Saturated Superhero Market (14)
Danger in Queen’s Park (10) Caught up in Comments (6) Division at UTSU (3)
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT NEWSPAPER
VOL. 56 ISSUE 9 • MAR. 04 2014 • WWW.THESTRAND.CA
What’s app with Lulu?
Take care of your city
Masked musical mysteries
Silver at Sochi for Canadian ice dancing duo NEWS AT A GLANCE MARIA MASINA
JIEL BAUMADIER WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Last Wednesday, two members of the Russian feminist punk-band Pussy Riot were attacked by Cossacks— the Russian military police providing security for the Olympic Games—during an impromptu performance under a Sochi Olympics sign. The Cossacks chased the protest members, tore off their masks, beat them with whips and batons, and sprayed them with pepper spray. The police later arrived and gathered information from witnesses, but no one was arrested. The group included six members, including Pussy Riot’s own Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were released from jail this past December. All members wore the group’s iconic ski masks while performing a song called, "Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland." Since the protest, the group has released the song’s music video which includes footage of the Cossacks beating them.
MATTHEW CASACA The tensions that sparked the violent February protests in the Ukraine, which led to the deaths of over 60 people, began in November 2013 when Ukrainian President Viktor Yaukovych suddenly decided to sign a trade deal that created closer relations with Putin’s Russia rather than the European Union (EU). So when Yanukovych pushed tough anti-protest laws through parliament on January 17 to quell dissent, he incited anger among the protesters. In a desperate move to diffuse the crisis, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on January 28; the same day the anti-protest laws were repealed. This, however, did not diffuse the crisis since the protesters took control of the presidential administration building Kyiv on February 22, allowing the opposition in parliament to take control. Ousted from the capital and with an arrest warrant for mass killing protesters on his head, Yaukovych has fled to Crimea, a pro-Russian stronghold within Ukraine. The interim President Olexander Turchynov has warned that the factionalism in Crimea could lead to its separation. Indeed, a clash between proEU and pro-Russia supporters has already broken out, leaving at least 20 people injured and one dead of a heart attack.
CATRIONA SPAVEN-DONN Cultural and educational events will be taking place in Toronto next week to mark the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week. Local events will include a talk on resisting settler colonialism, with indigenous Canadian activists addressing Turtle Island activism and solidarity. The event will also feature a speaker on the boycott of Soda Stream, the soda machine company which has factories in areas which are deemed to be Palestinian lands illegally occupied by Israel. Scarlett Johansson, global brand ambassador for Soda Stream, was recently heavily criticised for her involvement with the organisation, leading to her stepping down as an Oxfam ambassador. The global charitable organisation opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, which it says are illegal and deny Palestinian rights. IAW will host other events, such as the Canadian premiere screening of Palestinian film Mars at Sunrise, a collaboration with Cinema Politica at The Bloor Cinema.
Virtue and Moir after one of the Free Dance rounds at Sochi 2014.
MARIA MASINA On Monday February 17, Canadians watched as their favourite figure skating duo performed together for what was likely the last time. It was a bittersweet moment for many as the music came to an end and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stood side by side, beaming at the audience after completing what many called “a flawless performance.” However, even with the high score of 190.99 in the Free Dance event, they still lost to the American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who received a score of 195.52. The Canadian duo have since expressed their disappointment with coach Marina Zueva, who, controversially, was also the coach for the American team. Moir said after their final performance and silver medal win: “ We sometimes felt that she wasn’t in our corner.” He also commented that her walking with the Americans in the opening ceremony “was a tough pill to swallow.” Critics claimed that Zueva aligned herself more closely to the Americans as they were said to be the favourites of the judges. Rumours even emerged that judges “conspired” to give the gold to Davis and White. Regardless, the 2010 Vancouver gold medal champions are proud to have won their silver medal. Virtue described how she felt about their results in an interview: "We couldn't have asked for more about our performances…It's nice to be satisfied and content with our job. We've managed to create the Olympic moment." There were many expectations going into this year’s Olympics, since the pair are the defending champions of the gold medal. Moir ex-
pressed in an interview how this pressure gave them more determination to succeed during their four years of training. “It’s hard to get on top, but it’s even harder to stay on top. And we felt those pressures. But that’s the reason we stayed in. We love that.” The Canadian skaters have been working together for 17 years; they started when Virtue was seven years old and Moir was nine. Their rise to fame began when they won the Junior World Championships (the first Canadians to do so) in 2006. Since then they have achieved multiple successes; they are six-time Canadian National Champions, and in Skate Canada 2009 received the first ever 10.0 score awarded in an international competition. Knowing it was their last competition together, the two tried to focus more on the moment than the end itself. "That's somewhere in the back of our minds and I tried to push that out while I was competing so I wasn't really focused on 'This is the last time I do anything,"' Moir said, "But in the kissand-cry it was special. We were able to look at each other and reflect on 17 years. And what a journey we've had. We're lucky kids." The team has made it clear that this was to be their last Olympics; however, in terms of moving forwards Moir admitted his love for the games and explained, “We need to kind of sit down and have a conversation. We need space from the games… It’s a long road and there’s a big world out there so we need to see what’s next.” The pair did however agree that they are happy with their current finish. Virtue told her fans, “If that is our last performance, it’s a really nice way to go out.”
More division at UTSU as UTM leaves Student Societies Summit
STEVE WARNER The Student Societies Summit—the series of meetings between the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and various College and faculty student governments—has once again experienced a surprising development. In a letter sent on February 10, 2014, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) declared their intentions to leave the summit, which has spurred reactions from the various groups involved. The UTSU has had a long and controversial history. In recent years, UTSU has come under attack by many who suggest that their elections are biased towards candidates who are sympathetic to the Canadian Federation of Students. Other criticisms include claims that they do not listen to the voices of the students and that they propagate radical political views. Last year, a number of college and faculty student governments petitioned UTSU and the university administration to allow money paid to UTSU by their students to be diverted to their respective student governments (for Victoria College, this is the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council, or VUSAC). These colleges expressed the belief that UTSU was not representing their students. When UTSU did not agree to hold the referendums themselves, the governments from Vic-
toria, Trinity, and the Engineering Society (EngSoc) held their own. The VUSAC referendum required a 15% voter turnout rate to be binding, but only achieved 11.8%. Of those who did vote, 61% voted in favour of the diversion. The Trinity and EngSoc votes received much higher turnouts and votes in favour of fee diversion, and so the matter was brought before the University Affairs Board (UAB). The UAB decided that the best way to settle this dispute was through arbitration. This has taken the form of the Student Societies Summit, a meeting of the leaders of over 20 student governments. As of yet, this summit has not reached any concrete conclusions. Both UTSU and the groups seeking fee diversion remain opposed to the other’s demands. In recent developments, UTMSU has made moves to remove itself from the Student Societies Summit. In her seven page letter addressed to the Summit members, Melissa Theodore, Vice President External of the UTMSU wrote that the St. George campus students at the Student Societies Summit treated those from Mississauga as “second-class students.” She also writes, "As one of the few racialized students in the room, I can tell you that it has been extremely difficult to participate, especially when there are a number of white non-racialized men aggressively telling
me that my ideas and contributions are worth little and that their ideas and contributions are worth more." Jelena Savic, the President of VUSAC, addressed the current state of affairs at the summit by rejecting some of the claims of Theodore’s open letter. Savic states: “The UTMSU representatives have not been very welcoming of the Summit, and their participation has been largely based around the denial of any issues with the way that they, or the UTSU, function.” She continues, “It is unfair to UTM students that their only view of the Summit comes from this deeply flawed, misleading letter, which presents such a negative picture of the Summit and its participants—who[m], if I might add, were elected by more students than the UTSU or UTMSU executive.” In regards to the summit’s future and usefulness, Savic concludes, “[The Summit’s] usefulness really depends on how you choose to look at it—as a chance to discuss [the] best practices and implement some of them in our own organizations, or as an impingement upon student society autonomy—and whatever other ways the UTSU and UTMSU have chosen to label the process.” What UTMSU’s withdrawl means for the future of the Summit is still unclear since the UTSU is still “digesting.”
“Civil war” in Venezuela? CATRIONA SPAVEN-DONN NEWS EDITOR Over the past three weeks, protests throughout Venezuela have left at least ten people dead and over 100 wounded. An anti-government protest on February 12 became violent due to unknown gunmen shooting into the crowd of protesters, who were mainly students. Some say militia groups called “colectivos”, who are supporters of the government though not contracted by them, are responsible for violence perpetrated against those protesting. Enrique Altimari, a student leader taking part in protests against President Maduro and his government, addressed the deaths of three people at the protest, saying: “The streets at night are not a safe place for us. We would not be achieving any goal and would only fall in the trap set up by violent pro-government groups.” However, a spokesperson from the Venezuelan Embassy in the UK said that those killed in initial protests “included both supporters and opponents of the government.” President Nicolas Maduro was voted into government by a narrow margin last April, after the death of the former President, Hugo Chávez. Critics of the Maduro government have labelled Venezuela’s current economic and political instability evidence of “a failed state.” Many have taken to the streets to protest the high inflation and the lack of access to basic supplies. Local and national newspapers are also protesting
their forced reduction in output due to a lack of printing paper. Maduro claims that the protesters are “fascists” who want to stage a coup. Indeed, controversial opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was a supporter of the 2002 US-backed coup against Chávez, which Maduro has compared to the current anti-government action. Lopez turned himself over to police last week after a warrant was issued for his arrest by the government. The politician, who has become a popular leader for the anti-government protestors, is now awaiting trial on charges of inciting violence and causing criminal damage to property. Amnesty International says his imprisonment is an effort to “silen[ce] dissent” in the country. US Secretary of State John Kerry has also added his voice to those expressing concern over alleged mistreatment of protesters detained in prison. However, the Mercosur governments of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay have expressed their support of Maduro, saying that the protestors are attempting to destabilise the democratic order. With both political sides becoming increasingly polarised and radicalised, the next steps to prevent further violence seem uncertain. Last week, Maduro suggested the possibility of beginning talks with Obama; however, US interference in the country’s politics has also been a
source of resentment for the Venezuelan government. Mark Weisbrot of the Guardian outlined the potential danger of the US getting involved in Latin American politics at such a volatile time. He states that what “angers governments in the region, is that [the US government] are telling opposition that it backs regime change.” With a long and difficult history of US-backed intervention in coups against various Latin American states, Weisbrot suggests that the US’ comments in support of the anti-government protesters will not help to bring peace to the country. Leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles, has encouraged the end of violent protest and stressed the need to find a solution to the unrest from “within the Venezuelan constitution.” On Monday, he told reporters that he would not engage in dialogue with Maduro until Lopez was released from prison. Capriles labelled the government as responsible for repression and human rights abuses. He said that attending Maduro’s proposed national peace conference would make it seem “as if the country was absolutely normal.” Last week, Capriles asked, “what does the government want, a civil war?” This is a question which indicates the potential for a serious turn of events if the country’s violence continues.
CARE ABOUT YOUR CITY: IT CARES ABOUT YOU JONAH LETOVSKY STAFF WRITER
Paris is often touted as the best city in the world for students—most recently coming in first place in the QS “Best Student City” rankings. That’s not really the case, in my experience studying and living here (I think Montréal is most likely the best). Many factors come into play, including intangibles like culture and the “feeling” or atmosphere of a city. These can be elusive, which makes cities that do have them— Paris and Montréal, amongst others—all the more desirable, and liveable. But they aren’t sufficient to build a great place for students. You also need the tangible, physical elements, including design and functionality. In other words, students need good urban planning. Why? Most of us have to keep to slim budgets. Affordability is our defining issue. As a result, we have to find cheap places to live, and find ways of getting around that doesn’t involve a car. And beyond
the basics, we need places that improve our quality of life, inexpensively: parks, public spaces, dive bars, libraries. Urban design can either grant or deny us these student-cities. If we live in a city that’s dense, with a good mix of housing types in every neighbourhood including apartments and condos, then even us shoe-string students can have some choice of where we live. Toronto is pretty good when it comes to mixed neighbourhoods, but the 2 and 3-storey Victorians in favourite areas like the Annex and Little Italy just can’t meet the demand. A well-planned city in terms of mobility can also make a huge difference to our lives. Paris proper is a centuries-old metropolis of 2 million people and spider-web streets—but it’s amazingly cheap to get around here, and, most of the time, easy. You can amiably walk to almost any destination within a half-hour, or use the bike share
system with thousands of stations all over the city (the equivalent of $45 for a year of unlimited use). The pricey option is a Métro pass, which comes in at $400 for a year—still much cheaper than Toronto, and Paris’ system is one of the most extensive in the world. This isn’t to say, though, that Toronto is poorly planned, with students suffering as a result. It made some midcentury mistakes but still has good bones. When it comes to (indoor) public amenities and spaces, for example, it probably has Paris beat. Students benefit from hundreds of library branches and university campuses that command much more space downtown—and therefore offer room to breath— than those in comparable cities. And when it comes to our main streets, Toronto recognizes that students and young people are part of urban life. Good, cheap coffee shops, take-out restaurants, and barber shops—existing downtown
because of their relatively low commercial rents—line much of Bloor, Spadina, College, Harbord, Dundas, and Queen, all fed by our resilient-if-squeaky streetcar network. These places benefit everyone, because they allow us to contribute to our city, rather than sitting on the sidelines or, in fact, studying somewhere else altogether. All of this is to say: how our communities are designed makes a huge difference to student life. Better planning, including building more apartments downtown and expanding the transit and cycling networks, can ease the affordability crisis we now face and improve the quality of our lives at the same time. It can’t solve all our problems—especially when, like Paris, a city is dominated by the global super-rich—but it’s a tool to add to our arsenal. So, students: take care of your city, and it’ll return the favour.
WHAT’S APP WITH LULU? Two looks at social networking app, Lulu, “the private network for girls.” ANTHONY BURTON EDITORIAL ASSISTANT As the subject of my own personal Lulu page, my reaction came in two parts: thoughts about how I was doing on Lulu, and then thoughts about the idea itself. The realization that I did not like having my entire being reduced to a number and some hashtags à la Super Sad True Love Story came only after a few discussions with friends about this password-protected Excel spreadsheet of potential mates. At first glance, I was primarily concerned with how I was actually rated on the site. Results were positive and I got an ego boost from hashtags concerning stuff I didn’t really think that people noticed about me (ladies, I’ll help you move in). I took the compliment and went on my way until my friend checked his ratings and was less than pleased with the result. His obsession with who could have given him a bad rating and our subsequent hour-long Sherlock/Watson brainstorming session caused more problems than they solved. The only conclusion that we came to was that we felt it was pretty unfair that the nuances of our intimate interactions were aired anonymously for all to see. I grew to see the problem I have with Lulu is distinct from just the fact that people can easily know the details about my intimate encounters—though that aspect itself is not easy to accept, it’s part of the general consensus that privacy is a pipe dream of the social media generation. Besides, people talk behind other people’s backs all the time, and if I was to suddenly get prickly after spending most of high school trying to build a defence against that, I’d be shooting myself in the foot. No, the uneasiness I’m getting stems from the anonymity of the ratings.
This isn’t to say anonymity on the Internet is a bad thing, but rather what all the anonymity does when brought together. The idea of someone consulting a website to draw an idea about what kind of person I am based on cheap hashtags and number ratings (if only whoever gave me a 8/10 in ambition knew how long it took me to write this!) is creepy, yes, but it’s easy to tell yourself that the sort of person to do that isn’t worth your time anyway. However I see a danger in having a sort of soapbox of quantitative evaluations in its reductionism-by-consensus. Statistics are collected by demographers, sports analysts, economists, and many more fields to help us gain understanding of patterns of behaviour. But love? Not only is that one of the few things that has so far been relatively immune to the scientific method (psychology be damned), but taking a layman’s reductionist view—that it is just the sum of its parts—is terrifyingly robotic and artificial. Having an identity exist that I not only have no control over, but is collected by consensus evaluation seems like it could be damaging to one’s selfesteem through the false authority that anonymity gives. Facebook’s appeal is the ability for us to show a curated self, but it comes from us the same way that our real-life social interactions do. Lulu not only strips the self-curated aspect but throws up another online identity, one that the actual owner of cannot defend from. The static and objective nature of the ratings strip any sense of humanity from the people involved and when a guy successfully convinces a female friend to let him see his profile, it feels like he’s opening himself up to be hit in the back of the head with rocks. Love hurts, but not like this.
CLAIRE WILKINS ARTS AND CULTURE EDITOR When I first found out about Lulu, it was shown to me as a kind of dirty little secret, the grey lines of its ethics only a fun and sassy game. Lulu’s homepage is stylized in a pretty and traditionally girly fashion, with dainty cursive writing for its logo, pink on black lettering, and Tumblresque photos of giggling beautiful women looking at their cellphones together. It’s the next generation of the Little Black Book, with women chucking their Palm Pilots for the new iPhone or Andriod. Lulu calls itself an “app for girls,” a social tool to help women out with each other’s dating lives, to figuratively protect each other from being duped by “Mr. Wrong” disguised as “Mr. Right.” At first this might appear powerful, even liberating, as women use new technologies to shape their social surroundings and determine the playing field of their own relationships. But looking closer and examining Lulu’s framework, it becomes apparent that Lulu isn’t so much aimed towards “female empowerment” (as the dating app’s creator Alexandra Chong claims), but rather as a means to capitalize on and exploit the flaws and gaps in human relationships for monetary gain. It’s a faux feminism whose “empowerment” depends on the very violation and objectification it declares to protest. The use of technology for surveillance is something that I’ve considered before, but never truly felt the creepiness of until hearing of Lulu. The dating website’s pre-registration homepage reads: “You are anonymous on Lulu. Your privacy is our top priority! That is why we never post to Facebook.” Reading this I could almost laugh, considering that Lulu’s whole existence is based on the violation of privacy of all of its male subjects. The fact that Lulu invites me into this world as a Peeping Tanya by instantly accessing my Facebook network is disconcerting to say the least. Lulu is evidence to me that all those warnings I got from my mother about watching what I post online should not have
been dismissed so easily, and that my personal information might really be used by anyone with enough authority at any time they choose. It’s easy to often think of our social media as tools that we use, and not tools that can be used against us, but increasingly the reality may be the opposite. It’s this violation of personal boundary and privacy that bothers me the most about Lulu. I have no issue with dating websites or apps in their broad sense. I think that for many they can be useful tools in connecting people and forging new relationships that may never have existed without their production. But it’s important that social media tools remain in the hands of their subjects. The act of creating a profile on a dating website has a crucial element of consent and agency, where the subjects are curating their own persona image online and control their own involvement in the network. Lulu takes away this agency from its subjects, instead letting a masked jury write their story for them. Its lack of agency paired with its numbers and ratings system acts to turn a of tool of social interaction into one of objectification. In objectifying humans, especially through the use of technology, we remove what it is to be human from the equation altogether. To reduce a human social interaction to a decimal-point number or to a hashtag is to deny the complexity and originality in every person one meets in life. People are not products to be reviewed for second-hand use, to perform to the satisfaction of their owner. People come with their own experiences and perspectives and are changing with every moment, within every context. To confine a romantic experience to a numbered scale or a few pre-picked hashtags is to delete what it is to love altogether. Furthermore, a recycling of practices of objectification isn’t productive, and only works to exaceberate the problem. Lulu isn’t empowering or progressive, it’s archaic and creepy.
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Contributors Tara Abrahams, Miranda Alksnis, John Debono, Jonah Letovsky, Neil MacIssac, Maria Masina, Steve Warner, Gabriel, Zoltan-Johan Illustrations Sarah Crawley, Seolim Hong, Wenting Li, Emily Pollock, Amanda Aziz, Warren Goodwin Cover Photo Victoria Chuen
The Strand has been the newspaper of record for Victoria University since 1953. It is published 12 times a year with a circulation of 2000 and is distributed in Victoria University buildings and across the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. The Strand flagrantly enjoys its editorial autonomy and is committed to acting as an agent of constructive social change. As such, we will not publish material deemed to exhibit racism, sexism, homo/trans*phobia, ableism, or other oppressive language. The Strand is a proud member of the Canadian University Press (CUP). Our offices are located at 150 Charles St. W., Toronto, ON, M5S 1K9. Please direct enquiries by email to email@example.com. Submissions are welcome and may be edited for taste, brevity, and legality.
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“I think that you need a place to go and gather up information that’s important to your industry, and then discuss it with other like-minded individuals. That’s why the comments board is so important to me and why I’ve made so many efriends!” There’s a pretty great moment in season 3 of Girls (and yes, I am aware of what I just wrote) where Hannah and boyfriend, Adam, have a brief but memorable argument about the value of blog-form sites such as Gawker and Jezebel. The real-life Hannah, Lena Dunham, doesn’t exactly share the same fondness for Jezebel as her fictional counterpart. This past January, the site offered $10,000 for the untouched images of Dunham’s Vogue cover shoot with Annie Liebowitz. What was presented as a fight against “unrealistic beauty standards,” seemed more like a cruel fascination with Dunham’s pre-touch-up body, so when Girls’ Hannah ex-
presses the importance of the comments board of such a site, she’s straddling the line between mockery and sincerity. The world of Internet commenting is, after all, a slippery slope. I will admit that I’ve developed a deep curiosity for Internet comments. Reading the top Youtube comment is as important to me as watching the video. If a friend from high school comments on a radio station’s Facebook post with over 400 comments, you better believe I’m going to look through them all and find what they wrote. Is that a heated argument I see on my newsfeed? “Load more” to read comments? Don’t mind if I do! Lately, I’ve found myself looking through more and more comments on news sources or on image-based websites such as Imgur. After spending an embarrassing amount of time following comment threads about inflammatory issues, and even longer amounts of time stalking through the speculative comments about
ETERNAL UNREST of the
COMMENTER ’ S MIND
the latest episode of True Detective, I’m starting to wonder what I find so absorbing about these comments. It’s worth mentioning that I’m not one of the commenters. I haven’t weighed in on any Internet insensitivity, and I refrain from putting in my two cents. I just look through to see what others have said. I scroll through comments, being enraged or offended, pleased or intrigued. Call it general interest in public opinion or some sort of strange self-righteous voyeurism, the fact is that I’m not the only one taking these comments too seriously. If ever I see an image that frustrates me on some level (and there’s plenty of ridiculousness on YouTube and Imgur to maintain and refresh my disappointment with society), I scroll on down to the comments to see who’s on my side. I’ll read entire conversations between parties with different points of view just to see if the one I’ve sided with comes out on top.
It can be rewarding and disheartening to get caught up in these discussions. You can spend hours upon hours just going through the responses and tweets to any hot topic, and leave with essentially nothing. Do I need to see what everyone thinks about Coca Cola’s “America the Brave” Superbowl commercial? After reading through hundreds of responses, positive and negative, I felt more that I wasted my time. Navigating these Internet discussions isn’t always eye-opening or affirming, it can just as easily become a toxic abyss of general bad feelings and lost time. One of my personal favourites for comment voyeurism is the Unpopular Opinion Puffin, a meme in which someone expresses something they think is an “unpopular opinion” alongside an image of a puffin strolling along (as the name would suggest). The meme usually boils down to something along the lines of “privileged folks are victims, too” and evokes a mixed variety of
responses, some reductive and some antagonistic. A lot of these times these memes are created just to get a response: the more shares and comments, the more “Internet points” the poster will receive. If someone posts a ridiculous status, they’re also setting up a trap, waiting to see their notifications light up. What makes us comment on something someone posts on the Internet? What’s behind our compulsions to Tweet? Validation and the building of an alternate, web-based identity are certainly factors. Anonymity is doled out to the masses on the Internet where we all share names like “OP” and “anon.” I can post a rather racist joke alongside a picture of a famous comedian and people will believe I’m just sharing someone else’s stand-up. What is ours and what is shared becomes confused. After all, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. But there’s something amazing about commenting. I can throw a link to a JPEG that will allow me to
tease a friend in a much more efficient ways. Visual puns or pop culture references are much easier and accessible with the help of a quick Google search. Why should I write, “what a shame I will not be able to attend this event” when I could just as easily comment with a Youtube video of a man looking forlorn and repeating the word “dammit” over and over again to comedic effect? Comments allow us to be smarter, funnier, or just plain awful, and no one really has to know that it’s you. I’ve seen quite a few cases of people voicing rather bigoted opinions in exaggerated tones, and no one can tell if they’re trolling or sincere. These comments are fascinating because you can never be sure exactly how you’re supposed to respond—should I be mad? Should I stay away? Is this a joke? Our comment-based discussions are a fantastic abyss, you can get sucked in too easily, and maybe that’s a good thing, since it will remind us to revisit the real world.
An Open Letter to Anxiety CHANTAL DUCHESNE
This letter reflects the personal experiences of an individual with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It does not mean to imply that everyone with the same condition sees it from this perspective. Mental illness differs from person to person.
ou made your first appearance when I was seven years old. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t breathe. When they told me I was having a panic attack, I couldn’t process what they were saying. I didn’t know what panic felt like yet. Children are supposed to be carefree—what a joke. Often you lie dormant, but I never really forget you’re there. You make me want to scream whenever I see something damaged, imperfect, or out of order. The map of tiny, faded scars across my body reminds me that you exist every time I look in the mirror. I’ve spent countless hours in a daze, picking at invisible flaws until my skin bleeds. Ever since they told me that it’s an obsessive-compulsive behavior called dermatillomania, I don’t do it as frequently. I can’t fully control it though. Maybe I fixate on my imperfections because I want them to disappear
so badly. Or maybe I’m just trying to rid myself of you. The unrelenting worry even turns my good qualities against me. When you’re around, I can be caring and analytical to the point of obsession. I wonder if other people keep tabs on interpersonal behavior the way I do…“What did I say? How did my voice sound? What was I doing with my hands? How did they react?” I know I’m being irrational—that these insignificant details won’t really determine how someone thinks of me—but I can’t stop worrying that I’ll never be good enough. It’s even harder to like myself when I know I’m the source of my own misery. It’s as though you wait for the most inopportune time to throw my life into shambles. You creep up, suffocating me before I’m even aware that I’ve let it get to this point. I live in constant fear of
What is an Anxiety Disorder? Anxiety disorders occur when the cognitive, physical, and behavioural symptoms of anxiety are persistent and severe, negatively affecting a person’s ability to work or study, socialize, or manage daily tasks (Anxiety Disorders, camh.ca). The main categories of anxiety disorders are: Phobias (including social phobia) Panic Disorder Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) The symptoms of each of these disorders vary, but all share characteristics of irrational and excessive fear accompanied by
feeling overwhelmed. I know that if it all gets to be too much, you’ll paralyze me. Terrified of failing, I won’t be able to get out of bed except to eat and puke, but I won’t be able to sleep either. Suddenly I’ll find myself hyperventilating in tears on the kitchen floor. I won’t feel like a real person. I certainly won’t feel like a functional adult. I know you’re an illness, but constantly fighting you means waging a war on myself. I’m tired of you. I can’t figure you out. Most of the time I hardly notice you, and yet you have the ability to incapacitate me. You’re always waiting until I forget about you to remind me that you’re not going anywhere. I’m trying to face you, but I barely understand what I’m looking at. Please, stop playing games or leave me alone altogether. Ambiguity doesn’t suit you.
apprehensive and tense feelings. Many people find their anxiety inexplicable. Common symptoms include: anxious thoughts, beliefs, and predictions, avoidance, safety behaviours, and excessive physical reactions. -Information from “Anxiety Disorders.” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health On-Campus Resources: The University of Toronto has helpful resources available through their Health & Wellness Program, such as: CAPS (Counselling & Psychological Services) Currently known as the official service for mental health at Uof T, CAPS offers assessments and psychological therapy, as well as crises help during emergenies. Located at Koffler Student Services Centre, room 111, CAPS can be contacted at 416-978-8070. Counselline
(((( This is a part of our series on mental health, “It’s Personal”. Once a month, we’ll be talking about what’s going on inside our heads - but instead of writing a pSA, we’re making it personal. ))))
In a program created by the Uof T Health and Wellness Program, graduate intern students are able to gain experience counselling, while univeristy students can get help via online or face-to-face sessions. Counselling by this initiative is longerterm, and there’s a short wait time for service. For more information on what they offer, and on their many locations, contact Counselline by calling 416-946-5117. Peers Are Here Peers Are Here is a by university students for university students support group for mental health and wellness support. Drop-in hours are on Mondays from 4-5PM at 21 Sussex, Room 415, and on Thursdays from 4-5PM in Hart House’s Meeting Room. For more information, contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org. 9
QUEEN’S PARK: HEART OF DARKNESS?
Is the park as dangerous as we’re told? What you should really be afraid of
MIRANDA ALKSNIS City living is a fact of life at Uof T. We learn to take advantage of the unique opportunities the city offers, from hipster watering holes that play “Vapor-Wave” to soul-sucking unpaid internships and prosperous careers at Slab Burger. But learning to physically navigate the city presents a unique set of challenges and dangers. Uof T students display superhuman fortitude getting to and from class, rain or shine, heat or hail, -40 degrees or +30, and Queen’s Park north of Wellesley forms our bridge—and shortcut—to the campus proper. As such, students traveling to and from Vic campus are disproportionately affected by the dangers of the park. Queen’s Park has a reputation for danger at night. Since it is not the property of Victoria College or Uof T, it is not policed by our security. It also has no emergency call stations (the iconic red poles with blue lights which “ring directly to the Campus Community Police dispatch centre [...] and
provide two-way communication between the caller and the dispatcher”). This makes it more difficult for students moving through the park to immediately get help. In addition, the park’s relative darkness is cited as a catalyst for criminal activity. Students are warned starting at Orientation of the park’s danger. According to Vic Don Coco Lee, “Queen’s Park is portrayed [during Orientation] as dangerous to be in alone at nighttime, and it was made very clear that one shouldn’t go through the park without a friend. Or that we should avoid it altogether at night.” Lee described Frosh Week warnings as including the possibility of “rape, muggings, and general ‘there are scary people in there.’” These warnings form the bulk of the commonly held belief that Queen’s Park’s danger stems from the potential for attack. These assertions are never supported by empirical evidence. There is a marked
absence of statistical information available regarding assaults or even crimes in the Queen’s Park area. A Toronto Police Service crime map for the Bay-Bloor Corridor indicates that the only non-B&E (Breaking and entering) crime near the park took place well south of the area students frequent— but only displayed crimes that occurred over a single month in 2013, which says little about average activity in the park. Most students stated that they had never encountered suspicious or dangerous persons in the park at night, though a few had stories of acquaintances being ganged up on or beaten. In fact, more students described suspicious behaviour during the daytime: underwear-clad sunbathers, pot smokers, even violent verbal and sexual harassment. As to allegations of the park’s darkness, first-year student Ami says “I walk through the park after evening classes because the pathways are decently lit and there’s always
plenty of people.” Each path through the park is now lit, and one can see through the park to the other side in any direction, making it easier to spot potential danger. Before and after classes there is always a steady stream of students hurrying through the park. Lee says she ventures into the park at night “fairly frequently—any time I go through the area, I take the path through the park, but avoiding it is almost always because of walking conditions.” Too true: all Victoria students know first-hand the dangers of Queen’s Park in bad weather. One day an unnavigable swimming pool, the next a veritable skating rink. However, Queen’s Park poses another more directly life-threatening danger to the Uof T student. The most direct route to the majority of campus involves jaywalking, and on Queen’s Park, cars travel along the four-lane road at dangerously high speeds.
The two favoured jaywalking zones are on the northeast side of the street by Emmanuel college, and on the southwest side by Hart House (see map). I myself have experienced innumberable heart-stopping moments in these locations. Once I witnessed a girl turn her ankle while halfway across; she survived only because someone ran out to help. The presence of signage at these locations requesting that students cross at the crosswalk, or yield for traffic, signal awareness of the jaywalking situation on the part of the city. Despite this, several Dons admitted they never told their students of the dangers of jaywalking across Queen’s Park, and the danger is not addressed during Orientation. The chances of being seriously injured jaywalking are much higher than the chances of being mugged in Queen’s Park at night. This is not to say students should walk through the park at night; as Vic Don Grace
McDonell says, “any area can be dangerous after dark.” Students who encounter danger walking through the park at night should call 911, she says. It simply highlights the arbitrary way in which some dangers are given lip service, while others go unaddressed. Why are students willing to risk a fatal collision to cross the park? We are forced to cross the park in order to navigate the unreasonable distance between some classes on a campus as expansive as Uof T’s. This is a poor reason to risk our lives, but few will go around the park to avoid jaywalking, while many go around to avoid the park at night, even though the former is more immediately fatal than the latter. Perhaps safety in numbers lends a sense of security. The jaywalking is ubiquitous; everyone does it, and no one thinks twice. But the danger is very real, and something should be done about it—on the part of individual students, on the part of Uof T, or on the part of the city we live in.
REAL MUSIC, FAKE MUSICIANS Unmasking the Music Industry’s Mystery
TARA ABRAHAMS STAFF WRITER In the age of Tumblr and Twitter, much like ages of Livejournal and MySpace past, it seems as if everyone, even celebrities, has a persona that they use to present themselves to their general audience. Nicki has Roman; Kanye has Yeezus; even Beyonce was once Sasha Fierce. Behind those personas, however, the musician remains familiar, sporting a recognizable face and style of dress that attributes them as “real” individuals. What happens, then, when we encounter musicians who are nothing but their personas, entirely fictional characters that make and produce music, interact with their fans, and even attend awards shows? Confusion, apparently. In lieu of Daft Punk’s recent quadruple Grammy win, Twitter was flooded with various tweets that claimed that Daft Punk was being “disrespectful” by refusing to remove their helmets during the awards ceremony; others thought the two robotic personas were just plain “creepy”; and even a curious “I wonder if Daft Punk go in to the recording studio with their masks on.” The Daft Punk duo, consisting of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, only began donning their android attire in 2001 after their first hit single “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” garnered them worldwide popularity. Apparently, however, 13 years isn’t enough time for many to
understand that Thomas and Guy’s “masks” aren’t just masks—they are the face of the electronica duo. They are robots that make incredibly catchy club music for us mere mortals. To remove those masks would be to break the illusion, to break the built-up fourth wall between the persona and reality. Revealing their true identities as two guys who like to mix and make music while sporting the guise of rather fashionable robots would ruin all of the fun. Similarly to Daft Punk, another 90s band emerged from—well, from an entirely alternate universe, it seems. The Gorillaz are an entirely “fake” band, consisting of members drawn and animated by artists. They have had immeasurable success since their conception. Though labeled “gimmicky,” much like Daft Punk’s presentation, the fact is that these fictional band members are not fictional at all: they are the band members, and they always will be. There is no need for their creators to reveal themselves, since, again, that would spoil the entire point of the Gorillaz’s existence: as a band unto themselves. The fictional is made real here because there is, at least in theory, nothing behind the band, no “puppeteers” creating the music. It is the characters themselves that mix and make the music magic, despite what the general public may believe. The advent of “fake bands” is nothing new
on the other side of the world; in both Japan and South Korea, synthetic, computer-programmed band members make up the Vocaloids, a set of music programs that have since blown up in popularity and now even garner their own venues in order to perform shows. The lead singer of the band, Hatsune Miku, is projected on stage using holograms and glass screens, creating the illusion of an extant figure—but to her fans, she is entirely real. The voice of Miku is not the voice of her voice actor; it is the voice of Miku herself. By asserting her as beyond the fictional boundary, her anonymous creators and users are able to put music out into the world without worrying about making a public name and dealing with all of the celebrity drama that goes with it. The Vocaloids garner all the publicity and fame while their creators, in a sense, sit back and relax behind closed doors. What, then, is the appeal of such musicmakers? Like those of us who delve deep into television or novel series, there is something about imagining those characters as functioning parts of reality that makes us all the more invested in their respective stories. In the case of Daft Punk, the Gorillaz, and the Vocaloids, however, it seems that their very existence is meant to cast a new, if somewhat masked, light on the visual side of the music industry.
GLORIA: GOOD INTENTIONS REDEEMS DRASTIC TONAL CHANGES
JOHN DEBONO Sometimes there are films that you are passionate about because they have an interesting or thoughtful perspective on under-evaluated topics. Despite this, the final product does not always come together, for a variety of reasons. This, unfortunately, is the case for Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria, a film that I admire significantly more than I like. Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is a 58-year-old divorcee who begins a relationship with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an equally lonely senior. Their relationship is complicated by both the past and by their commitment to their family lives. The movie ultimately asks the question if one can still find love in the later years of one`s life. I should be fair and admit that as a 22-year-
old man, I can’t relate to people in their 50s. However, I can acknowledge the severe lack of films about older women. Gloria starts very strongly as a realistic portrayal of an older, single woman. A lot of the credit goes to Garcia, who has such a bold, likeable presence, so that even in the film’s more questionable moments, you are invested in her character. Credit must also go to Hernandez, who produces the proper balance of warmth and mystique to make their relationship intriguing. The aforementioned reasons makes the transition in the final act of the film all the more frustrating. Without spoiling anything, I will say that there is such a change of pace in the character’s responses that it came off as jarring and confusing. I understood what Lelio was at-
tempting to do, but the series of events turned the characters I grew to like into something that most teenagers would find melodramatic. It is rare to get an older female protagonist, and because of this you want to observe nothing more than honest human emotions when a film provides one. It is what both the character and the audience deserve. The fact that Lelio abandons this ambition makes it much harder for me to forgive what is two-thirds of a good movie. In spite of all the shenanigans at the end, I can give a very mild recommendation to Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria for the acting and the really touching beginning. While it eventually falls apart, I hope any success the film has encourages others to produce more consistent stories on the subject.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
‘WHEN EVERYONE’S SUPER, NO ONE WILL BE’ The saturation of the superhero movie market and its effects
NEIL MACISSAC STAFF WRITER
If you’ve been on Facebook recently you’ve probably seen the trailer for the upcoming superhero movie Guardians Of The Galaxy. A fair amount of buzz has been built around it, and it features a talented cast despite not relying on protagonists that have crossed over into the popular consciousness the way Batman or Spiderman have. The deep space setting will certainly stretch the Marvel movie universe to a comically large diameter, and it will no doubt do the same for Disney’s war chest—but it doesn’t seem poised to do the same for the viewer’s imagination. Most upcoming superhero releases could be described this way. The release of X-Men at the dawn of the millennium sparked a modern superhero film renaissance: the Raimi Spiderman trilogy, the Nolan Batman trilogy, and Marvel’s Avengers octalogy have represented the peaks. There was room for masterpieces (The Dark Knight), cult favourites (Hellboy), and some of the worst movies ever made (Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Sur fer). The new decade of the 2010s has seen Hollywood throw even more weight behind the genre, given its increasing profitability. From 2000 to 2013 the top ten highest grossing films of each year had, on average, 1.35 su-
perhero films, but 2012 and 2013 both saw three superhero films within their top tens (the #1 spot in both cases was also a superhero film). Finding a niche and mining it is Hollywood’s bread and butter. But consider the action movie genre in general: the simple truth is that people enjoy movies with sympathetic, admirable heroes kicking ass in a plot with one solid twist. With such a simple pitch, shortcuts are inevitable to engage the audience more easily. Two tried-and-true shortcuts are making your hero super and building a franchise around him (always him) so after an initial movie the audience is already onboard sympathy-wise. The former is nothing new; see Batman and Superman. Neither is the latter; see Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Indiana Jones. It’s not wrong— it’s just safe. What’s problematic about this equation is that almost all superheroes are existing characters and they’ve outstripped the average action hero in terms of popularity. Every major superhero movie since 2000 aside from The Incredibles and Hancock has been reliant on existing material. If a studio goes out on a limb for a major action production now, chances are there’s a superhero
lead with an expansive universe for sequels because that will pay off almost every time. What this means is that there’s less and less room for both original franchises like Fast & Furious and individual movies like Point Break or Cliffhanger. All this could be more easily stomached if such movies weren’t so similar: if it’s not gritty like The Dark Knight or fun like The Avengers it’s definitely terrible; if it’s either of those it’s probably just mediocre. What’s left is a glut of superhero movies that are mostly just okay, and a handful of action movies that get thrown a bone by way of some star like Channing Tatum but have a pretty derivative script. My personal breaking point was Thor: The Dark World, which I walked out of realizing it had done nothing wrong, but also risked nothing. The only way to fight this trend is with wallets, so if you feel similarly I recommend The Raid: Redemption, currently on Netflix. This is the antidote: a straightforward script that does exactly as much as it needs to, the most awe-inspiring fight choreography yet made, and a reason to be excited for the sequel, out in April. It revives a forgotten truth, that a hero less super can be far more remarkable.
Stranded on the Wire
ANTHONY BURTON & NEIL MACISAAC EDITORIAL ASSISTANT & STAFF WRITER
READING WEEK BEGINS AS HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 2 RELEASED; POLISCI LECTURES EMPTY
The release of Season 2 of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series House of Cards was the cause for a recent surge in usage of the streaming service on the weekend before reading week in Uof T residence buildings. Reports state that all conversation amongst students in the Political Science subject POSt pertained to “that crazy thing that happened in the first episode,” or “do you think maybe Frank Underwood is actually a sociopath?” All PoliSci lectures were empty on Friday the 15th, but American Politics professor Ryan Puke says that he looks forward to having 100% attendance in the upcoming week.
C STUDENT DECIDES TO WATCH ALL OF BEWITCHED
STUDENT CLAIMS TO STUMBLE ACROSS MAGICAL WARDROBE IN ROBARTS STACKS
Karen Macdonald, a third year anthropology major currently averaging a C grade, has decided to watched the sitcom Bewitched in its entirety. The watching of this 8-season, 254-episode series that ran from 1964 to 1972, now available on Netflix Instant Streaming, was deemed an appropriate use of this paying student’s time after “a few minutes of deliberation” according to Macdonald’s spokesperson, Madeline Schwartz. “Ms. Macdonald saw the 2005 remake starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell and commented that while she didn’t remember much of what it was about, she felt like she enjoyed it and would be willing to get to know these characters better,” according to Schwartz. Macdonald’s boyfriend Gary Young could not be reached for comment at press time, but has a history of “tak(ing) delight in her quirky projects,” saying “Her grades don’t make her beautiful; her lackadaisical attitude does.”
Earlier this week Hector Torres, a first year Victoria College student, reported to anyone who would listen that on the 11th floor of Robarts Library he ventured into a supernatural wardrobe that transported him to another world. “I have no idea how else to explain it; I was looking for some sources for my history term paper and I just found this old wooden wardrobe and when I went into it I came out in a snowy wood. A faun came and told me it was my destiny to vanquish the horrible warlock in the Starcastle. I just came back to get my laptop, come with me!” The Strand sent a reporter with Torres to Robarts, but upon reaching the 11th floor Torres became delirious, pawing at an empty wall and yelling “No, no no, it was just here! I have to go back! I NEED TO SAVE THEM!” Later on Thursday complaints were filed against Torres by the Robarts staff over him dragging a large bloody claymore into the lobby.
REPORT: JANITORS GOING THROUGH ALL YOUR STUFF WHILE YOU’RE GONE
Reports have surfaced that the janitors went through all your shit when you were gone. You may have trouble finding that earmarked copy of Fahrenheit 451, because it is currently being read by the nine-year-old daughter of Tuesday shift janitor Sal. “This year I got a poster of John Belushi, a pair of socks, and some weirdly-shaped glass vases,” Sal told The Strand. When asked where most things end up, Sal wordlessly bounded up to the Gate House top floor and quickly snuck through the open door before shutting it behind him.
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CANADA SNEAKS GOLD IN SOCHI; THIS TIME FOR ENVIRONMENTAL NEGLIGENCE
GABRIEL ZOLTAN-JOHAN Canada has added another prestigious gold medal to its tally, sneaking past juggernauts such as the United States, China, and Japan in the environmental negligence event of the 2014 winter games. Many commentators were slightly shocked by the win, noting that Canada had been a perennial underdog and couldn’t outpace the absolute destruction of the natural world seen in more densely populated countries. Canadians in par ticular were overjoyed at the come-from-behind victor y. Many are already celebrating, as well as practicing for the next environmental negligence event, by leaving lights on and driving for long distances without purpose or reason.
“It’s a triumph for us all.” said Leona Aglukkaq, Canadian Minister of the Environment. “We’ve worked really hard as a nation to make sure we maintain extremely high per capita levels of greenhouse gas production.” Aglukkaq cites advanced effor ts in fucking over Canada’s natural beauty and wildlife, as well as withdrawing from the
Editor’s note: David Suzuki was not available for comment.
Mr. Ford goes to Hollywood WARREN GOODWIN
“I want to thank my homies, for making all of this possible...”
“We’ve worked really hard as a nation to make sure we maintain extremely high per capita levels of greenhouse gas production.”
Kyoto Protocol, as major steps for ward for obtaining this medal. “I don’t think we would be here without accelerated development of the oilsands, the expansion of Pacific fishing, and of course backing away from the only environmental treaty in the world involved in regulating heat-trapping gases.” One anonymous commentator notes a par ticularly hidden factor in Canada’s win, suggesting “A recent cour t ruling on Canada’s negligence to protect over five identified endangered species under its own laws was astounding; it really boosted their chances after this discover y, as it showed how little they care about anything except economic advancement. That took real guts, and I don’t think we’ll see anything as hear tless in this competition for some time.” Aglukkaq continued, “I am glad that my personal effor ts helped us over the hurdle as well. I sleep well knowing that my scepticism over dwindling numbers of Arctic wildlife and the idea of Arctic ‘warming’ gave us a big PR boost prior to the Sochi event.” This represents Canada’s 18th medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics, with the previous best accomplishment being a bronze medal in the government sur veillance competition, falling behind the United Kingdom and United States. It is understood that Canada also has the “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out” gold medal wrapped up as well.