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The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

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Canadians disappoint at COP15 Summit fails to reach binding agreement Niko Block The McGill Daily

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ast month’s climate summit in Copenhagen ended with climate activists across the country denouncing Canada’s role at the summit as weak and counterproductive. Canada’s official delegation – which was led by Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice and included McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum as an advisor – drew ire from many delegations from the Global South. The delegation committed to a 3 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, as opposed to the 20 per cent reduction pledged by the European Union. One delegate from Rwanda demanded, “Can they not do math?” Due to what many perceived as Canada’s failure to commit to substantive reduction targets, the Climate Action Network awarded Canada with the Fossil Award, which Toronto mayor David Miller accepted on Canada’s behalf. “Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” said Miller as he accepted the award given to Canada by a coalition of 400 global NGOs. Miller is the chair of the C40, a coalition of the world’s largest cities committed to tackling climate

change. He marched with the Canadian Youth Delegation during the December 12 demonstration in Copenhagen for a comprehensive and binding agreement on climate change. “Local governments and young people are the most powerful agents in the fight against climate change,” said Miller in a statement to the press prior to the march. “This Saturday, I will walk beside Canadian youth and I will ask our federal government to take immediate action domestically to reduce our emissions. We must ensure that our grandchildren have a safe future.” Green Party leader Elizabeth May was also among the members of Canadian civil society groups at Copenhagen. She joined in criticizing the Harper government’s stance. “The reason Canada kept winning the Fossil of the Day award in negotiations, at COP 12, 13, 14, and 15, was that we were actively obstructing progress,” wrote May in a press release. Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament has also been widely criticized as an attempt to evade backlash toward his government’s disappointing performance at the conference. The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was established at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Frustration with Canada’s role in the negotiations eventually led to a

Justin K. Wong / The McGill Daily

coalition of delegates from Trinidad and Tobago, scientists, and activists demanding that Canada be suspended from the British Commonwealth until it adopts a more aggressive climate policy. Several of the delegates and leaders from the Global South voiced frustration at the conference’s abortive attempts at a binding agreement on climate change. Bolivian president Evo Morales

urged the United States to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, and called for an international system that holds countries accountable to their emissions reduction targets. “Those who do damage to Planet Earth and those who do damage need to be judged,” said Morales in an interview with Democracy Now!. “And [toward] those ends, we have to organize a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations.”

Morales also announced that Bolivia would host an alternative summit in April of this year. Throughout the conference, delegations from several African countries and small island states threatened by rising sea levels pushed for a new and more effective climate deal that would limit long-term temperature increases to 1.5 ° C. –with files from Devon Willis in Copenhagen

Sept-Îles residents challenge uranium exploration project Doctors threaten to resign in protest as fears of health risks grow Eric Andrew-Gee The McGill Daily

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fter a year of sporadic protests from local doctors and ordinary citizens, the uranium exploration near Sept-Îles, in northeastern Quebec, appears likely to end. The mayor of Sept-Îles, Serge Levesque, said on December 16 that the contract British Columbia mining company Terra Ventures had with the province of Quebec to explore for uranium in the area was unlikely to be renewed after it expires in February. Opposition to the uranium project stems from fears of health risks to the local population. The mining site lies just 13 kilometres from a major water source for SeptÎles and many local doctors are in staunch opposition to the project. Twenty-three doctors at the Sept-Îles hospital have pledged to resign and leave the region in protest since early December, and some of them have pledged to leave Quebec entirely, unless

the National Assembly declares a province-wide moratorium on uranium mining. Moreover, a poll released January 4 showed that 91 per cent of SeptÎles inhabitants are still opposed to the floundering uranium project. 71 per cent of respondents are convinced that uranium mining presents health risks for people in the area. Broad public opposition has been confirmed by occasional protests in Sept-Îles this past year. The largest protest to date took place on December 13, when 1,200 inhabitants marched in the streets, opposing Terra Ventures and supporting the resignation of their doctors. A turning point seems to have come on December 11, when the doctors threatening to resign met with two high-level public health officials, Alan Poirier, national director of public health, and Raymond Cloutier, public health director for Côte-Nord, to discuss the health risks presented by uranium exploration. They agreed to revise the

government’s position, established in early 2009, that the exploration at Lac Kachiwiss was completely safe. After the meetings, La Presse reported that Poirier said, “We have to evaluate…all the risk factors. We understand the concerns of the doctors.” Two of the protesting doctors, Bruno Imbeault and Isabelle Gingras, said they felt their message had been well received by the officials. Meanwhile, some government ministries continue to state that there are no health risks attached to uranium exploration. Jacques Roi, the press secretary to Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife Serge Simard, criticized the doctors on Friday, saying the purported health risks were based on a report that used data from between 1932 and 1980. Minister of Health Yves Bolduc has maintained that the uranium exploration is completely safe. Also on December 11, Terra Ventures issued a press release signed by President Gunther Roeling,

indicating an indefinite break in operations at Lac Kachiwiss. On December 15, Serge Simard said that he had spoken with Terra Ventures and told them that “social acceptability” would be an important factor in the continuation of their Lac Kachiwiss site. Simard admitted that the people of SeptÎles were clearly opposed to the uranium project. In a meeting with Levesque, Simard reassured the mayor of Sept-Îles that Terra Ventures would have a difficult time proceeding at the nearby site. “We have every reason to believe the project will not continue,” said Levesque, after the meeting. The Terra Ventures press release said, “construction work has ceased on the access route to the property,” a route that had been in construction until early December. The release also explained that until a planned corporate reorganization, “no exploration plans will be formulated for any of its whollyowned properties.” Jacques Roi indicated that this

“subtle” wording meant the company would not apply for a renewal of its government permit until the corporate restructuring was finished. There was no mention in the release of the public protests in Sept-Îles or the opposition of local doctors. In casting doubts on the Lac Kachiwiss uranium exploration, Simard cited pending legislation to be debated in the National Assembly this spring, that will apply more stringent regulations on mining in Quebec. Mr. Simard’s office notes that the new law will “leave a lot of place for communities to decide for themselves,” whether mining developments appear in their areas. The minister’s press secretary, Roi, would not comment on the specifics of the bill. He said that the events surrounding Sept-Îles would not significantly factor into the creation of the mining law. La Presse reported on December 19 that Sept-Îles does, however, intend to participate in the bill’s creation.


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News

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

New union to protect McGill casual employees Erin Hale The McGill Daily

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he Association of McGill Undergraduate Student Employees (AMUSE) was certified as an official union last month after a year-and-a-half-long accreditation process. Every casual worker at McGill, roughly 65 per cent of whom are students, will now be represented by the union. The union was approved by the Québec Commission des normes du travail as a local of the Alliance de la Fonction public du CanadaQuébec (AFCP-Québec). Veronique Allard, one of the lead organizers of AFCP-Québec, said the presence of AMUSE at McGill will close an important gap in labour standards on campus not filled by the McGill

University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) for many employees at the McGill bookstore, libraries, food services, and athletic facilities. “MUNACA represents the nonacademic regular employees, but whenever someone used to go on maternity or sick leave, they would be replaced by casual [workers]. And these casuals did not benefit from the same working conditions put in place [for MUNACA members], creating a huge double standard system,” she said. AMUSE’s accreditation process began a year and a half ago. From September of 2008 to April of 2009, volunteers collected signatures from casual workers indicating interest in unionizing. While the exact number is not public, volunteers signed between 35 and 50 per

cent of workers. In a representation vote this autumn organized by the Commission des normes du travail, 85 per cent of voters supported the union. Max Silverman, former SSMU VP External and volunteer coordinator for last year’s signature drive, said the idea of unionizing was well received by casual workers. “When out card signing, we got an unbelievable amount of support. Everyone agreed there are lots of issues in the work place for casual workers and thought a union would help address those,” he said. However, AMUSE members still have to complete several steps before they can begin negotiating a collective agreement with McGill, including organizing a general assembly, drafting bylaws, and electing an executive and bargaining commit-

tee. Allard anticipated this process would take a year for AMUSE. Under Quebec labour law, all casual workers will be protected by the collective agreement and responsible for membership dues, though only members who sign membership cards will be eligible to run for office within the union. Allard hoped the presence of AMUSE at the university would help to improve labour relations for undergraduate workers, which she felt were problematic. ‘There are so many people who are not unionized at McGill. I hope this is going to change soon on campus,” she said. “Casual workers are usually the most vulnerable, and the fact that there was so much support for this drive shows there’s still work to do to support these people.”

$118 million withheld from Quebec students Provincial and federal impasse keeps students from receiving bursaries and grants Humera Jabir The McGill Daily

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tudent groups across Quebec are calling on the federal government to correct its mismanagement of the Canada Student Grants Program by transferring close to $118 million of financial support that has been withheld from the province. The new grants program allocates $500 million in financial assistance to post-secondary students across Canada each year, replacing the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF), whose mandate expired on January 5. Quebec opted out of the federal program since the province already administers Aid financière aux études, a loans and bursaries program for Quebec students. The province also opted out of the Millennium Scholarship, instead receiving an average of $70 million per year to support the provincial program. No agreement has yet been reached to settle the terms for a fund transfer from the Canada Student Grant Program. According to Concordia Student Union president Amine Dabchy, negotiations between the federal and provincial government have failed to

make progress. Until an agreement is reached, Quebec students are ineligible to access the new funding. Dabchy condemned the federal government for withholding the funding that is due to Quebec students, as well as the provincial government for failing to reach an agreement with Ottawa. “When the Millennium bursary was closed, the $118 million which belongs to Quebec was not given to the government. That means that a lot of Quebec students are missing out on the funds, which could go toward loans and bursaries. We have all the rights to these funds,” he said. Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan, SSMU VP External, said that a cash transfer should be reached since the Canada Student Grant is funded by taxes paid by Quebeckers as well. “The program as it stands right now does not provide eligibility for Quebec students, but it is of course coming from tax dollars that are provided from all different Canadians, from all different provinces. The province is not getting its tax dollars back for education programs,” said RonderosMorgan. The demise of the CMSF resulted in a shortfall in student aid available in the province, which

was made up for by funding provided by the provincial government. According to Christian Pépin, secretary of coordination in l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), however, additional investments made by the Quebec government would not excuse the federal government from making a contribution toward education in the province. Provincial student lobby groups have demanded that the federal government not only make up for the shortfall, but also transfer funds from the grant equivalent to the per capita percentage of aid due to province of Quebec. “New investments from the Quebec government shouldn’t substitute the money that should already come from the federal government. There should be some other money to improve student access, and financial aid for students, since there are lots of problems going on, and the money that is given now is below the rate of poverty,” said Pépin. “Right now we are asking students to live with $200 per month, and that is below the decent revenue for students, students who work lots of hours, and it constrains them. By the end of the month they just can’t survive,” he added.

On December 2, 50 members of ASSÉ staged a protest in downtown Montreal to draw the attention of both levels of government. The protesters attempted to enter the Revenue Canada building and later tried to occupy the office of Quebec’s Finance Minister, Raymond Bachand. “[The federal government] should transfer the money that is available with no conditions toward the Quebec government.… We will put pressure that the money [is used by the province] at the right place so that we can address the more deep problems about financial aid needed for students,” said Pépin. Olivier Gégou, spokesperson for the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec, said that the federal transfer to the province would strengthen the financial aid mechanisms that already exist. “If the federal program is not repatriated then there will be two programs for Quebec students, and every student from Quebec should do two applications for two different loans and grant programs,” said Gégou. The protracted negotiations between the two levels of government have led student lobbies to demand a quick resolution to the issue so that Quebec students do not lose out in the semesters to come.

“This is where we need to start: here at the local level, reaffirming our democratic spirit.” The McGill Daily vol. 85, no. 5

news@mcgilldaily.com

WHAT’S THE HAPS

AMUSE certified by Quebec

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The Net Zero Energy House Monday, January 11, 4 p.m. 3650 McTavish The PGSS environment committee presents Wendy Pollard of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on what it takes to design a net zero energy house. Part of PGSS Green Month. Thomson House restaurant. CKUT and QPIRG McGill: Open House 2010 Monday, January 11, 5-7 p.m. 3647 University Consume wine and cheese; find info on how to get involved in campus/community radio as well as campus and community organizing; witness the moments of hilarity and grace that compose CKUT and QPIRG’s histories; meet and greet with CKUT members and staff and with QPIRG McGill staff, members, and working groups. Cinema Politica: Favela Rising Tuesday, January 12, 8 p.m. Leacock 219 Haunted by the murders of his family and friends, Anderson Sá is a former drug-trafficker who turns social revolutionary in Rio de Janeiro’s most feared slum. Through hip-hop music, the rhythms of the street, and Afro-Brazilian dance he rallies his community to counteract the violent oppression enforced by teenage drug armies and sustained by corrupt police. Green Cleaning Workshop Wednesday, January 13, 5 p.m. 3650 McTavish The PGSS environment committee will conduct a workshop on how to make cheap and effective nontoxic household cleaners. Thomson House restaurant. Preregistration of $10 required at PGSS offices by 4 p.m. Wednesday. Part of PGSS Green Month. Rabbit Hole Café Friday, January 15, 12:30-3:30 p.m. 3625 Alymer The Rabbit Hole café is a vegan collective kitchen that runs every Friday at the Yellow Door. Enjoy a hot & tasty meal; suggested donation of $2. A pantry of non-perishable food items is open to McGill students during the same hours. McGill Cancer Auction Saturday, January 16, 12-3 p.m. Shatner Ballroom Every January, McGill’s Management students hold a charity auction to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society. Items include Habs tickets and jerseys, airline tickets, gym memberships, jewlery, gift certificates, and more. Help them beat last year’s success of $16,000.


6 Commentary

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

The other side of privacy Privacy rights protect certain marginalized groups from discrimination

Binary is for computers Quinn Albaugh

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any people in the media and in government have been advocating full-body scanners in the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack by so-called Underwear Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. In recent weeks Canada has quickly moved toward introducing the scanners, along with the U.S., U.K., Nigerian, and Dutch governments. My reaction when I heard about the proposed scanners was that I simply wouldn’t fly anymore. Part of being transsexual, at least for me, is an immense sense of discomfort with my body, which makes me avoid situations where I might have to expose myself. For example, at present I avoid going to the gym because I don’t want to change clothing there. (Of course there are other issues involved in such situations, like sex-segregated facilities.) However, this action also cuts to a deeper issue – the risk of discrimination or harassment. Before body scanners, I felt comfortable travelling knowing that I could still present myself as male, which would at least allow my general appearance to match with my identity documents. In that way I could avoid the problems that trans people face when travelling by clothing myself in cis (meaning “nontrans”) privilege. But the body scanners would prevent me from doing that: they would display the physical results of my hormone replacement therapy, including breast development and the reshaping of my waist and hips, despite the clothing on my body. The machines, then, would instantly out me to whoever is operating them, or at least arouse their suspicions. This can be dangerous, since I have no idea how the scanner operator will react to trans people and whether they would report them to security. Though the risk that a screener would be overtly hostile may not be very high, the results of such attitudes, including verbal and physical harassment, are terrifying. This problem is an even more serious concern because once someone else knows I’m trans, that person could tell anyone else they want – which increases the chances that someone I wouldn’t want to know would find out without my consent. Furthermore, since policies tend to assume that those operating the scanners will be of the same sex as the person scanned, a male scanner might have some questions if he saw my increasingly female body contour on the screen. I can’t help but think that my body could

delay the security process or lead to selection for additional screening. All of this makes me feel unsafe at airports – which is ironic, since the goal of the policy is to increase safety. (Or, more cynically, to make voters feel safer regardless of how much protection the scanners would actually provide). I’ve since realized that I will probably have to fly at some point – which makes the lack of mainstream media coverage of how full-body scanners will affect trans people all the more frustrating. Instead, the mainstream narrative has tended to frame the issue of full-body scanners as a debate between privacy and security. An implicit assumption in the discourse around the scanners seems to be that the people going through them will be members of dominant groups (a term that refers to those who are cis, white, male et cetera). This idea obscures the role of privacy in protecting people who aren’t in socially privileged positions, such as trans

people and people with stigmatized medical conditions (for example, urinary catheters may show up on the scanners). Privacy rights allow members of marginalized groups to hide their marginalized qualities if they so choose. This allows them to receive treatment closer to that received by members of dominant groups and, hopefully, to avoid harassment. This aspect of privacy hasn’t really been a part of public conversations on the scanners. Instead, the assumption is that privacy would protect people’s modesty, and, indeed, this is a legitimate concern, particularly for certain religious minority groups that place value on modesty. However, without an awareness of how privacy protects members of some marginalized groups, our notion of privacy will necessarily be incomplete. This more limited sense of privacy is then much easier for security advocates to debate. The framing of the issue as involving privacy and security also sweeps other concerns under the carpet – including those of equality. On the surface, this seems to be equal – after all, if everyone has to go through the same process, how could it not be equal? However, when this process interacts with social attitudes toward trans people, it produces disproportionate effects on us. Cis people don’t have to worry about the same issues. That isn’t substantive equality. There are plenty of other situations in which we recognize that treating everyone in the same way wouldn’t really be equal. For example, the LSAT usually takes place on a Saturday. However, out of a recognition that some people would have to choose between observing the Sabbath and taking the LSAT (which practically all common law schools in Canada require), there are other dates for Saturday Sabbath observers. Now, clearly, this example is on a different scale; the LSAT doesn’t involve the security of hundreds or thousands of people in the way counter-terrorism does. However, it illustrates nonetheless that these sorts of equality issues do exist – and that we can devise remedies. Such problems remind us that what we need is an equality that recognizes that people are different – and that putting everyone through the same process can sometimes lead to unequal results because of those differences. Most importantly, however, before anyone rushes into introducing scanners, we need to have a fuller discussion of how this policy will affect everyone – including those whom we often forget.

Matt Kay / The McGill Daily

Quinn Albaugh writes in this space every week. Send them some airmail: binaryforcomputers@mcgilldaily.com.


Commentary

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

7

HYDE PARK

It ain’t all so bad Despite atrocities, some positive news from 2009 Anna Malla & Andrea Figueroa

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ooking back on the past year, it’s difficult not to think about the disturbing events of 2009 – NATO’s incursions into Pakistan, the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, or the continued Canadian military presence in Afghanistan. While Copenhagen proved to us that mass mobilizations are still possible, it also reminded us how disinterested major political powers are in the democratic process when it comes to dealing with climate change. Here in Montreal, we watched as the mainstream media’s focus on H1N1 eclipsed any discussion of the impacts the harsh changes to immigration law have on Mexican migrants. We heard little about how the developments in St. Henri around the Turcot Exchange are causing numerous families to lose their homes, after having lived in the neighbourhood for years. There is no question that it is our responsibility as students and as community members to challenge and expose the injustices that maintain systems of inequality. And in the face of all of the aforementioned realities, both local and international, it can sometimes be hard to stay positive. That’s why it is important at the beginning of a new year for us to reflect on all of the gains we have made over the last twelve months, though it is something we rarely take the time to do. As internal coordinators at the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill (QPIRG McGill), we have the privilege of partici-

pating in and observing amazing social and environmental justice work being done on a daily basis. This past year alone, several longstanding struggles close to us ended in victory. Adil Charkaoui, his family, and the coalition of hundreds of people rallying in support of him finally won the battle against the unconstitutional security certificate held against him since 2004. This certificate, which the judge ultimately deemed unreasonable, was a clear infringement on his rights, one that held him prisoner in his own home and in jail without charge or a fair trial. The Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui, a working group of QPIRG McGill that consists of the Charkaoui family as well as community members and students, was the main driving force behind the campaign to have Charkaoui’s security certificate quashed. Though he still faces the vast challenge of reversing the terrible effects these slanderous and unfounded allegations have had on his life, he is finally beginning to see an end to this nightmare. The Frente Amplio Opositor Montreal (FAO Montreal), also a working group of QPIRG McGill, has been part of an international movement to close down a toxic mining site operated by New Gold Inc. in Cerro de San Pedro, Mexico. The FAO recently celebrated the campaign’s success in having the mine temporarily shut down. While it is unclear what will happen even in the near future for the people of this community, this is still an important victory for the people of Cerro de San Pedro and sets a precedent for other communities defending themselves

QPIRG is an essential link between the University and the wider community. against the exploits of multinational mining companies. Abdelkader Belaouni, an Algerian man who was seeking refugee status and who, having been denied by Immigration Canada, was forced into sanctuary in St. Gabriel’s Church in Point St. Charles for over three years, was finally accepted into Canada. This victory came after a long and difficult public campaign as well as several years during which Belaouni lived in imposed isolation and fear. Even though the struggle to defeat security certificates is far from over, mines all across the world continue to pollute rivers and destroy communities, and many deportations continue without becoming matters of public knowledge, we must step back and

look at the impact that grassroots movements have on such seemingly irresolvable problems. It’s important sometimes to stop and think about what our campus and our community would look like if there were no one to challenge and confront the unjust systems that surround us. While QPIRG is clearly only a microcosm of the community organizing that goes on in Montreal, it plays an important role, one that is often misunderstood by those who are not personally acquainted with the organization. The original mandate of QPIRG remains the same in 2010 as it was when QPIRG was first established on McGill’s campus in 1988: to establish a link between students and their community through social and environmental justice initiatives. This means

Nicole Alon for The McGill Daily

research opportunities, event series, working groups, and orientation programming for incoming students. In planning for 2010, let’s bear in mind that our plans should not only about the university we want, but also the community we want. There is no way to predict what this next year will bring. What we can do, and what we need to be doing, is to work toward becoming students who engage not only in our campus, but also our communities.

Anna Malla is the QPIRG McGill Internal Coordinator and Andrea Figueroa is a U4 Latin-American and Caribbean Studies and International Development Studies student. Write them at qpirg@ssmu.mcgill.ca.

HYDE PARK

Haven Books: a cheap alternative Ben Paris

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rom my Bat Cave-like office, the Haven Books manager speaks: my name is Ben Paris, and I was a McGill student for six years, both as an undergraduate and grad student. What is this Haven Books? We’re a used bookstore with a twist or two: we’re owned by SSMU, mostly sell used textbooks, and work on a consignment system. That means people bring in their old textbooks and set their own price; if the books sell, the sellers get 80 per cent of the price they had set. They can also come and pick the books up at any time, and they don’t have to pay a fee for bringing them to the store. Better than having textbooks lying on your dorm-room or apartment floor. We also sell a few new textbooks and some other useful items,

like study guides. In a sense, Haven (like the Word, our closest parallel store in Montreal) exists in large part as a reaction against both the high prices and short life span of textbooks. Most students seem to have an odd feeling of resentment about paying up to $800 a semester for books they’ll only use once. Buying online, using classifieds, borrowing from the library, and purchasing at used textbook stores are so many ways to avoid spending huge amounts of money for textbooks. To be fair, textbooks, especially for the sciences, are truly expensive, even for mainstream textbook stores. The high prices are due to several factors, some legitimate: high initial costs, limited markets, narrow appeal, rapid obsolescence; some not: captive market, mandatory purchase, high margins. (Non-

marketing majors can tune back in now.) This all sounds technical, but it means that because textbooks cost a lot to make, and because relatively few people buy them during a short period, to be profitable they must be expensive. However, because students have to buy the textbooks and mainstream textbook stores are interested in a large profit, the stores raise the price even higher. The McGill Bookstore (which just happens to be run by the same people who run Chapters and Indigo) charges a huge markup, sometimes 40 per cent or more on the prices they pay for the texts. True, they have much higher fixed costs than we do at Haven, but Indigo Books & Music would not be running the place unless they were making a nice profit. Thus, used bookstores that sell

textbooks (or books in general) exist in the margins, able to sell used textbooks for far less than what one would pay for new copies. The fact that such stores can obtain their books at a fraction of the cost, coupled with a reduced “need” for profit, means the books can sell for as little as a quarter of their full price. Also, because newer editions of textbooks usually do not drastically differ from older ones, many students can buy the first edition for much less and still have the same material found in the much more costly new edition. Used bookstores like Haven and the Word are a convenient alternative to the main campus bookstore because they provide much-needed competition. However, Haven in particular operates under difficult conditions, and loses money every year (though it’s been getting better). There are a lot of reasons

for that: we have an out-of-theway location (2070 Aylmer.... Yeah, Google that.), high rent, and really low profit margins on each book. But more than that, we can’t advertise on campus or do anything to annoy the McGill Bookstore for...certain reasons. That’s right: despite the fact that around 95 per cent of our customers are McGill students, we can’t advertise on campus. That’s sort of like Tim Hortons not being able to advertise in Canada. Still, we and other used bookstores do our best, so before you pay full price for a new textbook, consider your alternatives. Ben Paris has a BA (’07) in English and History and an MLIS (’09), both from McGill, and is the manager of Haven Books. Write Ben at montreal@havenbooks.ca. Haven Books is located at 2070 Aylmer.


8 Features

All your digital labour are belo

The Daily’s Whitney Mallett explores the world of gold-farming: professional gami

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old-farming is a type of digital labour. Put simply, in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, players will pay real-world currency for characters, weapons, and gold coins, or to reach higher levels. Professional gamers, or “gold-farmers,” will spend time attaining these digital goods and then sell them to the gamers willing to pay. Due to the tens of millions of players worldwide, the demand for goldfarming services is quite high, and over the past decade this sort of virtual trading has developed into an industry – one that touches on issues of global trade, regulation, and the sociology of cyberspace. Because gold-farming usually exists outside the law, it is largely undocumented – making it difficult to grasp the size and scale of the industry. In “Current Analysis and Future Research Analysis on ‘Gold-Farming,’” Cambridge professor Richard Heeks explains that annual revenue could range from US$200-million to US$20-billion. He also estimates there at least 400,000 gold farmers and five to 10-million buyers. The vast majority of gold-farming takes place in China, but it’s also been documented in other East Asian countries, and to some degree, in Mexico and Russia. Business models vary, but most reports describe micro-enterprises typically run out of a one- or two-room apartment or office spaces with 10 or 20 employees and computers. Remko Tanis, a Dutch freelance correspondent living and working in Shanghai, explains that gold-farming firms crop up on the outskirts of cities where rent is cheap. Often, there are colleges nearby where potential employees can be found – most gold-farmers are males in their late teens or early twenties who are already familiar with MMORPGs.

Myth-busting Though most know little about gold-farming, those that do usually associate it with words like “sweatshop” – just look at the Wikipedia page. This image of an exploitive industry is grossly distorted. Heeks affirms that “most [gold-farmers] enjoy their work and that the oft-applied ‘virtual sweatshop’ label is at best partial and at worst inappropriate.” Tanis explains that the gold-farmers in Shanghai whom he spoke with “all said they were playing these games anyways, so why not try to make money out of it.” Tanis finds that many continued to play the same games in their free time. He added, “The problem is more that they are addicted to the computer than that they are being exploited as

computer slaves.” Heeks and Tanis both place a gold farmers’ monthly pay at about US$200 to US$250 – slightly higher than the average in China. “Pay and conditions are poor by Western standards but are good or better than the alternatives that gold farmers face,” Heeks notes. Victimizing narratives are often unsubstantiated and reveal the Western penchant to impose their opinions of acceptable employment onto others. Ulises Majias, an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, explains, “There is a tendency for us in the ‘First World’ to look at an image of, say, a bunch of shirtless guys in a room somewhere in Asia and immediately think ‘sweatshop’ and ‘oppression.’” Along with pay and conditions, the nature of gold-farmers’ work is often criticized. Killing the same monsters and retracing the same game-space for gold coins is boring and repetitive. An anonymous gold-farmer in Heeks’s paper is quoted: “You try going back and forth clicking the same thing for 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, then you will see if it’s a game or not.” However, accusations lodged against the automated nature of gold-farmers’ virtual tasks deserve reassessment. Heeks’s research finds that many gold-farmers gain a sense of achievement from their work and saw little difference between play and work. The measures many gaming companies have taken against gold-farming threaten the livelihood of these digital labourers, but they also diversify and enhance the complexity of their work. Gold farmers have to outwit the gaming companies so that their clients can continue to buy characters, weapons, capital, and access to levels without being noticed. Tanis explains, “It challenges the people here to get smarter.” Heeks also notes that gold-farming may provide valuable IT skills, and could potentially be a step toward more highly skilled work as a programmer. Gold-farming is typically thought of in terms of a simple dichotomy: the rich Westerners buy the virtual products and the poor Easterners slave away acquiring them. But this narrative only vaguely fits a small portion of the industry. Since the late nineties, Asian countries have developed and launched their own MMORPGs, and Heeks notes that although the global gold-farming trade garners the most attention, it is likely smaller than national, regional, and local trade. Heeks and Tanis both point out that the market for gold-farming is actually much bigger in Asia than in Europe or North America. Tanis explains that gold-farming firms in cities in the southeast of China, like Shanghai, “tend

to specialize in the domestic market, and some other Asian countries.” Last year, students from Ithaca College worked with Majias and Tanis, as well as other academics, to research gold-farming. Their blog, although titled stopgoldfarming. wordpress.com, shows a movement away from their initial, unequivocal negative stance toward gold-farming – assuming it exploited workers. Their final posts from last April acknowledge that their primary assumptions were called into question and that gold-farmers are not necessarily victims of the industry.

Cheating fantasy Although the demand for virtual trading comes from gamers, the biggest opposition to gold-farming is also from individuals in gaming communities. Nicholas Yee, a research scientist from Palo Alto Research Center, estimates that 22 per cent of the tens of millions of online game players participate in trading. Although this means there is a huge market for gold-farmers, it also suggests that most gamers object to the idea of buying wealth and status in the games. It’s cheating. Cooper Sellers, an American who manages nogold.org and other gaming-related sites, explains that “being able to ‘buy’ your way to the higher levels degrades the accomplishments of the others who earn their prestige through hard work.” The site aimed to help web masters of MMORPGrelated sites who opposed gold-farming through efforts like blacklisting ads from gold-farming brokers. It seems convenient for gaming companies to align themselves with anti-gold-farming activism when their primary concerns are the integrity and quality of their game play. An unofficial World of Warcraft web site (wow.com) posted an article promoting an upcoming documentary about Chinese gold-farming made by Ge Jin, a USCD Ph.D. student. About anti-gold-farming members of the gaming community, Tanis speculated, “I don’t think they’re at all concerned with sweatshop practices. They might say it because that sounds better than ‘they cheat their way into my fantasy world.’’’

Virtual racism Unfortunately, gold-sellers rather than gold-buyers become the targets of gamers’ resentment toward what they deem unfair play in games, which, for many, are more “real” than reality. For all players, gold-farmers, gold-buyers, and


The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

ong to us

Sally Lin / The McGill Daily

ing and virtual trading

those that object to the practice, MMORPGs can provide a welcome escape from reality and a virtual world where a fantasy avatar gives the individual a greater sense of fulfillment than their position in the real world. However, resentment toward cheating often manifests in in-game racism, which can make the game a hostile place for gold-farmers, and even other players with poor English assumed to be gold-farmers. Gold-farmers are often easy to spot, and other players often go out of their way to kill their characters or send them hateful and violent messages. In “The Life of a Chinese Gold Farmer,” Julian Dibbley’s 2007 article for the New York Times, she notes the disturbing racism in homemade movies on sites like Youtube titled, “Chinese Gold Farmers Must Die” and “Chinese Farmer Extermination.” This is “how racial meanings can be insidously remapped in cyberspace” explains Dean Chan of Edith Cowan University. Yee finds the vocabulary of this in-game racism eerily familiar – noting similar tropes of disease and pestilence and a need for extermination associated with Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. He notes the similarities between the contemporary and historical narratives: “Chinese immigrant workers being harrassed and murdered by Westerners who feel they alone constitute acceptable labour.” Efforts to fight gold-farming often rely on other players’ hostility toward gold-farming, as they are encouraged to report suspicious behaviour – for instance, a character trolling the same area over and over again for gold. These accounts are then banned, which can compromise goldfarmers’ employment. Tanis notes that gaming companies may have been trying to maximize profits – by eliminating gold-farming, players are unable to buy their way into higher levels, and must pay months of subscription fees to earn it through proper play. However, Heeks points out that “doing nothing about gold-farming also costs nothing whereas doing something costs money in staff time and other resources.”

Corporate farming Despite the measures taken to prohibit gold-farming, it continues. Gaming companies have already started to realize the potential for economic gain by incorporating it into their business model. Majias explains, “While MMORPGs initially tried to ignore and then repress gold farming...they will realize there is a demand and figure out a way to make

money from it.” This is already happening to some extent. Majias and Heeks both note that Sony Online Entertainment hosts trading for their game Everquest 2 – Sony’s 10 per cent commission earned them $250,000 the first year. Heeks also notes that many Asian games, which follow a free-toplay business model rather than a monthly subscription like Western games, sell levels and characters – capitalizing on the demand for the services gold-farmers provide. This model, however, leaves no room for gold-farmers who profit from the demand for purchasing fast-tracked virtual goods and services, and the gaming companies’ failure to provide them. Majias explains that what started out “in the interstices of the network...will become mainstream, and more importantly, automated.” This leaves an uncertain future for goldfarmers whose services may receive less reward, or may not be required at all in this new business model.

Gaming governmentality Looking toward the future of the industry, questions of government involvement arise. Like other cyber activities, governments have difficulty understanding and regulating gold-farming. Mr. Wang, a gold-farm owner that Tanis interviewed, explained that he tried to apply for a government registration in order to pay taxes and get insurance and social security for his employees, but the government turned away his request because they didn’t understand if his business was farming or virtual gaming. Heeks’s research finds some gold-farming firms in China registered and paying taxes – an obvious economic incentive for governments to regulate the industry. The Korean government banned the trading of virtual currency in 2007, but little has been done to enforce this prohibition. There are claims China has a similar ban in place, but Tanis, a Shanghai resident, explains that if this is true it would have little relevance or consequence. On the other hand, Heeks’ notes that there are reports that local governments in China have invested directly in goldfarming.

Real-world implications One solution proposed, which relies on regulation, has a fair-trade model for gold-farming. For the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College in New York State, Majias organized an alternate reality game that

explored “whether there could be fair-trade gil [gold], just like Fair Trade coffee and chocolate – in other words, a system for compensating workers appropriately.” Majias is, however, skeptical that this would be feasible. He doubts that the Chinese government will regulate the industry and predicts that it will inevitably be incorporated into the games by the game manufacturers themselves. Another inhibition to a fair-trade model is that many workers may already be compensated proportionally to the value of their work. According to Heeks’s research, most micro-enterprises seem to pay the workers relative to the profit made by the firm. This being said, business models are diverse across the industry, and numbers show both firms just breaking even, as well as firms with the potential for super-profits. Heeks notes one South Korean entrepreneur who out-sourced Chinese gold-farmers for the Korean game Lineage and made $9.6-million in three years. The potential for this super-profitability is less likely since the deflation of virtual gold in 2007. Whether this virtual world merely reproduces current labour patterns of inequity and exploitation, or if the features of digital technology could create different and better patterns is difficult to ascertain. Heeks writes that gold -farming largely reproduced “real-world institutions and social forces” in the virtual realm. But, he also finds reason to be more optimistc. After the price of virtual gold fell in 2007, changes took place necessary for its survival, one being that intermediary brokers between the gold-farmers and the gamers were largely cut out and power became more dispersed. “While this falls short of an argument that technology has transformed social structures and behaviours,” notes Heeks, “it means the mix of technology, structure, and agency is unpredictable.” Though the issues related to gold-farming currently have little audience aside from gamers and academics, these are questions that we all should be contemplating, as the commodification of the Internet increasingly infiltrates our day-to-day lives through sites like Facebook and Twitter. Insisting that the victims of this commodification are only other people on other continents shifts the focus away from the primary issues. “Underlying cyber-Orientalism... serves to conceal the fact that...we all find ourselves being (sometimes willingly) exploited by Web 2.0 companies,” says Majias. “It’s just we find it much easier to think of those being exploited as the Chinese.... But at least the folks in China are getting paid!”

9


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tune the degree to their individual career demands. Classes are led by leading researchers in direct contact with students through very small and selective class sizes of no more than 24 students. Combine all this with our focused team building and leadership retreat, multiple career development seminars, (winning resume strategy, bio-writing, networking skills and dressing for success), with industry consultants and many networking opportunities, successful MMI graduates are well prepared to fast track their careers. Talented leaders are needed to manage the innovation process – are you interested?

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Call for Candidates he Daily Publications Society, publisher of he McGill Daily and Le DĂŠlit, is seeking candidates for

two student positions on its Board of Directors. he position must be illed by McGill students belonging to any faculty other than the Faculty of Arts, duly registered during the upcoming Winter term, and able to sit until April 30, 2010. Board members gather at least once a month to discuss the management of the newspapers, and make important administrative decisions. Candidates should send a 500-word letter of intention to chair@dailypublications.org by January 18th. Contact us for more information.

The Art Supplement is coming. Submit work by January 18 at midnight to

artsup@mcgilldaily.com


Science+Technology

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

11

Invasion of the body scanners Airports use technology to get up close and personal with passengers Diane Salema The McGill Daily

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-ray vision is usually the stuff of science fiction, available only to comic book heroes like Superman who wield the ability to selectively “see” through certain objects in order to find bad guys, fight crime, and make the world a better place. In the real world, science has developed technology that appears akin to the superhero power, but in reality is much less refined and directed. Clark Kent’s idealized penetrative gaze cuts a couple of corners when it comes to physics. Still, recent applications have a similar, albeit more contested and controversial, goal: airport surveillance. Last Tuesday, the federal government announced that airports across Canada would be introducing full body scanners – large portals that use electromagnetic radiation to detect a weapon or bomb a traveller may have concealed beneath their clothing – to enhance security measures for U.S.-bound flights. The

investment was sped up in response to the December 25 attempted bombing of Flight 253, travelling from Amsterdam to Detroit. Using electromagnetic waves to detect materials like metal, the rays are unable to penetrate very far below the skin’s surface, producing a reflected three-dimensional image of, essentially, a naked human body – accessorized only by any metal or plastic items stowed on a person. According to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the purchased portals belong to a new generation of scanners that use millimeter wave radiation, which, electromagnetically-speaking, is comparable to the microwave. Shirley Lehnert, of the Montreal General Hospital’s Division of Radiation Oncology, said, “The energy of such radiation is too low to directly disrupt chemical bonds or cause electronic transitions.” She did, however, recognize there are some concerns with radiation such as this, which is also found in cell phones. Another type of body imaging machine – first-generation scanners – use low-energy x-rays, which have

a much higher frequency than millimeter waves. Frank Verhaegen, professor and head of research at the Maastro Clinic in the Netherlands, explained that the concern with these x-rays is the energy they deposit in your body during a scan – a potentially harmful effect, according to his research. “It is well known that the lower their energy, the more damaging. X-rays do their damage by breaking DNA strands which may lead to genetic instability, cancer in the longterm, or acute diseases if the dose is high enough,” Verhaegen said. While the millimeter wave technology is less damaging than these x-rays, Verhaegen was concerned about airports where the old x-ray scanners may still be in use. Beside the questions about health concerns, the scanners have also raised issues of privacy. Stéphane Leman-Langlois, associate professor of criminology at the Université de Montréal and author of Technocrime: Technology, Crime and Social Control, believes passengers should be turning their attention to this aspect of the technology. “Scanners, with their actual

If everybody’s doing it... The Split Brain Daniel Lametti

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ach fall, 30,000 scientists from around the globe gather in one of the four U.S. cities with a convention centre capable of holding such a large crowd to talk about the brain. The conference, simply called Neuroscience, is like a big science fair, but instead of sweaty, pimply-faced high school students presenting baking soda and vinegar-powered volcanoes, you get sweaty, pimply-faced graduate students presenting Ph.D. theses. It’s typically a subdued affair, but at the 2005 conference, for about 15 seconds, all that changed. That year, Neuroscience was held in Washington, D.C., and the organizers had made the controversial decision to let the Dalai Lama give the keynote address. Many thought that the Dalai Lama, with no formal science training, was a poor pick for the keynote speaker of a prestigious scientific conference; some even signed a petition in protest. It was agreed that the talk had to be seen, and when the day arrived, several thousand scientists – this writer included – flooded the Walter E. Washington Convention

Center to try to get a seat. Soon, a crowd thick with glasses, pocket protectors, and bad haircuts had queued orderly outside the lecture hall, waiting to be let in. Everyone secretly scoped out each other’s scientific credentials, prominently displayed on their conference badges – Ph.D.s were in the majority. And then, swiftly – almost silently – everything changed. A rumour spread down the line: There were not enough seats in the lecture hall; some people wouldn’t be let in. The crowd became uneasy. A Ph.D. pushed past security; another followed and then a handful more. Suddenly someone shouted “Everybody run” and, in an instant, some of the smartest people on the planet turned into a pack of wild animals. Behaviour can be contagious. A random drop in the price of a stock can cause a rapid sell-off that leads to the stock crashing. If you see someone yawn, or even read the word “yawn,” you are more likely to yawn yourself in the following minutes. When a group of people observe

someone else’s behaviour and decide to copy it, social psychologists refer to this as an “information cascade.” Information cascades can be both good and bad. If the person sitting next to you in class is a straight-A student and she takes down a note you ignored, it might be a wise idea to jot it down as well. Cascades become dangerous, however, when they are driven by misinformation. Last year, nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. died from swine flu. At first glance, this is a frightening number. When reported by the media, it caused a run on the vaccine at many doctors’ offices across the U.S. and Canada. But this particular information was irrational: more than 40,000 people die in the United States each year from the regular flu – an important piece of information that, if circulated with the swine flu death total, might have prevented unnecessary panic. Back in 2005, waiting to see the Dalai Lama, I believed the rumour that there wouldn’t be enough room. And when someone shouted “Everybody run,” I joined the pack, straight past security into the massive lecture hall, which, as it turned out, was nearly empty and easily seated everyone that had come to see the show. Daniel Lametti’s column will be back again in three weeks. Writing to him is also contagious. Try it: thesplitbrain@mcgilldaily.com.

impact on reducing terrorism or other crime, are in fact going to be used for other stuff…like a guy who forgot nail clippers in his...pocket,” said Leman-Langlois. “[Security guards are] going to catch a lot of these guys, whether they are trying to pass these things wittingly or unwittingly…. They’re going to catch zero terrorists.” One reassurance seems to be that full body scanners do not disclose unique details about an individual’s identity: when your body is scanned, the security official does not discover your name or see your face. However, the same cannot be said for other areas of surveillance research currently in development, like radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags for passports. LemanLanglois explained that these computer chips can store information about identity and facial recognition, meaning that in the future, an airport official could scan a passport chip and instantly confirm you are who you claim to be. “Any kind of card that contains information stored on an RFID chip is actually readable at a distance,” Leman-Langlois said. “But that

means if [airports] can do it, anyone else can do it with less legitimate intentions.” Leman-Langlois remained unconvinced that measures like digital passports and full body scanners would serve their security purposes effectively, pointing to the flaws of reactive security. “The problem with this is that it assumes terrorists are going to try the same thing that they tried before,” he said. “In that loop of constantly reacting to small detailed actions that terrorists or criminals or whoever will come up with over the years, you’re never really going to catch up.” Leman-Langlois called instead for proactive security, and old-fashioned investigation and intelligence. “This is how you do security. It’s far less spectacular and it doesn’t have that appearance of the perfect, magic, one-security-fix that the portal has, but it works. The portal – we don’t know if it works or not.” Scanners will be introduced to Canadian airports as soon as this month, but passengers can choose to submit to a physical pat-down instead, if they prefer.

Bees, trees, malaria Earth on tickertape Niko Block

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he Beijing Weather Modification Office fired shells loaded with silver iodide into the skies in northern China, inducing an additional 16 million tonnes of snowfall. The office’s chief explained that the action was necessary to end a drought that had been afflicting the region for several weeks. At least 32 people died and 15,000 buildings collapsed in the snowstorms. A report in the journal Science urged the Obama administration to categorically ban mountaintop coal mining due to its immediate regional health effects. For the first time since World War Two, more U.S. cars were scrapped than sold, and auto sales reached their lowest point since 1982. Scientists estimated that species in U.S. waterways are going extinct at 1,000 times the natural rate. Up to 30 per cent of species worldwide face increased risk of extinction with a temperature rise of 1.5 to 2.5°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientists

continue to debate the cause of the precipitous decline in North American honey bee populations. A study by the University of Colorado at Boulder found that the carbon uptake of trees will be diminished as the climate warms. Rising temperatures are also causing increasing levels of methane – which is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 – to be released from the Arctic seabed. A report released by the United Nations Population Fund stated that women will disproportionately bear the costs of climate change globally. Researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute concluded that climate change will expose millions more people to the risk of malaria, as the parasite thrives in temperatures warmer than 18°C. Climate negotiations in Copenhagen failed to produce a binding agreement. Every month in this space, Niko Block reviews climate change around the globe.


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McGill Daily Sports no experience necessary looking for columnists Meetings - Thursday - 5:00 - Shatner B24 sports@mcgilldaily.com


Culture

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

13

Where to go for pho Beggar’s Banquet Gavin Thomson Culture Writer

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orth of the tracks at 6414 St. Denis, near the Beaubien subway exit, where there are no longer shops and cafés but houses and schools and gas stations, is Pho Tay Ho – a small Vietnamese restaurant between a housing complex and an immense Couche-Tard. Outside, the street is dimly lit and narrowed by high snow banks. Though there are very few restaurants in the area, Pho Tay Ho is still hard to spot. There is a low awning above its door lit by white Christmas

though the menu was written in three languages, Vietnamese, French, and English, it was simple to choose from. The problem was that I had never eaten pho (pronounced “fuh”) before, and did not know what and how to order. Fortunately, one of my friends is a dedicated pho eater. He even has a term for that sensation you get when you eat too much too fast, and your ears burn and it’s hard to breathe or see, and all of a sudden most things seem funny – “pho freeze.” He helped me order Bua Ba Xao Xa ($8). But it was too tasty to eat fast: beef broth and rice-noodles, flavoured with crumbly peanut

There is a term for that sensation when you eat too much too fast, and your ears burn and it’s hard to breathe or see, and all of a sudden most things seem funny – “pho freeze” lights, and a wide window through which its tables and television can be seen. I went to Pho Tay Ho with three friends in search of a meal I could eat for under $10, hoping that I would enjoy it too. Even

sauce and vermicelli, topped with basil, mint, and coriander. Traditionally, pho is a beef-broth soup served with rice noodles, bean sprouts, basil, and lime. The broth is made by simmering beef with cloves, ginger, and cinnamon

Ariel Appel / The McGill Daily

At Pho Tay Ho, four people can eat for under $40, including tip. for several hours; and adding spices until it develops a texture richer and spicier than typical Western broths. It is served with a variety of meats: beef flank, beef tendon, beef tripe, and so on. Chicken broth and meat is less popular but still common. In fact, my other friend ate Pho Go, Long Ga, Tai ($8.50) – a pho with the heart and liver of a chicken. After dubiously stirring his chopsticks through the meaty pieces, he ended up enjoying it so much he promised to eat it again the next time we go. And there will be a next time. Not only is Pho Tay Ho’s food impressive, its service and setting is too.

The restaurant is small – there are only eight tables – but it manages to appear spacious. The ceiling is high and the walls off-white, with bouquets of white flowers and scenic paintings of Vietnam hanging on the walls. It reminds me of a small house where all the furniture is in the right place. Our waiter was genuinely kind and patient. He checked to see if we needed any help ordering without being invasive; when he caught us having a hot-pepper eating contest he laughed and offered more tea. Pho Tay Ho is generally a friendly place. Sometimes, our waiter would make conversation with guests at other tables, while

cooks would come out of the kitchen to have beer and chat. Another waiter actually sat down with a table of guests over a meal, and watched the boxing match on the television. But this is not to imply the service was slow; our food came within 10 minutes of ordering, and the exact moment we ran out of tea the cashier filled it back up again. Being a perfect place for a casual date, dinner with friends, or enjoying a meal alone, Pho Tay Ho is surprisingly inexpensive. Combined, all four of our meals cost under $40, including tip. If you’re willing to travel the distance, I strongly recommend it.

teenage girl seems to be head over heels in love with. Edwart Mullen, Belle’s “vampire” love interest in Nightlight, is weak, unintelligent, flighty, and nervous. In a move that ridicules Edward’s domineering behaviour, Nightlight’s Edwart is painfully timid, and it is Belle who, in her delusion of falling in love with a vampire, forces herself upon him and attempts to extract some sort of controlling urge out of Edwart. Nightlight is a work of comedic brilliance for those who appreciate sarcasm, satire, and the belittlement of unrealistic and unhealthy love affairs with vampires. To find

out how the parody’s twist aims to completely dismantle young girls’ obsessions with Edward Cullen, you’ll have to actually pick up a copy of Nightlight and read it yourself. Don’t worry though: it is only 154 pages, unlike Twilight, which was 512 pages of mind-numbing questions, theories, and actions from the lovely Isabella Swan, and moody, stupid, and confusing answers from the brooding Edward Cullen. To top off the inspired parody, the cover of Nightlight shows a hand holding an apple core. I guess that forbidden fruit wasn’t so forbidden after all, eh?

Screw you, Cullen! “America’s McGill” satirizes teen-lit sensation Twilight Erin O'Callaghan The McGill Daily

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isclaimer: if you love the Twilight series with all your heart and soul, Nightlight is definitely not the book for you. But if you read Twilight and halfway through began to question your sanity, and cannot explain why you finished the book anyway, Nightlight will assuage your panicked self-doubting, and confirm that you are, in fact, sane for thinking Twilight is the most ridiculous pop culture happening imaginable.

Nightlight is a parody of Stephenie Meyer’s immensely popular Twilight, the first instalment in her series of four books about a romance between a vampire and a young human teenage girl. Written by the Harvard Lampoon, the book delivers a hilarious, biting (the pun is just too easy) satire of Meyer’s debut novel and the phenomenon it has become. Nightlight’s main character is Belle Goose, a self-involved, vampire-obsessed loser whose constant questions and self-reflections parody those of Isabella Swan, the protagonist of the Twilight series. Isabella is perhaps the most annoy-

ing protagonist in literary history, and Belle takes Isabella’s infuriating vanity and obliviousness to an extreme, producing a much more obnoxious and satisfyingly stupid caricature. In the same way, Nightlight meticulously takes every aspect of Twilight into account and blows it up: instead of a truck, Belle’s father buys her a U-Haul; instead of annoyingly caring emails from Isabella’s mother, Belle receives 44 paranoid messages in a matter of hours. What Twilight fans might find most insulting about Nightlight is the Harvard Lampoon’s portrayal of Edward Cullen, the vampire every


14Culture

CULTURE BRIEFS Dear Leacock bake sale activists Though I may chide you for your tired imaginations, or the shoestring contributions you make to valuable causes, I still love you. I honestly appreciate the laboured dedication with which you attune the nature of my guilt from ethical to dietary. But the times they are a-changin’. No longer does the world need the ho-hum efforts of student bakers; ours is an era for grand gestures. This is why I hope you’ll understand when I hold on to my coinage this week, and spend it at the CMETrust benefit this Friday, organized by Daraja McGill. Daraja simply hit a soft spot with its pairing of an attainable, valuable goal (CMETrust’s funding of secondary school scholarships for 37 impoverished Kenyan students) to effective means – a quadrupleheader concert with a $15 advance door charge. It helps that the assembled lineup is the closest thing Montreal has seen to Band Aid, free of the

The McGill Daily, Monday, January 11, 2010

embarrassingly Euro-centric jingle. The slated appearances by TONSTARTSSBANDHT and the Pop Winds – two bands that The Daily took every single opportunity to mention last year – alone justify the price. Meanwhile, my mouth froths at the idea that the others, Hollerado and Homosexual Cops, may capture my heart in the new year. Sincerely hoping I did not hurt you, Nick. —Nicolas Boisvert-Novak

Art in the devil’s image

This Friday, the Galerie de l’UQAM will be opening Diabolique – an ambitious attempt to measure the impact of violence and conflict on our society through art, boasting a 20-name-long cast of artists. Apparently inquisitive in tone, the exposition holds out on promising any answers to the crisis it seeks to stir in viewers. But considering the expanse and depth of the devil’s contemporary oeuvre, perhaps we shouldn’t expect it to. Curator Amanda Cachia, however, seems to have recognized the advantage in selecting a theme this universal, as Diabolique is visibly unconstrained in its choice of artists. From celebrated aboriginal artist Rebecca Belmore to

Britart luminaries Jake and Dinos Chapman, the collection seems unhindered by concerns over consistency in medium, region, or style. So much the better: should the exposition succeed in upsetting our idées reçues on humanity’s capacity for violence, it will be indebted to the curator’s expansive sampling of modern art to reveal the universality of this theme. On display until February 13, Diabolique promises to deliver a deeply disturbing, personal meditation on humanity’s violent impulses – crucially, without appealing to sensationalism. When art gets this bleak, one is even tempted to turn to the news for hope. Diabolique is showing at the Galerie de l’UQAM in the JudithJasmin building (J-R120, 1400 Berri). Visit galerie.uqam.ca for more information. —N.B.N.

ARTifact starts tonight It’s probably been a while since you’ve been to a magic show. When you stop and think about it, is there any good reason for that? There’s a whole bunch of snow on the ground, and tonight you’re probably going to stay home, or perhaps venture to a close-by friend’s house and

huddle inside, repeating various iterations of the “snow sucks” conversation. No one’s going to defy reality. No one’s going to make a 52-card deck perform impossible feats before your very eyes. This coming Friday, however, McGill student Dave Armstrong will be performing a magic show at the Tuesday Night Café Theatre, part of TNC’s week-long ARTifact festival. Armstrong’s show may be one of the more eye-catching of the bunch, but starting tonight, and running through Friday, numerous McGill student artists will be displaying, performing, and exhibiting their work at the theatre, reminding us once again that the relative lack of fine arts programs at McGill is no indication that there no artists on campus. Their work will make use of a variety of media – dance, circus acts, poetry, music, and theatre. This year, for the first time, the festival will also include pre-show acts in and around the theatre, to ensure that you don’t drop off before the show even starts. The closing act of the festival will be the 24-hour playwriting competition’s final performance on Saturday night, an ARTifact staple that’s pretty much what it sounds like. Three playwrights are given opening and closing lines for their plays, and have one

day to write the play and another to rehearse it with the 30 volunteer actors recruited last week. Something tells me they’re probably cheating a little, dreaming up plots and characters as you read this right now, trying to think of throw-away methods of incorporating any sentence in the English language into a play. “And that, Ethel, is how I can prove you killed your husband. Furthermore, that hedgehog is in flames!” But one must forgive them that, as it doesn’t mean their plays won’t be worth watching. McGill artists need McGill audiences, so break out of your winter hermitage and come show them your support. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for adults. Email tnctheatre@ gmail.com to reserve tickets for every night except Saturday. Tickets for the 24-hour playwriting competition finale on Saturday will be available at the door on a first come, first served basis. If you’re a McGill ARTist too, and you didn’t hear about ARTifact this year, there’s always next year. Calls for artists are usually announced on the drama board in the Arts building in November or December. —Ian Beattie

The McGill Daily

Art Supplement is coming out on January 25. Submit your work by the 18th, and send questions to...

artsup@mcgilldaily.com



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