CIUT to shack up at Hart House

U of T’s campus radio station won’t have to go far when it decamps to its new home at Hart House. CIUT 89.5 FM’s current digs at 91 St. George Street, a Victorian house hugging the Rotman School of Management, will be demolished next year to make way for Rotman’s expansion.

The Governing Council’s planning and budget committee approved the $92 million Rotman’s project, including $204,000 to relocate CIUT, last September. At the time, station manager Brian Burchell had expressed qualms about the uncertain future of CIUT, which was to move to a building near McCaul and College, or to the planned Student Commons.

Now CIUT is set to stay at the heart of campus. Ken Stowar, CIUT’s program director, said the Hart House Board of Stewards passed the motion about six weeks ago. ““The amount of square footage is about the same,” he said of the new space. “But the structure is more advantageous to operating studios in close proximity to each other.”

An in-house memo has CIUT taking over Hart House’s unoccupied warden’s apartment on the second floor and a third of the Map Room on the first floor, said porter David Cunningham. The Map Room will host a glassed-in studio and reception, possibly with live music and a studio audience.

Stoward said that the move, tentatively scheduled for 2009, won’t affect broadcasts. “You cannot be off the air,” he said. “We will have to set up a live studio at Hart House while we’re still at 91 St. George.”

As for the Sexual Education Centre, CIUT’s housemate, it will head to the Student Commons, said Elizabeth Sisam, AVP of campus and facilities planning. The construction timeline for the Student Commons is yet to be set, according to Sisam, who said the planning report will be up for approval in the fall. Though interim housing for the SEC hasn’t been discussed, director Mike Markovich said he isn’t concerned about finding a location before the new year. “We’re certainly curious,” he said. “But we’re not worried.”

Gastronomy

You grab one in the morning to start your day, one for those late nights studying, one before you work out, and one just for a buzz. While many people prefer to get their jolt from the more conventional coffees, teas, or sodas, energy drinks have their fair share of consumers too.

What is an energy drink? It’s usually a carbonated beverage containing a large amount of sugar and caffeine, as well as guarana (a natural caffeine source) and taurine (an amino acid first isolated in bulls). Many energy drinks feature additional ingredients or nutritional supplements such as antioxidants, herbal stimulants and brain-enhancing drugs called nootropics.

The concept originated in Thailand, where rickshaw drivers would drink a beverage loaded with taurine to boost their strength. Red Bull was inspired by the Thai beverage, introduced to the United States in 1997. While an eight-ounce cup of coffee contains about 105 – 192 mg of caffeine, a can of energy drink can contain up to 280 mg, depending on the brand. Keep in mind, a moderate caffeine dosage is considered to be 200 to 300 mg per day. When a craved boost won’t come soon enough from a black coffee, many turn to energy drinks to battle fatigue and improve concentration and performance. But do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Multiple studies have examined the effects of caffeine and energy drinks on the body. Researchers have discovered that those who regularly consume these beverages experience an increase in heart rate of eight per cent on the first day, and eleven per cent by the seventh day. Caffeinated beverages are known to increase blood pressure levels, and doctors recommend that those with a heart condition or high blood pressure steer clear. Even for the heart-healthy, high consumption can result in a range of side effects such as anxiety, difficulty sleeping, palpitations and tremors. Contrary to popular belief, energy drinks are not recommended for consumption during exercise, as they are dehydrating. For the same reason, it’s potentially dangerous to mix energy drinks with alcohol.

Most of the above symptoms are associated with high caffeine intake, unspecific to energy drinks alone. However, according to sports dietetics specialist Cynthia Sass, “Most of the energy drinks contain high-tech sounding ingredients that are not controlled substances, of no value, and potentially harmful in large amounts. Energy drinks contain multiple stimulants that, when combined, can be dangerous and have a very powerful effect on the body. Most people know how much caffeine they can tolerate, but may not be familiar with the effects of some of the other ingredients.”

Given the controversies surrounding these potent beverages, scientists are only beginning to discover the true physiological effects. While a can of Red Bull may keep one alert for a much-needed 2 a.m. study session, perhaps you should stick with Chai tea.

U.S. war resister faces deportation

Corey Glass is quite comfortably settled in Canada. The Indiana-born 25-year-old lives in Toronto and works transporting remains to funeral homes. He would like to stay and live his life here, but Glass’ days in Canada are numbered. He is absent without leave from the United States army and the Canadian government has refused his request for refugee status. His deportation date is July 10.

Glass is one of an estimated 200 U.S. war resisters living in Canada according to the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign. The 199 men and one woman, who come from throughout the U.S. and represent many branches of armed forces, are united in their opposition and refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. Glass’ revelation came during a short vacation from his training in Germany. In the city of Nuremburg, he learned of the historic trials of Nazi war criminals. “It just dawned on me that I might be committing heinous war crimes just following orders, and that’s not an excuse.”

In the 60s, the Vietnam War saw an exodus of draft dodgers head north. Times have changed since then, and now fleeing soldiers must apply for refugee status. The burden of proof is whether the jail time deported resisters face constitutes “persecution” under Canadian law. So far, in the cases of Glass and other resisters, officials have ruled in the negative.

Supporters of the war resisters argue that the UN’s Handbook on Refugees protects them if the war “is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct.,” They say the war in Iraq, considered illegal by the UN and protested worldwide, more than fits the bill.

Another area of contention is that the U.S. has abolished the draft, which means all members of the armed forces are technically volunteers. As the resisters tell it, the story is a little more complicated. For some of the poorest Americans, military service is the best-paying job available. This was the case for Kim Rivera, who struggled to make ends meet, raising two children on a Wal-Mart salary. “The Army told me I wouldn’t be sent into combat, but once I got to Iraq I was under enemy fire every day,” Rivera said. Glass and others also related experiences with less-than-honest recruiters trying to fill quotas. In addition, many soldiers are being called back as part of “Stop Loss” measures, causing them to serve extra terms of duty.

There is hope on the horizon as parliament recently passed a motion that would give resisters an opportunity to apply for status as landed residents. Spearheaded by Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, it would also halt any deportation orders. But the motion still has to be approved by Stephen Harper and his Conservative cabinet. Glass said he hoped public pressure would sway the decision: “It’s all up to Canadian citizens at this point.”

On shaky ground

A 7.9-magnitude quake ripped through the south-western province of Sichuan on May 12, killing nearly 70,000 people and injuring 375,000 others. World leaders responded immediately, offering condolences and announcing their support with food, money, shelter and rescue workers.

As relief efforts continue among afterquakes and flooding, earthquake news continues to dominate the front pages of domestic newspapers while the government-run Chinese Central Television (CCTV) network airs hourly updates from the rescue zone—the only programming permitted to interrupt coverage of the Olympic torch relay.

To Aegean Yang, an English major at the Beijing Language and Culture University, the Sichuan earthquakes represent much more to the Chinese people than just a news blurb. “We are all Chinese, all brothers and sisters, all part of one house,” says Yang. “When I watch the news, I see my family in pain and I want to do everything I can to help them.”

The Sichuan earthquake has served to further China’s already strong nationalist sentiment. After several months of heated international criticism for its stance on Tibet, Sudan and Myanmar, the Sichuan disaster has silenced critics abroad and led many Chinese to rally around their leaders.

Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao have both been roundly praised for their swift and decisive response to the crisis. The response marks a contrast from in previous situations, notably the last massive earthquake in 1976, in Tangshan, where the government’s first response was to deny or conceal information. Wen, in particular, scored a public relations coup as he was on the ground within hours of the earthquake and was shown on state media stations promising victims, “If only there is the slightest hope, we will spare no effort; if only there is one survivor in the debris, we will never give up.”

Even in non-state-sponsored forums, such as online chat rooms, there has been unusually strong support for the government. Some posters have called for investigations of shoddy school and housing structures. An estimated 10,000 students died in the quake, and grieving and increasingly angry parents want to know why so many schools collapsed. The Ministry of Education has promised a quality check on all schools, even as schools are cordoned off, blocking parents’ memorials. Criticism in forums was quickly overwhelmed by commenters eager to defend the government’s more recent efforts. In one chat room frequented by students of Peking University, the user “Top Gun” commented, “Let us not be divided at this time. When we needed them the most, our government was there. Let us just be thankful for that.”

Despite the government’s actions and popular support, a full recovery may not come for many years. The terrain remains fragile and dangerous. Close to 12,000 aftershocks have been detected in the area, according to Xinhua News. The 1.4 million people displaced by the earthquakes continue to live in temporary housing. But until the ground settles, the people of China must continue to endure their tragedy.

Dozens gather for an impromptu candlelight vigil along Sanlitun Road, a popular tourist destination in Beijing, a week after the May 12 earthquake. The message written in candles, “5.12 Wenchuan,” represents the date and the epicentre of the quakes.

Quebec uni in the rouge

The Université du Québec à Montréal holds the most debt of any school in the province after mismanaging two real estate endeavours, reveals a recent report.

Auditor-general Renaud Lachance blamed the failure of these projects, amounting to over $759 million, on former UQAM rector Roch Denis, his former associates Mauro Malservisi and Nicolas Buono, the boards of UQAM, the Université du Québec and the provincial ministry of education.

Although Lanchance called the losses “unavoidable” and did not identify UQAM members by name, his report contests that both Malservisi and Buono “showed a lack of transparency and provided often incomplete and often inaccurate information.”

Denis, who is also left unnamed, was slammed for proposing projects without obtaining financing guarantees and thorough analyses of profitability.

Both projects were funded by the UQAM’s line of credit.

UQAM also asked the government for millions towards both projects, believing both would be self-financing and obtain money from office rents, student residences and parking fees.

Poor management raised the cost of the Pierre Dansereau science complex by $122 million, while the Îlot Voyageur project expenses rose by $196 million since its proposal in March 2005.

This real estate debacle has driven UQAM’s per capita debt up from $7,397 to over $17,000, forcing the university to cut programs to meet its budget.

The June 4 report notes that the boards of UQAM are proficient in daily business matters, but their staff of professors, students and others lack the knowledge to deal with complex financial issues like construction plans.

A day after the report went public, Education Minister Michelle Courchesne told reporters that Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions is examining the report to determine if charges should be laid.

Courchesne also said a new bill will be introduced this fall to tighten governance at Quebec universities.

Jack’s frosty on fees

The Varsity: So, the NDP is working with the Canadian Federation of Students to replace the defunct Millenium Scholarship program with needs-based grants.

Jack Layton: We’re working with CFS […] In particular, on a piece of legislation that we’ve developed in consultation with CFS and teachers’ organizations and a broad sweep of Canadians. It would have goals established in law: the goals of affordability, accessibility, universality, high quality, and independence so that we can stem the drift toward for-profit corporate definition of research mandates. […] It establishes an ongoing federal mandate and legal obligation a little like the Canada Health Act does for Medicare.

TV: Is there reasonable hope for a tuition freeze in Ontario or nationwide?

JL: I think there is reason to hope, but not under the Harper government. We’d have to cancel some of the corporate tax cuts that both Mr. Harper and Mr. Dion and the Liberals have been pushing. They’re pushing through a budget right now, supported by the Conservatives, that will lower corporate taxes very dramatically and not leave the kind of funds that would be needed to pay for [a fee freeze].

TV: How was it that CFS and student politicians got involved in this legislation?

JL: Well we have been following the calls by student groups and faculty organizations over the years, for something to replace [the legislation controlling] the federal transfer of funds. In fact, we sat down and took their ideas and molded those ideas into legislation that we could bring before the House of Commons.

TV: Is it a matter of lowering tuition, or increasing financial aid?

JL: Tuition levels and aid are both key. In fact I’d go further and say that issues like affordable student housing need to be addressed. […] Oftentimes the housing cost is as great or even greater, sometimes, than the tuition cost. […] But really it would have to be determined at the level of the provinces in conformity with the goals of the legislation.

For instance, in Manitoba, there’s been a nine-year freeze on tuition. So what they might do around issues like tuition could be quite different than a place like Nova Scotia or Ontario, where tuition fees are quite high

TV: Alright. what about ancillary fees? Ontario student reps say they’re illegal charges.

JL: The federal legislation would make the pursuit of affordable postsecondary education a matter of law, and that could create a situation that could actually strengthen the students’ capacity to fight back against any unfair charge, provided the federal government was putting the money in.

TV: To finish with a softer question, as the leader of a federal party, you’re obviously one of the country’s most influential politicians. So the question is, what role do student politics play in what you do?

JL: Well first of all it was instrumental in my getting involved in politics in the first place [laughs], and that was at the high school level. Working with my fellow students, we were able to…to make a few things happen—they weren’t momentous or anything, but they taught me a few things.

I felt all along, in my experience—both when I was in city council working with student councils on a whole series of issues […] or now as NDP leader—we get some of our best ideas from student groups. Our postsecondary education legislation is a case in point. And also, […] it’s important that students continually press all politicians including me, and put our feet to the fire. And I think CFS was very effective at doing that around the Millenium Scholarship and replacing that money with a needs-based approach.,

Now we’ve still got a long way to go, but that was a heck of an achievement.

Can We Talk About Something Else?

Stephen Colbert, the crown prince of self-satirizing Americana, recently took a stab below the belt of Canadian national consciousness by lampooning the turmoil surrounding the Hockey Night in Canada theme. In a segment for his Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report host declared his intention to purchase the song’s rights. The song would thus serve as exciting musical accompaniment for American activities “like punching beavers in the face.”

The two-minute Colbert Report sketch received a fair amount of media coverage in Canada, though the joke was not universally well-received. After all, Colbert was tackling a pretty sensitive subject.

More than a week has passed since the CBC’s announcement of its Hockey Night licensing woes and CTV’s subsequent purchase of the theme song’s rights, but lamentations over its loss have yet to subside.

Summer is upon us, and melodrama appears to be the flavour of the season.

One news piece, published over the weekend in the Edmonton Journal, went so far as to compare the iconic jingle’s appeal to the “primal” satisfaction gleaned from sex and drugs. Dopamine receptors in Canadian brains have formed a chemical dependency to the beloved tune, the article says.

Apparently, when there is nothing left to say about an exhausted news event, procuring scientific proof of its importance is a good save.

That the 40-year-old Hockey Night theme holds profound sentimental ties for legions of Canadian hockey fans is without question. Whether the CBC’s loss of the tune is truly a national catastrophe is open for debate.

It’s probably safe to say that more important things have happened.

Like Julie Couillard’s rack, for example.

The hubbub surrounding Maxime Bernier’s affair is entering its second month of heavy rotation, and it seems that the time for thoughtful analysis—if ever such a time existed—is well behind us. Now there is little left to discuss, save for the physical attributes of Bernier’s former flame. After all, aren’t they the only reason we still care?

The Bernier story can be summed up remarkably quickly: Foreign Affairs Minister foolishly leaves government documents at his girlfriend’s house; for his carelessness, loses job. The Bernier “scandal” is an entirely different animal, spawned from rhapsodizing rhetorical acrobatics and a loving attention to detail—specifically, the oft-cited details of Couillard’s former-model status and past biker boyfriends. A month of media scrutiny has transformed Couillard from an ordinary woman with unfortunate romantic inclinations into something resembling a Sweet Valley High villain.

It would be easy to dismiss Bernier’s political blunder as an act of recklessness on his part; but wryly blaming the downfall of the “best-dressed man on Parliament Hill” on his ex-girlfriend’s bosomy charms is much more satisfying. The plunging dress worn by Couillard at Bernier’s 2007 induction ceremony may soon require its own Wikipedia entry.

In a summer thus marked by natural disasters and political turmoil in other parts of the world, we can at least rest assured that, in Canada, the bulk of our drama is self-made.

In Praise of Bad Racial Stereotypes

Summer blockbuster season has only begun, but it already appears to be a bumper crop year for shock and appall. Hindu groups demand that Mike Myers’ Love Guru be banned from India because it is “potentially offensive” and “religiously insensitive.” In Russia, Communist Party members have deemed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull “anti-Soviet propaganda,” and want the Russian Culture Ministry to bar the film. On at least three separate occasions this summer, friends have told me they can’t wait to see Iron Man, “even though I hear it’s kind of racist.”

While trailers for the Love Guru appear too senseless to warrant banning the film, and Iron Man generated plenty of media attention upon its release (but only so much as we now expect of a Marvel movie), the return of Indiana Jones was a veritable event. Movie mag Empire outdid itself, printing a virtual shrine to the franchise, complete with a special Indiana Jones collector’s book of first-hand accounts from the film’s main creators. Indy made the front page, above-the-fold photo in an edition of La Presse and received a lengthy comment in The Independent on Sunday. It garnered a standing ovation at Cannes.

If you’ve watched any of the first three Indiana Jones films recently and have a passing understanding of post-colonial theory, you’ve likely noticed that the films scream for an Orientalist critique. Archeology professor Indiana Jones is an enlightened, rational skeptic who warns his students constantly about the dangers of folklore and myth, or, as he puts it, hocus pocus and superstition. Non-Western peoples are shown as being pre-Enlightenment. Indy is in a position of cultural superiority, sometimes reaching the point of godlike or savior status: a protagonist to be emulated by people of other cultures. In some cases, the imperial ramifications of this presentation are explicit. At the end of Temple of Doom, banned from India for its “racist portrayal of Indians and overt imperialistic tendencies,” the British army comes to the rescue. As the title of the third film puts it, Indiana Jones is on nothing less than a crusade—one in which he puts everyone else in a museum dedicated to his own glory. As is sometimes hinted at in the films, he has grave robber tendencies.

It might seem obvious that the Indiana Jones films stereotype other cultures. But while I have no problem ignoring films like Love Guru, I have trouble applying the same rule to Indy. I know several fans that feel the same way. Despite how uncomfortable the films’ representations of different nationalities make us, our attachment is difficult to break. That’s the unfortunate reality of living in a racist society: you inherit its effects.

In high school, my go-to movies when I was sick were Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Last Crusade and A Room with a View. For a long time, going through university, I hid this fact from my friends. If a film presents ethnic stereotypes or Eurocentrism and I enjoy the film, it must mean that I’m a deep-down racist as well—otherwise, why the repeated viewings? This isn’t a question I enjoy asking, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, it can’t be avoided. The Indiana Jones movies are racist, and I love Indiana Jones.

In November 2001, the Egyptian journalist Hani Shukrallah wrote an article about the franchise’s first film for the daily Al-Ahram. He called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc “probably one of the most blatantly racist films ever produced by Hollywood, which is saying a lot, especially when the object of racism, as in this film, happens to be Arab.” It may be difficult to deem a film the most racist, but that doesn’t make the author wrong.

Shukrallah analyzed a scene in which Indy encounters a maniacal swordsman of Arab origin (we can tell he’s an Arab because he wears a turban) as a metaphor for the United States’ approach to the Middle East. If you’ve ever seen an action movie, you know the kind of drawn-out fight we’re in for as the crowd in the souq (the setting is stolen directly from A Thousand and One Nights) parts to display the skilled, black-clad threat. Spielberg breaks with tradition, though. Ever practical, a dysentery-ridden Indy shoots the guy dead, just like that. It’s an uncomfortable scene if you’re at all concerned about Western imperialism. It’s also 38th in the top 50 film gags as chosen by Empire. Here’s the shocker: despite himself, when Shukrallah watches this scene, he laughs. “I might as well admit to one of my shameful little secrets. I’ve enjoyed the Indiana Jones film series.”

The issue is not whether the films are Orientalist, but how we’re supposed to relate to them. For Shukrallah as for me, the issue of the Indy movies’ appeal relates to why Umberto Eco classified Raiders as a cult film. According to Eco, Casablanca is popular because it’s a pastiche of many films that came before it, and, in the viewer’s mind, the films that came after it as well. Watching the Indiana Jones movies, the same applies. The films are a jumble of highly-charged scenes, as Indy himself exemplifies familiar tropes in film history: he can be Bogey, he can be the fastest gun in the West, he can be Tintin all grown up. Spielberg and Lucas were inspired by images from the B-movies and pulp magazines of their youth. Viewing an Indiana Jones film allows you to turn off your filters. You can watch them again and again without having to worry about following a coherent narrative, enjoying the sensation of déja vu as one iconic image after another washes over you.

The use of such icons is what entrenches the Indiana Jones series into the censorship debate, but it’s also the source of their appeal. Before groups like the Russian Communist Party worry that Indiana Jones will burn anti-Soviet propaganda into the retinas of today’s youth, they should recognize why Cate Blanchett in a bowl cut butchering the Russian accent is entertaining in the first place.