games, and is wireless network– ready out of the box. The downsides to the Wii are the the underpowered graphics (think pretty xbox original graphics) and the lagging online play capabilities (nothing close to what the PS3 and xbox360 offer). This system is a neat toy, but to truly prove its worth as a viable gaming console, it will have to pick up the pace with online play and game library size. It may have the potential to satisfy what the hardcore gamer looks for one day, but at the moment it’s more of a casual–play machine.
Sony PlayStation 3
Package Price: $659.99 (economy–class package also available for $480–ish) Contains: Console, Controller, Built–in 60GB Hard Drive Game: $69.99 Extra Controller: $59.99 Total (After Taxes): $900.57 The first thing you might say when you see that price tag is “ouch” and I’m here to tell you that you are completely right. That is a huge amount of money to throw at something that is simply entertainment. The PS3 does have advantages though. Advantage number one is that it will remind you when you’re hungry because it looks something like a George Foreman grill. Advantage number two is the PS3’s ability to play Blu–Ray disks (Sony’s answer to the HD–DVD—another unnecessary improvement in video quality that no one can display on their TVs). So if you happen to have an HDTV and really are into high quality video, buy this machine. According to www.Shopzilla.com, the cheapest Blu–Ray player available at the moment is $500, factory refurbished from an online store. So it’s probably better to spend another $400, get it brand–new, and have the machine play video games as well. Advantage number three is the vibrating motion–sensing SIXAXIS controller, which can sense tilt and movement like the Wii’s controllers. Numerical advantages aside, the PS3 is fairly new, and still has to prove its worth (and at that price, it has quite a bit of proving to do). However, the raw potential of this beast of a machine is insane, one should be able to play some really gorgeous games eventually. PS3 also has support for the Linux Operating System, so you could use your console as a PC. The effectiveness of this route is questionable, but it is a neat prospect nonetheless. The PS3 also has many bells and whistles such as free online play, wireless network connection, and flash memory slots (higher model only). This very well may be the machine for the future (it certainly has the hardware for it), but like the Wii, it is still a gamble as to whether software developers will continue to pump out fresh games. That’s the end of my rundown/commentary on the newer consoles out there. I hope you got something out of it. See you all in four years when I compare the XBOX720, PS4, and the Nintendo “Quark”. Note: All prices were obtained from FutureShop.ca, except for PS3 controller, which was obtained from BestBuyCanada.ca.
DAY IN THE LIFE
g n D i a x z o e B By Rahim Jamal
his Christmas break, I had no exciting plans to bask in Caribbean heat or ski down slopes in places where it actually snowed. Nope, I was heading home to infamous Scarborough, the notoriously ethnic and dangerous suburban expanse in the northeast of Toronto. Home for me is where the scent of cheap samosas mingles with the exhaust from souped–up cars (with epithets like “Sri Lankan Tiger Roadster” painted on the top of their windshields); where you’re bound to eat in Asian restaurant plazas with raw animal carcasses in window displays enticing passersby; and where you know that even on Christmas day, the bubble tea joints will still be burgeoning with activity. Leaving a paper and exam–studying inferno in Hamilton, I arrived in Scarborough to be smothered—at least initially—by maternal affection. This brought on rolling eyes and glaring stares from my sisters. Despite that less–than–warm sibling welcome, I generally get excited to see my family. We’re pretty happy, I think. “We eat together, we pray together,” and my father is convinced that, as a result, “we’ll stay together.” Yet since I’ve started university we’ve had, understandably, fewer family dinners. As for prayer, well, it has taken a backseat to my new faith in the church of indulgence and scepticism (much to the chagrin of my mother, who continues to insist that I ought to be more “spiritually balanced.”) Nonetheless, for the past couple of winter breaks, my family has banded together, unified in the days leading up to the big one. No, not the 25th. For my family, the anniversary of Jesus’ birthday is foregrounded by the opportunity lying in the day that follows: Boxing Day. Bargains, discounts, and clearances—nothing brings us together more than the pursuit for the biggest markdown. Frugality is written in our DNA. As children, we bragged about how little we paid for clothing, enjoying some kind of higher ground over those who flaunted regularly–priced apparel (these were the early stages of my bourgeoisie–hating). Plainly, we’re cheap, or in the less abrasive language of my father, “value conscious.” And G RAPHIC BY Erin Giroux in Scarborough, so is everybody else. That’s why December 26th is a day to be taken seriously. My twin sister is militant in defending the day’s sanctity; on Boxing Day Eve, she walked into my room to inform me in her cold, clear, and intimidating voice that, “We will leave you if you’re not up on time… Oh, and please shave.” Laughing at her absurdity, I proceeded to answer my friend’s instant message about Boxing Day being commercialism and capitalism at their worst: “But it’s the best way to subvert the system. Bigger savings for me equals reduced profits for them!” Fearing the wrath in my sister’s warning, I headed to bed early—we’d be waking up at 7 AM (good god!) to avoid a parking fiasco and to reach the mall when it opened at 8. Yet a good night’s rest was not to be had when the angst of Boxing Day sales was so close. Fast forward to the morning, when I was abruptly awoken by my father: “You have five minutes to get ready.” I jumped out of bed, quickly threw on some clothes (which, my older sister informed me, were good reason to be shopping for a new wardrobe), and was sitting in the car within minutes. My twin was not impressed. She removed a ziplock bag
from her purse—she had packed a number of snacks for this venture— and began munching on pretzels. I told her she was an emotional eater. She gave me the silent treatment. It was 8:31 when we reached the biggest mall in Toronto’s east end, Scarborough Town Centre. We noticed that the parking lot had filled up and braced ourselves for the chaotic shopping terror to be found inside. Just before we split up—my sisters would endure each others’ company, my mom would go it alone, and I was to make the mall rounds with my dad—my older sister ensured that everyone would be in reach of a cell phone, and we all agreed to meet at the car at 11 AM sharp. Entering through The Bay, I tried to talk my father into going to other stores first. Years of shopping experience have taught me that department stores are not a wise place to start. Rarely are there great sales, and my dad can spend hours going through the shoe and old–man sweater vest sections from which he seldom finds anything. Even worse, it’s in the department stores where my father can find a sympathetic salesperson to whom he can complain about how difficult I am, and how he really only shops for the kids (I’m 22!!!). Despite my efforts, we soon found ourselves in the Arnold Palmer clothing section. I told my dad I didn’t really like what I saw. Sure to be in earshot of the nearest salesperson, he complained: “You don’t know what the styles are these days. Everyone is wearing this.” I mustered a half–ass smile and cringed. He looked straight at the 20–something–year–old male cashier as if there was a mutual understanding between them: “Children these days!” And the damn cashier smiled and nodded. I hope he drowns—in a bay. Finally, I convinced my father that we should go to the stores that would eventually have lineups. He agreed and we headed to the Gap, where tacky and stale Christmas carols provided a soundtrack for frightening throngs of bargain hunters. Entering the store was like walking into Asia—obviously the Chinese– and Indo–Canadians had received the Boxing Day sale memo. Other minorities stuck out, including the hijabi Arab woman whose fierce and aggressive approach to finding what she needed for her son contradicted stereotypes of submissive and demure Muslim women. That lady threw dirtier elbows than Christina Aguilera. My dad warned me that the line at the cash was growing, and he offered to hold a place for me. He’s pretty good this way. He’ll go to the stores I want to go to, help me find what I need, and pay for it too. Moreover, years of shopping with him have taught me how to persevere through the perils of commercial madness. On this Boxing Day, however, my patience was beginning to wane. We waited in the Gap lineup for a good fifteen minutes—plenty of time to be troubled by the remarkably close resemblance of Deepak Chopra’s hairy hands in an enlarged picture behind the cash register to my own. Having escaped the Gap and forgotten about Deepak, I demanded caffeine. My dad recommended Tim Hortons but after one look at the line, I decided that I’d rather pay more somewhere else. We headed to the Second Cup nearby, and upon ordering an overpriced but oh–so–good
hazelnut latté—half the syrup, with skim—I realized that I’d become a repulsive, uppity, Manhattan wannabe–hipster monster. With this shocking revelation eating at my conscience, I was compelled to dig down into my cheap–ass, Scarborough roots. I would stand in the lines, endure the hordes of people, be satisfied with the styles of the masses, and save money! Instead we found ourselves in Club Monaco, where “sale” was as foreign as any Monacan club. One look at a $300 scarf was enough to make me take a swig from the plastic flasks being handed out. (Unfortunately, they were filled with water. Who does that?) We moved on to Roots where an additional 50 percent was being taken off all items. And—hallelujah!— I came upon a pair of jeans—in my size and affordably priced—tucked away at the bottom of a shelf. With my renewed conviction to deal with shopping terror, I stood in yet another long and winding line. It had been an hour and a half since we got to the mall, and I was certain my dad, like me, was getting tired. My belief was reaffirmed when he refused to wait in a lineup at the next store. I was surprised when he said that he would rather pay a little bit more later than stand in another line now. We called my mother to tell her that we were almost done with the shopping. She informed us that she had found great sales at the Bulk Barn. (Yes, even the bulk food stores have sales!) She eventually met up with us at The Bay where my dad had found himself back in the calm waters of the old–man golfer section. My mom and I talked by a nearby Christmas tree. She told me about how beautiful she thinks shiny ornaments are, and then asked whether I’d taken a look at the briefs on sale. I was saved by my sisters who called to let us know that they too had finished shopping earlier than expected. I think we were all a little bit disappointed about this year’s trip. Walking back to the car, my twin complained that she had packed snacks in vain. My dad started the ignition, and grumbled that leaving the parking lot would be “like hell.” The clock on the dash read 11:01. We were finally out and on the road when my mother cried out “I forgot to buy shoelaces and that’s what I really needed!” There was no way we were going back.
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Sleepless in Steel Town Incite endures shakes and snores to bring you the truth about stay-up-late products By Emma Love and Kate MacKeracher
Sugar-Free Arush Energy Drink (Sobe) Taste: 3/5 Efficacy: 3.5/5 $1.99 for 246 mL can Pre–Product Drowsiness: Give us a flat surface and 20 seconds; we’ll be out cold. The energy drink market has, in apparently record time, become over–run by innumerable over–eager competitors trying to out–XTREME!!! one another with deadly–sounding product names and laughable taglines. After an unpleasant taste experience with Red Bull (cherry cough medicine, anyone?), we selected Sobe’s Arush energy drink off the shelf due to its small size—less to consume if the taste were questionable, we reasoned. Arush, a name helpfully shortened (for exhaustion–addled brains) from “adrenaline rush”, advertises itself as a “natural health product,” which is a testament to marketing genius in its utter meaninglessness. Each serving boasts 79 mg of caffeine—less than the average cup of coffee—as well
as a cocktail of additives including guarana, panax ginseng root extract, astragalus, and yerba mate leaf extract. Yeah, we don’t really know what those are, either. Still, after a few sips of the lightly bubbly soda, we concluded that, although still gross, the unspecified tropical flavour of Arush was tastier than that of its crimson bovine counterpart. Within minutes of consuming the drink, a reviewer noted that while she felt decidedly less likely to fall asleep, she was still unable to concentrate on anything for longer than a few minutes. Although it may confer some of the same benefits of coffee, Sobe Arush is best left to club kids who only need to concentrate until the next song comes on.
POWER TEA Refreshing Lemon Iced Tea (Weider) Taste: 2/5 Efficacy: 2/5 $2.79 for 532 mL bottle Pre–Product Drowsiness: Our housemate’s dance music beats are beginning to sound like a lullaby. There’s something about buying an iced tea energy drink found on the very bottom shelf of a drug store that makes the product seem at once official and a little bit dubious. The neon green packaging, complete with finger grooves so that your exhausted hand doesn’t drop your beloved ambrosia of awakeness, loudly proclaims that Weider’s POWER TEA contains “NO calories, NO sugar, NO ephedrine or ma huang, NO aspartame, and NO artificial flavours.” What is in this stuff, then? Ginseng and guarana, of course, as well as “incredibly refreshing and delicious freshly brewed lemon tea flavour.” If by “incredibly refresh-
ing and delicious,” the marketers mean “like powdered iced tea to which you only added one–third the recommended amount of water,” then we agree. This stuff is sweet, to the point that it made one reviewer’s tongue sting. Only after consumption did we notice that the power tea is advertised as a “pre–workout formula”; still, our tasters did feel slightly more energized even in more scholastic pursuits (a.k.a. procrastinating on the Internet). The power tea failed only an hour later, however, when our unproductive reviewers trundled off to bed. Ephedrine never looked better!
Extra-Strength PEP-BACK Single Caplet Dosage Caffeine Pills (Alva) Taste: 5/5, or not applicable Efficacy: 4.5/5 $5.99 for 18 pills Pre–product drowsiness: Our beds have perfected their siren songs, and we’re not tied to a mast. I mean, desk. If you ever watched Saved By The Bell, I’m sure you remember the episode in which Jessie becomes addicted to caffeine pills; it culminates in her dramatic song of “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so… scared!” after which she collapses and promises to seek help. Hoping for a dramatic encounter of this magnitude, Incite selected the PEP–BACK pills from amongst the rest due to the scarily bright packaging, which helpfully has “stimulant” circled in neon green. Yes! Note to readers: it is rather embarrassing to request caffeine pills while holding power tea, chocolate covered coffee beans, and an energy drink, but it’s worth it. Reviewers reported near–immediate increases in energy level,
as well as a bit of light–headedness and the jitters. One reviewer who popped a pill in the face of an all–nighter noted that “it’s hard to complete an assignment when your hands are twitching too much to type properly.” Another insisted that his heart rate was climbing steadily, although repeated pulse checks seemed to reveal no change. Imaginary heart palpitations? Even more scary! An hour or so after taking the pills, reviewers reported being alert and focused. Unfortunately, even after completing their assignments, our reviewers were unable to sleep due to their pounding heartbeats. The greatest disappointment of all? No recitations of the Pointer Sisters.
Photos By Steve White
Awakening Tea: Balanced Energy Stimulant (Algonquin Tea Co.) Taste: 4.5/5 Efficacy: 1/5 24 bags for $6.29 Pre–Product Drowsiness: So tired we almost put the tear–away strip from the “no bleach” plastic baggie in the green bin. Gasp. Horrors. Turn away, o children of the Earth, from neon pills and polysyllabic ingredients— embrace this “wonderfully balanced, uplifting tea that energizes without the side–effects of caffeine,” lovingly fabricated from “supportive” herbs that were “100% handpicked organic and ethically wildcrafted in the Canadian wilderness.” Indeed, who would not give up artificial aids for a warm cup of softly greenish, softly minty water infused with essence of nettle, ginseng, and alfalfa? One reviewer described the
entire experience as “like being wrapt up in a springy blanket of fresh green moss.” In keeping with the wholesome simplicity of this product, its morning–sky–blue, pseudo–Indigenous–art– emblazoned packaging is scrupulously honest: the tea lacks all the side–effects of caffeine, including that keeping you awake side effect. Indeed, the calm and lingering happiness this soothing beverage evoked in our reviewers made them feel at peace with neglecting their studies.
Kola Nut: Liquid Herbal Extract, Wild Jamaican Seed (HerbPharm) Taste: –2/5 Efficacy: 2/5 $11.29 for 1 ounce (29.6mL) bottle Pre–Product Drowsiness: So tired we were willing to try even this wacko juice. The golden label on the children’s–Tylenol–esque bottle of mysterious deep brown potion bears the following inscription: “We prepare our Kola Nut Extract from the seeds (“nut”) of Cola nitida trees which are Custom WildcraftedTM especially for us in their wild habitat in the mountains of Jamaica. To assure optimal extraction of Kola’s bioactive compounds, the seeds are hand–harvested and carefully sun–dried, and are then air–expressed directly to our laboratory.” We felt like a cross between a drug addict and Severus Snape
as we counted thirty drops of this pungent liquid of undisclosed composition into water. The oily extract congealed in the cup, releasing an odour reminiscent of rubbing alcohol mixed with scorched dust. Reviewers waxed poetic about the extraordinarily revolting flavour of this murky brew: “Tastes like I was chewing a leaf, and then it suddenly fermented.” Another reviewer pointed out its psychological potency, observing that the dread of having to take more of this energy–enhancer prevents drowsiness.
Enerbeans: Our Organic Coffee Beans covered with Organic Dark Chocolate (Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op) Taste: 4.5/5 Efficacy: 4.5/5 $6.84 for 114g package Pre–Product Drowsiness: Dull pins are poking the backs of our eyes. These trusty magic beans are such stuff as essays are made on. The potent dark chocolate of “Enerbeans” brings an extra kick of bitterness, but reviewers felt the increased energy and the environmental and humanitarian satisfaction (the beans are also Fair Trade) make up for the unfortunate aftertaste. Tasters noticed improved alertness quickly after even a small dose (two beans), but sustained concentration depended greatly on perpetual snacking. One coffee–virgin
took a fairly steep dosage (10 beans), stayed awake until 7 AM, and after one hour’s sleep reported: “The beans worked, but they made me feel twitchy. I lay there half an hour after my alarm went off, twitching.” The re–sealable package, however, promotes moderation. On the whole, were we to encounter a sketchy old man with an inhumane slaughterhouse pushing these magic beans, we’d trade Bessie in a heartbeat.
Cool Mint Listerine Oral Care Strips Taste: 3/5 Efficacy: 0/5 $2.79 for 24 strips Pre–Product Drowsiness: We had one hour of sleep last night, thanks to the coffee beans. We naively supposed that, if an ordinary mint can help one feel more alert during exam–writing, a “Cool Mint Listerine Oral Care Strip” might clear the head for an all–night study session. Merely slide the inner box from its excessively large outer casing, peal back the hidden flaps, split the tinfoil wrapping with a skilfully applied pressure to the front of the crackling plastic case to expose the sacred “pocketpak” sarcophagus within; then unfasten the elaborate burial mask to reveal—at last—the paper–thin, translucent strips of concentrated “breath for success.” Reviewer reac-
tions ranged from “Mmm, minty!” to “The level of chemical–germ warfare going on in my mouth right now is more than sufficient to prompt an American invasion,” to “I can’t stop drooling—problematic?” If all–natural herbal essence products make you uncomfortable, these fine strips are the perfect antidote: every syllable of the ingredient list contains a long convoluted history of chemical processing. Tragically, the “mint”–flavoured burst of alertness was short– lived, and our reviewers were soon breathing sanitary snores into their unfinished homework.
Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
artin Luther King Jr. is an individual whose words and actions have influenced how I think and see the world. On 15 January each year, the world honors his legacy and remembers how his faith, courage, and commitment to loving and serving humanity touched America and the globe. I am amazed by his leadership of the American Civil Rights movement and how he challenged national and local leaders. What has influenced me the most, however, is King’s unwavering commitment to his faith and to the ethic of nonviolence, and his genuine belief that love and justice will have the final word. King believed that he had a responsibility to fight for peace and social justice, and he believed that he had to fight nonviolently and with love. His ultimate goal was not only that African Americans would be treated equally, but that regardless of race, religion, class, and culture humans could live together and embrace each other as brothers and sisters. The plight of the African American was much more than a struggle for rights: in King’s own words, “It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systematic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.” King wrote these words forty years ago, but the radical change he hoped for never happened because the middle class was unwilling to sacrifice personal privileges. Racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism persist and thrive in our culture. When reading King’s prophetic and compelling words, one wonders where his strength and morality can be found in political leadership today. Is there a strong moral voice in North America, urging us to overcome the hate and violence with the creative power of love? It seems as though our leaders perpetuate a culture of violence and materialism, in which inequality is reinforced. They emphasize the clashes between different cultures and the need for other countries to change, without confronting the deep structural violence and barriers to justice that exist at home. King awakened the conscience of his country through the plight of African Americans, but he also had a broader vision of a just America and a just world. North Americans need a leader who sees beyond the immediate situation, and who understands that everyone’s well–being depends on the inner attitudes of individuals and on our social structures. We need a leader who sees that all people and social systems are interrelated; a leader who will not be swayed by manipulative politics or popular opinion, but someone with integrity who will take a creative risk in the name of justice. But as much as we need a bold leader willing to challenge the status quo, we as individuals must to take responsibility for the society we have created. We need to take up King’s challenge to work towards a just society individually and collectively.
Even as we push for an equitable society Martin Luther King Jr. warns us to be wary of our “drum major instinct.” This instinct is our desire to be in front, to be recognized and important and powerful. King warns us of the destructive potential of this instinct, as it can cause us to live above our means. When people do not control this instinct, they try to push others down in order to build themselves up, leading to oppression, exploitation, and violence. We cannot suppress this instinct, but we can use it to serve others rather than ourselves, to achieve a different kind of power and greatness. King writes, “If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness… it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.” King wanted to be remembered as a drum major for peace and justice. Are we as Hamiltonians committed to serving humanity? So many of us live unsustainable, destructive lives while our neighbours struggle daily to meet their basic needs. King refused to put up with violence and discrimination on all levels; how many of us refuse to accept social injustice here in Hamilton? We are confronted by a seemingly wounded and troubled community when we take a bus just 15 minutes east of campus—where single parents work full time at minimum wage, teens are confronted daily by gang violence, and youth and adults alike struggle with addictions. It is only too easy to turn away from this reality and focus solely on our own comfort. What we can learn from King is that our paths are connected, and we can choose to engage actively in our community. We all have unique gifts and different ways in which we can relate to people. We can choose to fight the status quo with the hope and determination that King carried with him. Sometimes, I put Martin Luther King Jr. up on a pedestal, forgetting that he was human, and that he faced the same inner doubt and angst that I do. King was persecuted and criticized by white citizens and political leaders, but also by his friends. He struggled with depression, was often away from his family, and his life was constantly in danger. There must have been times when he wanted to give in to the violence and hatred, but his faith, sense of purpose, and belief in the power of love kept him going. King was a motivated middle class American citizen who looked at the world and could not accept injustice as a necessary part of human life. Although it is easy to look at our civilization with hopelessness or apathy, there are winds of change sweeping the continent. I feel that there are many voices, including our own, which are afraid but very capable of taking action. King’s passion for justice lives in many of us, and by starting from within, we as individuals can use our drum major instinct to effect real change.
By Jeanette Eby
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Whose Tube ? By Saurabh Chitnis
exploitation of Nigerians by the corporation. A more recent example was the grainy cell-phone footage of Saddam being executed, which raised a great deal of controversy. With some effort, I was able to find the highly restricted documentary “Conspiracy of Silence” which questions the celibacy of Catholic priests in Ireland. Definitely a long way from two teenagers lip-synching to B4–4 and dancing around with sideways cap and painted on stubble (which, by the way, is hilarious). A few more hours on the site and I realized that YouTube has really managed to take the music video concept quite a large step forward. Collaboration is no novel idea; the Postal Service even recorded an album via mail, sending CD– R’s back and forth. YouTube, however, has made collaboration an open source concept. A teenager named Mia, for example, boasts a popular collection of videos featuring her own renditions of the latest chart toppers. Within days, her talent catapulted one of her videos to the Most Viewed list. Shortly after, a drummer decided to add his own background beat to the video and uploaded a new submission with himself and Mia on the same screen. As soon as this one made it to the most viewed lists, a third user added a bass line. The final chimerical form featured three videos playing on one screen with perfectly synchronized sound. A week later, there were dozens of such videos with users liberally borrowing and mixing tracks to create their own pieces, sometimes even with choreographed dances. With so much freedom and such a large community, YouTube is well on its way to rendering sites like Blip.tv and Google Video obsolete. But YouTube has also made its mark in more grave matters. The Internet is often appropriated as a tool by law enforcement; monitoring of online chat–rooms and pornographic websites has shut down numerous illicit operations. YouTube made its way into the police arsenal at the end of last year, when Hamilton police posted a minute–long surveillance tape of a suspect entering a local bar hours before two men were stabbed in a post–concert brawl. Authorities quickly reasoned that it would be a good place to post the clip since the teenagers who attended the concert were more likely to see it on the web than on the evening news. Within days of the posting, the suspect, seeing the footage on the website, surrendered to local authorities. YouTube’s crime–fighting cred improved when videos posted online led to the arrest of some street racers in Winnipeg. Adding “bounty hunter” to its resume creates new questions for the YouTube community, especially when traf-
fic has soared to around fifteen million visitors a day. With such a vast outreach, some have suggested that the site be made an official part of crime control services such as the Amber Alert system, miles from what YouTube’s founders initially had in mind. YouTube still evokes images of anime, amateur stunt videos, and movie-clip montages arranged over late 90s pop, but the ability to have real influence with little expertise has really propelled the popularity of this twenty–three month old webling. Google’s recent acquisition for the website has rekindled entrepreneurs’ hope of making a fortune in Silicon Valley. From a technological standpoint, YouTube is virtually indistinguishable from other video sharing websites. What makes YouTube fascinating for me is its evolutionary history—from a simple online video portal to a powerful political, personal, and journalistic medium. Many say YouTube will eventually be replaced by something even better, just like MSN Messengers stole every ICQ–er, and The O.C. replaced Melrose Place. On the other hand, what distinguishes YouTube from the vast majority of players in the Web 2.0 phenomenon is that its audience has surpassed the 53,651 people who read Mike Arrington’s blog TechCrunch (the Web 2.0 equivalent of getting your CD reviewed by Pitchfork). YouTube’s success is proof that it will probably outlive the current Web 2.0 boom and will be a permanent fixture of the Web for many years to come. Whatever the case, its most recent claim to immortality remains the bold, undeniable “YOU” on the cover of Time Magazine and membership in the Person of the Year club.
Graphics By Andrew Mok
n the past week, I have been woken up three times at some ungodly hour by my brother’s thunderous laughter. Without even a glance in his direction, I could tell what he was doing up at four in the morning—YouTubing. YouTube was first launched when two students in their twenties decided it was too difficult to share small videos they had shot after a party. As expected, most of the videos initially posted on the website were low–quality clips made by amateurs with shaky hands. Two years later, many people have a good idea about the kind of videos that go on YouTube; we’ve seen the hilarious karaoke attempts (Numa Numa anyone?), painful Jackass-inspired stunts, and uncensored clips from popular TV shows. I was convinced that no good could come from the proliferation of these “viral” videos—clips that, for some unknown reason, get ridiculous amounts of exposure through websites like YouTube. And so I did what every cynic ought to do and directed my browser to the “Most Discussed” page on YouTube. Sure enough, the most popular video was a homemade clip of a teenager playing a guitar. But what caught my eye was the video beside it—Free Hugs Campaign. In this clip, Juan Mann stands in a Sydney mall holding a “FREE HUGS” sign, offering a warm embrace to anybody who comes his way. Initially distrusted and avoided by walkers–by, he soon finds people joining him in the random act of kindness. Authorities attempt to stop him, but he starts a petition, which rapidly gets ten thousand signatures. Authorities walk away, but not without a hug, of course. There was nothing funny about this video, no painful accident, no off–key singing, no obscene jokes and yet, by the end of it, I couldn’t help but smile. With almost nine million views, it soon started what became a global campaign surfacing in Taipei, Chicago, Antwerp, St. Louis, Ghent, and Toronto; I even got a free hug in the student center recently. In Shanghai, huggers had to be detained by local authorities claiming they did not have a permit to hold such a large gathering in a public place. Where one campaigner succeeds, others flock. Politicians, activists, and religious leaders alike have found a use for YouTube’s campaigning prowess and near–universal accessibility. Since videos can be posted by anybody and viewed by everybody, YouTube has given users the ability to bypass censorship and reach viewers around the world. When local newspapers refused to publicize a youth campaign against Shell in Nigeria, YouTube came to the rescue. The result is a three-part documentary evidencing the
Resurrection of the Christian Left? By Kate MacKeracher and Jacob Stewart-Ornstein
ince the demise of Social Credit in the 1970s, religion has played a less–than–visible role in Canadian politics. But with the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2006, some have argued that Canada is seeing a resurgence of open religiosity in government. Harper’s first eight months in office have, on the whole, offered little evidence of direct appeal to religious voters; the exceptions are a handful of socially conservative judges appointed to lower courts and a perfunctory attempt to revisit the same– sex marriage legislation. Still, the rise of the religious right in the United States, its possible importation to Canada, and its resuscitation of the interminable separation–of–church–and– state debate have furnished newspapers with endless editorial fodder. Yet religion† in the public domain is by no means a new phenomenon in Canada, and many of the historical forays of religion into Canadian politics have been firmly—indeed, at times radically—left of centre. Yes, the religious left, oxymoronic as it may sound, has a history in Canada. Slavery in the British colonies (including Canada) was opposed and ultimately abolished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries largely on religious grounds; the British Anti–Slavery Society, the main stimulus of political support for the abolition of slavery in British territories, included among its leaders such radicals as Reverend Thomas Binney of the Nonconformist Church, Baptist minister William Knibb, and Quaker Elizabeth Frye. In the last years of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries, the British Christian socialism movement fused with the American Social Gospel movement—both emphasized the social justice aspects of Christian scriptures—in Canada and fuelled political struggles for workers’ rights, women’s suffrage, pacifism, civil rights, and welfare. Indeed, an alliance of social democrats and labour unionists formed the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party during the Depression under the leadership of Methodist minister J.S. Woodsworth. When a second “social gospel” minister, Baptist Tommy Douglas, was elected Premier of Saskatchewan in 1944, his CCF government became the first socialist government in North America. Over his 17 years in power, Douglas introduced universal public healthcare (the first in Canada), and the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, a document protecting citizens’ basic rights and freedoms from interference by government or private institutions (the Bill predated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 18 months). In 1961, Douglas resigned from his position with the Saskatchewan CCF to become the first leader of the CCF’s new federal incarnation: the New Democratic Party (NDP). The Canadian right has no such long history of religious support. Religious groups came to the right in fits and starts as some groups became uncomfortable with what they saw as a disregard of religion by left–of–centre politicians in the 80s and 90s. Accordingly, the left–right divide among Christian voters is partially illusory; the complexity of religious voting is somewhat concealed by the scarcity of political options. Elements of the so–called religious right may support conservative parties to advance socially conservative priorities (e.g., opposing abortion, same–sex marriage, and embryonic stem–cell research), without sharing their allies’ economically conservative convictions. For example, the Roman Catholic Church officially opposes abortion and same–sex marriage, but the Canadian Council of Churches (an ecumenical organization of 20 Christian churches including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) has officially endorsed publicly–administered, universal healthcare, cautioned against privatization of health and education, and protested the social and environmental abuses of neo–liberal globalization. Yet Canada does have a special tradition of socially and economically progressive religious organizations. The United Church, a uniquely Canadian melding of Presbyterian, Meth-
odist, and a number of smaller denominations, is the country’s largest Protestant denomination, and has a long history of radical social activism. It ordained its first female minister in 1936 (four years before women could vote in Quebec provincial elections), officially condemned conscription during the World Wars, gave aid to Vietnam draft dodgers, protested Apartheid by boycotting South African investments, and has officially ordained ministers “regardless of sexual orientation” since the 1980s. In 2005, the General Council of the United Church “urge[d] the Canadian Parliament to vote in favour of same–sex marriage.” Even the traditionally more stodgy Anglican Church of Canada has begun to embrace the hip leftist protest movement with the radical positions of its EcoJustice Committee on issues ranging from privatization of water, to ethical investing, to rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unlike the smaller, right–of–centre denominations such as the Baptist and Pentecostal churches, which tend to consistently vote Conservative, the more socially progressive denominations do not form a coherent voting block. Anglicans, members of the United Church, and Lutherans are regionally diffuse and have relatively diverse voting habits. These characteristics have made the left–leaning religious faithful difficult to harness for political means. The organized political left has also been a sometimes chilly environment for the religious faithful, further complicating any accord between the political left and potentially sympathetic religious groups. Roman Catholics, forming the largest segment of Canada’s religious community, have even more complicated political affiliations, which are marginally more liberal than average according to the 2004 election survey. Catholic voting patterns are also distorted by Quebec, where the sovereignty question dominates. Yet the “social gospel” ethic has made a few ventures into the current political scene. The most significant success of the religious left would be the recent by–election victory of the NDP’s Cheri DiNovo, a United Church minister, in the Toronto riding of Parkdale–Highpark. With this victory and the establishment of a “Faith and Justice” caucus to work within a religious context on social justice issues, the NDP has positioned itself as the home of the progressive religious forces. This constituency may prove crucial for the NDP in the near future as it faces a stiff fight against a reinvigorated Green Party, under Elizabeth May—who has solid religious credentials of her own—and the Liberal party under Dion for the environmental vote. Unfortunately for the NDP, any aggressive push towards a more religiously compatible platform risks alienating secular leftists who now have an alternative left wing option in the Green Party. Furthermore, in all but a handful of ridings, leftist religious people will have relatively little political clout, due to their wide geographical distribution. Some ridings in Toronto may be an exception, however, as even a small group could give the NDP an edge over Liberal candidates. Depending on the fate of the Conservative government in the next election we may see more or less religious involvement in politics. A significant victory by the Conservatives would reinvigorate the economic–religious conservative alliance, whereas a defeat might disillusion the religious right voters with electoral politics. In contrast, a Liberal victory with a strong NDP showing has the potential to strengthen the as yet tenuous ties that join the NDP to the religious left. Either way, the political parties will need to understand that the effect of religious convictions on political action is rather a more complicated creature than media stereotypes of the religious right may indicate. Not only are alliances between religious groups and conservative parties sometimes marriages of convenience, but devout people do support and historically have supported progressive policies—not despite their religious beliefs, but because of them.
m g P X
Acknoledging our rapidly diversifying religious scene, for the purposes of this article we focus on Christianity as the traditional major faith in Canadian politics.
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WITH ROB LEDERER
am currently transfixed by a man with bright, multicoloured Converse high–top sneakers. The rest of his ensemble is quite demure and unsuspecting, something of a bohemian librarian outfit with greenish–khaki pants, a white button–up over gray long–sleeved shirt, and an old lumberjacket thrown carelessly over a nearby chair. His shoes are the kind I can picture Gwen Steffani sporting circa 2005, not a younger, slightly hipper Mr. Belding as this man appears to be. His table, positioned diagonally across the room from my own, is overflowing with novels and notebooks. The manic vigor that he’s working with is comparable to the concentration, I imagine, demonstrated by a renegade academic genius on the verge of a groundbreaking discovery, or a mad scientist in the process of fashioning a species of the undead in his unkempt laboratory. He glances my way; I pretend to be engrossed with something on my computer screen. The man greets a newcomer with a peace sign and invites him over with a “What up man? What up?” I’m starting to think that this has “Overheard in New York” potential. Reason then catches up with my wandering imagination, and I return to work. This is not the first time I’ve experienced this kind of one–sided encounter. I always feel compelled to be hyperaware of my surroundings and, as a result, constantly stare or glance at those around me. It could be the result of witnessing Buffy getting attacked without warning a few too many times. It could also be the result of the paranoia–infused chain emails I often receive from my mother. Whatever the case, I’m a serial starer; and, let me tell you, it can be a hard–knock life. My constant glances all–too–often end with an uncomfortable locking of eyes, making me feel like a creepy flirt—the next Toronto Zanta, perhaps, or Elle Woods’s sleazy Legally Blonde boss. I think the only reason I feel confident in publicly acknowledging my staring habit is the amount of press people–watching has recently enjoyed. I’m not talking about professional peer–ers appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien or Anderson Cooper 360. People–watching is not a major news item or professional sport, but a trait more commonly associated
with intriguing and likeable fictional characters. The Friends gang was my first memorable encounter with this kind of creative and, at times, devious behaviour. Before Ross moved into the apartment directly opposite from the girls’, the space was inhabited by an unfortunate–looking, overweight hermit known by the moniker Ugly Naked Guy. UNG was stared at and made fun of, but he gradually evolved into an actual person in the eyes of his observers, not a mere object or passing acquaintance. It’s sort of like dissecting a fetal pig in grade 10 science class: it begins as an uninvolved relationship, scientist and specimen, but before you know it, you’ve named him “Brad” and can’t imagine putting a blade to his delicate features. The relationship that the protagonists came to have with UNG was real but one–sided and totally unfounded. Rachel was pleased when he found a naked friend (although it turned out to be Naked Ross) and the gang took action when they thought he had died (although it involved prodding him with a long poking device)—all of this without even knowing his name. The protagonists of Ghost World practice a similar style of unconventional bonding with strangers. The film features Enid and Rebecca, high school seniors on the brink of graduation yet exhibiting none of Vitamic C’s sentimentality. At one point the pair stalk an elderly couple, deeming them Satanists; Enid supposes that, as such, they “sacrifice virgins and stuff.” Both of these narratives, as with the fantastically whimsy Amelie and poetically remote Me and You and Everyone We Know, paint vivid pictures of people–watchers, and their close relatives “random do–gooders”. In other words, I’m not a total creep, or at least I’m not alone in my creepy pursuits. Seeing others, even fictional characters, share in my unconventional habit of staring at and becoming somewhat involved with strangers, has given me hope that I am not so very outrageous. With characters like the girls from Ghost World on the silver screen imagining skeletons rather than the typical dowdy linens in the closets of the elderly, I feel downright normal. The fact of the matter is, characters often become more lifelike due to particular eccentricities, unusual habits that
aren’t actually that unusual. In an old Will & Grace episode, there’s a moment when the female lead describes a date gone wrong. It’s a scene I really relate to. However, it’s not the feeling of boredom when a date drones on about something uninteresting that I have much experience with, but rather what Grace does when she’s bored. She says, “I started doing that thing where you close one eye and he was standing in front of the bench. And I closed the other eye, and he was standing next to the bench. In front of the bench, next to the bench, in front of the bench, next to the bench.” Like Grace, I have played the in front–next to game in many tedious situations. In her few words, I realized that my oddness is a shared oddness, and perhaps I do not deserve my own character on Freaks and Geeks. Television and other media have the power to legitimize real world things. Seth Cohen popularized interest in lesser–known bands (and argyle and nerds who really aren’t that nerdy) while RENT endorsed la vie bohème. This phenomenon is particularly visible in reality TV. First there was School of Rock, and then came Gene Simmons’s Rock School, with pretty much the same premise: except he really entered an elite prep school and tried to turn out a legitimate rock band. This format was then stolen by Ice–T who instead sought to produce a kids’ rap group out of affluent Manhattan students in Rap School (go figure). The fictional School of Rock made an idea as crazy as Mariah Carey’s PJ phase seem somewhat reasonable before television producers made the same situation play out in real life. Even though they portray fictional events, movies and TV shows have the power to make behaviour that was once reserved for girls, interrupted feel so standard it deserves a rack at the Gap. And sometimes maybe these newly acceptable actions are totally normal things that lots of people have a tendency to do. I certainly hope so, because on closer inspection, I’ve noticed that the shoes of the man–with–the–neon– sneakers appear to be of a comic strip design. While I do not recognize the characters as either Betty or Veronica or the Green Lantern, I’m intrigued. But not in a creepy way, I swear.
Starer incite 27
ary o f
The last thing C she forgot was how to speak. By Not her earliest memory, perhaps, but one of the most enduring. She still hummed, still turned her head when I spoke, still suckled the proffered spoon of squash soup warmed over from last fall’s final batch—but none of these are memories, skills, things stored away. They are only the beginnings of things (or the endings of things), the urges that expand into learning and contract again into forgetfulness. Tired of travelling on the increasingly slow conveyor between mind and mouth, the last of her words had fallen from her lips and dribbled down into the folds of her sweater, crumbs to be shaken out before the next wearing. They joined the first abandoned words, the ones that hid themselves in the pages of newspapers or in messages on ditto pads, waiting to be discovered once or twice again before they left for good. They joined the names with vowels switched, the words repeated, but with different meaning each time. They left behind a skeletal syntax, the beginnings of a grammar that were also the end, the scaffolding surrounding nothing, perfectly constructed. * She had already stopped reading, of course. At first she read the newspaper every day, pouring words into her sieve almost faster than they could empty out the bottom. She read even the sections she hated, the sports and the business, reading and keeping the words in her head and making new memories to replace the ones that she lost. She underlined headlines and clipped out the ones that she thought we should see, pressed them into our palms, our pockets, the handbags we left on the chair in the hall while we sat in the kitchen with tea. She mailed them with letters, with writing across the top, above the headlines, telling us to use this and see this and remember this when you are doing the wash or the cooking or going to school tomorrow. I am making a scrapbook, she would say, of things I would like you to remember. And so she started her scrapbook, cutting out articles and pasting them in, at first only ones she had read, but then later the ones that she didn’t have time for. For later, she would say, I’ll read them later, when I have time. But now I must bake the bread for your grandfather and heat up the soup from yesterday for dinner and put the meat on. I haven’t the time for reading, she would say. I believed her, at first. * She began to cut out the words, making sentences like six-year-olds, with gaps where their teeth should have been. I am coming to see you, she said, coming on the— And so I would go to the bus station and my mother to the train station, and then I would see her and I would say hello, I am so glad you came, and why don’t we go to the train station and watch the trains come in, won’t that be wonderful? And so we would go, and there was my mother, her daughter, what a pleasant surprise, I would say, we should go for tea. Yes, tea, she would say. That would be— * She did not ask us to remember for her, to remind her when she forgot, because she did not forget, she only made copies of her memory from paper and photographs, kneaded it into the bread she was baking and stirred it into the soup on the stove full of whispers. This is a word I do not recognize, she would say, can you teach me what it means? And so I taught her, and she grabbed it back for a moment, grabbed the slippery word that was harder to catch than the light, and repeated the word again so she could hold it. But each time it repeated it was slippery, sliding, harder to catch. She threw it back, then, asked me to show her again, what does this word mean to say? We played catch with the light and the words, in the evening, at the end of the day. * The last thing she forgot was how to speak. Her words left with the closing of the day, in the midst of the description of loss, until there was nothing left upon which to inscribe the memory of forgetting. ath
Photo By Erin Giroux
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