We’re richer than they think

Toronto’s rich are getting richer and its poor are getting poorer— such are the findings of a study on the city’s economic divide done by U of T’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies. Since 1971, rich neighbourhoods have seen average incomes rise, while 36 per cent of Toronto’s poorer neighbourhoods have seen them fall by 34 per cent.

The culprits? “Changes in the economy, in the nature of employment (more part-time and temporary jobs), and in government taxes and income transfers,” says the report. This criticism sounds like the typical indictment of capitalist economics for leaving employment up to the market and cutting social programs, while lowering taxes for the rich.

Before we go and lead the proletariat into revolution, remember that there is little evidence that this polarization is caused by structural inequality or a lack of upward mobility among the general populace. It is far more likely a reflection of Toronto’s role as a top destination for new immigrants.

The first problem with the report’s argument is that the study focuses on the average income trends of Toronto neighbourhoods, not of individuals. When it comes to poverty, we should care about the plight of people, not of arbitrary geographic areas. That said, the fact that average income in a certain area went down doesn’t say anything about personal welfare. Upon closer inspection, there’s actually nothing in the study to back the claim that poor individuals have gotten poorer.

For example, picture a neighbourhood that initially contains a mix of high and low income residents. Now, let’s say that the richer residents move away and an influx of residents with lower incomes arrive. Statistically, average income drops. But this doesn’t mean that individuals in the neighbourhood are getting any poorer. In fact, who’s to say they didn’t get richer? It’s entirely possible that those who stayed in the neighbourhood saw their incomes rise, while newcomers improved their situation relative to their place of origin.

Since Toronto is the primary destination for new immigrants, there is good reason to think that this is what’s happening. It’s no coincidence that the neighbourhoods classified as poor also have the highest concentration of immigrants. Of the population in these areas, 62 per cent is foreign-born and 42 per cent arrived in Canada only after 1981. In 1971, native-born Canadians were the predominant group.

Recent immigrants face high language barriers, and are often disconnected from the social networks necessary to find high-paying employment. This makes their labour market incomes lower than the average Canadian. Newcomers are also typically concentrated in the same neighbourhoods, due to the presence of shared languages and familiar cultural products like food and entertainment. It would be nothing short of a miracle if average incomes in these localities stayed constant over the period studied in the report.

The good news is that, according to a 2003 Statistics Canada study, “initial [immigrant] settlement is in disadvantaged immigrant enclaves from which longer-term, more successful migrants subsequently exit as they purchase homes in more affluent neighbourhoods.” But as these established immigrants move away and are replaced by more recent arrivals, neighbourhood average incomes, of course, drop—reinforcing the illusion of the poor getting poorer.

Beneath this bleak tale of neighbourhood inequality is a serious success story. Over the past few decades, hundreds of thousands of people from less fortunate places around the world came to Toronto in search of a better future. Migration significantly improved their opportunity and standard of living. As they settled in, their incomes rose and many moved out of ethnic ghettoes, only to be replaced by a new group of people looking to do the same thing.

There is an inevitable trade-off here. We can’t accommodate a massive influx of new immigrants and expect our demographics to remain constant. Torontonians have shown that they believe in the right of people to come here in search of a better life, but this makes our city’s neighbourhoods less economically similar, as waves of newcomers slowly adjust to life in Canada. In the end, we need to stop focusing so much on income equality and ask a fundamental question: are the living standards of individuals rising over their lifespan? If the answer is yes, we should be proud.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. considering switch to uFC

2007 was a renaissance year for the sport of boxing. It brought back old fans, created new ones, and gave us a sports star that gets people talking. When Pretty Boy Floyd jumped into our televisions he created 2.4 million PPV buys for his first fight of ‘07, and over 500,000 buys in the states alone for his December bout. Sure there were better knockdowns, but unlike past years, Floyd Mayweather Jr. never failed to deliver the goods.

Rumours of Maywhether plunged inside a cage to fight in a Mixed Martial Arts match abound. The undefeated six-time world champion in five different weight classes, he also earns over 30 million per match. His self appointed nickname is “money” and UFC will never be able to cough up that sort of dough now.

Even if officials find 50 million for a Mayweather fight, we still won’t see him in a UFC cage as a fighter. While skeptics might see professional boxers as intellectual lightweights (thanks to multiple concussions), Mayweather is to the contrary. He understands that he is in a business where a small slip up equates to being hurt seriously. No matter how supremely gifted an athlete is, it’s a struggle to switch from your chosen sport and try competing at the highest level. That clip of Michael Jordan striking out flashes in our minds. And unlike baseball, you can’t afford to swing and miss several times in a UFC fight. Getting an armbar placed on you and having your limb broken would probably hinder a Jordan-esque comeback in boxing as well.

What would Floyd prove by doing this? What would he gain? As boxing royalty, he is the sports’ biggest draw, plus his style doesn’t suit MMA. If you plan on boxing your way to victory, then you need to be a knockout artist. Floyd is a boxer in its purest sense, he dances around ring throws to blow extremely accurate punches. Entering a sport where clinches won’t get broken up, use of elbows won’t disqualify, and falling on your back will not result in a timeout means Mayweather won’t be converting to Mixed Martial Arts anytime soon. The only way you will see him inside a cage is if Mayweather decides there is money to make and starts promoting young, talented, destined for MMA fighters.

I don’t know where people get these crazy ideas. Maybe its their desire to see that brash, arrogant, cocky, money flaunting Mayweather get beaten up. But that’s not going to happen inside the ring anytime soon.

Hot Buzz: Bands making it big in 2008


This pervy, pop trio of Parisian hipsters made this list last year, and after 365 days of playing footsie and looking deep into the eyes of mainstream success, these fresh-faced indie swingers are preparing to pony up and do the deed big time. Combining electro synths and drum sounds with tried-and-true, semi-ironic pop-rock riffage, the Teenagers resist a conventional label, although they tend to tour with the likes of Crystal Castles, Klaxons, and These New Puritans. Propelled in equal parts by their catchy tongue-in-cheek lyrics (these tend to either graphically recount drunken sexcapades or reference hilarious pop-culture “icons” like poor Jared Leto and Shannen Doherty) and by their signature remixes for buzz bands GoodBooks, Lo-fi FNK, and Black Ghosts, the Teenagers seem poised for big things. While 2007 saw Michael, Dorion, and Quentin drop a few tracks on limited-edition import 7” vinyls, 2008 will see the Teens’ first North American single, “Fuck Nicole,” land Jan. 18 courtesy of Montreal’s Summer Lovers Unlimited label. Following in March will be the climactic release of their first full-length LP, Reality Check, which will catalogue glossier versions of staple singles “Homecoming,” “Starlett Johansson,” and “Sunset Beach,” alongside brand new hits-in-waiting “Streets of Paris,” “Love No,” and “French Kiss.” An exclusive North American EP, The World’s Not Fair, will also be available in March on Summer Lovers. Watch for the Teenagers to make their Toronto debut as part of their first North American tour Jan. 27 at The Social. —JORDAN BIMM



If The Coast’s rising fortunes are any indication, 2008 should be a breakout year for this brit-influenced Toronto quartet. (OK, full disclosure: singer Ben Spurr is also one of The Varsity’s comment editors, but read on and you’ll understand how we just wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t tell you about these dudes!) After having their twinkling tune “All Farewells” featured in an episode of MTV’s Newport Harbor, the Coast have recently inked record deals in the U.S. and the U.K. and will soon be on tour with Tokyo Police Club. In March they’ll be releasing their debut LP and playing multiple engagements at Austin, Texas’s South by Southwest music festival. Catch up with The Coast at their next Toronto show Jan. 26 at the El Mocambo opening for New York’s Ra Ra Riot.—JB



The New York City hype machine has set its sights firmly upon Vampire Weekend, whose combination of Afrobeat and classical influences produces a breezy type of indie rock (playfully dubbed “Yacht Rock” by some scribes) that has gotten the blogs buzzing and left ears perfectly intact. They’ve already begun an extensive touring schedule, and 2008 promises more of the same, with a spring North American tour already mapped out. Their self-titled debut is set for release Jan. 29 on the red-hot XL Recordings, allowing critics everywhere to prepare four-star ratings for rapid deployment.—ROB DUFFY



While landing the cover spot on NME’s New Noise 2008 issue doesn’t necessarily guarantee fame or fortune, it’s certainly a good sign. A five-piece out of Oxford, Foals combine math rock with electro-pop to form a catchy, reverb-washed wall of sound. With their debut full-length Antidotes, due sometime in March, Foals are set to become the flag-bearers for the next wave of dance rock to hit North American shores. Their recent MySpace blog claims: “We’re going to take all them motherfuckers down and we’re going to destroy everything and everyone including probably ourselves.” It’s a cheeky assertion, of course, but it remains a distinct possibility.—RD


Talking Heads: Do you pay too much for required textbooks?

Clockwise from top-left

Steven, 1st-year Industrial Engineering and
Mizuk a, 1st-year Chemical Engineering:
Her—Me too!

Aroni, 1st-year Economics, Yeah. I buy
used textbooks ’cause I can’t afford
new ones. They’re half price and they’re
still too much.”

Kevin, MBA, Yeah, of course I do. The
real problem is all of these multiple
editions that add no value.

Michelle, 3rd-year Commerce, Yeah!
I do! Some of them don’t even have a
buy-back program ’cause they go into a
separate edition. If students can’t use the
old textbooks, the university should be
responsible for buying them back.

Mouthing off

The prospect of Maureen Hunter’s latest, Wild Mouth, had me gritting my teeth before the curtain even went up: another Canadian farm drama featuring prairie winds and thick skins. It proved to be more than that, although it took its time.

Wild Mouth is set in Saskatchewan, 1917, bringing together hardworking British ex-pats the Reids and the visiting Anna McGrath (Sarah Orenstein)— sister of Reid paterfamilias, Logan (Ian D. Clark). The plot follows Anna as she tries to cope with the loss of her teenage son to the killing fields abroad—coping being a relative term. Anna’s presence stirs up much more than she intended as she tries to provoke the inert Reids (who have also recently lost a son in France) to some level of emotional awareness. There’s also swarthy Ukrainian farmhand Bohdan (Oliver Becker), whose presence creates so much sexual and emotional tension in the household that he and Anna’s mutual contempt that scars them irrevocably.

Although the setup is promising, Anna’s “wild mouth” isn’t all that wild, and the conflict surrounding the idea of repression versus expression travels in frustrating circles—the only marked difference is whatever farm chore happens to be completed at the time. Speaking of the farm, much of the action surrounds everyday activities like the eating of dinner, chicken-plucking, and pig-slaughtering. Why? Perhaps it’s to show how repetitive things are on the prairie, how predictable and inescapable the daily banalities are that lead to conflict and violence on any scale.

A scene at the conclusion of act one veers dangerously toward Carrie territory, and a climactic scene near the end of the second fares much worse thanks to R.H. Thomson’s confusing and ineffective staging. Thomson, perhaps unsure of how to make use of Yannik Larivée’s beautiful, if not unusual set, stages much of the play crammed into corners, failing to use the dynamic space afforded to him. Constructed out of precisely cut wood planks, the design consists of a box within a box, creating a forced perspective that focused eyes on two converging spots. As my companion pointed out post-show, the whole thing resembled the inside of an antique camera—much like the one that Anna uses throughout the action to capture the bleak landscape around her.

Despite the elegance of Hunter’s writing, Wild Mouth could have benefited from a good nip/tuck. Certain characters border on redundant—like the two Reid children, Claire and Jamie, who fail to do much more than watch the action happening around them as if they were at a ping-pong match. David Fox was made to play Aloysius, and he does it with great sensitivity, but both his character as well as Brenda Robins’ Roberta Reid needs more attention to detail written into their characters. As they stand, they’re not much more than devices to the plot—and what Wild Mouth requires is sharper characterization to make that wildness hit the prairie air.

Wild Mouth has powerful moments, posing interesting questions about war, family, desire, and inequality between immigrants, but it falls into the trap that many distinctly Canadian plays suffer from: a dull sobriety that squeezes any vigour from a subject (farm livin’ and war-hatin’), tending towards talking head syndrome straight from the get-go. And it should be added; the utterly cheesy final image of Aloysius playing a mournful tune on the violin would have had a lot more kick had Fox actually moved the bow across the strings. Or better yet, kept him offstage, leaving something to the imagination.

Books, by hook or by crook

With the winter term of classes only a week old, students at U of T, as across North America, are flocking to bookstores in search of required reading. As an inevitable result, students’ budgets are busting at the seams. On average, undergraduate students spend approximately $1,000 per year on textbooks. When all is said and done, the price of textbooks represents five to six per cent of the cost of education.

Textbooks are more expensive than novels, non-fiction, and other published material for a variety of reasons. Expensive binding and paper can drive up costs, as can detailed colour graphics and the so-called supplemental materials packaged alongside, which are often used to justify price hikes. Demand for textbooks is much lower than for mainstream books, further increasing their price as publishers must charge a high premium on the limited- run books in order to make their desired profit.

Third- and fourth-year textbooks are often much cheaper than for first year courses. This is in part due to the fact that first-year instructors are often not tenured faculty members. CD-ROMS, instructor packs and other supplementary materials are very handy tools for such instructors, but unfortunately it is students who pay for such materials.

U of T’s campus bookstore gets about 22 per cent of each book’s sale price as profit, compared to publishers’ 64 per cent.

Nevertheless, the cost of textbooks at campus bookstores has students seeking more affordable options. Many are using websites such as Ebay and Amazon.ca more than ever before. The benefits of shopping online vary on a case-by-case basis, however. Some textbooks are significantly less expensive, but others are priced exactly the same or higher than those on campus.

Students have also taken it upon themselves to provide each other with textbooks. Founded in 1998, the Toronto University Book Exchange provides students across the GTA a place to buy and sell textbooks. Its website, tusbe.com, is run by students, and has grown at a tremendous rate in the past few years, climbing from 10,000 book sale posts in 2002 to over 75,000 in 2007.

David Mazza, a fourth-year biology major, has used TUSBE for two years and said he loves it. “I can find all the books I need at a fraction of the price at the university bookstore,” he enthused.

High prices have even spawned an underground textbook market. Enterprising students of shaky ethics have found a profitable industry in selling illegally photocopied textbooks. Photocopied textbooks show up on TUSBE, too, sometimes as cheap as $25—still a large profit for their manufacturers.

In December, Canadian students, bookstores, and university administrators took part in the National Roundtable on Academic Materials. The first of its kind, the conference addressed concerns over the costs of textbooks, and found that students, who can be counted on to buy the textbooks, are only a minor factor in publishers’ calculations.

David Simmonds, VP university affairs for the University Students’ Council at UWO told the Gazette “One of the things that came out of the conference […] was that students have never been acknowledged in the textbook industry as the primary consumer of textbooks.”

With prices growing almost as fast as alternative options and piracy, it remains to be seen who will get the last word in the textbook industry.

Why is studying climate change important?

In order to understand why science is necessary, one needs to understand the history of humanity and the universe we inhabit.

In the beginning, dust clouds existed in a vast cosmic ocean. This dust occasionally condensed and formed stars and planets. After millions and millions of years, some exploded. They died, but not wastefully: atoms fundamental to life were formed in these high-energy explosions, including carbon, oxygen, and sulfur. The clouds resulting from millions of similar explosions all over the universe condensed again, forming other stars and planets. The sun was created out of this material along with our little blue planet, Earth.

If we wanted to fit all of these events in a calendar year with Jan. 1 representing the first dust cloud appearing in the cosmos and 11:59:59 p.m., Dec. 31 representing the present, the formation of the earth would occur in mid-August. Life soon emerged, its origins unknown. At the beginning of November, the first multi-cellular organisms appeared. On Dec. 17, the first vertebrates emerged, and the first dinosaurs appeared on Dec. 24, just in time for Christmas. They lived for six days of our hypothetical calendar. The first humans arrived on December 31 at 9:24 p.m. In the grand scheme of things, the ancient Egyptians built their great pyramids at 11:59:50 p.m., ten seconds ago. Columbus discovered America only one second ago.

Everything we know about humanity—every civilization, war, and historical event—makes up just the last 15 seconds of this condensed calendar. Dinosaurs lived on earth for six full days, yet we’ve been living here for only 15 seconds. However, there is a critical difference between us and the dinosaurs—as agents of change, we are way more powerful than any other species that ever existed on this planet. We have the power to conceivably destroy all life on earth within hours by using atomic weapons. We have the ability to change the climate of this planet within milliseconds on this calendar. This stems from our ability to think, reason, and figure things out. We discovered that the Earth is not flat, that the sun does not rotate around the Earth, and that the natural forces that exist on this planet are universal—gravity exists throughout the universe. In light of these revelations came a startling realization: we are not unique in the eye of the cosmos. Our mighty sun is a tiny grain of sand in a vast cosmic beach.

With time came a tool that helped humanity describe the natural world. This tool allowed us to understand life systematically, and draw conclusions based on evidence and observations. This tool is the scientific method.

As an educated society, dedicated to passing knowledge on to our young, we have this great tool firmly in hand. Not only can we make new discoveries about our awesome universe, but we can sustain our environment and the myriad life forms it contains. Looking at our calendar, one thing is clear: we have no time to waste. The rate of destruction of our planet is way more rapid than any species, including us, can adapt to. Within decades we are destroying this unique planet that has flourished with life for over billions of years.

We can still change the fate of our planet, and hope to experience a second year on our cosmic calendar. We can use the power of science to fix our mess. It is a job of special concern to current science students that will become future scientists—but only if we believe that it is up to us to change our fate by applying our accumulated knowledge. Society must not allow a minority of corporations to distract us from this mission. It may require investing in a plan that takes thousands of years to restore things as they once were—affected ecosystems need evolutionary timescales to regenerate themselves. The principle concern is that we have to foresee the benefit of doing this for the next generations, rather than continuing the shortsighted path humanity has been on up until now. We are running out of time to make things right.

Katz’s crew catch Gee Gees

With RMC and Queen’s set to visit the Athletic Centre this weekend, the Blues will be looking to build on momentum from an impressive 71-65 victory over the Ottawa Gee Gees. RMC and Queen’s are two teams going in opposite directions. While RMC currently sits last in the OUA East with an 0-12 record, Queen’s (8-4) is in the upper tier of the division, and challenging Toronto (9-3) for third.

“We played both of them last weekend.” said Blues centre Nick Snow. “This year RMC hasn’t been that strong as in the past, but Queen’s is a pretty good team, they’re right behind us, so we expect another good game.”

The Blues hope there is no letdown following tough weekend match ups against the Carleton Raven’s (ranked number one in Canada) and the Ottawa Gee-Gees, second in the OUA East division. Against the Carleton Ravens, the Blues lost 86-70 in a game that was dominated by poor officiating. The Ravens were allowed to go to the free throw line an astonishing 42 times, compared to only 24 for the Blues. It was a disappointing game, but there was no shame in losing to the number one team in all of Canada. Nick Magalas lead the Blues with 28 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s early foul trouble. Starters Nick Snow, Paul Sergautis, and Mike DeGiorgio fouled out of the game with more than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Blues were also badly out-rebounded in this game 38-16.

In Saturday’s match against Ottawa, Toronto faired much better. Ottawa (10-2) is currently second in the OUA East division, just ahead of Toronto (9-3). The who’s who of Canadian basketball were in attendance for this meeting of division rivals. Members of Toronto Raptors brass, including head coach Sam Mitchell and assistant Jay Triano, took in Saturday’s game on a rare night off for the pro-team.

“I think you’re seeing two of the better teams in Canada right now,” said Triano the former coach of the Canadian national team. “It’s a hard fought battle and both teams play very good defense, they run good sets, both very well coached.” Triano, who worked with Blues head coach Mike Katz on the Canadian team, was duly impressed by the talented home grown players from both squads: “There are a lot of guys that could play on the national team. If they keep working hard, they have a chance” said Triano.

It was an important game for the Blues, not the least because of who was in attendance. Under this scrutiny Toronto struggled early in the game, missing four of their first five shots. After a couple of early foul calls (one of them a debatable blocking foul on Paul Sergautis), coach Mike Katz brought in sub Nick Magalas with four minutes left in the first quarter, providing a spark.

Ottawa’s team was clearly more athletic than the Blues, with a few well-executed windmill dunks during warm up. But the Blues would stick to their game plan throughout, and it eventually paid off. With the first quarter winding down and the Blues trailing 11-4, Rob Paris had a block on Gees Gees forward Jacob Gibson-Bascombe under the basket, then promptly hit a three pointer on offense to cut into Ottawa’s lead, and get the Blues faithful in attendance, back into the game.

Ottawa’s defenders made it difficult for the Blues to get much going inside, so they had to rely on the three pointer early in the first half, hitting 10 of them. Rob Paris had three three-pointers in the first half to keep the team within striking distance, but sat out for most of the second as the team stayed with Nick Magalas at the off guard. The Blues entered the half trailing only 36-33.

In the second half, the Blues shooters got hot and began to pour it on against the Gee Gees. Mike DeGiorgio, who finished the game with 14 points was a major contributor. He hit a three at the seven minute point of the third quarter, to give the Blues a 40-38 lead.

With the score tied at 45, and inbounding the ball from behind the basket, DeGiorgio took a Nick Snow screen and hit a difficult fall-away jumper from the top of the key, giving the Blues the narrow two-point lead once again.

The emotional turning point occurred with three minutes left in the third quarter, when Paul Sergautis got fouled hard, but not before completing a fine three-point play. The Blues took a 50-45 lead, and didn’t look back.

In the fourth quarter, Ahmed Nazmi helped put away the game with a couple of three-pointers down the stretch. Nazmi who finished with a team-high 22 points, hit a three pointer with nine minutes left in the game to give the Blues the 57-44 lead. Our team’s stellar defence held Ottawa, who had been averaging 77 points a game, to only 65 points.

Trailing 68-63 with less than two minutes left to play, the Gee Gees tried to put on the full court pressure, but a Nazmi three pointer brought the score to 70-63. “I think in the second half we came out and really got into them.” said fi rst year forward Andrew Wasik following the win. “We focused on defending them, and just working as hard as we can because we play a similar style of game to them, so rebounding and defense, and will is important.”

It was a great win, and having the Raptors coaches there seemed to provide an emotional lift for the Blues. The usually glib Mike Katz was even more speechless after the game, only managing to comment: “We knew that we had to have a good second half, and I was really happy that we won the game. If Sam Mitchell doesn’t show up today, we don’t win that game.”