Pedalling in the right direction

The City of Toronto recently released a report examining the possibility of an east-west bicycle route along Bloor-Danforth. This is an exciting possibility, but unfortunately it’s also a chance to continue the lacklustre design of bicycle infrastructure in our city. Toronto needs an east-west route, but is Bloor the ideal solution?

Bicycle lanes on major streets are generally contentious, and often of dubious value. The College and Davenport bike lanes are excellent examples of poorly planned bicycle infrastructure. On both streets, the parking lanes are so narrow that even when parked snugly against the curb, an exiting passenger will certainly give a door prize to any cyclist unlucky enough to be riding by. College Street in particular is frequently filled with delivery vehicles and parked cars, to the point where the lanes become useless.

I’ve heard many cyclists argue for increased enforcement to prevent bike lanes from being blocked. This argument seems strange to me. It’s plainly obvious that increased enforcement won’t stop cars from idling in the bike lane, just as the thousands of parking tickets handed out every year don’t stop people from parking illegally. Of course they may discourage it, but increased enforcement only alleviates the problem, instead of solving it. Segregated bicycle lanes are the only real way to keep bike lanes clear. Montreal has learned this lesson: many of its bicycle lanes are physically separate from car traffic and often feature their own traffic signals.

Major streets are not necessarily ideal sites for bike lanes. Vancouver has constructed bike routes on quieter streets parallel to major thoroughfares, giving cyclists a convenient route away from car traffic. With this in mind, bike lanes along Harbord and Wellesley might be the ideal solution for the downtown area. Bike lanes could be created on Bloor’s east and west extensions.

Whatever the plan, radical changes need to be made to Toronto’s bike infrastructure. The mysterious gap in Harbord’s bike lane between Bathurst and Spadina is a typical indicator that the city is not serious about accommodating cyclists with a coherent network. Bloor West until Ossington is not nearly as congested and much of the Danforth already possesses a yellow-lined “no man’s land” in the centre of the road, which could provide space for bike lanes if moved to the side.

One easy step the city could take to improve conditions for cyclists is a drastic improvement of its signed routes—quiet streets designated as bike routes which sound good in theory, but in practice fall short of their potential. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I visited Berkeley and saw their Bicycle Boulevard network, which implements the principle much more effectively.

Instead of ascribing meaningless numbers to the routes as we’ve done in Toronto, Berkeley has taken the common-sense approach and simply named them after the streets they run on. In place of dinky signs indicating a signed route, Berkeley’s streets feature large cyclist outlines painted on the road, along with coherent signage. This not only reminds drivers to be on the lookout for bikes, but also eases navigation for cyclists. In San Francisco itself, many streets have signs reminding drivers that cyclists have the right to a full lane and to change lanes to pass.

Thankfully, Toronto’s bikers will soon have a dedicated, membership- funded advocacy organization to press the city to implement bike-friendly measures. The brainchild of David Meslin, the founder of the Toronto Public Space Committee, the Toronto Cyclists Union will launch next June. A so-called “CAA for bikes” will provide its members with services such as roadside assistance, but its primary mission will be to lobby city councillors to make changes in their wards.

Ultimately, any bike lane on a major street is better than no bike lane at all, but the city must become more creative and dedicated in its installation of bicycle infrastructure. City Hall also needs to recognize that measures to encourage cycling and walking will come at the expense of cars. And that’s a good thing, considering a recent report by the Toronto officer of health found that 440 Torontonians die every year from car pollution. Unless the city seriously changes its attitude towards cyclists, superficial changes will only create the illusion of safety while continuing the destructive, auto-centric status quo.

Alex Gatien is the coordinator of Bikechain, U of T’s free, educational bicycle repair facility.

Hot Topic: The Toronto District School Board is debating black-focused schools to combat dropout rates. What do you think?

Clockwise from top left

Fahima, fourth-year Poli Sci and History: I’m against it, of course! It just resurrects the segregation issue. This is Canada! We’re not a melting pot, we’re a tossed salad! Lea, first-year European Studies: Are you kidding me? Sounds like a pre- U.S. civil war kind of mentality. That’s just reversing the progress we’ve made toward multiculturalism.

Amy, fourth-year Peace and Conflict Studies: The Ontario government should pay attention to the communities this will be affecting. If they decide that’s segregation, the schools should remain the same. If they decide that new schools will benefit their children, then they should institute it.

Lea, first-year European Studies: Are you kidding me? Sounds like a pre- U.S. civil war kind of mentality. That’s just reversing the progress we’ve made toward multiculturalism.

Aubrey, second-year Biochemistry: Complete segregation is too big a step. Creating more programs geared toward black students in existing schools would make them more involved without alienating them.

Have your say: Comment below

What I want from our new Student Commons

Well folks, the referendum on the new UTSU student centre passed. If you voted “no,” like me, you may be disappointed. But hey, that’s democracy for ya. Now the question is, since we’re going to pay for this shiny new building for the next 50 years, what do we want from it?

That answer will be different depending on whom you bother asking. But there are a number of ideas that our students’ union should think about.

Whatever happens and whatever gets included, the centre must emphasize public space. That means a big, open design. I’m thinking of a well-lit, well-furnished central space that takes up the entire first floor of the building. Think of how pleasant the Toronto Reference Library is when you first walk in: a small pond (not a bad idea for the student centre, now that I mention it) and natural light pouring in from overhead. Let’s face it, who doesn’t look better in the sun?

The centre should emphasize usable spaces, not just study spaces. If I want to study, I’ll go to Robarts and lock myself in that dungeon for three hours. But if I want to rehearse, or play a game of snooker, I want to come here. The focus should be on spaces that can be used to perform: soundproofed studios with pianos in tune; maybe even a dance floor with a barre and mirror. Or how about a studio for visual artists as well? All these things should be taken into consideration.

The centre should NOT be an athletic facility. We already have Hart House and the AC—there is no need to clutter up space with exercise equipment and sweaty bodies. The design and function of this building should focus on relaxation and repose, not pumping iron.

Under no circumstances should UTSU or any other political group be given office space in the centre. You all already got what you wanted, no need to rub it in my face every time I try to hang out there. So don’t even think about it. I want you to stay in the building you are in now, where I can keep a close eye.

The centre should be, above all things, beautiful. If we are to have a place to go and unwind and commiserate with our fellow students, it should be pleasing to the eye. Don’t worry about breaking new ground by copying the ROM’s Crystal. Instead, find a design that brings in natural light and uses elegant materials to convey the importance of this facility. Beauty is so often rated below functionality. The result is usually something like Robarts, which as I believe I already made clear, feels like a prison. But if the building conveys beauty, people will want to go there and spend time in it. Even people who, like me, voted against this project.

These are just a few ideas to consider. Oh, one last thing—if it’s going to be 24-hours, you’d better have coffee and cigarettes. Certified organic and fair-trade, of course.

In his own words: Micheal Lee-Chin

Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1951 to Chinese-Jamaican parents, Chin moved to Canada in 1970 when he received a scholarship to study civil engineering at McMaster University. He then went on to work at Investor’s Group before, in 1987, buying Advantage Investment Council, which had around $800,000 in holdings. He renamed the company AIC, now one of the largest mutual funds in Canada. He now lists as the 15th-richest Canadian on the 2007 Forbes List of Billionaires, with a reported net worth of $1.6-billion.

In his keynote address to 800 guests at the Weston Harbour Castle on November 9, 2007, Lee-Chin explained how he got to where he is today.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, good evening fellow entrepreneurs. This audience here reminds me of an evening in Toronto this past summer, where the Rolls-Royce and Mercedes Benz rolled up to the valet service in the parking lot. When this party got to its highest crescendo, the mischievous host said to his lieutenant, “Stop the music. Tonight, we’re going to have a contest and the contest will be between all the eligible bachelors. So bachelors, come on over here to the indoor swimming pool. We’re going to swim across the pool, and the first person to alight unscathed can either get my beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage or $1-million. So gentlemen, line up. On your marks! Set!” Just as he was saying “Go,” he said to his lieutenant, “Open the gates,” and in swam the killer sharks. He said, “Go!” No one moved. Go! No one moved, except this one fellow flailing away! Sharks jumping at his heels! Miraculously, he alighted from the pool unscathed.

I’m here tonight to say this to you: the killer shark that is chomping at every entrepreneur’s heels is complacency. My greatest fear as an entrepreneur is summarized in the following mantra: success begets complacency, begets failure. And so my fear is that I have to make sure, irrespective of how much success I may have at the time, I don’t become complacent, because complacency is anathema to success.

Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.” Isn’t this what we try to do every day as entrepreneurs? Care more, risk more, dream more, and expect more.

In 1962, my first day in high school—in Jamaica we went to high school at 10, 11. So I’m standing there, in my short, khaki pants, at attention and the Lieutenant-Governor of the province, was addressing us.

He said in a booming voice, “Boys and girls, opportunity knocks but once!”

A friend of mine eventually said “Look, he has got it all wrong. Every day there are opportunities. The key is, number one, to recognize them, and number two, more importantly, is to execute and do something about them.”

He also said, the Chinese definition of the word ‘crisis’ is an equation: Crisis equals danger plus opportunity. There cannot be an opportunity unless there’s a crisis. And there can’t be crisis without the opportunity. So it’s a matter of your perspective and attitude.

So entrepreneurs, I say to you: whenever there’s a crisis, ask yourself the question. You’ll feel awful, we all feel awful, you’ll tend to get paralyzed, to get negative. Remember the Chinese definition of the word. If there’s danger and you get paralyzed, you get depressed, it’s because you’re focusing on the danger component. Remember, there’s a second component, the opportunity.

What is necessary, I think, to be a successful entrepreneur? Aspiration. At age 10 I go out one day by myself, overlooking the harbour, and I’m thinking “How does the son of two clerks in a supermarket get to own the supermarket?” That is what I was thinking at 10. In other words, aspiration. We all have to have aspirations.

Aspiration transforms a set of ordinary people into extraordinary people. It provides mental and physical energy for people to convert plausible impossibilities into convincing possibilities. So entrepreneurs, make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.

Aspiration is number one. The second quality that a successful entrepreneur has to have is an enduring value system. When Warren Buffet was asked, “Warren, the most successful investor in the world, how come you’re so successful?” His response was, “To be successful, over the long run—and success won’t come overnight—to be successful over the long run doesn’t require a stratospheric I.Q—” Whoo! Thank God for that! “—To be successful in the long run doesn’t require a stratospheric I.Q., unusual business insights or any particular inside information. What’s needed, number one, is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions, and secondly, the ability to prevent your emotion from corroding your framework.” So we need, ladies and gentlemen, an enduring value system, one which is based on openness, honesty, integrity, meritocracy, fairness, transparency, and excellence. It will help us raise our confidence and give us courage to handle tough situations with confidence, and sacrifices will become easy and natural. That’s an enduring value system.

Successful entrepreneurs will need to know that persevering is a precondition to success. Calvin Coolidge once said, “ Persistence and determination are omnipotent.”

Performance—another precondition. *Performance leads to revelation. Revelation brings respect. Respect enhances power. *Humility and grace in one’s moment of power enhances dignity.

Another condition is leadership by example. In other words, role-modelship. Role models are a powerful catalyst in raising the confidence and enthusiasm and energy level of an entire generation.

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a three-step formula for success that will never fail you. Never fails, irrespective of what your endeavour is, whether your endeavour is to be the best editor, president, the best student, the best investor, the best parent, the best entrepreneur—this three-step formula will always work.

Step number one: identify a role model. Who before me the best in this job I’m trying to be successful in? Who before me has done the best job in the world? Identify a role model.

Secondly, kneel at your role model’s feet, and say, “Role model, please, I beg you, give me the recipe!” Study, watch videos, watch documentaries, read, get the recipe of success.

Thirdly, ladies and gentlemen, don’t put your fingerprint on it, don’t tweak it, don’t change it. Execute it faithfully until you’re better than your role model. Then you have license to change it, but until then, execute it faithfully.

The last precondition for success as an entrepreneur is that we all have to be risk-takers. As we all know, ships are safest in harbours, but they were not meant to be there. They have to sail long and hard, and face many stormy seas to reach the comfort of a desirable destination. Next, progress requires that you take calculated risks and bold moves.

How does a Jamaican immigrant whose parents were clerks in a supermarket come to Canada as an engineering student and within 1987 to 2007 achieve what you saw on the screen? When I look at that video, every time I think, ‘My God, how is that possible?’ Let’s talk about how it happened, from the get-go.

I started in 1977 as a personal financial advisor. I would go knocking on doors. That’s how I started. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to be a successful financial advisor, I have to lead by example. I therefore need credibility so that when I advise a client, they know that I’m not advising them for the commission to put my children through university or to buy a nice car. I’m doing this because I’m passionate about it.” So my job was to be the best investor in the world. So I started reading.

Remember the three-step formula? Identify a role model, get the recipe—so I started reading.

In 1979 I came across this book, it’s entitled The Money Masters, which chronicles the methodologies of the various money people in the United States. I came across a chapter on Warren Buffett in 1979 and I thought, “Eureka!” This, his methodology, I could execute it faithfully because I could train myself to see, taste, smell, hear, feel, recognize a great business.

Every single billionaire created his or her wealth according to these five principles.

I scanned the universe of what money managers were doing, and I superimposed their behaviour against what I call the gold standard, Buffet’s methodology. I noticed that money managers of mutual funds, by and large, displayed in their behaviour a sympathy for a concept called diversification.

Anyone own mutual funds here? When you go home tonight, look at your mutual fund, and count the number of stocks in your mutual fund, and you will see there almost 200 different stocks. That’s what I saw. That doesn’t make any sense. There’s a fundamental disconnect between what mutual fund managers are doing and what rich people are doing! Nobody ever became rich by owning 200 different companies, and a rich person understands what he or she owns. If you own 200 or 300 different businesses, it’s impossible to understand them all.

Understand. I’m going to dedicate my life to one methodology of investing that represents those this methodology, and that’s how they’re going to be differentiated. I’m going to persevere and convince everybody of the right way of investing, and that is what I did.

I started with a value fund. I bought a value fund in 1987 and I put $800,000 in it. I took a look in it, and it had 100 different stocks. I made a list of the 15 businesses that I understand. Over time, for the first five year, ladies and gentlemen, it was tough. What I recognized, early, was that everything has a gestation period: five years. You just have to get beyond five years. I don’t know where that number comes from, but you have to get by five years, and if you can get by five years, it’s like somebody says, ‘OK, you can come in.’ Right?

So I wanted to get by five years.

By the end of five years, we had the best five-year track record in Canada. Period. The assets started to pour in. In 1997 we had a record for sales in mutual funds that in Canada has not yet been broken: $4.3 billion in one year.

People began to realize that what we were doing was rational and they could see it in the performance.

But everything in life moves in cycles. In 1999 everybody wanted high-tech. Remember? Everybody wanted Internet, everybody wanted telecommunication, and as a consequence of that, nobody wanted the hardcore businesses like Loblaws, like TD Bank, like McKenzie Financial. The hard, cash-flow generators.

Everybody wanted Nortel, BCE that were creating at 200-times earnings.

You do not have a business, where the earnings remain constant, if it took you 200 years to get back your original capital, would you? No! That was what investors were doing when they paid 200-times price-earnings ratio in 1999 for BCE and Nortel. So we refused to get into those securities because we simply didn’t understand how to value them, and if you don’t understand what the value of a business is, stay away.

September 2, 1999 was a pivotal day in AIC’s history, because a Globe and Mail writer, his name is Andrew Willis—he still writes for the Globe and Mail—wrote “AIC Mutual Funds has no Bay friends.” I walked into the office that day greeted by this article:

At this time, said the article, nobody wants those old cash-flow generators. As a consequence, it claimed, my unit holders were redeeming. So, because he’s suffering from this redemption, this is how the article goes, he’s going to have to sell, and because he has a big share in those companies, when he sells, his behaviour is going to push those stocks down and drive the unit price of those stocks down. Which implies: “you better sell now before he sells.”

When I read that newspaper I thought, ‘My God, this is the end,’ and for the next hour I cried in my tea until it came to me. ‘Mike, come on. You didn’t really believe in the Chinese definition of the word “crisis:” danger and opportunity.’ So I changed gears. I though, ‘OK, where are the opportunities?’ Blank.

“Where are the opportunities?” Blank.

All of a sudden, it came to me. “Mike, you own the best securities in Canada, and because no one wants to buy before you sell, the price will be driven down…

“Great time to buy!”

That’s the opportunity. But where am I going to get the money to buy? I can’t use mutual funds to buy because I have to keep the cash from redemption. Two places: one, borrow from the bank. Two, your own private coffers. So I called up the bank.

I said, “Please, lend me $50-million.”

They said, “Sure, we’ll give you $50-million.”

I said, “Why don’t you put in 50 and I’ll put in 50 to make 100?”

That was September 2, 1999. The Globe and Mail called, they wanted my response. They said, “Mike, what’s your response?” I told them I’m going to buy.

I said, “Shirley, today I’m buying and I bought one stock. I’m going to load up on McKenzie because it’s cheap. It’s trading at 4.5 times earnings. So please put that in your newspaper.”

Ladies and gentlemen, your behaviour today is your history tomorrow. In those next six weeks I spent $100-million to buy one stock. It was a stock that I knew very well and I bought it because it was cheap, and it was cheap because there was a crisis and it was being given away.

Eight months later—so we now own 25 per cent of the company—eight months later, the company was in play to be taken over. We were the largest shareholder. CI dropped out when the bidding started—18, 19, 20, 21, 22—CI was a bidder, it dropped out—23, 24, 25—two companies were left: Investor’s Group and AIC.

Now I knew one thing: I started off at Investor’s Group as a financial advisor, and there was no way Mr. Desmarais, the owner of Investment Group, was going to let his lowly salesman to beat him. No way! So I let it continue: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, at 30, I said ‘Have it.’

So ladies and gentlemen, in summary, our unit holders from that day, September 2, when there was a crisis, our unit holders made $400-million, we made $100-million in profits on $50-million borrowed and $50-million of our own, over a year.

We closed in 2001. In 2004 I’m having a meeting with the journalist who had written the article years earlier. In Jamaica there’s this saying: I’ve been sharpening my machete. It was like I had been sharpening my machete for three years. So for three years I’m sharpening my machete to meet this guy.

I said, ‘Andrew, come to Burlington, I have a story for you.’

He said, ‘What’s the story?’

I said, ‘Come, please, quick.’

He came to my office. Right at that moment—if you were choreographing the moment for three years, it would have been perfect—right at that moment he looks across my right shoulder and said “Mike, what a beautiful Annex!”

I said, “Yes!” We had just put on a new annex to our campus. I said, “Yes! We’re going to call it the Andrew Willis Annex.”

“What! What do you mean?”

I said to him, ‘Andrew, you may not remember, but on Sept. 2, 1999, you wrote an article entitled “AIC disadvantaged: no friends on Bay Street.” You probably wrote that article on Sept. 1, you gave it to your editor, and it was printed on Sept. 2, and as far as you were concerned, [wipes his hands] ‘that’s the end of that, next article.’ That was chapter one. I had to deal with chapters two, three, four, five, six, seven.” And I told him the story I just told you.

He said, “What? You made $400-million for unit holders, $100-million for yourself, half a billion dollars on a 75-cent newspaper?”

I said, “No no no, Andrew, that was then! I made half a billion dollars then. $400-million for unit holders, $100-million for us, of which I took $20-million and built that Annex. That’s the Willis Annex. And I took $80-million and bought a bank in Jamaica. That $80-million is now worth $400-million. So really, we’re coming close to a billion from that 75-cent newspaper. Andrew, please, go out and write another article.”

Your behaviour today is your history tomorrow. And the good news is, who controls your behaviour? Who?

You control your behaviour, so what does that mean? You are the author of your history. Isn’t that true?

Just before I’m about to sign that cheque to buy the bank, I’m thought “My gosh, how is it possible for the son of two clerks in a supermarket to buy the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica? This would be tantamount to you buying the Royal Bank of Canada. How is that possible?” This is what I’m thinking.

I thought, “Mike, it is possible for many reasons that you have nothing to do with!”

Firstly, I was born in a country, Jamaica, that nurtured me into a confident person. I’m the product of the country in which I was born. I didn’t choose the country in which I was born. I was blessed.

Secondly, I was born to parents who had high expectations of me. Who led by example and had integrity, high standards. I didn’t choose my parents. I was blessed. I could have got somebody else’s parents, who had no morals, no standards.

And then thirdly, I didn’t choose the experiences I had growing up, in my formative years. I didn’t choose the experience I had when I came to Canada, that nurtured me into being a successful, confident person.

And lastly, I did not choose the era in which I had been born. Had I been born 200 years ago, I would not have had the opportunity to own. I’d have been owned. I’d have been a slave.

Make sure these enormous blessings that have been bestowed on you, you don’t keep them and just store them for yourself. May sure you share them with people born in countries where they are truncated, who have parents who don’t lead by example, who are misfits because they are born in the wrong era. Make sure you use the podium to help all of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. .

Editor’s Pick: Apache Beat – Tropics

In existence for barely a year, NYC’s Apache Beat first caught my attention back in March when they played an impassioned set at Keith Hamilton’s Pitter Patter Festival. Since then, the quintet has received praise in the British press, toured Europe and—just last week—dropped their first record, the Tropics seven-inch.

Founded by stylish and commanding front-woman Ilirjana Alushaj and dapper guitarist Philip Aceto, Apache Beat came together with the addition of drummer Neil Westgate, bassist Mike Dos Santos, and Christina Aceto on synthesizer to create music that they describe as “dark, destructive and beautiful.” Without a doubt, they do that here on A-side “Tropics.” Apparently-disjointed percussion and guitars are artfully melded by oozing synths, writhing bass riffs, and feverish vocals rapt in lament and wide-eyed admonition. To reclaim my own label, which was shamelessly lifted by NME to describe Apache Beat, “Tropics” is storm pop at its definitive best. But it doesn’t stop there. Flip the beautifully designed single over, and discover the equally praise-worthy B-side “Your Powers are Magic.” Less spastic than “Tropics,” this track retains the band’s signature popnoir aesthetic and introduces it to prepossessing, almost-orchestral, delay-heavy guitar work. From it a number of awe-inspiring moments arise: the introduction of the synth line in the second verse, the rising and releasing tension in Alushaj’s vocals, and the amazing, almost mathy interaction between the percussion and guitars make me think that their powers are magic. The result is a very unique song that melodically could actually pass as a dark, modern, Christmas carol. It’s not often that veritable creative forces and pure musicianship are this in-step with each other. Buy Tropics and add Apache Beat to your favourite music before they breeze through their way-too-limited pressing of 500 copies.

Rating:

Lecture Theatre

Hannah Moscovitch is not your typical English specialist. While daylighting as a student at U of T, she has also managed to cultivate a stylish and cerebral body of theatrical work. The Ottawa native—who originally trained as an actor at the National Theatre School—has a busy year ahead of her. Her latest play, East of Berlin, is currently enjoying a successful run at the iconic Tarragon Theatre, and in the new year, Factory Theatre will present a double-bill of her two past Summerworks hits, The Russian Play and Essay. The Varsity slipped into a vacant UC lecture hall to hear what this fascinating writer has to say about her first season-programmed production, what it’s like to watch a play evolve in rehearsal, and which U of T classes have made her think.

Settling into the back row of molded-plastic seats in UC161, Moscovitch apologizes for seeming a little tired. It’s no wonder: last night was the opening of East of Berlin after weeks of rehearsal. “Well,” she says sheepishly, “we went through most of a bottle of Scotch during the show—so maybe that has something to do with it.” Despite this admission, her green eyes are sharp as a tack, as are her answers.

“It’s fantasy-fulfillment,” she says when asked how the whole page-to-stage process is affecting her. “It’s been a really positive experience. You often hear that when you move to an established theatre that there are a lot of compromises the artist has to make. That hasn’t been my experience at all at the Tarragon. There were many writing discoveries that were made during the four-week rehearsal process—it really was such a collaboration between all of us. For instance, there’s a scene on the ramp at Auschwitz done in total silence. That was something that myself and the director, Alisa Palmer, had to figure out together.”

Developed within the 2006-2007 Tarragon Playwright’s Unit, East of Berlin has been a year in creation, from first draft to the production onstage now. “I pitched something completely different to [artistic director] Richard Rose.”

So, what is East of Berlin about, and where did it originate if not from the initial pitch?

“What led me to the topic was a series of interviews with the children of Nazis. One book was called Legacy of Silence, and the other was called Born Guilty. It wasn’t just the content that interested me. What got me was that the interviews were conducted by Jews. The context was fascinating. Often these children of Nazis had quite specifically wanted to do the interview because they knew the interviewer was Jewish. That became the subtext, and often, the text of the interview.”

Hannah goes on to explain about how broken by their parents’ guilt the interview subjects seemed. As she talks about these cases, it’s hard to imagine children being born in Germany, 1941. Obviously, in the midst of all the destruction and “resettling” of Hitler’s Germany, there would be birth. It seems like that paradox is what led Hannah to this unsettling material and inspired her to shape it into a cohesive story.

East of Berlin is a three-hander, presented by a young man raised in Paraguay after the Second World War. His father was not only a Nazi, but also a doctor at Auschwitz whose “treatments” were the stuff of nightmares. The other two characters are a childhood friend, Hermann, and a Jewish woman named Sarah Kleinman.

“Half the play takes place in Paraguay, and then shifts to West Berlin in the 1960s. The phrase ‘East of Berlin’ is a euphemism for Auschwitz, and that euphemism went into the language of Berlin Jews during the war—‘to go east’ became a code for going to your death.”

The research necessary to support her subject matter was daunting, but Moscovitch found herself up to the task. “Once I started, I realized there was so much I didn’t know about. What it would have been like to live in a Nazi enclave in 1960s Paraguay? Then there was the equally difficult task of returning to the other side of the story, which has taken on almost mythical proportions. I read about myself—because I had to—my history with regard to the Holocaust. That’s the backdrop.”

The comfort Moscovitch found from reading about the suffering in the concentration camps is remarkable. “I would end up on the streetcar reading The Nazi Doctors, or Psychology of Genocide—y’know, one of those books with huge letters on the front.” She laughs, describing the looks commuters gave her. “But I’ve certainly had moments, when watching it up on stage where I’ve thought ‘what possessed me to write about this?’”

Currently, Moscovitch is taking a semester off so that she can concentrate on her writing. Still, I’m interested to know which U of T courses may have informed her creative work.

“The education here is so astonishingly good. One of the best things is just being taught to think critically. The grounding in great systems of thought—like the first-year philosophy survey course, or contemporary literary criticism, and particularly the American literature course with Professor Paul Downes—I found that really influenced my thinking. There were lots of them—but those ones really stand out. It’s amazing how your mind just will not do things unless you’ve trained it to. We call it intelligence, but I believe it’s really just training our minds to work a certain way. In that firstyear philosophy class, reading David Hume— the need to take responsibility for your beliefs. That was definitely important for me.

“I think that if anything, coming to U of T as an artist already, you bring a certain irreverence that makes things a bit more accessible. There’s something about being an artist in the presence of art—you recognize that Shakespeare is unfinished. The director finishes it. It’s finished by the production. There’s a different angle into it. You bring that to the classroom.”

East of Berlin continues at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space until November 25, 2007. Student tickets are available for $18.

Freshly Pressed

Black kids – Wizard of Ahhhs (Independent)

While their name has prompted people to label them everything from genius to controversial, Black Kids certainly didn’t settle on their moniker to slip past the mainstream. First noticed at the Athens Popfest in Georgia back in August, the young quintet from Jacksonville, Florida have been catapulted into the indie-rock strato-blogosphere on the strength of their energetic live show and this lo-fiEP, which is available for free on their website (blackkidsmusic.com). Comparisons to The Cure, Arcade Fire, and the Go! Team are certainly evident here, but there are also fl ashes of Hard-Fi, Hefner (“Hurricane Jane”), and New Order (“I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”) on Wizard. In fact, “I’m Not Gonna Teach” is the centre of the EP. Its insanely catchy melody and start-and-stop choruses exemplify the Black Kids’ sound and will be stuck in your head, screaming for another play day after day (seriously). While all four tracks have the hooks to qualify as potential hits, the production still leaves something to be desired— and hopefully something to be fulfilled once these wiz kids hit up a real studio.—JB

Rating: VVVV

Soulive – No Place Like Soul (StaxRecords)

After almost 10 years in the music business, New York’s Soulive is still going strong with their eighth album, No Place Like Soul. Originally a trio, the band has undergone some major changes since their last record, which have resulted in the addition of a new member and the introduction of vocals into their instrumental repertoire. The result: a brand new sound and energy from one of the most original soul-funk bands out there. Blending a variety of genres including soul, reggae, rock, and even a little Motown, this album is truly indicative of a group that loves making music through and through. On the upbeat side, tracks like “Don’t Tell Me” and “One of Those Days” refl ect a talent for creating a feeling of liveliness and energy in the studio, whereas slower tracks “Mary” and “Callin’” open up a more mature and smooth side of the group. Overall, No Place Like Soul not only proves the credibility of Soulive as a band, but also keeps the genre of soul alive and refreshed. -Barbara Kowalski

Rating: VVVV

Jay-Z – American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)

Jay-Z is back, again. Only a year after his much-publicized “comeback” (translate: big letdown) album Kingdom Come, Jay-Z is trying to get his street cred back with American Gangster, a concept album inspired by the film of the same name. When it was announced about a month ago, Hova assured his fans this would be up there with Reasonable Doubt, his first, and best, album.

Is it that great? No, but nor is it terrible: it’s merely decent. Diddy and the Hitmen handle the bulk of production—which is both good and bad. Their beats have a consistent ’70s blaxploitation sound that fits the theme of the album, but some tracks are clearly better than others. The desperation of “Pray” bangs, but the celebration track “Party Life” finds the crew bored and listless. Much better is the exuberance on the Just Blaze-produced “Ignorant Shit,” which features a better-than-average verse from Beanie Sigel. Also good is the price-of-success track “Fallin’.” Unfortunately, the over-amplified organ beat on “Success” ruins the goodwill of an awesome Nas verse.

But how does Jay-Z stand up to all of this? He’s OK. His fl ow has deteriorated to the point where it will never measure up to his Reasonable Doubt high-water mark, but he does get some good lines in. He can go from almost great (“Chef, guess what I cooked? / Baked a lot of bread, but kept it off the books”) to broken and irritating (“If it wasn’t for the crime that I was in / But I wouldn’t be the guy that rhymes it is that I’m in”) in a single song. The worst part of the album by far is “Hello Brooklyn 2.0,” the ill-conceived collaboration with It Rapper Lil’ Wayne, which is just awful on all accounts. While the good outweighs the bad most of the time, it would be better if Hova actually, you know, wrote his lyrics down every once in a while.—Bartholomew Richards

Rating: VVV

Making a killing with kindness

“If you’re looking for a business opportunity, here’s the most under-served market in the world,” said Craig Kielburger, founder of the charity Free the Children. Absolute silence.

That market: “People who live in desperate poverty and need,” said Kielburger, who was, for the remainder of lunch on Saturday, keynote speaker at the Impact 2007 Leadership Conference, billed as “Canada’s premier entrepreneurship event.”

The crowd is a bunch of young entrepreneurs itching to put what they’ve learned over the past day and a half to good use in their fi rst, second, third, or maybe their fourth business venture— and some of these people aren’t even out of high school.

Kielburger defi nes an entrepreneur as “someone who brings an innovative model to create social change,” and claims Mother Teresa as “the quintessential entrepreneur.”

Throughout the conference, the organizers tried to break the stereotype of CEOs as suits (despite the formal dress code).

On Friday, George Roter, CEO of Engineers Without Borders, spoke about applying business principles to a charity. According to Roter, “entrepreneurship is an approach, not an end.”

Such Zen-like business philosophies were common over the two days. Successful CEOs were treated like gurus. Admittedly, conferences, whether for entrepreneurs or Star Trek afi cionados, can be a surreal experience for an outsider. Business conferences are no different for having their own cultures, their own celebrities, their own lingo. Business schools have their own cheers.

“Man, if this were West Coast…” said one of the Albertan delegates after the banquet. West Coast biz conferences are known, surprisingly, for being more laid-back and booze-soaked. Here at our East Coast conference, everyone’s heading back to their rooms to work on case studies.

Kielburger put social responsibility in an economic context. Last year, the world population spent $15 billion on perfume—three times as much money as it would take to provide universal literacy, he claimed. We spent the same amount on makeup as would take to eliminate hunger. Stopping the spread of AIDS? Less than Europe spent on ice cream in a single year.

Kielburger isn’t arguing that we stop buying these things, but that we do have the resources to solve the world’s problems. Throughout his speech, he returned to his refrain that such a change can only be effective if expressed at the ballot box, the cash register, and the boardroom.

To a packed house of aspiring CEOs, those that many would consider at the forefront of me-culture, the co-author of From Me to We argued that “helping others is good for the bottom line. What’s good for the heart is good for the wallet.”

Is he trying to redefine selfishness?

“More than that,” he said when we sit down for an interview—he’s trying to “redefi ne the self.” There’s a myth in North America, argued Kielburger, that we’re more independent than those in developing countries, but “we don’t grow our own clothes, we don’t make our own food. We’re more dependent on others here than [they are] anywhere else.”

In his keynote remarks, the recent U of T grad provided examples of charitable businesses and charities with business principles. Take Participant Films—which produces socially responsible films, such as North Country, Syriana and Nobel-maker An Inconvenient Truth—and the Institute for One World Health, what would strike most as an oxymoron: a not-for-profit pharmaceutical company.

“It’s a charity,” says Kielburger, “it’s non-profit, but it brings in those business principles.” The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is hiring, first and foremost, MBAs.

For some, the greatest challenge comes not in the form of case studies or, for that matter, taking over the world, but over dinner Friday evening. The occasion: a banquet at the Westin Harbour Castle, where Michael Lee- Chin, the major donor to the ROM’s Crystal renovation is giving his keynote address. Two delegates’ vegetarian option arrives. Looks good to me, but—

“Omigod, what is that?”

“I think I just got served a bowl of rice.”

“Try it. What’s it like?” Some tentative poking at with fork follows.

“It’s kind of mushy, but kind of grainy, and it tastes really cheesy.”

Opined the other vegetarian at the table: “It’s like they were trying to make Indian food.”

The first vegetarian picks up the sprig garnishing her plate. “And what’s this?”

“I hate it when food is decorated,” pipes in one of the high schoolers.

The next morning, as I’m riding the escalator on my way to a breakout panel hosted by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, I catch the tail end of a conversation between two older delegates, one of whom had just attended the Social Etiquette in a Business Setting workshop.

“It was a good reminder,” I overhear the woman say. “I went to the banquet last night and some of the kids didn’t have a clue.”

Oh well. Today we take over the world. Tomorrow, risotto.