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INSIDE: ECO-SPACE INVADERS • 3 // IDLE NO MORE HUNGERS FOR CHANGE• 4 // HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH RETURNS • 10 // VIDEO GAMES: HIGH MUSICAL SCORE • 14

the STRAND VICTORIA UNIVERSITY`S STUDENT NEWSPAPER vOL. 55 iSSUE 8 • Jan. 21 2013 • WWW.THESTRAND.CA

CANADIAN FAIRWEATHER

ENVIRONMENTALISM COMMENTARY BY JONAH LETOVSKY

When it comes to addressing the catastrophic consequences of climate change, this nation is often described using words like “laggard” and “indifferent”. Indeed, for a country whose very identity is so tied to the Rocky Mountains, abundant fresh water, and diverse species and forests, Canada has had an abysmal record on setting and meeting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets. We are no Denmark, Sweden, or Norway. Nor are we Germany, or Iceland, or Japan, or Britain, or Australia or even the United States, for that matter. There is no doubt that Canada is an international embarrassment. So, who is to blame for this continued

failure to step up to the plate at the national level? To be frank: all Canadians. Students, seniors, and especially boomers have shirked their collective responsibilities to each other and their children. Certainly, there are many activists and environmental supporters, including UofT students and our peers at other universities, who make noise and call for concrete policy shifts. But in recent years, this noise—so critical for compelling politicians to act—has been overwhelmingly reactive. Yes, Canadian students expressed outrage at Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto. They were angry at the govern-

ment’s clear lack of regard for the Doha COP18 talks. Discussions arose, locally and globally, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, linking the type of massive devastation seen on the U.S. east coast to rising sea levels and temperatures. But in all cases our passion was purely reactionary and faded away after each crisis, allowing the media to shift the conversation back to less vital but sexier topics. When was the last time you saw a Canadian newspaper with a front-page article about the enormous costs of future Sandys, or the similar and immediate threat to other major cities such as Miami or Vancouver? Where is the investigative reporting on the dying winter

sports industry? Canadians seem content to allow these historic changes in ocean, climate, and biodiversity to subsist as a “flavour-of-the-month” niche topic. We must demand better. For Canadian prosperity to survive, a sustained discussion needs to take place, as has appeared to happen in the United States over gun control. The sadly-unsurprising elementary school shooting in Connecticut occurred many weeks ago, yet the debate over gun ownership has continued to rage on front pages and social media. Federal legislative action, endorsed by President Obama, is sure to follow. SEE ‘CANADIAN’ ON PAGE 5

The Goldring Centre—what to expect, and when WENDELLE SO ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR Student offices will relocate, fees will change and commuter spaces will expand for Victoria College students once the Goldring Student Centre opens—which, contrary to previous estimates, will not be until after the spring exam period. “The most significant change this [centre] will make to student life is the amount of space that is available to us,” explained VUSAC President Shoaib Alli. “Residence students get a lot of space built into their university experience, but the Goldring Centre will make that true for all students as well. Res and commuter students alike will have equal chance to come and hang out, get involved, and have areas to study and put on events,” he says, citing the expansion of the Commuter Lounge as a specific example. At 40,000 square feet, the Goldring Student Centre is set to double currently-available student space and will create new meeting rooms, a twostorey lounge, an assembly hall, and lockers for commuter students.

The centre is also set to change fees for Vic students in two ways. “Because the opening has been delayed to the point where fourth-years and above will not be able to use it during their time at Vic, all students are getting a partial fee refund,” says Alli. “Through ROSI, all first, second, and third years will be getting a $100 refund, and fourth years and above will be getting a $200 refund.” Seniors will receive a higher refund because they will not be able to use the Goldring Centre as fully as the first, second, and third years, he added. At the same time, a motion for a student fee increase is going through the Board of Regents. “This will solely be going towards the maintenance of the building,” Alli clarified. On top of this, Goldring Centre’s completion will also prompt the relocation of the offices of Vic’s student government and student levy groups. These student-funded groups, including the athletics association (VCAA), drama society (VCDS), newspaper (The Strand), and yearbook (The Victoriad), will all receive separate of-

SEE “GOLDRING” ON PAGE 3

VICTORIA CHUEN

Centre will create new spaces for clubs and levies, but bring new fees for students


THOMAS LU

NEWS

Nobel Prize winner talks genetics research with Uof T students

the

HAPPENINGS

RALLY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE University of Toronto Environmental Action (UTEA) has organized a rally on Friday Feb. 1st which will be leaving from Con Hall at 11am to “protest government inaction, listen to guest speakers, and deliver an open letter to federal, provincial, and territorial leaders.”

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He was also the first to use the small roundworm C. elegans for scientific research. Wander into any developmental biology or genetics lab at UofT and you will find hundreds of these creatures—they are now one of the most common scientific models and help us to learn about everything from Alzheimer’s disease to the effects of zero gravity in the International Space Station. After more than 50 years of research, Dr. Brenner won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Robert Horvitz and John Sulston, for their work in the “genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.” When the talk was over and he had finished signing a few keen students’ Molecular Biology of the Cell textbooks, The Strand asked Dr. Brenner if he had anything to say to current university students. He had only these succinct words of wisdom: “My only advice is to work hard.” THOMAS LU

He’s known as a pioneer in the field of genetics, and as the man who brought C. elegans—the roundworm used in so many studies—to fame. It was for these reasons that UofT enthusiastically welcomed Dr. Sydney Brenner, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology/ Medicine, to speak in front of students. In his brilliant, if slightly rambling talk, you could see his genuine love for the subject as he spun the story of the genetic code and its ability to be used as a record of our evolutionary history. His talked centred around the dynamic nature of the human genome—how it is constantly mutating and how that information can be used to learn about our evolution. “We can tell you when rods and cones were invented,” he explained, which can be accomplished by reconstructing the gene from a common ancestor.

Off-hand comments such as, “I decided I would read the human genome. Start at chromosome one and work my way to the end,” summarized years of research in mere seconds. He has worked in the field of genetics for decades and is still excited about new possibilities in the field. Included on Dr. Brenner’s impressive resume is the discovery of mRNA—one of the fundamental steps in the translation from DNA, our bodies’ code, to proteins that dictate our bodies’ functions. In 1953, when Watson and Crick first discovered the structure of DNA, he was one of the first people to see it. Now, that structure is foundational to biological studies. Later on, Dr. Brenner worked with Crick to discover that the genetic code is organized into groups of three chemical units, or “codons.” This transformed the way the code was read and allowed researchers to make the connection between DNA and protein structure.

FLICKR / HIMY SYED

GAIL ROBSON

FUNDAMENTALS OF A GREEN ECONOMY Former mayor David Miller will deliver a free talk on Wednesday Jan. 23rd, debunking some myths surrounding sustainable development and a green economy at Hart House’s Great Hall from 6–8pm.


Goldring to bring more opportunities for students and student projects fast FACTS •

Victoria students will be receiving a refund for this year’s Goldring fees » $200 for fourth years » $100 for first through third years

Construction should be finished by March

Moving in after exams in April: » Levy groups » Wymilwood Cafe » The Cat’s Eye » The Commuter Lounge » Dean’s Office

More lockers for commuter students

“GOLDRING” FROM PAGE 1 fices in Goldring. Their relocation will make their current office spaces available for use by the Faculty of Law for a few semesters. “They’re undergoing construction over there, so they are renting some spaces from us, primarily the VUSAC Office, the Dean’s Office, and the Cat’s Eye,” Alli explained. Similarly, the Wymilwood Cafe will be transferred to the basement of the Goldring Centre. Otherwise, student life operations will continue as before. “No student clubs actually have offices,” Alli says, “but there will be bookable space for clubs specifically. Students will be able to book space through Events Victoria, and the Cat’s Eye will be bookable through the Cat’s Eye managers.” Problems with building contractors prevented the student groups’ scheduled transfer into Goldring at the beginning of this semester. “The Bursar’s Office realized that some information had been misrepresented to them, and so they had no choice but to delay the date until the full

completion of the Goldring,” Alli says. He estimates building construction will finish by March. “Because exams start [in] April, students will move in once exams have ended, and the grand opening will be in September.” Students have been enthusiastic about the Goldring’s opening and use. “I am excited for the Goldring Centre to bring back the full functionality of the student space,” says Arash Ghiassi, a second-year commuter student. “Moreover, at Student Projects, we expect more projects to pour in once the Goldring Centre opens up because right now we lack space to store equipment or hold events. The current office space is also limiting the number of applications, so [Goldring’s construction] will open more opportunities at Vic.” The Goldring Student Centre was a project initiated by a four million dollar donation from Victoria alumni Blake and Judy Goldring, CEO and COO, respectively, of AGF Management. The student centre is to be located at 150 Charles Street West.

EUREKA!

NEWS FROM THE SCIENCES

The truth about foreign invasion

Why invasive species might be more of a threat than we thought EDITORIAL ASSISTANT A partnership between ecologists at UofT and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has made an unsettling discovery: invasive species are more likely to drive native species to extinction than was previously thought. The study, headed by Professor Benjamin Gilbert of UofT’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, runs contrary to some recent studies that minimized the risk. “Invasive species” are any nonnative species that have a negative impact on the environments they colonize. While not problematic inside their native ranges, certain species can multiply prolifically in new habitats where they don’t have natural predators. The problem with these successful survivors is that they can crowd out local species, reducing biodiversity and potentially upsetting the ecosystem.

Certain recent studies have painted more optimistic pictures of invasive species, noting that invasives have caused few native species to become extinct yet. Professor Gilbert’s study looked instead at the long-term impact that invasive species can have. While invasive species rarely eliminate native species immediately, extinction becomes more likely over time. Professor Gilbert refers to this as an “extinction debt”: while the native species appears to remain healthy, extinction may occur many years after the invasion. The study was conducted in a Californian nature reserve filled with invasive grasses, leaving the native grasses in patchy groups. Looking at seven types of local grasses, Professor Gilbert and his colleague, Jonathan Levine of ETH Zurich, performed experiments in the reserve to determine the longterm impact of invasive grasses on native plants.

Their study showed that invasive species have a double impact on native plants—the persistence of invasive species both shrinks the habitat of the native plants and makes it harder for seeds to disperse between patches. The study also shows that invasive species take over the best land, pushing native species to the peripheries. When they did numeric simulations of the possibility of extinction, it transpired that the typical native grass would not go extinct for 300– 1,000 years after an invasion event. The reason that this study has gotten different results from previous studies is that the earlier studies didn’t used extrapolation; they just looked at data collected on extinctions up to the current date. This is problematic because the field has been gathering data for less than 200 years—not enough time for most extinction events to have taken place. When asked about the reaction

that the rest of the ecological field might have to this study, Professor Gilbert says, “There have always been two opinions on the dangers of invasive species. Some people have said, ‘We haven’t seen extinctions, but we still need more evidence,’ and some people have been saying, ‘There is absolutely no problem with extinctions of native species. Stop talking about it already!’ The second group is the one I anticipate resistance from.” This is only one of several studies that Professor Gilbert is working on pertaining to plant conservation. He plans to continue doing studies on plant viability, including some done in communities in Ontario. “Some people say that, with climate change happening, should we be focusing on invasive species? But the way that species react to global warming is either to adapt or to move, and invasive species make both these options harder. These problems are interconnected.”

News • 21 Jan. 2013 • news@thestrand.ca

EMILY POLLOCK

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OPINIONS

c) ‘ person ‘ means an individual other than an Indian; ‘Person.’ (d) ‘band ‘ means any tribe, band or body of Indians within Cand.’ own or are interasted in a reserve or in Indian lands in common, of which the legal title is vested in the Crown,

Idle No More: educate yourself

or who share alike in the distribution of anv annuities interest moneys for which the Government of Canada is responsible; and, when action is being taken by the baml as such, means the band in council ;

SAR AH

CRA W

LEY

(e) ‘ irregular band ‘ means any tribe, band or body of persons of Indian blood who have no interest in any reserve band.” or lands of which the legal title is vested in the Crown. who possess no common fund managed by the Government of Canada, and who have not had any treaty relationwith the Crown ; SASHA CHABOT-GASPE

- from the Indian Act

government against Aboriginal peoples for centuries. Educate yourselves first about Treaties, how they were As Chief Theresa Spence has demonstrated since De- signed between Canada and First Nations on a nation-tocember 11th, there is supreme hunger in this coun- nation basis. In these Treaties, First Nations agreed to give try. For too many First Nations people, that hun- up immense tracts of land and submitted to the Reserve ger is literal as they struggle to find a way to feed system in exchange for certain rights, like education and themselves, despite the wealth that is being extracted resource sharing. You’ll find that these Treaties are legally from their lands. For others, this hunger is more abstract. binding agreements and are protected within Section 35 As a Kanien’kehá:ka and Anishinàbeg woman (that’s of the Canadian Constitution. Some of the Treaty agreeMohawk and Algonquin) raised off-reserve, I have been ments stipulate that First Nations fight for Canada, which sustained throughout my life by strong connections to they’ve done in record numbers in every major war since my home communities and First Nations identity. I have the Seven Years War in the 18th century. You’ll also find followed the Idle No More movement ravenously, con- that many of the Canadian government’s Treaty obligasuming online Canadian tions have been igmedia coverage, as well as nored, and that often In particular, I’m struck resource exploration the commentary section following every article. After by the repeated accusa- and exploitation is done reading these comments, I on First Nations lands tion of the laziness of without consent, dehave come to the sad conclusion that, in a purportFirst Nations people. spite the Crown’s comedly-enlightened country mon law duty to conThe hypocrisy of such a like Canada, misinformasult. Yet, every single tion leading to expressions characterization is as- Canadian has benefited of racism against First Naand continues to benetounding, since few Cations people is everywhere. fit exorbitantly and pasnadians have taken any sively from the wealth from exploittime to find out the facts generated ing the resources and lands that were meant In particular, I’m struck by to be shared. You’ll see the repeated accusation of the laziness of First Nations peo- that to ignore the Treaties is to violate the Constitution. ple. The hypocrisy of such a characterization is astound- Next, educate yourselves about oppressive legislation like ing, since few Canadians have taken any time to find out the Gradual Civilization Act, the Gradual Enfranchisethe facts, preferring instead to regurgitate the racist ste- ment Act and the Indian Act, which made it illegal for reotypes we’ve been fed by the media and the mainstream First Nations people to engage in many types of economic education system for generations. As one commentator activities, to go to university, to join the armed forces, or pointed out, it’s 2013 and its time for us to collectively even to learn how to read, without giving up their Indian grow up: Canadians, do your research and educate your- status. It will quickly become clear that the dependency selves about the gross injustices, oppression, colonization, you sometimes see in Aboriginal communities, what you and frankly illegal activity perpetrated by the Canadian short-sightedly identify as laziness, was in fact deliberately

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created by your government through policy and legislation. Finally, educate yourselves about Residential schools— you’ll soon understand the depth of physical and sexual abuse experienced by the more than 100,000 Aboriginal children forced to attend these schools, in addition to the feelings of worthlessness and shame these children were made to feel about their culture, their traditions, and the colour of their skin. Do this research, and you’ll realize that the type of education given at these schools was intended to create a poor labouring class. Read up on this topic, and you’ll quickly discover that the last residential school was closed in 1996, a mere 17 years ago. And you’ll understand that the intergenerational effects of the horrific traumas experienced at these schools are the reasons for the social problems you see now in many Aboriginal communities.

Hopefully, once you’ve done this research, you’ll feel compassion, and you’ll realize that centuries of abuse and oppression don’t merely go away in the blink of an eye. It takes time. It also takes work, and generations of Aboriginal people have undertaken this work every single day of their lives. Yet we still live under the oppressive and paternalistic mantle of the Indian Act. We are still not given equal access to the benefits of resource exploitation. We are still not engaged in meaningful consultation with the government when it comes to resource exploration and development on our lands. We are no longer treated by the Canadian government as nations, as we once were when we were powerful and Canada was in need of important allies. And because of your lazy, uninformed opinions, we still face the ire of Canadians like you. Nobody is going to spoon-feed you an education on these issues – just as you have told us that government and taxpayers should no longer spoon-feed us. So my message to you is simple. Stop being lazy, get off the couch and educate yourselves!


Drag queen controversy reveals tensions in LGBTQ community ISAAC THORNLEY STAFF WRITER I have always been both fascinated and somewhat intimidated by drag queens. As an openly gay man, drag queens seem to me to represent a sort of ultimate “outness”, a total acceptance of oneself and a proud disregard for outside sources of negativity. To put it simply: they just don’t give a fuck, and for that, I am envious. About a month ago, a well-known Toronto drag queen named Donnarama garnered quite a bit of negative attention for one of her performances at Woody’s, a popular gay bar on Church St. Appearing on stage

Essentially, Donnarama spliced together a culturally dissonant costume, threw in some bombs, performed, and angered a lot of people. Sometimes not giving a fuck can come at a cost.

wearing a burkha (a traditionally Muslim article of clothing), a bindi (a forehead decoration common to South Asian cultures), and fake bombs attached to her abdomen, she lip-synced and danced, making gunshot gestures amidst various stage pyrotechnics. Essentially, Donnarama spliced together a culturally dissonant costume, threw in some bombs, performed, and angered a lot of people. Sometimes, not giving a fuck can come at a cost. Rahim Thawer, a social worker, community activist, and proud queer Muslim, is responsible for initially bringing Donnarama’s performance to public attention. He created a public Facebook note,

which was then republished on Huffington Post and subsequently covered as a news story by Xtra. The performance itself has been characterized as racist, Islamaphobic, and more generally as ignorant and misguided. The backlash, however, has been interesting; rather than simply garnering an angry response, Donnarama’s performance has stimulated discussion about the uses and abuses of drag, especially in the context of diversity, inclusivity, and freedom of speech. Toronto is a city often thought of as multicultural, diverse, open-minded, and progressive. Its LGBTQ neighbourhood, the Church and Wellesley village, is similarly often thought of as being welcoming to queers from all walks of life. But even in the village, we still find major spaces – including places like Woody’s and Buddies in Bad Times – that make many queers feel unsafe and unwanted. This event and public response to it are indicative of many of the tensions that underlie both drag culture and LGBTQ communities. I’ll start with a quick and dirty history. LGBTQ neighbourhoods have historically been the domain of white middle-class gay men in North America. White middle-class men in North America have traditionally been allowed greater access to public life than women, people of colour, and the working class (though, by grouping all of these categories together I don’t mean to say that their experiences of oppression and rejection have been the same). The fundamental point is that the diversification of the Village, has been a relatively recent development and there is much work still to be done. A second point is one that addresses the actual practical purposes of the village: is it a place of leisure (bars, clubs), a place to provide essential resources (HIV/AIDS counselling, shelters), or a place for political and social mobilization (activism, protest)? The answer is that it’s all of those things. The situation in question, however, took place at a club during a drag performance. Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion about what a gay club should look like or be, but for the sake of this dis-

cussion I’ll just say that all clubs, gay or straight, tend to be places of leisure, entertainment, and sexual freedom. Gay clubs tend to exude an atmosphere of “anythingsgoes”, and so do drag queens. It’s about pushing boundaries, letting out a part of ourselves that we’ve always been told to keep inside, and, most of all, about having fun. But the tension surfaces when one person’s “anything goes” mentality comes at the cost of another group’s sense of feeling welcome and safe. That is the point at which everything should not simply “go”. Drag is meant to provoke, to make us think, to question, to push the envelope. There is ample room in drag for the questioning of racial and cultural assumptions, rather than just questions of gender and sexuality. Perhaps Donnarama was satirizing white assumptions about “the Muslim” or about “brown people”; those questions have not been answered. Regardless, it’s fair to assert that Donnarama’s performance certainly did not display the nuance or thought-

Donnarama’s performance has stimulated discussion about the uses and abuses of drag, especially in the context of diversity, inclusivity, and freedom of speech.

fulness that would have been required to pull off such a satire. It came across as blunt, racist, and left many questions unanswered. People were rightfully offended, but these discussions certainly need to take place. I believe that attitudes in Toronto’s LGBTQ village are in the midst of transition. It is still very much a whitemale-dominated environment, but clashes like these have gotten people thinking, talking, and changing.

Canadian environmental policy is overwhelmingly reactive As students, we can no longer simply react, criticizing Prime Minister Harper and his ministers when they enact tangibly harmful policy such as Bill C-45; as history proves, inaction can be just as crucial as action. For concrete measures which experts agree will most effectively reduce carbon emissions—including a carbon tax and transit investments—to finally take root nationally, we must hold our local politicians to account at every turn. It is vital for us at UofT and in Toronto, where our urban summers will grow continually hotter and dirtier. It is vital for Westerners in BC and Alberta, whose freshwater sources are drying up along with the vanishing glaciers. It is vital for Maritimers, whose community viability is threatened by bigger, badder, and more frequent extreme weather events. It is vital for the elderly, whose health will suffer as Canada’s climate becomes less and less moderate. It is vital for Aboriginal peoples, whose heritage, culture, spirituality, and in many cases livelihood depend utterly on the nation’s biodiversity—which is already in such widespread collapse that it has been termed the anthropogenic “sixth great extinction.” And it is vital for the taxpayers of tomorrow, for whom the costs of adapting to an aggressive planet will skyrocket while suffering up to a 20% loss in GDP.

Keep in mind: those future taxpayers are today’s students, who also happen to be facing down a dismal unemployment crisis and rising healthcare costs.

In our liberal democracy, a popular failure always results in political failure. In other words, we cannot expect Prime Minister Harper and the provincial and territorial leaders to take drastic, capital-intensive measures as we sit at home, silently fuming about the state of affairs.

So, please remind me—why isn’t climate action the prevailing topic in every one of our political discussions? Why aren’t there visceral and angry weekly protests? With regards to posterity, Canadian civil society has essentially failed. I don’t intend this to be a post-mortem. Our ways of life, health, and economy are facing their single largest threat, yes. But we also know that we’re not yet doomed. That’s why the University of Toronto Envi-

ronmental Action (UTEA) group is organizing the Rally for Climate Justice on February 1st—because we can still ensure this generation’s future (disclaimer: I am a member of UTEA). We didn’t plan the rally as a hasty response to any particular government policy; instead, it’s meant to be a reminder that climate change is no temporary or transient issue to youth. It is the existential threat of our generation, marching on every day whether we confront it or not. In the end, of course, it comes down to the politicians. In our liberal democracy, a popular failure always results in political failure. In other words, we cannot expect Prime Minister Harper and the provincial and territorial leaders to take drastic, capitalintensive measures as we sit at home, silently fuming about the state of affairs. So: as students, lets turn carbon reduction into a popular success. On Friday, February 1 at 11:00am, show up at Convocation Hall and prepare to march to Queen’s Park. We’ll have speeches and special guests, and will present our demands. We’re not asking for governments to move mountains—only to meet the currently stated Canadian Greenhouse Gas reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. If we maintain “business as usual”, it is projected that we will barely achieve 50% of that goal.

Opinions • 21 Jan. 2013 • opinions@thestrand.ca

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EDITORIAL ORTH W S D OL

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IN PAUL

OUR MASTHEAD Editors-in-Chief Pauline Holdsworth Muna Mire Patrick Mujunen News Associate

Sabina Freiman Wendelle So

Opinions Associate

Sara Deris Jonah Letovsky

Features Associate

Malcolm Sherwood Vacant

Arts & Culture Associate

Paula Razuri Dominique Bechard

Film & Music Associate

Bahar Banaei Alex Griffith Vacant

Stranded Associate

Will Pettigrew Vacant

Production

Allie Chenoweth

Design Associate

Jade Bryan Vacant

Copy Associate

Blaire Townshend Matthew Casaca

Photo Associate

Thomas Lu Victoria Chuen

Art Associate

Sarah Crawley Vacant

Web

Jamie Shilton

Distribution

Jen Roberton

GROWING UP UNDER

DRONES

Editorial Assistants Amanda Aziz, Emily Pollock, Grace Quinsey Copy Johanna Lewis, Claire Wilkins Contributors Sasha Chabot-Gaspe, Miguel Gamboa, Warren Goodwin, Davin Leivonen, Tara MacTavish, Gail Robson Cover Art Pauline Holdsworth & Patrick Mujunen Special Thanks Claire Wilkins

The Strand is published 14 times a year and has a circulation of 2000. It is distributed in Victoria University residences and across the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. The Strand jubilantly enjoys its “hella tight” editorial autonomy. Please direct inquiries by email to editor@thestrand.ca. Our office is located at 63 Charles St.W.,Toronto,ON,M5S 1K9. Follow us on Twitter for news and updates: @strandpaper If you follow us, we’ll follow you too.

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he anti-terror war apparatus that came to define the legacy of the Bush administration has only been strengthened under the auspices of President Obama. With the New Year barely underway and President Obama freshly inaugurated into his second term, his administration has already carried out a number of deadly drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes remain popular with the American public, but a growing chorus of high-profile voices in the media are condemning Obama’s policy on drone strikes—a policy that detractors have criticized on both legal and ethical grounds. The legal pretext for drone strikes —which are essentially attacks carried out by unmanned airborne robots—is a murky one. Extrajudicial or “targeted” killings (including of American citizens abroad) are not easily justified. And yet, President Obama has not told Congress why he believes the Constitution gives, or at least fails to deny, him the authority to secretly target and kill American citizens who he

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suspects are involved in terrorist activities overseas. Quite the opposite— Obama’s administration has fought for and won the right to keep their justification for these strikes a secret. Efforts by The New York Times and the ACLU to get the government to disclose the secret memoranda used as the legal rationale for their drone strike policy have been curtailed by federal judges. Traditionally, the drone program has fallen under the purview of the CIA, which still does not officially acknowledge its existence. Obama’s recent appointment of John Brennan (who previously served as top counter-terrorism advisor to the President) to the post of CIA director, is significant because it may indicate a reversal of this position. As an architect of the drone program, Brennan has come out in favour of having the military conduct the strikes openly as acts of war, rather than in secret at the behest of a paramilitaristic CIA. Brennan’s appointment illustrates that while Obama remains committed to his current national security strategy, it is likely the CIA will soon turn over operations to the military in response to calls for increased accountability from the left.

Even more worrisome than legal criticisms and questions of transparency are the ethical concerns raised by expanding the theatre of war to places where America has not declared war. The implications of this strategy are wholly devastating. Contrary to the language of “surgical” or “targeted” strikes marshaled by the White House, the drone campaign has incurred an unprecedented number of civilian casualties—including children. The analogy of surgery, which is presumably meant to conjure up images of extreme precision and deliberation, is not just misleading in this case, it’s propaganda on the order of the Orwellian. “While the person being cut into is occasionally victimized by a mistake [during surgery], there is never a case where the scalpel is guided so imprecisely that it kills the dozen people standing around the operating table. For that reason, orderlies and family members don’t cower in hospital halls terrified that a surgeon is going to arbitrarily kill them. And if he did, he’d be arrested for murder. So no, drone strikes aren’t like surgery at all,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic magazine.


BY MUNA MIRE imminent death.” The constant, audible presence of drones is especially harrowing for civilians who do not know when or where the next strike could be. Coupled with the trauma of being injured in or witnessing successful strikes, civilian populations in affected areas must negotiate what Pakistani psychiatrists have called “anticipatory anxiety.” The condition is centered around feelings of helplessness and a lack of control over one’s immediate circumstances, manifesting as “a pervasive worry about future trauma,” say Pakistani mental health officials. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is also a mounting concern in the region. Interviewees for the Stanford study reported symptoms including emotional breakdowns, fainting, nightmares, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite. Health officials say these symptoms are prevalent in the region. A humanitarian working in a drone-affected area compared his experience of drones to his experience of 9/11: “Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember what it felt like right after? I was in New York on 9/11. I re-

member people crying in the streets. People were afraid about what might happen next. People didn’t know if there would be another attack. There was tension in the air. This is what it is like. It is a continuous tension, a feeling of continuous uneasiness. We are scared. You wake up with a start to every noise.” The analogy is deeply ironic, given the fact that it was 9/11 that sparked the global campaign to quash terrorism which culminated in the drone war. It begs the question: Is America responding to its fears of terrorism by carrying out its own brand of terrorism abroad? In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, Americans have started conversations about mental health and domestic terrorism in the form of mass shootings. A collectively felt trauma took place that day in Newtown and many are still in the process of negotiating its implications. As we have these impossibly difficult conversations about dead schoolchildren, domestic terrorism and mental health, we should consider consider placing our foreign policy next to our domestic policy and comparing the two. A genera-

tion of children will have come of age in an Orwellian nightmare, one in which innocent civilians are targeted for unknown reasons. Are the lives of the Pakistani schoolchildren who perish as a result of drone strikes negligible? Are the mental health concerns that result from an ever-expanding theatre of war not our concern? Do we hold ourselves to different standards abroad than we do domestically? If so, why? The intentional large-scale bombing of civilian populations during wartime is nothing new. It’s part of creating a condition of widespread terror amongst the public as a way of reducing support for the enemy. This was a key part of American military strategy during the Vietnam War and World War II. But those were both officially declared wars; wars that had clearly defined parameters. The “War on Terror” is a nebulous, everexpanding endeavour—one that lies outside the purview of traditional warfare. It’s high time we asked the tough questions of our leaders: what are we accomplishing with this strategy? And more importantly, at what cost?tional breakdowns, fainting,

Editorial • 21 Jan. 2013 • editor@thestrand.ca

On the ground, drone strikes look nothing like what the Obama administration would have us believe. In North Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan, families are being torn apart literally and figuratively. Death rains from the sky seemingly indiscriminately. There are real world, material consequences to America’s increasingly paranoid global military hegemony. In addition to contending with the loss of family members (often primary wage earners), destroyed homes, and medical expenses, there is a serious mental health health crisis emerging as a direct result of drones. A Stanford University report entitled Living Under Drones emphasizes the ongoing trauma that residents of the Waziristan region in Pakistan are subjected to. In the report, former New York Times journalist David Rohde, who was kidnapped and held by the Taliban, describes the fear that drones inspired in his captors: “The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of

7


FEATURES

WHY HIBERNATION

OR WHY TORONTO WINT MALCOLM

8

While waiting for snow to return to the downtown core, a suitable preoccupation might be checking out Winterlicious. Between Jan. 25–Feb. 7, almost 200 restaurants will offer fixed-price three-course meals starting at $15 per lunch and $25 per dinner. Winterlicious makes it an affordable option to try new cuisine that otherwise may be out of range on a student budget, so take advantage of the opportunity to break the destructive cycle of ordering pizza every day at Sid’s Café with some fine dining. Beyond the dining options, Winterlicious also has events such as a pizza making tutorial in Yorkville, and a chance to try a mystery meal personally prepared by the Torontobased “Group of Seven Chefs”. Information about Winterlicious events and participating restaurants can be found on the City of Toronto website.

Winterlicious

Cafés

When exploring a new neighborhood around the city in cold weather, stopping at a café is an excellent way to warm up and recharge for the trip home. I’m convinced that the best way to locate interesting cafés in interesting neighborhoods is with the “Indie Coffee Passport” which entitles you to a free drink at 30 different independent cafés across the city for only 25 dollars. This passport selects some of the most unique cafés in the city. Each and every location has an original drink; examples include maple syrup lattes and flavored ice-espressos. The passport also organizes its cafés by neighborhood, inspiring participants to simultaneously discover new cafés while exploring a new area of Toronto. Great starting points on the list are Moonbean Coffee (30 St. Andrew Street), a cozy spot nestled in Kensington perfect for between-class hangouts or for overhearing eclectic conversations, or Merchants of Green Coffee (2 Matilda Street), a hidden gem on the east side of the Don River, well suited for a full day of crosswords, reading, or writing. Passports can be purchased and immediately used at either of these locations.

M

y first months in Toronto were a to a level seldom matched in the months of January and February citement for monotony, and thrill for let ingrained in the psyche and culture of To relatively tame winters that it experiences I’ve always been envious of the way Ott the way Quebec City embraces the cold d role skiing plays during the winter in Britis idealizations of winter makes the drawn o ters in Toronto seem unbearable. However, spending the last few years has convinced me that there are things and coldest weeks of January and Febru that may motivate you to leave your room plagues scores of undergrads struggling


N IS NOT INEVITABLE

TERS DON’T HAVE TO SUCK SHERWOOD

attempting to get the most out of Toronto s to get excited about even in the darkest uary. This feature highlights a few activities m, and help you skip the mid-winter low that through their first few years in the city.

Parks

mixture of adventure, excitement, and thrill e half a decade since. However, during the I exchanged adventure for hibernation, exthargy. It seems as if the winter blues are oronto to an extent disproportionate to the s. tawa cherishes skating on the Rideau Canal, during its winter carnival, or the sacrosanct sh Columbia and Alberta. Dreaming of these out “in-betweenness” that characterizes win-

Cold temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and the hideous appearance of well-trodden urban snow seem to have Torontonians convinced that a day spent enjoying the city’s parks is not viable during the winter. However, there are great free options for those who would like to embrace the cold, and for those who’d rather avoid it altogether. Allan Gardens (19 Horticultural Avenue) is an urban oasis that provides a taste of spring even in the bleakest weeks of February. Located near Carlton and Jarvis, it is a conglomeration of six connected greenhouses that offers free admission to the public every day of the week. Each separate area exhibits a different ecosystem including a desert room, a temperate room, and the humid palm house. There is plenty of seating for reading or meditating, and the plants provide a valuable source of inspiration and contrast to the greyness of Toronto winters. On the other hand, the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department have

great options for those who want to embrace the cold as well. There are beautiful skating rinks at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West) and at the Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), both of which have skate rentals. There are also ideal hills for tobogganing at Riverdale Park and Sir Winston Churchill Park. The suggestion to go tobogganing may seem ridiculous now, but Toronto is predicted to have significant periods of snowfall and below zero temperatures over the next few weeks, so the advice may become more applicable soon. There are also parks that have a unique aesthetic value during the winter. There is an extra ruggedness to the cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs under a few centimeters of snow. The forested trails of High Park have a pronounced freshness to them after a light dusting. The waterfront in winter offers night time solitude that one can rarely find in downtown Toronto. All of these winter nuances are factors that can achieve the seemingly impossible task of motivating me to leave my warm home and venture into the cold on a sleepy, frigid weekend.

G

CK POLLO EMILY

Features • 21 Jan. 2013 • features@thestrand.ca

oing over the possibilities that Toronto winters contain reminds me that Toronto does not—as a friend had suggested to me—simply lack the climatic and cultural prerequisites to join the ranks of other Canadian winter hotspots. I suspect that Toronto has not appeared on the radar for winter culture either because of a lack of awareness of the possibilities or because of the self-deprecatory notion that Toronto is pseudo-Canadian at best, and does not deserve winter culture. Perhaps it’s a weird combination of the two. Thankfully, compiling this feature reminds me that there is great potential and opportunity for a winter pulse in Toronto, and it just takes greater initiative by the city and its inhabitants to turn around its seasonal indifference. All that must be done is to ignore the attitude that Toronto is a city without a “true” winter and to embrace the winter culture that has always been lurking somewhere just beyond the limits of the city’s awareness.

9


ARTS & CULTURE

JEN ROBERTON STAFF WRITER Breathe.Feel.Love’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is still as relevant and hilarious as when John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask premiered the musical in 1998. The story of young Hansel’s journey from east-German twink to American punk rock diva is traced through a one-set performance featuring music and narration by Hedwig and her husband Yitzhak, with the support of the band The Inch. Hedwig talks of her childhood, marriage to an American GI, and an operation morphing Hedwig’s genitals so she could pass as a woman during a citizenship physical examination. Hedwig focuses much of her dialogue on her former love, Tommy Gnosis. We are told that Tommy is playing at the nearby Ricoh Coliseum, as an off-stage door opens to the noise of the stadium filled with Tommy’s screaming fans. This particular adaptation of Hedwig interacts with its Torontonian audience. References to surrounding landmarks

and a crack about the Drake Hotel’s seedy past added to the participatory aspect of the play. The original play is set in The Riverview, which once housed Titanic survivors (a fact jokingly stated in the original). Mitchell’s original production notes state that performances should be site-specific, encouraging “other productions to keep this sense of freedom by ad-libbing when appropriate within the confines of the world of the piece.” This is all in the name of what Hedwig calls the lack of a fourth wall. She jokingly points out that there is never a fourth wall in theatre, since if there was one you couldn’t see the actors behind it. Being splashed by tomatoes in the front row and seeing people behind me serenaded or heckled by Hedwig only added to this feeling. Toronto theatre star Seth Drabinsky plays Hedwig in the production. This is not his first time playing the role, as he was previously involved with another run of the play with Ghost Light Projects. Drabinsky was well-suited to portray the heartfelt, sassy, and occasionally

cruel character. L.A. Lopes did an amazing job capturing the complexity of her character as well; her singing and acting abilities brought Yitzhak to life. As for the play itself, a discussion of Hedwig and the Angry Inch could spark its own multifaceted debate. American cultural imperialism, gender, the gay 90s, the Cold War, and Greek philosophy are only some of the elements of the play that could be analyzed at length. The play is dated by its cultural references to things like Serbian ethnic cleansing and tapedecks. Some of the less-than-politically-correct jokes in the play were met with fewer chuckles and more awkward silences, including Jewish Croatian Yitzhak’s former drag name being “Krystal Nacht.” Hedwig’s gender presentation is both the subject of the play and an apparent point of confusion for other writing about the production. The words drag, transgender, gay, and queer have all been thrown around in descriptions and reviews of the Toronto production. The script itself (quite deliberately) avoids using such terminology. Hedwig’s character is a subject that doesn’t fit into mainstream identity conceptions. She speaks of her emotionally trying immigration to America, yet jokingly picks on Yitzhak’s immigration status, at one point yelling, “Look, Yitzhak, immigration!”, followed by laughter. She describes her genitals as an “angry inch”—speaking against conventions of gender-variant people always going for full bottom and top surgery. Finally, she tells the audience that she will not talk about the controversy surrounding her relationship with Tommy Gnosis, yet cannot help but tell the story of their relationship from

the moment they met until the present. The uniqueness of Hedwig’s character is in her fluctuating stances and embodiments. If you’re looking for a play that will make you laugh, cry, and possibly feel uncomfortable, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an experience for you. For those of you who have seen the movie starring John Cameron Mitchell, rest assured that a live performance of the play is an experience in and of itself. Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs at the Drake Underground until January 27. $35 dollars, $25 for students and arts workers.

N. MAXWELL LANDERS

SHAWN FEDORA

Hedwig and the Angry Inch continues to impress

RADIO Seats to the upright position: Cabin Pressure returns at last TARA MACTAVISH

After a two year hiatus, BBC’s highly entertaining comedy series takes off yet again, proving that sometimes, radio can be more consistent than your average television series. Cabin Pressure, written and produced by British comedian John Finnemore, began its fourth series with a smashing return of the characters and themes fans have grown to love. The series has been running since 2008; it follows the highs and lows of a small charter plane business called MJN Air. The company, run by ex-stewardess and CEO Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (voiced with queenlike authority by Stephanie Cole) is a loss-making business—due in part to her cheerfully over-helpful and under-intelligent son Arthur (played by John Finnemore, the show’s creator). MJN’s single plane, GERTI, is piloted by highly incompetent and fussy Martin Crieff. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in this role; his French and Irish accents are particularly memorable. Roger Allum plays co-pilot and smooth operator Douglas Richardson, always prepared with a trick or two up his sleeve.

10

The majority of each 30 minute episode is devoted to hilarious competitions between crew members, interactions with passengers, and errors made—for the most part—by Arthur and Martin. Yet Finnemore always manages to squeeze in a certain amount of character development or backstory, creating characters who are at times hilarious and at others sympathetic.

While every episode is worth listening to multiple times, “Ottery St Mary” tends to be a fan favourite; asking the question just how many otters can fit inside an airplane, and providing the vital rules of playing “yellow car.” Series four returns after a hiatus due in part to Finnemore’s writing schedule, but also to the schedules of its actors; Benedict Cumberbatch has just wrapped up a number of projects, including the upcoming Star Trek film. The series opens with a trip to Timbuktu, and Finnemore wastes no time getting the characters back on track with a refreshing plot. Both writing and characters seem to shine in “Uskerty”, the latest episode, proving that nothing has been lost in Cabin Pressure’s two-year absence. If anything, Finnemore’s writing has improved, as he moves the characters through moments of his signature witty dialogue and moving confessions. Cabin Pressure is available through a variety of internet venues including the BBC website, Youtube, and iTunes. New episodes air Wednedays at 6:30.


TELEVISION

Young adult fiction: volumes better for female protagonists sex—and which are not dismissed or used as an opportunity to “slut-shame” EDITOR-IN-CHIEF the protagonist, or to make her realize Young adult fantasy is often over- how much she wants a “conventional” looked, dismissed for not being serious relationship. The final book in the trilogy begins enough and for expending too much just after the death of her fiancé, who energy on love triangles. But this ability to fly under the radar is one of the had appeared in the space between the genre’s greatest strengths, making it a second and third books, and the book’s space for experimentation, originality, emotional energy is driven partly by the and subversive counter-commentaries slow recognition of this relationship as on mainstream adult fantasy. Though having been physically and emotionally the way we think about YA fantasy fic- abusive. Beka struggles with navigating tion often assumes that its writers give the tension between publicly mourning too much narrative weight to interper- a future that’s been lost and processing sonal relationships, it’s in YA fantasy the reality of a relationship she hadn’t that we’ve been seeing new possibilities known how to get out of. When Beka for discussing power relations, fam- ends the series in a mutually supportily dynamics, consent, uncertainty, and ive relationship, it’s presented as the next step in her life and her coming-ofsexuality in characters’ lives. In the world of the ten-volume fan- age—not the inevitable or predestined tasy series, the fates of female characters ending we’d been expecting since the often feel inevitable. Though they may beginning of the story. It’s also a series with a trans* charwield axes and practice magic, they’re often set up from the beginning to end acter of colour, with gay relationships, up with a male protagonist—and their with relationships that struggle to navisubsequent character development is gate class tensions and privileges, and more or less constrained to their role it’s set in a world where whiteness is in a romantic subplot. Fantasy series, not always assumed to be the default. just like sci-fi and fantasy television, Fantasy—especially fantasy set in a medieval pseuhave perfected do-past—is a the art of the protracted roIt’s in YA fantasy that genre where writers are mantic tease, we’ve been seeing new c o n s t a n t l y which drags they unresolved possibilities for discuss- told can’t include sexual tension ing power relations, people of coout over years and years of family dynamics, con- lour or gay relationships plot developsent, uncertainty, and because these ment while sithings apparsexuality in characters’ multaneously ently aren’t removing the lives. “historically possibility of accurate”—regardless of the fact that a surprise. If you were a nerdy middle school fantasy writer has the power to set the student who gravitated to books about social parameters and codes of their lady knights, you’re probably intimate- own world. Tamora Pierce’s Tortall is ly familiar with Tamora Pierce. One of not a world where social tensions are the things I love most about her work arbitrarily framed or drawn out of thin is that her books show a diversity of air, but where gender politics have a relationships, restoring a degree of specific historical progression and conagency and uncertainty to her charac- text. It’s a world where birth control is ters’ futures that disappears in books a concern for its inhabitants—though where a character’s story has been fi- it involves wearing charmed necklaces nalized before the first page. Her most that keep you from getting pregnant. recent series follows Beka Cooper as Most importantly, though the advenshe trains to join the “Dogs”, the capitol tures of characters like Alanna the Licity’s lower-class police force. Beka’s ro- oness have measurable effects on the mantic attachments include casual flir- gender landscape, the politics of this tations that dissolve as new duties and world continue to evolve as new tencareer directions present themselves, sions arise. In Tortall, there are no and physical relationships that are ul- quick fixes, only ongoing struggles and timately recognized to be just about new battles to be fought.

PAULINE HOLDSWORTH

WARREN GOODWIN This may lose me a great deal of credibility, but nonetheless I have to admit that, of all the shows on network television today, none shine quite as brightly as ABC’s new(ish) sitcom Happy Endings. Midway through its third season, the show has proven that a friends-sitcom can still be enjoyed in a post-Friends TV-scape. In a climate where viewers of the key demographic (18-49) are considered lost to Internet streaming and premium cable hits, network TV has decided that a little effort is too much to ask for, and instead aims for the lowest common denominator with shows like Partners or Mike and Molly. This brings me back to what I said before, because Happy Endings is, unfortunately, a network show (and not even an NBC one). This means that if I try to tell anyone that there is something to be found in Happy Ending’s likeable characters and strong writing, I’m likely to be laughed at. And one can hardly blame them—the term “network sitcom” today leaves one thinking more along the lines of 2 Broke Girls, and much less the classic Coupling. The other factor hurting the show’s immediate chances of becoming a favorite is that it revolves around the lives of six successful men and women, who work very little and spend much of their time in a bar or their apartments. It is understandable that this may seem

a little hackneyed, especially if you start drawing further parallels between it and other hit sitcoms. It is a huge credit to the show that despite its familiar premise, Happy Endings is the freshest comedy of the past year. Perhaps it has something to do with writer and producer Hilary Winston (Community, My Name is Earl). The show revolves around Brad (a re-incarnated Chandler), Max (Joey), Jane (Monica), Alex (Rachel), Dave (Ross), and Penny (Phoebe), as they navigate downtown Chicago. The speed of the writing clips along as fast and wild as any of the show’s comedic cohorts, and often plays as a more inviting It’s Always Sunny..., without the laugh track and cheese but with all the charm of a show like Friends. Max’s Madonna cover group “Mandonna” and the brilliance of Dave’s advertising ineptitude are screwball funny (think Tina Fey, not Mel Brooks), highly quotable, and broad-ranging, yet intimate in the way a friends sitcom should be. There has always been an inordinate ratio of bad shows to good in any genre. Despite the state of the modern sitcom, Happy Endings has snuck its way into the positive side of that ratio. It is irreverent and smart, and makes you feel like one of the gang—which is exactly what a sitcom should do. Happy Endings airs at 9pm Sundays and Tuesdays on Citytv and is available on the Citytv website.

Arts & Culture • 21 Jan. 2013 • artsandculture@thestrand.ca

ABC’s Happy Endings: an exception to network sitcom problems

FLICKR/CDRUMMBKS

11


FILM & MUSIC “Well, at least it’s not Oscar bait”

Alex Griffith

&

Davin Leivonen on the many controversies of

QUENTIN TARANTINO’S

DJANGO UNCHAINED

FEDERICO MANCOSU

D

avin is referred to as D, Alex as A, Quentin Tarantino as QT, and Steven Spielberg as That Populist Scum. D: We both agree that we liked the movie, despite all the problems surrounding its depictions of the antebellum South, but we think we should bring back the intermission. A: The one technical criticism I keep hearing about the movie is that it’s about 20 minutes too long. Might have something to do with Tarantino having a new editor—his old partner Sally Menke passed away after Inglourious Basterds so he was working on Django with her assistant, and because of this, it was less tight, more sprawling. D: Slow and taking its time, like a true Western. A: And that’s what I thought it was: a Western set against a backdrop of slavery and an America built on formal white supremacy. D: While it was basically an actioncomedy, there were some scenes that really explored the mentality of the Southern aristocracy, like Leonardo Dicaprio’s character’s speech on phrenology and Social Darwinism, which was a striking re-imagining of how the Mississippi elite tried to justify slavery. A: Or Schultz asking the harpist to stop playing Beethoven while Candie signs over Broomhilda’s life to him—a reminder of the Nazis appreciation of German composers like Wagner, making it a prologue for what would happen in Germany

provocative, foul-mouthed, B-movie connoisseur QT who is wading into the subject. Spielberg, on the other hand, spent a good chunk of the last 20 years making movies about Jewish struggles (Schindler’s List, Munich) and slavery (Amistad) and has made a serious, quite conventional A-picture biopic on the subject.

mind-numbing ignorance, of torture, of the rabid obsession with asserting racial-biological superiority; Inglourious Basterds is less explicit in its depiction of anti-Semitism. In fact, we get no gross-out clips of concentration camps, because everyone has seen the archival materials. With nineteenth-century slavery, there is less visceral visual memory of that institution in the colD: Spielberg was telling the straightfor- lective memory. ward and honest story of the passage of the 13th Amendment. A: QT is being exploitive in a very specific sense of the word: he’s throwing A: Well, not entirely honest. It’s strange the exploitation (and blaxpoitation) that Spielberg and Tony Kushner, his genre overtop of a sensitive, compliwriter, didn’t include Frederick C. Dou- cated issue—which creates all sorts of glass, who was a close friend of Lin- problems and has sparked some justicoln’s. fied accusations of racism. At the same time though, it’s a brilliant artistic D: Historically omitted some parts. stroke to use the voyeuristic violence and gunplay of exploitation movies to A: Because QT comes at the subject depict the exploitation of human flesh with such a unique style and obvious in pre-Civil War America. reminders that you are watching a film, critics tend to see his depiction as espe- D: Lincoln hints at the cruelties of slavcially distorted, even though Spielberg ery; Django smashes its brutality in was making quite conscious decisions your face with crash-zooms. every step of the way in Lincoln. Like omitting Lincoln’s depressive episodes, A: And yet QT is not didactic about and reducing the black presence in the it; in fact, he seems to relish violence, film to servants (albeit free servants) which puts the viewer in an uncomfortand underpaid Union soldiers. able spot in the context of a runaway slave being torn apart by dogs. But, as he’s said in interviews, QT’s aim was to Lincoln hints at put us in a nightmarish world and have the cruelties of us deal with it. The ethics of overlayslavery; Djaning a classic Western revenge plot on a white supremacist environment are go smashes its questionable, though I’d argue QT is brutality in your just as critically engaged with the issue face with crashof depicting slavery on film as Spielberg is in Lincoln. Or at least his artistic decizooms sions have sparked a livelier debate.

D: I think QT was trying to challenge D: Overall, though, Django is not explic- himself: “I just did an action-comedy itly about slavery. It’s not documenting set in WWII, now I’m going to set one slavery, though slavery is its backdrop. in antebellum Mississippi.” Django is also quite upfront in its portrayal of A: It is undeniably awkward that it is white supremacy, of racial epithets, of

12

D: It is hard to swallow that a white man wrote and directed Django, and if you hadn’t seen a QT movie before, you might be disgusted. If you take a look at his entire filmography, however, you can see his relationship with creating

black characters, sampling black music, and black culture in general. QT feels he has an affinity with black subjects, which does not pardon the problems of Django, but might explain how he approached slavery. A: Let’s get specific about the problems. Tanya Steele at Indiewire criticized Jamie Foxx’s character for being portrayed as the “unique black man”, or as Candie puts it, the “one in ten thousand.” He is the only slave with the willpower, know-how, and (let’s face it) help from a progressive European to rise above his bondage, while all the other slaves are quite passive in comparison. Apart from Stephen the house slave (Samuel L. Jackson), there are no other significant black males, certainly none who take initiative. I think this also highlights the fantasy of Django’s entire story, that he rides by plantations on a horse like a mirage in front of lines of slaves who will never know that freedom, because that freedom, even two years before the Civil War, is impossible in the racial hierarchies of the South. D: It’s also interesting to imagine what Django would have been like it had been created by a black director like John Singleton or Spike Lee—but then again it wouldn’t have been a spaghetti western set in the time of slavery. For better or for worse, that’s the prism through which QT sees everything: trashy movies as a framework for criminal lives in Pulp Fiction, or horrible periods of American or German history. A: We don’t really have time to get into the gender issues of the movie. Django’s wife Brünhilda, is a classic damsel in distress, subdued and passive and really a non-character. That leaves QT to develop Django as a buddy movie between mentor and pupil. This relationship appears in most of his movies: The Bride and Bill in Kill Bill; Mr. Orange and Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs.


Zom-rom-com after your brains—and your heart In a monotonous voice-over, a teenage boy laments his fate as he shambles forward, pale, dirty and glassyeyed. What separates him from the hundreds of other despairing hormonal teenagers is that he is a zombie. Before you rush out to buy your tickets, a warning for fans of The Walking Dead: Warm Bodies is no survival horror film. It seems Hollywood has finally added “zombie flick” to its list of “romantic films.” Gone are the gritty tales of human survival, aching images of half-rotted loved ones, and quests for a cure. These zombies bear more resemblance to vampires or Goths, with ripped or grimy clothes, pale, veiny skin, blue lips and an excess of black eyeshadow. Apart from R’s half-hearted musings, no reasons for the outbreak are provided. Although R initially claims that zombies cannot talk, their grunts are inconsistently replaced by whispery, stuttering speech. Based on a 2011 novel by the same name, Warm Bodies focuses on the story of R (Nicholas Hoult), a conflicted zombie who craves more than what a life spent in an undead-infested airport can provide. He finds his answer in Teresa Palmer’s Julie, a member of the scavenging party R and his fellow zombies attack. After killing Julie’s boyfriend, Perry, and eating his brain, R experiences Perry’s memories. This motivates him to rescue Julie and smuggle her back to his hideout in an abandoned 747. As the two grow closer, R begins to change, becoming more alive.

This “cure” spreads to the other zombies, beginning with R’s friend M, played with hilarious zombie flair by Rob Corddry. R and Julie are threatened on two fronts. Julie’s father, a single minded military General (played halfheartedly by John Malkovich) targets R despite his newfound humanity. Meanwhile, mutated zombie skeletons known as “boneys” see R and Julie as a threat to their existence. This is director Jonathan Levine’s third major film, and, despite achieving a certain amount of success with his earlier projects (50/50, The Wackness), Warm Bodies is pretty cold. The setting creates a believable, if unimaginative post-apocalyptic vibe, though the most engaging aspect is R’s detailed hideout. The script, co-written by Levine and Isaac Marion—who wrote the novel—initially maintains an amused, cynical tone through R’s narration. Zombies, it seems, are much easier characters to write than human beings. None of the humans possess as much spark as R or M. Julie in particular is a very difficult character to like; despite her assumed intelligence and courage, she seems to echo every easily-killed female character from the zombie films of yesterday. Palmer appears to be equally confused by Julie’s insubstantial character; her transition between over and under acting is enough to make you think she’s the zombie in the relationship. None of the poor acting jobs in this film are helped by the fact that only the zombies, in particular R, are shot with dynamic camera angles and movement. The film’s style is at its strongest during the struggles be-

tween the humans and zombies, most notably R and Julie’s first encounter. When compared to other “ironic”zombie movies from the last decade, Warm Bodies lacks the consistently witty script and strong acting of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. The occasional laugh is provided by Hoult’s R or Corddry’s M, but overall Warm Bodies remains lifeless, a cold cadaver lacking the necessary elements to become the thrilling “zom-rom-com” we were promised.

E1 FILMS CANADA

TARA MACTAVISH

Upcoming January 2013 albums

Some of the most highly-anticipated albums coming out this month BAHAR BANAEI

Come Cry With Me Daniel Romano

Lost Jewlry EP Raekwon

Jan 22: Canadian musician and visu-

Jan 15:

al artist Daniel Romano, who’s signed with Normaltown Records, will be coming out with another solo folk album.

This 12-track EP just came out, and if you’re a Raekwon fan you’re going to want to get your hands on this precursor to his F.I.L.A album.

Down By the Racetrack Guided By Voices

Heartthrob Tegan & Sara

Jan 22: This will be the band’s fourth

Jan 29:

Fade Yo La Tengo

Long Live A$AP A$AP Rocky

Jan 15: Matador Records has just re-

Jan 15: Featuring some of the biggest

studio album released in the last year. We’re hoping that this G.B.V Inc. album will stand out from the pieces they’ve made since their reunion in 2010.

leased Fade. People have high hopes for this album as its release overlaps with their worldwide tour. If you’re a fan of the soft Yo La Tengo sounds, you’ll definitely want to check this out.

Canadian twins,Tegan and Sara will be releasing Heartthrob, their first studio album since 2009. Since then, they have been on tour and have appeared on stage with other renowned bands such as the Black Keys and the Killers.

names in the hip-hop world on his previous album, A$AP Rocky has made his mark on the industry. Although his previous album had a wide range of sounds with different artists, I can’t say that Long Live A$AP lives up to Live Love A$AP.

Film & Music • 21 Jan. 2013 • filmandmusic@thestrand.ca

MUSIC EDITOR

13


to and from the GOLDEN SOUNDS Miguel Gamboa

Over two years ago, I attended

“Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy”, a video game concert played at the Sony Center, conducted by Arnie Roth and performed by the KitchenerWaterloo Symphony Orchestra. Final Fantasy, for those who don’t know, is a popular series of Japanese roleplaying games, whose plots often involve epic, worldsaving journeys. The Distant Worlds orchestra played compositions from throughout the series, from sweeping ballads (“Dear Friends”) to climactic battle music (“Clash on the Big Bridge”) to more lighthearted, jazzy pieces (“Swing de Chocobo”). A projector above the orchestra showed videos from the games, complementing the songs performed. Nobuo Uematsu—the composer of nearly all the music of the Final Fantasy series— was in the audience, and joined the choir for the encore, “One Winged Angel.” Distant Worlds remains one of my favourite concerts I’ve attended; hearing many of the compositions triggered fond memories of my childhood. I wasn’t alone. As audience members and gamers, we re-lived playing these games and hearing these songs in a way that was special and emotional. It made me realize the joys of video game music—its connection to memory, from theme to scene, is more evident than in perhaps any other genre. Video game composers like Uematsu create memorable music with an emphasis on melody, an aesthetic choice rooted in video game history. Many of Uematsu’s most memorable pieces were made for the first Final Fantasy, released in 1987 on the Nintendo E nt e r t a i n m e nt System—an 8-bit console. The tech-

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nological limitations of the time necessitated a focus on simple melody,

There are entire communities, such as OverClocked Remix, devoted to re-arranging old video game music, making them new again.

which resulted in the creation of some of the most well-known video game themes, like the “World 1-1” theme from Super Mario Brothers (yeah, that one), “Music A” of Tetris (Korobeiniki), and the “Overworld” theme from The Legend of Zelda. Video game music has evolved much since then, which has largely coincided with technological advancements. Video game scores can now measure up to film scores with the power of today’s game systems and the usage of CDs, which has resulted in a similar change of stylistic direction. Milen Petzelt-Sorace, a video game composer studying at York University, says, “Western composers are relying much more heavily on percussive attack and energy than melodic material, and I think it’s safe to say that’s because of the direction that film music has gone. Since Hans Zimmer’s iconic sound has exploded, it appears on most big budget movies and I would say the game industry has really followed in its footsteps.” Contemporary video game music composers have begun to earn mainstream recognition. In 2010, Killzone 2 was the first video game to be awarded an Ivor Novello Award for its score. In 2011, Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu” became the first piece of video game music to win a Grammy, winning the Award for “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalis(s)”. In addition, video game music has been considered for four Grammy Award categories, though none have yet been nominated. Regardless of the many valid criticisms of the Grammy Awards, these are significant steps for video game music as the recording industry is beginning to recognize its emerging presence. Petzelt-Sorace says, “You can see big names from the other side of the music industry are starting to make appearances [in games], like Hans Zimmer and Trent Reznor [who scored Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops respectively], Leona Lewis [who sang the main theme of Fi-

nal Fantasy XIII], and Clint Mansell [who helped score Mass Effect 3].” Video game music has always appreciated its roots, something which is evident even in contemporary works. Like a band playing their first hit as the last song of a concert, the video game hits of old remain fan favourites. “One Winged Angel,” the encore of most Distant Worlds concerts, was made in 1997. The “World 1-1” theme and the “Overworld” theme show up in every Mario and Zelda game. There are entire communities, such as OverClocked Remix, devoted to re-arranging old video game music and making it new again. Even as video game scores begin to sound more and more like Hollywood productions, chiptune has also re-emerged as a musical genre, in which artists use old 8-bit consoles like Game Boy and the NES to make new songs. Notably, New York chiptune band Anamanaguchi scored Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:

The award recognition for video game music has been a long time coming, and it has taken years of hard work from composers to get to this point.

The Game, an arcade-style beat-‘emup for the 2010 film homage to gaming culture. The award recognition for video game music has been a long time coming, and it has taken years of hard work from composers to get to this point. Composers like Uematsu, Yoko Shimomura (of Street Fighter II), and Koji Kondo (Mario and Zelda) have done enough in their careers to merit a lifetime achievement award from somewhere, but have not because the idea simply hasn’t been considered. As for today’s composers, they have created contemporary pieces worth such recognition that have been similarly neglected. With all the recent talk of video games’ association with violent crime, I doubt that any of the people scapegoating video games have sat down at a Distant Worlds concert, in a room all but silent, listening to old melodies played by full orchestras. It’s only a matter of time before such golden sounds are recognized and acclaimed as equal to other great contributions to music.


STRANDED

Fuck it, let’s do more dick jokes

Trudeaumania 2: Just the Tip WILL PETTIGREW SOMEONE HAS TO TAKE THE BLAME

that point solidified his position as Alpha Male in this nation’s governing body. But the road is long and h a r d , and the goal still lingers solemnly in the distance. Without the blind support of a nation still warm and fuzzy from the sensual reign of his father, this rising force in global politics may, in layman’s terms, be blue-balled at the polls by either the growing red threat of the NDP or the iron-fisted pumping of the current Conservative regime, or, gods forbid, a coalition of the two united in darkness to plunge our glorious nation into a mire of misguided policy and special interests. We, the people, know wholeheartedly that Trudeau-Liberal dominance has never done anything to divide this country and that a second generation of Trudominance will bring nothing but milk and honey to our nation-under-fire, and in particular to our glorious post-secondary institutions which stand

for nothing but political justice, as long as the attractive-young-manson-of-the-man-who-we-wereunquestionably-taught-isthe-Canadian-Jesus is elected by the narrowest majority to lead us to a brighter tomorrow.

I’m the captain!

AU TIN TRUDE

FLICKR/JUS

So in case you haven’t heard, sometime last year, Justin Trudeau – the captain, the chosen one, master and commander, the commodore, son of Zeus – was unanimously elected supreme leader and eternal president of the Royal Canadian Republic of Trudeaunia. I, like any committed citizen of the Republic, am both jubilant and aroused at this triumph of democracy. The “capital-L” Liberal status quo of this most serene republic and its democracy-loving populace have been rejoicing in persistent, throbbing ecstasy ever since the news of Justin’s bid for party leader back on...whenever it happened. Point being, freedom and the Canadian golden age are on the horizon during these dark times of the Harper dynasty. What I’m trying to say is that this is probably the best thing that could possibly ever happen ever to our beloved motherland since the deification of Justin’s papa Pierre Elliot Trudeau. The senior Trudeau has stood the test of time as the most approved-of and beloved grandmaster this nation has ever beheld, more glorious than our alcoholic prime-Prime Minister John “C.C.” McDonald and more virile

than our satanic medium Lord Bill Mackenzie King. This leaves big shoes to fill—but judging by the illustration, you can draw your own conclusions on the size of Justin’s feet (and oh yes, it is to scale). Young Justin, like his father, has charmed his way to the pinnacle of Liberal nepotism. His youthful glow and boisterous sexuality have been nothing but a boon to his Olympian ascent to national stardom. In this journalist’s honest opinion, the man is an unstoppable force of nature and, dare I say, the supernatural. His whole being taps into the very fabric of our stonecut defintion of what it means to be Canadian. Do not be swayed by his tender age or his youtful charm and good looks, for he has clearly demonstrated a stoic wisdom far beyond his years. He spent many moons training in the martial art of boxing under Carl Weathers and demonstrated his ability in the ring in front of a tense nation when he challenged Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau to a battle of wits and stamina in the great human tradition of mortal combat. His god-given strength helped him prevail in the face of evil. This modern Odysseus, this Don Juan of parliamentary discourse, and hero of the common man had at

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STRANDED

Relying on masturbation jokes since 1953

STRANDSHINE GIRL OF THE WEEK My Left Hand My Left Hand, also known as “Old Faithful” and “Midnight Special”, poses for your pleasure today from sunny Toronto, Ontario. Winner of three consective Strandy awards, My Left Hand enjoys quiet nights alone at home and early morning snuggles under the covers. The large-size Peterborough native actively engages in charity work in her community, stating “I’m always willing to lend a hand to those in need,” and when asked about her love life she responds, “I’m in a long term but open relationship with a certain newspaper editor, but don’t let that turn you off; I’m always willing to see other people.” My Left Hand is interested in learning to write cursive, manipulating objects in three dimensions, and in doing repetitive, monotonous tasks without complaint. “My secret to my velvety soft skin is a daily brown sugar and honey mask, and restricting myself to only the most delicate applications, like gentle stroking,” My Left Hand told us quite coyly. My Left Hand can currently be found in the Ossington and Bloor area and is available for autographs, photo oppurtunities, and “making friends; I always get off on the right foot with everyone I meet.”

all about the

SCRILLIONS

Stranded • 21 Jan. 2013 • stranded@thestrand.ca

WHO DO YOU THINK? When it comes down to cash dollars, we be hurting. By “we be hurting” I mean The Strand is horribly underfunded. By “horribly underfunded” I mean I don’t get paid to write this bullshit I’m ashamed to call humour. But when I look at this graph my reaction is, “Dayum, what is all this money for?!” I only get to get half-drunk two times a year (if I’m lucky) on this university’s money so I can only imagine how drunk the other guys get at that other paper that you probably read and take seriously (unlike this one). I mean, with all that money they probably should be able to revive that McDick’s that closed, which is apparently such a tragedy that it made headlines. In any case, if anyone at this school feels like making an effort to protest anything, do your friendly neighbourhood paper a favour and ask the powers that be to, you know, change shit. More money for everyone seems pretty feasible. We all value student press and stuff like

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that, so come on children, it’s time for a radical redistribution of journalistic capital on campus. I’m talking every paper gets their own McDonald’s, massages as a complimentary benefit for both editors and contributors, as well as weekly private orgies at various local houses of sexual mystery. I, along with my peers, believe this is reasonable and just to demand and that the university could easily afford to share some of the wealth that they accumulate from their non-business-model financial strategy in addition to the copious philanthropy our noble corporate benefactors bestow upon us most generously. I know how our overlords feel about facts, especially when it comes to money and the conditions of certain mining ventures in South America, so I ask if they could consider this fact and throw us plebes a bone. You know, enough to have a third party at least. Actually, only Vic students pay $ to us. All them other colleges get our sexy paper Yeah, this is actually the funding disparity, FYI. And, if we had mo’ scrilla, for free. maybe we’d have better infographics. WHAAT.

Vol. 55 Issue 8  

The Strand Volume 55 Issue 8

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