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THE ARTS Canzine coverage

the newspaper The University of Toronto’s Independent Weekly

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Got (raw) milk?

Page 7

VOL XXXIV Issue 8 • October 27, 2011

Supreme oversight

Ontario dairy farmer protests ban on raw milk, fights for food access rights

U of T prof criticizes Supreme Court appointment process

Families gather in Queen’s Park to demand access to local food by Talia Gordon Protesters and supporters met and rallied outside Queen’s Park on Tuesday to demonstrate their solidarity with Michael Schmidt, an Ontario dairy farmer whose ongoing fight for the right to produce and distribute raw milk has launched a critical national conversation about the control and regulation of local food. Currently, it is illegal to distribute raw, (unpasteurized) milk in Canada. In a powerful move to call attention to issues around access to raw milk and other food-access rights, on October 1, 2011, Schmidt began a highly publicized hunger strike. Schmidt is the owner of Glencolton Farms, in Durham Ontario, and has been producing and distributing raw milk for over 17 years. Originally from Germany, Schmidt holds a Mas-

ter’s degree in agriculture, and was trained in the tradition of

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” - Thomas Jefferson (1762 – 1826) biodynamic farming, a holistic and highly sustainable method of organic agriculture that treats farms as ‘closed’ organisms. A strong advocate for small-scale farming and cow-sharing programs, Schmidt has actively lobbied the provincial government for years to legalize raw milk and to enhance people’s ability to choose what, and how they

want to eat. He has proposed his farm as a pilot project for smallscale farming models, and has offered to teach and train others in how to run a sustainable, organic enterprise. However, the Ontario provincial government has rejected Schmidt’s proposals outright, and has refused to open up dialogue regarding the issue of raw milk and the right to access local food. Schmidt’s farm has been raided twice, once in the early nineties and again in 2006. He was subsequently charged with illegal distribution of unpasteurized milk. His acquittal on all counts was appealed by the government, and the earlier acquittal overturned. Beverley Viljakainen, a close friend, supporter and self-described “grass-roots healthcare advocate” was at Glencolton Farms during the 2006 raid. “More than 20 armed men

On October 17, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed U of T alumni Andromache Karakatsanis and Michael Moldaver as replacements for Supreme Court of Canada Justices Ian Binnie and Louise Charron. However it was six months ago when Justices Binnie and Charron first announced their intention to retire from the Supreme Court, and for most of that time no clear process was established to fill those vacancies. For at least 25 years numerous efforts have been made to create a balanced, reliable method for the appointment of new justices, and yet none has succeeded. “Often the power of the federal government to follow its own preferences when select-

ing new judges for the Supreme Court has been abused,” says Jacob Ziegel, professor emeritus in the faculty of law at U of T. “The incumbent federal government continues to choose the people it feels comfortable with and who are expected to reflect its political philosophy.” The process by which judges are appointed to the Supreme Court is an often impromptu construction. When vacancies arise, it falls to the current federal government to determine how to fill them as necessity dictates. Bearing this in mind, it is easier to understand why Karakatsanis and Moldaver were chosen than it is to understand how they were chosen. “The federal government compiled a list of potential candidates from a variety of sourc-

Continued on page 3

Inside this issue...





by Andrew Walt

Does the prime minister have too much power? Page 3


“Got (raw) milk?� from page 1


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Contributors Aberdeen Berry, Bodi Bold, Dan Christensen, Talia Gordon, Robby Muff, Vanessa Purdy, Geoff Vendeville, Andrew Walt.

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descended on the farm like gang-busters,� she says. “They confiscated dairy equipment, computers, files and all of the milk, which was later dumped in the toxic substance area of the local landfill.� While it sounds almost theatrical, these kinds of raids happen regularly to local farmers all over Canada and the United States. In a recent New York Times Magazine feature, food-guru Michael Pollan addressed the raw milk controversy south of the border. He writes, “How is it that cigarettes are legal in this country while, in most cases, raw milk can’t be sold in stores?� Pollan asks why governments direct so much energy into shutting down this “teeny-tiny industry�, when factory farms pose many more serious threats to food safety. Viljakainen echoes Pollan in expressing similar frustration and confusion. “They raid chicken farms and egg ladies while Maple Leaf regularly has to pull products off the shelf.

October 27, 2011 But they don’t get shut down.� Interestingly, as Pollan points out, the majority of dairy-related illnesses come from pasteurized products. It is because of these issues that Schmidt has taken such a strong stance and extreme measures to bring the raw milk debate to the table. Well into the fourth week of his hunger strike, Schmidt shows no sign of backing down. According to Viljakainen, he will only break his fast when the Ontario government agrees to discuss ways to legalize and regulate farm-fresh milk. As Viljakainen explains, “It’s a constitutional matter now, since consumers should be able to contract with their local farmers and are being prevented from doing so.� She points out that for Schmidt, it’s not just about the milk, but is a matter of people’s rights to make informed decisions about the foods they eat. “We’re fast losing our right to be able to even have whole foods, and what is more basic than

that?� asks Viljakainen. Schmidt’s campaign has been met with overwhelming solidarity and support across Canada, the United States, Europe, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. For many, access to local and non-industrial produce represents more than simply a nutritional preference. In an open letter on The Bovine website, Indianna dairy farmer Mark Grieshop writes that “[Schmidt’s] hunger strike reasserts the primacy of the individual’s natural right to feed themselves however they choose, and proves that nourishment is not a function of the state that can be mandated or revoked at will.� The goals of the raw milk crusade are manifold, and are encompassed by a greater push for libertarian freedom when it comes to food access and ultimately, having the choice to assert control over one’s own health.

U of T prof sequences cannabis genome



Answers question, “What are you smoking?� by Robby Muff Genetic research on the cannabis plant may have a high impact on hemp cultivation. A group of Canadian researchers have sequenced the genome of Cannabis sativa, the plant’s technical term for the scientists and stoners among us. Through this process, researchers discovered the properties that distinguish hemp from its dissolute alter ego, marijuana. University of Toronto Professor Tim Hughes co-led the research project. He explains that they were comparing the plants cultivated as hemp, which is often grown for food or to produce textiles, and marijuana, which is smoked for its medicinal properties or to listen to Frank Zappa. “We wanted to get the sequence of the genome of Cannabis sativa which is both hemp and marijuana, and at the same time we wanted to understand the differences,� Hughes said at the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. The researchers found that hemp lacks a certain enzyme that marijuana has, and therefore does not produce THC, the psychoactive ingredient in mar-

ijuana. “That’s why if you smoke hemp you don’t get high as it doesn’t have the enzyme that is required to make THC,� Hughes explained. This discovery could lead to advantages for current hemp growers. Right now you need a licence through Health Canada to grow hemp because it contains a small amount of THC, which immediately evokes comparisons to its psychedelic counterpart. Professor Hughes thinks it should be possible to get rid of the THC altogether. “[What] you can do is targeted breeding ... breed and measure DNA sequences... then you can screen for the variants of hemp that don’t make THC,� Hughes said. “People can now genotype their strains and we can assume it will be possible to breed them in a certain way.� These alterations would allow hemp to be grown legally in Canada. These potential changes to the way hemp is produced could impact Toronto hemp culture. Stores in Toronto sell merchandise such as herbal products, books, fabric, food, and clothing. As it is often a misunderstood plant and culture, the potential alterations in breeding may change the way people view

these practices. However, this research may not be good news for some. Given the recent availability of the sequenced genome, it is possible to apply the same sort of forensics that is used with human DNA. The results that Professor Hughes and his team came to could enable the law enforcement to use DNA to trace the origins of the plant material. “[Law enforcement agencies] could make a database and genotype the marijuana and probably figure out where people got it from. I don’t know how well that would work, but with the same principals it is possible,� Hughes remarked. This sequencing of the Cannabis sativa genome by Professor Hughes and his team will open up more information into the biology of the cannabis plant. While the findings may be a buzz kill for some recreational users, the various functions of the plant, such as the making of fabric and food could be further enhanced, in addition to changes in the plant’s regulation. “We have another plant genome sequenced and we can all look at it and analyse it,� said Professor Hughes.



Are prime ministers corrupt?

Former MP Sheila Copps and Maclean’s editor debate PM’s power by Geoff Vendeville Few Canadian prime ministers were spared in the latest History War held at the Royal Ontario Museum. Andrew Coyne, the national editor of Maclean’s, argued for the motion, “Power corrupts Canadian prime ministers,” taking aim at almost every Canadian PM since Macdonald. The Rt. Hon. Sheila Copps, a Liberal MP from 1984 to 2004 and deputy prime minister under Jean Chrétien, was tasked with defending the integrity of the Canadian head of government. Canadian historian Jack Granatstein moderated the debate. Coyne had no difficulty finding examples of corruption in Canada’s highest office, from John A. Macdonald, who notoriously solicited funds from a wealthy industrialist to bribe voters before the 1872 election (and later awarded him the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway), to Brian Mul-

roney, who appointed his wife’s hairdresser to the Federal Business Development Bank. The appetite for power grows with the eating, Coyne argued. The PM’s office attracts bright and ambitious people, who are naturally inclined to abuse their power as much and as often as they can. “Power without abuse loses its charm,” Coyne said quoting the French poet, Paul Valéry. To make matters worse, the prime minister’s power is already very extensive, Coyne claimed. The PM sets election dates, decides when Parliament meets and adjourns, and sets the Cabinet’s agenda. He also appoints important officials, including Supreme Court justices, ambassadors, senators, and executives of Crown Corporations (which have become “patronage sinkholes,” according to Coyne). Traditional checks on the prime minister’s power have waned in significance, he argued. The Cabinet has become little more than a “focus group”

for the PM. Parliament, especially in the event of a majority government, is just a rubber stamp. And Question Period? “Don’t make me laugh.” Sheila Copps, known as a member of the “Rat Pack,” the effective Liberal parliamentary opposition to Mulroney, came to the defense of Canadian prime ministers. Politicians don’t deserve their bad rap, she said. “Are prime ministers more corruptible than their counterparts in other means of endeavour? Do the CEOs of Enron cast a pall over all other corporate executives?” One bad prime minister, or even many, doesn’t spoil the bunch. The “cynical reporting” of 24/7 news networks is largely responsible for the public’s unfounded distrust of politicians, Copps added. Balanced reporting, “perhaps even in Maclean’s,” she said in a swipe at Coyne, would help politicians’ image. Public service, said Copps speaking from experience, “is

the highest form of sacrifice for the community… The PM’s message is not one of corruption but of redemption. Vive le Canada!” “I fear that my distinguished opponent may have wandered into the wrong debate,” Coyne countered. He agreed that politicians aren’t inherently bad people. “Politicians are no more corrupt and no more corruptible than anyone else,” he said. “The problem is that politicians get way too into the game and forget about the rules.” After each speaker had made their opening statement and had a chance for rebuttal, they took turns answering questions from the audience. One person asked if it was better to give extensive powers to the executive branch rather than suffer political gridlock as in the United States. “It is possible to have too much of a good thing,” Coyne responded. “The US system is overly burdened and complex… [but] Canada is at the opposite extreme.”

“Supreme Oversight” from page 1 es,” explains Ziegel. “This was done for the benefit of a selection panel of five members from the House of Commons, consisting of three Conservative MPs, and one MP each from both the Liberal and the NDP. The panel was asked to choose six names and the shortlist was submitted to the Prime Minister who made the final choice of two.” Like many other observers (including Sébastien Grammond of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and fellow professor emeritus in the U of T Department of Political Science Peter H. Russell), Ziegel has been openly critical of the lack of transparency and accountability in the filling of Supreme Court vacancies for many years. He has expressed these criticisms in a number of publications, including the National Post and The Globe and Mail. In one of his commentaries published September 27 on the U of T Faculty of Law blog, he refers to the delays in Supreme Court appointments as “unacceptable,” describes the process of selection proposed by the federal government as

At the end of the debate, moderator Jack Granatstein took a straw poll of the audience on the motion that power corrupts Canadian prime ministers. A clear majority agreed. Speaking to the newspaper, Granatstein said he found it interesting that most people in the audience were skeptical of prime ministerial power. “If I was a politician, that would worry me. Happily, I’m not a politician.” So is there any hope for Canadian democracy? The system needs electoral reform, said Coyne - and soon. “The fact that we still have appointed senators is outrageous,” he said. However, he added that “a little creative chaos” will be necessary to bring about reform. The next debate, “Tommy Douglas Put Healthcare on the Wrong Path,” will be held January 25. See the full History Wars program on the Royal Ontario Museum website:

“tortuous,” and describes the lack of legislation prescribing the procedure as being of “even greater concern.” “The new procedures have two manifest weaknesses,” Ziegel writes in his commentary, The right way to pick Supreme Court judges, published August 19 in the National Post. “The first is that the members of the selection panel will not be free to select the candidates they wish to consider and to recommend their appointment. The second and still more serious objection is that it misconceives the status and role of the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada’s constitutional structure. The Supreme Court is an independent institution and is not accountable to Parliament for its decisions or to the incumbent government. It is the guardian of Canada’s constitution and of the basic values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” When asked about the criticisms levelled against Justice Karakatsanis for her limited experience as a member of the Ontario Court of Appeal and of Justice Moldaver for being unable to speak French, Ziegel responded that he doesn’t question their qualifications, but rather

laments a missed opportunity. “I’ve said publicly that I believe that one of the two judges that should have been appointed was Justice Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal. He’s a superb scholar and judge, very fair-minded, writes beautifully, renders his judgements quickly, and speaks French fluently. He has all the desirable qualities of a Supreme Court Justice and I think it’s extremely unfortunate that he was not selected.” Ziegel cautions against a justice system that allows for deep divisions amongst judges based on their own philosophical beliefs and the unconstrained executive power which makes it possible. While the potential for bias is widely acknowledged, there is no effective mechanism in place to address it. “It was fairly predictable that the candidates that were actually chosen would appear to have a conservative bias,” concludes Ziegel. “It doesn’t mean that they’re bad choices - quite the contrary, each of them has very considerable merits but it does mean that they were chosen to reflect the philosophy of the government in power and not on the basis of the best available candidates.”



October 27, 2011

A Dam Good Read Recent U of T grads’ upstart publication, The Beaverton, creates new satire for Canadians by Andrew Walt Few things draw attention like a tall, cigar-chomping beaver wearing a tophat. For Laurent Noonan, former editor of the newspaper and U of T improv artist, that’s exactly the point. Occasionally spotted in costume around Robarts and Sid Smith, Noonan is Editor-inChief of The Beaverton, a burgeoning news satire publication in the same vein as The Onion. After he distributed numerous copies of The Beaverton to a receptive stream of pedestrians this past Monday evening, we sat down with him to discuss the production and possibilities of a Canadian news satire publication. the newspaper: What prepared you for the challenge of creating a news satire publication? Laurent Noonan: I studied

literature and English satire focusing on 18th century works by Swift and Pope, which motivated me a lot. I already had a lot of respect for satire, but after studying it at the university level I felt more at ease with the idea of throwing myself into a project like this. A lot of what we do is silly, but you have to be witty to make it work. As for my experience at the newspaper, what helped me there was building their website. The experience I had designing and maintaining it was what gave me the confidence to start this project. I knew that if I wanted to get this project off the ground, there needed to be a major website in place. tn: How much of a connection is there between U of T and The Beaverton? LN: I started networking and using the U of T Career Centre, so a majority of our writers and editors are from U of T, especial-

ly UTM because of their writing program. Right now there’s definitely a big U of T connection, but it’s mostly by coincidence. It just so happens that there’s a lot of good, funny writers coming out of U of T. tn: How does The Beaverton develop its content? LN: Our content is very much a collaborative process, since we pitch ideas to each other and make a lot of decisions on what to produce as a group. A major focus of ours is Canadian content. We had a few articles about Toronto in this issue, and obviously we’re going to focus a lot on Canada. Also, because we’re still trying to build up a readership, jokes that are going to be funny years from now are also very good. It’s just not a good strategy to spend a lot of time working on something that loses its relevance in a month. tn: Can you talk about the presentation of The Beaver-

ton? LN: “The idea is to make The Beaverton look really professional. I think some people would expect a joke publication to look weird and goofy. What you really want is for it to look like a real newspaper, using a news format and deadpan style, which is counter-intuititve because you’re almost trying not to be funny. Everything is designed to make The Beaverton seem real, but the story lines and premises are all outrageous. After all, part of the satire is how it plays itself completely straight. In fact we’ve had comments about people reading articles and not knowing that it was fake until a few paragraphs in. tn: What’s the future look like for The Beaverton? LN: Right now, we’re trying to get readers across Canada to visit our website. With future prints we’ll look to expand and

distribute in cities near Toronto. We’d like to print once per month, but it all depends on whether we can organize distribution, which is something that’s very hard right now. Next to that, we also called The Beaverton “North America’s trusted source of news” since it could branch out and do more US parody and satire, and we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just one market. So though we focus on Toronto and Canada, we also feature generic articles which are pretty funny whether you’re a Canadian or an American, such as the “Comedians make better lovers: study” article, which would still be funny to someone in the US as well. The Beaverton regularly updates online at, and print issues can be found with the cigar smoking beaver occasionally appearing near Sid Smith and Robarts. You can find our full interview with Laurent Noonan online.



Editor-in-chief of the Beaverton, Laurent Noonan (costumed), and Staff Editor Keith Cochrane (far right) bring the Beaverton to the St. George street crowds.





Zombies Occupy Toronto Army of Darkness invades Trinity Bellwoods Park



1. “Twins, eh?” “I swear they were hot last night.” 2. The best brain food: brains. 3. It’s the time of the season. 4. “Til life-after-death do us part...” 5. Better than Robarts. Photos by Bodi Bold







October 27, 2011

Paranormal Activity, so bad it’s scary You’re better off finding a normal activity this Halloween.

by Dan Christensen Often, movie trilogies are designed to be (and expected to be) formulaic. However, to call Paranormal Activity 3 formulaic is an insult to formula. Likewise, it just seems ridiculous to call the Paranormal Activity films a trilogy. On television, shows like House and Law and Order have used widely varying characters and scenarios to spin gold week in, and week out. Paranormal Activity fails in this regard. Not only is the comparison to proper film trilogies (The Bourne movies, Back to the Future, or Star Wars, to name a few) laughable, but considering conventional studio logic, box office success (say hello to your

#1 movie, Canada), not to mention the history of horror movie sequels, it’s doubtful that this is the last of the Paranormal Activity we’ll see. In the first two Paranormal films, main character Katie (Katie Featherston, Chloe Csengery) and her sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden, Jessica Tyler Brown), were the possessed subjects. The third film brings these two characters together under the same roof as haunted children of the eighties. Daniel (played by Brian Boland), the step-father of the young sisters, is a trained videographer who has an obsession with home taping. Thus, the film maintains the home-movie-footage

guise donned in previous films, however the plausibility of this device has lost all manner of ingenuity. Unfortunately, Daniel’s home movie antics spark an interest from the ghosts living in his home. The girls’ mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) does little of anything productive (for the family or the film), save for dragging her heels and getting upset when Daniel brings up the possibility of spirits or gets Kristi talking about her (questionably) imaginary friend Toby. Ah, if only there were more to say about these characters...but there isn’t. Sadly, all we are presented with is a diluted version of the couple we met in the two

previous films. One gets the feeling that once Paramount generated the bright idea to make a third installment in this dynasty, in order to maintain its low-budget feel they took an unused draft of the second film and repurposed it for the present shooting script. The most palpable difference between this and the other films, beyond the obvious age-of or absence-of children (depending on the film), is the nature of what lies beneath. However, the suggestions for why the characters are being haunted are so vague and obscure that connecting the tenuous supernatural dots about the film (or, God forbid, between the films) seems like a

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hideously thankless task. Sadly, the film has difficulty even delivering the thrills and chills that it promises. The sudden, music-free surprises and camera tricks coupled with the fly-on-the-wall aesthetic intended to make them effective are so familiar at this point that it is an uphill struggle for them to achieve the potency they did in the past. So, unless you’re fourteen years old and going on a date (in which case this is the movie for you), perhaps just see if your roommate will drape a sheet over themselves and hide behind a door just when you least expect it. Or you can hold out to see if they can pull the rabbit



Ama-zine! by Vanessa Purdy Arriving at the Canzine Festival on Sunday, the sheer quantity of self-published material was immediately overwhelming. Part crafts fair, part farmer’s market, and part art extravaganza, 918 Bathurst Street had been transformed into a playground for the zine-o-phile. Organized by Canadian independent arts magazine, Broken Pencil, this year’s 16th annual Canzine Festival was the biggest yet. With over 190 vendors, it had all the appearances of an underground community come to life. “Toronto is a hub for this kind of thing,” said Lindsay Gibb, editor of Broken Pencil.

“People who are making zines don’t generally have an intention of making money off their enterprise, they just want a way to express themselves,” said Gibb. And express themselves they do. Zinesters engage in one of the few remaining outlets of genuine self-expression and unregulated, uncensored creativity, and are generally uninterested in making their creations “mainstream.” As Jacob Railnger of Ampersand Publications, puts it, “When you open a zine, it’s kind of like talking to that crazed madman on the TTC; you’re just exposed to all these thoughts that maybe people shouldn’t be putting into a twelve page chap


Broken Pencil’s Canzine Festival Not Just for Hipsters book, but they are, and it’s a fascinating window into society.” The Canzine festival, unsurprisingly, places heavy emphasis on art zines and independent artists, with the politically subversive and more outwardly counterculture publications (such as Shameless or Mass Ornament) scattered throughout. Dan Barclay, a comic book artist, has been attending Canzine as a vendor for about ten years. He notes that the “People producing the material have really diversified,” not only in the range of publications, but in the surprising amount of non-zine merchandise for sale, including clothing items and hand-crafted knick-knacks.

The Crossword

Despite the strong sense of community, adamant counterculture and DIY attitudes, zinesters are avowedly not a cult. And, while most are dedicated and passionate about the power of the zine, some express a sense of humility and realism about their endeavours. Railinger, who also works with the podcast NerdHurdles, had a candid approach to the scene. “I started as a way to meet people, which worked disastrously. It’s a good way to really isolate yourself from society, and then sit at a table at a zine fair for eight hours.” So why do it? “I recognize how ridiculous it is, but at the same time, I think that it’s really important to do,

by Andrew Walt 31. Synonym of 69 across 34. Merit 35. Promised 38. Equipped 40. Not quite a strike 41. Glum 42. Accomplished 44. Label 46. Past tense of 4. down 49. Vegetarian starter 53. Takes a break 57. Math 60. Baccarat box 61. Informal word of agreement 62. Woodland mammal 63. Camping shelter 64. Cruel 67. Second person pronoun 69. Synonym of 31 across 71. Aristocrat 75. Got out of bed 79. Possess 80. Exercise with purpose 81. Team foot race 82. Marry 83. Liberal colour 84. Coloured pigment Down

Across 1. Play division 4. Excessively warm 7. Taxi

10. Pool table perimeters 13. Vicinities 16. Ontario gallery 17. Tiny stream 18. Touch or taste

19. Gender 20. Oxygen 22. Held 24. Rip 27. Possible

1. Circle segment 2. It’s better than a bike 3. Male formal-wear accessory 4. Owns 5. Raw mineral 6. Sawbuck 7. Kings’ homes 8. Time of life 9. Cardboard container 11. Acquired knowledge

and really important for everyone in this room to be doing it,” he explained. The Canzine festival atmosphere was one of community: the friendly and talented vendors, organizers, and attendees represent people from all walks of life who together and in their own right, have created a form of media that truly expresses themselves and their values. No matter your particular interest, there is most likely a zine, chapbook, journal, or alternate alternative media form for you. And if there isn’t, zine philosophy says it’s up to you to make your own.

12. Snowboard alternative 14. Inquire 15. Behold! 21. Bit of old cloth 23. Round of applause; ___ on the back 24. Coffee alternative 25. Aural organ 26. Weapon 28. Public transport vehicle 29. Once around the track 30. Epoch 32. The Caspian one is actually a lake 33. Strange 36. Skill 37. Close by 39. Gossip 43. Beaver base 45. Body movement 46. “___ is for horses...” 47. “Who do you think you ___?” 48. Precious carbon 50. Guided 51. Consumed 52. Be killed 54. Feminine pronoun 55. Great weight, to an American 56. “Game, ___, match” 58. Definite article 59. Weep 65. Industrious insect 66. Neither... ___... 68. Paddle 69. Lug behind 70. Be in debt 72. Drinking establishment 73. Fib 74. Conclude 76. Getting on in years 77. Speak 78. Centre of a storm



October 27, 2011

The scariest game you’ve never played Survival horror games have undergone a curious metamorphosis over the years. Most notably, they’re now forgoing frugal design principals enhancing atmosphere in favour of bloody gore fests highlighting action. And while technology and gameplay certainly improve over time, cultivating scenarios of dread and terror have fallen out of fashion as fluid high resolution dismemberment began to take centre stage. Dead Space and Resident Evil are the reigning kings of survival horror, which is quite ironic considering there’s absolutely nothing scary about them. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is an independent survival horror game by Swedish developer Frictional Games, which is a rare entry in its particular genre in that it’s genuinely terrifying. Cast as the amnesic Daniel wandering the crumbling halls

of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle in 1839, players must evade the malevolence hunting them as they attempt to find and kill a man named Alexander. Whereas most survival horror games offer the player a means of defence from its threats, Amnesia is unique in that the player is afforded no means of recourse against the horrors contained within. When faced with a grotesque menace, the only way to survive is to hide and pray that it leaves you alone. There’s no means to fight back, and confrontation only ends with a blood spattered demise. Of course effective evasion most often leads into shadowy areas, where the results of the darkness take a toll on Daniel’s sanity, distorting his vision and compromising his movement. Although this mechanic of sanity isn’t anything new or even played to its most extreme ends (2002’s Eternal Darkness:

If you see this, you’re already dead. Sanity’s Requeim often broke the fourth wall with fake technical errors using the same technique), it’s nevertheless supremely effective in cultivating an extraordinarily tense atmosphere. In fact it’s atmosphere where Amnesia most excels. Frictional Games understands that the best horror is often psychologi-

cal and left to a person’s imagination. Horrors are merely glimpsed through the shadows and fog, and their presence is often a suggestion that never materializes among all the creaks, wails, and dreadful noises. It’s all very suspenseful and well assembled, and the optional developer commentary reveals a meticulous process behind the

excellent design.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a tense and terrifying experience in the best possible way. Play this game in a darkened room with cranked headphones and fully devoted attention, and it’ll be the scariest thing you do this Halloween.

Mackenzie King sees dead people In Conversation with Richard Alan Campbell of Video Cabaret by Aberdeen Berry In recent years, Mackenzie King’s interest in spiritualism has become somewhat notorious. Theatre group Video Cabaret’s show, The Life and Times of Mackenzie King follows events in Canadian history between the First and Second World Wars, and creates what participating actor Richard Alan Campbell calls an “irreverent black comedy version of Canadian history” with “characters larger than life.” It is a part of a cycle of Canadian history plays written by Michael Hollingsworth. The show depicts true events, but Campbell notes that deconstructing the heroic edifice built up around Mackenzie

King is part of its ambition. “King wasn’t necessarily a great guy. At the very least, he was a super-bizarre man,” says Campbell. The stranger aspects of King’s personality -- like using fortune-tellers and séances to connect with the spirits of his dead mother and various pet dogs for policy advice --were almost entirely unknown during his time as prime minister. Video Cabaret also tries to connect history to the present. Much of the play takes place during the Great Depression, which brings up problems and issues that resonate with contemporary audiences. Campbell recalls the the timeliness of several other productions. “Last year was our play about the Great War, and Afghanistan

was happening; when we did the Saskatchewan Rebellion some First Nations issues were happening; and the Canadian Pacific Scandal play was at the same time as AdScam.” Another interesting element of the troupe is their style of presentation. Taking cues from the European theatre style known as “black box,” performers act on a completely black stage, in a theatre that is dark except for spotlights on the performers. White face makeup, specially designed costumes, and what Campbell refers to as “lightning fast” changes (six actors play almost forty roles) in costume and scene give the illusion of watching a film, though no video media is used in production. For performers,


by Andrew Walt


Amnesia: The Dark Descent proves that imagined horrors are far more menacing than real ones

the method creates a very hec- The Life and Times of Mactic backstage experience but for kenzie King begins its run on the viewer, the effect is “indis- Nov. 10 at Cameron House at tinguishable from magic.” says Queen and Spadina. Campbell.

Issue 8 - October 27 2011  

Issue 8 of the newspaper, the University of Toronto's independent weekly, published on October 27 2011.

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