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y Arts Matter pin is currently sitting in a pool of recently–melted snow, somewhere between campus and Bryan Prince Booksellers. A few months ago, rusted and old, it finally broke, tumbling from its tastefully– positioned perch on my North Trail knapsack into some puddle on Sterling. Initially, I was proud to visibly support such a seemingly under–appreciated cause. And yet, when the pin gave way, I hardly even noticed: I had grown to question the initiative and, despite promoting the arts, the pin’s stark two–tone slogan wasn’t even a pretty decoration on my all–black bag. I can’t remember precisely where I acquired the button, although I’m fairly certain it was handed to me sometime last year, when passing through, what I have recently heard termed, “Advocacy Row” in the Student Centre. Since first attaching it to my bag, however, I have spent a lot of time reconsidering why the arts really matter. As a student who has been enrolled in arts courses almost exclusively for the past two years, doubting the inherent value of the humanities was pretty disheartening. Why was I taking the time to draw up battle plans to snag a booth in the Healthsci library, if the readings I was doing there were inconsequential? Brochures about humanities programs at this university and
elsewhere often list the skills that graduates acquire, which make them marketable after earning their degree: abilities to read closely, write well, and think critically can certainly be imbued by studying the humanities. The work itself, apart from these resultant capabilities, however, must be meaningful; there must, I think, be a reason to engage in the process aside from the end gains: but what is it? When I was in grade nine, I was taught a rule that I have already broken several times since you began reading this editorial and, indeed, three times in this sentence. My teacher instructed our class to never, under any circumstance, use the first–person pronoun “I” in formal writing. Scholarly essays, he said, should not be personal but objective. To this day, I am hesitant to include “I” when writing for university classes, even since recognising that this is an incredibly problematic rule. My high school teacher’s mentality is, as far as I am concerned, symptomatic of a greater problem, one rooted in the often– held belief that science is the only discipline worth studying. Scientific research strives to be wholly objective, because it seeks to lay bare universal processes: science revolves around the factual, the always–true. This scientific method is revered, I think, as the only legitimate academic approach, even in the humanities, similar to our naturalised
Editing and Production Co–ordinator Rob Lederer Editors Muneeb Ansari Chris Evans Zsuzsi Fodor Ben Freeman Katie Huth Kate Mackeracher
association of peanut butter with jam. But, in our scholastic sandwich shop, we must remember that there are other delicious complements to ever–pleasing peanut butter: banana, Nutella, or, dare I suggest, marshmallow fluff. There are, similarly, worthwhile approaches to humanities outside of the traditional, if we are willing to open up to a new understanding of academia. As soon as personal experience appears in an essay, we are taught that it is no longer scholarly: but why? When studying literature or visual art or theatre, need there only be one right answer? Why can’t we let our self seep into what we are studying? There are quite simply too many unquantifiable topics that are nevertheless worthy of debate. To understand the importance of the humanities disciplines, I think, the purpose of a liberal arts education needs to be deconstructed. As far as I can see, universities should, ideally, be trying to transform its students into better— more informed, active, critical, and engaged— citizens. I can’t think of a better realm in which to better explore citizenship than the arts. Literature provides an array of material with which to form views on any number of socially–relevant topics: Alberto Manguel, in his 2007 Massey Lectures, uses a wide variety of literary texts, from the ancient Babylonians’ The Epic of Gilgamesh to medieval Spain’s Don Quixote, to explore the nature of society
Layout Co–ordinator Ana Nikolic Graphics Co–ordinator Erin Giroux Poetry Co–ordinator Alexis Motuz Contributors Nadine Bukhman Nick Davies Nicole Grimaldi Noel Iverson Jordan Mackenzie Raman Nijjar Tamara Sandor Will van Engen Siva Vijenthira Graphics and Layout Natasha Hansen Ishani Nath Michelle Tian Jenny Zhan
and question current social structures. And, even though his analysis might be premised on certain subjective experiences of the world, and his interpretations of the texts are open to debate, Manguel’s lectures are worth discussing: they are socially–pertinent—are of immediate concern—and, for me, that makes them worthy of being deemed “academic.” Last term, when I contested an essay mark, the professor claimed that humanities research could not be creative. Scholarship, however, is not a constant; it is not inherent or natural, but what we say it is, however we choose to define it. Arts certainly matter, but I’m not so sure that they do in the way they are traditionally, or commonly, studied at university. At the end of the day, I think it’s the responsibility of students to make arts matter to them, for each of us to find meaning within humanities for ourselves. It is the job of the education system, then, to encourage this kind of individual growth and to allow universities to teach “life smarts” on top of by– the–books intelligence. University shouldn’t be an oppressive, my–way–or–the–highway regime but a “choose your own adventure” novel: a meaningful process with meaningful results. If education were opened up, if people were willing to understand it in novel terms, I would sport an Arts Matter pin with pride: particularly one in a prettier hue.
6 Garden of Eden 8 Romance Language 10 Globalising the Ivory Tower 12 Union Joke 14 Ogygia 17 The Evolution of the Engineer 20 Mobilising the Middle Class 22 Letter from Mount Ararat 23 Comic 24 Europop Tarts 28 Before Night Falls A trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens
Incite reviews some steamy romance novels
Julie Compton Jeanette Eby Chris Hilbrecht Yang Lei Elise McCormick Andrew Prine Stephanie Tom Anne van Koeverden Hannah Webb
University systems worldwide
Appreciating the finest comedy Britain has to offer
Chikichiki 12 points! FTW!
Jeespot Paul Pacific Lisa Xu
What lies beyond the red suits
An interview with Deirdre Pike
Printing Hamilton Web Printing
Nadine Bukhman describes her journey
Impact Youth Publications 119 South Oval Hamilton, ON L8S 1R2 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 2007– 2008 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.
“Rare Lenience” by Nick Davies
Let Incite be your guide to the Eurovision Song Contest Original Poetry
Cover art by Natasha Hansen Cover design by Ana Nikolic
DEPARTMENTS 4 16 18 27
Happenings: News from Near and Far Column: Trappings In Search Of: Clairvoyage Column: Myths
MINUTES FROM LAST MONTH selected news from near and far
inside the bubble this summer The softer side of Steeltown Seeking something to do in the Hammer this summer besides sitting about inhaling the baked–smog aromas of the city? Only a brief air–conditioned bus ride away at 28 Rebecca Street is the Downtown Arts Centre, a not–for–profit organization that celebrates the art and culture of the downtown core, providing a space for both artists and cultural groups alike. The Centre has two theatres as well as an Art Gallery, and hosts a wide variety of events such as poetry readings, dance shows, music performances, plays, and film screenings. Browse www.dachamilton.com. Summer highlights at the DAC include: Hamilton Fringe Festival An annual celebration of innovative international theatre that combines the talents, resources, and creativity of companies, volunteers, and emerging artists. An affordable smorgasbord of world–class entertainment right in the heart of the city! Tickets are only eight dollars per show. This year’s festival is from 15–25 August at the DAC. Check out http://www.hamiltonfringe.ca for more details. Hamilton’s first social justice film festival A series of films focused on peace movements and war resisters will be shown from 24 April to 15 May at the DAC. All screenings begin at 7:00 p.m. with a five dollar suggested donation. Featuring: Sir! No Sir! on 24 April, It’s a Free World on 1 May, Tax! To the Dark Side on 8 May and Mr. Big on 15 May. Architectural marvels not named after DeGroote Doors Open Hamilton Doors Open Hamilton is a remarkable annual event where over 50 of Hamilton’s Landmark Buildings open their doors to the public for free. Everyone has the op-
portunity to visit some of the city’s most significant buildings, from the 1862 “rural Gothic” stone house where the first reeve of Ancaster Township was murdered by a burglar to a 2008 “off–the–grid house” with its own solar panels and windmill. Doors Open is run and planned by volunteers. To help out email firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is Saturday 3 May and Sunday 4 May from 10:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m. More details at www. doorsopenhamilton.ca. Chasing waterfalls There are endless ways to explore Hamilton’s natural and cultural diversity. Home to Coote’s Paradise, the Bruce Trail, over 80 waterfalls, the Bay, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Steeltown in the spring and summer blossoms into a realm of pastoral splendour for those with an eye for landscapes and nature. The McMaster Outdoor Club has a variety of outdoor adventures, such as hiking and canoeing trips throughout the summer. See it all at www.macoutdoorclub. ca. Highlights include: A two–day hike of 25 kilometres on the Bruce trail and a visit to 18 spectacular waterfalls. This is a perfect time of the year for such an adventure; the water will be running at its highest, the temperature is ideal for backpacking, and the bugs will be at a minimum. The cost is 25 dollars. Email Alec Lemaire at email@example.com if you wish to participate. There are also Earth Day Hamilton Nature Hikes at the Royal Botanical Gardens on Wednesday 23 April and Thursday 24 April. The hike is free, and the Outdoor Club is still looking for volunteers to lead short hikes. Email outdoor@mcmaster. ca. The Hamilton Naturalists’ Club also hosts many field events throughout the summer, including nature outings and bird
study groups. They always welcome volunteers and new participants. Check out www.hamiltonnature.org for more info. Cultivating community The Freeway Coffee House The Freeway is a non–profit community café/art gallery/concert venue located in the downtown core. It is a Third Place where all people, regardless of their background or social status, can come in to relax and enjoy the company of others. The coffee bar, run by volunteer baristas, is a great way to interact with people from all walks of life, experience community, and learn from others. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or drop by for a cup of coffee or a flatbread sandwich. Located on 333 King St. East. www.frwy.ca. CVAG The Community Volunteer Action Group, run by Open Circle McMaster, facilitates all kinds of volunteer placements—they are in need of volunteers in May and June to help for the remainder of the elementary school year. For example, the LAF (Learning and Fun) program runs Monday to Thursday from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m.; you could choose to help on any of these days on a weekly basis. You would be linked with Grade 1–8 at–risk kids, working one–on–one and in small groups to tutor, give homework help, and model healthy relationships in creative and fun ways. Volunteers are needed from 5 May to 5 June. A mandatory training session takes place Thursday 24 April from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at McMaster University in MUSC 214. To get involved, email Marybeth at open@ mcmaster.ca. Community gardens Get down and dirty—with vegetables. Green Venture is looking for volunteers to help harvest this season’s community
garden at the EcoHouse located in the East End at 22 Veevers Drive. The garden is meant to give people their first green thumb and for garden gurus to pass down their wisdom. There are also workshops and special events to be planned and the crop yield is yours to take home. Contact Sapphire Singh at garden@greenventure. ca. The Living Rock The Living Rock is a not–for–profit centre for at–risk youth aged 15 to 25 in Hamilton. They offer a variety of evening and daytime programs, including breakfast and dinner, sports, a youth–focused food bank, movie nights, conflict management workshops, job and leadership training, healthy living, and programs for young mothers. The Living Rock welcomes volunteers with different skill sets and is always in need of extra help over the summer months. A highlight of the summer is the “Arts of August” youth showcase. To volunteer, email karen@livingrock. ca. Located at the corner of Wilson and Hughson downtown. www.livingrock.ca For more city engagement opportunities take a look at: www.volunteerhamilton.on.ca www.actlocally.info www.hmag.ca www.skydragon.org www.viewmag.com Some easy ways to enjoy your city: Eat your lunch outside. Bike to work. Run around the Bay. Walk the rail trail. Thank your bus driver. Take it all in … love your city.
Compiled by Jeanette Eby and Zsuzsi Fodor
You can’t teach an old western scrub jay new tricks…or can you? WASHINGTON—Did you know, prior to 1977, animals were widely believed to be machine–like automata, thoughtlessly reacting to the world around them? The March edition of National Geographic features a 26–page spread outlining new theories and investigations into animal cognition that have changed the way people think about animals. Since Irene Pepperberg’s seminal work with parrots, the field of animal cognition has exploded, providing insight into the amazing minds of animals. Orangutan communities, for instance, show early signs of culture through their use of tools to climb trees and the wearing of leaves as rain hats. Western scrub jays, birds native to North America, demonstrate episodic memory, a trait not generally associated with non–human animals. They will move a food cache if another jay sees them hiding it, recalling when they were themselves thieves. So, next time you wonder what your dog was thinking when eating your homework, you might want to consult National Geographic. Viva la Evolucion! NEW HAVEN—The sinking ship of Creationism has been dealt another serious hull–breaching blast. A new study published in Nature provides more evidence that, contrary to the Creationist argument, adaptation doesn’t slow as organisms become more complex. Yale University evo-
Lucky UNITED KINGDOM—Ever the crowd favourite, Radiohead is now offering its fans a chance to really be a part of their music. Until 8 April, aspiring mixers could go to iTunes and download the five different “stems” (drums, vocals, bass, guitar, string effects) of the new single “Nude”. They also received the code to a special Garage Band file with all the tracks ready to be mixed. Remixes were then to be uploaded to Radioheadremix.com, where fans can vote for their favourite. Voting closes on 1 May, but as of this writing, Toronto electronic group Holy Fuck is holding down the top spot. Hijole! MEXICO—The tranquil city of San Cristobal de Las Casas was thrown into a state of chaos last week when a renegade bull rampaged through local corn fields and several wooden shops. Strangely enough, the bull was arrested and thrown in prison. The police say the bull will not be released until the owner, Moises Santiz, pays damages of up to 400 dollars. This is not the first time an animal has been thrown in the slammer. In 2007, Paris Hilton was imprisoned for violating her parole agreement.
lutionary biologist Gunter Wagner and his team found that when tweaked, individual genes in mice did not have a sort of “genetic ripple” effect on other genetic traits. The changing of one gene did not affect other unrelated genes but was in fact contained to a narrow selection of genes, thus allowing complex organisms to evolve. “I think the main broader impact of this work is on the evolution–creationism debate,” says Wagner, “our results show that organisms found a way around that problem by restricting mutational effects on very narrowly confined parts of the organisms.” This finding sheds considerable doubt on the Creationist argument that evolution cannot possibly explain the evolution of complex organisms. Lesson: always keep a copy of Nature handy in case of attack by Bible– thumping pseudo–scientists! P2P ISP ROFLCOPTER NEW YORK—With album sales dropping and the music industry shrinking, major record labels are looking to profit from peer–to–peer (P2P) downloads. “The music industry has no choice,” according to Bob Kohn, a music–licensing expert. “It’s significantly weaker than it was in 2000. And the longer this drags on, the more difficult it will be to succeed.” A new plan, spearheaded by Warner Music Group, will charge an extra fee through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in exchange for unlimited music downloads, offering users a sort of “all–you–can–eat” musical buffet. TDC, the leading telecom company in Denmark,
in north america...
has just launched a similar plan, offering their subscribers free access to over a million tracks. But, if they terminate their subscription, their music downloads stop. Learn English or go to jail
WILKES–BARRE, PA—A Pennsylvania judge has come up with a unique way of punishing criminals. Having in the past forced high school drop–outs to finish their diploma or go to jail, Judge Peter Paul Olszewski has now adapted the ultimatum to more mature criminals. A case recently featured three Spanish–speaking men pleading guilty to robbery who required the services of a translator during the trial’s proceedings. Explaining that they would not have a translator for their entire lives, Judge Olszewski offered them a deal: learn English and get a high school degree in exchange for staying on parole and avoiding jail time. If the men failed, however, they would go to jail for 24 months. Although winning points for originality, we’re not sure how this approach would fare for society as a whole. Root beer kegger WAUSAU, WIS – An 18–year–old high school senior hosts a kegger and posts some of the evening’s photos online. Sounds pretty typical, right? What about when the keg is filled with root beer? Dustin Zebro staged this atypical kegger to protest the suspension of school athletes based on pictures of them drinking out of red cups, which
school administrators assumed were filled with beer. Over 80 teens showed up to do keg stands and play root beer pong. The police eventually showed up because of a noise complaint and administered breath tests to the partygoers, who all passed. Zebro denied that any attempt was made to lure police to the house, and insisted he was simply trying to embarrass his school’s authorities. Still, a well–executed statement that affirms that red cups don’t always mean alcohol. Hogwarts University?
NEW HAVEN, CT—Are you a die–hard Potter fan who’s also looking to make your education a bit more well–rounded? If so, you may want to check out some new courses being offered at American colleges, which use J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as academic texts. The novels are used to study topics such as children’s literature, globalization, and the history of witchcraft. At Yale University, a professor is using all seven books to examine the Christian themes of sin, evil, and resurrection, recasting the religion in a new light. Now that the seven–part series has concluded, these courses might help the Potter franchise surpass this generation’s tastes and gain respectability on par with other literary classics. Or it might be a sign of its slow decline into the realm of past fads. Anybody remember those courses based on The Matrix?
Compiled by Raman Nijjar and Will van Engen
...and around the world
The Mile High Club Now Cheaper than Ever
IRELAND—Everyone’s heard rumours of the rock–bottom airfares available in Europe: Paris to Frankfurt for five dollars, Milan to Madrid for 2.50 dollars. This writer paid a paltry three dollars (albeit with some hefty taxes) to fly from London to Krakow, Poland. Now, can you imagine being paid 60–80 dollars an hour to fly from city to city? Flybe, a British discount airline, is paying temporary workers to simply be passengers on their Dublin– Norwick route in order to be eligible for an airport rebate. The airline is only eligible for the 550,000 dollar rebate if it manages to transport 15,000 passengers on the Dublin–Norwick route. If you can find a cheaper way to get high, please call me. Hey Mom and Dad, let’s go to the Pub! LANCASHIRE, UK—How would you feel having your parents tag along whenever you visit a pub or club? Lee Gooch was given this sentence after he beat up another pub–goer for no apparent reason. Originally banned from any pub and club in England, Gooch’s mental health problems earned him sympathy from his victim and judge, who spared him from any hard time. Although the judge suspended
the 51–week sentence, he also passed the “Prohibited Activity Requirement” for an 18–month period, which requires Gooch to be accompanied by his mother or father in any pub or club. Breach of this agreement would result in his being sent to jail. So let this be a cautionary tale for those who enjoy themselves a little too much at the bar, lest they wind up like Gooch and ask their parents “Hey, it’s Thursday night. Do you want to hit up Quarters or Dirty Dogs?” Do you have Nomophobia? LONDON, UK—Do you freak out when you’re away from your mobile phone? Well, don’t worry; maybe your insurance plan covers Nomophobia, which literally means “no mobile phobia.” Instead of stressing out before a big exam or a visit to the doctor or dentist, sufferers fear being apart from their cells and the link to friends and family it provides. Having become used to the sense of connection these phones provide, many feel as if a part of them is actually missing. You may have witnessed this among university students who become frantic when their phone is out of range, misplaced, or out of battery power. Experts believe that Nomophobia could affect more than 13 million Britons and over half of all cell phone users. No
word yet on any possible treatments, but watch for the rise in cell–phone separation anxiety support groups. The plight of the female flirt LONDON, UK—Researchers claim that when it comes to the signs of flirtation, men are just oblivious. Girls may flirt with their eyes, play footsies under the table, but no matter what the sign, men just don’t seem to get it. The study asked males and females to look at pictures of the opposite sex and categorise them as either friendly, sexually interested, sad, or rejecting. Women were more likely to choose the correct description, while men often confused flirty and friendly gestures and misread signs of friendliness as sexual interest. The researchers concluded that women may think men understand the signs but are unwilling to respond. But scientists weren’t as certain why men fared so much worse in the tests, postulating that socialization and gender stereotypes could play a role.
Compiled by Raman Nijjar and Will van Engen
Glass Houses, Hot Dogs, and the Tree that Time Forgot Incite wanders to the Royal Botanical Gardens
f a red house is red, and a yellow house is yellow, what colour is a greenhouse? To investigate this burning question, Will van Engen and I left campus on a bicycle adventure to Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens. We ended up discovering much more, wandering through a series of the intriguing environments and communing with the kingdom Flora. Our journey began with Will and me eagerly pedalling along the busy six kilometres of road that connect McMaster to the RBG. It was a cool Saturday, and the wet street was covered in dirt and garbage abandoned by the melting snow. Winter was beginning to retreat but not without protest; angry winds whipped our bike frames and chilled our skin, making us realize that our jacket–less optimism was a little premature. We zipped down Dundurn. Fun–runners jogged briskly on the other side of the street and I, momentarily distracted by the shimmering movement of their spandex– encased legs, was thrown with a clang into a lamppost by a wayward gust of wind. My
horticultural adventure was off to a fabulous start: I was clinging awkwardly to a pole, my bike lying slightly bent beneath me, and I could not help but imagine that passing motorists were pointing and laughing at me through their tinted windows. Battered, but determined to check out Burlington’s plant life, I pedalled on and saw the RBG in the distance. The main building is a large, kind of ugly 1960s or 70s concrete structure (not green, in case you were wondering) with a metal skeleton supporting a series of glass roofs. The inside of the Gardens delighted the senses and more than made up for its dull exterior, and, as we entered the lobby, we were hit with the fresh smell of greenery. Vivaldi’s “Spring” resonated from a pair of tinny speakers and mixed with the sound of a waterfall trickling in the background. We had entered into a strange manufactured Eden, with pots of cacti, palms, and orchids lined up along the hall like vegetative guards beckoning us to approach. Our first undertaking was to check out the greenhouses. A pair of sliding doors led us into the first enclosure, and we were almost overpowered by the combined scent of hundreds of spring bulbs. Slow ceiling fans lazily tossed the scent of tulips, hyacinths, narcissus, daffodils, and cherry blossoms about the room. In the Mediterranean garden, we were met with a blast of hot, dry air, the sight of towering eucalyptuses and birds of paradise whose massive fleshy leaves reached to the top of the glass roof. The indoor garden was large enough to create the idea of a complete oasis, filled with creeping vines, lush leaves, vibrant flowers, and ripening fruits, sealed off from the still–cold outskirts of the city. It was a pleasant surprise to find this pocket of wildlife in an industrial town known for its smokestacks and steel. After entering the artificial environment of the greenhouses, it became clear that we had left another world behind—the strange university bubble, populated almost–exclusively by 17– year olds to 20–somethings. There were small children tormenting the goldfish in a pond, parents imploring them to keep their hands to themselves, old ladies sniffing tropical blooms, and the occasional teenager hiding behind stands of bamboo, pretending not to be related to the man in head–to–toe safari garb. Although our demographic was largely underrepresented, this could not have been for lack of excitement at the RBG. Everywhere Will and I walked there were enticing signs that read “This way to the Wollemi Pine, the Tree that Time Forgot.” We grew curious the more we read and strolled through the building in search of this celebrated plant. The excitement with which the Wollemi Pine is advertised throughout the greenhouse and visitors’ centre reminded me of when panda bears, Komodo dragons, or other rare and famous creatures make a stop at the local
zoo. The Wollemi Pine—the Gardens’ feature display—is a prehistoric plant, initially known only through the fossil record and thought to be extinct until a small valley filled with the species was found in Australia in the early ’90s. One poster explained that its discovery was the botanical equivalent of finding a living dinosaur (“more like a Pine– osaur,” it quipped). Amusingly, the sign, bearing the images of a Wollemi branch and a Brontosaurus, also noted that the exhibit for this endangered tree species was sponsored by Turkstra Lumber. After wandering the greenhouse for some time, Will and I passed through the double doors that led to this much–hyped conifer. The room was filled with cycads, ginkos, and other plants that looked like they came straight from The Land Before Time. We
spotted a large plastic dinosaur lurking in the foliage, and around the corner we spotted the pine. It’s a robust eight–year–old specimen named Hercules, with primitive–looking needles reaching out from its many branches. But for a plant with such a godly name and such publicity, it was far less impressive than we had expected. Trapped behind iron bars—which, according to our pamphlet, were not in place to prevent treenappings but to protect Canadian soils from any dangerous organisms that might be living in Hercules’ Australian potting medium—the tree’s allure was easily eclipsed by the various cool displays surrounding it. Lending a thrilling air to the study of plants that could not be matched by any mere specimen, one board asked, “What does it take to discover an important new plant species? A knowledge of botany...a thirst for adventure...physical fitness...and the ability to keep a secret.” There was a film playing that showed svelte botanists clad in exceedingly–short short–shorts rappelling down cliff faces and being lowered from helicopters to collect the seeds of the wild trees. Music worthy of Jurassic Park played in the background, and the movie explained that researchers were taken to the valley blindfolded in order to keep the Wollemi Pine’s habitat protected. Altogether, the RBG actually managed to make botany look pretty bad–ass. Will and I left the botanical gardens, concluding our expedition at
Easterbrook’s, a 1950s–style hot dog joint that sits across the street. As with the microcosms of the RBG, to step into this restaurant was to enter a different world, this one a time–warp filled with hot dogs named the Guided Missile, the Bellybuster, and the Breathalyzer. The Marvelettes played on a 45 jukebox and porcelain Coca–cola signs hung above a pinball machine and grimy checker–board floor. Like the Wollemi pine, this diner seems to have somehow survived in isolation, without adapting as the world changed around it. We sucked thick milkshakes through too–thin straws and reflected on the many realms to be explored in and around Hamilton, wondering how many more oases exist just a bike ride away.
By Chris Hilbrecht
Photography by Will van Engen
Graphic by Erin Giroux
hen Incite suggested a review of romance novels, we volunteered with feigned nonchalance. Feigned, that is, because we had uppity journalistic reputations to defend. But however formulaic the story lines and cringe–worthy the racy metaphors, we couldn’t deny ourselves a pretext to enjoy the quintessential cheap thrill. On a Saturday morning—apparently during an event for small children—we ventured to the Westdale public library. As toddlers milled around us, oblivious to our torrid research program, we put together six books representing some of the hallmark genres of romance literature. We read stories about aristocrats, cowboys, and exotic foreigners, stories set in the future, and in a genre unto itself: Pirate! Though we cannot claim to have experienced the same quiverings in our loins as the books describe, we enjoyed, albeit sheepishly, the diversion from our denser reading assignments. Here are our findings:
Love Me Tender by Sandra Hill Review by Andrew Prine Building upon the success of such hits as A Tale of Two Vikings, The Very Virile Viking, The Reluctant Viking, and Truly, Madly Viking, author Miss Sandra Hill released the romance novel Love Me Tender. This story recounts the ministrations of Elvis, reincarnated as a fairy godfather, bringing about the unlikely pairing of a streetwise Wall Street trader with a fashion–mogul Spanish prince. At 394 pages long, Love Me Tender strikes a figure almost as imposing as that of the Adonis gracing its cover, but Miss Hill’s easy–to–read style of writing makes it a surprisingly quick read. The fairytale elements lend themselves to steamy sex scenes surprisingly well, but Miss Hill leaves just enough to the imagination that it could still make good fodder for book club discussion. Moreover, through her use of fresh and unorthodox euphemisms for sex—“making horizontal fruit salad”, or “nude fishing with the slow stretch–and–reach motion of perfectly sculpted bodies, male and female, casting rod and reel onto smooth waters…”—Hill can ignite passion in even the most jaded of romance readers. For its sense of humour, quirky prose style, and interesting characters, I give Love Me Tender 4 out of 5.
The Countess and the Butler by Elizabeth Brodnax Review by Hannah Webb This novel predictably fits the formula of the “Regency Romance” genre. It features His Highness Prince Michael Rupert Franz Peter von Stell of Estavia, the lengthily named man of the story. He is of course devastatingly handsome, with a proper education and strong morals. Despite Michael’s impeccable background, he is forced to become a butler, and is hired at the home of beautiful Natalie Chesney, the woman. This is clear by page two of her description; other characters in romance novels generally do not receive that kind of detail. The pieces are set, and an inevitable but forbidden love develops between them. The story is complicated by the typical intrigue and upper–class gossip. Details ensue, and in the end they overcome all adversity and get married. Surprise, surprise. The book is a poorly written fairy tale for grownups, and had a disappointing lack of juicy sex scenes. It is effortless, passive reading, rather like watching TV because one is spoon–fed entertainment rather than actively engaged. I secretly enjoyed it for this reason, even if I made sure not to leave the book lying where other people might see it. It was a not unpleasant break from the Rousseau and Shakespeare of my required course readings.
The Scarlet Empress by Susan Grant Review by Chris Evans
Pirate by Connie Mason Review by Yang Lei
The Scarlet Empress concludes the five–part “2176” series, provocatively subtitled: “FIVE WOMEN. ONE GOAL: FREEDOM.” US fighter pilot Cam Tucker is shot down over Korea, and cryogenically frozen by a mad scientist for 170 years. She awakens to a nightmarish world in which her beloved country has been overtaken by the evil United Colonies of Earth. Being an ass–kicking defender of democracy, Cam promises revenge. But first she has to deal with Prince Kyber, the sexy Emperor of Asia (yes, the entire continent) who holds her in custody. As events work slowly towards the cathartic fall of the UCE, the two remain oddly abstinent, and not for a lack of sexual tension. Finally, 266 pages into the action, Kyber makes his move in the butterfly sanctuary. But what comes next? “He pressing her down to the grass… drawing out sighs with intimate compliments and erotic promises.” And later, “he opened her to his attention, stroking and suckling her most sensitive places.” This book must have been improperly shelved—it was about as arousing as a foreign policy speech from President Bush. Then again, Cam’s love of freedom just might quicken some pulses south of the border.
In the genre of romance novels, one expects exotic locales, glamorous protagonists, and Adonises of all shapes and sizes. But sometimes the characters are just plain weird. Pirate tells the tale of Guy de Young, a commoner in love with the young aristocrat Bliss Grenville. In a bizarre turn of events, Guy de Young becomes Guy Hunter, a pirate bent on revenge with a passion worthy of The Count of Monte Cristo. The novel is slightly more tolerable than others of the same genre, as the author does make an attempt at some semblance of a plot. Even so, steamy love scenes punctuate the narrative with clockwork regularity. The supporting characters are few and one–dimensional, being merely stock characters such as “the evil guy,” rather than real people. Just as Edmond Dantes maintained a false identity, Hunter disguises himself with an eye–patch. And true again to The Count of Monte Cristo, the one–eyed monster reforms, realizes the follies of revenge, and saves the day. That is, all the while brandishing his own one–eyed monster at the willing Bliss.
Finally, 266 pages into the action, Kyber makes his move in the butterfly sanctuary. Sheiks of Summer by Susan Mallery, Alexandra Sellers, and Fiona Brand Review by Chris Hilbrecht Sheiks of Summer is an exotic collection of tales about handsome and wealthy Arab men as rugged as the desert in which they live. For those who are fans of exoticism and not– quite–culturally–accurate names such as Xavier, with three romantic Middle Eastern capers, this book offers more bang for your buck. In the first tale, “The Sheik’s Virgin”, a young, naïve American girl named Phoebe travels to a distant tropical island owned by the oil–rich Prince Nazri Mazin. In a hotel gift–shop she encounters a tall, dark gentleman, who is inexplicably entranced by her plain clothing and simple disposition. Little does she know, this stranger who “smells like sunshine, but more masculine” is the Prince, and he is out for her love. The plot arch is not exactly riveting, consisting of a series of tedious dates and an eventual *ahem* climax. But Phoebe adds some drama with tortured childhood memories of her upraising in the Colorado backwoods, and teachers thinking that she was “retarded” because of her informal education. “Sheikh of Ice” and “Kismet”, the other two stories, were more than I could handle in one sitting. But they will no doubt leave the connoisseur of ethnic stereotypes feeling “all warm and melty.”
Cowboys, Babies and Shotgun Shirley Rogers Review by Ben Freeman
Transporting the romantic novel template and its associated stereotypes to the Deep South, this book is part of the “Men of the Land” series, whose tagline— “Rugged ranchers with a tender touch”— spells out most of what you need to know. But if you’re interested in some extra details, know that the tale pits the young, naïve, and rich Ashley Bennett against the ruggedly handsome cowboy Ryder McCall. Both carry enough baggage for a family of four’s summer vacation, Ashley having been neglected by her businessman father and unloved by her mean stepmom (original ideas, honest!), and Ryder having had his heart of gold broken by his promiscuous ex–fiancée. Following a single passionate night, it emerges that Ashley was both a virgin and engaged to another man—can you say “scandal”? Worse yet, our luckless heroine finds out that she’s pregnant! With twins! Tough guy Ryder claims he’ll never settle down, but Ashley’s sure those caring eyes are a dead giveaway. What will happen? Can Ashley…. Oh, who really cares anyway? “She needed him inside her, needed to feel one with him…He pushed farther into her, filling her with himself over and over again until he fell into the black abyss that beckoned him.” Now that’s what the book’s really here for.
Globalising the Ivory Tower By Muneeb Ansari, Julie Compton, and Jordan Mackenzie
or this issue, Incite decided to see how different university systems from aroundthe world stack up to McMaster and the Canadian university system in general. Because of the wide variety of systems, we focused our search on schools in three particular regions: Scandinavia, East Asia, and Latin America.
China and Japan
Asian universities are currently coping with many of the same problems faced by their North American counterparts. Rising tuition fees, competitive admissions, and a desire to be recognised internationally are of concern to university students in Japan and China. But there are also other issues unique to the Asian context. Japan is attempting to gain recognition internationally with a fairly homogenous academic community, and China is struggling to emerge from an unwieldy and outdated Soviet–based model for higher
education. Although Japan now has several world–renowned universities, their inability to cater to foreign faculty members has been detrimental to overall improvement. Through incentives such as the “Plan to Accept 100 000 Foreign Students” and the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, Japan is attempting to internationalise its academic institutions and, as a byproduct, its society at large. Japanese universities also have a significant gender imbalance, particularly in science and engineering. Although men dominate these faculties in North America, the gap is even more pronounced in Japan. In 1991, for instance, women made up less than three percent of engineering students. Female enrollment is increasing, but it remains a salient issue in Japanese universities today. Unlike Canada, which has a large public system coupled with a marginal private system, Japan has a
three–tiered post–secondary system. The most prestigious universities, the National Universities, are partially privatised. Their employees are not considered government employees and their administration has a great deal of autonomy. Students attempting to get into a national university must take two admissions tests: a nationally administered test and an examination designed by the university that they hope to gain admission to. The second tier—the private universities—educates the majority of Japanese university students. They receive limited financial support from the Ministry of Education and, as a result, charge higher tuition fees. At the bottom are the public universities, which are administered by municipalities and focus primarily on community development rather than research. China has its own set of problems to solve. At the forefront is the tough transition out of a centralised and overspecialised Soviet–style university system. In the early 1950s, Chinese universities underwent a programme of central planning whereby university textbooks and syllabi were controlled by the government. Further, comprehensive universities were turned into single disciplinary universities. Starting in the 1990s, China has attempted to rectify these problems by decentralising administration and amalgamating institutions. China’s university system is also unable to accommodate 85 percent of college–aged citizens. Of the students who write the annual college entrance exams, only 52 percent will gain admission into a postsecondary institution. The competition to get into these institutions is tough; stringent study routines are the norm and bribery is not unheard of within the admission process. A private education system has sprung up to deal with this surge of academic hopefuls. With tuition fees frequently three to four times higher than public universities’ and inconsistent accreditation, these universities are decidedly a second choice for most applicants.
G RAPHIC BY ErIN G IROUX
The self–proclaimed motto of the Nordic countries is a dedication to lifelong learning, and this ideology is apparent in the education systems of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. There are many attractive aspects of post–secondary schooling in this region, the most obvious of which is free tuition, as all public universities are completely subsidised by national governments. Lifelong learning is considerably more attractive when it is not accompanied by lifelong debt. The Nordic countries pride themselves on maintaining egalitarian systems, with a focus on student–professor interaction and equal representation of male and female students. Cold and darkness notwithstanding (the University of the Arctic is located in Finland), Scandinavian higher education could appeal to foreign students as well, since tuition is generally highly subsidised or even free for international students. Institutions are divided into public, private, and polytechnic schools. Not surprisingly, most private institutions are not free. In Finland, polytechnics are also known as universities of applied sciences, and generally cater to establishing contacts with business and industry. Although most polytechnic degrees granted by Scandinavian universities are equal to bachelor’s degrees according to international standards, domestic distinctions between the two indicate divergences in career paths, with polytechnics often focusing on vocational training. Many features of Nordic university systems have been adopted during the development of Europe–
wide standards of higher education through the Bologna Process. This initiative has affected the policies and systems of Scandinavian universities. A primary objective is to establish a universal system of credits and degrees, so that crossover between countries is more accessible. Within the European Credit Transfer Accumulation System, letter grades on a seven point scale are assigned among students as percentiles, where an “A” would indicate the best 10 percent and an “E” would be mean the lowest ten percent among passing students. The remaining two points, “F” and “Fx,” charmingly distinguish between a fail which does not meet minimum requirements and performance which is deemed “unacceptable in all respects.” This system has been widely adopted in conjunction with local and national grading systems in Nordic countries. Notably, the Scandinavian countries have implemented a new “3 + 2 + 3” system, representing the successive years of a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree, and implying a cohesive path for higher education. For example, an undergraduate degree would be comprised of 180 to 240 credits, whereas a graduate programme might require 90 to 120, with one year generally consisting of 60 credits. These changes likely signify a shift towards more extensive education and a growing number of students pursuing additional degrees after undergrad, possibly in different countries.
There is a very wide variety of university experiences in Latin American countries, which makes it hard to discuss the region as a single entity. For example, enrollment rates vary from 39 percent in Argentina to 11 percent in Brazil. Similarly, private institutions account for 58 percent of university students in Brazil as opposed to only six and 20 percent in Uruguay and Argentina respectively. In the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of tertiary education institutions. These are small vocational–type schools, which are generally unaccredited though not all are private; many of them receive government funding. There are about 700 universities in the region; about half are public, while the rest are private. In addition, there are over 3000 tertiary institutions, of which 2000 are private and 1000 publicly funded. The increasing number of institutions has been coupled to a dramatic rise in demand and enrollment. Brazilian post–secondary enrollment doubled from 1.5 million to three million students in the 1990s, a rise linked to greater demand for skilled knowledge workers. Still, a dominant ideology across the region does exist, which states that education is a right for everyone and should be, as much as possible, free and accessible to all. This thinking is not apparent in the sta-
tistics concerning the university systems themselves, however, as fewer than 10 percent of Brazilians have access to post–secondary education. Public, government–funded universities are often still low–key, community–based institutions that do not participate significantly in research: Latin America publishes less than three percent of the world’s scientific journal articles annually. Public universities are also considered the lowest quality of the institutions, with private universities regarded as the best. Brazil has a number of types of universities in its higher education structure. There is a distinction between universities, university centres, and integrated and isolated faculties within schools. Each has a different level of educational autonomy, as Brazilian and other Latin American universities tend to be wary of administrative structures that oversee their operations and decide on their policies. Instead, they prefer to self–regulate and come up with policies on their own. But this system is increasingly being replaced with a more North American–style university governance system.
Overall, we see that there is some convergence worldwide on how people believe universities should work. There is greater demand for a university education worldwide, which can be attributed to shifting economic trends that privilege knowledge workers over unskilled work. Yet many governments and existing public education systems are either unable or unwilling to accommodate the increased demand. The gap is instead being filled by a proliferation of private institutions. Although these are not yet a major factor in Canada, many students elsewhere in the world are turning towards them, especially those not accepted into the traditional system. Private institutions have their own particular set of problems. Many are unaccredited, causing problems for graduates when they seek employment or international recognition. Private institutions tend to be more focused on a specialised field; many are polytechnic and vocational institutions. They also tend to be much smaller than public universities, with some based in a single classroom. Another issue is their tuition, which often costs more than traditional universities’. Since they tend to provide specialised work skills and are often an avenue of last resort for students, they are able to charge higher prices, though this extra revenue may not always translate into high–quality education. Another common trend, a concern which is articulated daily by McMaster students, is rising tuition rates. Except in Europe, where post–secondary education is highly subsidised (e.g., free in Scandinavia), tuition fees are rising across the world. This is due
to both reduced government spending on education (in Latin America, for instance), and the increasing demand for university education, resulting in higher costs for the whole system. In keeping with the trend of globalisation, education is becoming more homogeneous. Asian universities have switched from a model of highly specialised institutions to more generalised schools, Latin American institutions are putting in place reforms in academic governance to align themselves more with the North American model, while Scandinavian and European universities are making an obvious effort to standardise their credit systems. There is also an apparent global focus on the sciences at the expense of the arts. This emphasis flows from the belief that the sciences contribute more to the economy, and that increased scientific knowledge will help a country compete in the new global economy. In Europe, government policy has been adjusted accordingly, and in China and Japan the technology industry recruits from and directly funds certain university programmes. In Canada, we can see this trend too, with increased spending on initiatives such as the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, rather than its Humanities or Social Sciences counterparts. But there are also many differences between the systems. Government funding of Latin American higher education does not meet demand. Universities there struggle to provide an adequate system for their students. Despite many students’ complaints at McMaster, North American and European universities have not faced this problem to such a degree. They are still the most well–established and well–funded universities in the world, with money coming mostly from governments (the United States is an exception, but even there, state universities are well–regarded). Scandinavia represents an extreme example, with no tuition fees. In China and Japan, the focus is on gaining international recognition for their universities. There is a strong focus on science, along with the belief that education is linked to prosperity. Graduate programmes are still fairly new outside of North American and European universities, though they are growing in popularity. The desire to gain a university degree has become increasingly global, and the problems associated with accessibility to education are present worldwide. In some cases, university is still for the elite class of society, but the major global development is the opening up of universities to a wider market of students. Although there are many differences in higher–education systems around the world, there are far more commonalities; and these will only grow with the increased global convergence of ideologies about university and the structure of post–secondary education.
G RAPHIC BY ErIN G IROUX
Union Joke By Katie Huth and Noel Iverson
o someone unfamiliar with British comedy, one might imagine the polite tittering of refined company in response to a quirky intellectual comment, producing faint ripples in their cups of Earl Grey. But those who understand that this is a rubbishy load of nonsensical poppycock have likely discovered the delightfulness and daring of British humour. Ridiculing the much– stereotyped European refinery and with scripts chock–full of historical references, double entendres, and dry wit, there are many features that distinguish Britcoms from standard North American viewing. Inciters Katie Huth and Noel Iverson devoted one rollicking evening to these classic skits in an attempt to understand their essence. After watching the pilot episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, The Office, Spaced, and an episode of Blackadder featuring Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House is not his first claim–to–fame!), and drinking the requisite cup of tea, we present our observations and comments on how to attain a fuller appreciation of British comedy.
What’s so funny, eh? British comedy runs the gamut from the absurdity of Monty Python’s fish–slapping dance to the sarcastic barbs of the historical sitcom Blackadder. What can we identify as being characteristically British? We see a touch of physical humour, mostly in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, such as in “The Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch and in the tendency for male members of the cast to transform themselves into (dreadfully unattractive) ladies. It is often used for open self–deprecation. Yet Britcoms don’t centre on slapstick (though we do see it occasionally, as in the Black Knight’s bloody battle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), unlike North American television. Rather, British humour is more subversive, employing satire, eccentric witticisms, and irony. Britcoms rely heavily on verbal humour, embedding wit and mockery in an endless stream of dialogue. This style is something to which North American viewers are largely unaccustomed. We are a culture that hoots with laughter at Peter Griffin clutching his knee in wordless pain for a full three minutes, whereas British writers would hit you with 10 pages of script in the same amount of time. In an interview, John Cleese said that the script for a standard show of Fawlty Towers (which he wrote and starred in) was almost twice as long as that of any other show with the same running time. The complexity of the plot and quality of the dialogue held up for the short 12–episode run, when the writers decided the show had reached its peak. This priority on quality writing over series length is also true for the original British version of The Office. The North American emphasis on a TV spot’s longevity—and making wads of cash—often compromises originality in the long–run. Furthermore, the fact that British comedy is often low–budget, focusing on dialogue rather than special effects, is often a boon to its success. For example, Monty Python and the Holy Grail gained popularity for its
characters’ use of coconuts to mimic the sound of horses. Unabashedly fake cardboard models of the castles only added to the eccentricity of the film. Because the writers of British comedies don’t pander to viewer ratings (which tempt American writers to submit mainstream jokes and add shock value), the result is a gem– filled string of quirky, consistently ingenuous episodes. Colourful phrases such as Basil Fawlty’s “Walnuts! That’s a laugh! Easier to find a packet of sliced hippopotamus in suitcase sauce than a walnut in this bloody kitchen!” wouldn’t come pouring out of a character’s mouth on Friends or Will & Grace. This brings us to the question: do the idiosyncrasies of British humour resonate with North Americans? We are accustomed to sitcoms with instantly–gratifying quips, predictable plot lines, and dialogue requiring minimal attention, sliced thinly by commercial breaks. Yet the successful introduction of a North American version of The Office seems to be a sign that self–deprecation and sarcasm are more universally accepted than previously thought. Classics such as Monty Python achieved cult status in small pockets on this side of the Atlantic years ago, in tandem with their widespread popularity in the UK. An article in the British newspaper The Guardian last year argued that North Americans do appreciate the irony that is rife in Britcoms; they simply don’t use it as commonly as a comedic tool. If asked to define the term, some of us may have the same response as Blackadder’s dim–witted sidekick Baldrick: Blackadder: Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is? Baldrick: Yes, it’s like goldy and bronzy only it’s made out of iron.
euphemize taboo topics. Hearing a proper British gentlemen refer to his “wobbly bits” has a refreshing charm, especially for those of us who have been desensitized by the blatant vulgarity typical of much North American viewing. The use of innuendo and delicate language to discuss crude topics also allows Britcomedians to offend a wide array of political and social groups without causing uproar.
But what are they on about? British humour often centres on certain recurring themes, with each series, episode, or character of a show exploring one or two issues in depth. It’s like a parable, only…you know, funny. Foreigners such as ourselves will probably find one of their most long–standing themes mysterious, hilarious, and absurd—the British class system. Unlike Canadians, and the former colonialists located directly beneath us, the British are absolutely obsessed with social status, and are expected to know their place and act like it. Fawlty Towers is a marvellous example of the hilarity manifest in this mild class warfare: that waged with pithy witticisms, not Bolshevik revolutions. John Cleese stars as Basil Fawlty, the proprietor of the show’s namesake, a hotel. He is a status–obsessed, pompous twit, desperately trying to raise the prestige of his establishment so that he can finally turn away the riff–raff and attract a better kind of clientele. Predictably, Basil’s various schemes never go quite right: his fawning is unappreciated by the aristocracy, and his barbed comments often fly awry with
And now for something completely different. Another factor in British humour is the BBC’s stringent censorship laws, which compel writers to
Graphic by Chris Hilbrecht
hilariously awkward consequences. Fun fact: The pilot episode of Fawlty Towers is actually named “A Touch of Class”. Basil Fawlty isn’t just snobby; he is also a touch racist. As the British Empire had colonies spanning the entire globe, there are still some tensions between native Britons and the peoples that until quite recently sang “God Save the Queen” or cursed her name. One episode of Fawlty Towers, “The Germans”, manages to insult and stereotype Indians, Africans, and of course Germans in under an hour, not to mention the constant ridicule of the incompetent Spanish waiter Manuel. Basil insults, screams at, and even physically abuses him on a regular basis, all under the pretext of training him: “This, Basil’s wife. This, Basil. This, smack on head.” Of course, the real butt of these jokes is
innuendo and double entendre, mainly because traditionally British censorship laws were very strict compared to the rest of the Western world. Sexual acts are generally implied or off–screen, and the language used to refer to genitalia and sex is comically childish: it’s hard to take seriously talk about “wankers,” “shagging,” and “dangly bits.” It is a wonder the British reproduce at all with such ridiculous dirty talk, but we guess they must take Blackadder’s attitude towards life: “make love and be merry, for tomorrow you may catch some disgusting skin disease.”
The times, they are a – changin’ But what of the modern Britcom? Does it remain as delightfully eccentric, subtly satirical,
Hearing a proper British gentlemen refer to his “wobbly bits” has a refreshing charm, especially for those of us who have been desensitized by the blatant vulgarity typical of much North American viewing. Basil himself, a point which is sadly sometimes lost on audiences who occasionally sympathise with him for “saying what we’re all thinking.” Monty Python also satirises cultural stereotypes and, like Fawlty Towers, makes great sport of ridiculing Germans for their seriousness and lack of humour in the famous sketch “The Funniest Joke in the World.” It demonstrates the superiority of English “joke warfare,” and its deciding role in the Second World War. The British joke is so powerful that anyone who hears or reads it dies laughing, while German efforts (“There were zwei peanuts walking down der strasse. Und one was assaulted... peanut!”) fail miserably. But, distant peoples aren’t the only targets for British humour. Some of the most cutting remarks are directed at England’s immediate neighbours, such as the Welsh, who Blackadder describes as “...tough sinewy men [who] roam the valleys terrorising people with their close–harmony singing.” Race is not regularly satirised in Blackadder, however, as the main focus of the show is British history and religion, particularly the Protestant/Catholic conflict. Religion is such a rich vein of comedic material that two of the most famous and highly regarded Britcom movies of all time— both by Monty Python—are centred around it. Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail, is an absurdist take on the adventures of King Arthur and his holy quest, including a killer rabbit, Tim the Enchanter, and a cameo by the Lord God himself. Following the film’s success, Python promptly decided to see exactly how far it could push the religion angle. The result was Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a retelling of the life of Jesus from the perspective of Brian, a child born a few doors down from the famous holy manger. According to director Terry Gilliam, this movie was Python’s way of saying, “Listen, we’ve alienated the Christians, let’s get the Jews now.” Though banned in several countries, it was wildly successful. The Pythons also address religious views on sexuality in the famous “Every Sperm is Sacred” musical number from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. It tackles not only the Vatican’s view of contraceptives, but also proper sexual technique, and the miracle of birth. British sexual humour is not obviously crude, like its American and Continental European counterparts. Rather, it is based on
and sexually repressed as the Monty Python classics? Well... sort of. One recent popular show, The Office (which has a wildly successful American remake you may have seen), diverges wildly from traditional Britcom tropes. Instead of academic satire and rampant cross–dressing, we are given a painfully unflinching look at the hilariously mundane life of office employees. Filmed as a mockumentary, The Office explores the drudgery of temp work, social awkwardness, self–aggrandisement, and the horrifying triviality of human life. The humour is all very understated and, though we may not want to admit it, relatable. At the other end of the spectrum we see a powerful surrealist movement in shows such as Chris Morris’s Jam, The Armando Iannucci Shows, and Spaced. Depicting two flatmates of convenience, Spaced uses fast cuts, film–like editing techniques, rapid–fire pop culture references, casual drug use, occasional bouts of surrealism, and a pounding techno soundtrack. The polite stuck–up eccentricities of Basil Fawlty or Blackadder are nowhere to be seen. But there are some things that will never change: the language is still delightfully clever, the humour is understated, and, generally speaking, you will be forced to think for a little bit before you laugh. Whether you brew a cuppa and sit down to a Blackadder marathon, or take some cheap speed—bought off some violently friendly Scottish blokes you met in the pub—and watch every episode of Spaced, you will still be treating yourself to a higher class of comedy than the vast majority of the dreck Hollywood produces. Now go forth, put on an accent, and have a bloody great time!
The Best of Britcom
A list of must–sees Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketches The Lumberjack Song (Episode 9) The Ministry of Silly Walks (Episode 14) Argument Clinic (Episode 29) Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) The Philosophers’ Football Match Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Fawlty Towers Communication Problems (Episode 7) The Germans (Episode 6) Blackadder Ink and Incapability (Season 3, Episode 2)
Enhancing the Experience
Next–level viewing 1. Brew a cuppa, preferably looseleaf tea. We suggest Earl Grey or English Breakfast, depending on time of day. 2. Set the mood. Dress like a classy Englishperson when watching Fawlty Towers, a member of royalty to watch Blackadder, or in drag to best enjoy Monty Python skits. You may feel silly in tweed and lingerie, but it’s surprisingly comfortable. 3. Speak to your housemates in a British accent. Adopt Briticisms like, “Now don’t get brassed off about that wanker, he’s just taking the mickey” or “Blimy, these writers are right gits, talking bloody codswallop.” Advanced Watchers Only: Attempt to talk exclusively in Cockney rhyming slang. 4. Watch and re–watch. The series’ are often only 20–odd episodes long, and re–watching your favourite episodes often builds your appreciation for their intelligence. You’ll often catch some subtlety that flew over your head the first time through.
rey Christmastime day in a car headed towards the last turkey my grandmother would cook, and Craig offered me a summer job. No. Tear on tear brimming for miles, I explained my answer till we stopped for gas. My face as drained and flat as the sky, blood dropped all down into my belly sloshing, I strode past the McPlayhouse, straight to the bathroom mirror, and tried to see myself. I peed a long pee from all the tea we had drunk. So much tea always when I was with him that my head hurt and my appetite went on strike. He drinks it up ravenously every day, like everything else. I just wanted to get home on time. Something had ceased. My whole life I’d been lost at sea, thinking the ocean half–empty. I crashed on a great yellow rock of an island one summer, and he more than dusted me off; he made me glow. I had never been anywhere. I wore a matching tracksuit on the plane ride. I read the instruction manual for my brand new camera. Craig picked me up along with another student at the tiny, sun–filled airport. There weren’t many of us that summer. He drove us to the residence in the open jeep through the hot evening air as we took in the opening scene
Graphic by Jeespot, email@example.com
of our adventure. I didn’t know yet that Craig never calls it “hot” out—it’s always “warm.” Like he never says “I’m tired.” And like he never loses his temper. I’ve tried, but I don’t think he has one to lose. It was replaced with something else. The days often started for us in the evening when the light got good. And the light always gets good there, falling pink across the high walls. The air is always dry and salty, blowing breathless across that blip of land stranded in the middle of the sea. It only rained for one hour in the six weeks we were there. And when the rain came and went on that day, it left everything luminescent—outlined with impossible intricacy in a fine black ink. In the summer, by sundown, a fiesta has begun somewhere on the island, sending fire and confetti flying over the heads of dancing children. It is a good place to take your first photo. Craig is a finder of good places. Eating dinner, or having cakes at a tea garden overlooking the island all the way to the sea, he told us his stories. Gunshot holes in his seat on a flight to India. Flirty old Irish nuns. Deaf Zambians dancing together for Easter in complete silence—nothing but the sounds of their feet on the floor. Elvis Presley of the Yukon. German cowboys. The Tomatina. Dysentery. The stories are so good—the adjectives,
the accents—that you start to believe they are your own. But they’re not. The photos go with the stories. The stories go with Craig. Sometimes, later in the trip, we got up earlier and made it to the darkroom by the afternoon. It was always down there where his patience pissed me off. Things got serious and technical. The story of Craig the everyman who likes ta’ take pictures crumbled frustratingly to pieces. There are many scenarios in which this happens. You realize that there are feats behind them photos. Biking up mountains. Living through disease. Telling a good joke without speaking a word of the language. Remembering the street plan of a city he’s seen once. Identifying a church from a detail of its ceiling. Knowing just how dark a print should be to make it pop. What a rare and radiant genius, you think. You realize that he’s different from you. People always ask how he got those nuns to laugh like that. In a competition once, the judges told Craig there was too much of him in his photos. They don’t get it. He cannot document a sullen moment. It’s not what he does. And that’s fine; there are plenty of people who can do that in droves. But Craig walks into a situation with his self–deprecating wit and his curly mullet and people are disarmed. Their faces soften in mild mockery,
ready for some serendipitous event. He was hired to take photos of sweatshops in India. In the end he only had a few shots that CIDA deemed usable. The kids were too enthralled. I can see it. He had them all giggling and teasing him within five minutes of arriving. It’s there in every photo, how he transforms the air around him. I would never call it happiness. Happiness is trying to forget. Craig’s is a true and ferocious joy, the likes of which most people keep out of focus in the background of the brain so they can get shit done. It took seeing it to believe it. It was a beauty I wanted to someday be. One night, as it was fast becoming morning, Craig and I were checking email in the deserted lobby of the residence and I told him about my Problem. I whined about all the possibilities and their freezing effect. I said, every day opens and closes on me like a thick book and I stand in one spot undecided. He wasn’t worried. He said he couldn’t wait to see what I would do. He said that Helen Keller said that life is either a great adventure or nothing. But it sounded so much more alive at the time than I can give now. And this is just the point. He made me believe that clichés were born only because all the best wisdom had touched the lips of too many hypocrites. Coming from him, it shined new like
the first thing ever spoken. He talked to me about his time at school—how hard he had to work, what a waste it all was. I told him his mind was a marvel to me, independent of anything to do with calculus. It is the most inevitable thing that’s ever happened; we became great friends. He left notes on crinkled scraps of paper, thanking me for things I’d said or done. I was shocked. I had never heard of notes like that. I’d never seen poetry alive and breathing—only fossilized. It was a Christmas gift in the middle of July. It was magic. Just how something should be given. I returned to Canada and everything seemed a shade beside what I had seen. I lived for the days when Craig came to town, and I emailed him every thought of mine that I thought worth thinking. It was a wonderful time. Full of disdain for the present and hope for the future. I cherished his words and actions like a living Bible. I’d seen that it could all be genuinely different. Nothing short of saved. A good many months went by like that. But all the while, things inside me were turning at an imperceptible pace. I started to look around at the landscape that housed my heart and I saw that it was Craig’s island. No one else lived there. I was in hiding from the storm of imperfection and falsity that raged
on in the details of the everyday, and he made me feel at home there. He would have eaten my sins forever, I think, never asking a thing in return, as long as I’d been willing to stay and spill them. When he came and went on those days, he left my life in a flat, unforgiving department store light. To unearth the treasures of my own place and time, it turned out, would take a gruelling battle; meanwhile he served up the fruits of his own adventures on a platter for me to taste. It was in this way that he was too easy an ending. I couldn’t work for Craig that summer running the program; I had to do something that was my own. And I couldn’t keep sharing my every thought with him. (There was too much of him in the photo.) I told him all this in a greyness he didn’t understand, but he listened like always, turning it around in his eyes, trying carefully to see. There are hearts made of cold iron—but his heart is kind. He taught me to fix my bike. He set me free. He was not a seductress. It’s just that islands are lonely, especially the most beautiful ones, the ones most remote and misted over with magic. I could have stayed. I could have been right there looking over his shoulder at every vista. It would have been lovely. But it wouldn’t have been mine.
Trappings By Siva Vijenthira
he latest bit of non–controversial controversy making the rounds in the United States is how a New York Sun columnist, delightfully named Lenore Skenazy, let her nine–year– old son travel home on the subway by himself. Pop psychologists and sidewalk commentators alike have publicly accused her of everything from child abuse to mental instability. She has replied that, armed with a map, a MetroCard, and some emergency money, any nine–year–old could have done the same. While I must admit that my understanding of New York City, coloured as it is by old Law & Order episodes, is quite a bit less rosy than Skenazy’s, I applaud both her parenting skills and the way she has finagled television appearances out of a simple tale about when and how to give children their independence. When asked how he reacted when his mother allowed him to find his own way, the boy replied, “I was like, ‘Finally!’” I am sure that if I were convinced that my own child was able and eager to make the same trip, I would allow her to do so, remembering my own multiple–transfer bus rides to school each day when I was only slightly older. For me, the age of the boy is somewhat inconsequential; he was a confident map reader travelling on an easily navigable subway system, so it is unlikely he would have gotten lost. More striking to me about the story were the very particular fears that evidently haunt Skenazy’s critics. Abduction, sexual assault, and murder, in that order, seem to be the expected punishments for vulnerable people travelling on their own in any situation. Skenazy’s son was travelling in daylight among hundreds of people, but even that frightened the people who proudly wrote to her that their children were not allowed to walk down the block to the mailbox. To live with such constant paranoia is unimaginable to me. My happiest memories are filled not with the happiness derived from comfort and security but from that special, happy thrill of discovery and wonder that comes from doing something spontaneous and finding something unexpected. I am now more than twice the age of Skenazy’s son, and I always do my “dangerous” treks with others, but my
stories elicit almost as much incredulity as his did. I am no longer nine, but I am still short and, crucially, female. I am not in scary New York City, but I negate the relative safety of Westdale by going out in the dark. In particular, I negate the safety of Westdale by going hiking in Cootes in the dark, armed with only house keys and sometimes a camera. My friends and I have gone on the same trails in the afternoon and we’ve gone at dusk to see the sunset, but more often we’ve gone at night. Ten o’clock is more convenient for most people in the group than noon, but there is more to our reasoning than convenience. There is something wonderful and ethereal about being in the woods at night, especially on a slightly rainy or foggy one when mist seems to sit just over the water and dew drops cling to eyelashes. Logs seem to have faces and trees acquire personalities. The deer and rabbits are bolder. When a duck flaps across the water, partially hidden by tall reeds, the sound makes us all jump. In fact, nearly every unexpected noise induces gasps followed by laughter. At one point in the winter, I walked with a group of friends onto the solid ice in an area behind Les Prince and threw snowballs, wrestled and lay back to see the stars. It is one of my favourite memories from this past school year. Describing it, I want to call it childish, but I know that few children would be allowed to do what we did. Why? Are we that much less safe in the woods than we are on the sidewalks? Are we that much less safe on the sidewalks than we are in our homes? The stories of abduction that stand out most in my memory are those of a young girl snatched from her bedroom, another taken just outside her home by a family employee, and a third lured from a sidewalk in her neighbourhood. All three girls were in places near or in the supposed safety of their houses, and two out of the three cases happened in daylight. The lesson to be learned here is not that all children (and, by corollary, many adults) should stay indoors as much as possible, but that there is a small, small likelihood of anything happening, no matter how many precautions are taken. In truth, the world is not nearly as dangerous as we seem to think it is. For eager, capable people, whether
they are independent nine–year–old map readers or easily impressed 20–year–old wildlife enthusiasts, there will always be opportunity for discovery, growth, and happiness. I will not say that I do not fear anything when I go into Cootes in the dark. In fact, the very slight unease at the back of my mind adds to my enjoyment. I do not know what I worry about; I certainly do not believe we will meet someone dangerous or be attacked by wild animals. The unease is more abstract than that. It is probably the same slight unease that thrills rollercoaster riders as they strap themselves into their seats. A loose bolt or incautious ride operator could cause catastrophe, and the fear that that will happen is always there— but there is a larger, enveloping sense of security and trust that allows the riders to enjoy themselves anyway. Get out of your room at some point this month and go for a walk in Cootes, whether in daylight or not. Some entryways to the trails lie behind Brandon Hall, near Les Prince Hall, by the President’s House next to Bates Hall, and off the park on Marion Avenue North. If you are thinking about going at night, remember that the dark may be associated with primal fears of the unknown, but in a society like ours, in which every inch of sidewalk is lit by overhead streetlamps, and even Cootes is never truly dark because of light pollution from nearby buildings and highways, the dark is not really an issue anyway.
o the untrained eye, the green jungles of JHE appear to harbour hoards of bleary–eyed yet arrogant, nerdy but also “I got so trashed last night at this house party” students. It is a species indigenous to most modern universities, although little is known beyond their socially awkward or ethanol–centric practices. The species I am talking about, my readers, is the Engineer. But despite an underlying assumption that each engineer is just one of many wires in the faculty circuit board, a plethora of stereotypes exist even within the engineering realm. So buckle up and please don’t leave your pizza picnic in the computer lab. As we embark on our quest to understand the world of engineering, let us first begin by observing a selection of the faculty’s diversity. For the species to have persisted over several centuries, female engineers must exist. They have mostly secured their strength in numbers in chemical engineering, making it a good default program should you ever attempt to pass yourself off as a female engineer at a friend’s house party. Outside of the obvious gender bias, engineering can be further categorised by programme. If cars are more your style, befriend mechanical engineers since, with some luck, at least one of them will land a job at Porsche one day. And next time you mock a group of engineers for “building bridges and stuff,” at least take the courtesy to ask if they are civil engineers, as an accurate allusion to painful midterm memories will add an extra zing to your verbal punch. With great specialities come great quirks, particularly when exacerbated by high stress, intense reports, hectic schedules, a low female–to–male ratio, and booze. All of this translates into an exponential decline in sociability, as the time spent working closely with inanimate objects or, worse, mathematical formulae increases. Civil engineers tend to mesh well with civilised society but engineering physicists are often voted highly in awkwardness rankings as they’ve been noted to put their day on hold to examine a castaway computer on the side of the road (re-
member, they’re being sociable if they’re looking at your shoes instead of their own). Regardless of the university, engineering faculties pride themselves on their rigorous, hellish, drive–them–to–cliff’s–edge curriculum. Most students work hard; while some exceptional students manage to capture a perfect 12 in all their classes, many have clasped a test with a mere 30 percent scrawled in red at some point in their educational careers. Sleep deprivation, lots of courses, and truckloads of work (with a variable dose of procrastination) yield the perfect formula for crushed egos, questioning of life decisions, and doubts about one’s own intellect. Yet in general society, engineers are stereotyped as being arrogant, conceited, narrow–minded, and prescriptive in their approaches to problems—hardly the frail objects of a broken past. What happened? Although they may seem merely the sadistic joke of cruel administrators, the four (or five or even six) years of the curriculum are aimed at cultivating an engineering mindset. While budding scientists learn to read papers, memorize obscure formulae, and write in the passive voice, and humanities majors struggle to move beyond the hamburger essay, engineers–in–training exist in a universe of matrices, equations, tables, and “real–world” problems. Interdisciplinary education has recently become academically trendy, but with engineers, it’s about getting things done so that you have your water and electricity when you want them, you don’t have your waste when you don’t want it, and your thermos holds hot coffee without scalding you. When confronted with the thorny troubles plaguing society these days—whether it be excessive plastic waste or dense city populations—engineers don’t sit back and simply examine the nuances of the situation. They look for causes and solutions. Countless hours of problem sets later and you have a mind finely attuned to identifying these variables. Disciplinary skills, however, can also be the basis of disciplinary bias. University education strives to teach us to think through a particular perspective and we take this mindset with us when we enter the working world. As a consequence, we risk designing or recommending solutions that don’t work in practice by not accounting for root causes that lie outside of our disciplinary expectations. Our careers may include problem–solving, consulting, or designing tasks where our learned expertise, whatever it may be, will be required to spur ideas and recommend actions. Of course, “solving” a problem usually involves many players. For example, with their educa-
tional backgrounds, engineers tend to be the think–tanks, but the technicians, mechanics, and contractors make their ideas happen. But like a spore budding into a plant, an expert’s design significantly shapes the development of a project; undetected flaws in this design arising from an excessive disciplinary focus can have detrimental consequences. So what is the antidote to disciplinary bias? With the need to learn our field–specific skills within the limits of a course load endurable by human beings, there is little leeway for dumping more classes onto students. At the end of the day, we damn well care if a bridge collapses but not whether the engineers who designed it have read Proust. Interdisciplinary teams may be accustomed to bringing in their various perspectives, but to truly generate sustainable change, we can at least begin by a shift in mentality—something that is individually tailored, requires no additional course scheduling, and is completely free of charge, although it does take a degree of grit and ego–control. Not everyone has to become an environmentalist to make a positive impact on the planet; an engineer can simply consider and insert environmentally–conscious designs in her projects to create a technology with a reduced ecological footprint. Becoming environmentally–conscious or mindful of cultural differences are not concepts that can only be learned from a prescribed course outline. Developing these core values or extracurricular thought processes can, and even should, happen outside the classroom, since we incorporate these perspectives into our own lives rather than simply paying lip service to an “interdisciplinary” way of thinking. Like togas at a fraternity party, a beer– guzzling culture with a stroke of arrogance may be an easy stereotype to fall back upon, but the reality of engineering culture is much more complex. After all, this species harbours a hidden diversity of swing– dancers, army reservists, trumpet–players, Shakespearean actors, and antipoverty activists. Paradoxically, these quirky divergences from the stereotype may offer experiences that make them better engineers. Even for those who might have a lot of answers, it is the process of asking questions, exploring new terrain, and creating spaces for evaluating alternatives that allows solutions to hit their intended mark. By going on these uncredited escapades, we inadvertently become better equipped to thrive in the wilds of the real world.
Evolution of the Engineer By Stephanie Tom
G RAPHIC BY Lisa Xu
IN SEARCH OF Log: Hamilton Psychic Expo Attendees: Elise McCormick, Tamara Sandor, Anne van Koeverden 1:00 p.m.
to become a full–time psychic. She admits that he is secretive about what he sees, and confides that sometimes it seems like he tells her he sees things just to convince her to do what he wants (“I see a home–made apple pie in your future”).
We complete a round of the room and mull over the options presented by the various psychics. Peter is the partner of a woman who has been a psychic for 51 years, and she got him started on doing readings nine years ago. He is eager to talk to us, and immediately pegs Elise as sensitive, nurturing, fragile, and someone who falls in love too quickly. He moves on to describe Anne as someone who gets hit on a lot, is spiritual, analytical, stubborn, and would make a good cop. Tam is his favourite. He states she is stable, practical, likes to work with tools, and then asks if she is gay. We feel that this is a flirtation tactic and that he simply wants to know his chances. Unimpressed by his preliminary reading, we decide to move on.
Next we come upon another couple with a different dynamic. Tony Uberoi is a professional Indian psychic; his wife helps run the administrative part of his business, but has no psychic ability of her own. Curious to know what it would be like to live with a psychic, we quiz Tony’s wife on their life together. It turns out that Tony has a degree in law and commerce, but gave up a professional career
words. She explained clairvoyance with the exact muted self–assurance that a librarian has when explaining how the shelving system works. Overall, there was an absence of novelty in her bearing that, to me, suggested authenticity. I was very pleased with my first psychic experience. In my half–hour session, Tashene gave me a numerology reading and a tarot reading. She uses her own numerological system, which was channeled through her 20 years ago. According to this system, every person has chosen his or her own birthday based on what kind of energy package is required for the individual to achieve the goals he or she wants to in this life. For example, she told me that I have chosen the sensitivity and intuition inherent in my 24 June energy package so that I might spend my life studying the world’s religions and philosophies and sharing the truths I find with others through writing and teaching. The tarot cards told her that I will have more than one degree and that I will travel widely around the world, immersing myself in different cultures. Not too shabby. The most impressive moment during my reading with Tashene was when she had a vision of my brother walking with grace and confidence and asked if he was a dancer. My brother is, in fact, a figure skater and does, in fact, walk with noteworthy levels of grace and confidence. (I walk like a skinny–jean– wearing Polkaroo, on the other hand; at least I’m better at math.) What was most truly valuable about the experience, however, was not about obtaining unassailable proof of spookiness. What I gained from listening to Tashene was a story of my life as chosen. A shimmering, omniscient me sits just outside the edge of time and picks the spot where she’d like to dive into blinding reality. I chose it. Somewhere at my shimmering outer edges, I know what to do with it. If you need a story on a Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario, it’s not a bad story. G RAPHIC BY I SHANI NATH
We arrive at the Hamilton Convention Centre to a scene reminiscent of a university fair, except with psychics and their partners instead of school liaisons. We notice the strange assortment of products for sale in the centre of the room. They include specialty ponchos, jewelry, fake iPods, personal massagers, anime flip–flops, and Buddhist figurines. Arond the periphery are tables of varying degrees of hokeyness and authenticity. There is a British gypsy woman with a glamour shot that must have been taken 40 years ago. On the other side of the room is a woman whose booth, business cards, and clothing are bright purple and gold. Other than a few standouts, we are surprised by the normalcy of the atmosphere. There are people of all ages and demographics. We see teenaged thugs, little old ladies, parents with children, and other Mac students. But we aren’t there to observe the scene, we are there to experience it—with our own personal psychic encounters.
After talking to many people about their psychic powers, and having been told that we possess some as well, it comes as a surprise when the man at the next booth announces to us his complete lack of psychic ability. Robin Armstrong is an expert in astrology, and says that anyone can learn it. His ardent passion for the pedagogy of astrology is so strong that he believes it should be taught in every high school. His sign boasts his credentials, and when Elise asks about his area of expertise, he earnestly responds that he is in fact a “professor” of astrology. In spite of all his years of experience and study, we decide to bid adieu to Robin and split up for our own personal readings.
After doing a tour of the fair, I chose to get a reading with Tashene Wolfe. I liked the minimalist elegance of her booth and the quiet, plodding way that she chose her
For my reading, I chose to sit down with Andrea Maureen. Unlike the other female
psychics, with their hushed voices and antiquated scarves, Andrea Maureen had a New Age feel. She wore a large purple tie–dyed shirt paired with sandblasted jeans, and sported a savvy crew cut. Upon meeting me, she admitted that she performed readings more as a hobby and was in fact a full–time phys–ed teacher. When asked if her two careers had ever conflicted, she confessed that she had had only one incident on her track record. A few years ago, in a fit of frustration she had yelled at a student (who had been mocking her behind her back), “I can hear you Ethan! I am a professional psychic!” I could only imagine what my reactions as a young student would have been, but I decided to keep the professional psych–o jokes to myself. During my half hour session, Andrea Maureen went into depth about personal characteristics. After giving her my birth date Andrea used numerology to peg me as a perfectionist, a strong academic, and an intuitive, spiritual being. When asked where she saw me living in the future, she immediately exclaimed that California would be the place in which my spirit would experience a great awakening. I made an expression of extreme contentment—pleased with the destination she had chosen. Upon seeing my reaction (and almost as a disclaimer) Andrea Maureen warned me that the information given during her readings were not intended as advice, but as pieces of insight to help me better discover myself. I was somewhat displeased at this non– committal approach, as I had mentally prepared myself to be given a rigid and detailed timeline of all future events starring me. It was not until afterwards, when I listened to my session again, that I realized that Andrea Maureen had given me something better than a sealed fate; she had given me information that would further my understanding of myself.
All three of us agreed that we’d feel more comfortable having our personal readings done by a woman than a man, and Anne and Tam had already chosen women as their readers. So for the sake of variety, I decided to choose a man. Paul Pacific was the lucky winner, as he had a short wait time and the upbeat demeanor of a man who is approaching middle–age, but still sees himself as a surfer dude. Despite my misgivings about the male psychics (the Irish man in the booth next to Paul’s came across as a vengeful and angry leprechaun), he was cheerful and fun. After a disclaimer about how he was a psychic and not an artist, he drew my aura and explained what it meant. Apparently an aura is “the clairvoyantly viewed life force that surrounds every living thing on the planet,” and he has the ability to see them. The different colours of the aura tell him different things about people’s personalities. Overall I think he did a good job of reading me and had a good handle on my personality. Besides, having
a stranger say mostly flattering things about you and then give you a recording to listen to any time you want is worth 40 bucks any day.
After getting our individual readings, we regrouped to discuss our experiences. We all came away from the readings with tapes, and in Elise’s case, her aura portrait. We agreed with what Andrea Maureen said, that we came away with “a piece of ourselves.” Coming in, we all secretly wondered whether the psychics would reveal our future paths. What we left with had more to do with understanding ourselves better in the present. We were skeptical about the notion of a predetermined fate, but the consensus amongst the psychic professionals that we met can be summed up by the statement on Tam’s electric psychic readout: “You were BORN with these MOTIVES but you can CHOOSE your ACTIONS!”
Overheard at the Convention: “You don’t choose the crystal, the crystal chooses you.”
– Pendant vendor
“She told me all this stuff about needing to communicate better with my husband. I didn’t tell her that my husband’s dead!” – Dissatisfied customer “We’ve got a non–believer on our hands . . . I don’t need this!” – Angry Irish mystic “If wise men hadn’t followed the stars, they would have missed Christ altogether.” – “Professor” of Astrology
Legend for Elise’s Aura Portrait: Four layers: subtle bodies 1st layer: etheric double – consists of half an inch of white light around body 2nd layer: astral body – ground colour, main background colour Light orange denotes sensitivity, empathy, intuition, indecision 3rd layer: mental body – reflects intellectual ability Green comes from nature, down to earth, healing colour, can be stubborn, got jagged aureola, tough
I have a hard outer aura, but soft inner aura, disciplined on outside, softer on inside, worrisome and insecure.
G RAPHIC BY PAUL PACIFIC
4th layer: spiritual body of aura, radiating colours, radiate through other layers Major colour is yellow, and minor indigo Yellow means good brain, can learn and teach, a bit scattered Indigo comes from venus, home and family important, be a good mom, magnetic personality, work well under pressure Auric Symbols: triangles indicative of fortified aura, have spiritual protection around me, someone who’s passed away maybe
Mobilising the Middle Class
Incite’s Jeanette Eby and Zsuzsi Fodor interview Deirdre Pike Deirdre Pike is a Social Planner for the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC). She’s worked for 14 years in community building in Hanover, Hamilton, and Ottawa. Incite interviewed Ms. Pike about her work with the SPRC and efforts to reduce poverty in Hamilton. Deirdre Pike
Could you tell us about your role at the Social Planning Research Council of Hamilton? I’m a social planner. The SPRC has been around for 42 years and its mandate is to improve the quality of life in Hamilton by strengthening the community’s understanding of social problems and developing strategies to address them. Our 3 priorities are Poverty, Affordable Housing & Homelessness, and Children and Families. I have two main areas of focus. Diversity is one. I just did a diversity audit for employees of the public school board to find out who works for them. Are they all white? Are they all straight? Are they all women? We received about 4,000 out of 5,600 surveys from staff of the public school board. The next step is to do an audit on the students. If 10% of the students identify as gay, bisexual, or transgender but only 2.5% of the employees identify similarly, the students aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the leadership. Hiring practices need to change in order to make the board more inclusive. Another report around that same issue of diversity is a needs assessment of the LGBTQ community in Hamilton I recently completed. I used surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews with over 200 people to hear about services, resources, safety, and concerns around safe space within Hamilton for that community. After doing the report we have a whole other task: the recommendations. Who puts those into place? It’s not me; I just gather the information. It’s the community tha needs to respond. On April 17 th , I’m coordinating a meeting for community members from various sectors to come together and help with the implementation process. An example of a recommendation is in the area of the high school sexual health curriculum which only addresses straight sex. What are we going to do about that? The other main issue in my portfolio is poverty. I am currently funded through the Hamilton Community Foundation’s “Tackling Poverty Together” initiative to assist community–based or grass–roots anti–poverty groups. The Income Security working Group is a key one that works to uncover the underlying causes of poverty. They talk about the fact that one of the key causes of poverty is wealth which stems from greed. Stephen Harper thinks the solution to poverty is to put money into skills development and training. Yes, skills development is necessary but we more
urgently need to talk about guaranteed income security and not having social assistance rates at 40% less than they need to be. How do antipoverty groups tackle the different issues? One example is a campaign called Stop the Clawback which dealt with how the baby bonus is allocated to people on social assistance. Whereas my mother got the baby bonus in her mailbox every week, lone parents, mostly mothers, on social assistance are not trusted by the government so it gets clawed back. It used to show up on their cheque that they get the money but it actually got passed from the provincial to
Our focus in working with the grassroots organizations is to get to the real issues, on the ground. The Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is comprised of those who are conceived to be the most privileged and powerful leaders in the city; the executive directors and the CEOs of every key employer. The Income Security Working Group fought long and hard to get people living in poverty at that table. How are you going to have a roundtable on poverty reduction and not talk to anyone who is poor? Every time there is one of those meetings three people from low–income are there. It was a lot of work for the ISWG just to accomplish this. What is great about having their voices there is that people squirm when they realise the privilege and power that they walk around with in this world in the face of the reality of the poverty others live with. You want women with fridges full of cockroaches and children with beds full of bedbugs to get out there and get a job? This is the reality they wake up to. I want the people with the cockroaches to make those with the money and the power squirm. It might be a handy thing.
“There are some good people who care, but there are a lot of people who see poor people as an inconvenience and would rather just line them up and shoot them.”
the municipal government for art projects and afterschool programs, for example. The government was saying, “We don’t trust you with this money, but we will set up this program for you so your kid can go there instead of going home after school.” Whereas if the mother had the money actually given to her, maybe she would actually be able to have snacks and art supplies for her child on her own. But since we don’t trust poor people with money, we claw it back. Stop the Clawback was successful and the city responded with a plan for parents to apply to get back the money taken from them the previous year. The province brought in a whole new plan for child assistance. It’s not much better, but the campaign was successful in creating some level of social change. It shows what people in grassroots organizations can do when they mobilise. Why is it important for people in low income to be involved in poverty solutions. I wouldn’t know the little I do about the complexities of poverty if I didn’t hang out and talk with the people that are actually living below the low income cut off. You don’t learn anything if you just show up to your office every day meeting with your colleagues. There are some good people who care, but there are a lot of people who see poor people as an inconvenience and would rather just line them up and shoot them. The attitude people get when they call for help is often punitive and disrespectful.
Do you see our cultural mentality of having to go outside our communities and countries to help others as contributing to our ignorance of Hamilton’s needs? I saw a CH news broadcaster recently doing a WorldVision commercial holding one of those babies swatting flies off its face. That is the picture of the poor that we have. No one will go out to Beasley or to Riverdale and embrace those babies there in the same way. I think that one of the problems to address is getting people to drop the idea of the deserving poor. The deserving poor are the poor people in the developing countries that need our help because it’s not their choice, they’re innocent. But the poor here, they think, have caused it themselves. That’s why a lot of times the focus of antipoverty campaigns is keeping children out of poverty. But children are poor because their moms are poor. We need to stop looking at them with judgments like, “Ha, if you hadn’t gotten yourself pregnant you wouldn’t be in this position would ya?” Or, “She’s smoking for Pete’s sake! If she can afford cigarettes why should I give her money?” I would be smoking anything there was if I lived in such situations.
What other false perceptions do you notice? There has to be a distinction made between charity and justice. Yes that’s nice that you brought your Fortinos bag of food to your church around Christmas, but what are you doing about justice? What are you doing to change policy? We were able to stop the clawback, we were able to get people living in low–income on the roundtable. Minimum wage is slowly going up. Lend your voice to some issues about power and justice as opposed to just your pocketbook. And if you’re going to live justly, then you have to do it non–judgmentally from an anti– oppression standpoint. I think that that’s the key message to get out to people right now before there is no more middle class. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. From 1990–2000 the top 20% of earners in Hamilton made 2.4% more and the lowest earners made 1.8% less. The gap is widening. We need to get the middle class to be galvanised to speak out. Do you see any classism against people living in poverty? Absolutely. It’s the whole idea of the deserving poor again. You can see the focus of antipoverty efforts going towards the working poor. People will help those folks more. I continue to try to find ways to address that but I don’t know what they are except for appealing to people’s good sense and nature. It helps a little bit to show a statistic like a single person on Ontario Works makes $560 a month. $495 of that is for an apartment. Can you imagine what kind of bachelor apartment you get? A nutritious food basket for a single person in Hamilton according to Public Health is around $180a month. To continue to perpetuate these myths that people get their social assistance cheques every month and run to the beer
store is wrong. What most people in poverty lack is choice. Yes, they lack the income, but what does income deprive them of? Choice. So when all of a sudden the cheque comes in that allows them to make a choice to do something entertaining or that diverts them from what their situation is, I don’t think we should be judging that. If anything, we should make it more accessible for them to make choices. What do you find to be successful to galvanise the middle class? Relaying the message to people with powerful statistics in a format they can relate to. The SPRC reported that you could fill Copps Colliseum five times with people who live in poverty in Hamilton. We wanted to popularise the data. “You know how poor people are in Hamilton? You could fill Copps Colliseum five times!” That’s an easy thing to say for somebody having a beer with their buddy. It really worked and money started coming in to respond to the issue. That’s the most hopeful thing to me, that everyone is now talking about it and the message is now out there that helping the poor is not just about food banks. The emergency food bank system is not just about emergencies anymore. It’s standard. Same with the emergency shelters. For the majority of the people who access them it is an emergency but for many others they become chronic users. How do we move out of that pattern? People are starting to get that. This isn’t an emergency anymore. Poverty has become a way of life. It is a hard message to get out but what I tell people is that you are creating a poverty industry by treating things as emergencies that aren’t emergencies anymore. You really could take money out of the poverty industry and put it in people’s hands. My belief is that I should be working myself out of a job. People ask me what I do for a living. I say my job is to stamp out poverty. Everyone in the poverty industry should want that. I would love to have a job other than going around ending poverty but the only way to do that is to end poverty! It’s hard for people living in the middle and upper classes to hear the message. It’s hard to hear that we all live out of greed. I do and I go around and talk about it, so I have more responsibility for the words I say because I could be the first one to be called out on it. I know I could be an executive director somewhere but I don’t want that. I know I could make more money. I don’t want to get caught somewhere else just because I could make a little bit more and then buy a bigger house and then get a better car. Those are not innocent decisions. They are all about consumption, and we consume way too much stuff. Until people stop making choices to buy X–boxes for their kids I’m going to have a hard time. How do you define the Poverty Industry? I think it’s the many support systems in the community that have been created to respond to poverty that are now embedded in our system. The responses, the systems, haven’t worked and poverty in fact, has deepened in Canada. These support systems are made up of people who started for the right reasons but they now have permanent jobs working at food banks and shelters and people like me who earn a living going around talking about poverty. What role do you think students can play? Students have to do what everyone else has to do and that is learn about the issues. Come downtown. It’s not the only place people live in poverty but it’s certainly one of them. Riverdale is another one. Immerse yourself in the issues. Read Incite and not The Silhouette. Read Mayday and not The Hamilton Spectator. University life is often lived in a bubble. I was not an activist in university so I’m not somebody that is righteous in saying this. My message to students is the same as everyone else: you’ve got to get out and learn the issues and pick one to work on because the whole thing is so complex. It can be overwhelming thinking “what can I really do?” Apathy is a response that comes out of feeling like your hands are tied. It’s frustrating, not knowing where to start. Here’s a start: call me. I get students involved in the issues through volunteering and placements. There are lots of charitable responses and policy responses. It’s a good idea to do both because students are already critical thinkers; they can do the policy thing as well as running a car wash, for example.
Graphic by Michelle Tian
Mount Ararat By Nadine Bukhman
eing a female traveler in a Muslim country can be not only morally challenging but constantly tiring as well. A Western female traveler has to reassert her place every moment, since there is almost always someone to question her presence: men cat–calling, women staring disapprovingly, children yanking at clothing and asking for money. While traveling with a girlfriend in the South Eastern region of Turkey towards Mount Ararat, I found my role becoming much less that of a commercial “tourist” and more so of a traveler. The locals are not used to visitors. In their eyes, I was aware of myself becoming less of a female and more of a Western traveler, sexless. Mount Ararat lies on the borders of Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. The mountain itself has been a topic of territorial dispute between these countries for many years. Currently, it is officially recognized to be on the Turkish side. Its residents, however, are Kurdish and have been fighting a guerrilla war with the Turkish government for years. Ararat is also a site of religious conflict. Some
have found evidence in both the Bible and the Qur’an that point to Ararat as the place where Noah’s Ark finally touched shore after the famous flood. A number of archeologists claim to have pinpointed the very site. Throw in a complicated history of Soviet occupation and opinions flare on all sides. Outside visitors are rare and regarded with a shyness that can be mistaken for distrust. Unlike the cities where children flock around Western visitors asking for money, these people stay away, unsure of what to think. Their houses are made of mud and stone and face extreme temperatures in the winter. The villages are filled with dry, grey mud and sand, shifting with the wind. But the insides of the houses are painted in bright colours and decorated with hand– woven carpets. Lucky enough to be invited inside one of them and permitted by the residents to take photos, I was struck by the contrast. Inside, the females sit on the carpeted flour and the men sit on the couches. This startled me: an elderly woman sat on the floor while her seven–year–old grandson
lounged on the comfortable couch. My status as the metaphorically sexless Western traveler was affirmed, as after a moment’s pause I was offered a place on the couch. I was told that the Kurdish men work abroad in Tehran, Istanbul, Yerevan, and other heavily populated areas where there are more jobs available. Because of this, I never saw a single man between the ages of 14 and 50 in the villages. As a result, women, children, and the elderly are left to fend for themselves, sometimes seeing their husbands, brothers, and sons just a few times a year. The women and children do all of the farm and maintenance work that is required to survive. Some make handicrafts that they sell in the bazaars of local towns. Though there may be aspects of this culture that I find difficult to agree with, there are moments of utter kindness that show how welcoming these people can be. They do not pretend to be rich or poor, sitting on the floor as they receive guests, offering tea and sugar cubes in chipped glassware.
Rare Lenience by Nick Davies
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Europop Tarts Ana Nikolic is your guide to the lights, wind machine and glitter–fest known as the Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest: History
Graphic by Erin Giroux
don’t think I have ever met a person who dislikes ABBA. This leads me to believe that it is, as I suspected, impossible to not like ABBA. After all, there is just something about happy, smiling Swedes singing songs about love and life that can warm the cockles of even the iciest and most shrivelled of hearts. But there was a time when ABBA were not the phenomenon we know them as today. Four relative unknowns, they took to the stage at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 singing a little song called “Waterloo”. To date, we still can’t figure out whether the song is about Napoleon, about relationships, or about relationships with Napoleon. Oddly enough, ABBA is an exception, as most other winners of the Eurovision Song Contest quickly fade back into the obscurity whence they came. Well, except for Celine Dion, who brought Switzerland a victory in 1988 (although Celine’s “European” identity is a bit of a stretch). The Eurovision Song Contest is about as European as competitive football. Founded in 1956, the contest was envisioned as a means of uniting a heavily divided continent during a time of intensive post–war rebuilding. The first contest boasted a ballot of 14 participants, two from each of the seven competing nations; during its lifespan, 49 countries in total have, at one time or another, participated in Eurovision. The programme’s basic format has remained constant for most of the competitions. Each country enters one contestant; after each one has performed, viewers vote for their favourite acts from other countries, and votes are distributed using a 12–point scale (i.e., top vote getter = 12 points, second = 10, third = 8, and down from there)—they are not allowed to vote for their own nation’s act. Whichever performer finishes the contest with the most points is declared the winner, and the country that they represent is invited to host the next year’s competition. In 2004, because of an increased number of participating countries, semi–final rounds were introduced. This year, for
the first time, there will be two semi–finals, taking place on the Tuesday and Thursday before 24 May’s final. Song selection rules are also fairly relaxed. So long as the song performed is either written by people from your country or performed by people from your country, it’s considered legit. That means that songs written by Americans and performed by Russians are good (such as Dima Bilan), and ditto for songs written by Greeks and performed by Americans (such as Kalomira). Also, a maximum of six people are allowed to be on stage at any time, so choreography must be kept fairly compact. What makes Eurovision particularly entertaining is that even for Europeans, it is a guilty pleasure.
The many musical styles of Eurovision:
Schlager—Ah, the schlager: putting Europeans to sleep since 1956. The best way to describe this style is as a mix between a saccharine pop song and a schmaltzy, heart–rending ballad. Curiously, it’s still popular, especially in Sweden, perhaps because it reminds them of the days when ABBA still reigned supreme. Eurotrash—If you’ve ever heard Gunther and the Sunshine Girls, you have heard what we affectionately refer to as eurotrash. Cheesy synths and a persistent dance beat provide for three minutes of wind–machine blasting, strobe–light–flashing excitement. Disco—See above, but replace the synths with something a bit more 70s. It’s especially funny when employed by clueless Eastern Europeans. Ethno—This is a recent trend at Eurovision, mainly propagated by countries that spent far too much time behind the iron curtain. It’s like folk music, except far kitschier and far more embarrassing. Novelty—A pleasantly plump Ukrainian man in drag with a twinkly star hat on his head, drunken Latvians singing in Italian, and puppets are some recent examples. Rock—Usually performed by hairy Finns. These are general guidelines; the more genres you can incorporate into your song, the more likely you are to do well. Bonus points for cheesy costumes. Just watch Verka Seduchka’s performance last year: he tore the place up.
With few exceptions, people are almost always embarrassed with the acts their countries somehow choose to send—even though most acts are chosen by public televoting. A British friend of mine described it, quite aptly, as a “tour–de–force of bad taste,” and then continued on to lament his motherland’s apparent inability to find a competent act to send to Eurovision, despite its incredible music industry. Notwithstanding these obvious misgivings, Europe keeps watching, and more importantly, keeps voting. It may not be a particularly legitimate music competition, but, in some ways, Eurovision does more for improving relations between European countries than any political or governing body. Take, for example, the geographical biases of the televoting procedure. I’ve been watching for the past three years, and some things are constant. Serbia and Croatia give each other far too many votes considering that a little over a decade ago they were massacring each other by the hundreds. Many of the former Soviet republics also send many votes to Russia, making me question how much of the animosity between these countries is a political construction, and how much of it is genuine. And last year, Serbia, long considered the enfant terrible of Eastern Europe, and still reeling from its split from Montenegro, actually won. Eurovision also shows us how different attitudes in Europe are towards many social issues, including GLBT rights. In 1998, Israel’s Dana International won with her song “Diva”. This triumph would be nothing extraordinary, except for the fact that Dana International was born a man. When was the last time a transgendered person won American Idol?
Incite’s picks for Eurovision 2008 The Good:
Switzerland—Paolo Meneguzzi is pretty and classy, and so is his song. The fact that he’s singing in Italian automatically makes it 10 times classier. It sounds a lot like a song by Swedish wunderkind Amy Diamond, which is worrying, so it may (sadly) end up getting disqualified. France—Sebastien Tellier’s “Divine” is cool, hip, and trendy synth–pop, in the same vein as AIR (Tellier has actually worked with the guys from AIR before). In fact, this is a song that I could put on my iPod and listen to without feeling any guilt whatsoever, making me think it is just too cool for Eurovision—and it’s not very cheesy, so it likely won’t win. Sweden—Charlotte already won in 1999 with the cheese– tastic “Take Me To Your Heaven”. The lyrics in this one worry me a bit—“heroes never die alone.” Behind that cheery smile, could our songstress be advocating martyrdom? Ukraine—Ani Lorak: “Shady Lady”. What is she wearing? Is it a mini–dress? A bikini with dangly beads hanging off it? In any case, the video and song are smoking hot, as is she. If she can manage to sing this live and put on a good show, she has a good chance at winning. Azerbaijan—This ex–Russian oil republic brings us cheesy rock opera, complete with elaborate costumes. It’s larger–than–life, sung in awful English, features sporadic demonic laughter, and prominently displays a guy wearing fluffy angel wings. I kind of like it, because it’s just so over the top. These guys could do well, so long as they can pull off those ridiculously high notes live. Turkey—Turkey never fails to bring the goods, and this year is no exception. I like it when artists go to Eurovision and stay true to what they’re all about, especially if they are a band. Mor ve otesi is huge in Turkey, and their song “Deli” (“Insane”) is quality rock with a bit of tastefully placed Middle–Eastern flavour. Rock on. Honorary Mention: The Netherlands—Hind is quirky and cool: if she were a contestant on Project Runway Canada, she would definitely be Marie–Genevieve. I would like for her to at least make it into the final round.
Greece—The lyrics to Kalomira’s “Secret Combination” are awful, and she looks like a cross between a low–rent Brooke Hogan and an equally low–rent Jessica Alba. But then again, everyone loves Greece. She is young and attractive, and her performance will likely involve enough booty–shaking to get large portions of Europe to vote for her. The overly–purple outfits in her music video are atrocious. I hope she’ll wear something better—something sequined—in her actual performance. Spain—The song representing Spain was originally a parody of reggaeton performed as a skit on the country’s equivalent to SNL, and was chosen through a nationwide MySpace vote. The original mentioned Hugo Chavez and had cutting commentary about the Spanish prime minister, but they had to tone it down for Eurovision, replacing the snarky politics with references to Banderas, Bardem (+12 for pop cultural relevance!), and Almodovar. The guy singing has the worst hairstyle I’ve seen since Napoleon Dynamite. It’s definitely a joke entry, but you never know: it could win. Ireland—Dustin the Turkey is a singing puppet. The backup dancers are wearing eye makeup in the colours of the Irish flag. Oh dear, they just spelled/belted out the word gobble in a frighteningly cheerful way. It all goes to a Eurotrashy beat, and is a recipe for… success? I have no idea, but I do know that a turkey puppet is still miles better than last year’s Irish entry, which scored a measly four points in the final. Latvia—Pirates of the Sea. They are dressed as pirates. With hooks. Dancing to a eurotrashy beat. I honestly thought Latvia outdid itself last year with the crazy guys singing opera in Italian, but once again, I have been proven wrong. Russia—Dima Bilan’s “Believe” was produced by one of Timbaland’s protégés, and this apparently makes it good. But one glance at the music video and I knew what was going on: “Gosh, that Dima Bilan is such a swell guy! He helps poor little sick children! By singing! How sweet!” This song is a huge cheesefest. He was better two years ago, and yes, in part because he was wearing a wifebeater.
Bosnia—Trust me, Laka’s “Pokusaj” is even worse if you know the lyrics, as they are hilarious (by which I mean hilariously awful). And they are even creepier once you realize that the girl he’s singing with is his sister. Aren’t there rules against bringing chickens on stage? I feel like if I didn’t understand the lyrics, this song actually wouldn’t be that bad— it’s indie quirky in a way, but still a little too bizarre for Eurovision. Croatia—Wait, there’s an old guy on stage, and he’s talking, and his name is apparently “75 cents,” and even though I know what he’s saying I don’t see why they sent this act. I am confused and lost and starting to suspect that there are no people in Croatia under the age of 50 and if there are, they certainly aren’t making music. Belgium—Oh dear…I know you are singing in a made–up language, and it’s all wonderfully inventive and creative, but really, it comes off as strange. And a little awful. And kind of boring. Sorry. Finland—According to Wikipedia, “the music of Teräsbetoni has a martial air to it, with lyrics glorifying a pagan warrior lifestyle and a ‘brotherhood of metal.’” Need I say more? It’s not as catchy as Lordi’s winning entry two years ago, but it’s not bad. On the other hand, never underestimate the power of sweaty, leather–clad, guitar–wielding, topless Scandianvian men.
Photo by Jere Hietala, Eurovision Song Contest 2008
France: Sebastien Tellier
Photo by L. Brankovitz, Eurovision Song Contest 2008
Ireland: Dustin the Turkey
Image courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest 2008
Female: Ani Lorak, Charlotte Perrelli’s legs Male: Paolo Meneguzzi and the Azeri boys
Switzerland: Paolo Meneguzzi
Image Courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest 2008
Ukraine: Ani Lorak
Spain: Rodolfo Chikilicuatre
Who should win? Azerbaijan: Baku 2009! Who will win? Switzerland will likely take it all (or Sweden). Final word: Watching the Eurovision Song Contest is a lot of fun, even if you’re in Canada. The official website, www.eurovision.tv, is the place to go for music videos and the live (free!) webcast of the final. Canadians may not be able to vote, but grab some friends, a bucket of popcorn and watch the final. You will have a great time—take my word for it.
Image Courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest 2008
Image Courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest 2008
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MYTHS The Tavern
n the falling darkness and pounding rain, an old man came riding into town on a muddy path just wide enough for his horse. He bore a package wrapped and tied in leather. There were two silver revolvers inside, but they weren’t his. He found his man at a blacksmith’s shop, gave him the package, and was paid for his trouble. The old man had seen better days, but he was known in his hometown to be reliable for small jobs like these. Now he was thirsty, and he wandered to a building with a hazy lantern glow and slurred voices spilling out, poking fingers of light and sound into the heavy rainfall. He hitched up his horse outside under shelter and went in for a drink. The tavern was dim and smoky. The old man ordered whisky, asked about a room in the inn upstairs, and sat down by a fireplace in the corner to warm himself up. After a while the sputtering fire had pushed all the dripping wet off his cloak, like a dog nuzzling against his side, wiping him dry. He cast off his hood to look around the room. Arranged about the dozen or so tables in the room were roaring stories, hushed conspiracies, muttered, cursing card games. He would stay the night here to leave the next morning, maybe with another package from the man who paid him. Then more money. Enough to get by, for a while. He had seen enough in his time. The fires of moonlit encampments twinkling and turning like the eyes of the planet winking at him. A flock of birds big enough to blot out the sun at the height of battle. Men not old enough to know themselves dying for an ideal. And victory too, but a victory not sustained enough to support him in his old age. Gratefulness carried away by the river of time. Well—he drank another whisky—nothing he could do about it now. Warm at last, he moved away from the hearth and sat down at an empty table, removing his cloak and draping it over the back of his chair. He was getting tired, and would head up to his room soon. He got tired early now. Before, when he was young and still had his farm, he could work all day and sleep restfully without ever feeling tired. There was something satisfying about tilling the earth and watching his grain grow, something that made him never feel tired of anything. But then there was the war, and after the war came the drought, and his wife’s sickness, and his children gone off in search of something, he didn’t know what. He still wrote to them as though things were all right. But now he had no means of living except to ride from town to town, running errands for younger men with dark ambitions. It wasn’t the type of work that could sustain a man’s spirit. As the old man sighed, a group of young men dressed in black came into the tavern, laughing cruelly about something, and one of them, seemingly their leader, silenced the rest with a gesture. He walked over to the old man’s table. “Move, old–timer,” he said. The old man looked into his eyes, and said nothing. “I said move.” The old man cleared his throat and spoke laboriously. “I just put my cloak down. There’s a spot for you over in that corner. Why don’t you sit over there?” The leader blinked. Two of his men looked at each other. “I don’t care what you’ve put down, old–timer. You’re sitting at my table.” Normally the old man
would step down in a situation like this, but the whisky had made him bold, and he was tired of letting young folk push him around. “I don’t see your name written on it.” One of the men stepped forward and grabbed the old man by his collar. “Boss said move, gramps. You’d best listen to what he says.” “Why don’t you boys leave a man in peace and sit somewhere else?” “Do you know who I am, old–timer?” said the leader. He opened his coat, and the old man saw one of the silver revolvers he had just brought to town stuffed in a holster at his side. “Yeah, I know who you are. You’re that drunk ass I saw pissing on his boots outside when I came in.” The leader drew back his fist and punched the old man in the face. The force knocked him out of his chair to the floor. The tavern was now silent. “You better watch what you say, old–timer,” the leader roared. “You’re in over your grey old head. Help him out, boys. You were just leaving now, weren’t you?” Two of the gang picked up the old man roughly and shoved him to the door. “It ain’t your time anymore, grandpa,” one of them said. “You can’t go mouthin’ off to people like that.” The old man shook his head, trying to clear away the blow and the alcohol. “Well I sure as hell hope it ain’t your time either. You don’t deserve it.” “Aw, shut up, you old fogey. There’s another place you can stay down the road. Get outta here.” They brought him outside and pushed him. He fell, and the two boys headed back inside. They threw his cloak out after him. The old man sat for a moment, then picked himself up and wiped enough mud from his pants and sleeves for the rain to wash away the rest. As he put on his cloak, unhitched his horse, and walked down the road, he wished the rain would wash everything away.
By Nick Davies
Before Night Falls By Nicole Grimaldi
It has to happen before night falls It has to happen before the sparrows are driven from the skies It has to happen before the artist chokes & dies And if nothing happens, as it often does Yes, if nothing happens... We’ll have to strip the night of its attire We’ll have to light every tree on fire And dance as the light expires. My grief, your breath, his false desire All we know and don’t admire Colliding with a crash. We’ll form the light into sprigs of ash and throw them at death’s door.
G RAPHIC BY J ENNY ZHAN