28 August 2003 Vol. XXVI No. 1
U of T’s Independent Weekly
on the inside The Eels • Polyphonic Spree • Yeah Yeah Yeahs • Who the hell are we?
How good are U of T professors?
What’s she smiling about? Bar Guide Pages 4-5
PROFS VETO RESULTS FOR ANTI-CALENDAR by Katie A. Szymanski NEWS BUREAU
the news in brief
Aren’t we competitors?
The Varsity pays homage to the newspaper The Varsity’s Handbook is a little bit different this year. The “Who’s Who On Campus” section features a photo of the founding editors of the newspaper. Tom Simpson, Ken Whitehurst, and Steve Petranick. There is no caption for the photo (there are no captions anywhere in the Handbook), but it appears above an explanation of Governing Council, described as “the supreme governing body of university.” The photo is not entirely out of place: Tom Simpson is the Chairperson of Governing Council. The Handbook has another
nod to the newspaper, since it includes “Philosophy Café” among its list of clubs and associations. Editors at the newspaper founded the club to provide a forum where interesting past editors could speak and to celebrate the newspaper’s 25th anniversary. the newspaper would like to thank The Varsity for all the publicity, although we suspect that the invoice is in the mail.
Aid worker in Afghanistan’s diary new CitizenLab.org project Viewers of citizenlab.org can read the web log of a humani-
Left to right: the newspaper founders Tom Simpson, Ken Whitehurst, and Steve Petranick
PHOTO BY PETER MOHIDEEN
tarian worker in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Citizenlab.org is a project of Prof. Ron Deibert that researches and chronicles where civil society and digital culture interact. The aid worker, known as “Carlos,” has been in Kandahar for two months as part of a nine-month contract. For security reasons, he is using this pseudonym and the name of the relief organization is not being released. Prof. Deibert explains: “Eventually we may get rid of the anonymous stuff, but the group that he worked for has not authorized it … in Afghanistan, western aid organizations have been explicitly targeted, and knowing who he is and where he is may pose a specific danger.” “Carlos” worked for over a dozen years in Africa and Asia doing tours, but decided to start working in the humanitarian field. He is connected to Citizen Lab, since he and Prof. Deibert have known each other since their undergrad years. The web logs describe some of the issues facing the region and aid workers. Describing one worker who resigned, Carlos wrote, “I think Kandahar is freaking her out. I guess it’s not for everybody this bouncing around war zones swatting flies and trying to come to terms with 45 C daily temperatures.”
The site is updated daily and can be accessed at http: //kandahar.citizenlab.org/
Have a confession? Something to say? Write for us.
Remember those pesky little surveys you had to complete at the end of the term? Where do they go and what are they used for? Every spring the Arts and Science Student Union publishes all of the course evaluations students complete at the end of their courses in the “Anti-Calendar.” These evaluations given to the students allow them to give feedback to their professor and the department about how they felt overall of the course taken. Most useful however, is that the majority of these surveys are published in the “Anti-Calendar” so that students can get information about the course, the professor and his teaching methods and capabilities, the retake percentage, and general comments from past students of the course. All of these surveys completed in classes aren’t necessarily published though – it’s at the discre-
tion of the professor whether or not they wish to keep their evaluations confidential. This might leave you wondering, what is the purpose of publishing this book if professors can veto their course’s entry? The A.S.S.U operates on the basis of participation between both students and professors to deal with the “impersonal education” common at U of T and to challenge the “status quo relations of power in the classroom.” The A.S.S.U. was founded in 1972 as an intermediary between SAC and course unions when SAC conferred responsibility for educational work within the faculties. As the A.S.S.U. grew, so did the course unions and the student evaluations of courses increased. The “Anti-Calendar” is distributed every year to students for free, and has proven very valuable to students as it grows in size each year.
the newspaper asks:
Have you ever made a bad movie? PAGE 6
the newspaper asks:
WHO NEEDS INITIATIONS?
See both sides with 500 Words Each.
Continued on Page 3
A Magna Carta of Rock E LOOKS FOR FRIENDS, FINDS TOO MANY
By Andrew Covert
MISANTHROPIC POP BUREAU
Floor shows. That’s what they used to call them. Back in the day when you could go downtown on a Saturday night and see Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker at the Blue Note here in Toronto. We, of course, had one like every major world center of music. And I had to pinch myself that July night to make sure I was seeing what I thought I saw. E, the shadowy, conflicted and dower lead member of Eels was making an attempt at rock and roll ascension. There was something vaguely rapturous about the experience, except that E was not Christ and he was most certainly not taking any of us with him. However, the sound and light show was all there and the theatrics were certainly right
on cue. There was no question, watching E descend from the balcony, surrounded by beefy securitytypes, where he had mysteriously appeared after letting his band to open the set on stage without him, that the show was going to kick like a mule. With the heavily bearded, red jump-suited bass player Koool G Murder behind him we were well prepared for the Rock and Roll redemption that Eels’ previous release Souljacker had provided. In our lonely nights those misanthropic anthems had heralded a revolution of sorts. It was a rejection of the pantywaist values of bland mid-nineties guitar rock as well as the lilly-liv-
ered warblers of our current pop clot. It was music where the beat came from something before pop was pop, something that Muddy and Johnny Lee would have called “not bad,” something like the genuine article. We had many worries, the audience and I. You see; his current release Shootenanny had all the earmarks as being an action plan for the new millennium, a promise of delivery on the manifesto of Souljacker. But really its an uncomfortable love letter to his old material; a bittersweet step back to before he was ambassador of the Rock and Roll of futures past. He speaks to that old, folksy-but-I-don’t-know-
E was not Christ and he was most certainly not taking any of us with him
Continued on Page 7
Great Minds for Great Laptops ARTS & SCIENCE FACULTY LAUCHES PROGRAM WITH DELL AND IBM By Peter Josselyn NEWS EDITOR
U of T’s homepage features a new link advertising laptops for undergrads in the Faculty of Arts & Science. Although the Faculty claims that they are unaffiliated with any companies, they receive bonuses from IBM and Dell worth 2% of the value of computers sold. These funds will be used to purchase further computers for students. Some students are angry that undergrads are encouraged to buy expensive computers and allege the university is sidestepping funding student computing initiatives. Although the site also claims
not to recommend any specific students are not required to own company, there computers are only two A & S receives bonuses to attend U links. Other of T-. They from IBM and Dell major computer may instead companies such worth 2% of the value make use of as Apple are the many of computers sold. unrepresented, computing These funds will be although their facilities machines would used to purchase fur- operated work on U of T’s by the ther computers for wireless network. University Dell and and various students IBM are offering colleges. special discounts Also, for U of T students at their web for other brands of laptop and pages, but these prices—espedesktop computers, the spoecificially those from IBM which top cations for wireless network cars out at $3,033.00—are high com- are listed so that anyone pared to other manufacturers. Find out more by visiting The Faculty advises that www.laptops.artsci.utoronto.ca
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: the newspaper’s back!
In 1978, while hundreds of people met their deaths in French Guyana, the site of the Jones Town massacre, a different kind of cult was being formed at the University of Toronto. the newspaper arrived on campus as a reaction, nay, a revolution against the Varsity. It provided the snide voice of dissent in a campus full of yes-men and lilly-livered hoodwinkers. A vital, strong and free voice; the university’s only free press. 26 years later, nothing has changed. The same malaise infects the hearts and minds of the campus community. The student is unengaged, uninterested in campus affairs, blind to themselves and their community at large. But we have returned. The paper you hold in your hands is not The Independent Weekly, though it has been in the past. We have chosen to follow the road of self-regeneration and have risen phoenix-like from the ashes of what we were to become what we have always been: us. You paid nothing for this document. It may be the only document you will not pay for this year. Every other campus paper is subsidized by your tuition dollars. You are being charged for newspapers even if you don’t read them; It’s like a compulsory paid subscription. the newspaper has never depended on your money! Because we keep the press running through advertising revenue we are free to write and publish what we like. We are the only press on campus that can make that claim. Instead of feeding at the trough of your tuition dollars, the newspaper keeps itself alive through its readership. Quality content is the only thing that keeps us afloat, provided you look at a few ads along the way. We seek to establish a new trough. One for gluttons of culture, pack-mules of artistic insight, workhorses of student affairs. A trough filled with slop sweet enough for the entire university community and hearty enough for the city at large. the newspaper knows this is no small task. Our mandate is to serve you, the student, with the best paper on campus. We strive for news that matters to you, arts coverage that gives a damn about the things you care about. We need your help. This isn’t just an empty headed plea for you to “get involved.” We have the resources and the will to create something worthwhile and would like you to be a part of it. The Free Press is not just lip-service to some pained and overstated ideal: It is the sandpiper in the ointment of bureaucratic university administration, the duck in the jet engine of pointless campus media. It is the cyanide in the Kool-Aid pitcher of ignorance. Come with us. love,
We have risen phoenix-like from the ashes of what we were to become what we have always been: us
A trough filled with slop sweet enough for the entire university community and hearty enough for the city at large.
the newspaper Established 1978 formerly The Independent Weekly Editors Edward Gebbie, Matthew Gloyd, & Peter Josselyn
30 August 2003
500 words each
Do we need initiations at university?
Are you a member of this community as soon as your student fees are paid? Or do you pay your dues the old-fashioned way? —YES—
—NO— by Luke Stark Football teams do it; secret societies do it; even educated teens do it. So why should the idea of initiations be a bad or unpleasant one to university students? We’re not talking about hazing in its most brutal sense—no dousing in urine or farm animal intercourse, just some laughs among friends as a new crop of recruits get indoctrinated in whatever organization happens to want them. And initiations have always been a slightly slimy part of university life. Right? It depends on whom you ask. After several well-publicized deaths due to hazing in the 1990s, such things are now strictly taboo for many North American fraternity houses, once among the worst offenders. However, initiations for sports teams and other organizations are still popular. From jockstrap-clad hijinks on the subway to midnight calisthenics, most initiations these days are more embarrassing than life threatening. But are they necessary? Perhaps not. Initiations serve a debatable role as a loyalty builder (more on this later), but they also bring with them some serious concerns. One is the frequent appearance of that looming insubstantial ghost, peer pressure. While some initiations today are voluntary, many still carry prestige with them—someone is always going to say, “all the cool kids did it—you should to.” Another definite worry is that accidents happen. Even with the best safety measures, someone stupid will do something stupid. Why should our youngest stu-
dents be subjected to more risk? Notwithstanding safety, the major benefit of a group initiation, according to those who advocate such things, is that it unites an otherwise unconnected mass of people in to a coherent class or team. Of course, group bonding to breed loyalty can be a positive experience; it can also be a phenomenally unpleasant one. The key to an experience’s worth as a strong cohesion builder rests ultimately on the way it motivates, not the motivation itself. Initiations tend to be a shared negative experience—a cream pie in the face or worse. At risk of sounding like a psych-undergraduate, a negative base for a group makes for a negative group, one that feels it needs to maliciously induct each generation of new recruits through the same bad feelings to ensure that “the newbies don’t get off easy.” In contrast, positive or cooperative initiation breeds loyalty and trust without the need for enforced punishment or trial. There must be a more civilized, sensible and enjoyable way to bring students together than shared misery. Tests of strength and trials by fire have stood for centuries, but their time has come—besides, jaywalking Bloor Street and paying student loans are hard enough tests. Shared wilderness adventure trips or football games between rival colleges are just a couple of possible positive ways groups can learn to work, trust, and even like each other. Gosh, the thought sure sounds cheesy, but it’s better than a pie in the face or a kick in the pants.
by Graeme Schnarr People who oppose initiations are largely missing the point. Students don’t initiate the incoming frosh class for shits and giggles, and don’t get off making their lives flash before their innocent little eyes. The purpose of initiations is to build the students’ sense of pride in themselves, their university, their college, and especially their year. A close-knit community like Trinity College, where initiations have been used for decades, is a perfect example: initiations help the incoming class to bond with the upper year students, and help tighten the bonds in the community as a whole. Initiations are not the debacle that many assume they are. Frosh are not beaten, they are not forced to consume any bodily fluids, and by the end they don’t need years of psychotherapy. Initiations today are light-hearted and goodhumoured, almost to the point of being laughable. The ultimate goal of initiations is to remain as un-intimidating as possible, or else the initiators run the risk of failing completely at their goal of building strength and unity in the frosh class. Initiations are designed to ensure that the frosh class develops an identity. Nothing brings a group of people together like the struggle against a common oppressor. By giving them all a common “enemy” in the initiators, the class has something to bond over. They can talk about their individual experiences during the night, and even plot their revenge against the “evil”
second years. Often the most prominent students during initiations become the most active and productive members of the community. Some people might criticize initiations thinking it drives a wedge between the class of initiators and the class of initiates, but the exact opposite happening. There is a strange, yet incredibly strong bond created between the two groups, and it is common to see a first year student sitting with an upper year student trading stories of “Well, when I was initiated….” Personally, as an 0T5, many of my friends are 0T6s, who less than a year ago I attempted to scare the crap out of during initiation night. After the fact, there was no bad blood, and the best of friendships often spring out of initiations night. At Trinity, this becomes obvious during our “spring deportations,” a glorified wrestling match designed specifically to give frosh a chance to get back at the second-year students for initiations at the beginning of the year. This event always closes the year, and is followed by a jovial trip to Gabby’s where everyone enjoys themselves in the company of their friends—regardless of year. Ask a student who has been initiated, and you will not find anyone who regrets having done it or who holds a grudge against his initiators. The only students regretting their decision about initiations will be the ones who chose not to participate.
Campus Comment We asked you...
What would you tell the frosh coming to U of T this week? Sneaha, Comp Sci
Be well rounded, it’s not that bad if you have your priorities straight.
Caroline, Political Science
I don’t know.
Open yourself up to new people and new ideas
Enjoy it while it lasts.
Make friends now while you can ‘cause you won’t see them again.
Leah, summer student
Your peers make an excellent source of protein.
Drink a lot of water.
Associate Editors Brenda Cromb, Katie A. Szymanski, & Dora Zhang Photo Editor Mark Coatsworth Contributors Paul Campbell, Andrew Covert, Peter Mohideen, Kathleen Murphy, Graeme Schnarr, Graham F. Scott, Reuben Schwarz, Luke Stark. the newspaper is the University of Toronto’s community paper and is published weekly by Planet Publications Inc., a non-profit corporation. Contributions and letters are welcome from all U of T students, faculty, staff. editorial: 416.593.1552 1 Spadina Crescent, Suite 245 advertising: 416.593.1559 Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1 fax: 416.593.0552 www.thenewspaper.ca firstname.lastname@example.org
30 August 2003
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
Atomic goes nuclear by Graham F. Scott MAGAZINE BUREAU
The History Enthusiast is a dangerous creature to encounter. I’m not talking about actual working, academic historians or those who have an innocent and harmless interest in a certain historical period; we are in the realm of the truly desperate, mad-eyed nostalgia junkie. These are the people who prop up the now thoroughly putrefied corpse of Civil War Re-enactment, or lurch around with faux-leprosy at Olde-Tyme Renaissance Faires, or drive their decrepit Studebakers to Cruise Night at the local A&W and strut around in Saddle Shoes. They are deeply damaged people who retreat into their soothingly sterile historical fantasies because they are unable to cope with the raw dysfunctionality of the early 21st century. Shell-shocked by the present, they seek refuge in poodle skirts, muskets, or 13th century burlap underwear. Atomic magazine dedicates itself to this clientele. Billing itself as “The Essential Guide to Retro Culture,” Atomic describes the books you should read, the music you should listen to, the clothes you should wear, and the booze you should guzzle in order to party like it’s 1959. With articles on achieving that
authentic Gene Tierney-style hairdo, a guide to collecting vintage clock-radios, a retrospective of 1960s cold-war spy cinema, and a potted biography of Vegas lounge-rodent Louis Prima, Atomic is an escape to a kinder, gentler time, when all the country clubs were restricted and all the cigarettes were unfiltered. A time when JFK was still alive and banging Marilyn Monroe, and Rock Hudson was pretending to bang Doris Day, and the air force was dropping H-bombs on Pacific islands like water balloons. It almost makes you want to huddle in your backyard fallout shelter and eat creamed
The problem is that the 1950s and 1960s were, if such a thing is possible, more dysfunctional than our own bizarro present
Anti-Calendar, continued from page 1 sors do give us permission each year,” and “the fact that its been running for over 30 years now shows that no one has a major problem with how its being run, or its existence.” But George Luste, Head of the U of T Faculty Association, doesn’t totally agree. While he could not generalize about most professors’ opinions of the “Anti-Calendar,” some of those who chose not to give permission to the A.S.S.U. to publish their results feel that the student evaluations are done poorly and unfairly. Both Vivek Goel, the Vice Provost of the Faculty as well as Luste feel that there are many variables affecting the results of the evaluations, therefore not giving an accurate depiction of the professor. Most important of these is whether or not the course is compulsory or an elective.
“When I taught the compulsory first year physics course consisting of 800 kids, I asked how many students wanted to be there. Only ten to fifteen students raised their hands,” Luste recounted. He also suggested that levels of student responsibility affected the evaluations – “Students generally don’t blame themselves for a bad experience in class, they blame the professors.” Nevertheless, Luste doesn’t discredit the surveys. “The student evaluations are valuable to improve teaching, accountability, and judging the professors, but the key word here is fair.” Regarding fairness, Rini Ghosh feels that it is unfair to students when certain professors refuse to let them see how well they’ve been teaching. “It’s almost like a business. I’m paying money to get an education, why should I not be
able to make a fair judgement on what kind of course I’m going to take, dependent on what kind of retake percentage that course has?” she asked. Whether or not professors choose or bother to fill out the permission slip to let the A.S.S.U. publish their results, the surveys hold significant value. All professors’ evaluation results must be released to their departments, and is considered important data when professors are reviewed for salary increases, contract renewals and tenure. So student opinion does affect professors’ performance reviews substantially – but to what weight they are relied upon is unclear, considering mixed feelings over the accuracy of student surveys. Ghosh tried to give insight into why some professors refuse to divulge their results. “I spoke to one of my professors who
didn’t want to release her student evaluations. I told her, look, you’re not a bad professor, and I just think students should be able to see the results. It was a required course anyways so it was always going to be full. The professor said she totally agreed with it, but since it was her first year teaching, it was important for her to know how she fared first. She said that if I approached her this year she would definitely fill out the permission slip.” Which leads to another problem regarding the surveys – “sometimes profs just don’t check the permission slips when
corn straight from the can, no? The problem is that the 1950s and 1960s were, if such a thing is possible, more dysfunctional than our own bizarro present. Atomic peddles the soft-core Leave It To Beaverisms of suburban contentment and jet-age optimism, shamelessly papering over the uglier patches of “retro culture,” which included but where not limited to: an unhealthy fondness for conformity; the constant dread of nuclear apocalypse; rayon; the Korean War; and JELL-O salads. Ignoring such evils with this moony-eyed we send it to them. It kind of gets underneath paper work, so I guess by the time they get around to filling it out and sending it over to our office, it might be a little too late for that year” said Ghosh. She also addressed the list in the front of the Anti-Calendar of professors who refuse to release the results. “Students automatically tend to believe that if they don’t release their evaluations into the “AntiCalendar” it means that they aren’t very good professors. I don’t know how much that is true.” For the most part, student evaluations and the “Anti-Calendar” are invaluable and useful for students, professors and their departments. Ghosh feels positively of the
Rini Ghosh feels that it is unfair to students when certain professors refuse to let them see how well they’ve been teaching.
revisionism is in poor taste and frequently dangerous. Oh, and pin-ups. Each issue of Atomic features a centrefold, usually a sweet-looking young woman sitting at an improbable angle on a picnic blanket, coyly displaying a few ruffles of her underwear under her bunchedup housedress, and winking at the camera as if she is inviting you to go to the soda parlour with her and perhaps later play Crazy Eights in her family’s living room. The cardigan set of the mid-20th century did have a kinky streak under their buttoned-down facades, as did the Victorians at the end of the 19th century; The difference was that the Victorians produced some of the most outrageous and smuttiest pornography in the history of time, while 1940s and 50s Americans were salivating over pictures of Betty Grable showing off her stocking seams and nudie playing cards imported from Mexico. Even their pornography was hopelessly square. For all these complaints, Atomic is a mostly entertaining and charming magazine. As long as you are able to divorce the rather harmless pleasures of the magazine from the “retro culture” it claims to speak for (those wretched people who listen to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and wear used monogrammed bowling shirts), you’ll be fine. For those vintage junkies out there, however, I have a joke for you: what do you get when you’re suffering from retro-withdrawal? Retrofits. Anti-Calendar. “Most profs who have been continually giving us permission to release their results say that it is very helpful to students, because you know how many courses we have at U of T and it is important for students to understand what courses are good and if the prof. will cater to their own needs or not. Some professors love the Anti-Calendar.” She also stressed that it is a good way for professors to increase the number of students enrolled in their courses and the popularity of that course. “When students see professors who have over an 80% course retake for four or five consecutive years on our website, more students would want to take that class.” If the variables are all in place, the Anti-Calendar and hence student evaluations prove to be a beneficial and a necessary aspect to our educational experience at U of T.
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28 August 2003
The Bar Guide Duke of Glouster 649 Yonge, upstairs
Best Real Pub Worth the trip up the stairs. The Duke of Glouster is one of few genuine English “locals.” Poorly lit but comfortable, The Duke earns top marks for its jukebox, which features artists like Lou Reed and Elvis Costello duking it out with the top 40 standbys. They even win sometimes. The crowd is a usual assortment of middle-aged characters who don’t care about talking to you, and wizened twenty year olds, who care even less. The staff is friendly and unpretentious. The beer is competitive, and the inexpensive house-brew is drinkable. the newspaper recommends the fish and chips: delicious, filling and cheap. Pool tables and Dart boards if you can’t amuse yourself. The Duke Of Glouster is a perfect place for a semi-quiet night. Bring a friend, and for Gods sake, relax. You can’t go crazy every night. Curl into one of the curved, intimate booths and think about what went wrong.
O’Grady’s 171 College
Best Place to watch American Football Remember what I said about Firkins? Yeah. the newspaper recognizes you can’t spend every night lounging in a state of Hipster grace. One might want pool tables and sports from huge screens, at least some of the time. Well, O’Gradys is the place. Two floors, filled to the faux-gold ceilings with grinning sportos looking for a good time. A very collegiate atmosphere promises the usual assortment of draughts. What really distinguishes O’Grady’s is the menu: reasonable prices and heaping portions make it a perfect place for a filling lunch. the newspaper suggests the meat pies with mashed potatoes and gravy. Too rich for all tastes, maybe, but this stuff comes from a genuine Scottish butcher and will fuel you for days. But remember, you don’t have to use all that energy screaming frosh chants or headbutting all your new friends.
Future Bakery/ The Labyrinthe Lounge 298 Brunswick
Living Well 692 Yonge, upstairs
Best Decor Hands down the best interior of any bar in the city. Have a drink in the electric chair, or pick a nice seat from the Living Room set up at the back. The crowd is as diverse as anyone could ask for, with drag queens rubbing elbows—and whatever else they choose—with the usual hipsters nuzzled together on the many couches. The food is sent from the restaurant downstairs, so you don’t have to eat the (above average) pub grub; you can have Thai or something veggie. Plus, the DJ actually cares about music, not just his record collection or whatever’s popular. The Well is a great place to bring a date: it’s quiet enough that you might actually talk, dark enough that you can just make eyes at each other, and interesting enough that the person will think “Sheesh, this Cat’s alright; I’m gonna sleep with them for sure!” And if they don’t, well, it’s busy enough that you can always
The Brunswick House 481 Bloor West
Best Place to be covered in non-voluntary excreta What is there left to say after all the ink and other fluids have been spilled all over The Brunswick House? I’ve got it: The place is a stinking, filthy hole that doesn’t just indulge, but encourages your filthy habits. It’s tragic, and there’s no reason in the world to go, ever. I’ll be there next week. No matter what anybody tells you, “The Brunny” is not “bitchin’.” It’s like homework: grueling, but you’ll be better by the end of it. Drink cheap pitchers, make eyes at suburbanites in uniform, dance like a white girl. Points earned for doggedness; it’s not like they’re pretending to be something they’re not. Ambience for this authentic beer hall is provided by the roar of the Fratboy in his natural habitat, drowning out the top 40 hits of the day. You’ve got to go at least once, if only for the old-fashioned music hall entertainment of Rockin’ Irene. Try not to worry about the grime coating your body by the end of the night. It could be anything.
Mullin’s Irish Pub 1033 Bay
Victory Café 581 Markham Street Best Relaxed Atmosphere
Tucked away in Mirvish Village, (by Honest Eds and Suspect Video) the Victory is out of the way enough that you won’t see the same twenty people every time you go out for a drink. The staff is decent folk, and the place exudes a simple, low-key charm. The crowd’s a little older, and Annex-artsy, but the Victory pulls off its mix without being pretentious. On tap, you’ll find microbrews from across Ontario; two floors, smoking and non, with the upstairs providing a space for musicians and comedians. You’ll get Django-style jazz weekdays, and Caleigh circles seemingly every night. Genuinely inviting neighborhood pubs are hard to find, so if you’re going to go, don’t tell anybody about it, okay? Just bring somebody interesting, and pretend you’ve been coming by for years.
Green Room & Red Room Alley-way behind Futures Bakery / Red Room (444 Spadina Avenue)
Best Good Bar, Bad Service Even if people didn’t publish guides like this, you’d discover the Green Room somehow. You probably know already. This years-old hideaway remains a favourite for the U of T arts crowd, though the atmosphere sometimes gets thick enough with Djarum clove smoke and pretentious chatter that you could cut it with a knife. The Green Room is like your best pal from elementary school: there when you need them, but you’ll get sick of them occasionally. This familiaritybreeds-contempt motif works with the wait staff, too: lovely people all, but tracking them down is like herding cats. Maybe deep down, they suspect what we all know: it doesn’t matter if they serve you quickly; you’ll be coming back. The décor is poverty chic like its sister bar, The Red Room, which offers slightly more upscale kicks. Points for the menu at both places: it’s cheap, and the portions are huge. The Green Room feels like a grotto, the Red Room a salon. The choice is yours.
Bistro 422 422 College, down the stairs
find somebody new, or at least stare at them.
Best Intimate Pub Look, if you want to go to Firkin Bars your whole life, feel free. But remember, you’re not an engineer or accountant or teacher or whatever yet; you’ve got a long time to bore everybody to tears. When you want to drink in some vaguely colonial atmosphere, at least go to Mullins. It’s as close to genuine Emerald Isle ambience as you’ll find near campus—the Firkin crushed velvet ain’t where it’s at. Plus, Mullins is small enough that you and your pals will feel like you are the only ones there. You might even make some friends! Points for authenticity aren’t given out freely here at the newspaper; our fervent fact checkers assure me that the wait staffers are Irish, and lovely, too. Menu consists of pub fare, plus Iron Stomach staples like Shepard’s Pie and lamb. Perfect for coating your stomach during a hard nights boozing. Plus, sometimes when you don’t expect it some free snacks will arrive to reward the stalwart drinkers.
Best Combination Bakery/Discothèque While Ukrainians in the know vouch for the borsht, the newspaper has always adored Future for its breakfasts. Cheap and satisfying is a good way to describe the whole menu, in fact. For under $2 the potatoes will fill you up for a day. Wash it down with tea, or even a slice of cake. The beer isn’t especially cheap, but you can’t beat the patio where you’ll find as many people there for an easygoing conversation as you might for a night out. Future is a great place to start a Saturday night, or have a glass of wine any time. Next door is the Labyrinth lounge, notable for its hip-hop and drum & bass DJs. It’s a bit cramped, and they charge a $3 cover after 8:00, but the martinis are cheap on Wednesday night and the place has a sense of style.
Lee’s Palace 529 Bloor West
Best Dirty Floors, Dirtier Clientele Have you ever noticed there’s a strange kind of alchemy that makes a dance club successful? All the lasers in the world won’t save a mega-club without a vibe, but a non-specific sense of fun is enough to keep your feet dragging you into places where they know they’re gonna move. I guess that’s why everybody still ends up at the Dance Cave once and a while. Ideal for younger undergrads, this place leaves a mark that means you’ll always come back. The booze is cheap, the place is dark, and the floor is hot. The DJs aren’t stupid, either: they understand those slightly askew standards that keep our generation happy, and they oblige with a different play list every night. Downstairs at Lee’s, you’ll find a fine venue for good bands, both local and international. The beer is bottled, and the place is grimey, but that doesn’t matter. Everybody has played at Lee’s over the years, so you’ve got to appreciate the old joint. It’s also the current home of Blow-Up, Toronto’s longest running mingling opportunity for vacuum-sealed hipsters in Union Jack mini-skirts and Kinks-Loving-Music-Geeks alike. Get in line early—like Old Faithful, this Britpop explosion happens on cue every Saturday night, party o’clock.
Best Dive There are all sorts of people in the world. People who say things like “I know I shouldn’t want an SUV, but…”, and “A Commerce program is a respectable way to ‘earn’ a degree”. People like this do all sorts of things, but they don’t drink at The Beast. You see, Bistro 422 isn’t a dive in any ersatz way. It’s actually a dive. And for that reason, it’s this Editor’s favourite bar in the city, hands down. The wait staff isn’t just unresponsive; they’re actually surly. Hardcore punk blares from the speakers and Hardcore Punks blare from their chairs. The crowd is varied, though—a good conversation at The Beast is worth a thousand half price lemon-drop martinis, and will probably hit you harder. The homebrew is a personal favourite at less than $10 a jug, but most people stick to bottled beer and mixed drinks. Both are very, very inexpensive. That’s the horrible beauty of Bistro 422: I was once hit over the head with a pole while there, and I still go back. After all, my assailant was aiming for those art school kids.
28 August 2003
From dives to classy pubs, the newspaper’s guide to the bottle. Sneaky Dee’s College St. at Bathurst
Best Pool Tables The Queen Street hip-cat scenes of previous decades have left us with many posh artifacts of yesteryear, the venerable live music venue is one of these. The bouncer is a new edition but they usually don’t trouble the strong of heart or the skimpily dressed. Sample the many delicious, if overpriced, items on the menu or have a nice drink, you know, one of the fancy ones, and watch the Queen Street freaks go by. Upstairs is a nice pool hall with few sharks. In the back is a fine music venue that routinely has the best singer/songwriters in town and rocking live bands. Halfway between queen street chic and yorkville pomp the cozy atmosphere should keep you warm through the winter. Oh, and you’ll have to dodge the m idlle-age 905 comb-overs cruising for saplings too, but that’s downtown for ya.
Best Grub After 3AM Notorious for being the best place to gorge after a heavy night of drinking, Sneak’s offers the best cheap Tex-Mex cuisine in the city. While some emphasize the flowering of graffiti (apparently Lorraine has Hep C.) and the Velcro on the washroom floors, others love the $10.50 pitchers of draught and the waitresses with attitude. Tuesday’s are best here with the half price fajita special, certainly a meal to fast for. Sneak’s is a great place for dinner or for those 3 a.m. post-drink-
best bar you’ve ever been in. Though the place is incredibly small and cramped, it’s worth looking at. Fashionable people try not to stare down each other’s shirts as they jockey for position at the bar. At least they’re fashionable enough to be discreet about it.
Einstein’s 229 College St.
Best Place to drink like an Engineer Nothing less than the quintessential student bar, Einstein’s is conveniently located just a few stumbles away from College and St. George. Though frequented mainly by engineering students,
Hangover Guide Remember gentle reader: the newspaper takes no responsibility for how you feel right now. We do appreciate you putting our Bar Guide to good use, however, and offer these tips from our deep well of personal expertise on the subject of feeling like a old boot.
Bedford Academy 36 Prince Arthur
Best Grown-Up Bar A little bit off the beaten track (just east of the Bedford Street exit of Saint George Station), the Bedford Academy is a fine place to enjoy a pint, all classy-like. Perfect for a quick “study-drink” or attempt to impress the object of your affection. The Bedford clientele seem to be overfed WASPS, but the ambience is nice and the wait staff is friendly and good-looking in that Sylvia Plath sort of way. Good menu, too. It’s not cheap, but neither are you – at least not all the time, right?
Cloak and Dagger 394 College
Best Hole-In-The Wall Just before College turns into a virtual wasteland of weekenders and tube-tops, you’ll find the Cloak and Dagger, the closet of the
Einstein’s is a place anyone can call home. Their wings are legendary, and enter the realm of myth when washed down with an $8.50 pitcher of “Einstein’s Lager”. A good juke box, grafitti scrawled washrooms and a friendly wait staff make Einstein’s the bar of choice for an affordable hard-drinkin’ night out.
Lava Lounge 507 College St.
Best Upscale Night-Out Just a ten-minute walk from campus, Lava is one of the best places in the city for a drink and a dance. Every night is a different music style and the dress code is casual to dressy (so much for those ratty sneakers gentlemen). Drinks are well priced for the ambiance of the place and the music is blasting after 11. Having been described as both a meat-market and a human art exhibit, Lava is a strong cocktail of both.
Rivoli 334 Queen St. West
1. Remember, don’t ever claim “you’ll never drink again”. It’s a lie, and there’s no need to compund your problems right now. 2. Drink again. If you really want to feel better, it’s the only way. Collect all the bottles at your feet if you must, but the newspaper suggests you keep “emergency” bourbon (or wine spritzer, your choice) on hand, in your bathroom or closet. 3. Grease. Look, of course you feel like shit. So coat your stomach in a soothing layer of Breakfast meat to take your mind off of it. Soon, you won’t even be able to tell why you feel so unwell! 4. Sleep through your classes. Presto, no hangover at 4pm! I mean, what are you
going to learn on a Tuesday, anyway? 5. Folk Music. If you get up by morning, go back to bed. If this doesn’t work, open your blinds, and play Beck’s Sea Change. Hmmm… Soothing. If you can, drink some juice. 6. Serious one: Gatorade. Your body needs the electrolytes, friend. Try a vitamin B complex. 7. Come to our office. Curl up on our couch, let one of our staff pour you a homebrew, and tell us all about it. We understand. 8. Remember that Gravol and tears are valid responses to pain. 9. Face it. Most of your classes are taught by TAs, so when you arrive at class with that oversized waterbottle wearing last night’s sweats, you’re not fooling anyone. Besides, he’s hungover too. 10. Potato chips will sustain those who are in truly bad shape. The salt is fine, so long as you drink lots of water, and the grease will just make you feel better, or at least hide your shame. Good luck. -Ed
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Man in Black beat black and blue by Andrew Covert
JOHNNY CASH BUREAU
A first listen to Johnny’s Blues will give you the intended impression: that these are great songs; songs with the possibility to slide right in next to the rest of the American canon quite comfortably. But you knew that already, that’s not really the point here. The real killer is that these songs can stand all the pummeling people that aren’t Johnny can give them. There are some brutal performances on this album that would just kill lesser songs. But it’s Cash, so they survive. The disc features great performances by the likes of O’ Brother crew member Chris Thomas King, who does a version of the traditional “Rock Island Line” with Leadbelly flair, Maria Muladar does a killer “Walking the Blues” straight and traditional. Paul Reddick’s “Train of Love” is fantastic, full of fire and whiskey. It’s not all wonderful. Garland Jeffery’s “I Walk the Line” is so dead it makes you think he isn’t married at all. Harry Manx’s version of “Long Black Veil” has so much going for it, a mellow acoustic sound, a great, soulful voice, but the tune comes off plodding and monotone and the sitar accompaniment, although a valiant effort, just confuses rather than satisfies. Corey Harris’ reggae version of “Redemption” works until you realize IT’S A REGGAE VERSION OF REDEMPTION! I just thought it was accepted that reggae versions of country classics sound bad. As it turns out, I’m not wrong. Ostensibly the project is a noble one: to link a traditional country songwriter with the blues tradition that spawned him while connecting him with the vital world of the current blues,
folk and world music scene. It’s a great effort but a lot of the material comes a little forced and, I must say, including in the liner notes that some of the artists hadn’t listened to Cash before the recording is a little prejudicial – if you don’t listen to the artist your covering, what are you doing on a tribute? The pacing of the album is really quite strange. It’s full of stops and starts, the songs that don’t work get in the way of the great ones, and the result is a fairly confused
These songs can stand all the pummeling people that aren’t Johnny give them. There are some brutal performances that would just kill lesser songs. But it’s Cash, so they survive. message. Are we supposed to link Johnny Cash to Leadbelly or Bob Marley? I would have liked to see a traditionalist bent on this record. Wouldn’t it be great to hear an album like this done by all old blues men: People like, B.B
King, John Lee Hooker, or Willie Nelson? It would be a way of inducting Cash into the canon by pulling his tunes back into the music that created them. That would have been fine, great in fact, but this disc is a little too scattered to accomplish its goal. You can wait till Cash is dead to screw around with his tunes like this but for now a tribute needs to be a real tribute. This whole interplay with the current scene is familiar territory for Cash, but he’s usually involved. Taking him out of the mix creates a very volatile situation. Nobody does it quite like Johnny, despite the stand-alone nature of these songs. There are plenty of rockers in the catalogue worth drawing on and Colin Linden, has made some great decisions and tried to pace the album well. He’s unfortunately let down by his artist roster that seems to have commitments to things other than Cash’s music. It’s strange thing to be making a tribute to an artist who, of late, has been doing tributes to other people. However, Johnny’s brilliance shines through on the disc despite some of these players throwing it away.
Paul Reddick wails away on Johnny’s Blues.
28 August 2003
These clones aren’t sheep
A mixed tape from raps hottest producers, The Neptunes shows the strengths and weaknesses of their collaborators by Peter Mohideen HIP HOP BUREAU
What’s most interesting about “Clones” by the Neptunes is that you get to find out which rappers are hungry and which ones need to lose some weight. Mixed tapes are always kind of hit and miss. Some rappers drop hot rhymes that are better than album cuts and some rappers spit and you wonder if they think anyone’s listening. The stand out tracks are from Snoop, Super Cat and ODB (or Dirt McGirt, as he chooses to be called until he thinks of something else to be called). After four years without a good album Snoop has a lot to prove. He takes a second to get warmed up but when he does, he twists his lines around each other like he was back in ’94. Super Cat’s “Don of all Dons” is a brilliant combination of dancehall and sampling. I usually hate dancehall but this is something entirely different. Meanwhile, McGirt’s finally out of jail and isn’t wasting any time, releasing one of the best tracks of his career. “Pop Shit” simultaneously sounds like Ol’ Dirty at his incomprehensible best but with new skill in his flow and delivery, probably a result of his recent association with Roc-a-fella. Speaking of the R.O.C, Jay-Z phones in another weak performance on “Frontin.’” Jay warms up for about twenty seconds and then raps for eighteen seconds. That’s right, Eighteen seconds. For the other three minutes you’re stuck listening to Pharell making half-hearted 80’s R&B noises. Jay? What happened, Jay? Can we get another verse? Anything? Holla back? Jay’s rival Nas contributes a lukewarm track of his own. It’s hard to fault Nas’ immacu-
late flow, but “Popular Thug” reminds me of “I am” era pop. Stop trying to be popular, Nas. If people don’t like you for you then they’re not real friends. Nas’ flow is tight as ever, and unlike Jay, Nas blazes clear through the track with a lazier-than-usualbut-still-miles-better-than-youraverage flow. While neither MC is at their best, Nas comes out on top. So why are these High Speed Scene and Spymob tracks here? Neither of them produced by the Neptunes, they’re newly signed to Chad and Pharrell’s label. Spymob sounds like a combination Matthew Sweet and John
chain is pretty good but the real highlight is Philadelphia’s Boo-Bonic. Boo drawls a killer verse that you wish could go on forever. This is the reason it’s worth ever getting a mix tape. Years from now when Mr. Bonic is a huge star and is signed to Aftermath or something you can be, like, “Man, I told you about him years ago.” Solid production, untroubled by irrelevent raps by N.O.R.E., Ludacris and Fam-lay make up the core of this disc. The tracks sound like The Neptunes, before they got N.E.R.D.Y. This is probably why you bought the album and a decent
COVER BY STAR TRAK RECORDS
Spencer Blues Explosion, The High Speed Scene sound like polished new punk. Remember to hit the “track forward” button twice at the end of track nine or you will have to endure them. “Hot” by Roscoe P. Cold-
reminder of why you liked the Neptunes in the first place,. The problem with “Clones” is the problem facing any mixed tape: The Good, The Bad, and The Overfed. What are ya gonna do?
The beginning stages of... by Katie A. Szymanski LARGE CHORUS BUREAU
Something appealed to me the minute I opened “The Beginning Stages of …”, debut by the 23-member choral symphonic pop band, The Polyphonic Spree. It was the sprawling photograph of the entire group dressed in long white robes with colourful hems and holding their instruments in front of a big tree on a sunny day. In high school, my peers considered me most likely to end up in a cult someday. But truly, I just like to be surrounded by shiny happy people and feel like I belong to something bigger and better than I. Some of my best childhood memories are singing songs at summer camp. Call it collective effervescence – the camp was run by Unitarians and all; a feeling like this is a phenomenon in itself. During what other situation do you see twenty-three people come together for a cause other than
to save their soul, war, and the describe The Polyphonic Spree, song, “A Long Day” pulls in at Olympics? (I tear up every two but that would make me look like 36 and a half minutes, entirely years at the opening ceremonies a fanatic. They sing simple songs comprised of different tones on a – the harmony of people, the about sunshine and celebrating synthesizer. A little crazy, admitcountries, the races, the religions, interspersed with songs about tedly, but certainly not deadly the colours - its beautiful). I different kinds or different times ordinary. certainly can’t think of one. Now, of the day. “The Beginning Think Brian Wilson at his moving on from my fascinaStages of . . .” plays out similarly creative peak (robes included!) tion of large group dynamics... I to The Moody Blues’ “Days of or, better, Sergeant Pepper’s relate it all back to being an only the Future Passed,” with a few Orchestra. All this, and the child. catchier singles mixed in, like record is only the demo! The The Polyphonic Spree began “Soldier Girl.” The very last album was released by Disney’s a few years ago in Texas when ex-Tripping Daisy member Tim DeLaughter’s friend booked him for a show as the opening act, giving him two weeks to create a group. In an effort to convey the sounds of his childhood, he put together sixteen instrumentalists and seven singers making magical 1960’s progressive pop music. The instruments range from the guitar, piano and violin to a theremin, classical harp, and flugelhorn. The group consists of some friends and relatives, middle-aged down to sixteen years old. I could pepper this review with many positive adjectives, all of which would accurately The Polyphonic Spree: A mish-mash of 100 legs and arms.
Hollywood Records, and The Spree are planning an animation for one of their singles. Having been invited by David Bowie last summer to his music festival and scheduled to play the Conan O’Brian show during the night of Blackout 2003, The Polyphonic Spree’s initiative is catching on. I only wish I could join in on the scene. Apparently, hopeful potential band members approach
DeLaughter quite frequently after shows. I’m sure I’d be a fruitful addition with three instrumental abilities to my name and a sunny disposition. Anyhow, if you’re looking for some cheer and to watch The Spree cram the whole bunch of them on the small stage at Lee’s Palace, you can catch them on September 29 and 30.
28 August 2003
the newspaper vs. David Spade We get the celebrities we deserve
Sex & Violins
the newspaper reviews of Morning Star’s My Place in the Dust and Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell by Edward Gebbie
TRANSATLANTIC POP BUREAU
Easily as funny as Rob Schneider, David Spade is a major star. the newspaper sat down for the fastest 10 minutes of our life with this strange, tiny man while he promoted his new comedy, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. You made a sweet movie? It actually turned out to be, but not bad, it just throws you off. By design of the movie, things end up that way. But we just set out to make a broad comedy, not a “Party Of Five” Dramedy. So we got lucky in that there’s enough of it to make it okay but not enough to hit you over the head. But the laughs are really cynical in a lot of places. Do they have to be? (laughs) Sometimes. Well, with me it seems to be. But there’s different types of laughs in there. Jokes for my age, jokes for kids. Just a bitter guy trying to make it through. It was fun to have kids on the set, because I don’t usually deal with them. Are you in fact a cynical bastard? I think I come off that way,
but I’m actually not. I think I’m pretty mellow, pretty normal. But there’s that streak in me. You know what? I did it on SNL for years, I did it on “Just Shoot Me”, I think I just try to find new ways to be versions of that, or whatever’s funny to me at the time. Saturday Night Live, Hollywood Minute, that’s what was funny to me. Then it wasn’t, but that’s what people remember. So I don’t want to get too far away from that. This is funny coming from of a lot of different things. Whoever I’m playing off of in the movie. Family made sense in this movie.
through so much to get famous and even when you make it, some people are so battered they’re not a good star. And if you’re a kid and they take it away, it’s like candy. They want that forever, and so does everyone. It’s a really fun thing.
The message of your film is that you have to turn your back on fame to find happiness. But here we are, talking as part of the big Hollywood Machine. Is fame a sickness? An addiction? It’s kind of a sickness. It is an addiction. Anyone who’s in LA trying to make it, somethings wrong with them already. The wheels have come off, it’s just a ticking clock. But you see people who are doing great in Hollywood freak out. It’s a weird place. You never know quite were you stand. You go
C’mon man, that was a straight line! [laughs] I don’t have any advice. Go get rich.
What does your mom think of what you do? She’s glad I’m making people happy. Any advice for our spoiled, middle class readers? Oh, no. Don’t be a fool, stay in school. And, uh, hugs not drugs.
What the hell happened to Corey Haim? He looks terrible! He ballooned up a little bit in the off-season. Have you ever made a bad movie? Yeah, you’ll have to figure out which one, though. Cheers.
The Eels, continued from page 1 current release Shootenanny had all the earmarks as being an action plan for the new millennium, a promise of delivery on the manifesto of Souljacker. But really its an uncomfortable love letter to his old material; a bittersweet step back to before he was ambassador of the Rock and Roll of futures past. He speaks to that old, folksy-but-I-don’t-know-why material, in such a loving and compassionate way it’s hard to tell if that love letter is actually a Dear John. The conflict you can hear, sotto-voce, on the album was obvious on stage. E seemed to be quivering at the brink of something, not sure if he could take the final step. He would step out with his guitar and sweat and gyrate in the spotlight, giving us the old sex talk, soaking in the rave applause and attention and then dart back for a tune on the piano or give his stellar lead player an extralong solo. It was easy to see that the mantel of stardom does not sit easily on E’s shoulders. This would reveal itself in the encore
debacle where he gave us a quite deserved tongue lashing for not giving up the applause while he was onstage and going nuts when he left “just like a woman” to quote. On the surface this could come off as the insane ramblings of an incredibly lonely and emotionally damaged human being… Which would be right. The conflict however stems from a strange, tenebrous, existential angst associated with conscious rockers and their legacy. What I had to pinch myself for was the realization that E was trying to canonize himself. Not in the gross catholic way but too literally, through the force of his own stubborn “I’m a real songwriter and I live in Southern California Goddammit!” will, vault himself in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not that bloody gash in Cleveland Ohio but the actual one that exists in the collective minds of Music Geeks everywhere; a place where it’s not about having your name in a sidewalk or your guitar in a glass case. It’s
a place where music still means the same thing it always meant since the beginning: pain, hatred fear and redemption. It’s not an easy place to be. It’s mostly black people. It’s all good to rip off Muddy Waters on your too-cool-forschool post-rock classic, but that don’t mean shit upstairs. And that seems to be where E would like to be headed, for better or worse. What drives him is anyone’s guess, mine is loneliness but what do I know. My parents are still alive. So what’s E’s key to this lofty realm? He succeeds where so many like him fail. He succeeds in being cynical without irony. He really is a loser. It’s written all over everything he does. But that’s not really the point. Where he really knocks your socks off, is the part where, through conflict and fear and pain, he succeeds in being a human being on stage; not a velvet clown or a cartoon character with a silly hat but someone who feels and responds, like people do, remember?
the newspaper You little punks think you own this town. Writers’ Meetings, Thursday 4:30
You have friends like this record. Sweet people, kind to animals, always dress nice and there when you need them. But somehow, they’ll never be your close pals: the ones you rely on, and booze it up with - the ones you want covered in your blood, if that’s not too graphic an image. The strange thing is our chum Morning Star is probably a lot nicer than many of your closer friends; he just doesn’t get the heart pumping. “Morning Star” is the nomdu-pop of Jesse Vernon from Bristol, England. His record was produced by John Parish of PJ Harvey and Giant Sand relative non-fame, so therefore comes highly anticipated by a tiny but passionate segment of the record buying public. And there’s nothing at all wrong with “My Place in the Dust.” In fact, maybe that’s the problem – Vernon might just be too polite for his (and our) own good. The 10 tracks clock in at less than 40 minutes, like a good LP should. The arrangements are brittle and varied, with violin, organ and Bacharach style horns chiming in at just the right moments. The melodies are decent, but never mind-blowing, and while the lyrics sometimes annoy with their generic sentiment, it’s hardly a big deal. It’s just never enough, you know? My Place in the Dust is the kind of thing record reviewers like me are supposed to fawn over (and in England, they are). It’s intricate, gentle, subtle and smart-sounding. But I can’t figure out why I should care. Vernon’s voice and music sounds like everything urbane, from Nick Drake to Leonard Cohen to Elvis Costello at his most pristine, all the way down to 1960s French film soundtracks, but he never seems to better the sum of his influences. He aspires to lofty company, and, while My Place in the Dust sounds accomplished enough, it fails to fascinate at close inspection. Maybe I’m just too young for this – Morning Star is the kind of thing you give your cool (but not, like, crazy-cool) aunt
to show her what “The Kids” are listening to. In fact, “The Kids” only put it on to ignore it: to soothe a vicious hang-over, say, or to put the moves on that pseudo- sophisticate from your French-Lit class. Sorry, Jesse Vernon. It turns out you’re easier to admire than love. Of course, you seem like a really smart, nice guy, so I might be wrong. And, my pissed-off, pissedup post-punk pals, you’ve got friends like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, too. They’re the coolest chicks in your women studies courses, the ones who snarl and giggle all at once, wearing their second hand Lycra tops only after attacking them with scissors and magic marker. Sure, you’re a little scared of them – you’re supposed to be. They’re even from New York City, for Gods sake. Fever to Tell is the first fulllength from another band that came in the wake of The Strokes
music is garish and loud, full of stops and starts in the John Spencer vein. There’s New Wave synth, but not too much, buzzsaw guitar, but c’mon, we’re not dummies, and lots of hollow crashes on the drums. It’s hard candy, in short. And it satisfies. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are even cool enough to let their guard down, just a little, and just once in awhile: “Maps” is a beautiful love song, and one you believe. So, there it is. You covet the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But that was Saturday Night, remember. Sunday Morning has always been the problem. “Fever to Tell” isn’t as good as the sugar-rush suggests. The arrangements get repetitive, and only a total noise-junkie could endure the whole record all the way through, because all the songs sound pretty much the same. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a hollow pleasure, this new friend of ours, but it’s
conquest of the review-reading world. As such, they have all their hipster ducks in a row. There’s the lead singer with the big lips and perpetually open mouth, Karen O, and the other two, who look like they’re glad to be around, and are probably super-talented, too. Yeah Yeah Yeahs play the kind of rock music we need right now. It’s quick and painful, and Karen O yelps believably about… well… I’m not always sure, but it’s probably about sex. The
one best taken in small doses. Like that girl from the Women Studies course. I’m glad she’s around, she makes me real excited and I’ve learned a lot from her, but man… you just can’t live at that volume all the time. It’s hard to find best friends. Maybe we’ll go with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs while we’re getting ready to go out and Morning Star for a tender coffee the next morning. It’s up to you what you play in between.
28 August 2003
Does this hat make you randy? A former Indie Editor converts to the dark side while buying a topper by Reuben Schwarz
I’ve got a confession to make: I didn’t really like hats. Seemed to me they were only worn by old ladies or white-boys-wantingto-be-black-boys or balding men who haven’t got around to admitting it yet. I, thankfully, didn’t fit into any of those categories. So I was more than a little suspicious when one of the newspaper editors, who I’ll call Pedro to protect his identity, suggested I take a stroll to Rotman’s hat shop. I knew the place. I’d walked by the store a few times on my way to the Spadina Ave. liquor store, hardly sparing a glance at the Spartan displays of hats in its windows. I’d just lumped it together with the other stores in Chinatown. So I went, as a committed hat skeptic, to Rotman’s shop. I tried to find his website before I went, but he didn’t have one. I tried to call to check his store hours, but I couldn’t find a phone number. The whole dusty, tiny store felt like it had arrived from 1942. What he did have though, were hats. Wall to wall hats. Literally hundreds of them. This absolutely blew my mind. Who knew there was this much of a market for hats? Rotman himself was sitting in a chair by the door, suspiciously hatless. His cane was resting nearby, and by the look of his eighty-odd years, I thought that was probably a good thing. “Hi,” I said cheerfully, in my most confident non-hat wearing voice, “I’d like to buy a fedora.” “Do you know what a fedora
The Soap Box
is?” he asked, rather gruffly, I thought. I got the feeling that he didn’t really care whether I bought a hat or not, which is what I like to see in a salesman. “Ummm,” I said. “No, not really.” All I knew was that I think Frank Sinatra wore a fedora, and he got to sleep with Audrey Hepburn, so it was probably good enough for me. “A fedora is any hat that you can turn the front brim down,” he said. “Ah,” I nodded sagely, as if I had any idea what he was talking about. To be honest, I didn’t like the tone in his voice. It even crossed my mind then to make a run for it. Running for the hills at the first sign of trouble is a proud tradition in my family. It’s also probably the reason why most of my dates end badly. But instead I gritted my teeth, pointed to some random pile of hats, and asked, “What about those ones there?” Rotman stood up and walked over to show me the hats. Seeing him using his cane, I felt more than a little guilty making him get up. I knew then that I’d be buying a hat that day just to keep myself from feeling guilty. “These,” he said holding one up, “are genuine Panama hats.” He showed me a few styles, with different brim widths. Before he let me try one on, though, he meticulously showed me the proper way to put on a hat. “First you put your hands on the front brim, bending it down,” he said, 60 years of haberdasher experience behind him. “Then you slide your right hand over, and bring it back. Then you slide your left hand over and bring it comic by Rosena Fung
The author contemplates life and hats at Rotman’s Hat Shop & Haberdashery back. That folds down the front. Now hold it by the sides and put it on your head. Push it down with your flat palm for fit.” Awkwardly I followed his direction and put on the hat. Hey, I thought, that looks surprisingly good. Instead of being just another poor student, I was a respectable poor student. I looked like I had class. I looked – “…like Bing-fucking-Crosby,” I said to my reflection. “I am Bing Crosby. I’m Frank Sinatra. I’m…” “You’ve got it on backwards,” he said. I turned it around. It looked even better. I suddenly realized that if I could marry a hat (and God willing, the Supreme Court
will soon agree to that too), I would marry this hat. I briefly weighed whether or not I would have sex with it, before realizing I might stain it or something. “This is from Panama?” I asked. “No,” he said. “The reed is from Ecuador.” Well, I thought, that’s pretty exotic too. “They’re made in Guelph, though,” he finished. So much for exotic. Still, it was made by the Biltmore Hat Company, which, according to my Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, defines “old school.” I tried on quite a few hats that day, but in the end I settled for the two-inch brim Panama I had
PHOTO BY PETER JOSSELYN
first tried on. I left $86.25 poorer but feeling damn pleased with myself. Looking around after leaving the shop, I realized I was better than the rest of the hatless pagans milling about me. I was now one of the elite. Elite or not, the biggest misconception about hats – at least the biggest misconception I had about them – is that they will make you irresistible to women. After I bought the hat, I went to a gelato shop near my place with the express purpose of picking up the gorgeous Italian clerk, a woman so far out of my league I honestly believe I would have difficulty convincing her we belong to the same species. With my new hat, though, I
had style and I had confidence, so I had a chance. So I went in, and in my new Panama hat I ordered a small raspberry gelato, a small being the biggest size I could afford after spending $86.25 on a hat. “Is that all?” she asked after she handed it to me. “No,” I said suavely, thinking I was oozing the combined charms of Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart. “Whaddya say you and me go out sometime?” “Go out?” she asked, shocked (at the time I blamed it on the power of the hat). “Yeah.” “With you?” “Yeah, baby.” “Geez…we have this policy, right?” she said eying the gelato awkwardly. “It says we can’t date customers.” I frowned. There was always something. “Ok,” I said. “Just let me ask you this: does my hat make me more or less dateable?” The answer, only available after much prodding, was more. So there you have it, scientific proof that the right hat can make you strike out with beautiful women by a smaller margin. All the same, I’m happy with the hat. Like listening to Bing Crosby, a good hat can change the way you think. Now when I stand around at night leaning against streetlights, I know that I’m looking good. And people yell at me as I walk along the street. “Hey!” they yell. “Nice hat!” “Yes,” I reply. “Yes it is.” Reuben now pursues gelato girls in Vancouver, France, and New Zealand.
the etymology by Paul Campbell LINGUISTICS BUREAU
comic by Jason Kieffer
Made it a Blockbuster night recently? If so, you’re actually taking part in a tradition that dates back to the Second World War, before VCRs, even before the hamster and rabbit ads. In 1942, the German ancestors of the Blockbuster mascots Karl Floppyfeet and Ray “Guinea Pig” Munchies were likely scampering for their lives whenever the words block buster were mentioned. When the term was coined, it described a 4,000 pound British bomb named for its ability to destroy an entire apartment block, a block in the British sense of “a large single building” (OED). Later, the term came to be applied figuratively to any big, explosive event, and more recently, to any highly successful film. In light of the original meaning of the word, I propose a new ad that brings together the past and present: “Karl, what’s that sound? A plane? A bomb! Noooo!!!” If only Blockbuster valued etymology more.
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