Coach House makes it a home

The old, worn-down Coach House, with creaking wooden stairs and battered doors, has a homey feel to it that evokes the care and concern the press has for its writers. Since Stan Bevington founded the press in 1965, he has upheld the importance of interacting with authors to produce quality books.

This summer, Coach House Press finally purchased its property—two coach houses that contain the operation’s editorial and printing offices, as well as a small warehouse —at 80 bpNichol Lane, just behind Innis College. The aging buildings will require plenty of repairs, but for Bevington, tearing down Coach House and rebuilding is not an option. With its rich history of quality printing and publishing, the houses represent everything that makes the Coach House Press a huge asset to the community.

Part of what renders Coach House unique is their use of high-quality Heidelberg printing machines to produce their work.

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“Our industry is going through many technological changes,” mentions Bevington, “and it is really a challenge for us not to get carried away with the latest and greatest. We use really standard machines in a really standard way rather than buying new things all of the time. Our presses don’t necessarily go as fast as the new ones, but that doesn’t matter.” Coach House Press Editor Alana Wilcox is quick to add that the Heidelberg presses do “just as good, if not a better job, than the current presses.”

This is not to say, though, that Coach House is averse to modern technology: the press had been using the Internet as a means of promoting, advertising, and selling the books for ages.

“We got started early on the Internet,” remarks Wilcox. “Our printing company had a spin-off company that wrote the rules…you can listen to our books online and you have always been able to, but they’re still selling.”

The website is continually updated with info on newly printed books, as well as book launches and other events hosted by the press. Many of these events feature authors reading from their books.

“At the fall launch, you get a chance to see the author so that you can attach a personality and a voice to the writing, and we think that is really important,” says Bevington. Another way that the press integrates authors with readers is the tours that the press gives to students of all ages: “[We give] tours endlessly; students go away with the touch and feel and smell of books…and they remember it easily,” says Bevington.

“It’s interesting, especially when we do tours for high school students or even grade school kids. They’ve never connected the book to the process of producing it, so they come in and watch the process from the computer files, to the paper being folded and glued together into a book. They’re just wide-eyed…really, it’s quite remarkable, it’s nice to see,” adds Wilcox.

Coach House Press also gives tours to some U of T classes. “It’s very helpful for the university students to see real production as opposed to historical study,” notes Bevington. “It gives them a sense of why the paper is folded the way it is.” “[This is a] continually social space,” adds Wilcox. “People are always dropping by. You’d be surprised who you might find here one day sitting at the coffee table.”

The press also enjoys showing off its efficiency to students: the Heidelberg machinery is jammed into just three rooms, and in the last one, there are three individuals working at cutting and gluing together books. The negatives for individual books are stacked on shelves in between pieces of cardboard, with labels indicating the titles for future reprinting. “Probably our most famous play book, The Farm Show, has been continuously in print since 1972 [or] ’73,” says Bevington, “so we keep our printing plates and negatives ready for making re-prints.”

Some books published by the press are reprinted countless times, but Bevington states that the press’s goal is to “try to find authors that are not published by anyone else.” Every year, Wilcox receives approximately 1,000 new books ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and non-fiction about the city of Toronto—the only genres that Coach House Press publishes—and chooses the 15 best that the press will go on to print.

Coach House helped launch the careers of such acclaimed authors as Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels, and every year it continues to choose unique and interesting writing by up-and-coming authors. In explaining the type of literature they seek, Wilcox mentions that they “try to do stuff that’s a little more unconventional, not straightforward historical fiction or something. We try to do stuff that’s a little more adventurous, experimental, avant-garde.”

“We look for novels that creatively use language to make a story that we would have never expected,” adds Bevington, “whereas many publishers accept the narrative as the way to do a novel.”

In addition to reprints and new literature, Coach House Press takes on special projects, such as publishing the Hart House Review and many of U of T’s literary journals. Furthermore, the press creates catalogues for the Fisher Rare Book library. “We do some beautiful work for the Fisher Rare Book Library,” notes Bevington. “They choose us because they want really prestigious work. We get to look at the finest books in the library and [make] catalogues of entire collections. Right now we’re doing a [catalogue] about Darwin—all of the books that Darwin ever published are going to be on display in the fall—and we’re going to do a catalogue that has an overview of all of [them].”

Although the press has significant projects to tend to, it is now fully responsible for an even bigger one: the upkeep of the actual coach houses. For 40 years, Coach House Press had a cooperative agreement with Campus Co-operative Residence Inc., which kept their rent low and rendered purchasing their building unnecessary. Changes occurred within Campus Co-op that left the organization saddled with debt, and at one point “the plan was for us to move so that they could make houses on the laneway,” says Bevington.

“But we wanted to stay. Many of our friends thought that we had published good books on Canadian literature and that we’re an asset to the community, so we encouraged the powers that be to let us stay.”

“Our industry is going through many technological changes and it is really a challenge for us not to get carried away with the latest and greatest.

Playing For No One

Have you ever looked forward to seeing your favourite band play their new single on a late-night talk show, only to be disappointed when the sound and performance quality is downright terrible? Poorly mixed vocals and tinny guitar tones are the norm for TV appearances, and while a few stand out (Saturday Night Live manages to get it right at least a couple times a year, and Conan O’Brien has brought in The Strokes and The White Stripes for residencies upon new album releases), these are exceptions that prove the rule.

But a performance-based program on British station Sky Arts hopes to change that. From the Basement brings high profile artists to London’s Maida Vale studios and captures them in a professional musical space—the way all TV appearances should be.

From the Basement released a DVD late last year, showing off a couple songs by each of their featured artists. The results are surprisingly captivating.

The minimalist presentation is unusual—they’ve opted to simply play clips without a host, and featured no narration or introductions whatsoever. The result is 129 minutes of vivid concert footage starring 17 of indie rock’s heaviest hitters.

While the lack of a studio audience is unconventional, it creates an intimate performance atmosphere where the cameras are welcome, not intrusive, and sound quality comes first.

While the spliced together clips don’t offer much in the way of continuity, and there’s no audience energy to draw upon, From the Basement takes fans to the secret creative hideaway where they long to go—the practice room.

In a dimly lit room with a mass of equipment and cords strewn everywhere, the bands offer rare performances of lesser-known material.

The film catches blues rock legends The White Stripes at the height of their 2005 Get Behind Me Satan period. Clad in a Mariachi costume with pencil-thin moustache, Jack White is in peak form, particularly on thumping single “Blue Orchid” and Captain Beefheart cover “Party Of Special Things To Do.”

For those of us who’ve never been lucky enough to see them live (myself included), the DVD offers a small window into Jack and Meg’s performance dynamic, made all the more captivating given that the White Stripes haven’t toured in years due to Meg White’s anxiety issues.

Dapper Strokes guitarist-turned-solo-artist Albert Hammond Jr. leads his band through spirited renditions of the rollicking “Everyone Gets A Star” and Guided By Voices cover “Postal Blowfish.”

Beck grips what appears to be a spacebox as his oddly dressed backing band (think white boy afros with vintage plaid suits) shuffles through “Motorcade” and “Cellphone’s Dead,” while Jamie Lidell kicks in backing vocals clad in a tightly-belted trench coat and neon blue silk scarf.

The Shins bust out two gloriously catchy singles from their 2007 tour de force Wincing the Night Away, former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker arrives looking like a garage rocking history TA, dancing awkwardly during his song “Fat Children,” and British songstress Laura Marling contributes the delicate “Your Only Doll (Dora).”

It’s an impressive list, bookended by the biggest ticket performances—a total of four songs from Radiohead’s In Rainbows sessions, two of which are performed solo by Thom Yorke. Yorke closes out the tracklist with the moving finale “Videotape.”

That Radiohead are so heavily involved in a television project seems surprising, but the credits reveal that From the Basement is a project of longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Having a producer of Godrich’s talent at the helm of the sessions is a blessing because he creates the perfect setting for a successful television appearance, and he’s able to record it with a quality that does the artists justice.

From the Basement presents performances that are vivid if not quite energetic, but that’s forgivable because live concert footage simply isn’t the point. As “Videotape” draws to a close, Yorke leans into the mic and whispers, “This is my way of saying goodbye, ’cause I can’t do it face to face.” It’s haunting—just the kind of arresting moment that this series was made for.

Bike for free

Students and staff can now bike for free, courtesy of U of T’s Bikechain. After filling out a membership form and providing a $25 deposit, students can sign out a bike of their choice for two business days. The rental service re-launched for the spring on April 1.

“I absolutely believe the University of Toronto has a thriving biking culture,” said Allyson Amster, Bikechain’s head coordinator. “Toronto is exploding with cycling activities.”

Bikechain was started in 2005 to provide U of T with an affordable service, while promoting an environmentally friendly form of transportation. In 2008, it became a non-profit organization. Amster hopes to eventually gain status as a charitable organization.

Bikechain also provides free biking workshops for both beginner and experienced cyclists. There is also a free repair service, which only charges for replacement parts. Students and staff can drop in any time during operating hours.

Staff said Bikechain’s success is their biggest obstacle: despite funding from two student levies, the group is struggling to keep up with demand. With approximately 20 bikes currently on the street, Bikechain is looking to double that number by the end of the month.

“We have just enough funding to support us here where we stand right now,” said Amster, citing storage issues and growing maintenance costs as onerous expenses. “In order to really maintain this size and a larger expansion, which is demanded of us by the student body, we really need to hire a mechanic who works a minimum of 30 hours a week, which we don’t have the funding to do at this point.”

Since its launch, Bikechain clocked over 5,000 visits to their workshops and repair facility, with 3,000 visits in the last 20 months. Amster said she hopes to move to a larger space than their current home in the basement of the International Student Centre.

“We have to send people away already,” said Amster. “This is supposed to be this inclusive, accessible space but when you’re telling people, ‘I’m sorry, you have to come back on Monday because we can’t fit you in here,’ they might never come back. That’s a huge loss for them and the university.”

U of T has made efforts to make the downtown campus bike-friendly, including a bike lane on St. George and placing a number of bike rings around campus. But, Amster said, the city must focus on improving bike lanes leading to and from the campus to encourage more cycling.

Bikechain operates year-round in the basement of the International Student Centre, at 33 St. George Street.

Out of the frying pan, into the freezer

You sit down to your morning coffee and open up the paper. The headline reads: “Scientists Agree World Is Colder.”

Impossible, right? With the reality of global warming heavy upon us, nothing could be better than news of a worldwide cooling trend. However, when the New York Times reported this on January 30, 1961, the world did not breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, the headline consolidated what many feared—the threat of another ice age. It is hard to imagine a world where the media is not rife with news of global warming, but the past century shows that journalists have been very fickle about climate change. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the media’s attention has oscillated between global warming and cooling at least four times. What makes us so sure we can believe them now?

Around the turn of the century, “scientific” findings fuelled rumours of an imminent ice age. Memories of the Little Ice Age, the period of global cooling that occurred between 1650 and 1850, were still fresh in the public mind and the media was quick to exploit the fears of its readership. As early as 1895, journalists realized that stories on climate change sold newspapers, regardless of how factually accurate they were.

On February 24, 1895, the Times ran the headline “Geologists Think The World May Be Frozen Up Again.” However, the evidence for such a bold claim was weak, based only on local reports of icebergs drifting further south than usual and “assertions” that Scandinavian winters were becoming more severe. It seems that substance came secondary to sensation—the writer gravely stated that “the Frost King has been known to come down from the heights of Europe and seal the waters of the Adriatic.”

Similar stories ran for the next twenty-five years. On September 20, 1922, the Times ran a similarly spectacular article entitled “Penguin Startles France.” It suggested that “combined with the Arctic weather conditions from which France is suffering, the appearance of the bird [to] some minds suggests that the Ice Age is about to set in again.” In reality, the penguin had probably just escaped from South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship. A story about the “ice-age harbinger,” however, was just too good to pass up.

As the 1930s began, the media’s attention to the Ice Age began to waver. It was replaced with a newfound fascination for the opposite extreme: fears of global warming. A 1933 Associated Press article ran the headline “America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776.” It went on to assert that the “next Ice Age, if one is coming…is still a long way off, if Uncle Sam’s weather charts are any indication.” The evidence cited by the writer was significantly more reliable. According to the article, the American Weather Bureau’s historical data showed that average temperatures had rose steadily since 1908.

In retrospect, it appears that the media was on the right track. Still, climate change was only ever attributed to natural causes. It was amateur meteorologist G.S. Callendar published report in 1938 that suggested that human behaviour might be a contributing factor. The report, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meterological Society, was entitled “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and its Influence on Temperature.” Building on Svante Arrhenius’ original theory that industrial emissions could bring about global warming, Callendar asserted that it could account for the world’s rising temperatures. His claims, unfortunately, were ignored for the next twenty years.

Reports of global cooling resurfaced in the 1950s and, fittingly, lasted well into the Cold War years. An article in Fortune magazine published in 1954 was titled “Climate—The Heat May Be Off.” In 1959, the Times raised concerns that “A Major Cooling [Was] Widely Considered To Be Inevitable.” The media capitalized on the apocalyptic sentiment of the Cold War era: if the world did not end in nuclear winter, perhaps it would result in a permanent ice age.

In addition to newspapers and journals, fears of a coming ice age manifested themselves in literature and the arts. Science fiction embraced the threat of an everlasting winter, as seen in Wilson Tucker’s 1974 novel Ice and Iron. In the late 1970s, post-punk forerunners Joy Division released the single “Living In The Ice Age.” The chorus to The Clash’s classic “London Calling” began with the line “the ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in.”

Though the media latched firmly onto the idea of a deep freeze, the scientific world was plagued with uncertainty. In 1976, Time reported that although climatologists could see that the world’s weather patterns were becoming increasingly variable, they could not decide whether it was due to global warming or cooling. The greenhouse effect was considered one of many possible explanations for the fluctuations in climate, but its effects were largely thought to offset the global cooling trend. It was not until the 1980s that global warming was taken seriously and rumours of an Ice Age were finally laid to rest.

The threat of global warming gained significance because of increased technological accuracy, which led to consensus among scientists. Predictions relied on computer models rather than sparse historical data. In 1981, the Times reported that seven federal atmospheric scientists agreed that the next century would see global warming of “almost unprecedented magnitude.” The scientists debunked rumours that the world was cooling by pointing out that the reports ignored evidence from outside of North America.

In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen brought the threat of global warming to the forefront at the United Nations and the U.S. Senate. It was finally acknowledged that human behaviour, not natural fluctuation, was causing climate change. Coverage of the Kyoto Summit showed that world leaders—and journalists—were finally taking the threat seriously. In 1997, Time reported, “Only a decade ago, the debate over global warming dealt mainly with whether it was a real problem or a Chicken Little scare story…[but] it is clear that this cautious attitude has completely turned around.”

The term “Anthropocene” was coined in 2000 by Nobel-winning chemist Paul Crutzers to refer to the current geological era, which is marked by the human impact on the environment. The impact of carbon emissions may have been responsible for the variations in climate since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, this possibility was only acknowledged in the past twenty years.

Today, it is evident that global warming has, for the most part, been embraced by the media. Still, how can we be assured that journalists will not be as capricious as they were in the past? It is, after all, their business to create sensations.

For one thing, the world’s leading scientists—at least, those who have not been linked to Big Oil or Big Coal—have agreed that global warming is a reality that must be prevented. The earth’s climate has never been as intensely and accurately examined as it is today.

At present, it is less likely that the media is simply trying to tie in stories of climate change to capitalize on the excitement aroused by concurrent world events. The threat of global warming is itself a sensational story.

Professor Janis Langins of U of T’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology summed up the issue concisely: “The question is not whether journalists are or have been right or wrong about global warming or cooling, but whether global warming or cooling is going on.”

The melting Arctic ice sheets and the rising ocean levels have drowned any remaining notions of an imminent Ice Age. Today, more than ever, the answer is obvious.

Listen up, TTC

Everybody complains about the TTC, but engineering students have gone one step further. For the last six weeks, first-year students in the Engineer Science Praxis II class have worked on solutions to issues that they identified and researched earlier in the course. On April 15, they’ll unveil their solutions to major drawbacks of the transit system. The 2009 Praxis Showcase at the Bahen Centre lobby will feature six designs to enhance the usability, sustainability, and safety of the TTC.

“We were on the subway and wondered what would happen if a fire broke out,” said Matt Li, who worked on ways to reduce the delay in the TTC’s emergency response system with team mates Spencer Hu and Brian Merchant.

“There are no fire detectors on the subway,” added Merchant. Both expressed their excitement at the chance to do practical engineering in their first year.

The upgrades students will unveil at the showcase include:

Improving Passenger Safety Near The TTC’s Exposed Subway Tracks: reducing accidental passenger falls and slips onto the subway tracks as well as deliberate pushes and suicides.

Solving The Heat Loss Problem: ways of regulating subway platform temperature, which is well below comfortable building temperatures.

Improving Way-Finding Signage On The TTC: addressing inadequate and inconsistent signage in the TTC.

Service Delays Caused by the Inefficiency of Passenger Dynamics Into and Out of Subway Cars: door operation and passenger flow system proposal to solve overcrowding, blocking, and holding of subway doors.

Revising TTC Bus Interiors To Maximize Space And Boost Passenger Satisfaction: tackles the inaccessibility of the back of TTC buses due to a high-level of traffic.

Improving The Emergency Response System On The TTC Subways To Decrease Delay Time And Increase Safety: effective ways of lowering the gap between the occurrence of an emergency and acquisition of information by TTC officials are recommended.

The Bahen Centre lobby is located at 40 St. George Street. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 15.

Age of consequences

In the first week of April, amid reports of more job losses and government spending, came news that might have gained more traction were we not in the middle of a recession. The thin bridge of ice that links the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Antarctica shattered, leading many scientists to expect the shelf itself may soon collapse.

A report about the breakup of the ice bridge made the nightly news where only a few years ago, it might not have been considered worthy of comment. Two years ago Canada experienced a freakishly warm winter, and suddenly the environment was on everyone’s minds.

Climatologists became our knights in shining armour. Off they trod to international conferences to do battle with fossil-guzzling fossils such as the then-president of the United States and former Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, while valiantly asserting what may be one of the more redundant phrases in the English language: the science is real.

The battle is won. Sort of. How climate science is practiced is coming under attack again, and from an unlikely source.

Gwynne Dyer is among the most internationally successful Canadian non-fiction writers. A well-known commentator on military issues, when he spoke at U of T in December about his most recent book, he joked that he owes David Suzuki an apology for treading on his turf. Which isn’t to say that in Climate Wars Dyer doesn’t talk about military strategy—he does; it’s just that the world’s militaries are very interested in imagining models for how global climate change will also affect the world’s power structures.

In Dyer’s telling, it isn’t that the science isn’t real, it’s that it isn’t being realistic. Specifically addressing the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he said in December, “They [the IPCC] are often had for being too extreme in their models, but quite the contrary, they’re almost not adequately describing our reality in terms of the speed of change.”

Looking at the rate at which arctic sea ice has melted since 2005, for example, it appears that climate change is happening faster than predicted by even the most extreme model put forward in the 2007 IPCC report. “Here’s the problem,” Dyer knowingly intoned from on stage. “The actual observed changes in the last three or four years are so radical that they’re putting us above the top prediction: above 6.4 [degrees Celsius hotter than present] by the end of the century.”

A jump of 6.4 degreed Celsius in average global temperature is significant. To put it into perspective, Dyer says that he can imagine the world adapting to an increase of two degrees by the end of the century. But in the opening to each chapter in his book, Dyer imagines scenarios based on expert opinions about how global geopolitics will change with as little as a 2.8 degree increase in global temperature. It’s pretty scary stuff, not only for the polar bears: nuclear war between India and Pakistan, unrest in the United States due to the closure of the U.S-Mexico border, civil war in China, mass starvation in formerly well-fed countries such as Italy, the breakup of the European Union. This future world order is not an environment that will nourish healthy democracies or, for that matter, stable government in general, Dyer contends. We need to create appropriate agreements between governments now.

Dyer notes that from the 80 or so interviews he conducted for Climate Wars, “The conversations I had with the scientists generally had an undercurrent of panic running beneath them, because their perception is that the changes are happening faster than their [the scientists’] models predicted.” To crib the title of a source that he draws from frequently, right now is the age of consequences. Dyer states bluntly “the IPCC is getting it wrong,” with the effect that “we have much less time than we thought.”

An example: one of the more positive climate change scenarios presented by the 2007 IPCC report predicts that the Arctic Ocean will not be ice-free until 2060. Of the many reasons why arctic sea ice is significant, not least of these is that it acts as a reflector for the sun’s rays, effectively reducing the amount of energy and heat absorbed by the planet. Ocean water, on the other hand, absorbs heat. A less lucky scenario outlined in the 2007 IPCC report would see an ice-free arctic by 2040. Some scientists are now predicting that we will see an ice-free arctic by 2013.

Dyer suggests a number of reasons for why changes are happening much faster than the IPCC predicted. Among the reasons he gives are many unknowns—the effect that feedbacks will play in the climatic system, the growth rate of developing economies. But he also criticizes the panel itself on a number of fronts: everything from working by consensus and, he alleges, governments vetting the most worrisome findings out of the final report.

Dyer is not without his critics. Professor Bob Jeffries, an internationally recognized scholar on the arctic and a participant on the panel, says that while he appreciates Dyer’s concern for global climate change, Dyer also ascribes a different role to the IPCC than the scientists who partake in it. Jeffries contends that Dyer has gone over the top in his representation of the development of how the international scientific consensus takes shape.

Says the scholar: “I think what’s very important to say right at the outset is that the IPCC does not ever engage in policy issues—that is not our job. […] Why the IPCC is so successful internationally is that everybody recognizes it comes in on a level playing field and there’s no attempt to usurp authority, no attempt to lay down the law. It’s an attempt to give the best available blueprint from a scientific standpoint that can be available, which governments can use to make up their own mind, or the public at large can use.”

Jeffries notes that the sea ice example Dyer uses is a very good one for illustrating an unexpectedly fast rate of change, but that this increase is not true across the board when scientists look at other indicators.

“The IPCC, because it has such an international reputation for fairness and really attempting to on the one hand draw attention to what the data show you. On the other hand, there’s an attempt all the time to portray an accurate, fair presentation, with limitations,” he notes. Those drawbacks include not having all the data necessary to draw certain conclusions.

He maintains of Dyer’s criticisms regarding unkowns, “I think that’s a fair point, but it’s true of any review. It’s true of any science. There are big unknowns. […] We worked with the best information we had at the time we put this together.” Jeffries flatly denies that all the research in the 2007 report is over five years old, as Dyer said in December. There are references in the report from up to 2005 and early 2006.

The IPCC is aware of the criticisms, and has considered coming out with mini-IPCC reports on special topics such as that it published most recently on water. But the panel is also an immense process involving between 3,000 to 5,000 scientists over the five-year span it takes to write each edition of the report. Jeffries says that as far as Big Science goes, he has never been on a review committee so intensive as the IPCC: “It was simply totally physically and mentally exhausting.”

If the contention between Dyer and researchers such as Jefferies is what constitutes real climate science, Jefferies is unequivocal.

“I think we have to work with the best we’ve got, knowing jolly well that there are unknowns all the time,” Jefferies says, “and that is how scientific progress is made: you move forward bit by bit changing the conclusions as more data become available.”

Apart from the work of the IPCC, the two men may actually have fewer differences than those highlighted. The real issue is not of how science is conducted but about consciousness—ours—our own future, and who is going to make decisions for us. Both Jefferies and Dyer agree, we have less time than we thought.

Editorial: Down but not out

At the end of the year, it is customary practice for The Varsity’s outgoing Editor In Chief to write an editorial, dictating the hope and promise for future generations to come (who will stumble across this 2008/2009 bound volume en route to hooking up with a first-year copy editor in the archive room). If The Varsity is truly a record, the thoughts and aspirations of a generation in becoming, this editorial holds weight. So what can I say?

We’re fucked.

We’re the generation that’s fucked. We’re Tara-Reid-on-Quaaludes, three-sheets-to-the-wind-fucked. We’re Osama Bin Laden, caught-in-a-cave fucked. We’re “I’ve-got-an-exam-in-two-hours-and-I-can’t-even-remember-the-fucking-course-code” fucked.

Welcome to Generation Recession. Now skip off to grad school to delay your quarter-life crisis by an extra dime.

I’m writing this in Robarts right now, amongst the natives. The Commerce student beside me is asleep at his desk with his headphones on. He looks like a drooling angel. Aside from the fluorescent triangles and strains of hip hop from laptop speakers on too loud, this is a certain vision of utopia. The knowledge economy, doing what they do best. A quick walk-around survey of laptop screens belies Facebook chat and Wikipedia crib notes—but how can I judge? I’m currently YouTubing the last episode of America’s Next Top Model with a paper a week overdue. I’m fucked, but at least I acknowledge it.

What’s not okay is that our university administration is trying to cope with the recession through the just-passed Flat Fees program, a terrifying initiative on the way to a creepier, privatized regime, making us the Harvard of the North Korea. Forcing students to pay for courses they’re not even taking is not a way to sort out U of T’s finances, David Naylor. Some of us have to work while we’re in school. Some of us have to pay our own rent. And some of us live in basement apartments, surviving on ramen noodles, where we regularly find ourselves trying to write a philosophy paper after an eight hour shift, overhearing our roommates have especially vigorous sex with their boyfriends from North Bay. (I’m speaking entirely hypothetically here.)

My point is that while students consider it a privilege to go to U of T, U of T should consider it a privilege to have us. No one is more ambitious and less satisfied than a U of T student. We have less sex, more stress, and higher tuition than the students at Guelph, and are enjoying ourselves the least out of any school in Canada, according to Maclean’s anyway. What are we fighting for? Why suffer through lower marks, bigger classes, and more competition if the future’s hopeless anyway?

Shouldn’t I have gone to Trent?

U of T students might be down, but they’re not out. We’re resilient and smart enough to make our education work for us, even if the administration couldn’t care less. And that starts with following your passion, and trying to do some good for your community, no matter what the consequences are.

Throughout my five years of school and 100 issues editing The Varsity, I’ve thought long and hard about what it means to be a university student, and in particular, a student journalist. It’s an experience adults tell us we’ll never have again—the opportunity to study what we want, how we want to study it, and what’s more, our future is completely in our hands. Coming from a teeny surburban high school where I was lucky to have gym class, I wanted to be a cultural critic but didn’t know how. Luckily I found the (weird, hella incestuous) community of U of T journalism—first writing about music for the Innis Herald, working my way through The Strand, The Gargoyle to finally editing The Varsity—an experience that allowed me to pursue a career writing about the arts for SPIN, EYE Weekly, and the Village Voice. Could I have done it if I was plagued with student loans well into the thousands, with a full-time course load? Hell, I’m barely passing with my credit and a half.

My point is that your education doesn’t have to be what you learn in class. It can be many things—staying up all hours of the night to put out a magazine highlighting Toronto’s 25 artists 25 and under, fighting with your co-workers about whether to italicize an obscure scientific report, and working on something you really care about with the people you care about. (Thanks to the extremely dedicated and talented Varsity staff. I am lucky to call you both comrades and colleagues.)

When your dream dies, zombify that shit. Like Gene Simmons says, “Life is too short not to have delusional notions about yourself.” Here’s hoping yours can live on even in a time of economic disparity, Generation Recession. We’re rooting for everything we know you can achieve.

Yours truly,

Chandler Levack
Editor In Chief
The Varsity Newspaper
2007-2009

Hot Jocks

Alex Mclaren – Rugby

This fourth-year rugby star puts it simply: “I’m a 10. That’s what it comes down to.” But perhaps Mclaren should consider describing his appeal in letters, explaining that his entire team is “an interesting combination of all that good stuff: they’re really fit and muscular and then really smart because they all have A averages and get a bunch of academic awards.” When Mclaren isn’t playing rugby or acing his commerce courses, he runs his own record store, plays guitar, and dreams of putting his brains to good use by becoming a professor of economics.

Matthew Morris – Football

Morris was a key part of the Blues team that snapped the 49-game losing streak and was U of T’s sole representative at this year’s CFL Evaluation Camp. But this star defensive back and fourth-year history major actually started out playing baseball. “I always wanted to play football as a kid, but my parents didn’t want me to play […] they were scared of the violent nature of the game,” he says. Ever since Morris made the transition to football, he’s had the swagger, the confidence, the body, and the talent to be a hot jock and to pursue his dream of playing in the CFL.

Suzannah Moore – Rowing

This second year sociology student describes a hot jock as someone who is “determined, dedicated to the sport, and to their team members” which makes her the perfect candidate. She explains that rowing “is a team sport […] there’s a connection that you build with your teammates that I don’t think any other sport allows.” Moore shows her commitment by waking up at the “ungodly hour” of 4:30 a.m. for practice—a feat she’s accomplished ever since she began rowing in Grade 10 in her hometown of Peterborough. When she isn’t rowing, Moore dedicates herself to dance as a member of the Vic Dance team.

Erin McNeely – Basketball

Only a third-year physical education student, McNeely has already accomplished so much. Perhaps this is because she got a head start by skipping the second grade. McNeely’s played soccer, and has participated in dance and gymnastics, but it was basketball that stuck. “My dad played and really loves the game so that kind of egged me on,” she says. Lucky for us, McNeely was part of the Blues team that went to the CIS Nationals last year. While she dreams of returning to the nationals and opening her own physiotherapy practice, for now, NcNeely says, “I’m comfortable with myself. I like who I am. I like being an athlete, and I just kind of go with it.”

Nick Magalas – Basketball

Magalas, a fourth-year religion specialist, must have received his abdominals from a higher power. Magalas started playing basketball, his “one love” at five years old,

which he suggests might have been the work of “divine intervention.” This Burlington native attributes his choice of U of T to aggressive recruitment, and credits the University with “making a player out of him.” Magalas began the season with a 36-point performance against Ryerson, giving him the confidence to be “the man.” Born October 7th, Magalas is extremely balanced, on and off the court.

Viv Chan – Volleyball

Perhaps the best way to describe Chan is versatile. Chan excels at both indoor and beach volleyball, and is very committed to her sport. She plays as a libero, a defensive specialist that wears a different coloured jersey, and dubs herself “the backcourt general.” Trained as a setter and a left side hitter, Chan was summoned off the bench in a crucial match against Queen’s, leading her team to victory. A Sagittarius that aims high, this “tomboy with funk and style” wants to become a chemistry teacher.